Monday, March 30, 2009

Chicken Soup is for Suckers

So last week, I had been feeling a bit under the weather for a few weeks, when I swung by teddy's for our weekly. He knocked the damn cold out of me with a great spread, covering the veritable Seven Deadly Sins of food-ing.

Lust. What Teddy described as "Uncensored XXX Porcography." Or, direct from his & Houman's class at Brooklyn Farm, care of Flying Pigs Farm. Teddy served up Head and trotter braun,(cooked pig's head combined with trotters & jelly). Just decadent- rich and flavorful with a bit of salty and smoky taste- a great start, for my favorite vice.

Sloth. The Braun was plated with braised and seared pork belly, which had a wonderful crisp texture over the supple lazy-assed belly. Piggy-laziness has never been so thoughtfully combined.

Avarice. The starting plate was completed with a family recipe from Houman's family,
called apfel griebenschmalz ( I apologize to all if I have mis-spelled), which was a rich and tangy combination of apples and onions, caramilized mercilessly in pork fat. I am jealous of Houman, if this is the way he grew up eating. Teddy finished the plate with a mustard sauce, and baked Granny Smith apples.

Greed. I damn near ate all of poor Boogie's Fish Soup, served with Lobster Souffle Cakes. The poor guy could not look away from his plate for a moment- for a big guy, my hands are lightning fast. The soup had a smooth texture, and was unlike other Seafood soups/stews I have had- it presented a more pronounced blended fish taste, but did so subtly, if that makes an sense at all. Teddy said it was a "classic English Fish Soup." Anyhow, I couldn't cram enough of the lobster cakes into my craw: they were a great rich flavorful counterpoint to the soup. Poor Boogie never stood a chance.

Pride. I have never gotten along very well with peas- as a kid, I would find clever ways of either hiding them or sneaking them on to my sister's plate. I wish Teddy was around back then to drop his Gratin of Pistacios, Peas, and Tarragon. That dish, with tang of the nut, and smoothness of the dairy, really brought out the sweetness of the peas. If only Teddy was around back then, I wouldn't have had to grow up so damn clever.

Wrath. Nothing makes one feel like a muthafucking hunter like a well cooked Shank of Lamb. Teddy prepared this poor bastard really beautifully- the meat gave way to every bite, but was still stable enough to serve as one unit. The lamb was prepared with honey, salt and black pepper, and was simply gorgeous. J. Boogie's was good, too.

and finally

Gluttony. It's not enough that I'm a large person--each Thursday Club, the limits are pushed in terms of how much good food can be shoved in my anything-but-delicate frame. Teddy closed the deal with a Turkish Coffee Delight- Cardomam & Coffee Flavored Cake, topped with Turkish Coffee Ice Cream, and Fresh Mango Compote. Ah well, a diet shot to hell again. But the good news, is my Spring cold is gone for good. Like I always say, Chicken Soup is for Suckers.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Casa Adela (66 Avenue C)

There are fewer places in my neighborhood that I enjoy eating at more than Casa Adela. It's open for lunch, has a laid back attitude & consistently serves up excellent Puerto Rican food. Entering the place there are 3 things that you will immediately notice; Delicious chicken dancing in a rotisserie, Latino TV on a small set in the back & owner Adela Fargas with her army of family members & employees working away endlessly among the diners.

I normally order the half a chicken with yellow rice & black beans, but as of late I've been trying other dishes. I recently had the bacalou (dried cod cooked with veggies in a tomato sauce), the roast pork & the chicken stew. All good dishes, but the chicken is still my favorite. It has a deep red, flavorful skin (I'd really like to know how they spice this dish) & succulent, moist flesh. I've tried to replicate it at home & just cannot get anywhere as close.

The cafe con leche there is also really good, as well as the flan which is made using cream cheese & has a very unique flavor. The average meal will run you about 10 bucks or so, but trust me when I say that you'll leave more than satisfied!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

This is PORK

Lucky buggers being we, Houman & I managed to bag a visit to Brooklyn Kitchen when Tom Mylan was demonstrating how to butcher a pig. (This is all part of our education in advance of the boar hunt. We will need to know how to deal with Tusker once we've taken the crazy bastard down.)

Passionate about pork as he is, Mylan first starts off by lecturing us on the beauty of properly raised pork, and warns us to stay away from pappy pink putrid stinking supermarket 'pork'. This stuff is 'grown' in giant pork cities. Apparently, 90% of the pork in the US comes from just 6 pork mega-cities. Just think about it. Millions of animals penned in tightly, each highly susceptible to disease and each chewing his neighbours ears and tail off because they're all losing it in a big way. I'd fucking lose it if I was sewn into a shit-caked concrete paddock with no sunshine and fed a diet of pish studded with questionable pharmaceuticals and hormones to make me meaty real quick.

But the pig we're looking at has had a happy life. Free to roam the fields on the farm, eating declicious apples and vegetables and other good stuff, free to shag the female pigs, free to fight with his neighbours. His immune system is strong. He has a fabulous layer of fat. He is covered in thick brown hair. His meat looks dry and well aged. It has a colour not unlike beef. It is not 'wet' and hued in electric pink like the flesh of his unfortunate cousins.

Mylan strips this beast into primal cuts, shows us the loin, (probably the least tasty cut of all, and confusingly the cut favoured by most Americans) the shoulders, the picnics, the hams, he breaks down the primals into the retail cuts. We all get to select some good stuff. Houman and I scheme to get the leaf lard, the head, the trotters, a couple of wicked chops, some belly, and we are wholly successful. We have about 15 pounds of pork between us. We go straight to the boozer to celebrate.I am anxious to eat my piggy. I set about the chops, scoring the skin, rendering some of the fat, getting a nice colour on the meat, in the oven, out the oven, rest, rest, rest. I slice open the double chop I have. It's fucking glorious. What meat, what flavour, the skin is divine, lubricated with some of the tastiest pig fat ever. I roast some apples and braise some cabbage with mustard and bacon (of course) and open a bottle of plonk. I am in heaven.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ive been a very busy boy recently........

...and I've not been paying much attention to my blogging duties.

I have experienced some wonderful food recently, I have made some decent dishes, I have seen strange things, and I have been quite literally sucking the marrow out of life. (Or veal, in my case.)

So where to start? Christ, I don't know.

I visited a buddy in Florida who has oranges growing in his back garden.
His fucking back garden. He also has an ace car, and lots of restaurants near him where we ate some incredible food.I taught him how to cook fish with Thai style mussels with crispy skin.I discovered braised pistachios.I've been meeting really fit birds who know a lot about food.I've been hanging out with too many lawyers.I've discovered it's OK to like burgers if they're done well. By that, I mean, with skill. I invented a UK version of the hot dog - The Ox Dog, made with oxtail, horseradish and other really British ingredients.I've been deep-frying cow's stomach again.Pete and I made about 40 feet of black pudding and we were lucky NYPD didn't come round on the off chance in the middle of it. We'd have been knicked straight away, just for being fucking weird.I did a modern take on Fergus Henderson's blood cake and eggs.I've been drinking rather a lot of wine. I also made some homebrew (not quite ready yet.)I've been demystifying Indian spices and using them more and more in my European recipes.I made the richest chocolate tart in the World, ever.

I've been eating Guinea Pig.

This little sod nearly had me pint.

Pete and I made a pork, sweetbread and rabbit liver terrine, and what a glory it was.

I've been butchering pigs.
I've made some big pork pies.
And a wicked corned beef for Paddy's Day.
I cleaned out my basement and converted it into a Man-Cave for boozing and fine dining.I got the best present ever from Grant.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Butcher Bay (511 E. 5th St.)

I've been doing a lot of substandard home cooking & eating out at my usual haunts recently, so I was very excited to check out Butcher Bay on 5th Street between Avenues A & B with my Dad & buddy Dan. Located in the space that used to be Seymour Burton, they aim to be a local Fish Shack.

We arrived shortly after opening & got decent seats. They are cash only (as per the huge sign in the door) & have no draft beers (seriously!?!). The decor is pretty nice though, I'll give them that. We ordered some bottled (bleh) beer & decided to start with the oyster platter while we looked through the menu.

I was somewhat disappointed in the fact that they only had East Coast Oysters, but in the grand scheme of things, I guess that is the 'look' they're going for. I'm much more of a West Coast guy myself, so I found these to be really without merit. Plus the shells were very flaky (bad shucking?) & I kept on getting bits in my mouth.

We moved on to 2 apps we ordered to share; the absolutely delicious Fried Clam Strips & Remoulade and then the hideously greasy Shrimp Hush Puppies that tasted like cardboard.

As you can imagine, this was not the start that I wanted for this meal.

The main courses were as follows:

Dan got the Scallop Pan Roast which he enjoyed. I tried some as well & I'll admit that I actually enjoyed this dish, pretty darn good.

Fish & Chips were ordered by my Dad. All 3 of us have spent a lot of time in England during our lives & we can tell bad F&C from good. I thought this was a decent attempt. Not quite what I'd expect from the UK, but good nonetheless.

I got the Maryland Fried Chicken w/Cornbread. I know what you're thinking... At a seafood joint? I only did this because the choices of mains were so damn limited & this was the only one that caught my eye. The chicken was seasoned well, but slightly greasy. The cornbread with honey, however was great.

There were no desserts on the menu, so we trudged off, dejected. I'm really disappointed by Butcher's Bay & if I ever go back, it'll only be for the scallops - In & Out quick-style.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Finger Lickin' Brilliance from Dazzling Darryl

There are many reasons why it's great to be unemployed. Staying in bed 'til 1pm, a distinct lack of business targets and all the time in the World to make pies and beer are just a few. There are however, a couple of tricky aspects. One is that aloof sense of financial doom and worthlessness, and another is that it's dangerously possible to drink wine and/or a martini for breakfast when your boss nor your missus is not there to piss on your chips and put an end to the fun. While a couple of high profile projects (the generation of spectacular homebrew, building a bar downstairs) have kept me busy and out of the liquor cabinet for a few hours, there are moments when only booze will slake this bloke's rampant thirst. Especially first thing in the morning....I mean, it's after 1pm...

Last Thursday was a boozy day from start to finish, and Darryl's turn on the pots and pans for the group. Thank Goodness he fancied a truly gargantuan southern feast, because when I arrived at his place (late, half in the bag, reeking of ale) I was hungry like the wolf. (Cue Duran Duran.)
The big man thrust a glass of champagne in my hand upon arrival and I popped my wine in his fridge and sat and fidgeted until feeding time. I desperately needed something absorbent, something with a different nutritional profile than a cocktail. My prayers were answered when he dragged a huge dish loaded with pasta into the dining room. What a sight for pissed eyes! Perfectly cooked macaroni freckled with bacon in a lava-like cheese sauce, lovingly adorned with sweet chunks of roasted butternut squash. Silky, sweet, toothsome, so memorable, so easy. So this is soul food? Because it satisfies the soul, yes? It satisfied mine for sure. I was careful not to carbo-load on the first course.I could detect the faint whiff of frying oil in the air. Darryl knows his way around spice-crusted chicken and a wire basket. He loaded up his Fry Daddy with his own recipe (he keeps it in a locked deposit box at the bank, just like the Colonel) and the oil began to bubble. The result was the most succulent and delicious fried chicken I've ever had. Soft moist and yielding meat juxtaposed a serious crunch and delicate, sweet heat from Mr Big's special coating. I could have eaten this shit all night, but out came waffles. The Americans immediately grabbed for the maple syrup. Some went crazy, covering everything on their plate with sugar, others just dribbled a bit on the waffles. I passed. What is it about this country and its need to put sugar in or on everything? I guess I will never understand. In England it's a bit of a joke. I covered my own waffles with fried chicken and a mound of collard greens laced with bacon and a fabulous edamame succotash. How could it possibly be more delicious? Who the frick needs sweetener, especially when everybody knew the next course would be perhaps the most calorific dessert ever?While the conversation skittered around the Middle East question, accidents involving cooking pots and throats, nails in skulls and other bizarre topics, Big D presented his final masterpiece - A classic bread pudding mined with raisins and a vat of vanilla bourbon pouring sauce. I thought I was stuffed until I started eating dessert. Somehow, my stomach instantly doubled in size and I was able to put away, like, three portions! Everybody called me a fat bastard, but I didn't care. I told myself to just keep eating, you may never have anything this good and boozy for dessert ever again...

A fitting end to a boozy beginning.

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