Monday, February 25, 2013

Hangover Helper: Thai Chicken Curry


The headache, that piercing tunnel vision, the crippling pain that punctuates a night of bacchanalian revelry -- yes, I had a hangover. I love to drink, but as I've gotten older, my hangovers have only gotten more annoying and long lasting.

My friend Tana and I had gone out the night before with our friend Matt, and we really ripped it up. We'd made it to our respective homes safely, albeit a little worse for wear. After convalescing at home all day, I craved something to soothe my tortured tummy. I flipped through my latest issues of Bon Appetit for a little inspiration, and then I finally saw the recipe for Thai Chicken Curry: the jackpot. Loaded with vegetables, juicy chicken, and potatoes, this was just what I needed. I decided to ask Tana to join in on the delicious healing powers of curry as well.

This recipe was insanely easy. It only uses one pot, and the only time consuming part was prepping the vegetables and simmering the curry. I substituted sweet potatoes for the Yukon Golds, both for nutrition and flavor. I also swapped chicken breasts for the chicken thighs because I couldn't find boneless skinless ones at Tana's supermarket. If you want to do the same, I'd suggest simmering the curry without the meat first for about 10 minutes to give it a head start, then throwing in the chicken breast. No one likes a dry breast.


2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 4-ounce can or jar yellow curry paste
3/4 pound carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes (about 3), peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 13.5-ounce or 15-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
Chopped fresh basil and cilantro




Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add curry paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add carrots, onion, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add potatoes, chicken, coconut milk, and 1 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Divide curry among bowls and top with herbs.



As a garnish, I used cilantro, just roughly torn, and sliced almonds for a bit of crunch. Served up with some toasted and buttered garlic naan on the side, this was exactly what our hungover bellies needed. This would be super crazy good with some brown rice or quinoa too!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Early Valentine's Day Dinner @ Prune



First of all, Happy New Year! I know I've been neglecting all of your minds and bellies, but the past couple of months have just been a whirlwind of work and progress. I've taken on another job making candy with a wonderful candy company and I've gotten a promotion at my bakery. Not to mention, writing for a kick ass local online magazine.

But, I know I need to get back to the place that started it all. So, over the next few weeks, I will slowly (but surely), be revamping the site. There will be new recipes, recipe testing, and new reviews on places I love. I only ask you this: comment! Even if it's just to say hello, or even if it's just to rant. I'd love to hear it.

Usually I'm pretty blasé about Valentine's Day, but this was especially exciting for two reasons: I was FINALLY going to Prune, Gabrielle Hamilton's critically lauded restaurant, but, more importantly, I went with Mr.K.

Mr. K and I are basically those folks in movies who take their slow ass time figuring out what everyone else knows: hey, "you guys are perfect for each other...stop being silly". After years of will-they-or-won't-they type tension, the gears clicked, and now we're happy. I know I'm Cliff Note-ing this story for you, but this blog is about food.

We didn't go to Prune on Valentine's Day proper, because I have to work on that same night. Believe me when I say, I DO NOT LIKE DINING OUT ON VALENTINE'S DAY. The menu is usually not at its best, the meal feels rushed, the servers are stressed because the place is crowded; it's just not a good move. Monday ended up being a great choice.

When we walked into Prune, what really struck me about it was its size. It's incredibly tiny; a nook of a restaurant. There were marble topped tables, comfy wooden chairs, and the dining room radiated with a brightness that made me feel like it was the middle of a warm afternoon.

It didn't take me long to figure out what to order, because I've been dreaming about most of this meal ever since I first read about Gabrielle in an article written by Anthony Bourdain. Basically, everything on the menu is influenced by things she grew up eating and certain time periods in her life. Food, working as memoir. It's a selfish way to develop your menu, and I really admired her for that.

The first things placed on our table were two glasses of Cava (to toast our V-Day dinner) and a metal wine bucket of pappdums, the crunchy Indian cracker. Each sheet was crisp and subtly spiced. It was really easy to get lost in munching away, but I made sure to keep myself from getting over-zealous.

We started with the Radishes with Kosher Salt and Sweet Butter and the Roasted Marrow Bones with Grey Salt and Parsley Salad. The radishes were a childhood snack, and the marrow bones were a dish that her parents would serve for dinner; simple food memories dictated to table.




Mr.K ate his like this: he took a sliver of butter upon his knife, dipped it in the salt, then smeared it on his radish. Seemed pretty efficient to me, so I followed suit.

I have never eaten radishes this way before, and I will never eat them any other way again. Cold, crisp, spicy radishes, tempered by the sweet, creamy butter, everything elevated by the salt....perfection. Simple.

The three hulking marrow bones were served with a parsley salad slicked with vinaigrette, and sprinkled with shallots, capers, and slices of cornichons (little gherkin pickles). A bucket filled with grilled crusty bread was set alongside.

Tiny spoons speared the surface of each bone's marrow, and we used them to spread our bread spears with the meaty marrow. Then, a sprinkle of grey sea salt, and a bit of salad. Unbelievable. Bitter. Salty. Crunchy. Sweet. Sour. Mouths, awakened.

We didn't have to ask for more bread.

I'd been steering the course of this dinner, so Mr.K encouraged me to order the rest of our meal. I chose for myself: the Crispy Duck with Cabbage. For him, the special: Braised Rabbit Legs with a Vinegar Sauce and Cornichons.



My duck was delicious. Crispy and savory skin; the meat dark and rich, with an almost mineral edge. This kitchen knew their way around a duck. But, let me talk to you about that cabbage.

When I see cabbage on a menu, it's usually St.Patricks Day, and it's usually boiled ad infinitum. I know cabbage in a different way, though. My mom would cook it by steaming it a bit, then sautéing it with olive oil, garlic, and tons of kosher salt and pepper. It was so sweet, tender, and fresh. I could tell that this probably used a lot more butter, but, my God, I took a bite of that cabbage and it felt like I was 8 years old and waiting for a second helping. The juices and fat running from my duck were an added plus.

Mr.K politely shared some of his rabbit with me, but after I tried it, I was surprised that he could even be that nice. The meat was falling off the bone, lazily draping itself in that buttery broth laced with vinegar tang. Our sweet server deftly placed more bread on our table before we could say a word; she knew what was coming. She knew we were tired of being nice to our food. Sometimes you have to put the knife and fork down and use the utensils that lie on the ends of your arms.

Gleefully, we used our hands to gnaw our respective dishes' bones to the quick, then made short work of sopping up the gravies with our bread. Soon, my face and hands were shiny, slicked in delicious fat. Embarrassing? Yes. Satisfying? Yes.

After cleaning ourselves up, we braced ourselves for dessert. The two older ladies sitting next to us had ordered the Breton Butter Cake and the Chocolate Walnut Tart with Salted Caramel. They looked so good, I ordered them for us too. Mr.K took a tawny port with his, I chose to go digestif-less.




"Whenever someone orders the Breton, we always place this alongside," said our server, placing our desserts before us. A tiny glass of Muscat appeared beside my plate. I cut a piece of my cake, ate it, then sipped at the wine.

The cake was a study in dichotomy. The top was flaky, like a croissant or puff pastry, its layers shattering into brown butter shards. But, the inside was dense and sweet, balanced with salt. How could this even happen? How could what looked to be a regularslice of cake taste like this?

Mr.K's dessert was great too, not as transcendent as mine, but still delicious. A tart shell, lined thinly in dark chocolate ganache, crowned with salted caramel tossed walnuts, and teased with few flakes of Maldon sea salt.

None of these dishes were particularly flashy in any way. Yes, they were presented nicely on their plates, but there were no fancy squirt bottle sauces or instructions on how to eat it. The food made its own statement, and shouldn't that speak volumes? Prune's menu mirrored the evolution of mine and Mr.K's relationship. As we grew closer and grew older, all the complexity we'd established led us to a simple conclusion: love. And that is what really made us full.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Legends Bar and Grill: Jackson Heights's Diamond in the Rough


"Queens is so farrrrr!"

"There can't be anything to eat out there...past Astoria, anyway."

"Barbecue is so expensive, and the good places are only in Manhattan."

I hear this sort of yammering all the time, and you know what? DON'T COME TO QUEENS. Because if this place gets super popular or something, and I can't come here anymore, I will be PISSED.

I was introduced to Legends by my friend John, who was born and raised in Jackson Heights, where this amazing place resides. And, over time, it's become my absolute favorite barbecue spot in all of New York City.

A couple of weeks ago, a group of friends and I went to the NYC Honey Festival  over at Rockaway Beach. We spent pretty much the whole day there, tasting various honeys and working up a serious appetite. We weren't sure what to do for dinner, so John suggested that we trek up to Legends for a savory barbecued feast. The Manhattanites in our crew exchanged some dubious looks.

Suggesting Queens as somewhere to go to for dinner, will definitely get you some side eye. It was hard enough to get these folks all the way down to Rockaway, and now they were being asked to go even further into this big ass borough. Since I hadn't been to Legends in months, I lobbied hard. I knew that if they just gave this place a chance, they'd love it. Of course, I wasn't wrong.

The kitchen is basically run by Marilyn, a vivacious middle aged Dominican woman. As soon as you sit down, you hear her trill: "Mi Amoorrrr!" I think some of my crew were taken aback, but I was used to it. That siren's song means there's a good meal ahead.

As we waited for our meal, I looked over at the counter and saw that beautiful hunk of brisket that you see in the picture above. Being the creeper that I am, I skipped over to take a picture. Marilyn motioned over to me before I went back to my seat. "Come, come!" she said. She pointed to behind the counter.

SAY WHAT! With my head covered, of course (I know how to behave inside a professional kitchen, after all, I work in one), she led me behind the cover so I could take an even closer look at the brisket. The look, the smell, everything about that piece of meat made me want to grab it and run out the door. Thankfully, I refrained. Then, when I was about to sit down again, she tapped me on the arm.

"No sitting! The smoker is back here."

DOUBLE SAY WHAT!! She was taking me to the holiest of holies, the most precious place in a barbecue joint. The pit smoker.


The huge smoker is fed with logs of mesquite wood....

Pork shoulder!

More brisket!

Even short ribs are thrown in this thing, and smoked low and slow all day long.

I'd never been that close to a pit smoker before, and I was so happy to get a peek. But, alas, my stomach was calling something fierce, so I went back to my table to eat.

We shared some wings. I tried very hard to eat only two....but I snatched a third because I couldn't resist. Imagine the best buffalo wings you could ever eat, lightly dressed in barbecue sauce. Crunchy, savory, spicy, sweet.

And then...the best part, and pretty much the ONLY thing I order when I come to Legends: The Jimmy's Junk platter.


Pulled pork, smoked kielbasa, brisket, and pork shoulder. Nary a vegetable in sight. I mean, there were outrageously good sweet potato fries and onion rings...but the meat took precedence.

Everyone can keep their Hill Country and Fatty Cue! Stay away from my Legends. Well, you can come and have some food, but that's it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tres Leches Cake - Three Times The Delicious-ness


Sometimes my sister asks me to hook her up with baked goods for her and her daughter's church. Cupcakes, cookies, cakes: she asks for it, and I try my best to make it happen. Seeing as that I haven't been to church in eons, I figure my goodwill will help me out later down the line, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, my sister remembered a really great Tres Leches cake that she'd had back in the day, and she asked if I could make that. Tres Leches is a Latin sponge cake soaked in 3 different types of milk: heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk. I told her that I would keep my eye out for a good recipe. On my way to work later that day, I bought the August issue of Bon Appetit before I hopped on the train. What did I find in the first few pages? A recipe for Tres Leches! It must have been fate.

I did use a different sized for the recipe though. I used a 12 x 9 pan, which gives you a really puffy cake, with a lot more surface to soak.

I preheated my oven to 350, then used baking spray to grease the pan. Since that stuff's been invented, I haven't buttered and floured a pan in years.

I whisked a 1 1/2 cup of flour, 1 tablespoon of baking powder, and a 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon in a medium bowl. Then, I busted out my lovely red Kitchen Aid, and used my whisk attachment to whip the heck out of 6 egg whites for 8 minutes. I started out on the lowest level, to get some bubbles going. Then, I hiked up the speed. You basically want firm peaks to form. You'll know when you get there because if you stop the machine, take off the whisk, and turn it upside down, the egg foam will stand up and not collapse.

Next, I added a 1 1/2 cup of sugar to the egg foam, with the machine running on medium speed. Then, one at a time, I dropped in 3 egg yolks, leaving some time time between each addition. This way, the eggs could get really mixed in. I added 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (next time, I'm definitely going to experiment with different extracts), and then lowered the mixer speed again so I could throw in the flour mixture without getting it all over my kitchen.

I added in the flour in 3 installments and 1/2 cup of whole milk in 2 (Flour, milk, flour, milk, and ending with flour). With a final blast of high speed, the batter was ready to be baked. I poured the batter into the pan, smoothed it out on the top, and popped it in the oven. I baked the cake for 20 minutes at 350, then dropped the temp to 325 for another 20 minutes. The initial high heat helps the cake to rise nice and tall, and then baking it at a lower temperature cooks it the rest of the way through.

After it revealed itself to be golden brown and delicious, I let it cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. While the cake cooled, I made the milk soak. I used 1 cup each of skim evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and heavy cream, mixing it up in a small bowl. To flavor it, I added 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. The recipe also called for dark rum, but I decided to refrain because after all, this would be served to some God fearing children.

Okay....now for the fun part.

I poked the cake all over; the recipe called for a skewer, but I had a fork. Just do don't use your thumbs or anything. Then, I poured half the milk over the cake, making sure I got the mixture all over. I paused for a second to let the milk soak in, and then I poured the rest of it over the cake.

If you have the time, make this cake the night before you want to serve it. The flavors meld and just infuse the cake with other-worldly milky goodness. And since it's a sponge cake, and not a butter based cake, it won't get soggy! Even with all of the milk in it. I call it, a food miracle.

Monday, September 17, 2012

What I Ate This Summer - A Love Story in 5 Dishes

Another sweltering summer in New York City has come and gone, leaving a sticky trail of humidity in its wake. As a huge fan of the summer months, I'm pretty sad to see the season go. But, I can take comfort in knowing that I ate and drank all that the summer had to offer.

Remember in elementary school, when you'd go back to school for the fall, and your teacher made you write an essay about what you did over the summer? Well, here are some of the highlights of what I ate this summer.


William Hallet - Salmon with Long Island corn, lima beans, Holland peppers, butter nage


I don't order fish often in restaurants, and I'm not exactly sure why. I grew up eating tons of seafood, and I love this stuff; I guess I'm scared of someone messing it up. I had this early in the summer on my first trip to Astoria's William Hallet, and it was so nice to have something light, but really substantial and delicious. The salmon was simply seasoned, and served with a light butter nage (sauce) that highlighted its meatiness. The veggies were at their peak, and weren't overcooked. I really enjoyed this.

Traif - Strawberry Cinnamon Baby Back Pork Ribs


Even saying the name of this dish makes me squirm with delight in the most lovely way. Sticky, just sweet enough with a whisper of warm cinnamon. JUST LOOK AT THE PICTURE.

I went here for my good friend Rae's birthday, and we proceeded to have one of the best meals I've ever had. A lot of the meals here are pork based, and it was exciting to have ribs that were a little out of the ordinary.

Fort Reno - The Hot Mess


Oh, baby. The.Hot.Mess.

So, whenever my coworker and I come here for after-work vittles, I without fail, get this. A savory parfait of  pickled vegetables, cornbread, baked beans, pulled pork, and on the bottom: macaroni and cheese. Crunchy, meaty, creamy, salty, sharp. It doesn't look too pretty, but it tastes beautiful to me. And, it's only  seven bucks! Seven bucks for a glass of pretty much everything on the menu. Layered lovingly, just for you.


BonChovie - Fried Anchovies (Heads off)


Anchovies. Such a little fish, yet it inspires so much hatred! I usually think of them as the scraggly little things on crappy take out pizza. So, I stay away from them at all costs.

Enter BonChovie. BonChovie has been a stalwart vendor of both Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg. I'd been hearing so many great reviews about their fried anchovies, that I couldn't resist giving them a try.

Thank God I did. So crunchy, so flavorful.... Unbelievable. Nothing like the stinky fish that I'd always feared.  Dunk these in the smoked paprika mayo, and you have seafood heaven.

And last....but never least....


ARE YOU READY FOR THE FIFTH ONE!?


Momofuku Noodle Bar - Fried Chicken Dinner


Two whole chickens.

Two styles: Old Bay Southern Style and Spicy Korean Glazed.

I'd been trying to make the reservation for this dinner for almost a year. This summer, I struck paydirt. Happy Damn Birthday to me!

This bountiful feast of fowl came wish mu shu pancakes, four different sauces ranging from a fiery chili sauce to a savory hoisin, and a bowl of fresh veggies. The idea is, you can either eat the chicken straight up, or make it into tasty wraps.



I think you can imagine how I ate mine.


What did YOU guys eat this summer that blew your minds? Leave a comment and tell me about it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy Birthday, Julia.

Julia.

Tall, loud, hungry, intelligent, beautiful, Julia.

Julia was basically my first babysitter. Her show would come on right after Sesame Street, and I would sacrifice the last five to then minutes of the credits to make a kitchen run so I would be fully snack equipped.

She was so freaking HUGE, as tall her California redwoods. And so funny, with her unusual voice and the way she ruled her kitchen. So fearless.

I remember thinking that she seemed so friendly. Like, if I'd ever meet her in person, that she would be so nice to me. And feed me delicious things, of course.

During an episode of "In the Kitchen with Julia", she talks about sweetbreads, and I thought, "That sounds so good, I've always wanted to learn more about sweetbreads!" Only to learn by the end of the episode, that they're actually a nice name for the thymus gland. What a nasty trick, Julia! So, I didn't watch her show for a couple of weeks.

Isn't that nuts? To feel momentarily betrayed by someone on tv that you've never met? But I soon went back to her, because I knew I could never stay mad at her for very long.

Her cooking, confidence, even the sound of her voice made me feel comfortable, warm, less lonely. I've always been an emotional eater and everything that she made, even though I couldn't reach into the tv and grab it, made me feel full and safe inside. And isn't that what good food is supposed to do?

Thanks for being larger than life, Julia. And thanks for the sweetbreads.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mile End...Sandwich.

Mile End Delicatessen in Brooklyn, home of smoked meat poutine and some of the tastiest matzoh ball soup I've ever had, has recently opened up an outpost in NoHo. The new location's focus? Delicious, delicious sandwiches.



This ain't your mama's pastrami on rye, for sure. The entire menu takes traditional Jewish cuisine and really turns it on its head with some really stunning sandwich combinations. My friend John decided to get the Beef on Weck and I took a chance and got the Chicken Salad. We split an order of smoked meat poutine, because you cannot go to Mile End and not order it. It's a personal rule.

Wagyu roast beef, horseradish, weck roll
This sandwich was beefy and savory, and extremely moist from the top of the caraway and salt seasoned roll being dipped in the meat's jus (natural stock/juices). The meat was meltingly tender, and the fresh horseradish added a mild burn. If you like straight up beef, you will love this sandwich. John tore through it so quick, I'm surprised I even got a bite.


Gribenes, new pickles, pickled peppers, schmaltz toasted challah



I did not expect to love this sandwich. It combines two things that I dislike: traditional chicken salad (usually gloppy with cheap mayo and studded with huge chunks of celery and raw onion) and pickles. Yet, there were two things about this sandwich that made me want to be brave. The schmaltz (CHICKEN FAT!) toasted challah bread and the gribenes. Gribenes is yiddish for cracklings, or rendered pieces of chicken skin. After a quick moment of self reflection, I decided that none of this could possibly be bad.

Take a journey with me.

Tender chicken, a light mayo dressing, tiny bits of celery, crunchy cucumber that's only been kissed by brine, sweet pickled peppers, salty/crisp gribenes, and a buttery challah lightly toasted with schmaltz.

Such delightful confusion of the tongue, a whirlwind unsion of of richness and briny tang!

The sandwich pretty much rendered me stupid. In a good way.

SMOKED.MEAT.POUTINE.
And of course, the poutine. Why would anyone throw a mess of of smoked meat on an already indulgent pile of french fries, creamy gravy, and cheese curds?

Um...why NOT?

Do yourself a solid, and get yourself over to Mile End Sandwich. Great service, exciting sandwiches.