Archive for January, 2011
Apologies to Meg, who apparently wants my mustard-crusted chicken recipe, but you’ll have to wait a few days. The other night, I made an interpretation of chicken stir-fried with Chinese long beans. It was probably my best re-creation of Asian cuisine so far. My favorite part of this recipe is the incorporation of dark soy sauce to raise the sugar content of the chicken marinade. When the chicken hits the pan the extra sugar will help the caramelization and develop a deep, rich flavor.
For any chicken stir frying, I prefer using thighs. There’s a little more fat in them, so there’s more flavor to stand up to spicy Asian sauces, and they’re definitely more forgiving of being slightly overcooked. So buy some boneless, skinless chicken thighs or, if you have a nice boning/fillet knife, save yourself a few bucks per pound and buy the normal chicken thighs and bone them yourself. Cut 4 chicken thighs into roughly 1-2 inch chunks and add to a dish or plastic bag to marinate them.
For the marinade, mix together:
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce (you can substitute some sugar or honey, but really, go buy a bottle of dark soy sauce. You will find yourself putting it in everything)
- ¼ tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp EVOO
- 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp sriracha hot sauce
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- a few dashes of white pepper
Mix it up, add it to the chicken, toss to combine and let it marinate for 1-2 hours.
Next, get a large pot of salted water to a boil. Then par-boil about 3 cups of green beans for just a few minutes, until they are bright green. Then take them out and shock them either in ice water or under a cold tap. Set aside.
Mix 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce with 2 tablespoons of water, set that aside as well.
Pre-heat 1 tbsp of light oil in a skillet over medium high heat. While that is warming up, take the chicken out of the marinade and (important) pat the chicken dry with paper towels. This will help the chicken get some browning in the pan, and will also remove most of the garlic which might burn in the pan. When the oil is shimmering, add the chicken and cook for 3-5 minutes per side or until there is some serious browning on each side. Don’t overcrowd the pan; you will probably have to separate the chicken into two batches unless you have a pretty decent size pan. When the chicken is almost done, add 3 cloves of minced garlic and a minced serrano pepper and stir it around. Let the garlic cook for 30-40 second, then add in the green beans and the oyster sauce mixture. Cover the pan and let it cook for 3-4 minutes. If the sauce is not thick enough, you can either take the top off and let it reduce or mix up a little water/soy sauce/cornstarch slurry and mix it in. Serve over rice or rice noodles or whatever floats your boat.
Later this week: the last football post of the year. We’re breaking out the best of the best for the SUPERBOWL! It’s times like these I really wish Arty was back in the tundra, but Rick and I will have to step up and perform in his absence. I’m hoping to have about 3 appetizer recipes and maybe a review of my favorite football beers or someother such nonsense.
Among the many things I love about my new apartment (ok, new as of last August) is that I have the space to actually spread out and take on some cooking projects that just seemed painful, if not dangerous, in my old apartment. I’m talking most about deep-frying of course.
Meg got me the deep fryer for my birthday two summers ago but I could never bring myself to break it out in my old apartment. For one thing, it stored nicely in the box on a shelf in the shared hallway. I had serious concerns about where I would put the thing once it was actually broken in. Plus, the limited counter space meant that a gallon or two of 300 degree peanut oil would be precariously placed somewhere.
But with a longer train ride has come a large kitchen. With plenty of counter and storage space it was time to fry! I actually first broke in the deepfyer a few months ago for a poker game. So this last time wasn’t the virgin run, but it was the first time I thought about taking some pictures and writing about it.
The deep frying plan came together as part of a larger scheme. Stu’s girlfriend Chin was planning a surprise birthday visit. To keep Stu from running off to Atlantic City for the weekend to try her luck at the poker table, I decided to bring the action to Park Slope and get a game together for Friday. Coincidentally, it was also my friend Dave’s birthday and I was excited to get some party time in with him, as well.
Preparing for this event was one of those times where I miss having a car in New York. In order to deep fry you need peanut oil—heavy, heavy peanut oil. Plus, while deep frying is great, we need a few other things, some chips, the making of a spinach dip, the makings of chilli, etc. So Meg and I grabbed the little red push cart headed out for the half-mile walk through the snowy Park Slope streets to Key Food (for those in MN, think a supermarket between ¼ and ½ the size of Rainbow or Cub Foods). After loading the card to the brim, we headed for the now much more difficult trek back. We made it, but in some snow bank or another the weight of all the food in the cart managed to bend one of the wheels to about a 30 degree angle.
Once back it was time to get the cooking thing rolling. As Meg started in on the cup cakes from scratch (a must for Dave and Stu’s b-day celebration) I started in on the spinach dip. See the recipe here. Something that I’ve done before, it comes together very quickly in a food processor. The recipe calls for ½ to 1 cup of mayo and to keep the Mayo flavor down I stayed on the lower end. A new addition was some cherry tomatoes. After trying to mix some in using the food processor and seeing them shredded into a million little pieces I decided to slice them in half and mix them in by hand. The dip was a great snack to have around as people arrived and I set-up the deep fryer.
The first things to fry were some crimini mushrooms. In a little experimentation, half of the package got a standard egg wash and a cover of some seasoned flour (including some paprika, garlic salt, and a dash of white pepper) and half got that flour mix turned into a beer batter (aka I pour some beer into the flour mix until it was a paste). Even before the deep frying, the color of the beer batter was noticeably enticing: the paprika turned the mixture a beautiful bright orangish red. When the beer batter mushrooms were deep fried they came out with a nice orange colored crust. While both sets of mushrooms were good, the beer battered batch was the clear winner. Not only did they have a great color, the orange compared to a duller gray brown, but they were more moist, while still retaining a nice crunch on the outside.
Next up was the fries, both regular and sweet potato. The regular fries turned out well, but not as crispy as I had hoped. I think that I might have under-timed the first fry of the double frying process. (In order to get fries nice and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside you first fry at 325, take them out for a few minutes, and then fry them at 375.) Still, even though they were less crispy then I would have personally liked, they were well-loved. The sweet potato fries presented a whole other problem in the second step of the double-fry process. The sweet potatoes’ high sugar conten started to caramelize and almost burn at the high temp on the second fry. The result was a little ugly, but was really tasty—a little sugar, a little caramel, and some starch.
After the fries, the final deep-fry act was jalapeños in the beer batter. Not unseeded these little guys packed a mean but delicious punch. (The heat of all pepper resides with the pepper’s oil which is mainly found in the seeds.)
There were grand plans for onion rings and Meg’s idea to turn string cheese and breadcrumbs into fried mozarela sticks… but alas the night was getting on, there was poker to play, and bellies were full from the first rounds of deep frying.
At some point in the poker game Meg broke out the chilli that she started along with the deep frying. Coming about 4 hours and countless beers after the end of the deep frying and that start of poker it was a welcome warm treat.
On what may well be my last first day of class for the rest of my life (lets not think about that LLM right now) it was time to grab lunch with the A Team, aka the old crew from Section A in first semester of law. After an extensive group gchat the place was picked: Piola.
I’ve walked by Piola hundreds of times–it’s near school and on the way to the gym and what used to be one of my favorite bars (the Reservoir dropped like a stone in my rankings when they got rid of their Big Buck machine). Piola always looked good from the outside, signs luring me with descriptions of tasty pizza, pasta and wine. I was excited to finally make it through the door.
As the five of us sat at the table we found a tasty looking list of lunch specials, including pizza, pastas, and salads. A quick scan of the regular menu revealed even more interesting dishes, but also told me that we were getting a good deal (probably $3-$5 off each entree).
I ordered the “Born in USA” pizza (which featured chicken, spicy salami, mushrooms and onions), Meg ordered gnocchi in a bolognese sauce, Nick ordered the “Pisa pizza” (ham), Debbie ordered a cheese pizza with diced tomatoes, and Rebbecca ordered a cheese pizza with tomato slices and dried oregano.
From where we were sitting we could see a beautiful wood burning oven. I know I saw them put the pizzas in the oven. But Piola made a mistake that all to many places make–they either have the temperature too low in the oven or don’t keep the pizzas in for long enough. If there is a wood burning oven, the bottom of the pizza should be nice and crispy, NOT SOGGY, when it lands in front of me. The toppings on my Born in USA were fine, though the chicken was dry and nearly flavorless.
I tried a slice of Nick’s pizza. It had the same soggy crust problem, but the ham on the pizza was a good combination.
Rebbecca’s pizza, which I didn’t try, looked like it had been bombed with oregano–far more than a dusting. She found it to be way too much and had to pull off the sliced tomatoes in order to make the pizza edible.
Debbie was very satisfied with her pizza, but then again, if Piola couldn’t handle making a cheese pizza they probably would be out of business by now.
Meg’s pasta was okay. Though the sauce was entirely uninspired, just meat and some tomato. No real flavoring, not even any onion. The gnocchi itself was good, a nice texture in that it wasn’t too hard or too soft. But, all in all, a very bland plate.
I wouldn’t avoid this place like the plague, maybe it was just a bad day, but I’m also not in a rush to check it out again.
48 E. 12th St.
New York, NY 10003
A week or two ago, the New York Times had an article about some cabbage dishes that break the stinky stereotype. Meg has been saying for months that she wants to cook more soups, so the cabbage soup recipe seemed like the perfect choice
Bess Feigenbaum’s Cabbage Soup
Adapted from The National, Manhattan
Time: 3 hours
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup minced or grated onion
1 cup peeled thinly sliced carrots
1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes in purée
1 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup tomato ketchup
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 pounds cabbage (tough outer leaves, core and ribs removed), sliced into 1/4-inch-wide ribbons.
1/2 cup golden raisins
Fresh ground (preferably medium grind) black pepper
Sour cream, optional.
1. In a 6-quart pot over medium-low heat, heat olive oil and add garlic. Cover and cook until garlic is tender but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add onion, and sauté until translucent. Add 3 cups water, carrots, tomatoes and purée, tomato paste, ketchup, brown sugar and bay leaf. Simmer at a lively bubble for 10 minutes, then crush whole tomatoes with potato masher or fork. Continue to simmer until carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. Discard bay leaf.
2. Using an immersion blender, or working in batches with a stand blender, process mixture until it is coarse, not puréed. Return sauce to pot and add lemon juice, cabbage ribbons and 3 cups water. Place over medium-high heat and cook at a lively simmer until cabbage is cooked to taste, from al dente to meltingly soft, 1 to 2 hours. Add 3 to 6 cups water, to thin to desired consistency. Ten minutes before serving, stir in raisins and a few twists of black pepper. If desired, garnish each serving with a dollop of sour cream.
Yield: 8 servings.
I’m pretty sure that I’ve never cooked with cabbage where it takes center stage, as in this soup. Embarking on this new frontier, Meg and I decided to closely adhere to the recipe. I was excited to use this opportunity to test my eye-balling skills, figuring out how to accurately judge whole ingredients’ measurements. For example, I was a little surprised to see that only about one and a quarter small onion was needed to make a cup of diced onion.
The recipe was, all in all, fairly easy. Basically, just cut things and put them in pot and let it all cook for a while.
So…. how did it taste? Meg and I both agreed that it was WAY too sweet. Edibile, but too sweet. (Which maybe shouldn’t be a surprise given that the article the recipe comes from is Cabbage’s Sweet Side.) The recipe calls for brown sugar, ketchup, raisins, and a full cup of tomato paste–all adding to the high level of sweetness.
The soup might work better as a small part of a larger dinner, but when taking center stage, Meg and I agreed that the sweet needs to be take down a notch or two. We we next try, we are going to definitely cut the brown sugar and the ketchup. Meg also had the idea of adding in some India or Middle Easter spices. (I’m so proud of her improvisational thinking!!!) I think that with Meg’s spices this dish might be great served over rice–but only more cooking will tell!
The following is adapted from a restaurant review first publish in the Cardozo Jurist.
The spring semester loan check is in the bank and I’m feeling rich again. But I’ve made a promise to myself: I’m going to remember that my beginning of the semester wealth is just an illusion and that come May I’ll regret my early frivolous spending. So to satisfy my champagne tastes on a beer budget I will turn again to Dock’s Oyster Bar or, to be more precise, to their epic happy hour.
Located in Midtown East, the first thing that struck me about Dock’s was its size: a few years in New York has gotten me use to compact restaurants with close dining quarters. Dock’s has high ceilings and a spacious dining area. The wood paneling, dark tiles, dim light (an amazing constant in the face of the floor to ceiling windows), and rounded edges evoke a comfortable steakhouse.
Every time it’s the oysters that bring me through Dock’s revolving door. Once I start thinking about oysters I can’t stop until I’ve taken down a dozen or so. Lucky, at only a dollar each, I can satisfy my craving for these fresh briny treats for only twelve bucks. The ice tray comes with the standard cocktail sauce and ground ginger but the friendly bartender will always brings over hot sauce or any other sauce my heart desires.
But when I’m done with the oysters, the happy hour isn’t over. The buffalo calamari is a must-try—picture buffalo chicken with a calamari substitution. I was skeptical of the combination, but at only $6.00 I had to give it a try. I was a convert at first bite of the spicy and crispy morsels. Dock’s offers up a few other savory gems with both sliders and BBQ pork sliders for only $1.50 each. The sushi roll on the happy menu deserves a solid B—not bad, but not amazing at its $7 price tag.
Of course, Dock’s happy hour includes deals not only on the food but also on the booze. Well drinks are only five bucks. I recommend starting with the bloody mary which—at least in my mind—matches well with the seafood. But if you’re not a hard liquor fan, grab one of the $6 glasses of wine. When you delve into the savory portion of the happy hour menu you’ll appreciate the $3 off beer which makes a the whole draft selection only $4.
As a restaurant looking to turn a profit, Dock’s sports a regular menu as well. In fact, you can only get the happy hour from 3 to 7 PM, Monday through Friday, in the bar area. But if you want to eat later, sit at a real table, or have some loan money burning a hole in your pocket, the standard menu presents a classic mix of seafood and red meat. The two times that I’ve ventured outside of the happy hour I found the service impeccable and the food well-executed. When it comes to the surf and turf Dock’s does it right by keeping it fresh and simple.
Dock’s Oyster Bar
633 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10017
Two days ago I was lured in cheddar–the aisles of Whole Foods can be a dangerous place. While shopping for the ingredients for cabbage soup (which turned out ok, but not great and will be the subject of a future post) I spotted them. Two types of cheddar: Isle of Mull Cheddar and Borough Market Cheddar. Fortunately there were small enough pieces of each so that Meg and I could afford to buy a little of each. The Borough Market was aged one year and the Isle of Mull was aged 60 days.
The appearance of each cheese was very different. The Isle of Mull was a light orange but has huge visible veins of mold running though it. Yeah, cheddar can have that too! And it’s so good! Usually, the intensity is way lower than with a blue cheese, but it still packs a little bit of the kind of blue cheese punch that wrestles with the cheddar flavors. The Borough Market, on the other hand, was much lighter, almost an off-white.
The texture of each was also very different. In fact Meg had me try to judge which one was which–I was able to correctly guess which the older cheese was (the Isle of Mull) because of its relatively harder texture. The younger cheese (the Borough Market) was much more creamy. When you think about cheese-making, it makes sense that the older the cheese, the less creamy it will be. As the cheese sits around, building flavor and waiting for me to eat it, the moisture is slowly sneaking off. The Isle of Mull, though less creamy was a far cry from a hard cheese. The Borough has some nice little crunch to it, but again, nothing like you would find in, say, a Parmigiano Reggiano. The Isle of Mull had just a few crunchies, maybe one or two in every bite.
Now the flavors. The first bites of the Mull had a good balance of the blue cheesiness and the cheddar flavors, but the bites of the veins in the cheese overpowered the inherent cheddar taste–though it did it in a strange way, the cheddar flavor at these points seemed lower and the blue cheesiness only marginally higher (not punching you in the face). The taste of the Mull fit this pattern from nose to rind. The Borough, on the other hand, changed as you moved from nose to rind. The first bites had some complex flavor with some blue cheesiness lingering in the background, but as we ate through it, the blue chessiness grew stronger and stronger until it was hitting you over the head! A very interesting experience.
All in all, two good cheeses that remind me that I want to have more cheddar in my life!
Meg noticed that while we’ve been shopping lately I’ve found my self stopping and scanning the mustard (often reading some out load to her). I didn’t realize this, but she thinks I’m on the verge of a “mustard phase” and I have to say that I think she might be right. Stay tuned.
So I realize it’s been a while since there’s been a post…. ok a long time, since Randy Moss played for the Vikings. But it’s time to get back to it. Anyway, on to the sushi talk!
It’s easy to find cheap sushi in New York, though it’s not necessarily so easy to find good sushi on the cheap. All too often I’ve been tempted by seemingly amazing sushi specials, only to find tough, low quality cuts of fish or fish past its prime. Cherin Sushi, however, offers delicious, fresh, and creative rolls at a bargain price.
As you get to the door of Cherin, through the front window you see a simple black rock garden. Once through the door, you find yourself in a comfortably Spartan, long, dimly lit room. The sushi bar itself is at the far end of the long room. With only two seats, the small sushi bar, hard to see from most seats in the restaurant, may be Cherin’s biggest drawback. It’s always nice to have the option to sit at the bar, talk with chef, and see the sushi being made. Especially if you’re a regular talking to the sushi chef can sometimes get you the best cuts of fish and off the menu creations.
If you swing by Cherin any evening Monday through Saturday you can get in on a sushi early bird special. Mondays, the specials run from 5 until midnight, Tuesday through Thursday the special is available from 5 to 8, and Friday or Saturday the special ends by 7:30. Get your soy sauce and wasabi ready for the “Diet Special”: three rolls or one roll with six sashimi pieces for $9.95; or grab the “Dinner Special”: four rolls or one roll with nine sashimi pieces for $12.95.
Sure, the specials don’t include some of the fancy rolls; but they do have some deliciously innovative sushi on the list. Among the standard rolls, Cherin’s menu has some awesome house creations: the Sushi Surfer roll introduces banana to eel (an odd-sounding yet surprisingly tasty union), the Jenny roll puts a pineapple and shrimp combination in your chopsticks, and the Crunch roll adds some apple into a standard cucumber roll. And during happy hour, be sure not to miss the generously priced beer and hot sake.
Even if you think it’s lame to eat dinner before eight o’clock, don’t skip over this place. The non-happy hour prices still include quality rolls for less than the pre-package stuff you find in stores. But wait, there’s more. Cheri is BYOB with no cork or cap fee and has a great liquor store with top-shelf bottles of sake just down the block.
306 E. 6th St.
New York, NY 10003
Friday & Saturday: 5pm-1am