Saturday, November 27, 2010

So Beautiful...

Hanukkah came early this year.

This is my dresser:

Yes, that is a giant image of bacon on my tv. Look at all those books I have to read through. 
My awesome sister got me a SIGNED copy of the Good Eats Cookbook!

These have been on my wishlist for, well, about a zillion years.

Items OrderedPrice
1 of: The River Cottage Meat Book, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Condition: New
Sold by:, LLC
1 of: Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys, David Tanis
Condition: New
Sold by:, LLC
1 of: Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes, Jennifer McLagan, Leigh Beisch
Condition: New
Sold by:, LLC
1 of: The River Cottage Cookbook, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Simon Wheeler
Condition: New
Sold by:, LLC
1 of: Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge, Gordon Edgar
Condition: New
Sold by:, LLC
1 of: Mastering Cheese: Lessons for Connoisseurship from a Maître Fromager, Max McCalman, David Gibbons
Condition: New
Sold by:, LLC
1 of: Chez Panisse Vegetables, Alice L. Waters
Condition: New
Sold by:, LLC
1 of: The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - City, David Lebovitz
Condition: New
Sold by:, LLC
1 of: The Art of Eating, M. F. K. Fisher, Joan Reardon
Condition: New
Sold by:, LLC
1 of: Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table (Random House Reader's Circle), Ruth Reichl
Condition: New
Sold by:, LLC

1 of: Everyday Harumi, Harumi Kurihara
Condition: New
Sold by:, LLC

1 of: The Compassionate Carnivore: Or, How to Keep Animals Happy, Save Old MacDonald's Farm, Reduce Your Hoofprint, and Still Eat Meat, Catherine Friend
Condition: New
Sold by:, LLC

PLUS, a few Saveur, a Gastronomica, and BEERS, and The Naked Pint is sitting on my bed. Beach reading, HERE I COME!

What are you reading?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Lie on your back, relax... Tryptophanasana

A little Bikram joke for ya, courtesy of Mr. Chris.

I finished my Thanksgiving meal and came out of my food coma just long enough to write a few blog entries. I am mostly doing this because I can't move. At all. Well I can move my hands.

Here is the line-up:
clockwise from top left: Turnips, cranberry sauce, lamb and turkey gravy, toasted nuts (my uncle is alergic so we have to leave them on the side), regular stuffing, cornbread crunchy stuffing, apple slaw, Aunt Judy's Cranberry Mould, Nana's Candied Carrots, Mac and Cheese, Nana's Creamed Spinach, Lamb, Turkey

My contributions were leg of lamb, apple slaw, and macaroni and cheese.

#1 Mustard and Herb Crusted Leg of Lamb 
with Stillwater Cellar Door (wheat beer brewed with white sage)

First I made a boneless leg of lamb. This was so simply and so yummy. Lamb is almost as fun to cook as duck. Its really fun to spice and sauce and it is friendly with contrasting flavors. 
I got a 4.5 lb boneless leg of lamb, preheated the oven to 400ºF, and I salted and peppered the whole thing. In a cuisinart I combined the following to form a paste:
4tbsp room temperature butter
3tbsp dijon mustard
1 handful dried sage leaves (probably about 1/4 cup)
3 sprigs of chopped fresh rosemary
3 sprigs worth of fresh thyme leaves
6-8 cloves of finely chopped garlic
salt and pepper to taste
You spread that all over the leg, and in the crevices and put it in the oven at 400º F for 10min. Then I turned the oven down to 350º F for about another hour. I had to lay a little foil over the top cause I felt it was getting a bit too brown, but it was high up in the oven with other dishes so a)it probably shouldnt have taken so long to cook, and b) it probably wouldnt have gotten too brown if it hadnt been so close to the element.  The lamb should be about 130º F when you take it out and it should rest for about 1/3 of the cooking time. It will cook more as it rests. Medium-Rare is about 135ºF in my opinion. I wish I had taken mine out a little sooner, but it was still amazing. 
The finished awesmazingness:

#2 Macaroni and Cheese

As I informed you in my last post, How I Ate NYC, my mac and cheese is inspired by Balthazar's Macaroni au Gratin. Its not neat and tidy, and having four hands makes it a lot easier for me cause I always double the dish. Here is the normal size version. It it very rich and would serve 10 people easily.
First get your water boiling for the pasta, and boil up 1 16oz box of elbow macaroni, leaving them just slightly under done, so you maybe think they could cook for another 2min.
While that boils cook up 4oz of diced thick cut bacon. Drain the bacon. Save the fat if you wish. 
When I drain the pasta I put it into a huge bowl so I can toss everything up, and I toss it with enough bacon fat to keep it from sticking together. You could easily use olive oil instead. 
In a large pot heat 5 cups of whole milk till it comes to a foamy boil. The trick is to keep it moving so it doesn't burn on the sides of the pot. 
Now you make a roux. I use the bacon pan and melt equal parts butter to the amount of flour I will use. Once the butter is melted you dump in all the flour at one time and whisk off the heat. You want about 1/2 cup of flour and 4tbsb butter. I actually added some extra bacon fat to thin my roux out. It should be thick but not dry or clumpy. You'll keep whisking for 1 to 2 minutes, just to get the raw taste out of the flour. If you don't do this the roux will taste like paste. 
Then ladel in a bit of milk while vigorously whisking. Keep adding one ladle-full at a time as you fully incorporate them, until you have added four to five, then you can pour in larger amounts of milk, but be sure to incorporate the liquid before adding more. 
Add 3 cups grated cheese to this mixture. I used about 1cup Cabot Clothbound Cheddar and 2 Cups Cave Aged Gruyere. You can use any cheese that melts well. I like the creamy pungency of the gruyere, and the carmel, nuttyness of the cheddar. 
I also stirred in about 1/2tbsp of dried red pepper flakes. 
Pour all this over the macaroni and combine, add bacon last. Pour into a large baking dish, around about 10x12. 
Cook in oven for 15min so the bottom browns, then cover with one cup grated parmesan cheese and cook for 10 more minutes. You may wish to broil this to brown the top. 
Thats about it. It freezes well, but be sure to bring it to room temp before baking, it has a much creamier texture this way.

The rest of the meal, sorry no recipes, my family hasn't passed them on just yet:

Dad with the Turkey

Carving the Turkey... you can tell it rested cause there are no juices
They look so surprised, like I have never stolen and eaten the turkey skin before. Don't they?
Nana's Creamed Spinach, by my request. ooooo, look at that steam cloud.
Nana's Candied Carrots. They may look burnt but they tasted crispy and delicious. 
Nana is The Turkey Monster

Here is the Table, small and intimate this year. Usually there are 15 of us. This year only 7. Clearly we still cooked for 15:

Two types of Stuffing: 

Me, Mom, and Nana... We 3 Cooks.
And a store bought chocolate tort, Aunt Judy's Chocolate Chip Cookies will take its place again next year.

I can't say I am anything other than satisfied. Bikram tomorrow.

How I ate NYC

A few weeks ago mom and I went to New York City. The goal was shopping. But we mostly based this around successful consumption of every dish in the entire city.

The first day in NYC Mom and I arrived in time for lunch at Angelo's, the  family institution. Our fam has been going there since before I was born. I ordered the spedina, a dish of fresh mozzarella wrapped in bread, fried, and sauteed in a delicious lemony, wine, anchovy, butter, tomato, basil, lemon juice combo. I have never figured out the exact specifications of this dish but I may be making a new attempt at recreation soon. I dream of this stuff, and it is the most wonderful thing I have ever eaten in my life. It better be a part of my last supper. I also had a new dish, the squid ink pasta with rose sauce and shrimp. Mom says my Papa, her father, used to love this dish, so I had to order it after seeing it at the table behind us. I had been craving a tartufo for weeks, so that was dessert. Although I was filled to the gills I ordered one. These are chocolate coated ice cream balls made of chocolate and vanilla ice cream with a maraschino cherry, and almonds in the center.

The shell always takes on a cinnamony quality that I love. Angelos is certainly not authentic Italian but the best American style Italian I've ever had.  We also had fun watching the owner and his family sit down for Sunday supper and checking out the food they ate, and the yelling in Italian, and all the gesturing in the air.

Balthazar, right by the Spring Street metro, is one of my fav places in the city. It is right up the street from Angelos and near all the great shopping. I base my macaroni and cheese recipe off the macaroni au gratin served at this gorgeous restaurant. Mom and I at least made it by for breakfast on the second day. The line for the bakery is always insanity, and the wait in the dining room can be hours. To appease the masses waiting in line at the bakery, they had a little sample pastry that tasted like crumbly butter, it was so yum. I had to order a pistachio madeline and hazelnut hot cocoa. It was pretty much the sex.

For dinner on the first night we choose Felidia, Lidia Bastinach's restaurant (I'm sorry the photos suck, I didn't realize the camera wasn't white balancing). She and her family are closely involved with Mario Batali, and since we couldn't get reservations at Babbo, we went for Felidia. We choose to order the tasting menu which turned out well, and not so well. Mom is trying to be vegetarian so she wanted a veg menu. I on the other hand was there for the offal. That was my reason for wanting to head to Babbo. Since they were not to busy they let mom do veg tasting while I did non veg. I was personally disappointed I didn't get chicken liver because i specified how adventurous I am, and how much I was hoping for some of the more exotic items. I guess they didn't believe me, or they don't really do the exotic items in tasting menus.
I started off my meal with a glass of the Coenobium Rusticum Lazio 2007 Trebbiano. It had some really dark golden tones to it, and I kept wanting to say it had sherry vinegar qualities, but felt like I wasn't picking out the correct label. Turns out Trebbiano grapes are the ones they make balsamic vinegar out of, guess that is what I was picking up.
Our first course was identical and we had fish carpaccio with toasted rice, tomato, olive oil, and sliced radish. While this dish was very light and fresh it was not the most exciting.

Our salad course was a beet salad with local Camembert and local blue. I always love beets so I was happy. Beet and Truffle were a mainstay of this trip and I was happy to see the seasonality of everyones menus.

Then came the pasta course. The first was Cacio e Pere, Pear and Pecorino stuffed ravioli with black pepper. It had nice texture, and good flavor, but I would have loved to see some acid on this like a few spots of balsamic reduction. I found it just a hint too sweet.

My second pasta course was pappardelle with duck ragu. This was pretty traditional, and tasty, but I could make it easily, and i have seen it done right so many times it didn't really impress me.

Mom's 2nd pasta was pappardelle with mushrooms and truffle oil, which is always awesome, if still nothing new.

Mom finished the meal with branzino accompanied by broccolini, and mozzarella spaetzle.
I had beef with accompaniments I can't remember because I was so incredibly full at this point, I think I had two bites. Definitely a downfall of their tasting menu. TOO much food.
In addition, although we, and one of the waitstaff were surprised by this, a full dessert sampler was included in the tasting menu. One of the staff had brought us a menu while we tried in vain to make space for dessert, before the other waiter came by and told us it was actually included and would be arriving momentarily. The nice thing about this is that we didn't have to make any decisions. They brought a petite fours of each of the dessert options so we tried them all.  Included was of course,  some tiramisu,  a beer cake wih fall spices, toffee brittle, and zabaglione. I think they were all yummy but the food coma was overtaking my senses. I woke up long enough to hear the gentlemen Maitre D and Waiter compliment my new kicks from AllSaints! And who says men dont care what shoes you are wearing.

The second day in the city it was raining so mom and I headed to the "Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen" exhibit at  the MoMa. There were tons of cool photos by photographers I admire, and one of my favorite pieces was a video of a woman in a kitchen. She was cataloging pieces of kitchen equipment alphabetically and demonstrating their uses as she spoke. She began very methodically and the demonstration evolved into a passionate, forceful gestural act. The whole video has a strong emphasis on auditory stimulation and I found it very intriguing as it felt like sitting in a kitchen listen to your mother cook.
There was also this really sweet poster:

And I was super excited because the real Starry Night by Van Gogh was in the museum. I have made many art pieces inspired by his work and I find it to be truly amazing.

For lunch, mom and I met my friend from Pairs at Fig and Olive. She promised my love for this place and she did not let down. First they brough 3 olive oils with homemade foccia:

Crostini is their specialty so we ordered some of those. The following arrived looking nearly too good to consume:
Crushed Tomato, Olive Oil
Radish, Sprout, Yogurt
Eggplant, Basil, Sundried Tomato
Manchego, Fig Spread, Almond
Bresaola, Goat Cheese, Black Olive
Shrimp, Avocado, Cilantro, Tomato
Mushroom, Artichoke, Truffle, Parmesan

We also ordered the olive mix. I was less impressed by the white sangria and pea soup.

Nothing beats the Pea soup at Cinghiale. In case we hadn't ordered enough we also shared the Romaine, endive, and baby beet salad with apples, maple pecans, gorgonzola dolce, caramelized goat cheese with pistachio, sesame seeds and Raspberry Sherry Arbequina Dressing. Thats a mouthful of ingredients. This salad was yummy, but a bit heavy handed on the cheese, and the dressing made it look sloppy on the plate, when it tasted pretty impeccable.

We also choose to share more pasta with mushrooms and truffles.

After lunch I knew I had to drop in at La maison du Chocolate, at Madison Square Gardens for a chocoalte chaude and some chocolate bars.
There was a La Maison du chocolate in Paris and I went weekly for my Cuana Bar. These are the perfect thickness so you just need one rectangle in a setting. They are 74% cocoa and are just deadly. They were running out so i had to pick up some of the Pariguan bars at only 69% percent. I was really hesitant to spend so much on these because I worried they would be too milky, but no such problem. They are also incredible.

That night we had reservations at Daniel! I was super excited for a meal by a chef of this caliber. The decor was big and bold, yet inviting and cozy, and the bartender made me a beautiful champagne "bellini", with house made grenadine that had a bit more emphasis on seasonal spiceness. This was a perfect cocktail based on my request for nothing like rose hips, or mint, and not too sweet. It was refreshing and appetizing.
I have to share that I was disappointed in how non-user friendly Daniel's wine menu was. I like to think I know a little bit about wine and I was exhausted just looking at the table of contents. Before I began I gave up an went with the pairing, luckily they got that right.
I began my meal at Daniel with a beautiful amuse bouche featuring beets! Mom and I could have eaten these little morsels for days.
My first course was the Trio of Spanish Mackerel. The first part was prepared warm with cumin and carrot mousseline. The second was a tartar with north star caviar, and the third was poached with white wine gelee. I chose this dish because I know mackerel can be really awful and strong and overpoweringly oily, so I wanted an opportunity to see the highest quality fish treated with respect. The chef made an incredibly delicious plate and I couldnt have wished for a better representation of what Mackerel can be. The sommelier paired this with the Weingut Knoll Gruner Veltliner Federspeil. It was a beautiful wine and a nice pairing, but I was slightly unhappy, feeling like a Gruner Veltliner was a copout. I have been told that when you are in doubt, a Gruner Veltliner is friendly with anything. I was hoping they would challenge themselves and show me something I would never have expected. I haven't a clue what a safe pairing is with Mackerel
I can't for the life of me recall moms first course. I was so fixated on trying not to drool I must have been in lala land.
My second course was the Duo of Rabbit with a Domaine Bosquet des Papes, Chateauneuf du Pape, Cuvee Grenache, 2001. This wine was spectacular and when I made it home to Bin and realized we had a bottle of the Bosquet des Papes, I immediately snached the last one. Not sure I have the same vintage, but I'm certain I will be happy with it when I finally am able to drink it. Mom ordered the Black Sea Bass with Leek and Potato Parmentier, and Roasted Tempra Celery. It was a beautiful piece of fish, I actually preferred it to my Rabbit (unfair comparison cause one of the preparations of Rabbit had five spice or fennel in it and, in case I can't say it enough, I HATE licorice flavors). They were nice enough to refill my glass of wine, which I had only finished cause it was too good to waste. So before the word dessert was even uttered I had finished a cocktail and 3 glasses of wine!
Unfortunately, I stopped short of finishing my main course, knowing I was full and would still want a bite of dessert. Little did I know what was in store for me.
A cheese cart!!!
Just like at Charleston, my eyes lit up, my stomach felt immediately empty, and I asked the dreaded phrase "How many are there, and how many can i have?."Man oh man, they had 6 cheeses I had never eaten, plus the most beautiful chunk of Ossu Iraty ever. And little did I realize that my wine pairing continued onto my dessert course. The sommelier outdid himself with this pairing. It was unbelievable. Not only did I have washed, pressed, aged, fresh, hard, and soft cheeses, I also chose cow, goat and sheeps milk cheeses. This wine was fantastic with all of them, and it's not even a wine I usually enjoy. The wine was the Ridge, Meritage, from the Santa Cruz Mountains, 2006. The cheeses included a crottin de chavignol, which is a goat cheese from the Loire in France; a tomme de l'abbaye de tamie, a washed rind cows milk cheese from the French Alps; the tomme du berger, another washed rind cheese, this time a Sardinian, Italian one with cow and sheep milk; the ossau iraty, a sheeps milk from the French Pyrenees; and last was a Fosterkase from Switzerland, a cows milk cheese that is wrappedin fir bark ( I have been wanting to try this cheese for years because I have an obsession with the subtle aromas and flavors of all bark wrapped cheeses, in particular Petit Sapin).

With stomachs full and brains shut off, mom and I passed out that night.
In the morning we were so full we decided to cancel our reservations at Forgione, a move I am certain to regret, seeing as the chef, Marc Forgione, is now the newest Iron Chef, and in my opinion it is deservedly so, even without trying his food.

We did make it to David Chang's infamous Momofuku Noodle Bar for lunch before skipping town. We were there super early but it was unnecessary. I was expecting long lines. The bartender almost ruined my meal when he explained the true, and in my opinion most wonderful thing about Mmofuku... pork broth and fat are added to just about everything! Mom was less than thrilled based on her new vegetarian trials, but she behaved admirably and dealt.

Maybe it was the pork fat, but mom started with the shitake steamed bun, and I have to say that if I were pretending to be a vegetarian, I wouldn't have felt left out of the meat circle. This thing was so sexy and savory and wonderful. Of course I ordered the pork steamed bun and thoroughly enjoyed lapping the pork juices off my cupped palm before they could run down my arm.

We shared an order of the rice cakes with chili oil and scallions, which were nice and spicy with a wonderful fluffy texture and crisp but not crunchy exterior.

Although I knew it would be too much food I let mom order the Ginger scallion noodles with shitake pickles, cucumber pickles, and bamboo shoots, which did not come with any broth. And I unsurprisingly irdered the Momofuku ramen, which was basically pure pork in every form imaginable. I was beyond thrilled when I discovered the flavor of the broth was very similar to mine. Mine was just less concentrated, and easy fix next time around.

momofuku ramen
my ramen and my post about it
That was the end to an incredibly filling trip to NYC. One I won't soon forget... cause my waistline won't let me.