Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Skin-ny...Recipes From Grandma?










Little Skin-ny Bundles...










+++Recipe To Follow+++













Reading interviews with celebrity chefs waxing nostalgically about their mother's or grandmother's cooking and how wonderful and inspiring it all was has become fairly commonplace in food porn mags. Sometimes I wonder how much of it is true, and how much is 'truthy', or just plain marketing. Is it possible that every chef learned how to cook from their mother/grandmother/great aunt Sophia? Was every nonna and bubbie a Lidia Bastianich superstar? I guess you could say that that is why they are great chefs today, although my personal experience is a little different. While my mother certainly did cook for three boys and a husband for many years, at one point I realized that if I wanted to vary my dinner selection off the roast chicken/broiled hamburgers/chicken soup rotation of my ethnic upbringing, I was going to have to do it myself.













And while I studied my favorite cookbook (Craig Claiborne's NYTimes International Cookbook), and it did puzzle some family members that I enjoyed cooking, no one minded when I took over the helm in the tiny kitchen to make such 'delicacies' as Chinese Pepper Steak. This, and other dishes like Rice Andalouse (my first introduction to the mysterious bay leaf) were added to the classics that mom had learned from my grandmother, which included salmon latkes and my favorite, stuffed helzel. A helzel is a neck, and the dish is kind of like the skin of a turkey neck (or chicken neck, as turkey neck skin seems to be harder and harder to find) stuffed with something similar to a matzo ball mixture, then boiled in soup, or roasted in the oven alongside chicken. For my updated version, I added a little smoked duck meat to the mixture, and I tied the neck skin together with twine, rather than meticulously sewing the ends shut as I remember my grandmother and mother doing (probably the reason this dish eventually disappeared from their repertoire-too labor intensive).















After pulling the neck skin off, I created a stock by cooking the necks together in a soup pot with some carrots, onions, celery, and, yes, a few bay leaves. After 45 minutes, in went the necks for about 45 minutes more. Then a quick saute in the pan, or even better, a deep-fried minute or two as you tilt your pan (see video)










Rich Neck Broth...





+++My constant companion was revolted by the 'raw' appearing skin, even after I pan-fried the Helzels to crisp them, so she deep-fried them further, and the result was a very crispy, golden-brown skin, enveloping a smooth, almost pâté-like interior. An inspired recipe change that took the dish to a more rarefied level. She's right, I'm wrong. Again. The soup that you have left can be spooned into a shallow bowl around the stuffed neck, or saved for another occasion-I used it for a risotto the next day-see http://dailycocaine.blogspot.com/2008/07/black-mushroom-risotto.html



After pan-frying for a minute on each side...











+++ Anybody have some oddly delicious dishes from their moms or grandmothers or just weird stuff you ate growing up?



Even better deep-fried for a minute or two...


A little hot sauce to add some fire...







RECIPE...
Combine matzo meal, finely chopped onion, schmaltz (rendered chicken fat-it's in the frozen food case if you don't have any lying around-about $1.79, then microwave a bit for this recipe), and eggs (similar to the recipe for matzo balls on the matzo meal package, but with fat instead of oil), and any bits of leftover meat you may have, and a bunch of herbs (I had basil lying around). Shove mixture into neck skin and tie with string. Boil in soup (or salted water if you must), then dry, and deep-fry two at a time, tilting the pan. Serve with spicy sauce, or with broth ladled into bowl. Perhaps, I'll admit, stuffed neck-skin is not extremely appetizing to the untrained eye, or any eye...




...or just spoon in some neck broth...










Deep-Fried Method...



video

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Watermelon Carpaccio?


Coming up with inexpensive yet different and tasty dinners can be a challenge-here's something quick and easy and perfect for a hot summer night. German bratwursts may sound heavy, but only because of the words 'German' and 'bratwurst'. They are actually fairly light, and don't need a lot of preparation-just sauté lightly until they brown a little. First caramelize some onions in a little oil, throwing in a little sugar and vinegar for the sweet-sour/browning effect. Add some seedless grapes, stir for a few minutes, then take some sauerkraut, let the excess brine drip off, and add it to the pan. You can substitute, or add, apple slices to the mixture. Slice your watermelon super-thin, place it on the plate with some fresh grapes, and the refreshing mix of lightly pungent 'choucroute' and the meaty sausages, along with the cold, fresh fruit, makes an easy, inexpensive, and satisfying din-din. Try a Riesling with this, or any off-dry white wine from Alsace.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Black Mushroom Risotto...


Your mission is to stir...






I will always try to help you eat well and save money here at DC, whether it's through food trucks or hole-in-the-wall cheapo joints; but the first (and best) way to save money on food is to cook at home. Examine the cupboards and fridge and you'll probably find some items you forgot were there, like capers, which everyone has a jar of, or rice, in this case, arborio rice, which inspired me to make this risotto. Mushrooms were cheap at the market, with maybe one or two days left to use them, so I cooked them to caramelized blackness in my spun-steel pan, while I was preparing the risotto. I had some very rich broth left over from the previous day (see http://www.theartofhunger.com/ ), and I put that on another burner, with some roughly chopped mushrooms thrown in, to simmer; also boiling some water in case I ran out of broth. (The broth should be warm when it is added to the rice.) One cup of rice will probably need about three or four cups of broth.








Cut up an onion and saute in a 10" cast-iron skillet (not essential, it's just what I use) for about 7 minutes, don't brown. Set your timer for 20 minutes. Add the rice, salt and pepper to taste, and saute for about 5 minutes until all grains are coated and a little colored-pay attention, keep stirring. Add a 1/4 cup white wine (the one you're drinking's okay), stir until it's gone, then start ladling in the hot broth. Start with a cup-keep stirring, until it is absorbed. Then add a 1/2 cup, same thing. Keep adding a little broth at a time maybe a 1/4 cup, and keep stirring-wait for the broth to be fully absorbed before adding more. If you run out of broth, add hot water. Check for doneness, and don't be afraid to take it off the burner when it is al dente-this is not a boiled-rice dish, and the rice grains are done when they are still chewy. The timer should have gone off by now. This is the magic moment-pour in the mushrooms, stir to coat, top with a little truffle oil if you've got some lying around (and who doesn't?). If you have some cheese, grate some into a bowl and pass it around. You can also finish the risotto with some butter (gasp!).





Moral of the story-don't be afraid of making risotto, it's just rice you stir. And it's inexpensive. Total cost under $5 for two. Any suggestions for other risottos? Inexpensive yet luxurious dishes you can make at home? Thank you!


Keep stirring-don't let your internet-style short attention-span distract you...



Bring the pan to the table to keep the risotto hot-don't cover...



Mood lighting helps...


Serving Suggestion-Put a couple of thin slices of mushroom in the toaster oven to toast, and serve alongside the creamy risotto...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Danny Gets His Okra...






If you are not attending tomorrow's 'Taste of the Nation' (http://www.theartofhunger.com/ ), then perhaps you might like to attend a $9.99 Indian buffet? Yes, I got my okra, but in the end, I realized something very important for what seems like the millionth time. But finally it seems to have sunk in. Eating out has become prohibitively expensive. Lunch for two at Garden of Eatin' with two drinks, over $30. Indian buffet for two plus two mango lassi's, over $30. I promise, starting next week, to compile a list of places to eat for $5 max. total, including tax/tip. I will also be publishing recipes and tips for cooking at home on the cheap. But good food, fun to cook, and tingly for the palate. I've had it with high prices, and honestly, I just can't afford it anymore. Even the Indian buffet, hell, even the damn taco truck, is starting to look like a luxury. Anyhoo, the stewed okra, everything really, was pretty good.
NB-If you have any cheapo suggestions, please send 'em south, as we used to say. (That means over here, to me, bubba.)


That's it on the left...Woo. Hoo.

Kebab Indian
514 NE 167th St
N. Miami, FL 33162
305-940-6309
Closed Mondays

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Okra How I Long for Thee...




When I arrived at the vegan Garden of Eatin' for lunch yesterday, my okra-desire was at its peak. For some reason (could be the Paul Prudhomme cookbook on my nightstand), I was obsessed with the vegetable that people love to hate. I cooked andouille and shrimp stuffed mirliton last week (again, Chef Paul), and had my sights set on some Louisiana-type stuff. But my tears of joy when I saw the blackboard with the word 'okra' on it, were replaced by tears of sadness, as Vince, Ms. Brown's all-around helper, erased 'okra' from the board. It was one o'clock and they were already out. Must have been good. Damn good. But lunch was great without it, from the stewed 'chicken', to the greens over rice, to the cauliflower fritters, and finally, the stewed eggplant, which almost made up for the tragic okra-less-ness of the meal.







But I'm not here to talk about food. I'm here to talk about booze. When I met her sipping vintage Veuve Clicquot and Dom Perignon at a tasting in Ft. Lauderdale, I had no idea that LaTanya White was schooling to become a master mixologist. We were just grinning about the fact that we were drinking rare and expensive wines and cognacs at the St. Regis, and getting paid (more or less) to do it. But today LaTanya is in New Orleans, volunteering at Tales of the Cocktail, a great event, and she is lucky (and talented) enough to have been chosen among the TOP 10FINALISTS for the Conde Nast Traveler/Grand Marnier custom cocktail contest.









The CARIBBEAN GOLD recipe that she submitted is made with GrandMarnier, star fruit puree, passion fruit juice, egg white and edible gold (is there any other kind?). So I thought I'd pass along this link where you can cast your vote for CARIBBEAN GOLD to be the Toast Heard Round The World http://www.cntpromo.com/sw_grandmarnier_02.asp Good luck LaTanya-let's hope to all drink the Caribbean Gold together real soon. God knows we all need a good drinking partner....LaTanya can be reached at http://www.71proofllc.com/

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Art of Hunger...With The Correct Updated Link!!!

As I launch a new blog, The Art of Hunger (www.TheArtofHunger.com ), I could not help thinking that this Jason Hedges performance piece, roasting whole lambs at Locust Projects at last Saturday's Wynwood Art Stroll, satisfies on so many levels. At The Art of Hunger, I will examine consumables, in every sense of the word, from food and wine, to architecture and design; and create a light-hearted romp through the misty bog of it all. For your pleasure....


(For more on Jason Hedges' project 'Aesthetic Experience #13 (Lamb), 2008, please go to http://www.locustprojects.org/physical/current/index.html








Mr. Hedges and Lamby, right off the spit...




Rare okay with you?





It was hot...








The proud parents (of the artist...)

Art/Meat lovers anticipate/participate...
video

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Woman On Top...



Working out my sidecar recipe with some very good Calvados, really good orange liqueur, and fresh lemon juice (I also throw in some bitters and a maraschino cherry instead of a lemon twist), while the constant companion tries to race ahead in our meaningless yet simultaneously furious battle to see who can outcook the other-tonight it was whole roasted cauliflower, sauteed spinach with garlic, and tuna steaks.









The cauliflower was partially steamed then got a sprinkling of toasted bread crumbs, parmiggiano reggiano, and some pats of butter, then thrown under the broiler to crisp.











The tuna was quickly oven-roasted in a covered pan in soy and sesame oil, and then finished on the top of the stove in a heavy cast-iron pan, which flash-caramelizes the outside of the steaks. It also allows for the tuna to get crisped in some sesame oil to crunch up the exterior, and then that final glob of tamarind paste for some extra zing (you always need an unexpected ingredient if you want to come out on top-and that tamarind paste, which I had bought, incidentally, came from WAY back in the cupboard). Great taste and texture combos, with the salty/sour crisped tuna, the mellow cauliflower, and the subtle spinach. And she moves ahead...





The Cauliflower was smoking...



Thursday, July 10, 2008

Duck's Blood For Lunch...

The former hole-in-the-wall Full Kee takes credit cards now, and the big-ass wall menus that used to list specials only in Chinese characters now are translated into English (although duck stuffed with shrimp paste probably sounds better in another language-however, it's rich taste transcends language barriers); and the Hong Kong-style Noodles and Shrimp Dumplings seemed to have a different, less light and mouth-watering dumpling, perhaps mistakenly changed for downtown diners' palates; and the soy chicken was juicy but kind of fatty.

Stars were the chive flowers sauteed with garlic-crunchy and very oniony, with the garlic overtones of the chives brought out by the sliced, stir-fried garlic cloves (duh). And of course the sauteed duck blood with ginger and scallions, a homey dish that will remind you of mom's cooking (someone's mom, probably not your own), in that it has a smooth, almost foie-like texture and taste, but it's singularity is of blood, not liver, although if liver were...well maybe I already said it. Mom's liver but it tastes sweet and mousse-like, with a lot of crunchy scallions, onions, and ginger.

A classic preparation, in a joint that used to be (and for all I know still is) frequented late-night by the top chefs in DC-including the late Jean-Louis Palladin, who once remarked that the pig's knuckle at Full Kee was as delicate and rich as any french charcuterie he had ever tasted. They also do an amazing pig's skin & turnips, marinated pig's intestine, and the all-time favorite, Marinated "Assortments". Parts so evil that their names must remain unspoken. I think of the chefs that used to haunt this place, and I hope that the owners of Full Kee will continue to keep up the standards they've established over their more than twenty years. Because, let's face it, under the skin, we all have the blood in common. Shout-out to waitress Kyu. Kyu!



Hong Kong Style Shrimp Dumplings and Noodle Soup


Chive Flowers Sauteed in Garlic


Half a Soy Chicken (Us-That looks like a lot-is that a half? Kyu-It was a big chicken.)



The blood from a duck...made into glorious food for humans. Thank you.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Pork tacos...

...IT WAS INEVITABLE http://dailycocaine.blogspot.com/2008/07/dinner-battleswoman-versus-manwoman.html ....Leftover pork (god yes), fat scallions, Mexican white cheese, sriracha sauce, cruncy/tart tomatillos, AND tomatoes...cilantro, and black beans cooked with imaginary smoked pork neck bones. Feed me, Charlie...








Tuesday, July 08, 2008

'Green' Street Vendors...

Some cities are stuck with the same old street vendors selling the same old sad food-in Washington, DC, they did something about it. They actually surveyed the city's residents to find out what they wanted from street vendors; then issued new permits/licenses to entrepreneurs/vendors who wanted to try something new. I'm not sure if it's working, but this electric vehicle from "On the Fly", parked in downtown DC, selling Daily Specials of Thai Red Curry and Chilled Udon is a pretty good start. The gourmet pupusa vendors can't be far behind....








What is it with Buddhist monks and H&M?

Monday, July 07, 2008

James Beard Best New Restaurant-Central Michel Richard

There is something very special about a restaurant that compels you to make a mad dash from the airport to eat there. Washington, DC's Central (pronounced cen-TRAHL), Michel Richard's reasonably-priced bistro at Pennsylvania Avenue and 11th St is just such a place. And by reasonably-priced, I mean a boatload less than his flagship Citronelle, and surprisingly less than many other swanky downtown DC spots. And although there are the usual DC-types here, if you are casually dressed, as many people were when I was there for lunch last week, you are still treated like you took the time to dress up. Arriving at National Airport at 9:30 AM, the constant companion and I took a leisurely Metro ride up to 11th and G, just a few blocks away, and then dropped into a Starbucks to read The Onion (yes, it's available free in news boxes here), and kill some time (see below). (Notice the opened newspaper across the chest-helps to keep you warm and cozy.)





I've gushed about Chef Richard before, http://dailycocaine.blogspot.com/2008/03/miami-dc-goes-to-washington-dc-with.html and his staff, and on my return visit we were again served by the super-efficient Raquel, and manager Jennifer Lucy was a teriffic hostess who spent some time chatting with us, especially about the amazing 'Happy In The Kitchen', Chef Richard's cookbook. Speaking of hostesses, as we arrived with our bags in tow, they graciously found an out of the way spot for them, with smiles all around. After the beatings we're used to in some Miami spots, we were almost overcome with gratitude, for what was really a simple, yet thoughtful gesture.


The food-I've already described and photographed the Faux Gras and the Duck Rillettes. They are still sublime, as are the pickled onions, cornichons, and bread that comes with them. Quick point-it is not enough to bake your own bread in a restaurant (hello some Miami joints), it also has to be good-this is the good stuff. Great touch of adding the big sprig of fresh rosemary to the serving board-its aroma wafts up to your nose (or you can pick it up and inhale), and gives you an unexpected frisson of the country.


Tuna Burger-What a cliche you are thinking! How '80's! Wrong. This is like a tuna tartare that has been seasoned well, then quickly pan-fried to a hamburger-like crunch on the outside. Home made bun? Yes. Homemade mayonnaise? Yes. Fresh tomato? Uh-huh. Crunchy potato tuiles to put on top with perfectly cooked fries? Yes, yes, and Ahi freakin tuna, by the way. A full meal at lunch for $19. The recipe calls for anchovies, basil, fresh garlic, and soy sauce for the burger, and fresh ginger in the mayo-Chef Richard was influenced by the sushi restaurants of L.A. when he first arrived in California, and his classic tuna burger seems timeless.








Fried chicken. This is unlike any fried chicken you are likely to have. The boneless breast and thigh meat are poached, then covered in a chicken puree/egg white mixture, before being rolled in coarse, fresh bread crumbs. They are deep-fried just until the coating is crisp, maybe two minutes, and they are served immediately-when you cut into this chicken, the juices, my friend, do run. And the service at Central is superb-when food this good is coming out of the kitchen, everyone wants to ensure that it gets to your table hot and fast. And since the bread crumbs are left coarse, there are big crunchy bits all over the place. Served with the legendary mashed potatoes and a simple mustard sauce. And of course, the perfect little salad. Four-star cooking for $21.








Drank a nice $6 rosé or two, and admired the enormous open kitchen for a while-an entire city seemed to be working back there. And getting it right.


I guess what I'm saying is, the next time you are in DC, get off the plane and head straight to Central. Business, family, and all other obligations can wait. If they live there, and they've been here, they'll understand.


Sunday, July 06, 2008

Dinner Battles...Woman Versus Man...Woman Wins...




Before trekking up to Washington, DC, for a good dose of family (and a stop at Michel Richard's Central, of course-more on that tomorrow), my constant companion concocted a pork chop in brandy sauce dinner (actually using Calvados, the French brandy made from apples), after her fresh fish desire was trampled by the dour offerings of the local supermarket. Too tired to go any further, I picked up a couple of pork loin bone-in chops that were on sale for just $2.49/lb. These chops are about a pound each, and CC, who was really craving the side dishes of curried jasmine rice, and carrot 'pudding', put them in the oven for about 40 minutes, then finished them on the stove with the aforementioned Calvados. She made the carrot sides by pureeing them, then adding butter and cream. Into the oven with the chops. I did the rice (boil water, throw in rice and curry powder, cover, light a cigarette). The Calvados adds such a clean flavor to the scraped up bits, then tossed over the chops in the skillet, where the sauce caramelizes and soaks into the juicy flesh, leaving a bit of crunch on the outside of the chops. Very satisfying on so many level....








Not to be outdone in the pork/brandy competition (I'm a bad loser, but then so is she), upon our return to Miami, a week later (not that I'd been thinking about it much...), I threw a pork loin in the oven. Then I boiled some potatoes for mashed potatoes, which I was going to cook according to Chef Richard's recipe; but then I realized I was too lazy to brown, and then separate the butter, whip it in a little at a time, etc. Hey-my A/C's not working that well-the fewer steps the better-at least that's what I tell myself. I added a wrist flip of vanilla to the mashed potatoes and a slight shake of truffle oil I've had lying around for a while, and softened butter and warmed cream. Then I took the loin out of the oven, and while it was resting (you should always let your oven-roasted meats rest a bit before serving), I scraped out the brown bits from the roasting pan on top of the stove, while I deglazed the pan with Calvados. Then I added a little (what else) butter and cream, and some dried fried onions. I have to report that the mashed potatoes were silky and lumpy at the same time, and the subtle hints of truffe and vanille classed up the dish (as anyone who knows me will attest, I'm all about classing up shit). The loin was moist under the 'brandy cream' sauce, but it didn't have the overall succulence and juiciness of the chops. I served fresh corn, also, which, for reasons I understand perfectly, people feel the need to slather in butter-I prefer it au naturel. Next up, what else, pork loin tacos...






Next time, I'll get you, darlin'....