The Kitchn is back at it again with a terrific series about what food blogger love to eat for breakfast. Leela Cyd Ross called me a few months ago and I shared with her my favorite post-gym morning nosh. Go ahead over to the Kitchen for a visit. Thanks, Leela, I was happy to share.
Category Archives: Food Writing
Random encounters in big cities are often limited to arguing over parking spaces or commiserating with your line mates at Duane Reade when 4 of the 5 registered go unattended. Occasionally, you meet strangers in a more civil and pleasant surrounding and it makes you realize how small the big metropolis really is and how interesting and clever your neighbors really are.
I have recently found myself having to visit Flushing, Queens rather often because of some family matters. Coincidentally, Sam Sifton recently reviewed a restaurant, Hunan Kitchen of Grand Sichuan, that was very near to where I was. We all have to eat…so why not eat well.
We arrived at prime time, albeit a Tuesday night, so a modest wait was expected and we were seated at a round communal table after about 10 minutes. The 5 young people already well into their meal were parsing and dissecting every nuance of the flavors and textures of their well-chosen victuals. They had obviously read the review as they had chosen practically all of the recommended dishes. They spoke with an air of confident authority and connoisseurship. I actually thought that one of the young women, an Asian girl, resembled a food blogger that I read but had never met except for a profile picture. It led to me ask them if they were food bloggers. They answered no, but were pleased that I thought of them in that vein. I introduced myself and a vibrant food discussion ensued.
They explained to me that they had formed an restaurant club with an interesting twist. One friend, described as a computer geek, had written a program that in essence was a random number generator that took into account the number of countries in the world according to Wikipedia. Each friend would “spin the wheel” and whatever number came up and its corresponding country, the club would seek out that type of cuisine in the NY area. Tonight it was China, a pretty easy call, but club members take their food seriously and choosing well is essential, so exhaustive research was undertaken before anybody picked up a pair of chopsticks. So, a random number generator, Wikipedia, Sam Sifton’s review, my family circumstances and pure chance led us all to this table on this evening. Amazing.
I found their idea fascinating and discussed with them the idea of chronicling their adventures. I have invited them to join us here at mSS… and I hope to have them share their New York global food journey with us. As far as the unexpected big city encounter goes, this one definitely falls into that category of pleasantly random.
PHOTO CREDIT: Evan Sung
One of the great pleasures of being in a multi-cultural family has been learning about the food. I have become rather adept at eating, cooking and speaking Korean food. I have learned more about kimchi than any Italian-American boy from Staten Island could ever have reasonably expected to. I try to absorb as much of the old traditional Korean cooking as I can while my tutor is still young and healthy enough to cook every day.
One of the family rituals that I am taking great pains to learn how to do well is making is Soo’s favorite snack, nurungji. It is a simple as it gets but like all great traditional recipes it is all about technique. Nurungji translates to “scorched rice” and is made by taking cooked rice and by using a wide, flat spoon you press a thin layer of the still hot rice into the bottom of a small saucepan. You smash the rice down into almost a paste until it covers the bottom and up the sides of the pot about 1/8 inch. Remove any excess. You then place the pot over the lowest flame your stove can manage and let it sit for about 20 minutes or until the rice paste at the edge is brown and the middle is browning. Remove it from the heat and if you did it right the rice paste that was climbing the sides of the pot will start to pull away as it cools. In about 15 minutes you should be able to take a knife and run it around the edge of the pot, loosening the now crisp disc at the bottom. If you are a nurungji rock star, the disc comes out of the pot in one piece.
The nurungji that we eat is unseasoned but some Koreans prefer it sugared. With or without the sugar it is a crispy, crunchy snack that you break into pieces and munch on like chips or popcorn. Making and eating nurungji is nightly ritual when we visit the family along with watching the world news on KBS in Korean. After we finish the nurungji we leave halmeoni’s house so she can watch her soap operas. And so it goes.
A word of caution though, nurungji can be very hard. If you have lots of fillings or have difficulty with harder foods be careful when eating it. Otherwise, its a great, light, healthy treat and the crunch is so satisfying. Eat cheoncheonhi…(slowly).
People give me and send me a lot of information about food. Websites, links to blogs, recipes, magazine articles and especially cookbooks. Everybody has a cookbook…well everyone except me…but just about everybody else has a cookbook.
I recently I received a cookbook as a gift from Micki Connolly, mother of a good friend. She was part of a group who organized a cookbook for her Florida retirement community comprised of family recipes from resident snowbirds from around the world. It’s a fascinating treasure trove of regional specialties from folks like our parents and grandparents. I leafed through and found things like Super Bowl Chili from Edna Scipione of Wickliffe, Ohio and Scallops a la Crabtree from Dan Crabtree hailing from Lancaster, England. It goes on and on.
The chapter I am most anxious to dive into is the dessert section. Desserts that harken back to before the age of the Hostess Cupcake are the glue that have kept family gatherings fun and memorable for generations. I feel honored to have copies of Heinz and Hella Wartski’s French Sable Cookie recipe, Celeste deCapua’s Mexican Wedding Cookies and Peggy Tuffo’s Penuche Nut Fudge.
The book is from the Winterpark Community in Naples, Florida and is titled Hometown Classics. The real charm of it is that the proceeds they raise from the cookbook go toward things like fixing up the community pool, the shuffleboard courts and the clubhouse. Hometown Classics represents a small group’s big effort to preserve their prized recipes and make their community a better place. They did a wonderful job. The great test of a cookbook is if it can arouse our curiosity enough to make the recipes…and I can’t wait to try some.
My first food experience of 2011 was one of disappointment on an almost comic level. One could only laugh at the ineptitude and absolute distain the staff at the restaurant at the Big Bear Lodge in Masthope, PA had for their customers. Here is a list of their sins:
1. We asked for a table near the window so we could take in the view and watch the skiers. We were told no, that we had table #35 because it would be hard for the server to walk up and down the three stairs to the window tables that were all unoccupied. None of the servers were in wheelchairs or on crutches and all seemed to be of able body so we inquired a little further for an explanation. The manager mumbled something about messing up the system and that #35 was our table.
2. I ordered a Bloody Mary. It was indeed 11am on New Years Day and in many parts of the hard drinking world this would not be seen as an exotic request on the biggest hangover day of the year. My drink arrived after 10 minutes without the Tobasco I had asked for. Then I noticed the same server bringing more Bloody Mary’s to the table next to ours with Tobasco…still none for me. I finished my drink without hot sauce because the server in question would not make eye contact with our table for close to 15 minutes. It was as if we had offended her an we were getting the cold shoulder.
3. Finally, once the server had warmed up to us enough to actually look in our direction I ordered a second drink and pointed out how lovely it would be to have some Tobasco. My next drink came with the hot sauce but now my table mates decided they too would like a Bloody Mary. We were flippantly told my Bloody Mary was the last one…that they were out of mix. A blank stare of disbelief was returned to our lovely server.
4. We decided that “out of mix” was not enough of a barrier to deny us additional Bloody Marys so we proceeded to order tomato juice, ice and a shot of vodka…those items along with the Tobasco, salt and pepper on the table should give us the raw materials to make a passable Bloody Mary at the table. The server did not actually pick up on the strangeness of the order we placed. Unaware of our intentions she returned to the table with a shot of vodka, in a water glass and announced, ” We are out of tomato juice and shot glasses”.
5. We asked for our bill and needed change of a 20 to make the math easier for the geniuses behind the bar. We asked another passing server who was not tending to anyone at the moment if she could break the twenty into 4 fives. She said to us with annoyance, “You have to ask your server”. We were flabbergasted.
So, 2011 was off to a bumpy start. I was annoyed but also amused at the service or lack there of. I was tempted to tell the server as she brought the bill…”Oh, I’m sorry…but we are all out of money”. Instead, I stole the bottle of Tabasco as a souvenir of the experience…paid my bill…and went out in search of a bottle of vodka to make my own damned Bloody Mary with.
Happy New Year!
This past weekend I had the honor and privilege to be the guest of my great friend Alice Gabriner, White House Photo Editor, for a tour of both the East and West Wings of the White House. The experience was something that I underestimated. I had a profound feeling of history surrounding me. It was even more visceral than when I have visited ancient cities, museums and magical geographic locations. The sense of living history and the gravity of Barack Obama’s presidency became so apparent as we walked the halls of the White House. The pictures on the walls and in particular the pictures on the credenza behind the President’s desk in the Oval Office humanized the experience for me. It made me realize just how hard it must be to be him. Leader of the free world, historical figure, cultural icon, father, husband, friend…it’s an awful lot to grasp. The images that White House photographer Pete Souza shoots and that Alice chooses are the window into who this president is and all that he has to embody. Needless to say, I was impressed.
The White House’s East Wing was decorated for the holidays and they handed out a tour guide titled Simple Gifts. Inside the guide are details of each of the rooms that we traveled through and the uses of the rooms both historically and currently. Unfortunately, no picture taking was allowed. I was happy to see that inside the guide was a recipe for a Holiday Apple Cake with Maple Glaze. So, even though I couldn’t take you all with me on the tour the least I could do is to share the recipe with you. The image here is of me sitting in the NY Times Chair in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room (one of the places you can take pictures) pretending to ask the hard questions… Enjoy.
A Recipe from the White House Pastry Kitchen
3/4 C. Canola or Safflower oil
1/2 C. Light Brown Sugar
1/2 C. Honey
1 Tsp. Vanilla
1 1/4 C. All Purpose Flour
1 Tsp. Baking Soda
1/4 Tsp. Salt
1 Tsp. Cinnamon
1 C. Grated Apples (Granny Smith or Golden)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease one 10-inch cake pan and place parchment paper on the bottom.
Combine oil, brown sugar, honey, vanilla, and eggs in the bowl of an electric or hand-held mixer. In a separate bowl sift the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add half of the sifted dry ingredients into the liquid mixture, and mix on low speed. Once everything is combined, add the grated apples and the remainder of the dry ingredients. Finish mixing by hand and pour into greased cake mold.
Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Take out of the oven and let cool before unmolding.
When ready to unmold, run a paring knife around the edge of the cake pan. Place a serving dish on top of the cake upside down and then flip the cake over onto the dish, carefully lifting the cake pan off the cake.
Makes one 10-inch cake
1/4 C. Maple Syrup
1/3 C. Confectioner’s Sugar
Once the cake is in the oven, mix together maple syrup and confectioner’s sugar over low heat until combined. Then increase heat and boil for 30 seconds. Set aside on the stovetop, but off the heat. Pour over cake once it is finished baking and on the serving dish.
So they lost. So we are hurting. One friend explained in his infinite wisdom how he still had to wake up this morning and clean his bathroom. I get it. I’ve been a baseball player, a baseball coach and a baseball fan for as long as I have had human consciousness and I understand you can’t win em all. In the spirit of good sportsmanship I offer a recipe to the Texas Rangers for their impressive victory over my beloved home town team. I will have to concede though, that if they do indeed play the SF Giants in the Series, that I will have to root against them. SF is my left coast home town. I have family there and have been visiting since I was a boy. If they play the Phillies, the boys from Arlington will have my support. It’s against the rules for any New Yorker to root for any team from Philly…look it up.
So congratulations Rangers (at least you have the same name as my favorite hockey team)…and don’t forget to send Cliff Lee to play in the Bronx next year. Goodbye, Yanks.
South Texas Roadmeat Chili
3 green peppers, chopped med.
3 yellow onions, chopped med.
2 fresh jalapenos, seeded and chopped fine
1 stalk celery, chopped med.
1/4 cup cooking oil
4 lbs chuck, coarsely ground
5 lbs venison, coarsely ground (or use all beef if you must)
3 oz. Gebhardt’s chili pwd.
1 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
6 dashes Tabasco
1 7oz. can diced green chiles
2 14oz cans stewed tomatoes
1 can beer
water, salt and pepper
1. Chop veggies, heat oil in a well seasoned iron pot. Sizzle veggies in pot
2.Add meat and brown. Stir in remaining ingredients and cover with
an inch of water. Cook slowly about 3 or 4 hours.
3.Skim of grease after an
hour or two.
The tough love we showed the Yanks during our Game 5 offering may have breathed some life into our hopes and superstitious hearts. The Yanks, tonight with Hughes on the hill, will have to remain the hunters if they are to force a Game 7. Cacciatore means “hunter” in Itailan…so here is to the hunters who we hope have enough fight left to keep the dream of a 28th World Championship alive. Go Yanks!
by Lidia Bastianich
2 broiler chickens (about 2 1/2 pounds each, preferably free-range)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small yellow onion, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup dry white wine
One 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with liquid, crushed
1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably the Sicilian or Greek type) dried on the branch, crumbled
2 cups sliced white or shiitake mushrooms, about 8 ounces
1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch strips (about 2 cups total)
1.Cut each chicken into 12 pieces. With a sturdy knife or kitchen shears, remove the backbone by cutting along both sides. Remove the wingtips. Reserve the backbone, wingtips, and giblets — except for the liver — to make chicken stock. Or, if you like, cut the backbone in half crosswise and add it to this dish.Place the chicken, breast side down, on a cutting board and cut the chicken into halves by cutting through the breastbone lengthwise. Cut off the wing at the joint that connects it to the breast, then cut each wing in half at the joint. Separate the leg from the breast. Cut the leg in half at the joint. Cut the breast in half crosswise, giving the knife a good whack when you get to the bone in separate the breast cleanly into halves. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
2.Season the chicken pieces generously with salt and pepper. Dredge the pieces in flour, coating them lightly and tapping off excess flour. In a wide (at least 12-inch) 5-quart braising pan, heat the vegetable oil with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until a piece of chicken dipped in the oil gives off a very lively sizzle.
3.Add as many pieces of chicken to the pan as will fit without touching. Do not crowd chicken; if the skillet is not wide enough to fit all of the chicken, brown it in batches. Remove chicken pieces from the skillet as they brown, adding some of the remaining pieces of chicken to take their place. Remove all chicken from the skillet.
4.Add the onion to the fat remaining in the pan, and cook, stirring 5 minutes.Pour the wine into the pan, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by half, about 3 minutes.
5.Add the tomatoes and oregano, season lightly with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Tuck the chicken into the sauce, adjust the heat to a gentle boil, and cover the pan.
6.Cook, stirring a few times, 20 minutes.In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and peppers, and toss until the peppers are wilted but still quite crunchy, about 8 minutes. Season the vegetables with salt.
7.Stir the peppers and mushrooms into the chicken pan. Cook covered until the chicken and vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Check the level of the liquid as the chicken cooks.
There should be enough liquid barely to cover the chicken. If necessary, add small amounts of water to maintain the level of liquid as the chicken cooks.
Makes 6 servings.
You know when you give and you give and you get very little effort in return? You know frustration and anger and disappointment? The myth that Chicken has brought good luck to the Yankees is starting to wear out its welcome. I’m very disillusioned with its power. I feel that the Boggsian superstition has either run out of juice…or is testing us. Either way I’m feeling as good about it today as I am about the Yankees chances of pulling off a miracle and digging out of the 3-1 hole they find themselves in.
I joked last night that all they were going to get today was a chicken salad sandwich on white…I’ve rethought that…they don’t deserve the dressing. The myth says eating chicken brings good luck on the diamond…this one…like the men in pinstripes has a lot to prove to us tonight if they are going to be blessed with the efforts of our faith again. We’ll eat chicken…we will…but hold the mayo. go yanks.
Andrew’s Put Up or Shut Up Chicken Sandwich
3 Slices of Deli Chicken (one for each soul melting loss)
2 slices of white bread (untoasted, preferably dry)
Slap that thing together, put on a brave face, and eat. If it works we’ll be back on Thursday. If not, we eat pasta tomorrow.
Those were the words I wrote when I posted this recipe back in December 2009. Of all the chicken I ate and shot last year I called this one by Martha Rose Shulman the ” Chicken Recipe of the Year” and documented it in a video I made while preparing it…well…an 8 game winning streak is one game more than we need to take home #28…but why risk it.
Last night was pretty brutal to watch and AJ has had a very tough year but I believe he is a very proud player with tremendous talent. I also believe that he realizes that he can erase an awful lot of bad pitching this year and get his team even and energize the fans with one good outing today. That is a lot of motivation. I say we are back here tomorrow singing AJ’s praises…Go Yanks!
Chicken Bouillabaisse for a Crowd
4 1/4 pounds cut up chicken (drumsticks, thighs, breasts – 16 pieces), skinned
1/2 cup Pernod or Pastis (anise flavored aperitif)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 generous pinches saffron threads
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
6 large garlic cloves, minced
1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, with liquid
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar and pestle
A bouquet garni made with a bay leaf and a couple of sprigs each thyme and rosemary
1 quart chicken or turkey stock
1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold or new potatoes, scrubbed and sliced
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and broken in half
A handful of chopped fresh parsley
1. Cut chicken breasts in half for smaller pieces. Season all of the chicken with salt and pepper, and toss in a very large bowl with one pinch of the saffron and the Pernod or Pastis. Transfer the chicken pieces to a large resealable bag, pour in the liquid from the bowl and seal the bag. Place the bag in a bowl, and refrigerate overnight. If possible, move the chicken around in the bag from time to time.
2. Remove the chicken from the marinade, and pat dry with paper towels. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, and add 1 tablespoon of the oil. When the oil is hot, working in batches, brown the chicken on all sides, about five minutes per batch. Remove to a baking sheet or bowl.
3. Heat a large, heavy casserole or Dutch oven over medium heat, and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring often until they soften, about five minutes. Add the carrots and celery and a generous pinch of salt, and cook, stirring, until tender and fragrant, five to eight minutes. Stir in the garlic, cook for another minute until fragrant, and then add the tomatoes, thyme and salt to taste. Cook, stirring, until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add the dark meat pieces to the pot, along with any juice that has accumulated in the bowl or sheet pan. Add the crushed fennel seeds, the stock, bouquet garni and potatoes, and bring to a simmer. Season to taste. Add the remaining pinch of saffron, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Add the breast meat pieces, and simmer another 30 minutes. Check to see that the potatoes are tender. If they are not, simmer for another 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. If serving the next day (recommended), use tongs to transfer the chicken pieces to a bowl, and cover tightly. Remove the bouquet garni and discard. Refrigerate the chicken and the broth with the vegetables overnight, and skim off the fat from the surface of the broth the next day. Return the chicken to the pot to reheat.
4. While the chicken is simmering, or while reheating, blanch the beans for five minutes in a medium pot of boiling salted water. Transfer to the chicken stew. Taste and adjust seasonings. Stir in the parsley and serve in wide soup bowls.
Yield: Serves eight to 10.
Advance preparation: This benefits from being made at least one day ahead and will keep for three or four days. It is best to cook the beans shortly before reheating.