Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pork Chops Are Easy

In my most recent attempt to prove to the world and myself that I do indeed have what it takes to be a domestic goddess, I made this:

Pork Chops with Mustard Sauce and Tarragon with Sweet Potato Fries and an
 Arugula, Radish and Green Bean Salad.
Pork chop and salad recipes are from Dinner Tonight: Done!, by Real Simple magazine.
  I love a cookbook with big photos.   
The mustard sauce was such an easy way to dress up the pork chops.  The only ingredients needed are dijon mustard, dry white wine, shallots, sour cream, salt and pepper. 

 What sauces or marinades do you like to use to dress up chicken, beef or pork?  

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Confection Perfection a la Krispy Kreme

My new friends: Mango Passion Cheesecake and Creme Brulee

London Eats

Just got back from London and have a few places to dish up:

The Charles Lamb Free House:  We love the Charles Lamb.  It's a small little pub in near Angel that Charlie and I originally went to during one of my last visits because of a specific map housed within its walls.  "The Island" is a massive map of London by Stephen Walter in which all of London's areas are crowded with words describing places and experiences of the cartographer.  It's hung in the Lamb with magnifying glasses near by.  Here's the map and a close up of one area:
When we arrived around 8:30 for dinner the only mains that weren't 86'd already were a Roasted Pork Chop with Cheddar Cheese, Potatoes and Salad, and a Caponata with Fried Egg and Salad.  We weren't sure what caponata was but we ordered one of each and also a Chicken Liver Pate with Toast to start.  The pate was delicious.  It came cold with a pile of little gherkins and we only wished there was more bread.  We cleared the plates of both of the mains -- my pork chops were cooked perfectly with a mustardy sauce and potatoes au gratin.  The Caponata turned out to be a vegetarian dish of a sort of eggplant and tomato stew that Charlie enjoyed -- it was nicely done but I'm less than enthusiastic about eggplant.  The bill was reasonable and we were stuffed and happy.  The Charles Lamb remains a favorite.

Tayyabs:  Tayyabs is a curry house in East London serving Pakistani Punjabi food.  We had heard great things and Charlie had been once before, so we ditched the crowds of Brick Lane and headed there for lunch before hitting the Whitechapel Gallery.  We ordered a small Karahi Chicken, small Meat Saag, and a Garlic Naan.  We were served poppadoms without asking for them; we later found them on the bill for 1 pound 20p.  Cheeky.  The curries were delicious; they were heavily seasoned and not super heavy or thick.  Both had a good spice to them.  I definitely preferred the saag which is made of a spinach base.  The naan was good but nowhere close to as good as the garlic naan I had in Laos.  Anyway, Tayyabs was great and cheap and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for an authentic curry in London. 
Byron:  Byron is a run-down hipster looking building on Upper St. in Islington.  We've always looked at it from afar and been interested in the alluring promise of gourmet burgers lurking behind its doors.  We went with Charlie's sister and sat upstairs beneath the exposed skeleton of the building and crumbling paint on the walls.  We each ordered a burger and got two sides of fries and one of mac and cheese.  The food was good but the service lacked a bit.
Trullo:  Trullo would get stars from Sam Sifton.  This newish Italian restaurant near the Highbury and Islington tube has been bustling since it opened but Charlie and I were finally able to get a reservation for this past week.  We excitedly each ordered a starter and a main -- Charlie had the Pappardelle with Beef Shin Ragu and the Skate with Slow Cooked Yellow and Green Courgettes and Brown Shrimp.  I had Deep Fried Rabbit with Aioli and Crispy Polenta with Taleggio, Spinach and San Marzano Tomato Sauce.  Everything was amazing.  The beef shin ragu was unreal; it was creamy and salty and sweet.  The meat was shredded and the perfectly al dente pasta was topped with grated parmesan.  Off to a great start.  My rabbit was quite bony but the meat was nice tasting and the aioli was great -- it was my first rabbit experience and I was taken aback by the bones but it was worth a try.  Both of our mains were exceptional.  The textures of the tomatoes and spinach went so well with the creamy polenta; it melted in my mouth.  I want it again now.  We shared a caramel panna cotta for dessert and then died and went to heaven.  The service was good and the ambiance was nice.  The prices are a bit high but so worth it.  GO TO TRULLO EVERY DAY.

The Charles Lamb: 16 Elia St., Islington, London N1 8DE
Tayyabs: 83-89 Fieldgate St. London E1 1JU
Byron: See site for locations:
Trullo: 300-302 St. Paul's Road, London N1 2LH

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sunday Roast is a Great Tradition

Those of you who know me will believe when I say that I am dating Charlie for his Sunday roast. (Just kidding... Or am I?)  I'm in London now and last Sunday we made roast leg of lamb with roasted cauliflower, potatoes au gratin and broad beans.  I was allowed responsibility for the potatoes and the cauliflower, and I should say that I make an excellent sous-chef.  I had nothing to do with the lamb so don't ask me about it.  I will say that broad beans are a pain in the ass.  They need to be released from their pods and then each bean pealed individually.  This is a very demanding procedure for such small but numerous beans, but they did make a very nice green addition to the dish.
I highly recommend the roasted cauliflower.  Little effort is involved; simply break the head into small florets and arrange on a baking sheet.  Drizzle generously with olive oil, salt and pepper, and pop into the oven for about 30 minutes until golden brown.  Check once or twice and turn the florets over to cook evenly.  The cauliflower comes out sweet and soft.  This method is a great twist on a somewhat boring vegetable.

Roast something this Sunday and tell me all about it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Curried Shrimp and Corn Chowder

We had lots of leftover corn from dinner on Saturday night, so on Sunday I decided to try a recipe from Southern Living magazine that I have had my eyes on for a few months now: Curried Shrimp and Corn Chowder.  I easily found the recipe on, a site that brings together recipes from Time Inc. magazines including Cooking Light, Southern Living, Real Simple, ALL YOU, Health and more.  

The recipe called for 5 ears of corn, an onion, garlic, yukon gold and sweet potatoes, chicken broth, coconut milk, curry powder, and raw shrimp.  I found it easiest to prep all of the ingredients before starting up the stove; I can report that it is not easy to chop a sweet potato up into diced pieces, but it is possible.
 I sauteed the onion and garlic in olive oil first and then added all of the potatoes, the chicken broth and coconut milk, the curry powder, salt, and pepper.  I did not add the corn at this time as specified because my corn had already been cooked from the night before.  If you are using raw corn, however, it goes in at this time.  This mixture was brought to a boil and then cooked on low for about 25 minutes until the potatoes were cooked through.

When the potatoes were tender I added the corn and cooked on low for another 5 minutes.  I did notice that when the corn was added the chowder became very thick.  I decided to add one more can of chicken broth.  I was afraid that this would water down the flavor, but it was a risk that had to be taken.  Finally I added the shrimp and turned the heat off after three minutes when they had all begun to turn pink.  I was careful not to leave the flame on for too long after adding the shrimp because they cook quickly and even keep cooking in the hot soup after the stove is off.  
I reheated the soup about an hour later and served to my family and friends at dinner.  It was a HUGE hit.  The curry, coconut milk and sweet potatoes added such nice, subtle flavors to the traditional corn chowder.  I don't think the soup was watered down much from the extra chicken stock that I added, but next time I would account for this change in the beginning and perhaps use 1.5 cans each of chicken stock and coconut milk and a bit of extra curry powder.  This chowder was nice and light and was perfect for a summer evening!
You can find this recipe here.  Let me know if you make it!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

SONIC on the Homefront

We've all seen the commercials for Sonic for years and known that the drive-in burger chain did not exist in the Northeast.  Apparently Dairy Queen doesn't either.  A funny story: I once drove up to Dairy Barn on Long Island and asked where the nearest Dairy Queen was.  I was told Pennsylvania.
Anyway, Sonic has finally appeared on Long Island.  There were stories maybe last year about a new Sonic in New Jersey that caused traffic jams and car accidents, and I'm sure there was a similar case when the Deer Park, NY location opened last summer.  This was not the case, however, when Dad and I rolled up to the joint today.  A traffic director woman told us to pull into the handicapped spot which also happened to be the only spot uncovered by the shade-roof.
Dad ordered the a medium combo of the New York Hot Dog and Tots, and I got a medium combo of a Cheeseburger and fries.  Approximately five minutes later a young man skated up to our car with a tray and our food.  His name was Mike and he offered to skate back to home base and bring us ketchup, honey mustard and napkins.  Nice guy, really.

Unfortunately, the food sucked.  Dad's hot dog was cold and the bun was soggy from sauerkraut juice.  His suspicion was that the hotdog was pre-made thus having time to develop the sogg-factor.  His tater tots were SO salty.  
My burger was OK, but not amazing.  It was quite big in diameter but the patty was thin and dry.  The fries were the best part of the whole meal really;  they were thin-ish but a little thicker than McDonald's fries and had just the right amount of salt.
Besides the fries, we enjoyed the novelty of the waiters on roller-skates.  Don't think thats worth the drive to Deer Park and 800 calories, though.  

SONIC: 1380 Deer Park Ave., North Babylon, NY 11703 (631) 242-2700

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bay People

It occurred to me the other day while I was crabbing off of the Maple Street Dock in my hometown on Long Island that I'm like a character straight out of an episode of Swamp People.  On Swamp People, crazies go out into the bayous of Louisiana to grab as many alligators as possible.  In my case, the catch is blue claw crabs and I'm out there to commit a "genocide in the Great South Bay," as it has once been dubbed.  I am drawn down to the dock to go crabbing every summer not only because of how deliciously sweet the crabs are, but also because fishing with a raw chicken wing tied to a line and armed only with a net is exceptionally fun.  My sister and I used to fish off of the dock for snappers with my dad when we were younger but caught little more than crabs nibbling at our bait.  Now that our strategy has changed (fish for crabs, not for fish,) the game proves tasty and rewarding.
I set out with Nick the other day and tied 4 lines of chicken to the dock.  The above is what we caught: about 10 male crabs of an acceptable size.  It is illegal to keep females and small crabs, and unfortunately most of the suckers we caught were still undersized.  (We'll be back in a few weeks for you who got away this time...) 
At home I threw the live crabs into boiling water sprinkled with Old Bay Seasoning and covered until they turned bright red about 5 minutes later.
I take my crabs chilled, and after some time in the refridge they are ready to break open.  Here's the game plan:  Rip off all of the legs and turn the crab belly up.  Remove the carapace, or the top shell of the crab, by splitting the top and bottom apart near the back of the crab.  For a visual of the ugliness that is the inside of a crab, see below.
Break the body of the crab in half and dig in towards the bottom where the sweet white meat is hiding.  Those white meat looking things on the left in the above photo are gills, so don't eat them.  Dig under them to find the buried treasure.  Then attack the claws, where some of the largest chucks of meat lie.

Picking these crabs apart is too much work for some people.  I can definitely understand the allure of a crab salad sandwich or crab cakes over whole crabs.  But for me, the work is all part of the harvest process of plucking these crabs from the water two minutes away from my home.  From personally catching the crabs, breaking them apart and scavenging for each morsel of meat there is a sense of freshness and tradition that keeps me trudging back to the dock with my net every summer.
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