Friday, October 30, 2009

Some Chocolate Porn for Halloween Eve

Halloween may be one day away, but indulge your eyes with some chocolate porn from the Death by Chocolate Torte I recently made for the Significant Eater's birthday. One layer of dense chocolate cake, filled with buttercream frosting, and covered with a chocolate glaze equals pure decadence:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Romesco Sauce

Romesco sauce is a tomato- and nut-based Spanish condiment. Its smoky flavors go equally well with meat, seafood, and vegetables. While romesco traditionally contains hazelnuts in addition to almonds, I substituted pine nuts, which I prefer, for the hazelnuts. I served the romesco over broiled snapper fillets.

Romesco Sauce

  • 3 ripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 2 slices country bread
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 piquillo pepper, or 1 roasted red pepper
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • salt, to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 450F.
  2. Cut the tomatoes in half. Place, the tomato halves, garlic, nuts, and bread on a baking sheet and roast until the nuts begin to brown, about 10 minutes.
  3. Place the tomatoes, garlic, nuts, and bread in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they are well blended and there are no large chunks.
  4. Add the olive oil, vinegar, roasted pepper, and paprika to the food processor and pulse until well blended. Pour the romesco into a large bowl and taste for salt.
  5. Refrigerate the romesco for at least 8 hours or overnight to let the flavors meld. Serve it at room temperature.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Roasted Monkfish with Potatoes, Olives, and Bay Leaves

Roasted monkfish is delicious for fall. This simple recipe from Mark Bittman for roasted monkfish with potatoes, olives, and bay leaves makes a wonderful one pot meal. Below, I have deviated slightly from Bittman's instructions to create an equally tasty dish.

First, over medium heat, saute some generously salted potatoes in enough olive oil to cover the potatoes, flipping them every so often so that they soften but do not burn:

Next, add a handful of olives, the seasoned monkfish, and handful of bay leaves to the pan. Some chopped thyme would also be a nice addition. Put the pan in a 400F oven and roast until the fish is cooked through, about ten minutes:

Finally, slice the fish into equal servings and serve it with the potatoes. I accompanied the fish and potatoes with Swiss chard that I sauteed with bacon:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Getting by with a little help from The Flavor Bible

My favorite reference for week night recipes is not a cookbook at all, but rather a book containing lists of ingredients. That book is Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg's The Flavor Bible, a guide every ingredient imaginable and the flavors and foods that pair well with those ingredients. With limited time and energy to shop or flip through cookbooks during the week, The Flavor Bible has helped inspire many of my week night meals.

The Flavor Bible came through for me once again this week. On a whim, I went to the store bought Spanish mackerel, a fish I had never prepared before. My only existing knowledge of Spanish mackerel was that it was an incredibly oily fish. Having no idea how to prepare my mackerel or what to serve it with, I turned to The Flavor Bible, which suggested, among many other ingredient combinations, a pairing of mackerel with arugula, chickpeas, and lemon, all of which were ingredients that I had on hand.

Going with The Flavor Bible's suggestion, I drained my can of chickpeas and placed them in a small pan where I had heated a few spoonfuls of olive oil over low heat. I seasoned the chickpeas with salt and pepper. Then, I heated some more olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and seasoned the mackerel with salt and pepper. I cooked the mackerel for two minutes per side. Moving back to the chickpeas, I added a few handfuls of arugula and let them wilt. I then finished the chickpeas with a splash of sherry vinegar, another recommendation from The Flavor Bible. I sprinkled lemon juice over both the mackerel and the chickpeas and enjoyed every bit of each. All thanks to The Flavor Bible.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls

I have always considered my hands too heavy and too clumsy to prepare even the simplest of breads and pastries. Nonetheless, with some free time on my hands and a raging sweet tooth, I decided to try my hand at cinnamon rolls. I used a simple recipe from Bittman's How to Cook Everything to make the rolls and topped them with a cream cheese icing. Aside from keeping the rolls in the oven for a minute too long, my foray into pastry was surprisingly delicious. Coming up next, croissants?

Cinnamon Rolls
Makes 12 rolls

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 packet instant yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tbsp milk
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  1. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of sugar and the cinnamon. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, yeast, salt, and 1/3 cup of sugar. Pulse a few times to mix.
  3. Add butter and egg to food processor and process until well blended.
  4. With the food processor running, gradually pour 1/2 cup of milk. Process until the dough forms a ball.
  5. Remove dough from processor and place on a floured surface. Knead for a few minutes, until the dough is smooth. If the dough is too sticky, add flour. If it is too dry, add milk.
  6. Place the dough in a buttered bowl and cover it. Allow it to to rise for an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  7. Roll out the dough to 1/2 inch thickness.
  8. Brush the dough generously with melted butter and top it with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Roll the dough into a log, then cut the log into 1 inch pieces. Place the pieces on a greased baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Let the unbaked rolls rise for another hour.
  9. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  10. Uncover the rolls and brush them with melted butter. Sprinkle the tops with sugar and bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm, topped with cream cheese icing (see below for recipe).
  11. To make the icing, combine cream cheese and 3 tbsp milk in a small bowl and whisk until well blended. While continuing to whisk, gradually add the powdered sugar, and whisk until the icing is smooth. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Morning in the Studio: Scrambled Eggs

Scrambled Knoll Crest eggs with Niman Ranch bacon and Eli's bread:

Friday, October 23, 2009

What to do this Sunday: The New Amsterdam Market

Join me in visiting the Fulton Street Stalls near Fulton Street Seaport this Sunday, October 25, for the second monthly New Amsterdam Market. I attended this event last month and it is a great way to support local farmers, artisans, and markets. There will be plenty of snacks from the regions top restaurants and bakeries-- a sandwich from Porchetta was my favorite from September's market-- so you can easily make a filling lunch of it and purchase meats, vegetables, and cheeses for a delicious Sunday dinner. The theme for the October market is "Butchers, Beer, & Bicycles," with a pig butchering demonstration by some of the City's top butchers at 3:30, a $25 regional beer tasting from the folks at Beer Table from 3 to 5pm, and free bicycle parking courtesy of Bowery Lane Bicylcles. It is an event not to be missed.

What: New Amsterdam Market
When: Sunday, October 25, 11am to 4pm
Where: South Street, between Beekman Street and Peck Slip

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Squid Ink Risotto with Squid and Shrimp

For most guys, when their girlfriends' birthdays roll around, they agonize about what to give. I agonize about what to cook. When the Significant Eater's birthday came up this week, I wanted to cook a meal that would wow both her and me yet would not be time consuming to make, so that I could minimize the time I spent in my kitchen preparing and cleaning up the meal.

The dish I decided upon was squid ink risotto, a dish that I had enjoyed many times at Bobby Flay's dearly departed Spanish restaurant Bolo. The combination of intensely briny squid ink and comforting, soft risotto is a beautiful contrast. Plus, the jet black risotto set on a white plate makes a very sexy and modern aesthetic.

My only concern about the dish is that it might be too complicated. I have cooked risotto several times before, and aside from the constant stirring, I find it to be a relatively simple preparation. However, cooking with squid ink just sounds disastrous, especially with my none-too-dexterous hands. I could not help but think of my apartment becoming a rendering of the Cream song "White Room," all from a squid ink risotto gone awry. Sixties psychedelia was definitely not the type of sexy I was going for with this meal.

Fortunately, squid ink is not anymore difficult than any other risotto. First, simmer some shrimp stock mixed with a few spoonfuls of squid ink. Then, saute some aromatics (minced onion and garlic are the best) in a sauce pan. Add the rice, and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Add a glass of white wine to the pan and let it cook off. Then, add a ladle of the stock to just barely cover the rice and start stirring. Once the rice has absorbed all of the stock, add another ladle of stock and let the rice soak it up once again. Continue the process until the rice is perfectly soft, just slightly beyond al dente. Add the squid and cook for another few minutes. Stir in salt, pepper and parsley, to taste, and you have a wonderful dish of squid ink risotto.

Squid Ink Risotto
Serves 4

  • 6 cups shrimp stock
  • 2 tbsp squid ink
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 3/4 lb squid, cut into 1/4 inch rings (full tentacles are okay, too)
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Mix stock and squid ink in a large sauce pan. Heat over medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir occasionally to prevent the squid ink from congealing (just stir vigorously if it does).
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the rice to the onion and garlic and stir to coat the rice with oil. Let the rice cook until it begins to pop, about two minutes.
  4. Ladle in enough shrimp stock to barely cover the rice. Adjust the heat to keep the stock at a simmer. Stirring constantly, let the rice absorb the stock. Once the rice has absorbed the stock, ladle in more stock to cover the rice again and continue to stir until the rice has absorbed the stock. Repeat the process until the rice is soft and creamy.
  5. Stir the squid into the rice and cook until the squid is cooked through, approximately 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, topped with grilled, steamed, or sauteed seafood of your choosing.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chocolate Mousse

This chocolate mousse recipe, adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, is delectably rich. It's worth it to splurge on good chocolate to make this dish (Scharffen Berger is my go to brand). For presentation, spoon the mousse into homemade or store-bought pastry shells and top it with chocolate shavings. As an added treat, you can make a delicious semifreddo by simply freezing the mousse.

Chocolate Mousse
Serves 4 to 6


  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract


  1. Using a double broiler set over gently simmering water, met the butter and chocolate together and mix well. Let cool.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks. Once the chocolate has cooled enough to touch, add it to the eggs and mix well. Refrigerate until mixture is chilled.
  3. In a small bowl, beat the egg whites with 1/8 cup sugar until they hold stiff peaks. Do not over mix.
  4. In another small bowl, beat the cream with the remaining sugar and the vanilla until it holds soft peaks.
  5. Add a few spoonfuls of the egg whites to the chilled chocolate mixture. Gently mix with a spoon, being careful to keep the egg whites light in texture. Gently, fold in the remaining egg whites. Finally, fold in the cream and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  6. Serve the mousse in bowls or pastry shells, topped with shaved chocolate and/or freshly whipped cream.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bo Kho Vietnamese Beef Stew

Bo kho, a traditional Vietnamese beef stew made with tomato, star anise, and lemongrass, from Andrea Nguyen's Into the Vietnamese Kitchen:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Braised Tuna with Radicchio, Chickpeas, and Rosemary

The other day, I made Braised Tuna with Radicchio, Chickpeas, and Rosemary from Molly Stevens' wonderful All About Braising. Braising may sound like a terrible way to cook a nice piece of tuna, but the recipe works beautifully. The key is to keep the braising liquid at the gentlest of simmers, cooking the tuna just enough so that it remains pink on the inside. I cooked two 1.25 inch thick steaks for 8 minutes. The braising liquid is infused with the strong flavors of rosemary and radicchio, and the chickpeas lend the dish additional heartiness. This is an easy one pot meal, with the only necessary accompaniment being a baguette to soak up the delicious sauce.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday Morning in the Studio: Pancakes

No matter how busy I may be, I always try to find time to cook a big breakfast on Sunday morning. A big pot of french press coffee at my side, the Sunday Times in my hands, and a spread of breakfast food on my plate; to me, there is no better way to mark the beginning of the end of the weekend. I usually prefer savory breakfast dishes, but every now and then I enjoy a stack of pancakes doused in warm maple syrup. For those days, I always turn to Mark Bittman's recipe for basic pancakes from How to Cook Everything. There are recipes that will produce a lighter, fluffier pancake (the book even includes one), but for my infrequent pancake cravings, the simplicity of this recipe hits the spot.

Basic Pancakes
Serves 4

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsbp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tsbp. butter
  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
  2. In a small bowl, beat the eggs. Stir in the milk.
  3. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed. Do not over mix, as this will result in a tough pancake; leaving a few clumps of flour in the mixture is fine.
  4. Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat.
  5. Add the butter to the skillet. Once the butter is melted and has stopped foaming, use a ladle to pour in the pancake mixture. The size of the pancakes is up to you, but smaller pancakes are easier to flip.
  6. Cook the pancakes until golden, about 2 to 4 minutes. If necessary, increase or decrease the heat to produce a nice golden color.
  7. Using a spatula, flip the pancakes, and cook until the other side is golden, approximately 2 more minutes. Serve stacked on a plate with warm maple syrup.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Veal Ricotta Polpottone

Veal ricotta meatballs from Molly Stevens' All About Braising, served with roasted fingerling potatoes:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tom Colicchio's Braised Pork Belly

I thought that the best way to show my appreciation for Tom Colicchio after he kindly answered my questions was to cook one of his signature recipes. His recipe for braised fresh "bacon" in Think Like a Chef helped bring the pork belly craze into home kitchens. As simple as the dish is to prepare, it is certainly restaurant-quality. I served it with Chef Colicchio's lentils, celebrating the beginning of autumn in New York.

Braised Pork Belly
Serves 4

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 lbs. pork belly, preferably with skin on
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 leek, white part only, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 3 cups chicken stock

  1. Heat of to 350F.
  2. Pat dry the pork belly with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pork, skin side down, and cook until well browned, about 15 minutes. Set pork aside.
  4. Pour off all but 2 tbsp fat and add onion, carrots, celery, leek, and garlic. Stir to coat the vegetables with oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes.
  5. Add pork belly to the pan along with 2 cups of chicken stock. Bring to a simmer, then transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook, uncovered, for 1 hour.
  6. Add the rest of the stock and cook until pork is tender, approximately 1 hour.
  7. Remove the skillet from the oven and let the pork cool. Once cooled, remove the skin with your fingers and discard or eat it. Score the fat, then cut the pork into 4 pieces.
  8. Increase the oven heat to 400F.
  9. Strain the braising liquid, discarding the solids, and return the liquid to the skillet. Bring the liquid to a simmer and skim off any fat.
  10. Return the pork, fat-side up, to the skillet. Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook until the fat is browned, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Three Questions for Tom Colicchio

I recently had the opportunity to ask Tom Colicchio a few questions. Although his fame is attributed to being co-host of Bravo's Top Chef and co-owner of the Craft restaurant empire, his cookbook, Think Like a Chef, is something that every amateur cook should own. It is a personal favorite of mine, teaching how to break away from the confines of recipes and make the most of your ingredients. He provided some valuable tips for getting through the fall cooking season with your sanity in check and some delicious meals on your plate.

When you’re living in NYC, you have a very limited kitchen and very limited space. What cooking advice can you give us New Yorkers?

I have a small kitchen myself. Keep yourself organized. When you’re actually cooking a meal, you shouldn’t have to use a knife anymore. All the prep work should be done. You can buy small containers and put your prep in it, so when you start cooking, everything is right there for you. You can just add things to the pan when you need it. You shouldn’t be chopping and cooking at the same time—you make a mess. Especially if you have limited space, you need to keep really organized. I cook on Christmas Eve for 16 people and I make 8 or 9 dishes and I have a little stove. You can do it.

What are some great ingredients for fall dishes?

For fall, we take duck, root vegetables and apples and we combine those three things in different ways. You can make duck ham, duck confit, cold duck terrine with roasted vegetables, roasted duck, duck with apples, applesauce… And, you can do a soup with pureed vegetables with apple and duck confit. There are always different ways to combine food. If you tell someone to be creative with unlimited options, it’s sometimes hard to come up with something. If you say be creative with these three ingredients, you can do it in many different ways. Just learn how to cook—there are five basic cooking methods. And after that, it’s about just learning technique. If you can cook one green vegetable, you can cook them all. Don’t overcomplicate things.

What one piece of Thanksgiving advice would you give to someone cooking the meal?

Don’t overcook that turkey! People think it takes a lot longer than it takes. If you’re going to cook your turkey breast to the point where it’s nice and juicy, the legs will be undercooked. So what I do is take it out at that point and let it rest for a good half an hour before you carve it. Then, get the roasting pan, clean it out, keep it hot, take the legs off, put the legs back on the roasting pan and back in the oven. Cook the legs separately.

When carving the breast—I don’t know why people think carving the breast on the bird is a good thing—take the breast right off. Cut right down the breast bone and take the whole breast off and put it in on the cutting board and slice it. Every time I tell people that, they can’t believe it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Preview of Fatty 'Cue at Epicurious Entertains

On October 4, I attended Fatty Sunday, an event from "Epicurious Entertains" catered by Zak Pelaccio and the rest of his crew to taste dishes from the long-delayed and much-anticipated Fatty 'Cue. Set in a Union Square loft and offering attendees the opportunity to sample Chef Pelaccio's food while watching the day's football games, the 7-hour event brought out an interesting mix of foodies and jocks. With several flat screen TVs on each wall, an open bar, and a never-ending supply of smoked meats, no one could leave disappointed.

The event began with a gracious welcome from Epicurious Editor-in-Chief Tanya Wenman, who proclaimed that of all the week's "Epicurious Entertains" events, which included a multi-course event cooked by Daniel Boulud, Fatty Sunday's food was going to be the best. She then encouraged everyone to get in line to the kitchen, where Chef Pelaccio and his staff were serving the food buffet style.

Here is the menu of what we ate:

Smoked Brisket Bao with Sweet Cilantro Sauce
House Smoked Bacon and Clams with Dragon Pullman Bread
BBQ Lamb Shoulder with Goat Yogurt
Pork Spare Ribs with Palm Sugar Fish Sauce
Charred Turnips and Bitter Greens with Red Curry
Cucumber Salad
Nasi Ulam
Banh Mi

The lamb shoulder was the standout. Smoked for 14 hours by the Fatty 'Cue crew with a smoker on loan from Wildwood Barbeque (the Fatty 'Cue smokers are not yet ready), the meat was brimming with woodsy (applewood?) flavor. The goat yogurt, spicy and cool at the same time, was the perfect match for the intense smoke of the meat.

The spare ribs, smoked for a paltry four hours, were not far behind. Beautifully caramelized and cut into bite-size riblets, I could not resist helping myself to two platefuls. The fish sauce and palm sugar mixture that had been rubbed onto the succulent ribs was all the succulent meat needed.

The other foods were delicious in their own rite. What I love about Zak Pelaccio's cooking is that his riffs on Southeast Asian cuisine bring out the authentic flavors of the region without dumbing them down with sweet, gloppy sauces that seem to go hand in hand with the Asian-fusion moniker. The curry sauce on the turnips was properly spicy and the clams and bacon dish contained enough fish sauce to make P.F. Chang run back to the suburbs. The only disappointment of the night was the brisket bao, or steamed bun; the brisket was fatty and not very flavorful and the bun was much too dense.

For $50 a person, all of which went to the Taste of the NFL Charity for hunger, the full day event was a wonderful value. While I ate more smoked meat than I have eaten in the last year, I left excited for Fatty 'Cue to finally open. When would that be, I asked Chef Pelaccio. "By the end of the year?" He replied somewhat hopelessly. Oh well, I guess "Epicurious Entertains" has only added to the anticipation.
Pictures of the event

Chef Pelaccio with Epicurious Editor-in-Chief Tanya Wenman:
The beautiful smoked lamb shoulder:
Red curry turnips and bitter greens:
Clams with house-smoked bacon:

My first plate of food (don't judge):

Spare ribs with palm sugar fish sauce:

Chef Zak Pelaccio:


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