Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Top Food Memories of 2009

As you read this, I am flying across the country to bring in the new year in the food-lover mecca of San Francisco.  While 2009 was a hard year in many ways, it was a wonderful year for this blog and brought me some foodie moments that have had a lasting effect on me.  My top 5 food memories of 2009, in no particular order are:
  • My anniversary at Gramercy Tavern: I went to Gramercy Tavern to celebrate my anniversary with the Significant Eater.  From the setting to service to the food to the lemon muffins the restaurant sent us home with for the next morning, the night was perfect.  For 2010, I resolve to treat others with just as much respect as Danny Meyer gives his patrons.  
  • Valentine's Day at Momofuku Ko: By some stroke of Cupid, I was able to secure a Valentine's Day reservation at David Chang's 12-seat, 10-course prix-fixe restaurant.  The restaurant was worth the hype (but maybe not the painful internet-only reservation policy).  My favorite dish of the night was the fluke with buttermilk, soy & poppy seeds, the recipe for which appears in the Momofuku cookbook.  I have resolved to make this recipe at home in 2010. 
  • My birthday at Maialino: Although my visit to Maialino on my birthday was only two weeks ago, it would have been just as memorable had it been twelve months ago.  The restaurant showed hardly any signs that it was two months old.  I resolve to return to Maialino in 2010, when I suspect the restaurant should really be hitting its stride. 
  • Black Squid Ink Risotto for the Significant Eater's Birthday: I cooked this risotto on the Significant Eater's birthday this year.  It was one of the more ambitious dishes I've ever cooked, and the results could not have been any better.  For 2010, I resolve to use up all the squid ink that's still sitting in my refrigerator. 
  • Gnocchi, My First Attempt at Pasta: The execution may not have been perfect, but in making ricotta gnocchi this year, I overcame my fear of making pasta.  For 2010, I resolve to try my hand at pasta more than once. 
I wish you all a New Year full of happiness! Eat, drink, and be merry!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Game Hens in an Indian Apricot Sauce

This recipe, adapted from Julie Sahni's Classic Indian Cooking, proves that fruit-based savory sauces don't always have to be cloyingly sweet.  The apricots make the dish pleasantly tart and the garam masala and ginger give some spice.  Serve it with plenty of Basmati rice. 

Game Hens Braised in Fragrant Apricot Sauce
Adapted from Classic Indian Cooking

  • 2 game hens, skinned and cut in half through the breast bone
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 5 tbsp clarified butter or vegetable oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 2 tsp garam masala (store-bought or homemade)
  • 3/4 cup canned chopped tomatoes
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  1. Place the apricots in a small bowl.  Pour boiling water over the apricots, covering them by 1-inch.  Let the apricots soak for two hours.  
  2. Drain the apricots and finely chop them.  Set them aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375F. 
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 2 tbsp of clarified butter and cook the game hens until well-browned on each side, 6 to 8 minutes total.  If necessary so as not to crowd the pan, brown the game hens in two batches.  Once cooked, place the game hens in a casserole dish large enough to hold them in one layer.  
  5. Add the remaining clarified butter to the skillet.  Add the onion and cook until it turns light brown, stirring constantly to prevent burning.
  6. Add the ginger to the skillet and cook until fragrant.
  7. Stir in the garam masala to the skillet and cook for a few seconds.
  8. Add the rest of the ingredients to the skillet, plus 3/4 cup water.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Cook until the sauce reduces to a thick puree, approximately 10 minutes.  Remove the skillet from the heat. 
  9. Pour the apricot mixture over the game hens.  Pour 1/4 cup of water down the sides of the casserole dish and cover it with foil.
  10. Place the casserole dish in the 375F oven and cook for 25 minutes.  
  11. Reduce the oven to 325F and cook for another 25 minutes.  Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to two days.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Multitude of Roast Chicken Recipes

It seems that the simpler something is, the more methods of doing it there are.  This is definitely the case of roast chicken, for which there seems to be a countless number of methods, 90% of which work.  I’ve tried stuffing the chicken with lemons a la Marcella Hazan, trussing it, leaving it untrussed, roasting at high heat, roasting at two temperatures, rubbing the bird with butter, rubbing it with just salt… you get the point.  Nearly all of those methods have turned out well. 

Thomas Keller alone has printed two methods of simply roasted in chicken in his cookbooks.  Up until now, my standby roast chicken recipe had been this one from the Bouchon cookbook in which a trussed chicken is seasoned only with salt and roasted at 450F for 45 minutes. Keller's latest cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home, contains yet another, completely different recipe for roast chicken.  In the more complicated Ad Hoc incarnation, the chicken is stuffed with garlic and thyme, trussed, seasoned with salt and pepper, rubbed with canola oil, and topped with butter (which I might add, blatantly disobeys his instructions in the Bouchon recipe), then roasted over a bed of root vegetables.  Additionally, unlike the single oven temperature in the Bouchon recipe, the Ad Hoc recipe calls for roasting the chicken first at 475F for 25 minutes, then at 400F for 40 minutes. 

So, what gives? Did Keller have some sort of roast chicken enlightenment between writing his two books?  Is one method better than the other?  You be the judge:

First, a chicken I roasted using the Ad Hoc at Home method the other week:

Now, here is a chicken I roasted using the Bouchon method a while back:

The Ad Hoc method may look better due to the extra browning, but both chickens were very tasty.  Without eating them at the same time, I can't say which one was better, although I will probably stick to the Bouchon method most nights for its quicker execution.  I just look at them both as two very good methods of producing the same simple thing.  

What is your favorite method of roasting chicken?

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Shameless Plug: Vote for Culinary Studio in the Homies!

Apartment Therapy's annual Homie Awards are meant to recognize its reader’s favorite “shelter” blogs, cooking blogs included.  Thanks to a nomination from yours truly, Culinary Studio is up for a Homie Award in the Home Cooking category.  If you enjoy this blog, please vote for Culinary Studio in the Home Cooking category.  And if you don’t... well, still vote for all of the sites that you do love!

You can vote for Culinary Studio via this link (just click the “add” icon next to the name of my blog). 

Thanks for your votes!

Swordfish with Orange and Olives

Sometimes, an accident can work out alright. With the above swordfish, I was attempting a recipe out of Andrew Carmellini's Urban Italian, but thanks to distraction and impatience in the kitchen, it didn't quite turn out like the recipe had called for. My improvised method did not turn out well enough to write about due to some bad shortcuts I took. With that said, the flavor profile was very interesting. Harissa, fresh orange juice, parsley, olives, marcona almonds (Carmellini calls for more pine nuts), anchovy, and lemon-- it's a combination I did not expect to go so well together, but each ingredient complemented the others nicely, giving the dish the right amount of acidity, sweetness, spice, and crunch. It's unique and well-thought ingredient combinations like this that make me appreciate the work that chefs do.
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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Short Ribs alla Genovese

These short ribs from A16: Food + Wine embody much of what this blog is all about: making the most of just a little bit. In this case, that little bit is ingredients, of which this recipe contains only a handful, and almost all of which are probably already in your kitchen. The recipe truly does make the most of these ingredients, for the braising liquid is as robust as any. Two days after the short ribs were long gone, I used the leftover braising liquid, which is chock-full of sauteed red onion, and made a meal of the liquid poured over freshly cooked polenta, once again making the most of just a few ingredients.

Short Ribs alla Genovese
Adapted from A16: Food + Wine


  • 4 meaty, bone-in short ribs
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 small carrot, peeled diced
  • 1 celery stalk, trimmed and diced
  • 5 anchovy fillets, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 3 red onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 sprig rosemary


  1. At least an hour prior to cooking, remove the short ribs from the refrigerator. Trim any excess fat from the ribs and season them well with salt.
  2. Preheat the oven to 275F.
  3. In a small saucepan, boil the wine until reduced to 1/2 cup. Set aside.
  4. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the ribs to the Dutch oven and cook until well-browned on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Do not crowd the ribs; if necessary, cook them in two batches.
  5. Remove the ribs from the pan and set aside on a plate. Pour out the fat from the pan and wipe out any burnt bits from the pan with a paper towel.
  6. Add the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil to the Dutch oven and heat over medium heat. Add the carrot and celery and cook until they are soft and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes, adjusting the heat of the pan as necessary.
  7. Stir in the anchovy, garlic, and peppercorns and continue and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Add the onions and a pinch of salt to the pan and cook until the onions are soft and translucent, 5 to 10 minutes.
  9. Stir in the reduced red wine and the vinegar with the vegetables and remove the pan from the heat.
  10. Add the short ribs to the pan, nestling them into the vegetables meat side facing down. Wedge the rosemary sprig between the short ribs.
  11. Cover the Dutch oven and place it in the 275F oven. Cook until the short ribs are tender and falling off the bone, approximately 2 1/2 hours. Serve the ribs over polenta topped with the braising liquid.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas with lots of good cooking and eating!

If you're still looking for a special Christmas treat to make on Christmas day for your family or for Santa, try this gingerbread recipe. It produces a very moist and very spicy gingerbread that goes very well with a glass of eggnog.

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup black strap molasses
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup crystallized ginger, diced
  • whipped cream, for serving

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Grease and flour a 9-inch square baking pan.
  3. Combine dry ingredients (except for the crystallized ginger) in a large bowl and mix well with a spoon.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together the butter and molasses. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened.
  5. Add the water to the batter and stir until the water is absorbed.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk the egg with the buttermilk. Add this mixture to the rest of the batter.
  7. Stir the crystallized ginger into the batter.
  8. Pour the batter into the pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 35 minutes.
  9. Cool the gingerbread on a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes. Serve with whipped cream.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Maialino: Excellent Italian with the Danny Meyer Touch

If only all restaurateurs had the magic touch of Danny Meyer. From New York classics like Union Square Café, to bastions of four star dining like Eleven Madison Square Park, everything he touches justifiably turns to gold. His latest restaurant, Maialino, which opened at the beginning of November in the space vacated by Wakiya at the Gramercy Park Hotel, is no exception.

Maialino has a design to match the Roman-trattoria cuisine that it serves. It may seem absurd to hire David Rockwell to design a trattoria—I’m sure that no trattorias in Italy have had so much money and thought put into their design—but Maialino’s layout is one of its many charms. The seating area by the bar has a yellow-tiled floor that is inspired by the pantheon. The main dining room has beautiful oak floors and wood-lined walls. A blue-checkered tablecloths tops each table. Each of these touches give the restaurant warmth and comfort that is inherent to all Danny Meyer restaurants and are an ironic twist for a restaurant that is housed in an Ian Schrager hotel where the Rose Bar next door has a strict door policy and serves $19 cocktails.

The prices at Maialino are wallet-friendly given the quality of food that Chef Nick Anderer, formerly of Gramercy Tavern and Babbo, is serving, with antipasti under $15, pastas under $20, and most entrees under $30. I appreciate that Danny Meyer set prices at these levels when he would have almost surely still filled tables with slightly higher prices.

The menu is full of modernized Italian favorites from spaghetti carbonara to the restaurant’s namesake dish, Maialino al Forno, a roast suckling pig for two. In classic Meyer form, I have heard that the restaurant provides diners with bread to make sandwiches at home out of any uneaten pork. Wanting to fill up on more than just pig, the Significant Eater and I decided not to order the roast pig, but we did get a taste of the pork-centric menu, selecting a starter of a rich pork terrine which was terrific when spread on Maialino’s bread, which is baked in house.

As a pasta, we chose the raviolo al uovo, a very large raviolo filled with creamy egg yolk, ricotta, and potato. When you cut into the pasta, the egg yolk runs across the plate. This was a dish I enjoyed eating in the restaurant and would love to make at home one day.

For our entrees, we ordered the a sea bass set atop greens and preserved lemon and a braised lamb shoulder served with crispy potatoes. The fish, although perfectly cooked, was the least interesting dish of all that we ordered at Maialino, but served as a nice counterpoint to the very heavy dishes we ordered for the rest of the meal. The lamb more than made up for the weak-flavored fish, with the Significant Eater and I fighting each other for the last little morsels of potatoes that had absorbed the wonderful braising liquid.

To complete our meal, we shared Maialino’s tartufo, which was nice take on the classic Italian dessert. Unlike the right-out-of-the-freezer tartufos served at so many Italian restaurants, Maialino’s is freshly made with thick chocolate shavings surrounding creamy chocolate gelato and a brandied cherry. Complements of our charming but slightly nervous waiter, perhaps as compensation for the tiny drop of wine that he spilled on our table (and promptly cleaned), we also were served a slice of olive oil cake. Not that I needed a second dessert, but I happily ate the lemony cake.

Maialino has a very nice wine list, with many choices under $40. The sommelier steered us to a Aglianico, which was robust enough to stand up to the heavy dishes we ate.

Several days after our meal at Maialino, I received a letter in the mail signed by Maialino’s general manager thanking me for my patronage and inviting me to return. It is the little touches that I love about Danny Meyer restaurants, where the staff goes beyond expectations to make diners feel welcome and appreciated. I needed no invitation to return to Maialino, for I surely will.

2 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10010

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Shrimp with Caramel Sauce

It's always nice when an ambitious-sounding meal can be created by simply using some leftover bits in the fridge. In this case, I simmered shrimp in some of the Vietnamese caramel that I had made several weeks ago for pork ribs. These shrimp are not nearly as sweet as the caramel sauce title may lead you to believe. While I do cut the cooking time from what is called for in Andrea Nguyen's Into the Vietnamese kitchen, you still need to cook the shrimp for longer than you think in order to allow the flavors of the sauce to penetrate the meat.

Shrimp Simmered in Caramel Sauce
Adapted from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen


  • 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp Vietnamese caramel sauce (recipe here)
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • large pinch of black pepper
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 scallion, green part only, thinly sliced


  1. In a small dutch oven, combine the shrimp, fish sauce, caramel, onion, and pepper. Bring to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are the color of clay and the sauce is almost completely reduced, about 8 minutes.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and toss the shrimp in the oil. Garnish the shrimp with the scallion and serve with white rice.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc Fried Chicken

I may not have found much time to blog the last few weeks, but that didn’t stop me from caving into a recent fried chicken craving. It must have been all of the praise on the blogosphere for Thomas Keller’s buttermilk fried chicken recipe from his latest cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home, for I just could not resist making a mess of my kitchen and giving Chef Keller’s recipe a spin of my own. The mess I created and the calories I ingested were well worth it, as the fried chicken was easily the best fried chicken I have ever had. The recipe can be found all over the Internet at this point (here’s one place to find it), so I won’t type it up again, but it is worth expanding on exactly what makes Thomas Keller’s fried chicken so perfect. What I love about his recipes, as complicated and precise as they may be, is that every ingredient and every step serve a clear purpose. There are three keys to his fried chicken recipe that make it the crispiest and most succulent fried chicken I have ever tasted:
  • The Brine: Have you ever wondered why restaurant chicken and pork is so much more juicy and so much more flavorful than what you cook at home, even when you purchase the best locally-produced, pasture-raised, all-organic, massaged-by-Cretan-virgins meat you can find? It’s not because the cooks have some magic up their sleeves. Often, it’s the restaurant is using a simple flavoring technique that you can just as easily use at home: brining. By soaking the meat in a brine for 12 hours prior to cooking it, the muscle cells will absorb the liquid of the brine via osmosis. In non-scientific words, a brine makes for supremely juicy meat. Keller does one better by adding lemon halves, thyme, parsley, garlic, and honey to the brine; the chicken soaks up all of those flavors making Keller’s fried chicken reach that pinnacle of fried birds where the meat is as delicious as the crust.
  • The Crust: To ensure an exceptionally crispy and flavorful crust, Keller instructs us to dredge the chicken in two layers of seasoned flour (with buttermilk between the two layers). The key to this technique is to make sure that you shake off the excess coating so that the crust on the chicken is crispy but not too thick. Keller spikes his flour with paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, and onion powder, which all lend the crust a nice bite.
  • The Buttermilk Coating: Like many fried chicken recipes, Keller’s calls for coating the chicken pieces in buttermilk. Although the chicken has already been brined, the buttermilk coating acts almost as a second brine, sealing in all of the chicken’s juices to ensure that very little moisture escapes as it is cooked.

What I love about Thomas Keller’s recipes, as complicated and precise as they may be, is that every ingredient and every step serve a clear purpose. The Ad Hoc at Home recipe may take more time and effort to make than your average fried chicken, but in carrying it out, you will perfect the three pillars that produce the ultimate fried chicken.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Butternut Squash Soup

A well-spiced butternut squash soup is the perfect antidote to chilly fall weather. It's ubiqitous on restaurant menus this time of year, but it's easy to prepare at home. For the soup above, I used this recipe from Michael Chiarello, substituting store-bought garam masala for his spice rub and adding a dollop of creme fraiche to each bowl. My only other recommendation would be to try straining the soup prior to serving it, as mine had tiny bits of squash that did not get blended with the rest of the soup. Other than that, this soup was just what I've been craving all autumn long.


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