Sunday, January 31, 2010

Spaghetti with Creamy Tomato and Shrimp Sauce


For this recipe, I tweaked a Marcella Hazan recipe by substituting canned San Marzano tomatoes where she called for tomato paste.  Nonetheless, the recipe results in a creamy pink sauce that is full of shrimp flavor in every bite.  Don't skip the step to make the shrimp paste; cleaning your food processor after pureeing shrimp is not an enjoyable task, but the shrimp paste is essential to making the sauce taste like a shrimp sauce rather than just a creamy tomato sauce that happens to have a few shrimp scattered about.

Spaghetti  with Creamy Tomato and Shrimp Sauce
Serves 4

  • 1/2 lb medium shrimp, shelled and de-veined
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 2 tbsp parsely, finely chopped

  1. Cut the shrimp in half lengthwise and set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook until it turns light gold.  
  3. Add the wine and tomatoes to the pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.  Cook the tomato sauce, stirring occasionally, until it is thick and all of the ingredients are well-combined. about 30 minutes.  
  4. Add the shrimp, salt, and pepper to the tomato sauce and bring the sauce to a gentle boil.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are cooked through, about 2 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium. 
  5. Using a slotted spoon, remove 2/3 of the shrimp from the pan and puree them in a food processor.  Return the pureed shrimp to the pan and stir the sauce well to combine.  
  6. Add the cream to the sauce and cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes.  Taste the sauce for salt and pepper.
  7. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to the package's directions.  Drain the pasta well and add it the tomato sauce.  Stir the pasta well to coat it with sauce.  Serve immediately, garnished with the chopped parsley.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup for the Lazy Cook's Soul

Feverish, congested, and completely run-down the other night, I decided that it was a good time to give chicken noodle soup a try.  In no mood to spend time researching a recipe, I decided to wing it.  Following what I assumed to be the the basic process of chicken noodle soup recipe-- make a broth with chicken, vegetables, and herbs, then cook the noodles-- I surprised myself with how well it turned out.

Chicken Noodle Soup

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 bone-in skinless chicken drumsticks
  • 2 bone-in skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup elbow-shaped pasta
  1. Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat.  Add the carrots, celery stalks, and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften but before they brown, about 5 minutes. 
  2. Add the wine to the pot and boil until it is completely reduced, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the bay leaves, thyme, salt, pepper, and chicken to the pot.  Pour in enough water to cover the dry ingredients by 2 inches.  Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.  Simmer for 25 minutes.  Remove the chicken pieces and cut the meat into small pieces.  Add the meat to the pan and discard the bones. 
  4. Increase the heat to a rapid simmer and add the pasta.  Cook until the pasta is cooked to your liking.  Taste the soup for salt and pepper.  Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves and serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Trout with Cured Ham and Lemon

After stuffing myself with pork belly and Sriracha wings over the past few weeks, it was time to detox with some fish, albeit fish stuffed with a few slices of cured pork.  The ham and a healthy dose of lemon juice make this dish taste far more complex than the ten minutes it takes to prepare. I used Spanish lomo, but prosciutto or Serrano ham would work just as well.

Trout with Cured Ham and Lemon
Serves 2

  • 2 whole rainbow trout, cleaned and butterfield
  • salt and pepper 
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 to 6 thin slices cured ham such as Spanish lomo or prosciutto
  • flour, for dusting
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  1. Season the insides and outsides of the trout with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
  2. Place one layer of cured ham inside the fish.
  3. Dust both sides of the fish with flour. 
  4. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the fish to the pan and cook until it is cooked through, about three minutes per side.  Serve immediately.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sriracha Wings

There are still a few more weeks to go before the big game, but that doesn't mean it's too early to start thinking about your Super Bowl party.  Nothing goes better than wings and football, but who wants to taint their party and their game with any connotations of the football that was played up in Buffalo this year? These Sriracha wings, made with the popular Asian chile condiment instead of the traditional American hot sauce, are a welcome change.  The key to these wings, adapted from a Michael Symon recipe, is the lime, which gives the dish acidity and sweetness that balance out the heat of the Sriracha.  Best of all, this dish can easily be scaled up or down, making it a great finger food for any party, big or small.  

Sriracha Wings
Serves 5 (1 lb chicken wings per person)

  • 5 lbs chicken wings, split ("Buffalo-style")
  • 2 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp coarse salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 tbsp Sriracha sauce
  • 6 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Grated zest and juice of 2 limes
  • Peanut oil, for frying
  1. Put the wings in a large bowl.  Add the coriander, cumin, cinnamon, salt, and olive oil and stir well to coat the wings.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the Sriracha sauce, cilantro, melted butter, and lime zest and juice.  Set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375F. Place the wings on two baking sheets, making sure that each wing has 1/2 an inch or so of space.  Roast the wings for 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, add pour enough of the peanut oil into a deep saucepan so that it reaches 1/3 of the way up the sides.  Heat the oil to 375F.
  5. After roasting the wings, add no more than half to the frying pan, using your judgment to make sure that the oil does not rise above the top of the pan and that the oil does not cool down too much once you add the wings.  Fry the wings for 5 minutes, then remove them to a large bowl.  Fry the remaining wings.
  6. As the second batch of wings is cooking, add the Sriracha mixture to the bowl containing the fried wings.  Toss the wings well to coat each wing with the sauce.  Remove the wings to a plate, reserving the leftover sauce which will be used for the remaining wings.  Once the second batch of wings is done, toss them in the sauce.  Serve the wings immediately with plenty of cold beer.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

How to Make Momofuku's Pork Belly at Home

The Momofuku cookbook contains a number of ambitious recipes, but I began with what is just may be the simplest in this roast pork belly that makes appearances a few times in the book.  I had only made braised pork belly dishes prior to making this one, but I really like how the meat of the pork belly stays firm by roasting it.  The salt and sugar dry-brine lends a salty-sweet flavor that essentially turns the belly into a very meaty bacon.  I served the pork belly wrapped in lettuce with a pickled mustard seed dipping sauce, but it would be just as good served as a steamed bun filling, draped over steamed white rice, or thrown into a pot of ramen. 

Momofuku Roast Pork Belly
Adapted from Momofuku

  • One 3 lb. slab skinless pork belly
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  1. In a large bowl, mix together the salt and sugar.  Rub this mixture all over the pork belly, discarding any excess.  Place the pork belly in a roasting pan that is large enough for the pork to fit snugly.  Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Heat the oven to 450F.
  3. Remove the pork belly from the refrigerator.  Discard any liquid that has accumulated in the roasting pan.
  4. Roast the pork belly at 450F for one hour.  Halfway through cooking, baste the pork belly with the rendered fat.
  5. Reduce the oven to 250F and continue to cook for another 30 minutes.  Remove the pork belly from the oven and let it cool to room temperature.  Wrap the pork in plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator (this step will make it easier to cut in the pork belly into uniform pieces).
  6. Once the pork belly is chilled, remove it from the refrigerator.  Using a sharp knife, cut the pork belly into 1/2-inch-thick slices that are 2 inches in length.  
  7. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  8. Add the pork belly to the pan and heat each side just until the meat is hot, 1 to 2 minutes.  Serve immediately. 

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Where to Eat and Drink in San Francisco

The Significant Eater and I recently returned from our New Year's trip to San Francisco, where we escaped from the snow in New York to 60-degree weather and a week of good eating and drinking.  Below are the highlights of our trip: 

Blue Bottle Cafe (66 Mint St.)  Nearly every one of our mornings began at this minimalist cafe dedicated to the art of serving a perfect cup of coffee.   I stuck to cappuccinos all week, aside from one foray to a sinfully rich mocha, while the Significant Eater went with lattes, but all drinks were as nice to sip as they were to look at.  It is the best coffee I have ever had.  The cafe also serves a nice selection of breakfast foods, including a mason jar full of excellent granola, a fluffy Belgian waffle topped with local butter, and several interesting egg dishes.  

RN74 (301 Mission St.)  We rang in the New Year at Michael Mina's modern American wine bar and restaurant. The crowd was lively, well-dressed and ready to party at the RN74 New Year's party in the lounge area post midnight. While enjoying pre-dinner cocktails of a "Pimm's 74" (made with prosecco and ginger beer) and a "La Femme" (gin, vermouth, apricot liqueur, fresh orange), we couldn't help but notice and enjoy the decor, inspired by the look of a classic European train station similar to that of Otto's in New York City. For a holiday prix-fixe dinner, the five-course meal was more than satisfactory. The highlights included a decadently rich crab and lobster salad, the pappardelle with duck and black truffle broth and the grilled prime beef with wine-braised short ribs (if you didn't get the end cut). But, be aware of the four percent "Healthy San Francisco Initiative" tax that some restaurants may charge--yep, we had to Google it, too.

A16 (2355 Chestnut St.)  Although Chef Nate Appleman has left the restaurant to open a new restaurant in New York (I can't wait!), I could not help but pay my respect to the rest of the team at the southern Italian-influenced A16, as I have nearly cooked my way through the A16: Food+Winecookbook, with nearly impeccable results.  I had never been to A16 prior to Appleman leaving, but I can't imagine it being much better than what we experienced.  We tried a squid ink cavatelli that was highlighted with strong notes of salt cod and the crunch of fresh breadcrumbs.  A lamb ravioli found the perfect balance between the richness of braised lamb filling and the delicate pasta sheets.  For our main course, we shared a plate of duck meatballs which consisted of ground duck bound by over-the-top yet oh-so-good duck pate.  Needless to say, A16 was well worth the 10-minute cab ride from our Union Square hotel. 

Bodega Bistro (607 Larkin St.)  Any trip to San Francisco should include visits to its ethnic enclaves.  While Chinatown may be better suited for tourists, Little Saigon should not be missed for its food.   Bodega Bistro, a restaurant celebrating the French influence on Vietnamese cuisine, is slightly (but only very slightly) fancier than the pho joints that dot Larkin Street, but don't let the wine list fool you; this restaurant serves up a mean bowl of pho.  Next time, I'll be more inclined to spend a few dollars less on my pho and choose some of the dingier places in Little Saigon, but Bodega Bistro is a good choice if you're looking for a slightly nicer looking spot for Vietnamese.

Heaven's Dog (1148 Mission St.)  If you're willing to venture out of the ethnic food districts of San Fran for Asian, Charles Phan's (owner of Slanted Door) new Chinese eatery is a good choice for a variety of dumplings and cocktails. Don't be fooled by the Asian-fusion restaurant appearance of the main dining room, nor be frightened by the desolate street this little gem is tucked away on, this upscale Chinese spot is sure to please palates craving rich flavors. Nearly every dish on the entree and appetizer menu contains pork, so vegetarians beware. While the curry vermicelli noodles were nothing to rave about, the shrimp and pork shumai and spicy wontons were superb. And if we can't have David Chang's Momofuku pork buns, the ones at Heaven's Dog will do. Overall, a great place for a simple dinner before a night out with friends.

Press Club (20 Yerba Buena Ln.)  While we would have loved to make a day trip our to Sonoma or Napa, mid-winter is not a very enjoyable time to venture out to California wine country due to its rainy weather, not to mention that it is not in season for the producing wine.  Press Club, a spacious underground wine bar in the Four Seasons Hotel, ended up being the next best thing.  Press Club is the urban tasting room of eight California wineries, serving only the wines produced by its resident wineries.  Don't let the posh surroundings fool you; the prices are perfectly reasonable.  My $17 flight of Cabernets included three nearly-full glasses of wines that were all over $50 a bottle at retail. 

Anchor Brewery (1705 Mariposa St.)  All beer lovers should make the trip over to Potrero Hill to tour San Francisco's beloved Anchor Brewery.  The brewery is one of the oldest microbreweries in the country, so the tour provides some interesting history of how the brewery went from near bankruptcy to delivering beers to all 50 states and internationally.  The entirely free tours also include a "tasting" of six of the brewery's beers.  These tastings are in fact 8-ounce glasses of beer, which left our entire tour group noticeably buzzed as we departed. The tours are capped at about 15 people, so I encourage you to book well ahead of time and to use public transportation to get to and from the brewery.

Bourbon and Branch (501 Jones St.)  If cocktails are more your thing, be sure to give Bourbon and Branch a try.  Its strict adherence to the speakeasy vibe--admittance to the reservations-only front room is only provided by repeating a password--may be on the cheesy side, but its drinks, especially those made of bourbon, are exceptionally prepared.  To avoid the crowded and hot hidden "library" backroom, be sure to make reservations on the website to get the password to the main room.  As a bonus, the front room has a larger drink menu.


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