Monday, January 30, 2012

Super Bowl Snacks!

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Super Bowl Sunday is right around the corner! My New England Patriots are headed to Indianapolis, and I can barely contain my excitement! Whether you are a football fan or not, the Super Bowl is an event that brings together people of all kinds. Many of them just tune in for the commercials :) No judgement. A lot of them just want a party with great food. Definitely no judgement! I'd like to share some fun recipe ideas that can perhaps grace your table for this year's Super Bowl! Here goes.....

Buffalo chicken is synonymous with watching football. Avoiding the obvious and traditional wings, here are some great dishes utilizing the flavors of Buffalo chicken in unique ways.









Here are some other great game day dishes! They may not all be super traditional, but I love thinking outside of the box with my menu planning, and this is the perfect occasion to try out some new recipes to impress your friends and family.













Friday, January 27, 2012

French Bistro Book Review and Rice Pudding with Dulce de Leche

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Ever since I was a child, I have had an obsession with everything French: the language, the Eiffel Tower, the food. It all fulfills a passion in my heart. I studied French in high school and later lived in the French House at my university. I've traveled to France, and have studied classical French cooking in culinary school. It is no surprise that when Flammarion was releasing a new cookbook entitled French Bistro (available February 7th) distributed by my friends at Rizzoli, I would be first in line to check it out!


The book points out all of the key elements, or commandments, in a successful French bistro. Each chapter is devoted to one: The Owner, the Chef, the Chalkboard Menu, the Wine, the Servers, the Table, the Decor, the Clients, the Ambiance, and the Aromas. Each chapter contains a subheading which further discusses the important elements of the Bistro. Some include the Bar, the Cheese Tray, Desserts, and Coffee. The Paul Bert, a famous Parisian bistro is the epicenter of the book. All of the recipes are from here, but several other famous Parisian bistros are also highlighted among the chapters.


The recipes are not laid out in a typical course-by-course fashion. Each chapter contains several recipes that do not necessarily relate to the chapter heading. This was the one confusing element in the book, as I did not entirely understand the motivation behind the recipes selected for each chapter. There is, however, quite a variety of recipes, and they are split up into more understandable classifications in the book's index in the back. You can use this to find recipes for a particular course more easily than thumbing through the pages.


The recipes are not simply for the typical bistro fare that one might see in a plethora of other French cookbooks, but rather focuses on seasonal cooking, and the ever-changing chalkboard menu, which differentiates a bistro from a restaurant, among many other factors. In addition to the recipes, the photographs are very beautiful and inviting. I can barely resist buying a ticket to Paris to visit each of the highlighted bistros myself.


The book is a fun read, a unique look at French bistros. Along with the traditional, it offers a nice dose of modern gastronomical insight. For example, you may not consider Pollack Tartare with Green Apples, Japanese Vinegar, and Aged Soy Sauce to be a bistro dish, and yet its recipe is offered in this book along with many others that are equally non-traditional.


I personally selected to try out the Old-Fashioned Rice Pudding with Dulce de Leche, yet another I would not expect to find in my old-school-vision of a French bistro. Overall, I think the recipes are well-written and contain notes at the end entitled "A Dash of Advice" (cute and clever). I also found that several of these footnotes discuss sustainability and ethical treatment of animals for consumption, such as veal and tuna. I respect that this information is offered, whereas many cookbooks may call for certain ingredients and neglect to point out sustainable ways of acquiring said ingredients. Kudos to Bertrand Auboyneau and Francois Simon for including these points in their book.

Old-Fashioned Rice Pudding with Dulce de Leche

Overall, I think French Bistro is a unique addition to my arsenal of French cookbooks. It certainly finds its place and is not overshadowed by the others (I own many French cookbooks). I would recommend it to anyone with a passion for French cooking with a less classic flair, but especially for those with a passion for France and an interest in learning more about the French Bistro experience.


Old-Fashioned Rice Pudding with Dulce de Leche
Serves 4
(Adapted from French Bistro)

5 oz (about 3/4 cup) Arborio rice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole milk*
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
2 to 3 generous tablespoons dulce de leche**

Parboil the rice in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain it, return to the pan and add the milk, vanilla extract, and sugar. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 25 minutes with the lid slightly askew (so it doesn't boil over), stirring regularly, until the rice is tender but not mushy.

Off the heat, stir in the butter, egg yolk, and 2 generous tablespoons of dulce de leche. Just before serving, garnish with another spoon of dulce de leche, if desired. Serve the rice pudding warm or chill to serve it cold.

*The recipe originally called for only 1 cup of milk. I found that the rice was not softening enough and so I added more. I think the extra 1/2 cup allows the rice to cook through better and results in a less dry finished product.

**Dulce de leche is a sort of milk jam from Argentina. If it is unavailable locally, cook sweetened condensed milk slowly over low heat until it is lightly caramelized.

*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than a free copy of the book. My opinions are always my own.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Queens Kickshaw: A Better Grilled Cheese For You and Yours

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Grilled Cheese (n): A comforting, sometimes decadent creation where a simple cheese sandwich is heated until crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. Pairs well with tomato soup.

Gouda, Black Bean Hummus, Guava Jam, Pickled Jalapenos on Brioche with Green Salad and Jalapeno Vinaigrette $10

Unless y'all are lactose intolerant or haters of melted cheese like my mother (still question my genetics from time to time), then you've probably had a grilled cheese sandwich at some point in your life. It probably used simple white bread (I'm thinking Sunbeam) and a slice or two of Kraft Singles American cheese (you know, the individually wrapped kind that's so orange it probably glows in the dark). Perhaps you dunked it in canned tomato soup. It may have been your favorite thing on Earth. 

Cappuccino $3.50

Well, I have a grilled cheese replacement for you. In fact, I have a cafe with incredible specialty coffee that serves gourmet grilled cheeses along with a rounded out all-vegetarian (trust me, you don't miss the meat!) menu of soups and salads, cheese plates, and even a unique take on macaroni and cheese (pssst, it's baked in a loaf pan, chilled, then sliced off to serve, griddled and baked until bubbly). Have I peaked your interest?

Where the magic happens... yum!

Last spring, a spot called The Queens Kickshaw opened in Astoria (Queens, NY). This is my 'hood, so suffice it to say, I've eaten a LOT of their food. In fact, I've tried 5 of the 8 amazing grilled cheeses on their menu, as well as the mac and cheese. And I keep coming back for more... All of their sandwiches are served on freshly baked bread from the famous Balthazar Bakery in Manhattan. Their cheeses are also top notch, and each additional component is made fresh. I've had the pleasure of sitting at the bar and watching the chef cooking up grilled cheese after grilled cheese. It's hypnotically delicious.


Some of my favorites include the Great Hill Blue which is served with prune jam and fresh pear on cranberry-walnut bread. It's paired with a green salad topped with pickled blueberries. This tangy and sweet combination gets some crunch from the walnuts. A truly perfect balance, the chef referred to it as one of his favorites as well.

Great Hill Blue - Prune Jam and Fresh Pear on Cranberry-Walnut Bread with Green Salad and Pickled Blueberries $11 

Their award-winning Cheddar and Mozzarella is served on rich brioche with a cup of comforting tomato soup, made on the premises... not from a can. It elevates a typical pairing of grilled cheese and tomato soup to something truly special. My only compliant is that I want more of it...

Cheddar and Mozzarella - on Brioche with Tomato Soup $8

Another favorite is their Gouda grilled cheese which blasts your palate with black bean hummus, guava jam, and pickled jalapenos, all piled on more of that perfect Balthazar brioche. It's a fan favorite, a very popular choice, and I can see why. It brings it all to the table and you just can't get enough.

Mac and Cheese - Cheddar, Gruyere, Smoked Mozzarella, and French Beans $8

Wherever you're from, if and when you come to New York City, don't forget about the other boroughs. We may not be able to bring you Times Square, the Empire State Building, and all those other tourist attractions (*cough* overrated *cough*), but when it comes to grilled cheese, Queens can bring it!

The Queens Kickshaw
40-17 Broadway
Astoria, NY 11103
(718) 777-0913
www.thequeenskickshaw.com

Friday, January 20, 2012

Honey-Glazed Spago Cornbread

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A recipe for cornbread from a cookbook about desserts is sure to be on the decadent side. Quite frankly, I don't see anything wrong with that! This cornbread is moist and delicious, even before adding the buttery honey glaze.


I have made this cornbread twice, once with the full amount of glaze and once halving that recipe. While both were good, I think using the full amount of glaze keeps the cornbread moist even longer, although you are free to do as you wish. It will seem like a lot of glaze as you brush it over the top, but do not fear! It WILL absorb into the cornbread and distribute nicely.


This cornbread can be enjoyed on its own with a cup of tea or coffee, or paired with savory dishes like a big bowl of chili! Don't let the honey-glaze dissuade you from enjoying this cornbread like you would any other. Even with the slightly sweet glaze, a punch of salt in the batter definitely stands up and takes notice. This is down-home cooking at it's best.

Honey-Glazed Spago Cornbread
Makes one 9-by-13-inch pan (24 squares)
(From Desserts By the Yard)

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cake flour
1 cup sugar
2 T. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
3 oz (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk
1/2 cup buttermilk

Glaze:
3 oz (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup water

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and spray foil with pan spray.

Stir together cornmeal, all-purpose flour, cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs. Melt butter and immediately whisk into eggs in a slow stream. Whisk in oil, milk, and buttermilk. Whisk in dry ingredients just until combined.

Scrape batter into the pan and bake for 30 minutes. Rotate pan from front to back and continue to bake for 5 to 10 more minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

To make the glaze: While corn bread is baking, melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add honey and water and whisk until blended. When corn bread is done, remove from oven and poke holes all over the bread, about 1/2 inch apart, with a toothpick. Brush with the glaze and allow to cool. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fusilli with Truffles, Gouda, and Peas

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Winter is truffle season. Thank God. Truffles are not the most affordable fungi in the universe, but they are certainly the most special. If you can't afford fresh truffles (and most of the world can't), you can incorporate the incredible flavor and aroma of black and white truffles through a variety of truffle products that are available and more reasonably priced than their fresh cousins.


Truffle oil and truffle butter are two products I have seen in many specialty markets. I also recently purchased some white truffle cream, made by Roland, available in a tiny (2.8 oz) jar with the consistency of a thick paste. It cost $17, a bargain if you consider that fresh white truffles can cost about $200/ounce or more. Wowza!


I like thinning out the white truffle cream with heavy cream. It makes an incredibly fragrant and delicious base for this easy to whip up macaroni and cheese, and you don't even have to make a Bechamel. If you can't find the white truffle cream, try using truffle oil or truffle butter instead to add that special touch to your pasta creation.


Fusilli with Truffles, Gouda, and Peas
Serves 2

6 oz fusilli or rotini pasta
1 1/2 T. white truffle cream
2 T. heavy cream
3 oz Gouda cheese, shredded
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas, thawed if frozen
Black truffle, thinly sliced or shaved (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Drain.

Meanwhile, combine the white truffle cream and heavy cream until smooth. Mix in half the cheese and the peas. Toss in the hot pasta and stir to coat and allow the cheese to melt. Add the sliced black truffle, if using.

Transfer the pasta to a small baking dish, about 8 or 9" in diameter (I use a 9" enameled cast iron frying pan, such as Le Creuset). Top with the remaining cheese and bake for about 7 to 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve immediately.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Blogger Brunch Over Tapas, NYC Style

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Few things cause more culinary excitement to me than meeting other food bloggers to eat together! It seems like such a simple joy, but the truth is, not only do you get to spend time with friends (sometimes ones you've known through years of blogging) and share a great love of food, but you also get to dine with someone who, like you, spends a good part of the meal photographing the food. I am not alone :)


After years of being online friends, I finally had the pleasure of meeting Priscilla of She's Cookin', a blog I've been following for years. Since she lives in California and I live in New York, it was not the easiest to finally meet my friend, but her recent visit to the Big Apple helped the stars align. We selected a fun tapas restaurant for our rendez-vous.


Boqueria has two locations in New York City, one in the Flatiron district (which is where we ate) and one in SoHo. It greeted us with excellent ratings and legs of Serrano ham hanging in the front window. I was salivating before I even made it through the door. Over glasses of sangria, we gossiped and swooned about our favorite foodie experiences.

Sangria $9/glass

Our mutual love of cheeses and charcuterie led to our selection of the Quesos y Embutidos platter available during brunch, which consisted of three cheeses (rosemary manchego, tetilla, and garrotxa), three meats (chorizo, salchichón, and Serrano ham over pan con tomate), quince paste, a selection of olives, golden raisins, and breads. It was an incredible deal considering they usually offer the meats and cheeses a la carte, which costs significantly more.

Quesos y Embutidos - Spanish artisanal cured meats and cheese $19 (plus the additional Tortilla Española)

The tetilla cheese was a bit mild for our taste, but we both loved the herbaceous manchego and the slightly sharp garrotxa. The pan con tomate was easily one of the simplest and tastiest presentations on our platter: crusty bread rubbed with garlic and tomato, topped with delicate, melt-in-your-mouth Serrano ham. The classic chorizo and the salchichón, a spiced pork sausage with garlic and herbs, rounded out the platter perfectly. Overall this was a great pick!


We also couldn't resist the Tortilla Española, which is simply a classic. This version was creamy and simple, the perfect texture and flavor. It was accompanied with a lovely garlic alioli. When combined with the tortilla, it was happiness and joy. We loved this dish. I could have easily had seconds.

Tortilla Española - Traditional egg and potato Spanish omelet $7

Finally, we indulged in an adorable presentation of fried quail eggs over chorizo on toast. They call it Cojonudo, but I call it delicious! It's also incredibly photogenic. Although the portion seemed small, there were only two of us, so it worked out in the end :)

Cojonudo - Fried quail eggs and chorizo on toast $6

Tapas can easily evolve into a very expensive meal depending on how many plates you choose to order, but with some restraint, and a languid meal where we honestly savored every bite of food, we didn't feel the bill creep up on us.

The pan con tomate with Serrano ham, part of the Quesos y Embutidos platter 

I look forward to revisiting Boqueria and trying more of their delicious menu. As a fan of variety, restaurants that offer small plates fill that void in my heart and stomach, and I'm happy to add Boqueria to the list of New York City spots I can turn to in the future to provide a myriad of flavors on my palate and satisfy my craving for authentic tapas.


*UPDATE 7-5-12*

I have since returned to Boqueria to explore more of their tapas options. I found every item as satisfying as my original visit, and would like to briefly share some more photographs and thoughts. First of all, this time around I tried the white sangria instead of the red, and it was very tasty, light and refreshing.

White Sangria $9/glass

Next we ordered a personal favorite, patatas bravas. Essentially, small fried potato chunks served with a slightly spicy salsa brava and a garlicy allioli sauce. The salsa brava was beneath the potatoes while the allioli was on top, giving a separation of flavors that could be mixed if desired. This dish is easily a crowd-pleaser and definitely a stand by as far as my tapas choices are concerned. Who doesn't love fried potatoes served with delicious sauces?

Patatas Bravas - crispy potatoes, salsa brava, roasted garlic allioli $9

We also ordered the Tortilla Española (I tried this last time also), which was plated along with one of the specials we tried, Torrada de Escalivada.  Grilled country bread was spread with goat cheese and topped with onions, roasted peppers, anchovies and a sherry reduction. I personally loved these bites although overall they were pretty soft in texture (no crunchy element). The saltiness and fishiness of the anchovies were complimented beautifully by the tangy goat cheese and slightly sweet bell peppers. Definitely a good choice I'd be happy to order again.

Torrada de Escalivada (on the left of the board) - grilled country bread, white and salt cured anchovies, onions, roasted peppers, eggplant, goat cheese, and sherry reduction $10

Another dish we decided to try was Bombas de la Barceloneta, or beef and potato croquettes. They were served with the same delicious salsa brava and garlic allioli sauces from the patatas bravas. Definitely another good choice for our tapas spread.

Bombas de la Barceloneta - beef and potato croquettes, salsa brava, and garlic allioli $9

Our final dish (and I must say we were insanely stuffed by this point) was another of the specials, Coca Mallorquina. This flatbread was topped with sobrasada (a soft pork sausage made with pimenton), Mahon cheese, caramelized onions, and topped with quail eggs. These was quite delicious as well, but unfortunately by this point much more of a challenge to fit into our already-expanding stomachs. Definitely, not a bad second visit to Boqueria. Not a single disappointing dish.

Coca Mallorquina - housemade flatbread, sobrasada, Mahon cheese, caramelized onions, and quail eggs $14

Boqueria Flatiron
53 W 19th St
New York, NY 10011
(212) 255-4160

Boqueria SoHo
171 Spring St
New York, NY 10012
(212) 343-4255

www.boquerianyc.com

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