A Fritos Day in London Town

Pip pip cheerio chaps!
Yes, I am going to London this week, so the blog is taking a brief hiatus. But fear not, because next week, Fritos and Foie Gras will be back with reports on Indian food, Cadbury’s candy bars, and fish and chips.
See you next year!!

Andrew Zimmern Inspired Chowder

What do you do when you watch Andrew Zimmern eat an insanely delicious looking cod chowder on Bizarre Foods?

You make your own kick ass chowder, of course.

You sautee a leek, a shallot, a couple of carrots, and some celery in a big buttered stockpot.  You need plenty of butter and oil won’t work here. Butter and fish are simply magical in a soup.

When the mirepoix is soft and translucent (10 minutes or so), you are going to cube up some washed potatoes (I use Yukon Golds, but any old kind will work) and toss them in, skin on.  Make the cubes pretty small so they will cook quickly.

Throw in a bottle of clam juice.  I know, it sounds super freaky.  But I PROMISE YOU…it adds this briny, clean, umami kick to the soup that you just can’t get otherwise.  Trust me here.

And some stock.  We used seafood stock.  You can use veggie or chicken if you like.

Some nice white wine.

A can of tomatoes – totally untraditional, but OMG so delicious.

A few sprigs of thyme and some pepper.  Now put the lid on and let the whole thing simmer for about 25 minutes.  When you taste the chowder, the potatoes should be creamy but not falling apart, the carrots should be tender, and the soup should be acidic and only vaguely seafood-y.  Here is where we fix that:

Toss in whatever kind of seafood you want.  We used prawns, clams, oysters, and three different kinds of white flaky fish.  If you can get your hands on cod, it is delicious here, but sole, snapper, or any other kind of flaky, white fish would be perfect here.  You want the fillets all equal in thickness and side so they cook evenly.
And nice jumbo dayboat scallops.  Nothing like them in the world.  So sweet and delicate.

Put the seafood in, turn the stove off, and cover the pot.  When the fish is translucent, take it out!  When the shellfish opens, take it out!  Then…it’s DONE!

Take the skin and shells off all the shellfish before adding the seafood back into the pot.

Pour some heavy cream in tableside for a particularly elegant production.  And oh yes, this is particularly elegant.  It is so fresh tasting and hearty without being heavy.  The oysters and mussels are sweet and juicy, and the fish is tender and flaky.  The potatoes are creamy, the leeks are soft, and the tomatoes are gently acidic next to the salinity of the clam broth and the prawns.  The thyme is fragrant and earthy, and the cream just rounds everything off to make it comforting.  This is delightful. And this is what you do when Andrew Zimmern makes you hungry!

Divvies are Divine!

I don’t have any allergies.  It’s really true.  I can eat every variety of artisan bread at the bakery, enough peanuts to make Southwest go out of business, and the only thing that happens when I eat dairy is that I become a happier, person.
When I take cyclene drugs, my entire body puffs up like a blowfish and my throat closes, but that’s another story for another time.
I never consider how people with allergies must feel when they try to eat out or by treats, but, honestly..it must really stink when you can’t indulge in something everyone else can.
Enter Divvies:
Mark and Lori Sandler started Divvies when they found out that their youngest son Benjamin 
 ”eat anything that has even a trace amount of peanuts, tree nuts, milk or eggs”.  So they created this awesome  company that has a bunch of snacks and treats that anyone with these allergies can eat!  When they sent me these samples, I couldn’t wait to indulge!!
The Benjamint Crunch BingGo bar was totally a joy!  Very dark chocolate with a nice snap and these refreshing little shards of mint that were crunchy but not painful or spiky.  No one else got to taste this…
Chocolate Ghosts that had that same smooth, deep chocolate taste, but this time the chocolate was not distracted by any other flavors.  This lacked bitterness or harshness, and was so chocolatey-delightful, I would never have believed that it didn’t have dairy in it!
Choco-lot Brownie Cookies.
Soft, sweet, intensely chocolatey, and moist.  Serious cookie cravings could be sated with this cookie.
Hell, issues in the middle east could be sated with this cookie!
Chris agrees!
Becky does too.  Or she has found religion…
Divvies is one of the most wonderful companies I have come across in awhile.  They work with the Food Allergies Initiative, let thousands of people enjoy treats without fear, and…quite frankly…produce some mighty fine sweets and snacks.
They are totally Divvie-ine!

Potato Crusted Scrod – Haute Cuisine at Home

I love to eat out.  I love the formality, I love the decadence of not doing any prep work in the kitchen, and – quite frankly – I love restaurant food.  It is usually more refined and precise than the rustic fare I make at home.  But…why can’t I be refined at home?  I’m classy, ain’t I?
Don’t answer that.
One of my favorite restaurant dishes is potato crusted fish.  I just love the contrast between earth and sea, crispy and tender, salty and sweet.  So – I looked up Anne Burrell’s recipe, and – with a few variations – went to town!
First, Marmie sliced up some red potatoes VERY THINLY.  You should really use a mandoline or a food processor for this.  

They must absolutely be see through slices.  Yukon Golds would work here, too.

Now lay your fish out on a plate.  Though Anne uses halibut, we got some fresh scrod at the farmers market that day.  This is delicately flavored fish is much less thick than the halibut that she uses, so we had to adjust the cooking time a little.  I think any fish would taste good this way though, as long as it is lighter and flaky…don’t know if swordfish or marlin would work very well this way.

Now you layer the potatoes on top of the fish like they are the scales – overlapping a LOT.  Each potato should almost totally cover the one before it.  That will help the crust set as the starches in the potato release and make the slices adhere to one another.

Then you drizzle some olive oil on the potato covered fish and rub it all over to make sure the potatoes each have some lubrication.  Then pop the fish in the fridge for one hour.

In the meantime, slice and wash some leeks as shown here

And put them in a pan or pot with enough chicken or fish stock to just cover the top of the leeks.  Set the pan to boil sans lid, and when the liquid is almost all evaporated, taste a leek.  If they have literally “melted” together into a sweet, jam like substance, they are done.  If they have any sort of bite, add some more stock and continue to boil away.

After an hour take the fish out. Put it next to the leeks because that is what I did.

Now you are going to set an oiled or buttered skillet on medium high heat, and when the oil starts to sputter and ripple, you lay the fish in potato side first.

  I found that speed is essential here-the faster you do it, the less chance things will fall apart.
And that really IS what she said.
I was TOTALLY making restaurant quality food!  That and getting free samples at Costco are some of the most exciting things I have ever experienced.

While the fish sizzles away, you want to zest a (washed) lemon with a zester or microplane.  Be careful not to get any of the white pith, which is bitter.  You want to gently scrape it with your chosen instrument so just the yellow skin comes off.  Zest has all of the flavor of lemon with none of the diluting properties-that’s why I zested instead of just juicing it.
Mix the zest with chopped dill and tarragon.
Why don’t they make lemon – dill – tarragon perfume?

By this time, our fish was actually done.  The potatoes were not, but the fish was so thin that it cooked quickly.  If you use a thin fish like we did, you can do as we did and take the fish out when it turns opaque and put it to the side.  Otherwise, just ignore this step.

When the potatoes look like this, flipping time has arrived!

We did it with two spoons (and if your fish is thicker, you may not have to flip it at all-you would just leave the fish on the potatoes till the fish was cooked, and see if the potatoes were cooked through by then.  If not, flip the potatoes as you see here, after removing the cooked fish).
This is a truly beautiful sight.

Now take out the potato crusts and lay them over the fish fillets.  If some of your crusts fall apart when you take them out, just lay them over the fish anyway and no one will care or be able to tell the difference.
Why no, you are not dining at Per Se, although the dish does look that professional.
Clearly, I was totally stoked by how awesome this looked!
And now you put about 1/3 cup white wine in a pan and whisk in cubes of cold butter, one by one, till the fat is all incorporated and the sauce has slightly thickened.  This is making what is known as beurre blanc.

Now add the leeks.

And the zest/herb mixture (I also tossed in a bundle of thyme that i just removed out at the end).

After about 5 minutes and the addition of salt and pepper, fish out the thyme and it’s time for the fish!

This was a meal for the AGES!  The fish was flaky, delicate, and moist beneath it’s crispy, golden brown potato topping.  The beurre blanc was delicate, rich, acidic from the wine, tart from the lemon, and herby from the seasonings.  The only thing that I would have added to this beurre blanc was perhaps a spoonful of capers-the brininess of the capers just work so well with the brininess of the fish.  This was really the most elegant, elevated form of fish and chips imaginable.  Served with a green salad, this is a meal that I would be thrilled to have in a restaurant.  Of course, I would also be thrilled to serve it to you at Chez Fritos and Foie Gras.
  

Arrancini-Ever Had Them?

Ever had arancini?  They are these breaded, fried balls of leftover rice that are filled with meats, cheeses, and/or veggies.  They are served steaming hot, crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and when you reach the surprise in the middle, it is like discovering buried treasure!  I have enjoyed these at restaurants before, and my sister, mom, and I wanted to make them at home.  We loosely followed this recipe.
We took porcini and chanterelle mushrooms and an onion and diced them all very small, so they could fit into the rice balls.  Throw them into an olive oiled pan over medium low heat.
We also got some fabulous prosciutto ends and threw them into the pan with some thyme and pepper.  You will not need any salt because there is so much salt in the prosciutto.  I mean, you might like some more salt…but then you will be drinking water all night…

Toss the prosciutto into the pan and let it all gently sautee for about 25 minutes, or until the smell from the pan is enough to make you salivate from a mile away.
In the meantime, take some fresh buffalo mozzarella.  Look at it lovingly, as it if is your child.
But it doesn’t poop.
So it’s really even better than a child.

Dice it into small pieces.

When the onions are lightly golden and the prosciutto is browned, take the pan off the heat and let it rest until it’s room temperature.  THEN fold the mozzarella in – don’t do it earlier or the mozz will melt too quickly and become too gooey to work with.
Now take your leftover rice (we used short grain sushi rice), a couple of beaten eggs, and some Italian seasoned breadcrumbs.

Flatten a little rice in your and, put some filling in it (this was a cheese only rice ball), and roll the rice around the filling. 
 Add a little more rice if you need to – the filling must be completely covered but you don’t want the ball so big that it can’t cook evenly and heat the ingredients within.  Like all the best things in life, it’s a delicate balance.
Then roll the rice in egg followed by a dunk in the breadcrumbs, and voila!  This one turned out a little too large…

Pour some oil in your deep fat fryer or a heavy skillet.  You want the oil to come about halfway up the rice ball, and you want to get it SMOKING and RIPPLING…really hot.

Now put those babies in!  Let them sit a few minutes and brown before rotating them to get brown all over.  Don’t forget to turn the balls on their sides!

When they come out, drain them for a few moments, then crack into them immediately.

And when I say crack…that’s what these are.  Little fried balls of crack.  That seasoned, crispy outer shell.  The sticky, toothsome rice.  The melty cheese, savory mushrooms, and salty prosciutto.  This is awesome .  You really must try it.
And then you can say you have had arrancini.

Dylan Prime or Dylan Fine?

Dylan Prime is touted as a sleek, sexy restaurant with new twists on classic steakhouse favorites.  I hit the upscale, dark, and more trendy than formal dining space to check out the fare.  While nothing was bad, not everything was great.  We are going to break this review down into what was just Dylan Fine, and what was really Dylan Prime.
First…the so-so news:
The Bread.
Unheated Hawaiian rolls.  Cottony, cold, ordinary King’s Hawaiian Bread that I buy in the grocery store all the time.  Now, I like King’s Hawaiian Bread as much as any other gal, but when I am paying beaucoup bucks in a nice restaurant, I want some house baked or at least locally sourced unique bread offering.  Even if it were warm, it would have been an improvement.  Later on, I noticed tables around us getting what looked like sourdough slices and pretzel rolls.  Why did we get the short end of the carb stick?  The butter, on the other hand was great-unsalted and soft.
Of course, that’s what she said.

French Onion Soup with Sherry & Gruyere .
Sherry & Gruyere Cheese
This was delicious, don’t get me wrong.  It just fell a little flat.  There were plenty of onions, but I don’t think that they had really cooked long enough.  The onions should be almost approaching jam status, literally melting into one another in a sweet, molten heap as you break through the bubbling cheese and moistened bread.  These onions were just a tad undercooked, which resulted in a soup that just lacked that certain umami POW of flavor.  The cheese used was excellent and so was the bread, with a tender crumb but a crust that stood up to the liquid.  This was not salty, which I LOVED, but if there had just been a bit more caramelization on the onions, it would have really brought this into “Prime” territory.
Baby Baked Potatoes with Roasted Garlic, Parmesan Cream Sauce, Bacon & Chives:
Like the onion soup, these were good but not GREAT.  The idea was fantastic-crisply baked Yukon Gold potatoes smothered in a roasted garlic and Parmesan cream sauce, garnished with pancetta and fresh chives.  But the execution just fell SLIGHTLY short.  The potatoes tasted boiled, not baked.  I really craved the contrast between the crunchy skin and the fluffy innards of the potato, and instead it was soft  throughout.  Also, the potatoes were left whole, so the Parmesan cream sauce couldn’t really sink into the potatoes while they were hot.  That’s a shame, since the sauce was perfect-thick, creamy, salty, and savory with that sweet roasted garlic.  It was so delicious with that perfectly fried pancetta and those fresh, slightly biting chives that I ended up eating the sauce and garnishes by the spoonful!  If they could just get the skin a little crisper and sink that sauce into the potatoes, this dish would be “Prime” for sure.  As it is, I am going to try to re-make this at home, since the concept is fab.
Now onto the excellent:
Mixed Baby Greens with Teardrop Tomatoes and Maytag Blue Cheese
Remember when you thought you had a great green salad?  Erase that thought.  Because THIS is what every standard salad should be.  Tender mixed greens including sweeter and more bitter lettuces, jewel like baby tomatoes that were sweet and acidic at the same time, a light vinaigrette dressing, and the world’s MOST fantastic blue cheese (for a salad, anyway).  The Maytag was truly wonderful-salty, funky, creamy; contrasting perfectly with the simplicity of the other ingredients. This was a standout in the meal and once again proves how stellar ingredients make for a stellar dish, no matter how simple.
Ancho Coriander Rubbed Hanger Steak.
I freakin LOVE Hanger Steak and do not eat it NEAR enough.  In France, it is referred to as the “onglet”, and is often what you will get in a bistro when you order “steak frites”.  It is not the most tender cut of meat, but it is one of the most flavorful.  It is inexpensive, and when cooked properly, has more of a meaty taste than even a New York Strip (in my opinion…which of course is right).  This was cooked PERFECTLY rare. It was lightly charred on the outside, warm and still red inside.  It cut quite easily, and had the most rich, iron-y MEATY taste…this is not for people who think a well done hamburger is awesome.  This is for meat lovers who want that true “beef” taste.  The ancho-coriander rub was just lightly smokey, spicy, and fragrant, and went perfectly with…
Herb Bearnaise Sauce
Be still my heart.  I mean, really…this sauce deserves it’s own part of this review.  Bearnaise is a variant of hollandaise sauce that includes shallots, pepper, tarragon, and other spices.  And, oh sweet mother of all that is holy…it is like mayo on CRACK!  It is warm, creamy, peppery, fragrant, herbacious, lemony, and thick enough to coat a spoon.  It is fantastic with everything from steamed broccoli to roasted cod to…yes…a flavorful and rare steak.  Something about that meat with the egg based sauce is just such an indulgence in carnivorism.  I ate the whole steak.
And drank the sauce
As in, I lifted the creamer to my mouth and tipped it in.
Don’t judge.
Creamed Spinach.
Perfection.  Served steaming hot, with ample spinach taste, a little bite left to the leaves, a rich sauce that was creamy but not cloying, and a perfect foil to the steak.  Because really..isn’t cream always a perfect foil to steak?
Dylan Prime on Urbanspoon

Spaetzle is Special

Spaetzle Time!  That’s right, it’s time to make these lovely little German dumplings that go perfectly with…oh,just about anything!  I followed Tyler Florence’s recipe, and it was really simple.
First put one cup of flour in a bowl.

Then toss in 2 eggs, and salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup cream…Tyler used milk and also put in other spices and herbs.
I’m an original…what can I say?

Now mix it all up and let the dough rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes.
Set some water or broth to boil.

Now here’s where you have to form the spaetzle.  This was me being cute…before I realized how difficult the next step would be.  See, the point is to smush the dough through the colander holes to let the spaetzle dough drop into the boiling water .

After 10 minutes of this, I decided to take the “rustic” approach.

I squeezed the dough and Marmie cut it off in chunks.  The dough is so stiff and sticky, it will not drop from your hands before you cut it.  Although I could do it myself, it made it a lot easier to do it with someone else.
That’s what she said.
As soon as the little dumplings floated to the top, they were done!

You could sautee these in butter and serve them with a nice fish.  Or melt some cheese on top of them under the broiler (Gruyere would be wonderful!). Or…

You can serve it under some hearty and warming beef stew, topped with a blanket of smooth sour cream.  The dumplings are toothsome, dense, and the perfect foil for the substantial texture and spice of the stew.  With that cool mountain of sour cream gently melting into the stew…well, I really don’t have to say that I’m drooling, do I?
Because I bet you are too.

Latke Loving!

Everyone loves a latke.  They are like hash-brown-tater-tots of joy.  Warm and golden brown, with crispy exteriors and creamy interiors, they are heavenly dipped in sour cream and a bit of hot sauce (or apple sauce if you are like my boring family).

But what happens when you mix it up a bit?  When you take, say:

5 zucchini, 3 potatoes, 1 onion, and one bunch of scallions all run through the food processor so they are grated.  Then let them drain in a colander so all the liquid comes out-maybe 30 minutes of just standing there.  PLEASE don’t skip this step, unless you want soggy and leaden pancakes.
Didn’t think you did.
 Then add 2 eggs and at least 2 cups of flour-enough to make a pretty thick mortar.

Then you add some Moroccan spices.  Cumin, cinnamon, red pepper flakes…or, what the hell, go with a great spice blend like we did.  Don’t be shy, now!  Those potatoes soak up a lot of seasoning!

Then you take teensy weensy little balls of the stuff-smaller than you think they should be, really-and put them onto a medium hot griddle or pan that is schmeared with shimmering olive oil (Hanukkah does celebrate the miracle of oil, after all).

You want to flatten them out as thinly so they brown up and crisp in a lovely manner in about 4 or 5 minutes…

like this!  By now your house should be fragrant with the onion, the spices, and the oil.  Get that sour cream out of the fridge so you can be ready to dig in.

When you flip them, wait another 3 minutes or so and then take them off the griddle.  Repeat until done!  Do you see how much FUN it is?!

When they are done they are just so delicious.  The zucchini meld into the potato so the whole mixture is more gold than green, but the zucchini’s sweetness is prevalent throughout.  The savory caramelized onions and the fresh scallions accent the sweet and spicy Moroccan seasonings.  Throw some sour cream on there, and you have heaven.  Or Hanukkah.  Which can, after all, be one and the same.

What Am I, Chopped Liver?

If only! My love of liver does not stop at Spaghetti Caruso and foie gras…no, I am a total devotee of plain old  chopped chicken liver, Jewish style.  It could not be easier, cheaper, or more impressive.  The only thing that you need to have is a food processor.  One of your friends will let you borrow one.

Or you can shoplift one. Trust me, the liver is so good, it’s worth the risk of getting caught.

 Guests at parties will think you are a gourmet, your roomates will be unintimidated enough to try it, and you will be amazed at what an awesome chef you are.

First, sautee a ton of onions-at least 3 or 4-on low heat for an hour or so.  You want them to be very dark and caramelized with some crispy bits.  To do this, you need a LOT of olive oil and/or butter.  Like 1/4 of a cup.  For starters.  At half hour increments. add more.  If you think you put in too much…you are probably right on target.

Next, you want to clean and prep the livers, as I have shown here

 You will end up throwing away quite a bit, but that’s ok. Two pounds of fresh chicken livers will do nicely for this recipe.

By the time the onions taste like this, taste them.  Is there anything more delicious on the face of the planet?

Then, add the livers to the hot pan

And also throw in a handful-maybe 7 or 8-pitted prunes.  This is the SECRET INGREDIENT that makes this liver so awesome.  Trust me. 
 DO NOT SKIP THIS.  
Or we won’t be friends anymore.  I’m serious.

Now toss in 2 whole eggs, some salt and pepper, and mash the whole thing around.  

Put in a good glug of marsala, cognac, or armagnac.  Red wine would be ok, but not as ideal as a sweet fortified wine or liqueur, like one of these.

Now turn off the stove, take the whole mixture, and toss it into the food processor.  You add heavy cream as you pulse the mixture until the liver is a smooth and creamy paste.  You will use no more than 1/2 a cup of cream.  Go slowly, since you can always add more but you can’t take any out. You really want a smooth pate here.

Toss it into a bowl and taste for salt and pepper.

Swoon appropriately.
This really is an amazing party dish.  Rich, meaty, and decadent with  soft onions and the sweetness of the prunes.  The marsala adds a depth that rounds out the dish and takes away from the mineral-y flavor that offal can have.  This is just as delicious with crudites and pita chips as it is on a sandwich with iceberg lettuce the next day, and is not so overwhelmingly liver-y that liver virgins will be intimidated.  Trust me-you’re gonna love it!  And the next time that people call you chopped liver, you will be nothing but flattered.

Hannukah, pt.1

Seriously, who decided to have Hanukkah so close to Thanskgiving?  It was waaaay to close to have a truly awesome holiday party.  So rather than skip holding a Hanukkah party (PERISH the thought!), we just held it after the fact.  And forgot to light the candles one of the nights.  And eat bacon almost every day.  Whatever-we are CULTURAL Jews.
First up in this series of Hanukkah recipes is the decidedly Goyem Sweet and Sour Crockpot Meatballs.  This is a recipe that Marmie got from some retro cookbook or newspaper clipping when I was just a baby.  It is a party staple because it is cheap, easy, and universally enjoyed.
Just like me :)
1)Take one jar of Chili Sauce and 1/2 jar of Grape Jelly.  Must be chili sauce.  Must be grape jelly.  Brands do not matter.

2)Dump them into a crockpot.

3)Turn the crockpot on low so that the sauces begin to warm and meld together.

4)Take as much ground beef as you need(2 lbs is more than enough for 6 people, as an appetizer), Italian Style Breadcrumbs, and Lea and Perrins  Worcestershire sauce (thanks to Foodbuzz for that!)/

5)Mix the ground beef with about 1 cup of breadcrumbs (more if the beef will not hold together in balls) and a hefty glug of Worcestershire sauce. 

6)Start rolling balls and dumping them in the crockpot!

See how nice they look?

8)Leave the crockpot on medium , go to work, and in 8 hours time, the house will be filled with the MOST delicious sweet, savory, meaty smell.

The meatballs will be gently bobbing around in a thick, sweet, slightly spicy, tomatoey sauce that is a mixture of tomato sauce, BBQ sauce, and pure love.  The balls themselves will be dense and meaty, with just a touch of salt from the Worcestershire and a bit of spice from the seasoned breadcrumbs.

These babies could turn the president of PETA into a meat eater.  They are just SO addictive.  Serve these right in the crockpot, with a bowl of toothpicks on the side for procuring the meatballs.  Though these are great at parties, they are also amazing over mashed potatoes so you can sop up all of that sweet, spicy sauce. And PLEASE resist the urge to put any fresh herbs, expensive ingredients or fancy touches on this recipe.  NOOOO!  The beauty of this is the simplicity.  That’s where the gastronomic dignity of this dish lies-odd but true. This recipe is awesome.  As was the Hanukkah party.  Try them! 
Next up: What Am I, Chopped Livah?