Archives for July 2011
Silky pieces of fatty tuna blended with sweet and tart apples, made soft from maceration in salty soy sauce and scallion oil. Crisp pieces of scallion enlivened the mild fish and the rice crisp on top added a crunchy texture and vaguely nutty taste that broke up the texture of the tartare. It’s easy to see why this is a signature dish – it is totally harmonious and exciting to the palate.
Normally I would never order edamame-what a waste! Thank heaven I capitulated to this request from one of my table mates, because this was totally delicious! Tender beans, coated in a slick of sour, fragrant, slightly spicy oil were so addictive that I couldn’t stop eating them.
This was the STUFF. The sausage was reminiscent of maple glazed bacon – sweet, sticky, crunchy, but with spices like star anise, ginger and pepper coming through to cut the sweetness of the glaze and the fatty pork. The sauce on the side was nothing sort of incendiary, and its bright, tangy flavors tasted Thai to me. Once again, this cut through the sweetness and brought all the background flavors to the forefront.
This was a special that is – apparently – on the menu all the time, and with good reason. Unlike Danji’s unctuous pork belly buns, these are made with slightly leaner, though no less moist, meat. Charbroiled edges and soft, robust tasting meat melded with the soft rice buns, sweet hoisin sauce and crunchy, herbaceous daikon relish. Not mindblowing, but an interesting interpretation of pork buns for those of you who don’t like a fatty mouthfeel.
Wait a minute…
Like the edamame, I was ready to give these a pass, but they turned out to be one of my favorite dishes of the night. The assorted mushrooms were hearty and full of that beefy, rich, umami taste that only mushrooms have. They were in a sweet and savory broth that tasted not unlike the flavor of the pork kakuni at Sakagura. Not at all spicy, just salty, meaty, tangy and incredibly satisfying. Kind of like a pork broth melded with teriyaki sauce.
And I REALLY like not having to over think what I can eat out of doors.
Enter: Lemon Pasta Salad.
Gotta love that free labor.
1 bunch celery, cleaned and diced.
1 bunch carrots, peeled and diced
2 sweet onions, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
2 porcini mushrooms diced (These are expensive but add the most amazing hit of flavor to the sauce)
1/4 cup Olive Oil
3 cans peeled tomatoes
1 cup red wine
2 dried bay leaves
1.5 packages Lasagna noodles (or however many fit in your large pan)
3 lbs meatloaf mix (veal, beef and pork mix)
Worcestershire Sauce, to taste
Sugar, to taste
1 lb. Ricotta Cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
1/3 cup whole milk or cream
1/4 lb chunk porchetta(optional)
1 Stick Butter
1 Cup flour
chicken stock to taste (about 2 cups)
Whew…it looks intimidating, I know.
Most things worth wile do.
So pour yourself that booze and let’s get cooking!
First things first – throw all of the diced veggies in a large oiled stockpot on high heat. You want the veggies to gently caramelize and soften. The mushrooms add SO much heft and flavor to the sauce. You are really going to be glad you splurged for the pricey ones. Cook the veggies until the onions turn translucent and the carrots get soft. If the garlic starts to turn brown or smell a little bitter, turn the heat down.
Now add the meat! It is important to use the 3 types of meat. The beef has that unmistakable funky flavor, the veal is grassy and mild and the pork is sweet and fatty. You really need the trifecta of meat.
Cook the meat until it is mostly cooked through and crumbly, breaking it up with your spatula. Don’t cook it TOO long – just until most of it looks cooked through, not pebbly or hard.
Now it is time to add the bay leaves.
And also the Worcestershire sauce. Now you just let that mixture sit while you turn your attention to the red part of this sauce.
Pour wine into cans.
Stir with spatula, getting all the tomatoey goodness down from the sides of the cans.
Pour wine mixture from one can to another, and repeat until all the cans have been wine-swished.
Then, pour the winey tomato juice mixture into the tomatoes.
Mash the tomatoes with a potato masher or your (cleaned!) hands,
Until the pieces are broken but not mashed. They will disintegrate further as they cook.
Time to add the tomatoes to the sauce. I used 3 cans worth, but you may want to add the tomatoes step by step, according to if you like your sauce more meaty(traditional) or more tomatoey(better than traditional).
Time to add a pinch of sugar and let the whole thing cook for about 40 minutes while you turn your attention elsewhere. The sugar really rounds out the sauce, making the meat taste heartier and the tomatoes taste fresher and less acidic.
Now, time for the basil (which you can wash by submerging the leaves in a deep cup or bowl, swishing the leaves around with your hands and letting the dirt fall to the bottom).
Gather the half of the leaves in a small stack
roll the stack like you are rolling a cigarette, till it is in a log.
You have just chiffonaded basil. Mazel tov.
Now you want to add the basil and the ricotta to a bowl. People say that ricotta is like Italian cottage cheese, which is kind of like me saying that I am the Jewish Jessica Alba. The two things are just unrelated.
Ricotta is creamy like goat cheese, mild like mozzarella and it melts like cream cheese. Mixing it with basil breaks up the richness and reinforces the grassy, lighter notes of this heavenly cheese.
Just try not to eat too much of it before you cook with it. With your fingers. Out of the jar.
It’s so, SO good…
Now, set the cheese aside, and get started on the bechamel.
Bechamel is the white sauce that you find in lasagna, and it looks like Alfredo sauce. However – shocker – it doesn’t need to have any cream to enrich it! Or eggs! It is made by making a roux(a mixture of flour and some fat), heating it and loosening it with some sort of broth. I like using chicken stock and then adding taste and thickness with cheese. That makes it more like a Mornay sauce, but I still call it bechamel.
My blog, my rules.
First, melt your butter over medium-low heat. You want it to be just melted, not foaming or browning.
Next, add in your flour, bit by bit…
And whisk away! Pretty soon, the mixture should form a ball in the pan, like a dough. That is when you…
add the chicken stock! Keep whisking and eventually…
Time to toss in the cheese,
and the salt and pepper.
When the bechamel is thick enough to stay on the spoon for a few seconds when you hold the spoon sideways, turn the heat down almost all the way and move onto the next step. If it seizes up too much in the time, you can turn the heat on higher or add some more stock to loosen the sauce.
Now time for the pasta. Don’t use the no boil noodles – those make the lasagna like a brick. Just so leaden, absorbing all the sauce…definitely a party pooper. Use the traditional stuff.
And don’t forget…they have to boil for awhile because they are so long and thick!
That’s what she said.
By now, the sauce should look like this, with small pieces of meat and gently melting celery and onions. Give the sauce a taste. Add more salt if it needs more, more pepper if it is too bland, and don’t worry if the sauce tastes a bit one note and bright.
That is where the splash of cream comes in 🙂 Tomatoes and creams are a match made in heaven.
After you add the cream, dice up that porchetta.This is optional, but A little bit of rosemary laden, garlic rubbed fatty skinned pork never hurt anyone.
Except maybe my rabbi…sorry, rabbi.
Toss it in. It’s already cooked, so you just want it to heat through.
4)Basil leaves that you reserved earlier
5)Dollops of Bechamel
6)Dollops of Ricotta between the bechamel
until all the ingredients are used up.
Finish by pouring bechamel over the top. You will definitely need to add some heat and liquid to make it a pourable substance and sprinkle some cheese over the final dish, but it will create a more attractive finished product.
And really…isn’t attractiveness what it is all about?
After about 15 minutes in the oven, the Parmesan will be browned, the bechamel will be bubbly and the scent will be all encompassing.
The taste is exactly what you want in a lasagna. The noodles are thick but not mushy – they are chewy and the ridges are perfect for catching the two sauces. The bechamel is cheesy, peppery and rich, tempering the brightness of the bolognese. The bolognese itself is a rich composite of meat, vegetables, seasonings and mushrooms. I am telling you, the mushrooms add an incredibly deep earthiness and funk to the sauce. It echoes the pungent taste of the Worcestershire and the richness of the meat. The ricotta is a gooey, creamy component and the basil adds fresh herby punches throughout the dish. The Parmesan on top adds a salty, crispy crust and the dish…
well, as a whole it is just awesome. Meat, cheese, sauce, carbs.
And in the 47 hours you took to make it, it will be gobbled up in about 15 minutes.
Totally worth it.
You are probably a schmuck. Admit it. You don’t know enough about steaks. I will start – I know bupkis about the stuff! I know that filet mignon is tender, prime rib is fatty and…um…I like it very rare. That’s it. Until recently, I thought that flank steak and skirt steak were the same thing. Clearly, I was a moron.
On the left side, you have skirt steak. It comes from the diaphragm of the cow and is best served quite rare, because it gets tough very quickly if cooked too long. Once you trim it, there is still some fat, but not enough to keep it from getting all fibrous and chewy as the heat blasts it. It is also called hanger steak, and if you order steak frites in France, this is likely the cut of steak you will get.
On the right side is flank steak – if it was thicker, it would be called London Broil. It has even less fat than skirt steak, and is consequently a little more tender. The less fatty the meat, the more tender. That’s why you need different types of steaks…sometimes you want fatty flavor, sometimes you want buttery texture.
It’s all a trade off, folks.
I tossed both of the steaks in a Ziploc bag filled with a marinade that was made of:
2 parts Worcestershire sauce
1 part ketchup
Healthy pinch of brown sugar.
This is my standard “American” marinated that I do for these thinner, cheaper cuts of steak. While strip or Spencer steak might not need marinades, a little salt and sugar go a long way in bringing out the deep, meaty flavors of thin cuts of these thin cuts of beef.
After the steaks marinated for about 35 minutes in the fridge, I took them out and let them come to room temperature. This is a VERY important step. If you cook steak that is cold from the fridge, the outside of the steak will burn while the inside will stay cold and raw. I like raw but not cold…cold is just rude.
After about 3 minutes per side, the skirt steak was ready to come out. You know when it is done when the steak is a bit resistant to your touch, but not bouncy…you do NOT want bouncy meat.
We let it rest for a few minutes so the juices would redistribute, but we probably should have left it for a bit longer…the juices sadly ran all over the plate. Don’t worry, I sopped them up with some bread.
And after 4 minutes a side, the flank steak was good to go.
I sliced both steaks against the grain. That means that if the lines in the steak were running right to left, you want to cut up and down. That ensures a tender piece of beef.
On the left side you have flank steak, on the right side, skirt. They were both slightly overcooked – I adjusted the cooking times for you already.
I preferred the flank steak – it was easier to cook rare and had a very hearty, vibrant, beefy taste. I loved it as was, and it would be great next to some polenta. The skirt steak had more nuanced flavors and textures, with the fat caramelizing and adding crispy edges and a slightly sweet taste to the meat. This would be so delicious in tacos or on a sandwich with melted blue cheese and sauteed onions. The anchovy-garlicky taste of the Worcestershire sauce melded with the sweetness of the ketchup and the sugar, letting the true tastes of both meat stand out.
The truth is…as much as I crave fat, I just love the taste of BEEF. Here, flank steak wins the day.
So, now I know not just that I LIKE steak, but what KIND of steak I like. I feel far superior to most other schmucks out there now.
And once you know what kind of steak you like, so will you!
We walked into the diminutive space and noticed it was PACKED. So packed in fact, that we had to wait 15 minutes for our reservation. Now, we were relaxed and enjoying ourselves, but I could see how this might really annoy someone. In fact, on another night, I would be that person. I am REALLY a stickler for being seated on time.
This seemed to be the MO of the place, though, and people just took it in stride, sitting at the tiny bar or chatting in the ante chamber of the restaurant. So, we relaxed and were seated by 8:15
Hamachi Crudo with Harissa Mayonnaise and Sea Bean. This amuse bouche was spicy with the harissa, tangy with the citrus marinade and altogether lovely. It was a nice riff on a classic – I have had buttery hamachi before, but never with harissa, which gave a smoky heat to the crudo. The sea bean brought out the saltiness of the fish and was a crucial element. Well thought out and tasty.
It was Jessica’s first tasting menu, and I can’t TELL you how much joy it brought me to share this experience with her! Each time that a new dish came, she clapped with joy and listened intently as the server explained what was placed on the table. She couldn’t believe the multiple plates that kept coming to our table, and loved how the small servings let her try more and more items. It reminded me why I love eating – that it fosters conversation and community, and is an experience not only for the mouth but for the mind and the soul.
Heirloom Tomato, Peekytoe Crab, Hearts of Palm, Tarragon, Aged Balsamic. The heirlooms are just starting to get sweet and juicy, and using them with tender crab that mirrored their sweetness and softness was a delicious move. Hearts of palm were toothsome and absorbed the tangy-sweet balsamic vinegar, and the tumble of frisee worked with licoricy tarragon to pull out the meaty texture and rich flavor of the crab. No one component was the star here, rather, it was the mixture of all ingredients that made the dish memorable.
Roasted Foie Gras with Peppercorn Biscuit and Spiced Honey. Okay, we did a supplement here. A $20 one. But it was Jessica’s first foie gras. Her FIRST foie gras! As she put it in her mouth, she actually covered her hand with her heart and gasped.
Crispy, salt flecked crust gave way to an almost liquidy center that was the very essence of organ meat: liver-y, iron-y, funky, delicious-y. The spice-infused honey was a worthy counterpoint to the fatty meat, though a bit of stone fruit or even some endive would not have been amiss to cut through the richness here. The biscuit was dense, crumbly and spicy with pepper – perfect for sopping up the sticky, zesty honey.
Ocean Trout, Spaetzle, Cockles, Hummus, Cilantro Pistou, Pickled Onion. This was a good, if not great dish. The fish was cooked perfectly – seared on the outside but medium rare and silky within. The hummus was more of a sauce than a dip, but was a bit too heavy and cloying for the delicate fish, as were the rather aggressively tangy onions. The cilantro pistou on the other hand, was an excellent pairing – light, fragrant and bright next to the deliciously crispy spaetzle. This was a rather salty dish – it was flavorful, but had me dry mouthed for hours afterwards.
Berkshire Pork Belly, Rock Shrimp, Turnips, Romesco, Sherry Caramel. This is it. Come here for this. The best pork dish I have had in New York City. Crispy layers of fat gave way to the melting fat underneath and tender, pull apart with your fork layers of pork. Lacquered in the sweet and sour umami taste of the sherry caramel, it was topped with the most perfectly cooked popcorn shrimp I have enjoyed since Danji. Shrimp and pork are an ultimate combo – all of us non-kosher Jews can agree upon that. The simply boiled turnip added a vegetal crunch to the crispy-soft pork and the romesco alongside…well, I’ll be honest. I don’t remember the romesco.
And it was such a generous portion, I couldn’t even eat it all.
Our palate cleanser was a Red Wine Poached Plum with Greek Yogurt and Pistachios. Jessica thought it tasted “like Christmas,” and she was spot on. This had the spicy, jammy notes of a great mulled wine, with the sweet plum and fatty pistachios playing off of the complexities of the spices. The tart yogurt kept the dish from being cloyingly sweet, and it prepped our tastebuds for…
If all s’morescajeta(goat’s milk caramel that was at first impossibly sweet and buttery, then with a light burn that made the rest of the dish taste sweeter than ever), and a very dark, very chocolaty wafer. A high end variation on a well loved classic.
And that was the way this meal worked – there were many dishes that I have seen before, all done slightly differently and suually to excellent effect. The service was a bit harried, and the tables were definitely cramped – this is a place for friends or for long-term romantic interests, not a first date. You are really crammed in there. But you know why you are crammed in there? Because the food is great. And for how much food you get, and the quality of the ingredients, it is a great value.
Recette was really worth the wait.