Low-Fat Baked Chicken Parmesan

There is nothing like freshly fried chicken cutlets. Crispy, juicy, and delightfully bad for you.

Delightful until it’s summer time and you see those cutlets directly on your thighs.

It’s summertime now, and I’m dealing with cutlet regret.

However, there is a way to still enjoy delicious chicken Parmesan that is not an exact replica, but a very tasty substitute. These baked chicken cutlets use mayonnaise as a binder, so as to avoid lengthy triple dipping, and have hot sauce for a bit of zip. They aren’t really crisp enough to stand on their own, so including them in this baked and cheesy pasta dish is a no brainer. Use your favorite tomato sauce for an even easier recipe and whole wheat pasta for added fiber.

Just be sure to use full fat mozzarella. Some things really can’t be compromised.

Baked Chicken Parmesan

Ingredients:

4 thin chicken cutlets

1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs mixed with 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup light mayonnaise mixed with 2 tsp. hot sauce

4 1/4 inch slices of fresh mozzarella cheese

1 bunch fresh basil, cleaned and roughly torn

your favorite pasta sauce and pasta

1. Put the chicken cutlets on a greased, tinfoiled baking sheet, and divide the mayonnaise up on each cutlet. Rub the mayonnaise into both sides of the cutlet. Also, preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Put the cutlets into the bag with the breadcrumbs and cheese. Shake around so that the cutlets are totally coated – you may have to get your hands dirty here. Put each coated cutlet back on the tray.

3. Place in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cutlets are firm and totally cooked through when a small piece is cut.

The breadcrumbs won’t totally brown here – you are just looking ofr cooked through chicken.

4. Without taking the chicken off the tray, place the mozzarella on top and place it back in the oven under broil.

5. In about 7 minutes, or when the cheese is melted and gooey, it is done!

6. Put the cutlet on top of the pasta and sauce, top with fresh basil, and serve.

This really hits the spot. The chicken is juicy and tender, and while not exceedingly crisp, does have the satisfying crunch of the toasted breadcrumbs. Be sure to spray your baking sheet before preparing the cutlets so the coating does not come off of the chicken. The hot sauce in the mayonnaise adds brightness to the chicken and the swath of gooey mozzarella cheese adds richness. Served  with sweet tomato sauce and some al dente pasta, this is reminiscent of your favorite red sauce Italian joint without the added heaviness of the fried stuff.

Say goodbye to cutlet regret.

Foreign Grocery Store Finds

Foreign grocery stores are fantastic examples of how, even though we are a global society now, there are still some cultural quirks and strongholds that will just never become part of our American culture. I love feeling like an alien, and I never feel stranger than when staring at foods that, though they look somewhat familiar to me, are totally unlike anything I have ever tasted.

Ham and chutney potato chips

 In case you think this actually tastes like ham, you are wrong. Liquid smoke mixed with something that tastes like meaty bubblegum…so unnapealing, but the Brits love them.

Oaty Crumble

It’s terribly clever. A doddle…it sounds like a precocious toddler, doesn’t it?

Breaded ham

In case just eating pure pig products isn’t fatty enough for you, they like to add some carbs to make SURE it all shows up on your hips.

Water Bottle Wine

Only in France could you find wine in a plastic water bottle with a screw top. Environmentally and Happy Hour friendly.

Chef of the Century Frozen Food

While we are eating Hot Pockets and treating Stouffer’s like it’s the Messiah, French kids are eating duck casserole made by Joel Robuchon. Life is so unfair.

Mexican’t Food

Fried shrimp fajitas could really only be taken seriously in France.

The next time that you travel, please take care to visit the grocery stores! You won’t be sorry!

C. Comme – Champage Tasting Room in Epernay

The best part about visiting Champagne is, obviously, the champagne. There is so much more to the drink than the Moet and Cristal that we see in the USA. Everywhere you go in the region, there are signs outside personal homes advertising vineyards that make champagne. These champagnes are as LEAST as delicious as the famous stuff, and I often prefer them…the only difference is that you can’t try it if you visit Champagne.  These champagnes are so inexpensive that it does not make financial sense for the winemakers to export the stuff, so the only way to buy it is to visit the vineyard. They don’t even export to Paris. Of course, if you are only in Champagne for a day, it’s really pretty tough to get to multiple vineyards. That’s why C. Comme is so genius.

This charming shop and tasting room offers the best of the small wineries in the area. It is a champagne Disneyland.


There is a vast underground cave with champagnes ranging from extremely cheap ones ($12) to ones in the thousand dollar range. They come in tiny demi bottles all the way up to massive magnums, and from blanc de blancs all the way through to roses. Row after row of champagne that you have never seen before and may never see again.

There is a small gourmet emporium, selling items like foie gras, infused honeys, and locally made preserves.

They also sell these rose biscuits by Fossier, which are generally only found in the Champagne region. These pink biscuits, which resemble airy ladyfingers. Made to be eaten with champagne, they are dipped in the glass, then turn to sweet fizz in your mouth. They aren’t necessarily addictive or delicious on their own, but when you eat them in Champagne, with champagne, they really do add to the experience.

Then, of course,there is the small, pretty tasting room. Decorated with comfortable couches and elegant tables, this is where you are presented with a binder full of champagne choices. Though you could order a bottle, that isn’t way to go. Do not even order by the glass. Order the tasting flight, where you get 6 good size glasses of champagne for about $50. This includes champagne made from different grapes, with different sugar contents (dosage), and from different vineyards. This is champagne from Champagne, for less than $10 a glass. It is an incredible deal. Maybe you won’t like each one, but how will you know what you do like until you know the difference between them all? The servers speak excellent English and are extremely helpful – and, of course, whatever you love you are free to buy downstairs, for considerably less than you would pay for it at home (if you could even find it at home!)

A word to the wise – don’t upgrade to  the larger tasting glasses unless you can really taste your liquor – this place opens at 11 am, and that alcohol creeps up on you.

If you feel yourself getting a little tipsy – which you will – order a small plate off the food menu. The menu is a little pricey but not insane, and by that point, you are in Champagne, so you know you are going to be spending some serious money anyway. The foie gras pate is just delicious. Smooth, rich, incredibly delicate tasting. Served with house pickled vegetables and fresh, sweet tomatoes, it is an elegant and totally indulgent accompaniment to this ultimately indulgent day.

C. Comme is a gem. It is a place to taste all that the region has to offer, eat some gourmet nibbles, and buy champagnes that you could never even find outside of this region.

Just don’t blame me if it’s hard to go back to drinking Bud Light after this.

Chicken Tortilla Bisque

Mexican food is tasty. That’s just the truth.   Slow cooked meats, crunchy fried tortilla chips, and spicy, intricate flavors…how do you not love that stuff?! Tortilla soup is one of my favorite Mexican dishes, and it’s really easy to make at home. Since you puree everything, there is no need to cut anything into tiny, perfect dices, and the whole soup can be prepared in less than an  hour. Feel free to substitute dried/frozen/canned herbs and peppers here. This is one place where fresh vs. canned doesn’t make a huge difference.This is a twist on classic tortilla soup, which is mostly chicken broth. This soup uses a lot of tomato puree to make a thick, opaque bisque that is hearty enough to enjoy as a meal.

Chicken Tortilla Bisque

Ingredients:

4 cups chicken stock/broth

28 oz. tomato puree or canned peeled tomatoes

1 onion, sliced

3 cloves garlic, sliced

3 serrano peppers, sliced

1 chipotle in adobo + 1 Tbs. adobo sauce

1 tbsp. each cumin and oregano

1/2 cup cilantro leaves (or 1/4 cup dried cilantro)

juice of 2 limes

15 tortilla chips

2 pieces skinless chicken (or pre cooked chicken, shredded or chopped)

3 tbsp. vegetable oil

Garnishes – sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, sliced avocado, hot sauce

1. Heat the vegetable oil in a stockpot, and when it is hot, add the onions, garlic, and chopped serrano peppers. Let them saute for about 15 minutes on medium heat, or until the onions are soft the vegetables become fragrant.

2. Add the cumin and oregano.

3. Add the chipotle and the adobo sauce. Let everything cook together for about 3 minutes.

4. Add the chicken stock and the tomato puree.

5. Put your chicken in the broth to poach. The trick to poaching is to not let the liquid come to a rolling boil – just let it simmer with small bubbles the whole time. This lets the chicken poach gently and stay incredibly juicy and tender. Two bone in thighs should take about 20 minutes to poach, boneless chicken breasts should take about 12 minutes, depending on how big they are. Use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken if you don’t know when it is cooked. If you are using precooked chicken, allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes, skip to step 7.

6. When the chicken is done, remove it from the pot and cut or shred it into bite size pieces.

7. Add the tortilla chips to your soup. This is why you don’t need salt – the chips are salty enough to season the soup.

8. Add the cilantro.

When the chips are soft, after just a few minutes…

9. Puree with a stick blender or in a food processor until smooth.

10. Add the chicken back into the soup, and taste for seasonings. If you need more heat, now is the time to add more adobo sauce (smoky warmth) or habanero hot sauce (fiery heat). Also, add the lime juice.

11.  Serve.

This is much heartier than your standard tortilla soup. Using the tomato puree makes it thick and lush, and pureeing so many tortilla chips into it adds body the way that papa al pomodoro benefits from bread. It is layered with flavor – the smoky chipotles, the earthy cumin, and that fresh, tart lime juice that brightens and sharpens all the deep, savory flavors soup. I like to eat this with a spoonful of cool sour cream, some buttery avocado, and a hearty dose of sharp cheddar cheese. Though this might not be traditional, it is certainly a delicious homage to all foods Mexican.

The Linc – Upscale Diner

One of my friends runs a really great bootcamp that occasionally works out so close to my house that I can’t think of an excuse not to go…besides the fact that I absolutely physical activity.

I’m Jewish…it’s cultural.

After a workout, my favorite thing to do, besides cursing out my trainer, is grab a meal that effectively cancels out all of the hard work I had done. Recently, I did so at Linc.

This restaurant on the far, far west side of 42nd Street, is a restaurant with an identity crisis. Is it a casual restaurant? An elegant diner? Comfort food or new American? Who knows? It has the look of a laid back eatery that is good for a casual weekend brunch or a quick weeknight drink at the bar.

Julius (Caesar) Salad with Skirt Steak

This Caesar salad is much better than standard diner fare, but not up to snuff if this place wants to be called an elegant restaurant. The salad arrives chopped with a fair amount of dressing but not so much that it is soggy. The flavor is a little muted- not lemony or garlicky enough, but at least there is plenty of nutty parmesan cheese. The little grilled cheese sandwiches on the side are neither mentioned on the menu nor tasty, with cold bread and plasticky cheese. The steak is cooked a little past the requested medium rare, but it is well grilled, with a pleasant smoky taste. This is a good salad – not destination worthy, but fairly priced and filling.

Truffle Parmesan Fries

These fries are just what I wanted after an hour burning calories. Thin, crispy, well salted and drizzled with fragrant truffle oil. Covered in nuggets of garlic and parmesan cheese, these are over the top and kind of trashy. But, then, so am I.

Brownie Sundae

This is a surprisingly excellent desert. The ice cream is all made in house, and the velvety texture and rich, smooth taste really comes through. Placed atop a chewy brownie (that would have been better if it was heated) and covered in dark chocolate sauce, this is just what I needed to replace my electrolytes. Gatorade has nothing on a brownie sundae.

The prices are good here, and though the service is a little harried, it is sweet and competent.  This is in no way a destination restaurant, but it is a lot better than your local diner, with fresh food and a relaxed atmosphere. Linc is a reliable choice for someone way on the west side of Midtown who just wants a quick meal.

Or, someone who needs to erase all the good work they have just done for their body.

The Linc on Urbanspoon

Ember Room’s Progressive Thai Comfort Food

Though I have previously reviewed (and enjoyed!) Ember Room, I stopped by for a press showing of their new menu items. Designed by Chef Kittichai, these are all progressive Thai comfort food, which sounds hoity-toity, but is really just the Chef’s versions of the food he eats when he visits home.

The vibe is the same as it ever was – cool, busy, sleek, and seeming much more hip than should be allowed for midtown.

But onto the food!

Crispy Rock Shrimp with Roasted Melting Eggplant

Starting the evening off with a bang, this shrimp is just plain old tasty. Incredibly thin and crispy coating shatters underneath the teeth, revealing plump and juicy shrimp. The shrimp’s delicate salty profile comes out when paired with the sweet glaze and the eggplant. The eggplant is, true to name, almost melting – it lands on the tongue with its signature earthy, deep flavor, then almost disappears instantly.

“Yum Hoi” Pomelo Scallops with  chili jam glaze, pomelo salad, and roasted pepper-lime dressing

My favorite dish of the night. Warm scallops, seared to a salty crunch on the outside while remaining pleasantly soft within. Served with a sweet chili glaze, bracingly tart pomelos, and a fiery roasted pepper dressing, this is everything I want in a bite – crispy, meaty, sour, spicy, and a little sweet. This is a perfect melding of sea and land, and I could easily eat 15 of these.

Had Yai Volcano Chicken - oven-roasted turmeric-coconut marinated chicken, green chili sauce

This dish arrives to the table, and just as its sweet coconut scent practically forces you to dive in and start eating, the server pours fire over the chicken, burnishing the skin to a crispy char. No, this isn’t Cirque Du Soleil, it’s just midtown. After such a display, you might think that this chicken is all form and no function. You would be so wrong. Juicy and succulent, even the breast meat is impossibly rich, infused with coconut and fragrant turmeric. Sprinkled with crispy shallots, all it needs is a swipe through the tart green chile sauce (laden with cilantro and quite similar to a salsa verde) to brighten its flavor and make it truly well-rounded.

Korean BBQ-Beef Fried Rice-wok-fried rice, kimchee, bbq beef, topped with raw egg

Though this lacks the best part of a bibimbap (the crispy layer of rice at the bottom of the dolsot), it is still a delicious dish. The rice here is very creamy, almost like a risotto, but not at all liquidy. The kimchee is zesty but not too spicy or fishy, and the egg yolk makes everything rich. The beef is served very rare and cooks slightly as it sits in the warm bowl, the sweet sauce caramelizing around the edges.

Crispy Whole Striped Bass with sweet/sour/spicy sauce, and crispy basil

Warning – for those of you who are squeamish, this comes with the head still attached. For the rest of us, it is just some delicious fried fish. Served with the chunks of fish mostly taken off the skeleton and filleted for you, it is flaky within and crunchy without. Fried at such a high temperature that it is practically greaseless, this is so delicately seasoned and cooked that it almost seems heresy to say that it is fried.

Mango and Sticky Rice with Coconut Ice Cream

Maybe it’s cliche, but who cares? There is no better ending to a Thai meal than juicy slices of mango accompanied by glutinous rice, so sticky and dense that it catches the mangos juices and becomes just another vehicle for the tropical flavor. Served alongside creamy coconut ice cream, it is a sweet and comforting way to end a delicious meal.

Ember Room has really improved over the last year. I didn’t have one dud during the whole tasting course. The prices are good for the neighborhood, and GREAT for the quality of food that you get.

The Ember Room still knows how to bring it, pyrotechnics and all.

*Disclaimer: I received this meal free of charge and was not required to write about it. My opinions are my own and unbiased.*

Claw – New England Lobster Rolls in Hell’s Kitchen

Hell’s Kitchen has a ton of Thai restaurants and diners, but New England lobster shacks? That we don’t got – well that we didn’t got.

Claw is a tiny storefront on Ninth Avenue. It specializes in fresh Maine lobster, serving it as various iterations, including its most famous one, the lobster roll. This has one more location, in Chelsea, and this site has a white and peach interior, looking for all the world like a very skinny ice cream parlor.

Lobster Bisque

Claw only uses fresh Maine lobster that is never frozen, and the taste comes through in its bisque. Creamy and smooth, but not thick or sludgy, this manages to be rich without being overpowering or too heavy. The lobster chunks are numerous, velvety, and meaty in the buttery bisque. Sweet and comforting, this is closer to clam chowder than a traditional lobster bisque Though this could benefit from a hit of sherry to elevate the taste from more than simply butter, the taste is still excellent.

Lobster Roll

They don’t skimp on the lobster here. A generously toasted hot dog bun, crisp with butter, holds sweet steamed lobster meat, bound only with a bit of creamy mayonnaise and tossed with a good amount of salt, to bring out the lobster’s natural salinity. The cool meat collides with the warm bun for a unique sensation of flavors, temperatures, and textures. A good example of a classic Maine style lobster roll.

The fries are another great point. Fried to order from fresh potatoes, they are crispy and served with tart cornichons and an eggy homemade mayonnaise – I could have eaten that mayo by the spoonful.

So would I come here again? A qualified “yes” – if someone else was paying. Lunch here is expensive – that lobster roll alone was almost $17. It was tasty, but not what I would call a great value. If they changed their prices by a few dollars, I would stop here easily every week.

Till then, I think I might continue to drive to Connecticut for my lobster fix!

The Claw on Urbanspoon

Ninth Avenue International Food Festival

The Ninth Avenue Food International Festival is, in many ways, the same as any old NYC street fair.

The throngs of people, the dollar socks, the flabby and tasteless mozzarepas. But, there are hidden gems in this street fair, where the best of ninth Avenue’s eateries set up booths and offer some really delicious food.

Empanada Mama

This 24 hour restaurant on Ninth Avenue is always packed and now I know why! The beef empanada was one of the best things that I ate all day.

A thick and flaky dough encases shredded beef, tender and so juicy that it drips down your chin in fluorescent orange. Smoky cumin, sharp garlic, and sweet onions all mingle with that unmistakably hearty flavor of beef brisket and makes this filling but far less greasy than you might think. I can’t wait to go back here and do a full review on this place!

Dalton’s

This nondescript bar that I have only frequented once (and then, only for the cheap vodka tonics) had the best pork offering of the day. This roast pig sandwich was delicious.

Crispy shards of skin surrounding succulent, sweet pork meat, all served on a squishy potato bun. Topped with sweet and spicy BBQ sauce (thankfully, no overpowering liquid smoke here), this is everything that you could want in a BBQ sandwich, except coleslaw. When you see this stand at the festival, run there, dont’ walk. And get two.

Red’s Hot Dogs

Get the specialty pork and beef sausage and watch it get grilled until it is charred and snappy outside, juicy and hearty inside. Choose from one of their many choices, like the banh mi or the baked potato dog, or top it yourself. The toppings here are free, even the premium ones, like a spicy, meaty chili and sweet sauteed onions.

This is one of the best hot dogs I have had in a while, and will gladly seek them out year after year. They frequent other street fairs during th year, so be sure not to miss them!

Millie’s Pierogies

What good polish girl can resist a pierogi? These are best when stuffed with sauerkraut, which is shockingly complex.

Not just sour, the kraut is also a little sweet and floral with juniper berry. Enased in rich, chewy dough and dipped in cool sour cream, it reminds me of dinners of my youth. Next time, I would absolutely try a steamed kilbasa topped with more of that sauerkraut.

Pure Thai Cookhouse

This is why this fair is so important to restaurants. I have been to Pure Thai before, and liked but didn’t love it. Now, I am determined to go back.

The BBQ Beef Buns were juicy and complex, with star anise, coriander, and ginger in the soft meat. Served in a sticky, fluffy bun and topped with tangy carrots and fragrant cilantro, this was a totally satisfying bite. I could have eaten 6 of these. Even better were the Thai Sausages and Sticky Rice.

The sausages, grilled and served with sweetly caramelized onions, were sweet, spicy, and pleasantly sticky. The rice was the perfect antitode to the incendiary sauce, pungent with fish sauce and hot with chiles. The umami punches never stopped coming with this dish, and my sister and I fought over the last of it. This was an unbelievable duo of dishes – though they aren’t on their regular menu, they convinced me to give Pure another try.

And if none of these looked good, you can always go for one of these:

After all, a corncake stuffed with fake cheese and cheap chorizo never hurt anyone.

The Frisky Oyster, Greenport

On a recent trip to Greenport, on the North Fork of Long Island, I had the pleasure of dining at The Frisky Oyster.

via

This small restaurant on Front Street looks like a tiny wine bar from the outside. Once inside, however, it becomes a spacious and elegant room. It feels dark and sophisticated, perfect for a leisurely dinner with friends.

It is worth noting that the wine list by the glass and the bottle is expansive and well priced. This is a great restaurant for oenophiles.

Bread

It arrives to the table piping hot, with a dish of room temperature butter sprinkled with local salt. The salt itself is potent stuff – local and pink, a little goes a long way. It instantly melts inside the very sour bread, pliant inside its crackling crust.

Oysters Friskafella with garlic-scented spinach, chipotle and Parmigiano aioli

This play on Oysters Rockefeller is such a standout that I am still dreaming of it. Almost like a cheesy garlic bread, this doesn’t really taste like an oyster. I mean that in the best way possible. It tastes like a salty, garlicky, cheesy explosion. The oyster comes though in the juice and the salt, but really doesn’t have a minerally or seafoody taste. Part of this is because the oyster is so fresh – I don’t know when I have  had oysters that were literally in the ocean that morning. This dish alone makes the price of dinner worth it. 

Crescent Farms Duck Breast with creamy garlic polenta, arugula and cherry/port reduction

This local farm raises incredibly rich duck. Here it is cooked perfectly, with tender meat and a layer of golden, glistening skin that crunches to reveal a pillow of melty fat. This is the opposite of they oysters incognito – this is insanely duck-y, almost like the duck at momofuku ssam bar. Deep and a little sweet, it is incredibly tender and that fat…that fat and skin is one of the best bites I have had all year. The polenta must have been made with goat’s cheese, because it is incredibly creamy with a light grassy flavor that works well with the duck. Though the sauce is a bit sweet for my tastes, it is still an excellent dish, and a very large portion, to boot.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble with Whipped Cream

Though the crust is a little mushier than I like, the filling is fresh and sweet-tart, and that cream…oh that cream. So fresh that it has a pale golden hue, and at fist bite it tastes more of clotted cream than whipped cream. As it melts over the warm crumble, it releases a clean scent that is so fresh that it makes your mouth water. I could have just had a bowl of this and called it a night.

You have many choices in Greenport, and while I can’t say that The Frisky Oyster is worth a special trip, if you are in the area, it is excellent. Fair prices, excellent portions and service, and some deliciously prepared local food.

Frisky Oyster on Urbanspoon

Martha’s Vineyard Must Eats

A few dishes to be sure to try on Martha’s Vineyard:

Grilled Edgartown Oysters at Henry’s

This Harborview Hotel restaurant has a casual pub room where you can get a glass of beer and an order of these oysters. Broiled with spicy garlic butter, these have a smoky, herby taste and the oysters themselves are bursting with liquor. A lighter version of Oysters Rockefeller, these are not to be missed.

Menemsha Cafe has delicious homemade soups and daily specials (The lamb stew, made with local lamb, is especially delicious), but you come here for the…

Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Freshly baked, hot, and gooey. One of these and you will need a food nap.

Head to this local butcher shop for exotic ingredients like ostrich, cold cut staples, and…

The Cuban Sub.

This unconventional Cuban sandwich, made with bacon, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, spicy mustard, and some other ingredients, is a gut bomb of a sandwich. Salty, savory, hearty, and served on the most delicious freshly baked bread. This is everything indulgent in a handheld package.

That’s what she said.

The Scottish Bakehouse.

You know what to get here, right?

Everything. Especially the most luscious lemon bar I have ever had, with smooth, tart filling atop incredibly buttery, crumbly crust.

You may get sunburnt during your time on Martha’s Vineyard, but you surely won’t go hungry!