Archives for March 2013

Gonna-Make-You-Sweat-and-Cry Samosas

Bringing another recipe out of the “Forever lost in Blogger to WordPress Transfer” files.

This one is another recipe that I took straight from someone else – no inventions, no new techniques, no unique spin on things. This is just the story of a lazy Jewish girl who loves samosas.

And decided to make them one day.

Spoiler alert – these are as good as any samosas I have had in any restaurant, and the cilantro chutney is even better.

Second spoiler alert – they took many hours, lots of sweat, and a few tears out of me.

Was it worth it? Wait and see…

Samosas with Tamarind Water and Cilantro Chutney (from Tropical Asian Cooking )

Tamarind Water and Mint Chutney Ingredients:

2 tbsp tamarind pulp

1/2 cup warm water

3.5 tbsp chopped mint leaves

2 cloves garlic, smashed

3 birds eye chilis, chopped

1 medium red or green chili, chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp sugar

1 tbsp chopped cilantro

1 sliced scallion

Samosas Ingredients:

2 small russet potatoes, peeled and diced

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

1 medium onion, chopped

1 cup frozen peas

2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tsp brown mustard seeds

1 jalapeno, chopped

11 curry leaves chopped

1 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp each minced garlic and ginger

1 tsp chat masala

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp chopped cilantro leaves 

2 cups flour, plus extra for kneading

2 tbsp veggie oil

1/2 cup water

Extra oil in which to fry

1. Combine the tamarind pulp with the warm water.

2. After a few minutes of letting it steep, pour the mixture through a colander…

taking care to mash the pulp through the colander. Then set the results aside, tossing the fibrous pulp. 

 3. Throw the rest of the ingredients in the “chutney and water” section int o a food processor, and pulse to mince and combine.

Take out the mixture and set it aside. Now it’s time to get down to business…

4. Drop the potatoes in a pot of boiling water until they are fork tender. At the last minute or so, drop in the carrot so it gets tender too. Then remove the veggies and drain.

5. Mash up the potatoes and the carrots in a large bowl. It’s okay if   still some bite to the carrots. Also, add the peas.

In case you aren’t exhausted from all the peeling, dicing, pureeing, and the like, don’t worry…there is still time for you to drop dead of exhaustion.

6. Now put the oil and your mustard seeds into a skillet over medium high heat and start to fry them until they get really fragrant. When they start to audibly pop…

7.  Throw in the onions, chiles, and curry leaves.  By now your kitchen should be smelling vaguely nutty and incredibly fragrant.

8. After the onions start to caramelize and turn golden, add the ginger, garlic, and turmeric.

9. And after 30 secs of mixing those into the mixture, add the potatoes and carrots to the pan.

10. Now take the mixture off the heat and add the cilantro, the masala, and the salt.

Try not to eat this straight out of the bowl. Even though it would be delicious with some creamy Greek yogurt and that bright, spicy cilantro chutney…NO.. must keep making samosas. In the recipe that never ends…

Now onto the dough:

  11. Set the flour in a bowl and made a well in the center of it…

and pour  in the oil and water.

12. Now mix the whole thing  until it comes together and forms a ball.

13.   Turn it onto a well floured cutting board and…

knead.

And press.

And push that sucker into oblivion. Well, just for about 5 minutes, until the dough is no longer sticky and has a bouncy quality.

14. Separate the dough into 8 little balls.

15. Then pound each ball flat with your hand,

and roll them out to about 5.5 inches in diameter. Don’t be afraid of applying some force to really form those flat little circles. They will be quite thin.

16. Cut each disc in half, and…

put a heaping 1/2 tsp of your potato filling into one of your dough half moons.

 

17. Dip your finger in some water, then run your finger across the edge of half of the dough.  Then just fold the dough over, and crimp it.  The dough will hold together in a little parcel…

like this. (There will be lots of filling left over that is just perfect as a side for some nice flank steak.)

18. Now, pour enough oil to cover a few samosas into a big pot or dutch oven, then put the pot on high heat.  When the oil shines and starts to have tiny bubbles, throw a piece of bread in.  If it fries, the oil is ready!

19.  GENTLY lower your first samosa into the oil…don’t throw that thing in unless you are craving some serious oil burns.  Put about 4 samosas in at a time-you don’t want to overcrowd the pot and lower the oil temperature.  Remember, the higher the temperature, the less greasy the samosa.

 After about 1 minute or so, when the pastry puffs up and is lightly golden on one side, turn it.  After the other side turns golden-about 1 minute more-take those kids out, drain them on a paper towel, and throw the next batch in the pot. Repeat until the samosas are all fried.

 

20. Serve

This is just a phenomenal recipe. The pastry is light and crackly with eggshell thin air pockets.  The  creamy potatoes, sweet carrots, and juicy peas are complimented by spicy peppers and fragrant masala.   The sauces are tangy, salty, garlicky, and vaguely sweet .  This doesn’t taste Indian.  This IS Indian.

It will take you forever. It will give you burns and it will make your kitchen smell like a restaurant on East 6th Street. But they payoff is extraordinary.

I may have cried and I definitely sweated (swat?).

But it was, indeed, worth it.

Passover BBQ Chicken Meatloaf

The groundhog has shown his (lying!) face, the equinox has passed, and pastel colored candies are in the drugstores. That means one thing:

It’s Passover!

Though Passover dictates that Jews avoid chametz (any leavened product made from grains), and many Jews avoid kitniyot (legumes, corn, and rice), that doesn’t mean that we need subsist on matzah pizza and eggs all week.

Quite the opposite, really. It’s a chance to expand our minds and see the week of using matzah as an opportunity.

An opportunity to make matzah shine.

Passover BBQ Chicken Meatloaf

Ingredients:

1 – 1.25 lb. ground chicken

1/2 cup matzo meal

1/2 yellow onion, diced

1 jalapeno, diced

1 cup mayonnaise

4 oz. grated or diced sharp cheddar cheese

2 tbsp. bbq or steak seasoning (including salt and pepper)

1/2 cup bbq sauce (or enough to cover meatlaof – check out this one for a kitniyot-free version)

1. Combine all of the ingredients except for the bbq sauce and onions in a large bowl and preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Line a baking pan with the diced onions.

3. Mix the ingredients in the bowl and…

4. Spread it into your baking dish.

She ain’t gonna win any beauty prizes, but we love her all the same. 

5. Cover with the bbq sauce and bake for 40 minutes, or until the chicken is totally cooked through and the edges of the loaf are slightly burnished.

6. Serve

This is everything I want in a meatloaf. The mayo keeps the loaf juicy and the matzah meal makes it incredibly soft. Bumping up the flavor with spicy jalapenos, tangy cheese, and smoky bbq seasoning really balances out the rather bland flavor of the matzah.
The topping gets thick and sticky in the middle and crunchy around the outside edges. The onions melt into the juicy meat and the whole taste is smoky, salty, and pleasantly tangy. This is so delicious that you will want to eat it year round, not just as Passover. It doesn’t taste like you are denying yourself anything – it will be welcome on any dinner table next to any side dish.

It makes matzah pretty badass.

Sweet and Spicy Italian Brussels Sprouts

Another Brussels sprouts recipe? Why not? It’s almost spring, after all, and then Brussels sprouts will be a thing of the past, along with squash, parsnips, and hearty stews. So get the most out of these frigid days of March with this sprouts recipe.

The secrets here are the sugar and the heat. The sugar rounds out the cruciferous taste of the sprouts and the high, high heat creates an almost candied taste. Additionally, the cheese replaces the need for salt, while adding a nutty, umami flavor. If you are looking for a recipe to bump up your side dish repertoire, this is it. 

Sweet and Spicy Italian Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients:

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, shredded

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 Serrano pepper, minced

1/4 cup Romano cheese

2 tbsp. Italian seasoning

1 tbsp. sugar

1. Turn the heat up to medium high and throw the oil in. When it starts to smoke, toss in the garlic.

2. After a few minutes, when the garlic is fragrant and starts to turn golden, add the jalapenos. Saute for another minute or so – you don’t want the garlic to burn, so…

3. Add the sprouts and the seasonings. Toss the sprouts in the oil and then cover the whole thing with a lid.

Let it cook for about 10 minutes, or until the sprouts are wilted and very soft – the volume will decrease a lot and the sprouts will be glossy and smooth.

4. Remove the lid, add the sugar and cheese, and turn the heat up very high. Mash the sprouts all down into the pan in a single layer and let it cook for about 2 minutes. The kitchen will get smokey. That’s okay…this is where the magic happens. After the first side gets very charred, start flipping the sprouts so all the layers get a chance to touch the bottom of the pan. Be sure not to disturb the sprouts while they cook – the undisturbed cooking time is what makes this work.

Once the sprouts are crispy and almost black in most places…

5. Serve.

The sugar is so amazing with the sprouts – it adds a sweet, unexpected edge to an extremely savory dish. And don’t be scared of the black parts – that’s what  makes this dish so multifaceted. The crispy, deeply charred parts contrasting with the soft, delicate bites and the bite of chiles. This dish would be great the next day in a frittata and is even good cold for a midnight snack.

Eat it while you can, because this is the last time you will want to eat sprouts for many months. Warm weather, here we come!

 

Guest Blog – Easy Elegance with Frozen Food

While I am experiencing the joys of a stomach bug, I have arranged to have one of my dear friends, the fabulous blogess behind the humor blog Petulant Panda, write about how to stay classy with her favorite culinary shortcuts. Grab a box of Franzia and enjoy, then be sure to check out her site for everything from political snark to in-depth reflection on “Anne Hathaway – friend or foe?”

Hi guys! I’m Amanda, a friend of Sarah’s for nigh on a decade. Before she was teaching us about awesome Thai food in Vegas and eating blood popsicles, she was introducing me to the magic of pho and The Cheesecake Factory (omelets and pasta on one menu!). And while I always happily join my dear friend at a restaurant, I’m slower to have her over for a meal. This is mostly because I don’t cook.

It’s not that I can’t cook; I just don’t derive much pleasure from it. I live in a small studio with one working burner and an oven I have to light myself. I don’t care to light the oven. I’d rather press start on the microwave or “Submit Order” on Seamless. With a life full of work, performing improv, and googling panda pictures, I find time spent cooking and then cleaning up for just myself to not be worthwhile. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy high quality food. These are the top ten entities that imbue even the most lackadaisical cook’s meals with elegance.

1. Trader Joe’s Pink Himalayan Sea Salt

Any condiment that requires a grinder automatically makes you fancy. Pink things automatically make you fancy. Crunchy sea salt makes you fancy. Done.

2. White wine

Oh, are you having a Lean Cuisine? That doesn’t feel very special. Add a glass of white wine sitting next to it and voila! Instant sophistication. Add a second glass and even the preservatives in your microwave meal will feel extravagant.

 3. Duane Reade deLish Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels

Oh, man. Have you ever had a sticky, butter caramel wrapped in a thin layer of dark chocolate? Has that little bonbon ever been topped with a generous heap of crunch sea salt? Even a dinner comprised of ranch dip and sweet potato chips feels gourmet when followed with one to four of those babies.

 4. Spray Butter

I love microwave oatmeal. I have loved it longer and deeper than any man or beast. It is the perfect meal. But on its own, it leaves something to be desired. With just a spray or sixty of spray butter that oatmeal goes from excellent to an epicurean masterpiece. WARNINGS: Some people find the incessant spraying sound annoying. Others find ingredients like Hydrogenated Soybean Oil and Polyglycerol Esters of Fatty Acids to be a turn off. Don’t use spray butter around those people.

 5. Cheese

This can be a carefully sliced h or a Kraft Single. It can be the perfect room temperature brie or some grated Parmesan from the green can. Add a little cheese to your Progresso Tortilla Chicken Soup or your Smart Start Spaghetti Bolognese and you’ve already elevated your meal inestimably.

 6. Trader Joe’s Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini Melange

Grilled. Fresh mozzarella. More than one kind of vegetable. Tomato sauce. Ready in about four minutes. Lavish.

 7. Television

While eating that pepperoni and cheese Lean Pocket, turn on the news (or Real Housewives franchise of your choice). Now you’re too erudite and dare I say, fancy, to be concerned with earthly matters such as your palate.

 8.  A Plate

Put it underneath whatever plastic container your food came out of the freezer in. Who’s not an adult now, mom? Pure class.

9.  Coursing

Putting all your food on one plate (see above item) is fine. It’s efficient. But you and I are not just food disposals; we’re people who demand better. If your dinner is a microwaved serving of vegetables, popcorn, and an apple with peanut butter, separate those out into three distinct phases of your meal. Commercial breaks provide an excellent opportunity to plate your next course.

 10.  Feigned Ignorance

When your friend asks if you’re afraid that eating all that crap is harmful to your health, just giggle and say, “I think it just means I’ll never decay, even after I’m dead.” Then change the subject. Flawless.

New and Notable (to Fritos and Foie Gras)

And now for another edition of “Stuff I’m Eating that Deserves Mention”

Slider from White Manna

My love for burgers knows no bounds. I love fancy ones. I love cheap ones. And I especially love mini ones known as sliders – tiny burgers, steamed on a griddle with onions and served under melted American cheese and a squishy bun. Though White Castle made the slider famous, White Manna made it happen. This diminutive greasy spoon in Hackensack has been around for decades and still serves burgers by the bagful. They are – no exaggeration – the greatest sliders on the planet. Fatty but not overly greay, flavorful but not just with salt, with just a smidge of cheese to balance out the soft, juicy patty. The onions are plentiful and sweet and the crowning touch here are the tangy pickles – they add a necessary fresh note to the otherwise meat-n-bread slider. There isn’t too much I can say about this slider other than that the fact that 3 of them are the IDEAL drunk food. I mean, I was craving one after I had this…

Cranberry Spritz at The Smith

Are you one of those people who gets drunk off a glass of wine? Who can’t handle more than half of a martini? Who is no longer allowed to go to any regional Ruby Tuesdays because you once got belligerent after a particularly potent pina colada?

Don’t tell me it’s just me.

If you, too, are a lightweight, then you will love the “low alcohol” line of drinks at The Smith. Designed to drink before the theatre, they are enough to loosen you up after a long day, but not enough to make you feel tired or get you totally knackered. This spritz is refreshing and tart, with a slight sweetness form the ruby port and an herbal note of rosemary. It is fizzy, light, and just enough to get your night started without the danger of making it end too soon. By being kicked out of Ruby Tuesdays.

Like I said, don’t say it’s just me.

Free Ice Cream at Stew Leonard’s

Cross Disneyland with Whole Foods with Costco. That’s what you get at Stew Leonard’s, a Westchester area supermarket that has its own dairy farm, costumed characters, and local produce on premises. It’s huge, it’s rife with unique, locally produced goods, and it’s sample central. Load up on tastes of lobster bisque made that day, egg salad from chickens that laid the eggs that morning, and BBQ beef sandwiches that say – and I quote “you’d have to own a cow to get fresher beef.” Perhaps the best part of this little shopping trip is the realization that when one spends at least $100, there is a free ice cream at the end of the road. The soft serve is so creamy, so soft, so milky fresh and clean tasting that it puts most other ice creams to shame. The cotton candy is delightfully sugary and a small bowl will put you into diabetic shock, but it’s worth it.

 Just make sure you get a slider on the way home to balance out all of that sugar. 

The Smith on Urbanspoon

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon – Laid Back Michelin Star Dining

Eating at Joel Robuchon at The Mansion is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I doubt that I will soon, if ever, experience that kind of luxury, attention to detail, or service, again.

But I had the famous chef’s food just last weekend, in a far more casual setting at far more reasonable prices.

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon is Robuchon’s workshop. It is where his executive chef and the team is allowed to play with flavors, textures, and ideas, offering them to the public at prices that might make the wallet whine but not scream. Here is where you see more avant garde food, fewer suit jackets, and many more dining options. It’s not just one set menu – you can order a la carte or from several set menus, none topping $160 (which includes 15 courses, by the way).

The feel of the restaurant is hip and sleek, with its pops of red against shiny black. The place to sit is at the counter, where you can see the chefs preparing your food, but if you want a table, just say so at the time of making your reservation. We chose this option, and it worked out well so we could all talk. We also made our own tasting menu instead of going with one of the prix fixes…because we wanted all the foie.

Bread

The bread, though it doesn’t arrive on a bejeweled cart in 14 different varieties, is as faultless as that found in the parent restaurant. The baguette, in particular, is crusty without and slightly sour within. It’s crumb is fine and it is served warm, ideal with the rich, unsalted butter.

Amuse Buche – Foie gras and Parmesan parait

Um, yeah. Foie and Parm. Umami to the max. This tiny shooter is liquid foie and airy Parmesan foam, served warm so that the foie melts into an unctuous with a savory Parmesan cap.  Salty, a little sweet, and creamy, this is one of the hits of the night.

Iberican ham with pan con tomate

Not much to say about this except damn…the ham is (as always) soft, pleasantly fatty, and deeply p0rky, but the bread is really the star of the show. Lightly toasted bread is covered with such small, even dices of tomato that it seems like tiny elves must be working in the kitchen. The bread is rubbed with a garlic cove so it is perfumed with garlic instead of overpowered by it. The tomatoes are, even at the tail end of winter, are  juicy and sweet against the melting fat of the ham.

Carpaccio – Seabass with citrus and chiles

The best crudo I have had in awhile. The seabass is sliced so thinly that it is like a sheet of velum, milky pink against the white plate. It is dressed, but not saturated, in olive oil and the smoky, late-blooming heat of espelette pepper, bright lemon, and basil. The fish comes through fatty and moist and it is so good that you might not want to share.

I certainly didn’t.

Le Teriyaki – Kobe beef over sushi rice and spicy avocado

This is where Robuchon’s playful side shines. He takes the sweet-salty Asian flavor of teriyaki and sushi rice, then fuses it with French technique. The beef is seared to a perfect rare, with the inside warm and dry but still beautifully red and tender, the avocado is sliced so that it melts into the sushi rice, and the whole plate is perfectly balanced. It isn’t totally French, but nothing here is. It’s all about French technique and global ingredients.

Les Ravioles – Foie gras ravioli in chicken broth

These ravioli are ethereal and buttery rich at the same time. Imagine this: you are eating your Bubbe’s chicken soup. It is comforting and warm, your favorite chicken broth. Then imagine that she used fresh herbs (other than dill, fresh herbs are NOT the Jewish grandma’s MO). Licorice-y tarragon, fresh mint, and fragrant basil bringing Southeast Asian and French flavors to the soup, like a Vietnamese mash up. Now imagine that you put one of her famousfkreplach into your mouth. Except, this kreplach isn’t filled with beef. It is filled with a small nugget of foie gras. Not pate, mind you – pure foie gras. Molten, liquefied foie that thrills you to the tips of your carnivorous toes. It is a shock of richness against the wholesome broth, and the dumpling skins are so light that they are almost nonessential. This is a sleeper hit on a menu filled with exotic sounding dishes.

La  Langoustine – crispy langoustine fritter with basil pesto

One of my tablemates said that this might be the best bite that he had ever put into his mouth.

That’s what she said.

Langousitnes have the texture of shrimp with the buttery taste of lobster. This langoustine is expertly cleaned and prepared and is SO rich and meaty that you might think there is more foie gras in there! Wrapped in a single sheet of crunchy, greaseless phyllo dough, it is served with both an herbal pesto and entire leaf of basil, lightening up an extremely dense, rich dish. This is butter overload, so don’t order it if you don’t like butter.

In fact, don’t read this blog if you don’t like butter.

La Caille – free range quail stuffed with foie gras, served with pommes souffles

First, the quail: Decadent. An exquisitely deboned quail, served medium so it is earthy and slightly funky, like wild boar. Stuffed with a cylinder of warm foie gras, melting into the quail, picking up it’s salty, crispy skin and tender meat. This is seasoned only with the quail and foie fats, salt, and pepper. It’s ideal.

And the pommes souffles…they are Robuchon’s calling card. He invented them by using half as much butter as potatoes  That’s enough butter to get a gal into trouble. Add some fragrant troubles, and she is a goner.

I am so, so weak against butter(with a few potatoes mixed in there).

Le Burger et Frites – beef and foie burgers with caramelized bell peppers and spicy bell peppers coulis

Not your average slider. The patty is thick and very mild, probably from a cut like filet mignon or a style like Wagyu that is very fatty and moist. The slider is – here’s that word again – rich, punctuated by the sweet and spicy bell pepper jus. I still prefer the one at DB Bistro, but this slider is a decadent and delicious way to end a meal.

Oh yeah, and the fries may be the most perfect specimens I have had in America.

The word rich came up many times in this review. However, you don’t have to be rich to eat here. You have to save up for a while, but you don’t have to lust after it without any payoff. It is pricey but attainable fare in a relaxed, cool setting with excellent service. It’s all the foie you can handle. And it’s from the chef of the century.

Chef Robuchon, you have done it again.

Lotus of Siam, Take 2

I have been to Lotus of Siam before.

I have waxed poetic about the juicy stuffed chicken wings and sweet, sticky mee krob. I have talked about the large dining room that is so comfy that you might think you are in your grandma’s homestyle restaurant. I have talked about its many accolades and its legions of fans (This visit, Jim Belushi dined there the night that we did, this time).

What I might not have mentioned is that the menu has seemingly thousands of options. It’s a little intimidating and requires some research and multiple visits to try all the dishes for which the eatery is famous.

So consider this review number two in a series of posts that are sure to come about this truly astonishing restaurant.

Nam Kao Todd –  Crispy rice mixed with sour minced pork sausages, green onions, fresh chilis, ginger, peanuts and lime juice

Thank you, Serious Eats, for pointing me in this direction. The rice is fried until it puffs and pops like salty Rice Krispies cereal beneath your teeth. The sausage is in tiny, ham-like dices; bright and acidic. Tiny peanuts echo the slightly fatty taste of the sausage and the whole thing is liberally sprinkled with dried and fresh chiles. The dried chiles are smoky with a back-of-the-throat burn and the fresh chiles have a high, almost electric lip-singeing quality. They each play their part, and that’s the takeaway from this dish. Every ingredient plays its part to create one cohesive, multi-layered taste. This dish’s report card would read: “plays well with others”

Nam Prik Ong – Red chili dip

Described like a spaghetti meat sauce on the menu, this was a fan favorite. The dip isn’t spicy at all, just zesty and aromatic with ginger, onions, and garlic. It is thick enough to scoop up with the raw veggies of a handful of delightfully glutinous sticky rice and the sweet tomatoes contrast nicely with the grassy coriander and ground pork. Speaking of pork, these pork cracklings are the first ones I have ever had that I actually like. They are not overtly “barnyard-y” or brittle, they are just insanely light and crispy – almost like a Pop chip, but with no salty, chemical-y aftertaste.

Thum Ka Noon – Shredded and pounded young jackfruit

This was the one dish that divided our table. Half of them hated it – called it mushy and tasteless, with the texture of cat food and an insipid flavor. The rest of us (myself included) LOVED this dish – it was my second favorite dish of the night. It is soft and homogeneous  but I didn’t find it mushy or cottony. It reminds me of pulled chicken or pork tempered with fresh cilantro, tomatoes, and the hit of diced chiles. The jackfruit was, for me, totally textural with no real taste of its own – it was ideal to pump up the volume of the dish without distracting form the pork’s flavor. I loved this with crunchy cabbage and sticky rice, and I hope that you do, too!

Penang Curry with chicken

`I love massaman curry as much as the next gal, but every now and then you have to branch out, right? This is massaman gone Wall Street (the original movie) – fast paced, high end, and a little dangerous. It is creamy from coconut milk and has a burnished color from the dried and fresh chiles, bu that is where the similarities between the two curries end. Whereas massaman is zesty and comforting, like a ginger tinged creamy chicken soup, the penang is lively and downright aggressive with its spices. If you like spicy food this won’t set you on fire, but if you aren’t used to it, this will probably build up a sweat on your brow. The fresh slices of jalapeno have a vaguely grassy, lemony taste that they pick up from the creamy and smoky chile gravy. The chicken itself is juicy and tender, filled with aromatics and sweet, spicy flavors that I can’t even begin to dissect. This had even the most spice-phobic people at that table clamoring for more, pouring the sauce over sticky and jasmine rices, swiping the bowl with fingers. If you like massaman then you may LOVE this – just be prepared for a bit more heat.

This ain’t the last Lotus of Siam review. I am going to go there every time that I visit Vegas until I get through the entire menu. Or at least until I faint from too much sticky rice. Hey, it’s the best Thai restaurant in America (some say int he world), it’s reasonably priced, and I haven’t even scratched the surface of the fabulous menu options.

Don’t worry, next time I go, I promise to say hi to Jim* for you.

*Jim Belushi, remember?!

 

Three “Don’t Miss” Vegas Dishes

I’m back from the motherland.

No, not Israel.

Not even Paris.

I went on vacation to Las Vegas.

Where else can one sleep in world-class hotel suites for the price of a hostel in most major cities? Where else can one see a $90-a-ticket Cirque de Soleil show and then walk through a shopping mall with a yard long drink that involves frozen soda and cheap rum? And where else can one lose more money in an hour than she makes in a week?

Clearly, this city speaks to me.

Though I ate mostly at old favorite restaurants, there are a few new dishes (and restaurants) that I tried that really deserve mention!

Sliders at She

If you find yourself a little peckish and in the mood for an upscale midnight snack,  head straight to She at Crystals shopping center. This sezy steakhouse by Mortons has all of the serious beef offerings of its parent restaurant but adds a young, hip vibe with a catwalk straight down the center of the restaurant. Enjoy burlesque performances and sideshow acts like belly dancers, sword swallowers, and extremely flexible, scantily clad jugglers.

If you like the ladies, this restaurant is for you.

And even if your taste runs to John Hamm instead of Christina Hendricks, this restaurant is worth a stop for the comfortable outdoor seating and the awesome sliders.  Juicy and coked to a rosy pink with a soft texture, they are served with sharp cheddar cheese, creamy Russian dressing, and some tangy pickled onions. The brioche buns are soft and eggy but still stand up to the patties’ ample juices. This restaurant isn’t cheap but during happy hour, these sliders are offered at a significant discount, as are crisply fried tempura shrimp and a bevvy of cocktails. She is a welcome addition to the Strip as a place to sit and relax outside while enjoying some really quality bites.

Huevo frito con caviar at Jaleo

Yes, Jaleo again. It was just as  vibrant, as exciting, as mouth watering, delicious as it was the last time I visited. This time, my sister was wise enough to order the egg-on-egg combo that brought our table to its knees. The egg arrives gently fried so that the white is firm bu the yolk is thick and gooey. The caviar is in an ebony pile on top promising salt and brine.

When the server cuts up the mixture and instructs you to spread it on the pillowy toasted bread, follow her instructions. The bite will be rich, buttery, salty, and very savory. It isn’t fishy or bitter at all – just like the world’s best poached eggs on toast. The little pops of caviar under your teeth are a wonderful counterpart to the silky fried egg and you may find yourself begging for extra bread to swipe the bottom of the bowl for any remnants of this deeply satisfying dish. 

Club Sandwich at Cafe Vettro

This is the place you visit when you just came off of 2 four hour flights that started at 3 am 3,000 miles away. The 24 hour restaurant in the Aria is more than the old fashioned Vegas coffee shops that are known for piles of mushy home fries and questionable clam chowder. Cafe Vettro is light, modern, and the food is downright craveable. The club sandwich is among the best of an excellent and huge menu. The house roasted turkey is juicy, the veggies are crisp, and the mayo is plentifully applied. The fries are salty and hot, and the whole plate can easily feed 2 people. This is a fantastic lunch option, and the staff is commendably efficient, helpful, and friendly.

Wanna know where else I worshipped during my visit to the motherland? Head back tomorrow for my re-review of what is heralded as the best Thai restaurant in America, Lotus of Siam.

The Pioneer Woman’s Peanut Butter Pie

There was a period of this blog that I refer to as: The Dark Days.

The first six months was a little…experimental, let’s say.

Another way to say it is that it looks like a toddler wearing a blindfold took the photographs and a person for whom English was her 12th language wrote the copy.

When I switched this blog over from blogger to wordpress, a lot of my posts got lost, which was mostly okay. There were, however, a few posts that really did deserve to get rewritten and dragged out of the vault.

This was one of them. No revisions, no alterations. A straight out demonstration of a fantastic recipe by one of the OG food bloggers. It’s easy, it’s very fast to make, and it’s incredibly tasty.

The Pioneer Woman’s Peanut Butter Pie

Ingredients:

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

4 tbsp. butter, melted

1 tub whipped topping

1 cup peanut butter

1 1/4 cup  powdered sugar

25 Oreos (or 1 box of Oreo cookie crumbs)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and grind the Oreos in a food processor until the crumb is very fine.

2. Combine the Oreos with the melted butter, then press the moistened crumbs into a pie dish. Pat the crumbs down to make a densely packed crust, then bake for 5 minutes, or until the crust is fragrant.

3. Combine the peanut butter, the powdered sugar, and the cream cheese, and the whipped topping and whip with egg beaters or stand mixer for about 5 minutes, or until very light and fluffy.

4. Now, load the filling into the pie crust, refrigerate for 15 – 20 minutes, or until solid, and…

5. Serve.

 This pie is outstanding. Its crunchy, darkly chocolate crust contrasts with the sweet and savory peanut butter filling, both airy and rich at the same time. It is perfect for a casual dinner party, an evening potluck, or as an offering to a lovesick friend.  It is familiar, it is delicious, it is INSANELY easy to make.

I mean, it was so good, I had to repost it. From, you know…the dark days.

Cannibal – All Meat, All the Time

I am a huge fan of Resto, and have wanted to try its sister restaurant Cannibal for a long time.

I mean, it’s named Cannibal…how ballsy is that? For the tongue in cheek name alone, I wanted to dine here. Plus, this butcher shop-cum-restaurant ages its own beef and offers delicacies like lamb tartare, beef hearts, and pig’s heads…it sounded right up my alley!

Cannibal doesn’t take reservations for parties of fewer than six, so be prepared to wait if you come here on a weekend. The long, narrow restaurant is mostly bar space. However, the outside patio is enclosed and heated, and dining at one of the long, rustic picnic tables is a great option. It’s great for a couple of friends grabbing a quick bite, or a group of buddies who want to eat every part of the pig. The vibe is very cool and Brooklyn-esque…if you don’t know what I mean by that, watch an episode of Portlandia.

The thing to drink here is beer – the list is positively gargantuan, as evidenced by the long cases of beer lining the restaurant walls. There is a full bar and a small by-the-glass wine list, but come on, live a little…get a beer, ale, porter, or stout. Go for the large format, light and easy-to-drink Higgs de Bosson or a refreshing beer Negroni from the short but excellent beer cocktail list.

Note: Please excuse the poor photos, but the food was as great as the lighting was bad!

Brussels sprout salad with egg, red onion, and pine nuts

A crisp, bright salad that was necessary with all of our meaty choices. The sprouts are in a mixture of shreds and whole leaves, dressed in a fragrant olive oil vinaigrette. The pine nuts are rich and crunchy next to the grassy sprouts, and those red onions add a little zip. The final touch is a very gently boiled egg that has JUST barely solidified, so it is creamy and not crumbly. This simple salad is well composed, designed to complement the meat on the menu yet also stand on its own. 

Beef 

My favorite dish of the night. Made in house, it is cured in Sriracha, Worcestershire, sugar, and other ingredients. Then it is dried until pleasantly chewy but still juicy and far softer than most commercial jerky. It has an inherent beefy, robust taste that is accentuated by spicy, salty, and sweet notes. It is vibrant and complex in flavor – I really can’t say enough about this jerky. It’s a standout in every way.

Ham plate

An excellent sampling of hard to find hams. The long board is piled generously with salty Virginia ham, paper-thin whisps of deeply savory Benson County ham, and – my favorite – the thickly shaved prosciutto. I don’t know when I have had such good prosciutto. One member of our party remarked “wow… this really tastes raw…and I mean that in a good way.” The meat tastes fresh, soft and succulent; more smoky than salty and more sweet than either. The fat melts on the tongue the way that only Iberian ham usually does, and the slightly thicker cut makes it very satisfying. The accompanying buttery biscuit and honey are delightful as well.

We also had a wonderful Mediterranean accented lamb tartare and some tasty garlicky cauliflower. The service could not be better – really, the entire staff from host to server went out of its way to recommend items, see how we were doing, and kibbitz with us during the meal. That being said, Cannibal is a little expensive for what it is. Expect to pay at least $30 per person for a meal here, and you will leave satisfied but in no way bursting from the portions. However, if you want to try some really well prepared meats and are feeling flush, this is worth a visit.

 And when you go, get some of that jerky…then give it to me.

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