Archives for April 2013

Triple Decker Mexican Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

I invented this recipe a long time ago and figured it deserved to come out of retirement! This grilled cheese recipe is spicy, fragrant, and delicious for a quick dinner. The trick is using enough mayo to coat the bread – that results in the perfect crunchy exterior.

Triple Decker Mexican Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Ingredients:

3 slices sandwich bread

3 tbsp. mayonnaise mixed with 1 tbsp. your favorite black bean dip (I love the one from Trader Joe’s)

1 jalapeno, sliced thinly

1 tomato, sliced

1 scallion, chopped

2 tsp. cilantro, cleaned and chopped

1. Spread the mayo/bean mixture on both slices of all bread. Then, put 2 slices of the bread in a hot pan over medium heat and let it cook for a few minutes, until the undersides are warm and toasted. Then, remove one of the slices of bread from the pan.

2. On the other slice of bread, put half of the cheese (ignore the slice of bread in the back there…that was an ill-conceived experiment).

3. Layer on the jalapenos and tomato, then…

top with the slice of UN-toasted, UN mayo-ed bread. Cover with a lid and reduce heat to low for about 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.

4. When the cheese is melted, top the bread with the rest of the cheese…

the cilantro, and the scallion. Then, top the sandwich with the last piece of bread, toasted side UP, cover with lid until melted, and…

5. Serve.

This sandwich is everything that is good about eating. It’s crunchy and gooey. It’s creamy and spicy. It’s fresh and rich and heady with beans. It’s not really Mexican, it just takes a few cues from Mexican cuisine. The untoasted layer of bread in the middle is key – it melts into the cheese, becoming moist and almost juicy. It’s substantial, it’s quick to prepare, and it’s great now that the weather is getting warmer and we are all craving margaritas.

Or at least I am. So sue me.

Stolen Orange Honey Butter

This recipe isn’t only inspired from somewhere; it’s downright stolen from somewhere.
But…I can’t remember where. That’s just so awful, I know.
So all I can say is – watch Food Network kids, because that is where my favorite fella got the idea for this condiment. He described it to me late one night, and the next morning at 7am, I ran like a madwoman to the grocery store for ingredients.
Less ran than slowly stumbled, but you get the picture.
I added the cinnamon, but everything else straight from someone else…but who?
Honey Orange Cinnamon Butter

Ingredients:

8 oz softened butter OR spreadable butter
1 whole orange, washed
2 tbsp. honey
2 dashes cinnamon

1. Cut the orange into segments. Then, place the segments into the blender, rind and all.

2. Puree until totally pulverized. It will be pulpy.

3. Combine with the butter, honey, and cinnamon. Taste to adjust seasonings. Start with about half of the orange mixture than add more if necessary. That way, it won’t be too bitter.

4. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until the butter has firmed back up, then serve with toasted bread or muffins. 

5. Serve on toast, muffins, scones, or anything carbolicious. 

This recipe is so easy but it TOTALLY elevated our breakfast. This is the stuff that you see on the table of breakfast at The Four Seasons in Maui. It’s creamy, bright, and faintly spicy with cinnamon. The honey adds sweetness that does not detract from the bright, sunny orange flavor. Make this now and put it on everything. Actually, this might even be awesome on a sandwich with some leftover sliced pork.
I’m sorry that I’m a thief…but I’m not sorry I made it!

Favorite Recent Bites

And now for your weekly does of my 3 favorite recent bites:

French toast at ABC Kitchen

Calling this French toast is like calling Kate Middleton a normal British girl – it’s a vast understatement. The french toast is at least an inch thick, with a crunchy crust that cuts through to reveal a vanilla custard-like interior. The roasted apples alongside are sweet and aromatic, ideal for highlighting the toast’s yeasty taste without overpowering it. The maple syrup served alongside sinks through the crust, slowly softening it and saturating it with flavor. This is more dessert than breakfast, which makes it the ideal brunch dish.

Thai beef salad at Jaiya

Awesome. Tender, medium rare strips of steak served in a sour, punchy sauce with fresh mint and shards of  red onion. Sweet, sour, salty, and hot. The mint is so fresh and cooling next to the punches of hot Thai peppers and the juicy beef. This is a wonderful lunch dish with some sticky rice on the side. Just be sure to bring some breath mints or just breathe in the faces of coworkers whom you hate.

German chocolate  cupcake at House of Cupcakes

This is why NYC is so great. Where else can you wander around after dinner and just happen to run into the winners of Cupcake Wars? This shop is large and bright, with a plethora of gourmet cupcakes. This German chocolate one is a mini version of the decadent classic – sweet, moist cake with none of the bitter qualities of lesser cupcakes. The topping is sweet, sticky, and loaded with coconut and slivered pecans. It’s rich but not cloying and perfect for a quick dessert.

 
Jaiya on Urbanspoon

Swine – Home to the Foie Gras and Jam-Wich

One of my girlfriends recently went to a restaurant that she said reminded her so much of me that I had to eat there, and fast.

That’s why it’s important to have good friends who really know you.

Swine is a west village restaurant specializing in all things barnyard. Yes, there is lots of pork, but also expect chicken, duck, beef, and anything else that flies, runs, or swims.

There are a few veggies on the menu too, but (luckily) most of them are drizzled in pork fat.

The restaurant is small ad dark, with a pinball machine at the entrance and a long bar. The vibe is great for a few drinks or for an intimate dinner with friends.

Duck fat cashews

Dining alone, I would never have ordered these, because I find cashews overly fatty and a little unctuous for my tastes. However, these totally changed my perception of cashews. Served warm and heavy dusted in a spice mixture, they are zesty, smoky, and redolent with Asian style spices. The duck fat gives the nuts a meat, grounded taste that somehow takes away their inherent greasiness.

Fat combating fat…it’s the way of the future, friends.

FG and J sandwich

Foie gras and strawberry balsamic jelly. If there is a more perfect sandwich in the world, I certainly haven’t found it. The first bite is a little sweet, but as you keep eating, the foie asserts itself. It is creamy and room temperature, melting in between the charred toasts. The jam is sweet enough to stand up to the wonderfully rich foie. This sandwich had us all licking our meaty, jammy fingers. This was a standout of the meal and in the neighborhood. It’s absolutely exemplary and at $18 a splurge, but a worthwhile one.

Bone marrow and brisket burger with potato wedges

A first rate “cheffy” burger. Moist and thick, loosely packed and loaded with earthy, beefy flavor. The bun is substantial enough to stand up to its juices and the onions are sweet and soft. The potato wedges are also excellent – well seasoned and crisp on the outside while very fluffy within.

All that said…this burger is pricey for what it is. It’s high quality and well portioned, but just a wee bit overpriced, considering that it’s merely tasty and not totally craveworthy.

 

Braised chicken with garlic, peas, bacon, and mashed potaotes

Just like you wish your mama made. Dark meat chicken braised until it is totally tender but not at all mushy or stringy. The potatoes are smooth and buttery with a savory, bacon dotted gravy floating atop. The lardons are crunchy and salty and the peas and a welcome burst of sweetness. This bowl is elevated baby food, and I mean that as a compliment – the flavors are simple, direct, and focus on the ingredients. No fancy, high end products necessary. Just wonderful chicken, creamy potatoes, and the warmth of roasted garlic. This is something I can’t wait to reproduce at home, albeit with a tad less salt.

Swine is a very tasty restaurant. The food is a bit salty and the prices are a bit high, but the wine and cocktail list is wonderful and fairly priced. It’s better for a drink and a few bites than a full meal, but the FG and J sandwich is worth the trip alone.

 People always talk about how important it is to have friends when you are going through hard times. But sometimes it’s just as important to have friends when you are hungry for dinner. They should know just where to send you!

Swine on Urbanspoon

Pineapple Fried Rice

This is just the very best fried rice on the planet.

Oh, sorry…was there supposed to be an intro there?

You know, some cute anecdote? A meaningful quote?

Well, sorry. You lost out on that one.

But in return, you get the creamiest, tastiest fried rice ever.

Pineapple Fried Rice

Ingredients:

1 lb. chicken tenders, cut into bite size pieces

2.5 cups leftover cooked rice (MUST be cold)

4eggs, beaten

3 carrots, diced

1 heart of celery bunch, diced

1 onion, diced and divided in half

4 oz. fresh or canned pineapple, cut into bite size chunks

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, cleaned and chopped

2 serrano chiles, diced

4 oz. sugar snap peas, chopped

1 handful spinach or microgreens, washed

1 bunch scallions, chopped

3 tbsp. canola oil

1/4 cup soy sauce, plus more for seasoning

1 tbsp. each rice wine vinegar and sugar

2 tbsp. Chinese 5 spice

dash of sesame oil

1. Combine the chicken, soy half of the cilantro, and half of the onion in a zip-top bag. Shake it around so the marinade gets distributed, then let it marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

2. Meanwhile, sautee the rest of the onions, carrots, and celery with the canola oil over high heat. You want to sort of sautee-fry them.

3. After about 10 minutes, or when they have just started to become translucent, add the 5 spice.

Continue to cook for another 15 minutes, or until the veggies are all very soft and browned in some places.

4. Add the snap peas and…

the chicken. Be sure to toss in all the marinade, too.

5. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the largest piece of chicken has only clear juices when pierced.

6. Now, add the pineapple and the chiles, and cook for only a few seconds, just to get the pineapple heated through.

7. Add the rice. Move it around quickly, breaking it up as you go, soaking up the marinade. Also, add the rice wine vinegar.

8. Turn the heat down VERY low and add the beaten eggs. Swirl them around the pan with the rice until the eggs have thickened and solidified. Add the microgreens and cilantro , stir until they wilt, and then taste the rice for seasonings.

9. Top with sesame oil and scallions and serve.

This is just the best. It’s so creamy that it’s like risotto – the secret is adding the beaten egg at the end and stirring it to create a silky, creamy texture. The pineapple is sweet and the carrots are delightfully tender-crunchy from sautee/frying them. Be sure to add enough soy when you season it – this is a ton of rice, and it really soaks up that flavor. The chicken is juicy and spicy, and the greens at the end really add a nice vegetal component.

I’m not Chinese, Thai, or Japanese.

But yes, I do call this wonderful, creamy, flavorful rice the best fried rice ever.

No anecdote required

 

Quick Mexican Chicken Burgers

I am a firm believer in eating home cooked meals.

I love to cook for myself and my loved ones, to sit down to something that I made with love and thought, and to really take pride in how I eat.

I am also a firm believer in shortcuts.

At big parties, I just use the packet of soup mix to make the onion dip. At last-minute brunches, I  buy the premade fruit platter.

And for dinner on a night when I am beat, pressed for time, or simply  lazy, I use every shortcut in the book.

The result is tasty, fast, and – yes, I still count it! – homemade.

Quick Mexican Chicken Burgers

Ingredients:

1 lb. ground white meat chicken or turkey breast

4 hamburger or brioche buns

4 slices pepper jack cheese

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup pico de gallo

1/2 cup guacamole

1 jalapeno, diced

2 tsp. each cumin, pepper, coriander, powdered garlic

1 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 tbsp. cilantro, washed and chopped

4 leaves iceberg lettuce

hot sauce, if desired

1. Scoop the top of your bun, so there is a well in the center. This is so you can really load up the toppings. Save the breadcrumbs for some fabulous meatloaf!

2. Combine the meat, spices, Worcestershire, and cilantro in a large bowl.

3. After doing a test patty for seasonings, make the meat into 4 patties. Drop all patties in a VERY hot pan for 3 minutes, or until they are well seared on one side and flip easily.

They should look like this.

4. Then, turn the heat down to medium low, put the cheese on the seared side, and cover with a well fitting lid. This lets the cheese melt and the burgers gently steam to well done without overcooking.

5. Meanwhile, combine the mayo and pico de gallo. It will be watery. With a fork, put some spread onto each of the scooped out buns. That ensures that you get mostly chopped tomatoes without too much goopy, watery residue.

6. Then, top with iceberg lettuce, and…

top the other half of the bun with a nice schmear of guacamole.

7. Layer on the burger,

top with hot sauce if desired, and…

8. Serve.

This is a wonderful, fast weeknight meal. The patty has a satisfying, smoky char on one side but is tender and juicy because it was steamed at the end. The cheese is melty and just slightly spicy, pickling up on the cilantro and jalapeno in the patty. The pico de gallo mayonnaise is the perfect combination of bright and creamy, and the guacamole is the ideal way to finish the dish. This is perfect with a side of tortilla chips served with that leftover pico de gallo and guac.

And it’s all homemade, with care and love.

Don’t let anyone tell you that it isn’t.

Peach, Bourbon, and Jalapeno Glazed Pork Chops

I didn’t grow up eating a whole lot of pork chops.

Bacon – all the time

Sausage?  Sure, especially on pizza.

But pork chops just weren’t something my mom made.

Call it the huge menorah on our mantle, but we just didn’t have pork chops.

But hey, pork IS the other white meat. It can be lean, moist, and incredibly tasty. I FAR prefer pork loin to chicken, and I love the vaguely sweet taste that pork has.

So, I decided to experiment.

The result was…well, you wait and see

Pork Chops with Peaches, Bourbon, and Jalapenos (adapted from Serious Eats)

Ingredients:

2 boneless pork chops, each about 1.5 inches thick

1 small can of peaches, drained

2 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. bourbon

1 jalapeno pepper, diced

1.2 red onion, diced

1 tbsp. dried basil OR Italian seasonings

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

1. Season the chops with salt and pepper on both sides.  Put the oil in a pan over high heat and let it heat until the oil starts to shimmer. Then, drop the chops in. Preheat to oven to 400F.

2. After about 3.5 minutes, flip them. They will have a light sear but not a whole lot of color. That’s okay – you are just searing them now, you are finishing cooking later.

3. After 3 minutes on the other side, remove the chops from the pan and reserve them for later.

4. Now add the onions and Italian seasoning to the hot, greased pan.

5. Sautee for about 5 minutes until they are translucent.

6. Then, add the butter and let it melt.

7. Add the peaches…

and let the whole thing cook for about 10 minutes.

8. Now, add the whisky (I remove the pan from the flame when I do this because I do NOT do well with fire).

9. Let cook for an additional 5 minutes, until the syrup gets even thicker. Taste it and you will have a very alcoholic sauce. Don’t worry, that will all dissipate when it goes in the oven.

10. Return the chops to the pan and cover the chops with the sauce and peaches.

11. Toss them in the oven for about 7 minutes.

 

12. When they are only FAINTLY PALE PINK in the VERY CENTER of the chop, they are done.

13. Sprinkle with jalapenos.

14. Enjoy.

Why didn’t I grow up eating pork chops? They are so sweet and juicy, perfect with the citrusy heat of the jalapenos and the buttery, caramelly sauce. The peaches are a great ingredient here. They bring out the savory, hearty side of pork chops. Don’t be afraid of all the butter here – it really creates a luscious, thick sauce. The flavors of the dish are salty, sweet, and very rich; ideal with steamed spinach. 

 Don’t be surprised to see this on my table again soon.

Maybe just not for Shabbat. 

What’s Delicious Lately

These three dishes have tickled my tastebuds recently, and you should go seek them out!:

Chocolate Cupcake at Butter Lane Cupcakes

No, these aren’t better than Buttercup cupcakes, but they are really tasty. The gimmick is also great – mix and match the flavors of cupcakes and icing as you like. The icing comes in flavors like espresso and salted caramel, plus there is a weekly rotating flavor. The cake is a little drier than I like, but the frosting is lovely. Not too sweet, not too thick – just light, tangy cream cheese frosting that is moist and finger-lickin good.

Steak Tartare at Danji

This little modern Korean restaurant is as wonderful now as it was when it first opened. The menu continues to evolve with dishes like this. The steak is hand cut so it reteaisn a steak-like texture. It is mixed with a heavy dose of sesame oil and fragrant Asian spices. It is topped with sweet Asian pear and served with a qual egg and crispy slaw alongside. Once you mix up all the ingredients, the plate loses its lovely look but tastes incredible. A variety of tastes and textures that is cool, crunchy, spicy, salty, nutty, and very satisfying. Sit at the bar with a glass of champagne and order a few small plates, including this.

Pizza from Gloria’s

Just great NYC pizza. Thin, foldable crust. Oregano spiked sauce. A thin layer of bubbly cheese. Warm, savory, pleasantly greasy. Perfection eaten off of a paper plate with a sprinkle of hot pepper flakes.

 

Kimcheese Sandwiches at Porsena Extra Bar

I saw a famous chef cooking in her own kitchen. At lunch service, nonetheless.

That shouldn’t be a huge deal…but it is.

In this day and age of celebrity chefs with huge restaurant empires, it’s not the most common thing to see an acclaimed chef cooking inside her own restaurant instead of jet-setting to fabulous events.

So imagine my thrill at seeing Sarah Jenkins walking through Porsena Extra Bar, her diminutive add on to the loved East village Italian restaurant Porsena.

Porsena Extra bar is small and narrow, with – as  the name implies – a long bar at which you can sit and drink some wine from the extensive, excellently priced list. As far as food goes, don’t expect strictly Italian dishes like next door. Instead, expect some of Jenkins’ more whimsical dishes.

Salami, goat cheese, and fig jam on baguette

Simple and perfect. The fig jam is sweet but not cloying or sugary it really tastes just like ripe, jammy figs. It is served with spicy salami that is garlicky and peppery but not salty or greasy. It is soft in texture, multifaceted in taste, and works well with that sweet jam and the creamy, mild goat cheese. The bread is literally perfect – not too hard, not too squishy.  This sandwich is just beautifully constructed, and is served with a light, bright salad where even the cucumbers are peeled and sliced on a bias.

It’s that attention to detail that really make a difference.

Grilled Kimcheese

This puts all other kimchee/cheese combos to shame. Yes, I’m saying this beats them all. The Pullman bread is soft and incredibly buttery, so it has a crispy, thin layer where it has touched the grill. Underneath that sheath is a soft, buttery layer of bread. It melts into the American cheese and kimchee puree filling. The filling is subtle – I might not even know that it was kinchee if I hadn’t read the menu. The filling is creamy and beautifully gooey, but with a slightly spicy garlicky tang that isn’t overtly fishy or salty. The kimchee puree cuts through the buttery richness of the other ingredients and makes this rich sandwich a star. Split it with a friend or be prepared to take a long nap afterwards.

Porsena Extra Bar is a gem. It’s super inexpensive for the quality, with a very cheap and high quality happy hour. In the evening, there  is an entirely different menu than the one at lunch, and you can also order food from Porsena next door. The service is jovial and efficient, and the vibe is perfect for a solo lunch.

Plus, Sara Jenkins is in the kitchen either here or next door. , overseeing the food

It shouldn’t be such a big deal, but it totally is.

 

Cheesy Garlic Bread

You know the best part about going to low-end chain steakhouses?

No, it isn’t the well endowed waitresses.

It’s the awesome cheesy garlic bread. These places all have cheesy garlic bread – ooey and gooey topping with a potent garlicky taste covering warm, doughy bread. It’s at least as good as an authentic Parisian baguette with hand churned butter.

Sometimes, it’s actually a whole lot better.

Cheesy Garlic Bread (adapted from The Pioneer Woman)

Ingredients:

4 slices bread (preferably sourdough)

1 clove garlic, minced or pasted

1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled

3 scallions, white and green parts, minced

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

1. Combine all ingredients except bread in a bowl. Quite frankly, I could eat it just like this.

2. Spread mixture evenly on all slices of bread

3. Put in toaster oven or regular oven at 350F for 8 minutes, or until mixture is totally melted and bubbly.

4. Serve

Yeah, um this is pretty awesome. If you don’t like blue cheese, you can just use cheddar, but really…you want the blue stuff here. That sharp, pungent twang on the soft bread. The salty cheddar and the bright scallions with that signature garlicky taste. The mayonnaise isn’t even noticeable here – it just creates the base for a smooth, creamy, sauce-like texture that makes sure that each bite is infused with flavor. It also moistens the bread, replicating that perfectly squishy texture found in restaurant loaves.

This recipe, of course, only makes enough bread for one person.

And because you aren’t out to dinner in public, you can lick the plate clean.