Fig and Chutney Chicken

Sometimes the only impetus you need for a new recipe is fear.

The fear that your mom is coming over and will throw out all of the perfectly good jars and bottles in your fridge.

By perfectly good, I mean that the expiration date may have been a month or two earlier but it tastes totally fine. And smells almost perfect.

Look, if it doesn’t kill me, it makes me stronger, right? I mean penicillin came from mold.

So, hurry…make this chicken with that half jar of chutney sitting in your fridge before your mom comes over. And if it just went bad don’t worry…the heat from the oven kills all those bacteria, right?

Fig and Chutney Chicken

chutney chicken Ingredients

4 chicken pieces (I used boneless, skinless thighs, but breasts or drumsticks would also work)

1/3 – 3/4 jar of chutney

a few heavy glugs of hot sauce

1 onion, sliced into rings

4 or 5 figs, halved

sprinkling of poultry spices

olive oil if necessary (if there is no fat from skin)
IMG_1498 1. Combine the chutney, hot sauce, spices, and oil (if used) in a bowl. In another baking dish, layer the figs and onions and preheat the oven to 350F.
IMG_1508 2. Toss the chicken in the mixture then put it in a single layer over the figs and onions.  IMG_1524 3. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the middle of the thickest thick runs clear when pierced with a fork. For the last 7 minutes of cooking, set the oven to broil on high to create a really brown, caramelized crust on the chicken.  IMG_1533 4. Serve with roasted potatoes or orzo.  IMG_1536 For something born out of utter desperation this is phenomenal. The chicken is moist and tender underneath a sticky, crunchy layer of chutney. It’s sweet and spicy, and the fruits in the chutney pick up on the soft, juicy figs and melted onions. It’s even better the next day on sliced sourdough bread but I doubt it will last that long. This doesn’t taste Indian, it really just tastes multifaceted. Be sure to skim the gravy for fat, then you can use it for the starch you serve alongside.

Chutney chicken: laughing in the face of expiration dates since 2014.

California Dreamin: Down and Dirty and Drive-Thru

The down and dirty part of my California trip.

Yes, most of them involve a drive through menu. Don’t judge.

20140926_235225 20140926_235307 Waffle fries and Western bacon cheeseburger from Carl’s Jr.

Look, this isn’t In-n-Out, but it’s the first place that I ever ditched school, the last place I visited on the way to the airport before I moved back East, and it’s the best drive through bbq sauce on the planet. Tangy, not too sweet, viscous, and a little spicy. The burger is about Burger King quality but with superior toppings including some of the best onion rings ever – thick but crispy batter and sweet, melting onions. YES. And the waffle fries are the best ever. No question. Shut up.

20140927_155608 Spicy cucumber margarita at Mercado

My new favorite drink. Exceptional and not overpriced at $11. Freshly muddled jalapenos and blanco tequila in a chilled, chipotle-salt rimmed glass. It’s like a very light, refreshing bloody Mary. Savory, bright, and with a pleasant kick of tequila. Mercado has a wonderful happy hour and a beautiful space  - I would absolutely come back here to try the food, all of which looked awesome.
20140928_191123 California produce

Because out there, it’s still summer. The peaches are sweet, the goat cheese is grassy, and I hate that it’s getting cold at home.

I’m sure next up will be 1,000 pumpkin recipes and lamb braises.

And California really will seem like just a dream.

California Dreamin: The Fabulous Burger at The Apple Pan

I couldn’t be any more in love with the restaurant featured in this post.

This is my #1 “don’t miss” restaurant in Los Angeles. I love it more than the fancy ones. I love it more than the iconic ones. I love it more than the new ones.

It’s The Apple Pan. And I’m going to let the pictures do the talking:

20140928_104333 The Apple Pan. It’s been around since the 40s. which means nothing to East Coaster, but as Californians will attest, the only thing that’s been around as long since then are the La Brea Tarpits. My mom used to take me here for lunch and she knew a counterman who must have been 100 years old. She said he was 100 years old when she went there when she was a kid.
20140928_110212 Get there early and line up or prepare to wait for a seat around the long counter. Enjoy your soft drink from a paper cone stuck inside of a metal holder.
20140928_110219 The menu isn’t long and it isn’t difficult. If you get the ham sandwich, you have failed your mission. All passengers aboard the shuttle die and your home planet is blown up.  20140928_110334 French fries

Johnny Rockets, weep your eyes out. The finest American fries…yes, anywhere. Golden, insanely hot, crispy without and fluffy within. Not too salty, not at all artisanal.

20140928_110706 Hickory burger with tangy hickory bbq sauce 20140928_110711 Steakburger with piquant relish and sharp Tillamook cheddar cheese 20140928_110858 Toasty bun, chargrilled burger, sharp cheddar, a swath of mayonnaise…and a head of iceberg lettuce. It’s a trademark move, shut up.  20140928_111847 Banana cream pie… 20140928_112105 And dense, buttery pecan pie with a glob of the best whipped cream in the city.  20140928_112542 That plaid wallpaper. The styrofoam plates for the ketchup. The way that the food smells better and better the longer you wait for a seat. This is the best part of California…the nostalgic part.

California Dreamin: The Whimsical World of The Bazaar

When I love something, I love it all the way.

I watch all of The Real Housewives franchises.

I know every dance step to “Oops, I Did it Again” and perform it each and every time I hear it.

And I will eat at every Jose Andres restaurant until I have dined at them all.

This is where The Bazaar comes into play.

This Jose Andres restaurant kinda put him on the map for the West Coast. In the swanky SLS hotel in Beverly Hills, it bills itself as a molecular gastronomic palace that delivers both traditional tapas and nouveau ones. I knew that I had to check it out.

20140927_185223 The vibe is so cool. It’s irreverent and eclectic, like somewhere that your super cool sister might live if she came into a ton of money and went on a trip to Morocco to find herself. Think tribal masks, hologram maitre d’hotels, plush divans on which to dine, and a beautiful outdoor space that seems relaxed yet provides excellent people watching.  20140927_190539 Magic Mojito 20140927_190553 Because when your mojito comes sweetened with cotton candy, it’s magical and you get it. It is sweet and tasty, but really…also so cool.

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Even cooler is the capirinha, which comes tableside and frozen with liquid nitrogen. It’s like bubble, bubble, toil, and trouble…but with booze.

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I  found it a little too bitter, but it is still very fun to order. 20140927_191005 Modern caprese

A little disappointing, to be honest. The flavors are all there – juicy, earthy tomatoes that have the thinnest skin ever…they are totally undetectable, which is great in my book! The pesto is garlicky and fragrant and the little fried croutons are delish. The mozzarella tastes great but the whole “liquid mozzarella” thing falls flat. It just seems like burratta, but less creamy. It delivers on taste but not the molecular gastronomy selling point.
20140927_191339 Steak tartare on kimchi crackers

One of the winners of the night. Less molecular gastronomy, more fusion of great flavors. The crisps are made in house and have just the faintest memory of kimchi – some heat and a little fish funkiness that plays off of the steak tartare in a classic Worcestershire sauce way. The tartare is way above par. It’s so rich and hand chopped, so it has a good chew and a really minerally, deep flavor. It isn’t overly spiced or salted – the kimchi rice crisp does most of the flavoring work. Excellent. 
20140927_192617 Caesar Salad

Great idea, okay execution. The lettuce rolls are filled with cheese and caesar dressing, then topped with more cheese or a raw quail egg yolk. It needs some more acid, salt, and garlic to really come through. 20140927_193241 Chicken croquettes

Just as delicious as I remembered them. Wow, I love these.  20140927_193319 Yellowtail ceviche with grapes, rice crisps, and yogurt

Good, not great – wouldn’t get it again. It just fell flat. The grapes are a surprising punch of juice and sweetness, but the yellowtail needs some more acid to keep it from tasting flat and/or fishy.  20140927_193748 Philly Cheesesteak 20140927_193807 I wish that I had a photo of the inside of these sandwiches because they were filled with homemade cheese whiz….yes, you heard that right…CHEEZ WHIZ…BUT HOMEMADE AND CREAMY AND SHARP AND CHEDDAR AND DELICIOUS! The bread is a very crisp, hollow cracker that is filled with that cheese mixture and the top is layered with thin slices of buttery, delicate Wagyu beef. I could eat another 4 of these, easily.

So, what did I think of Bazaar? Well, I liked it…a lot! It wasn’t insanely pricey (for a special occasion meal), the service was some of the best hat we had in LA, and the food was for the most part quite good. However..it should be billed as modern tapas. Not molecular astronomy. It doesn’t deliver on that front.

Where it does deliver is on the meat front.

Get that steak tartare and magic mojito, then sit back and watch people pull up with their Audis and their nose jobs. It doesn’t get any better than that.

California Dreamin: The Tasting Kitchen

When I was a kid, Venice Beach wasn’t somewhere you went for great food. You went there to see the sights, enjoy the beach, and maybe eat some ice cream. You certainly didn’t schlep there for dinner.

Times have changed for the better.

20140928_202839

The Tasting Kitchen was a recommendation from some foodie friends who said that this place had great food and a very laid back, cool, LA vibe. The vibe is VERY LA…lighting is dark, music is thumping, and the place is PACKED to the gills. However, when our reservation was late, they didn’t comp us a drink at the bar. In general, I found the service a little lacking on the west coast. No matter though, we were seated before long at a comfortable table and taken care of by a very competent server.

20140928_210640 Rillettes

Fabulous. I wish that the picture came out better because this is a wonderful starter. The rillettes are soft and savory with ribbons of juicy pork in a buttery, well salted spread. It comes with garlic rubbed toast that adds a gentle spice and some tangy mustard that kicks up the flavor quotient another notch. This couldn’t be more delicious.

20140928_214232 Oysters and salsify

Salsify is awesome! That’s what I took away from this dish. It tastes a lot like artichokes and has the meaty texture of hearts of palm. Here, its’ served browned and caramlized with a few nuggets of soft, briny oysters that bring out the veggie’s sweet, earthy undertones. This isn’t something I have ever had before and I can’t wait to eat it again.

20140928_215817 Ricotta agnoletti

Good, if not especially memorable. The agnoletti are soft pillows of creamy ricotta in a sweet, tangy tomato sauce. I really can’t say anything else bad or good about it – I would stick with the Calabrian sausage pasta next time, which was garlicky, spicy, and totally craveable. 
20140928_221052 Whole branzino with pine nuts and herbs

Delicious. Prepare for bones and you will be impressed. The fish is flaky, light, and saturated with butter and lemon. The pine nuts add an earthy, unexpectedly crunchy taste and texture to the fish.

The Tasting Kitchen has done the impossible…it has made Venice Beach a foodie destination. Not just for rollerblades and tattoos anymore, this ‘hood is now food-approved. Can’t wait to get back and try it’s neighbor Gjelina for what I hear are some unforgettable Italian dishes. Of course, first, you may have to pry those rillettes from my cold, dead hands. 

California Dreamin: Fabulous Mexican at Loteria

When I said that I spent a lot of time at The Farmer’s Market, I wasn’t kidding. In fact, our very first meal was there, at the wonderful Loteria Grill 20140927_105644 I first read about this place on The Amateur Gourmet and couldn’t believe that after an entire childhood of coming to The Farmer’s Market for lunch I could have missed such a gem! Loteria is a small outdoor stand that serves authentic Mexican food. It’s so popular that it has spawned several brick and mortar locations around town and is oft lauded as some of the best Mexican food in LA, which is really saying something.

20140927_105647 Just order at the counter, watch your food be made in the open door kitchen or wait at your table, then get ready to indulge.

20140927_110147 Agua frescas, nachos, and tacos…come to mama.

20140927_110059 Nachos

I mean, who doesn’t love a plate of nachos? Even crappy ones are good, and these…these are great. Fresh corn chips smothered in stretchy jack cheese, cumin scented black beans and impeccably fresh, juicy pico de gallo. Best of all is a tangy tomatillo salsa layered on top, filtering its tart, fresh bite down the layers of cilantro and  oozing cheese. This is a mammoth portion, so please get the small, and don’t be scared to ask for some smoky but not too spicy house made hot sauce alongside.

20140927_110103 Tongue tacos

Oh, HELL yes. These got better as I ate them. Springy bits of beef tongue in a spicy, rich, incredibly beefy juice spiked with fiery serrano chiles and sweet onions. It’s what I always think that tongue should taste like – delicious and reminiscent of filet, but with a little more chew. It’s hearty but not greasy, and the topping of buttery avocado tempers the peppers and rounds out the meat. Perhaps best of all are the tiny homemade corn tortillas – uneven in texture and with an earthy, overtly corn-y taste. This is pretty spicy, so I was in heaven.

This isn’t the cheapest option in the Farmer’s Market, but it isn’t crazy expensive and it IS crazy delicious. We went at 11 am and there was already a small line, so come early or pay the price! And don’t forget that a tongue isn’t just for talking – it’s for eating, too.

California Dreamin: The World’s Greatest Pancakes at Du-Par’s

I spent a lot of time at The Farmers Market on this trip to LA. Not some farmers market in the parking lot with some lady selling half rotten peppers out of the back of her truck. The LA farmer’s market on Fairfax, which has been there since the 1930s and is one of my favorite memories of my childhood. My mom took me down here to buy toffee from Littlejohn’s, a stall that has been here since Marilyn Monroe was Norma Jean. My grandparents bought me some of my favorite dollhouse furniture here – a small set of dishes that was white and had little blue flowers painted on it. My sister and I used to beg our parents to buy us mini water glasses, not realizing that they were shot glasses. It’s a large, winding outdoor area filled with wonderful restaurants and food stalls, retail food shops, and curiosity stores filled with souvenirs and kitschy items. It’s largely unchanged since my mom was a kid and if there’s one thing that I love, there’s some consistency.

If there’s another thing that I love, it’s world class pancakes.

Enter: Du-Par’s

This place has been around for as long as the Farmer’s Market has been here. I forgot to take an y pictures of the interior, but it looks like a  more spacious version of an East Coast diner. And from the outside, it still looks exactly like this:

20140929_090131 I know, it really IS to adorable for words.
20140929_091323 Buttermilk Pancakes

 

The reason you come to Du-Par’s. I would never call myself a pancake girl, but these…well, these make me a pancake woman. A crazed pancake woman. They are impossibly thick and light at the same time. I don’t know how they are so tall yet so fluffy…they seem to defy the laws of nature.  They aren’t too sweet, which is a major pet peeve of mine. They have a little tang from the buttermilk and the sweetness only comes through with the syrup. And this is the short stack – the portion is generous to say the least. Best of all, they come with warm syrup and warm melted butter, so you don’t have to tear your pancakes by spreading cold butter all over them. That melted butter is the bee’s knees.
20140929_091334 Bacon, jack cheese, and avocado egg white omelette

Avocados are just better in California. I’m not explaining or justifying, I’m just telling you the facts. Buttery, smooth, and sweet. The omelette is tasty, with rivers of me;ted jack cheese and tons of crunchy bacon, but the special part comes alongside… 20140929_091346 Homemade English muffin

 

Do ya think this place knows its way around a carbohydrate or what? This English muffin is the best I have ever had. Toasty and warm, slightly sour and with butter melted into its nooks and crannies. To say nothing of the homemade strawberry preserves served alongside; so juicy and sweet that they would seem artificial if they weren’t so obviously delicious.

Du-Par’s is one of my favorite LA haunts. The service is friendly, the prices are fair, and the food is memorable.

Not to mention, hearty and necessary after a week or 2 of eating sushi and quinoa salads.

California Dreamin: Lunch at Mendocino Farms

I recently accompanied my husband on a work trip to Southern California – my old stomping grounds! Though he couldn’t get over the right turns on red lights (yay!) or the lack of plastic bags in grocery stores (boo!), I managed to show him the fun side of LA in between meetings and talks. 

And by that, I mean the delicious side – like relative newcomer Mendocino Farms.

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This Beverly Hills location is unpretentious and casual – the idea is local, sustainable food offered at great prices in a fast/casual setting. You order from the hostess, pay at the counter, then find a seat and get your food in about 15 minutes.

This place is VERY Californian. The food is light and based on really fresh produce…

20140929_145017 the soda is artisanal and free of artificial flavors and colors (though, ironically, is produced right in my own backyard),

20140929_145142 And the outdoor seating area has picnic tables with benches covered in Astroturf. If you don’t like that, then you are missing out on life’s whimsy!

20140929_150001 Chinese chicken salad

Is it just me or is it impossible to get a good Chinese chicken salad East of the Mississipi? I simply haven’t had one that compares to the ones out West, and this is no exception. Crunchy Napa cabbage, slivers of scallions and bean sprouts, crispy wontons, and tender roasted chicken breast all in a tangy sesame vinaigrette. The vinaigrette also has miso, which adds to the savory profile of the salad, anchoring it so it doesn’t seem too light for lunch. The vegetables are chopped so finely that you get a little bite of everything in each bite. The wonton strips are a little sparsely applied, but that could be because fried wontons are my kryptonite and I can never get enough.

20140929_150008 Not so fried chicken

Next time, I would SO get this! That same roasted chicken rolled in rice cereal and put on a dense but not too crispy ciabatta bread with tangy mustard slaw, pickled onions, and herb aioli. It’s served with BBQ sauce on the side, but I prefer this au naturel. This hits all of my favorite points in a sandwich – hearty, vibrant, sour, crunchy, a little spicy, and properly saucy. The rice cereal is an inspired touch – it adds textural interest without taking over the other sandwich components. Don’t forget to ask for some mustard pickle remoulade on the side if you liek yours a little more wet – like I said, the BBQ sauce tends to overpower the sandwich, but the remoulade works better.

Mendocino Farms is the kind of place that I yearn for when I’m back in cold, dark NYC. I long for the airy, bright restaurant, with tons of space in between tables. I lament over the lack of well priced, inventive sandwich spots here that aren’t based on any cuisine, just amazing produce. I wish there was one of these here – I would eat here constantly.

At least we have plastic bags in Duane Reade.

New AA Business Class Dining Experience, Post Merger

I recently got to fly cross country on American Airlines. Usually, this wouldn’t be exciting new in and of itself, except that AA recently merged with US Airways. And the meal service subsequently changed, too. Which has quite a few AA  frequent fliers up in arms. Gone are the multiple course meals, gone are meals altogether on many medium haul flights. Many people think that this brings down the quality of American Airlines premium classes.

What did I think?

In a word…LOVED. I don’t know why, but this merger produced me with the finest meal that I have had on a domestic airline in years.

First off, let’s talk about the prosecco offered – it’s excellent. Bright but not acidic, tight bubbles, vaguely fruity aftertaste…it’s the ideal aperitif. To say nothing of the Tito’s Vodka on offer – a superior vodka that I serve at home all the time. Big, big fan of the liquor on hand.

20140926_202237 Warm mixed nuts

Satisfactory as always – served in a different shaped dish, but the same old same old.
20140926_205412 Main meal (yes, all on one dish)

From the top left, going counterclockwise:

Asian shrimp and cucumber salad – surprisingly tasty! Thinly sliced cucumbers and onions in a tart and sweet rice wine vinegar dressing. It’s paired with some mild, snappy shrimp that is tastier than many shrimp I have had on international airlines.

Salad – the only downer of the meal. Fresh but utterly tasteless…where do you get corn that tastes like cardboard, anyway?

Filet of beef with mushroom sauce, sweet potatoes, and green beans – great! I mean the meat was really good! Not overly flavorful, but filet isn’t the most flavorful but of beef in any environment. What is impressive is that it was cooked medium rare and was quite tender. The sauce is overly salty but it’s not served on the steak, so it’s easy to avoid. The accompanying veggies are fine if not memorable.

Cheese roll  - um, it’s a warm cheese roll…is there anything wrong with that?

20140926_212305 Ice cream sundae

Same as always, delish as always.

I thoroughly enjoyed the new AA dining experience. I loved that it was all served at once so I could chow down – I was starving and couldn’t have waited a moment longer than necessary for that bread. I had a great flight attendant and I loved the wine service as well. I’m no high end flier but so far, the merger hasn’t affected me for the worse.

Pass the prosecco and call me happy.

Work Trip Posting Mishap!

On a work trip and I thought the posting worked…how wrong I was!

See you tomorrow morning for a look at the new, post merger AA meal service!