Thursday, October 29, 2009


After a bad sushi experience for my 28th birthday, my 29th bithday sushi experience was a vast improvement. In fact, it was a fabulous, memorable, romantic and delicious experience!

Nathan took me to Morimoto (as in Chef Masaharu Morimoto, of Iron Chef fame) and treated me to the "Omakase," the 7-8 course tasting menu, offering the essence of Morimoto's cuisine. Now that is doing your birthday up right. Excuses to celebrate with indulgent dinners are w o n d e r f u l. Surprises are wonderful... especially when I know they're going to be good. There is nothing more thrilling than a talented kitchen team preparing the very best of what they do, as you wait, giddy and anxious for what's going to be placed in front of you next.

The most unique course (among many interesting courses) was an oyster topped with fioe gras, sea urchin, and teryaki sauce. My favorite was probably the fluke sashimi with mushrooms. But everything was just so good! I really wanted to get photos for you, but it was very dark at our table, and I always take photos on my phone (thus, no flash). Plus, I didn't get pictures of everything because I had a hard time remembering to do it before I devoured the dish.

First photo, first course: Tuna tartare with caviar.

Second photo, second course: The fluke sashimi.

Third photo, fifth course: Sushi!

Fourth photo, seventh course: Roast lobster on the half-shell with garam masala and lemon creme fraiche, and Kobe beef with roasted sweet potatoes.

Fifth photo, eighth and final course: pumpkin cake with ginger ice cream and ginger marshmallows.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Got a Chicken

When I resided in the Midwest and relied heavily on my car to get around, I always had this fantasy about shopping for food that didn’t involve a vehicle. Rather than drive to the supermarket on Saturday mornings to stock up for the week ahead, I simply would stroll home from my fabulous job in a bustling city, and drop into the adorable little shops and markets along the way. I would decide on a whim what I would make for dinner that night based on what’s fresh and in season. I’d scoop up a wedge of cheese, some crusty bread, salami and fruit for a picnic-esque lunch the next day.

I think this fantasy was born on my trip to Paris a few years ago. The sky would dim; the streetlights would start coming on, and the artisan cheese shops, fishmongers, wine, meat, and fresh produce markets would have their goods on display spilling out to the sidewalks. Now that I live in a bustling city, with no vehicle, I walk home from my fabulous job and pass such vendors on the street. It’s just like I dreamed it would be. Sort of.

New York is less romantic than Paris. It just is. Thus, my fantasy-come-to-life also lacks a little of the romance. But sometimes it all works according to plan: I'll stop off to pick up a pound of fresh mussels ($2 a pound. 2 bucks!!), crusty bread (and I’ll get the last one), white wine and some fresh parsley to create a delicious pot of moules provencal. The city quiets for a few key moments, no strangers speak to me (yes I’m anti-social), and the air smells good on my excursion.

Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way, and I need comfort. After a long weekend, with an unplanned moment of recalling my Grandma (Miss you, Gramma Pat!), catching a cold from somewhere amongst 70 high school kids, sleep/bed deprivation, getting hit in the face by a stranger (hey, a least he didn’t try to talk to me), crappy weather, a full day of screaming emergency sirens (I swear, I have never heard so many in one day), the decision for comfort food is easy. I'll make the ultimate comfort food for myself – the most comforting of all comfort foods – my Grandma’s (then my mom’s…now mine…) Chicken & Dumplings. Just thinking about it makes me feel like I’m getting a big hug from everyone I love. As I’m wrapped in a down comforter. As my pugs curl against me.

As I said, sometimes it just doesn’t work.

Market #1: Picked up carrots, celery, and onion. Wait a minute, where’s the chicken? They always have chicken. Walk away. Now go back and look again. Chicken? Nope. Still no chicken. Is that right? One more time… still no chicken. Where the hell is the chicken?

Market #2: Again with the no chicken. What does a girl have to do to get some chicken in this town??

Dammit, I'm making it work!

Market #3 and several (Cold. Rainy.) blocks later: Chicken. Just barely.

Almost lost my mind, but I got a chicken.

Recipe for Grandma Pat’s Chicken & Dumplings:

My grandma gave me this recipe hand-written on small note cards. I love reading it, making it, and eating it. I’ve adapted it a little bit, but it serves about 3-4 depending on how hungry you are.

  • 2 big chicken breasts and 2 chicken thighs/legs (bone-in, skin-on)
  • 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 5 carrots, peeled and sliced into sticks
  • 2 stalks of celery - whole
  • Chicken stock
  • Salt & Pepper

Wash the chicken and place it in a large pot with a tight lid. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle the onions and carrots over the chicken. Lay the 2 celery stalks on top, and pour chicken stock over the top to cover. Simmer uncovered until the chicken is done/tender. Add more salt and pepper at this point. Remove the cooked chicken, discard the celery, and remove the skin and bones from the chicken. Place the chicken pieces in a shallow pan and ladle about a ¼ cup of the stock over the top. Cover with aluminum foil and keep warm in a 200 degree oven. Bring the stock to a boil, and thicken slightly with a water/flour mixture. Whisk it in slowly until the stock is the consistency of thin gravy. Bring to a simmer.

Make the dumplings:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 4 rounded (generous) tsp of baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ stick of butter (soft)
  • ¾-1 cup of milk

In a bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. Then blend in the butter with your fingers. Add the milk quickly – use as little as possible – dough should be sticky.

Dip a clean tablespoon in hot stock and scoop up a large spoonful of dough and immerse it in the pot. Repeat until the pot is full of dumplings (do not crowd) and cover tightly. Don’t peek or else the dumplings will fall! Let it simmer for 20 minutes. When the dumplings are done, check the gravy for salt. Divide the chicken and spoon the dumplings, carrots, and sauce among all the plates. The more sauce, the better! Get cozy and eat up.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Make Steak

When you can’t remember the last time you had steak, it’s time to make yourself some steak. Especially when the October wind nips at your ears, and the cold rain soaks your socks and hem. You need steak. You deserve steak.

Luckily, steak can be a low-stress any-night meal – good news if it happens to be a Thursday, and you’re exhausted, plus aforementioned condition of socks and hem, compounded with dogs that need walking, and laundry that won’t do itself. For example.

Of course, a good NY strip is the stuff of steak fantasy. Sitting at my desk working on budget plans, letting my mind wander as visions of beef dance through my head, I wipe the drool off my keyboard. But lately, my personal budget plan does not allow for NY strip teases. So instead I like to pick up a flank steak or skirt steak at $12 a pound, big enough for dinner and lunch the next day. Add some potatoes, cheese, and greens, and hellllllooo steak dinner.

Make Steak:
Certain cuts of meat really benefit from a marinade while others don't need it at all. Marinate the flank or skirt steak several generous dashes of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and about 3-4 cloves of crushed garlic. Make the potatoes while the meat marinates. Heat the grill and season the steak with salt & pepper. Cook on both sides for several minutes, until done to your liking. I like it pink, so I cook it to an internal temperature of 135 degrees. Slice on the diagonal.

Boursin Mashed Potatoes:
Peel a couple of big yellow potatoes and dice so each piece is about the same size. Boil until they pierce easily with a fork. Drain the potatoes and place back in the pot. Add about one tsp of Boursin cheese per potato used, and mash with some butter and cream. Season with salt and pepper.

Green Salad:
Rinse and dry mixed greens, and toss with a drizzle of grapeseed oil, balsamic vinegar and serve on a slice of tomato. Grate fresh parmigiano over the top.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Gross Expectations

You may have noticed, dear elite group of readers, that I have been away.

Or maybe you really didn't notice. We've all got stuff to do.

This past weekend was the annual New York Wine and Food festival, and I was hoping to be inspired to write something.

No - I was counting on being inspired.

I was, unfortunately, disappointed instead. On Friday I could hardly contain my excitement. I had won tickets (WON TICKETS!!!!) to the sold-out Meatpacking Uncorked event on Friday night. This was a sort of "taste-of-the-meatpacking-district tour," and if you are not familiar with this particular area of the city, it meant very delightful restaurants, not whatever else the words "taste of meatpacking" might bring to mind.

Oh I am SO glad I did not pay for those tickets.

Had I spent $130 to scamper down each block of the district from one absurdly long line to the next, only to be rewarded with a piece of mediocre food the size of my pinky, I would have been really angry rather than mildly put out. The wine-tasting aspect took place in snooty retail storefronts, with equally long lines and often a "one-in, one-out" door policy, complete with asshole bouncer-guy.

And I had so much fun last year at the "SWEET" event.

Oh well. I'll try again next year. At least I was inspired, just not in a good way, like I was hoping. Expecting.