Monday, March 29, 2010

Full Disclosure

Last week I went back to Curry Hill and tried the Chicken Tikka Masala at Dhaba, and it had all the qualities I wanted: rich and creamy, well-executed chicken, sufficiently spicy. Plus, the lunch special came with naan. Hurrah! I still want to visit Curry Leaf and sample their fare. I suspect I’ll do that sometime this week. I also found a fantastic Middle Eastern Market that I could have lost myself in for hours had I not been on my lunch break. They offered fantastic goods not found in most local supermarkets, including a wide-array of hookahs. Although I find smoking utterly disagreeable, I am fascinated by these devices. I imagine myself lounging on a giant mushroom-esque pillow with slippers, ala the Caterpillar from Alice and Wonderland, puffing away and saying WHO. R. U?

But this was not really what I wanted to get into today. Today I wanted to share my exciting and disquieting news.

I am leaving New York for whiter, colder pastures. Many of my friends and family have been informed, so I must now share the news that I will be moving back to Minneapolis in about a month. I am fully thrilled. I am absolutely freaked out.

Thrilled because Minneapolis is my home. I love it there. Freaked because the whole process of relocating sucks, quite frankly. For me, at least. I don’t find it one bit rousing, no matter how wonderful the destination. My husband’s job is typically the main culprit, which always leaves me floundering to find a new one, and this time around is no exception. So if my writing is/has been a little off, please forgive me. I fully intend to keep up with blogging when I move, which brings me to my top ten reasons I’m psyched to bring Breakfast & Bed to Minnesota:

1- Spending quality time in the kitchen with my Mom/Step dad & my Dad/Step mom
2- The Minneapolis Farmers Market
3- The food at the Minnesota State Fair
4- The local grub. Walleye!
5- The Heavy Table
6- Cooks of Crocus Hill
7- All the amazing restaurants I used to love
8- All the amazing restaurants I have yet to discover
9- Eat Street
10- Above all, cooking and eating with family and friends

I admit it: I'll miss my cute little New York kitchen!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Curry Me Softly

Work has been fairly busy lately, leaving me little time to cook, let alone go on any food adventures. I hadn't gone on a food adventure in a while, until I found myself on one last Friday quite by accident.

The weather in New York on Friday was beautiful. Stunning. So fabulous, that no matter how busy your schedule, you simply had to make time to go for a walk outside. Here's the thing about the neighborhood I work in - the food pickings are not so hot. It's just South of the Empire State Building between Broadway and 5th, next to a McDonalds, Subway, and Quiznos. I don't get out for lunch much. On this lovely particular Friday I decided to "Google Map" the phrase, "New York Restaurants" and zoom in on my little area, within a certain radius. The results were as I expected. Sparse. Blah.* However, I did notice a concentrated cluster of dots at about 28th and Lexington, exactly 4 long blocks East of me. So naturally I decided I had to check it out.

As I reached my dotted destination, it suddenly dawned on me: I found Curry Hill.

Remember several months back you voted to send me to Curry Hill, I wound up with squid, but promised I'd go to Curry Hill at some point? Well, I went. The cluster of dots on the Google map was actually the high-concentration of Indian restaurants in the area, hence the original name, "Little India," now more commonly known as "Curry Hill" (because it's just South of the Murry Hill neighborhood. Ha ha get it?).

Let me quickly mention that I am, at this particular moment in my life, Obsessed (yes, capital "O") with Chicken Tikka Masala. It has become my ultimate comfort food. I adore it and long for it and savor it. The problem with this dish (which also happens to be the wonderful thing about this dish) is that there is no one way to make it, so every place you try it will be slightly different.

This is a problem for me because, being the food adventurer that I am, I really will need to try every single possible version of Chicken Tikka Masala before I am satisfied. So far my favorite has been from Tandoori on the Upper West Side. I have had many others that have been good. But not as good. Will I order from Tandoori again? Possibly. But as long as there are more versions for me to try, I will be out there trying them all. Which is all at once frustrating and exciting and disappointing and exhilarating.

This brings me back to Curry Hill, where I am trying to decide where to sample the Chicken Tikka Masala. I land on "Curry in a Hurry," because a.) that establishment helped give rise to the original neighborhood nickname and b.) I was in a hurry. I had to get back to work.

The dish was good. Still not my favorite. Wouldn't get it again. At least I know now that I am a short walk away from exploring more Chicken Tikka Masala recipes. If I find one that beats Tandoori, I'll let you know.

*I feel I should disclaimer this: There are a few bright spots around for midday lunches. Koreatown is lovely. Shake Shack is delightful. But I usually only have enough time to grab and go. And Shake Shack lines are at least a 45 min wait on a crap-weather day. I haven't even tried it on a nice day.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


While engaging in massive-scale Spring cleaning today, I came across three 2009 issues of Gourmet magazine. I don’t like clutter, so I’m not surprised that only three survived. But I was disappointed. I’ve been feeling very nostalgic lately for this particular publication. The gorgeous, full-page photos. The stories. Ruth. Sigh. How depressing is it that the first thing I thought of was framing the covers for display on my wall, like they are retro pop art? I suppose it's a tribute to the magazine, really – and its elegant art direction and beautiful (IMHO) interpretation of food.

Thank goodness for the wide community of writers and bloggers that keep me informed, entertained, enlightened, artistically fulfilled, and well-fed. A colleague when I was working Kitchen Conservatory, and someone I follow on Twitter, Kelly of is always talking about “crack corn” - an affectionate moniker she uses to describe popcorn tossed with truffle salt. I decided this would make a fantastic cleaning day snack.

I found some black truffle salt at Chelsea Market about a month ago, and I since have been trying to find the perfect way to enjoy it. (Aside from the tip of my finger. Straight from the jar. I’m not ashamed.) Fresh popcorn is a blank canvas to display the subtle truffle taste. I don’t have a special popcorn-popping contraption. Just a stove, a 3 qt. pot, and a lid. That’s all it takes. And the kernels of course. And a little vegetable oil. And, of course, truffle salt.

Here’s how: with a 3 qt. pot, measure 2 tbsp of oil and 1/3 cup of kernels and pour 'em in. Turn on the heat to about medium, and cover the pot so a little steam can escape. Wait for that magical popping sound, and when it starts to wind down to silence, take the pot off the stove. Transfer the popcorn to a big bowl. If you have a heart-failure-induced-death-wish-crippling-weakness-for-butter similar to my own, drizzle some melted butter over the popcorn before tossing with truffle salt. Indulge. You’ll never eat the microwave stuff again.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


This photo. Impressive.

Picture yourself, perhaps even in black & white in 50’s-style garb and ruffled apron, smiling effortlessly as you place this roasting pan in your oven. An hour or so later, you pull it out, and voila! Is it Thanksgiving? Is it Christmas? Why, no - it’s just another Fabulous day of being Fabulous.

The best part is that it’s actually not. Impressive. But that can be our dirty little secret.

No, seriously. I’ll count it on one hand: #1 A whole chicken #2 Chopped shallots #3 Grapes (red and green for extra glamour) #4 Chopped thyme and #5 Staples: Salt, pepper and olive oil. That’s all there is to it. No, seriously.

I found this recipe somewhere in a recent Bon Appetit; I can’t remember which issue, but the simple and unusual combination of ingredients caught my attention. Plus, I’m a big fan of #1 Easy-yet-big-impact meals #2 Roasting whole chickens #3 Shopping lists I don’t have to write down #4 Less dishes to wash and #5 Leftovers.

Abridged Recipe for Impressive Roasted Chicken & Grapes:

Place a whole chicken in a roasting pan and rub with olive oil, salt and pepper. Stuff the bird with several sprigs of thyme. In a large bowl, toss the different kinds of grapes with the chopped (quartered) shallots, chopped thyme, and a little olive oil. Arrange the grape-shallot mixture around the edges of the pan. Roast at 400 for an hour to an hour and a half, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees throughout the meat.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Big Black Banana

Do you ever pick items out at the grocery store that you have absolutely no idea what purpose they will serve in your upcoming meal plans? That's my story. I am a total impulse-grocery shopper. Occasionally I'll know what I want, and successfully leave the store with only those ingredients. But it's not likely.

Which is, as I type this now, how I came to have a covered pot on my stove containing chicken, coconut milk, basil, jalapenos, and ginger. And a big black banana on my counter.

I just peeked in the pot. Oof. It's pretty ugly in there. And by ugly I mean totally nasty looking. I have no recipe for whatever the hell I am doing.

I just hope it ends up tasting good.
I just hope my husband doesn't abandon me for Chinese take-out.

Last night:
"Is that a big black banana in our fridge?" -Nathan
"No, it's a plantain." -Me

The real question here: What exactly did I think I was going to do with a plantain? All I know is that you grill 'em, fry 'em, whatever. Well, I hope they taste ok with this crazy coconut experiment. I'm making a double batch of rice just in case this whole operation goes South.

So, I just checked again, and it still looks pretty gross, but I think the chicken is about done. I shredded it and now its just sort of sitting in this coconut-ginger-basil-jalapeno swamp. Hmm. Alright pot, step aside; I'm going to fry me some plantains...

Well, that was pretty easy. All I did was heat up some vegetable oil in a frying pan and cook on each side of the sliced plantain until golden brown. Let's taste test this chicken... oops, I dropped a piece on the floor, splashing white coconut milk on my black pug. Well, the dogs seem to like it. Me: chewchewchew. Kinda bland. Needs a little salt.

The verdict: It actually turned out okay. I liked it. Not one of my favorites, but good. Nathan liked it. The dogs liked it. This is why I love to experiment.