Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Tomorrow, Vetri, Bringing Camera, Can't wait.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Candied Peanuts

Oh My God I cannot stop eating these peanuts.

Friday, after reading Dave Lebovitz's blog, I decided to try his recipe for candied peanuts.

Let me start off by saying, I love candied nuts! I put so many candied walnuts in my fage greek yogurt that I end up with more nut than yogurt, and at Lacroix, I can't stop snacking on the candied cashews (that they make with honey) that go in a butter lettuce salad. This recipe is so simple too, all it takes is sugar, salt, water, and raw nuts.

I jumped upon seeing this recipe then ran to my local nut store (no not a grocery store, a nut store) and picked up some raw peanuts (Though I doubt I can legally post the recipe on my site you can get it here). I mixed the peanuts in a pan with sugar, salt and water then started cooking the mixture over medium heat. The liquid reduced and the peanuts became glazed with sugar. mmm, the further I cooked these the more I felt like I was on the Ocean City boardwalk. I closed my eyes and the cool ocean breeze was blowing in my face, I smelled peanuts roasting, and I was shaking hands with the famous boardwalk mascot, Mr. Peanut, who I still aspire to be. Sorry, I'll stop. I threw that in for my English teacher.

Finally, all the water evaporated and the peanuts were covered with sugar. I lowered the heat and soon a syrup began to develop on the bottom of the pan. I rolled the peanuts around, making sure to cover them with the bronze syrup some call care-a-mel (not me, don't worry).

Basically you can pretend these peanuts are you, and you're out in the sun. You want to get them as deeply bronzed as possible, without burning them. Now let me say this, both times that I made these since Friday (yes I made the recipe twice in three days), the peanuts have smelled like they were burning, however with no visual evidence of this, I continued to cook them according to the recipe. They came out fantastic both times. So if you smell a fire, don't call Smokey the Bear, continue to cook them as directed and they will most likely turn out fine.

After getting them as deeply bronzed as possible, I sprinkled them with cinnamon, gave them a final stir, and spread them out on a baking sheet to cool.

I ate one, then two, then almost half the recipe. These are soooooo good, and like Dave suggests, these make a great present to show someone you care. I gave these to my friend's mom as she was driving me somewhere (because she's always giving me rides) and my friend and his sisters finished them before I got out of the car. Making these peanuts may even be the trick to performing well in school. I performed poorly on my last math test and I'm getting some ideas of who I should give these to. At work, if you're competing for a raise, show off your domestic goddess and sneak your boss a few of these. However you choose to use them, I can almost guarantee they will be enjoyed.

Friday, April 25, 2008

10 Arts

Last Thursday, like all Thursdays, I perused the Food section in the Philadelphia Inquirer in search of the "really really" of the food world. I found that like in New York, a bill might be passed requiring chain restaurants to put calorie information on their menus, that a chicken is as great as its parts, and that 10 Arts is opening May 20th (read previous post here) and that's quite soon!

I loved Chef Eric Ripert's food at Le Bernardin and couldn't wait to get more! I phoned the restaurant and was told by some lady that I couldn't get an opening day reservation but that they were taking reservations for day 2. She apparently wasn't in charge of the whole thing, because she put me on the line with someone else who told me that though they were trying to keep the first night a quiet one, they would take a reservation for two! So I'm going to 10 Arts on opening day, and you can be sure I'm excited.

So who will I bring to this grand occasion? Who's my lucky date? Oh just my mom. I am actually quite thrilled she's going however, because I won't have to pay! On the other hand, she hasn't asked my dad yet, so I might wind up going by myself. But if that happens, you know I can always scrounge up some quick cash.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Main Line Prime

All you MMM's (main line mommas) listen up. I've recently discovered a local gem in Main Line Prime. This new butcher shop has come as a relief to main line home cooks, suffering from the lack of a place to get quality meat.

A good relationship with my local fishmonger (Philadelphia Lobster and Fish) has allowed me to broaden my knowledge on the topic, and to get the best catch, however my meat knowledge is rather lacking. To change this, I turned to Main Line Prime, and found a knowledgeable staff and great products (they even have real Kobe).

So, if you're ever in need of some high quality meat, stray away from Whole Foods and get into Main Line Prime, you'll thank me after dinner.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Corned Beef Finally!

Corned Beef simmering away.

I woke up with a smile on my face today. Why? After five days of longing for some salty, marbled, corned beef, the time had arrived to take it out, and simmer it to ultimate juicyness. I snuck out one minute before the bell, to beat the end of the day rush, and hurried home, cutting off cars, running red-lights, and throwing away John McCain signs in order to get home as quickly as possible (and save our country).

I got home, took out the beef, washed it thoroughly, covered it with water in a big pot and set the timer for three hours. I waited anxiously, in anticapation of my first creation of charcuterie. As the obnoxious timer sounded in my ear, I checked the beef for doneness. It was not quite where I wanted yet. One part of me, eager to dig in to my creation almost pulled out the meat, yet the other part of me, craving perfection allowed the meat to further simmer away.

I took it out when it finally felt ready, let it cool, then dug my greedy paws in.

(It's not the red color you generally get from corned beef and that's because my mom didn't get the necessary pink salt to preserve the color. Yes I know, you're saying "he's the typical teenager blame everything on the mom" however it was my fault as well. I should've reminded her 15 times instead of just 10 to get the pink curing salt, and not "pink himalayan salt." This himalayan salt is cool, and the absence of the curing salt won't change the flavor much, so I guess it's really not a big deal).

I LOVED IT! At first I was uneasy, because I didn't know what to expect, but it tasted wonderful! Very similar to the store bought corned beef, but, better. Anyway, charcuterie will undoubtedly be present in future posts on this blog. I can't wait for future endeavors in this field!!!

Yea I know it looks kinda funky in that picture, my camera is bad.

Egg Nickmuffin

See that? I'm holding a half eaten Egg Nickmuffin. Yes Nickmuffin. That's been a common afterschool snack ever since that fateful day when I purchased 4 dozen duck eggs.

I simply toast then butter an english muffin, then fry a duck egg and stick it between the two halves. That's just the base though. I've added spinach, cheese, bacon, ham, more butter, extra margarine, the possibilities are endless!

Anyway, stay tuned, I'm cooking my corned beef in T-20 minutes.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Braised Brisket

Like I mentioned in my previous post, I bought the whole brisket rather than just the first cut, and as you saw, that a big hunk of meat!! Well over the 5 pounds the recipe called for, and well over the size of my largest pot. But what could I do with this extra meat? Only one idea crossed my mind, Braise It!
Ahh the house-warming delight that is a braise. The method of tenderizing collagen-rich cuts through slow, gentle simmering has been warming households since medieval times. Lately it has almost become a lost art in the home kitchen due to the infamous crockpot. I believe I have the technique down, but if there are any great chefs out there reading this, let me know!

First I seared the brisket in oil over quite high heat on all sides. I then removed it from the pan and poured off any excess oil. I then added mirepoix (onions, carrots, celery) and some garlic and caramelized those goodies before deglazing the pan with some red wine. After that reduced a good bit, I put the meat back in the pan and covered it about 1/2 to 3/4 with beef stock. I threw in some thyme, a bay leaf, and some peppercorns, covered it with some parchment paper with a hole cut in the middle, and let it go at 325 for around 3 hours.

Boy, did the house smell good. In a house filled with cat and dog odors, the smells of cooking are a great relief, and have taken the place of febreze and pot pourri.

I took the meat out when I thought it was tender, let it rest for 30 minutes, then sliced it up. Yes, I should have skimmed and reduced the braising liquid, but it was a Friday and I wanted to go out with my friends ok! The brisket was good, not great. In lieu of my trying to finish up so I could go out, I took it out prematurely, and as a result, it wasn't as tender as I had hoped. Believe me, it was still good though and I would've made it just for the smell.

So, go and try this if your home is infested with dogs and cats, more importantly, try this if you love some delicious, house-warming, flavorful food.

The Braise: Warming homes (and eliminating odors) since medieval times.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Homemade Corned Beef

Today I started curing my own homemade corn beef because lately I've taken an interest to charcuterie, but more importantly, it will be a method of avoiding the fried mystery meat, the soup flavored water, or the baby food (or is that mashed potatoes) from the school cafeteria.

I'm using a recipe from Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn's book Charcuterie that calls for 5 pounds of first-cut brisket. After a lengthy discussion however with my butcher, I decided that I would use the whole brisket, rather than just the first cut. The first cut is the leaner of the two, and is commonly used to make leaner corn beef. That's not good. I want fat, and I want it now!

I got the brisket then proceeded to make the brine, which called for pickling spice, mucho salt, sugar, some pink curing salt, and some garlic. I dissolved the salt and sugar in a gallon of water which I brought to a simmer, then cooled it and put it in the refrigerator, where it is currently waiting for the beef.

Yea don't worry I have pictures

Look at that hunk of meat!

The Brine

Roast Chicken

That's what it looks like after I get my hands on a good roast chicken.
Roast chicken is one of my favorites and it can be sooooo simple too.

Listen, to this, go to this website and make the roast chicken. It is originally from the Bouchon cookbook, by Thomas Keller and is the simplest, most delicious roast chicken I have ever had. If you really want to impress a dinner party, you might consider brining the chicken the night before to make it extra juicy.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Yesterday at Lacroix, I was introduced to Orecchiette. This are tiny ear shaped pasta who's name literally translates to "little ears." They are made with semolina flour, water, and salt, and kneaded for a long time to create a dense, tough, pasta dough. This makes them tiny, dense, wonderful pasta, when made right that is.

Yesterday I helped a coworker to shape the dough into the "little ears." He told me that he had come 30 minutes early because it would take a long time to make the pasta. "That's something that's great about working at Lacroix, they don't take shortcuts" I thought.

I left work early to go to dinner for my mom's 30th birthday (I'm scoring brownie points for saying that). We went to a small Italian place right off Rittenhouse square. The restaurant was dimly lit, and a piano man was playing obscenely loud. We were seated in a comfortable booth towards the back of the restaurant. A waitress came over and introduced the specials, two of which had broccoli rabe. I looked past the 4 or 5 other selections with broccoli rabe, and was delighted to find orecchiete! I ordered these, excited to taste the soulfully prepared little ears.

Unfontunately, this blog post does not have a happy ending. Rather than the tiny hand shaped pasta I had made at Lacroix, I received the shells that you get out of the Benne box! I almost got mad, before remembering all restaurants aren't like Lacroix, and that at times, short cuts are necessary. Next time, I go to a restaurant of this caliber, my expectations will not be so high, and I will be more easily satisfied. Sometime in the next few weeks however, I will be dining at Vetri, and for that, my pasta better be homemade!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Cooking Fish

I had brilliant ideas of a steamed halibut, a silky asparagus puree drizzled with a fruity olive oil, crisp roasted fingerling potatoes to offset the delicate fish and puree, and some watercress dressed with vinaigrette, to add some acidity. Sounds good doesnt it? Yes, well those plans were thwarted by my mom, who told me I had really run up the grocery bill this week (which I had) and asked if I would wait till next week to do my experiment. I reluctantly agreed, and simply cooked some salmon by itself.

Now the topic of this post wasn't to tell you about a salmon dish I made, rather it was to inform you on how to cook it to the appropriate doneness.

See that picture up there, that salmon is medium rare. How do I know? Did I hack it open after I took the photo? Did I cut a slit on the other side then flip it over? No! I inserted that metal skewer that you can see, touched it to my lower lip, found it to be medium rare, and then hacked it up to make sure I was right.

Ok to determine the doneness of fish insert a metal skewer for 5 seconds through the side, touch to your lip and if it is...
slightly warm=medium rare
quite warm=medium
hot= somewhere past medium
It will take a little while to get use to, but it will change your skills from McDonald's mystery fish fillet sandwich cook, to Le Bernardin poisonnier, well almost.