Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Grilled Corn Salad with curried, grilled chicken

Corn, garlic, red onion, lime juice, olive oil, avocado, feta cheese, tomato, parsley, basil

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Monday, July 27, 2009


If you've never been to Lacroix for Sunday brunch (and if you haven't you really must go), it is a lavish buffet of extreme proportion. Though I haven't been to dinner or lunch there in a while, brunch at Lacroix is probably my favorite meal in the city. There's just soooo much, and so much is delicious. In the dining room, the appetizers are spread out on a long table, things like duck croissants, grilled cheese with prosciutto, brie and Parmesan, grilled octopus with mango hot sauce, and one of my favorites, foie gras mousse encased in ganache and topped with tomato powder and fleur de sel. You think you're done but then your server shows you that there is a whole new assortment of hot food in the kitchen! Things like duck confit with sour cherries and polenta, curried lamb necks and Malaysian barbecued pork shoulder. Anyway, the point is, the guests get to go back in the kitchen where the cooks are working to get their hot food.

Anyway, let's flash back to Sunday at 7 o' clock in the morning. I woke up at seven on the dot to the sound of my alarm. Myself being an idiot, I turned the alarm off and told myself I would lie in bed for a few minutes (I should've known from past experience that that is always a bad idea). I lay in my bed staring at my ceiling, and I quickly fell back asleep, not thinking about how I would have to leave my house at 7:30 to get to Lacroix by 8 (when the shift starts). My dad came into my room and woke me up at 7:25 and I scrambled to get dressed. I neglected breakfast, grabbed my knives, and ran out the door. We left (my dad drove me) at exactly 7:30 and I actually arrived at Lacroix around 7:55.

Now everything would've been fine, and gone completely normal for the rest of the day, had I not, in my mad dash to get out the door, forgotten to shave. The head honcho chef was not amused in the least. He told me to go and shave immediately, and that I could borrow a razor from Pat (co-worker). I thought he was completely joking at first. I smiled but the expression was not returned. He wasn't joking. I asked Pat for a razor, but he didn't have one. He said he would find one for me, but there was none to be found. On a Saturday, coming in unshaven is bad, but not a huge problem. On Sundays however, when guests are coming in and out of the kitchen to get their food, being unshaven is a felony.

Throughout the day I was constantly reminded that I was unshaven, was forced to remain in the back cold-prep room where I was barely visible to guests, and was told that I was lucky I wasn't sent home. I went to the bathroom and found that in my opinion I really didn't look very bad at all.

I was pretty annoyed, and I really didn't think it was a big deal, but the people at Lacroix (or at least the head honcho) do, and it's refreshing to know that. It's reassuring to know that somebody cares about the details, that someone holds their standards for the restaurant so high that he won't let an unshaven cook be seen by a guest. This, is why I'm working at Lacroix. High standards on this front translates to high standards in other fronts, and I'm pleased to be working in a restaurant whose chefs care.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sweet, spicy peanut butter

If you're looking to economize, doing more yourself (not just terms of food), is a great place to start. Greater appreciation for the food your preparing is a common side-effect. I've talked about this before (breaking down whole chickens rather than buying their parts, curing your own meats etc.) but making peanut butter is unlike these other examples in that it really requires no knowledge or skills on your part, making it an extremely easy way to cut out the middle man. For the most basic butter, toss some plain peanuts in your processor and watch em go. Feel free to add embellishments as you please (honey, maple syrup, maybe a little peanut oil to thin it out etc).
I roasted these peanuts with some salt, butter and brown sugar then threw em' in the food processor with some cayenne, paprika, and smoked black pepper to make kind of a bbq peanut butter.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Italian Market I love you so

Lamb necks (from the market) and gnocchi.

Monday, July 20, 2009

More Pizza

I don't think there's a better way to get someone over your house than to tell them you're making pizza for lunch. I'm really into this now, making a small four slice pizza that showcases the best that summer has to offer, and inviting someone over to enjoy it with me. Pizza is the best food to set a relaxing summer mood. It just screams informality. It's weird how food so often evokes a mood.
To be honest I didn't make this sauce from homegrown tomatoes. I used crushed San Marzano's. I sauteed some garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil before removing them and swirling in the tomatoes. I left the sauce chunky. I think it's best that way.

I topped the pizza with the sauce, provolone cheese (that's what I had), pork sausage from a local farmer's market, pecorino and basil from my garden. The dough was made using Ruhlman's 5 to 3 flour to water ratio, and this time I remembered to halve the yeast to keep the crust from puffing too much.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Good Summer Lunch

This right here's a salad of Lancaster radicchio, pecans, dried cherries, brisket and goat cheese with a homemade roasted red pepper vinaigrette which I sweetened with a fair amount of honey to cut the radicchio's bitterness.

From the Farm

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Apple Pancakes

A week ago I ate with a few friends at Uncle Bill's Pancake House down the shore. One of my friends ordered pancakes with an apple cinnamon topping. I tried some and found it to be largely unimpressive. The apple topping was clearly from a can, and it was really quite gloppy, gloopy, and gross. I promised him that I would make him the same thing at home, and that it would be 5 times better.

To do so, I peeled an apple and cut it into small chunks like I do to make a pie. I don't do the typical large slices because I find that I enjoy is more when the apples are cooked through and give little resistance when pierced. I find that this way they are more uniform with the syrupy juices surrounding them and the whole mixture is pretty consistent and smooth. I tossed them with some sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, lemon juice and a little apple butter, and let them sit for a few minutes to extract some juices, before cooking them down with a little butter in a saucepan. I cooked down the syrup so that it glazed the apples, and it was delicious, but next time I won't reduce it as much and I'll leave the glaze less viscous to that it's more like syrup.

Meanwhile, I made the pancakes using Ruhlman's 2 part liquid, 2 part flour, 1 part egg and 1/2 part fat ratio. I didn't have any buttermilk, so I instead used a mixture of half and half and vanilla yogurt. The yogurt added some vanilla flavor and slight tang. I used a tsp of baking powder for every 5 oz of flour and melted butter for my fat. I combined the dry and wet ingredients separately then combined them, mixing as little as possible to minimize gluten formation.

Luckily (else I would've gotten really red in the face and ran out of my house) my friend liked them better than Uncle Bills! Now if I could only rent a house down the shore, spruce up the dining room, and hire some waitresses...


I looked around my kitchen the other day and found that I had cucumbers pickling on the counter top, brined pork loin smoking on the grill, and brisket being brined into corned beef. I've become obsessed with methods previously used to preserve foods. Obviously these methods are nowhere near as necessary now with refrigerators and freezers and such, but my fondness for food preservation owes itself, in part, to the fact that these items do keep for a relatively long amount of time.
I live at home obviously, and I cook as much as possible, however there isn't always someone to eat my food. Pickles, or corned beef, or Canadian bacon can stay in the fridge for a while, and be eaten whenever one feels like it. Also, though if I braised a brisket, I would most definitely not be able to finish it myself at the time I cooked it, but if I made it all into corned beef, I have no doubt that I could single-handedly devour it in a week's time. If there was always someone here, at the ready to eat my food, I would be roasting chicken, or making pancakes, or sauteing fish a lot more often.
I started preserving food because there wasn't always someone to cook for, but my appreciation for it continues because preservation is usually accompanied by complete and utter transformation. I've talked about this before, but when you can take a lean, dry pork loin, and transform it through brining into a moist, succulent, flavorful and salty piece of meat, it amazes me and makes me feel accomplished. I don't find raw cucumbers the least bit appealing, yet I have no problem eating pickles straight from the jar. This is the cooking I love, and this is the cooking I will continue.

(These pickles went into a bring of garlic, red pepper flakes, and lime juice. The water is really red and murky because after I made the brine, I tasted it, and it wasn't spicy enough, so I squirted in a hefty amount of sriracha. They came out tasting good, not great. I'll definitely add more lime juice next time and maybe a little vinegar to give them some extra acidity, or maybe I'll just do it Ruhlman's way and let them develop a natural sourness by leaving them to brine uncovered)

Village Whiskey Burger

The burger at Jose Garces' new spot, Village Whiskey, which is set to open in August, looks AMAZING! Check it out on Grub Street Philadelphia (which by the way just started).

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hey Look!

If you wanna see some posts that took me 10 minutes tops to put together, check out the last few. If you'd like to see some time and work and effort, check out the Beach post!

Bacon-Chocolate Bar

To me the idea of bacon and chocolate sounds delicious. When I think of the combination, I picture crispy, salty, fatty, bacon in melted, sweet chocolate. It seems like the ultimate overindulgence, and, well, really frikin good.

This bar, which I recently noticed in whole foods however, did not meet my fantasy. It was fine and all, but there wasn't enough bacon flavor. It tasted smoky forsure, but it didn't really taste like bacon. Smoke, salt, and chocolate is a good combo and the bar was fine, but I was really pining for some profound bacon flavor. I guess Ill have to make my own...

Friday, July 10, 2009


When the berries are local and in-season, they're so inspiring.

Blueberry Pie with a Crumb Topping.
I don't follow recipes any more for pie. I just add sugar (more often brown) and spices and salt and starch (flour and cornstarch) and lemon juice to my taste. Doing it to your own personal taste is better anyway. Whenever I make apple pie, I add about 4 times the amount of cinnamon that is called for, cause that just what I like! I also always add both cornstarch and flour. I just tried it once and found out that it worked great! Cornstarch thickens immediately, so I guess it's like a little insurance in case your filling never comes to a boil (at which point the flour would thicken it). I prefer thicker pie fillings so I add more starch than is usually called for, but not so much that I get jello when I cut my pie.
Why the crumb topping? Crumb topping is so easy and convenient, you can just store it in your freezer until your ready to use it then just throw it on your pie when you're ready to bake. On the bottom is an all-butter pie crust, which just tastes so frikin good I can't get over it. Ruhlman recommends a 3-2-1 flour to butter to water ratio for pies, but I've found that a 5-4-3 works great for me. 10 oz flour (bout 2 cups), two sticks of butter, and 6 oz (or just enough so that your dough comes together) of water, makes just enough for 2 crusts.

Cherry Cream Cheese Tart?
I had no more pie crust left, so I just spread the bottom of a pan with cream cheese, topped that with a mixture of cherries sugar, brown sugar, lemon juice, a touch of nutmeg and cinnamon, melted butter, and a little cornstarch. I topped that with some leftover crumb topping. I loved it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Peanut Butter- Nutella- Banana Tart

Late-Night Boredom has sparked many great ideas.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


I'm trying to go out to eat less and less. Unless it's a nice restaurant whose food I want to experience, the only reason I go out to eat anymore is to be with company. At home I can cook my food, the way I want it, and have it be just as good, healthier, and much less expensive than anything I can get at Corner Bakery Cafe. I've been appreciating these restaurants less and less as my culinary repertoire and my interest in procuring a quality (farm fresh, local, sustainable) product grow. An Independence day-weekend trip down to the Jersey shore however, has changed my mind, at least somewhat.

I pulled into Ventnor after a long trip down the Atlantic City expressway (that's right I drove myself!) and as I drove down Ventnor Ave, I couldn't suppress a grin. I love the feel of the place, the air, the breeze, the seawater stench. I pulled up to a red light and the passenger in the car to my left looked at me awkwardly as I sat there oddly smiling to myself. Perhaps what I most admire about the town, and most of the others around Ventnor (obviously not Atlantic City) is that they're largely untainted. They're free of the ruthlessness of big business and they're unique. The pace of life feels slow and relaxed, and though I tend to get antsy when I'm not doing something productive (productive in my mind that is) I'm perfectly content staring at the water, admiring the peacefulness for hours on end, thinking about how the tide mirrors life; highs and lows come and go, and really, the only constant is change. Though they're all little towns along the Jersey coast, Margate, Ventnor, Ocean City, etc are hardly uniform, and each one has its own gems.

These gems include some of the local eateries which garner much praise from summer residents. Uncle Bills Pancake House is one of such places. It's main colors (blue and white) immediately remind me of Ihop, but the feel of the place, the ambiance, the service, has the complete opposite effect. I've said that lunch at Per Se is more experience than dinner, and I think that breakfast at Uncle Bills (a very small chain with a few places in South Jersey) is an experience in its own right. It's just plain fun to eat at Uncle Bills. If I could say the same for my local Ihop, I'd be going out to breakfast a lot more often.

My experience at Uncle Bills was not unlike my experience at other restaurants down the shore. To eat at these restaurants for me, feels like eating a big chunk of Americana. The business, the atmosphere, the style, almost makes me feel connected to generations before my own. The food at these places on the other hand, most definitely does not deserve the rave reviews it receives. I found that an omelet at a breakfast place known for their omelets was no better or worse than what I can get at similar stores places back home, and I guarantee that anyone reading this can take this recipe , throw a glob of butter on top, and have pancakes just as good, if not better than Uncle Bills'. The challenge is creating a home kitchen with the same charm, the same vibe, the same nostalgia that Uncle Bills provides.

Thinking of myself as a very objective investigative reporter on the matter, a sudden realization that I myself am not immune to this effect shocked me. As a child I always went to Ocean City, and I have my fair share of places that I regard as "the best." After not having gone there in a few years, I retried a few places that I regarded as heavenly. The fudge from one such place really was just ok and the ice cream from another was average, but eating them on the boardwalk with friends and the ocean, and the breeze made them more than worthwhile.

In the end maybe it just comes down to the fact that these places are down the shore, but the larger point remains. Food is often looked at as the most important element in a successful restaurant, and I don't disagree with this, however I don't doubt that the other elements necessary for a successful restaurant can "team up" and push the food to the back burner, or maybe just off the power burner. Great nostalgia, atmosphere, and service, working in tandem would have me eating out a lot more, even if the food stayed the same, which really is quite a basic idea that probably didn't deserve such a long post. But hey, what's wrong with a little experiment in sociology to back up a basic concept? Oh and by the way, Uncle Bill's definitely has the cutest waitresses ;)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Homemade Pizza


One of my favorite things to make.