Saturday, November 22, 2008

Girls Cooking Night: Old Favorites

Feeling less creative than usual, and with comfort food weather coming, for the last Girls Cooking Night we decided to all share with each other some of our favorite go-to dishes - the kind you make so often you don't need a recipe.

As so often happens serendipitously with our group, we ended up putting a together a very balanced meal, and a colorful one at that.

We started out with Brownie's sweet potato soup (a dish that she passed on to me years ago and has become one of my favorites too). The secret to the pureed soup is peanut butter (of the Skippy or Jif variety), sriracha sauce, and a squeeze of lime.

My old favorite contribution was beet pasta (click the link for instructions), passed on to me from a German former co-worker of mine. I also made a second dish - first time making it, but hopefully soon to be an old favorite. That was Kenny Shopsin's mac and cheese pancakes. After seeing him make them with Conan O'Brien, and then tasting them in the restaurant, I had to try them at home.

We also had Melissa's kale with feta and raisins - I'm usually not a big fan of kale, but this had me going for seconds! And Marian's delicious chicken curry - I took some for leftovers and was so happy having it for lunch later that week - nothing like sitting at your desk nose all runny and mouth all tingly with the scent of garam masala and cardamom wafting from your office.

For dessert we had Debbie's famous banana mocha cake. I once watched a chubby little 12-year-old kid eat about half this cake single-handedly. It served as a birthday cake, but I won't tell you which one of us is nicknamed Chip.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Danish Lunch in Rockville

I went with my friends to the annual Danish Christmas Bazaar organized by the Danish Club of Washington D.C. this past weekend in Rockville, MD. According to my friend, during the holiday season, lunches are a big event for native Danes. He also said, that the food served for lunch in Denmark was much better than dinner food.

We went to the lunch line, and pretty much, it was an array of opened faced sandwiches. The bread used was a dense dark bread. I got the Fisk Fillet (fried fish with a remoulade sauce) and the Frikadeller (fried meatball) sandwiches.
I also got to try the Leverpostej (liver pate) sandwich- a little soggy and not very liver-y. The Derlaegens Natmad, or Vet's nite snack, consisted of beef and liver pate topped with consomme jelly.

One of the best parts of the bazaar was the Danish baker who was there. We tried danishes made by him, and they were pretty great. The danishes all had marzipan baked into the centers- which created a really nice subtle flavor. We also got Kransekage (marzipan cookies) which were delicious. My friend said they reminded him of New Year's in Denmark.

There was also Danish candy at the bazaar. They had some really good caramels. My friend got a favorite of his, Turkish Pepper, one of the most disgusting candies I've ever had. He said that it was considered spicy for Danes. I don't know what's wrong with the Danish palate, but the candy wasn't spicy- it was just gross. I discourage anyone from trying Turkish Pepper.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Macondo, NYC

Last week we ate at Macondo on the Lower East Side, the casual sister of Rayuela. Basically it's upscale Latin street food. We were starving when we got there, so we started out with shrimp guacamole which the waitress told us was the appetizer special that day. It was gone before she came back to take our order.

We tried a variety of small plates. We started with a carne empanada - really nice crisp corn wrapper and flavorful meat inside. We also got tacos con pernil (pork). These were good, but small for the price - 3 small tacos (on 4-inch diameter sope-sized tortillas) for $15!

I also really liked the flatbread we ordered. The bread itself was kinda like thin crust pizza, but we got ours topped with sweetbreads, mushrooms, caramelized onions, and goat cheese (oh yeah, and there was bacon too - more pork!)

My favorite dish was the funchi con chorizo (above) - polenta
topped with a soft-cooked egg, chorizo of course, and cheese.

The only dish I was disappointed in was the mofongo con conchinillo -- plaintain balls with pork belly. To be fair, it was the last dish to show up, after we'd already gobbled up everything else voraciously. That, and it was not what I expected - I thought it would be fried, like a Latin version of yu tou jiao (the deep-fried mashed taro balls stuff with roast pork that you get at dim sum).

I was happy with the meal, though it was overpriced, but well that's what you get in trendy Manhattan neighborhoods (sigh, I miss when the LES was still divey...)


157 East Houston Street
(212) 473-9900

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wegman's Cooking Class with Sean Patrick Curry

This month's cooking class at the Hunt Valley Wegman's featured Sean Patrick Curry, the executive chef of the Harbor Renaissance Hotel.
His first dish was a butternut squash soup made in a base of apple cider with fennel and chicken apple sausage. I liked that he left chunks of squash and did not over puree it. Somehow, the sausage went really nice with the soup.
For his main course, he made a roast pork tenderloin with a nice marinade of orange juice, ginger, and soy sauce. For a side he made a parsnip quice puree. I love parsnips, and I think this was the first time I've had quince outside of a jam.
Topping it off, he used a pomegranate molasses glaze which was made by just slowly reducing pomegranate juice, balsamic vinegar, and honey.

For dessert, he made crepes filled with pumpkin creme. Alas, it would have been nice to have actually made a fresh crepe for the group.

Octuberfest XI

Last weekend, ol_ironstomach and his wife gubeen hosted their annual Octuberfest celebration at the Slackhaus. I posted about this party last year as I had made redneckhunter's White Trasherole dish and won for favorite of the party.
This time, both fougoo and redneckhunter were able to come down to the party. We were considering making Irish potatoes, but by popular demand, we brought back the White Trasherole.

Gubeen had some nice tuber dishes on hand right away- including potatoes au gratin, raw sunchokes (which were great), and she had some Cornish pastie and a pork pie.

Other dishes included sweet potatoes with marshmallow (it should be the other way) and some potatoes stuffed with cheese.
The winner for favorite of the night was a pastry where stuffed with creamy sweet potato filling. The also had yummy cream puffs in the center.

Jake again made his Lancashire Hotpot. He did not include kidney this year, but it was still spectacular nonetheless. He had it in the oven for about 5 hours and boy, was the lamb so tender and delicious.
Personally, this was again my favorite dish.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Marrow and Venison: Dinner with Foodie Friends in Greenpoint

Fougoo's friend, Andy and his wife invited us over this past weekend for a foodie dinner at their place in Greenpoint in Brooklyn. What a dinner they had planned for us.
We started with some cheeses we got from Saxelby Cheesemongers in the Essex St. Market: a nice stinky raw cow's milk cheese called the Hooligan, and a nice creamy cow and goat cheese blend.
Andy had decided to start us off with an appetizer of bone marrow on toast. It actually was a really simple preparation- toss the bones on a pan, throw it in the oven, 20 minutes, we're ready. Redneckhunter prepped a nice parsley, caper, olive oil mix to eat with the marrow and toast. The marrow was so delicious that Andy's young son demanded seconds and thirds.

For our main course, Andy with the help of Redneckhunter prepped an amazing array of food. For our sides, Redneckhunter made his own unique style of brussel sprouts- with lots of bacon. We also had an amazing root vegetable au gratin consisting of celery root and parsnips with a nice gruyere.

For the main course, Andy made some amazing venison. He started with a gallon of veal broth that he spent the whole day reducing.

He included some red wine and shallots, and right at the end he added some cream. The result was pretty amazing especially with perfectly cooked medium rare venison.
It was an amazing meal nicely paired a Northwest Pinot Noir.

For dessert, we picked up a dozen doughnuts from the Doughnut Plant. I must say, the coconut creme was so heavenly. We also tried some of their seasonal doughnuts, including pumpkin cake and yeast doughnuts and an apple cinnamon.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Joe Squared Pizza in Baltimore

I was really looking forward to trying Joe Squared last week because they at last have a coal oven for their pizzas. The heat from coal is hotter so the crust is a little more crispier and slightly charred.
We tried three kinds: the standard sausage and mushroom, a clams casino (with bacon and clams), and a pesto pizza.
While I think Joe Squared is still working out the kinks of cooking with the new oven, all in all the results were great. The crust, particularly on the edges was perfect. I look forward to going back.

133 W. North Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201
(410) 545 0444