Monday, February 23, 2009

Cooking the 'French Laundry Cookbook' part 1

For Vday, I had decided to cook the gf a nice meal. I broke out Thomas Keller's 'The French Laundry Cookbook', something we've owned for a couple of years now but have been too intimidated to try to cook from. The dish of the night was Keller's take on Mac & Cheese, Butter Poached Maine Lobster with Cream Lobster Broth and Marscapone-Enriched Orzo.

Butter Poached Maine Lobster with Cream Lobster Broth and Marscapone-Enriched Orzo

I have to say, that I started way too late in the day in order to do this correctly. The Creamy Lobster Broth needs to reduce twice, which left the gf and I very hungry (remedied by a quick gnocchi appetizer!). As it started late into the night, I became impatient and the Broth ended up being more watery than I had expected. Even with the wrong consistency, the broth was very strong and very rich. Its sort of scary how rich and thick its supposed to be. I can see why the portions need to be small, as opposed to my large portions.

I tried Keller's method of cooking lobster, which would have been great if I didn't overcook it in the Beurre Monté. But on the upside, now I have a quite a bit of clarified lobster butter.

I also failed on the parmesan crisp. Burning 2 patches before giving up.

The only hints I can give anyone is to give yourself plenty of time and do as Keller says and strain & skim all the time.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken

310 S. Front St, Memphis

The best thing about traveling for work is that it allows me to go to places I would never willingly visit and sample some of the best food in the area. In my initial search for good eats in Memphis, the reoccuring theme was that Gus's was a can't miss. Ed Levine was actually miffed on how Bon Appétit could leave Gus'off of its list of top 3 fried chicken places back in 2007.

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken

Now, I have to be honest here, this is my second trip to Memphis and my second visit it Gus's. My first visit to Gus's was slightly disappointing. I found the batter a bit salty but well flavored and perfectly crisp. Unlike most fried chicken's you find your sort of forgot that it had ever sat in a vat of boiling oil. Even though it was over salted, what impressed me was the marriage between the flavor of the batter and the chicken. Each made the other taste better, It never hurts when the meat is perfectly cooked. Even the breast was tender and moist.

This time around, I made it a point to revisit Gus's, hoping that the salt issues were a one off. I was well rewarded. Gone was the saltiness and boy did that make a difference. What it revealed was a complexity of seasonings, most notably a slight spicyness that was previously undetectable. Although I will have to remember to open the styrofoam container the next time I order to go in order to prevent the slight loss of crispyness that I encounterd.

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken

This time around I also grabbed an order of fried green tomatoes which I found light and crispy and very appetizing. The acidity from the tomatoes brought out an underlying sweetness that I did not expect. I found them pleasently addicting.

Overall? Exremely satisfying.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Potato Gnocchi: Second Attempt

My second battle with gnocchi was a major success. There are two major things that helped me along.

Instead of mashing the potatoes with a fork (to simulate a potato ricer), I used a cheese grater instead. This helped me create a really fluffy grated potato that allowed me to handle the dough a bit more than I was probably supposed to. Hopefully when I get the technique and dough/potato ratio down, using a grater will allow me to create a lighter gnocchi.

Gnocchi dough

The second thing I did was add quite a bit more flour. My original dough was a bit starchy to the mouth and didn't hold well after being frozen. Adding more flour fixed these issues. The thing about gnocchi is that it cooks fairly quickly, which allows you to slowly add flour and test your dough for the correct taste and consistency.

After sitting in the freezer for a couple of nights, I finally found the time to make myself a quick meal. The ragu I created was a little lacking, but the gnocchi tasted great. I was hoping to do a nice simple light sauce with the gnocchi, but I found myself wanting more contrasting textures. I'm thinking maybe a nutty pesto and a nice piece of fish or shellfish next time. Although Mom's braised goat was delicious, it was had a little too much bone for this dish.

Potato Gnocchi


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Guilty Pleasures: Instant Noodles

Last night, after a long bus ride from Boston back to NYC, I needed something comforting to eat. Something easy to make. And what else fits that descrition than a bowl of Top Ramen. For me, it really is a childhood comfort (like mac and cheese).

Growing up, it was always a treat to make some ramen for myself. It was easy. It tasted good. I didn't know any better. During my college years, when I ate it our of neccessity, I learned how to throw away the MSG packets and make it a tastier treat. When it comes down to it, anything you do to ramen, you can do to other staple asian carbs. You can replace it with rice or even better noodles, for the same price. But what you can't replicate is the texture of those noodles. Its that texture that brings me back to my childhood and that's always a good feeling.

What I love about this preperation is that I always end up with extra Japanese curry, which I end up eating with rice (another comfort food I enjoy). Adding parmeson to curry helps add an extra layer of creaminess. The grilled tomato is amazing in this dish. It adds a degree of freshness to a heavy dish, plus a little acidity and sweetness (from the burnt kosher salt). And who doesn't love a poached egg on top of anything.

Ramen with Japanese Curry; onions, grilled tomato, & poached egg

2 packages of Top Ramen
1 4.1 oz packet S&B Golden Curry Hot or any instant curry
1 handful Parmeson rinds (optional)
1 small onion halved and sliced
1 large tomato cut into 1 inch slices
1 large egg
2 handfuls grated Parmeson
3 cups water
1 tbsp hot oil
Kosher salt

Start off by melting some butter in a wok. Add the onions and cook until they became translucent. Add the water and bring to a boil. Add the curry paste(cut into small cubes) and some parmeson rinds(optional). Stir until paste breaks down and sauce becomes thick. Turn down the heat, keeping the curry at a simmer. At this point start working on the rest of the dish while keeping an eye on the curry, stirring occassionally.

Start a 2 pots of boiling water. one for the ramen and another to poach an egg.

Melt some butter in a pan. Cut a tomato into 3 large slices. Sprinkle a little bit of kosher salt on a flat side. Cook the tomato on the pan until you get a slight burn. Turn off the heat in the pan. Let the tomato rest.

Cook the ramen without the MSG packet. Drain. Mix in a little hot oil (pepper flakes soaked in oil). This will add some flavor to the noodles, while keeping them from clumping together.

Put the noodles in a bowl. Add some grated parm on top of the noodles. Pour some of the curry over the noodles and add more grated parm on top. Add the 'grilled' tomato. Poach the egg and add on top.



Monday, February 16, 2009

Green Street Grill

280 Green Street, Cambridge MA

Green Street is one of those local haunts that most people just pass by. But for those in the know, its a great place to get a good meal. Its one of those homey places I have yet to find in NYC. There is generally never a wait for a table, even when our parties grow to 6-8 people. The food is outstanding. The menu changes seasonally and the quality is always up to standard.

The girlfriend and I decided to head over there for an impromptu Valentine's Day dinner. Even without calling ahead (which we did), there were plenty of tables available.

Our orders for the night:
Potato Leek Soup; chives, truffle butter & oil
Duck & Foie Gras Sasuage; crushed almonds, dates
Sage Gnocchi; king oyster mushrooms, parmesan-reggiano & garlic
Spicy Clam Stew; wellfleet clams, house-made fennel sausage, grilled bread white beans & spinach

I do have to preface our experience with the fact that the girlfriend has been feeling a bit under the weather, which affected her ordering and senses a bit.

The soup was a great start. The smell of the truffles alone was enough to win us over. It was a bit creamy for her in her current state, but I though it had a nice subtle creaminess to it. One of those perfect soups for a mid-February night.

I had to have the duck & Foie Gras sausage, I was a disappointed in the sausage itself, as it lacked much Foie Gras flavor or textures. It also seemed a bit dry when eaten alone. But once, I coupled it with the almonds and dates, everything worked well. It was one of those dishes where the textures won you over. A little crunchiness. A little mushiness. And a little bit of in between. The dates were the stars of the dish. The sweetness brought out the flavors of the sausage and the gooiness gave it the texture that I expect from Foie Gras.

The gnocchi was ok at best. It was a light simple dish that needed a bit of pazaaz. It would have been a lot better with a nice white wine, which she wasn't allowed to have. But even with the wine, I would have wanted something to bring out the delicate flavors in the dish. Especially after the flavorful starters we both had.

The spicy clam stew was the highlight of the night for me. It had one of those spices that came into your mouth as an afterthought, allowing you to taste all of the flavors before you got the heat. Everything was great, especially with grilled bread. Since it was more a watery stew, it was great to just put some clam, white beans, and some broth on the bread and munch. It was one of those interactive dishes packed with flavors that I love so much.

Check out Green Street if you are in the area or from the area. It won't disappoint.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bon Chon

Bon Chon was all the rave last year in our little group. But since I was the only one in NYC, their access was too few and far between. But now that the crispy delight has opened up in Boston @ Privus, I have way more opportunity to enjoy the treat. Not only is the price per wing slightly cheaper up north, but I have more friends to share them with. There's nothing like food, drink, & friends.

For those of you who have never had Bon Chon or Korean fried chicken before, you should seek out the opportunity to indulge yourself asap. What you will find is a sticky crunchy wing/drumstick packed with flavor. Especially if you end up getting the spicy version. It's insanely different from your normal southern fried chicken. In fact I'd compare it more to the fried chicken you would get in any Chinese take-out place, kicked up 1000 notches. Its a treat that must be tried.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Gnocchi: First batch jitters Part 2

So some quick research after it seems like I WAS supposed to freeze them before cooking. So maybe my real issue is the consistency with the dough. I did rice the potatoes with a fork...


Gnocchi: First batch jitters Part 1

So it seems I misread the gnocchi recipe. Apparently you are supposed to cook and then freeze, instead of freezing and then cooking like I did. Maybe it doesn't really matter but when I went to cook my frozen gnocchi, it fell apart a bit in the boiling water. I think I need more flour. The flavor is spot on. Execution is a bit off, which is the hard part. I'm going to attempt it again tonight with a potato ricer and maybe even a bench knife.

I think I'll set up the camera for this one too.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Making Potato Gnocchi

I spent 3.5 hours last night making gnocchi. I think I did OK for my first time. Although I have a feeling that my dough isn't consistent enough. Maybe I do need a potato ricer. I wanted to take some pictures of the process, but after everything was said and done, I had forgot. Hopefully I can get some pictures of the final product tonight.