Archive for July, 2009
It’s arguably long overdo. About three years now I’ve been tinkering around in kitchens doing my best to follow a recipe or practice a technique, but like any independent study, without a syllabus to help guide my direction, it’s safe to say that I’ve been all over the place with my culinary exploits.
The salmon burger isn’t exactly the most original idea these days. Most establishments that bill themselves as seafood or above average dining have some variation of a fish burger. My experiences have been lack luster. More often than not, the fish is dry and chewy, the tartar sauce doesn’t add much flavor or completely overwhelms the fish, the bun is too hard. In short: not worth my $15.
But a little while back I had lunch at Michelle Richard’s Central and spotted their tuna burger on the menu. My mind flashed all the failed executions and disappointed burgers I had had up to that point. I hesitated. “How is the tuna burger?” I asked our server. Her eyes rolled into the back of her head, a tiny smile curled her lips pausing just a second longer than she normally would have before saying, ”It’s excellent.” Sold. Have to trust in involuntary reaction like that. The burger was indeed heaven. Soft, buttery brioche buns encasing a delicate and tender tuna pattie with a rich, tangy sauce to complement. My faith was renewed. This little burger would be a new project. But I’d still need to figure out a good recipe.
Nothing like another established French chef exploring American cuisine to point me in the right direction. Did you know Hubert Keller has a PBS show? I didn’t either until one Saturday morning, after my 2nd cup of coffee, 3rd asprin and 1st bowl of cereal, I stumbled on his little show. Nothing fancy, just standard PBS programing, but it took me a few seconds to process what he mentioned he would be cooking that day. Did he say salmon burgers?! I must still be drunk. No effing way.
Ok, enough lobster talk. Who says decadent has to be hard work and fancy ingredients? I wouldn’t say I need to toil and experiment with the fancier ingredients, but I do enjoy trying something different. But then there are days when I’m tired of searching for the hard to find stuff, when I just want the simple ingredients ton stand on their own, when you want give the most basic of items their due as something whole and delicious unto themselves. You want to give them their 15 seconds of fame if you will.
I’m the first to admit that my budding interest in photography can’t be considered as anything more than a amateur hobby, but it’s trips like a weekend in NYC that make me really wish my skills were more impressive. Of course, lugging around a somewhat expensive SLR camera through the streets of the city the whole time has some inherent drawbacks as well. Especially if you’re prone to dropping things and drinking during the day.
If you’re really looking for some top notch photography around NY, the blue hour has quickly become one of my favorite photo blogs. Brian has a great eye for capturing shots that are a smaller part of the whole and he knows how to make the most of his light. Based out of Brooklyn, his pics make you feel like your walking the streets of his neighborhood, which is a lot harder to do than you would imagine.
So until my skills improve, here’s a sliver of what I saw while visiting the big apple..
“A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit to satisfy
Insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not fergit
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to”
– It’s Alright Ma
I’m not sure I will get sick of posting about lobster… ever. So may as well let the lobster stock usages post when they come. Since I have enough stock to last me until Christmas, there’s a good chance this wonderful trend won’t be ending any time soon.
Lobster Stock Usage #1: Risotto (I know, shocking)
It’s no secret I was a little disappointed with the the Great Lobster Bake of ‘09, but it was still a day spent sitting outside with friends, drinking Pimms and beers, and cracking open fresh seafood, so I have no right to complain. In fact, despite the cooking frustrations, looking at the foot tall pile of emptied shells and carcases I realized that there was still one more thing I could try my hand at making: lobster stock!
As excited as I get about making a proper dish or trying a new technique, lately I’ve really been getting amped up when given an opportunity to make a cooking staple from scratch that I can save andreuse as I see fit. And given how much stock I was able to make with the already cooked shells, I can’t recommend enough how fantastic it is take advantage of crafting up this wonderfully deceadant treat.
“The best-laid plans of mice and men / Go oft awry” – Robert Burns
As an amateur homecook there are certain levels of failure I’ve come to expect. I know that I’m going to butcher a fish filet here and there. I know any time I say we’re eating at 8pm, we’re probably not eating until 11. I know some flavor or texture is going to be missing which will compromise the intended design of a dish I’ve researched. I get that, it’s to be expected and my friends are well aware these shortcomings are part letting me take over a kitchen. God knows why they still let me take the reigns.
But one thing I have learned many times over, is to never, EVER trust an internet recipe. And yes, I’m well aware of the irony of a food blogger making that statement. Be skeptical. Trust no one. Don’t even trust me. And when you do drop your guard to see if someone can actually give you usable instructions, try it on yourself or a small group with cheap ingredients.
So when Sparkles and I decided we should rally our gang together for a good ol’ New England Lobster Fest, I don’t know what the hell I was thinking by ignoring my own advice. I figured doing a lobster bake would be interesting, fun and easier than individually boiling 8 lobsters. Fool that I am.
If you do want to steam a lobster(s) you need a lot of steam and pressure so that they will cook quickly and all the way through. Julia Child recommends putting a weight on the pot lid to pressure cook the lobster even faster. This is not a job for mild, half ass heat. If you’re still worried you may not have the right equipment just use the biggest pot you have, bring the water to a furious boil and add your lobsters (a couple at a time) head first to the water for 10-12 minutes depending on their size. Remove and cool.
The classic lobster bake, while frustrating, is still one of those indulgent events that does not fade quickly from memory. It’s an event that when done well is simply what I live for. When done poorly, it’s still an afternoon of friends, drinks and all the lobster you can eat. Tread delicately, but tread. What follows is a cautionary tail.
And now part deux of the divoreee vacay extravaganza..
Obviously no 4th of July celebration is complete without that culinary American icon, the burger. And don’t get us wrong, we love juicy, meaty burgers (along with apple pie and freedom). But, it is equally obvious that divorcee vacay calls for a bit of panache, something beyond the red meat and yellow cheese standard. This last point is especially important, as no cheese connoisseur with any street cred is going to slap a Kraft single on a meat patty and call it a day.
It’s not unusual for me to read a cookbook cover to cover. I’m the guy on public transportation flipping through some dense Jaime Oliver book making notes and earmarking pages. But I’ve started to realize that my favorite recipes to cook, the ones that really challenge and intrigue me, are the recipes passed on from generation to generation.
Those are the dishes that invoke that nostalgic silence when someone just closes their eyes and remembers something. Being able to recreate that kind of familiarity for someone has to be one to the best parts of tinkering around in the kitchen.
So when my buddy Leandro, laments about his childhood in Argentina and all the food his parents would make from scratch when he was a child, I never miss a chance to ask him to dig up an old family recipe. He’s an allusive bastard about it. He’ll dodge me with, “It’s just this and that. There’s nothing special about it.” But we both know better. His folks can make magic in the kitchen.
Editor’s Note: Please give a warm welcome to AMF’s good friends and newest contributors, Sparkles (Allison) and Master P (Paula). Being the wine drinking, sunloving, danceaholics that they are, I’m really pleased to have them share their culinary adventures and cocktail making hotness.
To be clear, we are not divorced (from each other or otherwise). Excluded from a college boys weekend, unable to convince two other bffs to join us and desperate to leave our respective cities (DC and NYC), we are vacationing just the two of us on the small, quaint island of Anna Maria, Florida. Hence, we feel like divorcees and intend to drink, eat and sun bathe accordingly.
Once you get on the island, it’s hard to leave (and not a good idea after wine in the afternoon) so we make sure to shop for the whole trip. Brilliantly, we acquire ingredients that can be re-used in innovative ways (ie if you buy enough different cheeses, you are pretty much set for days.)
Cocktail Hour Menu:
Libation – Mojitos with pineapple infused rum and coconut water
Appetizer – Grilled, halved peaches with honey vanilla ricotta
We begin our late afternoon with a cocktail “project.” Located in the fruit aisle, next to the peaches, we found coconuts, silly, fury little guys, just begging to be taken home (despite the obvious question: what does one do with a whole coconut?) Before we do anything, we slice up pineapple and throw it in a bowl and cover it with rum to let the rum seep in. (Snacking on rum soaked pineapple is pretty fantastic, as well.) We then take our coconut into the garage and discover a power drill! We hold the coconut over a bowl and drill! until we pierce through the shell, then add another hole for air flow and drain the coconut juice into a bowl to be thrown into a mojito with rum soaked pineapple, fresh crushed mint, more rum, simple syrup and a little club soda. Perfection!
Onto the appetizers! We preheat the grill on medium heat, then take a peach and half it, pulling out the pit and coat each half in olive oil, then throw them face down on the grill and close the cover. We mix ricotta with honey and a little vanilla while we wait. Once grill marks appear on the peaches, after about 10 minutes, we brush balsamic vinegar on them and then add copious amounts of the ricotta mixture and devour with a fork and knife. The result is as warm and delish as peach cobbler without as much guilt. (It is just the appetizer, after all.)
Cocktail Hour Recipes
2 parts chunks of pineapple
1 healthy pinch mint leaves
1 part simple syrup (1 cup water to 1 cup sugar)
1 part rum
1 part coconut water
Splash club soda
1 peach (pitted)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
Balsamic vinegar mixed with honey for drizzling
Olive oil for brushing
Soon to come: Chorizo and BlueCheese Brandy Burgers..