New York Meals: Eataly

The first in a series of posts about the exceptional food I ate in 2.5 days in New York.

We’re Mario Batali fans around here, so Eataly was at the top of my To Do list upon arriving in New York Friday night.  Opened in 2010 in partnership with Lidia Bastianich and others, Eataly is an insanely huge market where everything wonderful and delicious to do with Italian cuisine can be found, purchased, and devoured.

Photo by Carl MiKoy

And I mean insane. IN-sane. Eataly has been open since August, and while there are no longer lines around the block, we still encountered an overwhelming crush of people as we made our way back to Birreria. Piotr, Jess, and I had been walking around all morning, so we were famished. Fortunately, there were no shortage of food options. Unfortunately, we had to first choose one, and then stand in line to purchase it. Fortunately, we had reason to stick around – we were waiting for a table at Birreria.

Eataly Birreria

While the seating process was mysterious – something involving a promised text message and the instructions to check back in 45 minutes? – it all made sense once we were upstairs. The maître d’ acts kind of like a bouncer, keeping the crowds at bay, resulting in a lovely and genial environment upstairs. We were at a simultaneously shady and sunny table in the corner – no real view to speak of, but who cares when delicious food is in front of you?

Maitake con Pecorino Sardo - Eataly Birreria

Maitake con Pecorino Sardo: roasted Maitakes, creamy soft Pecorino, savory and crisp asparagus and peas. Enough for each of us to have a few perfect bites, every last morsel soaked up with crusty bread.

Portobello con Acciughe - Eataly Birreria

Portobello con Acciughe: perfectly grilled portobellos, funky anchovies, sweet roasted tomatoes, and stracciatella. Maybe not worth the $17, but totally pleasing on a hot summer’s afternoon.


Around the table: chicken thighs pounded thin and served with olive-almond pesto, fennel-braised quail, rich pork sausage with kraut, and an intensely delicious pork shoulder. I can vouch for each of these dishes because everything was shared, every passed fork returned laden with a perfect bite of something else. If I could do it again, I’d take one of everything, and wash it all down with a Baladin Isaac.  Perfect.

If you go:
200 5th Ave (between 23rd and 24th)
Manhattan, NY 10010
(212) 229-2560

Be prepared to wait and spend a lot and be delighted.


Empanada Bakefest

We were supposed to get together for our regular bakefest the other weekend, but after helping Shannon and Matt move, we were more inclined to eat pizza and drink beer than to do anything useful. Which is what we did. And then I took a nap. And we didn’t get around to making these delicious empanadas until Wednesday night, when the group cleared two trays of them in no time flat – which is why the only photo I have is of the leftovers, or, more properly, leftover:


I’m pretty sure that I first encountered empanadas in Champaign – there is photo evidence of empanadas being consumed at the Capricorn birthday dinner at Radio Maria. We discovered the empanadas from Manolo’s right before we left town – in fact, the below photo is from the yard sale we held two weeks before Shane left Champaign for good. Our loss, truly.

Day 21 - 8/13/07

In general, I’m a fan of food in pockets. We made totally delightful pop-tarts at a previous bakefest. I had a serious calzone problem when I lived in Rockford – either take-out from the Logli pizzeria after a long day at Barnes & Noble, or with a beer at Old Chicago while working on the World Beer Tour. When we were serious about losing weight, we both ate A LOT of Lean Pockets, as they were an easy way to take lunch to work and control calories. I’ve never gotten into pierogies, but I loved filled pastas of all sorts. It’s hard to screw up the pocket formula: take something good, wrap it up in sweet or savory dough, bake it for a bit, and then enjoy.

Tonight’s empanadas were no exception. The dough was crumbly at first, but rolled out beautifully in Olivia’s capable hands. Shannon conveyed the discs of dough from roller to kitchen, while Susie played the very important role of cat cop. Shana and I filled the flattened rounds with a few spoonfuls of a savory chicken-chorizo stew, then rolled and crimped the edges, brushed on an egg wash, and popped them in the oven.  25 minutes later, we sat down with the boys and other friends for a fantastic spread: two dozen empanadas (including a few stuffed with sweet potato and feta), roasted asparagus with sea salt, a fantastic salad with beets and candied nuts, home brew and rosé, and ice cream eaten straight from the pint.  A fine start to the Wednesday night potluck season, and yet another successful bakefest.

Chicken empanada with chorizo and olives from Smitten Kitchen



I’ve been remiss in blogging, in part because I’ve been sick, in part because we’ve been in and out of town, and in part because I’ve just been lazy.  We’ve been cooking, but not that much – more often than not making “what the heck is in the fridge?!” kinds of dinners before teaching or after a workout.  That said, we revisited this recipe earlier in the month and OMG it was delicious.  The salad was whatever we had on hand – a yellow pepper, a handful of shelled pistachios, the last of the balsamic vinaigrette – and the bread was our trusty baguette.

Like Fancy Ladies

Would you look at this fancy lady?

Birthday Sipes!

Jackie’s birthday fell on the first full day of ACRL, so after my early morning presentation and a day of conferencing, we were determined to find some sort of mischief befitting two fancy ladies celebrating a special occasion. That is how we found ourselves at Varga Bar, which not only caters to fancy ladies, but also features pictures of fancy ladies on the walls! Perfect. While the cocktail menu was somewhat uninspiring, we were overwhelmed with delicious choices for dinner, and ended up selecting four things, all of which were excellent.

First: the house pickles: cucumbers, carrots, squash, beets, onions, and artichokes, all lightly pickled and perfectly crunchy. Sorry, Mr. Pickle.

Mr P and Curcubit Cousins

Second: duck confit chicken wings – sweet, spicy, and savory in a pomegranate molasses glaze, and served with a blue cheese dipping sauce that could only spuriously be called a sauce. It would be more accurate to call it a wee cup of blue cheese. I don’t normally like chicken wings, but we ate these right up and asked for more blue cheese, which I shamelessly ate with my fork.

Third: the Varga salad: arugula, fava beans, fresh peas, grilled artichoke, shaved parmesan, and a light lemony vinaigrette – a crisp and fresh counterpoint to the delicious excess of the wings.

And finally: the best damned Brussels sprouts I’ve ever had. Now, I’m a fan of Brussels. You know that. I will eat them in just about any form, with just about anything, and without the slightest bit of provocation. But these sprouts? They were something else. Crispy and light, tossed with olive oil and parmesan, and bearing a more than suspicious resemblance to movie theater popcorn. That’s right: buttery, salty, delicious movie theater popcorn – except Brussels sprouts! I wish we’d ordered more, as they were the best part of the entire meal.

We thought about dessert, but really, who needs dessert when you’ve just had the most perfect Brussels sprouts of your life? Or, for that matter, when you have a librarian dance party to attend?

Mr P Takes the Decks

25 Recipes #6 Take 2: Pie from Scratch

I meant to tell you about this pie weeks ago, but then I went out of town and then I came back and then, well, now I have no good excuse.  Especially when the pie looked like this:

Chicken Pot Pie

But wait til you see what was inside!

Chicken Pot Pie

Much better than failure fridge pie in all respects – faster, prettier, tastier, AND better for us! I love that chicken pot pie is basically chicken soup that has been thickened a little, then baked in a flaky crust. In this case, I baked individual pot pies in ramekins with only a lid – then used the remaining crust and filling to bake a tart-sized pot pie which we froze for later enjoyment.

Crust: Basic Pie Dough from Williams-Sonoma
Filling: Chop your desired filling into bite-sized pieces and saute until almost soft. Add cooked chicken (or your protein of choice, or no protein) and enough broth to just cover the filling, then simmer for a bit. Thicken with flour or corn starch, then add to prebaked pie crust (if you’re using two crusts) or individual ramekins. Top with crust, then bake 25 minutes at 375, or until top crust is flaky and golden.

Braised Ligurian Chicken

Braised Ligurian Chicken

Second recipe from Essential New York Times Cookbook: Braised Ligurian Chicken, which I swear was in one of my Jamie Oliver cookbooks.  Maybe Jamie’s Kitchen, which I swapped away due to lack of use?  Maybe there was a good reason for that.

The chicken looks like hummus in this picture, right?  I don’t think it was supposed to look like that.  Granted, this is half of one breast, sliced in half again to make sure it was cooked again.  But honestly, I might have preferred two scoops of hummus, a couple of olives, and some tomatoes to the amount of effort required to produce this dish.

The chicken, thawed all day on the counter yesterday, was still partially frozen, and I had a hell of a time breaking it down – to the point that I gave up on separating the wings and just dumped the entirety of the remaining carcass into the stock pot.  I used our 5 quart cast iron enamel pot, but there wasn’t enough room to brown the chicken and also fry the garlic.  The liquid would not reduce.  It absolutely would not.

In the end, dinner was good – satisfying – but not great.  The sauce was packed with flavor, and I ate all of the olives, but the chicken was unremarkable.  I suppose that’s OK, as we’re going to eat the leftovers with Smitten Kitchen’s tomato sauce with onion and butter tomorrow, and I’d rather let the sauce be the star.

Braised Ligurian Chicken from The Essential New York Times Cookbook

1013 25 Cloves of Garlic in the Crockpot

It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally I’ll make a dish that that Shane enjoys more with nearly every bite. Tonight’s chicken was one of those dishes.

This recipe was adapted from one I found on A Year of Slow Cooking and modified based on recipes in the same vein. The original recipe called for paprika and no extra liquid, while the Barefoot Contessa called for wine, Cognac, heavy cream, and fresh herbs for a luxurious sauce. Alton Brown‘s version called for 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, making it sound more like fried and then baked chicken. I skipped the excess fat in both alternate versions, but did riff on their spicing, subbing ras el hanout for the paprika and adding fresh herbs from the garden. All of that plus the chicken, garlic, and onion went into the crockpot before I left for work at 7.

We came home to a house that smelled amazing. The onions and garlic had charred a bit – 8 hours in the crockpot was a bit too long, so I recommend 7 hours – but the chicken was terrifically moist and flavorful.  I served it with crusty bread and sauteed mushrooms and wee summer squash.  Totally simple, totally delicious, and with every bite, Shane made more noises of happiness, finally proclaiming that next time we have to make the full chicken because two legs and thighs definitely wasn’t enough.  That’s what I like to hear!

25 Clove Garlic Chicken
Adapted from Slow Cooker 20 to 40 Clove Garlic Chicken

3-4 pound chicken, cut up (2 legs and thighs served 3 people)
2 yellow onions, sliced
25+ cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ras el hanout
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon fresh oregano or thyme
2 teaspoons kosher salt (believe it or not, I measured this out)
1 teaspoon pepper

Place onions in the bottom of a large crockpot, then top with garlic cloves. Place the chicken pieces on top, then dust with half of the spices. Flip the chicken over and dust with the rest of the spices. Cover your crockpot and cook on low for 7 hours – less if you’re using chicken off the bone.

0816 Tender Chicken Legs with Sweet Cherry Tomatoes

This is such a beautiful and simple meal – it just takes a little time.  It was also a really good excuse to break out our new butter-yellow enameled cast iron pot that we received as a wedding gift.  Into the pot went two chicken legs, a handful of cherry tomatoes from the garden and the market, a couple of huge cloves of garlic, and basil from the front stoop – with a drizzle of olive oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper.

An hour and a half later, we dug into an amazing summer dinner.  The chicken was tender and flavorful, the  tomatoes collapsed into a sweet broth, and the garlic cloves were caramelized and perfect for spreading on a few slices of bread.  I need to remember this for next summer.

Tender Chicken Legs with Sweet Cherry Tomatoes from Jamie’s Dinners

0711 Our Grill Situation + Squash Math

I sort of feel bad about having people over for dinner these days. It’s just so damned hot in our house, and there’s no escaping it, no matter how precisely we angle the fans.  So kudos to Dave and Juli, who braved the heat to hang out with us tonight!

I had intended to make the beer can chicken recipe that Sarah keeps raving about, but decided against it after assessing our current grill situation:

  1. Grill #1 was, I assume, left by a previous tenant and is in a pretty sad state.  We considered taking it to the dump when…
  2. …we purchased grill #2 over the winter for $25, which included an almost-full propane tank and a bunch of grill rocks.
  3. Grill #2, despite being in much better shape than grill #1, is not operational.  I’m not sure why that is.
  4. Grill #1 is missing the front tempered glass panel, but is otherwise operational.  Lacking really solid grill tools, we’ve stuck to covering the racks with foil.
  5. Grill #1 has a hinged rack that is attached to the lid which, when closed, doesn’t provide enough upright space for a chicken on a can of beer.  Grill #1 also wouldn’t be able to trap the heat and smoke necessary to make the savory bird.
  6. We could do all of those things on grill #2, except that it is not operational.

Long story short: no beer can chicken.  I did, however, take apart the chicken and dress it inside and out with a basic barbecue spice rub.  While I boiled a couple of ears of corn and sauteed vegetables for a couscous salad, Shane grilled up the chicken.  Juli and Dave brought zucchini bread and fresh berries from the market, all of which added up to a really delicious seasonal dinner.

So where’s the squash math?  See, I had a zucchini and a small summer squash on hand, for a total of 2 squashes.  I used the zucchini in my version of Sarah’s seven vegetable couscous, leaving 1 squash.  Then Juli brought the zucchini bread (containing unknown quantities of squash), as well as 2 bonus zucchinis that she had purchased in a fit of zucchini enthusiasm, bringing the net total squash to 1+ in the food and 3 in my crisper.  Squash: the gift that keeps on giving!

Beer Can Chicken and All-Purpose Barbecue Rub from The Barbecue Bible
Moroccan Seven Vegetable Couscous from Vegetarian Times (heavily modified, but I’ll save that recipe for another day)

0616 Pollo alla Cacciatora

Last of the Harvest

Tonight I used up the last jar of the tomatoes I canned last summer.  The timing was just right on this, as 2nds tomatoes have been appearing at the market the last few weeks, and I suspect we’re right on the cusp of a full-on tomato explosion from both the market and our garden.  Nonetheless, I felt like the last jar of tomatoes required something special.  Actually, that’s not true.  I just happened to be making something special in order to use up the rest of Monday’s chicken, but I feel like it was a suitable vehicle for the last jar of tomatoes: Pollo alla Cacciatora.

Chicken Cacciatore is one of the first dishes I remember making as a pre-teen.  Of course that time it came from a jar of Chicken Tonight, and the extent of my preparation involved simmering a couple of chicken breasts in the sauce – but that doesn’t change the nostalgia associated with the dish.  My culinary skills and ambitions are a bit more refined than they were back then, so tonight’s Cacciatora was of the from-scratch variety.

Pollo alla Cacciatora

I marinated chicken pieces (left over from Monday’s Chicken Breasts Niçoise) in red wine and herbs for an hour, then browned the chicken in a heavy-bottomed skillet, removing it to a warmed plate while I made the sauce, comprised of the rest of the marinade, the aforementioned jar of tomatoes, a handful of capers, anchovies, and a few other things I’ve forgotten in my hunger.  Once the tomatoes started to break down, I put the chicken back in the pan, covered it with the lid, and popped it in the oven for an hour.  The recipe called for 90 minutes, but the internal temperature hit 160 after an hour, so we pulled it early and served it with bread and a salad.

Pollo alla Cacciatora

When we sat down to eat, I realized that I’d made essentially the red wine version of Monday’s dinner – a bit heartier and with a longer cook time – but the same idea.  Shane agreed, but said that while he liked the Niçoise he liked this version MUCH better.  It was also MUCH better than I remember my childhood Chicken Tonight being.  I’m now curious to see how this recipe (from Jamie’s Italy) stacks up against the Mario Batali recipe we made this past fall.  Good stuff!

Pollo alla Cacciatora from Jamie’s Italy