Attempts at a Slow Carb Life

A few meals from the last two months:

Shrimp and zucchini "noodles"

Shrimp and zucchini “noodles” – an only somewhat successful first attempt at replacing pasta with pasta-like substances. Fortunately, we like both zucchini and shrimp. Unfortunately, this was a pretty lame dinner. Next time I’ll try NomNomPaleo’s version.

Adventures in Low(er) Carb Eating

Orin asked, “Is this breakfast food?”. I said, “Today it is.” Mustard tofu with sauteed kale, mushrooms, and onions. I had this breakfast pocket on the brain.

Dinner, SELMA-style

Post vacation dinner, SELMA-style: fried eggs over pulled pork, shredded cheese, and a coarse salsa made from garden excess. I discovered exactly how many successive pulled pork meals I can stomach. The answer? Five.

New York Meals: The Breslin

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

Oh how I wish I’d taken photos of the dinner I shared with Dan at The Breslin.

The Breslin
Photo by karigee

The Breslin came highly recommended by my friend Shana – in fact, she gave a blanket recommendation to the entirety of the Ace Hotel complex: The Breslin, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, and No. 7 Sub. As soon as I walked into the lobby, I could understand why Shana loves it: the space is dark, intimate, and hip, with a variety of seating, working, and drinking options. Mr Pickle and I chilled out in the AC while we waited for Dan – coincidentally in town from Chicago for work – to arrive for dinner.

Mr Pickle at the Ace Hotel

I would say – and I do – that I regret not keeping the camera out throughout our meal – but Dan and I were so busy catching up and devouring delicious things to take the time for pictures. I enjoyed the miticrema bruschetta with grilled greens and speck – thick slices of rustic bread, a smooth sweet cheese, savory greens, and thinly shaved flavorful pork – and Dan had the PEI mussels with chorizo and garlic toast.

Both of these were overshadowed by the absolutely wonderful sweetbreads, which we split because we both wanted it, but could neither commit to it exclusively nor accept the idea that we would only get to try one thing from the menu. And OMG, was this a good decision. The sweetbreads were among the best fried things I’ve ever had, and the mashed up peas provided a fresh counterpoint. Both were fantastic in flavor and texture. I would like to go back and eat five more plates.

the breslin
Photo by karigee

In the time it took us to commit to our drinks and dinner, the ladies at the next table received a very intriguing plate of – something, we weren’t sure what. Dumplings? When the second plate arrived, we decided that we should probably get some as well, especially once it was revealed that they were donuts. Brioche donuts. Brioche donuts with a trio of sauces: apple cinnamon something, chocolate, and salted caramel. I am not ashamed to admit that we ate the caramel with our spoons – and with the donuts, of course.

When I asked for New York dining recommendations, this was exactly what I had in mind: decadent but not overwhelmingly so, an emphasis on quality over quantity, the sort of food that you want to share because it’s too good to keep to yourself. I’m so glad that I tried The Breslin – and glad that I had a fellow pork, fried food, and bourbon aficionado along for the meal.


If you go:
The Breslin Bar & Dining Room
Ace Hotel
20 W 29th St
New York, NY 10001

Even if you can’t or don’t want to swing dinner, get a coffee or cocktail and a small plate at the bar. You’ll be glad you did.

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.

Eataly,NYC.
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.

IMG_6626

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

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

25 Recipes #4: Ragù alla bolognese

Sunday night’s bolognese was wildly easier and wildly more delicious than I anticipated. Ragù alla bolognese was on my 25 Recipes list in part because I keep hearing about pots of bolognese simmering away at Shana’s house – and part because while I can make a solid marinara, I really should branch out a bit in my tomato-based sauces.

Here’s the first thing I learned: there are two basic ragùs: bolognese and napoletana.  Both start with a soffrito and derive most of their flavors from the meat, but as is the way with regional cooking, the recipes diverge wildly from there, resulting in sauces that are defined by their differences rather than their essential natures.  An authentic bolognese has only a minimal amount of tomatoes, while napoletana is rich with velvety tomatoes, a byproduct of the longer growing season in Naples.  The meat is more finely chopped in a bolognese, while the soffrito of a napoletana contains more onions and herbs.

Three Meats Four Dice

Both sauces are characterized by a long, slow preparation, making them perfect for a lazy Sunday – or for a snowy night when plans have been canceled and you can wait another hour for dinner while a pot simmers away, filling the house with amazing aromas.  The longer the simmer, the better, but I started prep at 5:30, and by 7:30, we were fiending for a taste.

Meat and SoffritoSimmer Down

Ready to goFusilli Bolognese

And oh my gosh, was it worth the wait.  Shane literally groaned upon taking his first bite – always a good sign.  The sauce tucked itself into the grooves of the fusilli – Meijer’s upscale store-brand, made using the traditional bronze die process that results in a substantially better texture. We halved the recipe and would’ve eaten the entire thing, had good sense and an awareness of the caloric punch of beef AND pork AND veal AND heavy cream not prevailed.  Besides, if it was this amazing for dinner, just imagine how good the leftovers will be for lunch?

Recipe: Pasta Bolognese from Food and Wine

25 Recipes #3: Carnitas

Or, as I referred to it, Chipotle at Home. Because seriously, it smelled like Chipotle up in our house.

Before I get to the delicious parts of this meal,I want to start with a confession.  For the first time in a while, I had difficulty working with a piece of meat.  Not technical difficulty, though it wasn’t the easiest cut to butcher – an emotional/visceral response to what I was working with.  David Lebovitz’s recipe called for a 4-5 pound boneless shoulder cut, but I opted to use a picnic shoulder since, well, that’s what we had on hand.  The picnic shoulder is a fatty bone-in cut, so there was a considerable amount of cleaning necessary – and after all of that, a clearly articulated joint.  I had to put down my knife for a second.  Thank you again, Mr. Pig, for your happy brief life, and for the many delicious and nourishing meals you have provided for us.

After that, however, making the carnitas was easy as pie.  Our four pound picnic shoulder yielded about 2 1/2 pounds of usable meat – at least for this recipe – so I tweaked the recipe a bit, and probably would make further adjustments for future preparations.  First, the meat is browned in a bit of oil in a large heavy pot.

Resting

Remove the meat to a tray lined with paper towels to blot up the excess fat.  Pour about a cup of water into the pot and scrape up the crusty bits of goodness from the bottom.  Stir in the spices:  chili powder, ground cumin, bay leaves, a couple of thinly sliced cloves of garlic, a cinnamon stick, and a diced dried chili or two.  Add the pork back to the pot, and pour in enough water to cover the meat 2/3 of the way.

Chilies

Braise uncovered in a 350 degree oven for about two hours, checking halfway.  The original recipe called for 3 1/2 hours for 4-5 pounds of meat, so I roughly halved the time, and added more liquid after an hour as it was looking pretty dry.  After two hours, the meat was cooked through and verging on dry but it wasn’t yet dinnertime, so I added another 1/4 cup water, turned the oven down to warm, and put the lid on to trap the moisture and heat.

Since there was no way that the three of us were going to eat 2 1/2 pounds of meat, I prepared several other components to fill out the meal and provide the fixings for several lunches worth of homemade “burrito bowls”.  First, a couple of onions and a red pepper sweat slowly over low heat in a covered pan:

Slow-sauteed peppers and onions

Second, an attempt at Chipotle’s cilantro lime rice, except that I had neither cilantro nor lime.  Instead, we had white rice that was boiled, steamed, and tossed with minced green onion:

Green onion rice

And finally the pièce de résistance:

Et voila, carnitas!

Gloriously flavorful – if slightly dry – carnitas, which we devoured nestled in corn tortillas and topped with rice, veggies, salsa, and shredded Monterey Jack cheese.  The 2 1/2 pounds of meat yielded enough for dinner for three plus four substantial lunch portions.  We – OK, I – devoured the veggies, so we substituted corn in our subsequent lunches, along with the rest of the rice, shredded cheese (or crumbled City Goat), and salsa.  This was the first of my 25 Recipes that really knocked it out of the park, and I can NOT wait to make this again.

Recipes:
Carnitas from David Lebovitz
Cilantro Lime Rice from Chipotle Fan

1215 Pork Posole

I’ve had an intense avocado craving since Sonya mentioned that Octavia would be trying her first banana and avocado last week.  Bananas and avocados are two of my local food failings – I love both intensely, and it makes me very sad that neither can be grown anywhere close to the Mitten. Two years ago, in the first blush of locavore fever, my prized souvenir from our Christmas trip to California was a big bag of avocados from an Ocean Beach co-op.  We’re less strict now – we prefer local and seasonal, but if the occasional avocado, banana, or out-of-season pepper means the difference between a happy dinner or the continuation of the winter slump, it’s worth the food miles to me.

I mention this because I was convinced to make tonight’s dinner – pork posole – almost entirely because it was topped with slices of fresh avocado.  I started dinner while Shane was working out, and as he walked into the kitchen, he told me that he kept smelling delicious smells and hoping that they were coming from our kitchen.  Delicious smells indeed!  The soup was simple but hearty, making good use of a couple of cups of leftover corn, pork chops from the freezer, and tomatoes that I canned at the end of the summer.  I would season more aggressively next time – why are magazine recipes so conservative?! – and probably halve the recipe, as we had enough for two big bowls for dinner plus four cups of leftovers.  Oh, and I’d buy more avocados.  Definitely more avocados.

Recipe:
Pork Posole with Avocado and Lime from Fitness

1213 Meatballs and Polenta

It snowed yesterday for real.  Not the delicate flakes we’ve had so far this month – a dusting that melted away almost every night – a heavy blanket several inches deep, held in place by single digit temperatures.  We both woke up feeling worn down, sore, and just generally unable to face the cold and snow, so we both took a sick day and stayed on the couch under blankets, cats, and laptops.  As is often the case on sick days – or any bonus day at home with no responsibilities – we ended up eating at weird hours, and so weren’t hungry for dinner until OMG we were hungry IMMEDIATELY.  Fortunately, we had a super easy, super delicious dinner on tap: revisiting this summer’s Albóndigas con Salsa de Tomate, using leftover meatballs from the ramen we made last month and a container of homemade tomato sauce.

In the waning weeks of the gardening season, I found myself with all of these tomatoes – not enough to can, but too many to eat, especially with all the peppers and potatoes and other things we were bringing home.  I made pot after pot of simple tomato sauce, with dozens of these small tomatoes pressed through the food mill and then simmered down to their sweet essence, then topped off container after container and stashed them away in the freezer for a meal like tonight’s.

With two cups of tomato sauce and a dozen meatballs already thawed, we were able to have dinner on the table in about 20 minutes.  I poured the sauce into an oven-safe dish and placed it under the broiler to heat up, then tossed the meatballs in a skillet until they were browned on all sides.  While Shane whisked away at the polenta, I added the meatballs to the warmed sauce, and put the dish back under the broiler for about 10 minutes.  Simple, warm, and filling: a great end to a snow day.

Recipes:
Albóndigas con Salsa de Tomate
Quickest Tomato Sauce from Jamie at Home
Basic Polenta Recipe from Giada di Laurentiis – this recipe halved makes enough for four portions for us