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.

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25 Recipes #2: Goulash

I’ve been cooking up a storm since we got home from Cleveland last Wednesday – I just haven’t been blogging about it. I made hummus and fresh pita bread for our friends’ New Year’s party – the latter was perfect, unlike earlier pita efforts. We were both somewhat worse for wear on Saturday, and the Barefoot Contessa’s fresh pea soup was just the thing for our troubled stomachs. On Sunday, I made the first recipe from my new Essential New York Times Cookbook: mushroom caps stuffed with sausage and duxelles – simple but incredibly flavorful, and destined to be on our table many times in the future. I also took on the second recipe from my 25 Recipes list: goulash.

Goulash!

I’m not sure how goulash got on our list exactly. I approached it with a bit of trepidation, as Shane grew up in a city whose cuisine is as influenced by Eastern Europeans as my hometown’s is by the Swedes.

I was concerned because there seems to be a great deal of disagreement about what constitutes authentic Hungarian Gulyás. Many recipes call for tomatoes, while others swear that goulash never contains tomatoes. Some recipes call for potatoes to thicken the stew. Others suggest serving the stew over dumplings or egg noodles. The goulash I remember from my childhood always involved ground beef and elbow macaroni, and is apparently known as American Chop Suey in some parts of the country..

Browning the beef

Fortunately for me, Shane doesn’t have any particular memory of a specific goulash, so I was safe to proceed. The one thing all goulash recipes seem to agree on is the paprika, which gives goulash its characteristic color and savory smoky flavor. The paprika differentiates goulash from more pedestrian (but no less delicious) beef stew. In this goulash, the paprika is cooked in bacon fat already used to brown your beef and saute onions and garlic.

Sauteeing onions and garlic

Add everything to the pot – the browned beef and bacon, plus stock, diced red peppers, tomato paste (oh, the heresy!), seasonings, and water (or beer) enough to get the right consistency. Let it all simmer for an hour or so – enough time for me to shred and then prepare some pasta – and you’ve got a warm and hearty dinner. I was going to add ‘flavorful’ to that list of adjectives, but I was honestly underwhelmed by this recipe. It was good but not remarkable, which is probably the case with most comfort foods.

Kitchen Assistant

Either way, Mina was happy to supervise, Shane was happy to eat it up, and I’ll be happy to make it again. Maybe we’ll try a more authentic recipe next time.

Recipe:
Goulash from Smitten Kitchen – 1/4 recipe with egg noodles and some bread was enough for three portions

1220 Sausages and Polenta

Sausages and polenta are our go-to healthy comfort food.  We’ve made them enough times this year to cement that fact – in the spring with canned tomatoes, with spinach for extra bulk, with cherry tomatoes from the garden – occasionally subbing meatballs for the sausages, but never leaving out the sauce or the buttery polenta.

There are few things better – or easier – to make on a cold and tired Monday night.  I suppose that macaroni and cheese from a box would be easier, as would throwing a frozen pizza in the toaster oven for ten minutes.  We certainly do both of these things often enough.  You do have to open a container of thawed tomato sauce and empty it into a dish, which you then have to place under the broiler.  While it’s warming up, you might need to give your sausages a few minutes in the grill pan – or, if they’re precooked, you might just need to open a packet.  Oh the arduous task of adding the sausages to the warming sauce!  Bring your water to a boil, then whisk in the polenta and reduce the heat.  Cooks Illustrated has a no-stir method, but you have to get behind their pay wall to access it.  If you’ve timed this all right, your sausages will be golden by the time your polenta has absorbed all of the liquid – this took 15 minutes or less tonight – and you can sit down with a delicious dinner.

Recipe:
Basic Polenta from Giada De Laurentiis (I’ve been halving the recipe, which makes enough for four)

1203 Kindlefest

Birmingham German Christmas Market
Photo by recursion_see_recursion

The photo above obviously isn’t Ann Arbor but I think it’s what Kerrytown was going for with Kindlefest tonight: a German holiday market, complete with carolers, lanterns, vendors, Glühwein, and weisswurst. All of these things seemed like good reasons to head downtown on a Friday night.

German Sausage Stall, Leicester
Photo by Djinn76

We arrived on the early end of the evening, so many of the vendors were still setting up, and the few stands with food were surrounded by an unyielding crush of people. We ended up grabbing our weisswursts and ducking into the Kerrytown shops, both for warmth and for safe eating. I don’t know that I’ve ever had weisswurst – a sausage made from veal, pork, and an assortment of spices – but I really enjoyed it, though I had terrible onion and sauerkraut breath for the rest of the evening. Shane seemed similarly pleased, though it was definitely not enough for dinner for him.

The rest of the evening involved sampling olive oils and vinegars at Fustinis, squealing over adorable things for this year’s cohort of babies, more samples (and a few presents) at Zingerman’s, and setting up our Christmas tree. All in all, a pretty festive – and definitely nice – night.

Cool Festive Cat, U Guys

1116 Attempting the Impossible

This morning I rolled out of bed at 6:55, showered, made and ate a real breakfast, made Chemex coffee, and ALMOST made the 7:36 bus.  Almost.  I would’ve made it, too, except that the coffee took a few minutes too long to brew.  Otherwise I am a morning machine.

I’m on a quest, you see. Since my request for a breakfast intervention last winter, I’ve cycled through the usual suspects: yogurt with fruit or granola or cereal, oatmeal with protein powder or apple butter, toast with peanut butter or jam or cream cheese and tomato, bagel with cream cheese, and/or office donuts. In the last week, I’ve twice left the house in need of breakfast, and twice ended up with one of these:

starbucks new 'breakfast pairings'
Photo by cafemama

Yes, that’s a Starbucks breakfast sandwich you see there. Despite my previously virulent anti-Starbucks position and despite the fantastic coffee options here in town, I go to Starbucks occasionally. The coffee’s adequate and, more importantly, they have a handful of breakfast options that are warm and filling without just being sugar bombs.  The sandwich pictured above is a parmesan frittata, ham, and cheddar cheese on a little roll: 370 calories and 23 grams of protein, which are the dietary metrics I’m most concerned about.  It also tastes really good, which is the food metric I’m most concerned about.

I’m convinced that I can make this sandwich at home.  Moreover, I’m convinced that I can mass produce it in such a way that I can just pop a a little sandwich packet in the toaster oven, take a quick shower, and then have a warm and hearty breakfast waiting.  75% of the sandwich is a no brainer – I just have to figure out how to make the little frittata puck.

This morning was my first attempt.  I greased a pair of silicone egg rings, placed them in a non-stick baking pan, then filled each ring with 2 beaten eggs.  We had a sausage links in the fridge, so I added those to the pan between and around the egg rings.  The pan went into the 375 degree toaster oven, and I hopped in the shower.  By the time I was done in the bathroom – 15 minutes later tops – the eggs were puffed up and toasty, and the sausages were cooked through.  We each had an egg puck and two sausages wrapped up in tortillas

The only problem with this breakfast was that the silicone rings weren’t heavy enough to keep the eggs from leaking out everywhere – so while there were two distinct egg pucks, a fair amount of egg had made its way onto the sausages as well.  Next steps may be to try the mini tart pans, or to bake a big square frittata and just cut it into individual portions.  Either way – I’m on to something good.

1007 Stewed

It’s on, baby!

Dinner tonight was entirely made up, just me chopping things and sticking them in the enameled pot.  I knew we had a bunch of veg, and I knew I wanted to make something that would cook itself while I exercised, and this is what I came up with: a sweet and savory stew that we spooned over a loaf of bread warmed in the oven during the last 10 minutes of cook time.  The rough recipe follows below, but you could absolutely make this with whatever root veg you had on hand, or you could substitute fresh tomatoes for the tomato paste, or red wine for the white wine, or butter for the oil, or beans for the sausage.  You get the idea.

Stew-ish

Early Fall Stew

1 medium yellow onion
2 smallish bell peppers (from the garden!)
1/2 medium eggplant (just the neck part), peeled
2 cups mushrooms
3-4 stalks celery
3-4 medium-sized carrots
4 sausages (we used garlic chicken sausages from Trader Joe’s)
2-4 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
whatever herbs you have on hand
salt & freshly ground pepper
olive oil

Preheat your oven at 350F. Chop all of your veggies and slice the sausages into bite-sized pieces. In an oven-safe pot (with a lid, though you don’t need it right now) – I used our new enameled cast iron – heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat, then add the onion and let it sweat a bit. Add the rest of the veggies, a couple of tablespoons tomato paste, fresh herbs – I used oregano and rosemary because that’s what we have in our front garden, and a fair amount of salt and freshly ground pepper, tossing everything around so that the tomato paste coats a bit. Add the wine and simmer for a minute or so, then put the lid on and stick the pot in the oven for an hour or so.

Serve with crusty bread and a crisp beer or cider.

0929 This and That

I’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow, but for today, I thought I’d touch on a few things outside the normal scope of this project.  Oh, and we had macaroni and cheese tonight – Annie’s, the stuff with the “sharp cheddar” cheese powder.  Shane also sauteed a couple of sausages, which were the best thing about the meal.  Neither of us liked the “cheese”, despite normally liking Annie’s.

First: Crock Pots.  It seems to be the season to buy one, inherit one, or remember that you have one and wonder what to do with it.  We each brought a crock pot to the relationship, though neither of us used ours all that regularly.  We now have one, and it is brought out very infrequently, but when we do use it, it’s awesome.  I’ve previously blogged about using ours for chili and pulled pork – I also use it to soak and then cook garbanzo beans for hummus.  Whenever I’m asked what to do with a crockpot (or slow cooker – same thing), I point people to A Year of Slow Cooking, which is exactly what it sounds like: one family’s attempt to use their slow cooker(s) every day for a year.  That project ended a year or two ago, but she hasn’t stopped posting recipes, and has also written a slow cooker cookbook.  If you have a crockpot or are considering getting one, I highly recommend her site.

Second: Kitchen Aspirations.  Not Derby Pie posted a list of her New Year’s Resolutions – food and other cooking-related aspirations that she wants to tackle in the next year.  I think this is a great idea, and I’m kicking around my own list.  Among other things, it will include learning to bake other kinds of bread – I can make a mean sandwich loaf, but I dream of baguettes and sourdoughs.  Perhaps a 12 months, 24 loaves project is in order for next year?  Stay tuned!  I’d also love to hear your kitchen or food aspirations in the comments!

Third: This Blog.  Nine months down, three to go on my Kitchen Diaries project.  There are many things I’ve enjoyed about it, not the least of which has been all the great conversations I’ve had with you about what you’re cooking, including the very random encounter at the Homegrown Festival with someone who recognized me from this site (hello!).  I’m sure I won’t stop blogging about what we’re cooking and eating after December 31, but it certainly won’t be as often.