Archive for February, 2012

Sunday reading | 26.02.2012

26 February 2012

The semifinalists of the James Beard Foundation awards were announced this week. These are the most prestigious restaurant awards in the United States and interesting as such, but the nominations also provide a useful list of interesting restaurants to try, handily largely organized by region.

Though I sometimes feel I’ve read many pieces about pairing wine with food, I still always gravitate toward these articles, perhaps because I imagine reading about wine pairing will magically cure me of what is often a somewhat halfhearted approach at home. Reading this column by Meg Houston Maker, whose blog I also like very much, gave me new impetus. So, heeding the first recommendation that “what grows together goes together” to honor a ragù alla Bolognese I had watched gently simmer for over four hours, yesterday I perused my local wine store for a good choice from Northern Italy, preferably Emilia Romagna, the region of Bologna. We drank this 2008 Gradizzolo Negrettino. The wine was a discovery, and a perfect complement.

Ten days ago I had dinner at Allswell in Williamsburg, and as it happens, Pete Wells, the restaurant critic of the NY Times, wrote a short piece about it just this week. To me the food that night was somewhat underwhelming and I was ready to dismiss it. In light of this piece I will take a second look.

And one last link for the pleasure of a fun, well written article about the Eastern European plum brandy slivovitz. Although my sister brought bottles back from Bulgaria and Thomas claims to know it, I lack the emotional connection. It made me laugh nonetheless.

Walnut tarte with Chartreuse

24 February 2012

Some years ago I developed an interest in cocktails. It was triggered by an arcane email correspondence about absinth and Sazeracs leading up to our yearly skiing vacation in Haute Savoie, and quite quickly developed into a somewhat obsessive search for the perfect Sazerac in New York, at a time when few bartenders here knew what a Sazerac is, let alone how to make a good one.

My interest in Sazeracs grew into a more general curiosity for all things cocktail — mixer’s alcohols, bitters, techniques for making larger ice cubes — which happily coincided with the beginning of the cocktail trend in the city. Had I been writing then, cocktails would have featured prominently.

These days I drink mostly wine, except when my cocktail-fiend friend and then fellow-bar-stalker comes over for dinner, a bottle of gin or good rye in tow; I don’t have cocktail recipes jotted down on every second page of my little black notebook; and my cocktail bar recommendations would probably have a taste of five years ago. But I do still own a ludicrous number of partially full liquor bottles.

I will have to find creative ways of using Luxardo and Lillet, in the meantime, this tarte is a good excuse to tackle the Chartreuse.

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This recipe is part of my “Schindler book” collection. Judging by its position in the book, which I copied in chronological order, I found it when I was about twenty. Unfortunately I can’t remember its exact origin, though I’m pretty sure I wrote it down after a vacation in France in the Vercors close to Grenoble, the region of walnuts and Chartreuse.

Unsweetened pie crust

250 g flour

125 g butter plus a little more to butter the pan

The filling

3/4 cup (200 g) crème fraîche

1 cup (200 g) sugar

2 generous cups (200 g) shelled walnuts

1 1/2 liquid ounces Chartreuse

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The pie crust

Prepare the pie crust at least 1 hour in advance, as it needs to rest.

Place the flour in a large bowl, cut the cold butter into 1-inch pieces and work it with the fingertips into the flour, to obtain the consistency of coarse breadcrumbs. Add drops of cold water, little by little, until the dough sticks and can be shaped into a ball.

Cover the ball of dough with a damp cloth and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour, and up to one day.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator 10 to 15 minutes beforehand so it has time to soften at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C) and generously butter a 12 inch (30 cm) pie pan.

To roll out the dough, lightly dust a clean, flat surface with flour and roll out the dough into a circle until it is 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) thin.**To prevent the dough from sticking to the the floured surface, turn it at the beginning then lift it regularly, all the while adding a little flour on either side and on the rolling pin.**

To transfer the dough to the pie pan, gently fold it in half once, then fold it in half again, and carefully place the folded dough in the buttered pie pan, positioning the angle in the center. Unfold, pressing gently onto the pan and sides, and cut off excess dough from the edges.

Bake the pie crust blind for 15 minutes. **When baking blind either poke a bunch of small wholes into the crust with a fork, or use dried beans or ceramic baking weights on the crust to prevent it from rising.**

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The tarte

Increase the oven temperature to 400°F (200°C).

In a large bowl mix the crème fraîche and sugar, add the walnuts and the Chartreuse. Pour the mixture into the blind-baked crust.

Place the tarte in the oven on a larger baking sheet or aluminum foil, as the filling is likely to bubble over. Bake for 20 minutes.

Let the pie cool before eating. It becomes sticky and brittle, reminiscent of baklava. Mmmm!

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Related posts

Quince and apple tarte

Best award-winning pumpkin pie

Basic | Sweet pie crust

 

Dandelion, fennel, and pumpkin seed salad with pumpkin seed oil

18 February 2012

I was craving something green.

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Pumpkin seed oil is quite common in Germany and Austria. Here in New York I have found it in health food stores, in the refrigerated section.

I rarely prepare salad dressing on the side; I usually just sprinkle the oil and lemon juice or vinegar directly onto the greens. It’s faster. The traditional ratio for salad dressing is three parts oil for one part vinegar but I prefer a little more pep.

1 bunch dandelion leaves

1 fennel bulb

1 Tbsp pumpkin seed oil

2 Tbsps olive oil

1 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp Lemon juice

Flaky sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

A small handful of raw pumpkin seeds

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Cut off the lower part of the dandelion stems, wash the leaves and spin or pat dry with a clean kitchen towel. Tear or chop the larger leaves in half.

Cut off the stems and remove the coarse outer layer of the fennel bulb. Thinly slice it crosswise to obtain rings.

Place the dandelion leaves and fennel rings in a bowl. Sprinkle with the pumpkin seed and olive oils, the vinegar, the lemon juice, and toss well to dress the greens. Season with salt and pepper, and the pumpkin seeds, and toss one last time.

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Related posts

Endive salad with apples, walnuts, and comté

Lentil and fennel salad with lemon and parsley

Parsnip and butternut squash soup with sage

Sunday reading | 12.02.2012

12 February 2012

It’s a cold, sunny Sunday morning, and I thought I might share a few things I’ve been reading this week.

There seems to be a lot of talk in New York about Kutsher’s Tribeca, a new Modern Jewish-American restaurant, with traditional gefilte fish and matzo ball soup on the menu but also pickled herring with yuzu and wasabi. Here are two takes: Pete Wells from the NY Times and  Adam Platt in NY Magazine. I admit Mile End tempts me more, but I would go if only for the latkes with a trio of fish roe.

I have just discovered I Married an Irish Farmer, a very lovely blog that chronicles Imen McDonnell’s adventures on an eighteenth-century farm in Ireland to which she was swept away from American city life by a dashing Irishman. Hypothetically, this radical change of life sometimes seems very tempting; seen from this angle it’s dangerously alluring.

It appears that Australian flat-whites are finally infiltrating New York coffee culture, trailing London by a couple of decades.

And because a friend recently called me a Luddite for rejecting the Kindle and living without a cell phone for six months in 2011, and because I’d like to offer more proof, here is a review of the very physical and beautifully designed Penguin’s Great Food book series, which can also be perused here, and of course ordered on Amazon.

Happy Sunday.

Eating out | Thrice-cooked fries (but not only) at The Breslin

8 February 2012

Consider a game by which you make a hypothetical but definitive choice between two things. By choosing one you forgo the other for the rest of your life. You can apply this game to anything. Movies or television? Mountain or sea? Wine or spirits? Or — chips or fries? The last one was easy. I would have chosen neither. I’m pretty sure I could have lived happily ever after without either chips or fries. That is, until I tasted April Bloomfield’s thrice-cooked fries with cumin mustard.

Admittedly thrice-cooked fries are not the only reason to go to The Breslin. There’s the lamb burger that goes with it. There is the entirely sinful and irresistible three grilled cheeses sandwich. And also, in season, the kale salad. But I’ll take a step back.

About 8 years ago, just a few months after the Spotted Pig opened, I pitched a cookbook with April Bloomfield to the publisher for whom I worked. Or rather I suggested the idea. Granted, it may have been a little premature. Phaidon had barely embarked on its first cookbook, and it was still the restaurant’s very early days. But my motivation was selfish — I really wanted those recipes.

Because the maddeningly wonderful thing about the food at April Bloomfield’s restaurants the Spotted Pig and The Breslin (I haven’t yet been to her latest the John Dory Oyster Bar) is that they feel like dishes one could make at home, but beyond the consistently flawless execution there is always a surprising and cryptic twist that makes them spectacular.

While the first thing that comes to mind with April Bloomfield is often offal and pig’s ears (and they well deserve the attention), the dishes I still think about most often, longingly, many years later, are a revelatory artichoke stew; a simply perfect radish salad with basil and parmesan; the famous feather-light gnudi doused with butter and sage; the aforementioned fries served with cumin (cumin!) mustard; and just last week I had poached eggs over curried lentils for breakfast, which will certainly be added to that list. I don’t think I’ve had a disappointing dish in either place, and many are mind-bogglingly good. I will, insatiably, be going back for more.

And now very soon, in just a couple of months, that long awaited cookbook is coming out. Can’t wait.

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The Breslin

16 West 29th Street (between Fifth Ave. and Bway)
New York, NY 10001

212-679-1939

Open daily
Breakfast Mon-Fri 7am-11.45am
Lunch Mon-Fri 12pm-4pm
Brunch Sat-Sun 7am-4pm
Dinner 5pm-12am

www.thebreslin.com

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The Spotted Pig

314 West 11th Street (at Greenwich Street)
New York, NY 10014

212-620-0393

Open daily
Lunch Mon-Fri 12pm-3pm
Bar Menu from 3pm-5pm; Dinner from 5.30pm-2am
Brunch Sat-Sun 11am-3pm

www.thespottedpig.com

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Relates posts

Eating out | Up a cobbled street to Vinegar Hill House

Eating out | Brunch at Blaue Gans

Eating out | Fall soba noodles at Sobakoh


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