Random Notes from LA

February 9, 2015


This is the MOST delicious congee from the Hollywood restaurant, Porridge and Puff.  (In the daytime it's known as Field Trip, and is equally worthy.)  The restaurant focuses on various kinds of congee – all wonderful.  It's right in the Hollywood Farmers' Market, so it makes a great Sunday morning breakfast stop.


Sea urchins are everywhere now.  They even sell them, in the shell, at the Whole Foods on Fairfax. (They'll clean them for you if you ask, but I like doing that myself.)  This one, however, is from Connie and Ted's, my favorite seafood shack.  Everything they do is great, but I'm especially fond of the extremely fine fried clams below – and excellent cole slaw.


Here is Evan Kleiman, making knishes. The dough is really amazing – I think it must be at least half chicken fat.  Lovely to work with.  


And here are her knishes.  (Do you want the recipe?  I didn't ask her for it, but I could…)


Evan, incidentally, caters entire meals out of her house. Not surprising, given that she was the chef/proprietor of the much-loved Angeli for thirty years.  But there's this: she doesn't have an oven! I'm trying to persuade her to write a book about how she manages this feat.  She has a lot to teach the rest of us. 

This is Shawn Askinosie, who not only makes the most delicious chocolate I've ever eaten, but also is among the more inspiring people I've ever met.  



And this is the tasting of his chocolate. 


After the chocolate tasting at Farmshop, I bought this Kalona cottage cheese.  I am now a hopeless addict; it's rich and tangy, the kind of cottage cheese that makes you understand why people first fell for this usually dull stuff.


I've written here about the amazing meal I had at Chi Spacca, but here's just another little taste of what I ate there: Anchovy. Butter. Toast.


Lunch at Pok Pok, in Chinatown. It's just a little hole in the wall in a grubby mall, and you take your food to picnic tables. But the food's cheap, big and delicious – and there are often celebrity sightings. 


And then a spectacular meal at Spago, a place that never lets me down.  The service is superb.  The space is calm and lovely, and if you sit outside, you find yourself on the perfect patio, with huge trees and a roaring fire. The food from chef de cuisine Tetsu Yahagi is constantly exciting, always new.  We had a long dinner, whose highlights included this superb version of abalone chawan mushi…


made with a fascinating dashi that used not bonito flakes, but "petrified"  chicken breast (it's dehydrated, smoked, and then shaved into flakes)


This luxe version of a Thai greeen curry; fish cooked en papillotte with coconut, lemon grass, lime, basil, and served with jasmine rice. 


and the MOST luxurious truffled agnolotti, little pillows filled with pureed celery root and swathed in cream sauce.  The meal went on for hours, one fabulous dish after another.  I loved everything we ate, but what I loved best is that the food ignored all international boundaries, taking us on a world-wide trip. It was a wonderful evening.


 Downtown LA, Marugame Monzo, where they hand-make the udon. It's quite a show. 



and the udon is clean and silky, a joy to eat. (This is a cold version, with spicy cod roe.)


One of my favorite LA places is the bar at Jar, a dark, sexy space that is congenial and consistently delicious.  The other night I had this lovely squid pasta with truffle cream sauce

Truffled pasta

 followed by the best lamb chop I'ver ever eaten (it was from Elysian Farms).


And here's what I'm drinking at the moment.  I've fallen in love with this coffee. Roseline


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Recipe for a Snowy Day

February 6, 2015

I've been reading Alice B. Toklas a bit, and just came across this funny recipe. Seems perfect for a snowy winter day.  (Should you be fresh out of mutton, plain old lamb will do.)
Toklas writes: 
The recipe for the Roast Beef of Mutton is by no less a person that Alexandre Dumas, senior, author not only of the Three Musketeers but of The Large Dictionary of the Kitchen.  This recipe is entirely devoted to the manner he recommends for skewering the hind half of a sheep that is to be roasted on the spit. For this reason it is not given, but there are in my collection two other of Dumas' recipes. They too are for the preparation of mutton: 
Seven-hour Leg of Mutton
In an earthenware pot place the rind of pork fat cut in small pieces. Interlard a leg of mutton with ham, garlic and lard. Put your leg of mutton into the pot with salt, pepper, 2 large onions, 3 glasses water, 1 glass white wine. Cover the pot with a plate and paste paper around the pot and the plate. In the plate pour some wine and allow it to simmer for 7 hours. 

Come on Collards!

February 4, 2015

Are you experiencing kale fatigue?  Much as I love the stuff, I sometimes think it's time to look at other greens. Yesterday, standing in the produce section, my eye landed on a beautiful—and mammoth—bunch of collard greens. I've always loved their clean, nutty snap, and I decided to take them home. 

I had a sudden memory of filming Adventures with Ruth in Brazil, where I learned an amazing way to eat collards. You de-rib each leaf—the stalks are extremely bitter—and then stack each half moon on top of another, 8 or so to a stack. Roll each stack into tight little tubes, and cut into extremely thin ribbons.  We julienned them to  1/16 of an inch. Fried in hot oil for a mere ten seconds the result was like savory air that dissolved on the tongue like cotton candy. 

This time, I thought, I'd try something different.

I cut the collards into quarter inch strips.  Then I sauteed a couple cloves of minced garlic and some chile flakes in olive oil, added the collard ribbons with a bit of salt and pepper, and quickly sautéed until the collards were a brilliant bright green (no more than two minutes).

From here, you need nothing more than the zest of half a lemon and a splash of juice, but I added pickled chiles, some crisp homemade breadcrumbs, and a bit of grated Parmesan. These would probably be delicious with  sautéed onion, a little bacon fat and a splash of apple cider vinegar, too.

The possibilities are endless. 

This is not exactly a new discovery; we've all been eating collards forever. But kale's been having its moment in the sun, and it's time to make way for collards.



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Superbowl Sunday Piri Piri Wings

February 1, 2015

Okay, I'll admit it.  I was at Whole Foods the other day, and marinated chicken wings- in about a dozen different permutations  - were on sale.  I bought their version of Spicy Korean Chicken Wings and brought them home.  Put them in the oven, took them out. And threw them right into the garbage.

They were dreadful.

So now I felt compelled to make my own. 

This is my version of the classic buffalo wings. Roasted instead of fried – less hassle – and spiced with a more intense sauce.

I apologize for the picture.  It's terrible. The wings are not. They are utterly messy, and everything you want in a game-day wing: the sauce, slightly sweet and fiery as hell, gives way to crispy skin. 

They're great for the game, but they’d make an equally fine a snack for a movie night.

Baked Piri Piri Wings (Buffalo style)

3 pounds chicken wings, separated at the joint

1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 egg whites

1/2 stick butter

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup piri piri sauce, preferably Mazi brand

Whisk the baking soda, salt and egg whites together in a large bowl. Add the wings, and coat. Shaking off excess egg white as you go, lay wings on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. (I needed two.) This coating helps the skin get crispy and caramel-colored.

Let wings dry in the fridge, uncovered, skin-side up, for at least an hour. (Longer is better; overnight is great.)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Move wings, still on the racks, directly to the oven. Cook for fifteen minutes, turn over, and cook for another ten. Turn them back to skin-side up and cook for a final ten minutes. The wings should be a nice light brown.

While the wings are cooking, make your sauce. Melt the butter with the sugar in a small saucepan. Turn off the flame. Add the piri piri sauce and vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning as you see fit.

When the wings are done cooking, let them sit for at least five minutes. Then toss, madly, with the sauce. Serve immediately, with celery stalks – and blue cheese if you're so inclined. (An homage to the Anchor Bar.) 

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