Shelter from the Storm

March 22, 2018

The snow kept coming down, relentlessly, beautifully, constantly, but New York City snowplows were snuffling about, keeping the streets fairly clean. Getting around was easier than it’s been for years – there was no one on the road – and cabs prowled empty streets, eager for fares.

What better night, I thought, to try to snag a seat at the city’s hippest new restaurant, the one you can never manage to get into?  I’ve been wanting to go to Legacy Records, and this was my moment.  “Sure they said when we dripped into the restaurant, “come right in.”

I can’t imagine a better place to be in the middle of the storm.

The latest venture from the Charlie Bird/Pasquale Jones people is large, warm, candle-lit and casual. The ceilings are high; you can talk.  Beautiful people keep walking in the door; at one point Pharrell arrived with a large entourage.  Glancing down at the menu, I wanted to eat everything.

To begin: a blood orange spritz.  The perfect antidote to the too-sweetness of Aperol.

You have to pay for the bread.  You’ll be glad you did.  It arrives, all warm and crusty, with both butter and lardo. That sprouted, seeded loaf is soulful, absolutely what bread should be.

The crudo tasting is fantastic.  (It is also, at $25 per person, very  expensive.  Better, I think, to order the dishes individually.)  But you will want them all, from those razor clams with tarragon, to the oysters with their crunch and their heat and their pop, to the truly gorgeous Nantucket bay scallops.

But what you absolutely do not want to miss is that Montauk tuna! It does not taste like any tuna I’ve eaten before; rich, soft and sweet all at the same time, this is tuna with serious character.

You definitely want this salad! Grains, greens, radishes and roots, a glorious muddle of flavor.

You want this cuttlefish pasta too, a little symphony in black and white with the added crunch of crumbs.

I’ll be going back to taste that dry aged rib eye, the roasted chicken, the sea trout. I’m sure they’re all delicious.  But how will I ever manage to keep from ordering the duck?  This is the duck of my dreams –  all crisp darkness on the outside, all rich juicy redness within.  The pears, the endive and the pistachios are perfect partners.

We left reluctantly.  While we were eating the snow had gotten more intense, and we slip-slided all the way home. Which made the entire adventure that much more fun.

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The Perfect Dish for this Cold Winter Day

March 20, 2018

Almost spring, but you’d never know it looking out the window. Snow, snow, still snow.  Bare black branches reaching for the sky. Icy cold.  Except for the hawks, all the birds are hiding and there’s not a deer in sight.

This cold weather makes me long for something spicy – and these rice sticks with shrimp are exactly what I feel like eating.  Perhaps it’s because I first tasted them at Momofuku – and today I read that David Chang is closing Ma Peche.

Spicy Korean Rice Sticks with Shrimp and Vegetables

Shopping list: 300 grams Korean rice sticks, 2 Tablespoons Korean red pepper paste (kochujang), 1 pound asparagus, 1/2 pound shrimp, 3 scallions

staples: brown sugar, cayenne pepper, 3 cloves garlic, vinegar, vegetable oil, 1 onion.

Serves 2.

Korean rice sticks (Ddeok) were a completely new ingredient to me, and I loved experimenting with them.  Left to their own devices they are innocuous and rather bland.  But they play very well with other ingredients.  This recipe offers you the crunch of rice sticks, the joy of crisp vegetables, and the chile-garlic heat that characterizes Korean cooking. 

Rice sticks usually come in 300 gram packages, and I’ve found that they’re best fresh. If the ones you find are frozen, just let them sit on the counter to defrost. Do not buy the kind that are labeled “unfrozen”; they have an odd, almost dehydrated texture and won’t work for this recipe.

Koreans usually eat rice sticks boiled or cooked right in with the vegetables, but to me they taste best pan-roasted, which gives them a delightfully crunchy exterior.  Heat a lightly oiled cast iron skillet over medium high heat for a few minutes and roast the rice sticks just until they begin to brown.  Remove them from the heat, and if you want them in smaller pieces, cut them up.

Make a sauce by mixing two tablespoons of the gochujang (the Korean red pepper paste), with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, a teaspoon of  cayenne,  3 cloves of smashed garlic, a splash of soy sauce and another splash of balsamic, sherry or rice vinegar.

Heat a wok, add a bit of neutral oil and toss in a thinly sliced onion until it just begins to send its perfume into the air. Add an equal amount of sliced cabbage, sliced broccoli or asparagus, and a half pound of small peeled shrimp, tossing until the shrimp begin to turn rosy.  Add the sauce and the rice sticks, and if it looks as if it needs it, a bit of water. At the very end, add a sliced green onion, toss well and serve.  

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Something Salty

March 19, 2018

Winter just won’t give up!  Woke to seven degrees this morning – and the piles of snow which feel like they’ll be here, swaddling the house, forever.  Will spring really come?  Are we ever going to look outside and see some green?  Even the birds have deserted us – which may have something to do with the fact that I just can’t face digging through these many feet of snow to fill the feeder. Tomorrow, I think, tomorrow I’ll get out the shovel.

But today, I’m making this wonderful snack.  Nothing tastes better at the end of the day with a good glass of wine.

Layered Anchovy Bread

¾ cup warm water, 90 – 100 degrees

2 teaspoons yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 cup pastry flour

1 cup semolina flour

3 teaspoon sea salt, divided

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped

6 anchovies, minced

1. Combine the warm water, yeast, and sugar in a bowl and wait for it to foam, about 5 minutes. If it does not foam, discard and start with over with fresh yeast. Either the yeast is too old, or the water may be too hot. It should be tepid at 90-100 degrees. Stir in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

2. Whisk together the pastry flour, the semolina flour, and 1 teaspoon of salt. 

3. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the yeast mixture. Stir the flour into the liquid until it comes together in a ball. Knead for up to 5 minutes on a floured surface, and then place in a well-oiled bowl. 

4. Cover with a moist towel and set in a warm place to rise until it is doubled in size, about an hour.  Tip: If you want to hurry things up, place the bowl inside another bowl filled with very warm water and cover it up. 

5. Meanwhile, mix 1/3 cup of olive oil, the paprika, oregano, anchovies, and one teaspoon of salt and set aside until the dough has risen. 

6. Roll the dough out into a 15 inch round, and spread all but 1 teaspoon of the anchovy mixture all over, leaving a one inch border. 

7. Beginning with the side closest to you, roll the dough into a thin jelly roll, and pinch the edges closed. Starting at one end, curl the roll into a spiral (the sides can touch), and set onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. 

8. Brush the top with the remaining oil and sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the bread to rise for one hour.

Bake for 35 minutes until crusty and golden. Remove to a rack and allow to cool completely. Cut into thin slices.

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The Perfect Fried Food

March 17, 2018

We’re coming to the end of the r months – which means this is the moment to be eating oysters.  I love them every possible way – raw, in stews, baked into Rockefeller.  But I really love them fried.

They’re easier than you think – and so much better than anything you can get in a restaurant because you can snatch them from the frier and eat them while they’re still piping hot.  Hard to think of a more delicious way to celebrate St. Patrick’s day.

 

Fried Oysters

Shopping list: 1 pint oysters, 1 pint buttermilk, 2 cups cornmeal

Staples: flour, salt, oil.

You could shuck your own oysters, but unless you’re really an expert that makes the entire process a whole lot harder.  I open my own oysters to eat on the half-shell, but when I’m frying oysters I buy them pre-shucked.

Carefully drain the oysters, and put them in 2 cups of buttermilk for about 10 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper or a silpat pad. Mix 2 cups of cornmeal with 2 cups of flour and a teaspoon of salt.  Pick up each oyster, shake it a bit, allowing the buttermilk to drip off before plunking it into the cornmeal mixture; toss it about so it’s coated on all sides and place it on the lined baking sheet. Do it with the next oyster, and the next….

In a deep pot heat at least 2 inches of oil until it registers 375 on a thermometer. Pick up an oyster, shake it to remove excess breading and plunk it into the oil. Fry for about a minute and a half until just golden, then remove with a slotted spoon and set on paper towels to drain. You should be able to fry 6 to 8 oysters at a time.  Bring oil back to 375 before adding a new batch. 

Sprinkle with salt and serve with plenty of fresh lemons.  Some people like tartar sauce or remoulade with their oysters, but I think that masks the delicate flavor. 

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A Taste of the Past on a Snowy Morning

March 16, 2018

 

 

The sun is shining.  The cats are purring. Icicles hang outside the window. Mountains of snow are piled against the door.

Michael and I are both going slightly stir crazy and today we’re going to try and make it down the mountain.

But first, a little breakfast. I’ve made these because they’re such a classic city dish,  what I always ordered at the diner on the corner of Tenth Street and University Placer when my father took me out for breakfast.

New York diners are, sadly, disappearing, a victim of gentrification. But these corn muffins remain, a little taste of the past.

New York Corn Muffins
Makes 1 dozen muffins

Shopping List
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup corn kernels

Staples
1 cup flour
6 tablespoons white sugar
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons butter
2 eggs

Mix the flour with the cornmeal. (I prefer stoneground.) Whisk in sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda.

Melt the butter. Allow it to cool, then stir in buttermilk along with 1 egg and 1 additional egg yolk. Stir into the dry mixture. Toss in the corn kernels. (You can use frozen corn, and there’s no need to defrost it.) The dough will be lumpy; don’t worry about that.

Divide the batter into a well-greased muffin tin and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes before turning the muffins out.

I like these best served the way they are in old New York coffee shops: split horizontally, brushed with butter, and toasted on a griddle or in a pan.

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