Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I need to cook

Sometimes I get an overwhelming urge to cook something. It doesn't really matter what, and in fact, it's usually quite random. So when I read this post and realized that I had all the ingredients in my fridge RIGHT NOW I had to make it.

Salted Caramel Sauce - from The Amateur Gourmet

I am obsessed with salted desserts now. I love the complex flavor. It rocks.

1/2 cup sugar
1/8 cup water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3/8 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoons gray sea salt, crushed (I just used regular sea salt...and that's okay)

I halved the recipe. Can you tell?

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water and corn syrup and bring to a boil.

Woot! We're swimming along now. Boil over high heat until a deep amber caramel forms, about 6 minutes. I love caramels that don't need candy thermometers.....yay.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and carefully whisk in the cream, butter and salt. Let the caramel cool to room temperature (or start eating it immediately if you're me. If you let it cool, it thickens up some).

Yeah, it's amazing. I tried to make a rule that I only eat it on ice cream, but I keep walking by the fridge and sticking my finger in it. It's great on ice cream, and I kind of wish I had a cake or something to pour it on. But thank God I don't.

It keeps covered in the fridge for two weeks, I hear. But it's not making it that long around here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Whatever's in your fridge...

I have found that if you keep your fridge well stocked, you can make a nice meal at a moment's notice. For example, I had some ramps, frozen corn, green beans, tomatoes and whole wheat spaghetti in my fridge. But Meredith and I turned it into gold!

Okay, well it's not gold. It's food. But it sure was good.

Crack open a bottle of wine and watch I Love You, Man and you'll pretty much emulate my weekend.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sometimes it all works out

Meredith is here!

(James is here too - but he lives here.) She's been in London at graduate school, so she hasn't appeared much on my blog lately. But this week she's visiting and through some dumb random luck, we ended up with a reservation for four for the Momofuku Fried Chicken dinner (Gwen and I went as well, see?).

Meredith and I have been to Momofuku before (read about it here!) and we liked it well enough. However, last year (just before Meredith went off to London), Momofuku started a fried chicken dinner, which is (in their words) two whole fried chickens, one southern style and one Korean style, mu shu pancakes, long spicy peppers, baby carrots, red ball radishes, shiso leaves, bibb lettuce, four sauces and an herb basket. It cost $100 for the whole thing (not per person) and usually reservations are made up to four weeks in advance (and only online - oy vey). I've been wanting to try it (Serious Eats rated it very highly and I trust them), and the gods must have intervened, because with a minimum of fuss, we ended up at a table (at 5:30pm, but one can't be too picky).

First, just to tempt us apparently, came a bowl of lettuce, carrots and radishes and four different sauces (a pickled jalapeno, a bimbimbap(?), some kind of scallion ginger and hosin sauce).

We eagerly awaited the chicken. And oh good lord, did it deliver.

Yeah, that's a lot of chicken. What? You don't think it's that much? Here it is from a different angle.

Yup, it's a freaking ton of chicken. And it's amazing. The southern style is unbelievably moist. I actually said out loud "how can the insides be so moist and the crust be so crusty?" (Yeah, for reals. Gwen laughed at me). We all dug into the chicken with crazy gusto.

Some people may have said it was the best fried chicken they have ever eaten. Others may have nodded in agreement. If you like Old Bay in fried chicken, this is the place for you (and if you don't, well then, more for me).

The Korean style was equally good. Hot but not overpowering, the flavors were clean and addictive. I had an excellent time making fried chicken tacos that reminded me of Peking Duck except twice as awesome.

The waitress kindly brought us a bowl for our chicken bones, which was practical and funny.

We tried to finish it, but to no avail. My stomach is still full as I type this hours later. However, Zack is reaping the benefits of our stuffed bellies, as he has leftovers in the fridge.

We squeezed in a bit of soft serve - Momofuku is famous for it.

Today's flavors were olive oil and pickled cherry - sounds disgusting but was very refreshing and a nice palate cleanser.

I highly recommend going! Get a reservation and maybe bring more people - or at least bring bigger people and less tiny girls (not that tiny girls don't love fried chicken). And don't eat too much before you go. You'll thank me later.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The power of suggestion....

My dad has long made fun of me for reading about something and then feeling like I HAVE to do it, right now! He still claims that the whole reason I wanted to live in New York was based on multiple readings of The Babysitters Club: New York, New York! (He's one to talk - one year he kept saying he wanted a new Lexus because all the dads were getting one. When pressed, he confessed that the dads who were getting them were on TV.....in the Lexus commercials.)

So I suppose it should be no surprise that while I was re-reading Julie and Julia (for like the thousandth time) and I got to the part about her crepe making escapades, I was seized with an overwhelming desire to make Gateau de Crepes a la Florentine, like RIGHT NOW. Gosh darn it, I was going to make a savory cake of crepes filled with cream cheese, spinach and mushrooms. I HAD to. It called to me like the outdoors on a nice day.

Luckily, Abby was coming over to drink wine and watch Buffy. I had idly promised to make her something from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol 1 when she gave it to me as a wedding present and this seemed like a perfect time to make good on that. So here we go!

Gateau de Crepes a la Florentine!

It's a pretty dish, yes? Spoiler Alert: It is really good. How does it come to be? Well, I'll tell you.

First, you put 1 cup cold water, 1 cup cold milk, 4 eggs and 1/2 tsp salt in a blender (I broke out my blender from what I am now calling "present corner." I'm scared to unpack too much in fear that we're going to move at any moment and I'll just have to pack it all up again. But I really wanted to use the blender. Caution be dammed). Then I added 1 1/2 cups flour and 4 Tbs melted butter. I blended it for 1 minute, scraped the excess down the sides with a sparkly pink spatula and blended again for a few more seconds. I stuck the whole thing in the fridge and went to the gym. And the grocery store.

When I got back, it was time to make crepes. Julia says to rub a skillet with a piece of bacon and set it over moderately high heat until it's just beginning to smoke.

Yeah, yeah, I can already hear my dad saying "why do you have to post pictures of disgusting meat and ruin nice vegetarian dishes with bacon?" To him and his supporters I say "just use some oil then! This is my blog. We do things my way around here."

This part is hard to explain and a little tricky. Remove the pan from the heat and pour 1/4 cup of batter into the middle of the pan. Tilt it around so that the batter is spread out thin and evenly. This all happens really fast - a few seconds. Return it to the heat for about a minute or until the edges slightly crinkle up.

Flip it over and brown for about 30 more seconds. This side will brown more spottily than the first side, but that's okay.

Move it onto a rack to cool...

Then stack the finished crepes on a plate.

I was expecting the whole process to be stressful and complicated, but honestly? It was kind of a breeze. I got into a crepe flipping zone and I felt really calm and happy. Of course, then I felt a little weird about feeling the best I've felt all week while I was doing a massively complicated cooking project for no reason. There may be something wrong with me.

Anyways, next you make a Sauce Mornay which is a fancy name for a white sauce with cheese.

Cook 5 Tbs flour and 4 Tbs butter in a pot for 2 minutes. You don't want it to brown - just meld together.

Take it off the heat and add 2 3/4 cups of boiling milk (I heated mine up in the microwave because I was out of small pots) and 1/2 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper and a big pinch of nutmeg. Return it to the heat and boil it for one minute while stirring.

Reduce it to a simmer and add 1/4 cup cream one tsp at a time. Then stir in 1 cup of grated "Swiss" cheese. When Julia says "Swiss" she does not mean gross white cheese with holes. She means Gruyere or possibly Emmental. I had Gruyere in the fridge, so that's what went in my sauce. It was really thick.


Next you make the fillings. This is quite the long process. There's a reason people don't cook like this anymore - it takes several hours and every dish you own. But it's worth it.

Saute a chopped shallot in 2 Tbs of butter. Add 1 1/2 cups blanched, chopped spinach (or a thawed package of frozen spinach if you're a lazy bastard like me) and 1/4 tsp salt and cook for about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 - 2/3 cup of the Sauce Mornay. Cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes. That's one filling done. Also, I forgot to take a picture - shhhhhh.

Mash up 8 oz cream cheese with an egg and salt and pepper. Set aside. Saute 1 cup of minced mushrooms (I used shiitake) and another chopped shallot in 1 Tbs butter and 1/2 Tbs olive oil. Mix them into the cream cheese. You're also supposed to add 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the Sauce Mornay to the whole thing, but I didn't because I wasn't reading the directions closely. But it still tasted great in the end.

Okay, here comes the fun part. Take a round deep baking dish and butter it. Lay one crepe across the bottom.

Spread a layer of mushroom filling over the crepe.

Put another crepe on top of it and spread the spinach filling over it.

Repeat until all the crepes and fillings are gone.

Yeah, it's tall. Now here comes the insane part - pour the rest of the cheese sauce on top of the crepe stack and dot with butter and some more grated cheese.

At this point, I freaked out and was sure I made too much sauce and/or ruined the dish. But I baked it for 30 minutes at 350 degrees and lo and behold.....

IT WAS FREAKING AWESOME. The layers were super pretty, all green and cheesy and delicious. I mean, look at those layers.

Abby really liked it. We ate half the dish. And a bottle of Prosecco. Whoops. And then we ate some jam tart - but that's a post for another day.

Okay, sorry, I can't help myself. Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Let the sunshine in!

A few weeks ago, the sun started to shine in New York City. I was really excited about it, except for one thing - it wasn't really spring because there were still no vegetables at the farmer's market. Every time I saw another apple picked last fall, I just wanted to scream. "Where are all the spring vegetables?!?!" my brain would say. "Can't eat more potatoes........aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!"

Well halle-freaking-lujah, ramps and green garlic have arrived in Union Square. I came home with some treats:

There's a mix of microgreens, ramps (like onions/garlic/scallions mixed together) and a tiny gold medallion of chocolate covered goat cheese.

I might finally be inspired to cook something now.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Okay folks, Passover is over. No more not eating bread. Or pasta. Or rice. Jeez, that sucked.

So to celebrate, here's a post about yummy yummy brownies that have cream cheese in them! I'm kind of obsessed with cream cheese lately. Especially desserts that have cream cheese in them - it makes my heart so happy (if not my stomach).

These are easy to make, but kind of hard to make look pretty (at least for me - I'm not that artistic).

Cream Cheese Marbled Brownies!

First make the batter from here. Just add an extra egg (and don't add mini-eggs. Obviously).

In a separate bowl, beat an 8oz pack of cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, one egg and 1/4 cup flour.

Plop spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture over the brownie batter and swirl it with a knife. The less you swirl, the prettier it is. I think I swirled too much.....

I threw some white chocolate chips on top (regular chocolate would have been better, but I didn't have any).

Bake for 35-40 min at 350 degrees.

Cut them into squares and bring them to your friends while you eat sushi and watch Gossip Girl. Everyone will be happy.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A new Passover recipe

How could I let Passover go by without making something new for you all? You know I love an excuse for themed food. So yes, it's Passover time, that time of year where millions of people go Atkins to prove their devotion to God. I've seen people make this over the years and I decided, what the heck, it's time for me to try it.

Chocolate Covered Caramelized Matzoh Crunch! - adapted from David Lebovitz

(yeah, you read that right. Boo-yah)

4 to 6 sheets unsalted matzohs
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup firmly-packed light brown sugar
big pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips (I used bittersweet, but semisweet would work too)

Line a rimmed baking sheet completely with foil, making sure the foil goes up and over the edges. Cover the foil with a sheet of parchment paper. You'll thank me later when the clean up takes two seconds and not a hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Line the bottom of the sheet with matzoh.

In a small heavy duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the butter is melted and the mixture is beginning to boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat, add the salt and vanilla, and pour over matzoh, spreading with a heatproof spatula.

Woo hoo! This part tastes really good. Put the pan in the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes. As it bakes, it will bubble up but make sure it's not burning every once in a while. If it is in spots, remove from oven and reduce the heat to 325, then replace the pan. Mine didn't burn at all - but my oven is weird, so don't take my word for it.

Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips.

Let stand 5 minutes, then spread with an offset spatula. This way, the chocolate melts and makes it easy to spread.

You can sprinkle it with salt or nuts or something if you want. I left mine plain. Let it cool and break into small pieces. Store in an airtight container.

In the interest of full disclosure, mine is still not cooled. The chocolate is all runny. But oh man, it tastes good.