EATING: The Scorpio Birthday Edition

What do you get for your chef boyfriend who never really asks for anything? Except maybe for FIFA 2014 which I refused to get him? Well you have an entire weekend of gluttony, of course.

Friday night Ryan bought some clams, shrimp, and cod to make a tomato-based seafood stew. Garlic, onions, and fennel went into it, and stock was made using shrimp shells.

Saturday morning, we went to the Grand Army Plaza Farmer’s market to gather ingredients for a full English breakfast. Also some sourdough bread which I sliced and froze and some tiny round Lakemont (green) and Mars (dark purple) grapes. The books are from the library – I’ve been inhaling them.

Grand Army Plaza Haul

I cooked breakfast mostly in the oven:

Full English
The potatoes I cooked in a cast iron skillet – in duck fat on the stove first, then finished in the oven. Baked beans came from a can. Tomatoes and sausage got the olive oil-salt-pepper treatment and went in the oven. The portobellos got the same, but also a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Mushrooms are like sponges, so I had to salt them a lot.

We had been wanting to see Gravity, so we picked UA Court Street in downtown Brooklyn because we wanted to eat at PokPok. Food first, always. So we biked out to PokPok and got a few salads – eggplant and duck. But the real winner was the pork belly & pork shoulder curry. It’s got roots in Burma, which tends to have a tangy-er and not overpowering curry flavor. Suuuuper good. Unfortunately we sat next to an uber high maintenance girl on a date, who was asking such things as “Is your coconut juice in a real coconut?” and “Is your Thai tea sweetened?” and “Can you wait like 20 minutes before bringing our soup?” “Can you wait like 5 minutes more? I just want it to be hot.” and “Can you leave the crispy noodles off?” and “What’s in a whiskey sour?” Girl. Just be quiet and enjoy the food! Anyway just order the pork belly curry when you go – it is delicious.

PokPok

After dinner we went to Whiskey Soda Lounge for more drinks and the fried pig ears. Which are better in Portland, where they are not fried to shit. But they were still tasty. I also had the rice whiskey which was infused in-house with fresh pineapple. It was like drinking juice! Delicious!

Gravity was a good film. Fraught with tension of course, but also frustration at having to listen to Sandra Bullock’s awful panting and whinging, especially after learning that she was using up her O2 faster by said panting and whinging. I would’ve preferred an epic non-dialog soundtrack like Explosions in the Sky or Music for Airports. But hey, I am not the filmmaker, nor the vox populi.

On Sunday we did our usual dim sum excursion, then dinner at Minetta Tavern. This time we strategized properly and did not leave hurting. For our appetizer we had the bone marrow fort.

Bone Marrow Fort at Minetta Tavern

Ryan got the Black Label Burger, and I had the seabass special which had brussels sprouts, chanterelles, leeks, and shaved black truffle. Also a very light cream sauce.

Birthday Dinner

We finished every bite then shared the chocolate souffle for two. They have Innis & Gunn again, my favorite beer. So next time I’m having some steak, marrow, and a shitload of I&G. Last meal status!

As for presents, I tried not to go too crazy:

PRESENTS

Yup, those are meat socks.

Happy birthday, other stomach.

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Sunday Supper: The Secret Southerners

This past Sunday we were at dim sum trying to plan dinner. Ryan wanted shrimp. At Fei Long we got some ingredients for shrimp & grits, and since we were going that route I decided to make stewed okra & tomatoes, which I’ve never made before but figured it fit the theme and that they’d go well together. And that I’d figure it out.

So here is dinner:

#sundaysupper is blogged: #bacon wrapped #shrimp, #grits, and stewed #okra. #homecooking #casapuerco #stomachmonster Link is in my profile.

And this is how (this is in order of how I cooked things):

Okra & Tomatoes (I didn’t really use a recipe, just my brain)
1. Mince 2 shallots and caramelize in a small pot with oil.
2. Large dice a couple of tomatoes and throw those in, then season with salt.
3. Wash and cut okra into 3/4 inch diagonals and toss those in, season with salt.
4. Add water, just enough to cover the ingredients, then bring to a low boil.
5. Add white vinegar (I used vinegar that I’ve thrown some garlic and Thai chiles into, that I always have on hand).
6. Add white pepper, cayenne, paprika, bay leaves.
7. Simmer – if you need to add more liquids, add vinegar.

Grits
1. Bring water or stock to a boil. I used seafood stock that was leftover from last Sunday’s dinner, which was cioppino. Repeat: last Sunday we had ciopinno with stock made from scratch.
2. Reserve some in another container (about 2 cups).
3. Whisk cornmeal in. I used about a cup and we had enough for three servings.
4. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Keep whisking over low heat, adding liquid as necessary.
6. Season as needed. The texture should be thick but not pasty.

Shrimp
1. De-shell and de-vein shrimp, then toss with olive oil, salt, pepper. We left the tails on.
2. Cut bacon strips in half and wrap each shrimp.
3. Grill on each side until cooked. Because of the bacon you might end up overcooking the shrimp but that’s okay because bacon.

To serve, spoon grits out onto a plate. Top with the stewed okra, then arrange shrimp around the edges. I drank root beer but this begs for actual beer, of the yeast/malt/hops variety.

The 1:00 Vegan

When conversations about what to have for dinner happen, Ryan and I often have differing opinions on what is suitable. Especially when we collaborate. I prefer simple, mostly healthy meals while he prefers to eat something delicious that is filling and feels good in your mouth and has meat. All valid qualities in a good meal.

Which is why, when I said that I wanted to use one of our bags of pasta from our slowly growing Quinciple collection, he suggested mac & cheese. With bacon.

FIIIIIIIINE. THIS IS WHY I GO VEGAN FOR LUNCH.

Once I’m unleashed in full fat mode, there is no turning back. Here’s what you need for our Fat Bastard Bacon Mac:

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8-10 strips of bacon
2 shallots, minced
1 bunch scallions, sliced into 1/4 – 1/2 inch pieces.
Fontina and Munster cheese – shredded, cubed, whatever. It’ll all melt anyway. If you shred it it will melt faster. About a cup of each.
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, split into two portions. This is not an exact measurement, it’s what we had left.
1 tub creme fraiche
Whole milk
Flour
Butter to grease the baking dish
1 lb pasta, cooked al dente in salted water and put through a cold water bath

1. Preheat oven to 400. Heat up a heavy-bottomed pot. Grease your baking dish – a 9×9 one works well for this recipe.
2. Cut up bacon into big chunks, then drop it into the pot. Cook until lightly crisp, then drain. Leave the fat in the pot, leave the heat on. Bacon fat is great because its burn point is really high. Add the shallots in and cook until tender.
3. Add about 5-7 good tablespoons of flour to the pot and cook it in the bacon fat. It should turn light brown after about 6-8 minutes, and then you can start whisking the milk in, in small batches. We had a quart of milk and I used about 3/4 of it. At this point I added some spices – cayenne pepper, paprika. Also about a tablespoon of dijon mustard.
4. Once the milk mixture has thickened, add the cheese and whisk until thickened. Add half of the parmesan cheese.
5. Add the pasta, scallions, and cooked bacon. Dump it all into the baking dish and top with the remaining parmesan cheese.
6. Put it in the oven. It might help to put a cookie sheet under the baking dish in case it bubbles over. Bake for about 25 minutes, then turn the broiler on until the cheese on top is golden and crisp.
7. Take the dish out of the oven and let it stand for about 5-10 minutes before serving.
8. EAT.

Bacon #macNcheese #recipe up on #stomachmonster blog, link is in my profile.

This is great cooking music. They are on tour now – I’ve been wanting to see them since I was 13.

I also made a Caesar salad on the side. Because HEALTHY.

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: Pacific NW Edition

So we are back from our vacation. We ate a lot of food but in the interest of sanity I will only post my favorites here. The rest can be found in my Flickr set.

So here goes:
Vancouver, BC
Dim sum at Sun Sui Wah
Sunday dim sum at Sun Sui Wah with my cousin, aunt, and uncle. We went to the East Van location which was walking distance from where we were staying. The clams with black bean and char siu so were better here. They also have more rice dishes. It’s a nice restaurant, with lots of sunlight. But no carts! Here we introduced Ryan to Lee Kum Kee’s XO sauce which trumps all hot sauces as it has ham, dried scallops, and dried shrimp in it. Our bottle is en route, in the mail from Seattle. I hope.

Lumpia Sariwa
Lumpia Sariwa, made by my Ama (grandma). I’ve eaten this as long as I can remember. Ama makes this with carrots, cabbage, green beans, fish tofu. It takes a whole day to prepare, with all the different components that go into it. It’s served deconstructed, so you can make it how you like it. The romaine lettuce keeps the lumpia wrapper from getting soggy, and you top the vegetable mixture with thinly cut scrambled eggs, dried seaweed, a garlic and vinegar mixture, peanuts crushed with sugar, cilantro. Mom also toasted some sesame seeds this time.
It pains me to live so far from my grandma, who in her day had her own dress-making company and also played soccer and basketball, like Ryan. When I was with her I was too young to learn to cook, and now I am too far away to help her in the kitchen.

Seattle, WA
Dinner at Ma's
My mom and uncle’s business does business with Uwajimaya in Seattle, so on our drive down from BC we stopped in so that she could do a sales stop, and we could get groceries. They have a TON of fresh seafood, including oysters. We got a dozen each of kusshi and kumamotos which Ryan shucked at home. I made sinigang using bangus (milk fish).

Breakfast at Odd Fellows
Breakfast at Odd Fellows in Capitol Hill, which is also situated near Everyday Music, Totokaelo, and Elliot Bay Books. Ryan got the bacon and egg biscuit which was surprisingly delicious. The eggs were soft scrambled with a lot of cheese and some chives. My brioche French toast was about two inches thick, served with housemade strawberry preserves on the side.
We of course went to Pike Place where once again we were reminded of how shitty New York produce is. Picked up chanterelles and other veggies for dinner at home.

Oysters & Cocktails at The Walrus & The Carpenter

Amai, Calm Cove, Tomales Bay, & Glacier Point #oysters
Happy hour at The Walrus & The Carpenter. We had some cocktails made with gin, absinthe, and celery to start, as well as a mixture of the four oysters on offer that day. Amai, Calm Cove, Tomales Bay, and Glacier Point. Amai and Calm Cove were our favorites – creamy and briny. The Tomales Bay oysters, which we thought would be our #1, tasted disappointingly flat in comparison. We also ordered a tuna tartare special that had salmon roe mixed in that was very luxurious-feeling, and a lackluster and bitter salad of artichoke hearts, anchovies, and a shit ton of walnuts.

Pho In & Out, last meal in WA
Such a huge array of pho spots in the Pac NW. This is Pho In & Out, near my mom’s office in Kent. We ate this for breakfast, then headed to the shooting range nearby where Wednesday’s special was free gun rentals. So we busted through 2 boxes of ammo and 2 different guns before boarding the Amtrak to Portland.

Portland, OR
First dinner in PDX: Sen Yai
First dinner in Portland, at Sen Yai. This is Pok Pok’s noodle house, on SE Division Street a few blocks from Pok Pok and Whiskey Soda Lounge. More on those later. Ryan had the Lat Na, which were stir fried noodles with gravy and egg, and I had the Yen Ta Flo which had seafood and choice of noodles in a tomato-fermented tofu broth. Both delicious. On the side, the red fire water spinach and rice. For dessert we ordered the pandan ice cream but were disappointed with the chalky texture. So we went across the street to Salt & Straw where I had Jenn Louis’s Mint Leaf + Uni Meringue ice cream, and Ryan had strawberry-honey-balsamic.

Dirty Fries close up at Lardo East
On Thursday we had pie for breakfast at Lauretta Jean’s, then rented some bikes to ride around the city on. In my opinion, the best way to experience a new place. You can hop on and off easily, you can hear and see things better, and it’s easy to stop for photo ops. After biking around a bit we ended up at Lardo, which is celebrated for its sandwiches. Have I mentioned that Ryan makes gourmet subs for a living? We got the BLAT and Cold Fried Chicken sandwiches, which failed. Hard. Not delicious at all. BUT since I am posting only the best stuff we ate, here is a close up of the dirty fries, which are hand cut potatoes fried with huge pieces of lardons, then tossed with pickled cherry & banana peppers, fresh rosemary, and parmesan cheese. I want this dish whenever fries are an option.
I don’t have any photos of Thursday’s dinner, because I didn’t want to be THAT person. We did the five-course tasting menu at Le Pigeon, which was super filling and delicious. They offer a seven-course tasting but we correctly assumed that we wouldn’t be able to handle it. Our five courses included albacore crudo with tomato water, avocado, and radish; tempura-fried halibut with passionfruit tartare and house made tots; rabbit flank poached in milk and truffles with walnuts, green beans, and chanterelles; beef cheek bourgignone atop gruyere mashed potatoes and grilled onions; almond financiers with blueberries, cheesecake, creme fraiche, and motherfucking foie gras profiteroles with salted caramel sauce. I want to eat that all the time – we considered asking recently married friends if any of them received ice cream makers as presents, and bribing them with the promise of meat liver ice cream, but not sure who would take the bait.

Danish Marys at broder

broder
Broder was a spot that was on my list, and we happened to pass it as we were taking a different route into the busier part of town. I called out to Ryan to stop and after waiting about 30 minutes we sat down to what will probably the sleeper hit of the trip. We ordered Danish Marys, made with Aquavit and garnished with pickled deliciousness. I had the smoked trout hash with eggs and Ryan had the lost eggs, basically eggs baked with cream, bacon, and spinach topped with panko and parmesan cheese. I had to fight him for bites of the dish, promising to replicate it at home.
Our hosts mentioned that Portland does breakfast really well. I can only guess that this is because it used to be a busy port and industrial area, and for blue collar workers breakfast is the most important (and largest) meal of the day, none of that tea and toast BS. Am I close?

5 spice #pigears with black vinegar supper. A very Andy Ricker vacation.

pok pok PDX
We had a very Andy Ricker dinner our last night. After putting our names in at Pok Pok we headed to Whiskey Soda Lounge to wait and have snacks. At WSL we had the 5-spice pig ears and wings, along with more cocktails. For dinner we tried to order things not available in Brooklyn. Namely, the rotisserie Cornish hen and boar collar served with chilled mustard greens. Both winners. We also ordered the catfish noodle dish we love and a side of corn on the cob cooked with coconut milk and kaffir lime. I’m gonna go ahead and say PokPokPDX is way better than PokPokNY. It’s in an old house and there are a lot of twists and turns to get to tables and bathrooms and kitchen, and the staff and food are just so on point. NY has a bit of catching up to do.
The kaffir lime gin & tonic is delicious, as is the Apple Gin Rickey, which is made with apple cider som (drinking vinegar). I’m usually a whiskey/bourbon drinker but for some reason this trip, I was feeling gin.

Salt & Straw round 2
After Pok Pok, back to Salt & Straw where Ryan had TWO scoops of that strawberry balsamic ice cream, and I tried the Hawaiian PB&J. Because vacation.

Last #brunch of vacation
On Saturday we rented a Zipcar and headed to Olympic Provisions for brunch. We were the first ones there at 10am.

Viking Mary with aquavit & white anchovies on the left, Olympic Mary with salami swizzle on the right. #brunch #bloodymary #helpmeeee
Holy shiiiiit the cocktails. I got the Viking Mary (with Aquavit, again) and Ryan got the Olympic Mary. Please see the swizzle/garnish sticks. I know places can get really crazy with these but they don’t always taste delicious – the bacon is cold and congealed, the pickled whatever is falling apart, etc. These did. And we got both bread & butter AND dill pickles. For garnish.

Olympic Provisions
We ordered the Italian board which came with house made coppa, mortadella, fresh sausage, soppressata, and finnochiona. Also Taleggio cheese. We also ordered a serving of the Loukanika, a Greek salami made with cumin, garlic, and citrus zest. Also the kielbasa hash, which was served with potatoes and topped with a poached egg and gravy. ALSO a green bean salad with pickled yellow squash, blue cheese, and toasted almonds. Gahhhhh. We have had some of these salamis before and they were good, but not as delicious as eating them “fresh” and not packed with extra preservatives. In Portland they were softer, fattier, and almost creamy-feeling to eat. I wanted to go back there for dinner before our flight, but Ryan put the kibbosh on that. So instead we went to Cheese Bar and had more cold cuts.

Nothing else matters. Only charcuterie.

We also tried a couple of donut places – Voodoo Too (the less crowded location on the east side) and Blue Star, downtown. Voodoo Too’s maple bacon donut didn’t disappoint. We got the same at Blue Star, which tasted anemic in comparison. Also their creme brulee Cointreau donut was a disappointment, too much dough and not enough custard. And it was runny at that. I’m not saying they were BAD donuts. The actual donut part itself was good, but the toppings weren’t as good as others I’ve had. They reminded me of less-greasy Dough donuts with their size and fluffiness.

Yes we did
YES WE DID.

Must return. Rinse. Repeat.

From Nowness: Tales from the Pantry

Sausage and Herbs

Tales from the Pantry: Tom Harris on Nowness.com

I haven’t been updating – too busy, and everything is on Instagram. Once again.

We went to Montauk a couple of weekends ago, and are off to the Pacific Northwest this Saturday. Updates to follow!

In the meantime, enjoy this slideshow from Nowness which features Q&A + pantry shots from Tom Harris. He worked for Fergus Henderson at St John’s, one of my bucket list restaurants.

This Makes Sense

I woke up at 6:30am today to help my company set up at a tradeshow. Which involved getting all our materials into an SUV that drove us into Manhattan and doing a little bit of running around the city. So what did I make for dinner? A tapas feast.

Inspired by Katie Davies’ post from a couple of years ago, I made lamb with beer and roasted garlic, slow roasted tomatoes, and tortilla espanola.

#tapas for dinner. Tortilla espanola, roasted tomatoes, lamb with beer & roasted garlic. Blogged https://stomachmonster.wordpress.com #homecooking #casapuerco #stomachmonster

Katie has the actual recipes and ingredients on her site, but below is the order in which I did things. I find it helps to explain things this way – cooking multiple dishes requires timing and thought, and I have learned this skill from previous dinner parties that I’ve hosted. Now I can just do it in my head.

You shouldn’t be intimidated to try stuff like this – I would use Google calendar to schedule everything, from shopping for which ingredient (I’d space it out over a few days so I didn’t have to lug everything home) to prep, to cooking actual dishes. Use whatever works for you!

1. Start with the tomatoes. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees and slice tomatoes in half, crosswise. Place them in a baking dish and fill with about a quarter inch of olive oil. Salt and pepper them well and add some fresh basil to the dish, placing them in the oil. Put it in the oven for 1.5 hours. You can add your garlic into the oven at this point as well, but take them out after about 30-45 mins.

2. Start slicing your potatoes and onions. I used Yukon golds and a medium yellow onion. Slice them up thinly, then heat some duck fat (olive oil is okay too, I guess) in a 10″ nonstick skillet and saute the onions. Add the potatoes, season with fresh ground pepper, kosher or sea salt, and hot paprika. Saute, making sure the potatoes aren’t sticking to each other, for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, beat 4 eggs in a large bowl. When the potatoes have fully cooked (they’ll look less white/opaque), add them to the beaten eggs and mix.

3. Meanwhile, salt & pepper your lamb chops, then brown them quickly. In a separate bowl, mash the roasted garlic and add beer. I used Steen Bruge dubbel ale after doing a little research for beer + lamb pairings. The tomatoes should be done about now so take them out of the oven and turn it up to about 375.

4. In the pan you used to brown the lamb chops (I used a large oven-safe skillet) add the beer and garlic mixture, and then the lamb chops in a single layer. At this point reheat the potato-onion pan and add oil, enough to coat the bottom. Over medium-low heat, add the potato-onion-egg mixture.

5. Ready the tomatoes – grate the cheese on top and add more fresh basil.

6. Put the lambchops in the oven. Mine is small so they went on the oven rack, and then I put the tomatoes back in, on the bottom portion of the oven. Check the tortilla and make sure it’s not sticking to the sides of the pan. You can jiggle the pan a bit, and when it seems semi-solidified (ie: it won’t fall apart if you try to move it) use a large plate and cover the pan. Flip it over so the tortilla is now on the plate, then slide it back into the pan and continue cooking it.

7. At this point everything should be getting done at the same time. You can take the tomatoes out of the oven after about 6-8 minutes, then the lamb. To serve, a wedge of tortilla, lamb chops, and a tomato half.

8. Drink with the leftover beer. Duh.

It’s summertime

Summer is almost over! We are in August and there’s so much I haven’t gotten to do yet, despite all the things we HAVE been doing. I have no complaints. Except for one thing: no seafood boil this year.

Last year Ryan lived in a top floor apartment that had a roofdeck and full-sized grill. We invited friends over for a seafood boil and made rice & beans, cole slaw, and 2 different desserts.

We didn’t start out to recreate that in our dinner but we had some of the ingredients at home and we managed to compromise on a seafood salad for dinner since we’ve been eating a LOT of meat lately. So here’s our Seafood Boil Salad:

Uber close up of our giant seafood boil x salad dinner. Blogged at the usual place. #homecooking #casapuerco
Steamed Dungeness crab, shrimp and bacon cooked in its own fat, raw sweet corn, steamed asparagus, potatoes, tomatoes. Lettuce from Quinciple and a lemon zaatar dressing. It’s just a salad but all the components had to be prepped separately. Worth it though. The crab tasted buttery – the secret is to only steam it for about 10-12 minutes. We got ours in BK Chinatown for $2.99/lb.
I sauteed some bacon and scallions together with a tiny bit of olive oil, then added deveined shrimp that I had seasoned with salt and pepper. Shrimp are really easy to over cook – just do them on each side for about a minute. Flip them once, then turn the heat off. They’ll keep cooking in the hot pan.
Corn is a pain to take off the cob, but Ryan got me a big ass serrated knife for Christmas as a stocking stuffer. I also cut the cobs in half to make it easier and less messy.
Everything else is pretty self explanatory.

This week’s Quinciple box also had peaches and a vanilla bean. But instead of making their suggested marscarpone cheese (also in the box) and peach dessert, I decided to make a galette, which is basically an unformed tart. I used this recipe from the NY Times and used the peaches and vanilla. Also I added a tablespoon of Black Maple Hill bourbon for an extra kick. I also didn’t have whole wheat flour so I used all unbleached all-purpose flour. Which negates the “for health” part of the recipe I guess. But there is still fruit!

Bourbon & peaches

The peaches turned out great but the crust was too bread-like for my liking. I’d like something a little more like shortbread and less puffy. I’ll keep experimenting.

Bourbon peach galette

In other news, I made matcha chocolate chip cookies but I will show you those in a couple of days.

In the meantime

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#sunset/#moonrise #prospectheights #brooklyn #rooftopview #CasaPuerco

A post shared by AC (@dammitalexis) on

These are photos I took from my rooftop. The skies this summer have been really beautiful, and I like going up there to watch the sunset.