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April 2011

NYC, Here We Come!

G and I just booked a trip to, well, New Jersey, really.  We're going to housesit for our friends, P&J, while they travel to Paris for the first time.

I'm not even bothered with the fact that P&J are going to France and I'm not (usually an occasion for bright green envy), because I will have a week long train pass to get into New York City.

My head spins with all of the possibilities for luxurious food moments.

Mario Batali's new over-the-top food marketplace, Eataly.

Chef Gabrielle Hamilton's Prune.

Boqueria, a tapas place that I've visited before, but I want to introduce it to G.

The Chelsea Market, a place that G and I discovered on our last trip to Manhattan.  The place is filled with gems, including Amy's Bread and Jacques Torres Chocolates.

Also on the wish list:  Murray's Cheese Shop

If you have any other suggestions for great NYC food destinations, please comment!

Easter Dinner Snapshots

We started with a scrumptious cheese plate courtesy of our friends, P&J.



Dinner was grilled asparagus



herb roasted leg of lamb



 and chocolate souffles for dessert.




 At Mom's house, we had this beautiful ham



 and homemade scalloped potatoes.



We enjoyed a bountiful table and were surrounded by loved ones.


Easter Dinners

G and I are going to my mom's house for Easter Sunday.  She's going to take care of dinner which is always appreciated.  Mom's making ham with some yummy thyme-infused glaze, scalloped potatoes, carrots, and green beans with bacon or bacon with green beans depending on how Mom feels that day.

On Saturday, G and I are hosting a small Easter dinner for our friends, P&J.  They aren't going home to Ohio so we'll celebrate together.  This also gives me an opportunity to play in my own kitchen.

I've only ever had ham at Easter so I'm excited to prepare a boneless leg of lamb for dinner at our house.  I think I'm going to just do something simple like this:

Herbed Roast Leg of Lamb

I have bunches of asparagus already in the fridge.  I usually roast asparagus but I'll probably do something else to it to be a bit snazzier.  For another side dish, G has voted for a potato gratin, but I might do something with Israeli couscous since Mom's serving us potatoes on Sunday.

Oh, and how could I forget dessert?  I'd like to make some panna cotta, but I'm serving three people who love chocolate.  I think I'll treat them and make individual chocolate souffles.

Still brainstorming, but I will post photos this weekend!


French Onion Soup

This is a good, go-to recipe for

French Onion Soup.

Just a few small changes/additions...

I would add some garlic to the onions, maybe two-four minced cloves, depending on how garlicky you like your soup.  Then, because this has a beef stock base, I would use red wine instead of white.  It'll give the soup a much deeper, richer flavor than the white wine.

The only bread I have in the house today is whole wheat flatbread pita so I improvised some croutons.


For Dad

Four years ago today, I lost my Dad.  Shortly after that, I started culinary school and I can't help but think that he would have loved hearing about my adventures there.  No doubt he would've loved tasting my experiments.

DadAs a culinary student, I traveled to Italy and France and my Dad would have been beyond thrilled for me.  I always wanted to have a passport and be a world traveler and he shared that dream with me.  Who knew that food would be my ticket to the life I always wanted for myself?

One of the things that Dad and I always did together was eat.  Back when I still lived in Cleveland, he would drive to my apartment on Sundays and we'd go to a favorite restaurant or a new place we wanted to try, have lunch, and then go to the movies.  When I moved away, he would visit and we'd still incorporate eats and movies into our time together.  That was our thing.

In honor of my dad, I'd like to dedicate this meal to him.  If he were still here with me, I'd make this meal for him and afterwards we'd probably go to see Source Code.

First of all, I'd fire up the grill, a must.  I'd place a basket of homemade tortilla chips on the table accompanied by fresh salsa from my foodie friend Mary's garden.  One of our rules?  Always have some food to eat while you're waiting to eat your meal.

I'd grill some poblano peppers along with some jalapeno and serrano for some heat.  Then I'd process them up with onions and oregano, garlic, some water, salt and pepper.  I'd melt some provolone on top of the burgers and then smother them with the green chile sauce. 

Oh, and I couldn't forget the bun.  Dad loved great bread.  I would run to Zingerman's Bakehouse and pick up a kaiser bun or just a superbly made old school sesame seed bun.  Toast them on the grill, of course, before assembly.

Alongside the burgers, I'd grill some corn on the cob and serve the cobs with softened butter seasoned with salt, pepper, and chopped cilantro.

Finally, we'd have thick-cut sweet potato fries, sliced up in my kitchen, deep fried, and tossed with salt and a pinch of chili powder.

Chilled Coronas with lime in hand, The Mavericks blasting from the speakers, we'd happily stuff ourselves.


Julie & Julia...& Mom

A re-post from my starter blog -- August '09.

Mom & I enjoyed a foodie field trip day last Wednesday. We drove about an hour away to Birmingham where we window shopped, stopped at Penzey's spice store, and saw a matinee of Julie & Julia.

First though, we stopped at the drive-thru and heeded Mom's new addiction: chai tea lattes. I made the mistake of introducing those to her on our trip to Chicago earlier this summer and now she's hooked. With our lattes safely placed in the car's beverage holders, we were off to Birmingham.

We stopped at Forte for an early lunch. The weather was perfect so we sat at a sidewalk table. We shared some starters...Buffalo chicken spring rolls, tempura shrimp, and beef croquettes. All three dishes were prepared well and were very tasty.

Just two doors down was the movie theater, the Birmingham 8, a throwback to old movie palaces and one of my favorite places to see movies in Detroit. Mom & I took our seats as the lights went down and were transported to Paris in the 50s and 60s with Julia Child. Once the end credits rolled, we realized that we weren't ready to come back to reality.

The movie is based on the book, Julie & Julia, by Julie Powell, a temp worker in New York City who decided to use Julia Child as her muse and cook her way through all the recipes in Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Writer/director Nora Ephron cleverly intertwines this modern-day story with the story of Julia Child's days as a newlywed and cooking student in Paris, based on Child's book, My Life in France.

I've read both books, by Powell and by Child, so I was curious to see the film versions, most especially because of Dame Meryl Streep, who can barely do any wrong as far as I'm concerned. Toss in Stanley Tucci, Jane Lynch, and Amy Adams and I knew that I could not, not see this movie.

The best parts of the film are, no surprise, the parts about Julia Child's life in France. This time period includes her falling in love with food and cooking and ultimately attending the Cordon Bleu. She goes on to teach some cooking classes and embarks on writing what would later become her masterpiece, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a cookbook for American women who want to learn how to cook classical French dishes. Streep plays Child as a sassy, fun-loving, adventurer who still can't believe that she's finally found someone to love her. Tucci's Paul Child is a quiet, intellectual type who is in awe of his wife. The two make one of the most charming couples I've seen on the screen in years.

Streep towers over her co-stars, sounds just like Julia and exhibits pure joy while in the kitchen or at the dining table. As for Amy Adams, she plays a down and out, frustrated unpublished writer, who plods to her cubicle everyday wishing she was somewhere, someone else. Casting Amy Adams automatically makes the character of Julie Powell sweet, likeable, and root-able. Truthfully, the Julie Powell character should've been played by Mary Lynn Rajskub, who plays Julie's friend in the film. Rajskub, who plays the acerbic Chloe on 24, exudes more of the spirit, or lack thereof, of Julie Powell. Instead we have Amy Adams' Julie Powell, depressed and obsessed, but still cute and likeable.

I'm nitpicking, because the scenes between Julie and her husband are also tender and sweet. I will not remember most of those modern day scenes though. I will remember Streep's Julia Child visiting the farmers' markets, practicing chopping onions, her Valentines' Days with Paul, and her custom kitchen in Boston. I would love for someone to make another film about Julia Child, 120 minutes of just her life, starring Streep, of course.



Chicken Stock

One thing you do over and over again in culinary school is learn how to prepare stocks.  Chicken, beef, veal, name it.

Stock is a flavored water preparation; it forms the basis of many dishes, particularly soups and sauces.

I wanted to make some soup last week and discovered that I didn't have any chicken stock in the house.  I usually keep a few quarts of the boxed stock (low sodium version) in the pantry at all times, but we were all out.  I remembered that I'd bought some chicken backs specifically for making stock so I thawed them Monday and today I took out the stockpot and started to work.

All you need to make chicken stock:  a chicken carcass or necks/bones; carrots; onion; celery; parsley; bay leaf; thyme; peppercorns; water.

Put all of those ingredients into a stockpot, add eight quarts of water, bring just to boil, and then simmer for at least two hours.  The longer you can let the stock simmer, the better.

Strain the stock and let it sit in the fridge overnight.  The fat will rise to the top and solidify in the fridge so that you can easily remove it and use your homemade stock.  That's all there is to it!

Onions, carrots, celery.

Parsley (including stems).
Backbones, bone-in breast.
Just about to boil; time to simmer.
Strained stock.
Skimming fat.

The stock will keep in the fridge for three days.  I also try to freeze some as well in case I need some homemade soup ASAP.

A great source for stock recipes (among other tasty dishes) is:  Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.

Fish Cookery 101

The only fish I ate while growing up was either in frozen fish stick form or batter-fried.  So as an adult, I'm still not a diner who orders fish.

I learned how to fillet a fish (round, flat, big, small, you name it) in culinary school.   As a cook, I feel confident when buying fish and preparing it, but I still don't automatically think of fish as a regular meal option at home.  I need to be reminded to put it into my repertoire.

I found this article today by Mark Bittman (food columnist extraordinaire) and had to share it, both as a reminder to myself and as a great reference guide for easily preparing fish in your own kitchen.  Bittman offers simple ideas for broiling, sauteing, roasting, and poaching whitefish (which includes cod, halibut, sea bass, grouper, and haddock).

Just as a side note, always try to make friends with your local fishmonger.  The fishmonger's job is to answer questions, provide recommendations, and even slice up that whitefish into one-inch chunks if you feel ambitious and want to make kababs or a fish stew.  Take advantage!