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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Matsuri's Seven Deadly Sins Menu

Congratulations to Matsuri, celebrating its seventh anniversary! In honor of the occasion, the fish forward restaurant housed in The Maritime Hotel is plying patrons with a Seven Deadly Sins Tasting Menu for $77.77 all throughout October--and a fanciful flight of sake pairings to accompany the transgressions is also available for an additional $37. With chef extraordinaire Tadashi Ono at the helm, the real sin would be missing out on the festivities!

The Maritime Hotel is also running a fun Seven Deadly Sins hotel package for two for $495/night plus tax. Call 212-242-4300 to book this package, which a complimentary bottle of red wine upon arrival, the gluttonous seven-course tasting menu for two, accommodations in a Queen Superior Guest room and sloth-like 2 p.m. late checkout the following afternoon.

Here's a look at the Seven Deadly Sins menu with the restaurant's tempting comments in italics:

PRIDE This dish is portioned for one, no sharing allowed.

Sashimi selection of tuna, yellowtail and salmon

ENVY Don’t be jealous of your dining companion. You know what they say, “The hijiki is always greener on someone else’s plate.”

Green salad with watercress, hijiki and soy dressing

WRATH You may have a boiling hot temper, but can your palate handle this heat?

Red hot shrimp skewers with yuzu marinade

LUST Eat at your own risk. This dish is nothing short of a love potion.

Aphrodisiac hot pot features oysters, sea urchin and yamaimo

GLUTTONY For those with elastic waistbands, this decadent dish will hit the spot.

Duck breast roasted with wasabi sauce

SLOTH This slow-cooked dish is nothing to race through, so relax and take your time!

Beef short rib slow cooked in miso broth

GREED For those with expensive taste, this dessert is as rich as they come.

Rich hot chocolate cake and raspberry sorbet

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Remembrance of Repasts Past

I joyously recall the Thanksgiving weekend some twenty-odd years ago spent at Hotel de Nesle nestled in the fulsome bosom of Paris. I had never been out of the country before, much less engaged in such a reckless a time in France over such an American holiday. I actually had a rare, bloody steak on Thanksgiving and red wine--what a thrill for a New England boy to be in Paris! How my young heart pounded, having emerged from Le Metro to gaze upon the City of Light, the breath of the city filling my lungs. We pulled into Hotel de Nesle on a Friday afternoon off the boat from London and what a trip indeed! Redolent of hippy incense, our hotel seemed more of a moony halfway house for the misbegotten, but it was so utterly charming too, and I remember feeling at the time that I had walked into a sort of dreamy Klimt painting.

Before we made a brisk trek through the Louvre during the day on Saturday, and had Thanksgiving dinner that night, I embraced Le Petit Dejeuner Parfait on just such a simple morning. If the best things in life are free, or at least included in the number of Euros (francs at the time) spent at a hotel stay, so be it. I had the best breakfast of my life in Paris at the Hotel de Nesle--a steaming, hand-painted bowl of strong coffee with creamy milk tipped in anticipated the freshest, crispy French bread, served with strawberry preserves which I slathered with a rich bright yellow butter that rivaled the rising sun.

I was just beside myself as you may well imagine, et maintenant...ah, mon coeur se brise encore!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pork Chops, Blue Cheese and Butternut Squash Puree

A friend recently asked for a butternut squash soup recipe--I immediately thought of this butternut squash puree which is a perfect side to accompany Blue Cheese Vermouth Pork Chops courtesy of Saveur magazine. So it's not quite soup but I've made both these recipes for years and am happy to share them with you. Do enjoy! Wonderful for the fall!

Vermouth Pork Chops with Blue Cheese and Butternut Squash Puree
For this recipe always use the best-quality corn-fed pork available, counseled Alan Hooker, founder of the Ranch House Restaurant in Ojai Valley, California.

1 2-lb. butternut squash, peeled,
seeded, and cubed
1 2" piece fresh ginger, quartered
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. Herb Salt
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. sliced almonds

1 cup dry vermouth
1 3⁄4 cups heavy cream
3 oz. Danish blue cheese, crumbled
Freshly ground white pepper

8 8-oz. loin pork chops, 1" thick,
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1. For the purée: Put squash and ginger in a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil over medium heat, and cook until soft, 30–35 minutes. Remove and discard ginger. Drain squash and mash to a coarse purée. Stir in butter, herb salt, and brown sugar. Cover and keep warm.

2. For the sauce: Bring vermouth to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Boil until reduced by half, about 7 minutes. Add cream and return to a boil. Reduce sauce by one-third, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, whisk in cheese, and season with pepper. Cover and keep warm.

3. Place an oiled grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush chops with oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Grill until just cooked through, about 8 minutes per side. To serve, divide sauce among four plates. Put chops on top of sauce. Serve with a dollop of squash on the side, sprinkled with almonds.

This article was first published in Saveur in Issue #26

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Perfect Picadillo!

Behold the simmering stew! Unlikely as it may sound, we are actually friends with our neighbors and the other evening they taught us how to make this picadillo! You begin by sauteeing half of a large onion in olive oil and adding two links of chopped chorizo sausage. Three pounds of ground beef substantiate the mix along with four chopped carrots and one cup of water. Put two chipotle peppers, four chopped tomatoes, 1/4 of an onion and 1/2 bouillon cube in a blender. Add this to the meat mixture with three peeled and chopped potatoes, salt and cumin to taste. Simmer for 45 minutes or so until liquid is absorbed, adjust seasonings and add more spicy chipotles if you, as some do, like it hot!

While the picadillo continued to simmer, we served glasses of Baby's sangria and gazpacho, with roasted corn, sizzled bacon, chopped onion and parsley as a garnish. So refreshing and absolutely wonderful to look upon.

Taking a cue from Herba Buena, an excellent restaurant here in the city, we made a Cuban Sandwich Pizza much as they do. We made our own dough found in the pages of Jim Lahey's My Bread and slathered it with a bechamel sauce, tinged with Roland's mustard.

Pickles, slices of ham, Swiss cheese and slivers of this gorgeous porchetta that Baby made were piled on top of our Cuban pizza.

When we were done, there wasn't a dry eye in the house and only a single slice left!

We continued on with a classic Tortilla Espanola, a snap to make in the set of frittata pans from Williams-Sonoma with six eggs, a handful of potatoes and an onion. A glimpse of Baby's index finger is seen here, stirring the concoction.

The hearty result! We spruced it up with some Sriracha sauce, another one of our favorite things.

At last we had our fantastic picadillo, with a side of rice, corn tortillas and lime wedges for good measure. Coronitas for all! And eclairs for dessert!

Soundtrack: Forever Tango; Mango Santamaria, Watermelon Man; Perez Prado, Besame Mucho; The Antonio Carlos Jobim Songbook; later, lots of 80's music

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Autumnal Cocktail Party

We marked a particular season of changes with a little autumnal cocktail party recently. Without putting too fine a point on it, I wanted to have a gathering to cheer friends, co-workers, in the midst of a blustery period of transition while welcoming the fall, as we may. In celebrating both processions, and to almost coin a phrase from Dorothy Parker, one might as well drink.

So, to the simple party, and we did eat too: Smokehouse almonds and olives met with glasses of sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio as we chomped on wonderful, puffy Bacon, Roasted Corn & Chive Gougeres with some fine maple syrup for dipping.

Crab Bisque (which I dubbed Chilled Crabacchino because we frothed it with our Braun hand blender and served in vessels of gracious antiquity) was delicious in spite of the recipe. I really worked it out on my own, alternately fiddling, futzing, fretting with the damned thing. The recipe doesn't make any sense--pots and pans are introduced without warning like denouement characters in an Agatha Christie mystery novel. Anyway, click here and solve it yourself. But do serve it with skewered, toothsome chunks of Alaskan King Crab as we did. Delicious!

A toast to change then, as we greet it, ever forward at such a maddening pace!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Gravy

America's Test Kitchen was the inspiration for our Sunday Gravy feast, although I must say we went a little beyond. Baby started the extraordinarily delicious sauce on Friday, throwing in hot sausage, meatballs, baby back ribs, wondrous braciole, and a prosciutto butt into the simmering Tuttorosso crushed tomatoes laced with red pepper flakes and Romano cheese. We purchased sturdy buccatini as our choice for pasta to lightly toss with our gravy, but I've included a fresh pasta recipe below that we meant to try, had time allowed.

From a simply made ball of dough cut into quarters, rolled into ropes 3/4" thick and cut into 3/4" pieces, we passed around the potato gnocchi first, heavenly little pillows served in single portioned spoons dressed with brown butter, frizzled sage and Parmesan cheese. Delicious enough to warrant another round!

The salad involved bitter frisee, made less angry with lots of finely chopped parsley, pan-fried pancetta and a judicious amount of my go-to favorite, Michael Lomonaco's Shallot Champagne Vinaigrette to which I added some of the olive oil and white wine reduction I had used to fry the pancetta.

After the refrigerated meats had settled in with our gravy over the course of the weekend, we warmed them to a fine, steaming heat and served with our pasta on the side! Staggering. Homemade bread went along with the lot!

I also made Ricotta Gnocchi, an old favorite that I used to make quite often and was pleased to try it again. The recipe is below, but we didn't accompany with roasted tomatoes this time as we wanted our gravy to be the sole sauce.

Wilted rapini (aka broccoli rabe) roasted with a little olive oil, white wine, onions, shallots and garlic finished us off, served with sauteed sweet sausage.

Without an excess of hyperbole, I think it's fair to say that the spoons, knives, forks and plates were licked clean!

Basic Egg Pasta
(adapted from recipe that came with the KitchenAid manual)

Yield: 1 1/4 pounds dough
4 large eggs
1 Tb water
3 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt

Place eggs, water, flour, and salt in mixer bowl. Attach bowl and flat beater. Turn to Speed 2 and mix 30 seconds.
Exchange flat beater for dough hook. Turn to Speed 2 and knead 2 minutes. Removed dough from bowl and and knead for 1 to 2 minutes. Let it rest for 20 minutes. Divide dough into 4 pieces before processing with Pasta Sheet Roller attachment.

To Cook Pasta
Add 2 tsp salt and 1 Tb oil (optional) to 6 quarts boiling water. Gradually add pasta and continue to cook at a boil until pasta is "al dente" or slightly firm to the bite. Pasta floats to the top of the water while cooking, so stir occasionally to keep it cooking evenly. Dry pasta cooks in about 7 minutes; fresh pasta, 6 minutes. Drain in a colander.

For the recipe from America's Test Kitchen for Hearty Italian Meat Sauce (Sunday Gravy) click here.

For the Potato Gnocchi recipe, click here.

For the Ricotta Gnocchi recipe, click here.

Soundtrack: Quincy Jones, Hip Hits; Stanley Turrentine, The Spoiler; Sarah Vaughan, Personal Mix; Sunshine Ghetto Day, Personal Mix; Sampled. tunes and Barbra.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Classic French Sauces

My friend whipped up this incredibly comprehensive list of sauces a few years ago. As the days grow shorter and the weather becomes colder, what better to do than get cooking and make some wonderfully comforting fare featuring these French classics? Bon appetit!

Classic French Sauces
Béchamel or Basic White Sauce
Base – light roux – butter and flour cooked together
Liquid – milk
Variations: Chivry – with herb essence added
Mornay – with cheese
Aurore – with tomato paste
Parisienne – enriched with egg yolks and cream
Veloute – using fish/chicken/veal stock instead of milk – best to simmer for up to 2 hours after preparation if possible, but not absolutely necessary
Keys: Use only a heavy-bottomed (enamel, stainless steel, pyrex, copper) saucepan – no aluminum as it will scorch and discolor the sauce
Blend flour slowly into butter at low heat, stirring constantly – do not add all at once
Milk (or stock) must be heated before being added
Thickness of sauce is in direct relation to amount of flour in proportion to amount of liquid
Thin sauce or soup base – 1 Tblsp flour per cup of liquid
Medium general purpose – 1 ½ Tblsp flour per cup of liquid
Thick sauce – 2 Tblsp flour per cup of liquid Soufflé base – 2 Tblsp flour per cup of liquid

Béchamel – 2 cups, medium thickness
You need: Heavy-bottomed 6-cup saucepan
2 Tblsp butter
3 Tblsp flour wooden spatula or spoon
2 cups milk and ¼ tsp salt heated to the boil in small saucepan
wire whisk
salt & white pepper
In the saucepan melt the butter over low heat. Blend in the flour, and cook slowly, stirring, until the butter and flour froth together for two minutes without coloring. This is a white roux. Remove the roux from heat. As soon as roux has stopped bubbling, pour in all the hot liquid at once. Immediately beat vigorously with a wire whisk to blend liquid and roux, gathering in all the bits of roux from the edges of the pan. Set saucepan over moderately high heat and stir with whisk until sauce comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring. Remove from heat and beat in salt & pepper to taste.

Chivry – this is a béchamel sauce with the addition of a herb essence and fresh herbs
You need, in addition to béchamel sauce:
1 cup dry white wine or 2/3 cup dry vermouth
4 Tblsp minced fresh chervil, tarragon and parsley OR 2 Tblsp if dry herbs
2 Tblsp minced shallots
3-4 Tblsp additional minced fresh herbs
1-2 Tblsp softened butter
Place wine, 4 Tblsp herbs and shallots in a saucepan and boil slowly for 10 minutes, reducing to about 3 Tblsp. This is now a herb essence. Strain the essence into the béchamel sauce, pressing the juice out of the herbs. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Off heat, just before serving, stir in the butter.

Sauce Brunes or Basic Brown Sauce Base – dark roux – animal fat and flour cooked together Liquid – meat stock
Variations: Sauce Ragout – same as below, with giblets, bones and meat trimmings included along with lean bacon, and 1 cup white or red wine added to the beef stock

Sauce Venaison
Same as Sauce Ragout, with ½ cup red currant jelly and ½ cup whipping cream beaten into it before serving
Keys: Same as for béchamel
Even though a darker roux is required for brown sauce – the roux MUST be cooked slowly and evenly – if flour is burned, it will not thicken the sauce properly and will taste unpleasant
Brown sauces must be simmered for at least two hours
Can be refrigerated for several days and frozen for several weeks – let cool beforehand

Sauce Brune or Demiglace – about 1 quart
You need: Heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan
1/3 cup each – finely diced carrots, onions and celery 3 Tblsp diced lean bacon (lardon or pancetta – European style bacon)
6 Tblsp rendered fresh pork fat (can use bacon fat from American style bacon if smoky flavor is desired)
4 Tblsp flour
Wooden spatula or spoon
Wire whisk 6 cups boiling brown stock – beef bouillon 2 Tblsp tomato paste
A medium herb bouquet: 3 parsley sprigs, 1 bay leaf, and ¼ tsp thyme tied in cheesecloth
Cook the vegetables and bacon slowly in the fat for 10 minutes.
Blend the flour into the vegetables and stir continually over moderately low heat for 8-10 minutes, until the flour slowly turns a golden nut brown. Remove from heat. With a whisk, immediately blend all the boiling liquid at once. Beat in the tomato paste. Add the herb bouquet. Simmer slowly, partially covered, for 2 hours or more, skimming off fat as necessary. You should end up with sauce that is thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. Add salt & pepper to taste. Strain sauce, pressing juice out of vegetables. Degrease thoroughly.

Sauces TomateTomato Sauce
This sauce starts with an olive oil roux. There is no mystery to it – it is a thick, concentrated tomato sauce with a Mediterranean flavor that I like a lot. It can be refrigerated or frozen. Coulis de Tomates a la Provencale – about 2 cups
You need: Heavy-bottomed 3-quart saucepan
1/3 cup finely minced shallots
2 Tblsp olive oil
2 Tsp flour
3 lbs ripe red tomatoes – peeled, seeded and juiced, chopped
1/8 tsp sugar
2 cloves mashed garlic
Medium herb bouquet – 4 parsley sprigs, 1 bay leaf, and ¼ tsp thyme tied in cheesecloth
1/8 tsp fennel
1/8 tsp basil
small pinch saffron
small pinch coriander
¼ tsp dried orange peel
½ tsp salt
1-2 Tblsp tomato paste if necessary
Salt & Pepper
Cook the shallots and the olive oil slowly together for about 10 minutes, until shallots are tender but not browned. Stir in the flour and cook slowly for 3 minutes without browning. Stir in the tomatoes, sugar, garlic, herbs and seasonings. Cover pan and cook slowly for 10 minutes. Then uncover and simmer for about half an hour, adding spoonfuls of tomato juice or water if sauce is too thick and seems at risk of scorching. The sauce is done when it tastes thoroughly cooked and is thick enough to form a mass in the spoon. Remove the herb bouquet. Stir in 1-2 Tblsp of tomato paste for color if desired and simmer 1-2 minutes. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Base – egg yolks and lemon juice – acid softens and prepares yolks to accept and absorb butter
Liquid – butter
Variations: Bearnaise – wine and herb reduction used instead of lemon juice
Mousseline – ½ cup whipping cream folded into hollandaise before serving
Maltaise – half of lemon juice replaced with orange juice – orange juice and grated orange peel beaten in before serving
Sauce Vin Blanc – white wine/fish stock used instead of lemon juice
Keys: Egg yolks must be heated slowly and gradually, preferably in a double-boiler – too sudden heat will make them granular, and overcooking will scramble them
Butter must be added very gradually, giving yolks time to absorb before more is presented Maximum amount of butter that can be absorbed per yolk is about 3 oz – do not exceed or sauce will curdle

Hollandaise – 1- 1 ½ cups
You need: 6-8 oz butter (1 ½ - 2 sticks)
Small saucepan
Medium weight 4-6 cup saucepan or double boiler with 4-6 cup bowl
Wire whisk
3 egg yolks
1 Tblsp cold water
1 Tblsp lemon juice
Big pinch of salt
1 Tblsp cold butter
A pan of cold water – to cool bottom of saucepan/double boiler if necessary
1 Tblsp cold butter
Salt & white pepper
More lemon juice
Melt the 6-8 oz butter in the small saucepan over moderate heat. Set aside. Beat the egg yolks for about 1 minute in the saucepan or double boiler bowl, until they become thick and sticky. Add the cold water, lemon juice and salt, and beat for 1 minute more. Add 1 Tblsp cold butter, but do not beat in. Place the saucepan or double boiler bowl over very low heat or barely simmering water and stir the egg yolks until they slowly thicken into a smooth cream, about 1-2 minutes. If they seem to be thickening too quickly or getting lumpy, immediately remove the pan from heat and plunge the bottom into the pan of cold water, beating the eggs to cool them. Then continue beating over heat. The eggs have thickened enough when you can begin to see the bottom of the pan between strokes, and the mixture forms a light cream on the wires of the whisk. Immediately remove from heat and beat in 1 Tblsp cold butter – this will cool the yolks and stop their cooking. Then while beating the yolks with a whisk, add the melted butter by droplets or ¼ teaspoonfuls until the sauce begins to thicken into a very heavy cream. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Bearnaise is just like hollandaise, except instead of lemon juice, you use a wine & herb reduction. For this, you need:
¼ cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
1 Tblsp minced shallots 1 Tblsp minced fresh tarragon or ½ Tblsp dried tarragon
1/8 tsp pepper
pinch of salt
small saucepan
Boil all ingredients in the small saucepan over moderate heat until the liquid has reduced to 2 Tblsps. Let it cool. Proceed as in making hollandaise, using wine & herb reduction instead of lemon juice. At finish, beat in another 2 Tblsp fresh minced tarragon.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tuscan Frittata Affogata

It's rather embarrassing. This recipe for Tuscan Frittata Affogata that I pulled from a Williams-Sonoma catalog is supposed to serve 8-10 people but when I served it during the chatty, wine-fueled evening with my friend Ace, we hunkered down and devoured the entire thing, just we two, in one sitting. Italian for "drowned frittata", this eggy dish is covered in rich tomato sauce and gooey mozzarella cheese. Call it what you may, but we quickly called it--gone!

Tuscan Frittata Affogata
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma
10 eggs
1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. olive oil
8 oz. mild Italian sausage, casings removed
1 small yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 cup tomato sauce 6 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced 6 to 8 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Preheat a broiler.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pecorino romano, salt and pepper. Set aside.
In the deep half of a frittata pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the sausage and cook, breaking apart the larger pieces, until browned and cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Wipe out the pan with paper towels.
In the same pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook until the onion is translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the pepper is tender, about 10 minutes more. Add the sausage to the pan and pour in the egg mixture. Cook, using a rubber spatula to lift the cooked edges and allow the uncooked eggs to flow underneath, 2 to 3 minutes. Continue cooking until the eggs begin to set, 4 to 6 minutes more.
Meanwhile, in the shallow half of the frittata pan over low heat, warm the 1 tsp. olive oil. Place the shallow pan upside down on top of the deep pan and flip the frittata into the shallow pan. Cook, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes. Uncover the pan and pour the tomato sauce onto the center of the frittata, gently spreading it to the edges. Arrange the mozzarella on top. Transfer the pan to the broiler and broil until the cheese is melted, 3 to 5 minutes.
Slide the frittata onto a serving plate, sprinkle with the basil and serve immediately.
Serves 8 to 10.

Soundtrack: Riotous laughter and catch-up conversation

Friday, September 10, 2010

Next Magazine Review - Bar Henry

Bar Henry (90 West Houston St @ LaGuardia Pl, 646-448-4559,

Bar Henry is a little hard to pick out to be sure, but thanks to the newly installed bright red awning announcing ‘bistro’, the challenge is somewhat diminished. This is a great neighborhood place with a wonderful bar and the whole thing feels like it’s been a comfortable friend forever. The red velvet banquet chairs in the dining room were plucked from the old days at the Plaza and lend a certain rag-tag grandeur to the proceedings with hardly a vestige of the smoke-filled Zinc Bar which formerly occupied the space.

We grew readily accustomed to the Henry’s Dog Cocktail ($14) with Tito’s vodka, dry and sweet vermouth and cherries soaked in brandy before moving on to some wine from their extensive list—and take note, most labels may be sampled as half bottles as well. As we sipped on an Australian Betts & Scholl Reisling ($49/bottle, $25/half bottle) we slurped down a few Oysters ($2.50) with an excellent ginger cocktail sauce: the Beau Soleils were like velvet brine, while the Malpecs had a fuller flavor.

Endive Salad ($8) was perfect for summer, with a fine balance of watermelon, feta cheese, almonds for crunch and a pure lavender vinaigrette. Organic Bedeviled Eggs ($5) weren’t hard to take either, with a fair balance of paprika and truffle oil. Earthy Chicken Liver Mousse ($11) was creamy, served with raspberries and a chiffonade of chopped dates. Short Rib Tacos ($12) wrapped in corn tortillas stopped the show—how toothsome and delicious!

Naturally with our entrees, more wine followed. The Austrian Nigl Sauvignon Blanc ($68/bottle, $34/half bottle) was most unusual, with a flinty hint of asphalt and a taste of gooseberries flocking to the palate. Chicken Under A Brick ($19) is an absolute must, with wilted kale and lemon pan jus. We found the Branzino ($25), a special of the night, to be wonderful, with crispy skin and a frizzle of leeks on a healthy bed of corn, tomatoes, squash, shallots, epazote and a bit of butter thrown in for good measure.

When it comes to neighborhood dining, the bar has indeed been raised!

First published in Next magazine.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Give a Challah!

Much like the eccentric cousin in Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory, who runs around screaming "It's fruitcake weather! It's fruitcake weather!" to herald the advent of the wintry holiday season, I know that when my own little fruitcake starts making loaves and loaves of round challah bread to bring to celebratory tables filled with friends and family, it means that Rosh Hashanah can't be far behind.

Actually, whatever the High Holiday, Baby makes challah, but at Rosh Hashanah, his breads are braided in a special round formation to symbolize completeness, such as the completion of a year and the circle of life. Whatever the shape or season, his wonderful challah is always appreciated, and I daresay anticipated!

The recipe for challah is here.

Go to for a lesson in braiding your round challah bread (I don't know why the woman has purple hands in the video) or otherwise just search "round challah braid" on the site.

S'hana Tova!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Praise the Pearl -- Le Vrai Moutarde!

For years I've maintained that Maille Dijon Originale, traditional Dijon mustard was the best darn delicious Dijon out there--besides, the label boasts they have 260 years of expertise behind them, so surely that's enough time to get it right, no? Now I love to slather a hot dog with French's yellow variety or Sabrett's Spicy Brown Mustard as much as the next fellow, and have even grabbed Grey Poupon in a pinch, but when it came to cooking, Maille was my go-to mustard. Only recently at a friend's country house upstate New York in the hamlet of Rhinecliff did I discover Roland certified organic Extra Strong Dijon Mustard (also a product of France), while sittting at their lunch table, making some sandwiches. When the condiment whistled through my nostrils, it suddenly became quite clear--lunch, dinner, what-have-you, Roland's the one to beat!

I still owe a debt to Maille of course, but frankly it doesn't seem to last too long in the refrigerator and in comparison to Roland's in turns subtle and bursting-with-flavor brand, Maille seems a little sour and rather vinegary.

Extra Strong Roland is not to be trifled with, but unless if perhaps ladled on the palate, it never scalds--even while suggesting that it may, Roland is still respectful of food, and in any number of measuring spoons, eagerly awaits the opportunity to enliven a Nicoise or German potato salad, green beans, a dill dressing for salmon and blueberries, or a Shallot-Champagne vinaigrette.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Best of Food Blogs Cookbook

You may recall a few months back I posted that I was invited to enter a competition to have a recipe published in's Best of Food Blogs Cookbook: 100 Great Recipes, Photographs, and Voices. A lot of you voted for me and certainly showed your support and I'm thrilllllled to announce that out of over 1,500 entries, my recipe for Wicked Good Clam Chowdah made it into the collection of just 100 recipes, celebrating the best food bloggers worldwide!

Tell your friends! Tell your family! Why wait until October 19th when it's distributed internationally in stores? Pre-order here on straight away!

I hope you enjoy my Wicked Good Clam Chowdah and the other great recipes in Best of Food Blogs Cookbook.