Posts Tagged 'new york city'

BLT 2009: Double the bacon, double the fun

That was 2008.

This was 2009:

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Deceptively simple

I have a tendency to make the most unassuming dishes in the most time-consuming, overwrought way. I figure that the more attention you pay to every step and aspect of making a dish, the better it’s going to be ultimately.

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You look familiar

Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?

At my CSA pickup on Saturday, I was psyched to see that not only were we getting six pounds of peaches, pears, and plums, but that the plums were just like the ones that grow in the Langhe, where I used to live in Italy. Called ramassin there and Italian prune plums here, they’re especially good for putting up or for turning into a pie with the last few peaches from the previous week’s CSA share.

A cold one for hot days

Ganda posted last year about Brian’s method for making iced tea, but I thought I’d mention my variant. Also because I’m a recent convert to iced tea. I’d always preferred it hot, but during this heat wave, I would rather not make my insides feel like the outside.

We’ve been making gallons of iced coffee this summer using the cold-brewing method described in the NYTimes a while back. Also coffee ice cubes, which are key. It amazes me that there are still people out there who don’t know about cold brewing.

I’m not a coffee drinker, but I cold-brew iced tea in a similar fashion: before going to sleep, while Matt’s grinding the Stumptown, I drop a bag of PG Tips in a jar, fill it with cold water, and stick it in the fridge. In the morning, I’ve got a perfect, cold iced tea waiting for me. You could do it in less time, of course, but leaving it overnight makes it just the right temperature to help face a 95˚ subway platform.

My next innovation for iced tea will be unsweetened lemonade ice cubes.

Culinary conquests, part iii: Buns in the oven

One of the best things about doing this dinner-and-movie supper club is that it motivates me to take on projects that normally scare the shit out of me.

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Fire escape garden, week 9

Ladies and gentlemen, we have peas.

Culinary conquests, part ii: chicken that tastes like bacon

For the second installment of the supper club, besides lemon meringue pie, I thought it’d also be a good opportunity to try my hand at fried chicken. Who wants to make the house smell like fried for just four people? Who cares that I’ve never fried anything before? Well, that’s not exactly true, but it is mostly.

It was suggested that I do a trial run first, but Carla, who has made the recipe for me before (not to mention, in her little kitchen in Italy) assured me that it was straightforward and didn’t even require a thermometer.

The recipe, of course, is the Edna Lewis/Scott Peacock fried chicken from The Gift of Southern Cooking — perhaps the most stained book in my cookbook library. It’s not a very demanding recipe laborwise, but you do need lots of time: 12 hours for brining, 12 hours to soak the chicken pieces in buttermilk (Carla, where did you manage to get buttermilk in Bra?). And then they just get a roll in seasoned flour, with a little cornstarch for crunch. All the steps thusfar ensure that the chicken is impregnated with flavor and retains succulence through cooking, but it’s the frying fat that probably makes this

THE BEST FRIED CHICKEN EVER.

A pound of lard and a stick of butter make the chicken crispy, but it’s the piece of country ham that sits in the pan all through frying that gooses the chicken with a little porky goodness (yeah, that’s right: I used three animals in one clause). Someone even asked if there were bacon in the chicken.

Also, fried chicken is easy. The frying part takes only about 10 minutes per piece (which meant that, with the 10″ Lodge skillet and 32 pieces of chicken, I fried for about an hour and a half), and you can tell by looking when the fat is at the right temperature or needs more or less flame. Even cleanup wasn’t so bad. I waited for all the fat to solidify and then just scraped it into the trash.

Also, fried chicken is good. It is, in fact, one of the world’s perfect foods. Good thing it’s so easy to make.

Culinary conquests, part i

For the second installment of our dinner + movie series, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to tackle three things I’ve never made before and have always been intimidated by while cooking dinner for 15.

The first dish I undertook — and one of the last we ate — was the lemon meringue pie.

I’ll admit it: egg whites make me anxious. I’ve now made custard ice cream bases so many times that I’d probably only scramble the yolks if somehow Ed McMahon showed up at my apartment door with a bigger-than-me-sized check. But whites are another story. It seems like they’ll get all spooked if you just look at them the wrong way — there can’t be a speck of yolk, a trace of fat of any kind, in fact, on your beating apparatus or vessel; the whites whip easier if they’re room temp (or is it cold?), overbeat them and the protein strands will shrink or just collapse on you. I love me some Pavlova, but all that meringue makes me want to run screaming for the hills. Also, did I mention that I didn’t have any kind of electric mixer at all? Until recently, that is. Somehow I ended up with two stand mixers, and it seems a shame not to put them to work.

(Before all the hardcore egg beaters out there with their guns of steel start protesting and insisting that this should all be done by hand, I’d just like to point out that it took more than seven minutes of stand-mixer beating before my whites got to the stiff-peak stage. And god knows what that translates to in hand-beating years. I’ll make mayonnaise with a wooden spoon before I do whites by hand.)

Turns out that, armed with the right small kitchen appliances and proper respect for the egg white’s particular ways, meringue is not so hard after all.

A few things I learned from making lemon meringue pie:

1) Best not to get all cocky about how well you separate eggs. Don’t assume you won’t a) screw one up and end up trying to scoop a yolk (unsuccessfully) out of the container of whites; or b) that there won’t be a bad egg in the bunch, even if you just got the bunch at the Greenmarket that morning.
1a) Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. That is, do four or five whites in one vessel and then move on to another to avoid ruining all your whites in one go.
1b) Bad eggs smell terrible. Not like sulfur at all — like badness. Plain ol’ badness.
2) It takes a long time to get those whites to stiff peaks.
2a) But boy, are they ever pretty.

It also happens that I’m intimidated by pastry dough. I’ve had some fall apart on me, others become tough shoe-leather, and still others that tasted like crayons. This time I read up on the latest in crust technology and got three tubs of leaf lard and threw some duck fat in the dough for good measure. That took care of the flavor. Also, it’s true what everyone tells you — keep everything really, really cold. That’ll take care of the structure. And lastly, practice makes perfect:

If you’re gonna make one, you might as well make three. (Here, lemon meringue, egg custard, and rhubarb.)

Let the planting begin

Peas and beans, day 3.

Peas and beans, day 25.

Oh baby

One of my favorite new weekend brunch dishes: the Dutch baby, the recipe for which appeared in the April issue of Gourmet in an excellent feature on cooking with eggs. The Dutch baby is a big fluffy pancake with a little stretch and chew, and it does this fun trick while cooking:

It is also delicious and ridiculously easy to make — perfect for lazy-morning cooking.


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