Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Quick Bite at Ardesia Wine Bar

I rarely find myself in the far stretches of Hell's Kitchen, but the next time I do, I will stop in for a snack and a glass of wine at Ardesia Wine Bar.  Ardesia is the type of place I wish existed in every neighborhood in Manhattan, offering a good wine and beer list that should please any drinker, good food, friendly service, comfortable surroundings, and nice value.  While Ardesia sways closer to wine bar than most of the other recently-opened restaurant/wine bar hybrids, its food offerings, especially it's house-made charcuterie, should not be ignored.  To celebrate the first glimpse of warm weather last week, The Significant Eater and I ventured over to Ardesia after to take advantage of its 5-7pm happy hour, which offers $6 glasses of wine.  We also order a few small plates.  Here is what we ate:

Polenta with Duck Egg, Duck Prosciutto, and Taleggio: I would return to Ardesia for this dish alone, and it's something I'll likely try to make for myself in the near future.  The polenta, which given its quality, I am certain is sourced from Anson Mills, actually tastes of corn and has a great creamy texture; it's not the usual mush that most restaurants serve.  I could have eaten a bowl of the polenta by itself, but the duck egg and prosciutto put this dish over the top. The only thing I that could have been omitted is the Taleggio cheese.  As much I love a good stinky cheese, I found it overpowering here and an unwelcome distraction from the rest of the plate. 

Weisswurst: This white sausage proves that Ardesia can walk the walk when it comes to its house-made charcuterie.  What I loved is that the mildly flavored sausage is perfectly light; served with Sullivan Street bread, sauerkraut, and mustard, I immediately wanted to run off to Central Park with the plate and my wine and have a picnic.

Pork Belly Bites with Apple Salad:  There wasn't much too this dish, but that doesn't mean it wasn't delicious.  Crispy, bite-size chunks of pork paired very nicely with the sweet-and-sour apple salad.

Eleventh Avenue isn't an easy schlep for most New Yorkers, but Ardesia is certainly worth the trip if you find yourself in the neighborhood. 

Ardesia Wine Bar
510 West 52nd St. (between 10th and 11th)
New York, NY

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ziti with Tuna, Red Onions, and Cannellini Beans

I love a recipe that takes old and familiar flavors and transforms them into something completely different.  In his Urban Italian, Andrew Carmellini says that this pasta recipe pays homage to tuna casserole, but I think a more appropriate and more flattering comparison can be made to salad Nicoise.  Between the tang of the lemons and the briny olives and capers, this recipe really is the pasta version of a salad Nicoise.  While the dish is meant to be served warm, I brought the leftover pasta to work and enjoyed it as a cold salad as well.  Now if only there was an easy way to make Cobb salad into a pasta dish...

Ziti with Tuna, Red Onions, and Cannellini Beans
Adapted from Urban Italian

  • 1 lb penne 
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for finishing the dish
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 15-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 1/2 cups good-quality canned tuna in olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved
  • juice and zest of 3 lemons
  • 2 tbsp parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup basil, chopped
  • 2 tbsp capers, drained
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp toasted breadcrumbs
  1. Bring salted water to a boil in a large pot.  Cook the pasta in the water according to the package directions.  Drain the pasta and toss with a spoonful of olive oil to prevent the pasta pieces from sticking together.  Set the pasta aside and dry the pot.
  2. Add 2 tbsp olive oil the the pot used to cook the pasta and heat the oil over medium-low heat.  
  3. Add the red onion to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 3 minutes.
  4. Pour in the white wine and red pepper flakes.  Bring the wine to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is almost completely reduced, about 3 minutes.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low.  Add the beans and the pasta to the pot and continue to cook for another 2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove the pot from the heat. 
  6. Mix in the cherry tomatoes, tuna, olives, lemon juice and zest, parsley, basil, capers, and oregano with the pasta.  Season the pasta with salt and pepper.
  7. Serve the pasta drizzled with olive oil and topped with the toasted breadcrumbs. 

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Selections from the Studio: Week of March 21

Each week, I spend more time than I care to admit salivating over content in my Google Reader from some of my favorite food blogs.  I'll often make a mental notes to try a recipe that I come across, but five minutes later, I'll forget about it and will be onto the next post in my reader.  In an effort both to save the best recipes I see each week for my own use and to share them with my readers, I have decided to start a new weekend feature on Culinary Studio, "Selections from the Studio."  In this new feature, I will post links to my five favorite recipes that I have come across in the week prior.  I would love to have some more content to add to my reader, so please do send me the links to your favorite food sites so I can include them in my weekly survey!

And to kick it off, here are my favorite recipes from the week of March 21:

Milk Bar Compost Cookie from Momofuku for Two: Who says you have to save dessert for last?  Any Momofuku recipe is bound to grab my attention, but it's the gorgeous photographs on Momofuku for Two that made me realize that I have to try making my favorite Milk Bar cookie.  Trust me: chocolate chunks, potato chips, coffee, and pretzels do make one amazing cookie. 

Grilled New York Cheddar Cheese Sandwich from Leite's Culinaria: Leite's Culinaria is one of my favorite sites for finding cookbook recipes.  I love Amy's Bread almost as much as I love good grilled cheese sandwich, so for me a grilled cheese recipe from the Amy's Bread cookbook is a must-try.

Polenta with a Leek and Mushroom Ragu from Serious Eats:  It must be a really good vegetarian recipe for me to include it in my top picks for the week, and this is no exception.  This recipe had me at gorgonzola, a cheese that will make this meat-lover forget about meat any day. 

Grilled Pork Chops with a Turkey Sausage Barbecue Sauce from The Food Addicts: I came across The Food Addicts for the first time this week, and I am most impressed with their photography skills.  While this recipe for grilled pork chops only makes me sad to be grill-less, I will definitely be giving it a try with pan-roasted pork chops; the recipe seems like the perfect weeknight meal.   

Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Panna Cotta from The New York Times: Although this recipe was published in The New York Times a few weeks ago, it gets credit from me this week because I only noticed it on their website this week.  I loved the looks of it so much (who doesn't like nutella?!) that I made it this weekend with excellent results.  It is easily the creamiest and most delicious panna cotta I have ever had, and so simple to make.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana

After making spaghetti all'Amtriciana with my fresh pancetta the other night, I searched through my blog archive to make sure that I had already posted a recipe for all'Amatriciana sauce, a fiery pasta sauce that has become one of my favorite weeknight meals.  To my dismay, I had never posted the recipe, so here it is. 

My technique for cooking all'Amatriciana is derived from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.  Since I used fresh pancetta, which is meatier than the traditional cured pancetta and can be used with slightly less restraint, I cut the pancetta into bigger pieces than I normally would have.  If you use real pancetta, 1/4-inch dice will work best.

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana
Serves 4

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 lb. fresh pancetta, sliced 1/4-inch thick and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 28 oz. can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, drained and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 lb. spaghetti or bucatini
  • pecorino romano cheese, for grating over the pasta
  1. Heat the oil and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion to the pan and sauté it until it is soft and golden, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the pancetta to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Stir the tomatoes, red pepper and salt into the saucepan.  Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer and let cook until it is thickened and the flavors are well-combined, about 25 minutes.  Taste the sauce for salt. 
  5. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  
  6. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce.  Stir the pasta and sauce for a minute or two until the pasta strands are coated with the sauce.  Serve the pasta immediately, topped with grated pecorino romano cheese.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Fresh Pancetta

http://www.culinary-studio.com/2010/03/spaghetti-allamatriciana.htmlI have always considered dabbling in charcuterie for this blog, but thought that it was maybe slightly impractical; after all, I do live in a studio.  As with most things in the kitchen, practicality failed to keep me down for long.  This week, I took my first stab at cured meats, making a "fresh" pancetta. Yes, fresh charcuterie-- not quite the real deal, but for me, it was a big first step towards the land of salt-preserved pig parts.  Fresh pancetta is simple to make, and it is a perfect substitute for the real deal in recipes.  Step by step instructions for making fresh pancetta follow.

First, take a large piece of pork belly.  If you can find it, use a skin-on pork belly; I used skinless.

Then, cover the pork belly in a light coating of salt:

 Next, place the pork on a large plate or rimmed baking wrap and cover the it with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate it for 3 days.  The salt should dissolve into the meat after a day or so:

Preheat the oven to 325F.  After 3 days in the refrigerator, pat the pork dry with paper towels.  Place it on a rimmed baking sheet (if you refrigerated the pork on a baking sheet, dry it off).  Cook the pork until it is soft and nearly fork tender; depending on the size of the pork belly this will take from an hour to an hour and a half:

Let the pancetta cool, then wrap it in plastic wrap.  If you used a skin-on pork belly, peal the skin off with your fingers.  Refrigerate the pancetta for up to two weeks or portion it into smaller servings and freeze them for up to 6 months.  Enjoying it in dishes such as spaghetti all'Amatrician:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hold the Belly and Give Me a Breast

Pork belly may be all the rage these days, but it's time that everyone give veal breast a chance.  It's impossible not to compare the two cuts of meat: both are extremely fatty, economical cuts of meat best suited to braising.  Thanks to the David Changs and Mario Batalis of the world-- not too mention those whose idea of Sunday brunch is dim sum-- pork belly is the sexier of the two; people are probably more apt to have memories of their grandmothers cooking veal breast than they are of seeing it on a restaurant menu.  I urge you to give veal breast a try for a few reasons, not the least of which being that it's darn tasty. 

For one, it's a good bit less expensive than pork belly.  Thanks to pork belly's rising popularity, it has become a pricier cut.  The lowly veal breast, on the other hand, can be found in New York City for less than $2 a pound. 

Second, I have found veal breast much easier to find at stores than pork belly.  Pork belly may be trendy among professional and amateur cooks, but the rest of America doesn't seem to be up for cooking it.  In New York, a recipe with pork belly usually requires a trip to Chinatown or a very good butcher.  Veal breast, while ignored by the food-obsessed, must be popular enough among the rest of the population, for I have found it to be stocked at most grocery stores.  

Best of all, veal breast is a cinch to cook.  Veal breast has so much melt-in-your-mouth fat, that there's really not much you need to do with it other than season it and pop it in the oven.  The other night, I sauteed a bone-in veal breast on both sides until it was a very deep brown, then rubbed it all over with a mixture of parsley, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and lots of crushed garlic.  I put the veal breast in a Dutch oven, surrounded it with a mixture of reduced white wine and stock, then covered the pan and put it in the oven at 300F for about two and a half hours.  Served with plenty of creamy polenta, the total price of the meal came out to be about $2 per serving and only a small amount of my time.  No pork belly can beat that!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Coq au Vin

 Coq au vin is one of those classic dishes that I have wanted to add to my cooking repertoire for some time but have avoided out of fear that it would be a pain in the you know what to make.  I think I read about someone painstakingly peeling tiny pearl onions for coq au vin and it nearly put me off the dish for good; my fingers are not nearly nimble enough to easily peel pearl onions, nor do I have the patience to do so.  Fortunately, I recently discovered that supermarkets carry peeled, frozen pearl onions  for lazy and clumsy cooks like myself.  I decided to finally give coq au vin a try, and it really wasn't any more difficult than any other braises.  Feeling a bit lame for my use of frozen pearl onions, I've even decided to use fresh onions the next time I make the dish; and the next time will be soon because coq au vin is about the tastiest thing you can possibly do with plain old chicken.  Like most things when it comes to cooking, coq au vin taught me that there are few things that are beyond the home cook's reach (except maybe pheasant, but that's a whole 'nother story).  The below recipe is a mish mash of coq au vin recipes from Cook's Illustrated and Molly Stevens' All About Braising

Coq au Vin

  • 1 whole chicken, wings, legs, thighs, and breasts separated, giblets wing tips and back bone reserved 
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 lb bacon, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • flour for dredging
  • 5 1/2 tbsp tbsp butter
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp brandy
  • 1 bottle dry red wine, such as Beaujolais Villages
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp thyme leaves
  • 4 tbsp parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 10 oz frozen pearl onions (or blanched and peeled)
  • 3/4 lb cremini mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and quartered
  1. Heat the oven to 325F. 
  2. Wash the chicken pieces and thoroughly dry them with paper towels.  Season them with salt and pepper and set aside.
  3. Place the bacon in a large Dutch oven and cook it over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until it is browned on the outside but not completely crispy.  Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set it aside on a plate.
  4. Dredge each chicken piece in flour, shaking off the excess.  
  5. Add 2 tbsp of butter to the bacon fat.  Once the butter has melted and has stopped foaming, add as many of the chicken pieces as will comfortably fit in the pan without overcrowding. Cook the chicken pieces until well browned on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes per side.  Remove the chicken to a plate and brown the remaining batches.
  6. Add another tbsp of butter to the Dutch oven and reduce the heat to medium.  Add the onion and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to brown, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the tomato paste to the Dutch oven and stir well to so that it is well incorporated into the vegetables and fat. 
  8. Pour in the brandy and bring it to a boil. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to stir up any brown bits.  Continue to boil until almost all of the liquid has evaporate, about 2 minutes.
  9. Add the wine, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, and 2 tbsp parsley to the Dutch oven.  Bring to a boil and cook until the wine is reduced by half, about 12 to 15 minutes.  
  10. Return the bacon to the pan and pour in the stock.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer. Ladle out a half cup of the liquid into a cup for cooking the mushrooms and onions.  
  11. Add the chicken pieces, including the back, wing tips, and giblets, to the pan.  Add the pieces in layers.  
  12. Cover the Dutch oven and place it in the lower third of the oven. Braise it until the it is tender and cooked through, about an hour.  Flip the chicken pieces once or twice as they cook. 
  13. While the chicken braises, cook the onions and mushrooms.  Heat 1 tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions  and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the half cup of reserved braising liquid and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cover the skillet and cook the onions, stirring them periodically, until they are tender, about 15 minutes.  Add 1 1/2 tbsp of butter to the pan and increase the heat to medium-high.  Once the butter stops foaming, add the mushrooms and season them with salt and pepper.  Cook the mushrooms and onions, stirring periodically, until they are browned and glazed with the braising liquid, about 10 minutes.  Remove them from the heat and set aside.
  14. Once the chicken is cooked, remove the chicken pieces from the Dutch oven and set them aside on a plate.  Discard the back, wing tips, and giblets.  
  15. Skim some of the fat from the braising liquid.  Bring the braising liquid to a boil and reduce it until it is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.  Reduce the heat to a simmer. 
  16. Stir the onion and mushroom mixture into the braising liquid.  Let the liquid simmer for about 5 minutes to let the flavors meld.  Taste for salt and pepper.
  17. Spoon the braising liquid over the chicken pieces and garnish them with the remaining chopped parsley.  Serve immediately. 

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Quick Bite at Faustina

The Significant Eater and I took advantage of canceled reservations caused by this winter's latest snowstorm and booked a same day reservation at Faustina, Scott Conant's recently opened restaurant in the Cooper Square Hotel that has replaced the short-lived Table 8.  I adored Conant's other restaurant, Scarpetta-- I have been dreaming of its duck and foie gras ravioli ever since my visit-- and had high hopes for Faustina, imagining it to be Scarpetta in trendier clothing.  As it turns out, Faustina is nothing like Scarpetta in concept, looks, and from what we were served, quality.

Following the small plates trend, Faustina's menu is a collection of "tapas-style" dishes that are meant for sharing.  There are sections for bread and olives, cheese and charcuterie, salads, raw bar selections, hot small plates, pastas and risottos, and side dishes.  There are also two pricier large plates, a seared sirloin and a veal "porterhouse."  If anything, the menu can be faulted for trying too hard to please the trendsetters who no doubt will descend upon the restaurant the moment the its PR flack pings the press release to Urban Daddy.  Take note of all the buzzwords on the menu: there are three "truffled" dishes, a dish with duck egg (which was terrific), oysters in a mojito gelee, the ubiquitous pork belly, and, of course, a fried chicken dish lest anyone forget about Faustina in these fried chicken-obsessed times.  Simply put, the menu is a fashionista's wet dream (and all in small plates!).  In all fairness, I'm very much a truffle hound, I admire Conant's cooking, and I imagine most of these dishes are very nicely executed, but menu did make me chuckle as I read it.  

The dishes that the Significant Eater and I tried were hit or miss.  The restaurant is very new and its lack of publicity tells me that it is still working out its kinks before it ramps up its PR.  My hope is that it will fix some of its faults because Scott Conant can do much better that what we were served at Faustina.  Here is what we ate:

Grilled Ciabatta with Poached Duck Egg and Fonduta: It's hard to screw up a dish like this, but this was an excellent starter to satiate our appetites as we perused the rest of the menu.  As I dipped a toast point into the creamy duck egg and cheese, I couldn't help but think of how great a finger food it would be if I was sitting on my couch watching a ballgame.

Black Truffle Risotto with Egg and Sea Urchin: This dish reads so well on paper.  Unfortunately, it let me down.  The risotto is soupy rather than creamy; it felt as if the kitchen took an ill-fated shortcut so as to not have to stir the risotto continuously.  A huge disappointment.

Oxtail with Semolina Dumplings and Bone Marrow: This was the clear winner of the night.  The hearty braised oxtail set atop bite-size pillows of semolina was pure comfort to eat during a snowstorm.  As if it the rich oxtail was not enough, each dumpling was topped with a dollop of heavenly bone marrow.

Slow Roasted Escolar and Saba
: The kitchen may want to rethink their method of slow roasting.  The fish might as well have been a wool sweater as it was overcooked to the point of being dry and stringy.  The slightly sweet saba (a condiment made of reduced grape must) was nice, but could not redeem the failure of the overcooked fish.

25 Cooper Square (at The Cooper Square Hotel)
New York, NY 


Monday, March 1, 2010

Monkfish with Eggplant Allioli

Monkfish is one of my go to fish as it’s simple to cook and fairly economical.  Roasting is the easiest method of cooking monkfish, but I find roast monkfish to be somewhat boring in flavor and not at all aesthetically pleasing (think of an all-white blob on a plate).  Fortunately, this recipe for Roast Monkfish with Eggplant Allioli and Sautéed Yellow Peppers from Anya von Bremzen’s The New Spanish Table resolves many of the deficiencies I find with roast monkfish.  By browning the allioli, the fish takes on a leopard skin-like appearance that is much more pleasing to the eye than the usual white-on-white roast monkfish flavor.  Most importantly, the eggplant allioli gives the dish a smoky flavor that lends nuance to each bite. 

Monkfish with Eggplant Allioli

For the allioli:

  • 1 Asian eggplant
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt, to taste
For the fish:
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 yellow bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp dry white wine
  • 4 6 oz. monkfish fillets, gray membrane removed
  • Kosher salt
    1. Make the allioli.  First, char the eggplant skin over the flame of a gas burner.  Frequently rotate the eggplant with thongs until the skin is completely charred, about 7 minutes.  Let the eggplant cool on a plate until it is cool enough to touch, then peel away and discard the skin.  Coarsely chop the eggplant and put it in the bowl of a food processor.  Add garlic, egg, and lemon juice to the food processor.  Run the food processor until the ingredients are pureed.  With the motor still running, slowly pour in ¾ cup olive oil and continue running the food processor until the mixture is well emulsified.  Season the allioli with salt and set aside for at least 30 minute to let the flavors meld.
    2. Heat the oven to 450F. 
    3. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the peppers and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the peppers soften, about 3 minutes.  Add the wine, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook the peppers until they are very soft, about 25 minutes.  Stir the peppers occasionally.
    4. Season the fish fillets with salt and brush it all over with olive oil.  Let the fish sit for 10 minutes. 
    5. Plan the fish on a baking sheet and roast until it is cooked through, about 15 minutes.  Remove the fish from the oven. 
    6. Preheat the broiler.
    7. Top each fillet with a few spoonfuls of the allioli.  Broil the fish until the allioli browns, about 3 minutes.  Set the fish over the peppers and the pepper cooking liquid and serve immediately. 


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