Friday, April 30, 2010

Grazin' Angus Acres Beef Jerky

The other day, I made the embarrassing admission to Significant Eater that I had never eaten beef jerky.  Call me a snob, but I just never understood the appeal of eating packaged, dried beef.  When I spotted beef jerky sold at Grazin' Angus Acres, a grass-fed beef purveyor at the Union Square Greenmarket (that also happens to sell the best eggs at the Greenmarket), I knew that I finally had to give beef jerky a try.  A grass-fed, local, artisanal, $10 for a quarter pound beef jerky that needs to be refrigerated? Ok, well maybe I am a bit of a snob, but this beef jerky is pretty good stuff.  It's intensely spiced and the leathery texture that I assume is inherent to all beef jerky is not as off-putting as I expected it to be.  According to Significant Eater, Grazin' Angus' beef jerky tastes just like a Slim Jim.  I wouldn't know, but if that claim is accurate, I may just have to snap it to a Slim Jim one of these days.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Springtime "Carbonara" with Ramps and Asparagus

Spaghetti carbonara is one of those classic pasta recipes that you just don’t mess with. Pasta, eggs, Parmesan cheese, guanciale (or pancetta), salt and pepper: those are the only ingredients that should ever go into a carbonara. Don’t add parsley, don’t add peas, and please, please, please don’t add cream. So accept my sincere apologies for calling this dish a carbonara. I really wanted to avoid doing so; it contains heavy cream and smoked bacon—not to mention asparagus and ramps—but that’s what Andrew Carmellini calls it in Urban Italian, from which this recipe is liberally adapted (I substituted bacon for the speck that Carmellini calls for and asparagus for his sugar snap peas and English peas). I’m going to let Mr. Carmellini get away with calling it a carbonara because it is an excellent recipe; with a creamy sauce that clings to each strand of pasta and crispy pieces of cured beat, it has many of the characteristics that I love about carbonara, while the spring vegetables give the dish a more seasonal touch. Regardless of what you want to call it, it will please any carbonara lover out there.

Springtime “Carbonara” with Asparagus and Ramps
Serves 2

  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1 handful of asparagus, cleaned, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ½ lb. spaghetti
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 bunch of ramps, cleaned, roots removed, and cut into thirds
  • ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
  • black pepper, freshly ground
  • salt, to taste
  1. Beat the cream and the egg together in a small bowl until they are well blended. Set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While waiting for the asparagus to boil, fill a medium bowl with ice water. Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook until the asparagus turns bright green, 1 to 2 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to immediately plunge the asparagus in the ice water so that it stops cooking.
  3. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for one minute less than the package directions indicate. Meanwhile, continue with the rest of the recipe.
  4. Heat a deep-sided skillet or sauté pan over medium-high eat. Add the bacon to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the bacon begins to crisp, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the ramps to the pan and continue to cook until the leaves are wilted and the bulbs begin to brown. Reduce the heat to low, and wait for the pasta to finish cooking, stirring the ramps periodically.
  6. Once the pasta is al dente, drain it, reserving a ½ cup of the cooking water.
  7. Add the asparagus and the reserved pasta water to the skillet. Stir in the pasta, then the cream and egg mixture. There should be just enough liquid in the skillet to coat the pasta, and the sauce should not be watery. If necessary, increase the heat and reduce the sauce to the desired consistency.
  8. Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the cheese and a generous amount of ground pepper. Taste for salt. Serve the pasta immediately, with a small amount of Pecorino Romano cheese grated over the top.  

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ramp Pesto with Almonds

Ever since my week long bout with pine mouth, I have been hesitant about eating pine nuts. But being that we are in the midst of ramp season, I just had to make a batch of ramp pesto, one of my favorite preparations for the spring vegetable.  While I nearly took the plunge and used the traditional, innocuous-looking but potentially taste-bud-killing pine nuts, in the end I took the safe route and used almonds, my go-to nut when I need to add some crunch to a dish.  I served the pesto alongside roast chicken and sauteed asparagus and Shiitake mushrooms.  The almonds worked perfectly, adding just the right amount of texture to the pungent ramp pesto.  More importantly, I could still taste my dessert. 

Ramp Pesto

  • 1 bunch of ramp leaves with two ramp bulbs, roots removed 
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • salt, to taste

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the ramp leaves and bulbs.  Run the food processor and slowly pour in the oil with the motor running.  Continue to process the ramp mixture until it has formed into a smooth paste.  Add the almonds and cheese and pulse until the pesto is well blended (the pesto should not be chunky, but should have some texture from the nuts).  Taste for salt and serve immediately or refrigerate for several days.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Shrimp Rolls from Luke's Lobster


With great excitement, I discovered that Luke's Lobster, a lobster roll shack in the East Village known for serving one of Manhattan's least expensive lobster rolls, is opening a larger restaurant just a short walk south of my apartment.  It is rare that a restaurant that is both newsworthy and wallet-friendly opens on the Upper East Side, so I am eagerly counting down the days until Luke's arrival.  Nonetheless, Significant Eater and I could not resist a recent craving for buttery seafood served in a toasted hot dog bun, so we decided to make Luke's shrimp rolls at home, thanks to this recipe from New York magazine.  All the credit for the shrimp rolls goes to Significant Eater, who briefly earned the slightly more functional but no more lovable name of Significant Cook for making these beauties.  She had the great idea to top each roll with a dash of Old Bay Seasoning, which we are pretty sure is done at the restaurant but is omitted from the recipe.  For one night only, my studio turned into a seafood shack... well maybe not quite that big.      

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Selections from the Studio: Week of April 18

I have discovered a bunch of new blogs this week, and with so much great content in my Google Reader now, it has been a challenge to come up with just five recipes for this week's Selections from the Studio.  It never seizes to amaze me just how much quality content is out there in the food blog world, but without further ado, here is my recipe roundup for this week:

First on my list is Roasted Hen-of-the-Woods with Corn Pudding from Leite's Culinaria.  I have made a fine corn pudding, but I'm sure adding in some hen-of-the-woods mushrooms would not hurt one bit.  I have been to Blackberry Farm in Tennessee, from which this recipe comes, and I can attest to the amazing food that is served there, so I have little doubt that the recipe is a winner.    

Moving across the globe, I would also like to add this recipe for Bombay Chicken Curry from Amateur Gourmet to my repertoire.  The thought of curry can be intimidating as curry dishes often require a long list of ingredients and a lot of time to cook and develop those robust flavors, but this recipe requires neither and could probably be a relatively easy weeknight meal. 

It would be nearly blasphemous of me not to include a spring pasta in a late-April edition of Selections from the Studio, a Food52 post for Pasta with Prosciutto, Snap Peas, Mint and Cream made it easy for me to meet that quota.  It's hard to go wrong with those five ingredients. 

I end this edition of Selections from the Studio with two fruit pastries that are simple enough for this baking-challenged blogger to try.  New Yorkers have at least another week before rhubarb will be prevalent in the Farmer's markets (unless you arrive at the crack of dawn right now, the limited supply will be sold out), but I will make sure I have all of the ingredients for Straight from the Farm's Rhubarb Napoleons so that I can make them immediately when rhubarb becomes readily available; the tarts seem like the perfect showcase for my favorite spring fruit.

My second dessert pick of the week is The Wandering Eater's Fruit Tart recipe.  There are just five ingredients in these beauties; five ingredients is definitely my kind of dessert.

And with that, you have five delicious recipes to keep you full for the rest of the week.  Happy spring!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Two Little Red Hens Bakery: The Best Cupcakes in Manhattan

With few good restaurants, a bunch of fratty bars, and a mile-long disaster zone of cranes and dump trucks that is the start of the 12-year dig to build the Second Avenue subway line, the Yorkville neighborhood in which I live is one of the least charming neighborhoods in Manhattan right now.  When I want to do anything more interesting than a couple of pints at the local bars, I find myself venturing over to the more hip neighborhoods of Manhattan.

But there is one area where Yorkville does beat all other neighborhoods.  The Upper East Side lays claim to one of the most sought after prizes in all the isle, and that is the award for having best cupcake in all of Manhattan.  Yes, the best cupcake in Manhattan is well north of 14th street-- 72 blocks, to be exact-- and is right smack in the middle of the Second Avenue Subway construction at Two Little Red Hens bakery.  The sidewalk outside the storefront is fenced in--this ain't your quaint little West Village street-- but walk in and I promise you will be able to forget the eyesore that lies all around.  Country in feel, Two Little Red Hens makes you forget that you're in Manhattan, much less the destruction that has become of my neighborhood. 

As for the baked goods, just about everything I have tried at Two Little Red Hens, from the chocolate chunk cookies to the chocolate pudding pie is excellent, but you must try the cupcakes.  They are everything that I dream of in a cupcake and hit all the notes that most other Manhattan bakeries miss.  They fit comfortably in the palm of the hand and are not so big that I feel sick after eating one.  The cake part is wonderfully moist and has tons of flavor whether you go for the chocolate or yellow (I'm a yellow man).  The cream icing does exactly what icing should do; it complements the cake and is not cloyingly sweet.

Best of all, my neighborhood bakery is free of gimmicks; a sinfully rich Brooklyn Blackout cupcake filled with chocolate pudding is as far as the bakery strays from the standard-issue yellow cake with chocolate icing.  Two Little Red Hens needs no trendy address, funky toppings, Carrie Bradshaw touts, or teenybopper shouts.  It gets the job done in boring old Yorkville.  Kind of fitting that the best cupcake comes from the least trendy of bakeries, isn't it?

Two Little Red Hens
1652 Second Ave. (at 86th St.)
New York, NY 10028

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lamb Burger with Goat Cheese, Pickled Ramp Leaves and Aioli

Feeling some self-pity for staying in my prison cell apartment last Saturday night, I decided to cheer myself up with a gussied up lamb burger.  Aside from the ground lamb which I had purchased earlier in the day, I had all of the components to make the fancy burger  that I call comfort food (I swear I'm not a snob): pickled ramps that I made the other day, some goat cheese in the fridge, and a brioche roll in the freezer.  I began with the ramps, cutting off three ramp bulbs and used them in place of garlic in a basic aioli recipe.  I toasted the brioche bun and smeared a generous knife full of the aioli on one side.  Preparing the lamb patty, I inserted a small round of goat cheese into the middle of it, then cooked the burger to medium-rare.  I topped the patty with a small handful of the tangy pickled ramp leaves and wedged everything between the bun.  The onion rings I made to serve alongside the burger were a disaster, but the burger was enough to make me forget their soggy mediocrity. It was absolute perfection, especially when washed down with a couple Sixpoint beers and a few episodes of The Wire.  Not bad work for a Saturday night.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Momofuku's Pickled Ramps

Ramps lend themselves to a variety of different uses.  They carry on unique flavors when grilled, sauteed, blanched, or pureed.  But my favorite thing to do with ramps is to pickle them. Pickled ramps, equally acidic, sweet, and spicy, work well on just about anything.  I tried them as a topping for lamb burgers, but have plenty more left to try alongside cured meats, steaks, and fish.  My recipe for pickled ramps comes from the Momofuku cookbook, and simply put, it's awesome.  I don't know how to describe it better, but the rice wine vinegar is the perfect amount of acidity for the ramps.  It's mid-April, and it's already shaping up to be a great spring. 

Pickled Ramps
Adapted from Momofuku

  • 2 lbs small ramps, roots removed and washed
  • 6 tbsp sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 cup water

  1. Pack the ramps into a quart-size container. 
  2. Combine the sugar, salt, vinegar and water in a small sauce pan.  Bring to a boil and pour over the ramps.  Press the ramps down with a spoon to ensure that they are covered by the brine.  Bring the mixture to room temperature, then cover the container and chill the ramps in the refrigerator.  The ramps can be used immediately, but will taste better after a week.  The greens should be eaten within a month, while the bulbs will last for a few months. 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Selections from the Studio: Week of April 11

With spring vegetables such as asparagus, ramps, pea shoots, and rhubarb finally beginning to make a dent in the real estate at the Union Square Greenmarket (see ya later root veggies!), this week's Selections from the Studio is focused on making the most of the mid-April bounty. 

Kicking it off, we have Ramp and Parsley Pesto from Simply Recipes, which I think would be best served spread on crostini while picnicking at Central Park.  Like the season for ramps, the picnic season in NYC is far too short, so you've got to make the most of it while it lasts. 

When you come back from that picnic too worn out to cook, why not heat up a batch of this Cream of Asparagus Soup from Chez Us?  I'm usually not a fan of cream-based soups as I find that the richness of the cream masks all other flavors, but with 2 lbs. of asparagus in the recipe, something tells me that the asparagus is the dominant flavor here. 

Speaking of leftovers, Momofuku for 2 has a cool feature called "Leftover Fridays" in which the author makes dishes based on her reader's suggestions.  This week's entry featured Stir-Fried Pea Shoots with Garlic; I couldn't think of a better way to cook pea shoots.  And did I mention that the photos look amazing?

Of course, a recipe does not have to be seasonal to catch my attention.  Food52 featured Luciano's Porchetta.  I have a feeling I'll be a hero among my male friends if I cook them a big hunk of pork using this recipe. 

Finally, I did a little jump for joy at the office when I saw this recipe for The Spotted Pig's famous Gnudi on The Paupered Chef.  Pasta is not my strong suit, but I can't resist giving this one a try; the amount of time it takes to master the recipe might even beat the time it takes standing in line at The Spotted Pig.

And that's a wrap, folks. Cook well and eat even better this week!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Braised Turkey Thighs with Cider, Bacon and Potatoes

When I shop for food, I like to create challenges for myself by purchasing meats and vegetables that I have never cooked before.  That is exactly how I ended up with four monstrous turkey thighs in my shopping basket this past weekend.  While buying the least expensive protein out there did not take too much thought, I had little idea of how to prepare them.  Browsing my cookbook collection, I settled on braising the thighs,  which I hoped would ensure that they stayed moist; after all, there is nothing worse than dried-out turkey.  This typical Thanksgiving bird seems to do well with a sweet component--think cranberry sauce-- so I decided to add some hard apple cider to the braising liquid.  As for the bacon and potatoes, well those two ingredients just make everything taste better.

Braised Turkey Thighs with Cider, Bacon and Potatoes
Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 slices of thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 turkey thighs
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 1/2 cup hard apple cider
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 lb. small Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped into quarters
  1. Preheat the oven to 300F.
  2. Wash and thoroughly dry the turkey thighs.  Season them on all sides with salt and pepper and set the thighs aside. 
  3. Add the bacon to a large Dutch oven and heat over medium heat.  Cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until it begins to crisp, 3 to 5 minutes.  Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set it aside.  
  4. Increase the heat to medium-high.  Add the turkey thighs to the Dutch oven skin-side down. Do not crowd the turkey thighs; if necessary cook them in two batches.  Cook the turkey until it is well-browned on both sides, about 5 minutes per side.  Remove the turkey legs to a plate and discard all but 1 tbsp of oil from the Dutch oven.
  5. Add the carrot, celery, and onion to the dutch oven.  Cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the thyme and cider to the pan.  Bring the cider to a boil and stir well to break up any brown bits at the bottom of the pan.  Boil the cider until it is reduced by half, about 2 minutes.
  7. Stir in the chicken stock.  Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce the heat to a slow simmer.  Add the potatoes.  Sprinkle the reserved bacon over the potatoes.  
  8. Add the turkey thighs to the Dutch oven, skin-side down.  Cover the pan and place it in the oven.  Cook for 30 minutes, then flip the turkey thighs.  Replace the cover and continue cooking until the turkey is tender, another 30 to 40 minutes. 
  9. Place each turkey thigh in a bowl along with some potatoes.  Spoon off as much fat from the top of the liquid as you can.  Taste the braising liquid for salt and pepper and pour some of it over each serving of turkey and potatoes. 

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Selections from the Studio: Week of April 4

It's been a beautiful, warm weekend in New York, and I've spent most of it outside of the studio.  I finally purchased a digital SLR, so be prepared for some improved photos at Culinary Studio once I get the hang of how to operate the thing.  Between playing with my new toy and getting some much needed R&R outdoors, I've waited until the last minute to write Selections from the Studio this week, but I promise the recipes I have picked are just as delicious-sounding as ever. 

As the tulips along Park Avenue begin to bloom and Central Park turns from brown to bright green, I find myself thinking about weeds rather than flowers because ramps are in season.  I missed the first weekend of ramps at Greenmarket, but I made up for the lost time this week by purchasing two bunches.  Still a novice to ramps, I scoured some of my favorite blogs for recipes.  Queenie Takes Manhattan came to the rescue with her recipe for Fresh Fettucine with Ramps, Bacon and an Egg.  I made this one for myself, as you can see in the photo.  Mine was not quite as nice-looking as Queenie's, but I can vouch for her recipe being absolutely delicious.  The best thing to do to ramps is not to do too much, and her recipe is simplicity at its best.  I'll be using her philosophy when I cook my second bunch of ramps this week. 

There was plenty of good quality elsewhere around the Web this week.  New Yorkers still have some time before rhubarb hits the markets, but when it does, make sure you keep The Wednesday Chef's recipe for Country Rhubarb Cake in mind; I certainly will.  If rhubarb isn't your thing, then try making this Lemon Yogurt Cake from Ideas in Food.  Tart baked goods are just what I'm craving in the spring. 

On a more savory note, Michael Symon's recipe for Pork Cheek Chili, courtesy of Amateur Gourmet, is something I would love to make for my weekday lunches at work, if I can get my hands on pork cheeks, that is.

Finally, I'd love to try Smitten Kitchen's recipe for shakshuka, a traditional Israeli dish consisting of eggs poached in tomato sauce.  I've seen shakshuka cropping up on brunch menus in the City, and something tells me that this recipe will save me a few dollars and taste much better than anything I can order out. 

And that's a wrap for this week's edition of Selections from the Studio! Have fun cooking this week!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

How to Cook a Duck Breast

For many home cooks, duck is one of the more intimidating proteins to cook, a meat that most believe is best relegated to restaurant kitchens.  In reality, a duck breast is just as easy to cook as a chicken breast.  But if you follow the instructions I have laid out for cooking duck breast below, you can ensure that you will consistently have perfectly cooked duck, with crispy skin on the outside and medium-rare meat on the inside.

The first order of business when cooking a duck is to trim away any skin that overlapping the meat.  Next, you want to score the skin in a crosshatch pattern as I have done below.  Leave about a 1/4 inch between slices of the knife, and be very careful not to cut into the meat.  The crosshatch pattern will ensure that the skin crisps up as the duck cooks.  Once you have scored the skin, pat the duck dry with paper towels. 

Now, for the seasoning.  If you are going to make a sauce to serve with the duck, the duck needs little more than salt and pepper on both sides.  However, I prefer to serve duck sauceless, letting the rich  flavors of the duck meat stand out on their own.  Using a recipe from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home, I simply marinated my duck breast in a seasoning of orange zest, nutmeg, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper, and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Once you are ready to cook the duck breast, preheat the oven to 400F.  Depending on how many duck breasts you are cooking, use a large skillet or two large skillets that will comfortably hold the duck breasts with plenty of room to move them around as they cook.  Add just enough canola oil to coat each skillet and heat the oil over medium-low heat.  Add the breasts to the pan, skin-side down.  Let them cook until the skin is nicely browned and crispy, about 17 to 20 minutes.  Periodically check on the doneness of the skin and move the duck breasts to different parts of the pan to ensure that they evenly cook.  Also, occasionally pour out the fat that collects in the pan so that there is always no more than 1/4-inch of fat in the skillet.  Duck fat is delicious to cook with, so save it for a later use.

Once the skin is cooked, flip the breasts and sear the meat side for a minute.  Flip the duck breasts once again so that they are skin-side down in the pan. Finally, pop each skillet into the 400F oven and cook the duck breasts until they are medium-rare, about 5 minutes.  Remove the duck breasts from the oven and place them on a plate.  Tent the plate with foil and let the duck breasts rest for 5 to 10 minutes to allow them to reabsorb the meat juices.  Slice each duck breast against the grain into thin slices and serve them immediately. 

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Selections from the Studio: Week of March 28

Another week by, and plenty of great new recipes have popped up on the blogosphere. While a spicy braise might not be very spring-like, it's always the right season for food from Fatty Crab and Fatty 'Cue's Zak Pelaccio, and his recipe for Beef Short Rib Rendang, courtesy of Serious Eats, sounds well worth the effort it will take to procure some esoteric ingredients.  Moving onto more seasonal fare, this recipe for Spring Greens Tortilla from Straight from the Farm, would be perfect to served with a crisp Spanish white wine for a brunch party.  Speaking of brunch, if you're still scrambling (stupid pun very much intended) around for Easter ideas, why not bake a batch of these Hot Cross Buns from Simply Recipes? For something more ambitious, I have to give kudos to Homesick Texan for curing a ham and giving such an easy explanation for how to do so.  Finally, once the weather gets a few degrees warmer, I will be cooling down with Michael Ruhlman's Red Snapper Ceviche with Red Onion and Jalapeno.  And with that, it's time to head over to the store, as I've got lots of cooking ahead of me. 


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