Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lunch Week 38: Thanksgiving Leftovers

So every Sunday, I head over to the kitchen to whip up a big batch of food for lunch next week. Yes, I brown bag. And I almost always do it, unless I become too busy to even buy cold cuts from the deli. I do it for several reasons being health, finance, and laziness. Now, you may think that spending hours on a day off to prep and cook five meals at once is hardly lazy. But let me remind you, I hate it when the time comes to decide what to eat for lunch every day. I work in Midtown so the choices are endless. My problem, the more choices, the harder it is for me. So it's much easier for me to have my lunch ready and already decided.

So my lunch for the week: Thanksgiving Leftovers
Nothing really needs to be said about this week's lunch. Just awesomeness! Read more...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday Nights: The Smith

Towards the end of the last year, my friends thought that we weren't hanging out enough. It's true, we weren't. So they started Tuesday night get-togethers. Every Tuesday, we'll pick a bar to drink, eat, and hang out for a couple of hours. Whoever can make it will attend. If you're busy, it's okay. There's always next week. So this is Tuesday Nights on Tasty Eating where you will find bars that serve food and how we like them.

On this recent Tuesday Night, we headed out to: The Smith
I've heard of the the Smith from their original East Village location. A fun place to go for good food. They've recently opened a second location in Midtown East. The place is large and vast. The bar stretches long and could easily seat 40 people.

It just so happened that lots of people backed out of happy hour on this day. So the 3 of us decided to still go out and enjoy ourselves. We opted for dinner instead of sharing appetizers. We had a girls night out and it was lovely.

We started the night with a few drinks. I had the Smith Ale ($7) which was okay. Not bad but nothing great. I wouldn't mind drinking it again.

As for food, we started off the night with a bowl of hot potato chips with blue cheese fondue ($8). The serving was huge and totally surprised us. We were happy indeed. The freshly fried potato chips were thin and crispy. The dousing of blue cheese sauce was creamy and not too funky. It was a good pairing. This would work really well at the bar over several beers. This serving was a little too much for just us three even though we finished it. It would be better suited for 4 or more people.

After the appetizer, we waited a really long time for our food. However, both the waitress and the host/manager came up and apologized twice. I appreciated that very much. I understand that things happen and schedules can be messed up.

My friend had the Grilled shrimp ($24) which came with jalapeno grits, butter, and green tomato salad. She enjoyed it but thought that the still on tails were annoying to eat. I agreed. Restaurants, please deshell your shrimp completely in dishes like these. Thanks!
Both Ms. Lollipop and I had the Smith Bar Steak ($23). The cut of steak wasn't very fatty so I was glad that I ordered it medium rare which it came properly cooked. I had my steak with a green peppercorn sauce while she had the bearnaise. The steaks needed the sauce. The fries were plentiful and crispy. I actually thought it was overwhelming. Looking back, I should have picked the side salad instead. I didn't touch my fries but I know I would've enjoyed the greens.
For sides, we shared some sauteed garlic spinach ($5) which was really garlicky! They weren't kidding with that description. It tasty but don't expect to be kissing anyone after that.
I ordered the brussels sprouts ($5) which were nicely charred on one side. I wish they were also charred on the cut side. But they were nice anyway.
We really enjoyed the food. It was solid but nothing amazing. I would come back happily. The place does get very busy though. The bar area was completely packed when we were there. As the night went on, it became even more crowded. And although the table area is large, it was also packed. It must be a popular place.

The Smith
956 Second Avenue NYC
New York, NY 10003

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cooking: Macaroni & Cheese

Macaroni and cheese seems so easy to make. But it's difficult for me to make it really good. I've made it for years always searching for that amazing recipe. I've come closer every time I make it but I'm not there year. This year, this is the closest I've come in a very long time. I was very happy.

The type of macaroni that you use is pretty important. Most people use just any shape but I think the traditional macaroni elbow shape is pretty good. However, I found this one with ridges on it which is even better. The ridges help hold the sauce to the pasta. Genius! Here, I've cooked the pasta slighty under al dente and placed in the tray that I was going to use to bake it. If you have a proper casserole dish made of ceramic (or something similar), then use that. I think that kind of material works best for dairy based  sauces.

While the pasta cooked, I was shredded the cheese. Oh the cheese! With 1 pound of pasta, I shredded 1 pound of cheddar and 1 pound of monterey jack cheese. Shredding the cheese really helps with the melting aspect.
For the sauce, start by melting half a stick of butter. To that, add 4 tbsp of all purpose flour and stir constantly for about 5 minutes. This is the roux and it acts as a thickening agent for the cheese sauce.
Add the whole milk in a slow stream while whisking constantly.
When the milk and roux is smooth, add the grated cheese and whisk until smooth. Keep heating and whisking until the sauce until smooth.
Add to the macaroni in the pan. Mix the pasta and cheese sauce a bit to make sure the cheese gets into every nook and cranny.
In another bowl, mix some bread crumbs and grated pecorino romano. Add 4 tbsp of melted butter and mix.
Add to the top of the pasta and cheese. Then bake in the oven covered with foil until bubbling. Then uncover and bake some more until the crust becomes golden brown.
Take the macaroni and cheese out and let it rest. This step is important because you want the dish to set properly. If you want it hot, you can reheat it back up in the oven but please do not skip the resting step.
The dish came out rich and creamy. It was nice and cheesy. I really liked it. I could have used a crunchier top but I was quite satisfied with this version. Maybe next time I'll try potato chips.

Mac and cheese

This recipe is for 1 party tray size.

1 lb macaroni elbows pasta
1 stick unsalted butter, split into 2
4 tbsps of all purpose flour
1 qrt whole milk
1 lb of monterey cheese, shredded
1 lb of cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup of bread crumbs
1/2 cup shredded pecorino romano cheese

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Boil a large pot of water for pasta. When boiling, add salt then dry pasta. Cook until slightly under al dente. It should be chewy. Drain and place into pan/casserole dish/

In the meantime, melt a half stick of butter. Add 4 tablespoons of flour to create a roux. Cook for 5 minutes while stirring. Add milk slowly in a stream while whisking. This helps prevent lumps. Add cheese and whisk until smooth. Add to pan with pasta. Mix well.

Mix breadcrumbs and pecorino romano cheese together. Then add melted butter. Top pasta and cheese pan with bread crumb mixture.

Bake in oven until bubbling (30-45 min). Remove, let cool about an hour.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cooking: Corn Pudding

This Thanksgiving side of corn pudding turned out so fantastic. The flavor and the texture was just so good. I was so happy with it and my guests gobbled it up. In fact, I liked it so much that I'm making it a permanently dish for Thanksgiving. I might even make it for other holidays. Yes, I like it that much.

The recipe starts with 2 lbs of frozen corn, thawed. Puree it in the food processor with milk until smooth.

It should look something like this.
Then put it in a stand up mixer and add the corn puree. With the paddle attachment on, add the 6 egg yolks one by one until they're all incorporated. Then add the sugar and butter.
On the side, I had chopped up 2 red bell peppers and 5 jalapenos finely. You can use less of each but I liked the added texture, flavor, and color. I also added another 1 lb bag of corn but left the kernels whole. I liked the idea of seeing the corn kernels throughout the dish.
I also shredded 0.5 lbs of pepperjack cheese. Pepperjack is really similar to monterey jack but has more spice. Add the cheese and the peppers to the corn mix. Lastly, add the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder).
Take the mixture and add it to another bowl.
Using the stand up mixer again, whisk up the egg whites until it has stiff peaks. A traditional way to test it is to turn it upside down on your head. You know, if you dare. Otherwise, you can just turn upside and if nothing slides out, it's ready.
Take the egg whites and fold it unto the corn mixture. Be careful and try not to over work it.
Take your dish and butter it up. A nice trick that I like to use is to use the wrapper of the butter and rub it all over the dish. The leftover butter usually is enough to coat a dish. Since I added so many other ingredients, I needed a much larger dish and about 2 tbsp of butter.
Pour the corn mixture into the dish and level it off on top.
Bake it in the oven until the top is browned and the mixture is solid. Try to serve it while warm so it stays fluffy. If you let it rest, it will start to deflate a bit. It will still taste good but won't be as light.
This corn pudding was just so absolutely amazing. I loved the flavor. The corn was naturally sweet while the jalapenos added a good spice. The texture was soft and fluffy but the whole corn kernels, the jalapenos, and the red bell peppers added a nice contrast. Lastly, the beautiful rainbow of colors when I cut into it was amazing. Everything about this dish was perfect.

My corn pudding dish was adapted on the recipe below.
Corn Pudding
2 pounds frozen corn kernels, thawed
Whole milk as needed (about 1 cup)
6 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Chihuahua,* Monterey Jack, or Cheddar cheese
1 poblano chile, roasted, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch strips
Half of a red bell pepper, cut into strips

*Chihuahua, a white cow's-milk cheese, also known as asadero or Oaxaca cheese, becomes soft and stringy when heated and is therefore good for melting. An unaged Monterey Jack is a good substitute.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and set aside. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the corn with only enough milk to make a smooth puree, not to exceed 1 cup. With the machine running, add egg yolks, one at a time, and process 30 seconds after each addition. With the machine running, add the sugar a little at a time and continue processing until mixture is lighter in color and sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Add butter and process until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder; fold into corn mixture. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form and fold into corn mixture, alternating with the shredded cheese. Pour into the prepared baking dish and garnish with strips of chile and red bell pepper. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Chef Ravago shares his tips with Epicurious:
·The poblano chile is dark green, five to six inches long, and triangular in shape, with a wide stem end. Strips of roasted poblanos are called rajas. Roast until charred and blistered in a broiler or over an open flame, using tongs. Put in a paper bag and allow them to sweat for 10 to 15 minutes. Using rubber gloves, peel off the charred outer skin. (Do not peel roasted chiles under running water or most of the roasted flavor will be lost.) Cut off the stem end and slice the peppers lengthwise into thin, 1/4-inch strips. Be careful not to rub your eyes, nose, or mouth when handling chiles, as they will burn.
·You can use any combination of vegetables in the corn pudding, Ravago says, as long as the quantities are the same as for the corn. Just make sure the vegetables are fresh, as frozen will give off too much water.
·The corn pudding is delicious served warm or at room temperature, but Ravago suggests baking as close to serving as possible, as the soufflĂ©like consistency will fall as it cools. • The corn pudding can also be made in individual serving sizes. Simply bake in small ramekins.

Reprinted with permission from Fonda San Miguel: Thirty Years of Food and Art
© 2005
April 2007
By Tom Gilliland, Miguel Ravago, and Virginia B. Wood
2007-03-28 11:57:21.0

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is my most favorite holiday of the year. It's centered around good food, family, friends, and what you're thankful for. I think the idea is fantastic and take it very seriously every year. I take charge and make the entire meal. I've done it so many times already that I have everything done to a science. The food, the timing, the layout is all put together by me. However, I'm always open to new dishes and ideas. And this year had a couple. Some worked better than others. But overall, the whole dinner was successful.

The turkey is always a must. I don't serve it whole. Instead, I carve it up into smaller pieces so that people can easily serve themselves. Dark meat on the left and white meat on the right. Homemade gravy is on the side (not pictured). This year, I premade turkey stock using smoked turkey wings. That was really successful. It was amazing. Very flavorful and it was a true stock because it was dark brown and gelatinized on its own.

The turkey was very juicy as usual. My method of herbed butter under and over the skin plus 2 batches of bacon never fails. The method creates a self basting scenario. Even the white meat is super juicy. If you want to see the steps to my turkey, please see my old post here.

A ham is also another dish that's present at my Thanksgiving dinner. Unfortunately, I overcooked it. I left it in the oven too long and it dried out. Not only did it looked dried out, but when you used the tongs to pick up a piece, it fell apart. Not good.
There's always a corn side dish at Thanksgiving. Usually, it's just boiled corn with butter, salt, and pepper. However, I decided to change things up this year. I had recently saw a recipe for corn pudding in a magazine and was automatically intrigued. I've always wanted to spice up my corn dish and this sounded perfect. Well, it was a super hit! The was the most eaten side dish of the night. I loved it. It tasted both sweet and spicy. The texture was soft and fluffy with little nuggets of corn, red bell peppers, and jalapenos. The cheese and milk smoothed everything out. This will become a staple for future Thanksgivings. Maybe even other holidays as well.
The sausage and sage stuffing remains the same every year...except this year. I added sliced granny smith apples and used fresh turkey stock and more eggs. The texture was much better this year. Soft on the bottom and lightly crisp on top. I was very happy with the outcome. The main base of the stuffing recipe can be found here.
And of course, we always have mac n cheese. This year, I made it in a smaller, flatter tray. The extra surface area worked really well. The crust on top was very nice this year. The bread crumbs and the pecorino romano was a good combination. The macaroni with the cheddar and monterey jack cheeses were really nice. I made a roux then added the milk and cheeses. The result was fantastic. I think I'll continue to make my mac n cheese this way. I was very happy with it.
For the mashed potatoes, I decided to add a bit more flavor by using Boursin cheese. It was really good. It actually made it quite creamy even though I had already used butter and milk. The garlic and herbs flavor was very nice.
This year I made mashed sweet potatoes by  mistake. I normally make roasted sweet potatoes which plays on the sweet and salty aspect. However, I made a mistake and started slicing them thinly. By the time I realized, it was too late. I thought about making sweet potato chips but it was going to be too much. I mashed them instead then made them sweet with maple syrup and spices. It almost tasted like sweet potato pie without the crust. Not my favorite. I won't make it this way again. Back to roasted next year.
Another must in my Thanksgiving feast is brussels sprouts. I love these little cabbage nuggets. When roasted and charred, they develop this delicious sweet candy-like nature. The salt and pepper cuts it nicely. I can pop these into my mouth all night. So incredibly good. It's so easy. Just roast in the oven at 375oF with salt, pepper, and oil until browned and charred. A lot of people cook it with bacon but honestly I don't think it's necessary. I think it's perfect on its own.
And as usual, here's the bowl of bacon from the turkey. It's perfect for snacking on while the food cooks during the day.
And the garlic bread always makes an appearance. This year was slightly different. Instead of using an Italian loaf that's long and slim, we picked up a rustic Italian bread that was more flat and wide from Amy's Bread. It was great. The crust was perfectly crunchy while the inside was soft. I spread a layer of softened butter studded with sauteed garlic and added fresh parsley on top. So garlicky and delicious. Fresh from the oven, the smell was intoxicating.
Of course there has to be some cranberry sauce. I like the contrast of tart with the savory foods. I especially like to eat it with my turkey with gravy.
After dinner, we sat around and relaxed until it was time to eat some pie. Naturally, I kept it warm in the oven until it was ready. Paired with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream, it was great. The apples are a little too tart this time. Otherwise, the crust was golden brown, flaky, and delicious.
And here's a plate of my food. A little of everything and just fantastic. One plate was enough for me since I piled it up high. At the end of the night, I was happy and full. The perfect Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Baking: Nutella Swirl Pound Cake

One of the best things I've baked in the past is a Nutella swirl pound cake. It's rich, soft, buttery, and sweet from the Nutella. It's a dieter's nightmare but a treat. So I broke out the usual recipe from Food & Wine, and went to work. But things didn't seem right...

I prepped by ingredients as usual. Here are my beaten eggs and vanilla.

And here are the dry ingredients ready to be incorporated.
I start off by creaming the butter and sugar.
Then I add the flour mixture and egg mixture. Mix well to incorporate.
Then into my prepared loaf pan.
Add the Nutella on top, then add more batter on top. Repeat. Then take a knife and swirl the batter. I tried not to swirl too much.
It baked nicely. But when I was ready to remove it from the pan after cooking for a bit, it completely fell apart. The top basically fell off and the bottom slowly came out after that. It was still edible and tasted okay.
I have a few theories about why it went wrong. When I was layering the Nutella and the batter, I might have not used the proper proportions. It might have been closer to 1/2 than 1/3 each. Another theory is that I used German Nutella as opposed to American Nutella. I think it might have less preservatives and is slightly looser. I'm not 100% sure but they sure taste different.

Whatever the case may be, it won't detract me from making this again. It's too good.

Recipe from Food & Wine Magazine
Nutella-Swirl Pound Cake
Recipe by Lauren Chattman
(Recipe adapted from Cake Keeper Cakes.)
* TOTAL TIME: 2 HRS 2 hr plus 2 hr cooling
* SERVINGS: Makes one 9-by-5-inch loaf

1. 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2. 4 large eggs, at room temperature
3. 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4. 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
5. 1/4 teaspoon salt
6. 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
7. 1 1/4 cups sugar
8. One 13-ounce jar Nutella

1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Lightly grease and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, tapping out any excess flour. In a glass measuring cup, lightly beat the eggs with the vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk the 1 1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder and salt.
2. In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the mixer at medium-low speed, gradually beat in the egg mixture until fully incorporated. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, beating at low speed between additions until just incorporated. Continue to beat for 30 seconds longer.
3. Spread one-third of the batter in the prepared pan, then spread half of the Nutella on top. Repeat with another third of the batter and the remaining Nutella. Top with the remaining batter. Lightly swirl the Nutella into the batter with a butter knife. Do not overmix.
4. Bake the cake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto a wire rack, turn it right side up and let cool completely, about 2 hours. Cut the cake into slices and serve.

The pound cake can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.