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Stuff we’ve been eating.

Man, oh, man, what an eating journey I have been on over the last few weeks.  Due to some technical difficulties, I was unable to post pics of some home-cooked meals, so this post is going to be a gather-all of everything that has been going on in my culinary world over the last couple of weeks.

I will start from the most important two meals that I have had in the last couple of days: my two birthday dinners.  Yes, burgerboy is one year closer to being a burgerman, and the dreaded 3-0 awaits me in 364 days.  But until then, I am going to keep eating like I am a twenty-something stud with an iron stomach.

Continue reading ‘Stuff we’ve been eating.’

A whole new appreciation for food texture.

So it’s been six days since I got gum surgery, and from this side of having 99% of my meals either blended or liquid-based, I can honestly say that texture is a very important element of plate construction.  Meals just aren’t satisfying, mentally or physically, without some bite.  Maybe it’s a carnal instinct that we need to chew our food and attack it like animals, or maybe it’s just the satisfaction of masticating things to a pulp.

I don’t know, but I miss it.

I have been, however, reminded how good sweet potatoes are.  They are awesome.  So it butternut squash soup.  Especially with some Tamarack Farm bacon and shallots.

Jell-O pudding packs are also pretty tasty.

I don’t really have much else to say, but this explains my absence from the blogosphere.  I spoke with Seoul Brother, and hopefully we’ll be getting an update from his end of the world in the near future.  Since his last post on Smokey Saloon, he has confirmed a couple of things.  He had predicted a proliferation of burger joints in Korea, but that has not actually happened.  However, what has happened is that he can buy American and Australian ground beef, which is a vast improvement in the burger-making department.  Cheese continues to elude him.

But there is plenty of fermented skate to go around.

Also, I was watching No Impact Man, and he paid the folks up at Ronnybrook Farms a visit.  Man, I was jealous!  It looks like a good time up there.

Lastly, a fellow food blogger out there has sourced some material from b4b while compiling his list of great burgers from around the globe.  Check it out and let him know what you really think: Matador Night’s List of 50 Burger Joints around the world.

Stuff I like right now.

I thought I would take this opportunity to write about a few things that I like right now.  This post is totally selfish, but what the hell, it’s my blog.

The first thing I like is Ronnybrook Farm’s Greek Yogurt.

I picked up a tub of this stuff a couple of weeks ago at the midtown farmer’s market.  Based on its less-than-perfect logo and label, I knew it was fresh from the farm and was in trial runs.  We all know that I’m a fan of RB Farms anyway, so I knew that this would be pretty good stuff.  But would it be as good as siggi’s?  More importantly, would it be more creamy (and less liquidy) than the regular creamline yogurts?

The short answer is yes.  This stuff was thick and creamy like Greek yogurt should be, but it still had that silkiness indicative of the RB farms.  True to form, the honey and vanilla were top-notch quality.  It was not quite as dry as a mass-produced Greek yogurt, but it was definitely a strained yogurt, with good density.  Speaking with my girl at the market this past week, she let me know that they are making a few other flavors in the Greek Style, so I’m looking forward to that.

I like sandwiches.

You know when you make something in your kitchen and right after you taste it, you say to yourself, “I am the man”?  I recently experienced this.  I had some random things lying around from which I was going to construct a weeknight dinner: some fresh rosemary from the awesome short ribs that burgergal made, some Ardith Mae doolan soft-ripened goat cheese, a couple of thin slices of pancetta, an end piece from a not just rugelach seven grain loaf, some red russian kale, a few past-their-prime cherry tomatoes, and some eggs.  I figured I could make something happen there.

My original plan was to crisp up the pancetta, sauté the kale, add the tomatoes and cook until they burst, then throw the egg on top and cover, letting the whole thing come together (I often make this type of thing during the week, having been inspired by some shakshuka I had with burgergal at Hummus Place back in the day before she was burgergal, which was really a sad time).  I figured on the side I would make a little grilled cheese sandwich with the doolan and a touch of rosemary for extra earthiness and a little bit of woody flavor.  Then a funny thing happened: I decided to kick it up a notch.

To the sandwich, I added some of the sautéed kale and a few morsels of the crispy pancetta.  Instead of just crisping the outside of the sandwich in a pan, I infused some olive oil with rosemary by adding fresh leaves as the oil heated in a non-stick pan.  After they had imparted some flavor into the oil, I took the leaves out of the oil and added them to the inside of the sandwich, which was already oozing with goat-cheesy goodness because of the hot kale.  I browned up the outside and set it aside for a second while I finished up the egg/kale/tomato thing.

While this sandwich stuff was going on, a mere inches away on the front burner was my egg concoction.  Although I wasn’t sure how all of the flavors were going to work together, they looked pretty, so I figured half of the battle was won.  The white of the egg looked set, and the yolk was looking nice and oozy.  I grabbed the widest spatula I own and transferred the whole thing to a plate, being careful to not break the yolk prematurely.   The last thing I wanted to do was lose this masterpiece to a last second flub.

At this stage, I had two separate items.  In a moment of brilliance, I decided that I could combine and make them one.  What could be better than a sandwich of fat dipped into a substance that is entirely fat?  I went for the money shot.  Being a complete nerd, I dipped with my left hand and photographed with my right.

Wait, what was that?  You couldn’t see the goodness?  No problem!

When I put the combination in my mouth, the heavens opened and I realized I had created something truly magnificent.  I didn’t know what to do with myself.  I just wanted more.  I finished the sandwich in .3 seconds.  I needed more.  I needed to re-create this, and soon.  I made sure to take mental note of what was going on.  I took pictures of it just to remember how spectacular it was.

Now that that’s done…

I thought a better sandwich wouldn’t be possible.  Until it was.

About a month ago, Bon Appétit featured a short rib and arugula sandwich on its cover.  It looked pretty good, but I didn’t bother clipping the recipe or anything.  It was just a sandwich, after all.  Little did I know that a single ingredient contained in that recipe would change my life forever (yes, forever).

The recipe called for pretty “basic” stuff (especially if you happen to have some delicious short ribs in the freezer): short ribs, good white bread, monterey jack cheese, arugula, butter, pickled caramelized onions…  umm, what?  Pickled caramelized onions??

Yes.  Pickled caramelized onions.

Step 1: Caramelize onions in butter.

Step 2: Add red wine vinegar and sugar.

Step 3: Cook that down until the liquid is gone.

Step 4: Change your life forever.

The pickled caramelized onions were a game-changer.  I cannot imagine eating any savory sandwich without them again.  Burger?  Pickled caramelized onions (like they had at Dumont).  Ham and cheese?  And pickled caramelized onions, please.  Hot dog?  Hot is gettin’ me some pickled caramelized onions on that, dog.  You get the point.

We combined all of those ingredients on some freshly baked artisanal bread we picked up at Zabar’s.  A quick lather of butter on the outside (not a healthy recipe) and we were in business.

Like french toast but better.

Get me a picture with some softer lighting.  Some of that lighting like all the food-porn sites have!

Thank you!

Seared duck is something I like, too.  But much more tersely.

See?  Easy.

I know, I know…

It’s been far too long.  I have been busy, what can I say?  More to come on my recent exploits.

But, a trip to the midtown farmer’s market yielded a new Ronnybrook product: Greek Yogurt!  I haven’t tried it but I’m very excited.

mmm, silky.

It’s been too long, I know.  Based on all of y’all who end up on my site after searching for “silky (or any variant of spelling) chicken,” I figured it was time at long last to cook the darn thing.

As you will recall, I bought some chickens from bo bo chicken farm, based out of upstate New York.  They are not organic, as mentioned, but raised locally, so that’s still better than nothing.  I roasted that regular young chicken ’till he was GB&D (golden brown and delicious), to steal from Ming Tsai (what’s that guy up to, anyway?).

Now, it was time for his silkier cousin to get cooked up.  There are a lot of choices for chicken, but I knew that black chicken would be a special case.  When I was sold the chicken, they tried to push some baggie of sticks and stuff that was the base for a soup.  Silky chicken tonic soup, they call it (here).  At the time, I wanted to roast the thing, just to see what it tastes like by itself.  But when I pulled the little guy out of the freezer, I didn’t think that was such a great idea.

There were other braising recipes, like one from Patricia Yeo, but again, the ingredient list consisted of too many items that I would have to travel to get and/or require some sort of special translation.  I decided to make something up.  The only thing I knew I wanted to include was star anise.  That was pretty much my only requirement.

So I pulled a few items out of the spice cabinet.

I was making this thing up, so I figured I could use as many ingredients as I wanted.  The basics were: star anise, cinnamon, lemongrass, soy sauce, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, brown sugar, juniper berries, pink peppercorns, red wine, vegetable oil, rice wine vinegar, and these wasabi sesame seeds that my stepmom gave to me (re-gift from her bro).  I also had diced carrots and onions.  I wanted it all in there.

I started out by butchering the chicken.  I realized one thing about the silky chicken: not a lot of meat.  As in, REALLY not a lot of meat.  Practically none.  It’s just a mass of grey flesh and grey bones and purple skin.  Maybe the one I got in particular was particularly devoid of breast meat, but there was nothin.  Tiny little breasts and decently sized thighs, although nothing to write home about.  I also couldn’t figure out where everything was, it was all just a little bit different from a normal bird.

Anyway, I probably mutilated the thing, but it’s all good.  This was all in the name of science.

After that, I went about my way with pretty standard braising steps.  Browned the chicken.

Now, if you will notice, when the breast is cooked, it still turns white.  This is because it has less myoglobin, which apparently is what makes meat dark or light when cooked.  More myoglobin= darker when cooked (also means that it was a slow-twitch muscle, like legs, shoulders, etc).  Anyway, this was kind of disappointing, since I wanted the flesh to be grey, even when cooked.  Also, in case you were wondering, the blood is still red, too.  Can you say “disappointment?”

After browning it up, I took the chicken out and sautéed the veg in the fat (there wasn’t much) and then threw all of that stuff into the pot after deglazing with a combination of rice wine vinegar and red wine.  Everybody went into the pool.  Then, I cooked it down for about 45 minutes or so.  That was it!  Roasted some fingerlings on the side, and cooked up some baby bok choi in butter and sesame oil, and Bob’s your uncle!

As you can see, it looks kinda like chicken.  And, sorry to disappoint, but it also tastes… like chicken.  It really didn’t taste much different than the other Bo Bo chicken.  Which isn’t a bad thing, but I was hoping it would taste like, well, something else.  Anyway, enjoy, and try to get one if you can.  Buy local!

Speaking of local, I got some Milk Thistle farm chocolate milk.  Quite tasty.  Ronny has competition.

Also speaking of local again, got some R-brook Vanilla ice cream.  And I put chestnut purée on it.  That was delightlful.  See if you can get some of that stuff, too.  The purée is from France, but I’ll allow it.

A man, a plan. Squash, beets.

I have made time to make dinner for myself two nights in a row now.  While I usually do eat at home during the week, I rarely make it a big production.  For the past two nights, however, I have found myself wanting more than mere sustenance.  I have wanted to eat something a) fresh b) relatively healthy and c) tasty.

I was off from work on Wednesday, so I made the trek down to the Westside Market on the UWS.  I was going to go to Fairway, but didn’t feel like it, to be honest.  It was already 5.30pm an I knew the lines would be out of control already.

Totally unsure of what I was going to make, I picked up a few random items and decided I would challenge myself: parsnips, a butternut squash, Saga blue cheese, a couple of tomatoes (I know, I know, not seasonal, but they looked pretty decent), baby arugula, bartlett pears, gala apples, vegetable stock, this great pre-made roasted artichoke couscous they have there, and some other stuff unrelated to this blog post (cereal and soy milk if you must know.  burgerboy like soy milk).

I got home with no idea as to what I was going to do with these random ingredients.  Since I have been doing a lot of traveling and galavanting about town, I have had little time to keep my refrigerator very stocked.  I took a quick inventory of the fridge: random condiments of various ages, corn tortillas, couple of Ronnybrook yogurts and an eggnog, an old ziploc bag with dark miso, baking soda, a bottle of club soda, ground flaxseed (yes, I am an 80 year-old man. And I am allergic to salmon, so I need to get my omega-3’s, ok?), and some really old coffee grounds.  The freezer was not much better.  Although that black chicken is looking ready to be used and abused.

Slightly discouraged and ready to call up Land Thai, which I have saved in my phonebook, I gave one quick glance in the far drawer.  This drawer takes a lot of effort to open, because it requires the refrigerator door to be fully opened, which requires moderate agility and effort based on the configuration of my apartment.

Here is a diagram.

The drawer is on the left side of the fridge.  See, that requires some work.

Anyway, I opened this drawer and discovered… BEETS!  I had bought them a few weeks back from the Rexcroft Farm at the D’ag farmer’s market, and they provided me with the inspiration that I needed.  I was going to make a roasted beet, pear, and blue cheese salad with arugula and toasted butternut squash seeds, and a butternut squash mash over the roasted artichoke couscous.  BAM.  How’s that for some quick thinking?

I threw the beets into the oven at about 375 degrees and let them work their magic while I prepped the rest of my dishes.  I cubed up the butternut squash and toasted the seeds with some cumin, cayenne pepper, and salt, and set those aside to top my salad (after snacking on about half of them).  Then it was time to make a bartlett pear wish it had never been picked from the tree.

Look at those skills.  That’s my handy steel in the background. I really showed that pear who is boss.  I think it looks like a big grub or something like you’d see on Andrew Zimmern’s show.

There’s another view.  I thought it was cool.

I pulled the beets out of the oven and let them cool down a bit as I prepared the butternut squash.  For that, I took the cubed butternut squash (pretty good-sized chunks, maybe an 1-1.5″), threw about a cup and half or so into a non-stick pan with some oil, browned them, then added a little water into the pan and covered it to steam the squash through.  When they were fork-tender, I dusted them lightly with some cumin and a little rubbed sage, added a touch of brown sugar to glaze them, and threw in some freshly chopped green onions.  Done.

With that completed, I put my knife skills to the test yet again, this time with the beets.  They didn’t look as cool so i didn’t take a picture.    But I did take a picture of the finished product.

Look at that sweet action.  Look at that layering, look at the attention to spacing and composition.  Look at those nuggets of creamy blue cheese and crunchy bits of butternut squash seeds poking through the spicy baby arugula.  So many simple flavors, coming through in a symphony of salty and sweet, creamy and crunchy.  Dressing, you ask?  Something this good needs only a light-handed pour of some organic olive oil and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar.  It kinda reminds me of a culinary school 101-type dish.  Since I didn’t go to culinary school, I am ok with that.  Well, technically, I did go to a culinary school, but I didn’t learn to cook there.

I also had my couscous on the side, but it looked a little more bland by comparison.  But it tasted damn good.  And just so you guys don’t think I am out of control with portion size, the plate below is not a full-sized dinner plate, I promise.

Tune in next time for but’nut squash, part 2: Faux-sotto, or, “I wish I had a ricer.”