Monday, April 25, 2011

ladies who easter brunch

I use the term "ladies" loosely here. Particularly (and singularly) when referring to myself. You see, when the barometer abruptly hits 79 degrees Fahrenheit--albeit welcomed with arms wide open--and your oven is cranked up to 550 degrees Fahrenheit and you're buzzing around your apartment and you're joined by five other human beings who are also buzzing around your apartment, things tend to And not in a Girls Gone Wild type of way. I assure you. Although, clothing was admittedly removed. By yours truly. More than once.

Three times. I had to make a costume change three times over the course of one Easter Brunch. Why, you ask? Again. Things got HOT.

Even with the AC coursing an arctic chill on full blast, the lack of air circulation throughout my apartment failed to deliver any relief for my glistening--no, dewy--guests and me. So after a round of Kir Royales, we poured generous glasses of ice, cold Puerto Ricans (a light beer-based mimosa. don't ask. just try.) and kept 'em coming. What? Something had to cool Mama off.

And then we ate. And ate. And ate some more. Discomfort ensued. And then a round of Apples to Apples. And then? Well, then we ate again.

Happy Easter, "Ladies" and Gents!

[kir royales to toast the man]

[the handsome, albeit massive, spread]

[smoked salmon pizza with dilled sour cream and red onion]

[pizza with parmesan béchamel, sautéed mushrooms, spring onion, and egg]

[naughty, naughty, naughty things]

[a crème brulée donut that will make you--amongst many other things--blush]

Monday, April 18, 2011

[last] weekend's dinner party: happy birthday ing

I could not have conjured up a meal more catered to each and every one of my Mom's strongly opinionated epicurean taste-buds if I had tried. I mean really, really tried. And so, I didn't.

You see, the Birthday girl herself picked out the meal for her very special day. And straight she turned to her favorite chef, Suzanne Goin and Sunday Suppers with Lucques. If there's any day that you deserve to have exactly what you want, just the way you want it, it's your Birthday. And this year, Ing wanted to celebrate with Wild Striped Bass with Farro, Black Rice, Green Garlic, and Tangerine--amongst a gaggle of other delectable goodies--and all prepared the day of, while various family members and friends lent their hands and mouths to the preparation of one epic meal of equally epic proportions.

Word to the wise (from the admittedly not-always-so-wise): This is a menu best suited for a smaller crowd. Smaller, perhaps, than even Suzanne's suggestion of six. And yet, we had ten. Because cooking batch after laborious batch of seared Sea Bass while trying desperately not (without succeeding) to melt out of your clothes (if you can't stand the heat...) and simultaneously "entertaining" a guest or two while tasting for seasoning and pouring that extra glass of gloriously chilled Sauvignon Blanc, was not exactly the easiest of tasks. In fact, it was downright daunting. Perhaps pushing a bit more towards masochistic. But hey, it's all for the best of causes. And silver lining? We became the entertainment.

Because understand this: This meal is so spectacularly special, refreshing, lively, I'd shutter at the thought of anyone not being able to treat themselves to it--if not but only once--to fully experience the mélange of textures and flavors that come together here. Each and every note pronounced and yet, with certain inexplicable subtleties that can only come from the most professional and well-seasoned of chefs.

And from the Birthday girl with the impeccable eye and taste to spot a phenomenal menu--the phenomenal menu--when she sees it.

"Sooo...should we, like, start soon?"

Wild Striped Bass with Farro, Black Rice, Green Garlic, and Tangerine
Recipe Courtesy Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin
Serves 6

6 wild striped bass fillets, 5 to 6 oz. each, skin on
3 tangerines, zested, plus 1-1/2 cups fresh juice
1 tbsp. thyme leaves
2 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. granulated sugar
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
farro and black rice with green garlic pea shoots (recipe to come)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Season the fish with the tangerine zest, thyme, and parsley. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Remove the fish from the refrigerator 15 minutes before cooking, to bring it to room temperature.

Slice the stem and bottom ends from the tangerines. Stand the tangerines on one end and, following the contour of the fruit with a sharp knife, remove the cottony white pith. Work from top to bottom and rotate the fruit as you go. Then hold each tangerine over a bowl and carefully slice between the membranes and the fruit to release the segments in between. Discard all the seeds. You should have about 1/3 cup tangerine segments.

Heat a large sauté pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Season the fish with salt and pepper on both sides. Swirl in the olive oil and wait 1 minute. Carefully lay the fish in the pan, skin side down, and cook 3 to 4 minutes, until the skin is crisp. Turn the fish over, lower the heat to medium0low, and cook a few more minutes until the bass is almost cooked through. Be carefully not to overcook the fish. When it's done, the fist will begin to flake and separate a little, and the center will still be slightly translucent. Remember, the fish will continue to cook a bit more once you take it out of the pan.

Wipe out the pan and return it to the stove over medium-high heat. Add the tangerine juice and sugar and bring to a boil. When the juice has reduced by half, turn the heat down to low and quickly whisk in the butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of freshly ground pepper. Remove from the heat and stir in the tangerine segments. Taste for seasoning.

Place the farro and black rice with green garlic and pea shoots on a large warm platter. Arrange the bass on top, and spoon the sauce over the fish.

Grilled Pizza with Swiss Chard, Goat Cheese, Currants, and Pine Nuts
Recipe adapted* from Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques

1 ball of fresh pizza dough
1 large bunch Swiss chard, cleaned, center ribs removed
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sliced shallots
1 extra-large egg yolk
1/2 cup crème fraiche
6 ounces semi-aged goat cheese
currant-pine nut relish (recipe follows)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Tear the chard into large pieces. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the shallots, and the thyme. Sauté a few minutes, add half the Swiss chard. Cook a minute or two, tossing the greens, and season with a heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt and a pinch of black pepper. Cook for a few more minutes, stirring frequently, until the greens are tender.

Spread the greens on a baking sheet or platter to cool. When they've cooled, squeeze the excess water out with your hands.

Place the ricotta, egg yolk, and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in the bowl of a food processor. Purée until smooth, and remove to a mixing bowl. Gently fold in the crème fraiche, and season with a healthy pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Roll out pizza dough on a lightly floured surface and place on pizza peel. When grill is up to temperature, brush olive oil onto one side of the pizza dough and place (oil side down) dough onto grill. Brush the other side of the dough with olive oil, close the grill, and allow to cook for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes, flip the pizza dough onto the other side and close the lid for another 3 minutes. Remove cooked pizza dough from the grill, turn it down to low, and bring pizza back inside.

Spread the ricotta mixture on the grilled pizza base. Arrange the greens on top and sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese. Place back on grill (just before serving) for two minutes to heat through.

When ready to serve, spoon some of the currant-pine nut relish over the pizza and cut into slice with a pizza cutter or large knife. Pass the remaining currant-pine nut relish in a small bowl for anyone who would like a little more.

*The original recipe calls for making this into a tart with puff pastry. This was our alternative.

Currant-Pine Nut Relish
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 sprig rosemary
1 chile de arbol (or a sprinkle of chile flakes)
3/4 cup finely diced red onion
1/3 cup dried currants
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley

Heat a small sauté pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Turn down the heat to medium, and add the olive oil, rosemary and chile. When the rosemary and chile start to sizzle, add the onion nad season with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Turn the heat down to low, and let the onions stew gently for about 10 minutes, until tender. Transfer to a small bowl to cool and discard the rosemary sprig and chile.

While the onion is cooking, place the currants in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Let the currants soak for 10 minutes, and then drain well.

Add the balsamic vinegar to the pan the onions were in, and reduce it over medium-high heat to a scant 1 tablespoon. Stir the reduced vinegar into the onion mixture.

Add the toasted pine nuts, currants, and parsley to the onion mixture, and stir to combine. Taste for balance and seasoning.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

move over morimoto

What happens when two sushi-centric fanatics (read: addicts) unite to try their hands at making their own? A whole lot of smiling mixed with moments of silence with equal parts laughter by means of pure astonishment and highlighted by "shut-up-right-now-I-can't-believe-how-freaking-delicious-this-is" exclaimed over and over and over again.

I will admit, making my own sushi has never been something that's really interested me before; something I argued I'd much rather leave to the professionals; mysteriously missing from my perpetual culinary To Do's. But when an eager-to-try and decidedly handsome fellow expresses great interest in whipping up sliced hamachi with jalapeno and ponzu, you politely accept the invitation. Then promptly start hunting for the perfect serving plates, platters, and appropriate accessories.

With impeccably fresh fish, an extraordinarily sharp knife, and a little creativity--by which I mean plenty of hot sake for the sushi chef(s)--you too, will be well on your way to a DIY project that is guaranteed to yield euphoric and wholly fulfilling results. Even if they don't end up exactly as planned. I assure you, this is a trial and error-type experiment that you will be more than willing to try over and over and over again.

fresh hamachi loin

professionally sliced paper thin and fanned out on an expertly chosen platter

topped with equally paper thin slices of jalapeno, shaved scallions, and a thoughtful splash of ponzu sauce

a well-deserved love pat to your sushi chef on a job well done

a spicy tuna roll with scallion, avocado, and cucumber, while perfect in conception, yielded a much--for lack of a better word--fatter result after rolling (silver lining: I make damn good spicy tuna tartar)

Not pictured: gorgeously thin pieces of tuna draped over sticky sushi rice and a tiny dot of wasabi were consumed entirely too quickly. Sorry I'm not sorry for snapping a picture in time. I was far more interested in getting them into my mouth as swiftly as possible. Par for the sushi course.


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