October 26, 2006

Pork You in the Mouth

I knew there was one thing that had to happen on my last day of work at the now-closed headquarters of the New York Museum of Water, and that thing was Number Six. Number Six was introduced to me a few months before while walking down 10th Avenue after work with my friend Mary. She pulled half of a gigantic sandwich wrapped in white butcher paper out of her bag, took a bite, then held it up to my face and said “Open up, I’m gonna pork you in the mouth.” And she did.

If the sound I made when Number Six was shoved into my mouth seemed a little dirty, it was not in response to her suggestive way of offering me a bite, but to the huge fragrant mouthful of pork I was chewing. Number Six is a stack of sliced cold roast pork tenderloin (complete with pepper- and herb-encrusted edges) stuffed with tomato, plenty of arugula and just enough horseradish sauce to flavor the fresh, flour-dusted bread from the picturesque wooden shelf behind the counter of Bottino’s trendy take-out annex in west Chelsea.

The lunch line at Bottino’s is never short, but the scenery is almost as delicious as the sandwiches. It’s a very popular spot with the local gallery crowd (encouraged by conforming to their Tuesday through Saturday schedule), whose experiments in style make up for the lack of decor in the tiny, fashionably bare storefront. Unfortunately, the food is also at gallery prices. Seven to ten bucks for a sandwich, salad, or lasagna buys you a lunch of super-fresh premium ingredients that almost make it worth the dollars. It becomes more economical for those of us who can make two meals out of one sandwich, which, unless you are extraordinarily hungry, is usually not an act of restraint.

During my time in that neighborhood I tried at least half of their sandwiches, a few salads, soups-of-the-day, cookies, lasagnas, and creatively flavored homemade lemonades, but the only thing I would go all the way back there for is Number Six on olive bread. Still, if you’re in the neighborhood looking for a sandwich and not a big fan of getting porked in the mouth, the only thing I wouldn’t recommend is the eggplant. Definitely try the lemonade, and no matter what you get, make sure you have some of the bread with it. Also, this is definitely a place for regulars, so pay close attention to the flow of traffic or you may get bypassed.

Really, though, the point here is not to celebrate this particular restaurant, but to celebrate the mighty engineering of the sandwich known as Number Six. Since that day when Mary first porked me in the mouth I have eaten at least thirty Number Sixes and passed on the porking to friends, co-workers, even my Mom, to which Mary said “You porked your Mom in the mouth.” Yes I did, and she liked it.

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October 24, 2006

Je t'aime, Coq au Vin

Go and buy the Nov/Dec issue of Cook's Illustrated. Go now. It food gold. Food gold.

Aand dear readers, the following post breaks practically all of our standards; if you're looking a fast, inexpensive meal, you should look here or here (or here), because this certainly isn't one of them.

When I saw the coq au vin recipe I knew I had to do it. "Fast" the editors suggested, "easy". It was neither, but oh my God it was amazing; perhaps the best dish I've ever made. One of the top five for sure.

After a rough start foraging at the Pathmark (no frozen pearl onions, only ones frozen with a sherry cream sauce, hardly any skinless/boneless chicken thighs, and, not surprisingly no cremini mushrooms [actually, I ended up with baby 'bella mushrooms, which are another name for creminis. The things you learn on wikipedia- skp]), I got some editing done and started cooking at about 5:30.

At about 8:45 I started to get nervous. They said this was going to be easy. And fast (90 minutes). Boiling down the wine, cutting up the chicken, and mushrooms, browning both, making lardons, browning them, peeling and cutting up the vegetables for my root vegetable puree, boiling them, boiling down the wine more should not have taken so much time. It did.

And after it was all over I did get to spend about minutes enjoying it. The sauce was incredible; a whole bottle of pinot noir, some butter, garlic and mushrooms. Damn. The chicken thighs were juicy and tender.

Oh, and the aforementioned mashed root vegetables:

6 medium yukon gold potatoes cut into 2-in cubes
1 lb carrots, cut into 2-in cubes
1 lb parsnips, cut into 2-in cubes
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup chicken stock
4 tablespoons (or 1/2 stick) butter
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Boil potatoes, carrots, and parsnips until tender in salted water. Drain. Mash viciously (in boiling pot). Add milk, stock, and butter. Mash on. Feel free to add more milk or stock to your taste.

And while you're at it, grab the October and November Gourmet issues. Lots of great recipes in Quick Kitchen and the other sections near it. I served the coq au vin and roots with some roasted acorn squash with chile vinaigrette from the Oct. issue.

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Special thanks to ginandtonic1978 over at flickr for the coq au vin picture and epicurious for the squash.

October 11, 2006

Nourishment for my Sleep-addled Brain

On Wednesday I decided that the best way to spend the three or four hours between my night and day job by going out to a nice breakfast. After choosing the Franklin Station Cafe only to find it closed, I walked down West Broadway to Petite Abeille, a quaint Belgian cafe/pub.

Writing this, I'm not sure why the eight different waffle options didn't set off any number of warnings (um hello: belgian restaurant = waffles). No, my sleep-addled brain reasoned that omelettes would be the best choice (protein, go for the protein).

The omelette Ardennaise, with its bacon, mushroom, spinach and onion, along with a pan au chocolat and an Awake tea kept me going all day long (though an intensely boring but easy party full of bankers). Everything was as it was supposed to have been. The mashed carrots/potato 'stoemp' was a welcome starchy addition to the meal.

The atmosphere rocked, very European: chalkboard, lots of beer, Europeans behind the bar, blue checked tableclothes, big tubes of sea salt on the tables, etc. I would totally go back Monday nights for Belgian beer night but it would probably be full of ... financial types. Or politicians. Either way, not my scene. Even regular old people wouldn't work out.

Special thanks to Kenyee over at Flickr for the picture. It isn't an omelette, but it's pretty (and taken at the Petite Abeille). Isn't it?
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October 4, 2006

Eating in SpaHa (First in a series)

It's been about three weeks since I moved to Spanish Harlem and I've finally started to get out and eat here.

Patsy's Pizzaria
1312 2nd Ave

Like a first kiss, Patsy's will always have a special spot in my heart. Their 69th and 2nd restaurant was the only place I'd eat when I came to New York City before I lived here. The copper ceiling, the same eastern European waitress every time, the crispy, crunchy, basil and mozzarella-covered paper-thin pies.

Anyway, I never thought I'd have cause to go to the 118th and 1st Avenue location, but now that it's 3 minutes away I imagine I'll be going frequently. This Patsy's, I discovered is different from the others.

It's a lot more like a regular old pizza place than the downtown Patsies. No copper ceilings, no eastern European servers, no basil/mozz; just plain old awesome pizza. It was fitting that I went to this Patsy's with Marc, the guy who introduced me to Patsy's in the first place all those years ago.

The pies are $11, which puts them about $3 to $5 cheaper than the other Patsy's locations, so we started off with some absolutely killer calimari (note: on a subsequent trip with Amy, they were even better). The thin, crispy crust exhibited slight floppiness.

Haven't tried the real food yet but I will. Oh will I ever.

2257 1st Ave

This one came highly recommended by our broker and our first almost-landlord and Liz and I decided to go there for her birthday. Relaxed, dark atmosphere, good waitstaff, standard cocktails.

I got the Chicharron de Pollo (chicken marinated in Rum and garlic then fried in a light batter) and it was dry and unimpressive. The sweet plantains and corn and even the broccoli were, on the other hand, quite good.

Liz ended up choosing penne with a spicy vodka sauce, which she loved.

For dessert we got a bomba (molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream) and bread pudding. I was skeptical of the latter and Liz outright said that after her summer in the deep south knew she wouldn't like it. The only other choice on the dessert menu was an apple crisp. Anyone can make a decent apple crisp and it tastes, well, like an apple crisp, so we boldly tried the bread pudding.

The apple-studded dulce-de-leche drizzled bread pudding rocked my world and molten chocolate cake, lived up to its gooey, chocolatey potential.

I'll go back.

Many thanks to Slice over at flickr for the pizza. They have a popular NY pizza blog too.

October 3, 2006

Baked Ziti Redux

This one'll be short but there will be more this week. I swear. Working 60-plus hours a week will not stop this gourmetro. (mono might, but we'll cross that bridge when we're forced onto it)

Last week I made one of my favorite fall/winter meals, baked ziti. It's near and dear to my heart and I tore it up when I made it last week. Oh, and tearing it up is like ripping it apart. It's a good thing, I think.

When I decided to eat ziti for the week I had a momentary epiphany: why am I adding 3/4 cup of water when I could be adding 3/4 cup of wine? That's it. Red wine made that kickin' ziti even better. I used a Cabernet Franc, but any full-bodied red should do. If you're a purist, use an Italian red like Chiante or Barolo.

My other alteration was that I shredded my own block of mozzarella. It made a big difference, much more stringy and moist than the pre-shredded stuff. And I used Polly-O, so nice, fresh mozz would be even dreamier.

Oh, that and a pound and a half of mild sage sausage (most of the fat reserved ;) ).

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Special thanks to viamarisol over at flickr for the extreme close-up.