Monday, December 26, 2011

Pernil AKA Puerto Rican Roast Pork

Nothing says Christmas like the smell of pernil wafting throughout a house like a cartoon finger. I've cooked a lot of different things, but I never thought to make pernil because the responsibility always fell to my mother at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Since my mother didn't make pernil at our family holiday dinner, I left feeling incomplete.  The following recipe is a combination of my mom's recipe, some 'successful' miscommunication, and all of the 'techniques' learned from my never ending DVR'd food shows.


4lb - Roast Pork Butt (you can also use Pork Shoulder)
6 cloves - Garlic (sliced)
2 packets - Sazon seasoning
1/4 cup - White Vinegar
1 - Lemon (juice)
1 - Lime (juice)
Adobo Seasoning (you can substitute granulated garlic, salt, and pepper)

1) Squeeze and massage the juice of 1 lemon and lime all over the pork butt.
2) Stab the pork butt repeatedly on all sides (your knife should penetrate about 1/2 inch).
3) Season and rub with Adobo and Sazon seasonings.
4) Insert the sliced pieces of garlic into all of the knife slits (it should slide in like pennies in a penny loafer)
5) Put the pork butt in a sealed Ziploc gallon bag and pour the vinegar over it.
6) Put the sealed bag in a pyrex container and refrigerate for 24 hours (be sure to turn it over every few hours).
7) Place the pork butt on a roasting rack and put it in the oven uncovered at 300 degrees for 2 1/2 hours (this creates a crispy skin).
8) Flip it on the roasting rack with tongs and let the other side get roasted for another 2 1/2 hours (I put aluminum foil midway so it wouldn't dry out).
9) Flip it again on its original side and turn the temperature up to 400 degrees and leave it for 20 minutes.
10) Take the meat out of the oven and let it rest for a bit. 
11) Take the meat apart with tongs and a knife and try to portion it out so every piece has crispy pork skin on it.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Pickled Red Grapes

I've been on a nice pickling run lately with red onions, carrots, and I recently added grapes to the mix.  I originally tried them in a farro risotto at Perilla and was blown away by the sweet and sour taste. I came up with the recipe below on my own, but I'll try it next with a sprig of rosemary, ginger, brown sugar, and/or peppercorns.


1/2 cup - White Balsamic Vinegar (or White Wine Vinegar)
1/2 cup - Sugar
1 - Cinnamon Stick
1 cup - Red Grapes (or enough to fit a 8oz Ball Mason Jar)

1) Rinse, dry, and slice the nipple part of the grape off.
2) Put the grapes into a mason jar.
3) In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil.
4) Pour the liquid over the grapes, close the jar, and put it in the fridge.
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Friday, October 21, 2011

Brown Butter Sage Sauce

Nothing is nicer than having dinner done in less than 10 minutes (take that Rachael Ray!). I'm a bag fan of brown butter sauces since they are quick, easy, and delicious. This is my modified version of Mario Batali's recipe. 


5 tbsp - Unsalted Butter
15 - Sage leaves
1/2 - Lemon (juiced)
2oz - Pasta Cooking Water
Freshly Grated Nutmeg
Parmigiano Reggiano

1) While your pasta cooks (cook it 1-2 minutes before the al dente cook time), melt the butter in a saute pan.
2) When the butter starts to turn golden brown, add the sage leaves and remove from heat.
3) Grate nutmeg over the pan and add lemon juice.
4) Reserve 2oz of the pasta cooking water. 
4) Drain the pasta and put it into the saute pan and return to heat.
5) Using a microplane, add the cheese and toss the pasta to coat.
6) Using a potato peeler, shave the cheese for presentation and serve.  
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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Yellow Rice with Chorizo

Being Puerto Rican, I have eaten rice my whole life (I think only the Japanese beat us in annual rice consumption).  I've gotten a little bored of rice and have been making more flavorful risottos and farro lately.  This all changed when I tried this "stew" rice recipe which packs a rich flavor punch.  Follow the recipe and don't stray on the ratios - I was thrown off because I always thought that the ratio of liquid to rice should be 1:1.  Aside from the taste, the yellowness of the rice wowed me (it didn't need sazon to give it color) and it does not need salt (shocker) because of the chicken stock.   


2 tbsp - Canola Oil 
4 links - Chorizo
2 - Garlic cloves (minced)
1 - Red onion (chopped)
1 - Yellow or Orange Bell pepper (chopped)
1/2 tsp - Turmeric
1/4 cup - White wine
28 oz - Can of San Marzano whole tomatoes
6 cups - Chicken stock (low sodium)
1 1/2 cups - Rice
1/2 cup - Frozen peas (thawed)
3 - Scallions (chopped)
2 tbsp - Cilantro (chopped)

1) In a large dutch over or heavy pot, heat 1 tablespoon of oil.
2) Add the chorizo cook until browned on each side (10 minutes) and transfer to a plate. 
3) Add the garlic, onion and bell pepper and cook over medium heat for 8 minutes. 
4) Add the turmeric and cook for 30 seconds. 
5) Add the wine and boil over high heat until almost evaporated (3 minutes). 
6) Add the tomatoes and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Squeeze the tomatoes with tongs under the liquid to "chop", break them apart, and not lose their juices (be sure that you squeeze them under liquid or you will be cleaning tomato juice). 
7) Return the chorizo to the pot and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes.
8) In a medium pan, heat the remaining oil and add the rice. Stir so all of the rice gets coated with oil (1-2 minutes).
9) Add the rice into the dutch oven, cover partially, and cook over low heat, stirring often, until the rice is just tender and has absorbed most of the cooking liquid (25 minutes). 
10) Fold in and stir the peas, scallions, and cilantro. 
11) Remove the chorizo, cut into smaller pieces and add them back into the rice. 
12) Squeeze lime over the rice and serve. 
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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Challah French Toast with Raisins

I've said it before - the only Food Network personality that I respect is Alton Brown.  Although he is quirky, he is super knowledgeable and his recipes seem tried and tested.  I made his French Toast recipe (with a few of my own tweaks and modifications) on back to back Sundays.  I'll probably try them with crushed Corn Flakes (or Frosted Flakes) next. 

1 cup - Half-and-half
3 - Eggs
2 tbsp - Honey (warmed in microwave for 20 seconds)
1/4 tsp - Kosher salt
4 Slices - Raisin Challah Bread (1/2 inch thick)
1/2 tsp - Vanilla Extract 
6 tbsp - Unsalted Butter
Maple Syrup
McCormick's Cinnamon Sugar Grinder (optional)
Powdered Sugar (optional)

1) Put the honey in a medium bowl and microwave for 20 seconds.
2) Whisk the half-and-half, eggs, vanilla, and salt into the bowl with the honey (add a few grinds of Cinnamon Sugar if available).
3) Pour the custard mixture into a cake pan or pyrex. 
4) Dip the challah bread into mixture, allow it to soak for 30 seconds on each side, and then remove to a cooling rack (to get any excess custard off).
5) Over medium-low heat, melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet.
6) Place 2 slices of bread at a time into the skillet and cook until golden brown (approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side).
7) Place another 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter in the skillet before flipping over the slices.
8) Repeat with the next 2 slices (1 1/2 tablespoons of butter for each side in the skillet).
9) Serve immediately with maple syrup and powdered sugar.
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Monday, October 17, 2011

Southern Fried Chicken

I've succeeded and failed with fried chicken recipes using panko, Italian breadcrumbs, plain breadcrumbs, dredged in milk, dredged in eggs, dredged in buttermilk, seasoned with smoked paprika, etc. Surprisingly, I found a genuine Southern Fried Chicken in Food & Wine magazine (the recipe is from the movie The Help).  The chicken is foolproof, the crispy skin stays coated on, and it could be used with chicken wings, wingettes, tenders, or a whole chicken broken down into 8 pieces.


4 lbs - Chicken (I prefer wingettes since they sit perfectly in the skillet)
2 - Large Eggs
1/2 Cup - Whole Milk
1 1/2 Cups - All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 tbsp - Lawry's Seasoned Salt to add to the Flour (plus a few shakes in the egg/milk mixture)
1 1/2 tsp - Lawry's Seasoned Pepper to add to the Flour (plus a few shakes in the egg/milk mixture)
16oz - Crisco
Cayenne Pepper

1) Mix the eggs and milk and add a few shakes of seasoned salt, seasoned pepper, and cayenne.
2) Mix the flour with the measured seasoned salt, seasoned pepper, and cayenne.
3) Dredge the chicken in the milk/egg, drop it on both sides in the flour, and put on a cooling rack to get any excess flour off.
4) Warm up the crisco in a skillet on medium heat until it has melted and the oil is rippling (6 minutes).
5) Cook the chicken until it is brown on both sides.
6) Rest the finished chicken on a plate with a napkin to soak up any excess oil. 
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Monday, October 10, 2011

Traces (100 E 17th St, NY, NY 10003)

Has a show with 2 stripper poles ever disappointed?

All seriousness, this show was entertaining, thrilling, and impressive.  The 7 international performers are multi-talented and I didn't want the 90 minute show to end.  The theater was intimate and the music was great and kept up the rhythm of the show.  The entertainers showed off their acrobatic skill, sang, played instruments, somersaulted, and transitioned to each segment with witty jokes / dialogue.  Some of them even reminded me of celebrities: Steve-O, Marcel from Top Chef, and the Asian guy from Ocean's 11.

Although I frown on sequels, I left wanting more and would definitely see their next show.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Best Thing I Ever Ate: Roast Chicken @ Barbuto (775 Washington Street, NY NY 10014)

On my culinary hierarchy, I rank chicken somewhere in the middle - its typically dry, tasteless, and boring.  It really can't compete at the top of the food hierarchy with pork belly, duck breast, slow braised short ribs, or seared foie gras (not unless you count its younger sibling - the egg).  Surprisingly, I actually bookmarked and was looking forward to Barbuto's Pollo Al Forno.

The chicken didn't disappoint at all.  The skin was perfectly seasoned and crispy.  I actually felt guilty cutting into it with a knife because I wanted an equal balance of skin and meat with each forkful (I didn't want to eat the meat with a trailing cape of skin and miss out on the goodness on the next bite).  The meat was juicy and meaty at the same time.  I also ordered a side of patate (potatoes with pecorino and rosemary).  They were super crispy and mostly potato skins with some "potato meat" (I didn't really taste the pecorino or rosemary).  By the time you're done with everything, you will feel satisfied full, not disgustingly full.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Storm King Arts Center

If you're looking for a great day trip, this place is the best kept secret away from NYC (they are 10 miles from Woodbury Commons).  It combines hiking (you can also rent a bike or ride a tram around the park), art work, and picture taking (nature or the numerous sculptures).  My favorite sculptures were the Three Legged Buddha and Suspended.

Parking is free and admission is $12 for adults and $8 for students.  They have a cafe on their premises, but you can either pack a picnic or go to Woody's afterwards.  If you're like us (we didn't pack water), there is a beverage vending machine by the elevators down to the tram - it was like seeing a mirage after walking around their vast 500 acre property).  There weren't that many people there, so get there before the secret is out.
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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Best Thing I Ever Ate: Italian @ Del Posto (85 10th Ave, NY NY 10011)

Del Posto must have one hell of a dish washer because our silverware was taken and replaced (whether used or not) on all 7 courses and multiple amuse bouches.

This was the best service I have ever experienced:

- I made a mistake on OpenTable and messed up on the date - they quickly accommodated us in a packed restaurant
- One of the people in our party spilled something on the table and they responded immediately by cleaning it and putting another table cloth over the spill
- The first pouring of wine was a tableside production
- The eagle eye bus boy spotted that I touched the rib eye bone and got me an unsolicited wet napkin with a lemon/sprig of rosemary
- The piano in the background made it a soothing classy experience
- They had someone stationed outside of the restaurant to hail a cab for you (like a hotel)

We went with the 7 course meal with supplements (our main waiter called it "The Captain").  The trio of amuse bouches was a nice touch: risotto bites, a shot that resembled a short rib broth, and another delicious undistinguishable bite.  The bread came with butter and lardo (mmmm lardo).  We went with a few bottles of 2001 Brunello (2001 was an optimal year for the soil, conditions, etc - or so we were told).  Here is what we received:

- Roasted Winter Vegetables with Robiola Sformato & Truffled Hazelnuts: delicious but I always final like truffle oil is "cheating"
- Carne Cruda with Truffled Salsa, Parmigiano-Reggiano & Shaved King Oyster Mushroom: I could have eaten a bowl full of this
- Wild Striped Bass, Warm Late Harvest Radicchio Salad, Bagna CaƓda & Campari: we got the meaty tail section; it was cooked perfectly where you could taste the "fish's oil" between the meat
- Pumpkin Cappellacci with Brown Butter: amazing (worth the whole visit)
- Orecchiette with Lamb Shoulder Sausage, Crispy Morels & Minted Soybeans: the ground lamb shoulder made me want to buy a stand mixer with a meat attachment so I could make it at home
- Beef Ribeye with French Fried Potatoes, Seared Butter Lettuce & Dried Tomatoes: I never order my steak medium-rare, ever.  This was meat perfection - perfect hard crust sear
- Pineapple Coppetina: nice palette cleanser
- Tartufo al Caffe, Dark Chocolate, Sant'Eustachio Coffee, & Candied Lemon: it was ok. I wasn't impressed with the desserts.  We each got different desserts and the olive oil gelato is unique - I love the olive oil's tongue coating viscosity  
- Final 6 piece Dessert Amuse Bouche: nice touch
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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hot Air Ballooning in NJ

I've already lost the debate, but I never remembered saying that I wanted to go hot air ballooning.  So you could imagine the surprise on my face when I got it as a birthday gift from my gf (I was trying to figure out if it was a gift for me or her....hmm, the plot thickens).

She scheduled it for sunrise so we had to wake up at the crack of dawn and drive out to Clinton, NJ (55-60 miles from NYC).  We got to the meeting area (a field behind the Spain Inn II restaurant) and helped set up.  They unfurled the balloon, laid it on the field, and reality set in.  Was I really going to go up thousands of feet in the air in a wicker basket, flame thrower, and balloon?  We took a few set up pictures, signed a waiver, and hurdled our way into the basket.

We were up in the air in no time and there wasn't much room in the basket for 5 people (turning around in place was not an option).  You better bring a camera along because you're going to get some nice shots of the sunrise, the morning fog in the valley, other balloons, the NYC skyline, and as far out as Pennsylvania.  People waved to us as we hovered over their house (there is a French tradition of giving a bottle of champagne if you land on someone's property).  We were up in the air for about 45 minutes to an hour, landed on a school's playing field, and were shuttled back to the starting point for mimosas and danishes.

We met the owner (Tom) after we landed and he was very nice.  He showed us his photo album of balloon festivals around the world and his travels with Malcolm Forbes.

Its definitely something to put on your bucket list. 

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