Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Best Thing I Ever Ate: Ramen Noodles and Pork Buns @ Ippudo NY (65 4th Avenue, New York, NY 10003)

First Rule of Ippudo NY - Do not eat anything within five hours of going (trust me).

Second Rule of Ippudo NY - Try to keep your beverage consumption to a minimum (every time I leave, I feel like I'm 10 months pregnant)

Third Rule of Ippudo NY - If you don't want to wait over an hour for the best ramen and pork buns in NYC (sorry David Chang), then come at lunch time.  

Every time I come here, it is an absolute pork fest.  When you are ushered into the dining room, you are greeted by the entire staff in unison.  Its great when you can go somewhere and order without even looking at the menu.  Here is what you should order when you go:

- Samurai Ribs
- Hirata Buns 
- Akamaru Modern Ramen with the following extras: Kakuni (pork belly) and Nitamago (soft boiled egg)

Just take a deep breath, enjoy, and remember to limit your beverage consumption so you have enough room for their amazing broth.  If you still have space, you can order more noodles by banging your fist as hard as you can on the table and screaming: "KAE-DAMA!"  =)   

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

When I'm not cooking, I'm a complete dork and enjoy reading food blogs.  My blog was recently added to All Top News (Food) so I look at the other blogs with "blog envy".  I kept coming across postings about peanut butter and jelly bars, so I figured I would take a shot.    


2 sticks - Unsalted Butter (at room temperature)
1 1/2 cups - Sugar
1 tsp - Vanilla Extract
2 - Eggs (at room temperature)
16.3 oz - Creamy Peanut Butter
3 cups - Flour
1 tsp - Baking Powder
1 1/2 tsp - Kosher Salt
18 oz - Strawberry Preserves
2/3 cups - Salted peanuts (coarsely chopped)

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2) Grease a 9 by 13 cake pan. Line it with parchment paper, then grease and flour the pan.
3) In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar with a hand mixer (or stand mixer) on medium speed until integrated.
4) Add the vanilla, eggs, and peanut butter and mix until all ingredients are combined.
5) In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture and mix until combined.
6) Spread 2/3 of the dough into the prepared cake pan and spread with a spatula. Spread the preserves evenly over the dough. Drop the remaining dough evenly over the preserves. 
7) Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and bake for 45 minutes (cool and cut into squares).

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Truffle Deviled Eggs

The problem with deviled eggs recipes is the majority don't tell you how to or how long to boil the eggs for (they just start the recipe with the eggs already hard boiled).  For the best texture, place the eggs in a pot, fill it with cold water up to an inch over the eggs, put a lid on it, and turn the heat up.  The reason why you put the eggs in the pot first (and then add water), instead of dropping them into boiling water, is it protects the egg from cracking and becoming poached eggs. When the water starts at a rolling boil, shut the heat, and let the eggs sit there for 15 minutes. Take the pot and run it over cold water as you pick up and peel the eggs.     


7 - Large Eggs (hard boiled and peeled)
1/4 cup - Mayonnaise
1 1/2 tbsp - Hot Cherry Pepper Pickling Liquid
1 tbsp - Truffle Oil
1 tsp - Dijon Mustard
Sea Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper
Smoked Paprika (for garnishing)
Chopped Chives (for garnishing)

1) Halve the 7 eggs lengthwise.
2) Remove yolks and place in a small bowl.
3) Mash yolks with a fork and stir in mayonnaise, pickling liquid, truffle oil, and Dijon mustard.
4) Add salt and pepper to taste.
5) Fill egg whites evenly with yolk mixture.
6) Garnish with smoked paprika and chives
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Supper Club

I came up with a dinner party concept amongst my friends a few years ago as a way for us to get together monthly.  Each month, one of us is "supposed" to host a multi coursed dinner with wine flowing freely and dessert served at the end.  We've come a long way from the original days of eating on paper plates and table trays.  Here is the menu from our last dinner party AKA The Supper Club:

- Truffle Deviled Eggs with Smoked Paprika and Chives
- Blue Cheese and Parsley Sliders
- Rosemary Garlic French Fries with Parmesan Reggiano
- Mussels with Chorizo in a White Wine Tomato Cream Sauce
- Smoked Paprika Buttermilk Fried Chicken
- Braised Pork Ribs in San Marzano Tomatoes and Bell Peppers 

The crazy thing is I actually had more food planned (basil chive mashed potatoes and baked banana pudding), but everyone was already in a food coma.  PPK - thank you for the pics (damn you, now I'm tempted to get a DSLR).
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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Quebec Winter Carnival

The gf suggested going to Quebec for their Winter Carnival - I saw the website and I was sold.  Its the largest winter carnival in the world and lasts 16 days in late January until mid February.  You buy a $12 figurine pass (that hangs from your coat and is valid for the entire carnival) and it allows you access to the ice palace for concerts, outdoor hot tubs (for the brave in -2 degrees), sled rides, dog sledding races, zip lining, a ferris wheel, impressive ice sculptures, parades, fireworks, horse sleigh rides (minimal additional cost), tubing / rafting (minimal additional cost), and tons of activities for kids.

In addition to the Winter Carnival, there are other great things to do to occupy a long weekend.  Old Quebec is a historically preserved walled city on a cliff facing the St Lawrence River.  It felt like Christmas as we walked around as it lightly snowed and the snow crunched under our feet.  There were plenty of quaint shops and a number of great restaurants: Panache, Le Patriarche, Savini, and my sentimental favorite Le Cochon Dingue (The Dirty Pig).  We stayed at The Hilton due to its vicinity to the Carnival, but next time I want to check out one of the boutique hotels that we ate at (Auberge Saint-Antoine).  Here are my detailed Yelp reviews.
 The famous Hotel de Glace (ice hotel) is also a short drive away.  It is a hotel made completely out of ice each year - everything from the beds, chairs, chandeliers, and glasses at the bar are made of ice. People spend the night on fur covered beds and sleep in sleeping bags.  It is definitely a place you have to see to believe.
The drive from the NYC area is supposed to be about 9 1/2 hours (535 miles), but I made it in about 8 hours.  I must be used to long drives (I did Niagara Falls last year) - it was tedious, but at least it was scenic (it  makes you want a rustic cabin in the woods with a cozy fireplace). Remember to pick up maple syrup from duty free when you come back.          
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Baked Banana Pudding

I've never been a fan of pudding or banana desserts (I'm more of a carrot cake and pecan pie kind of guy).  The gf found this recipe a few months ago - its simple to make, it will make you a fan of banana / pudding desserts, and looks impressive.  The pudding only needs 5 whisked ingredients (egg yolks, sugar, flour, half and half, and vanilla extract) and the meringue topping consists of egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar.       


3 - Ripe Bananas (Peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds)
1 tbsp - Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
1/2 cup - Sugar, plus 2 tbsp
1/3 cup - Flour
1/4 tsp - Kosher Salt
4 - Large Eggs (separated)
2 cups - Half-and-Half
1/2 tsp - Vanilla Extract
45 - Vanilla Wafers (Nilla)
1 pinch - Cream of Tartar

1) Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2) Toss the banana slices and lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside.
3) In a sauce pan, combine 1/2 cup of the sugar, the flour and salt. Add the egg yolks and whisk to combine. Add the half-and-half and carefully whisk to combine. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly for 10 minutes. The mixture will begin to thicken and bubble around the edges. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract.
4) In an oven safe glass pan, spread a small amount of the pudding in the bottom. Cover with a layer of vanilla wafers, followed by a layer of banana slices. Pour 1/3 of the remaining pudding on top of the bananas and repeat, ending with a layer of pudding.
5) In a bowl with a hand mixer, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and continue whisking until stiff peaks form. Spoon the meringue over the warm pudding, being sure to cover the edges. Bake until the meringue is evenly browned, about 9 minutes. Remove the pudding from the oven and cool for 15 minutes before serving. Cool completely before refrigerating. Refrigerate for up to 3 days.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Heavenly Mac and Cheese

There are infinite recipes for mac and cheese with different pastas, cheeses, vegetables, and toppings.  Everyone has a recipe that they are always looking to improve on.  Here's one I came across by Ina Garten (AKA The Barefoot Contessa) that is now at the top of my list (creamy and cheesy, a nice crunchy bite with the breadcrumbs, and a nice surprise with tomatoes):

Kosher salt
Vegetable oil
1 lb - Cavatappi Pasta
1 qt - Milk
8 tbsp - Unsalted Butter (1 stick - divided)
1/2 cup - All-purpose Flour
12 oz - Gruyere (grated)
8 oz - Extra-Sharp Cheddar (grated)
1/2 tspn - Freshly Ground Pepper
1/2 tspn - Freshly Ground Nutmeg
4 - Small Tomatoes on the Vine (sliced)
5 - Slices of Potato Bread (minced)
1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2) In a large pot, drizzle oil into boiling salted water. Add the cavatappi pasta and cook according to the directions on the package (10 minutes) and drain well.
3) In a small saucepan. heat the milk, but don't boil it. 
4) In a large saucepan, melt 6 tablespoons of butter and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. 
4) Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. 
5) Pour into a 3-quart baking dish or ramekins.
6) Slice the tomatoes and arrange on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. 
7) Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the pasta is browned on the top.
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Monday, February 14, 2011

Houston, we have a Problem....

I don't know if I'd call food an obsession - I know what I like and don't like to settle.  It doesn't have to be high end, it can be simple as an egg yolk or pasta with tomato and basil (as long as its good).  I've always been able to cook (dating back to my crunchy yellow rice in college), but my culinary renaissance occurred in Spain.  Everything was delicious: the tapas (croquettas, pinchos, & chorizo), suckling pig (at Botin), paella, and the most amazing market in the world - Mercat de la Boqueria.  I came back inspired, got completely roped in by the Food Network, and experiment with new things each week: from risotto to seafood to French sauces (and it doesn't hurt to have an expense account).  Here are a couple of lessons I've learned in my short tenure as an Iron Chef:

* Buy and use fresh herbs.  They are relatively cheap ($1.99-$2.99 at supermarkets or a farmer's market), they spruce up the window sill, and nothing compares when adding different dashes of taste to a meal.  I always keep basil, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, thyme, chives, mint, and oregano around.
* Dry ingredients are garbage when compared to their real counterpart - just throw away your ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, and dry herbs (AKA sawdust).  There's a significant difference between fresh ground cinnamon sticks / nutmeg and fresh cut herbs.
* Shallots, unsalted butter, chicken / beef stock, and heavy cream are now staples.
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