Monday, December 23, 2013

Lemon Bar Pie

I can cook any meat, dessert, or hard to execute dish (risotto, souffle, sauces), but don't ask me to make an omelet. I can follow directions (AKA recipes), but can't show any restraint when it comes to adding ingredients or spices.  I'll leave the breakfast making to the wife....
Anyway, I've been dying to try this recipe that I found in allrecipes because it reminds of a lemon bar dessert at a local restaurant (shout out to Thirty Acres in Jersey City, NJ).  I made it without having to use the hand mixer (which was a huge plus).  


Pie Crust 
2 cup - Flour
1/2 cup - Confectioner's Sugar (powdered sugar)
1 cup - Softened Butter (2 sticks)

Lemon Filling
1/4 cup - Flour
4 - Eggs
1 1/2 cup - Sugar  
1 tbsp - Lemon Zest
1/2 cup - Lemon Juice

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2) Mix 2 cups of flour and confectioner's sugar.  Cut in the butter and mix well until the pie dough resembles pie dough consistency.  Press the dough into a 9X13 inch baking pan (I used a round ceramic pie dish and increased the baking time).  
3) Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
4) Beat together eggs, sugar, 1/4 cup of flour, lemon juice, and lemon zest for 1 minute.  Pour the mixture over the baked crust.
5) Bake another 20 minutes or until the lemon topping has set.  Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar when serving.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Steamed Bacon Buns with Hoisin Sauce

What's the best Chinese food appetizer?  Dumplings?  Egg rolls? Crab rangoon? No!  The best Chinese food appetizer is pork buns - nothing makes me light up like biting into a spongy bun until I reach the saucy porky goodness.  I salivate just thinking about it....

I'm a firm believer in making things from scratch: pancakes, pasta, and bake goods. I found this recipe in Food & Wine and knew I had to try it.  It uses packaged Pillsbury Biscuits, but it is a huge time saver and steaming the biscuits makes them taste like those spongy buns I dream about.  The bacon helps provide that pork punch and is much more low maintenance than pork belly.


1/2 lb - Thick-cut Smoky Bacon (cut into 2-inch pieces)
16 - 1/8-inch-thick Coins Peeled Fresh Ginger
1 cup - Low-sodium Chicken Broth

1/4 cup - Mirin

1/4 cup - Unseasoned Rice Vinegar

2 tbsp - Sugar
1 tbsp - Soy Sauce 
16.3 oz - Buttermilk Biscuit Dough (8 biscuits - Pillsbury Grands)  
Hoisin sauce
Sliced Scallions
Sliced Radishes 
Bread-and-butter Pickles 

1) In a large skillet over high heat, cook the bacon and ginger, turning the bacon once until lightly browned about 5 minutes. 
2) Spoon off all of the fat in the skillet. Add the chicken broth, mirin, vinegar, sugar and soy sauce to the skillet and simmer over very low heat, turning the bacon occasionally, until it is tender and the liquid is reduced to a syrupy glaze, about 10 minutes. Cover and keep warm. 
3) Fill a roasting pan with 2 inches of water and set 4 ramekins in the corners of the pan. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper and spray with vegetable oil spray. Arrange the biscuits in the baking pan and set it on top of the ramekins in the roasting pan, over the water. Cover the roasting pan very tightly with foil and bring to a boil over high heat. Steam the biscuits until fluffy and cooked through about 8 minutes.
4) Carefully split each biscuit with your fingers and arrange them on a platter; spread the bottoms with hoisin sauce and Sriracha and top with the glazed bacon. Drizzle each bun with some of the glaze and garnish with sliced scallions, radishes and pickles. Close the buns and serve right away.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Ultimate Banana Bread Recipe

Half the battle of cooking is finding the right recipe to execute. Typically, I rely on Food & Wine or Food Network, but the banana bread recipes that I found seemed blah or too vanilla. I've always been a Smitten Kitchen fan and sure enough I found the perfect recipe.  The flavor profile was true to the recipe's name (Jacked-up Banana Bread): brown sugar was substituted for white sugar and the addition of liquor and ground cloves partnered well with the cinnamon/nutmeg. It was also no fuss to prepare: no mixer necessary.  I'll never look at freckled / bruised bananas the same way again.

3 - Ripe Bananas (mashed)
1/3 cup - Melted Salted Butter
3/4 cup - Light Brown Sugar
1 - Egg (beaten)
1 tsp - Vanilla Extract
1 tbsp - Bourbon (I used Licor 43, but Scotch is fine as well)
1 tsp - Baking Soda
1 tsp - Fresh Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp - Fresh Ground Nutmeg
1 1/2 cups - Flour
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground cloves

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. 
2) Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and bourbon, and the spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves). 
3) Sprinkle and mix in the baking soda and salt. 
4) Add the flour slowly and mix. 
5) Pour the mixture into a buttered 5X9 inch loaf pan. 
6) Bake for 50 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out clean) and cool the pan on a rack. Slice with a serrated knife to serve.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

Sometimes its harder to keep it simple and show restraint. This simple garlic and oil sauce will have you eating it straight out of the pan.    

1 1/2 cup - Pasta Water
1 lb - Spaghetti
1/3 cup - Olive oil
8 - Garlic cloves (sliced thin)
1/2 tsp - Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 cup - Parsley (minced)
1 cup - Parmigiano Reggiano (grated, plus extra for serving)
Kosher salt

1) Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package. Set aside 1 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water before you drain the pasta.
2) Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a saute pan - add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
3) Add the red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds. 
4) Carefully add the reserved pasta-cooking water to the garlic and oil and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, and simmer for about 5 minutes.
5) Add the drained pasta to the garlic sauce and toss. Off the heat, add the parsley and Parmigiano and toss well.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Degustation 7 Course Tasting Menu

I am a man of little faith.  I have no faith in religion, humanity, or trusting the choices in a tasting menu.  I threw caution to the wind and allowed my meal to be dictated by the chef's 7 course tasting menu:
Amuse Bouche (Croquetas): in typical fashion, I put the entire bite sized piece in my mouth only to realize that the inside was hot lava. I vented my mouth, let the steam out, and went through with my commitment to eat it in one bite (my options were to spit it out and look ridiculous, douse it with a mouthful of water and lose the flavor, or to commit and risk a burned mouth).  Luckily, I got through unscathed and the croqueta had a nice crunchy outside and savory creamy inside.  
1st Course (Pimento Soup): I was a little disappointed by the simplicity of the soup: pureed pimento peppers and garnishes cut too big.  My nervousness set in.  
2nd Course (Charred Vegetable Salad): We received a beautifully plated dish, but it was just quickly charred carrots, micro-sliced apple/radish, and cauliflower.  My panic was in full effect ("what have I done!?").
3rd Course (Soft Scrambled Eggs with Potato Foam): The only reason I was upset with this dish is that I didn't have more.  You could really taste the "essence" of both the egg and potatoes....that's right, I said essence. I put less and less of it on the spoon because I didn't want it to end.  My faith was starting to get restored.
4th Course (Sea Bass): Which sadist invented the tasting menu?  The sea bass was perfectly cooked and I wanted more than my Oliver Twist serving....I'm starting to sing "Food, Glorious Food" to myself.   
 5th Course (Cavatelli Pasta with a Littleneck Claim): The cavatelli was cooked al dente and I couldn't get enough of the chorizo, butter, clam juice/pasta water sauce.  I looked at the server with puppy dog eyes hoping for another serving.  Damn you tasting menu!    
6th Course (Short Rib on Flatbread): I normally love short rib, but I wasn't in love on this course. The sauce was overpowering and I don't know why the flatbread was included.
Palette Cleanser (Pop Rocks and Pineapple): Pop rocks = sensory overload.  The palette cleanser was effective.
7th Course (Caramelized Torija): We watched the chef torch our dessert and we began dancing in our seats.  It was the perfect ending to the meal - the torija was a brioche with a pudding like inside (like french toast).  The caramelized crust completed the dish and me.

The restaurant is small, all seats face the open kitchen (so its like dinner and a show), and I'll faithfully return.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Best Thing I Ever Ate: French Pastries (Dominique Ansel Bakery 189 Spring Street New York, NY 10012)

Their pastries are so good that I agreed to drive into the city on a Saturday, be dragged along shopping, and did I mention that it was raining?  I struck gold the first time by ordering a DKA and a cannelle (now I refuse to order anything else to prevent lessening my professed love for their pastries):

- DKA: is a lightly glazed / sugared croissant.  Crunchy and sweet on the outside and buttery soft on the inside (simple indulgence).

- Cannelle: imagine a soft caramel crust with custard inside.  You will stare at amazement at the miracle performed with egg, sugar, milk, flour, rum, and vanilla.

Their pastries must have mini boomerangs in them because as soon as I eat one, I return back the next day to get more. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Butterflied Roast Chicken Recipe

Roast chicken is simple to make, but difficult to master.  I was tired of making picture perfect roast chicken and biting into the leg to find blood near the leg bone.  Although cooked through, it always turned me off to roasting whole chickens (in addition to cleaning the damn roasting pan - ugh!).  I read about butterflying (AKA spatchcocking) the chicken to get an even cook throughout the entire bird.  The heat distributes evenly, doesn't dry out the breast, and all of the skin surface area gets crispy (instead of just the top of the bird).  Grab your favorite spices, abandon your roasting pan (I used Pyrex this time around), and enjoy your spatchcock chicken (which was super easy to break down into 6-8 pieces).


4lb - Whole Chicken
Olive Oil
Freshly Cracked Black Pepper (Coarse)
Kosher Salt
Fennel Seeds (grind them in your pepper mill with the pepper)
Granulated Garlic
Smoked Paprika
Cayenne Pepper

1) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  With a chef knife, run your knife down both sides of the backbone to remove it (you can save the backbone for stock or toss it).  Grab the legs and invert the chicken inside out and lay it flat.
2) Season the chicken and massage it with olive oil thoroughly.
3) Roast the chicken for an hour and a half.  Baste it constantly with a pastry brush to maintain a lacquered look (add more olive oil if there isn't enough chicken juice).
4) Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes and divide it up into easy to cut portions (leg/thigh, wings, breast).

Friday, January 25, 2013

Skirt Steak Marinade

The beauty of skirt steak is that it cooks quickly and the meat takes on the flavor of the marinade in as little as an hour.  Anything over two hours is marinade overkill (the acid will start to cook this thin cut meat and turn it mushy).  I found this recipe by Alton Brown and it infuses the perfect amount of flavor into the meat. 


1/2 cup - Olive oil
1/3 cup - Soy sauce
4 - Scallions (washed and cut in 1/2)
2 - Garlic cloves
1/4 cup - Lime juice
1/2 teaspoon - Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 teaspoon - Ground Cumin
3 tbsp - Brown sugar
2lb - Skirt Steak (cut into equal serving portions)
Canola Oil

1) In a blender (or using a hand blender), blend the olive oil, soy sauce, scallions, garlic, lime juice, red pepper, cumin, and brown sugar.  In a large zip lock bag, put in the pieces of skirt steak and marinade, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
2) Remove the steak from the bag and pat dry with paper towels. 
3) Add canola oil to a cast iron skillet on medium/high heat and sear the steak on each side for 2-3 minutes.
4) Rest the meat on a cooling rack for 10 minutes to let the juices redistribute and enjoy. 

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Veal Scaloppini with Saffron Cream Sauce

Sunday dinner is an all out event - few things make me happier than trying a new dish (or having hours to make pork shoulder / beef short ribs).  After hitting up Trader Joe's / Fairway, I found a Giada recipe (I know the sacrilege, but it performed).


1lb - Veal Cutlets (pounded thin) 
3 tbsp - Unsalted Butter 
3 tbsp - Olive Oil
12oz - Cremini Mushrooms (sliced)
2 - Shallots (finely chopped)
3/4 Cup - White Wine
1 Cup - Beef Broth
Pinch - Saffron Threads
3/4 Cup - Heavy Cream
1/2 Cup - Peas
8 oz - Farfalle Pasta
Kosher Salt
Pepper (freshly cracked)
Lemon (squeezed over the pasta/veal)
Parmigiano Reggiano (grated)
1) Season the veal with salt and pepper. 
2) Melt 1 tablespoon of butter with 2 tablespoons of oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat.
3) Saute until golden for about 1 minute on each side and transfer the veal to a plate.
4) Melt 2 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of oil in the same pan over high heat and add the mushrooms and shallots. Sprinkle with salt / pepper and saute until the mushrooms are golden brown about 8 minutes. 
5) In a separate pot, add the farfalle to boiling salted water and cook until al dente for 10 minutes (drain and set aside).
6) Add the wine, broth and saffron, and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half for about 5 minutes. 
7) Add the cream and stir often for about 4 minutes. 
8) Add the peas and season the sauce with salt and pepper. 
9) Add the veal and farfalle to the sauce and stir to coat.
10) Serve with Parmigiano and squeezed lemon.

Bookmark and Share

Perfect Soft Boiled Eggs

Nature's perfect sauce is an egg yolk - it sits at the top of the food porn hierarchy and can get you salivating in seconds just thinking about its velvety viscosity.  What's more basic, simple, and delicious than a perfectly soft boiled egg?  Everyone has eggs and should be able to boil water.  I found the following recipe in Tim Ferriss' The 4-Hour Chef.  Enjoy!


1 tsp - Baking Soda (optional)
2 - Eggs
Drizzle - Truffle Oil
Pinch - Salt

1) Fill a pot with water, add baking soda (it makes the egg easier to peel), and get the water boiling.
2) Gently add the eggs to the boiling water with a spoon and remove after 7 minutes.
3) Run the eggs over cold water (to stop the cooking process and make them easier to peel), crack them on a flat surface, and gently peel the shell off.
4) Season with truffle oil and salt.  

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Chuck Hughes' Short Ribs Recipe

I've tried countless short rib recipes and nothing is more satisfying than running your fork through short ribs that don't require a knife ("fork tender").  The secret is at least 3 hours of braising (you should also reduce the braising liquid to a thick sauce).  I prefer to use boneless beef shorts ribs from Whole Foods (Butcher Counter) - they are meatier, the fat is marbled and not a quarter inch of glob, and I hate trimming the gummy cartilage from the bone (for presentation purposes at the end).  Here is my take on Chuck Hughes' recipe.  This is not my "go-to" recipe, but what I love about it is it taught me to experiment with different flavor profiles (his use of cocoa powder / star anise / cinnamon and his omission of chicken/beef stock).


3 - Onions (coarsely chopped)
3 - Celery (coarsely chopped)
4 - Carrots (Peeled, trimmed, & cut into 2 inch chunks)
3 - Garlic Heads (cut in half)
2 - Sprigs of Fresh Rosemary (I prefer more than 2)
2 - Sprigs of Fresh Thyme (I prefer more than 2)
1 - Cinnamon Stick
1 - Star Anise
6 - Beef Short Ribs
2 - Bottles of Red Wine (I prefer Cotes du Rhone)
1 cup - Flour
1 cup - Brown Sugar
2 tbsp - Cocoa Powder
2 tbsp - Butter (unsalted)
Handful - Black Peppercorns
Kosher Salt
Canola Oil

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2) In a large bowl, combine the onion, celery, carrots, and garlic.  Add the rosemary, thyme, star anise, and cinnamon stick (and set aside).
3) Trim the ribs of excess fat (you wouldn't have this problem if you got them from Whole Foods), season with kosher salt, and dredged in flour.
4) In a dutch oven, pour in enough canola oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  On medium/high heat, add the ribs to the hot oil and sear them on all sides.  Remove the ribs and set aside.
5) Add the vegetables from the bowl and stir to caramelize.  Add the meat back to the pot and pour both bottles of wine over the top.  If the wine does not completely cover the ribs/vegetables, add water.
6) Add the cocoa powder, brown sugar, and peppercorns and bring to a boil.  Once it is boiling, cover with a lid, and put in the oven for 3 hours.
7) Remove the ribs, strain out the solids, and reduce the braising liquid by half to make a complex sauce.  Once the sauce is to your liking, add butter, and reheat the ribs in the sauce.

Bookmark and Share