Monday, November 28, 2011

hey joe

My first guest blogger! Meet Matty's dad, Joe:


It is an honor to be Ngoc's first guest blogger. After the week that Ngoc and Matt had I knew they needed some real comfort food. I decided to cook supper and use the best (and only) recipe I know by heart. This recipe was obtained during my younger and wilder days at the U.S. Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, NY. Someone around the campsite offered to cook sloppy joes and said it was the easiest recipe in the world. Well it must have been because, that was over, um, well let's just say that was before most of you reading this were born. I have resisted revealing the ingredients to the world all this time, and if anyone opens a food truck using this recipe I want a cut! So, if you can remember the number 1, you too can make Joe's Sloppy Joes.

1 lb. ground beef (I use ground sirloin now that I know about cholesterol)
1 green bell pepper
1 small onion
1 bottle of Heinz ketchup (there is no modern equivalent to the old glass bottle so use about 14 oz.)
1 jar of French's yellow mustard (again the modern equivalent of about 7 oz.)
1 c. sugar
1 t. salt

Chef Joe's note: I have used any brand of yellow mustard, but I have never used anything but Heinz ketchup (and never had any complaints).

1. Dice the pepper and onion, and sweat them in a large saucepan until soft. You may need a little pan spray or oil to keep them from burning or if you are using ground beef, sauté enough beef to get some fat out.

2. Add the beef, mix with onions and peppers and cook until beef is browned.

3. Turn down heat, add ketchup, mustard, sugar and salt. Mix thoroughly and let simmer about 15 minutes.

4. Serve in a plain white hamburger bun or on top of one open faced.

I told Ngoc I slaved over a hot stove all day to produce this culinary delight, but actually this would qualify as a Rachael Ray 30 minute meal. (Rachael, if you are reading this I would be happy to do a guest appearance, from one New Yorker to another).

I enjoyed giving Ngoc a break from cooking, but the best part of dinner was when Matt said "wow, this is good stuff" and the biggest honor was when Chef Ngoc, the "Professional Bakist," went back for seconds!

Guest Blogger
Joe DelVecchio

Saturday, November 26, 2011

this is how it's supposed to be

Ladies and gentlemen, this has got to be the best mac + cheese I've ever made.

What I should really do is go back to all of the posts where I've made similar declarations and do a taste-off to decide once and for all. However, I would be hard-pressed to find one that rivals the flavor bomb of this one. The soubise is worth the extra time and blender cleaning. The caramelized onion flavor is as delicious as it is impossible to place, making you look like a culinary magician.

The sweetness of the onions really plays nicely against what are otherwise fairly earthy spices - cayenne, smoked paprika and that divine fish sauce. The extra oven time gets the pasta so nice and creamy, while the additional panko and Parmesan topping crisps up perfectly. This is everything mac + cheese is supposed to taste like.

Mac + Cheese with Soubise
adapted from Serious Eats

For the soubise:
4 T. butter, divided
1 medium onion, sliced
3 T. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. milk
1 T. white wine vinegar
3 T. vermouth
1 T. fish sauce
1/4 t. ground black pepper
1/4 t. cayenne
1/2 t. smoked paprika

12 oz. pasta
1 pound Comté, Gruyère, Emmenthaler, Cheddar, or a combination of these cheeses, grated
1/4 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 c. panko bread crumbs
2 T. butter, melted

1. Make the soubise: Melt half the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the onions and a four-fingered pinch of salt. Cook, stirring until the onions are nicely caramelized.

2. Add the remaining butter and stir to melt. Add the flour, stir to mix, and cook until the mixture has taken on a toasted aroma, a few minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk and stir with a flat-edged wood spoon or spatula, to make sure the flour doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan, until the sauce comes up to a simmer and thickens, a few minutes more. Stir in a three-finger pinch of salt, the white wine vinegar, vermouth, fish sauce, black pepper, cayenne and smoked paprika. Transfer the sauce to a blender and process until puréed, or purée in the pan with a hand blender. Return the sauce to the pot and add the cheese gradually, stirring until melted.

3. Cook the pasta just until al dente, drain, the add it to the soubise. Toss to coat. Transfer to a greased 9x13 pan.

4. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

5. Sprinkle the pasta with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. In a small bowl, toss the panko with the remaining melted butter and spread this over the top. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until heated through, about 30 minutes (longer if it has been chilled in the refrigerator). Remove the foil and bake until the cheese is nicely browned, or turn on the broiler/grill and broil/grill until the top is browned, 15 to 20 more minutes. Serve immediately.

Friday, November 25, 2011

i need more

Last night, we went out for Thanksgiving dinner. Yes. Out. As in, I didn't cook. As in I nearly had an anxiety attack while watching football - absolutely twitching with inactivity. There was no turkey in the smoker, no sneaking slices of andouille away from the stuffing, no parade of pies going in and out of the oven. In other words, I was absolutely miserable.

It didn't take me too long to get over it once we arrived at Jose Andres' Tres for their Thanksgiving buffet (hello, caviar!), but the second I couldn't track down the pumpkin pie in their mini dessert spread, I started planning next year's Thanksgiving dinner. Starting with, of course, dessert.

This Apple Butter Pie was an experiment in finding an apple pie I'd like. I don't mind apple flavor - I'm just not a cooked apple person. Unfortunately, this didn't quite do the trick - it was barely identifiable as apple. I'm sure there are varying degrees of potency among different apple butter brands, but truly, there was no distinctive apple flavor.

But you truly can't complain about a pie that takes literally two minutes to whip together and stick in the oven. And I'm always a sucker for a baked custard pie, so I'm not really complaining. Perhaps next time, I'll put just slightly more effort in and boil down about twice as much of the apple butter as is called for to really dial up the flavor.

Apple Butter Pie
from Baking Bite

1 9-inch shortbread pie crust
1 16-oz. jar apple butter
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
3 large eggs
1/2 t. vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until very smooth. Pour into pie crust.

3. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until center is mostly set (jiggles slightly when nudged) and a sharp knife inserted near the center comes out mostly clean.

4. Cool to room temperature before slicing and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight, before serving.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

very good

I'm such a bum. I started a weekly "3 Very Good Things" list at the end of October, and this is only my second list. What is this, my workout plan?

Let's get back to it.

1. Boa Steakhouse
Matty and I celebrated our 7th anniversary with dinner at Boa. I'm glad it's not closer to our house, or we may never find occasion to dine anywhere else. We had:

- tuna tartare
Perfect with capers. Wish there were more crisps to spread it on.

- table-side classic Caesar
Kicking myself for not noting what was going into it as it was being made table-side. Hands down, the best Caesar I've ever had.

- 21-day dry-aged bone-in rib-eye
Devastatingly good, melt-in-your mouth steak. I have no words. Stuck to a nice peppercorn sauce, but thought seriously of the foie gras butter. Would probably have never left if I had.

- bone-in Kansas City filet mignon
We were going to do a rib-eye taste-off with their American Kobe rib-eye, but they were out. Aww, poor us, we had to have filet mignon instead.

- crab + black truffle gnocchi
I'll have to get the mac and cheese next time, but there was no way to pass up crab. truffle. gnocchi.

- chipotle lime corn
To pretend we were eating vegetables. Surprisingly good, though. Sweet, sweet corn, just a hint of kick from the lime and chipotle.

2. Rocket Arugula Salad from Trump SoHo Hotel
I needed vitamins. Especially after two nights of staying up until past 6:00a, and a few too many bites of bacon-cheeseburgers, grilled cheese and lasagna ordered from room service to share (read: mostly eat on my own). When it arrived, it looked so gorgeous that I thought about taking a picture, but before I knew it, I was digging into and making a mess out of it. Slightly wilted arugula, the finest wisps of fennel and bite-sized pieces of asparagus tossed in balsamic, bordered on the bottom by curls of salty, savory prosciutto. It was really the perfect hangover food - full of salt, but also full of restorative greens.

3. In-flight Wi-Fi
Part of me wished I didn't have it so I could sleep, but the other part of me knew that if I didn't have access to my email, I would probably twitch and shake. Thanks, American Airlines.

Friday, November 18, 2011

a little something

I had huge plans to prep and bake what sounds like could be the greatest mac and cheese recipe ever to welcome Matty's parents to LA, but last-minute travel plans and a last-minute gig meant we were going to miss each other for dinner on their first night here. I couldn't stand not having anything for them, so I baked some Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread while they were driving down from Matty's gig in Ventura.

I changed a few of the spices around (and may even add more ginger next time for a spicier bread), but kept it mostly as-written. And it was perfect. So soft and moist, but with a good enough crumb to stand up to walking around the house while eating. Gotta love that.

Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread
adapted from Serious Eats
Makes 3 loaves

4 large eggs
1 cup delicately flavored olive oil (I used Trader Joe's Spanish Olive Oil)
2/3 cup water
2 cups pureed pumpkin (fresh or canned)
1 c. sugar
2 c. brown sugar
3 1/3 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 t. salt
1 t. ground nutmeg
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground ginger
2 t. baking soda

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease three 1-pound loaf pans (8.5-by-4.25-by-2.75 inches) with olive oil or spray with cooking spray.

2. In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the olive oil, water, pumpkin purée, and sugar and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the flour, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and baking soda and fold until no streaks of flour remain.

3. Pour into prepared loaf pans, nudging batter into corners. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes before removing from pan to cool completely. The bread will keep at room temperature for more than a week if tightly wrapped in plastic. It also freezes beautifully.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

i hardly knew ye

This photo is not cute. You should just go ahead over to Picky Palate and see what it could look like. I think my apples were way too big, so they didn't allow any room for you to see the contrast of the peanut butter and the crisp puff pastry.

I promise, though, that it tastes better than it looks. At least that's what I hear. I brought 2 of the 3 tarts to sectional with my wonderful sopranos, and left the last piece for our hostess since I knew the third tart was at home. Except that I got home, and somebody had eaten the whole thing! I mean!

Thankfully, this is one of the easiest dessert recipes on the planet, and I can't wait to make it again, considering the response from the girls (and boy). Might be fun to make 3 different ones for a small dinner party, and everyone gets a slice - I'm thinking apple + peanut butter, pear + almond butter, fig + cashew butter. And maybe cherry + pistachio butter. Dear Lord. I mean, a package of puff pastry could make 6 tarts...

Honeyed Apple Peanut Butter Tart
from Picky Palate
Makes 3 tarts

1 sheet puff pastry
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
2 T. honey
2 small Granny Smith apples, sliced thinly
2 T. granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Separate the puff pastry (along their folds) into 3 pieces and place onto a foil-lined baking sheet.

2. Warm peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl for 1 minute, until liquid-y. Drizzle in 2 T. of honey, stir then spread evenly over 3 pastry rectangles leaving 1/2 inch border around edges. Layer apple slices neatly over top of peanut butter, drizzle with extra honey, sprinkle with sugar bake for 30-35 minutes or until pastry is lightly browned and puffed around the edges.

3. Let cool completely then drizzle with additional honey, if desired.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

warm it up

Dear Lord, it was so cold today! Clear and gorgeous, but I could never get warm. I mean, I'm talking Uggs in the house all day. We didn't help our cause by venturing out to the deep Valley for an estate sale at o'dark-thirty.

By about 3p, I gave up and went to the grocery store to get something to braise. The oven would help. I don't know what that says about the size of our house or the integrity of the oven, but all I know is I can't turn on the heat on account of the Leslie and a new-to-us Danish credenza in the way, so oven it was.

Julia Child's also helped, as she always does, in terms of hearty, warming dishes. I nearly picked a roasted poultry recipe since we just had a discussion this morning that we will be, at best, postponing our Thanksgiving, but the wound was still a little too fresh, so I steered clear. I narrowed it down to a couple, and Matty picked Boeuf A La Catalane.

It was near jambalaya-ish in consistency, so of course, it was everything we wanted and more. With a couple different aromatics, and a piece of andouille here and there, it may tide us over until summer and when our friend Ray Don can bring his massive cast-iron pot and propane tank out for a real Louisiana one.

I forgot to add the cheese at the end (I know - my brain must still not have thawed out), and I thought it was plenty hearty and rich without it, but I'm leaving the instruction in anyway.

Boeuf A La Catalane
adapted from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking
Serves 6

1/4 lb. bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 T. olive oil
3 lbs. stewing beef pieces
2 small red onions, sliced
1 c. rice
1 c. dry vermouth
4 c. beef broth
salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 t. dried thyme
pinch of saffron
1 crumbled bay leaf
15 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 c. grated Parmesan

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. In a large skillet, lightly brown the bacon. Remove to a fireproof casserole about 3 inches deep.

3. Dry the beef on paper towels. Add the olive oil to the rendered bacon fat until almost smoking, then brown the meat in batches. When browned, place in the casserole.

3. Lower the heat to medium and brown the onions lightly. Remove them to the casserole.

4. Still in the same fat, stir the rice over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until it turns a milky color. Scrape into a bowl and set aside for layer.

5. Pour any remaining fat out of the skillet, add the vermouth, and stir for a moment over heat to dissolve coagulated cooking juices. Pour into the casserole.

6. Add the broth to the height of the meat. Salt and pepper lightly. Stir in the garlic and herbs. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove, cover tightly and set in lower position of preheated oven to simmer slowly for 1 hour.

7. Remove casserole from oven. Stir in the tomatoes, and return to the oven for an additional hour or so of very slow simmering. When the meat is almost fork-tender, remove casserole from oven. Raise oven heat to 375 degrees.

8. Stir the rice into the casserole. Cover and set again in lower third of oven. Regulate heat to keep liquid at full simmer for 20 minutes so the rice will cook. Do not stir the rice. At the end of this time, it should be tender and have absorbed almost all the liquid. If it hasn't, return to the oven until the rice is tender. Remove from oven and correct seasoning.

9. Just before serving, delicately fold the cheese with a fork into the hot beef and rice. Serve from the casserole or on a hot platter.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

might like you better

Well, I have finally failed. This is the first dish Matty didn't go back for seconds for. I'm questioning my entire life's work.

He requested something light because he went and had diner food for lunch. So what do I do? I convince myself that something called Penne with Creamed Greens sounded light.

Hear me out. It's not like I was throwing in pasta with creamed spinach (although a) I probably should at some point - maybe pasta in a baked spinach-artichoke dip if I'm getting decadent, and b) Matty probably would have gone for seconds if I had). The creamed greens were a full bunch of kale and a full pound of rapini. And then I decided to forego the actual cooking with cream and just chop up the greens in the food processor with a couple eggs so that when I added it to the hot pasta, it would create a sauce carbonara style.

I personally loved it. But Matty thought it was entirely too bitter. I wonder if cooking it in the cream would have taken that extra edge off. I wouldn't change a thing, though, so next time, I'll save this for myself and plop creamed spinach on top of his.

Pasta with Kale-Rapini Pesto
adapted from Food52
Serves 4

1 lb. pasta
1 lb. rapini, chopped into 1-inch lengths
1 bunch lacinato kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
1/4 c. olive oil
3 eggs
1/4 c. grated Parmesan

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside in a large bowl.

2. Pile the still-wet-from-rinsing greens into a large pot. Pour the oil over the greens. Season with salt. Turn the heat to high and begin wilting the greens, moving the greens from the bottom of the pot to the top using tongs. When they are fully wilted, about 10 minutes, transfer them to the bowl of a food processor.

3. Puree the greens to the consistency of rough pesto. With the machine running, add the eggs one at at time, waiting about 10 seconds between each egg.

4. Pour the pesto over the hot pasta and stir quickly and thoroughly to combine. Serve immediately.