Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Lighter Fettuccine Alfredo

Lighter Fettuccine Alfredo
This one is from Cook's Illustrated (sub required), but you can also find it free here. Pretty simple recipe where the main change towards lightening things up is subbing in half and half with some corn starch to mimic the mouth feel of a heavy cream based sauce. A very successful adaptation if I am any judge, as it didn't taste "light" to me at all.

All you need is pasta, half and half, nutmeg, and some corn starch so we were going to make this during Hurricane Sandy when the restaurants started shutting down, but we didn't take out the ingredients before we lost power... not the best planning. We only were without power for about 4 hours (but we both had already had instant ramen in the meantime), so we were pretty lucky... and obviously my thoughts go out to all the people in New Jersey, New York, and elsewhere still dealing with the aftermath. I don't imagine any of those effected are really looking for recipes on the intertoobs, but, hey, if you've got a working burner you can make this... and for the rest of us, it's a really great weeknight dinner option.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Maine Beer Company

Maine Beer Company Lineup
We were Downeast for Anna's birthday (29 again! What are the odds?) and so I was able to stop at Global Beverage Warehouse in Ellsworth and pick up some bottles of Maine Beer Company's latest offerings... most of which I have not seen in Boston. I've had the Peeper Ale on numerous occasions, and Zoe at least once, but never tried any of the others. Looking forward to slowly working my way through the collection.

The beers above are: Lunch, King Titus, Mean Old Tom, Peeper Ale, and Zoe.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Well Done But Not Done Well

Overcooked But Still Tasty
After 4+ years of food blogging I have achieved a level of kitchen competence where my successes far outweigh my failures, but even so, I can overcook an expensive steak just as easily as anybody else. Always frustrating and embarrassing to screw something up, but I wouldn't be fooling anybody by trying to pretend I am infallible... and I like for this blog to commemorate both the good and the bad products of my kitchen.

And here we have one of the bad (but not as bad as you might think).

I was following this recipe from Food52: Steak with Arugula, Lemon, and Parmesan... and didn't compensate enough for my relatively thin cut of New York Strip steak. The recipe called for 2-3 minutes per side to brown the meat and then 10 minutes in a 375 degree oven for medium rare... I thought I was being careful by checking the meat temperature at 8 minutes, but we were waaaaaay past medium at that point already. Cooking steaks is not something I do often, so I guess I just don't have any kind of feel as to what's long enough... someone with more experience would have known better. But how do you get experience? Burning the occasional steak and learning not to do it that way again.

Despite all that, as I teased above, it was still actually quite tasty even though I much prefer my steak medium rare... which I think speaks towards the excellent collection of flavors involved here. In addition, I guess a nice caramelized crust and softened fat can make up for dried out meat to some extent.

What drew me towards this recipe initially was the simplicity... grab a couple of steaks, a lemon, a bunch of arugula, and some Parmesan and you have dinner... and as an omnivore married to a vegetarian I could easily scale that down to serve one.

So I'll make this recipe again, and who knows? If I ever figure out how to not overcook my steak... maybe it will be a good choice for when I want to treat myself to an extravagant, but simple, dinner.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Raison D'Etre Braised Chicken Thighs

Raison D'Etre Braised Chicken Thighs
The craziness of getting married has mostly subsided... the only things lingering are writing thank you notes and finalizing Costa Rica stuff... so that means I'm back in the kitchen and hopefully back to regular blogging.

Nothing too elaborate on the cooking schedule though... just trying to ease myself back into it so I can break the cycle popping frozen pizzas into the oven or grabbing burritos on the way home. This one is straight from Simply Recipes, and is one of the many food posts that I starred in Google Reader while I was too busy to do much in the kitchen myself. Hopefully I can work my way through the backlog and turn that into some nice content for the blog over the coming weeks.

Braising Chicken Thighs

These beer braised chicken thighs take a couple of hours to come together, but except for slicing the onions and browning the chicken, it's almost entirely hands off cooking. So you can do it on a weeknight if, like me, you don't mind eating on the late side, but for most working people this will probably be a weekend dish. It's dead simple, with the only arduous aspect being the volume of tears shed while you slice three pounds of onions pole to pole. Just brown the chicken (as you can see from my picture I was probably didn't brown mine long enough), cook down the onions, deglaze with a bottle of good malty (no 60 Minute IPA here) beer, and simmer for an hour and a half. Serve it on a bed of egg noodles.

The chicken is fall off the bone tender and the onions and broth are just delicious (thank the FSM for chicken fat). In fact, those onions and broth are so tasty I could eat them (with the noodles) on their own. Definitely recommended.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hip Pressure Cooking Domain Name Stolen

An irritating story of some of the perils of that accompany building a successful website... people will try to steal your domain name and blackmail you for it. Laura seems confident she'll be able to get the name back eventually, but in the meantime be sure to update your bookmarks etc.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Marriage and Weekend Eats in Portland Maine

I'm officially a married man now, which coupled with the Orioles improbable playoff run may provide all the evidence needed that the Mayans were right. I never really thought Anna and I came across as "anti-marriage" or especially afraid of commitment, but it appears once you are of a certain age and in a committed relationship people start countdown timers... and as the years tick by with no nuptials, those same people start thinking you must just be opposed to the concept in general... because what else could it be? Or at least that's what they've been telling us. Well, it that is not the case that we are marriage haters... but both of our parents are divorced... and I suppose I can't argue that we took our time about it.

So, on Friday September 28th 2012, we just walked into City Hall and walked out twenty minutes later as a married couple. Neither of us dreamed of our wedding day as children, and to our minds this was much, much preferable to an elaborate wedding with swans, ice sculptures, and string quartets. However I was not quite able to pull the trigger on full frontal elopement, and in a nod to the traditional approach we told people ages ago we were going to get married... and will even have a reception dinner in Baltimore to celebrate with family and friends this coming weekend. We are also going to have a honeymoon in Costa Rica, but not until February (to take best advantage of the intersection of Central American seasons and Boston winters)... and we still wanted to make the weekend we got married feel special... so instead of just going down the street to Cambridge City Hall, we decided to make a weekend of it up in Portland Maine. Maine is a place we visit a lot given that my (now) mother in law lives there, but beyond that, early on in our relationship Anna and I would meet up in Portland for random weekends fairly frequently... so it has a bit of a special meaning to us.

Over the weekend we hit Vignola/Cinque Terra, Bintliff's, Fore Street, and Duck Fat. Except for Bintliff's these were all places that we had never visited. Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures of our meal at Vignola/Cinque Terra, but it was quite good nonetheless. More food than either of us was expecting based on similar "high end Italian" experiences we've had at local places like Dante. We got an awesome cheese plate with four cheeses to start, and were practically stuffed before the next course even came. As I am sure we will be visiting there again, hopefully I will be a little better prepared for documentation next time.

Roasted Rabbit

The following evening we had another fancy dinner, this time at a Portland institution in the form of James Beard Award winning Fore Street. Given that the place is usually booked two months in advance and we had no reservation, how did we get a table? Well locals know that the restaurant leaves a pretty high percentage (not sure if it's a third or half) of space available for walk-ins. So what you can do on a Friday or Saturday night is queue up around 5 (when the restaurant opens - and, yes,there will be a line) and put your name down. If you're at the front of the line you might get seated right away, but otherwise they'll tell you to come back at time when a table should be ready (for us 7:15) and you can go have drink at Novare Res or do some shopping. Works out especially well if you are already staying downtown.

Side of Mushrooms

Dinner there was great... certainly worthy of its sterling reputation... and surprisingly reasonable price-wise (relative to Boston anyway). Unfortunately I forgot that they don't post their menu online so I can't remember what the dishes pictured above were except "rabbit" and "mushrooms"... but they were good! I had actually never had rabbit before this, so I had some trouble figuring out how to eat it... and after leaving a lot of meat on the bones, I shamefully confessed my ignorance to the waitress. She told me that she normally tells people to just pick it up and eat it with your hands... so a tip for next time. I guess that's not super classy, but I can certainly confirm that a knife and fork is not terribly effective.

Fore Street isn't the greatest place for vegetarians, but it's still pretty solid. They had salads and larger dishes that were vegetarian, but you could also assemble a meal from sides... kind of tapas style... which was what Anna did. Our waitress said they fed 2-3 people, which is probably true if you get a big ole' rabbit like I did, but as you can see above you'd need at least 2 (and probably 3) of them to make an entree.

Lobster Eggs Benedict

We also made a brunch visit to Bintliff's, which I would guess also qualifies for the "Portland institution" label... or at least I would hope so given the perpetual wait times on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Another insider tip I have for you here is that they reserve a table specifically for large groups... one morning I was waiting for a seat by myself at the bar and saw a group of six waltz past a line an hour deep because they were the only big group looking for brunch that morning. Strange but true (unless they change their policy - no promises).

Anyway, I really enjoyed my lobster benedicts and seafood bisque, while Anna loved her pecan caramel waffles. If you think brunch is the dumbest meal ever, then Bintliff's is not going to change your mind. They're not pushing boundaries, but if you enjoy a classic American style brunch then this is a great place to visit. It's crowded and noisy and you have to wait ages to sit down, but isn't that what The Brunch Experience is all about? But seriously: the food is good and it's worth a stop.

Duck Confit Sandwich

Duck Fat was our last stop on the way out, and it plays a particularly cruel joke on vegetarians: awesome french fries, beignets, and churros fried in... I bet you can't guess... oh alright, yes... it is indeed glorious, glorious, duck fat. Other than that notable issue, vegetarians do fine here with soups, salads, etc... but you may have a tough time convincing one (I certainly did!) that it will be totally cool for them to watch you stuff your face with fries they can't eat.

It's a pretty small place, and at least on the Sunday afternoon we were there, it was "communal style seating"... i.e. they will squeeze you in wherever there is space. This was my least favorite meal of the weekend... though the fries were good, the duck confit sandwich pictured above was overpowered by the condiments involved. I'd go again, but it didn't live up to the picture in my head at least.