|Photo l Michael Persico|
When first I heard about Open Chef-A-Me, the "kitchen meets karaoke" idea that Drew Lazor told you about in March, I immediately wanted in. What better way to prove one's cooking (and blogging) cred?
After a barrage of emails to Chef-A-Me co-founder Jesse Middleton, I got my wish. On Monday, May 18 at The Dark Horse, I'll be going head to head with Alyssa Shilliday, an aspiring restaurateur who's cooked at The Olive Garden, Iron Hill Brewery, Washington Square,ï¿½ World Cafï¿½ Live and Cuba Libre. Each of us will make three courses to be served tasting style, and our guests will get to "play restaurant critic" and share their feedback on our dishes. Proceeds from the $35 tickets (City Paper readers get $5 off; snag the discount code after the jump) will be donated to a yet-to-be-determined charity. The price includes our carefully prepared eats, discounted booze, live entertainment and the chance to tell me what you really think.
With just a $400 budget to feed 80 people three courses (that's just $5 for all three plates), I'm counting on creativity, good technique and simple ingredients to get me through. When you can't rely on fancy foie or luxury lamb chops, you look to the masters. Alain Ducasse's recipe for gougï¿½res ï¿½ classic cheese puffs ï¿½ is going to anchor one of my courses. These decadent bites are simple to make, provided you have a strong stirring arm and a wooden spoon. Any semi-hard, dry cheese (I used Gruyï¿½re) works ï¿½ or a combination of your favorites. The petite puffs are fun to eat and fun to say ï¿½ try goo-jhair.
Recipes for elements of the other two courses are forthcoming ï¿½ look for previews next Monday, and showtime on May 18.
Recipe for Alain Ducasses's Gougï¿½res, as well as the code for $5 off our ticket price, after the jump.
Open Chef-A-Me featuring writer Felicia D'Ambrosio and cook Alyssa Shilliday, Mon., May 18, 6:30 p.m., The Dark Horse pub, 421 S.2nd St., $35; OpenChefAMe.com
Enter code 2009CP when you purchase your tickets at OpenChefAMe.com
|Photo l Michael Persico|
|Dough, after incorporating 4 eggs|
Yields: About 28 puffs
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
- Large pinch of coarse salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- 3 1/2 ounces shredded Gruyï¿½re cheese (1 cup), plus more for sprinkling
- Freshly ground pepper
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium saucepan, combine the water, milk, butter and salt and bring to a boil. Add the flour and stir it in with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms; stir over low heat until it dries out and pulls away from the pan, about 2 minutes.
- Scrape the dough into a bowl; let cool for 1 minute. Beat the eggs into the dough, 1 at a time, beating thoroughly between each one. Add the cheese and a pinch each of pepper and nutmeg.
- Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip and pipe tablespoon-size mounds onto the baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 22 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Serve hot, or let cool and refrigerate or freeze. Reheat in a 350ï¿½ oven until piping hot.
- When making the choux pastry, it is important to be sure that each egg is fully incorporated into the batter before adding the next. Don't worry if the batter separates and looks curdled at first. Keep beating, and it will come together nicely.
|Photo | Drew Lazor|
While it's not extremely prevalent here in Philly, trout and eggs is a classic combo ï¿½ the light, not-so-fishy flavor of the trout and the creamy fluffitude of the eggs is the absolute best kind of protein bomb. Kinda makes me feel like swimming a long distance (after I've properly digested, of course). In many incarnations of this dish, though, the fish is served smoked, making it more of a breakfast-y, Jewish deli endeavor than anything else. Here's an easy dinner rendition that I somehow pulled off recently. Extremely simple (and somewhat inexact) recipe after the jump.
Trout with Scrambled Eggs and Asparagus
Serves three, or two with some awesome leftovers
Go Get This:
1 lb. fresh trout, cut into three portions (I like steelhead; it's inexpensive and easy to find in most supermarkets)
1 bunch asparagus, washed,ï¿½ with knobby stalk ends removed
1 tbsp. butter
Bit of milk
Optional: adobo seasoning, Bacon Salt
Now Do This:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place a large, oven-safe skillet over high heat; coat pan with olive oil or butter and wait for it to start popping.
Season fish portions with S&P (optional: adobo) and place, skin side down, into the pan. (People say to flip it a few times but I'm too lazy for that.) Let sear for 5 minutes before sliding the whole shebang into the oven. I tend to leave the fish in there for anywhere from 15 to 18 minutes, depending on how thick the portions are.
As soon as the fish enters the oven, melt the butter in a second skillet at medium-high heat and start throwing asparagus in. Don't overload the pan. Season with S&P while it's sizzling, moving around with a spatula or spoon every so often to make sure it doesn't burn. About 5 to 7 minutes should produce some nice charring. After you're done, drop the pan to medium-low heat.
There should be about 5 minutes left on the fish ï¿½ start on the eggs. Crack 'em all in a bowl, break the yolks with a fork and mix thoroughly. Just a tiny dribble of milk into the mixture will do ya. Add Bacon Salt to give it a little smokiness (optional). Pour the egg mixture into the asparagus pan (add a little more butter or use Pam to prevent sticking) and nudge it around gently with spatula or spoon to get a good scramble going. This'll take about 3 minutes.
Pull out the fish and plate everything up with fresh lemon.
Many people, including myself, feel that Bacon Mania has reached critical Internet mass. But once in awhile the powers that be will toss out a solid pig-related tidbit out there that will reinstate my faith in the genre. Case in point ï¿½ over at ScienCentral, Natural Gourmet Institute chef Elliot Prag recently shared his process for making shiitake mushrooms taste like bacon. God bless you, chef!
|Photo l Elizabeth D'Ambrosio|
|Ricotta cheese gets sweet.|
Simple, creamy and classic, ricotta pie is an Italian dessert that can tempt even non-sweets eaters. My father's mother makes this in the spring for family parties, along with her benchmark pound cake, and we fight for the leftovers. Citrus zest and juice adds brightness to the subtly sweet ricotta, and a sprinkle of cinnamon adds just enough spice.
Buying prepared pie crust tones down the prep work and speeds the process, and even Mom-Mom approves store-bought crust ï¿½ try Keebler Ready Crust.
Mom-Mom's key tips:
- Eggs must be room temperature. Skip this step and she makes no guarantees to good results.
- After blending egg mixture and ricotta cheese, ladle from the bottom of the bowl between the two pie crusts.ï¿½ This ensures an even distribution of cheese and egg mixture.
Mom-Mom's Ricotta Pie
Recipe yields two 9-inch pies
Go Get This:
9 eggs, room temperature
1 c sugar
1/4 c orange juice
zest of 2 oranges
zest of 2 lemons
1 tsp vanilla
3 lbs ricotta
2 prepared 9-inch pie crusts (Keebler recommended)
Now Do This:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Beat eggs with sugar, juice, zest and vanilla until well blended.ï¿½ Add ricotta and blend well.
Place prepared 9-inch pie crusts on a cookie sheet or broiler pan.ï¿½ Ladle the ricotta mixture from the bottom of the bowl, alternating between crusts until mixture is all doled out.
Protect crust by gently covering edges with foil.ï¿½ Place cookie sheet with filled pie crusts in oven and bake for 35 minutes.ï¿½ Remove foil and bake for 25 more minutes. Turn oven off and allow pies to rest in oven for five minutes.ï¿½ Remove and cool.
Dust with cinnamon generously just before serving.
|Photo l Mike Persico|
One thing NYC has on Philly food (other than pizza and decent bagels) is cheap and delicious noodle soup. Ramen bars like David Chang's Momofuku fire up creative interpretations of the homey dish as well as traditional versions, but the trend has not yet crept this far down the East Coast megalopolis.
My dear boyfriend is a disgruntled noodle-soup lover ï¿½ he doesn't know where to get his fix around here, so he has to cook it up himself. As a hater of both reconstituted dried mushrooms and slippery soba noodles, I can't share his love of the following recipe, but he makes this for himself constantly.
The fiend got into my stash of freshly dug West Virginia ramps yesterday and cooked up a Noodle Soup with Shittakes, Ramps and a Poached Egg. Try it out, and if any Meal Ticketers have the skinny on the good ramen in Philly, let us know in the comments.
Noodle Soup with Shittakes, Ramps and a Poached Egg
Go Get This:
1 bundle soba noodles (about 3 oz)
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 small red onion, minced
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. pickled hot peppers
1 tsp. sriracha
One cup water to add to broth
Two cups of very hot water to reconstitute mushrooms
1/3 c dried shittake mushrooms
Four fresh ramps, rinsed and root end cut off
One poached egg
Now Do This:
Prepare noodles per package directions; drain and rinse with warm water. Set aside.
Reconstitute dried shittakes:
Add dried mushrooms to 2 cups very hot water. Allow to sit 20 minutes.
For the Broth:
Soften onions with 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, add hot peppers, soften 1-2 minutes.ï¿½ Pour in mushroom-reconstituting water (not mushrooms) and bring to a boil.
Add ginger, 1 cup water, black pepper and soy sauce. Boil 2 minutes, reduce to simmer. Let cook 5 minutes, until reduced by 1/3.
Add mushrooms and cook 2 minutes. Turn off heat.
While broth is simmering, poach your egg:
Prepare poaching water in small saucepan: boil 3-4 cups of water and add 2 Tbsp. white vinegar. When water reaches a very low boil, spin the water into a whirlpool and carefully drop in egg. Poach for 3-5 minutes, until firm but not solid. Remove egg with slotted spoon, dry with paper towel.
Arrange noodles in bottom of a large bowl. Add whole ramps. Pour soup over, add poached egg. Garnish with sriracha. Eat by yourself, since Momofuku is 90 miles away.
|Click to enlarge|
Chef Peter McAndrews of Modo Mio and Paesano's was featured in the May issue of Esquire for his red bliss potato salad ï¿½ it was part of a larger feature collecting barbecue side dish recipes from chefs around the country. Click on the thumbnail to see a scan of the feature or follow the jump to read a transcription of the recipe.
RELATED: Small Wonder: Paesano's [22jan09]
Here's what you get from an Irish guy who owns an Italian restaurant. Quarter 2 1/2 lbs small red bliss potatoes. Season a pot of water with enough salt that it tastes like seawater and bring it to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until fork tender, about 12 minutes. Drain and transfer to mixing bowl. Stir in the following: 2 tbsp rinsed capers, 1/2 cup thinly sliced roasted red peppers, a few cloves chopped garlic, 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp red pepper flakes, and 6 minced oil-packed anchovies. Use these even if you think you hate anchovies. They add a salty backbone, and any fishiness disappears into the dish. Stir and cool to room temperature. Then add 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil and 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint, then coarse salt and ground pepper. Taste as you go ï¿½ seasoning is personal. Sprinkle 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese and a few morn torn mint leaves on top. Serve at room temperature. Gets better after a day or two.
|Photo l Michael Persico|
While local strawberries have not yet appeared, millions of California's little jewels are flooding markets right now.ï¿½ Pick up a few cheap quarts -- one to eat straight out of the carton, and one to macerate with a little booze for a fresh and sophisticated dessert.
Macerate means simply to soak, and usually refers to the soaking of fruits in liqueur.ï¿½ This treat can be made with port, as I used here; substitute what you like or have on hand.ï¿½ Excellent swaps would be dessert wine, champagne, amaretto or a liqueur like Grand Marnier.
Crï¿½me fraï¿½che adds a tangy element and richness to the freshness of strawberries that yogurt and whipped cream lack.ï¿½ Different brands of crï¿½me fraï¿½che offer different flavors -- some are very creamy or buttery, some are more cheesy.ï¿½ I used Vermont Butter & Cheese Company brand, $5 at both DiBruno Bros. locations, which has a soft nutty flavor and can be whipped into peaks for use in topping desserts.
After the jump, the technique for strawberries in port with crï¿½me fraï¿½che.
Strawberries in Port with Crï¿½me Fraï¿½che
(Serves 4 as a light dessert, or as a topping for pancakes or french toast)
Go Get This:
One quart strawberries
6 tbsp port (or champagne, amaretto, Grand Marnier or dessert wine)
1 and 1/2 tbsp sugar (any kind)
4 heaping tbsp crï¿½me fraï¿½che
Now Do This:
Wash and hull the strawberries (slice off the green tops).
Halve the strawberries lengthwise, quarter very large berries.
Place halved berries in a Tupperware container, add port and sugar.ï¿½ Stir well to combine. Cover tightly.
Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight, shaking container or stirring occasionally.
Spoon berries into 4 stemmed glasses, pour over some of the port liquid.
Top each portion with a heaping spoonful of crï¿½me fraï¿½che.
Serve with a small glass of port or champagne.
|Photo l Elizabeth D'Ambrosio|
|A classic 4-Bean Salad, all from cans.|
I don't really get Easter food. The fluorescent pink ham, the marshmallow ambrosia ï¿½ these things are fine, but they don't inspire excited anticipation like a whole prime rib at Christmas, or Thanksgiving mashed potatoes.
One thing I look forward to is my stepmother's mom's 4-Bean Salad. Fran mixes this one up the old-fashioned way ï¿½ that is, straight from cans. It takes 5 minutes from opening the cans to sticking the whole bowl in the fridge to marinate overnight, and comes out delicious, crisp and refreshing with apple cider vinegar.
If you turn your nose up at canned veg, feel free to soak, cook and cool the cannelli and kidney beans before mixing them with snipped and chopped green and yellow wax beans. If you want to get really fancy, Rancho Gordo has been getting serious foodie press as the elite grower of American heirloom beans. Check out their stunningly photogenic selection here.
After the jump, a fast recipe for 4-Bean Salad, infinitely modifiable to your personal proclivities.
Adapted from Pamela Mathieu, RN, CHD, from Successful Operations in the Kitchen, a cookbook compiled by the O.R. Staffs of Kennedy Memorial Hospitals, University Medical Center
Go Get This:
1 (16 oz can) can green beans, drained
1 (16 oz can) can yellow wax beans, drained
1 (16 oz can) can white cannelli beans, drained
1 (16 oz can) can red kidney beans, drained
1/2 cup green bell pepper, minced
2 tbsp onions, minced
ï¿½ cup sugar
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/3 cup extra light olive oil
Now Do This:
Drain all beans and combine in bowl. Mix remaining ingredients in a quart jar, shake to combine.
Pour dressing over beans, cover and refrigerate overnight. Makes 10 servings.
|Photo l Neal Santos|
|Two new drinks at Morton's The Steakhouse|
Morton's The Steakhouse is not just a meat locker. Its bar stocks fresh fruit and house-made foams to create new springy cocktails that will please more than just (former) Amex Black i-bankers.
Their Heavenly Strawberry Mint Margarita shakes up fresh berries and mint with tequila, Cointreau and lime, while the Cool as a Cucumber muddles cukes with vodka, elderflower liqueur St. Germain and ginger beer for a surprisingly complex quaff.
Though the new spring drinks are not included, their new Power Hour (5-6:30 p.m. daily) features discounted ($8) cosmopolitans, martinis and Palm Beach cocktails, as well as $6 Canyon Ranch wines and $4 Sam Adams and Budweisers, along with food specials.
Try your hand at Morton's new drinkables in the comfort of home ï¿½ recipes after the jump.
Morton's The Steakhouse, 1411 Walnut St # 2, 215-557-0724, mortons.com
|Photo l Neal Santos|
Heavenly Strawberry Mint Margarita
3 whole Fresh Strawberries
3 sprig Fresh Mint
2 oz Cuervo Gold
ï¿½ oz Cointreau
ï¿½ oz Agave Syrup
1 Fresh Lime Squeezed
2 oz Heavenly Foam **
Squeeze 1 lime into shaker. Halve 3 strawberries and place in shaker. Add 3 sprigs of mint. Pour in Syrup, Cuervo Gold and Cointreau. Add ice. Shake 15 times and strain. Top with Heavenly Foam.
Heavenly Foam Recipe
Whipped Cream Maker with CO2 cartridge
5 oz Pasterized Egg Whites
5 oz Purfect Puree Raspberry Puree
5 oz Chambord
1 Fresh Lemon Squeeze
Measure all ingredients into foamer. Close lid and add charge. Shake vigorously for 5 seconds to blend ingredients. Yield: 5-6 drinks.
|Photo l Neal Santos|
Cool As A Cucumber
12 oz rocks glass with ice
1 1/2 oz Absolut 100
1 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1 Fresh Lime Squeeze
3 slices Fresh Cucumber
2 oz Ginger Beer
Squeeze in fresh lime juice into shaker. Muddle 3 slices of cucumber in shaker. Add St. Germain, Absolut 100 and ginger beer. Add ice. Shake 15 times. Fill rocks glass with ice. Strain into glass.
Cucumber slice and black straw
|ï¿½2009 Courtney Grant Winston|
Marshmallow Peeps, those sweet, explodable treats, are the quintessential Easter-basket filler.ï¿½ Though the Just Born Peeps will satisfy sugar craving-kiddies, homemade marshmallows are a fit for a foodie's basket.
Chef Alison Barshak has been making her own version of the classic marshmallow chicks, which she dubs Peepers, at her restaurant Alison at Blue Bell and the newly-opened Alison two.ï¿½ Barshak got interested in the many variations of the pillowy puffs when friend Eileen Talanian published her book Marshmallows: Homemade Gourmet Treats (Gibbs Smith).
"Last year when Eileen's book came out," says Barshak, "my whole kitchen did a marshmallow cocktail party and paired them with wines and passed hors d'oeuvres. We did ancho chili marshmallows, red wine fluff and apple marshmallows in bacon and cheese sandwiches.ï¿½ Everyone like the savory marshmallows best."ï¿½ For Easter and Passover sweets, Barshak makes more conventional dessert marshmallows, flavored with Meyer lemon, raspberry and vanilla bean.
Marshmallows make appearances in more than just Easter baskets this time of year. "Everyone is always looking for ways to make Passover desserts taste good," says the chef. "You can't use dairy, and the rules are kind of complicated.ï¿½ The more processed the food is, the less likely it will conform to kosher laws.ï¿½ Marshmallows work because you're making your own syrup with sugar, instead of using corn syrup.ï¿½ I taught a kosher class in New York, and did a lot of research on kosher desserts. Marshmallows are great, because you can get kosher gelatin. Eileen's book does fluff frozen like a semi-freddo with no dairy or gelatin that is amazing."
But are marshmallows hard to make?ï¿½ Barshak doesn't think so. "You have to do it all at once -- once you start you have to finish it, and you have to realize you're going to get really sticky. That's just the way it is.ï¿½ It's not more difficult than anything else.ï¿½ I think it's fun!"
If getting covered in sugar sounds like your idea of a good time, click over the jump for Alison's method to make Peepers at home, adapted from Eileen Talanian's book.ï¿½ After all, homemade marshmallows "taste so much better than store-bought," says Barshak.ï¿½ "They're softer, and have a cleaner flavor.ï¿½ We flavor ours with Meyer lemon juice and raspberry, and they just taste like spring to me."
Alison at Blue Bell, 721 Skippack Pike, Blue Bell; 215-641-2660, alisonatbluebell.com
Alison two, 424 S. Bethlehem Pike, Ft. Washington; 215-591-0200, alisontwo.com
Housemade Chick Peepers
Recipe courtesy of Marshmallows: Homemade Gourmet Treats by Eileen Talanian
As used by Chef Alison Barshak, Alison two & Alison at Blue Bell
For Marshmallow Syrup
For the syrup:
1 cup water
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Make the heavy syrup first. Place the syrup ingredients in a small heavy sauce pot over medium heat and stir mixture with high heat spatula. When the mixture starts to boil, cover sauce pan for a few minutes. Remove the lid and insert a candy thermometer increasing to high until the mixture reaches 240 degrees. Do not stir as this will cause the mixture to crystallize. Remove from heat and let cool. (Note: you can substitute light corn syrup for marshmallow syrup in the Marshmallow Base recipe if you don't have the time or inclination to make this syrup.)
For the Bloom
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unflavored powdered gelatin
For the Marshmallow Base
3/4 cups water
1-1/4 cups marshmallow syrup
1-1/2ï¿½ cups Granulated cane sugar
Colored sugar for coating the peepers
powdered sugar, cornstarch, or a mixture of the two for coating
Piping bag fitted with 3/8-inch plain decorating tube
3-D food coloring tube and food coloring
First, make the Bloom: Stir the water and vanilla together in a measuring cup. Place the gelatin in a small bowl and add the water mixture, stirring with a fork or small whisk until perfectly smooth.
Next, make the Marshmallow Base: Place the water, marshmallow syrup, salt and sugar, in that order, into a 4-quart pan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Then place a lid on the pan and boil it, covered for 2 minutes. This step is essential in order to eliminate sugar crystals on the side of the pan that may cause the marshmallows to crystallize.
Remove the lid, insert a candy thermometer, and continue boiling until the thermometer reaches 250 degrees F. Do not stir the mixture once the lid has been removed. Remove the thermometer and gently stir in the bloomed gelatin.
Pour the batter into the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Beat it on high speed for 10 to 12 minutes, using the wire whisk attachment or the paddle beater. It will take a little longer to beat with the paddle. You can cover the mixer with a clean kitchen towel for the first 3 minutes to avoid splattering hot liquid on yourself.
At first, the marshmallow batter will look very watery; as it beats, it will become thick, white, and glossy, and will increase in volume by two- to threefold. If desired, use a small amount of food coloring to make colored peepers.
For the Peepers
Prepare a surface by spraying it with oil and lightly wiping it, or by generously sprinkling it with a coating mixture. Holding the piping bag so the tip is at a 45-degree angle to the surface, pipe a mound, then push the bag back and up to form a neck, giving a slight extra squeeze to form the head. Dip the finger and thumb of your free hand in water and pinch off the end to form the beak, gently pushing it down, if necessary. Sprinkle with colored sugar and allow to cure overnight, or allow them to cure for a few hours and coat them with your favorite coating. You can place the coating in a bag with some of the peepers and shake it to coat them. Be sure to brush off excess coating.
Use a 3-D food-coloring tube to paint eyes onto the peepers. Pack them in gift boxes and tie with pretty ribbons.
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