Archive: November, 2008
SNACK TIME: click your heels three times to get home to NYC, a vegan-ized green bean casserole, the sweetest of potatoes get creamy with coconut, soup for the marching men, and slid from the can no more: cranberry quince sauce
|Babbo's Pumpkin Cake, made by Claudia Young of CookEatFRET|
Every week, Meal Ticket pokes around the food blog world to see what's simmering. The Thanksgiving Edition of Snack Time brings you last-minute recipes from genius food bloggers to load up your holiday table.
- Displaced New Yorker-in-Nashville Claudia Young of CookEatFRET picks up Gina DePalma's new pastry cookbook and whips up a version of Babbo's pumpkin cake. The batter makes use of toasted pine nuts, grappa, Spanish extra-virgin olive oil and a surprise appearance by rosemary, to good effect — for dessert or just a happy snack.
- Alexandra Harcharek of A Food Coma updates that mushy holiday classic, green bean casserole, with a vegan-ized treatment of actual fresh green beans with nary a can of Campbell's condensed mushroom soup in sight. A dash of cayenne should fortify vegans enduring their annual round of holiday explanations to Aunt May regarding why turkey is, in fact, a meat.
- 101 Cookbooks author Heidi Swanson shares a recipe from her friend Nikki for totally indulgent coconut and macadamia-crusted, double-baked sweet potatoes. Not only are these tater babies absolutely gorgeous and creamy with coconut milk, they are magically vegetarian and vegan.
- Neal over at Burning Pasta shares a kinda-historically accurate butternut squash and apple soup that is good enough to have sustained General Washington himself. He also reassures readers that the ghost of Julia Child will not strike you down should you use store-bought chicken stock instead of making your own from scratch. Whew, dodged that lightning bolt.
- Uber-locavore Nicole of the Farm to Philly blog presents a new Turkey Day challenge: cajole canned cranberry sauce lovers into at least tasting homemade cranberry quince pinot noir sauce. Though the canned vs. homemade cranberry sauce battle is as deep-rooted as the Jets/Sharks rivalry, hopefully the spirit of Thanksgiving will triumph on this, the most gluttonous of holidays.
Brown-basted turkeys and marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes, football and a really long weekend to digest it all: This is the starter's pistol that fires up the holiday season. Just as seasonal are beverages with which to toast, from beer for the game to a post-prandial digestif. When getting out of the house becomes imperative (it's a really long weekend), let a professional massage your brain into submission with a carefully crafted cocktail.
The venerable London Grill has tapped into its staff's creativity to develop an array of infused spirits that they're offering throughout the holidays. General Manager Stephanie Pallo filled Meal Ticket in on the latest concoctions at the Fairmount restaurant/bar.
- Vodka infused with frozen cranberries and spices (vanilla beans, coriander, clove, cinnamon sticks and allspice)
- Sweet Tea vodka, flavored with loose tea leaves, lemon, and sugar
- Hibiscus-Cucumber Tequila
- Pumpkin-Vanilla Vodka
- Cherry Bourbon
- Spiced Cran-tini: The spiced cranberry-infused vodka is shaken with Tuaca vanilla liqueur and Grand Marnier and dressed with a sugared rim
- Drunken Golfer: A take on the traditional Arnold Palmer, sweet tea vodka is blended with lemonade and a splash of Sprite
- Cherry Bourbon Manhattan: Big-city drink softened up with sweet, tart cherry-infused bourbon
- Cherry Bourbon and Hot Cider: Self-explanatory and yum like whoa
- Pink Pepino: Pepino is Spanish for "cucumber"; this cocktail merges hibiscus-cuke tequila with Pama pomegranate liqueur
- Pumpkin Pie: Pumpkin-vanilla vodka gets creamy with a splash of half-and-half and chai liqueur in a drinkable dessert
Each cocktail is $9, a small price to pay for the sanity of getting out of the house before you have to recite what you are thankful for once again. "I am thankful for alcohol, and the many, many bars in Philadelphia that serve it so well."
London Grill, 2301 Fairmount Ave., 215-978-4545, londongrill.com.
|Photos | Drew Lazor|
If you're up on your trendy food get ups, you know that Korean fried chicken was the darling of the food media about a year back, thanks in no small part to writeups like this Feb. 2007 New York Times piece that employed words like "apotheosis" to describe the disparity between the Seoul food specialty and its greasier, craggier American counterpart.
The mesmerizing delicacy is available up in the North Philly corridor that people to refer to as "Little Korea" or "Koreatown," most notably at Café Soho (468 W. Cheltenham Ave., 215-224-6800), a popular spot that Elisa Ludwig dubbed the "Korean version of the Peach Pit" thanks to its "brightly colored lights, young wait staff and crowds of teenagers with asymmetrical haircuts drinking milk shakes." It has not, however, been easy to come by in the greater Center City vicinity.
That is, until Steve Cho, chef/owner of Meju in Old City, decided to start slanging the stuff. We tore apart two plates of the chicken for lunch the other day. Meju is doing it two ways — a spicier red pepper chili version and a garlicky, soy-based sweeter variety. Both are served, sprinkled with scallions and sesame seeds, next to a jagged row of pickled daikon radish with which to cool one's mouth.
The sauces are surely key, but it's the crunch that truly separates Korean fried chicken from its Yankee cuz. Cho attributes this to a double-frying technique and the addition of corn starch into the batter. ("It's ... so ... CRISPY!" one sauce-smeared coworker exclaimed on our recent trip.)
Eat this immediately.
|Photo | Drew Lazor|
|Betty's Tasty Buttons outpost at Headhouse|
Glad news for chocoholics in the greater G-Ho area: Betty's Speakeasy, the brick-and-mortar incarnation of Betty's Tasty Buttons, is now open ... kind of. Press your nose against the glass all you want, but the only way to get into candyland is to pick up orders of owner Liz Begosh's handmade, goat's milk and fair-trade cacao fudge.
On Dec. 5, Betty's Speakeasy will be throwing a modest grand opening affair, and by Dec. 9 it should have regular hours. Only then will you be able to sit in that sugar-scented paradise and down hot mugs of Fante's coffee and homemade hot cocoa, made from their own fudge sauces. Check out the Hot Lava, a fudge sauce spiked with cinnamon and chipotle and blended with milk for a really hot drink.
In the meantime, the Speakeasy will be accepting orders for holiday cakes and pies, including the Black Magic, a dark chocolate cake, and a French-Canadian traditional maple pie made with local maple syrup. "We all love that one, and we're not tired of it yet," laughs Begosh. "It's a custard-like pie, and the maple syrup soaks right into the pie crust."
Boxes and single pieces of fudge will be sold at the store, along with homemade cajeta, a dulce de leche-like tangy caramel made with goat's milk. All we have to say to that — give us some Big Whoop.
- Hot Fudge: Liz Begosh modernizes a classic boardwalk treat [12july07]
- THIS WEEK IN SWEET STUFF: News on Betty's Tasty Buttons [15apr08]
- Feeding Frenzy [28aug08]
Betty's Speakeasy, 2241 Grays Ferry Ave., 267-269-2347, bettysfudge.com. Hours come Dec. 9: Tue.-Wed., Sun. 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Thu.-Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m., closed Mon.
|The original Ugly Mug in Cape May|
Andy Cosenza, owner of Old City club Glam (52 S. Second St.), has plans to convert his space into a Ugly Mug, a franchise of the tavern that originated in Cape May some 30 years ago. Head of Franchising Bob Ransom, whose family has since sold the flagship Mug, says the Philly location will serve as the template for national expansion. They're putting in dinner seating and bars on both floors of the space; there's room for about 135 on the ground level and 75 on the second floor.
For those unfamiliar, the Mug is an American tavern through and through; nice beer selection, with grub like the Ocean Burger (topped with shrimp) and the Maryland Burger (topped with crab). Their signature interior touch: coffee mugs hanging from the ceiling. Ransom says there'll be close to 1000 dangling at this location.
Look for the spot to open sometime in early 2009.
|Hello, I am seafood!|
I was looking over the menu for the brand-new Thai Chef & Noodle Fusion (2028 Chestnut St., 215-568-7058) when I came across this tantalizing item:
Winning Alligator Sauteed slice alligator, eggplant, onion, bell pepper with julienne ginger, soy bean, green peppercorn Thai aromatic herb sauce "Customer vote the meat soft tender, better than chicken"
This sounds great and I can't wait to try it — I've had gator meat a couple times, but it's been deep-fried and/or smothered in a heavy sauce, so this seems like a good opportunity to really get a feel for the taste. One thing threw me off, though — "Winning Alligator" is listed under "Seafood Specialties."
Is alligator seafood? Technically, gators are aquatic creatures, so I was initially thinking yeah. But then a coworker posited that they shouldn't be considered seafood because they kick it in fresh water. But by that logic, wouldn't a fish like trout also be barred from a seafood classification, as it resides solely in non-sea fresh water, as well? Have I had too much/not enough coffee this morning? Help!
The greatest gift handed down my matrilineal line is not a diamond ring or piece of heirloom china, but a recipe. My Polish great-grandmother, for whom I am named, was raised in the anthracite coal mining town of Mount Carmel in upstate Pennsylvania. Her recipe for Thanksgiving stuffing was originated in that grim and sooty place, and reflects both a natural frugality (no fancy ingredients) and an immigrant's desire to create something special for her family on the most American of holidays.
"Stuffing?" you think. "What could be so special about stuffing?" Some breadcrumbs, some celery, stick it in the turkey and it's done. This is because you haven't had this stuffing.
Simple ingredients are the basis: diced celery and onions sautéed in butter, torn white bread, diced and rendered bacon, parsley and eggs. Lots of eggs. This creates a dense, custardy cake that can be sliced, redolent of bacon and black pepper. It's life-changing.
I could argue my great-grandmother was crafting a savory bread pudding 80 years before they would become popular. The first time my stepbrothers had Thanksgiving dinner at my mother's house, they eyed her suspiciously as she worked through her stuffing process.
"Dad, what is she doing? She's putting BACON in it!" they whined, dismayed at the loss of their normal crumbly, bullshit stuffing. Ten years later, Shawn and his new wife would call from Vilseck, Germany, where he was stationed with the Army, for the recipe. The stuffing is certainly better-traveled than the average American. It has been made for Thanksgiving in Rome, Italy, when my sister and I were studying abroad; Germany; Moscow; Las Vegas; and will be made this year in Sofia, Bulgaria, where my uncle and his wife live as diplomatic attachés of the Army.
Creating the thing is not difficult. It's mostly prep, and tearing the bread into tiny pieces is the job of the child closest at hand. I went to my mother's South Philly house to view the original recipe and submit to her supervision while I made the official version. Two tricks that make the process fruitful: put the package of bacon in the freezer and it will be much easier to dice; and only use Pepperidge Farm white bread, the small, one-pound loaf. A dense bread is important — use a fluffy one and the resultant stuffing is slimy instead of custardy. If Pepperidge Farm is not available, Arnold Bakery makes a comparable white loaf.
Complete technique and recipe after the jump.
Thanksgiving Stuffing to End All Others
Go Get This:
Two medium white onions, diced small (or one Colossal onion)
One bunch celery, diced small
One pound bacon, diced small
(1) One-pound loaf Pepperidge Farm White bread (Arnold if P.F. not available), torn into tiny pieces
One bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Five large eggs
Half a stick of butter
Salt and Black pepper
Now Do This:
1. Have a handy child tear the white bread into very tiny pieces into a large mixing bowl and set aside.
2. Over a low flame, render the diced bacon until almost crispy. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper bag lined with several layers of paper towels. Set aside.
3. Over a medium flame, melt half a stick of butter and sweat diced onions until just soft. Add diced celery to pan and continue to cook until celery is tender. Season with salt.
4. In the mixing bowl, add the drained bacon, celery and onion, and the chopped parsley. Season generously with black pepper.
5. Add the five whole eggs to the mixing bowl.
6. Mix the entire thing with your hands. When it seems completely mixed, mix it for a few more minutes. Break up any big chunks of bread you notice.
7. Spray a 8 x 15 glass Pyrex casserole dish with Pam or grease with butter. Pour the stuffing mixture in and smooth it down.
8. Cover the casserole with foil, and place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.
9. At 45 minutes, remove the foil so the top can brown and bake for 15 more minutes.
10. Slice into squares and eat hot. Also good cold from the refrigerator with lashings of salt the day after.
The Sidecar (2201 Christian St.) brought in chef Amos Pedersen (Meritage, Barclay Prime, 707) close to a month back to retool the menu. The kitchen staff had been collab'ing, sans head chef, since the June departure of Rich Freedman.
Co-owner Adam Ritter says they're keeping many now-signature items while freshening up the selection with the addition of more "dinner-related" fare. Out: the panini-pressed grilled toastie sandwiches. In: a short rib sandwich, a NY strip steak salad, a homestyle chicken dinner platter, a vegetarian pot pie, seasonal sides (Brussels sprouts, creamed rosemary potatoes, parsnip purée). They've still got favored pub grub like wings and nachos, but now they're also doing authentic carnitas tacos (braised pork with pickled onions, Oaxaca/chihuahua/queso freso-kinda cheese and fresh cilantro).
Ritter's also putting together an official small-but-legit wine list. "We're a beer bar, not a wine bar, but I also want to be able to accommodate folks that want wine, and want something decent," he says.
|Just writin' and drinkin'|
Hot toddies are one of those wonderful winter drinks that people love to order and surly bartenders hate to make. So avoid the attitude and make one at home.
Traditional toddy liquors are whiskey, Scotch, brandy or rum; the drinks have historically been mixed up for the treatment of colds. Though the AMA doesn't recommend treating colds with a hot toddy (alcohol is dehydrating), a nice warm drink does help you get to sleep when feeling under the weather.
Hottie Pa-Toddy (with a naughty body)
- Healthy shot of whatever booze you prefer (I like bourbon or rye toddies because of their slight sweetness)
- Cup of strong brewed tea (Chamomile is lovely, or Earl Grey)
- Pour of honey
- Juice of half a lemon
- Slices of lemon stuck with a few cloves, or oranges, or both
Start off with your liquor in glass Irish Coffee mug. Pour the honey in the tea and stir it in. Add the tea to the booze in the snifter and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Throw in the clove-studded lemon slice and drink.
That's nice, isn't it?
|The spread at Wokano|
|Photo | Michael T. Regan|
- David Snyder ventures into Wokano, the new Chinese restaurant in Wing Phat Plaza at 11th and Washington, and leaves both perplexed and enthused. Sure, they've got General Tso's and whatnot — but have you ever tried duck tongue? "If you marshalled the courage to hold the base of the tongue and used your teeth to scrape the meat from the bone," Snyder explains, "you were treated to a unique blend of earthy and intensely gamey flavors." I say give her a shot.
- All the news that's fit to eat in Feeding Frenzy this week — the opening of Argan Moroccan Cuisine, info on chef Dave Teich's new plan for the kitchen of Fairmount's Green Room, info on the upcoming D.P. Dough outpost and word of a new chef at The Ugly American.
- Trey Popp submits his short take on the Hinge Café in Port Richmond and its new dinner menu. Sounds like homey choices like pierogies and oatmeal cake are the real winners.
- Event goddess Nikki Volpicelli righteously bestows your food/drink itinerary upon ye in What's Cooking: no-stress Thanksgiving at Tavern 17, a food presentation demo at Cliveden of the National Trust, a boozy Turkey Day afterparty at Devil's Den and more.
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