Archive: December, 2008
Photos | Felicia D'Ambrosio
Monday morning, the alarm is buzzing, the sky is gunmetal gray, promising rain; and last night's dishes are still strewn about the kitchen.
This is not the time to put together a healthful lunch. You don't even have time to wash your hair, much less pack a nutritionally balanced meal. That is why you should devote your Sunday afternoon to prepping the elements of a few quick suppers and lunch-box items.
The goal here is not to impress the world with your laser-like palate or casual knowledge of 10 kinds of baking potato: The idea is to avoid buying your lunch from a grease cart or giving up and going out to dinner on a Tuesday. The monetary savings of cooking at home and bringing your lunch to work are significant; better still is the sense of accomplishment when you realize you went the whole damn day without spending any money.
Take inventory of the fridge and cabinets on Saturday afternoon, and make a grocery list of needs. Shop the fresh foods at the perimeter of the supermarket for maximum nutritional impact, and supplement the freshies with some dried pasta and beans, canned tomatoes and a big bar of dark chocolate for dessert.
Today I am offering up two super easy recipes that can help you get a jump on eating in, and never capitulate to the corner bar and their overpriced burger.
Spicy sriracha chicken salad lettuce wraps and vegetarian onion soup can travel to work in Tupperware, or be on the table in 5 minutes when you finally get home.
|Spicy Sriracha Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps|
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
Spicy Sriracha Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps
Go Get This:
One package chicken breasts (boneless/skinless)
Head of romaine lettuce, picked over, washed and drained
Big dollop mayo to taste (full fat, light, or nonfat is fine)
Same goes for sriracha
Blob of Dijon mustard
One red bell pepper, diced small
Now Do This:
Cook your chicken breasts. You can do this however you like: pan-seared in a hot skillet with a few tablespoons of oil, poached in barely simmering chicken stock, grilled in a grill pan, or roasted in the oven. Whatever you want, just don't dry them out.
Dice the cooked chicken breasts into small cubes and place in a mixing bowl. Add the diced bell pepper, dollop of mayo, sriracha and dijon mustard. Mix well until coated. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Serve the chicken salad wrapped in a leaf of romaine. If bringing this to work, keep lettuce and chicken separate and put together when ready to eat.
Trés Easy Onion Soup
(adapted from Cooking 4 The Week)
Go Get This:
4 big onions (bigger than baseballs)
2 tablespoons of olive oil, or a chunk of butter, or both
A quart of vegetable stock, or water
2 cups red wine, white wine, beer, or brandy
2 bay leaves, or dried thyme, or both
salt and pepper to taste
dashes of soy or Worcestershire sauce (Worcestershire sauce is not vegetarian)
Now Do This:
Cut the onions in half and peel. Slice each thinly.
Heat a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add a splash of olive oil or healthy chunk of butter. Add the onions to the pot and sweat, until very soft. This could take up to an hour. Stir often to ensure they don't burn.
Once the onions are completely cooked down, turn the heat up and deglaze with your alcohol of choice. I used a Belgian brown ale, Dupont Moinette Brune. As the liquid bubbles, scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to incorporate the browned-on bits. (This is deglazing). Allow all of the liquid to evaporate, and deglaze again. Allow liquid to evaporate one more time, then deglaze once more. This builds flavor and ensures you will end up with a rich, not flat, soup.
After the final deglaze, add the quart of veggie stock, dried bay leaves and/or dried herbs and the parmigiano rinds and allow the soup to simmer for a few minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. If the soup tastes flat, add dashes of Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce and keep tasting.
Serve with toasted slices of bread with cheese melted on top, if you like.
|Photos | Drew Lazor|
I've been meaning to go to this place forever; it opened last fall. Enjoyed it very much. The dish in the foreground is a latke, not a giant breakfast sausage.
After dinner, we hit up APO, just barely missing their Repeal Day drink specials. Place was packed; had fun with a couple Corpse Reviver variations.
Also: Where did YOU eat this weekend? So cold; any food or drink you'd recommend for getting warm and getting warm quick?
February or March 2009 will see the opening of the third location of Byeong-gwan "Ben" Yu's Tampopo, which already has locations at 21st and Chestnut and Seventh and Sansom. It's slated for the corner of 44th and Spruce, right next to Brendan Hartranft and Leigh Maida's forthcoming Local 44 Beer Bar. Yu says the menu will be "almost identical" to the other Tampopos, with the addition of ramen noodle soups and an extended selection of tofu- and vegetable-based dishes. Tampopo's dual BYOB policy — meaning bring your own bottle and bring your own bowl (the latter saves you money on your order!) — will apply here, as well.
RELATED: Fishy business at Tampopo
There’ll be more to this story as the days (as in the next 48 hours) go on, and you’ll find out more about the immediateness of the deal in the upcoming edition of Icepack. But know this — as of this past Friday, Dec. 5, Brett Perloff has officially taken over "the nightlife venue at 2029 Walnut Street in Philadelphia, formerly known as Monkey Bar."
We knew that Perloff was readying something within Rittenhouse; he still has a 25 percent stake in Pearl on Chestnut Street even though he's no longer part of the day-to-day process ("irreconcilable differences," says Perloff of his relationship with the Stein family). He's still involved with one-off DJ/club events around the area. We were just waiting for Perloff to land his own location.
The deal, essentially, in non-legal speak in regards to the Monkey — Perloff's got the space and is running it as is until the sign comes down (soon) and he "re-concepts," starting at the beginning of January 2009, into something he calls a "high-end boutique bottle bar" with food created and outsourced by a local restaurateur TBD. Stay tuned.
What's Cooking guress Nikki Volpicelli just checked in with word of Heather and Charlie Collazo's plan to celebrate the grand opening of the second level of The Institute (549 N. 12th St., 215-765-8515, institutebar.com) two weeks from tomorrow. Details from Nikki V. via Charlie himself:
Although nothing's cookin' quite yet (kitchen construction won't be finished for about four weeks), Institute owners Charlie and Heather have put the fire under plans to renovate their stake on 12th and Green. The Institute is partying upstairs for the first time on Dec. 20 with the completion of their new addition, which features six four-person whiskey-bar booths with flat-screen TVs and personal Wii systems, a DJ booth and a second bar. Bartenders will be serving drink specials to commemorate their newly expanded space, but those haven't been worked out just yet.
Julia Child, on her cooking show The French Chef, eschewed pretension in favor of demystifying classical technique for the American home cook. In this clip from her 1962 season, you really only have to watch the first 30 seconds to realize what a great chef she was. After that first 20-second omelet, she breaks down the method to creating a fast lunch with two eggs in a hot pan, tossing aside both a highly polished aluminum "status pan" and a gadgety soufflé omelet pan in favor of a regular old non-stick.
In true Julia style, she makes the best use of her equipment. Check it out: She's cooking on an electric range. I'd like to dedicate this clip to every whiny home cook who wailed that they couldn't possibly cook well on electric.
On Sunday, Dec. 7, Good Dog bar will celebrate its fifth year of being the realest bar with the best food in Center City. Owner Heather Gleason hipped us to what is going down for the big oh-five event.
Ten sixtels of local beer from Flying Fish, Sly Fox, Yards, Philadelphia Brewing Co., Southhampton and others will be simultaneously tapped, starting off a race to see which brewery's keg gets kicked first. Flying Fish has even brewed up a special anniversary beer, Good Fish, a double-hopped IPA, to commemorate the event. The winners of the annual Photo Contest will be announced, and those photogenic pets will grace the walls of the tavern for the upcoming year. Chef Jessica O'Donnell will be preparing passed hors d'oeuvres that will make the rounds all night. Be sure to grab politely from the trays; we're not the animals.
Five-dollar raffle tickets will be sold, and prizes ranging from bottles of booze and T-shirts to event tickets will be announced every hour. Last year there were more than 50 prizes, and Gleason has been receiving swag all week for this year's raffle. All proceeds from the raffle, which will be matched by Good Dog, as well as 10 percent of all drink revenues, will be donated to Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and the Morris Animal Refuge, aiding them in their tireless work to save the lives of unwanted pets in our area.
Good Dog, 224 S. 15th St., 215-985-9600; Anniversary Party on Sun., Dec. 7, from 4 p.m.-2 a.m., no cover
|Illustration | Kris Chau|
You can check out all of CP's food print content at citypaper.net/food.
- This week, I dine with Marc Kravitz, a fomer City Paper contributor who founded I-Spy, a restaurant "mystery shopper" firm that eateries hire to critique their service. His clients include Stephen Starr, Jose Garces and Jon Myerow of Tria. Paying meticulous attention to everything from exterior housekeeping to the skill with which servers "upsell" food and drink, Krav is a master of articulating a dining experience "through the eyes of the guest."
- Feeding Frenzy is bursting at the seams with details on WineO, the forthcoming Noble American Cookery, Swallow's mac menu at more.
- David Snyder learns all about chef Raju Bhattarai's secret spice blend when he explores the menu at Ekta, Girard Avenue's hot new Indian takeaway.
- Nikki Volpicelli has your out-and-about itinerary skedded for you in What's Cooking. Next week's Geeks Who Give fundraiser at National Mechanics and a Sicilian holiday dinner at Fork are just a few of the previewed events this time around.
- Not in the food pages, but still quite tasty: Justin Bauer and Char Vandermeer test out recipes from some big-name chefs' tomes — The Bibendium Cookbook, The Alinea Cookbook, Jose Garces' Latin Evolution and Marc Vetri's Il Viaggio di Vetri — as part of the arts section's holiday Book Quarterly.
Apologies for getting off track with last week's Top Chef recap — there's still time to blame things on extended holiday revelry, right? Anyway, smooth sailing from here on out.
I thoroughly enjoyed Episode 3, but not because of the cornball Thanksgiving themeage, the dubbing of Tom Colicchio as a "gay bear icon" or the involvement of the Foo Fighters. I loved it because it featured two — two! — independent references to MacGyver, which is better than Six Feet Under, The Wire, The Sopranos, Charles In Charge and every other TV show that's ever aired. God bless you, Carla ("I feel like I'm a MacGyver when it comes to these things!" she exclaimed at the outset of the first challenge) and Gene (his impromptu barbecue-pit-building prowess earned the Mac label from judges). This counts as my favorite moment of the episode.
Episode 3's Quickfire Challenge, overseen by Grant Achatz of Chicago's famed Alinea, tagged the cheftestants with the masturbatory, placement-heavy task of turning recipes out of the Top Chef cookbook into soup using Swanson brand broth. (David Snyder quoted Achatz in his Jan. 2008 piece on "molecular" cooking.) Leah, who I pegged as a frontrunner at the outset, took it with her chilled white asparagus soup with brioche, tuna and tapenade, a spoonable interpretation of a dish from Season 3 winner Hung Huynh. (She even got her own press release!)
Elimination Challenge brought on the Foo, as cheffies split into two squadrons ("Team Sexy Pants" and "Team Cougar") to whip up a Turkey Day pre-concert meal for Dave Grohl, his bandmates and assorted entourage — using only microwaves and toaster ovens. I know most of you are finally emancipated from the fetters of Thanksgiving leftovers, so I won't stir up any gut-wrenching flashbacks by going over what the kids made in detail. Just know that the Sexy Pantsers won based on Rad's roasted vegan stuffing and desserts from Fabio and Hosea. "Team Rainbow" member Richard, who was the contestant to go on the record stating what everyone already knows — that the baldheaded Tom C. is every famished bear's dream meal — was sent packing for a crappy s'more dessert that Grohl compared to saliva.
Achatz is such an interesting guy, but some of his comments — "It's just good to execute classics the way they're supposed to be done," he advised at the judges' table — came off slightly disingenuous, as he's the king of not-even-remotely-"classic" cuisine. Aren't you the guy who turns peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into space dust?
Onto Episode 4.
It always amazes me, in the realm of reality television, how a favored contestant can turn despicable in a blink thanks to things as ostensibly innocuous as smarmy editing or out-of-context quoting. I find that the exact opposite is true, as well — take Jeff, the blonde-as-a-state-of-mind Miami chef who, until last night, I'd earmarked as nothing more than an airy fop and a dead ringer for Dr. Robert Chase from House.
The guy somehow managed to win me over early in Episode 4 during a Quickfire Challenge that required the cooks to put together a breakfast-themed amuse bouche for the transcendently beautiful Padma and guest judge Rocco DiSpirito. ("He's not really Italian," Fabio was sure to point out.) Amuses, a common starting point at mid- to high-range restaurants, are supposed to be one tiny little bite, a flavorful tease to get you excited for the courses to come. For some reason, very few chefs on TV seem to get this (it's come up on Top Chef and other cooking competition shows multiple times).
|Jeff's enormous amuse bouche.|
Jeff made the thing to the right.
The moment I started rooting for the guy was during an on-camera sit-down where he attempted to defend his decision to make his amuse more than one bite. He had the twice-baked potato! He had the yogurt sorbet! And that's — you can see the realization wash over his face — "two ... too much." I love anyone who's self-aware enough to pick apart their own screwups while blabbing about themselves, to themselves, on cable television. Jeff all the way. Leah, however, ended up with the immunity idol for her amuse, a bacon-egg-cheese thing.
This week's Elimination: Come up with a simple dish designed to be presented on live TV in no more than 2.5 minutes. This flirtation with small-screen stardom drew some interesting responses from the contestants — Leah freaked out, but gumba-fied Daniel, whose aspirations are "kinda similar to Bobby Flay's," claimed that he "light[s] up in front of the camera." None of them meta-addressed that they were currently on TV to begin with.
The chefs present their dishes to Padma, Tom and Rocco in a really funny mock studio setup. Top three: Ariane kills it with her warm mom charm, Fabio finagles the metaphorical pantaloons off Padma by not being able to speak English and our dude Jeff is all polish all day. Bottom three: Jamie undercooks a duck egg, Alex undercooks crème brûlée and Melissa almost kills Colicchio with a far-too-hot habanero shrimp (aw he can't digest spicy food!).
The frontrunners are then told that their dishes will be judged on live television by the Today Show crew, about whom we learn some weird things, namely that watermelon makes Meredith Viera sick (?!) and that Kathie Lee is racist against Arabs Jeff's malfouf rolls. Ariane earns the eventual badge at judges' table. Alex is told to pack his knives and go, which is fine by me because the whole bawling-over-the-drippy-letter scene that started the episode was terrible.
Favorite moment: Jeff on the Today Show aspect of the competition — "I'm serving a Middle Eastern roll to a bunch of ladies with unsophisticated palates at 6:37 a.m. I'm pissed off."
Next week, they're catering a bridal shower. Looks like Fabio will have yet another opportunity to exploit his FOB status for residual booty. Gail Simmons is shown hating on everything as per usual ("This is not a good start to a new life"). I love Gail!
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