|via The Greasy Spoon|
Back in the day, before SEPTA rehabbed the Market-Frankford El line and added the animatronic voice-lady, you had to stick your head out the window and see what was coming up to judge your stop. At least that's what my sister says — she used to take the El from 69th Street in Upper Darby to West Philly to see hardcore shows at the old Stalag 13. She also went (just a decade underage, *ahem*) to The New Angle, a bar built in the 1800s at 39th and Lancaster Avenues.
Though the New Angle's sturdy stone facade once signified a pub where the landed gentry of green West Philadelphia would gather, by the '90s the joint had become the watering hole of choice for the impoverished hardcore bands and allowance-funded kids headed to the Stalag. To wit, the New Angle kept that venerable malt beverage, Old English "800," on tap. Yes, that's right, ON TAP. This made it terribly convenient to order a Brass Monkey, the orange juice and Old E intoxicant made famous by the Beastie Boys.
At my age, I'd rather drink a shot dribbled out of the bar mat than anything based on Old E. That funky monkey did get me thinking about beer cocktails, though. A great beer is the product of hundreds of hours of effort on the part of the brewer, refining recipes, adjusting temperatures, striving to create balance, clarity and a big 'ol head. Blending beer with other ingredients — juice, hard alcohol, or other beers — is slap in the face to the hard-working brewer. Bitch-slap, boys! Here are my faves.
Black Velvet: Equal parts Guinness stout and Champagne. Though likely to enrage both Guinness and Champagne purists, this is the elemental brunch drink. If you're into the local beer thing, Sly Fox Dry Stout makes a winning substitution for Irish suds.
Scalded Peach: Three parts Scaldis (bronze, high-octane Belgian ale) topped with one part Lindeman's Peche. Scaldis is well-known for being a booze bomb at 12 percent ABV, while the Lindeman's fruit beers barely qualify as alcohol. Mixing the two up softens the Scaldis burn with a friendly dose of peach and a little extra fizz. Serve in a champagne flute and quaff, pinky out.
Dirty Hoe: One of the original Belgian beer cocktails, this is tastiest served from the tap. Three parts Hoegaarden wheat beer is topped with one part Lindeman's Framboise, and the resulting pink drink is the perfect beverage to convert non-beer drinkers. Very popular with the ladies, despite the rude name.
Skip and Go Naked: Originating in the frat houses of yore, this sounds disgusting but is shockingly palatable. The original recipe calls for beer (light lager preferred), gin, lemon juice and grenadine, mixed in quantity in a clean trash can with a ski pole. Modern variants seem to veer more toward a beer, vodka and lemonade recipe; any and all variations generally lead to nights you won't be able to tell your kids about.
Michelada: A Mexican hot-weather treat, this translates to "frozen beer" and is a lighter take on drinking. Pale-colored lager (Pacifico, Corona) is blended with sangrita, a tomato juice spiked with fresh lemon, lime and orange juices and hot chili powder, and poured over ice. Very nice on the porch during sweaty Philly summers.
Snakebite: Equal parts hard cider and beer. I don't know why anyone drinks this. It's the perfect example of why civilians should never blend beers.
Baby bok choy has no competition for the title of Cutest Cabbage. Milder than its more mature counterpart, the young bok choy is suitable for braising, stir-frying, grilling or steaming. Sliced thin and added just before serving, it adds nutrition and texture to a winter soup. Rich in sulfur-containing phytonutrients, bok choy is related to cabbage, a cruciferous family that all contain those cancer-fighting compounds. Hung Vuong Supermarket at 11th and Washington has a diverse fresh produce section, and usually stocks bags of the petite cabbage for around two dollars.
A quick steam is all that is needed to preserve bok choy's mild flavor and appealing crunch, while a dressing that utilizes every part of the grapefruit — zest, flesh and juice — adds an acidic spark and pretty color contrast to the vegetable. Wash your grapefruits thoroughly with hot water and some vigorous friction to remove any wax or residual pesticide on the skin before zesting. A microplane or similar small rasp makes zesting about 5 million percent easier. Get one.
Recipe after the jump.
Steamed Baby Bok Choy with Grapefruit Vinaigrette
Go Get This:
1 lb. of baby bok choy heads
3 ruby red grapefruits (two for sectioning, one for juicing)
1/2 cup mild flavored oil, like grapeseed or flax
sea salt to taste
pinch black pepper
Now Do This:
1 Thoroughly wash grapefruits and baby bok choys. Drain.
2 Zest one grapefruit completely, taking care to leave the white, bitter pith behind. Reserve zest.
3 Section two grapefruits. Slice off the stem end in order to create a flat surface for the grapefruit to stand on, and slice off the remainder of the skin and pith with a sharp serrated knife.
4 Holding the fruit in your non-dominant hand, cut out sections of the grapefruit over a bowl to catch all the juice. Reserve the sections in their juice. Squeeze the crap out of the grapefruit skeleton to get out any remaining juice.
5 Completely juice the third grapefruit and add to your reserved sections. If you don't have 1 cup of juice, add bottled grapefruit juice to make 1 cup.
6 Whisk together the grapefruit juice, zest, grapeseed oil, sea salt and black pepper and reserve. Taste and adjust seasoning.
7 Pour two inches of water into a pot with a steamer lid, or if you don't have a steaming pot, stick an all-metal colander into a pot with an inch of water and lid tightly.
8 Slice each baby bok choy lengthwise and place in the pot. Once the water is boiling, steam for just a minute or two — bok choys should still be crisp and bright green.
9 Dress the bok choy with the grapefruit vinaigrette and serve warm, or refrigerate and serve chilled. Strew grapefruit sections on top of bok choy for a pretty garnish.
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.
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.
|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?
|Common curly kale||Italian kale, "cavolo nero"|
Kale, that curly superfood, is making its annual appearance crowding greenmarket tables. It is hard not to feel dismay viewing the heaps of greens; their arrival hails the coming of winter and its attendant lack of vegetable diversity. CSA members whose boxes overflow with the stuff week after week may become vexed by it — how much stir-fry can one family eat?
Kale belongs to the same family as cabbage, Brussels sprouts and collards; all are excellent sources of sulfur-containing phytonutrients. According to the nonprofit Web site The World's Healthiest Foods: "Human population as well as animal studies consistently show that diets high in cruciferous vegetables, such as kale, are associated with lower incidence of a variety of cancers, including lung, colon, breast and ovarian cancer."
Abundant in our area from late fall through early spring, hard frosts will produce sweet kale plants. The crop is easy to grow and prolific, making kale dead cheap, as well as providing more nutrients and fewer calories per cup than almost any food. Science aside, you won't eat the stuff if it doesn't taste good. A Web search of kale recipes turned up some unconventional preparations for the vegetable that preserve nutritional value and crank up the crave factor.
Mark Bittman, aka The Minimalist, tosses Tuscan black kale with proscuitto and pasta for a toothsome first course. One of his commenters adds a recipe for a kale salad adapted from Saveur which features so much parmigiano-reggiano it seems to void any health benefits.
Allrecipes.com has a method for making a snack out of the vegetable: baked kale chips with seasoned salt that even kids will eat. No word on husbands.
Heidi at 101 Cookbooks provides a way to amp up the nutrition of mashed potatoes with kale and garlic. Commenters point out that picky eaters will likely pick out the green bits, but at least you gave it a shot.
As with other leafy greens, dirt and sand hides well in the heads of kale. Cut the root end off the head and individually wash each leaf, or chop the leaves and wash them in a salad spinner. The tough stems of kale and the more tender leaves are practically two different vegetables; fold each slice in half lengthwise and strip out that tough central stem before cooking.
|Photo | Felicia D'Ambrosio|
As the trees shed their summer green and dress, instead, in flaming scarlet and tarnished gold, the tables at the farmer's market are growing greener.
Leeks, apples, kale, pears, fennel, cabbages and hardy fall herbs dominate at Philadelphia-area markets; the color drained from the landscape reborn through the dirt. The key to eating cheaply and well is to use what is abundant- don't fret the lack of strawberries; rejoice in the bounty of pears. That said, sometimes you end up with a mighty sack of some vegetable you have no idea what to do with. In my crisper drawer, I swear the apples are multiplying, and stalks of leeks lie suggestively together, daring me to tear them apart.
Marrying these two off seemed the only safe option. Kissing cousin to the hot onion and pungent garlic, leeks are possessed of a milder, sweeter onion flavor and taste smashing cooked in butter (or bacon fat, for the unapologetic.) They are brilliant with eggs, crowning a burger, or gently steamed and dressed with vinagrette. Crisp and meant for eating out of hand, Honeycrisp, Gala and Granny Smith apples only need to be sliced down and added raw to salads and sandwiches, like an Apple-Leek Grilled Cheese.
Directions for cleaning and sweating leeks after the jump, along with the method for Apple-Leek Grilled Cheese.
|Butter the bread, not the pan, for ultimate goodness.|
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
Cleaning and Sweating Leeks
1 bunch big fatty leeks or 3 bunches small spindly leeks
1 sexy hunk of butter or bacon fat
1. Leeks grow from the inside out, with their stalks pushing up through the sandy soil they prefer. It is important to clean them thoroughly before cooking.
2. Cut off the tough green top of the stalks; remove any bruised or sad-looking outer stalks. Cut off the root end of the leek and slice down lengthwise.
3. Slice each leek half crosswise, about one-quarter or one-half of an inch wide.
4. Fill a big bowl with cold water, and dump in all of the sliced leeks. Swish them around, and the sand and dirt will drop to the bottom of the bowl. Lift the leeks out in handfuls, leaving the sand and water behind. Rinse the washed leeks in a strainer once more and spread out in a single layer to dry a bit.
5. Preheat a heavy cast-iron or nonstick pan over a medium-high flame. Throw all of the leeks in and stir them around, allowing any remaining surface moisture to evaporate.
6. When the leeks seem fairly dry, throw a big hunk of butter or bacon fat in the pan and stir it around to get the leeks coated.
7. Now stir, stir and stir some more while the leeks cook down. You can turn up the heat if you want to caramelize them a little, but keep stirring and don't let it burn.
8. About fifteen minutes into this process, taste a leek. They are done when the leek is tender throughout and tastes sweet.
9. Season with salt. These sauteed leeks are perfect to add to almost all potato dishes (Potato-leek gratin!), egg anything, or to top hot sandwiches like a burger, or in place of slaw on a reuben.
Apple-Leek Grilled Cheese
Slices of any bread you like
One crisp apple, sliced thin
Some cheese of your choice (I like American for grilled cheese)
Butter for greasing the bread
1. Butter one side of your slices of bread. The easiest way to assemble grilled cheese is to butter the bread, then place the buttered sides of the slices together and build on top. That way you won't butter your cutting board (or, worst case scenario, the floor).
2. Put a slice of cheese on the bread first, then a layer of thin-sliced apple. Another slice of cheese, then a layer of the sauteed leeks. Top with the other slice of bread.
3. Place your sandwiches in a preheated non-stick pan over LOW heat. Grilled cheese is a delicate operation, it requires patience. A low flame will melt the cheese and give you an even toast on the bread. Lid the pan to maximize melt.
4. Flip sandwich after 3 minutes or so, when the down side is tan and toasted. Cover again.
5. Serve with salad and lots of napkins.
|Goodbye, marinara. It's been nice eating you.|
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
Every week, I head to Greensgrow Farms with my heart in my mouth, convinced that today is the day without tomatoes. Lusty red- and yellow-streaked heirlooms and petite plums are the soul of a simple marinara with caramelized onions and herbs that has sustained me since August, when the tomato harvest began pouring in from surrounding farms.
Every Thursday and Saturday, I rake the ruby bounty into my basket, casting suspicious eyes at my fellow shoppers, prepared to shovel yet faster should some other sauce-maker take a step toward my supply. Though I am not proud of this packrat behavior, these superior local tomatoes are at the true end of their season, and we will all go without fresh marinara until next summer's heat sends us a new harvest.
Scoop up the last tomatoes of the season and savor your last bite of summer with this garlic-less fresh marinara. Scads of caramelized red onions lend a subtle sweetness to the sauce without any additions of sugar. (But if you like garlic or have it on hand, by all means use it.) Shallots, red or white onions can be used interchangeably, and the sauce can be reduced to your preferred thickness. The marinara can also be puréed in a Cuisinart or blender to create a smooth texture for pizza or layered pasta dishes like eggplant parmigiana and lasagna. Gnocchi can be topped with marinara and grated Locatelli cheese for a quick dinner; simply scooped up with toasted slices of thick bread, it makes for a healthy Indian summer lunch. Recipe for Caramelized Onion Marinara after the jump.
|Bring your own box to Greensgrow|
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
Caramelized Onion Marinara
(Makes one large pot of sauce)
Go Get This:
5 lbs. fresh local tomatoes
2 large red onions
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Big handful of fresh herbs: parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, or a combination
Salt and pepper
hearty pinch of red pepper flakes if desired
Then Do This:
1. Put a large stockpot of water on the stove to boil. While waiting for the water to boil, core each tomato with a sharp knife and cut a small "X" in the skin of the bottom of the tomato.
2. Prepare a large bowl of ice water.
3. While you wait for the water to boil, dice the onions to your desired size. Rinse and pick herbs, chopping large herbs like basil and parsley.
4. When the water is boiling, place tomatoes in boiling water for 1-2 minutes until the skin splits. Fish the tomatoes out with a sieve or tongs and drop into ice water. Peel tomatoes.
5. With your fingers, bust open each tomato and pull out the seeds. This is easiest to do over two bowls: one for seeds, skin and trash, one for juices and tomato flesh.
6. Chop the deseeded tomato flesh into rough chunks.
7. In a heavy stockpot or cast-iron pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When it is very hot (the oil will shimmer like the air over the highway on a hot day) add the chopped onions. Stir to coat with oil.
8. Gently caramelize, but do not burn, the onions. Refrain from seasoning with salt until you have reached your desired level of brownness.
9. Season caramelized onions with salt and pepper; pour in the chopped tomatoes and all of their liquid. Turn flame up to high.
10. Bring tomatoes and onions in their liquid to a boil, stirring frequently. If you are short on time, leave the heat on full blast, stirring and checking frequently to avoid burnt spots, reducing the sauce to your desired thickness. If you've got all Sunday to do this, reduce heat to medium, simmer and reduce.
11. Once sauce has reduced to your preferred thickness, add chopped herbs and red pepper flakes (if desired). Serve hot over pasta or with thick toasted slices of bread.
|On the line, crushing it through the rush.|
Jesse Kimball, executive chef of the Memphis Taproom, Port Fishington's premier beer bar (2331 E. Cumberland St., 215-425-4460), fills us in on why he loves punk rock and fine dining equally, the secret of good fish 'n' chips and how he snagged a sweet job where tasting from all of the taps is a requirement.
Hometown: Born in Worcester, Mass.; grew up in central Maine
Years in the Biz: About 10 on and off since 1986
Signature Dish or Recipe: Roasted Tomato Bisque with Grilled Cheese Crouton (check out the recipe after the Q&A!)
Meal Ticket: You were at Lacroix and Matyson prior to the opening of Memphis Taproom. Why did you want to move away from fine dining type of cuisine to head up the kitchen of a beer bar?
Jesse Kimball: Because I love beer. When I was working in hotels on the Maine Coast in the late '80s, brewpubs were starting to become established ... the supermarkets and gas stations started carrying craft brews. My life was all about punk rock and skateboarding and independent film, so of course I drank these beers rather than the Coors Lights that the 21-year-old frat guys — who were buying me the beer — were drinking. Now I love all beer.
I never had the money to eat in fine dining restaurants, and I hate
wearing suits, but I love good food, so I've always searched out the
"best-kept secret" kind of places: the low-brow restaurants where you
can tell the food is prepared with love using the best ingredients.
When I was given the opportunity to open one of these special places, I
dropped everything else and jumped on it. I worked in fine dining
restaurants to learn and I eat at them to continue leaning, but I'm
often more comfortable eating at a good bar.
MT: Did you cook with beer before you worked at Memphis?
JK: Absolutely! I also cooked with hops, barley and malt before I worked
there, and I'm a home brewer. I gave Brendan [Hartranft, co-owner of
Memphis Taproom] a six-pack of a 12-month-aged strong ale I brewed for
Christmas a few years ago, and I think it helped me get the chef gig.
One time at Matyson, I was making fish and chips for the staff and
really impressed the chef, Matt Spector. Instead of using the ginger
ale we had on the line for doing tempura, I used my last can of Bud. This was beer-battered fish — how could I skimp on that crucial
ingredient? At Lacroix, we would spend a lot of our time coming up with
dishes for the multi-course Chef's Table dinners. One of the cooks was
also a good home brewer and had made several beers in the kitchen and
we'd cook with those, or give them as accompanying "shots." Once, we
paired some seared foie gras with homemade jelly donuts and his oatmeal
stout — fine dining, McKenzie Brothers style. Another time, we gave it
with a deconstructed "burger and a beer" dish.
MT: What is your favorite style of beer, or certain brew you always return to — for both drinking and cooking?
beer program at the Memphis Taproom is very important to the bar's
mission, so the entire staff is educated about beer, especially the
draft list. So of course, I make it my business to sample every beer
that runs through those taps. That way, I know what food will pair well
with the beers. During the day when I'm cooking, braising meat or
making a sauce, I'll browse the taps to see what will best serve my
purpose. Do I need something sweet, bitter, something that tastes
roasted, something herbal, something that tastes like caramel or citrus?
For the beer-battered stuff, I stay pretty neutral. For the King Rarebit
[sandwich], I always use [Theakston's] Old Peculier. When I'm browsing the taps for a drink, I
tend to like pilsners, bitters and IPAs, especially Lagunitas. Certain
beers I always return to for drinking are the ones in my refrigerator
at home, which tend to be cans of Natty Bo and Black Labels or bottles
of Spaten or Singha.
MT: What do you cook for yourself at home? Or do you usually order takeout?
JK: I love cooking at home, and one of the reasons I love cooking at home
so much is because I love food shopping. A perfect day is having Dim
Sum or Oregon Diner for breakfast, then hitting the Vietnamese or
Mexican supermarkets on Washington Ave. or the West Indian/Caribbean
grocery stores and Pakistani markets in West Philly, and taking the
exotic items home and smoking them in my backyard open pit or braising
them in Dutch ovens. Braised or smoked chicken legs or pork shoulders
show up on my dining room table quite often, or for a treat, nice thick
steaks seared in a cast-iron skillet, with baked potatoes or steamed
shellfish — blue crabs, stone crabs, clams or lobsters, with plenty of
melted butter and cold beers. Takeout in West Philly, where I live, is a
crapshoot of bulletproof glass Chinese takeaways and Muslim pizza
joints. I generally stick to the spots where the pepperoni is made from
MT: Memphis co-owner Leigh Maida described you once as "fine dining background combined with a punk-rock style." How right on is that?
JK: That's because I garnish all my food with safety pins and razor blades! That's a good observation. Punk rock has been a big part of my life, and I cook from the heart, so of course it shows up in the plates we're putting out at the Memphis Taproom. There are refined gestures taken from the fine dining world, but also punk-rock urgency — a raw energy to the food. The kitchen is staffed by a bunch of punk rockers, so we're listening to Radio Birdman, Negative Approach, Gorilla Biscuits or Converge while we're cooking. What I really love about punk rock is the stripped-down raw beauty of it, and that is what I also love about fine dining. Just as the Stooges and the Ramones ripped apart rock 'n' roll to its three-chord roots and reinvented it, chefs like Alain Ducasse, Marco Pierre White and Ferran Adria broke the classics down to good ingredients and reconstructed them using new techniques — simple yet artistic, extravagant and over the top. Haute cuisine and punk rock have both long been pronounced dead, but as we move forward, I'll certainly acknowledge them as my roots.
ROASTED TOMATO BISQUE w/ GRILLED CHEESE CROUTON
(Jesse Kimball, Executive Chef, Memphis Taproom)
In the restaurant we use lots of tomatoes this time of year. We get them from a farm out in Lancaster County that only delivers once a week, so we’ll always order some extra. I roast the tomatoes — heirlooms, beefsteaks, plums, whatever we have — and turn them into a bisque. A popular garnish for the soup is a grilled cheese crouton, a bite-size round grilled cheese floating in the bowl. This is how you could make it at home.
ROASTED TOMATO BISQUE
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Take 3 tomatoes, cut them in half and lay them on a cookie sheet skin side down. Drizzle them with 1/4 cup olive oil or so. Then generously season them with sea salt, sugar and freshly ground black pepper. Lay a few sprigs of parsley and thyme, say 5 or 6 each, over them and put in the oven to roast. While they are roasting, get 2 Vidalia onions, a carrot, 2 celery ribs and 3 garlic cloves and uniformly and finely chop them all up. Also measure out 5 tablespoons of butter, 3 tablespoons of flour, 2 cups of stock or water, 2 cups of tomato juice, 1/2 cup of heavy cream and a couple tablespoons of bourbon or other booze to spike the soup.
When the tomatoes give off a nice smell and are dried out a bit (about an hour or so), take them out of the oven and throw away the herbs. Now you're ready to make the soup. Heat your pan and sweat your onions, carrots, celery, and garlic in 3 tablespoons of the butter. Make sure to season them with a little salt and pepper. When they are soft, sprinkle your flour over them and stir until it is incorporated and begins to toast. Add your stock, tomato juice and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Purée the soup and pass through a fine-mesh strainer. Put back onto the stove and fold in your heavy cream and bourbon, then whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Garnish with grilled cheese croutons.
GRILLED CHEESE CROUTON
Lay a piece of plastic wrap on your counter. Butter a piece of bread (Pepperidge Farm white sandwich loaf is a good choice) and lay it butter side down on the wrap. Put a slice of cheese on top, and cut rounds with a biscuit cutter. Heat up your pan and toast your bread butter side down. When it is golden brown, float it on your soup, cheese side down.
Progressive restaurant shopping list: soda charges, basil seeds, pork belly, mirin ... Jolly Ranchers? Peering into the pantry at Snackbar (253 S. 20th St., 215-545-5655) can be an exercise in puzzlement. Vanilla beans jarred in sugar makes sense; quart containers of Jolly Ranchers throws you for a loop. The answer lies in the modern cooking style often termed "molecular gastronomy," a somewhat scientific approach to technique popularized by Spanish chef Ferran Adria of the revolutionary restaurant El Bulli. Top-notch kitchen gear here is essential: vacuum sealing machines and appropriate polyethylene bags, immersion circulators for cooking under pressure, soda canisters, liquid nitrogen. Critics of the style claim the science-project approach steals the soul from preparation. But many proponents, including Thomas Keller of the French Laundry and Per Se, assert that such practices are meant to showcase exceptional ingredients in a new way.
Snackbar executive chef Joshua Homacki uses some of these techniques for his menu, which features recognizable plates with unconventional tweaks. He loves his Mini-Pack vacuum sealing machine, essential equipment for the sous vide method. "We bag and seal pretty much everything," he cheerfully admits, slicing open a packet of harissa spice paste. Sous vide, French for "under vacuum," is a cooking technique where raw food is sealed into a plastic bag from which all air is removed. Sometimes called "Cryovac-ing," the sealed bags can then be cooked in liquid, under pressure, at a much lower temperature than usual.
This is where those Jolly Ranchers come in. Using the Mini-Pack, Homacki creates an apple "kimchi" infused with an acidic solution of green apple Jolly Ranchers melted into mirin and white vinegar, sparked with a custom-blended harissa and hot pepper paste. The sweet, spicy potion is concentrated into the flesh of sliced Gala apples when put under the vacuum, forming a tight, colorful package of space fruit.
Crisp, spicy, sweet and gorgeous to look at, Homacki's concoction is still in the R&D stage. The chef, when pressed for likely combinations for the fruit accompaniment, suggests seared pork belly or buttermilk-fried veal sweetbreads. He shares his recipe for Jolly Rancher Apple Kimchi after the jump. A cook without a home vacuum sealing machine (like a Foodsaver) can simply jar the mixture, making sure the apples are completely covered with liquid, and store in the fridge.
JOLLY RANCHER APPLE KIMCHI WITH HARISSA AND HOT PEPPER PASTE
(Joshua Homacki, Executive Chef, Snackbar)
20 green apple Jolly Ranchers, stripped of wrappers
270 g. white vinegar
70 g. sweet mirin
8 Gala apples
2 tsp. Korean hot pepper powder
2 tsp. harissa paste
Then Do This:
1. Combine the Jolly Ranchers, white vinegar and mirin in a small saucepan. Place over low heat, stirring frequently, until the candies are completely melted.
2. Slice the apples in to quarter-inch slices, set aside in a large bowl. No cores, please.
3. Once the candies are completely melted, pour the liquid into a container. Place in refrigerator until completely cooled, at least half an hour.
4. Combine the Jolly Rancher infusion with the hot pepper powder and harissa until well mixed.
5. Pour the liquid over the apple slices and mix well with gloved hands. Don't get the hot pepper powder in your eyes or on your hands, it will suck.
6. Scoop the apples into glass jars and fill to the top with the remaining liquid. Make sure the apples are completely covered in liquid.
7. Refrigerate at least three days and up to a week.
8. Makes enough to share. Eat!
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