|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
This is the time of year we're supposed to crave nothing but whiskey drinks and comfort food, infusing our layers of fat with anesthetizing oaky potions to sustain us through this wintriest winter since recordkeeping began in 1884.
I say, to hell with that. What I want are raw vegetable salads bright with chopped parsley and lemon juice, the watery crunch of cucumbers and affirming bitterness of endive. Such food needs a drink partner with a lighter touch, something to remind us that the sun will melt the heaps of dirty, porous snow eventually.
Enter the Bronx cocktail, allegedly invented by Johnny Solon at the Waldorf before Prohibition. Gin, sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, freshly-squeezed orange juice and bitters are shaken hard into a cocktail that's not too boozy to serve as an apertif, stiff enough to be manly and refreshingly sweet, tart, bitter and spicy.
Locally distilled Bluecoat Gin, with its restrained botanicals, provides a blank canvas that allows good quality (or at the very least, fresh) vermouth to shine; Bluecoat is the ideal gin for folks who claim to hate the spirit. I'm one myself, having had the bad judgement as a teenager to sneak swills straight from the Tanqueray bottle one grim night.
With Angostura bitters currently in short supply in the U.S., Fee Bros. Old-Fashion Aromatic Bitters make a cinnamony, complex addition. Since citrus is in season and dead cheap right now, I juiced a few sweet tangerines to add the final touch.
adapted from Dale DeGroff, The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks (Clarkson Potter)
1.5 oz. Bluecoat Gin
0.5 oz. Punt e Mes Italian sweet vermouth
0.5 oz. Tribuno dry vermouth
1 oz. fresh-squeezed tangerine juice (or orange, or clementine)
Dash of Fee Bros. Old-Fashion Bitters
Tangerine or orange peel for garnish
Combine the gin, sweet and dry vermouths, tangerine juice and bitters in a mixing glass with ice and shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a tangerine or orange peel.
The cook's methods for tenderizing the chewy flesh of the octopus are as various as the rainbow of colors the molluscan cephalopod's skin can flash though for camouflage. Varga Bar (941 Spruce St.) chef R. Evan Turney (pictured) cited at least half a dozen anecdotal prescriptions for its preparation, from parboiling the creature with wine corks or cylinders of cut-up copper pipes to applying daikon radish to the tentacles.
Turney put wives' tales aside and shared the method that makes Varga's wood-grilled octopus with potato masala, English peas and black olive vinaigrette (pictured) as tender as the inside of your elbow. Learn it after the jump.
Basic Octopus Method
by R. Evan Turney, exec chef of Varga Bar (as told to Felicia D'Ambrosio)
Bring a large pot of courtbouillon (fish stock, lemons and aromatics) to a full boil.
Hold octopus by the head; if using several, tie their heads together to make next steps easier.
Holding octopus by the head(s); dip tentacles completely into boiling stock and lift out after a few seconds.
Allow pot to fully boil again; dip tentacles again into stock and lift out.
Allow pot to fully boil a third time; dip octopus into water and release.
Turn heat down until stock is just simmering (small bubbles). Allow octopus to simmer for at least two hours; check for tenderness by removing octopus from pot and attempting to pull away one tentacle. It should detach from the body when done.
Working carefully while octopus is still hot, strip away suction cups with a kitchen towel (if desired; some people enjoy the texture of the suction cups).
Marinate cleaned tentacles in a mixture of olive oil, a dash of lemon juice, herbs and a splash of good vinegar. Allow to rest in marinade for at least an hour.
Heat a grill pan, charcoal or gas grill to medium-high; grill tentacles to order to crisp the skin and warm through; be wary of drying the flesh out.
Serve as you like, immediately.
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
|Cheap & easy protein|
Many home cooks (including myself) who aren't afraid of breaking down a leg of lamb or spending two hours blanching and peeling minute pearl onions for an edible project still flinch away from cooking fish.ï¿½ The invisible bones, the lingering smell and the inevitable sticking and trashing of the expensive fillets are kind of a scary prospect.
My dear friend Nicole Pogas (who has cooked at Pif and Vetri, and taught me how to perfectly poach an egg) and I cooked a fast dinner the other night that employed her oven-roasting method for skinless, boneless fillets of tilapia. Her method removes the fear from cooking fish because you pre-heat a sheet tray in the oven and then add the fillets to it, which keeps the flesh from sticking and the lingering fishy smells under control.ï¿½ All tilapia, a hardy, freshwater white-fleshed fish native to North Africa, are farm-raised, mostly in the U.S., Central America and Asia.ï¿½ The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch lists U.S.-raised fresh tilapia as the Best Choice for sustainability; with Central American specimens as a Good Alternative.ï¿½ They recommend avoiding frozen tilapia from Asia because of pollution and farming practices.
Other thin, boneless-skinless fillets of fish can also be cooked using this method.ï¿½ After the jump, Nicole Pogas' super-fast Oven-Roasted Tilapia with Cucumber Salad.
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
|Placing the fish fillets on a preheated sheet tray keeps them from sticking|
Oven-Roasted Tilapia with Cucumber Salad
By Nicole Pogas
Go Get This:
3 boneless, skinless fresh tilapia fillets
2 English cucumbers (you can use ordinary cucumbers, too, but English cukes have way fewer seeds)
3 thin green onions (scallions)
A few sprigs dill
A few sprigs Italian flat-leaf parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
A few small glugs extra-virgin olive oil
Two small pats butter
Your choice of starch or sauteed greens
Now Do This:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for at least fifteen minutes.ï¿½ When oven reaches temp, place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven to heat, at least 15 minutes.
While the oven is preheating, completely peel both cucumbers.ï¿½ Cut 1/4 inch off ends and discard.ï¿½ Slice trimmed cuke in half lengthwise and place flat side down on cutting board. Thinly slice cucumbers and place in large mixing bowl.
Cut root ends and tough green parts off green onions and discard, keeping the white and light green parts.ï¿½ Slice the green onions as thinly as you can and add to mixing bowl.
Take one lemon and zest it all over with a peeler or Microplane.ï¿½ Add all lemon zest to cucumber/green onion bowl.ï¿½ Cut zested lemon in half and juice both halves thoroughly; add juice to mixing bowl.ï¿½ Take second lemon and cut in half; juice one half into bowl and reserve other half to be cut into wedges for garnishing finished plate.
Wash and finely chop dill and parsley; add to mixing bowl.
Season cucumber salad with salt and pepper to taste; cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest in refrigerator while you cook the fish.
Remove tilapia fillets from packaging and season all over with salt and pepper.
Once the sheet pan has heated in the hot oven for at least 15 minutes, remove it from oven with oven mitts or tongs and place on heatproof surface (the range top is ideal, or use a few hot pads or a trivet).
Pour a hearty glug of olive oil onto hot sheet pan, then add a pat or two of butter.ï¿½ Arrange tilapia fillets on oil and butter and return to oven.ï¿½ Roast for about seven minutes; then remove sheet from oven and flip fish with large spatula.ï¿½ Return to oven and cook about five more minutes, until flesh is opaque white and firm to the touch.
Serve hot fish over your choice of starch or sauteed greens; top with cold cucumber salad.ï¿½ Cut wedges from reserved lemon half and serve on plate for squeezing over.
|Photo | Mark Stehle|
Over on the Green Aisle Grocery blog, Meal Ticket's very own Felicia D shares her can't-miss hot toddy recipe for all those chilly present-wrapping nights ahead of you. Though the recipe is not entirely one-stop ï¿½ Green Aisle (1618 E. Passyunk Ave.) doesn't sell bourbon, of course ï¿½ you can get almost all of the other ingredients from Andrew and Adam Erace's store. Checkit!
Preston Eckman, beverage manager at APO Bar + Lounge (102 S. 13th St.) doesn't need to criss-cross the globe for cocktail inspiration ï¿½ take the Corner Store, a brand-new cold-weather tipple he's concocted using ingredients sourced from ... the corner store near his house in Fairmount.
He snagged a majority of the more rudimentary ingredients for the gin-based drink (OJ, cinnamon, black tea) at JK Food Market at 20th and Green, but the garnish came about by pure happenstance ï¿½ Eckman says he ran into a dude outside the store who was brandishing a box of black mission figs, and ended up pocketing a few. Then voila ï¿½ "Corner Store is born."
Beefeater 24, the new tea-infused gin from the UK distiller, is Eckman's liquor of choice for the drink. Steeped for 24 hours (but of course) with 12 atypical botanicals ï¿½ stuff like Japanese sencha tea, Chinese green tea, bitter almond and Seville orange peel ï¿½ BE24 represents a bit of an interesting cocktail-head departure for the London-based label, which has a long-standing reputation as your pop's bottle of choice (what, your pops doesn't drink Beefeater?). BE24 debuted in Philly in October and can be found at most mixology-savvy bars here in the city.
Eckman tells Meal Ticket that the Corner Store is part of an in-the-works APO specialty list that'll feature tea-based drinks ï¿½ it doesn't appear on the proper menu as of right now, but just ask for it by name and you've got it. Check out his recipe after the jump.
The Corner Store
Created by Preston Eckman of APO Bar & Lounge in Philadelphia
2 oz. Beefeater 24
1 oz. black and brown syrup*
.5 oz. fresh orange juice
2 springs of thyme
1 black mission fig
Muddle 2 sprigs worth of thyme leaves and 1 black mission fig then add 2 oz. Beefeater 24. Shake ingredients heavily and double strain over ice in an old fashioned glass. Garnish with a smacked thyme sprig stuck in half a fig set on the rim of the glass.
* To make the syrup: Combine 2 cups water and 5 crushed cinnamon sticks and bring to boil for 10 min.ï¿½ Let steep for 10 more min and strain off cinnamon. Add .75 cup of white sugar and stir until dissolved. Then steep 12 black tea bags for 20 minutes. Cool and use.
|Courtesy of the Almond Board of California|
You'll have to wash your hands before you make me lunch,
Everyone's favorite hunky Brit adventurer and host of Discovery's Man vs. Wild, Bear Grylls, has teamed up with the Almond Board of California to bring you "Man vs. Hunger," a "survival snacking action plan."
Sadly, the recipes are not for lightly toasted grubs or snake kebabs. Bear has gone the mass appeal route, prescribing apple-almond oatmeal for breakfast and tuna crunched up with toasted sliced nuts for a mid-hike snack. He's even cooked up positively elegant almond-parmesan crisps that would be lovely on a bark serving platter at your next survival-themed dinner party.
Try the two-ingredient recipe for almond-parmesan crisps after the jump; visit almondboard.com for more of Bear's recipes.
|Photo courtesy Almond Board of California|
Almond Parmesan Crisps, courtesy Bear Grylls and the Almond Board of California
Makes 8 Crisps
1/2 cup high-quality, finely shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 400ï¿½F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or coatï¿½ it with baking spray. Stir together Parmesan and almonds in a smallï¿½ bowl. To make crackers, form 8 small piles of cheese and almonds onï¿½ the lined sheet pan, using your fingers. Flatten each pile to create anï¿½ even thickness. Bake about 6-7 minutes, until browned on theï¿½ edges. Remove and set aside to cool until crisp, about 10ï¿½ minutes. Serve immediately, or store between paper towels in anï¿½ airtight container for up to 3 days.
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
Hot booze is this season's thing, darlings.ï¿½ It warms you up from the inside out and gives any intimate gathering a real White Christmas vibe, to boot.ï¿½ Supper (928 South St.) first made their spiked cider, the Manzana, for a Yelp Elite event -- it was such a hit they added it to the regular repetoire, and now reveal how you can make it at home.
The combination of local, unpasteurized apple cider, Herradura tequila, a touch of cayenne and star anise makes this Spanish-accented apple a welcome change from the typical sweet Irish coffee.ï¿½ Try your hand at the simple recipe, or visit Supper to for a Manzana garnished with an aroma-therapeutic sprig of pineapple sage from chef Mitch Prensky's garden behind the restaurant.
Click the jump for Supper's recipe for the Manzana.
Manzana (serves one)
5 oz.ï¿½ local apple cider
Pinch cayenne to taste
One piece star anise
One stick Mexican cinnamon
1.5 oz. Herradura silver tequila
In a small saucepan, combine apple cider, star anise, cayenne.ï¿½ Warm over a low flame until just simmering.ï¿½ï¿½ Pour tequila into a heatproof mug or glass; pour infused cider over tequila. Garnish with cinnamon stick and pineapple sage if you have a sweet backyard garden.ï¿½ Drink.
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
|This was only one table of the spread last year|
T-day is just around the corner, procrastinators. Whether you're hosting the big feed or trekking out to Grandma's, it is time to get your shop on. Acme and Whole Foods have already descended into Lord of the Flies-style madness; DiBruno Brothers is more Apocalypse Now.ï¿½ Still, arriving right at opening hour keeps you ahead of the worst of the fray, along with arming yourself with detailed lists of to-dos and things you need to beg, borrow or buy before Thursday (as well as a protective bubble of patience and/or well-developed appreciation for chaos).
Just in case you're still stumped on what to offer your loved ones this holiday, we've pulled our most holiday-appropriate SUPPER recipes and tricks from the archives.ï¿½ Check it out:
- Butternut (or Kabocha) squash soup gets spiked with garam masala and apple cider vinegar in a first-course recipe that's incidentally vegan
- Massaging a kale salad can help relieve turkey anxiety. A little salt and olive oil breaks down the superfood for raw eating; add seasonal treats like toasted pine nuts, sliced kumquats or pomegranate seeds to this healthy green side that takes up zero space on the stovetop (vegetarian)
- My great-grandmother invented aï¿½ stuffing that has traveled the word. Bacon, celery, onions, parsley, white bread and a clutch of eggs make this savory bread pudding the highlight of the meal and everyone's most-wanted take home item
- Don't forget about the bread, which you can make the day before and smash into the oven for ten minutes to warm when the guests arrive.ï¿½ Try classic, gruyere-rich gougeres to butter your family into good behavior, or a batch of savory muffins (we like rosemary-Parmigiano) that add a homey touch to the table.
|Photos | Mark Stehle|
If you picked up a copy of City Paper this week, you probably already peeped out our fall '09 Meal Ticket supplement, which features features, recipes and more. It's now online, so be sure to check out Felicia D's roundup of delicious fall dishes (featuring recipes from Fork and Sweetie's Pie Diner) plus her feature on the hot toddy, everyone's favorite chill-in-the-air beverage. Cheers!
|Photo | Drew Lazor
Busted this 2.5-pound-plus package of short rib from Natural Meadows Farm out of the freezer last night, meaning they'll be all thawed out and ready to go for this evening. We're really looking forward to getting down ï¿½ the only problem is we're a bit stuck in terms of which direction to go with them. That's where y'all come in ï¿½ please share your best ideas/recipes in the comments, and give us a little direction. Don't have a reliable slow cooker (or much patience), so naturally leaning toward a grilling-type situation, but truly open to any and all thoughts. So what have you got, Meal Ticketers? Barbecued? Braised? Short rib sandwich? Just put them in the microwave with some Kikkoman? We want your suggestions!
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