Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ginger Wine Chicken

I brought back a bottle of Stone's Ginger Wine from vacation for the sole purpose of replicating the ginger wine chicken I had at Palm's Delight in Tortola. This past week, it was time to give it a shot. Before I had left the restaurant that night, I had asked the chef what went into the ginger wine chicken. She told me Stone's Ginger Wine and heavy cream. Ginger wine is made with raisins and ground ginger and has a sweet refreshing taste.
When I got home I did a little research and found a recipe that sounded like the one she told me. Here it is (courtesy of

2 large boneless chicken breasts
1 cup flour
½ cup olive oil Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup Stone's Original Green Ginger Wine
½ cup cream

To make this take the chicken and pound it to about a half and inch in thickness. Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a pan. While the oil is heating, coat both sides of the chicken in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot (you can test by sprinkling some flour into the oil and if it sizzles it is ready) add the chicken breasts.
Once the chicken browns on one side flip the chicken over and cook until browned. Remove the chicken as it is done and continue until all the chicken is cooked.

After removing all the chicken, it is time to deglaze the pan with the ginger wine. Scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan as you stir the ginger wine around. Bring to a boil until the sauce is reduced by half. Next add the heavy cream and mix the sauce together, making sure not to bring the sauce to a boil once the cream is added.

Add the chicken back to the pan and cover with the sauce.
I served this with sauteed zucchini. This is a great recipe. It reminded me of the dish I had in Tortola. The flavors are creamy and rich with sweet notes. The big difference between mine and the restaurants was that they got their chicken crispier on the outside, which is something I hope to have better luck with next time.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tortola - Gingerwine Chicken

My fiance and I got back this week from Tortola, which is in the British Virgin Islands. It was an amazing week. Tortola is very laid back and has some great food. We stayed at the Sugar Mill hotel, which is a 30 room hotel with what is considered the best restaurant on the island. We were also able to visit Jost Van Dyke and Norman islands. This is the first of a couple posts about where we ate.

I'll start with one of the best meals of the trip. It occurred at Palm's Delight.
Palm's Delight is a small restaurant right on the water in Carrot Bay on Tortola. We had gone there for one thing...the gingerwine chicken. Every local told us this was a must. After walking up and over a small mountain to get there, we were starving. When we entered we found out just how much American influence there is as the waiter, cooks, and a couple others were gathered around the TV watching Deal or No Deal.

Now back to the food. To start we ordered conch fritters of which I forgot to take a picture. However, they were perfect morsels of fried goodness. They came with a house sauce that we creamy and spicy. Just a perfect compliment. And now on to the main event, the chicken heard round the island.

It is a breast of chicken floured and pan fried and topped with the gingerwine sauce. It is served with rice with pigeon peas, steamed vegetables, and coleslaw. The sauce is amazing. Sweet and buttery, the perfect compliment to the chicken.

On our way out, the chef was standing near the door and I asked what was in the sauce. She said gingerwine and heavy cream. Now this shocked me. I had no idea what gingerwine was, I thought it was ginger and wine. Of course after this revelation, I had to find some gingerwine to bring home. Which I did. So this week the goal is to try and replicate that chicken. I'll let you know the results.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pork Belly Buns

I was shopping this past Sunday when I came across fresh pork belly. This is something I have always wanted to cook but never got around to it. Without having a recipe in mind I bought the pork belly and figured I would decide what to do with it when I got home. I had all day to cook on Memorial day and decided to make a version of David Chang's steamed pork buns. Having been to Momofuku Ssam bar and eating the pork buns I knew the greatness of the flavors involved. A quick internet search turned up a couple different versions from David Chang. I went with this one found on

I was lazy and decided that I would be able to find the steamed buns at the store but unfortunately I came up empty and ended up steaming potato rolls as the buns. This turned out to work perfectly.

Here's what you need for the pork belly:

1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
4 1/2 cups water, divided
2 1/2 lb skinless boneless pork belly, cut into quarters
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

The first thing to do is to brine the pork. Brining helps force extra moisture and seasoning deep into the meat further ensuring a moist end product. The recipe called for 12 hours but I only had 6, which turned out to be enough. To make the brine combine the salt, sugar and water in a a bowl and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Put the pork belly in a large resealable bag and cover with the brine and refrigerate. Pre-heat an oven to 300 degrees. Put the pork belly, fat side up, in an baking pan. Pour 1/2 cup of broth and remaining 1/2 cup water into the pan. Cover tightly with foil and roast until the pork belly is very tender. It took me about 2 1/2 hours.

After the two and half hours crank the heat up to 450 degrees to brown the fat. Put the pork belly back in the oven uncovered and cook for about 20 minutes until the fat is nice and golden. Here is what it looked like after 20 minutes.At this point to make it easier to cut, you let the pork rest and cool for 30 minutes and then refrigerate uncovered for an hour before cutting. After the pork belly was chilled I sliced it across the grain into 1/4-inch slices. To reheat I put the slices in the pan juices and heated them at 350 degrees for until hot, which took 15 minutes.

To serve a steamed the rolls for a few minutes until soft and heated through. Then I brushed the bottom half of the roll with hoisin sauce, topped it with a few strips of pork belly, and topped it with a few thin slices of cucumber and chopped scallions.

This was amazing. The fattiness of the pork belly is not overwhelming and the meat is moist and tender. One friend who tried it said the flavor reminded him of a chinese sparerib (due to the hoisin), just a whole lot tastier. While probably not as great as Chang's, it was pretty awesome. And there is always something that makes it taste better when you are the one that makes it. It is something I would definitely make again because the recipe is not the difficult.
Here is one final shot of the completed dish

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Southern Cooking - Pulled Pork

One of my favorite things to do is barbeque. So once the weather warmed up enough to make cooking outside tolerable it was the first thing that came to mind. I decided to make a smoked pork shoulder and Michael Rulhman's cornbread(Post coming soon).

To make the pork you need a 5-8 pound pork shoulder, apple cider vinegar, apple cider and a rub. A rub is a big part of bbq. Lots of people have secret recipes that are never shared. Well I don't have a problem sharing since all I do is mix the same spices together in whatever quantity I like that day. The essentials in my rub are: brown sugar, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper.

The night before smoking I inject the pork with a mixture of apple cider and apple cider vinegar to help keep it moist while it smokes. Then I put the rub on. Here it is ready to go marinate for the night. The next day I got an early start since it takes about an hour to hour and a half per pound. I used hardwood charcoal with applewood and mapplewood chips (soaked in water for 20 min before using). You want to kept the temperature in the 225 - 250 degree range. It took me 9 hours to get to 180 degrees. I let it rest for 20 mins and then pulled it. Here's the final product.

I served this on plain white rolls so that the bread doesn't effect the taste of the pork along with a North Carolina vinegar sauce (Apple cider vinegar, water, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes). Smoked meats are some of the best eats. I could eat this everday.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ramp and Bacon Frittata

Yesterday I made a trip to the greenmarket in Union Square. I picked up some farm fresh eggs, sourdough bread and of course ramps. These ramps were amzingly fresh and smelled fantastic.

For those that might not have heard of them, ramps are a spring vegetable that is a mix between onions and garlic and looks a lot like a scallion.

For breakfast today I decided to make a frittata with the ramps, and bacon I had on had. I served it over a toasted piece of the sourdough bread. What a perfect breakfast for a nice sunny day.

Here's the recipe:

6 eggs (4 whole eggs, two egg whites)
4 slices bacon
3 ramps
cheddar cheese
sourdough bread

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Dice the bacon and add to a non-stick skillet to render the fat and crisp up the bacon. I very rarely use a non-stick skillet but I do for eggs because it makes it much easier.

2. While the bacon is cooking, clean the ramps, removing the translucent husk over the bulb (if necessary), and slice to separate the leaves from the bulbs. Stack the leaves on top of one another, roll them up lengthwise, and slice thinly into ribbons (julienned).

3. Once the bacon is browned, remove it from the pan and drain off some of the fat. All you need is a little bit to saute the ramps in.

4. Add the bulb portion of the ramps to the pan and saute for a minute until fragrant. You don't want to add the leafy portion yet because it will overcook. While the ramps are cooking, combine the eggs with salt and pepper.

5. Next add the eggs to the pan along with the bacon, leafy portion of the ramps, and cheese. Stir this one or two times until almost cooked through. While the top is still runny put in a 375 degree oven for 5 minutes until the top sets.

6. Take it out of the oven and let it rest for a minute before cutting it up and digging in. I served it over toasted sourdough bread.

This was a great spring breakfast. Light, fresh and flavorful. A great way to start the morning.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Weeknight Meals - Wienerschnitzel

Wienerschnitzel is a traditional Austrian dish and is a popular part of Viennese and Austrian cuisine. It consists of a thin slice of veal coated in breadcrumbs and fried. Growing up my grandmother, who grew up in Vienna, would make this for us all the time. Over the years it was made with everything from the traditional veal to pork or chicken. Technically, wienerschnitzel only covers the traditional veal cutlet but growing up we always called it wienerschnitzel no matter what meat we used. This is a simple and easy weeknight dish that delivers a lot of flavor.

This time there was no good veal at the store so I went with chicken. Here's the recipe:

1 lbs chicken, veal or pork cutlets
2 eggs
bread crumbs
oil (a neutral oil like canola or grapeseed)
3-4 large red potatoes

To make the wienerschnitzel you need thin cutlets like those you would use for scallopini. If you are not able to get thin cutlets from the store, butterfly the thicker pieces and pound them to about 1/4 inch thick. You want nice and thin cutlets so that the breading does not burn by the time the middle is cooked.

On to the cooking. First set up a breading station. You are going to need three bowls. One with the flour, which I seasoned with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder. The second with the two eggs scrambled. And the third with the breadcrumbs.

Take one cutlet and dredge it in the flour. Knock off the excess and put it into the eggs. Then finally into the breadcrumbs. Repeat this until you are done with all the cutlets.

Unfortunately, even with trying hard to use one hand for the dry ingredients and one for the wet, I ended up with a club of breading on the end of my hand. Therefore, I have no pictures of this process. But here are the cutlets all breaded and ready for cooking.

Heat a large skillet with about a 1/4 inch of a neutral oil. I used grapeseed oil because of the neutral flavor and high smoke point but canola oil would work just as well. Once the oil is hot (you can test by sprinkling a couple breadcrumbs in and if they sizzle then its hot enough) add one or two cutlets in and let cook until golden brown then flip. Here they are all done. Just serve with a side of lemon to squeeze on and you're good to go.With this I served skillet roasted potatoes. I cut the potatoes into chunks and boiled them until just tender. I strained them and tossed them with salt, pepper, and rosemary. I heated another pan up with butter and a little oil and sauteed the potatoes until golden.

This is a perfect comfort food meal and great for any day of the week. This is also a great base for veal or chicken parmesan. If you make this once, I guarantee you will love it and it will become a go to dish.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Zylo - A Tuscan Steakhouse

Recently a W hotel opened up in Hoboken, NJ. Inside is a tuscan steakhouse run by Troy Unruh. Being the first of its kind in Hoboken, it was time to check it out, even if it had only been open since March 27th. I went last weekend and left surprised.

The layout of the restaurant is nice. When you walk in there is a bar on your right as you face the NYC skyline. There are tables in front and in another room in the back.

We arrived a bit early so we had a drink at the bar. The drinks were great. I had a bourbon drink that was a riff on an old fashioned and my girlfriend had prosecco with strawberry puree.

Now onto the food. The menu is broken into pizza, antipasti, primi, secondi, steak and sides. We decided to order a pizza, an antipasti, a small pasta, and a couple steaks. We also ordered a side of the braised black tuscan kale but unfortunately it never showed up, which was one of many small miscues.

First up was the Al Prosciutto pizza. It was prosciutto, red onion marmalatta, shaved
fontina cheese & baby arugula. This was was very good. The middle of the crust could have been a little crisper and the outside crust was a little burnt and not in a good pizza char kind of way. The flavors though were spot on. The salty proscuitto and the red onion marmalatta were perfect compliments. I would go back for this.

Next up was the salumi and cheese plater. This consisted of 5 cured meats (speck, proscuitto, mortadella, copa and one I cannot remeber) and 3 cheeses (fontina, a blue, and parmesan reggiano) and some pickled vegetables. This was another great dish, perfect for sharing. The meats all tasted great and the pickled vegetables added a great crunch and acidity that was refreshing.Then came the pasta dish and this is where things started going down hill. We ordered the ricotta nudi with spinach puree, browned butter & basil. Unfortunately, the spinach puree overpowered the lightness of the nudi. Also, the texture of the nudi was too chewy and felt heavy rather than light. Not something I would consider again.Now onto the steaks. The first up is the 8oz flat iron steak served with roasted onion. It was ordered medium rare. However, the taste was terrible. It was tough, chewy, and flavorless. My girlfriend actually called it terrible and unedible. The roasted onion along side of it was topped with a "pancetta gremolata" according to the menu. It tasted nothing like pancetta. The gremolata was so hard it made the texture difference unpleasant and rather crunchy. The other steak was the 20oz bone-in ribeye, ordered medium rare. This was a much better steak. However, it did not impress. While flavorful it tasted like something was missing. Maybe it is there use of olive oil instead of butter to top the steaks. The mushrooms accompanying it were an afterthought.Luckily, dessert was able to end the night on a good note. This was a semifreddo which hit the spot. The texture was light and creamy. A great way to end a meal.

A couple other notes about our visit. The service was disorganized and overeager. While our waiter was very friendly, he was unable to provide us with descriptions of any of the wines on the all italian wine list and was unable to answer my questions about the wines. The restaurant also does not yet have wines by the bottle. We were offered the opportunity to purchase a bottle of wine for 4 times the glass price.

Overall, I would go back. Maybe not for the steak but the pizza and antipasti with a couple glasses of wine just might do the trick. I feel like there is a lot of room for improvement and hopefully once the restaurant hits its stride, it will be able to fix its shortcomings. I am also looking forward to the outdoor seating once it warms up.

My final grade: B/B-

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Soft Pretzels

What can I can other than I love soft pretzels. There are one of my favorite snacks of all time. So when I came across this easy recipe on Smitten Kitchen, I just had to make them. While I wouldn't describe them as sooo cute as Deb does, I would describe them as delicous and probably the best soft pretzel ever (at least to come out of my kitchen). Here's what you need:
2 cups warm water (100°F to 110°F)
1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons canola or other neutral oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1 large egg
Coarse or pretzel salt - I used a coarse sea salt

Following Deb's instructions, I got a big bowl and added the water and sugar. Once the sugar dissolved I added the yeast and waited for it to start foaming. Then its time to start adding the flour. Now since I don't have an electric mixer I did this by hand and it was still unbelievably easy. Add 1 cup first and mix together then add 4 cups plus the salt. As you are mixing this add 1/2 cup more flour and continue mixing, then I added 1/2 cup more until the dough was wet and sticky. I knead this on my board and then put in back in the bowl with a little oil coating the sides. I let this rest for an hour.

After the dough rested, I divided into portions and starting making pretzels. I thought it might be difficult to make the pretzel shape by it was simple...who knew? Just take the dough and roll it out into a log shape. Then with it lying horizontal on your board twist the ends up and over each other to make the shape you see above.
Once you have formed all your pretzels it is time for them to take a bath. Bring a pot with 2 inches of water to a boil then add the baking soda (watch out it foams up, which is a great surprise to the uninformed in the room with you). Add the remaining sugar (2 Tbls) and reduce to a simmer. Then add the pretzels and poach for 1 minute on each side. As you take them out put them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Once they are all done, you brush the tops of each with the egg glaze (1 Tbls water and egg) then sprinkle on the salt.Put them in a 450 degree over for 12-15 minutes until they are golden brown and look like the picture at the top. They keep decently for a day but are best within minutes of coming out of the oven. These were everything you would want in a pretzel...soft, chewy, salty. I made them for the roommates and no one could get enough.

Next time I plan on trying to freeze these to keep as snacks. Not sure if it will work. Anyone tried it?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sweet Potato Angoletti from the French Laundry

I stumbled across the Frech Laundry at Home website a couple years ago (check out the proper way to make this on her site). I was impressed by Carol's ability to tackle some of those recipes. When I finally got the Fench Laundry cookbook, my girlfriend told me I had to make her something from it. After looking through some recipes, I decided to go with the Sweet Potato Angoletti. The flavors sounded great, the recipe did not call for any hard to find ingredients, and it did not seem like it would take too long. However, I was missing one very important thing...a pasta maker. I just assumed I could roll it out by hand. This turned out not to be such a good assumption, which you'll see.

With that out of the way, let's get started.

First thing is to get the sweet potatoes in the over to cook. I wrapped them in foil with a little bit of butter. It took about an hour and a half. Here they are after coming out of the oven.

After peeling them, I put them into a large pot. And since I do not own a ricer, I used my immersion blender. I knew the teture was probably going to be a little smoother but I didn't think it would make a difference and it didn't as far as I could tell.

Next I made the pasta dough. You measure out the flour and form a well to add the eggs, egg yolk, milk and olive oil.

Then slowly mix this together with your fingers, pulling in the flour from the sides as you swirl the wet ingredients around.
Once the dough comes together you knead it until it becomes smooth. Then cover in plastic wrap and let it rest while you prepare the other parts of the recipe.

At this point I sauted the bacon in a skillet and added it to the sweet potato mash along with some allspice (since I did not have squab spice), salt, pepper and mustard.

While this was chilling in the fridge, I made the sage cream. This was the easiest part of the recipe. I blanched some sage leaves and added them to warmed butter and creme fraiche. Here it is in its finished stage.
So nows comes the interesting part. Since I do not own a pasta maker, I decided I could roll the pasta out by hand. Well I was wrong...sort of. Here I am starting to roll out the dough. About 20 minutes later and much rolling and cramping of my hands, I was able to see my hand through the dough as it says you should be able to in the book. Well as it turns out, this thinness is not exactly the same as seeing your hand through the dough when using a pasta maker. Oh well, it was time to fill the angoletti. I put the sweet potato mix into a ziplock bag and cut off the tip. I then piped a line of this a little to the left of center of the dough. I then folded them up and added them to a pot of boiling water for a couple minutes. Once they were done I dropped them into the sage cream sauce. I put them in a bowl and topped it with brown butter, and thinly slice prosciutto. Here's the final plating.

The taste of these was amazing. One of the best things I have ever made. The only bad thing was that this recipe called for making 48 angoletti, and with my inability to make the pasta sheets thin enough I came out with about 18. All in all not a perfect outcome in terms of execution but the flavor combination was perfect. Sweet, salty, creamy, porky. This is one of the best tasting recipes I have ever made and it is a testament to why Chef Keller is one of the greatest. I will definitely make this again. Just next time I plan on using a pasta maker.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Weeknight Meals

Most nights of the week I get home from work and go straight to cooking. Why? Because it is my form of relaxation. Some people like to read or wtach TV to relax but for me the best way to relax is to be in the kitchen cooking.
When I tell my friends or co-workers that I cook almost every night of the week they are shocked that I have the time. But in under an hour anyone can have a home cooked weeknight meal which will be much better than ordering takeout. All it takes is a little creativity.

This past week I made baked italian chicken thighs with roasted broccoli and rice all in about 45 minutes. And the best part of this meal was that it is basically hands off allowing you to relax in other ways at the same time.

Here's what you need:
4 chicken thighs
half bottle italian dressing
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tbl butter
chili powder
olive oil

I marinated the chicken thighs over night in the italian dressing. This helps impart the flavor into the meat but if you cannot marinate it over night at least try to let it marinate for a half hour before cooking.

Heat an over to 400 degrees. While the oven is heating cut the broccoli and toss it in a bowl with olive oil, garlic, salt pepper, cumin and chili powder.

Place the chicken in a baking dish and bake until the jucies run clear when a knife is inserted into the chicken. This took about 20 minutes.

At the same time, put the broccoli on a parchment paper covered baking sheet and put in the oven as well. I based the roasted broccoli on a recipe I saw on the Amateur Gourmet's website.

While this was cooking as an added bonus, I added a tablespoon of butter to a frying pan and added in a couple handfulls of panko breadcrumbs. When the chicken thighs were cooked, I topped them with the breadcrumbs and browned it in the broiler for a minute or two. This served as a crunchy topping adding a great texture contrast to the chicken.

This was a perfect meal for a weeknight. I served it with a side of rice that was cooking at the same time as everything else.

Weeknight cooking does not have to be hard, with a little planning and creativity cooking during the week can be easy.

What are some of your favorite weeknight meals?

Can a restaurant live up to your expectations?

Babbo...Mario Batali's mecca of italian cooking. I had wanted to go there for years. Well a month or so ago for my birthday I finally got the chance when my girlfriend surprised me with a reservation. Once I found out we were going, questions started coming into my head. Would it be as good as I expect it to be? Have I built it up too much? What if I don't like it? I always wonder if a restaurant or anything for that matter gets too built up that it cannot possibly live up it your expectations for it. So did Babbo live up to my expectations? Al these questions were answered by the time we finished eating well over 3 hours after we arrived. When we arrived we were seated at a great table in the back of the first floor which gave us privacy but also allowed us to see all the food coming out of the kitchen. We decided to get the tasting menu with the wine pairings.

The first thing out was the chick pea buschetta that Babbo is known for. It was a great way to start the meal. Then the tasting menu began. The first course was house made coppa with pickled ramps and pecorino. It was amazing. The rich meat sliced paper thin with the pickled ramps adding the perfect bite.

Next up was the first of the two pasta dishes. It was pappardelle with chanterelles and thyme. This dish was earthy and the pasta was done perfectly.

The final pasta dish was duck tortelli. This was amazing. The rich sauce and the duck filling was a perfect combinaton.

Next up was the meat course which was hanger steak with trumpet mushrooms and cipollini onions. The steak was a perfect medium rare.

After the meat course came the cheese course. This was a piece of Coach Farms finnest with fennel honey. The fennel honey and the cheese were an amazing combination.

Next was the first of the dessert courses. It was a crema con mosta, which for the life of me I can't remember the description.

The next dessert was a chocolate tartufino.

And finally the last course, which at Babbo is the only course that both people don't get the same thing. The menu listed a pecan and date budino with carame gelato. The surpise dessert was an apple tart with cinnamon gelato. Both of these desserts were the perfect end to a spectacular meal.

In the end Babbo lived up to its reputation. The food was amazing, the service spectacular, and staff knowledgable. Some advice for your trip: go hungry and don't be in a hurry. We left full, satisfied and happy. Now all we have to do is go back and order the rest of the menu which looked amazing as it passed our table on the way to other diners.

So has anyone else experienced this?