Archive | April, 2012

Duck Breast w. Pomegranate/Date Molasses

30 Apr

My favorite no-fuss totally satisfying meal is duck breast. It requires barely any ingredients and turns out reliably great every time. I have played with the toppings (like pomegranate seeds, port reduction and crispy shallots, pictured here), but I think the best is with just a schmear of pomegranate or date molasses (these are molasses are made from the refined fruit sugar and are not regular molasses that are flavored with fruit). I used to cook duck breast on higher heat for 10 mins, but an episode of Anne Burrell, convinced me to try it low and slow. So much better! Cooked fast on high heat, the fat cap is chewy and not appealing to eat. When cooked on lower heat, more fat renders out, it becomes crispy and the molasses makes it like this awesome piece of candied bacon on your duck. Amazing. Also– useful for you to know– if you haven’t made duck before, duck is cooked like a red meat- medium-rare– and not all the way through like chicken.

Duck breasts (1 or 2)
Pomegranate or Date molasses
salt & pepper

Take duck breasts. Wash and pat dry. There is a big fat cap on top of breasts. Take a knife, and score (deeply, but not all the way down to the flesh) a cross-hatch pattern. Salt generously (I like kosher salt and big flaky maldon). Place duck fat side down in stainless steel skillet over medium-low heat. Cook for about 20-25 minutes (i do 20 mins) and fat will render out. Ladle out fat if a lot collects– and save it! This shit is pure gold. Flip over to brown on bottom (2-3) mins, while this is happening, take about a tablespoon of molasses and pour on fat cap side. Smear with a pastry brush or back of a spoon. Flip back over, skin side down for another minute or so for molasses to crystallize. Remove from heat, put on a plate and tent with tin foil. Let rest (necessary!) for 10 minutes. Cut on a diagonal and serve. Pour duck juices from plate back over top. [this makes medium-rare. if you like more cooked, take more time, but it tastes best this way]

Optional port/red wine reduction

red wine or port
pomegranate seeds (optional)

Pour out fat and save. You still have all this goodness stuck to the bottom of your pan.  Away from heat, add a cup of red wine or port. And cook for a few minutes over med. heat for it to thicken a bit like syrup.  Be careful, it can soon turn to hard/sticky like candy- this happened last night- so I just ditched it and ate w. out the reduction. Add duck juices from plate back in. Off heat, add pomegranate seeds if using. Even if not eating/mess up the reduction, wine is great because it deglazes the pan- which helps with clean up. I always  keep unfinished bottles in the fridge, even when past drinkable, for this purpose.

Crispy Fried Shallots
vegetable/grapeseed/canola oil

Delicious for topping a piece of duck, lamb, steak. Anne Burrell also using as a butternut squash soup topping.
At first, I attempted to fry in duck fat but didn’t have quite enough so ended up doing it the traditional way.

Very thinly slice the shallots into rings. Separate all the rings out from each other. Using a small saucepan, fill about half an inch of oil. Heat on high.  You know it is hot enough, when you drop one shallot in and it sizzles away.  Put a little bit of flour into a bowl. Quickly douse a handful of shallots in the flour, shake off, and throw into oil.  You don’t want to let it sit in the flour- so flour as you go and be quick. Add floured shallots into hot oil. Cook until brown and crispy- floating to the top. Remove with slotted spoon- and place on paper towels to cool.


Where to Eat & Drink in BK

27 Apr

I’m trying something new here… call it a test pilot phase

But here are some places I love to eat & drink in brooklyn. Check it out!


23 Apr

I like the whole spicy, sweet & sour idea of eggplant caponata- which is a Sicilian eggplant relish that is often eaten as appetizer on crostini (toasted bread rounds) or alongside a main . I chased many a recipes and ended up– lost in the internets– on this Batali recipe. The combination of cinnamon, sugar and cocoa plus lots of red chili flakes, currants, pine nuts- intrigued me. I have to say that actually all Batali recipes I have tried are very heavy on the chili flake- so keep that in mind and reduce if you feel- it can be a bit overpowering. Anyway, for some bizarre reason this Caponata involves making a basic tomato sauce– which although sounds like too much extra work– felt like a good idea at the time. What happened was I spent many weeks not cooking at all– then finally I just went nuts and made like 5 things in a night (including orange sherbet- post to come, damn that shit was good. like creamsicles). I wouldn’t say that Batali’s basic tomato sauce is my favorite (i prefer the hazan) but in attempts to use some of the leftovers I made this bacon/pancetta tomato sauce– and boom! takes it up a level (perhaps I should be riffing Emeril-like phrases to describe a Batali recipe) but all in all– a wholly worthwhile exercise.

Let me also add that I made this sauce too b/c some lady on the cooking channel comments said the caponata is much better when using Batali’s sauce. Which isn’t to say- if you have some jarred stuff (heaven forbid) in your pantry that it wouldn’t work. Also, when consuming the rest of your jar, I think it would be safe to say that it would be bumped up a notch by giving it the bacon/pancetta treatment.

Batali’s Eggplant Caponata

1/2 cup virgin olive oil [i definitely skimped on this amount]
1 large Spanish onion, chopped in 1/2-inch dice [used regular onion]
3 tablespoons pine nuts
3 tablespoons currants
1 tablespoon hot chili flakes, plus extra for garnish
2 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (to yield 4 cups) [i used one large eggplant]
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon
1/4 cup basic tomato sauce, recipe follows
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
5 sprigs mint, chopped [didn’t have so left out]
1 baguette, sliced into 3/4-inch rounds and toasted on grill or in oven

I added a first step. Chopped eggplant into 1-inch cubes. Generously toss w. kosher salt. Let sit in a colander, over a bowl, for an hour to drain bitter liquid. Rinse well. Squeeze dry (thoroughly) w. paper towels. This gets out excess moisture so it doesn’t suck up all your oil.
In a large 12-14 in saute pan, over med heat, heat oil until hot but not smoking. Add the onions, pine nuts, currants and chili flakes and saute for 4 to 5 minutes until softened.
Add the eggplant, sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa and continue to cook for 5 more minutes. Add the thyme, tomato sauce, and balsamic vinegar. Bring the mixture to a boil. [well I wouldn’t say there is quite enough liquid to consider boil, but it bubbles aggressively?]
Lower heat and simmer for 5 mins. [some reviewers say it takes longer– so keep cooking until the eggplant is soft enough to your liking. I was surprised this didn’t take that long, perhaps b/c i salted first, maybe 10 mins?]
Remove from heat, cool to room temp. Garnish w. more red chili flakes and mint [i skipped that step.]
Cut baguette into slices. Drizzle w. olive oil and toast in the over for a few minutes.  Serve together. I also served w. Ricotta Salata (a salty cheese pictured above) but this is not really necessary.

Batali’s basic tomato sauce
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion, 1/4-inch dice [used regular]
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried
1/2 medium carrot, finely grated
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved

In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is softened. Add the tomatoes and juice [can liquid] and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Season with salt and serve. This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer. Makes 4 cups.

Pasta all’Amatriciana [w. bacon, pancetta or guanciale]
I would say this recipe- as I made it- was quite different than as Batali wrote it because I cut the bacon etc. to 1/4 of a pound- and used half bacon/half unsmoked pancetta (as that is what I had on hand). This gave a great subtle bacon flavor to the whole pasta- but wasn’t so overwhelming so that all you could taste was bacon. I would recommend doing as I did. This pasta also recommended w. Bucatini- a hose-shaped pasta. I didn’t have but used fresh pasta from Russo’s– long spaghetti-length spirals. Delish.
3/4 pound guanciale, thinly sliced, or substitute smoked pancetta or bacon [i used 1/4 pound combo of bacon and unsmoked pancetta- which is a few slices of each)
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 red onion, halved and sliced
1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes [I think I cut this down to 1 tsp]
2 cups basic tomato sauce [see above]
1 pound bucatini or other pasta
Parm, pecorino romano or caciocavallo (?) cheese for grating [didn’t have but did have some extra ricotta salata on hand]
salt and pepper

Bring water to a boil and add a generous tablespoon of salt for pasta.

In a 12 to 14 in saute pan, spread your pork product of choice in a single layer- cooking over med-low heat until most of the fat has been rendered out. Remove bacon etc from pan and put on a plate lined w. paper towels.

Depending on how much fat you have, discard some leaving enough to coat and cook the garlic, onion and pepper flakes. Because I didn’t use all the bacon recipe called for- I only had just enough fat left and didn’t pour out any. Place above 3 ingredients in pan and add bacon/pancetta and cook over med-high heat for 5 mins until the onion, garlic and pancetta etc are a light golden brown. Season w. salt and pepper. You can add a little extra virgin olive oil if necessary to keep these aromatics from burning. Add the tomato sauce, reduce heat, and allow to simmer for 10-15 mins.

Cook pasta in water until al dente. Drain pasta and add to simmering sauce. Increase heat to high and toss to coat. Divide among 4 bowls and top w. fresh grated cheese if you please.

Per Se

16 Apr

Normally, I don’t blog about my dining experiences but this… I hesitate to even call it food because it is in such a different realm of what we eat day to day. No, I didn’t take pictures of every course but I thought I might post this menu and let it speak for itself. If you want to read more the Per Se website has, literally, stories behind each dish and ingredient. They say: ” A great meal is a kind of journey that returns you to sources of pleasure you may have forgotten and takes you to places you haven’t been before.”

per se menu

Happy Birthday Larry.





Salted Oatmeal Cookies

9 Apr

I LOVE these cookies– they are a specialty of Jess P. so I’ll let her take it away. Post and pic by Jess P.

These are not those oatmeal cookies – those chewy, nasty ones with raisins in them (I hate raisins in my baked goods!). No, these are buttery, salty, crispy, golden snacks which are easily justifiable as a legitimate breakfast, because after all, they are made primarily out of oatmeal. They’re downright good for you. I love these cookies.  More importantly my family, friends and colleagues love these cookies, so I end up making them all the time. If I need to transport them, I like to wrap them in natural brown kraft paper sandwich bags and then put them back inside an empty oatmeal container.

Cripsy Salted Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from Cooks Illustrated

1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg (I make sure this is at room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
½ teapoon coarse sea salt (I use the fleur de sel Tessa gave me ) – this is for sprinkling on top

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and table salt in a medium bowl.
2. In a separate bowl, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula, then add egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Scrape down bowl again. Add flour mixture gradually and mix until just incorporated and smooth. Gradually add oats and mix until well incorporated.
3. Roll about 2 tablespoons of dough between palms into balls, then place on lined baking sheets about 2 ½ inches apart (they will expand). Using fingertips, gently press down each ball to about ¾-inch thickness.
4. Sprinkle a few flakes of sea salt on each cookie
5. Bake until cookies are deep golden brown, about 13 to 16 12 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack to cool.

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