Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Like...a meatball?


I love when a food can be used in different ways to make different meals. Take Waldorf Chicken Salad for example. You can eat it as a sandwich between two over sized slices of soft Italian bread, you can have it on lettuce drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette, you can eat it by itself, or on crackers as a high protein snack. Any way you dish it out, it's going to be great. It can even be healthy if you use a low or no fat mayonnaise.

Now that we've got a new puppy in the house, we've certainly come to appreciate quick and easy meals that can be prepared ahead and eaten all week in various configuration. Over the weekend, we treated ourselves to a rotisserie chicken from Wholefoods and made a big batch of Waldorf Chicken Salad. Simply delicious.


Waldorf Chicken Salad
Serves 4
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded chicken
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise, or miracle whip dressing
  • 1 small apple, cored and chopped
  • 1/2 cup red seedless grapes, halved
  • 1 rib of celery, finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon golden raisins
  • 1 tablespoon walnuts, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
Directions

Combine chicken and mayonnaise and incorporate using a fork. Add apples, grapes, celery, raisins, and walnuts and stir to combine. Salt and pepper to taste, and serve as desired. This chicken salad makes an excellent sandwich, or on top of a bowl of lettuce and tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Chloe Dog

Well, it was a big weekend in our home. We welcomed a new member of the family. Meet, Chloe. Chloe finally arrived on Saturday from Wisconsin where she was born and raised. She's a Polish Lowland Sheepdog puppy. She'll be 11 weeks on Thursday. Very exciting stuff.


We don't know a lot about Chloe yet. But what we do know about Chloe is that she likes ducks.


She likes to sleep most of the day away.


In true fashion, she's not so sure about stairs. Maybe when she gets a little bigger she'll get used to them.


She likes walks, but she's not so sure about other people, dogs, or cars yet. We'll be working on that.


She likes bikes though, which is good because Alex has one.


She also likes sitting on sunny porches. In the next couple of weeks we'll be figuring out the rest. But for right now, the last thing we know about her is that we are super in love. Welcome to the nest, Chloe!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

We´re kindred, Hambone


Just like roasting a chicken, another dish I have also never attempted is baking a ham. Growing up, we ate ham at Easter every year. In Alex's family, they do ham at Thanksgiving in addition to turkey. But since I've never hosted a holiday meal, I've never had a reason to make a ham.

I realize that this is one of the easiest family meals that one can make, but I've still never done it. The other night, while perusing The Whole Hog Cookbook, I got a craving and decided to go for it. Thankfully at Wholefoods they sell mini hams, so while this recipe called for an eight pound chunk of meat, I only purchased two pounds. I reduced the proportions and the cooking time and the recipe worked just fine.


Red Hot Summer Berry Glazed Ham
Serves 10
  • 1 (8-pound) Spiral Sliced Ham, removed from package, liquid reserved
  • 1/2 seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 cup cranberry juice
  • 1/2 cup strawberries, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup raspberries, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a large roasting pan, place the ham on its side, spiral slices on top.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the jam, 1/2 cup of the cranberry juice, and the reserved liquid from the ham packaging. Pour half of this mixture evenly over the ham; reserve the rest for basting. Cover the roasting pan completely, but very loosely with aluminum foil (it’s important that the foil does not hold the ham slices in place) and bake for 10 minutes per pound (1 hour and 20 minutes for an 8-pound ham), basting the ham occasionally with the reserved jam mixture.


Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the strawberries, raspberries, honey, chipotle, the remaining cranberry juice, and the dried cranberries to a simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, or until the glaze is thick and syrupy.


Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Remove the foil from the ham and brush the glaze over the top and sides of the ham. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the ham from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.


Buttermilk Biscuits
Serves 9
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt. Using two forks or your fingers, work in the lard until the mixture begins to resemble coarse meal. Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour in the buttermilk. Stir until just moistened. The dough should come together at this point, but if necessary add more buttermilk as needed. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead it 2 or 3 times. Pat the dough to 1/2 inch thick. (I don’t roll my biscuit dough; I like to be gentle with it as possible so the biscuits will not be tough.) Using a 2-inch round biscuit cutter, cut biscuits out of the dough as close together as possible. Transfer the cut biscuits, with sides touching, to the prepared baking sheet. Pat the dough scraps together and cut out the remaining biscuits.

Using the tines of a fork, pierce the top of each biscuit two or three times and brush with the butter. Bake for 12 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Serve immediately.

Monday, May 14, 2012

I Take Back All Those Bad Things I Said About Ina Garten


Well sort of. At least I take back returning her cookbook, a really nice wedding gift that I decided to trade in for a Wusthof pairing knife. I probably should have kept it because it turns out her food is delicious, even if she is a bit of an ingredient snob, a trait I find to be slightly obnoxious. 

Yes, I understand, better ingredients mean better dishes. That being said, who can afford expensive olive oil and imported cheeses. Also, some of us don't have all day to make our own chicken stock. Some of us just buy it in a box at the grocery store. Anyways, that's the end of my rant because let me tell you: even with regular old olive oil, American made mascarpone cheese, and store bought chicken stock, Ina's Spring Green Risotto is amazing. The only changes I made were to switch out the asparagus for zucchini and summer squash, as Alex is not a fan of asparagus. Otherwise, this is classic Ina.

Spring Green Risotto (inspired by Ina Garten)
Serves 4
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 2/3 cup and 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 4 to 5 cups simmering chicken stock
  • 10 ounces frozen peas, defrosted, or 1 1/2 cups shelled fresh peas
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced
  • 1 medium summer squash, sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh chives, plus extra for serving
Directions

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil (Ina says "good" olive oil, I say use what you have, if you can't afford the best, don't stress about it) and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender. Add the rice and stir for a minute to coat with the vegetables, oil, and butter. Add the 2/3 cup white wine and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until most of the wine has been absorbed. Add the chicken stock (again, Ina says, "preferably homemade" chicken stock, I say, get over yourself), 2 ladles at a time, stirring almost constantly and waiting for the stock to be absorbed before adding more. This process should take 25 to 30 minutes.

Blanch the peas in boiling salted water for 4 to 5 minutes, until al dente. Drain and cool immediately in ice water.


When the risotto has been cooking for 15 minutes, drain the peas and add it to the risotto with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Continue cooking and adding stock, stirring almost constantly, until the rice is tender but still firm.

In a medium pan, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the zucchini and squash and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute until tender and lightly browned.


Whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons of wine and mascarpone (Ina says "preferably Italian," I say gimme a break, use what you find in the store, mine was handmade in Vermont, it was delicious) together in a small bowl. When the risotto is done, turn off the heat and stir in the mascarpone mixture plus the Parmesan cheese and chives. Stir in the zucchini and squash. Set aside, off the heat, for a few minutes, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve hot with a sprinkling of chives and more Parmesan cheese.

Friday, May 11, 2012

What are you waiting for

The wait is officially over, All Star Pizza Bar is open. It's been a long wait, but the home of my favorite sandwich has opened a pizza joint. And it's just across the street from the original location. Making it as convenient as it is totally delicious.


Thanks to an invite from my friend Emily over at A Cambridge Story, I had the pleasure of attending the All Star Pizza Bar press party the night before the shop opened to the public.


To start, we were offered a delectable selection of beverages including a selection of beers, wines, sangria, house made lemonade and Mercury Root Beer, which by the way is super tasty.


As we waited to sample the pizza, I took a few snap shots around the restaurant and marveled at how many details must have gone into creating this sister shop. Right down to the clever pizza boxes that exclaim "I love pizza."


The first pie out of the oven was plain cheese, and let me tell you there was nothing plain about the slice I devoured. The crust ran the line between thick and thin perfectly. Crisp on the outside, yet hot and doughy on the inside, it was heaven. The sauce was equally delicious, slightly sweet tomato goodness. Awesome. Lastly, the cheese, my favorite part of any pizza was incredibly balanced. I didn't quite catch exactly what they use in their house blend, but let me tell you. That was some damn good cheese pizza.



Next up came the pepperoni, which was also fantastic, followed by the Atomic Meatloaf Pizza. Topped with marinara, the same blend of cheese, caramelized onions, meatloaf, and finished with Inner Beauty Hot sauce, this pizza is sure to be a lot of people's favorite. Not mine, because I'm a wimp when it comes to spice, but it sure smelled delicious.


Next up came the Ms. Piggy's Fig topped with vincotto sauce, the house blend of cheeses, goat cheese, black mission figs (look how many!), prosciutto di parma, finished with baby arugula and toasted pistachio gremolata. Go ahead and say it, because I know I did. Wow. Really, wow. I love a good fig and prosciutto pizza, but this one really stood out.

After that was the Buffalo Duck Confit topped with marinara, house blend of cheese, duck confit topped in buffalo sauce with Maytag blue cheese and finished with pickled celery. In my excitement to get a slice, my picture came out very blurry. But don't worry, can go get your own because the shop is now open.


Then came the Chile Relleno pizza with rustic tomatillo salsa verde, house blend of cheese, fire roasted poblano peppers, grilled chorizo sausage, sweet corn, cotija cheese and fresh cilantro. This pizza packs a lot of goodies in just a few bites. I'm not sure how the crust didn't collapse under it's weight, but it some how provided a base to ferry all of these tasty ingredients into my mouth.

After the Chile Relleno came the Romesco Ratatouille topped with Almond Romesco Sauce, house blend cheese, roasted veggies, finished with grated Parmesan and fresh herbs. Also not pictured, but let me just say that this pizza featured roasted Brussels sprouts, so you know I was a fan.


Last up was the Dukes of Hazzard  with creamy hominy ricotta grits, house blend cheese, maple breakfast sausage, soft baked eggs finished with pickled Fresno chilies. Now, I'll admit, I didn't partake in this particular pizza because, well, we all know I don't like eggs. But, it looked delicious. I'm sure Alex would love it, minus the chilies of course.


Here is an up close shot to show you all the beautiful eggy goodness.


As the night came to a close, Emily and I were even treated to a pizza each to take home. It was extremely thoughtful and sweet or our hosts. Alex couldn't have been happier to get home from work to a piping hot pepperoni pizza. It was a truly delicious night. We will definitely be back very soon.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Chicken from Yountville


Even though I consider myself a fairly good home cook, there are quite a few big kitchen feats I've never attempted. Baking a ham, cooking a Thanksgiving turkey, making roast beef, these are dishes I've just never made. I guess it is mostly because my family is only two people, and we've never hosted a holiday dinner or a large dinner party due to the small size of our apartment. I've always wanted to though.

I decided to buy a small bird, and try my hand at roasting a a chicken. I figured, roast chicken is pretty easy to re-purpose, so even if we had mountains of leftovers, I could always make chicken salad or chicken noodle soup. Plus, chicken and potatoes make a pretty classic great American dinner, especially when using Thomas Keller's recipe

It came out pretty tasty if I do say so. The skin was buttery and perfectly crisp. The meat was tender and juicy. The meal was out and out delicious and so were the leftovers.


Thomas Keller's Roast Chicken (from Simply Recipes)
Serves 4
  • 1 4.5lb chicken
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 6 thyme sprigs
  • 3 medium-sized rutabagas, ends cut and discarded, cut into 3/4-inch wedges
  • 2 medium-sized turnips, ends cut and discarded, cut into 3/4-inch wedges
  • 4 medium-sized carrots, peeled and cut in 2-inch segments
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled, cut into quarters
  • 8 small red-skinned new potatoes
  • About 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
Directions

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. 

Use a paring knife to cut away the wishbone from the neck/breast area of the chicken. You will probably have to use your fingers to feel around for it. This is a little bit tricky, but if you can remove the wishbone first, it will make the chicken easier to carve after it is cooked.


Generously season the cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper. Add three of the garlic cloves and 5 sprigs of the thyme to the cavity, using your hands to rub the thyme and garlic all around the cavity.

Truss the chicken with kitchen string. To do so, start by cutting a 3-foot section of cotton kitchen string. Place the chicken so that it is breast up, and the legs pointing toward you. Tuck the wing tips under the chicken. Wrap the string under the neck end of the bird, pulling the string ends up over the breast, toward you, plumping up the breast. Then cross the string under the breast (above the cavity and between the legs). Wrap each end around the closest leg end, and tie tightly so that the legs come together.



Place the vegetables, onions, garlic, and remaining thyme sprig into a bowl. Add 1/4 cup of olive oil and toss with your hands until well coated. Season generously with salt and pepper. Create a bed of the root vegetables in a large cast iron pan.

Slather the chicken with oil and season well with salt and pepper. Place the chicken on the bed of vegetables and slather the top of the chicken breasts with butter.


Place the pan in the oven and roast the chicken for 25 minutes at 475°F. Then reduce the heat to 400°F and roast for an additional 45 minutes, or until the thickest part of the thigh registers 160°F on a meat thermometer and the juices run clear.


Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 20 minutes before carving to serve. You can keep the vegetables warm by keeping them in the now-turned-off oven while the chicken is resting. Stir to coat the vegetables with the cooking juices before serving. Cut the chicken into serving pieces. Place vegetables on a serving platter with the chicken pieces arranged on top.

Monday, May 7, 2012

It's Just Like Riding a Bike

So we are finally settled in and happy living back in Cambridge. In fact, it feels a little like we won the lottery. Great new jobs, great new apartment, close to friends and family, and in just two weeks we are going to be getting a puppy. Life is impossibly wonderful right now. I don't know how we got so lucky.

Except for maybe the weather this past week in Boston. I kid, I kid. But it's true, one of the only things I miss about DC is the spring weather (that is, except for our friends of course!) By now it's probably 75 and sunny every day in The District, but here in Boston we've had nothing but low 50s and rain. Not exactly pleasant, but I guess there is one up side; it's good soup weather.

For awhile, I've been meaning to make this delicious looking creamy tomato basil soup that I spotted on Pinterest from Today's Mama. This was the perfect week. Bursting with flavor, this isn't any regular tomato soup. It's fresh, creamy, and satisfyingly filling. Great for a cold, rainy, day.


Tomato Basil Soup
Serves 8
  • 3 cups canned diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 cup celery, finely diced
  • 1 cup carrots, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup finely diced onions
  • 4 tablespoons fresh basil (or 1 tablespoon dried)
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cups half and half, warmed (if you want you can fat free if you want to skinny it up)
  • 1 tsp salt
Directions


Heat oil in 4 quart soup pot. Add celery, onions and carrots. Saute 5 minutes. Add basil, oregano, bay leaf, tomatoes, and chicken broth. Bring it to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender, about 15 minutes.


While soup simmers, prepare a roux. Melt butter over low heat, add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 5-7 minutes. Slowly stir in 1 cup hot soup. Add another 3 cups and stir until smooth. Add back into soup pot.

Simmer, stirring constantly, until soup begins to thicken. Add Parmesan cheese and whisk to blend. Stir warmed half and half, salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

What Jose Andres Thinks of Americans

Let me start this off by saying that I love Jose Andres. His food, his restaurants, his cookbooks, I am a big fan. Zaytinya is one of my favorite restaurants in DC. Oyamel has the best margaritas I have ever tasted, and is quite possibly the most beautiful restaurants I've ever eaten in. Jaleo has a great happy hour, the food is delicious, and both locations that I have been to - Crystal City and Downtown - have been great. I haven't been to Minibar or Cafe Atlantico, but I've heard great things. And with all that, I have to say, that's why this review is so disappointing to write.

Stay away from America Eats Tavern unless you want to overpay for blah food that almost tastes low quality. I feel horrible saying it, but I also don't want to lie. Our meal was bad. I feel like I got better meals at the Emmanuel College Cafeteria. It was sad.


Our meal started off okay. We arrived at the restaurant, the hostesses were very nice, greeted us and brought us right to our table. The bar area was lively and loud, but being seated up on the third floor gave us a break from the rambunctiousness. Our waitress seemed nice at first, well versed in the menu, recommending quite a few dishes - all of which were seafood, which we don't eat, so maybe that should have been our first sign.

I always take a little issue with restaurants that charge you for a Bread Basket, but never the less we didn't want to miss freshly made biscuits and corn bread with blackberry jam, so we ordered it. I'm sorry I didn't get a picture. It was by far the best part of the meal.


Next up came our Fried Chicken and Catsup appetizer. Now these look pretty delicious right? Fried chicken with grape ketchup. We thought so, but one bite in we realized that the chicken was all dark meat. I for one am not a fan of dark meat and would never dream of making boneless chicken fingers with it. The batter was crispy, but overly peppered and overly greasy. The grape ketchup was just weird, probably delicious as jam on a slice on warm buttered bread, but did not make a good dip for these chicken fingers. We shared one piece of the chicken and pushed it aside to wait for our meals.


When our meals finally came, I started to get really uncomfortable. I had ordered Chicken Pot Pie. A true favorite of mine that is ridiculously difficult to screw up. Does that picture look like chicken pot pie to you? Me neither. First of all, the crust was just a disk of dry pastry dough. There was none of that gooey flaky goodness that makes chicken pot pie so good. Second, the chicken, which again, was all dark meat, was still on the bone. So it was messy, hard to eat, and overly fatty. The gravy bordered on slimy. The vegetables, which were really the only part of the meal I ate, were okay, but they were just Lima Beans and Carrots. I usually do not complain about the price of a good meal, but this, to me, was not worth $28.


Alex's BBQ Beef Short Ribs with Hoppin' John were better than mine, but the meat was still overly fatty. The beans had great flavor, so that was a plus, but even Alex didn't finish his dish.

As the meal progressed, the waitress didn't even attempt to address why we only each ate a few bites of our quite expensive meal. It just became uncomfortable, so much so, that we didn't even attempt to look at the dessert menu, just grabbed the $138 check and left as quickly as possible. So overly priced, I practically cried putting down our credit card.

America Eats Tavern is a very neat concept. It opened last July as a pop-up restaurant that complimented an exhibit on the American diet at the National Archives. The menu touches on so many American favorites. Classics that sound so delicious and interesting. I also can't say enough about the wonderful chef it has at the helm. But for some reason, our very brown meal just did not work. It was just bad. America Eats Tavern will be closing in July 2012, I wish we hadn't made it there before it does.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Great Pizza in DC

So before we leave for DC, we have to share a few more restaurant reviews, cooking adventures, and updates. There are just too many incredible restaurants and top chefs here to leave without tipping our hats to some of our favorites. First, we'll start with We, The Pizza, Top Chef alum, Spike Mendelson's classic Capitol Hill pizza place.


We had been wanting to make it over to We, The Pizza since we ate at Good Stuff Eatery years ago on a trip to visit DC. Far before we moved to Columbia Heights. The burgers, fries, and shakes do not disappoint, and we knew the pies at We, The Pizza wouldn't either. So, as soon as we found out we were moving, we started a Goodbye Eating tour of DC and We, the Pizza was first on our list.

Similar to Good Stuff Eatery, We, the Pizza manages to make fast food dining feel chic and upscale. Walking by, the restaurant is hard to miss with its large bright entry way, cafe style sidewalk seating, and a chance to watch your pizza made through a large picture window. It's simply mouth watering.


Though the menu features creative and inventive pizzas such as Colletti's Notorious BBQ Pie and Spicy Mexican Pie, we decided to keep it pretty simple with a half Simple Cheese and Pepperoni Pie.


And it was massive. Our 16" pizza packed a punch with pillowy dough, crispy pepperoni, and bubbly cheese. The sauce was slightly sweet and deliciously fresh. I was pretty excited about the amount of crust bubbles, my absolute favorite part of any pizza. Yum.


In addition to our pizza, we also ordered a Caesar salad and two freshly made sodas. The salad was tasty, but came topped with slightly too much crunchy bacon. Yes, I know I said too much bacon. But it's a salad and some times you can have too much of a good thing. The lettuce was crisp and green though and the dressing was classic and creamy.

For the sodas I chose the Jupina Pineapple Soda and Alex got the Sassy Sassparilla-Fras Soda. They were both super tasty. Mine included fresh chunks of pineapple and Alex's was syrupy sweet root beer goodness. With drinks like these, we didn't even  need dessert, not that we could have fit anymore food in our stomachs anyways.


We were thoroughly impressed with our meal, and sad that we waited so long to make our way down to We, The Pizza. If you are located in DC, be sure to check this neighborhood gem out.

You can also feel good about your meal. Ingredients at We, The Pizza are locally sourced, the restaurant works with DC Central Kitchen, and ten percent of your bill goes to Plant a Billion Trees.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Oh oh Boston you're my home

So, are you in for some exciting news? Well, we've got it.

Alex and are moving home to Boston. Yep, it's true. We got new jobs, a new apartment, and we are moving back to our former home town. Pretty exciting stuff. DC has been fun and all, but we are ready for a new adventure in an old city. So, get excited, and look out for new posts from A Nesting Experience coming soon.

Goodbye DC. We'll keep in touch!