Thursday, February 25, 2010

Chicken Titty Sandwiches

Yup, that's what they're called. Cuz I said so.

Chicken breasts
English muffins (If you can get Portuguese muffins in your area, then those are the best, as they are a little sweet! I'm thinking a brioche bun could also serve here, too)
swiss cheese

Fancy & Optional:
Red onion

Cook the bacon and set aside. Grill chicken breasts, or cook as to your preference. Place swiss on top to melt. Mayo the muffins, and then layer the ingredients on top of the grilled chicken breast.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Who ya gonna call?? FOOD-busters!

After learning more about the "military-industrial" food complex in the US, I feel like every trip to the grocery store is just inviting dilemmas and stress. My average time from door to checkout has almost doubled, thanks to the extensive reading I now do. It's not just the nutrition label, but the ingredients, too, and if available, information on the producer. Then there is all the lingo- "organic", "all-natural", "humane", "local", "no artificial flavors", "low-fat", "non-fat", "better for you".... It's a nightmare. I need both a dictionary of terms and a spy cam to see what is actually going on. After reading that some "organic" producers of chicken basically use the same awful and inhumane methods as the non-organic, but merely swipe the regular grains for organic grain- I was disheartened. I mean, "organic" just doesn't mean much these days. So, I need FOOD busters. And I figured this blog was a good place to start. I have done some research on the following companies, and can, with some certainty, recommend them as better than the rest. This is not a complete list, but a start. As I find more, I'll update!!

Milk Products:
Ronnybrook Dairy-
These folks get the gold star. They let their cows out to pasture every day, feed them grass, and strive for "beyond organic".
They'll even let you visit. Call to set up a day at the farm, and see where your milk comes from firsthand. Any other NY'ers interested in a field trip???

Stonyfield Farms
These folks are so confident you'll like their farms, they have a "farm cam" video diary blog where you can see for yourself what life is like on one of the small farms they contract with!

Hatfield Meats-
This PA based pork company is based in Amish country. They work with local, traditional farmers and are committed to humane handling and animal welfare, as well as environmental sustainability. Check out their report.

Epicurean Farms-
Another PA based company that works with small local farmers and strives to go beyond current USDA standards. We have had a bird from these folks, and I can vouch for the flavor!

Bell & Evans-
In a world where sometimes you have to know the "lesser evils", you could do A LOT worse than these folks. No, the chickens are not allowed out on the farm, but they are kept in hi-tech houses that have more room, and WINDOWS. Again, like hatfield, this company works with local PA family farms, and goes beyond current USDA standards.

Nature's Yolk:
These folks, also out of PA (YAY my home state leading the charge....) Are cage free AND have outdoor pastures. They also carry fertilized eggs, if you want your laying hen to have a sex life, too. I give them my top nod.

Nellie's Cage Free
Again, we need to abandon the fantasy of roaming free on the farm, but they DO provide free roam in the shed, and space. They are certified humane, and they post some pictures of the hens.

Pete & Gerry's Cage free
These eggs come from three New England family farms. Hens are free to roam in the barns, photos on the site, children are allowed in the laying barns, clearly not scary.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bread Pudding

This is Ryan's Recipe, passed down from his Momma.

**Preheat oven to 400 Degrees.

1 Pkg. vanilla pudding (We prefer MY*T*FINE brand!)
1/2 loaf white bread (11-12 pieces)
brown sugar
Optional:cocoa powder or fine ground espresso

1. Butter each side of the bread and layer in an oven- safe casserole. Sprinkle each layer with brown sugar and cinnamon, and cocoa/coffee if desired.
2. Prepare pudding according to package and add a few drops of vanilla while cooking. Pour custard over layers of bread.
3. Cook for 45 minutes!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Broiled Tilapia Parmesan

This is probably one of the easiest and quickest recipes in our arsenal, and has a ton of flavor! Great for a weeknight. In 15 minutes or less, a delicious meal! We like to serve it with two of our favorite "cheats"- le seur canned peas (the creme de la creme of canned goods!) and instant mashed potatoes. Yes, I'm a little embarrassed to admit, but Ry & I both LOVE the flaky, artificial, chemically created goodness that comes from a box of instant spuds. Some people think caviar for special occasions, we think instant mashed potatoes. To each their own.

Anyway, onto the main course:

This recipe is for 2 fillets:

Set oven to "broil"

In a bowl, combine:

1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh grated pecorino cheese
1/8 cup softened butter (2 tblsp)
1 and 1/2 tblsp mayo
squeeze of lemon juice
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 tsp basil, parsley, oregano, bay leaf, celery salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
black pepper
dash paprika

Mix all ingredients until they form a paste.

Arrange fillets and broil 2-3 minutes per side.
Cover with mixture and broil an additional 2 minutes, until topping browns and fish easily flakes.

Serve with wedges of lemon and sprigs of fresh parsley.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Tonight Ryan, my best friend and I went back to a classic Williamsburg haunt: M Shanghai Bistro, which we just call M. We've been coming here for a few years, and it always hits the good spots. Ryan is very picky about chinese food, so no average takeout joint will suffice.

To start, the juicy pork buns at this place are seriously to die for. They are awesome!! I love them so- no questionable pork, either. I can't praise them enough. The meatball is tender, flavorful, and juicy as promised- they fill the bun with soup, some type of pork broth. And then served with a ginger soy sauce. So good.

I had the sliced beef with scallion and onion, which is also just a great treat. The beef is tender and thin, and the scallion and ginger flavor is salty and savory. Ryan had the ginger and sweet orange chicken which was also delicious. I usually get the kung pao which kicks ass, and with a little spice to it, too.

I don't think you can go wrong here. They even serve booze. The communal tables are an interesting set up, and the ever-changing art on the walls is always worth at least a quick glance. My only complaints are that I tend to find the tables to be a little sticky, the bathroom is pretty gross, and the chopsticks are not the easiest to use in the world. Pee before you come by, don't put your elbows on the table, and use a fork, and this could be your favorite chinese place too.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Beef A la Bourguignon

A few months ago Ryan and I watched "Julie & Julia", the pic based on the life of Julia Child, and one blog writer's attempt to cook her way through Julia Child's tome, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". Inspired by a fellow foodie-blogger (and jealous, of course, that she now has published books and do I get this blog on that bandwagon?? ) We decided that we wanted to try our hand at a few of the recipes Julia made famous/ Julie tried in the movie, and we figured Valentine's Day would be a good time to give it a go. So, we decided on Beef A la Bourguignon, which I can still only sorta-spell. Here is a play by play of our adventure:

2/14, 3 pm: Lora is passed out in bed, drooling after a morning mimosa that was just clearly too much for her to handle. Ryan decides that this is not going to happen, and decides Beef A la Bourguignon will have to wait until tomorrow.

2/15: 1 pm: We slowly start to realize that the recipe is written in english, but clearly not any english we know -check out the version we cooked off of here:

It's just not very clear. There are also about thirty steps, which we're about to breakdown, but are pretty much just all listed out. We also realized that we do not own the proper pan, so some improv is gonna be called for.

3 pm: It starts. Grocery shopping at whole foods for the meats, and prepping the veggies- slicing onion, peeling carrots, and dicing up mushrooms.


One 6-ounce piece of chunk bacon
3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes (We bought it pre-cubed)

1 carrot, sliced (We like carrots, and then we can eat these as a side, so we put in way more. Go for the baby, they will get SUPER tender as the whole thing cooks down)
1 (white) onion, sliced
18 to 24 white onions, small (we bought a bag of pearl onions)
1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered- we bought baby bellas, awesome flavors from these guys.

Stuff you cook with:
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 1/2 tablespoons butter

3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy)
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 teaspoon thyme
A crumbled bay leaf (approx 1/2 tsp)

"Herb bouquet":
4 parsley sprigs ("stems")
one-half bay leaf (approx 1/4 tsp),
one-quarter teaspoon thyme,
tied in cheesecloth- ok, so cheesecloth? Basically, we bought a little herb satchel- they sell them near the meat counter in our grocery store, usually used to flavor soups and stews- see photo below)

5:00: the cooking starts.

Cut bacon into " lardons" (sticks 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). We left the rind on, though Julia recommends you separate. Simmer for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sauté lardons in 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a flameproof casserole (We used a large saute pan) over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.

Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Place to the side with the lardons.

In the same fat, brown the sliced onion and carrots. Remove to the side and pour out the excess fat.

Return the beef, bacon, and vegetables to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Then sprinkle on the flour and toss to coat the beef lightly (this browns the flour and coves the meat with a light crust). Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes.

Remove and toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 more minutes.

Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

On stove top, stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered.

Add the tomato paste, garlic, and herbs. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.

Transfer to a casserole dish (If you are, like me, cooking in a pan) and Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

(Entered oven at: 5:30ish)

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms, start about an hour before ready to serve.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of olive oil until bubbling in the skillet (We had the advantage of using the same one we'd cooked the bacon and beef in, so lots of flavor already in the pan)

Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly.

Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet.

Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.

Heat remaining olive oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms.

Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat.

When the meat is tender and you're almost ready to serve, pour juice into sauce pan.

Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top of the beef.

Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or 2, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.

If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning.

Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.

8:30 PM: Declare victory.

Serve with potatoes, egg noodles, or rice.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sage & Prosciutto-wrapped chicken

This one is a fabulous Dean & Deluca-inspired recipe. And of all the recipes I make, this one remains almost pure, practically perfect right out of the cookbook (what a rare, and wonderful occasion!) We serve this one to our friends, and it usually is a hit. A few lessons learned the hard way: THIN pieces of chicken, that will cook quickly. THIN. If prosciutto starts to smoke or butter browns, turn down heat and cover saute pan with a lid. Your chicken is not thin enough. You lose. THIN. My other tip is do not look at this recipe and shudder at the butter required. If you're gonna do it, go all the way. Slather on that foaming, golden butter, and don't look back.

4 Chicken breasts (or 6-8 cutlets, see step 1)
salt and pepper
1 stick unsalted butter
8 whole sage leaves (1 per piece)-more if you really like sage the way I do, I'd double to 16
1/4 pound of thinly sliced prosciutto
2 eggs, beaten
8 thin slices fontina cheese

1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh minced sage, or more if you, like me, can't get enough
1/2 stick of butter

1. The breasts: You want them to be thin pieces. Remove the "flap" under each fillet, and save for another use. Cut the breasts into two equal square-shaped pieces. Pound them out nice and thin- we have discovered this step is crucial, because if they are too thick, there is cooking issues later. MY new solution: just by chicken cutlets instead. Season with pepper, put aside.

2. Heat butter in pan over moderate heat. When foaming, add in the pieces of whole sage, and cook 1 min on each side. remove and place 1-2 pieces on each chicken piece, per your taste.

3. Wrap a piece of prosciutto around each chicken cutlet, and dip in the egg. Make sure there is plenty of foaming butter in the pan, and not browned. Cook chicken a few minutes on each side, until just past pink inside and golden on the outside. (If the pieces of chicken are thick, which we have had trouble with, it will take much longer to cook through, and the butter and prosciutto will brown!!)

4. Place chicken on baking sheet and cover with a piece of fontina. Place in broiler until cheese just melts, about a minute.

5. Sauce: While in broiler, take the butter and chicken bits from the pan into a sauce pot. Add in a cup of white wine, and reduce to 1/2 cup. Add in sage, and whisk in the additional butter. Adjust seasonings.

6. Serve sauce over and around chicken. We like this very rich dish with a green vegetable- usually either wilted spinach, asparagus, or bok choy. Roasted potatoes make a great side, or yams, or squash.

Friday, February 5, 2010

eggplant/chicken parmesan

Chicken/Eggplant Parmesan

4- 6 eggs
bread crumbs
chicken cutlets/ eggplant*
olive oil
2 jars spaghetti sauce (even better if homemade!)
shredded mozzarella, parmesan
1 clove garlic
salt & pepper
fresh basil

*To prep the eggplant: Peel and cut into ½ inch slices. Sprinkle with lemon to preserve color and generously salt. Let stand for 30-60 min in colander, then rinse quickly and press out juices. Otherwise, they will soak up the oil and be soggy.

To cook:
Heat olive oil in pan. Crack and beat 2 eggs in bowl. Coat cutlet in egg and bread crumbs and then cook in oil. Drain on paper towel. Preheat over to 350 degrees. In baking pan, cover bottom with tomato sauce, then layer chicken/eggplant, cheese, basil, garlic and seasonings. Cover with tinfoil and bake 30 minutes for chicken, about 15 minutes for the eggplant. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

This recipe is a classic. Love it all year long!

Monday, February 1, 2010


This year for restaurant week we figured we'd check out a "classic" on the NY scene, and finally go to Tao. This restaurant, now in year 10 or perhaps even more, is still as "scene-y" as ever. Thanks to the over the top decor, I can understand why it brings in tourists and B&T folks alike. We enjoyed our pre-dinner cocktails, I was drinking "Taotinis", a raspberry fruity concoction that was both tasty and strong. However, we did not like the rather rough bar bill, or the fact that we had to wait almost 40 minutes past our reservation time. We also did not like the fact that people were obviously skipping us- seriously? Just not cool in this town.

However, seating issues and expensive bar bill aside, we sat down to dinner, and really liked the prix-fixe menu. For appetizers, I had pork pot stickers, and Ryan had crispy tuna sashimi. The pork potstickers were in a really nice spicy and sweet sauce, and I was surprised by the large portions. Ry's tuna was tasty, although I thought the fish itself was overpowered by the "crisp" and wasabi. Our entrees were also quite large, and we ended up needing to take some to go! I had the kung pao chicken, which was tasty, but not spicy enough for me. Ryan had the wasabi-crusted filet, which was cooked to perfection and very tasty, but the wasabi crust was grainy, and luckily easily scraped off.

For dessert, I had a banana bread pudding which was creamy, light, and really flavorful. Ryan had the chocolate spring rolls which were incredibly rich. We enjoyed them both, and again, had food to spare!

Ryan ordered a sake tasting flight that he raved about. I don't drink sake, alas, but will have to trust his opinion.

Our waiter was friendly and helpful, and made me forget a little about the hostess and long wait situation.

The decor is pretty ridiculous, complete with a 15-foot tall buddha fountain.

Overall, we enjoyed ourselves- but found there were flaws to our evening. However, for restaurant week experiences, we ranked it very high, and I think we would both be willing to visit again. This time, we'll know to bribe the hostesses!