Occasionally I teach technique classes at Williams-Sonoma - here are some of the best recipes from the past 2 classes.
Latin Cooking - Shredded Chicken in Pepper Sauce
Aji de Gallina
1 chicken, 4-6 lb; or 4 bone-in, skin on chicken breast halves, 2 lb total
8 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lg red onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp aji amarillo paste**
1/4 cup aji panca paste**
1 (10oz) can evaporated milk
1 cup shredded queso blanco or farmer's cheese
8 saltine crackers
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup ground walnuts
Place the chicken in a soup pot, pour in the stock, bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to med-lo and simmer, partially covered, until chicken is tender and opaque throughout, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a platter and let cool. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Discard the skin and bones of the chicken, shred and set aside.
In a saucepan over med-lo, melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and aji pastes** and cook until fragrant, about 1 min.
Meanwhile in a blender or food processor, combine reserved cooking liquid with evaporated milk, cheese, crackers, and salt. Process until smooth. Transfer to pan with onions and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 min. Add the chicken and ground walnuts and cook 2-3 min more. Serve with cooked rice and walnut halves.
**aji pastes are Peruvian chili pastes that we sell at WS. The amounts called for do not make the dish spicy AT ALL. If you prefer a spicier dish, add more aji amarillo.
I would like to try this recipe with a shredded rotisserie chicken (using a cup of stock for the "cooking liquid") to cut down on prep time. I would also like to serve it with a soft boiled egg, as is traditional, and maybe double the sauce recipe.
Indian Cooking - Kheer (Rice Pudding)
4 cups milk
4 cups light cream
1/2 cup basmati rice, thoroughly rinsed
3/4 cup light brown sugar
4 cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed; or 2/3 tsp ground
1/2 tsp saffron threads, crushed
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup sliced almonds
In a large pan, bring milk and cream to boil, stirring frequently. Add the rice, reduce to med-lo and cook until reduced to the consistency of custard and the rice is soft and creamy, about 50 min. Add the brown sugar and stir well. Add the cardamom, saffron, raisins, and almonds. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate until chilled.
**This pudding has such a wonderful, delicate flavor. I would love to add a splash of rose water.
It's been a year since I started this blog, so I thought I should do a little update. In case people are wondering - why do all your posts have weird numbers in parenthesis? Is that a grading system? The numbers are the rank the restaurant was given in the Washingtonian Magazine's Top 100 Best Restaurant List (1/100, 50/100, etc..). Since the list comes out each year, I have started adding the year to the rating number (3/100, 2011). If the restaurant has no rating next to it, it's because it wasn't on the list! I hope that clears that up.
I've started adding some recipes to the blog in addition to restaurant reviews, since I do a lot of cooking. I hope that people find this useful and that it opens up the blog to people who do not live in the DC area. I will try to post recipes and tips from the technique classes that I teach at Williams Sonoma as well. Something I really want to incorporate to the recipe posts are pictures of the food, but whenever I try to take them, they don't turn out the way I want. Maybe I should take a food photography class, so that I can post beautiful pictures like my favorite blog: http://smittenkitchen.com.
See that link above here ^ ? See how you can click on it and it works? My hubby taught me how to do that and I am very grateful. I have gone back and fixed all my links, and I apologize for any frustration that lack of working links may have caused in the past.
That is all for now - I am off to make a fantastic (I hope) romantic dinner for two. Perhaps I shall tell you about it later
This brand new restaurant from Michel Richard is meant to be a middle ground between the formality of Citronelle (6/100, 2011) and the casualness of Central (10/100, 2011). I would say that Richard has managed to pull of the balancing act quite well. The menu mixes upscale items - like rabbit and steak - with casual fare - like a burger. The menu is also full of Richard's famous quirk and playfulness with items like Japanese eel carpaccio and onion carbonara. The (small) dining room was much more hip and fun than I was expecting it to be. As you enter, your eye is caught by the huge, modern lighting sculpture and the neon purple lighting scheme. The music is a modern blend of electronica and techno-pop (but not the irritating kind).
It was packed to capacity on a Friday night (though not too noisy), and our table was not quite ready yet, so we waited at the small bar area. I ordered a French 1700 martini which was an excellent blend of fruit juices and creme de casis. Jasper had the Champagne St. Germain, his favorite combination, this variety included fresh strawberries. The wine list is also very good, especially the by the glass section. It is rare to see such nice wines (and such variety) by the glass. Soon we were lead to our table, which happened to be the coolest table in the place - a long piece of translucent stone, lit from within, and hung from the ceiling. It has one long bench on one side, and is separated in the middle by a funky centerpiece so that multiple parties can sit at the same table. This was the case on our visit - we shared the table with another couple, but it didn't feel like we were at the same table at all! It also has a great view of the open kitchen and Executive Chef Levi Mezick hard at work.
The bread that was brought out was warm and soft with a nice crust, but the butter looked like they just chopped a chunk off of a store bought stick. We ordered gougeres because, well, they had them. They came out in an adorable mini fry basket and were warm and puffy and cheesy. We both ordered the salmon tartare (can't share something that good) and it came out with a gift from the chef - the eel carpaccio. I was super excited because it had sounded really intriguing on the menu. The server described the eel to us as "sushi deconstructed". They take the whole eel, roll it up and thinly slice it (so thin it is translucent); then they top it with microgreens, rice pearls, and a delicious ginger sauce. I would come back just for that one dish alone. The salmon tartare was also excellent - it has nice big chunks of fish, it wasn't chopped to death, and had a nice lemony taste. It was served w/ tiny diced accompaniments - hard boiled egg yolks and whites, red onion, capers - and topped with crispy croutons that added a nice change of texture. It was a good decision to get two. We also shared the diver scallops, which were perfectly seared and served with a crispy onion strings and a gorgeous shallot jus that was perfectly sweet and pungent. The server brought us another gift from the chef which, unlike the eel, was sent only to us and not the other tables. He told us that the chef liked us, I told him that we liked the chef, too. I saw him go over to Chef Mezick and tell him that we said we like him, too, and Mezick smiled and waved at us. It was really cute and special. The gift was the smoked salmon terrine (another dish we had really wanted to try). The smoked Atlantic salmon was thinly sliced and layered with super thin strips of cream cheese mixed with tobiko (flying fish roe), served with a salmon puree and dice cucumber. It was fresh and delicately balanced, another excellent dish. We both ordered the short rib entree as it is something that Michel Richard is famous for - braised for 72 hours at 56 degress C (132.8 degrees F) so that it is perfectly tender and still red, though it is thoroughly cooked. It was melt-in-your mouth good and served with an excellent wine reduction, perfectly cooked haricot verts, and a garlic potato puree. After all this, you would think that we wouldn't have room for dessert (and we didn't), but we ordered it anyway. We decided to try the banana split, which came with a ton of whipped cream; raspberry, chocolate, and caramel sauces; chocolate pearls and pineapple chunks; vanilla and chocolate ice cream; and strawberry sorbet. We ate the whole thing.
I may never be able to move again, but I am really happy. I can't wait to go back, and I would love to try their lunch. Definitely check this place out, you won't be disappointed. Oh, and ladies - the waiters are really cute.
When Americans think of lasagna, we typically think of the noodles, meat, and melted mozzarella variety. But in many parts of Italy, lasagna is not made with mozzarella. Instead, it uses creamy and fluffy bechamel with Parmesan as the only cheese. This is my favorite type of lasagna, it is much more delicate (and I have a serious bechamel obsession). My favorite recipe (courtesy of Chef Massimiliano Bartoli, Miss Williamsburg Restaurant) also uses ground veal instead of beef, and white wine instead of red - which provides the meat ragu with a really distinctive and tangy flavor. Enjoy the best lasagna recipe ever!
Begin with the Ragu, as it takes several hours to make:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons finely chopped onions
6 tablespoons finely chopped carrots
6 tablespoons finely chopped celery
1 pound ground veal
1 cup white wine
1 pound canned or fresh tomatoes (pureed and passed through a strainer)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium in a large pot. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the veal and brown, breaking up any big chunks of meat. Add the wine, increase the heat and simmer until the pan is once again dry, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and enough water to cover. Bring the sauce to a simmer then reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is deeply flavored and no longer watery, about 4 hours. Season the ragu with salt and pepper and keep warm or refrigerate until ready to use.
3 ounces butter (6tbsp)
3 ounces all-purpose flour (6tbsp)
1 quart milk
Freshly ground nutmeg
Place the milk in the saucepan, and heat over medium-high until bubbles form at the edges of the pan.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until the mixture is creamy and no longer smells floury.
Gradually add the milk to the roux a ladle at a time, working with a wooden spoon after each addition until the mixture is smooth. After all of the milk is incorporated, continue to cook over medium-high, whisking constantly. As the sauce returns to a boil, simmer until it thickens sufficiently to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 min. Season the bechamel with the nutmeg and salt; cover and keep warm until ready to use.
* Fresh Lasagna, recipe follows (**I use store bought no-boil sheets instead**)
* Kosher salt
* Bechamel Sauce
* 3 cups freshly grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Cook the pasta, boiling salted water until just tender, drain and refresh in ice water. (**if using no-boil sheets, skip this step**)
Put a thin layer of bechamel in the bottom of a shallow baking dish or a jelly-roll pan. Cover the bechamel with a thin layer of ragu and a little cheese. Top the sauces and cheese with a layer of lasagna noodles. Repeat 6 times ending with a layer of bechamel, ragu and cheese. Bake the lasagna until it is warm at the center and the cheese topping golden brown, about 45 minutes (cover with some aluminum foil if the lasagna browns before it is fully heated).
1 pound high gluten flour (recommended: 00 flour)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Mix the eggs, salt, and olive oil with 2 tablespoons of water in a mixer using the paddle attachment. Add the flour and mix until the dough comes together then knead the dough using the dough hook until it is smooth and elastic. (Alternatively combine the flour with the salt and mound in a large bowl or on a clean work surface. Make a well in the center of the flour mound. Combine the wet ingredients in the well then gradually incorporate the flour. When the dough comes together, knead it until it is smooth and elastic.)
Divide the dough in thirds. Roll each sheet of dough through the machine starting at the widest setting then graduating to thinner settings and stopping when the sheets of dough are a medium thickness. Place the sheets of pasta on a lightly floured surface and set aside until ready to use.
I love Greek food, and one of my all-time favorite dishes is Moussaka (Greek lasagna). It is hearty and comforting and perfect for winter. I adapted this recipe from Diane Kochilas (prominent Greek cookbook author). Traditionally the eggplant and potato are fried, but in my version I bake them in order to be a little healthier. Also, I like to mix in beef with the traditional lamb. Also, you may notice that the Greek version of bechamel sauce is a little different than the Italian or French version- involving egg yolks and lemon zest.
2lb potato, scrubbed and thinly sliced
3lb eggplant, peeled and thinly sliced
2lb any combination of ground beef and lamb (I prefer a lb each)
1/2 cup white wine
3 cups (1 28oz can) whole plum tomatoes, chopped, with juice
3 tbsp tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 bay leaves
3 cups milk
1 cup cream
8 tbsp unsalted butter
8 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 egg yolks
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the eggplant slices in a bowl, douse with salt, let sit for 45 min. Lay the potato slices on a baking sheet, brush both sides with oil, bake 15 min. Set aside on paper towels. Rinse the eggplant slices, pat dry, lay on a baking sheet and brush with oil. Turn oven down to 350 deg and bake 15 min. Set aside on paper towels.
Meat sauce: In a large saute pan, heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil. Add onion and saute until soft and translucent. Add the ground meat and brown. Add the white wine and cook until mostly evaporated. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, and spices. Cover, turn heat to low, and simmer 45 min. Season with salt and pepper.
Bechamel sauce: Heat the cream and milk together until bubbles form at the edge of the pan, remove from heat. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large sauce pan. Add the flour and cook until it no longer smells raw, 3-4 min. Gradually add the hot milk, stirring with a wooden spoon after each addition until smooth. After the last addition, cook for 5 min. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper, nutmeg. Stir in the feta cheese. Allow to cool slightly, mix in the egg yolks and lemon zest. Cover to keep warm and set aside.
To assemble the moussaka: Spread the bread crumbs into the bottom of a 9x13 lasagna or casserole dish. Arrange the potatoes in a layer on top, arrange the eggplant on top of the potatoes. Spread the meat mixture evenly over the eggplant, and top with the bechamel sauce. Sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese and bake at 350 deg for 45 min- 1 hour. Cover with foil if it gets dark too fast.
An old friend of mine (think High School), came into town on business and we wanted to go out somewhere near Dupont Circle, where she was staying. We decided to try out Firefly, a bar and restaurant just south of Dupont. It was a Saturday night after 8, and the place was PACKED. Luckily, I had made reservations, something that I would recommend on weekend nights. They have only a very small bar section, 8 stools at the bar, and 3-4 bar tables. The decor is really cozy - there is a giant lantern hung tree in the middle, birch trunks along the walls, and candles everywhere.
The cocktail menu was really creative and we had a hard time choosing just a few drinks. I tried a grapefruit and campari drink that was gorgeously pink and perfectly bitter. My friend tried the Bacchus - involving vodka, white wine, and white grapes. Both drinks were strong but not overpowering. Later, we both tried the Opal - rum, chai tea, cream. Unfortunately it was WAY too strong, we could barely drink it. Not the sweet, creamy drink we were expecting.
The food menu is split into Picnic (small plates to share) and mains. Based on reviews I had read, we decided to order several small plates and skip the mains. I can't say whether we missed out on a main, but every small plate we had was fantastic. We had deviled eggs with smoked paprika, caper powder, and garlic chips. They were pretty addictive, but an order ($5) only comes with 3 eggs. We also had the roasted baby beets with goat cheese, pistachio, fig vinegar, and micro arugula. The creamy goat cheese and spicy arugula balanced the sweet beets perfectly. The cheese plate contained a smokey blue, triple cream cow, soft goat, and Gruyere accompanied by a cranberry relish and micro greens. The portions of cheese were fairly generous. Then we had the ricotta gnocchi with oxtail ragout, marjoram, and Parmesan - perfectly cooked, savory, comforting. We also ordered a side of Parmesan truffle fries that were heavenly - served with some kind of tangy dipping sauce. This were so addictive that we had to order a second batch - paired with a sparkling wine as suggested by the bar menu. At this point, we were ridiculously full, but interested to try the desserts after seeing how playful the dinner menu was. We decided to split the caramelized banana split with ginger, maple-cinnamon, and vanilla ice creams. The cinnamon ice cream was our favorite, followed by the ginger - which was studded with bits of crystallized ginger - the vanilla got a bit lost with the other flavors. I LOVED the crunch of the caramelized surface of the banana, combined with the creamy interior. I may have to caramelize all of my bananas at home now.
All in all, it was a wonderful meal - fun, whimsical, and playful. I would definitely recommend it for getting together with friends. The decor is perfect for dates, but it was really loud - so maybe better on a slower night?