Friday, December 30, 2011

919 Soule - Our New Project

I am writing to let all of you know about the Urban Chef's new project, 919 Soule.  The Urban Chef and I are taking the plunge into entrepreneurship and are planning to open a restaurant this spring.  Chef Jon will be bringing Brooklyn creative American fare 6 nights a week starting May 2012.  But to make this dream happen, we need your help.  We cannot bring you 919 Soule without the support of our friends and family to get off the ground.  Please visit our kickstarter page and make any donation you can (tax deductible).

At 919 Soule we reject the notion that classic American fare is limited to soul (comfort) food—we can be inspired by these traditions but not limited to them.  What makes a cuisine American is the amalgamation of flavors and techniques that can only happen in a society as pluralistic as our own.  Working with a palate that is local and seasonal, Soule will put forward food that is as soul satisfying as any southern intuitions, but with attention to detail and subtlety and  technique equal to the best restaurants of the world. 
Your donation will help us transform the 919 Fulton Street space into a modern kitchen and a casually elegant dining room.  Thank you for your donation.

Support Black Chefs!!!

And for those of you who love the inside scoop, I will be posting pictures of the renovation of the restaurant, menus, and all sorts of restaurant opening dirt for your reading pleasure.  But none of this will happen if we don’t get the money to open!  So please, make a donation now via kickstarter.

If you are interested in investing, please contact me at

To all our readers, have a happy and safe New Year! 2012 is going to be delicious.

Friday, December 16, 2011

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s a turkey!

Tisk tisk to me, I know I have been late in posting!

First, big news, the urban chef has been named the Executive Chef at Thistle Hill Tavern!  Bravo Jon!  He will be updating the menu and adding some brand new dishes.  As he makes menu improvements, we will be posting them here.  For those in Brooklyn, if you haven’t made it Thistle, go now! 

Most of us have put Thanksgiving out of our minds and are all consumed with the upcoming holiday, so I’m going to give the condensed Turkey Day round up—and let’s face it, most of you just tune in for the food pictures anyway!  Jon’s boss, David Massoni, owner at Thistle Hill bought us a 22lb fresh turkey.  This thing was a BEAST!  Jon roasted the turkey covered in cheese cloth with about 2 lbs of butter to achieve the perfect crispy skin.  

 In addition, we also received a leg of venison from a co-worker of mine.  He and the Urban Chef met at a charity event and as they were discussing their hobbies, my co-worker said he like to hunt deer, Jon said he liked to cook deer, and voila, the next day in the work fridge was a frozen leg of venison for us to take home!  Jon served it with a pomegranate dressing.  Here he is preparing it (so cute!).

To round it out, our urban chef also delighted us with:
Truffle stuffed mushrooms
Devils on horseback (bacon wrapped dates, an oldie but goodie)

Mashed potatoes
Sweet potatoes
Green bean casserole
Roasted brussels sprouts
Collard greens

It was all so much, and so good!  

To partake in this feasting, my family came to visit, my brother and mother from Maryland / Virginia, and my sister from Florida. We also had our friends Cristina & Jorge.  

Big changes are coming to the Urban Chef and me.  We can’t quite announce it yet, but we have a new project in the works.  Keep your eyes and ears open, because when it happens, you won’t want to miss it.  

For our next post, Christmas cookies, snowballs, peanut butter cookies, sugar cookies, oh my! Watch out Santa!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thanksgiving: Part 2: The Top Ten Tools

Happy 11/11/11 and Veteran’s Day to all!  There is a lot to be thankful for today.  I am especially thankful for my freedom, both as an American and as a woman.  There is a great article in this week New Yorker regarding Planned Parenthood.  Regardless on how you feel about reproductive rights, Planned Parenthood provides essential services to women of all races and income levels.  Planned Parenthood is a safe place where women can go and learn about their bodies and rights as women.  I truly believe knowledge is the key, and without all the facts, no one can make an informed decision. 

I am also thankful because earlier this week, the Urban Chef and I celebrated our 2 year anniversary!  I cannot believe it!  It feels like forever, yet no time at all.  For our anniversary, we dined at the Tom Colicchio restaurant, Riverpark.  It is a New York Times 2 star restaurant.  I truly enjoyed my dining experience, from start to finish the whole evening was expertly executed.  The location is stunning, it’s right on the East River, and the dining room is dark wood with dark blue walls and upholstery with many illuminating lights overhead (it gives the illusion of stars).  The service at Riverpark was impeccable, attentive but not intrusive, expedient, and competent.  We started with a dozen oysters.  We both are very passionate about oysters and eat them often. These were from the east coast, briny and delicious. They also came with the best mignonette I have ever had.  The mignonette was very traditional, but they cracked fresh pepper on top of it right at the end, so it was very punchy and savory.  The oysters were followed by two pasta dishes.  The first was a black ink pasta dish with squid and hot peppers.  This was fantastic, pasta was cooked to a perfect al dente, and the spicy peppers give it a very nice kick.  We also had a burnt flower cavatelli, served with breadcrumbs and romano cheese.  This was a savory and balanced dish.  Our entrée were slightly disappointing because they were not memorable.  I had a lamb dish over chard, cooked well with an excellent pan sauce and nice char on the lamb.  Jon had a duck dish served with duck liver, which did not add anything to the plate, the dish was interesting, and the duck was perfectly cooked, but I have a harder time giving it any more praise than that.  I applaud this risk, but, I it was my least favorite of the evening.  And for dessert, we had beignets with caramel and vanilla cream, YUMMM!!!! I ate all of those, the Urban Chef prefers amaretto and espresso for dessert, (crazy!). 

And now for this week’s Thanksgiving post, the Top Ten Tools you must have for the perfect Thanksgiving feast.  Click on the title for where to buy online!

10.    Pie pans.  Please do yourself a favor and order classic pie pans from Macy’s, those tin things in the supermarket just won’t do!  Less than $10 piece.

  1. 9. A Stainless Steal Roasting Pan.  We had to buy one of these last year for our 1st Thanksgiving.  I went to Macy’s (at Harold Square) and battled the crowds… the kitchen department is in the basement, scary because you feel like you will never get out and that no one seems to work down there, but, I got it for half off!  $39.99 right now!

  1. A Meat Thermometer.  I never had one of these until I lived with the Urban Chef, but, it is really necessary, don’t trust the pop up thing on the turkey.  It is $5 at the grocery store.  You can get the fancy ones if you want, but, we use it twice a year, only splurge if you have the dough.

  1. Mixing Bowls: you will go through tons of these at Thanksgiving.  These are great to hold ingredients that you have already prepared and while you are baking.  I like the stainless steal metal ones.  At Macy’s you can buy a set of four for $12.99!

  1. 6. A Turkey Baster: We actually do not have one of these, and I am going to make sure we get one!  Last year we basted a turkey with a large spoon, I think I burned myself like 16 times.  Break the bank and spend the $2… it’s worth it!

  1. Potato Masher: Again, we do not have one of these—I do it with a fork… which by the way in fancy NY restaurants means I can charge twice as much for those potatoes.  Save yourself the effort, spend the $10 for the masher.

  1. Wooden Spoons: you can’t have enough, seriously, you can buy a set of three at Amazon for $5.
  1. 3. A Whisk: Can’t have gravy without one, enough said.

  1. 2. A Carving Knife—A good carving knife makes your life so much easier, and is the difference between people thinking you are a Turkey carving pro, or being assigned to “dish duty” for years to come because people won’t let you near the turkey.  This is a higher priced item, but you can buy a Wusthof for around $100, they last forever! (just like your carving reputation)

  1. A Wine Key… the one kitchen essential, the key to surviving and having a happy Thanksgiving! 
Next week: How to make the ultimate turkey using a t-shirt!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thanksgiving Part I: Pie, Pie and More Pie!

I love Thanksgiving.  It is my number one favorite holiday.  It’s my favorite, not only because I love food and good wine and Thanksgiving is a smorgasbord of decadence and deliciousness, but because it is an All American holiday.  Everyone in this country celebrates Thanksgiving, it brings us all together as Americans and unites us through one common act, stuffing ourselves silly with turkey and gravy.  I love when you can actually wish someone a Happy Thanksgiving, I don’t have to worry about whether I just offended them like during the winter holidays (note the PC correctness).  I mean seriously, I am so tired of saying Happy Holiday’s instead of Merry Christmas because heaven forbid I make anyone feel excluded and offend those with oversensitive egos that celebrate Hanukah, kwanza, or whatever new holiday the Kardashian’s are going to make up and brand.  Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving, pure, simple, and classic.

Thanksgiving 2010...YUM PIE!
Pie is the pièce de résistance of Thanksgiving.  Just when you think you can’t eat anymore because you are so stuffed and popping out of your fat pants, you glance over at the sideboard and see those delicious pies staring back you.  And if you are anything like me, you tell yourself, I’m an American goddamnit, I’m going to eat some pie!  Then stuff yourself with two pieces, crumble on the couch in a food coma, and watch TV until you fall asleep.  I mean seriously people, does it get anymore American than that? 

Pie is a great tradition in the Soule house.  We take it VERY seriously.  Our Grandma Soule was the best baker there ever was, and now, since she is gone, the rest of us try and fill her shoes.  I find this time of year, there are many newfangled fancy Thanksgiving dessert recipes, like pumpkin mousse, pumpkin cheese cake, curried apple custard, and you know what I say to that, phooey!  I’m a classic girl with classic tastes, I want pumpkin, pecan, and apple pie.  And you know what dear reader, that’s exactly what you are going to get.

When making pies for a Thanksgiving feast, I recommend you cook them the night before.  All pie keeps well, especially covered in tin foil on a cool sideboard.  This keeps your oven free the next day for your turkey and other side dishes needing to be kept warm.  The trick to a successful Thanksgiving dinner is timing your oven—get the pies done early! 

Pie Crust
Each pie starts with the perfect crust, this is the best recipe I have found to make crust that is flaky and light.  If you do not have a mixer, you can combine the ingredients with two forks, harder, but good for your biceps.  I use this recipe from

Yield: Makes 2 pie crusts (enough dough for 1 double-crust pie, 1 lattice-topped pie, or 2 single-crust pies)

2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup chilled lard or frozen nonhydrogenated solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (if you don’t have this, you can substitute more butter)
5 tablespoons (or more) ice water

Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter and lard; using on/off turns, blend until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Add 5 tablespoons ice water and mix with fork until dough begins to clump together, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dry. Gather dough together. Divide dough in half; flatten each half into disk. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

DO AHEAD Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep refrigerated. If necessary, soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out. 

Apple Pie
I shared a recipe with you last week, but this one is much more classic.  You can do a single crust or double, whichever you prefer.

1 pie crust (half recipe above) or 2 crusts (full recipe above)
8 or 9 large apples of several different cooking varieties (Delicious apples will NOT do), peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
Juice of 1 large lemon
½ cup Sugar
1 t Ground cinnamon
1 t vanilla
Pinch of both ground mace and ground nutmeg

Unsalted butter
1 large egg white beaten with a little water, for brushing

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Unwrap dough.  On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll it out to a 12-in diameter, 1/8 inch round.  Fold into quarters and transfer to a 9-inch pie plate.  Unfold and mold into plate.  Trim edges to a ¾ inch overhang.  Turn edges under and crimp with fingers, and refrigerate. 

In a large bowl, mix the apple slices in the lemon juice. Add the sugar and cinnamon, then add the mace, nutmeg, and vanilla.  Pour the apple mixture into the prepared pastry shell. Mound toward the center and dot with butter.

If using two crusts:
Roll out the remaining pastry and carefully lay it over the apples. Seal the edges, cut vent holes, and decorate with extra pieces of dough cut into decorative shapes. Brush the egg wash over the surface of the pastry.

Place the pie pan on a baking sheet (to catch any spill over) and cook in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350° F. and continue to cook for about another hour, until the top crust is a beautiful golden brown. If the edges start to darken too much, cover with a ribbon of aluminum foil.

Pecan Pie
My mother’s favorite—she makes an excellent version, this is an update to that recipe. 
1 pie crust (half recipe above)
1 large egg
5 large egg yolks
2/3 cup light cane syrup
2/3 cup light brown sugar
½ cup heavy cream
¼ t salt
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 t vanilla extract
1 ¾ cup pecan pieces

Heat oven to 325 degrees. 

Unwrap dough.  On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll it out to a 12-in diameter, 1/8 inch round.  Fold into quarters and transfer to a 9-inch pie plate.  Unfold and mold into plate.  Trim edges to a ¾ inch overhang.  Turn edges under and crimp with fingers, and refrigerate. 

Whisk egg and egg yolks together in a bowel.  Combine cane syrup, sugar, cream and salt in a saucepan until blended.  Add butter and cook over medium heat until melted, then cook until mixture is hot but not bubbling, about 1 min longer.  Gradually whisk syrup mixture into eggs until blended.  Stir in vanilla.  Add pecan pieces and stir together. 

Pour filling into the crust.  Bake until filling is set around edges but center jiggles slightly, 45-50min. 

Pumpkin Pie
The pie for without which, no Thanksgiving is complete.  The best pumpkin pie recipe I have ever come across is from my Aunt, adapted from the Silver Palate spicy pumpkin pie recipe found there.  It is so flavorful, no limp spices for this pie, you can truly taste the pumpkin… its delicious, and my favorite.  I upped the sugars from the original recipe, you can back them down if you want it really spicy.

1 pie crust (half recipe above)
3 eggs
1/2 C. granulated sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
2 C canned pumpkin puree
1 t. ground ginger
1 and 1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground cloves
1/2 t ground allspice
1/4 t ground cardamom
pinch salt
3/4 C heavy cream
3/4 C half & half

Preheat oven to 450.

Unwrap dough.  On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll it out to a 12-in diameter, 1/8 inch round.  Fold into quarters and transfer to a 9-inch pie plate.  Unfold and mold into plate.  Trim edges to a ¾ inch overhang.  Turn edges under and crimp with fingers, and refrigerate. 

Beat eggs and both sugars until light in a large bowl. Stir in pumpkin, spices, salt. Mix thoroughly. Stir in cream and half & half.

Pour into your prepared pie crust in pie plate.

Bake at 450 for 8 min. Reduce heat to 325 and bake for another 40-45 min...until filling is set.  Inserted knife will come out clean.

So there you have it!  All you need for the perfect delicious dessert spread. 

In other news, we have a new addition to our kitchen!  I call her Tanya.  It is a KitchenAid dishwasher with a Pro Scrubber… no more scrubbing for me!  Wha hoo!  And look how cute the Urban Chef is…

 Check back next week for Thanksgiving, Part II: Turkey Time

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Moussaka right back at ya!

Happy November!  I hope everyone had a nice and safe Halloween!

I found this great recipe for an easy moussaka which is basically a nice deviation on Sheppard’s pie, you add eggplant and cloves to the meat plus any vegetables that you like.  I added wilted dying broccoli, when baked into the casserole, it tasted great and added needed body and depth of flavor to the meat, plus something green!

I originally was attracted to this recipe because I was in the mood for Greek food, but this more turned out to be a cathartic way to clean out my fridge.  It’s not going to be the ultimate recipe for you to satisfy your Greek island desires, but a great way to use ground beef, veggies that are sitting in the fridge, while making a satisfying and different casserole.  A classic Sunday night dinner that reheats well for lunch.  As someone who often eats alone, I’ve definitely embraced the joy of leftovers.  That is something I learned from my dad, who never let anything go bad, and has happily eaten leftovers for lunch / dinner for the past umm, well, let’s just say a really long time!

Easy Moussaka
Adapted from a recipe on the NYTimes

2 medium eggplant (about 2 pounds), cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds Red Bliss potatoes (or whatever you have around)
1/3 cup whole milk
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pound ground lamb (or beef)
1 very large onion, finely chopped
2 cinnamon sticks or ½ t ground cinnamon
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
2 medium tomatoes, cored and chopped
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons bread crumbs.

1. In a colander, toss the eggplant and 1 teaspoon salt. Drain in the sink for 15 minutes.

2. Heat oven to 450 degrees Toss the eggplant with the oil and spread on a large baking sheet. Roast, turning occasionally, until golden and tender, about 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees.

3. Bring 6 cups water, the potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Lower heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes; drain and return potatoes to the warm pot. In a small bowl, whisk together milk and egg yolk. Mash potatoes with milk-egg mixture, 1/2 cup cheese, butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.  You want the potatoes extra creamy (I actually used half and half this time, so awesome!)

4. In a very large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the lamb or (beef), breaking it up with a fork as it cooks. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Push the meat to one side of the skillet and spoon off all but a thin layer of fat from the skillet. Add the onions and cinnamon sticks to the skillet. Cook until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir the lamb back into the onions and add the garlic and ground clove. Cook 2 minutes more. Stir in the tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Cook until tomatoes are soft and the mixture is thick, about 10 minutes. Stir in the eggplant.

5. Spoon into a 9-inch baking dish. Spread the mashed potatoes over the lamb. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and the remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Bake until top is golden brown and slightly crusty, about 30 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

Yield: 6 servings.

COMING UP: Every Thursday, for the next three weeks, we will be posting Thanksgiving recipes!  This week, PIE, PIE, and well more PIE! 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Transitioning Into Fall

It’s definitely fall—I know, because everything I touch shocks me, literally.  That dry air makes me an electric current carrier and every time I walk into our kitchen I am afraid to touch anything because ***zap**** ouch!  But, I do love the season change because it gives me an excuse to turn on the oven and make those warm savory dishes that fill the house and warm the air.  It’s also an excuse to eat all those yummy comfort foods…hello sweater season! 

This weekend, the Urban Chef and I went full Americana for meals.  To start off, I made an apple pie with the apples received from our CSA.  The way I do apple pie is one crust, for me, apple pie is all about the filling—why muck it up with all those carbs?  Also, that way I can feel good about eating half a pie (no, seriously, it’s happened).  I like to tell myself its like getting a fruit serving—what? That’s why my dad told me!

Second, I made a fabulous vegetarian pizza with caramelized onions and kale.  It was so delicious, I was truly was surprised by the complexity of the dish and how satisfying it was.  Even though this dish is vegetarian, it is luxurious; it doesn’t feel like you are missing anything.  The savory of the kale and ricotta cheese paired perfectly with the sweetness of the caramelized onions.  This is great for a vegetarian dinner entrée or a quick appetizer (cut into small pieces.)  It also reheats well. 

And finally, Sunday dinner.  The Urban Chef is still working urban hours from hell, so I am still doing a lot of cooking in order to give him a break. Now, most everything the Urban Chef makes, I love, and truly believe he can make better than anyone else I know, except for one thing, meatloaf.  I know, it’s crazy, but the Soule-family meatloaf recipe is the one to beat.  It has three kinds of meat, over ¼ vegetables (so it’s healthy—work with me) and a refined finish, which doesn’t include any type of ketchup or bbq sauce.  It’s light, not greasy, and full of interesting, yet familiar flavors.  It’s a meatloaf kids will eat, yet make adults happy.  Plus, it makes a lot of food, so you have tons of leftovers (meatloaf sandwich, with sautéed onion, melted swiss cheese, hello!)   I also like to finish it with a mushroom gravy, yum yum yum, with this meal, the leftovers go fast!

Apple Pie
(hey, this counts as a fruit serving right? style) This pie works with any kind of apples but I like to use at least two different kinds

Preparation time:  20 minutes.
Total time 80 minutes.

Number of servings:  8 (or 4 if you are part of the Soule family, or two if it’s Sunday afternoon in the middle of a Damages marathon)
1 pie crust
6 large, 8 medium or 10 small applies, pealed and sliced thinly
½ to 1 cup cider
½ cup sugar
2 ½ T corn starch
1 ½ T lemon juice
1 T cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
¼ t vanilla
¼ t salt

Preheat oven 450 and bake empty, docked pie crust (just poke a fork in the bottom of the crust a few times) for 10 – 15 minutes until lightly browned.

Cook all ingredients on the stove over medium heat until apples soften and sauce thickens, about 20min.  Pore apple mixture into prebaked, cooled pie crust and bake at 350 for ½ hour or until the pie bubbles in the center.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Onion Pizza with Ricotta & Kale
This recipe was adapted from the NY Times.  If you like, you can substitute another leafy green in for the kale. 

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 pounds onions, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound kale, stemmed, leaves washed
1 14-inch pizza crust (1/2 batch pizza dough)--  see earlier posts for pizza dough recipe
3/4 cup ricotta (6 ounces)
2 ounces Parmesan, grated (1/2 cup, tightly packed)
1 egg yolk
2 T crushed red pepper

Preheat over to 475.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet. Add the onions. Cook, stirring often, until tender and just beginning to color, about 10 minutes. Add the thyme, garlic and a generous pinch of salt. Turn the heat to low, cover and cook another 10 to 20 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are golden brown and very sweet and soft. Remove from the heat.

While the onions are cooking, stem and wash the kale leaves, and bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Fill a medium bowl with ice water. When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the kale. Blanch for one to two minutes, just until the leaves are tender, and transfer to the ice water. Drain and squeeze out excess water. Alternatively, steam the kale for two to three minutes until wilted, and rinse with cold water. Chop the kale medium-fine.

Roll out the dough, oil a 14-inch pizza pan and dust with cornmeal. Place the dough on the pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, egg yolk, Parmesan and kale. Spread over the pizza dough in an even layer, leaving a 1-inch border around the rim. Spread the onions over the ricotta mixture.

Place in the hot oven, and bake 10 to 15 minutes until the crust and bits of the onion are nicely browned. Remove from the heat, and serve hot or warm.

Meatloaf- Soule Family Style
Preparation Time: 25min
Cooking Time: 45min
I only have a precooked picture-- that's how fast it went!

1 large onion
2 stalks celery
1 large carrot (shredded)
1 pepper – sweet, green, red or cubanelle or other mildly hot pepper
3 clove garlic
1 T olive oil
2 t thyme

1 lb lean (90/10) ground beef – chuck is best followed by sirloin and then round
1 lb ground turkey or chicken
1 lb ground pork – as lean as possible, may substitute more beef or veal
2 eggs, beaten
1 slice white bread
3 T whole milk
2 T Worchestshire sauce
1 T tamari (soy sauce)
4 T parsley
1 T hot sauce (Tabasco style)

Pre heat oven to 350.

Chop vegetables finely (make sure you shred carrot) and sauté until soft.  Soak bread in milk, mix with beaten egg, Worchestshire sauce, tamari and hot sauce.  Mix well.  Add meat and sautéed vegetables and mix well but gently with your hands.  Form into loaves using non-stick bread pans.  At this point, you may turn the bread pan out onto a cookie sheet for cooking or freeze in pan until ready to bake.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until done.

Mushroom Gravy

1 cup mushrooms
2 medium shallots diced
4 garlic cloves diced
2 T olive oil
1 ½ cups sherry vinegar (white wine will also work)
2 T butter
Drippings from meatloaf pans

While your meatloaf is resting on a plate, take your olive oil, chopped mushrooms, shallots, and garlic and sauté in a frying pan on medium high heat.  Drop in the drippings from the meatloaf.  Deglaze pan with 1 ½ cups of sherry vinegar.  Let vinegar reduce, stirring often.  When it reaches a thick consistency, add 2 tablespoons of butter.  Turn off heat.  Sir until butter is melted.  Serve.

Stay tuned… next week some recipes for your Thanksgiving feast, Urban Style.  Happy eating to all!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sam Sifton ranks #1 restaurant in NY

If I were to have a last meal, this is where I would eat.  Sam Sifton, for his final review as the NY Times food critic gave Per Se the title of the #1 restaurant in New York.  I desperately want to eat here, the dining experience is tantamount to euphoria, but the almost $1,000 price tag for two drags me back to reality (thud, tears).  Maybe instead of a honeymoon, the Urban Chef and I will dine here.

Per Se Dining Review, by Sam Sifton

Bravo Sam Sifton!  I have enjoyed your work.  Your linguistic ability and nuanced view of the New York dining scene was a breath of fresh air.  I love your ability to see worth in spaces to dine outside of the confines of midtown Manhattan and of big name celebrity chef's.  I enjoyed the wide variety of places you reviewed, you spoke to many levels of diners, those for business, pleasure, high brow, low brow, and let's face it, way too damn trendy, and gave us all reviews to ponder and that dared us to stretch our culinary comfort zone.  

PS- Thank you for not making the #1 restaurant in New York M Wells-- we just can't give in to the faux hipster revolution.

PPS- I don't hate on you for liking KFC-- personally I prefer Popeye's, but let's face it, sometimes we all need a little comfort food. 

PPS- When the Urban Chef opens a restaurant, you best whip out your reviewing pad-- do I hear a comeback?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

From East to West

I know it has been awhile since we posted… a lot is going on, but mostly, we’ve been working!  If you want to see the Urban Chef, he is now almost always at Thistle Hill Tavern, with the head chef opening a new restaurant in Lincoln Center, Indie Food & Wine, Jon has been running Thistle Hill Tavern on his own.  This has left little time for cooking… his diet has consisted mostly of ham and cheese or turkey and cheese sandwiches… (never fear, he is still taking the time to make his own mayo!).  So that leaves the cooking to me!  During the week, I have to admit, I usually just make something simple at home for myself (and he is happier with his sandwich).  But over the weekends, I’ve been trying to make some yummy dinner dishes for the Urban Chef to enjoy.  Also, since it’s starting to get cooler, I have been making dishes that evoke early fall.  Below, see the last two Sunday dinners I have made for the Urban Chef (and sometimes friends!)

The first is chicken tikka masala.  The Urban Chef loves anything spicy that he can put over rice, and I was inspired to use the garam masala spice I had just purchased the other week.  This recipe I adapted to be simple and use ingredients that most will have on-hand. 

WEEKEND #1—Indian Themed

Chicken Tikka Masala
1 hour 45min
Cooking time 30min, 1 hour marinate, 15 min prep.

1 t lemon juice
2 t ground cumin
1 t ground cinnamon
1 T cayenne pepper
1 T turmeric
2 t freshly ground black pepper
1 T cayenne pepper
1 T minced fresh ginger
1t garam masala
1 t paprika
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces

1 T butter
2 cloves of garlic
1 jalapeno pepper (more if you want it spicier)
2 t ground cumin
2 t paprika
2 t turmeric
1 T cayenne pepper
1 8oz can of tomato puree
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup fresh cilantro (for garnish, optional)

In a large bowl, combine marinade ingredients.  Stir in chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat a cast iron skillet on high heat (5 min).  You want it really hot.  Put the chicken into the pan and grill for 5 min on a side (until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove from heat after cooked.

Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Sauté garlic and jalapeno for 1 minute. Season with the cumin, paprika, turmeric, cayenne pepper and salt.  Stir in tomato sauce and cream.  Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes, stirring often. Add grilled chicken and simmer for 10 more minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Serve with rice. 

The urban chef ate this up, he actually told me to not eat any of the leftovers because he wanted them!!! He said I could have the eggplant curry (see below), ok honey, thank you!  He also made the chicken tikka masala into a sandwich one night, he thought that was fabulous as well.

Don’t know what to do with all that eggplant… I make spicy eggplant curry!  So savory and creamy, all the while being extremely healthy!  A great work lunch, pop it into the microwave with some rice.  Although your cube mates may not appreciate!

Baingan Bharta (eggplant curry)

1 Eggplant (should be big and fat)
2 medium size tomatoes
1/2 cup green chopped red bell pepper
2 green chilies
1/4 inch piece of ginger
3 T oil
1 t cumin
1 t coriander powder
1/2 t turmeric
1/2 t red chili
1 t garam masala
2 T chopped cilantro to garnish

Cook the whole eggplant (put it on a microwave safe dish) in microwave for 8 to 10 minutes until it is tender. If you are using an oven, preheat the oven at 400 degrees F and bake it for about 45 minutes turning the sides every fifteen minutes. Be sure to first put the eggplant in an oven safe shallow bowl or a cookie sheet.

Let it cool fully and peel off the skin then chop the eggplant in small pieces and keep aside.

Blend the tomatoes, ginger and green chili in a blender.  Chop the green pepper.

Heat the oil in a skillet on medium high and stir fry the bell pepper for about a minute.

Take out the bell pepper from pan and keep aside.

Use the same saucepan with remaining oil heat the oil little more. Test the heat by adding one cumin seed to the oil; if it cracks right away it is ready. Add cumin seed.

After cumin seeds crack (about 1 min), add tomato puree, coriander powder, turmeric, red chili, and salt and let it cook for a few minutes until tomato puree has started leaving the oil.

Add eggplant let it cook on medium heat keep stirring the eggplant and mashing the eggplant as it cooks.  You can stick it in a blender first while its cool if you want it really smooth, but I find it smashes fine. 

Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add bell pepper back, fresh cilantro, salt, and garam masala to the eggplant and mix it gently.  Enjoy!


For a day of football, I made an all-American dinner… Roast chicken with dirty mashed potatoes and sautéed string beans.  I bought a 5 and ½ lb chicken for 4 people and there was none left 30 min later!  We had the Urban Chef’s best friend Larry (our lawyer who helped us get our new place!  If you need a lawyer he is fantastic) and his lovely girlfriend Nana over for an afternoon of football and dinner.

I love roast chicken because it is so simple, yet incredibly satisfying and delicious.  Its one of my favorite go to’s!  So get out the roasting pan ladies and gents… its chicken time!

Simple Roast Chicken
Cooking time (15-20min per lb).  Check the chicken, it should be 165 degrees at the thickest part (thigh) when done.

 I prefer fresh herbs, but you can use dry.
2 T butter, softened.
4 springs rosemary (2 T)
4 springs thyme (2 T)
1T tarragon
1 T oregano
1 whole roaster chicken
1 onion
1 lemon

Preheat oven to 375.  Pull butter out to soften. Clean the chicken, take out the gizzards, and wash the chicken inside and out, pat dry.  Mix spices with butter.  Rub the herb butter all over the chicken and under the skin (be careful not to tear it!). Stuff the chicken with a halved onion, a quartered lemon, and any leftover spices you may have (twigs and all).  Put her in the oven and set a timer.

Meanwhile…make your veggies.  (recipes and timing below)

Pull the chicken out of the oven when the timer goes off.  Check with a thermometer that it is at 165 degrees.  Move to a serving platter and let rest for at least 10-15 min (so it gets nice and juicy!)

Pour off the pan drippings and get ready to make gravy.  Pour the pan dripping into a skilled with 1 cup of chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer.  Add a slurry, (1 part flour to 2 parts stock, so 2 T flour and 4 T stock).  Add slurry to skillet and whisk whisk whisk!  (about 5 min—should thicken up).  I usually enlist someone to whisk so I can finish the veggies!  If your gravy is too thick, add a few T of stock, to thin, add a few T of flour.  Don’t worry too much about it, gravy is always delicious!

Dirty Rosemary Mashed Potatoes
8 medium white potatoes
4 T butter
1 cup milk

Scrub potatoes until they are clean.  Cut in half if they are large (just make sure all the pieces are the same size).  Put in a large pot of salted water.  Turn on the burner to bring water to a boil when the chicken is 45 min away from being done.  Potatoes will take about 40 min to cook through (test).  Then drain off the water. 

Mash potatoes thoroughly.  Do not add any liquid before you mash completely.  Add the butter, milk, salt and pepper.  Stir until creamy, cover.

Sautéed Green Beans
1 lb string beans
3 cloves of Garlic
2 Shallots
2 T olive oil
2 t honey

After you scrub your potatoes—but before you mash, begin to prepare for your sautéed green beans.  After you blanch them, they will be finished in 2 min in a sauté pan and should be completed at the very end… even after the gravy!

Ring a pot of water to a boil.  Add green beans when water is boiling and blanch for 2 min.  You know the green beans are done when they turn bright green.  Pour green beans into a colander and rinse with cold water (you can use an ice bath too).  Make sure green beans are cold so you know that they have stopped cooking.  Set aside.

Chop finely the garlic and shallot.  Set aside.

After the gravy is made, chicken is resting, potatoes are mashed, heat 2 T olive oil in a skillet, on high heat sauté the shallot and garlic, 1 min, add the green beans, coating with the olive oil and shallot and garlic (2 min).  Put into a service bowl and add 2 t of honey, coat well.  Serve immediately.

Voila!  Sunday dinner!  See you all next week… just a bit of a teaser, I’m making lamb tagine... it could be delicious....

Monday, August 29, 2011

The First Dinner Party

We had our first guests over to our new apartment last Monday—and very rightly so, it was the person who introduced The Urban Chef and me a little less than 2 years ago, Ms. Christina, also known as “Bean.”  I wish I could say that we did this deliberately, but sometimes fate and pure chance just make things happen in such a way that I wonder just how much we have control over.  I think it was so fabulous, that in the Urban Chef and my new home, that the first person who enjoyed the culinary treats was the woman who introduced us.

During the unpacking process something happened, I lost the screws to the Urban Chef’s chef table (gasp).  Not on purpose… the screws were really small and I think I accidentally threw them away… ok ok, I know, worst girlfriend ever.  But, I figured, we were going to Home Depot the next day, how hard could it be to replace them…famous last words.  Let me tell you how hard.  We are at Home Depot, waiting in line for paint, and the Urban Chef comes back from the bolt section looking like a defeated puppy.  They didn’t have the bolts, didn’t know anyone who did, and couldn’t order them—they didn’t even know what they were called!  Yeah, thanks Home Depot.  So now, I feel AWFUL!!!!   The next day the Urban Chef scourers EVERY hardware store in a 5 miles radius from our apt.  Nothing.  But we did learn that we were looking for metric set screws, thin weave.  So we decide to go online, we think we have a pretty good idea about what size they are and we find them on  Good prices, nice store, but we can’t get the right size.  More scouring on the internet, I go to a contractor supply sites and find a store called Fastenal—which is only open during contractor hours, M-F 7-3pm in Brooklyn.  The Urban Chef finally makes it there, this last Monday (14 days after we moved in... believe me, he was counting) and finds his bolts!!! YAY!  So if you ever need weird crazy bolts, go to Fastenal.  Although, the funny thing was when the Urban Chef walked in, he was like “Please tell me you have these screws, I have looked all over Brooklyn.” And the clerk responds, “Well you should have come here first.”  Deadpan.  Ha ha! So Brooklyn.  But I digress, happiness ensues, and the Urban Chef's chef table is ready in the knick of time for our first guests.

Christina and Jorge arrive last Monday evening armed with the most amazing plant I have ever seen.  It was a large green flowery orb with hanging habanero peppers! Awesome (and hot)!  Christina said people were stopping here on the street asking her where she got it.  I made salsa with one of the peppers this weekend and it was so hot I could barely eat it (but I did…note to self, 1 habenero make it plenty hot, 2 will make is sweltering!)

It was so nice to have people over, The Urban Chef and I love to entertain.  And the Urban Chef’s 1st meal did not disappoint.  The first course was a scallop crudo—scallops poached in acid to cook them (like a civiche) leaving you with almost raw fresh scallops.  The dish was tart, light, and savory—a perfect way to start a dinner on a hot summer night.  To accompany, Christina had brought an Albarino whose citrus notes played perfectly with the scallops.  Albarino is a Spanish wine grown in the North Eastern region, it is very similar to that of Viognier, Gewurztraminer and has hints of stone fruits.  The wine produced is light and generally high in acidity… my choice for a hot summer night, refreshing and light.  

2nd course was shrimp tacos!!! YUMMY!  You think you have had shrimp tacos, but you haven’t until you have eaten the Urban Chef’s.  Succulent shrimp topped with pickled spicy cherry tomatoes, crispy kale, and hot habenero cilantro crema.  Firm grilled shrimp, accompanied by a pop of a pickled tomato, the bitter of the kale, finished with the savory spicy notes of the light drizzle of crema. All the flavors worked together without overpowering each other, the tomatoes were perfect without taking away from the succulence of the shrimp.  These tacos went in record time!  

 The Urban Chef is a little hesitant to post the recipe for shrimp tacos, as he doesn’t want the “world” to see it.  I did reassure him that only like 10 people read my blog (thanks Mom & Dad) and that his secrets were safe with them… but still no dice.  If you do want the recipe, you can email him personally and he will send it to you.  Just be warned, you may be asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement (kidding!)

This past weekend was a bit of a bust as Hurricane (wait I mean Rainstorm) Irene placed the city of New York into a panic.  Some parts of the Eastern Seaboard are still without power—here’s hoping you get it back up soon (my Grandma called me and was worried that her cat Lucy was bored without the TV…likely story Grandma!)  But if you do have a gas stove and are still without power… here’s what to do with a can of cannelloni beans, bread, and an onion.  I also make this on a fall afternoon when I want a simple and hearty lunch.

Italian Bean Lunch

1 yellow onion (medium)
2 clove garlic (optional)
1 can of Cannelloni (white) beans
2 T Olive oil
1 T marjoram (if you don’t have Italian seasoning will work)
Parmesan Cheese (optional)
Bread (toasted)

Slice onion into medium rings and dice garlic.  Preheat a large cast iron pan on high heat.  Add oil when hot.  Saute onion for about 2 min, until fragrant, add garlic, sauté 1 minute.  Open Cannelloni beans and add to pan (including liquid from beans).  Stir and bring back to a boil.  Add seasonings (salt, pepper, marjoram or Italian seasoning).  After returning to a boil, lower to medium heat, stir beans and let lightly simmer until sauce thickens a bit (4-5min). 

Meanwhile, toast bread (I like day old baguettes, as with toasting give you the crunching which is good to sop up the sauce from the beans.)  And for those who have never toasted bread without a toaster, your gas broiler works for the purpose too—just make sure to watch it, it goes quick and there is no bell!

Put toasted bread on a plate.  Butter toast if desired.  Pour beans on top of toast.  Sprinkle with Parmesan! 

Hello gourmet canned food meal!  Don’t let a lack of power stop you from eating well…enjoy something delicious!