Thursday, June 21, 2012


I am unclear how it made it almost 39 years without having a panisse.  They are a French french fry.  Our first encounter with them occurred earlier last summer. ‘What is it?‘ I asked Jim taking my second bite.  ‘I don’t know, what do you think?‘  ‘No clue.  But it’s delicious.’ ‘Mmmhmm.’  So, we asked the waiter.  Chick pea fries.  Had we simply read the menu or paid attention perhaps we would have known.  However, it was a revelation.  Chickpea fries.  A little research told me these were indigenous to Southern France and as common as waffles at The Waffle House.  How had we managed to live our lives without these?  
The restaurant that gave us these gems is the second for a local chef to whom we are devoted.  We were devoted to his first restaurant and thrilled to hear about a second.  I am not sure he knows about our devotion but I suspect, now, between these fries, the pork belly BLT with lardo mayo, the crab roll, some very special clams, seriously awesome oysters and a fried chicken that rivals Thomas Keller and the Colonel. He is starting to catch on because we show up at least once a week, sometimes twice for lunch.  Lunchtime is quiet and we stick out.  Well, Jim sticks out.  If you have never met my one and only he’s the 6’5” bald guy in the Buddy Holly by way of Brooklyn glasses.  Jim, by sheer cubic space, cannot be ignored, and I’m the much shorter person with him.  Dinner is busy with curious food trendsters and hungry neighbors, lunch has not been discovered.  While I appreciate having a cool secret, I don’t want the rest of this town to screw up my good thing, so here’s hoping more people show up for lunch and Jim and I melt into the background.  
The chef is turning out food with a nod, a French nod, or a New England nod, or a Spanish nod, or a Florida nod or whatever he feels like nodding. It’s just good food.  And nary a pimento cheese dip, deviled egg or red velvet anything on the menu. The fries had to be ours though.  They are made much like polenta.  Chickpea flour, plus water, heated and mixed together, placed in a pan to cool then sliced in to rectangles and fried in olive oil.  That’s it or so said Mark Bittman and David Leibovitz.  However, these tasted better than that ingredient list.  It’s not that easy in fact it has taken me a year to get this one right.
This is what I have come up with that gets close.  If you happen to live in Atlanta go to One Eared Stag in Inman Park for lunch and try Chef Phalen’s version.  Or try something more adventurous because there is a lot of fun stuff happening on that menu.  If you don’t live in Atlanta, well, then you have an excuse to try mine.  
Panisses - Serves 4
1 cup chickpea flour
1 cup veggie stock
1 cup water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
Olive oil for frying
Put the stock and/or water and the teaspoon of olive oil in a pot and heat until shimmering, not boiling, whisk in the chickpea flour and the salt. Continue to whisk or stir while it cooks for about 5 minutes.  Add in the parsley and pour in to a greased small rectangular dish, mine is 5"x7".  Cool to room temperature and move to the fridge for at least 6 hours.  I usually do this step the day before I want to serve them.
Turn the molded dough out on to a paper towel and blot any condensation.  The top layer will be lumpy, slice it off and slice the remainder in to fries.  Heat about a 1/2” of oil in a wide pan.  Fry the fries for about 5 minutes until golden brown.  Sprinkle with sea salt.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Road Vittles

One summer in college I shared an apartment with my boyfriend and several of his friends.  Living with 3 college-aged men was not as challenging or disgusting (minus a very contained experiment in the bathroom I will not go in to) as one might anticipate.  For the most part they were all fairly neat, everyone paid their bills on time and all were oddly domestic.  Everyone took turns cooking dinner.  And the dinners were affairs.  We cooked dinner. It took several hours, it involved numerous courses. Thanks to my roommate Luke’s discovery, often we would crawl up a chute, out a window and enjoy those dinners on the roof of our 4-plex over-looking downtown North Bennington, Vermont, which if you have ever travelled to North B know consists of an intersection with a stop sign.  But it is quaint and it looks like Vermont.
Dinner became pretty multi-cultural affairs in that apartment; J.P. grew up in Belguim, Andy’s dad was from Greece, Luke’s parents were from Japan, and then there was me.  Luke, of course, made the most interesting dinners.  It wasn’t sushi and it certainly wasn’t on the menu at Bennihanna.  He made dishes his mother made which I’ll dare to call Japanese comfort food by way of the many other influences of Flushing, Queens, where he grew up.  Luke could cook.  And we became those people, the ones that buy the kitty litter sized bag of rice so large you cannot put it on a shelf; you must stack it in a corner like a piece of furniture.  Luke even took a trip to New York specifically to get the rice and a few other staples.  Oddly he seemed surprised that he missed these things.  I can’t speak for Luke but I know his relationship with his parents was strained at the time.  I suspect that by simply cooking, he was finding that perhaps they had more in common than he thought and actually missed them.  You could see it in his face and you could hear it when he described what we were going to eat.  He wasn’t just cooking dinner.
One weekend Andy, Luke and I decided to take a road trip to Burlington to visit Andy’s sister.  Prior to leaving Luke surprise packed us some snacks for the road.  We started our trip up Route 7.  I remember this trip well.  I drove; Andy entertained us with Bible tales from the perspective of a young man who would eventually get a PhD in folklore.  It was fascinating and Luke passed out snacks from the back seat; onigiri (or rice balls).  Luke’s were a little smaller than a tennis ball and they were fully covered in nori and perfectly shaped.  Luke explained that this is what his mother would pack for road trips; the insides are a surprise but were usually filled with fairly common ingredients, like tuna fish or vegetables with soy sauce.  I don’t think Andy or I had ever been so charmed by a snack.   We ate them all almost immediately, curious to find out what was in the center.
You can put whatever you like in the center and take them on your next road trip.
Avocado Onigiri - makes about 10
4 cups cooked sushi rice
1/2 of an avocado, sliced in to 1/2” pieces, run under cold water and patted dry
2 sheets of toasted nori, cut in to 1/2” strips
2 tablespoons Kewpie mayo
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
sesame seeds
Stir the ginger into the mayonnaise. Prepare a wide bowl full of salted water, this is for your hands so the rice doesn’t stick to them.  Place a 12” x 12” piece of cling wrap in the center of a small bowl with it. Sprinkle in some sesame seeds. Grab a golf ball sized amount of rice, shape it in to a ball and flatten it and place it in the bowl.  Put two 1/2” avocado slices in the center and a small dot of the mayonnaise.  Grab a tablespoon amount of the rice and put it on top of the filling.  Pull up the sides of the cling wrap and shape the contents into a ball.  Remove.  Get your fingers wet in the water and drip a little on to the nori strip then make a belt around the rice ball with the nori.  Repeat.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Good Morning Indeed

It’s that time of the year, drink recipe time.  We just celebrated father’s day and that means Jim gets breakfast in bed with either champagne or Bloody Marys.  Jim went for the Bloody Mary this year.  Jim drinks his fair share of Bloody Marys.  He likes them when we are traveling for pleasure on AM flights, and often times will have one.  Jim drinks enough Bloody Marys in airports that really should write his own blog about airport Bloody Marys.  
I usually do not join him for a couple reasons.  First, booze + a plane ride = groggy and bloated.  Second, much like the maligned Caesar salad, there are a lot of bad, bad, bad Bloody Marys.  I have no idea why.  But a good one is like a revelation.  One day we were in San Francisco on our way home from wine country Jim requested a Bloody Mary.  We sat down at the bar of our favorite SFO restaurant next to the Delta gates and Jim ordered his AM departure cocktail.  When it arrived I had drink envy, which, quite frankly, happens a lot.  It wasn’t so much the drink as the garnish they put in it.  No wilty celery; it came piled up with pickled carrots, okra and green beans, a pack of olives and a cucumber spear or two.  I eyed his drink.  
“Are you gonna eat that salad?”  
“All of it?”
“Yes. Why don’t you get your own?”
“I don’t want my own I just want your drink salad.”
“Excuse me.” Jim said to the bartender.  “May we have another Bloody Mary?  Actually, make that two more.”  And so I got my drink salad with a side of  cocktail.  And it was an excellent Bloody Mary.  
Soon after I started working on my own Bloody Mary recipe.  There is no excuse for a crappy one.  I suspect the crappy ones involve really bad vodka and off brand tomato juice. For me a Bloody Mary tastes like tomatoes, slightly spicy and you can taste the vodka.  It has a personality, not banality.  
So this year for father’s day we had Bloody Marys and I even joined Jim and drank one, or two, too.
Bloody Marys - Makes 4
2 cups Spicy V8
2 teaspoons worcestershire 
1 1/2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon Old Bay
1 teaspoon sriracha
juice of 1/2 a lemon
juice of 1/2 a lime
pepper - a turn or two
1 1/4 cups vodka
Pickled vegetables and cucumber - the more the merrier
Whisk together the first 8 ingredients and chill overnight.  Add in the vodka and pour over ice.  Garnish and serve.
Notes:  Yes, that is a Trader Vic man in the glass, he’s on top of an olive, pickled okra and a cucumber.  I like using the thick ice cubes that are all the rage currently, so my drink does not get too watery.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bittman Breakfast

Weekday breakfasts are an a la carte free for all around here, egg whites for me, toaster waffles or cereal for the kids and nothing for Jim.  But on the weekends we make BREAKFAST.  More often than not breakfast on the weekends usually involves grits and eggs.  Sometimes we have Jim’s special breakfast potatoes and sometimes polenta substitute teaches for the grits.  We aren’t French toast, waffle or pancake people, I won’t go into the details of what those particular breakfast foods do to the four of us but understand it’s a family wide affliction.  I have an acute aversion to doughnuts and other breakfast sweets and for some reason we reserve bagels and lox for special occasions.  So it’s basically the same thing over and over.  But I am always on the lookout for something new in the breakfast arena.
A couple years ago I went on a Minimalist bender watching almost every Mark Bittman video the New York Times had to offer.  The one recipe that stuck is his Jean-George fried rice.  I’ve changed it, of course, making it less Minimalist.  Mark serves it for lunch, I serve it for breakfast.  OK and while rice isn’t that much different than grits or polenta just humor me that this is my different breakfast meal.  It smells great, a good use of leftovers and it’s good for what may ail you from the night before.  
Garlic-Ginger Fried Rice - from Mark Bittman and Jean-Georges Vongerichten Serves 2-4
3 cups cooked jasmine rice (preferably 1 day old, this is 1 cup uncooked rice)
4 eggs
3-4 tablespoons chopped ginger
3-4 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 leek, sliced
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
sea salt
Sriracha sauce
1 tablespoon white vinegar
Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a heavy pan.  Fry the garlic and ginger until brown and crispy but not burned, this takes about 3 minutes.  With a slotted spoon remove the garlic and ginger from the pan and set aside.  Wipe out the pan and heat 1 tablespoon of oil and saute the leeks until tender, about 10 minutes.  When the leeks are tender add in the rice, soy sauce, sesame oil and salt, stir fry for about 5-7 more minutes. Fill a wide pan with about 2” of water and add the vinegar; bring to a simmer.  Crack the eggs in to small bowls or ramekins.  Tip the bowl with the egg slowly in to the simmering water so the water comes in to the bowl to take the egg out to sea like the tide.  Repeat with the other eggs. Using a slotted spoon, gently redirect the egg around itself in the water. Allow the water to return to a simmer and simmer 2-3 minutes.  Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon or pasta claw and drain on paper towels.   Fill bowls with the rice, top with the poached eggs and sprinkle with the fried garlic and ginger and the cilantro.  Serve with Sriracha.
You can watch the Mark make it here.