Thanksgiving, 2013!

The family's all here and ready to eat.

The family’s all here and ready to eat.

A couple weeks ago, Shefali, Kaya and I had the good fortune to spend Thanksgiving with my parents, my sister and her family and Shefali’s mother and sister.   This was our first Thanksgiving since we moved back the West Coast, so it was a real treat to be able to spend it with both sides of our families.  In addition, our good friends, Simon and Jen and their kids, and PK (and his two crutches) also joined us for what proved to be a delicious and nutritious (calories are nutritious right?) feast.

As usual, we spent several hours preparing and cooking the requisite T-Day food – stuffing (sausage stuffing from me, oyster stuffing from my mom), turkey (grilled in record time on the Weber by my dad), mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts (prepared by Cameron and Cheryl) and three different desserts (apple galette and cheesecake from Jen, pumpkin pie from Shef).  Also as usual, the eating/ inhaling food part took all of about 15 minutes and left us all slouched uncomfortably in a haze of culinary  excess. Another year and another successful Thanksgiving.  But don’t just take my word for it.  Watch the two part documentary masterpiece which so compellingly captures our Thanksgiving, 2013!

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NYC Eats (with a smaller group of people) – Fu Run

This is the final installment of the NYC Eats (with Matt and other friends).  I wanted to get this out sooner, but I got a little waylaid by the recently acquired full time j-o-b.  So although this meal was eaten almost two weeks ago, its flavors  have been seared into my cerebellum and I remember it like it was yesterday… okay maybe like a week ago.  What I do remember is that with the exception of one dish (which was merely mediocre) the food was uniformly fresh, intense, full of strong, primary flavors and a whole lot of lamb.  We went to a Dong Bei restaurant in Queens called Fu Run. Using a year-old NY Times writeup about the proliferation of Dong Bei Restaurants in Flushing as a guide, we suggested for  Matt’s last NYC dinner one of the the recommended restaurants: Northeast Taste Chinese Food (don’t know if that was a direct translation or what).  Running late as usual – my fault, as usual – Shefali and I speed-walked from the Flushing subway stop the nine blocks to NTCF where Matt, Alex, Waine had been waiting for about half an hour.  Unfortunately, despite it’s super creative name,  in the year since the article was published, Northeast Taste had changed ownership and was now a Peking duck restaurant. While, we all love a good Peking duck, were really had our minds and stomachs set on food from former Manchuria so we stopped by another of the four recommended restaurant from the Time’s article, a nearby place called Hong Yi Shun.  Yet again – I was starting to sense a pattern here – HYS  had transitioned into a different restaurant and while the menu looked appetizing, it didn’t offer quite the dishes we were looking for.  The urgency of the situation was rising as I sensed the growing pissed off-ed-ness of everyone including myself  due to our lateness and the continued emptiness of our stomachs.  We decided to put our faith in the article one last time and headed to a third recommended restaurant, Fu Run which was all the way back where we’d all come from, a block from the subway.   After a wrong turn had us panicking that this restaurant was also no longer in existance (what had we done in our previous lives to deserve this karma?),  we finally righted ourselves and spotted the large awning and bright windows of the promised land, aka Fu Run.  After another nearly interminable wait, during which I kind of lost it – I get emotional when I’m hungry – we were finally seated. And then we ordered.  And then we ate.  Praise Buddha, did we eat.  Take a look for yourself.

[not pictured above: the two varieties of lamb dumplings]

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C’s Hot Wings!

My attempt at plating. Anyway, you get the idea. Wings and drumettes with sauce.

Alright, I meant to put this up before the Super Bowl, but I got waylaid by Chinese New Year’s festivities (stay tuned for a future posting).  So football season is now officially over.  But really, who needs to watch grown men running around in skin tight pants, head butting each other in order to enjoy spicy and delicious chicken wings?  I, for one, do not.  And neither should you.  It’s always the right time for hot wings.

Here’s the recipe (as usual, quantities are suggested):

Ingredients:
8 oz chipotle peppers in adobo (or from 1/2 cup to 3/4 – depending on how spicy you want it)
2 – 3 tsp to of fish sauce
1-2 tsp of vinegar
1 tbsp of ginger
1-2 tsp of garlic
2-3 tbsp of plain yogurt
2 1/2 lbs of chicken wings

Here’s how you do it:

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Memphis Meals – Second Night

Second Night – Gus’s (World Famous) Fried Chicken
I only included the parenthesis because even though it’s on the sign above the door, there’s another Gus’s World Famous Fried chicken whose website has a different logo and a different location.  So, Gus might be a pretty common name, as is the claim of  “world famous fried chicken”  In any case this Gus’s was located downtown, within walking distance of where I was staying and came highly recommended by my friends Sanj and Alana, friends who don’t know each other and made their recommendations separately.  Trust is a good thing, because world famous or not, this was some damn fine fried chicken!  Freshly fried in a light and flavorful batter whose bright crispiness gave way to the juicy meat beneath, this was truly great fried chicken.

As seen from the outside. It was actually snowing that night, so I was looking forward to gettin in there and filling up on fried food.

Danger Men Cooking: looking into the kitchen where all the magic happens.

How to make pickles better? Deep fry them of course. And then serve them with ranch dressing. I think if I was a pregnant woman, I would crave these.

Three pieces of fried chicken (they gave an extra piece!) - all dark meat, of course, cole slaw and dirty rice. You can kind of see that the chicken was still bubbling having just come out of the fryer.

I don't like to waste food.

the cooks: (l-r) Tony, Courtney and Miron

Final verdict:  Awesome! Worthy of world fame.

Next post: third night…

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Lahmacun and Sarmale

This past weekend found us taking a culinary trip from Turkey to Romania all from the comfort of our own kitchen.

Saturday Night = Turkey Night

As is often the case, Shefali suggested and I executed.  In this case, she suggested that  I make lahmacun, a flat bread “pizza” with a topping of ground meat  and spices for a potluck party we were attending on Saturday night,.  Now depending on whom you talk to, lahmacun (pronounced: lah-ma-joon) is either of Turkish or Armenian origins.  I don’t  want to get into the particular complications of the conflicted relationship between Turkey and it’s Armenian citizens, but one thing they do share in common is this delicious savory snack/meal (I say “meal” because because once you try it, you might not be able to refrain from eating just a snack like portion).  You can also find lahmacun in Lebanese and Syrian restaurants and bakeries.  I consulted a couple recipes for inspiration: a Saveur Magazine recipe and a recipe from a Turkish cook book by Özcan Ozan, the chef owner of The Sultan’s Kitchen, a Turkish restaurant in Boston.  Then I just kind of did my own thing.  Again proving the versatility of the sourdough starter, I used the sourdough for which I was originally intending to make baguettes and then re-purposed for the flat bread.  It added a nice extra tang and chewiness. Here’s what the lahmacun looked like:

uncooked lahamcun - basically spicy meat paste spread over dough

after baking for about 10 minutes at 475 degrees F. Smelled just like Turkey! In other words, it smelled deliciously of spiced savory lamb

Lamahcun waiting station. Packing them up for the poluck.

Sunday Night = Romania Night

A fun game that we often play in our house is naked twister. But when we get bored of that we play another game called “what the hell should we do with all this cabbage in our fridge?” And fortunately our CSA gives us ample opportunity to play this game.  Case in point, our last pick up we got three different types of cabbage: a red cabbage with which I made my patented cole slaw, a napa cabbage for which I already assigned supporting role duty in Shanghai chow mein.  That left me with one more head of cabbage, an arrowhead cabbage (?) that I had to figure out how to cook.  Solution: sarmale, or Romanian style stuffed cabbage.  I’m dating myself here, but I first sampled sarmale in Romania when I was shooting a “documentary” about the origins of Dracula and vampires,  which served as bonus material  on the DVD release of one of the finest movies ever made: Underworld – yeah that vampires v. werewolves movie staring Kate Beckinsale. Well, at least it got me to Romania where I remember the food being really, hearty, rustic (raw bacon? yes please) and delicious.   Case in point: the stuffed cabbage dish called sarmale.  Stuffing cabbage with meat and other ingredients is not unique to Romania.   According to Wikipedia, sarma as it is also called has it’s origins in the Ottoman Empire which makes complete sense if you consider all the the countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia that have stuffed cabbage.  They were all under the influence directly or indirectly (or just by proximity) to the Ottoman Empire.  Isn’t history cool?  Anyway, I consulted a number of recipes on the web and basically incorporated a bunch of them to suit my needs and capabilities.  Some recipes called for using sauerkraut which I didn’t have, so I blanched the cabbage leaves in water and vinegar before using them to wrap the meat mixture ( a combination of ground pork, lamb and beef mixed with rice, spices, onions, garlic and celery).  The end result? Delicios! (uh, that’s Romanian for “delicious”)

Sarmale - cabbage is stuffed and ready to be cooked

Sarmale in the pot and simmered slowly in broth and a bit of tomato paste

The sarmale after cooking in the oven for about an hour at about 350?.

We cooked for our friends Ben and Maria visiting from out of town. Ben, who's Jewish said the sarmale reminde him of food his mom cooks. Mission accomplished. I always knew I'd make a great Jewish mother.

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