Tag Archives: New York City

ROASTED CHICKEN

At least in my neighborhood, it has become increasingly difficult to find a whole chicken at the grocery store. Nowadays, there are shelves and shelves of chicken parts – breasts, wings, thighs, and drumsticks – with increasingly processed sub-types – chicken tenders, boneless breasts, “drumettes”, skinless thighs, and ground chicken. You get the idea. When Ralph’s announced a sale of whole chickens, my menu-driven mind went into overdrive. Usually I boil a whole chicken for the resultant stock along with enough meat picked from the bones for gumbo or green chile chicken or something similar. This time I wanted to do something else that was also not too hard or tome-consuming. I flashed on roasted chicken, inspired by Jacques Pépin who wrote in his classic La Technique, “There is nothing as simple and as delicious as a well-cooked roast chicken.” He went on to say, “Unfortunately, to get it properly done in a restaurant is as rare as it is simple.” That sounds like an intimidating challenge from one of the most important cooking experts of our time.

Sarah knows about intimidation by Jacques Pépin and André Soltner, both very warm and generous individuals. They were deans at the French Culinary Institute in New York City when she was a student. Chefs Pépin and Soltner  provided instruction in their lectures and demonstrations along with kindness and encouragement in their personal interactions, but they were also involved in examinations. Roasting a chicken was one of the tasks in the final exam. Sarah was anxious, but she passed – with great relief and celebration.

This recipe is drawn freely from Pépin’s La Technique. If you can find a copy, you should by all means buy it. Published in 1976, it is out of print, but you can find it on-line. The book is a heavily-illustrated step-by-step narrative of French cooking techniques, and the photos are all of Pépin himself performing the actions required in each technique. On top of that, La Technique is an excellent cookbook in its own right. It goes without saying that my roast chicken is not in the league of Jacques Pépin’s, but hopefully it would pass the test.

RECIPE

Roasted Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken, about 3 pounds
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup water

Method

  1. Remove liver and other giblets that may be packaged with the chicken. Pat dry and sprinkle generously inside and out with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large cast-iron or other heavy, oven-proof pan, melt the butter. Place the chicken in the melted butter, and using a basting brush, paint the entire chicken with the butter.
  3. Place the chicken on its side in the pan and bake in the middle of a pre-heated 400° oven for 15 minutes. Turn on the other side and roast for another 15 minutes.
  4. Turn the chicken on its back and baste with dripping using a large metal cooking spoon. Continue to roast for an additional 30 minutes, basting every 5 minutes with scraped-up drippings and frond.
  5. Add water to the pan and roast for 5 more minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, cover with foil, and rest for 10 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile stir the pan gravy. Correct seasoning if needed. Transfer to a serving bowl.
  8. Carve the chicken and serve immediately.

 

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CHOPPED CHICKEN LIVER

We found a container of frozen chicken livers in our chest freezer. Susan thought that was an invitation to make chopped chicken liver to spread on toast for a light dinner during our current heat wave. That sounded like a good idea. We have several recipes, but I wanted to try something that was possibly more “authentic.”

I turned to Amanda Hesser’s The Essential New York Times Cookbook, which is an up-to-date, authoritative cookbook that has become a consistent go-to. She had a recipe for chopped chicken livers from Russ and Daughters on East Houston Street on the Lower Eastside. What could be more authentic than that?

Between them, our two girls lived in New York City for a number of years. Actually, for much of the time  they lived close to Manhattan. Carol lived in Hoboken while it was “cheap”. Now the hipsters have moved in, and it is no longer cheap. Every day she rode the bus through the Lincoln Tunnel to the Port Authority close to her job at the McGraw-Hill building.

Sarah lived in Hoboken for a time, too. She took the PATH to the World Trade Center. Then she moved to a couple of places in Queens, including a walk-up in Long Island City. The apartment was directly over an auto body shop, but it had a definite advantage. If you crawled out of the kitchen window you could enjoy a “terrace” that was actually the roof of the auto shop. There were no guard rails, so there was danger of falling into the salvage yard behind the garage, protected by two snarling, leaping, unchained German shepherds (They’re called “junk yard dogs”). When you were out on the terrace, but only if you balanced on a chair, you could see the tallest spires of a bit of the Manhattan skyline. I think New York realtors call that a peek-a-boo view. I don’t think the neighborhood is in danger of gentrification.

Years later, I saw the movie, Julie and Julia. I am convinced that they used Sarah’s apartment for one of the sets for that movie.

Eventually, Sarah and Evan moved to the Red Square Apartments on East Houston on the Lower Eastside. To this day you can recognize the building by the clock with random numbers and the 18 foot statue of Lenin with his arms outstretched in the direction of Wall Street. This neighborhood has undergone gentrification. Sarah and Evan probably couldn’t afford to live there anymore. There are multiple high-rise condominium buildings along with a fancy new grocery store AND a giant Whole Foods.

This is a long-winded introduction to tell you about the culinary delights of East Houston. There is more than one Punjabi takeout for the taxi drivers. There are several tiny but well known restaurants with long lines for Sunday brunch. But the jewels of eating are on the south side of Houston. The most famous is undoubtedly Katz’s Delicatessen, saved from threatened destruction during the gentrification process. The place is not to be missed. Just remember to follow precisely the instructions for diners before you start the process, especially in keeping track of your bill. You will be rewarded by one of the largest, most delicious pastrami (or whatever meat you choose) sandwiches you have ever had.

Then there’s Yonah Schimmel for knishes. The place goes back more than a hundred years, and I think it has not been renovated in a hundred years. Honestly, I am not a big fan of knishes, but this is the real thing, and just like an IHOP pancake it will stick to your ribs all day long.

My favorite food stop, though, is Russ and Daughters, specializing in smoked fish, caviar, herring, and related delicacies. It, too, dates back to more than a hundred years ago. It looks like it was updated in the 1930s, with art deco signs and lettering, straight out of a black and white movie with Nick and Nora Charles. The phalanx of servers is intimidating and definitely no-nonsense, but they turn out to be friendly (as much as you can expect), fast, and efficient. Besides their lox, they are famous for their chopped chicken livers. Here’s an interpretation of their recipe:

Chopped Chicken Liver

I thawed one container of frozen chicken livers, about one pound. I rinsed them and blotted them dry. Then I fried them in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, about 3 minutes on each side, and set them aside on a plate. Using a sharp chef’s knife, I chopped them coarsely. (You can use a food processor, but then the delicate livers will turn to mush.)

I hard-boiled three eggs, chilled them, and peeled them. Using a fork, I mashed them coarsely.

I diced two large yellow onions. Then I caramelized them in a sauté pan in 2 tablespoons of vegetable shortening, about 40 minutes.

Finally, I combined the sautéed chicken livers, mashed eggs, and caramelized onions. I adjusted seasoning with salt and pepper, and chilled in the refrigerator for an hour before serving with rye flat breads.

I’m not sure my recipe is authentic, but it turned out to be very tasty.

 

 

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SALLY HURRICANE’S SOUTHERN FRIED CHICKEN

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know that our daughter and son-in-law, Sarah and Evan Rich, run a popular restaurant in San Francisco named Rich Table. The food there has been described as “New American” and generally  is based on the current offerings available in the bounteous farmers’ markets of the Bay Area.

But Sarah has roots in the South as well as having two grandmothers who were excellent home cooks. Both grandmothers took pride in their fried chicken. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and cream gravy along with home-baked biscuits were staples on the Sunday dining room table at our family farm in East Texas.

That’s also where Sarah got the nickname, Sally Hurricane. As a two-year-old she ran the show. One family photograph shows her wearing her great aunt’s wig borrowed from a wig stand in a back bedroom.

Hurricane Sally

Hurricane Sally

Sally Hurricane has been cooking fried chicken from the recipe in our family cookbook since before she went to culinary school. She has made her version (now revised and considerably improved) for family meals at upscale restaurants in New York City and San Francisco. Inevitably, regardless of the restaurant, when fried chicken and biscuits were the family meal menu, cheers went up from both the front of the house and kitchen staffs.

This week, Sally Hurricane is revealing some treasured family secrets in the food section of the San Francisco Chronicle.  She also gives the recipe for mashed potatoes that she learned when she worked for David Bouley. You might enjoy a preview.

http://www.sfchronicle.com/recipes/article/Sarah-Rich-taps-family-recipe-for-Southern-style-8313792.php?t=e37fe5da3d8cb1714c&cmpid=twitter-premium#photo-10076970

 

 

 

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PECAN PIE

When Mom Mom and Pop Pop lived on their East Texas farm, Thanksgiving was a holiday that the whole family anticipated. Mom Mom would spend weeks planning the menu and then days setting a festive table. All of the children and their respective families would arrive as early in the week as they could to help with wood chopping, cooking, and schmoozing. The giant turkey was the centerpiece of the celebration, but what everyone was really looking forward to was dessert with pumpkin and pecan pie – enough that everyone could have a slice of both, along with whipped cream, of course.

The pecan pies were a joint effort. Pop Pop would sit on the front porch for days cracking pecans with his trusty impact nut cracker, and Mom Mom would use the freshly-shelled nuts for her famous pecan pie. Her version was well known among the ladies in town, and she did several versions from one-bite tassies to lindividual pies to the real thing. She had a secret that she never passed on to the town ladies, who always made their pies with Karo syrup. Mom Mom used only brown sugar and never passed on the secret to anyone except her daughters.

Of course, there must be hundreds of recipes for pecan pie, and there will be plenty more in newspapers and magazines as Thanksgiving gets closer. This recipe, though, is special. It comes from Jessica Maher and was published in the November, 2015 issue of Texas Monthly.

Jessica and Sarah have been close friends since college days. They rowed together in the women’s eights at the University of Texas at Austin. But unbeknownst to one another, their lives followed amazingly similar paths. After college, both were casting about for careers (Sarah decided it was hard to make a living with a major in Spanish and a minor in Italian.) They both wound up going to culinary school in New York, and then their paths crossed again. They both worked for a time at Bouley in Lower Manhattan. Subsequently they both moved on to other New York restaurants, but they kept in close touch. Then they both married chefs, moved away from New York, opened up restaurants while having two kids each, and wondering what to do with their spare time. To this day, though, they stay in touch, often calling one another at least every week.

Jessica and Todd have a very successful restaurant in Austin, Texas, named Lenoir. For a number of years they have been prominent in the Austin restaurant scene, and their place has gotten excellent reviews in Texas Monthly, a publication no good Texan does without. (They call themselves the “National Magazine of Texas.”) This recipe, complete with a gorgeous image, comes from the November issue.

RECIPE

Jessica Maher’s Perfect Pecan Pie

Ingredients

  • pie crust for 9 inch pie, unbaked
  • 2 cups pecans (45 halves reserved for top)
  • 1 cup dark-brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup Lyle’s golden syrup*
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • big pinch salt

*Note: Lyle’s golden syrup may be a bit hard to find in the US. It is one of the most popular brands of an English product made during the production of cane sugar. Dark treacle is a thick syrup that has some of the characteristics of molasses. When it is filtered and decolorized it becomes light treacle, also known as golden syrup. Unfortunately there are no good substitutes. Light Karo has added vanilla. Dark Karo may have too much flavor. Maple syrup is not as thick. Some suggest mixtures of honey and Karo or straight agave syrup. The short answer is there is no substitute. Supposedly Lyle’s is carried at Whole Foods and World Market, but if all else fails, you can order it online.

Method

  1. Use your favorite pie dough recipe or a prepared, unbaked crust
  2. Spread the pecans in a rimmed baking pan and toast in the middle of an oven preheated to 250° F for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently until the oils begin to release and the pecans become fragrant. Watch carefully to avoid scorching. Remove from the oven, cool, set aside 45 halves for the top and chop the remaining pecans coarsely.
  3. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, syrup, bourbon, and butter. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
  4. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, and salt together. Then whisk into the sugar mixture.
  5. Spread the chopped pecans over the bottom of the pie crust fitted to a 9 inch pie pan. Then pour in the batter. Arrange the pecan halves on top of the pie in concentric circles, starting from the middle.
  6. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 350° F for 45 to 50 minutes or until the filling is just set and the crust is golden brown.
  7. Rest for at least one hour on a cooling rack or overnight. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

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GAZPACHO CRUDO

A couple of weeks ago, Sarah and Evan cooked at the James Beard House operated by the James Beard Foundation in New York City.  We had the pleasure of watching them via a webcam in the kitchen.

Their dinner menu included a number of the dishes that have become favorites at Rich Table in San Francisco, including gazpacho with strawberries, chicken skin, and burrata. I have enjoyed that dish several times, but I am not a skilled enough cook to duplicate it, so I’ll just need to make do with gazpacho.

For me, the taste of traditional gazpacho is wonderful. But I don’t like the mouth-feel. It reminds me of baby food. I much prefer seeing the vegetables and bread intact so that it’s almost like eating a liquid salad in a bowl or cup.

I found just the right ingredients at the farmers market, including an Armenian cucumber, aka snake melon. It is not really a cucumber, but it has the crispness and crunch of the freshest of regular cucumbers and without having to worry about seeds. It also has the charm of being slender, long, and coiling around itself. It’s easy to see why it has the name of snake melon.

Vegetables for gazpacho

Vegetables for gazpacho

Easy to make, and refreshing in the fading days of summer.

Croutons on top, ready to serve

Croutons on top, ready to serve

RECIPE

Gazpacho Crudo

Ingredients

  • juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 ripe large heirloom tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, seeded, membrane removed, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 small Armenian cucumber, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and mashed into paste
  • ½ cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 large, I inch-thick slice of good-quality bakery bread, crust remove and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thinly

Method

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, cucumber, garlic paste, and parsley, making sure to coat the vegetables with the lemon/olive oil mixture.
  3. Stir in chicken stock. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
  4. In the meantime, let the bread cubes dry at room temperature for 1 hour.
  5. In a small skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced garlic and sauté for a few minutes until the garlic is lightly browned. Remove the garlic slices, and add the bread cubes, stirring frequently until lightly browned and crisp. Drain the croutons on several layers of paper towel. Cool, and set aside until ready to garnish the gazpacho.
  6. Serve the gazpacho in bowls or in large cups with a spoon. Garnish with croutons.
  7. Serves 4.

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