Monday, October 31, 2005

Nigella Bites Recap

I've waxed passionately about my unabashed love for Nigella Lawson. She is my role model. I don't know how she pulls off being smart and witty and approachable but she does. I've been remiss not to do a recap of one of her shows. She's had two shows, Nigella Bites and Forever Summer, which have been broadcast on the Style Network. Unfortunately, there are only about 10 episodes of each series and I have eight of them on my DVR. I've watched each of them like five gazillion times.

Nigella starts the episode setting the table in her dining room while recounting a story of a disastrous dinner party her friend threw. It seems like said friend had an ambitious dinner planned and said dinner was making her miserable. Nigella describes the meal as "more and more delicious courses and more and more hysteria." This sets up Nigella to tell us how to entertain without bursting into tears. And yes there have been times I broke into tears. Actually, when I did a Thanksgiving dinner during my study abroad year in Englad, I did end up smashing plates in frustration. I'd like to point out that like every other aspect of Nigella's life, her dining room is exactly the kind of dining room I want to have. Unpretentious and a little cluttersed with built-in bookscases on three sides.

Anyway her solution to sane dinner parties is to have the equivalent of a Middle Eastern mezze where there's "lots of lovely bowls of lots of lovely food all on th e table at once." This ensures that you actually get to enjoy the dinner with your friends. Her first dish is string beans wrapped in proscuitto. She apologizes for the 80's chi-chi impression that wrapping string beans in prosciutto can give but the assembly is easy and straightforward. She then gives us persmission to dress up bought items by adding Greek yogurt to bought hummas and deocrating with olive oil and toasted pine nuts. There's something about the conversational erudition of her speech that is at once casual and intellectual at the same time. She doesn't take this stuff seriously.

Her next dish is guacamole which she mashes with a fork. She uses six avacadoes, spring onions and a healthy amount of limes. Her tip is to dissolve the salt in the lime juice so that it is evenly distributed throughout the guacamole. She sprinkles chopped cilantro over the whole thing and then abashedly wipes down the sides of her serving bowl to make her guacamole look neater. She reminds the audience that she's normally fairly lazy about such things. In another bit of quirkiness, she informs the audience that salad is the only thing she is a purist about. It has to be either a green salad or a red salad (i.e. toMAHtoes).

This segues into the dinner scene where this actually appears to be a dinner party she's throwing as opposed to some contrived audience to coo over her cooking. She ducks out quickly to cook some tiger prawns with garlic and chili (a fairly ubiquitous ingredient in modern British cooking). Segue back to dinner and the jovial buzz of real conversation. There's some perfunctory thanking of Nigella for dinner but none of the contrived compliments you hear on other cooking shows (cough) Ina (cough).

She then talks about how the popularity of Caesar salad. Her twist is to add roast potatoes instead of croutons. She warms her eggs in boiling water with a match which supposedly keeps the egg from running everywhere if it cracks open. She learned it from her great aunt. In a wooden bowl she tears some Romaine lettuce, adds olive oil, Worchestershire sauce, lemon, the eggs and tosses with her hands. She then adds the potatoes and an ungodly amount of parmesan.

Her next dinner party starts with the preparation of a rhubarb "jelly" (the british term for jello). She poaches rhubarb in water and sugar in the oven. She pulls out her leaf gelatin which she poetically describes as a fairly tale princess's castle window. She softens them in cold water for five minutes. Then Nigella strains the rhubarb and recommends using the rhubarb for breakfast with Greek yogurt. She admires the luscious pink color of the juice and then pours a half bottle of muscat wine to make a liter of liquid. She heats the liquid in a small saucepan and turns off the heat. Making muaaah noises as if she's describing a creature from the deep, she squeezes the googly leaf gelatin and melts it in the heated liquid and then adds it to the rest of hte liquid. Nigella pours her liquid jelly into a proper (one with crevicies and crinolations) plastic mold.

Then there the requisite viewing of the contents of Nigella's freezer where she pulls out little baggies of wine she's frozen for cooking purposes. She defends this method by saying it works perfectly fine thank you very much. The main course of this dinner party is a loin of pork that she lays on top of sliced onions (with the skin). She slathers the loin of pork with a mixture of garlic infused olive oil, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt and then puts a little set of spare ribs next to the pork on the roasting pan. We get a view of Nieglla putting the pork in the oven from a pot hanging from her ceiling. Don't ask me why. It's arty.

She adds water and white wine to the pork juices on the bottom of the pan and then simmers it on the stovetop to reduce the juices. Taking the spare ribs as her cook's treat, she munches down on the ribs with aplomb. Inexplicably she makes a salad of flat leaf parsley, onions and capers with a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. As I think parsley tastes like a new mown lawn, I think the salad vile. She goes on about how wonderful the salad is and that she finds reasons to make it time and again, although (in a quoteworthy statement), "pleasure is reason enough. WORD Nigella.

Nigella slices the pork, arranges it on a platter, and decorates the plate with bay leaves "in a Napoleonic flourish." she then serves it to a table rich with conversation. Back in the kitchen Nigella unmolds the "jelly" and serves it wobbling to the table to her Algonquin round table. We end the episode with the jelly being served and guests pouring double cream onto their plates of jelly. And a final note has Nigella raiding the fridge for leftover prawns. Just like me!!!! I LURVE Nigella.

Not food related but funny

Since I'm going to a certain conference for LGBT activists, I decided I needed to know what kind of postmodernist I am.

gender nazi
You are a Gender Nazi. Your boundary-crossing
lifestyle inspires awe in your friends and
colleagues. Or maybe they're just scared you
will kick their asses for using gender-specific
language. Either way, the wife-beater helps.

What kind of postmodernist are you!?
brought to you by Quizilla

As it turns out my friends are right, I am a lesbian in a gay man's body.

Traveling to the Other Coast

So next week I'm going back to Cali. Specifically to Oakland for a certain conference for LGBT activists. If I haven't mentioned it before I am from Cali and have a unabashed love for a state where UCLA actually stands for University of Caucasians Lost Among Asians. When I am not in smarty discussions about how to make the world a better place, I will eating. The Bay Area is a food mecca and I will be hanging with my peeps in every good restaurant within a 50 mile radius of said conference. My friend A and I have decided on a plan of attack for Berkeley where will will hit:

Yogurt Park
(they have frozen yogurt in these cups the size of milkshakes for like $1.00)
Blondie's Pizza
Noah's Bagels

At some point in the trip I have to hit an In 'n Out. R is taking us to Burma Superstar. I am hoping my brother will take me to Fringale, one of those amazing San Francisco bistros where the food's as good as any four star restaurant in DC but the prices are as if restaurant week was every day.

To my readers who live or are from the Bay Area, anything that I'm missing?

Saturday, October 29, 2005

FINALLY! - The long awaited Mac 'n Cheese Recipe

To whoever requested the Mac 'n Cheese recipe, sorry. I just got around to it. I've spent the last week trying to figure out if Eat with Me and Dancerindc are actually parallel dimension versions of J and I.

This Mac 'n Cheese originated from the Fried Green Tomatoes cookbook and is the kind that is baked in a casserole with a crust. Think church lady food. J wanted to up the cheese flavor so he added the paremsan and goat cheese. What's amazing is that you don't taste them, they just make it taste cheesier.

Mac 'n Cheese

2 cups milk
3 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 eggs beaten
5 cups cooked elbow macaroni
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
4 oz crumbled goat cheese
1/4 cup of grated parmesan
3/4 freshbreadcrumbs or cracker crumbs(Ritz is the best)

Preheat the over to 350 degrees. Combine first 6 ingredients in a bowl, whisking until smooth. Combine all of the cheeses in another bowl. Layer half of the cooked macaroni in bottom of a greased 9-inch sqaure baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the cheese and layer the remaining macaroni on top. Pour the milk mixture over the macaroni. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top. Bake for 50 minutes. Sprinkle remaining cheese and continue baking 5 minutes longer until set.

P.S. Rebecca, I asked the Chowhound boards for a pumpkin butter recipe. NOONE RESPONDED. I am such a loser.

Friday, October 28, 2005

A Tale of Two Stuffings

Now back to my reveling of Thanksgiving. This entry was kick started by Eat With Me's Southern Fried Thanskgiving menu. Dude, is your mother Paula Deen? That menu made me hungry and full at the same time.

Last year I engaged in a bloodless coup to take over turkey duty from ym mother. She makes a perfectly fine turkey but I was wondering if my chicken method would work on a turkey. It did, to much acclaim. However, my mother made her "traditional stuffing" for one of the turkeys while I made my cornbread stuffing for the other. My mother's was for the "adults" and mine was for the "kids."

For both you just throw everything into a big bowl and mix, preferably with your hands and then sutff in a turkey. You can put them in a pan to bake alongside the turkey for 45 minutes but for the love of god WHY? I'll let you decide which you like better.

My Mom's Stuffing:

1 package Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix
1 pound of ground pork
1 cup of sliced shitake mushrooms
1 can of garbanzo beans
1 onion chopped
1 cup of finely chopped wood ear mushrooms
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon Maggi seasoning
1 egg
Salt and pepper
Enough canned chicken broth to make the mixture wet (see directions on the stuffing)

My stuffing

1 9 x 9 inch pan of cornbread left to sit out overnight
2 cups of old baguette, cubed
1 cup of frozen whole corn
1 red bell pepper roughly chopped
2 poblano peppers seeded, deveined and roughly chopped
3 green onions chopped
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon of Tony Chachere's
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 egg
1 cup of chicken or vegetable broth

This is great to stuff acorn squash as a vegetarian option.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

I never said I was creative

I was inspired by Not for Profit Dad to do a food version.

7 things I make before I die:
1. A timbale like in Big Night
2. a homemade croissant
3. A centerpiece
4. A vodka martini because the gin ones taste like lighter fluid
5. A wedding cake
6. A chicken pot pie
7. A baby (I am counting on the wonders of reproductive technology)
7 things I cannot do in the kitchen:
1. Keep it clean
2. Make Indian food
3. Make an apple fritter
4. Make any recipe written by Sandra Lee
5. Poach a chicken
6. Debone anything
7. Make beans from scratch
7 things that attract me to ta kitchen:
1. Lots of natural lighting
2. A center island
3. A deep sink with two sections (one to soak and one to rinse)
4. An eat-in kitchen
5. Cleanliness
6. Mexican ceramic tile
7. A baker's rack
7 things that I say most often in the kitchen:
1. Mmmmm....
2. It's peanut-butter pasta night
3. Why is the only beverage we have water?
4. There's more in the fridge
5. Sorry for the mess
6. I've made enough for everyone
7. Caramelized onions
7 celebrity crushes in the food world:
1. Nigella Lawson
2. Mario Batali
3. Ming Tsai
4. Kylie Kwong
5. Irof Chef Morimoto
6. Paula Deen
7. J!!!!!
7 people I want to do this: (although you are absolutely not obligated)
1. J
2. The Kitchenette
3. I Hate Broccoli
4. The All I think About is Food Guy
5. The Eat With Me Guy
6. DC Sleeps Alone
7. Auntie Em

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Jamba Juice

Can anyone tell me why the Whole Foods on P Street decided to close the Jamba Juice? It was a godsend in the summer. I've written two comment cards asking and got no response. At this point I am not even trying to get it back. I just want to know why.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

More random stuff

OH MY GOD. It appears that there might be someone crazier than me on the food blogosphere. Jacinda and Jerry has taken it upon themselves to visit every free-standing Starbucks in the District. They're chronicling it on Sirensongdc. I myself am averse to coffee. The caffeine gives me heart palpitations. The only time I go to Starbucks is to get decaf espresso for tiramisu. Godspeed J and J. I love how 99% of the Starbucks are in NW. I didn't see ANY in NE and only two in SE. NW DC you have sold your soul to the devil.

In other news, I am LOVING my homemade applesauce. I finished the first batch (three jars' worth) in a week. I just finished my first jar of batch two. This stuff is addictive. I simply am astounded by how sweet freshly picked apples are. The only thing added was cinnamon. I encourage everyone to go pick some apples and make applesauce.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Links galore!

So I'm expanding my ode to the Thanksgiving season on DCFud with some recipes for a vegetarian option. and these are good recipes. So good that when I served them for Thanksgiving, a guest who not only ate the turkey but insisted on the hosts serving a fish dish as well, insisted on having one even though I made just enough for the vegetarians.

And since it seems to be tearing up the food blogosphere, I'm including a link to the Rachael Ray article in the New York Times. I think I've made my feelings about Ray Ray fairly clear, but just in case, she and Sandra Lee are Hecate's handmaidens. I was transfixed during 30 Minute Meals when Ray Ray decided that old bread as a perfect substitute for gnocchi. Bread drenched in marinara equals gnocchi. Mmmkay Ray Ray.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Bad manners

As everyone who's read this blog knows, I am constantly puzzled by Ina Garten. On the one hand her recipes are fabulous, she loves gay men, and her kitchen is drool-worthy. On the other hand she has that annoying laugh, her lifestyle is firmly ensconced in the too rich to be relatable category and her friends are uptight and stiff and tend to take their own jokes too seriously. So it was with these mixed feelings I was reading her "Barefoot COntessa Parties" book. I think it reveals what a crazy, co-dependent people-pleaser Ina is. The message of the entire book is to never let your friends know how stressed you are. This is a fine piece of advice up to a point. And that point is when your friends start acting like obnoxious asses. And so I give you this lovely anecdote from Ina:

"Several years ago my 'cool' was really tested. One summer Sunday, I invited eight friends for lunch. A few days before, four people who were coming together said they had an emergency and couldn't come. No problem: I cut back my shopping list and decided to serve lunch in the kitchen.

An hour before the party, two of the people who had conceled earlier called and said they could come after all, was it all rigght? 'Sure,' I said, and sent my husband for some more rolls and lobster salad. Two other guests arrived at the door and said, 'I have a friend in the car, can she come, too?' Now we were up to ten people."

Who pulls this shit? No, seriously, who pulls this shit? I hate to tell you this ina, but you have the most inconsiderate friends on earth. They totally jerked your chain. First they cancel (which is fine since they have her several days notice), but then, with almost no advance notice they decide to come anyway? Even worse what atrocious "friend" decides to fuck up a host's planning and bring extra guests? And these guests were waiting in the car. What if the host was not as co-dependent and said no? You'd be up shit creek.

What does Emily Post say about such behavior?

From the Emily Post Institute:

"Changing a ‘no’ to a ‘yes’ is OK only if it will not upset the hosts’ arrangements."

“May I bring… Don’t even ask! An invitation is extended to the people the hosts want to invite—and no one else."

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Kylie Kwong!!!!!!!

So let me set the stage. It's Saturday night and J and I are staying in and feeling kind of guilty about it because we had plans to go to a Halloween party and just pooped out. After making four jars of applesauce and a batch of apple muffins, I'm chilling out flipping channels. Expecting the Saturday night wasteland of tv shows, I plow through the channels. When I get to Discovery Home, I get a glimpse of some of the most food porntastic images I have ever seen on tv. Luscious close-ups of chopped scallions, ginger and chilies being glossified in stir fry. The source of all of this food erotica is Kylie Kwong. Imagine Lane from Gilmore Girls being possessed by Toni Collette, making Chinese food. Kylie's website describes her as "an ABC (Australian Born Chinese)." She's smart, sassy, and stylish, wearing funky deisgner glasses and kicky silk blouses.

Her show, Kylie Kwong: Heart and Soul is the foodies wet dream. Ingredients are fresh, the kitchen is shot in luminous lighting with sexy close-ups of frenetic chopping and stirring. How foodie is this show? The opening sequence has her putting together an aromatic salt and Chinese peppercorn mixture in a hot wok and then walking around her restaurant to infuse the space with the salt and pepper aroma.

Viewer beware, this is not really a home cooking show. Most of the stuff she makes is dependent on buying the freshest ingredients not necessarily available in the U.S. (i.e. Australian Yellowtail Kingfish). Because this is about stir fry, the techinque requires a level of mis en place (preparation of the ingredients) that I don't have the patience for. For example, check out her Chinese Steamboat meal. The ingredient list makes my head explode.

But this show isn't about self improvement or education. It's about visual pleasure. For the 12 people in DC who have Discovery Home, watch this show.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Apple Picking - YES

It happened! It happened in the best way possible, with gorgeous weather that was cool and crisp but blindingly sunny. We went with Pauline Saturday afternoon to Homestead farms. Homestead farms was packed and I despaired of getting my fill of apples. However, the Homestead farms folks knew what they were doing and there were plenty of apples to go around. J and I ended up picking around 30 pounds worth. And well worth it.

We went around the orchard tasing bruised apples to see which ones we wanted. My favorites were the Golden Delicious which had firm texture that was almost like eating an Asian pear and a bright sweetness. My trick is to pick the ones with a hint of pink blush. Those are the peak of ripeness. We also picked Braeburns and Jonagolds which we perfectly acceptable. J picked the Macintoshes that had great flavor but I can not get over the mealy texture. after heading over to the South orchard and picking granny smiths for baking, Pauline came over and brought this wonderful burnished gold with a stripe of red apple that was a revelation. even better than my beloved Golden Delicious. The texture was firm and juicy. Juicy like a summer peach. And the flavor was like honey. Unforatunately, we forgot to ask the variety of this revelatory apple. My theory is that it's a Sun Fuji.

Coming, home, I planted myself in front of the tv with a bowl, a plastic bag, a cutting board, and a sharp chef's knife and I peeled and cut about 15 pounds of apples for applesauce and apple cake. All while watching my TiVoed Barefoot Contessa and Everyday Italian.

P.S. To Susannah (my Renee Zellwegger) - We would love your biscotti recipe. Check the profile for our email.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Promoted from the comments

The famous barley casserole served by Auntie Em and Uncle Phys:

J seemed so enthralled with the casserole I thought'd I'd pass it along, though I'm uncertain if this is the appropriate location for it within you Blog. If not, please relocate and let me know for future reference.

Barley and Mushroom Casserole
(from Perfect Food, Perfect Health, pg 10)

3.5 oz Shiitake Mushrooms
1 Tbsp Margarine or butter
8 oz. Mushrooms, sliced
4 cups water or broth
1 cup barley, uncooked
1 oz. dried onion soup mix
pinch chives (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Remove and discard stems from shiitake mushrooms; slice mushroom caps. Heat mararine in a medium nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Add shiitake and other mushrooms; saute 5 min. or until t3ender. Set aside.

3. Combine water, barley, and onion soup mix in a 3-quart casserole dish; stir in mushroom mixture. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 min, or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Garnish with chives as desired.

Auntie Em's Notes: The casserole thickens as it cools, so not all liquid must be absorbed before removing the dish from the oven. Use plenty of mushrooms and use good quality soup mix for the best flavor (we like Lipton).

Yields 6 servings

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Thanksgiving Kickoff

Now that I have the Nov. issue of Bon Appetit, I am declaring the Thanksgiving season officially open. I am so looking forward to all the cooking I will do around this holiday. My mom has officially relinquished turkey making to me after the success of last year's turkeys. I made two turkeys last Thanksgiving. Originally my Mom just bought one, but when my sister and I went to Trader Joe's Thanksgiving eve, we decided to grab another, knowing that along with assorted aunts and uncles, SECOND aunts and uncles and cousin would be coming, making the grand total 35. I did rock the turkey. My cousin Anna gave this compliment - "usually turkey is just another part of the meal, but yours is what the meal is all about."

My method is essentially the same as roasting a chicken. I agree with Ina Garten in her assessment that it is infinitely better to buy two 12 pound turkeys than to try and keep a 20 pound turkey moist. Mine came out perfectly with just enough meat for leftovers. And flying in the face of so many hygiene experts, I stuff my turkeys. I don't care if it isn't enough. I don't care about bacteria. Stuffing is not stuff if you don't pull it out of the cavity. People don't FIGHT over dressing that was baked alongside the turkey. They do fight over stuffing. Having two turkeys meant there were two stuffings. The first was one my mother makes that consists of stuffing mix, garbanzo beans, shitake mushrooms and shallots. Mine is a southwestern style with cornbread, poblano chiles, and corn.

I prep my turkey by making a compound butter with rosemary, black pepper, Maggi seasoning and a touch of honey. I push the compund butter under the turkey skin and spread it around. After the turkey is stuffed and trussed, I stick it in the oven at 375 for 2 1/2 hours. To test for doneness, I shake hands with one of the legs. If the handshake is firm then the turkey is cooked. If it's limp, then the turkey needs more time. I confirm my handshake test by cutting into the space between the thigh and breast to see if the juices run clear. Once I am assured of the doneness, I cover the turkey with foil and let it rest for half an hour. Do not skip this step because this is the key to moist turkey. This is also good for the timing of the meal because it frees up the oven to heat the sides.

I do get someone else to carve the turkey because I am hopeless as that.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Apple Picking - NOT!

Dear Kitchenette,

As you know, there was no joy in mudville as DC turned into mudville as well as waterville this Saturday. The skies opened Friday and just refused to stop raining until it became dark on Saturday. So there was no apple picking. If you heard the wailing coming from Capitol Hill, that was me having my apple picking thwarted. My friends and I did have a rain plan, which was to do a potluck at Auntie Em's and Uncle Phys. Undaunted, I did go to Eastern Market and get locally grown apples for the potluck but I wasn't so undaunted that I wanted to carry a half gallon of cider home with me in the rain. So no cider doughnuts. However, that's on my list. My goal is to make those puppies by the end of the year.

Disappointment aside, the rain plan turned into one of the best potlucks I've ever attended. People were really geared up for a fall potluck and I was impressed by the coherence of the menu. The starter was a basic crudite platter from Costco (Yay sugar snap peas!) along with a plate of cheese and bread (with a particularly lovely goat cheese). Em and Phys also made barley and mushroom casserole that was the definition of hearty. This may be disputed, but that casserole could give mac and cheese a some competition in the comfort food category. G-Squared brought warming squash and apple soup that fit perfectly with the fall menu. Continuing in the squash vein Stinkle provided a butternut squash lasagna that layered lasagna noodles with pureed butternut squash and a goat cheese/ricotta cheese mixture. This led to a discussion about creating the lasagna version of muffin tops. That is to say, Em and I agreed that the best part of a lasagna was the crusty sides that were all crunchy and carmelized. Could we invent a lasagne pan that only had crusty sides? For dessert S made pumpkin bread and I decided to be a little creative and make two apple crostadas (or gallettes as Phys pointed out). Is there a difference between a gallette and a crostada? This was supplemented with vanilla ice cream from the hosts' freezer. A great menu for the far reaching discussions about the DC housing market (DC law requires that every dinner party bemoan the inflated prices), pornography for straight women, and tips on quilting and knitting.

For those interested in making a crostada (or gallette):

Make filling for 1 apple pie. Roll your pie crust to disk that is 12-14 inches in diameter (and no thinner than 1/4 inch thick). Roll out onto a greased cookie sheet. Dump the filling into the middle of the rolled out crust, leaving a 3 inch border on every side. Fold the border onto the filling. You should have about four inches in diameter of filling exposed. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Andale: Oh My God, the Margaritas!

I care deeply about Mexican food. I can eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I make it at home, at friends houses, for my parents. Back where I grew up in Texas, I even enjoyed it from a few 24-hour drive throughs. Most of all, I love it well-prepared from a wonderful restaurant.

I've had some decent Mexican meals in DC, but they have often been few and far between. Before we get to Andale, you should know that my personal checklist for a good Mexican restaurant is pretty simple:

1. Chips that are warm, fresh, not greasy, and not terribly thick.

2. Salsa that is flavorful with a good balance of those flavors. Hints of cliantro and cumin are preferred along with a heat that begs you to eat more. Salsa that is too tomato-sweet is a no-no.

3. A set of reliable staple dishes that refuse to rely on a suffocating amount of cheese. Oh, a generous amount of cheese is just fine, but some places seem to try to hide the food under more cheese than an 80s teen comedy. The cheese has a role, but doesn't need to be in every scene.

4. A smooth margarita made with fresh lime juice without an overwhelming tequila taste. Oh how I love the margarita.

Given all that, I was happy when some close friends (MS and SR) invited us to have dinner at Andale on Friday night. I've read and heard some nice things so I looked forward to it. So here we go . . .

The Chips and Salsa Test: I'm astounded by the number of Mexican restaurants that will serve you a basket of grease-soaked chips. Don't get me wrong, seeing a slight glisten or shine from their fry bath is not the problem. When your chips are translucent from the grease soaking, when it makes them chewy rather than crisp, I just wonder if anyone really can enjoy them?

The standard bearer for me has been Monica's Aca y Alla a jazz-hot restaurant in Dallas, Texas featuring affordable and remarkable dishes based on cuisine from Mexico City. The tri-color chips there are served warm and plentiful and there is rarely much grease.

Andale's robust basket of chips and three salsas were not free. Holy crap, that's sacrilege where I come from. For $5.00 we had chips and three salsas: Salsa Verde, Salsa Fresca,and Salsa Picante de Chile Chipotle y Tomate. The salsa verde was tasty, a bit sweeter than I expected but with a nice flavor depth. The Salsa Fresca was exactly that, a tingly cold balance of jalapeno, tomato, onion and cilantro. The Salsa Picante was tasty as well. All three were quite enjoyable though I would not say that I would crave more of the same.

But I was not disappointed, the accompanying chips were total winners. Definitely the best I have had in DC. I can think of a few places that might want to visit Andale and learn a bit about delivering a basket that doesn't need a drip pan.

The Food: The four of us deliberated quite a bit after jumping onto a quick appetizer order. We ended up with the Queso Fundido con Chorizo. Melted Chihuahua cheese, roasted poblanos, onions, and chorizo sausage arrived in hot ceramic containers accompanied by some fresh warm flour tortillas. By the way we scooped, sopped, and scraped, it was clear that this was a table favorite. The saltiness of the cheese and the perfect flavor of the chorizo were truly delicious. I'm eager to go back and try more of what sounded like very interesting appetizers.

The group spent a considerable amount of time planning our entree orders. Each of us, at one time or another, considered the chicken mole. I think there is a dearth of mole options in the area so getting a mole fix was on most of our minds. T ended up with the mole while M ordered the lamb and S ordered the pork chop. I ended up ordering the Enchiladas Verdes.

Of all the options, the Enchiladas Verdes may seem to be the least exciting. Oh my how this is wrong. My hunch, that a more simple dish done right would show off Chef Allison Swope's skills turned out to be a good one. These are absolutely superb enchiladas. Corn tortillas with a tomatillo sauce stuffed with shredded chicken and topped with queso fresco. See, it doesn't sound particularly impressive. It is. The soft corn tortillas have taken in just enough of the piquant tomatillo sauce and just the right amount of heat to be fork tender. The delicious corn taste anchored the more explosive sauce. The chicken was so tender and seemed almost more minced then shredded. Ever have thready shredded chicken enchiladas? Not here. Delicious I'm telling you. And the side of black beans were perfect. Cooked until tender and simply dead on. I will go back for this dish.

The tastes I had of the other dishes were good, although I definitely liked mine best. Each of my dining companions liked their food although it seemed everyone might have enjoyed some tweaks to their meal.

So that takes care of food. What about the drinks? I suppose you can tell by the title that I liked the Margaritas. That is the understatement of the year. Seriously, if you, like me, have ever bemoaned the lack of great margaritas in the area, this is the place to go.

My rocks with salt was served nice and cold and was so clearly not made from a mix. Limes people limes! This is a margarita you want to savor, to nurture over a good talk. One I kept revisiting to find its flaw -- could I really like it this much? Yes, it was just that good. So goodI had to go thank the bartender. Talent people, I'm telling you.

So holler if you know a great margarita or another Mexican place. I'll be heading back to Andale soon!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Shout outs galore

First shout is is to the lovely Kitchenette whose recipe in the comments section merits a promotion to the blog. Yes I will be making this on Saturday. Yes I will need ot eat salad for the rest of the week to get over the deep fried goodness.

Form the Kitchenette:

I escaped Washington last weekend for an apple picking adventure outside of Philly at a place called Lynvilla Farms. Picked 1.5 bushels, made 3 apple pies, downed a carton of cider and a few cider donuts. One of these days I'm going to make the devilish donuts myself. Here's a recipe if anyone feels inspired (I'm telling you, the things are addicting):

1 cup apple cider
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp.baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
vegetable oil or shortening -for frying

2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup apple cider

For glaze, mix confectioners' sugar and cider.
Dip doughnuts while warm;
serve warm.(I would make glaze optional if I were making
the doughnuts. I like them plain)

Boil apple cider in small saucepan until it is reduced to 1/4 cup, 8 to 10 minutes; cool.

Beat sugar with shortening until smooth. Add eggs and mix well, then add buttermilk and reduced cider.

Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg in another bowl. Add to liquid ingredients; mix just enough to combine. Transfer dough to lightly floured board and pat to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut with 2 1/2- to 3-inch doughnut cutter; reserve doughnut holes and reroll and cut scraps.

Add enough oil or shortening to fill a deep pan 3 inches; heat to 375'F. Fry several doughnuts at a time, turning once or twice, until browned and cooked through, about 4 minutes. Remove to paper towels with slotted spoon.

And shout out to Demetrius who asked for the recipe for apple pie filling. It's not that different form strudel filling. Here it is.

6 firm apples (Granny Smith, Macoun etc), peeled and chopped into 1/4 to 1/2 slices depending on the apple. For firmer apples like Granny Smith, you can cut them into 1/4 inch slices. For softer apples like Golden Delicious, you should cut them into 1/2 inch slices.
1/2 cup golden raisins or cranberries
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Monday, October 03, 2005

Apple Strudel

Fully recovered from the party. Luckily, I am one of those uptight Asians who always drinks a gallon of water before going to bed after drinking a half gallon of alcohol. I can honestly say I have never had a hangover in my life. Yay me.

Before I give you my strudel recipe, can I tell you how freaky it is that people who I write about read DCFoodblog. Case in point, my blatherings about the opinions of a certain former DC restauranteur in the Washington Post. And then I am scrolling through the comments of previous posts and see a comment by....Susannah Locketti!!!!! GAH!!!!!! If anyone has read my Next Food Network Star entries, I was um, unkind, to the esteemed Ms. Locketti. Props to Susannah for her classy comment clarifying her position on carbs. This is just like on the Kathy Griffin show when Renee Zellwegger sends her flowers after Kathy talks trash about Renee. As pointed out by Kathy's main gay, Dennis Hensley, Renee won because Kathy is effing freaked out. And Susannah, you've won because I am effing freaked out. And if Ina Garten is reading, sorry.

Um, did someone mention strudel?

Apple Strudel with Creme Anglaise (makes 2 strudels)

6 firm apples (Granny Smith, Macoun etc), peeled and chopped into 1 inch chunks
1/2 cup golden raisins or cranberries
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup of unseasoned bread crumbs (the way I make bread crumbs is to stick a few slices of stale bread in the toaster oven on 300 degrees for about 15 minutes and then blitz in a food processor).
2 sheets o puff pastry dough.
1 egg and water for egg wash

Mix the first four ingredients together in a large bowl. Add cornstarch and mix so that everything is coated in the cornstarch. Add the breadcrumbs. On a floured board roll out the puff pastry until it's 12 inches long and 9 inches wide (essentially an inch bigger than a sheet of paper) and place on a greased cookie sheet. Pour half the apple mixture into the middle of the puff pastry lengthwise (there should be about three inches of pastry on either side). Seal two sides together and then seal the ends together. Flip over so the seamed side is on the bottom. Brush with egg wash and bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes.

Creme Anglaise
Over a double boiler (a bowl over a pot of simmering water), whisk 3 egg yolks and 3 tablespoons of sugar together. Continue whisking until thickened. Add 1 1/2 cups of half and half and a vanilla bean cut in half. Simmer over the double boiler while continuing whisking. Do that until the mixture can coat the back of a spoon. Serve over strudel.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Drunk blogging - more apples.

Ok. If I make more typos than usual it's because I just got home from an Oktoberfest party and am drunk off my ass on purple malt liquor and Reisling whine(I hate beer). Our friends M & K had the most kickin German potluck where they lordered their guests to bring hearty German food that would feed a corwd. In turn, they provided enough bratwurst to feed all of Bavaria. This led on one of the best potlucks ever created. One the menu included spaetlze, four kinds of potatoes, fondue with rye bread and cauliflower and a spinach salad with Reisling dressing. J made the world's tallest Black Forest cake. A 1/2 inch slice was enough to feed half of Easkert Market. My contribution was apple strudel with a creme angalise. I will post the recipe when the room stoops spinning. Please forgive the horrrible typing and I keep sliding down my chair.