Monday, October 29, 2007

Chicken Stew

The end of our fall Saturday was homemade chicken stew served atop mashed potatoes. Sensing that fall was upon us, I roasted a chicken last week. With the carcass, I made homemade chicken stock. With the leftover chicken meat in the freezer and the chicken stock, I made the perfect fall chicken stew. I served it on top of mashed potatoes but you could just as easily serve it with egg noodles, put chunks of potatoes in the stew, make dumplings for chicken and dumplings or put it some rice.

Fall chicken stew (think of this as a guideline)

3 pounds of chicken meat (already cooked)
- this can be two breasts, a breast, 2 thigh and leg meat or any other combination

The vegetables chopped in large chunks
2 carrots
1 large onion
2 stalks of celery
1 clove of garlic

optional vegetables
three large yukon gold potatoes
1 parsnip
1/2 a rutabaga
1/2 sweet potato
1 cup of frozen peas

The herbs
1 teaspoon of thyme
1 tablespoon parsley

Enough chicken stock and white wine to cover (about 4 cups)

The Thickener
1 tablespoon room temperature butter and 1 tablespoon of flour

Chop the chicken meat into large chunks. Set aside. Saute the onion in a large pot for about ten minutes until softened and a little translucent. Add the rest of the vegetables and saute for another 15 minutes. Add herbs along with salt and pepper to taste. Add the chicken stock and simmer for about 20 minutes or until vegetables get soft but not completely mushy. Add the cooked chicken and simmer for another 10 minutes. This step is where you would add uncooked rice or dumplings for chicken and dumplings. If you do add dumplings, avoid the next step. Mush the butter and flour together until you get a smooth paste. Add the paste to the stew and stir vigorously to avoid lumps. Let the stew thicken and serve on top of whatever starch you want.

Ah Fall

The timely and most welcome (and most coveted) invite to a certain food blogger's Thanksgiving tasting menu, just alerted me to the fact the happiest food holiday in all the land is right around the corner. Thanks to this wonderful high pressure system we're deep in the throes of fall. YAY! I get to wear hoodies, and sweaters, and long sleeved shirts! And best of all...SWEATPANTS DELUXE! It's a tradition my friend Evelyn does with her significant other. Sweatpants are clearly the world's most comfortable form of clothing and it's a good night when you can slip on the sweatpants, watch some trashy tv, and snuggle next to your one and only.

More than sweatpants deluxe, I get to use the oven without worrying I will be heating the house to hellish levels. This past weekend, we celebrated the advent of fall by have a food-centered Saturday. First we went to Rabieng, the second Thai restaurant by the people who run Duangrats. While I find Duangrats to be perfectly fine Thai food, I've never found it to be anything to writer home about. Our friend Uncle Tim and Auntie Em have raved about Rabieng's Thai dim sum and small plates fan that I am, I had to go. And it was WELL WORTH IT! Rabieng knows sticky rice like noone's business. Both of their sticky rice dishes, sticky rice with shredded coconut shrimp an sticky rice with taro were exceptional. The sticky rice was redolent of coconut milk and complemented the starchiness of the taro and the saltiness of the shrimp. In the same vein, we had the coconut crab won tons which had a similar crab filling as the shrimp. It had the same sweet nutty flavor as the coconut shrimp. We also had the expertly made scallion cakes which were had a nice crunch on the outside to contract with the soft glutinousness on the inside, served with a sweet soy dipping sauce, it was definitely a standout. Finally, we LOVED the green curry beef with a deep fried rice cake. I normally don't like green curry but this was a small serving that fit well with the pleasing crunch of the deep fried rice cake. Two dishes that I was meh on was the shredded chicken and carrot salad that was like a syrupy version of a Vietnamese Goi salad and the siracha chicken wings that were drowning in a siracha laced barbecue sauce. Overall it's a great food experience. I will say that the waiters are pretty businesslike and ask you to order by number.

Next door to Rabieng is the Duangrats Thai Market. Ever since our great Tom Yum experience, J has wanted to make Tom Yum soup at home. The only thing missing was galangal, a citrusy cousin of ginger. It was a bit of providence to find frozen galangal at the Thai market which we picked up along with a replacement sticky rice steamer basket (that my uncle and his family call "the hat"), and a few Asian condiments.

And then next door to that is the poetically named Aphrodite's Greek and Mediterranean market. This is truly pan Mediterranean with Egyptian busts, Little Greek Statues, and Turkish coffee machines. J and I went crazy here, buying all kinds of baklava, rose water, dolmades, Greek Phyllo pastries, rose water, and orange flower water. The service was attentive to the point where the woman behind the counter told me to put away the spanikopita I was about to buy and directed me to the homemade Greek phyllo pastries.

Going to both the Greek and Thai markets made me think of why New York is so awesome. In New York, these types of markets wouldn't be 15 miles away in a suburban strip mall. They would be in the city near public transportation.

After all of that, we went to the CSA to get our vegetables for the week and made a point to pick a good two pounds of basil for pesto.

The day ended with J and I curled up on the couch with a bowl of chicken stew and mashed potatoes. Recipe to follow.

Monday, October 22, 2007

More TV Commentary - Positivity

Did anyone see the Halloween episode of Barefoot Contessa this past Saturday? I know know why but I found her goofy Halloween attitude to be pretty entertaining. For once, I thought her whimsical "boo" on her cake (which was perfectly laid out) and the disappearing trick at the end to come out of a naturally goofy sense of humor as opposed to being put upon schtick. I liked that the conversation around the meal wasn't to heap tons of praise on the food but a natural delight over a bunch of adults with witches hats. It made sense that some guy would be joking and making the big "mwaaah haha" sound. On top of the the food really did look divine. The pork appeared to be perfectly cooked and tender and the marinade for the pork made a lot of sense - mustard, lots of salt, fennel, rosemary etc. It was a well composed meal with a balance of meat, vegetables and starch, unlike many meals where there a huge heavy main course and Ina throws in one of her repetitive salads with a vinaigrette. My only criticism is the espresso martini which I would find vile, and Ina's compulsion to throw citrus zest into every dessert she makes.

Also on the upswing is the Gourmet Next Door whose second episode is light years better than her first. she still seems to have trouble connecting to the camera and her plating is not so good but the actual recipes themselves looked very appetizing, especially the lemon chicken. I hope her producers reminds her not to go the the roasted potato well too often.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Siri's Chef's Secret: So Right

5810 Greenbelt Rd
Greenbelt, MD 20770
(301) 345-6101

Balancing heat and sweet while offering attractive plates, Siri's is our new go-to for Thai. And I love Thai. I've had some great meals at other Thai restaurants, but I am so consistently impressed with Siri's that I had to share.

Thai has so much happening. From the texture of the chicken in the Pad See Ew to the crisp of the spring rolls, Siri's has paid attention to what comes out on your plate. Herbed grouper comes in a sauce that is sweet and hot and is perfectly cooked. The dusting of peanuts and onions contrasts with the buttery fish and hits the spot.

Pad See EW is earthy and spicy and served in a healthy portion. Not overwhelmed by vegetables, nor sauce, I'll have this again.

Don't miss the soup. I may have had the best cup of Tom Yum soup I've ever had. Siri's version is not unique, but very well-executed. The lime and lemongrass flavors rubbed up against the salt of the broth. The mushroom pieces and chicken bites were delicious.

The Thai sampler is wonderful with the tasty Angel Wings and curries are, like everything we have tried in our four visits, flavorful, balanced, and worth coming back for.

The place is actually dimly lit and sometimes that really hits the spot. It's not too dark, but you do get the sense that you are away from all the hubub your busy email-addled brain carries around all day.

Service has always been laid back and attentive. The managers seem to know all the regulars.

I'll be back. Maybe tonight?

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Back to business - Negativity

Ok. So I've finished the travelblog that ate our blog. There are a few things I wanted to talk about.

1. Gourmet Next Door. Ok who the hell let that atrocity that is the Gourmet Next Door on the air? Poor Amy Finley who was genuinely likeable on the Next Food Network Star. She was light years better on THAT show than she is on her own show. The recipes kind of blow - the choux paste recipe looked horrible and I live and die by the Julia Child one which is significantly different from Amy's. She almost never looks at the camera. The sequence of cooking is disjointed. Is the food network just throwing Amy away? At least they gave Dan and Steve two seasons.

2. Top Chef. Poor Casey. She had that in the bag if she could have dealt with the altitude. It was so sad because Casey must have been watching the final show and knew form the footage she was not going to be Top Chef. While I think it made sense for Hung to win, I still think Dale is adorable.

3. Eggplant Balls. Speaking of recipes that blow. The recipe for Mario Batali's eggplant balls is probably one of the crappiest I've come across in my entire life. The texture never comes together to actually roll it out into a ball, even with the additional of a ton of breadcrumbs. Even after cooking they are the consistency of mush. And the flavor is just bland bland bland. We had a windfall of eggplant from our CSA and was hoping this would be a good use for the five pounds of eggplant but sadly, no. You know what is a good use of five pounds of eggplant? The Wyatt's cafeteria eggplant casserole my MIL made when she was visiting. She went on and on about it being a Proustian moment for her and how much the eggplant casserole was a part of her childhood. One bite and it became a Proustian moment for me. It was that good. I am trying to get that recipe from her. I know it involved cornbread stuffing mix.

4. That two caterers show on FoodNetwork. Dear god does that blow chunks. It's like someone told the Food Network, let's replicate Ace of Cakes but with a bunch of really annoying surfer dudes. The thing about Ace of Cakes that's entertaining isn't the frat boy antics, it's the wry, dry, witty observations and the obvious care that Duff and the gang put into the cakes. Also you really get a sense of the timing and process for making the cakes. For the caterers show, it's like "heh, let's go to the fish market. heh."

5. Finally, last weekend a bunch of us went winery hopping in Virginia. I highly recommend going to Linden winery before the end of the year. Their wines are truly exceptional, especially their Riesling for those of us who like sweeter wines. Even better, the tastings are FREE! But go before the end of the year because Linden will be a member's only wine club in 2008. I would only recommend going to Three Foxes winery if you want to see the world's prettiest port-o-potties. Seriously, their port-o-potties are clean and decorated in seasonal swag. The wine, not so much.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hawaii - Day Zero

Ok. This was seriously the travelblog that ate our blog. I'm sure this is literallyjavascript:void(0)
Publish Post the blog version of watching someone's vacation slides and given the huge numbers of people aren't coming to the blog, it REALLY was the blog version of watching someone's vacation slides. But you know, 50 years from now, my grandchildren will be reading this and realizing their grampas had a good time in Hawaii.

Anyway, I wake up the Saturday after our Convention ended enjoying a beautiful view of the Ala Moana beach from out hotel balcony. As with every other day, I left J to his own devices to come up with a fabulous food filled day while I packed up. I got to hang with the in-laws in the hotel lobby as Convention attendees came up to me and congratulated me on a great convention. AAAAAW! It's nice to have your in-laws witness you as a competent professional. When J came back from the hotel business center, his hands were full of printouts of fun things to do and eat.

First off was the Farmer's Market at Kapiolani Community College. Like everywhere in Hawaii, this farmer's market had a gorgeous view of the ocean. Where this farmer's market is different is the vast array of prepared foods ready to eat. This is seriously the best eating on the island. The food is fresh, plentiful and filling. the only downside is that the food is expensive. But really, we got what we paid for. First up was fried green tomatoes. These were really a get-what-you-pay-for thing because it was $1 for EACH slice of fried green tomato. But every bite, every crumb was worth it. To go with our fried green tomato we had fresh roasted corn with chili butter. It was sweet, messy and utterly indulgent. It's amazing that in the bright sunshine we kept wanting fried foods. We gathered up the fixings of a meal that included kimchee fried rice (which I loved but J could have done without) and the completely trashy Loco Moco that was made with organic farm-raised beef. It's rice, a beef patty with gravy and a fried egg. Doesn't it look divine?

Finally our [inic lunch was capped off with a huge helping of fresh beignets that were served with a pineapple sauce. Continuing our food tour of Honolulu, we went to the famous Waiola Shaved Ice. Everyone needs to go here. As I said last year when I wrote about Hawaii, the shaved ice is like soft snow. It's truly a mindblowing experience and Waiola is the best. As I did last year, I got the shaved ice surround flan while the in-laws got shaved ice with soft serve ice cream on the bottom. J had his straight up. Everyone was duly impressed.

We then drove through the center of the island with beautiful vistas of the ocean and mountains. Once we got to Kailua, took a gander at the spectacular beach and then looked for food. After trying to find Boots and Kimo and finding it closed, we ended up going to a nearby diner in a strip mall. The in-laws got salad with grilled chicken and a club sandwich. I immediately perked up when I saw poke on the menu. Yes, a strip mall diner serves sushi grade ahi tuna marinated in onions and soy sauce. It looked spectacular and tasted even better. Just look.

After all of that fine eating. Our dinner was a laid back meal of Maui Fish tacos.

Thanks everyone for putting up with the travelblog. I hope you weren't too bored.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Hawaii - Day One

Ok. Now I have that whole millennium dilemma thing going on because I counted wrong. This is really our second day of actual vacationing but because we headed out to Kailua the day before I am calling the previous day, Day 0. So like the Gregorian calendar, I am starting with Zero rather than One.

This day was the BIG day of good old fashioned touristy fun. We went around 3/4 of the island of Oahu and even hit the Dole Pineapple plantation. As with every other day, I woke up at 5:30 am and went to the beach to see the sunrise. FIL and I let J and MIL work out a plan for the day. They did a great job with the previous day so we figure they knew what they were doing. They came up with a killer day. It helped that Highway 82 was absolutely spectacular with vistas of the mountains and ocean.

Tropical Farms The Macadamia Nut Outlet
First up was the Macadamia Nut Outlet. This outlet had fresh nuts that are brought from the orchards? nutteries? daily. You definitely can taste the difference. And taste we did because they have free samples galore. Their samples included all variety of macadamia nuts but also Hawaiian coffee. This is a total tourist area but a good tourist center because of great service and tons of free samples.

Polynesian Culture tour
In the back of the Nut Outlet, is a Polynesian Culture Tour. As it turns out, the Nut Outlet land is used a lot for movies and tv. All of these locations were pointed out to us. Be prepared to be flexible because the tour starts when it starts. Another thing to be prepared for - sexual harassment. Our tour guide's schtick was to constantly make sexual innuendos and proposition the women in the tour group. I honestly felt like taking a shower afterwards because it got a little too icky for me. The three swinging bachelorettes from West Virginia ate that schtick up. The multigenerational Korean family was completely bewildered. In an ancient school bus we saw a lot of local crops including tea trees, taro, and coconut trees. We went to a little amphitheater where we saw our lusty tour guide crack open a coconut, start a fire without flint or matches, and make coconut milk. We then went on a tour of the lagoon where some submarine on Lost was sunk and the lagoon scenes from Giligan's Island were filmed.

We then went back to the bus where there was a fake cantina where 50 First Dates and ER's African scenes were filmed.

As a shout out to my Brother in Law, Stef, and Jason, more scenes from Lost.

After the movie tour, we met up with the lascivious tour guide and happily he dropped the dirty talk and just gave us a damn tour. Actually, he gave us the most awesome tour EVER! We heard about his own background growing up in Samoa and what he's done to develop a tourist trade in him home island. We heard about his education and background in being a firestarter and twirler. We also heard how he's developed the tour we were on. The best part, going to the fruit orchards where we saw the efforts to preserve native fruits. Well, that was part of the best part. The best part of the best part was actually EATING said native fruit. Right off the tree. It was a foodgasm of infinite proportions. We got fresh starfruit, pineapple, and guava. He just stopped the bus and chopped fruit for us. It's was one of the best food experiences of my life.

Giovanni's Shrimp Truck
all of that fresh fruit just made us even hungrier so we zoomed down Kamehameha Highway to go to the part of Oahu with all the shrimp trucks. In the North Shore of Oahu, there are shrimp farms with taco truck style eateries that serve shrimp. All of the guides recommended Giovanni's as the go to shrimp truck.

This is the best shrimp you will ever have bar none. I recommend getting the scampi style which is shrimp sauteed with a ton of garlic. The shrimp was tender and flavorful and just melted in your mouth. I put liberal amounts of Giovanni's hot sauce on the shrimp and it was heaven. I would say that the rice is comes with is a big gloppy mess but you get such as generous helping of shrimp you don't need the rice.

Dole Pineapple Plantation

Finally we decided to go around the North shore tip of the island past the Polynesian Cultural Center (owned by the Mormon church!) to the leeward side of the island. It was raining so we stay in the car and just enjoyed the drive. To get back to Kailua, we decided to go towards the center of the island and take the H2 to the windward side. The benefit of this route was a stop at the Dole Pineapple Plantation where we all got a Dole Whip. For any of you who grew up in SoCal, Disneyland's Adventureland has Dole Pineapple Whip. It's seriously the best reason for going to Disneyland. It's essentially pineapply frozen yogurt that is surprisingly dairy free. I learned from that the Dole Whip was 100% pineapple that was just pulverzied and run through an ice cream maker. But this was ideal for J who is lactose intolerant. Does it look divine?

We has such a good day of food we just stayed home and ate sandwiches and quesadillas while J got fish tacos from Maui Fish tacos.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Hawaii - Day Two

Yay! The main activity of day 2 is snorkeling with the in-laws. No pictures in this one because I forgot to bring and camera and was way too cheap to buy an underwater one. On Day Two, I went to the deservedly famous Hanauma Bay with the in-laws for some spectacular snorkeling. As the guidebooks say, this is not a hidden gem or an undiscovered treasure. It is packed with people. We decided to take th guidebook's advice and head over there at 7:00 am. Good decision as by the time we left at 11:30 am, the line for tickets was at least 300 feet long. We took the scenic drive on highway 72 and promised that we would take J on the drive the next day. Here's the thing about Hanauma Bay, apart from the incredible snorkeling, the view of this crater is breathtaking. That makes up for having to stand and watch the very lame safety and conservation video.

Once we got down to the beach, I made sure that the in-laws were thoroughly slathered with sunscreen. In fact, I made sure to get FIL to get out of the water every 20 minutes to reapply. The process worked because four hours later none of use were sunburned! I could not believe the huge variety of sea life in the Bay. Along with a ton of fish, I was a few feet away from both a sea turtle and a moray eel! It was like swimming in an aquarium because everywhere we looked there was something beautiful to see. The big challenge was to avoid touching the coral. We were at low tide and it took a lot of maneuvering to avoid the coral.

Lunch was sandwiches and quesadillas at the condo. Everyone relaxed at the condo in the afternoon except for me. I decided to swim out to the little island that is a bird sanctuary in Kailua bay. the thing is, after the 3/4 mile swim. The last thing I wanted to do was walk around a damn scrubby little island to watch bird. I sat in the sand and had to catch my breath. And then I had to to swim 3/4 of a mile back!

For dinner, the in-laws stayed at home and I and I went to Buzz's for dinner. I had the opah and J had the swordfish both prepared chef's style seared with ginger and garlic and served with mashed potatoes and napa cabbage slaw. As with the Day Three, the fish was perfectly prepared and exactly what we wanted from our fish experience. Be forewarned that Buzz's only accepts cash.