Friday, March 30, 2007

Gladys Knight and Ron Winans' Chicken and Waffles

This has been going out week for J and I. We went to Bourbon's in Glover Park on Tuesday to hang out with Pauline and to the DC Jewish Community Center's cafe Wednesday to have a pre-theater meal. Last night was the crowning glory of our going-out week because we ended up at Gladys Knight and Ron Winan's Chicken and Waffles restaurant in the Largo Town Center. It's a fascinating cultural experience for J and I because that part of Prince George's county is predominantly upper middle class and predominantly black.

We were kind of driving all over Prince George's County trying to find a place to eat after we drove all the way out to the Bowie Town Center only to discover we weren't in the mood for any of the the Bowie restaurants. After meadering along Route 214 to Route 202, we ended up at Largo Town Center where we initially tried to go to Carolina Kitchen. While Carolina Kitchen was open, noone seemed to be getting seated. We decided to wander all over Largo Town Center ot find a place to eat and saw the sign for the Chicken and Waffles place. I was sold completely, having been to the flagship Chicken and Waffles place in Atlanta.

We were immediately seated since many of the customers wanted to sit at the bar where they could watch college basketball. The menu is incredible with the requisite chicken and waffles along with hard core Southern specialties that include smothered chicken, salmon croquettes, and mac 'n cheese. Seeing the huge platters of food pass us, we decided to split the dark meat combo platter, a signature waffle (strawberry!) and an appetizer of fried green tomatoes.

Needless to say the meal was excellent. The fried green tomatoes had the crunch of being rolled in cornmeal as opposed to dredged in batter and it came with a nicely spiced remoulade. The fried chicken was lightly breaded so that the flavor of the chicken really came through. The tenderness of the drumstick and thigh meat was wonderful and weren't greasy in the least. Our wonderful waitress, Jennifer, recommended the fried corn and she was totally right on. I was expected something deep fried but the corn that came out was clearly fresh and cut from the cob (not frozen) and cooked in a broth with a hint of brown sugar. This standout side also had a hint of spice with chopped jalepeno. The true standout was the strawberry waffle which was light, crispy and a perfect sponge for the maple syrup. Even thought we were full, we both got dessert - J got the peach cobbler and I got the sweet potato cheesecake. Both for too sweet for my taste but both were beautifully presented. We left the restaurant resolving to come back. I would try the smothered chicken and J would try the salmon cakes.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Nibblefest 2007

So the small plates dinner went great. The only real challenge was that there was way too much food and that we had stuff out for "appetizers" on the coffee table but as we brought out food for the main meal, we just passed it around while sitting on the couch. The hits of the evening were made by J - the gougeres (cheese puffs) and the endive lettuce wrap with ground chicken. The Endive lettuce wrap is so going into our repertoire. Very elegant, fairly straightforward once you make the ground chicken and totally tasty. It was incredible. Folks were less inclined to reach for the trashy dishes like the grape jelly vegetarian meatballs (grape jelly and Heinz chili sauce as the base!) or the vegetable pizza S brought (which was divine). Here's the final menu:

Union Square mixed nuts
Teeny weeny mozzarella balls with grape tomatoes on skewers
Grape jelly vegetarian meatballs
Endive lettuce wraps with ground chicken
roasted potatoes with garlic aoili and roasted pepper sauce
Garlic shrimp
Queso fresco lettuce wraps (brought by Pauline)
Vegetable pizza (with Hidden Valley ranch and sour cream as the pizza sauce)
Banana Bread (brought by Karen)
travel sized bottles of Grey Goose, Peppermint Schnapps, Jim Beam, Bailey's and Kalhua (courtesy of Matt)
White chocolate mousse
Cinnamon truffles rolled in sugared pistachios

Now permit me to rant on the complete unreliability of the internet when it comes to recipes. J was trying to find a good truffle recipe and the information on the internet is contradictory and confusing. Some people say that Ina Garten's recipe sux. Others say it's the best EVAH. The most erroneous bit of information on the internet was the hostility against using milk chocolate for truffles. They were the perfect consistency and their soft chocolate flavor was wonderful against the pistachio coating. The second most erroneous bit of information was to REFRIGERATE the dark chocolate truffle mixture before rolling them into balls. We broke three spoons that way. This is why Epicurious is such a great source of recipes. You get reviews of the recipes. While everyone has a different opinion, after you read six or seven reviews, there's usually some kind of consensus about a recipe. But all of this wouldn't be an issue if there weren't big fat liars on the internet banning the use of milk chocolate and refrigerated dark chocolate ganache. :P

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Food Media

First of all, I am coming out as a total softie because I was verklempt at seeing Sandra Lee's Chefography. While I would never make any of her recipes, I totally understand her investment in the semi-homemade concept. For those of you who didn't see the Sandra Lee Chefography, she had a fairly harrowing childhood. Her parents divorced early and she was shipped off to her grandparents' house. Luckily it sounds like her grandmother really loved and cared for her, especially when it came to making food. But as soon as she had a stable home life with her grandparents, her mother upped and got married and tore Sandra away from a huge positive force in her life. Sandra made the best of it with an abesentee mother and oodles of siblings and stepsiblings and ended up being the de facto parent for all of her siblings. Sounds like she was good at it. But as soon as she got into a groove of caring for her siblings. Her mother and stepfather divorced and the family of siblings Sandra created was torn apart. Sheesh, you gotta shed a tear for Sandra.

She really did claw her way to the top with a little encouragement from family members (except for her PARENTS) and a lot of can-do attitude. Once again her style is completely not my own but dear god she owns it. For her window treatment infomercial, does she try and be all hip and edgy about it? Hells no. She goes after FLORENCE HENDERSON. And who does she hang with in her spare time? MARY HART.

While I think Sandra enjoys many a four star meal, I just as easily believe she's at home making cupcakes out of a box and It's understandable to see her investment in semi-homemade. It's how her grandmother cooked for her. The one constant source of love for Sandra who probably did all of the semi-homemade cooking that Sandra espouses is probably the source of her success. Of course she's going to defend it tooth and nail. It's funny to hear that she went to the Cordon Bleu and whined that they were doing everything from scratch when you could just as easily use Bisquick. Before seeing the Chefography, I thought there was something phony about Sandra's "me and my girlfriends" schtick. After seeing her life story, I think Sandra makes cupcakes from a box and Boboli pizza for her girlfriends.

On the subject of food media. Who do people think of the new Washington Post food section. I am conflicted. On the one hand it's nice to have all the recipes in one place. On the other hand, I like having the recipe with the story. Also, it's good to know which stories have recipes. It's hard to concentrate on the new format when my attention is focused on the cover article that writes about Michel Richard teaching two girls to make a gourmet meal for their father. Two half-Asian girls cooking? SOOOOOOO cute. Add a gourmet chef who looks like Santa Claus. SOOOOOOOOOOOOO cuter. If they threw in a hedgehog, I'd be in cute heaven.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

On fame

Did you all see the Nigella Chefography last night? That was the first time I came close to tears watching a TV biography. Before the age of 30 Nigella lost her sister and mother and then lost her husband at 40. Pretty intense stuff. Things I love about the Nigella Chefography:

1. The revelation that home cooks shouldn't necessarily cook like restaurant chefs.

2. The eccentric goddess of spring outfit she wore (complete with a wreath of ivy) to her wedding party.

3. The heartbreaking 10th anniversary party she threw with her husband right before he died.

4. The even bigger heartbreak of hearing John Diamond (her husband) talk after they had to cut his tongue out because of cancer.

5. The scene with her and Nigel Slater tearing apart a chicken with their hands.

6. Her delight at being labeled a goddess of sensuality when it was really the food that was given the porn treatment. And her subsequent labeling of herself as the queen of the boobs and bottoms.

7. Her honeymoon in Venice with her first husband (she talks about Venice a lot in her shows).

8. The original cover of How To Eat. I wans to frame that.

9. The great relationship her daughter and step-daughter seem to have.

10. The fact that both her husbands are kind of geeky schlubs.

I was thinking about how Nigella handles her fame. Chefography constantly talks about how much of her cooking life Nigella opens up to her shows. I makes me think about anonymity, particularly ours. We've kind of set up this whole blogging thing to where people who know us know that we write the blog but you couldn't just do a DCFoodblog google search and it comes up with our names. There's been ongoing controversy of a law school bulletin board that has been harassing female law students to the point where messages are encouraging guys to take pictures of "hot women" in the gym. They post flicky and myspace pictures of the women on the 10 hottest list. It's times like these that I value the premium J has placed on our anonimity. Certainly we've made friends through this blog but noone could pull our pictures and put them on a 10 hottest or 10 uglinest list on the internet. This is a delicate balance because the folks we've met online and have become offline friends are awesome but the weirdos and the regular "guys" who don't have boundaries exist.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Small Plates

So in a few weeks we are throwing a small plates party for the gang. Think antipasti, tapas, dim sum or whatever little nibbles that strike our fancy. I myself, will go with a strict tapas theme where I will be making roast potatoes with both a garlic aoili dipping sauce (tip o' the nib to Jaleo for that one) and my roasted pepper sauce, garlic shrimp, and a vanilla flan for dessert. If I feel up to it, I might go to the Eden Center to Huong Binh and get a tray of spring rolls. At 50 cents each (75 cents for vegetarian), they are a bargain. So for the less creative of our friends, I ask you, dear readers, for ideas of things people can bring.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Magical San Antonio Flan Cake

This is an adaptation of the San Antonio Chocolate-Cajeta Cake from Robb Walsh's Tex-Mex Cookbook. We thought chocolate would be too heavy and wouldn't compliment the scented vanilla of the flan.

1 box of yellow cake mix
1 10.9 ounce jar of dulce de leche
1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
1/2 14 ounce can of whole milk (use evaporated milk can to measure)
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese
1 teaspoons vanilla
8 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place a large baking pan in the oven and add enough water to come 2 inches up the sides of a large Bundt pan. Lightly grease and flour the Bundt pan. (ok my suggestion is to use either lard (eek!) or margarine for this. Cooking spray doesn't cling to the pan enough). Prepare the cake batter according to directions on the box. Pour the dulce de leche into the Bundt pan, turning the pan to coat as much of the inside as possible. Pour the cake batter into the Bundt pan.

Pour the milks, cream cheese, vanilla and eggs into a blender and blend well.

Pour the milk mixture very slowly around the top of the cake. Cover the Bundt pan with foil and set in the water-filled pan in the oven.

Bake the cake for 2 hours. Remove from the oven and let cool for 1 hour. Place a large cake plate on top of the pan and invert. The flan mysteriously migrates while baking and will come out on top of the cake when it is unmolded. Refrigerate before serving. Marvel at the magic of gravity.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

We got accepted!!!!

So we just found out yesterday that we got a share in a CSA, otherwise known as Community Supported Agriculture. CSAs are essentially a direct relationship that J and I as consumers have with a farmer. We buy a share in their harvest and starting in May we will pick up a box of produce every week. We cut out the grocery store and the Whole Foods and get our produce directly from the farm. The key is that this is a community partnership. We are tied into the fortune of our producer. A bad season means fewer veggies. A good season means a big bounty.

Actually this farm is the one we are getting our share through. Here's what they have to say about the CSA:

"If you purchase one `share’, you become a member of our farm. Each week, we will divide our harvest by the number of our shares (400). All you need to do is come to your pick-up site and take your portion of that harvest. In addition, you are welcome to come to your farm at any time to visit, to help, or to harvest as much as you want from the items on our you-pick list. The you-pick list might include flowers, herbs, and any vegetables we have in abundance, such as tomatoes or collard greens.

We plan for your shares to include a wide variety of vegetables throughout the six-month season, from MAY 18th to NOVEMBER 13th."

With all of the fresh, seasonal produce, we'll be our own Chez Panisse. Claggett farm has two other places where folks can pick up their share of produce - Anacostia and Dupont Circle. We decided to go with getting our share directly from the farm because we wanted to be able to pick flowers (free for shareholders who pick up form the farm) and the FRESH produce that doesn't travel well. WHEE!!!!!

Here's what's on their harvest list.

What Will Our Harvest Be Like?

We grow over 45 different kinds of vegetables. Here’s a sample of what your shares might include throughout the growing season.

MAY-JUNE: Salad greens, beets, turnips, radishes, broccoli, kohlrabi, collards, spinach, braising greens, and you-pick strawberries.

JULY-SEPT: Zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, basil, eggplants, okra, melons, sweet corn, cucumbers, potatoes, beans and garlic.

SEPT-NOV: Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, butternut squash, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, salad greens, carrots, turnips, collards, chard, spinach, beets and radishes.

A big reason why we decided to get a share in a CSA was also to commit to eating a larger number and greater variety of vegetables. It'll be fun and challenging to come up with new recipes. We're also excited because we will be doing a monthly dinner with The Marrieds who have their own share in another CSA. The first few boxes look like they will be greens, greens and more greens. Any recipe you all may have for collards, kale, and spinach, feel free to share. We'll try and post some updates on our CSA recipes.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Dinner Party

So Sunday we had the Timily's over for dinner and board games. We really went all out without an inordinate amount of effort - a meal with table settings, courses and even a drink. We decided to go with a Southwest theme, mainly because we found this marvelous cake recipe for flan caramel cake which somehow becomes a bundt cake with a layer of flan in the middle. It's a miracle of cooking. A creamy, dense, sweet, cakey, miracle of cooking. I'll let J give the recipe (and pictures) on that one because he made it. The rest of the meal consisted of:

Vietnamese lime soda
Tortilla chips and tomatillo salsa
Lime marinated chicken with roasted pepper sauce
Mushroom and carrot strudel

It was a wonderuflly harmonious meal with each dish complimenting the other. There was something slightly Iron Chefish about the way the lime flavor wove its way into each dish. The two recipes I will give are the chicken and the strudel.

Lime marinated chicken:

6 chicken breasts
Juice of four limes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
pinch of paprika

In a resealable platic bag, marinate the chicken in all of the ingredients for at least 2 hours although overnight is optimal. On a grill pan, sear the chicken on both sides for three minutes each. This won't cook the chicken all the way through but will keep the juices in while they get baked off. 20 minutes before you actually want to serve the chicken, bake it in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Cover with foil and let rest for 5 minutes. Chicken comes out moist and tender.

Mushroom Carrot Strudel

1 large carrot, grated
1 onion, sliced
1/2 pound of mushrooms, sliced(can be a mixture of button, portobello, cremini etc)
1 jalepeno pepper, seeded and sliced
3 cloves of chopped garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon Tony Cachere's spice mix
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 sheet of puff pastry

Saute the onion and carrots in the olive oil for 5 minutes until onions are soft and translucent. Add jalepeno and garlic and saute a few minutes more. Add the spices and honey and saute for five minutes more. Take off the heat. Roll out puff pastry to about 10 x 12 inches. Put the filling in the middle of the puff pastry lengthwise and fold the puff pastry over the filling like a letter. Flip the strudel over so the seam is on the bottom. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Slice and serve.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Not food related - Bite me Kenneth Eng

Have you heard? Asians hate black folks. At least that's how Kenneth Eng feels in a column he wrote for Asianweek, a San Francisco-based publication that purports to be the "voice of the Asian American community." The asshole that is Kenneth Eng also indentifies himself as an Asian Supremacist even though he penned another column titled "Why I hate Asians." This is easy. Saying Kenneth Eng is an asshole because racism hurts animals, people and all living things right? But here's the column:

That just makes me want to hurl. First of all, saying that blacks remained slaves because of laziness implies that the world is somehow over slavery. It so isn't. There are women in China who work 18 hour days who have to put clothespins on their cheeks to stay awake. They are allowed to take bathroom breaks and get paid in pennies. That's pretty close to slavery for me. Are they LAZY?

Blacks are easy to coerce? Yes, getting a MAJOR PIECE OF CIVIL RIGHTS LEGISLATION PASSED IS EASY. Especially when you have been historically disenfranchised. Has Kenneth Eng EVER TRIED TO PASS A BILL? Those easily coerced people just sat back and the magical civil rights fairy passed the bill for them. they didn't have to organize or mobilize.

Finally, blacks hate Asians? Apart from the utter stupidity of that statement, I want to point out that Kenneth Eng isn't seeing all segments of our community. Just as undocumented Chinese garment workers share the same struggles as undocumented Latino construction workers so do low-income Asians in Long Beach, Sacramento, and Lowell, share the same struggles with low-income blacks in those communities. Kenneth, you've turned your back on your own people.

So let's start talking about how people of color relate to each other. Race in this country is presented as literally black and white. People of color are rarely if ever shown talking about racism WITH EACH OTHER. It's only through the white middleman. And that's the tricky part because we ALL say boneheaded things about each other. We ALL need to challenge each other and hold each other accountable. There are challenging and tricky things that the Asian, Latino, and Black communities have to think about as we related to each other, separate from how we all relate to white folks. In a previous job, I brought together folks Asians, Native Americans, Latino, and African Americans on a weekend retreat to talk about working together. We did a fishbowl excercise where each ethnic group would respond to three questions:

1. What things would you NOT want to hear from another ethnic group?
2. What are things you want to know about other communities?
3. What are things you want other communities to know about yours?

Powerful stuff was said and the conversation informs my work to this very day. I hope this ugliness shines a light on how we need to talk to each other as people of color. Creating that separate space from white folks to teach each other is important. We've got a lot of work to do within our own communities on that front. But the thing is, that kind of work is FUN. What I've found out is that we people of color aren't afraid once we start bringing this shit up. We don't have to remind each other that no, it's not about you. We don't have to reassure each other that we like YOU as a person and we are talking about INSTITUIONS. We also can freely examine the struggles of our own communities without having those struggles label us. It's a powerful and life changing discussion. Can this column be the start?