Friday, November 27, 2015

Flashback Friday - Another Take on Rice Pudding

I was a bit of an over-achiever in high school. Ok, so that's not true at all, but it certainly seemed that way in this instance.


This post was originally published on December 14, 2009.
Another Take on Rice Pudding

When we think of rice pudding, we generally think of the typical Greek-diner version of rice grains suspended in a custardy base, garnished with a sprinkle of nutmeg or cinnamon. But apparently the Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III, preferred a gussied-up version, with candied fruits and a little hooch. Known as Riz à l'Impératrice, or rice in the manner of the empress, it was one of the first truly adventurous dishes I tackled as a home cook.

My high school French club was having an after-school party and I volunteered to bring a dish. After poring over my dad's collection of food magazines, I found Riz à l'Impératrice in Cuisine. It seemed simple enough (ha!), plus my mother had a collection of groovy copper molds that she wasted on various Jell-O creations.

The Riz was far more impressive than any other dish that showed up at the party that afternoon. Certainly more than the runny chocolate mousse served in Dixie cups. At least *I* thought so.

Recently I decided it was high time to try it again. That old issue of Cuisine perished in a leaky ceiling/mildew incident some years back, and the only other version of the recipe I could find was that of James Beard.

Riz à l'Impératrice, from James Beard
House & Garden, January 1965

2/3 cup rice
2 cups milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon gelatin soaked in 2 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3/4 cup candied or preserved fruit
Rum or whiskey
1 cup heavy cream
Red glacé cherries or candied citron and candied pineapple

Wash rice. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Drain and transfer to a saucepan containing 1 1/4 cups milk and simmer until the rice is very tender. Heat remaining milk.

In the top of a double boiler, combine the egg yolks and sugar. Gradually stir in the hot milk and continue stirring until smooth and thick. Add softened gelatin and vanilla. Strain. Mix into the rice and cool until the mixture begins to set.

Soak the 3/4 cup candied or preserved fruit in a little rum or whiskey for 1/2 hour. Whip the heavy cream and fold in the soaked fruit. Mix into the rice mixture. Turn into a decorative ring mold and chill. Before serving, unmold on a platter and decorate with glacè cherries or candied citron and candied pineapple.

I found the copper mold I had used originally and realized it had a 6-cup capacity. As I was cooking the rice, I knew it would never fill such a large mold. What to do? Luckily, the rice seemed to need more than 1 1/4 cups milk to reach a properly tender state, so I added an additional cup, a bit at a time. To compensate for the additional liquid, I added 1/4 sugar to the egg mixture. And I thought, what the hell - I'll whip the whole damn pint of heavy cream rather than just half of it. And it fit the mold perfectly.

Needless to say, I skipped the icky glacé cherries and candied fruits; of course that meant I couldn't use the booze. That's ok - my high school friends didn't get any either. At least - not in my dessert.

Now, unmolding creamy desserts can be a tricky thing. One must gently heat the mold to melt just enough of the gelatin to allow the filling to slide out. Too much heat and...


Ah...toss some toasted almonds on top and who's gonna know? (I have no idea how I unmolded the thing successfully at school.) What really matters is the taste - so rich, so yummy - possibly the best rice pudding ever. At least, according to Mr Minx. :)

Follow on Bloglovin

Posted on

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Jerk Chicken Pot Pie

I gave Mr Minx two options for Sunday dinner, one of which was jerk chicken pot pie. Several days after choosing this dish, he informs me that he doesn't like pot pie. I ignore him and make it anyway, as: 1) it was the option he chose; 2) he'll like MY pot pie. Or so I hoped.

He later tells me why he doesn't like pot pie. He's not a fan of cooked carrots, or peas. Yet he puts carrots in almost everything that he cooks, and sometimes peas, too. I roll my eyes. I understand that he's had bad experiences with pot pies. His Mom wasn't much of a cook, so sometimes dinner was individual Swanson pot pies with their cardboard crusts and flavorless insides. My Mom made individual pot pies all the time, usually with left over pot roast. She'd booze it up with cooking sherry and pop a Bisquick biscuit crust on top, and we gobbled it up and asked for more. So I have only fond pot pie memories, but I understand the fear of a soggy crust or a filling that is more gravy than meat and veg.

But I was making this pot pie, and it was going to be glorious. Or at least pretty good.

I don't know why I got the idea of adding jerk seasoning to the pie. Jerk chicken is a thing and chicken pot pie is a thing, so why not combine the two? We had some delicious jerk seasoning that a friend brought us from a trip to Jamaica, so that is what I used. You can use any dry jerk seasoning that you like, commercial or homemade.

Mr Minx decided he liked my chicken pot pie enough to eat two helpings. That's not to say that he likes pot pie now, of course.

Jerk Chicken Pot Pie
This recipe has quite a few steps, but most of them can be done in the same pan without washing it in between. Feel free to use pre-cooked chicken, if you want to make your life a little easier.

For vegetables:
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 cup diced carrot
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
4 ounces button mushrooms, chopped
Olive oil
1 teaspoon jerk seasoning

For chicken and gravy:
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless, chicken thighs (about 6)
Chicken stock
Jerk seasoning
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons AP flour
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup frozen peas

For the biscuits:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup cold butter cut into small pieces
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

To make the veg: In a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat, add the vegetables with about a tablespoon of olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. Cook until wilted, about 5 minutes.Stir in the jerk seasoning. Cook another few minutes until everything is tender. Remove from pan and set aside until ready to use.

To make the chicken: Put the chicken in the same pan that the veg were in. Over medium-high heat without adding extra fat, cook on both sides until lightly browned, about 5 minutes total. Add 1 cup of stock, a pinch of salt, and about 1/4 teaspoon of jerk seasoning and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium-low and poach chicken for 30 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from heat. Dice the chicken and set aside until ready to use. Measure out the cooking liquid and add enough additional stock to make 1 1/2 cups.

Wipe out the frying pan and put over medium heat. Melt the butter and add the flour. Stir constantly to incorporate the two into a thick paste. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Taste for seasoning and add salt, pepper, and additional jerk seasoning as desired.

Stir the reserved chicken, vegetables, and frozen peas into the gravy. Remove from the heat.

To make the biscuits: Combine flour, salt, baking powder, cream of tartar, and sugar in a large bowl. Cut in butter with a fork or your fingers. Stir in milk and cheese.

To finish pie: Preheat oven to 450°F.

Pour chicken mixture into a 8" or 9" square baking pan. Top with evenly spaced dollops of the biscuit dough.

Bake for 25 minutes, until biscuits are golden and gravy is bubbling. Serve hot, garnished with chopped green onion.

Follow on Bloglovin

Posted on

Monday, November 23, 2015

Dining in NY - Ivan Ramen and Mission Cantina

Several months ago, I was reading an issue of New York magazine featuring all the hot new places to eat in the Big Apple. I felt a little smug about the fact that I had already eaten at Gato, the latest Bobby Flay restaurant that the magazine was heaping praise upon, It also mentioned a quirky new place called Ivan Ramen. Ramen is something that has recently taken off in the Baltimore area and, since it involves noodles, is certainly one of my favorite dishes. Ivan Ramen features an inventive mix of east-meets-west dishes, especially their appetizers like the L.E.S. bun featuring pastrami, karashi mayo and daikon slaw. Since the Minx and I were already planning a trip to New York in the fall, I made a mental note to put this on our list of new places to dine.

Fast forward to October and we were on our way to Gotham with our itinerary plotted out, including lunch at Ivan Ramen as soon as we arrived. There are two locations for Ivan Ramen and we chose the one on the Lower East Side because there was another restaurant nearby that we also wanted to try out; sort of a movable lunch. After checking into our hotel room in Midtown, we hopped on the subway and rode down to Ivan Ramen. I asked the Minx if she wanted to try any of the appetizers, hoping she would say yes. She did not say yes, however, reminding me of the other restaurant we were going to visit afterward. We're pretty piggy, but we don't like to make too big a point of it. Mildly chagrined at the prospect of a L.E.S. bun-less meal, I focused my attention on the ramen.

I settled on the Tokyo Shoyu Ramen. After all, I figured if they were offering so many eclectic dishes, I would see how well they could make a traditional classic. Quite well is the answer. The rich broth was a combination of soy sauce, dashi, and chicken broth. The protein was pork chashu and a perfectly cooked soft egg. I was pleasantly surprised by the rye noodles, something I had never had in ramen before but which provided a slightly more grainy flavor than the usual wheat noodles.

The Minx opted for the Hiyashi Chuka, a salad of chilled whole wheat noodles, smoked ham, cucumbers, tomatoes, romaine, bacon, and vidalia onion sitting atop a pool of malted honey dashi vinaigrette. I was dubious about cold noodles, but they made perfect sense with the crispy vegetables and bright yet slightly sweet vinaigrette. The swipe of mustard on the corner of the plate was extremely spicy, providing the occasional kick when you wanted it.

The meal was an invigorating start, but after our long train ride, I was still hungry for more. We headed off for the second restaurant on our itinerary but, after hiking several blocks and getting turned around a couple of times, we arrived at our destination to discover that it was only open for dinner. Now I was feeling a bit desperate. I mean, yes I had eaten an adequate amount of calories for lunch but, dammit, I was prepared for more! We started wandering around the neighborhood heading back in the general direction of the subway station. I was determined to find another restaurant that was open and serving something worth eating, but I was not at all familiar with area.

Then we reached an open cafe with the words Mission Cantina in the window. I had been following Mission Chinese Food on Instagram for months and was vaguely familiar with this New York outpost. I was about to say something to Minx when she blurted, "Oh, Mission Cantina! Want to try this?" I was glad she approved.

We stepped inside amid the cacophony of punk music and studied their menu on the wall. Although I was oblivious, the Minx spotted chef/owner Danny Bowien lurking in the dining room. I was more interested in figuring out which burrito I wanted. The Minx liked the sound of the fried chicken super burrito and so did I.

The California Super Burrito with fried chicken, pinto beans, guac, crema, and cheese was almost as big as my forearm. There was no chance of me not getting filled up now. I was surprised at how mildly spiced it was, but given that it was stuffed with chunks of fried chicken, perhaps they wanted to let the fried chicken flavor come through. All the other elements were pleasantly creamy with the occasional crunch of the chicken coating to keep things interesting.

The Minx chose the fish taco with guac, fried skate wing, marinated red onion, and a sauce reminiscent of an Indian pickle. In fact, this unusual hit of Indian flavors really set the taco apart from any fish taco we had ever tasted. While my burrito was dense and sloppy and wonderfully satiating, I really wanted to have three or four of those spicy/sweet tacos.

After washing our burrito and tacos down with a couple of Mexican Coca-Colas, we walked backed to the subway station floating on the comfortable intoxication of two really terrific meals. After all the hustle bustle of buses, trains, and subway cars, I took in the late afternoon vibe of the neighborhood. I don't think I could live in New York, but I certainly envy their food choices.

Ivan Ramen
25 Clinton St
New York, NY 10002

Mission Cantina
172 Orchard St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 254-2233

Follow on Bloglovin

Posted on

Friday, November 20, 2015

Flashback Friday - Things a Baltimore Foodie Must Try

Man, I was cranky and opinionated back then. Now too, of course.


This post was originally published on December 16, 2009.
Things a Baltimore Foodie Must Try

Sun columnist Elizabeth Large prompted readers to submit ideas for her list of "100 things area foodies must try." The only rule was that they be "quintessentially Baltimore." Some of the suggestions included:

"Eat the pumpkin appetizer at the Helmand" (so no other Afghan restaurant in the world serves kadu bouranee?)

"Eat a Wockenfuss caramel apple!" (I can make them at home, even if I didn't live in Baltimore.)

"Thin crust pizza! Iggies and Joe Squared." (I don't think thin crust pizza was invented in Baltimore.)

"Chicken salad from Graul's Market!" (Used to be that the chicken salad at the Woman's Industrial Exchange was called the best. I like it from Mary Mervis in the Lexington Market. The stuff at the UMMC hospital cafeteria is pretty darn good, too. Hey wait - does this mean that other places sell chicken salad? I hear they sell it in other states, even!)

"Have a special occasion dinner at Charleston. Ask Chef Cindy Wolf to fix what she thinks is best that night." (The restaurant is called Charleston, for crap's sake!)

"Change your mind about vegan/vegetarian food at Liquid Earth" (Why leave out one of the only other notable vegetarian restaurants in town, the Yabba Pot?)

"Try the charcuterie at Clementine." (Cured pig parts are eaten the world over, and probably in greater quantities outside of Baltimore.)

"Sit at the bar at Cinghiale and order anything. Talk to Rob about wine when Tony isn't in town." (Cinghiale is relatively new and hasn't had time to become "quintessentially" anything yet.)

"Eat sushi in Towson." (Ok, that's just plain dumb. Charles Street downtown probably has as many sushi restaurants. And if you think sushi is a Baltimore thing, then you're hopeless.)

"Smith Island Cake, but only from Sugarbakers." ("Smith Island Cake" by its very name, is not Baltimorean.)

It's not that I disagree that foodies should experience most of the things on the list, I simply think that many of them can be found in some form in any major city. That would include good deli, roasted vegetables, diner food, hand-made ice cream, and the non-food related "making fun of hipsters." Hell, I do that while surfing the Internet - no comestibles required. In other words, they're not "quintessentially" Baltimore. (Not quintessentially anything, really.)

Things that I do agree that a Baltimorean should try at least once (foodie or no) are Berger cookies, lake trout, pit beef, coddies, and all things crab: crab soup (both varieties), crabcakes, soft shell crabs, crab imperial, stuffed shrimp, etc. And Old Bay. Apparently some of the best (or only) examples of those foodstuffs can be found in the Baltimore area, and on Maryland's Eastern Shore. (My condolences to those who are shellfish-intolerant.)

Older folks, like myself, should have eaten at Haussner's, Maison Marconi, Mee Jun Lo, Danny's, Connolly's, and Martick's. While they're still around, young folks should stop into Jimmy's (on Broadway), Chiapparelli's and Sabatino's, Attman's, and Trinacria. Not that any of the restaurants mentioned are unique to Baltimore, but because they were and are Baltimore institutions. And that's just as important a consideration as quintessential-ism when it comes to making lists of "must dos." Those new-fangled farm-to-table, hipster, restaurants serving "New American" cuisine that have been popping up all over the place are as much Seattle, New York, or Chicago as Baltimore. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at things), that seems to be the way that things are headed, the new generic that is replacing the "Continental" food restaurant of decades past.

So forget the county sushi and the roasted vegetables, and go find yourself a restaurant where the veteran, apron-wearing waitresses call you "hon" and have yourself a plate of crab imperial before it becomes a memory. That's a must-do Baltimore foodie experience.

Follow on Bloglovin

Posted on