Friday, June 29, 2012

Green Leaf

So we were up in the Hunt Valley area and wanted to stop for a bite to eat but didn't want to go to any of the chain restaurants in the Towne Center. Luckily, this little pan-Asian/Sushi joint called Green Leaf happens to be in the Shawan Plaza shopping center at the intersection of Shawan and York Roads.

The dining room, while very 80s in decor, is bright and comfortable, and the service was friendly and prompt. And the food was pretty good, too.

We started off with the baby octopus salad, which was kinda creepy looking.

See? Creepy. I liked the combination of seaweed salad and whole sesame-marinated octopi (they were so tiny, I think they may have been fetuses), but I think it would have been better had the cephalopods not been so hard and cold.

We also tried an order of the veggie spring rolls, which were grease-free and had a surprising amount of flavor for something so simple.

A Tokyo Roll (according to the menu description: spicy tuna inside, yellow tail, tuna, & salmon outside with wasabi sauce) and escolar and salmon nigiri came next. The roll was fine, albeit had nothing spicy about it. The nigiri was fresh and tasty, but the pieces of fish were a bit bigger than we like.

We also tried the pine nut fish, chunks of cod in a tempura batter, with fried pine nuts and a fish-sauce heavy, fruity Thai-style dipping sauce. A larger portion would have been nice for the money ($16), and I would have preferred crunchier batter, but it was pretty good and I really liked the fishy sauce.

Finally, we decided to try another roll, this one called the "5th Year" roll. I can't remember what exactly was inside, but it had white tuna, salmon, tuna, and avocado on the outside, with several sauces.

We've had a lot of sushi recently, some of it very good. Green Leaf is decent enough, and definitely worth a visit if you're in the neighborhood, but I wouldn't call it a destination restaurant by any stretch.

Green Leaf
Shawan Plaza
Hunt Valley, MD 21031
(410) 771-0030
greenleafcuisine.com

Green Leaf on Urbanspoon
Posted on Minxeats.com.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Choice Bites 6.28.2012


On Friday, July 13th, Chick-fil-A is promising a free meal (entree/side/beverage) to anyone who comes into one of their restaurants dressed "head to hoof" as a cow. For those not bold enough to go whole cow, there's a free entree for those wearing at least a few spots. Check out cowappreciationday.com for more details.

Has Paula Deen really lost 30 pounds, or is she wearing a bigger wig?

Threadless' "Omnomnominvore" t-shirt is the cutest!

Tony Bourdain wrote a comic book--Get Jiro!--that's coming out July 3rd. Order it from Amazon, and check out a sneak peek here.

Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi have been spotted in Seattle. So I guess we know where Top Chef season 10 is being filmed. That's been the general consensus

Apparently it's the in thing for chefs to design shoes. Yes, shoes. And I don't mean Mario Batali's CrocsMozo currently offers shoes designed by Marcus Samuelsson, Chris Cosentino, and Aaron Sanchez, and they'll soon feature a line by Cat Cora. Would you wear them? I think Sanchez' are kinda ugly in an interesting way.

Vanity Fair has a "food porn" page on their Web site featuring cell phone photos of food taken by famous chefs. Check out cool pics by David Chang, Eric Ripert, and more.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Tale of Two Burgers

We went to Hamilton Tavern specifically to eat their Crosstown Burger. We'd both been jonesin' for some beefy goodness after eating mostly poultry and fish for the past several weeks. Word around town was that Hamilton Tavern had some of the best burgers in town and we needed some of that.

We also heard that the Tavern got crowded, so we got there just after it opened on a Saturday afternoon, took one of the few tables in the small restaurant, and settled back to admire the Art Deco bar back and the old tools that decorated the walls while we waited for our food.

Not long after we got our beers (Brewer's Art Resurrection for me; the owner is a partner in that restaurant, too), our fried pickle appetizer arrived.

The juicy slices of sour pickle slices coated in an armor of batter and deep fried were accompanied by a tangy goat cheese dip. Personally, I think a sweeter dip would have provided more of a contrast in flavors and would have worked better, but I enjoyed the pickles in their rather hard crusts.

After a bit of a wait (perfection takes time), we got our burgers. Mr Minx got his as advertised, but I opted to add sweet spicy bacon to my burger and swapped out the fries for a side of Boh-battered Os.

The burger portion of the meal was outstanding. The fat patty was juicy and moist inside, pink but not quite medium. The Tavern did not skimp on the horseradish cheddar, and the cheesy flavor was prevalent in every bite. The bacon added a bit of sweetness that I really enjoyed. My only problem with the sandwich was the bun from nearby Hamilton Bakery; it tasted terrific, but shedded something awful. Not exactly fell apart, it was sturdy enough to withstand the weight and moisture of the burger, but pieces of the crust adhered to my fingers every time I put the burger back down on the plate. Eventually I was left holding the insides.

The onion rings were a huge disappointment. If I thought of them as donuts filled with onion, they worked better, but as onion rings, they were a failure. They were too doughy, not crispy enough, and too sweet. Mr Minx's fries were bland and a bit undercooked.

Overall, however, a stellar burger experience that we're eager to recreate over and over again.

Flash forward to the following weekend, when we once again had a hankering for red meat. Not wanting to be boring and go back to Hamilton Tavern, we decided to head to Piv's Pub in Cockeysville. Their online menu listed a 10oz char-grilled burger on a brioche bun, which sounded pretty tasty.

And it was tasty. The meat had a good char on it and the grilled flavor took me straight to Summer cookouts. But, unlike the burger at Hamilton Tavern, Piv's burger was as dry as a desert. There was a slight tint of pink inside, but it was nowhere near the requested medium. And the burger was as flat as a pancake, with a dense, compressed, texture, which tells me that it was smashed unmercifully against the grill, which produced a nice crust but allowed all of the meat's moisture to escape into the flames.  

Honestly, why do people do that? Are they stupid? Are they in such a rush to get the food out to the customer that they willingly let quality slide? Eating this dry burger made us realize why the wait for our burgers at the Tavern seemed so long. Because they were cooked with care.

We also tried the slider sampler, which included one each of shrimp salad, crab cake, and pulled pork in addition to the horribly dry beef. The best of these was the crab cake, which was moist and had nice chunks of crab. The shrimp salad was bland, and the pulled pork was very salty. The rolls had been toasted, which might be a nice touch for larger burgers, however, these were very dry as a result. And the fries, the kind with the little bumps on them, what I call "shrapnel," clearly came out of a bag from the freezer. Disappointing.

Slightly less disappointing was the wedge salad, which inexplicably came deconstructed, with bland bleu cheese dressing and mass-produced croutons. Once everything was cut up and mixed together, it tasted fine, but it wasn't $8.50 worth of salad.

Neither meal was perfect, but you can probably guess where we'll be spending our money in the future.

Hamilton Tavern
5517 Harford Rd
Baltimore, MD 21214
(410) 426-1930
hamiltontavern.com
Hamilton Tavern on Urbanspoon

Piv's Pub
9811 York Rd
Cockeysville, MD 21030
(410) 666-7487
Piv's Pub on Urbanspoon
Posted on Minxeats.com.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Graeter's Ice Cream

Mr Minx and I love ice cream. Loooooooooove it. We could eat it every day, but (usually) limit it to a weekend treat. This past weekend's treat was a sampling of four flavors of Graeter's ice cream, courtesy of the lovely people at Graeter's.

Graeter's, from Cincinnati, Ohio, is a super premium ice cream made with the French pot method. A French pot is not so different from the type of home ice cream maker many of us own, comprising a freezable liquid-filled metal liner, plastic outer casing, and a lid with a crank. In this type of machine, as the liquid base freezes onto the sides of the liner, it is scraped off with the paddle attached to the crank. This technique doesn't allow for much air to get whipped into the cream, so the end result is dense and rich.

Graeter's is definitely dense and rich, and contains somewhere between 16-18% butterfat. No wonder it's so darn good. We got to try four flavors: black raspberry chip, vanilla chocolate chip, double chocolate chip, and mint chocolate chip. "Chip" is really a misnomer. "Slab" might be more accurate. Rather than mixing in bits and pieces of chocolate into their ice cream, Graeter's pours a melted chocolate into the pots. After it solidifies onto the frozen cream, a worker breaks it up and mixes it in, creating chewy chunks of chocolate.

Say that five times fast: creating chewy chunks of chocolate. I adored the chewy chunks of chocolate!

I couldn't tell you which of the four flavors is my favorite. The vanilla chocolate chip is well-balanced, flavor-wise, and not overly vanilla-y. The black raspberry chip has intense fruit flavor (and color), and the mint chocolate chip tastes like real mint. And while I'm not a huge fan of chocolate ice cream, unless it's home-made, Graeter's tastes pretty fine. And the chewy chunks of chocolate are a bonus in each flavor.

Looks like we might have to do another taste test tonight. And maybe tomorrow night. You know, just to make sure we really like it. (We do!)

Graeter's is now available in grocery stores all around the country, including Mars, Fresh Market, and Weis in the Baltimore area, but you can order it from their Web site, http://www.graeters.com.

* The  products in this post have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Next Food Network Star 8.7

This week, the Wannabes are given a big curve ball: for this Star Challenge, they will not have the comforting bosom of their mentors/producers to cry on. Or in Alton's case, a bony ribcage.

They're going to have to show how they can handle themselves with style and grace when they cook for "the press" - Serious Eats' Ed Levine and a bunch of Entertainment Weekly/ET nobodies. Honestly - do they talk about Guy Fieri on Entertainment Tonight? Is he even entertaining? I think not. In any case, the Wannabes need to create a one-bite dish that incorporates their POV, is personal to them, and is delicious.

After one hour of shopping with their Discover cards, the Wannabes head to the Food Network Kitchen at Chelsea Market to prepare their dishes. While they're cooking, they need to work on their stories, so before the mentors go off for a spa day, they make sure the contestants know they will be expected to share something personal with Tushface, Susie Fogelson, Ed Levine, and the bimbo "press."

Cooking goes off mostly without a hitch, except it looks like Martie might not finish her roulade--which she says her family pronounces "roulash"--in time.(I'm imagining she needs to make a filling of paprika-scented beef to go inside it.) Justin helps her with plating, however, and then everyone is sent to the green room to cool their heels while Malcolm makes the first presentation.

Malcolm comes out talking and doesn't stop for the entire 90 seconds. But his story about Easter lamb works, as does his "insanely delicious" lamb chop.

Martie goes out next and manages to get her spiel done in the allotted time. She's getting better and better at this, and the committee enjoys her "roulash." Michele is worried about the time limit, so she's rather contained, but the committee seems to like her tough yet warm persona and they enjoy her food.

Martita comes out and makes a fool of herself by finishing up her presentation in 2/3 of the allotted time. For the last 30 seconds, she just stands there and smiles like a nincompoop. Her story was non-existent, and Tushface is completely embarrassed by her. And he should be embarrassed by her non-performance in front of such illustrious television personalities as that dark-haired girl from Entertainment Tonight, that gray-haired guy with the glasses from wherever he's from and Ed Levine.... (Honestly, there's far more gravitas on Faux and Fiends.)

Did anyone else notice that that the ET bimbo referred to EVERY dish to this point as, "it's one of my favorites?" Yeah. No wonder the Wannabes are so intimidated. I'm sorry, but I can't take anyone seriously whose main focus seems to be Kim Kardassian and her talent-less but ass-full family.

Yvan gets called out on his upspeak by Tushface. Thanks, Bob? I personally hate listening to a speaker who sounds as if every statement he or she makes is actually a question? He also didn't have much of a story, but during the Q&A session after his presentation, he tells a heart-breaker about having to dig for food in garbage cans because his family was so poor. This makes Susie cry, and the gray-haired guy says something completely unimportant.

Ippy, of course, needed more energy. Susie is concerned that he's still not loose. What the hell do they want from this guy? Should he come out on a surfboard? Or dance with flaming torches? Not everyone has the energy of Douche Fieri.

Emily, for some reason, doesn't want to share her personal story, so she rehearsed some shit about her mini Thanksgiving dinner on a plate. Her delivery is halting and she really does miserably. Her "retro rad" shtick is finally failing her. And then we have Justin, who shines. He tells a story about his late dad while feeding the panel his peanut butter-and-duck-stuffed dates, which Ed Levine declares "insane." The panel loves Justin's hair, rather than his lipstick. Tushface said he saw a joy and sweetness in the young man that he never saw before. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwh! Even Tushface has a crush on Justin.

Finally, Nikki comes out doing a complete 180 from the tough bitch she was in past episodes. She makes a boring scallop dish decorated with flower petals, and the panel calls bullshit. Tushface called her scallop "sour and bitter." It's unpleasant. Well, at least Nikki put herself into her food this time.

Magically, it's the next day and the mentors are back with their mentees for some doom and gloom. Susie tells the Wannabes that all but one of them will be going to South Beach to sweat and get sand in their food, and they seem excited at the prospect. Emily, Martita, and Nikki are in contention to be that one Wannabe that goes home this week, and I say send them all home. But no - they get to duke it out in the Save Your Ass Challenge, which this week is to create a perfect burger and the presentation to go with it.

After that nonsense is over, they congregate in the Temple of the Glowing Vagina of Doom. Martita grudgingly mentions her sisters in her burger story, but Susie and Tushface aren't impressed with the burger itself. Nikki unfortunately hits her presentation out of the park, leaving the flowers behind. Emily makes a delicious burger but doesn't deliver on presentation.

The Judges are not sure what's behind her "retro rad" personality, and though Emily might be on the right path, they don't think she'll be ready to start filming her own show in four weeks' time. So Emily gets the boot.

Back in the green room, Justin is clearly upset. Now who's he going to borrow lipstick from?

Next week: South Beach with the Queen of Dentures, Paula Deen.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Great Sage

Ages ago, I tried vegetarianism. I lasted about a month, after succumbing to the scent of bacon. Later still, I gave up red meat, only to fall back into regularly eating burgers and steaks. But a recent trip to Great Sage almost makes me want to try vegetarianism again. Almost.

The restaurant is in a shopping center that is full of related earth-friendly shops: Roots Market; Bark! (pets); and Nest (clothes and gifts). We stopped into Roots Market after dinner and I was somewhat disappointed that they sold meat. Maybe because I felt so healthy and good after eating an entirely vegan meal.

I started out with the raw beet ravioli. Everything in this dish is raw - the beets, the filling, which is made with raw nut "cheese," the basil pesto. The "cheese" didn't taste like cheese, but who cares? It was delicious.

Mr Minx originally ordered the soft pretzel, but they were out, so he opted for the black bean and corn quesadilla instead. The "cheese" in this dish was a bit more like dairy cheese, but not quite as gluey. The sour "cream" on the side was really amazing though - even when tasted on its own, it wasn't apparent that it was not an actual dairy product. The flavors were all very good, but my one criticism is that the tortilla was toasted a bit aggressively, which dried it out.

One of the restaurant managers, Katie, had recommended the "crab" cake to me, and I have to admit it was one of the best crab cakes I've eaten. Ever. Even though there was absolutely no crab anywhere near it. The damp, slippery texture of good blue crab was replicated by shredded hearts of palm, which were combined with a bit of breading and a good, old-fashioned, Old Bay-like seasoning. The fat cake was served on a bed of arugula and roasted red bell peppers and topped with a tangy remoulade, all of which went together perfectly. And it was an absolutely beautiful plate.

Mr Minx tried the etouffee, which had chicken-y bits of what I think was gluten, and a tasty mound of dirty rice with black beans. It had a nice kick of red pepper to it, which made him happy that he had ordered a root beer float. The ice "cream" helped calm the burn.

We skipped dessert this time, but we'll be back to try the Mahalo cake and perhaps some cherry pie, too. Really amazing stuff - almost enough to convert an avid meat-eater.

Great Sage
5809 Clarksville Sq Dr
Clarksville, MD 21029
(443) 535-9400
great-sage.com

Great Sage on Urbanspoon
Posted on Minxeats.com.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sesame Butter

We're big fans of nut butters. I couldn't tell you how many giant tubs of peanut butter we (Mr Minx) goes through during the course of a year. Not only do we eat it straight out of the jar, either on bread or right off the spoon, but we also use it in cooking.

Unfortunately, my brother is severely allergic to peanuts and I always have to remember to skip those yummy Asian peanut noodle salads when I'm making party or pot-luck food. Anaphylactic shock is not a good thing. Sometimes I use almond butter, but then I'm disappointed that the flavor isn't quite as rich and nutty as when I use peanut butter. But I found a perfect substitution: sesame butter. Most folks know it as tahini, an essential ingredient in Middle Eastern food, particularly hummus.

Golden Millstone Sesame Butter is made from organic sesame seeds grown in Ethiopia, crushed using a 90-year-old millstone. It's free of additives and other nuts, and is both delicious and healthy.

If you'd like to try GM Sesame Butter for yourself, I have an exclusive 40% off discount code for Minxeats readers. Just go to http://sesamebutter.com and enter MINXEATS at checkout to receive your discount. And while you're at the site, check out the recipe section, including this one for Cold Chinese Sesame Noodles.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ikaros

I can't tell you the last time I ate at Ikaros. I grew up in Fells Point, not that far from Greektown; Mr Minx was approximately the same distance away, in Dundalk. Yet it wasn't a restaurant in our parents' regular rotation. Perhaps because Greek restaurants tend to serve a lot of lamb, and that's not my Dad's thing. At all. In any case, we went recently, and we liked it.

I think we enjoyed it more than our trip to the Black Olive.

Ikaros is a rather old-fashioned sort of place. There are so many paintings, photos, and maps of Greece on the walls, it's almost like a Greek version of Haussner's. The menu is nowhere near as extensive, thankfully, but it was still difficult to choose from all the tempting dishes available. Mr Minx's brother went with us, so that gave us the opportunity to try an extra entree.

Spanakopita
Saganaki, sans flames
We started off with the spanakopita and the saganaki. The spinach pie was hot, crispy, and filled with spinach seasoned with feta and mint. It was delicious, as was the flaming kefalograviera cheese, set alight with brandy by our waitress, then doused with lemon juice to put out the flame. It was gooey and salty and slightly herbal, and really cried out for bread better than the squishy Italian-style bread on the table.

Moussaka
Shrimp Guvetsaki
For our entrees, we sampled the moussaka, which was dense and rich and meaty. We also had the baby lamb with string beans, and the shrimp Guvetsaki, but with rice instead of guvetzi (a Greek pasta). The shrimp was terrific - briny, tomatoey - and I loved the slab of feta cheese that almost melted on top. The lamb was very tender, somewhat bland, but very homey.

Lamb with green beans
Homey is actually a good word to describe the entire meal, including the service. I wanted to order some galaktobureko (semolina-thickened custard in pastry) for dessert, but before I got a chance, our waitress brought us a plate with all three of the house desserts on it, compliments of the kitchen.

Galaktoboureko, baklava, kataifi
The portion of galaktobureko was the largest of the three, almost as if our waitress had read my mind. It was also the best (although splitting the other two tiny pieces three ways didn't really give any of us a proper sample).

Ikaros has been around forever, and it's obvious some of the customers have been coming around almost that long. The food is good, no wonder.

Ikaros
4805 Eastern Ave
Baltimore, MD 21224
(410) 633-3750
ikarosrestaurant.com

Ikaros on Urbanspoon
Posted on Minxeats.com.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Okonomiyaki

After tasting the delish okonomiyaki at Pabu, I had a hankering for more. A specialty of the Kansai region of Japan (which includes Osaka and Kyoto), okonomiyaki is a pancake-like treat made with eggs, shredded cabbage, and some sort of meat (generally seafood or pork). The combination of carbs, protein, and vegetables makes it a meal in itself, even if it is generally considered junk food in Japan.

I'll take Japanese junk food over the crap sold at the Golden Arches any day.

After looking over several recipes to get a general idea of ingredients and proportions, I put this recipe together in order to use up some leftover roast pork belly and crab claw meat that was in the fridge. I wished I had some bonito flakes to sprinkle on top, but the dish was delicious nonetheless.

In addition to the drizzle of mayonnaise, Okonomiyaki is usually also served with okonomi sauce. There are various recipes online, but I simplified things greatly by mixing up roughly equal portions of ketchup, horseradish dijon, and Worcestershire sauce.

Okonomiyaki with Crab and Pork Belly

1 cup water
2 teaspoons dashi powder
1 cup AP flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1/2 cup onion, thinly sliced
canola oil
2 cups shredded cabbage (I used cole slaw mix, which included carrots)
1.5 cups cooked chopped seafood, pork, or bacon, or a combination
3 eggs
chopped green onion
Kewpie mayonnaise
Katsuobushi (bonito flakes) (optional)
pickled ginger (optional)

Bring the water to a simmer and add the dashi. Stir to dissolve and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the cooled dashi to the flour mixture, stirring to make a batter. Cover and refrigerate batter for at least an hour and up to three hours.

While the batter is resting, saute the sliced onion in a bit of canola oil with a pinch of salt until the onion has softened. Stir in shredded cabbage and stir fry for a few minutes until the cabbage gets limp. Remove from heat and set aside.

After the batter has rested for an appropriate length of time, beat the three eggs and add them to the batter. Drain and discard any liquid that has accumulated from the cabbage and onion mixture; add vegetables to the batter along with any seafood or pork you wish to use. The batter will be very thick.

Add a tablespoon of canola oil to an 8" nonstick frying pan and heat until it shimmers. Add okinomiyaki batter to a depth of about 3/4" inch. Cover pan and cook over medium-low heat, for about 5-7 minutes. Remove lid. Place a large plate over the pancake and flip out onto the plate. Cover the pancake with another plate and invert, so the pancake is uncooked-side down on the second  plate. Carefully slide pancake into the pan. Cook the second side for another 10 minutes or so, turning heat down to medium-low.

When the pancake is done, transfer to a serving plate. Drizzle with mayonnaise, sprinkle with bonito flakes and scallions, and serve pickled ginger on the side.

Cut into wedges and serve. Makes two 8" pancakes, which can serve 4 - 10, depending on whether you're using it as an appetizer or a main dish.

Traditionally, the pickled ginger served with okonomiyaki is beni shoga, a tart ginger pickled with umezi (sour plum) vinegar, which gives the ginger a red color. If you can't find beni shoga, gari, the usually-pink ginger eaten with sushi, is perfectly acceptable, even though it is sweeter. I find that the bracing ginger flavor and tart vinegar are the key flavors to the accompaniment, with or without the sweetness.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Next Food Network Star 8.6

This week, nothing happened. That's all folks! See you next week!

I can't get away with that, can I? But honestly, nothing really happened this week. I'm really starting to hate this format because it really gives me little to work with. I even had a shot of tequila before the show started in hopes that it might make me hallucinate something interesting, but I even slept like a baby last night without the usual FNS nightmares.

So...let's give it a try anyway. The Wannabes are told that since their future job as Food Network Stars will be to elevate everyday food, they'll be taking on the shopping mall food court. (You know, the way Paula Deen deep fries everything before slathering it in mayonnaise. That's "elevating" the food.). Right away, Linkie is in a panic because she says she's not familiar with food court food. I know she's from South Africa by way of the Southern US (or vice versa), but I can't believe that she's never had a Cinnabon or an Auntie Anne's pretzel. Is she one of those weird gals who don't like to shop? Anyhoo, the food court in question is the South Street Seaport, the very mention of which makes Bobby Flay blanch as he remembers the failure of "America's Next Great Restaurant."

Rather than allowing the Wannabes to take over existing food court restaurants like Chick Fil-A, Subway, or one of those places that does the Japanese-style chicken and bean sprout stir fries (yum), the teams are given themes to work with. Team Bobby is assigned "American Deli," Giada gets Mexican, and Alton gets Italy. Once again it seems like Giada is getting a gift from the network, as her beloved Martita is from Mexico. But then there's Linkie, who not only doesn't know food court food, she's got no f*ing clue about Mexican food, particularly the desserts. And she's the dessert girl, dontcha know? Linkie grills Martita about what to do, and gets the suggestion of churros and hot chocolate. Martita gives her few directions, so Linkie is left to her own devices, which aren't functioning particularly well.

Over on Bobby's side, his team decides to discard the "deli" thing completely and concentrate on American seafood. Michele is doing clam chowder, Nikki is taking fish tacos, and Malcolm is doing Maryland crab cakes. [Insert your own clam and fish taco jokes here.] Team Alton seems to be taking the Italian theme in stride, naming their group "Littler Italy," and choosing to make fritto misto (Justin), arancini (Martie), and a dessert panini (Emily).

After shopping, the Wannabes have 2 hours to cook. Martie seems to have bitten off more than she can chew, what with making a dish that has multiple components that need to be cooked in advance, combined, and then divided into 150 portions. Michele had to buy fresh clams, which she needs to take the time to precook and shuck. And while they're all running around, trying to get things done, the Producers come in and announce that they're going to throw a little curve ball.

Anyone notice that sometimes they're "producers" and other times they're "mentors?"

They introduce Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, who starts talking about Iron Chef, which of course has nothing to do with food courts. He then donates a bowl of old chicken livers left over from a recent Iron Chef battle.

One person from every team has to incorporate these livers into his or her dish, which makes both Emily and Linkie (who are prepping dessert) sigh in relief.. Michele, Justin, and Yvan volunteer to be the victims this time around.

The next day, the Wannabes head to the Seaport to their makeshift "food court." Littler Italy has a lot of food to fry, what with Justin's Fritto Misto and Martie's arancini, and their oil just won't get hot. It's starting to smell like a deep-fried disaster, but somehow we know they'll pull it off...because others are getting the Loser Edit. Speaking of losers, over in Mexico, Linkie has her oil plenty hot, but she really f*ed up the churro batter. Actually, she made a dough and not a batter, and her "churros" are cooking up all hard and crunchy rather than being anything like a donut.

Eventually their prep time is up and the hungry hordes flock in to nom. Team Alton gets their oil up to temp and starts frying everything in sight. Justin serves up his Italian-style tempura with a shot of lemon juice out of a atomizer bottle. That boy is certainly clever. Martie tells everyone that arancini are a perfect party food, and the guests are literally eating everything up.

The judges come in for a taste and hit Team Bobby's "American Sandbar" first. They think Nikki's tacos are tame - she did use tilapia, after all - but they love both Malcolm's crab cake and Michele's clam chowder, especially with the chicken liver-topped crouton she's added to the top. Michele is clearly the cheerleader of the group and made the biggest impact, while Malcolm and Nikki were both more in the background and not particularly dynamic.

Team Giada gets the next visit, and Ippy and Yvan both do very well with their presentations. They're upbeat and have good stories. Ippy even has appropriate food-related tattoos to go with his pineapple and pork dish. Martita, who should have had this in the bag, is really rather lackluster. And Linkie - oh Linkie. We know at this point she's going home. After all, she's on Team Giada, which is the only one that still has four members. Linkie has a hard time explaining why her churros are so bad, and that leaves both Susie and Tushface to grimace and make sad faces at her.

Team Alton does a complete 180 over last week's performance. All three of them wowed the judges with both their food and their presentations. Martie even shut up after a few sentences. Obviously they are the winning team, which means one person from Bobby's and Giada's teams face elimination. But we don't find that out until the next day....

...which in the miracle of TV, is after the commercial break. Nikki and Linkie are on the chopping block and they need to take a boring ingredient - chicken - and make something extraordinary out of it (like deep-frying it and slathering it in mayonnaise). And of course do a 60-second on-camera presentation.

Nikki has changed her POV from "Girl on Grill" to the "Grill Next Door" which probably disappoints Bobby Flay a bit as he seemed to like her racy personality. She makes grilled chicken with a tzatziki sauce and a grilled lemon. Seems like it would be tasty, but she comes off as harsh and unpleasant. Honestly, I would not watch this woman on tv. She's not likable. Linkie, on the other hand, is likable, but doesn't belong on food television. She makes chicken breasts boozed-up with spiced rum, but she stumbles over her words during her presentation. She's really a big fail.

In the Room of the Glowing Vagina, Susie and Tush feel pretty much the same way. They think Nikki is abrasive, despite Bobby's effusive praise (possibly because he wants to get into her pants), and they think Linkie is just too unpolished. And Linkie is shown the door.

Next week: Meet the Press. Yawn.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Pork Belly

Some months ago, we picked up a package of pork belly on a trip to H-Mart. It sat in the freezer for a while because I was simply too busy to cook it. Finally, a weekend came that was relatively free of obligations, so I embarked on the Pork Belly Project. (Not really that much of a project; I just wanted to make it seem more intimidating.)

At first I thought I could cook it in the SousVide Supreme, but then I realized that would take a few days and by the time the belly thawed, it would be too late. Then I picked up my copy of the Momofuku cookbook. Dave Chang's recipe seemed pretty easy - start the meat out at a high temperature, then turn the oven down to continue cooking. But after reading Momofuku for 2's problems with this particular recipe, I thought I should alter it a bit. Rather than cook it for a full hour at high temp, I'd cook the belly for half an hour before lowering the oven temperature.

The recipe calls for a skinless chunk of belly, but I like skin so left mine on. Mine also had bones, oddly enough, so they must have been pieces from the side of the belly, including ribs.

After another couple of hours in the oven, the meat was still quite hard. Dinner time was looming (we hate eating off-schedule) so I needed to do something to make this meat cook more quickly. I did a quick google search for roasting pork belly and found another David Chang recipe, this time starting the meat slow, adding a braising liquid, and raising the oven temperature toward the end of the cooking time.

That made much more sense to me. So I added a cup of chicken stock to the pan, covered the pork, and roasted it for an additional hour. I cranked up the oven yet again, removed the foil, and gave the skin a quick crisping.

Perfection. The meat was tender and juicy, the skin was almost like a cracker. We ate some of it with rice, but also made faux pork belly buns using Martin's potato rolls in place of the steamed buns. With some hoisin, quick-pickled cucumbers, and cilantro, they were quite tasty.

Posted on Minxeats.com.
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