Friday, December 25, 2015

Happy Holidays!

Oh yeah - and Merry Christmas, too!

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Ringing in the New Year at Baltimore Restaurants

Wondering what to do for New Year's Eve? Here are a couple of suggestions.

B&O American Brasserie

New Year’s Eve
A la carte dinner specials
Complimentary glass of champagne for all dinner guests

On New Year’s Eve, the restaurant will host a night of food and fun. All dinner guests will enjoy a complimentary glass of champagne. Reservations are encouraged.

Hangover Brunch
Jan. 1, 2016
8 am – 2:30 pm
Greasy, greasy menu items; refillable mimosas and Bloody Marys for $18

After ringing in the new year, guests can roll out of bed and join B&O American Brasserie for Hangover Brunch, from 8 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Brunch will include a menu featuring some of the greasiest dishes around in addition to the restaurant's a la carte brunch menu. Diners can bring the Advil and the restaurant will provide the bacon and home fries! Refillable mimosas and/or Bloody Marys will cure any hangover so guests can start the new year off right.

Cinnamon Tree
4 courses, $68 per person
Seatings from 5 - 9pm
Choose from dishes like filet of beef Rossini foie gras with black truffles, or peppercorn crusted duck breast. Complimentary champagne, too.

Oregon Grille
410-771-0505 for reservations
The Oregon Grille will serve its regular menu and will offer seatings for parties of three or more at 5pm, 7:30pm, and 10pm. Tables for two will be seated at 5pm, 6:45pm, 8:30pm, and 10:15pm.

They are also running a promotion with Radcliffe Jewelers. All dinner guests will have a chance to win a beautiful 14K white gold and diamond snowflake pendant valued at $3200. The winner will be selected at random and announced at midnight.

Sotto Sopra is serving dinner on NYE from 4 pm - midnight.

Waterfront Kitchen

Five Course Tasting Menu
8 pm
$140 per person, $100 for a vegetarian menu. $25 for wine pairings.
Includes a champagne party at midnight along with a prime location to view fireworks.
Credit card reservation required, via Open Table or by calling 410.864.0215.

Chef Chris Amendola's classically-inspired menu includes oysters and caviar, celery root "pasta," scallops, and ribeye, finished off with a chocolate truffle cake. Vegetarians get roasted beets, a mushroom stew, the "pasta," winter grains and veg with parsnip puree, and the truffle cake.

Wit & Wisdom

7 pm
$250 person, black tie optional
Reservations required

Wit & Wisdom at the Four Seasons Baltimore is hosting a 9-course New Year's Eve dinner with beverage pairings, featuring luxurious goodies like Main lobster pot pie, cardamom roasted duck, and local oysters (click here for full menu).

Lounge Party
After 7pm
$40 cover; $50 after December 20th

Live music, champagne toast, a great view of the fireworks.

Tickets for both New Year's Eve Events tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite.

New Year's Day Brunch Buffet
8 am - 3 pm
$69 adults, $30 kids 12 and under
Reservations strongly recommended

Wit & Wisdom's brunch is pretty amazing, including the usual breakfast items, but also chilled shellfish and hot entrees.

There are more, of course, just check the web site for your favorite restaurant for more info.

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Flashback Friday - Christmas Dinner 2009

Christmas is almost here!


This post was originally published on December 29, 2009.
Christmas Dinner 2009

Some people make turkey for Christmas, but not me. If I never see turkey again, I'd be very happy! This holiday, my bird of choice was duck.

Meet Donald. I roasted him for 4 hours at 300°F and an additional hour at 350°F, after slashing through the skin all over. Most of the fat rendered out (and was greedily saved by me for cooking potatoes in the future) which resulted in crisp skin.

Donald was yummy.

While he was a-roasting, I prepared an appetizer of chicken-fried sweetbreads with lemon mayo.

Man, sweetbreads are a pain-in-the-tuckus to make. First they have to be soaked for a couple hours, then poached. Membrane-removal is next, followed by several hours of pressing. After all of that, I cut them into small pieces, dipped each one in seasoned flour, then beaten egg, then seasoned breadcrumbs, and shallow-fried them in canola oil. The lemon mayo was a simple concoction of 2 T mayo, the juice and grated rind of one half lemon, and a pinch of salt.

Overall, it was pretty good, although I feel I could have poached the sweetbreads just a tad longer. The texture I achieved wasn't quite as firm as the sweetbreads we ate at Volt.

The duck was a much easier preparation. I wanted to make a riff on Thai Luong's Basil Duck, so I mixed up a chunky sauce of sautéed onion, fresh basil, garlic, and a couple of tablespoons of Thai chile basil sauce.

The sides were a leek and mushroom fondue (leeks, fresh shiitake, dried chanterelle, and white mushrooms cooked in butter and olive oil until the leeks "melt" and the mushrooms are tender), and Jasmine rice.

Everything turned out deliciously, and I impressed even myself.

For dessert, I put to use some of the many cookies we had on hand and made ice cream sandwiches. This was accompanied by hot chocolate.

A shame Mr Minx and I had only one guest for Christmas dinner. It meant more food for us...which is not necessarily a good thing. [urp]

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Christmas Dinner, Restaurant-style

Some local area restaurants are offering special Christmas meals, for those of you who don't have time to cook, or who just would rather have someone else do all the work (completely understandable).

Cinnamon Tree
3 courses, $39.95 per person
Seatings from 4-8 pm
Includes chestnut soup, a grilled ribeye or cranberry apple stuffed pork loin, creme brulee.

The Prime Rib @ Maryland Live! Casino
3 courses, $85, including a glass of champagne
Reservations recommended
Business professional or smart casual dress
Dinner options include beef Wellington or Maine lobster, gingerbread, or baked Alaska.

The casino's Live! Buffet is also having a special $17.99 all-you-can-eat spread featuring turkey, pork loin, gingerbread cookies, and a classic Buche de Noel. Half priced domestic champagne, too!

Sotto Sopra will be open on Christmas Day from noon - 10 pm.

Wit & Wisdom is offering a Christmas Day Brunch
7 am - 11 am
$69 adults, $39 kids 12 and under

Dinner too!
2 pm - 8 pm
3 courses, $85 adults, $40 children 12 and under
$40 optional wine pairing (for the adults only, of course!)
A credit card is required to hold the reservation
72-hour cancellation policy; 50% per person charge for late cancellations
View the menu here.

RA Sushi, Tela Mares, Olive Room, Oceanaire, Morton's, Jimmy's Famous Seafood, Fogo de Chao, Ciao Bella, Jack Binion's, Guy Fieri's Baltimore Kitchen, Johnny Sanchez, & Regi's are all open on Christmas Day as well. There are likely others....just check the Web site for your favorite restaurant for hours.

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Cosima - Coming Soon!

The old mills along the Jones Falls in the Woodberry/Hampden area have gone through a great deal of renovation recently, especially as new restaurants. Of course, Woodberry Kitchen is the most well known, but Birroteca has been pulling in big business for several years and La Cuchara is a new hotspot in this desirable section of town. In January 2016, Cosima will open its doors in Mill No. 1 serving refined Italian cuisine in a space that combines the rustic elements of its mill past with ultra modern decor and a lovely view of the Jones Falls.

Cosima is the brainchild of Donna Crivello of Donna's in the Village of Cross Keys and Donna's Cafe, and her partners, Alan Hirsh and Judith Golding. The cuisine is Southern Italian, but framed in the format of many New American restaurants, offering appetizers to share, pasta, pizza from their wood-fired brick oven, and entrees that are a bit lighter than your traditional red sauce establishments. The Minx and I were recently given a preview of some of the dishes that will be offered.

We started the evening with a pair of cocktails using various brands of amaro, an Italian liqueur that will be featured prominently on the restaurant's specialty cocktail menu. The word amaro means "bitter" in Italian; each brand has its own level of bitterness, which was balanced by other elements in the cocktails, like prosecco. Cosima will also offer a wine list comprised of wines made exclusively in Southern Italy.

The sharing plates will include a crudo like the swordfish variety we sampled. The light starter featured pickled fennel and a vinaigrette for the right touch of acid.

The brick walls of the old mill provide a perfect home for their newly built wood-fired oven. From this oven will come a variety of pizzas, like the Sfincione Sicilian pizza with eggpant, Italian sausage, and smoked mozzarella. I've always maintained that I'm not a fan of eggplant, but this pizza has me thinking twice. The menu will also feature thin-crust pizzas.

When I first arrived at the preview, Donna was just bringing out the polpetti, or momma's meatballs, and asked if I wanted to be the first to try them. I would never turn down meatballs, so I eagerly said yes. I was a little disappointed when she only put two on the plate rather than allowing me to eat the whole skillet. My disappointment was allayed somewhat by the incredible flavor. Redolent of garlic and cumin and slightly firm (the way I like them), they were enhanced by the tangy ragu and house-made ricotta.

The restaurant was still a work in progress when we visited, so we're eager to revisit Cosima when it opens to see how the finished product and sample more of the intriguing cuisine. When the weather gets warmer, I'm sure the outdoor seating along the Falls will be wonderful to experience.

3000 Falls Road, Mill No. 1
Baltimore, MD 21211

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Friday, December 11, 2015

Flashback Friday - Minx Fruitcake

Fruitcake is one of those things that one either loves or hates. The majority of people proclaim to hate it, but judging from the quantity of fruitcake one sees in the shops this time of year, *somebody* likes it. Other than my Dad, that is. He'll even eat the cheap-o square fruitcake logs full of plastic-looking dyed "fruit" they sell in drug stores.

I've never been a fan of the stuff myself. Until I made my own. Years back, I made a couple of fruitcakes that I soaked in booze. The idea was to allow them to mellow in the fridge for a few weeks until Christmas came around. Unfortunately, the fridge I used had humidity control issues. By Christmas day, the cakes were both green and fuzzy, and I had to throw all that work away. Now I tend to make my fruitcakes closer to Christmas, and I don't worry about boozing them up too much


This post was originally published on December 23, 2011.
Minx Fruitcake

Believe it or not, people have been asking for my fruitcake recipe. I usually just give guidelines but have finally put the whole thing in one place. Please to enjoy - it really is good! (And I normally hate fruitcake.)

Minx Fruitcake

1 1/2 cups of assorted dried fruits (chopped apricots, chopped figs, cherries, pineapple, blueberries, raisins, currants, candied ginger, cranberries)
1/2 cup rum
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup melted butter
1 egg
2 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup candied orange rind
1/4 cup chopped neon green or red cherries for fruitcake (optional)
1 cup assorted roasted unsalted nuts (cashews, almonds, pecans, walnuts, brazil nuts, filberts)

Put dried fruit in a microwave-safe bowl and pour over the rum. Stir well, cover with plastic wrap, and nuke on high for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray a loaf pan with release spray and set aside. Combine the first five ingredients in the bowl of a mixer (or use a hand mixer) and mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and spices. Add the macerated fruit (plus the rum) and nuts. Pour into greased loaf pan. Bake 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

With the fruitcake still in the loaf pan, poke holes in it with a toothpick. Pour over about 1/4 cup booze of your choice (rum is nice). Allow to soak in. Add another 1/4 cup or so after the cake has cooled a bit. When cake is completely cool, remove from loaf pans and wrap tightly in foil.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Monday, December 07, 2015

Corner Charcuterie Bar

I'm not sure exactly how to refer to this restaurant. It opened a few years ago as Corner BYOB because of both its location at the corner of Elm Avenue and 36th Street and its boozelessness. Being directly next to the Wine Source, however, the lack of a liquor license wasn't that big of a deal. Today, the restaurant has a bar, both for liquor and charcuterie. Their Web address involves the charcuterie bar, but the "Corner BYOB" sign is still over the main entrance. For simplicity's sake, we'll just call it Corner.

We went as a family, part of my birthday celebrations, and ordered enough food for a small army. Corner debuted its new fall menu recently, chock full of interesting sounding goodies. We tried three cocktails, the Salinger, the Barely Legal, and a Sazerac. All three were strong and flavorful. My Barely Legal was definitely powerful enough that I didn't need a second drink; the boys ordered IPAs afterward. Can't remember the brewery off the top of my head, but the beer was hoppy and smooth.

With our drinks we nibbled on the house-pickled fried veg with ranch dip. A melange of cucumbers, radishes, and other tasty morsels, each piece had its own distinctive pickle flavor and a light coating of crisp batter. Addictive.

We then received the rest of our food in short order. Ostrich tartare, which seems to me the best way to enjoy this lean and rather beefy bird, came with a quail egg to add a needed fattiness. I'm not sure the thick tortilla chip-like crisps were the best accompaniment, but they were an efficient way to get meat to mouth (other than by fork).

We also tried the truffled lobster mashed potatoes, prettily served in a martini glass. Light on truffle but heavy on lobster (including a claw garnish), I thought the potatoes could be a tad smoother (more a comment on the texture of the potato itself, rather than the mashing technique).

Perhaps a more successful potato choice (for me) was the pork cheek poutine, well-cooked fries smothered in a rich gravy studded with blobs of pork, with a few cheese curds thrown in. Could have been cheesier, but otherwise pretty great.

A third kind of potato - western fries - graced Dad's "hen basket." Three smallish pieces of very crispy buttermilk fried chicken with a molasses honey mustard were dispatched post-haste by my father, who not an hour earlier claimed to feeling poorly. We didn't get a taste, but we assume it must have been pretty good.

The other three of us ordered from the salad and sandwich part of the menu. MinxBro had the smoked duck croque monsieur, smothered in Gruyere and bechamel. The subtle duck was a little lost in all of the dairy richness, but otherwise, it was an evilly good sammy.

Mr Minx couldn't pass up on the charred octopus burger, which came with a fourth type of potato (very finely sliced fried sticks). Before it arrived, we guessed as to the burger's composition. Was it made from shredded or ground cooked octopus, bound into a patty and fried? A crosswise slice from a huge tentacle? Our lovely and charming server disappointed us slightly when she said it was a whole small octopus that somehow took on the texture of tofu. Perhaps smoked tofu, as it did have a bit of a bite to it, and the tentacles were chewier than the rest. The bun, black as coal, was a bigger novelty than the octopus itself, and made for a stunning presentation. The flavor was mild, with most of it due to the "tartar remoulade" which sadly made the bun quite soggy. Overall, somewhat disappointing, but can't really say it wasn't worth ordering.

I had the "Trump Pie," which was neither Trump nor pie. We have a feeling the very Mexican-influenced dish of tortillas topped with Peruvian pork loin, Chihuahua cheese, avocado, salsa, and mole was probably a tongue-in-cheek FU to a particular Republican presidential candidate. I enjoyed the dish. The pork was generous, as were the spices; the avocado and lime cooled and brightened the flavors nicely.

We also tried a few of the charcuterie - the bresaola, speck, and smoked duck breast. The meats came with a basket of dry toasts, which like the tortillas with the tartare, didn't really work very well. So we ate the meat solo (all very good), with occasional bites of the assorted pickled and preserved items around the perimeter of the plate (pickled pineapple, mustards, peppadews, etc.).

It was a lot of food, but the four of us managed to put just about all of it away. Corner certainly has an eclectic selection of dishes, which is why we chose to eat there to begin with. Octopus aside, we had some of tamer dishes on the current menu, which includes whole rabbit, pheasant, lamb's head, and bugs. If you're into adventuresome eating, Corner is the place for you. But even if you're boring, you can find something suitable there, and even a vegetarian will discover more than a few interesting things to eat.

Corner Charcuterie Bar
850 W 36th Street
Baltimore, MD 21211

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Friday, December 04, 2015

Flashback Friday - Meat Hangover

Have you ever had a meat hangover? It's almost as bad as an alcohol hangover, but obviously much tastier.


This post was originally published on March 11, 2007.
Meat Hangover

I've heard about meat hangovers, but never experienced one for myself until this morning. Last night, DH, DB, and I went to Greenfield Churrascaria in Rockville. DB had a gift certificate that he had received for Christmas and wanted to use before he had the opportunity to lose it, and DH and I were happy to assist him.

The restaurant is huge, seating many hundreds of people, I am sure. There is a large salad bar featuring everything from arugula and watercress to marinated mushrooms to pasta salad. There are soups including a nice seafood bisque full of squid tentacles, and a selection of Brazilian favorites like yuca and feijoada. That's all well and good...actually not that good. The salad bar selections are mediocre at best, but hey, the real reason to go there is the MEAT. Lots and lots and lots of meat.

Last night, we indulged in cholesterol-laden goodness. We had sausage, turkey wrapped in bacon, pork, lamb, and several different cuts of beef. My favorite was the short ribs, something we had never seen there before in all our many previous trips. It came around last, after DH had already declared himself "done for" and I was close to bursting (but was considering one last trip to the salad bar for some deep fried bananas, as "dessert") and could well have been the straw that broke the camel's back. But it was damned good, tender and flavorful. As was all the meat. Well, not all was tender - the flank steak was a bit chewy, and the pork was a little tough - but all had tremendous flavor. Everything was a tad on the salty side this trip too, as I couldn't stop drinking water, and had to chugalug a big glass of it when I got home.

Drinking so much definitely had its drawbacks. It's unfortunate that a restaurant so large would provide a mere two toilets in the ladies' room. It is also unfortunate that a large birthday party in our section would have small children running around. On my trip to the bathroom, I found that two little girls from that party were busily stuffing seat protectors into one toilet and emerged from the stall with "don't go in that one - it's flooded." The other stall contained what seemed like a small army of children but proved to be one extremely overweight child and her equally porky mother taking turns stinking up the place. As I waited, several other people, children in tow, entered the bathroom, so I left in a huff to use the bathroom in a nearby McDonald's. (Like I needed more reasons to dislike children....)

Anyway...I awoke in the middle of the night with a raging headache. Three ibuprofins and a couple of aspirin later, I still have it.

Meat hangover. It's not quite as bad as some alcohol-induced hangovers I've experienced in the distant past: I can hold my head up, and light isn't bothering me too much. But it's quite unpleasant and highly not recommended. I'm still trying to decide if it was worth it. Maybe tomorrow my overindulgence will seem a better idea.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Chicken Tikka Burgers

So maybe "tikka" is a misnomer. Ordinarily, the word refers to chunks of meat cooked on skewers, but I'm using it to evoke a flavor profile. Chicken tikka is like tandoori chicken, only boneless, marinated in yogurt and spices. While these chicken burgers don't contain any yogurt, they still taste wonderful, redolent of spices like cumin and garam masala.

Without the seasoning, chicken burgers are pretty boring. They are usually somewhat dry, too. I mix in a few spoonsful of hydrated chia seeds, which magically transform a dry burger into a juicy one. I'm not sure how it works, but it does. And as most of the ground chicken sold these days is breast meat (even though thighs are tastier), moisture is a necessity.

Serve these moist burgers on English muffins, to add a bit of crunchy textural interest, or substitute any bread you prefer. Cheese is optional, but do make the chutney mayo, as the sweet creaminess is a nice foil to the spices. You can also use the same spice combo with turkey or pork; beef might need a little more punch.

Chicken Tikka Burgers

2 teaspoons chia seeds
1 lb ground chicken
1 teaspoon curry powder (I used Penzey's Sweet Curry)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
Plain dry bread crumbs
AP flour
Oil for frying
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Major Grey chutney
4 English muffins
Avocado, thinly sliced (optional, but we had it)

Put the chia seeds in a ramekin with a tablespoon of water. Allow to rest for 15 minutes in order for the chia to absorb all the water. Add the chia to the chicken along with the spices, jalapeno, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Mix well. If the chicken seems too wet, add a couple tablespoons of the bread crumbs and combine well. Cover bowl and place in the fridge for at least one hour.

Place a cup or so of the flour on a plate and season it with salt. Make four patties with the chicken mixture and dredge each in the seasoned flour.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet. Add the chicken patties. Cook, over medium heat, for 6-8 minutes per side, until well-browned and cooked through.

While the burgers are cooking, combine the mayo and chutney. Toast the muffins and spread with the chutney mayo. Place a burger on each muffin, top with cilantro and avocado. Eat.

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Monday, November 30, 2015

Butterscotch Bourbon Apple Bread Pudding

Every year, when Fall comes along, I have a strong urge to bake up a big dish of apple crisp. My mama used to make it pretty regularly, and I adored it. Still do. But, hubby isn't a fan. I know - he's weird. He loves apples, and will happily eat apple pie, but top those apples with a crumbly topping and it's game over.

A couple years back, I switched things up and tried an apple cobbler on him, but it still wasn't a favorite. No worries - that cobbler was so damn good, I ate it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until it was gone, with absolutely no regrets.

This time, I put apples in a bread pudding. Mr Minx has no argument with those. I even sprinkled the top with a bit of brown sugar partway through baking in order to get a little crunch. He seemed to enjoy it just fine. So while it's not apple crisp, it was tasty and apple-y and fall-ish.

I used whole wheat bread, just shy of an entire grocery-store loaf. You can use what you like, from challah to baguette to plain old white bread. If you don't have apple cider and don't want to invest in it, then just use an extra cup of milk. Cider, however, gives the dish a more apple-y flavor. You can add some cinnamon, too, if that's your thing, but I preferred to taste the subtle butterscotch combo of brown sugar, booze, and salt.

Butterscotch Bourbon Apple Bread Pudding

3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons brown sugar (divided use)
3 apples, peeled, cored, and diced
4 tablespoons bourbon
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Large pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup melted butter
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup whole milk
1 cup apple cider
3 large eggs
Enough stale bread to fill about 8 cups

Heat oven to 350°F.

Melt butter and 3 tablespoons of the brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Add apples and toss well to coat. Add the bourbon and cream and cook for five minutes, until apple has softened a bit and the sauce is bubbly. Stir in the salt and remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, stir melted butter into condensed milk. Whisk in milk, cider, and eggs. Add the bread and press down on the mixture to ensure all of it is saturated with the milk mixture.

Place half of the mixture in a greased  9- or 10-inch springform pan. Top with half of the apples. Pour in remaining bread mixture and sprinkle with remaining apples.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle remaining tablespoon of brown sugar over top. Bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool for a bit before cutting into wedges and serving. Softly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream is a nice touch, but not necessary.

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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. :)

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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.

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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

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