meatless monday: veggie mapo tofu

From the New York Time's cooking section: the vegetarian version of mapo tofu. I love the traditional Chinese dish Mapo Tofu (which I made last year) ...but without ground pork? It's different, but actually spicier with more depth of flavor. Shitakes replace the meat and I used a fermented black bean sauce not actual fermented beans but otherwise followed the recipe as is. The meatless dinners are hard--more work, less filling. But this was hearty enough, with a thickened sauce served over quinoa which weasled its way into the stew. Such a goody-two-shoes, know-it-all that quinoa.

Semilla

A new restaurant named Semilla recently opened in Williamsburg. Michael and I went so I could review it for Brooklyn Based.  While we were eating, a NYT photographer was taking pictures for Pete Wells' review in the Times.  (see us on the right?)

favorite recipe of 2014

My favorite new recipe this year, and the favorite of many New York Times readers apparently, is Velvet Chicken Breasts with mustard sauce  It's very easy to make and can be prepped ahead of time. The actual cooking only take a few minutes on the stove. The chicken is incredibly dense and moist almost like you'd find from a sous vide machine.

The Velveting technique--used in a lot of Chinese cooking to marinade meat pre-wok-- involves soaking the chicken breasts in a mixture of egg whites and cornstarch. (You whip the whites then blend in the starch to create a foam.)  Breasts can sit here for a few hours.

Next you make a simple sauce of mustards and creme fraiche which can also hang out in the fridge until dinnertime. When it's time to cook, saute the chicken very briefly in vegetable oil or melted butter. It's not long enough for them to even brown but when the egg white marinade touches the hot oil, it turns into a thick skin-like coating around the still raw breast. Remove the breasts and heat the sauce mixture in the pan. Then finish the chicken in the pan by gently heating through. 

thanksgiving 2013

This was my first year on turkey. I followed the New York Times recipe HERE and dry brined two birds for 25 people.

Everything went according to plan until I realized both turkeys wouldn't fit into my oven and I had to borrow the oven in the rec room downstairs which meant running up and down the stairs to baste and check temperatures. By the time I got these monsters in the car---I was cursing the entire holiday. But they were incredibly juicy and if I hadn't miscalculated my oven size or if I was cooking for a smaller group, I would definitely make it again.

For Thanksgiving, I also made the stuffing (recipe here) which was a success and served the leftover cauliflower soup from Turducken because for some reason I made enough to fill a small swimming pool.

the long lost pork chop

This week's monthly mag entry is The New York Times magazine, specifically the great Sam Sifton's article on Diner's pork chop. Such an important article about how Williamsburg has changed/is changing using food as a metaphor. It's happening so fast right around us that it's good to keep remembering and tasting what's becoming extinct, which is often the best. But this piece is really about Sifton's pining for a bygone dish.- the pork chop served at the seminal Diner restaurant.

I bought the chops through , an awesome service that delivers from farm to your door--whatever you order. Not just what the farm/CSA wants you to have. So it's Fresh Direct meets Good Eggs. 

While I was cooking, there were several animals and dinosaurs calling for help from their cage. A bad guy, perhaps a power ranger?, had landed them there. But when the animals were finally freed (and put away), the boys in bed, we feasted.

The sauce was pretty memorable. It was a little sweeter than I expected but rich and silky and light enough to let the meat shine though. In fact, in the afterglow of our dinner, Michael sent a text to his broker friend, Tina telling her how I made the chops, how delicious it was, and to convey that information to her husband, Sam Sifton.

carrot mac and cheese

I'm not a big fan of making something with disguised veggies and protein to trick my kids into getting some nutrients. It's certainly not because I've been blessed with great eaters. Nate will eat hot dogs, apples and pasta with butter (he recently threatened to give up apples until I cried for mercy.) Mack is more adventurous and seems to take more enjoyment in food, but he won't eat anything Nate refuses and it's hard for him to sit still long enough to consume a whole meal. 

I've tried Jessica Seinfeld's recipes with little success. The banana-peanut butter-carrot muffins were sort of dense and nobody liked them, all 24 of them. The chocolate cake made with beets tasted like it was made with beets. And after spending a lot of valuable time on these, I sort of gave up and went back to broiling hot dogs. 

The one "kid friendly" recipe that has intrigued me is Melissa Clark's infamous carrot mac and cheese, adapted from her book here. It's simple to make and beloved by many. It has traveled far and wide into foodie circles as well as "kid-foodie" (there should be a term for this.) circles. So yesterday I gave it a try. The trick is that the shredded carrots look similar to the shredded cheddar and the whole wheat elbows so the child will get confused and not realize he is eating carrots. 

Well, not my kids. Neither of them would even touch it which was a real shame since it was pretty damn good. I ate a good portion for dinner and froze chunks of the rest to try again on Mack in a few weeks. (That kid has no memory!)