Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Check it

Excellent article about Southern Food and Farmers.

I want this charcuterie.

I want the lush oyster mushrooms the monks grow.

I also want the new years hoppin' John with golden yellow cornbread and greens. And it's almost new years anyway right?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Poetry Corner

This poem comes from a series I wrote about the ocean.

The Angler

Angler in my solitude,
One with line and fish.
I suffer with my dinner,
There's death in every dish.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Pickle Check

So after roughly ten days, I checked several of my new pickles.

Some need to mature a little bit more, but some, like the onion and corn pickles, are delicious already.

What a bright snack. The onions have plenty of crunch, but without a raw onion flavor. The corn and brine create a sweet contrast between the sharpness of onions and peppercorns. The bay and the garlic are still just developing, but the black peppercorns linger just long enough as I pop more corn and onions into my mouth.

The Sichuan beans definitely need some more time, as the spices haven't all worked their way into the picture yet. The Fireballs I was very hopeful for, but I feel like they have a lot of one-dimensional heat. Their are several different kinds of chilies in there, but I think I am going to add more cinnamon, and maybe even some ginger to spice it up.

Stay tuned for more pickle updates!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Smoke on the Water

Smoked Fish. You either love it, or you hate it.
I love it.
I used to eat smoked eel at my country house in upstate New York as a young boy.
And now, I've been on a smoked fish kick. And a recent late night domino game (yeah throwin' bones!) snack was the perfect excuse to break out some smoked herring, fresh from the can, on dark bread with mustard and pickled jalapenos; spread out on a serving plate in-between games. It was a perfect snack and an excellent idea all around. It's too bad I didn't get a picture before we devoured everything.

I wanted more!

Being that this is Brooklyn, there is no shortage of wonderful places that offer exactly the things you are looking for.
This is a smoked trout I recently had from Jubilat Provisions (this place freaking rocks) and it was awesome. No accompaniment was necessary for this firm smoked fish, just hands and mouths.
I would have loved to take some open-fish pictures, but with oily hands and happy mouths, there was little time to snap the extra photos.
It was a very pretty fish, but I think the fish next in the line up was better tasting but less aesthetically pleasing. I certainly enjoyed them both.

This next fish, also from Jubilat (because I had to go back) was sold to me as Halibut. I'm not really sure if it was halibut or not, but I am sure that it was absolutely fish-tastic. This fish had super-soft flesh and the fattier parts just melted in your mouth, begging to be spread on crackers. So that's exactly what we did. My friend Andrew and I ate this whole fish at work. It was amazing.

It had the added rustic appeal of still having the hanging string tied around it. Jubilat smokes all their own meat and fish in a back room, and this, I feel, makes it all the more special. I realized that this fish would need to get documented further, so I opened the bad boy up and started snapping.

Here is a picture that shows perfectly the firmer, flaky flesh (in the middle), and the melty, fish-butter (on top). You can even see some of the silvery skin. This fish was freaking delicious. Just saying.

I think that I'll get some more smoked fish soon! If only I could find a good source for smoked eel!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Slam Dunks

Check this article on

The Art of Soup

I really want to make some of these soups.
There are some of particular interest to me.

Markkosschensuppe That's right folks, BEEF MARROW DUMPLING SOUP.


Palocleves Lamb Soup with Sour Cream.

These are the two that seem most like the perfect balance between an approachable technique and an amazing result. But the Oxtail Consomme sounds particularly delicious!

As it gets colder outside, soups become more welcome for the tired, cold soul.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Icebox Pickles

I come from a pickling household.
My father's knowledge of pickling and preserving has been passed down to my sister and me. We make pickles for ourselves and our friends. My sister trades her pickles for things like haircuts and bike fixes. If I bring pickles for lunch there will always extra, because I relish the chance to share. And now, at the end of this post, you can all try the recipe.

We make Icebox Pickles. A quick pickle that just needs ten days of refrigeration before consumption, these are as delicious as they are easy. It's nice to play around with the recipes because you get to try them so quickly, you can adjust as you see fit.
Here is one of the classic combos that I like to pickle.
Cucumbers, peppers, and cabbage, along with garlic, hot chilies, bay and black peppercorns; these are one of my tried and true pickles. A great crunch, a sweet brine and a garlicky-spicy finish make these a real crowd-pleaser.

In true wintertime fashion, I had a pickling party to preserve things for the coming months. I bought some cabbage and hot peppers, string beans and onions. I didn't even get a chance to get some Kirby's, or pickling cucumbers as they are also known.

I did however, make an enormous spread of all the various things I had for pickling, and some pickles I had made a few weeks ago!

  Looks like we've got quite a lot going on here!
First, there are the pickling essentials: vinegar, salt, and sugar. Second are the vegetables, and third; the spices.

I made several different pickles with varying degrees of acidity and sugar levels, as well as different flavor profiles with regards to spices and vegetables used.

As friends chopped and salted, I added spices to various jars. We made six jars of pickles, one of them an entire gallon.
This picture shows all the new pickles from left to right: sweet onion and corn pickles with garlic and black pepper; purple carrots with classic pickling spices; the gallon mix of cabbage, hot peppers and string beans; Sichuan beans; "Fireballs," or cocktail onions with searing dried and fresh chilies; and a sweet hot corn relish.

The Sichuan beans have some Sichuan Peppercorns, dried chilies, star anise, cinnamon, black pepper, coriander, and black peppercorns. I am excited for these, as I have never used the Sichuan peppercorns in a pickle before. I want these to be hot and numbing, and to have the classic flavor profile that Sichuan food should have with using these peppercorns.

Most of these things I had never pickled before. I had 3/4 of a gallon of standard pickles already, so I thought I would try all new things this go around. Beans, onions, and carrots are all new pickling things for me. I've pickled chopped large white onions before, but not small cocktails.

The Fireballs are cocktail onions with garlic, black peppercorns, a tiny piece of cinnamon, three different kinds of dried chilies (and lots of them) and an entire chopped fresh green chili of medium-hot heat. I'm also pretty excited about these too. They sound good, they have a cool name, and if they turn out the way I want them to, they may just become a new pickle staple of mine.
 Bonus Picture! the pickles all stacked up, including the previous batch!

The purple carrots have lots of standard pickling spices like coriander and mustard seeds. I'm pretty excited about these as well, as I have never personally pickled carrots.

Here is the basic recipe for my Icebox Pickles. It should be said that these can be tinkered with in a variety of ways. The ratio of vegetables will also change the flavors.

Icebox Pickles by William Widmaier

You will need:
Vegetables for pickling (duh) or unripe fruit.
Vinegar - Apple cider, White, Rice Keep in mind, the vinegar you use will affect taste. I use white vinegar because I want a neutral acidity, although sometimes I use half and half apple cider.
Kosher Salt
Sugar - any kind will be okay, but keep in mind how it may affect the flavor. Do not use sugar substitute or powdered sugar.

First, figure out what you want to pickle. I usually pickle cabbage, kirbys, and peppers, but there are a lot of vegetables you can pickle. I like to get one small head of cabbage, two pounds of kirbys, and about three red peppers.

Chop all your vegetables into one inch by one inch squares, and cut the kirbys about 3/8ths of an inch thick.
Layer your veggies in a large jar or Tupperware container. (That's right, icebox pickles don't have to be in a jar!)

After each layer, sprinkle about a teaspoon (or a touch less) of KOSHER SALT on the veggies. It is important you use kosher salt. Regular salt has added iodine in it and will make the pickles bitter. Don't use sea salt either as it often has lots of minerals and things in it that will change the flavor. If the finished product is too salty, use less salt next time. If the veggies are not really sweating out, and there is no pool of water at the bottom after 30 mins, use more salt.

Let the veggies sit for about thirty minutes in the salt. They will sweat out a lot of their water. This is good. Don't rinse them or pour out the salty water.

Add your spices. I like to add between three and eight cloves of garlic, a few hot chilies, two bay leaves, and two tablespoons of black peppercorns.You can add spices in any combination you like, but don't go crazy. You also don't even need to add spices if you don't want to. Sometimes it is really nice to just have the taste of the veggies influence each other.

When the thirty minutes is up, make your brine. This should consist of equal parts by volume water, sugar, and vinegar. I usually use just regular white vinegar or a combination with cider vinegar. Heat this slowly on a stove to combine and then pour over the pickles. Some people like to wait for the brine to cool, but I don't really ever wait. I usually dole it out in a mug: one mug of sugar, one mug of vinegar, and one mug of water.

Cover the veggies and make sure they are submerged in the brine. Let them sit in the fridge for at least a week, but usually ten days is best and enjoy!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Allium Amazed

Came across this recipe for Garlic Confit and had to share it. I'll probably make this recipe this weekend and I'm pretty excited about it. Confit is a method of cooking preserving something in its own fat. Duck confit is the most well-known. Garlic doesn't have it's own fat, so olive oil is used.

Just like roast garlic is one of the most simple, most amazing things you can do to make guests (or yourself!) swoon, I imagine this garlic confit is going to be a home run.

I also like the amount of garlic cloves suggested for the recipe; 65! The picture is nice and the garlic looks like it needs to be picked up and eaten; just saying. I want to spread it on sandwiches and toast. I want to wrap a roasted red pepper around it and eat it with pork and a fork!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Handheld Series 3: Sweet Dreams

Get ready for the exciting third installment of the Handheld Series!

A never-ending quest to extol the wonders of handheld food has led to the the Handheld Series. We've visited Chinatown for steamed pork buns, we've braved Brighton Beach for real knishes, we even sunk our teeth into some mystery meat Grey's Papaya hot dogs, and questionable mass produced Popeye's chicken; but now, savory no longer, I give you, the sweets!

First up. A New York favorite for rich and poor, native and tourist alike. A shady side deal that gets better every time it happens.
The little Spanish lady and her cart full of CHURROS!

These are freaking awesome. One dollar buys you 2 - 3 deep fried sugary sticks of happiness. Underneath her strange plastic tarp, held in the old lady cart to end all old lady carts, this wonderful woman commands years of culinary tradition and the secret to a very satisfying train ride home.

If you don't know what a Churro is, my friend, you are missing out on one fantastic finger food. Sugary and crisp, fried and doughy, Churros are always a welcome treat. I've almost never passed up on the dollar Churro lady. These ladies are one of the best underground food scores in NY.

I ran into this lady at 14th st. switching from the 2 train to the F train. I don't know what her regular route is, but she was with a friend with an equal amount of churros (divide and conquer!) and I imagine they were headed to different places.

If you ever see one of these ladies, do not feel skeeved out about her lack of a food handler's license, or that she is toting this cart full of fried food through the subway. Just hand her a dollar, and tuck into some homemade Spanish-style dessert (or breakfast!).

I guess she felt bad that one of my churros was a little guy, cause I got three!

In following the handheld theme, and the sweets desired, I fell upon these little cake gems. Have you heard of Baked

Baked, out in Red Hook, Brooklyn, is hard to get to, but worth the trip. Said by some to be the Best Cupcake in NYC it is certainly a phenomenal cupcake. This one in particular is chocolate with salted caramel butter-cream frosting.

First, this cupcake must have crack in it. It is immediately addicting. Close your eyes on the first bite, because you are about to be transported to a part of your brain that only responds to pleasure. This has said to be a life-changing cupcake.

The cake to frosting ratio, and the sweet salty rich butter-cream is unbeatable. The cake is moist, and the frosting is decadent. The flavor profile is a smooth ride through magical territory.

Salted caramel is relatively new for me, but it seems everybody has had a hard-on for it for quite a while.

This edition of the handheld series was particularly satisfying, as I don't eat a lot of sweet things. I don't have a sweet tooth, I've got a pork tooth.

You can grab these delicious morsels from any churro-cart lady on the subway (you don't get to use that phrase everyday); or you can make your way to Baked in Red Hook. Some places sell Baked goods other than in Red Hook. Give them a call and find out if the deliver to any stores in YOUR neighborhood!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Leftover Revamp

I cook a lot of food a lot of different ways.

I don't always share it. But there is almost always left overs (the bane of one-person cooking!)

When I make something particularly delicious, I like other people to try it so they can share my joy of wonderful flavors. This is especially true when I make a lot of something. But if you caught me making something delicious, and there is only enough for me, you will be lucky to get more than one bite. I often offer said bite, warning that it will be the only one.

Recently I made something that was entirely new for me, but delicious and well executed. It had the added bonus of using up some leftover things. It is also complete peasant food; and delicious!

First, I had lots of carrots I needed to get rid of, and earlier in the week, I made some burger patties to take for lunches and I still had two left. Leftover pinto beans had to make their way into this as well. Necessity is the mother of invention.

It reminds me of an Indian dish, although I've not really had anything like it before.

Finely shredded carrots and onions slowly stewed with ginger, applesauce and star anise. In the last leg of cooking I added some chopped cooked hamburger meat (if it was truly Indian, it would be lamb). I thought of this as a way to stretch the meat and use up the carrots.

The flavors were amazing, and I served it with meaty, soft pinto beans, and some rye bread with caraway.

This was really a warming wintertime dish. Perfect for a chilly day, and full of December ingredients: root vegetables, leftover meat and beans, rounded out with flavorful bread.

Here is the recipe for the carrot dish. It would be fine without the meat for those vegetarians out there (especially paired with the beans)

4 whole carrots (use more if no meat)
two small yellow onions (sweet onions would work well too)
2 inch ginger knob
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup applesauce
one whole star anise
teaspoon red chili flakes
tablespoon neutral oil like grapeseed or vegetable
salt to taste
about half a pound cooked meat rough chopped

Dice the onion as small as possible. Grate the carrots using a microplane or the smallest holes on a cheese grater. Grate 1/2 the ginger (don't bother to peel) using the same small holes.
Over low heat, add the grapeseed oil, and when hot, add the star anise, chili flakes, and the other half of the ginger.
Add the shredded mixture, applesauce, orange juice and water, stir. Bring to a simmer and cover. Let this simmer for about 30 - 40 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the chopped meat and a teaspoon of salt. Let this simmer, covered, an additional 15 minutes.

The carrots should be super soft and the meat well incorporated. Serve in a bowl alongside soft pinto beans and with some slices of rye bread with caraway seeds. If you don't have rye bread, any crusty warm bread will do. Although the caraway in the bread compliment the carrots really well. The beans can be mashed or mixed in (I did both!) Use the bread to scoop up the mix, and treat yourself to a hot, warming lunch. I also added some more chili flakes because I like the heat.

The addition of a nice chutney would make this a top notch dish, but I didn't have any, so I used my hot, sweet, pepper relish which was pretty fantastic.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I can't get enough mushrooms. I'll post about mushrooms all the time, because I like to post about things that excite me, and mushrooms are super exciting.

Bulk mushroom bins are one of my favorite things at a supermarket. I usually head straight for them (and the hot peppers!) So recently, when I was perusing through a local market, I happened across something that has turned out to be truly amazing.

Stumbling into Union Market  yielded some promising fungus, and I am here to share with you.

These are called Blue Foot mushrooms, and at $34.95 a pound, I knew that these were some top shelf eats. In contrast, the Chanterelles cost $24.95 a pound (when I bought them for this post, they cost $20/lb), so I knew that this was indeed something special.

I grabbed a few, knowing that I could easily rack up a 10 or 20 dollar tab, I only took a handful. At the register, the cashier didn't look twice, and rang me up for shiitake's; my bill came to 90 cents.

Score. Major score.

Did I mention I'm super in love with mushrooms? If they count as a vegetable, I would pick them as my favorite.

These mushrooms smell like the rind on a good Brie. These mushrooms smell like forests with crunchy leaves. They smell like love.

Because this was the first time I had tried these, I figured the best way to really experience them was to saute them quickly with butter and fresh thyme; which is what is going on in this picture.

Oh man these mushrooms were amazing. Just a quick saute and I ate them alone. They were heady and luscious, with an excellent texture; delicate with just the right amount of bite.

These are the kind of mushrooms that make people fall in love with fungus. These mushrooms taste how real mushrooms should. Forget white button mushrooms. Forget them.

Most people remember the exact moment they tried an oyster for the first time. I will remember the first time that I ate the most sumptuous mushroom in the fungus kingdom.

The next time I make these, and I will make them again, I will serve them atop creamy polenta laced with Parmesan cheese.

This combination of mushrooms, cheese and polenta is something I am familiar with, and that yields spectacular results with little effort.

I will hunt fungus wherever I go.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Plain Vanilla

Constantly on the lookout for new and exciting things, I ran across these vanilla beans while shopping for milk on Thanksgiving day. Intensely aromatic and full of flavor, I will use these beans over and over.

You might say to yourself, "Hey Will, why did you buy so many of those expensive vanilla beans?"

To which I would answer, "Because I got them for ninety-nine cents each."

That's right.

Normally vanilla beans cost between five and seven dollars a bean. A luxury item that is usually skipped over for the less expensive vanilla extract, these vanilla beans were practically a steal. They are a fruit harvested from an orchid native to Mexico. The flowers must be hand pollinated and the vines checked everyday for new flowers and ripeness of fruit. They are grown in Madagascar, Tahiti and Mexico. These are reasons why they are expensive.

Labelled at $1.99 each, I was ready to buy three of them. At the register, the cashier ran them up as a dollar each. I immediately bought three more.
When I got home, I told my dad about the bargain, and he convinced me to go back and buy all the beans before the store realized the mistake. I would have felt bad if it was a mom-and-pop kind of store, but it wasn't so I am guilt-free.

I split them with my dad, and now we each have about a dozen vanilla beans to call our own.

You can bet that some crazy vanilla concoctions and some traditional dishes are going to be made in the coming year. I'm thinking rice pudding. I'm thinking savory applications too.

You can bet that things will be far from just plain vanilla.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gobble Gobble!

Is that a turkey on my loaf of bread!?

Why yes, yes it is.

(Props to Pain D'Avignon for the loaf)

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!!!

Poetry Corner

The feast begins soon.
The prep started long ago,
Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Some like it HOT!!

I am always on the lookout for spicy food. I'm that guy that orders dishes extra spicy.
If something can be described as "so hot it's painful" I probably already ordered it. If a menu precautions you before ordering, you can bet that it's right up my alley.

I recently ran across this Scoville chart and man did my mouth start to water!

I usually have about four types of hot peppers on hand at any given time. A few dried types that are a pantry staple, and a couple random fresh hot peppers. I also like to keep canned fire-roasted green chilies too (Trader Joe's 79 cents).

Awwwww yeahhhhh.

Did I mention I make my own hot sauce, usually with more than a handful of habaneros and ripe red jalapenos?

Oh yeah...

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Super Soups

One soup season post is not enough.
I'm simply not done with soups yet.
But I thought this go around we could focus on some Caribbean, Thai, and Sichuan flavors. I'm talking chili lime soup with coconut, chicken, and mushrooms.
I'm talking about some awesome Chicken Foot soup I got at a Caribbean spot, and I'm talking about an update for the Sichuan Peppercorns.


So this Thai-influenced soup is first. It is pretty freaking delicious. This was really the first time I made this kind of soup, but it will certainly not be the last. I'll even give you guys a recipe for it!
Here is what my cutting board looked like when I started:

Pretty good right? We've got some ginger, limes, fresh jalapenos, shallot, coconut milk, enoki mushrooms and some dried chilies.
Add some chopped chicken legs, a little magic, and we are all set to go!
Squeeze that lime on top, dog.

Yeah see that whole dried chili? Yeah eat that! Slurp some coconut broth and make sure some tender little enoki are on your spoon. Oh, is it cold or rainy out? I wouldn't know because I'm eating tropical soup that's warming me from the inside out.

This next soup is the from God Is Restaurant (yelp link) available only on Wednesdays.
This bright yellow container of love is Caribbean chicken foot soup, and it is fantastic.

Freaking amazing. Potatoes, carrots and chicken make their home in a deep rich yellow broth seasoned with thyme and allspice. My soup had no chicken feet, so I swapped with a buddy (he had two!) I had to have the namesake ingredient, and this chicken foot was worth it. I've had plenty of run-ins with chicken feet before, but I think this so far has been my favorite application. (I have yet to try them deep fried and served like buffalo wings.) Chicken feet, for those that have never had them, are pretty much all skin and cartilage. It's like the best part of chicken wings, but with smaller bones and more machismo.

I suggest you guys try some!

Oh, remember this post? I haven't forgotten about my special jar of Sichuan peppercorns. Sometimes I make single bowls of soup in a small pot, and I thought this would be a perfect time to try out the numbing spice.
First I toasted some star anise, dried red chilies and a tiny stick of cinnamon, and just before they were done I threw some finely minced dried Sichuan peppercorns to finish with.
Now it was time for some water, fresh ginger and garlic, dried shiitake mushrooms and some wakame seaweed. Wait, you don't readily have four or five varieties of sea weed around? You should, because seaweed makes a great contribution to dishes and is packed full of important minerals.

After a few minutes of boiling, I tossed in the rice noodles, a little soy sauce and some Squid Brand fish sauce (which you can apparently order by the boatload, minimum order from the website is over 1,000 gallons)
The Sichuan peppercorns made a obvious impression throughout. At first they numbed my tongue, but soon the heat from the chilies overpowered. The soup was consistently spicy throughout, which I like, and the spice mixture worked well.
It smelled great and the slick spicy noodles had great texture and flavor. Thick meaty mushrooms and soft sea weed pieces rounded out the textures and helped influence the glassy noodles.
I will definitely make more soups and other things with these peppercorns!

After you check out God Is Restaurant, get over to a grocery store, because you are going to need to pick some things up for my Thai-style soup:

2 medium shallots, diced
half a dozen green jalapenos, diced
2 inches of ginger, cut into fourths
2 cans of light coconut milk (or one can of regular)
2 cups water or stock
about 6 dried chilies
a little less than two pounds of chicken legs
3 fresh limes 
one package of enoki mushrooms
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
and some fish sauce

Take the skin off the chicken and brown it in a pot. Eat it or discard(it's great salted), but keep the fat in the pot. Add the first three ingredients, plus half the dried chilies to the chicken fat on medium heat. When the jalapenos begin to soften and the shallots are becoming translucent, add the chicken, browning slightly on all sides. Add half of one can of coconut milk and a half a cup of stock and the sugar, I also added some of the lime zest during this step, but it can be left out. Keep this on medium for about fifteen minutes
Now add the rest of the liquids and bring up to barely a boil. Turn it down to a fast simmer and add about 3 tablespoons of fish sauce, or to your liking (I may have added more, but not by much)
After about forty-five minutes (stirring occasionally) add the enoki mushrooms.
Squeeze a lime over your steaming hot bowl and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Get Sauced

Like hot sauce?
Here is an article from the New York Times about one mans quest for hot pepper sauce from the Caribbean. This is an excellent article, and I like that there is a recipe to make your own pepper sauce at the end! 

Pepper Sauced

Ever make your own hot sauce? It's pretty easy and the results are often phenomenal. I'll have to have a more dedicated hot sauce post another time; when my hot sauce gets low.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Handheld Series 2

I told you Handheld was a series! And here we are with two more exciting additions to the unctuous line-up.

Stepping away from more ethnic neighborhoods for a minute, I thought some all across the board nostalgia was in order. Something that everybody can relate to, and a staple here in NYC, is my first pick.
Gray's Papaya Hot Dog
Salty, meaty, a little bit of tang and acidity, held in by a soft baked bun, this handheld has got it all. And no one will judge if you eat two or three of these bad boys. I do not have a favorite hot dog spot. The simple fact is that my favorite dog is always straight from the grill at a backyard barbecue. Ketchup is the only essential, although I do enjoy sauerkraut and strong mustard.

Next in the Handheld series line up:
Chicken Drumstick
Oh yes!
Fried chicken!
This particular drumstick is from Popeye's. Because their chicken really is the shiznit.
Fried Chicken is the ultimate handheld. Fried chicken in a paper bag. Fried chicken fresh and hot. Steaming inside, crunchy golden exterior. Fried chicken cold, especially the homemade stuff. The big brands don't translate as well to a cold drumstick.Fried Chicken.

And actually I had so much fun eating this chicken, I made a chicken skin, meat and biscuit sandwich.

I had to include a picture of this. I want one right now. Let's not get distracted.

These two handhelds were awesome. I could make a whole meal of either one. (I often do!)
I would tell everyone where to get hot dogs and fried chicken, but for these handhelds, everyone has a favorite place, and I am not going to decide where yours is. I like Popeye's, and I like a lot of other places. Good homemade fried chicken is something magical.

Stay posted for part 3 of the Handheld Series

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hot and Numbing

So a few posts ago, I gave a shout out to the Spice Hunter on I thought that instead of just posting about it, I would actually go out and hunt for spices!

Ever hear of Sichuan Peppercorns?

I had. And I wanted some for myself.

I heard a rumor that a lone tree in Brooklyn's Prospect Park grows a small berry-like fruit that smells intensely like lemon and wood, but with a mysterious element that is almost impossible to put your finger on (is that Lysol?) I had to go and check it out and try to get my hands on some elusive Sichuan Peppercorns. I had read about them, I had seen pictures of them, and I had imagined what their numbing properties were capable of. Imagine no more!
I found the tree, based on a little sleuth work, and my friend Andrew and I set out to grab our own stash of this mysterious Asian delicacy.

Alas! The tree was found, and we spent the better part of an hour collecting our treasure from the tree. No one bothered us or asked us what we were doing. Just pure unadulterated foraging. Our hands dirty and fragrant, our mouths numb and tingly, we we satisfied.

Andrew and I had our haul; about a sandwich size Ziploc baggie each.
 I had some more investigating to do to make sure that the peppercorns I got would be properly processed for consumption.

After the berries dried for a few days on a cookie sheet, this is what they looked like.
Beautiful right?

Now all I had to do was separate all the seeds, stems and usable spice. (All I had to do. This step took quite a while)

Also, I couldn't bring myself to throw out the seeds. Now I've got a jar full of usable Sichuan Peppercorns, and a jar of seeds I need to figure out what to do with.

I'm really excited to make a lot of things with these peppercorns. Spicy, noodley, soups will probably be first, but sweet, hot, numbing chutney sound really good too. You can bet that there will be pictures!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Poetry Corner

Bacon, soft white roll,
Lettuce, tomato, mayo;
My perfect sandwich.

Friday, November 4, 2011


It is NYC meat week, and to celebrate, I think everyone should hit up the farmers markets this weekend and get some sustainably raised, pastured meat!
Sounds like a pretty good idea. (Plus there's bacon!)

Maybe it's time you got some of that duck prosciutto that you always pass by, or maybe it's time to finally get a stranger cut of meat like oxtails or shin. Sometimes with the stranger cuts, you'll put more care or time into making sure that it is tasty or well cooked because you are not as comfortable with the meat, but the results are amaaaazing.

Here is a pretty good article from the New York Times about butcher shops:

The lost art of buying from the butcher

Enjoy meat week!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

It's Chilly!

Chilly weather means spicy pots of chili bubbling away on the stove. Chili really is a wonderful comfort food. Low in fat, high in flavor, it's one my favorites. Everybody has their own special chili recipe, an individual dish that is even better shared with friends as we all wax poetic about our best chili memory. Break open a bag of Frito's Scoops or pour it over top some rice or boiled potatoes and you've got the recipe for success.

I like to use lots of peppers, onions, kidney beans and ground beef. That's right - no tomatoes. I don't even use tomato paste.

Here are all the peppers I used for this batch:

Three red peppers diced, half a pound of jalapenos and my special ingredients; where my chili picks up a deep red color, amazing authentic flavor, and a smokey, sweet spice that is impossible to get with premixed spices: Ancho and Guajillo peppers.

Those dried chilies on the bottom left are called Guajillo's. They are the dried form of Mirasol chilies. Mirasol's are originally from Peru, but are widely used in Mexican cooking and are available at more places than you'd think. They have a fruity-hot flavor with a pleasant sharpness.

The other dried chili is an Ancho. These are probably the second most common dried chili available (after cayenne). These are the dried version of Poblano's. They smell intensely like raisins and turn brick red when soaked. They add a wonderful flavor and color to any dish they are used in.

Here are what they look like after about five minutes steeping in hot water.

See the color change? Too bad you can't smell these! (Especially as I was blending them)

I don't use "chili seasoning," rather I use the trio dried oregano, hot chili powder, and ground cumin. These are typically what chili seasoning contains, plus a little powdered garlic (fresh cloves for me baby!) I avoid this by using my own in a ratio that works best for me!

Anyway, here is the chili after all the ingredients are put together, simmered for about an hour on low; all I need now is some corn chips!

Tell me what your secret ingredient is in the comment section! Peanut butter? Chocolate? Chamomile? Lemme know!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Handheld Series 1

I freaking love sandwiches, but I want to take a minute to honor the handheld. Not exclusive, just delicious. Meant to eat with your hands.

Say it. It's glorious. It's about that moment when you really look at what you are about to eat and decide where to bite.
That's a handheld. That's how it is.

The Handheld Series:
Chinatown favorite, Char Siu Bao.

This is the bun ripped in half, after a massive bite; just a few drops of soy on the top.
Hot from the steamer, this soft, snow-white fluffy dough surrounds sweet fatty pork for only about a dollar.
Order char siu bao and a hot milk tea on any chilly afternoon, and you are in for the ultimate two dollar pick-me-up. You can get these in any Chinatown; good places to check are bakeries and restaurants with ducks or crispy pork hanging in the window.
Now stroll around for some vegetables or exotic fruits while you chase pork buns with hot sweet milky tea.

Next in the Handheld Series:
Brighton Beach, Meat Knish.

A knish from one of the ladies hanging out a window or sitting behind a table covered in little fried dough pockets. The signs are all in Russian, you've got to ask for what you want, or point and ask which filling is which. Knish vendors pepper the street on Brighton Beach ave. 
I love these knishes. There are so many to choose from; the meat (pictured) is a solid choice, the potato knish being a crowd favorite. Get a couple different kinds if you're with company, there are cherry knishes and cabbage, among others.

Char siu bao and knishes are both excellent, and perfect examples of amazing handheld foods. They always whet my appetite as I'm getting ready to chow down on some pan fried noodles, or some smoked fish and green borscht.

The spots I got these handhelds:
Pork bun from Sun Sai Gai on the corner of Baxter and Walker st. They have milk tea too, but I think a better spot for that is Fay Da Bakery 83 Mott st. (great spot to sit and sip, I love the music here too)

Knish is literally from a lady hanging out of a window. You'll see her around Brighton 3rd st. Take a stroll over to M&I international foods, head straight to the back and grab some soup and head to the boardwalk!

Keep an eye out for more in the Handheld Series!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Soup Season!

It's soup season. Everybody is talking about it. My normal food websites are emailing me recipes for easy vegetable soups; onions and potatoes are on sale at local stores. Everything about chillier weather is bringing out the broth; and I'm slurping, spooning, and devouring all the soups and stews I can!

That all being said, I bought a ten pound bag of onions to start my season off right (and it was only $4!)
This soup will start the bidding at amazing.

 A beautiful bowl of soup from Xi'an Famous Foods in Flushing, NY.

This first soup was awesome, a wonderful balanced mix of hot chili paste, thick luxurious noodles, bean sprouts, peanuts and ground pork; this bowl screams comfort food to me. I got it in Flushing on a food trip recently. I ate so many things the day I went there. I love Flushing. It's a shame I don't get to go more often.

This is a delicious Russian soup I got in Brighton Beach, called Rassilnik. It's one of my go-to soups when I'm in the area, and it always feels like comfort.
It's a light broth with barley, potatoes, and large stewed chunks of beef. Infused with dill and its friends onions, peppers and carrots, this soup always hits the spot. I'll usually sit down with a smoked fish or one of the homemade knishes.
This photo is from the boardwalk, a serene October day with the ocean and gulls. It makes for the best combination of circumstances to enjoy a hot cup of soup.

Of course, what did I buy while I was in Brighton Beach? Mushrooms!

Russians are known for their love of mushrooms, so I knew I would get some good finds, and some low prices. I'm thinking Mushroom Soup.

After scouting a couple places and comparing prices, I started buying.

And my harvest was good.
 Seven different mushrooms.
Chanterelles (both dried, and FRESH!)
Brown Beech (or Shimeji)
White Button
Dried Shiitake
Wood Ear

I was also really excited for these fresh chanterelles; which I had never eaten before. They also make for a wonderful picture!

Shallots, onions, a few strips of bacon, herbes de provence; as you can imagine, it is amazing.
The soup is heady, with an earthy flavor and meaty undertones.  The herbs, and especially the lavender and the thyme, play very well with the mushrooms. The flavors compliment each other in just a way that you can imagine walking from the field into forest, eating mushrooms as you pass.

It's hard to stop eating. Especially topped with a tiny knob of butter... just enough.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Spice Hunter

Ever visit
It's a great site.

I recently discovered two columns: "Spice Hunting" and "Salt Mining." This kind of column is right up my alley, and excellent fodder for the pantry. Have questions about fresh turmeric, or how to use chilies with chocolate? This is the go-to column.

Check out Serious Eats Spice Hunting column:

Spice Hunting!

It's Awesome!

This light hued flower is from
a mint plant in my backyard.
(I thought it would be fitting)

Saturday, February 5, 2011


A recent Chinatown trip yielded more than the usual dried fish or tub of slippery eels. I found these two little guys in the back of a seemingly normal market. There was a worker standing nearby smoking a cigarette next to these armor plated morsels.

I've never had armadillo, I'm not opposed to trying it. I don't think that $15.99 a pound is a good price, but in reality I have no basis for comparison. Also, I don't know when or where the Chinese grew their love for the little critter.

To follow the stimulating picture I thought maybe someone that came across these culinary treasures and bought them needed a way to cook them, so I've included a recipe.

After scouring around I've found some recipes and some advice.

First - "Treat armadillo like turtle"
I think this is to help describe how to clean the armadillo if it's bought with full armor plating. In terms of a meat, turtle is usually used to make soups.

Second - Most of the recipes I found call for already cleaned armadillo meat. The people that are giving out recipes for armadillo are not very creative. Many of them just have a bottle of BBQ sauce as the ingredient for flavor followed by canned vegetables.

Third - The following recipe is not really my own. The recipe I found that was most promising still used canned mushrooms, so I had to make some adjustments both with ingredients and with flavors.


1 armadillo, dressed and cleaned (believe that most are about 4 pounds)
4 large Spanish yellow onions
1 stalk celery
1 pound fresh white button or crimini mushrooms (or mixture!)
2 cups rice, uncooked
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Butter for sauteing
10 cups armadillo broth (we'll make this)

Boil armadillo until tender; reserve broth. Remove meat from bones. Cut onions, mushrooms and celery and cook in butter until tender. Add meat and simmer for 5 minutes. Put in a large baking pan or dutch oven and add 10 cups of hot broth; add rice, salt and pepper, cumin; stir. Place in 375 degrees F. oven and cook until tender. (I don't know how the stock to rice ratio is going to turn out)

I know that I found a bunch of southern recipes, but what I could not find were any Chinese recipes, which I think would have been fitting since that's where I found the creatures.

Maybe I'll go for it next time I see an armadillo, and I'll ask for a recipe.

Friday, January 28, 2011


This is a sour orange tree in Mexico that I picked from. It was growing in a friends driveway, and I used it for an excellent vinaigrette for fish tacos, and I also used some of the orange juice and peel to flavor some black beans.

On that note, I love citrus. I describe it as my favorite fruit group and for good reason. So many phenomenal things can be made with citrus or you can just eat it as is.

Recently I discovered Cocktail Grapefruits. These smaller than average grapefruits are ridiculously good. First of all, I love regular grapefruit, and I peel and eat them like oranges. But cocktail grapefruit is an entirely different animal than the ruby reds or the white grapefruit. A sweet small grapefruit that would be good in any application that calls for oranges or grapefruits. I cannot believe that these haven't shown up on my radar before.

The words I would use to describe them would not do this sweet not-so-tangy grapefruit justice. Go get one.

Also, it's blood orange season, and Cara Cara orange season as well so maybe it's time we make a tropical fruit salad; or maybe a outrageous ceviche.

Go out and find them. The season is short but sweet for certain.