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!