Thursday, December 29, 2011

Deep Fried Turkey

My brother-in-law Roupen had been obsessing over wanting to deep fry a turkey for the holidays. The rest of us were intrigued but not overly so. We finally tried it this week, adding a sublime new family tradition. It was by far the juiciest, most mouth watering turkey we had ever eaten. And it cooked in under an hour. Simply incredible. Just make sure you read and follow all of the manufacturer instructions.

Start with a cleaned turkey no bigger than 14 lbs. Dry it well. Generously season it inside and out with salt, pepper, poultry seasoning or your favorite spices like Cajun, and let it sit covered for up to 24 hours in the fridge. You can also do a brine injection. We didn't.

Before frying, bring the bird to room temperature first. Place in fryer basket and follow cooking instructions (we used a Butterball Masterbuilt Turkey Fryer). For safety reasons, it's essential you add the exact recommended amount of vegetable oil (we used canola) to the fryer to heat. Grease fires start when people add too much oil, creating a hot overspill when the turkey is lowered into it. This is serious business so don't screw up this step.

The fryer will indicate when the oil is hot enough. At this point, very slowly lower the turkey into the fryer and close the lid. We kept the fryer outside to avoid the smell and smoke released during cooking.

Cook until a meat thermometer hits between 160 - 170 degrees. Our 14 lb bird took a mere 45 minutes. 

Remove from fryer and let rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes, while you try to resist the urge to rip it apart with your hands. Carve up and feast. It has incredible flavor and a gorgeous crispy brown skin. There's no greasy taste either.

Now we're all obsessing over what to fry up next: chicken wings, calamari, Snickers bars. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The King of Butternut Squash Soups

Always a dinner party hit
Here's the creamiest, most complex butternut squash soup recipe I've ever tasted. It's ideal for the holidays and quick and simple to make. The secret ingredient is peanut butter. Adapted from British chef Antony Worrall Thompson, the Creole soup packs a kick from West Indian hot sauce, which can also be added to taste. It freezes beautifully (handy for unexpected guests). And you can substitute pumpkin for the butternut squash too.

Creole Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 4-6


1 medium onion, diced
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 stalk celery, diced - if you don't have, just use 3 carrots instead of 2
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg - freshly ground is best
4 cups (1000 ml) chicken stock
2 1/4 lbs (1 kg) butternut squash or pumpkin cut into 1 inch cubes - a little more is fine too
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter - I use no sugar added, organic
3/4 cup (175 ml) heavy (double) cream - a little less if you're watching calories
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1-2 tablespoons West Indian hot sauce - be careful - start with 1 tablespoon and add more to taste. I use Grace Scotch Bonnet.
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  • In a heavy pot over medium heat, saute the onion, garlic, celery and carrots in oil until soft.
  • Stir in the brown sugar and nutmeg. Add the chicken stock and squash and cook over medium heat until soft.

Simmer til you can easily pierce the chunks with a fork

  • In batches, carefully puree the ingredients in a blender or food processor and return to the pot. Bring to a gentle simmer and stir in the peanut butter, cream, lime juice and hot sauce.
West Indian hot sauce is key
  • Add salt and pepper as necessary. Garnish with sour cream and toasted pumpkin seeds, if desired. Serve immediately or freeze.
    One medium butternut squash should do the trick

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Celebrating Indian Street Food at The MasalaWala

Delicious Indian kofta 
If you dream of following Anthony Bourdain or Gordon Ramsey on their culinary treks through the streets of India, The MasalaWala is your ticket.

Just a month old, this casual LES eatery is a labor of love of the Mazumdar family, who hand picked authentic recipes from their native Calcutta, as well as regional favorites. 

There's a tempting array of South Asian snacks to explore aside from the basic samosas and pakoras (fritters).  From Calcutta, long known for some of the best street snacks in the country, try a stuffed Mughlai paratha or kati roll, an Indian gourmet wrap. Punjabi fish amritsari is batter fried with lime and red onion, and dum aloo is a classic Kashmiri potato curry.

One of my all time favorites, pani puri (hollow crisp shells stuffed with seasoned potato, onion, chickpeas and tamarind water), is also on the menu, along with the nacho-like papri chat.

'Masala wala' literally means spice carrier. If you spot the coin logo on the wall, you may recognize the jovial Mazumdar patriarch Satyen, who runs the cozy cafe, with his son Roni. He'll gladly explain the menu to you, as he offers you a complimentary taste of salty mango lassi.

Forget any misconception that the food will be heavy and oily. Everything we tried was rich in flavor and aroma, but had no hint of greasiness. In fact, it's some of the healthiest tasting Indian food I've had. And the menu is full of vegetarian options.

Chicken kabob lunch special
Take the satisfying kofta, for instance. Chicken ($5) is blended with peanuts and spices and served with coriander and tamarind chutneys. The veggie version ($4.50) is like a V-8: carrots, beets, peas, and green mango are mixed with spicy seasonings.

A variety of kabobs, cooked in a tandoor oven brought over from India, are standouts. And the excellent value lunch special includes rice, salad and warm naan with your choice of kabob for $8-10. The curry box special also comes with the same generous sides for $8-12.

In a few weeks, the menu will introduce Indo-Chinese fusion dishes, wildly popular in India, but relatively unknown in New York. I happen to go nuts over it. Hello, Hakka chilli chicken.

Another enlightened touch is the biodegradable serving ware. The chic square plates are made of bamboo and the flatware is sturdy sugarcane. And if you pay by credit card, the iPad-served bill will email you a receipt. Very helpful for the cool late night crowd who want to keep it moving.

179 Essex St (near E Houston)
212 358 9300
Sun-Thurs 11am - 3am
Fri-Sat 11am - 5am 
delivery + catering available

The MasalaWala on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Top Foodie Gifts at Union Square Holiday Market

Decisions, decisions

Chances are there's a foodie on your holiday gift list. Union Square Holiday Market is in full swing through Dec 24th, and offers one stop shopping - plus vital snacking - during the festive season.

Specialty oils, vinegars and salts
The Filling Station - Fill 'er up with gourmet oils ($9.95), vinegars ($9.95) and specialty salts for the chef of the house. Popular oils include nutty butternut squash seed oil (perfect for Thai food), fig dark balsamic vinegar (great on ice cream, fruit, or pork), dark chocolate vinegar (for steaks); and the value priced truffle salt with grated truffles ($10.95). Throw in the trivia board game Foodie Fight ($18.95).

Beer making in a box
Brooklyn Brew Shop - If you can make oatmeal, I'm told you apparently can make a home brew. A $40 starter kit is all you need. It's also reusable and comes in a variety of seasonal wintery brews. Each kit yields a gallon of beer or about 12 bottles. Additional refill bags of ingredients are $15. And there's even a Brew Shop Beer Making book for $20. Cheers.

Handcrafted beef jerky
Kings County Jerky Co. - Artisanal beef jerky is a tasty idea for the discerning carnivores on your list. Kings County offers chewy 100% organic, grass-fed jerky in addictive flavors such as Classic, Korean BBQ (spicy), and Szechuan Ginger. Slices are handcrafted using fresh spices and ingredients. You can also try before you buy. $10 for a 2-oz package.

The Brooklyn Salsa Company - Five varieties of this popular local market staple named for each of the New York City boroughs are perfect stocking stuffers. And you can sample them all before you buy. Make sure you taste the seasonal butternut squash salsa, a delicious holiday best seller. $6 each or a six-pack for $30.
Macaron Parlour - The très elegant hostess gift of the season. Beautiful boxes filled with a rainbow of colors and flavors - from red velvet to classic caramel fleur de sel or candied bacon with maple cream cheese. Gift box prices range from 8 for $20 or 18 for $40.

Exotic spices galore
Spices and Tease - For a spice hoarder like me, this stall is heaven. Dozens of exotic tea and spice blends can be mixed into a 6-tin gift box for $35. Individual tins are $7 each.

No Chewing Allowed - What chocoholic wouldn't want the pure indulgence of a box of traditional French chocolate truffles? A 75-year-old recipe and mouthwatering samples keep this stall a popular one all season long. $12.99/box of 22. 

And while you're working up an appetite shopping, check out Mighty Balls gourmet meatballs, Sigmund Pretzelshop, Crack Pie at Momofuku Milk Bar, apple cider donuts and gingerbread girls + boys at Breezy Hill Orchard, warm Nutella crepes at Bar Suzette, Stuffed Artisan Cannolis, and hot gluehwine (made from 13 fruit juices) and hot apple cider from German Delights.

Market open daily through Dec 24th.
Mon-Fri 11am-8pm
Sat 10am-8pm
Sun 11am-7pm


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Amé Amé: A Shop for Gumdrops and Raindrops

Singing in the rain
Good candy can make any day sunny. That's the philosophy Teresa Soroka stands by with Amé Amé, her new 9th Street East Village shop specializing in stylish rain gear and candy.
Tempting citrus jellies
Yes, candy. You see 'amé' in Japanese means both rain and candy. And if your wildest dream were to have the skies rain with candy, Amé Amé would be a good first start. Soroka came up with the idea while spending her teen years in Japan, as well as growing up in rain soaked Washington state.

Rows of softly backlit sweets from around the world are displayed in old fashioned glass jars. Licorice lovers: Soroka stocks hard to find varieties from Finland, Denmark and Holland. There's Dutch salty licorice, jelly licorice pretzels and even adorable shapes for the pet lover - black and red licorice beagles and kitty cats!

If you're feeling patriotic, there are green apple army men, military gummies, and friendly jet fighters made in the U.S of A.

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe
From England, how about chocolate coconut mushrooms, Jelly Babies or pink piggies? Or Hi Chews, the Starbursts of Japan? Mini cola pandas v. milk chocolate gummi bears? And if you're going local, she stocks Brooklyn's popular Nunu chocolates and ChristinEats gourmet caramels in heavenly pumpkin or sea salt.

And with Christmas around the corner, surely I'm not the only one thinking these make genius stocking stuffers. That includes the adorable rain accessories. Candy is $2.75 per 1/4 lb. Mixing is encouraged.

318 E. 9th St.
Between First + Second Aves.
646 867 2342

Monday, November 21, 2011

B.A.D. Burger: EVill's New 24-hr Breakfast Diner

Breakfast day or night on Ave A

It's finally here (said with a naughty grin).

A gut-busting menu of double patty burgers, big breakfasts, creamy milkshakes, and homemade desserts all available 24/7. Eat in or delivery. And free WiFi. That's the beauty - and  danger - of B.A.D. (breakfast all day) Burger, the new East Village outpost of the Williamsburg original.

After months of delays, doors opened last week.

A genial staff is eager to please and acknowledges there are kinks to work through in the opening weeks. The dining room is just as cheery as the team. Tunes, bright red benches, and b/w checkerboard tiles keep the vibe fun.

Shroom burger
So how's the food? It's a work in progress. The good news is the beef. Kobe beef ground in house yields quality, flavorful patties. The Shroom burger ($10), two 4-oz beef patties (or one 8-oz) topped with a portobello mushroom and creamy peppercorn sauce, works. But the Signature BAD with chimichurri sauce and jack cheese ($8) could stand to lose the cheese entirely.

Tasty pickle chips with chipotle mayo
We realized after the fact that lettuce, tomato and onions are available on demand only. But it would help if the servers offered them upfront.

The limp hand-cut fries needed another minute in the fryer. And the buns are on the soft, squishy side, not ideal for holding up a big burger. Pickle chips ($6), on the other hand, are perfectly fried morsels of battered goodness.

I applaud the easy-on-the-wallet prices. And the wide selection of vegan and gluten free options. And even the 18 homemade dipping sauces for a buck apiece, especially the mango chutney, a gingery blend that perks up the fries.
Coconut cake (b) and Red Velvet cake (f)

If you've left room for dessert, you'll have a full selection of fresh cakes, pies, sundaes, and even a choco-banana chimichanga to pad the waistline. Go ahead. You know you want to. The creamy coconut cake ($4) was moist; the Red Velvet cake ($4) was dry.

In a few weeks, I'm sure B.A.D. will have found its groove (a wine and beer license is on the way too). Cause I'm coming back for some apple, walnut, cinnamon pancakes.

171 Ave A
Between 10th + 11th Sts.
212 477 7727

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Miss Lily's Escape to Jamaica for Lunch

Try a jerk pork burger today. Yeah mon.

Miss Lily's is now open for lunch. That's good news if you want to avoid the hoards of beautiful people cramming in at night. And just want an escapist mid-day break to the islands. You will be transported. You will be well fed. You will leave recharged, maybe with a little reggae sway in your step.

It's hard not to be seduced by Serge Becker's (La Esquina, The Box) latest red-hot venture in the Village. Yes, the staff is beautiful in the diner-cum-bar, but so is the food. Truth be told, we went in prepared to try the signature jerk chicken, but got swayed by the Other White Meat. The jerk pork burger ($13), aromatic with allspice, was just excellent. The juicy, spicy patty is made even tastier with pickled onions, creamy avocado and mango chutney. A standout NY burger for sure.

A chilled afternoon
Wash it all down with a bottle of Ting, an all natural soda made with 100% Jamaican grapefruit.

Jerk chicken next time. Or maybe oxtail stew. Hmmm, curry lobster roll, anyone?

132 W. Houston
Between Sullivan + MacDougal Sts.
646 588 5375

Miss Lily's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ultimate Fusion Food: Korean-Uzbek in Brighton Beach

Braised meat-filled cabbage
Once a month I join fellow food blogger Yoshie Okabayashi and her hungry band of Ramen + Friends eaters to scour the boroughs in search of killer Asian cheap eats to experience together. Typical stops include Flushing, Elmhurst, and Chinatown. Today is a first in Brighton Beach for Korean-Uzbek-Russian food at Cafe At Your Mother-In-Law. 

Selection of Korean salads
Brighton Beach has long been one of my favorite foodie destinations for the afternoon. Now dining at the Cafe is one more reason to go. It's just steps off of Brighton Beach Ave., the main street lined with delectable gourmet shops.

The dining room is bright and clean but sparse. You go for the food. Owner Elza Kan is Korean from Uzbekistan, a minority population brought to the country by Stalin. So borscht and savory blinis share the menu with an assortment of kimchi. Actually the Korean styled pickled salads are well worth trying. Our salad samplings ($3.49 - $7.99/lb) included a delicious eggplant hye, Korean carrot, soybean sprouts, and something called fish hye, a fermented raw tilapia in a vinegar, garlic, and chili sauce. I ate the entire bowl myself. They sell the salads in to-go containers, too, in case you need to take some home.

Classic Uzbek plov
On the Russian-Uzbek side, the plov ($6.50), lamb chunks cooked in seasoned rice, was hearty and rich. The lamb-stuffed cabbage rolls ($4.99) were tasty. And you can wash it all down with a pitcher of compot ($5), a stewed fruit juice. If that proves too sweet, you can always buy a can of 99 cent Ukranian lager around the corner and bring it in. It's BYOB.

Delicious fish hye
Before you leave the neighborhood, be sure to hit Brighton Beach Ave., to stock up on some gourmet goodies. Vintage Food Corp is a must for bulk dried fruits and nuts of every kind. Definitely end the afternoon with a giant mak, the famous Russian poppy seed sweet roll ($1.25), from nearby Gold Label Deli. Look for the woman selling them from the store's bakery window. Fresh from the oven, it makes for one happy ending.

3071 Brighton 4th Street
between Brighton Beach Ave. + Oceanview Ave.

Elza's Fancy Food on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Best $10 Meal Deliveries in the East Village

A shish kebob feast from Cafe Rakka

Memo to my East Village Neighbors:

Feeling the autumn night blues yet? It's colder and darker. You're suddenly hungrier and just want to stay in for the evening.

While there's no lack of places that deliver in the East Village, it's easy to fall into two traps: draining the food budget or delivery burnout from the same place.

Last fall New York magazine ran an article on the best food deliveries in each neighborhood and the EV was woefully underrepresented. Mom + pop shops are everywhere and some offer outstanding value and deliciousness (that's a real word) at under $10 a pop.

Here are some worth dialing up:

Pernil asado complete with crackling from Gena's Grill
Gena's Grill - I overlooked tiny Gena's for an entire year before stepping inside. Now I go weekly. It's Latin home cooking, and the ladies at Gena's serve it up with a big smile. I recommend take out as they show you the daily specials. Sizes come in small (plenty for one) or large. The pernil asado (roast pork; $6.45) is a favorite. Tender, flavorful hunks and a portion of crackling. Meals include beans of the day and rice.The seasoned roast chicken with sides is a mere $5. A small counter seats five if you can't wait to take dinner home. 210 First Ave.

Cafe Rakka - With two EV locations, it's an authentic standby when craving Middle Eastern. The Egyptian team turns out top-notch shish kebabs grilled to order. The smokey babaganoush is luscious. And the mujadarra (lentils and rice) is better than my mom's. Platters - meat or vegetarian - are generous and come with warm pita. Even the falafel ($3.50) and chicken kebob ($5.50) sandwiches are deliciously filling. Make sure you ask for hot sauce and white sauce on any meal. A feast. 81 St Marks Pl, and 38 Ave B

Oink if you love pastrami from This Little Piggy
This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef - The roast beef is delicious but the pastrami sandwich ($9.50) is the bomb. Sandwiches are piled with soft, juicy slices of beef, coated in a thick spice rub, and topped with creamy slaw and spicy brown mustard. Might as well go whole hog and add a chocolate suicide ($4.50) to the order. 149 First Ave.

Peruvian chicken from Senor Pollo
Senor Pollo - It looks like a very clean fast food joint but tastes so much better. If you're a fan of crispy skinned Peruvian rotisserie chicken (the bird is all natural and hormone and steroid-free), you'll be satisfied diving into the quarter chicken with two sides ($7.50; half chicken at $9.50). Thirteen side options include creamy mashed potatoes with spinach, quinoa, and fried yuca. Orders come with two homemade sauces on the side including a garlicky chimichurri and Peruvian hot sauce. 221 First Ave.

Tallgrass Burger - Organic, hand-pressed and grass-fed burgers for under $8. A burger you can feel good about eating. Burgers come with all the fixin's. I'm partial to the Classic with cheddar and horseradish-mustard sauce, but the Fire Rock adds some pow from jalapenos, blue cheese and chipotle BBQ sauce. Plain or sweet potato fries, buffalo wings, chicken sandwiches and big salads round out the menu. There's even a seasonal pumpkin spice shake for $4.50. And beer. 214 First Ave.

Burger + fries from Tallgrass
There's more if you're looking for variety. The EV outpost of Xi'an Famous Foods offers hearty, hand-pulled noodles with robust, chili spiked sauces, and everything is under $10. Tiny Minca offers some of the finest Japanese ramen in the hood, with most at $10.50. And Mama's Food Shop, well, nothing beats Mama's hearty selection of comfort food in the winter. Plates start at $12.50 but portions are supersized. The new menu kicks off today, so look for bacon-wrapped meatloaf and seasonal sides such as Brussels sprouts, and roasted root veggies. The new Williamsburg location has a soft opening starting Thursday.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Perfect Apple

Right off the tree...
...and into my bag
The perfect apple is the one you pick yourself. Right off the tree. It yields an audible crunch and a rush of juice down your lips.

My friends and I ate so many perfect apples on our annual apple picking excursion in the Hudson Valley this past weekend. We'd each pluck one, take a bite, note its flavor, and pass it around as if we were analyzing a fine wine. Does it make the cut home or not?
At Wright's Farm in Ulster County (about 80 miles from Manhattan), a $10 per adult entrance fee gets you a bag (a peck) you can fill to the brim with fruit.

A large selection this time of year includes my favorite - Fuji, a late season variety - as well as Golden Delicious, Mutsu, Stayman, Rome, and Braeburn. We even strategized over how to pack our bags to get the most yield of apples.

Sample all you want while in the orchard. When you've had your fill, a tractor ride takes you back to the parking lot, where you're asked to pop the trunk of your car in case you've attempted to smuggle out any extra apples.
Dig in to some squash
Once back at the main entrance, an abundant farmers market, save some room for lunch. Grab a picnic bench and load up on freshly barbecued chicken legs, chili or mac 'n' cheese. And definitely don't leave without a half dozen cider doughnuts made before your eyes. If you're lucky, you'll get a warm batch.They are gooooood. Real good.

An abundance of pumpkins and other colorful squash, delicious freshly baked pies, jams and jellies also tempt. Take advantage of the squash samples before you buy. There really is a marked difference in flavor from the nutty butternut to the Tan Cheese and small Sweet Dumpling squash.

What in the world will you do with all those apples? Wright's Farm even offers some tempting recipes. I'll be making lots of apple crumble. Stay tuned for that ridiculously simple recipe.
Then take some home

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Biting into Mad Square Eats

Porchetta from The Piccolo Cafe
There's a feeding frenzy in the streets of Manhattan. Everywhere you look there's a new outdoor food festival or gourmet truck. A city favorite, Mad Square Eats (24th + Broadway), is in its final days through October 21st. So hurry up and bite into something new.

Popular market fixtures like Red Hook Lobster Pound, Sigmund Pretzelshop, and Momofuku Milk Bar are dishing up their signature specialties. If you can't get to Bushwick, Roberta's pizza is here.

Duck buns from Fatty Snack compete with Beijing ya buns (roast duck and shrimp, $4) from Hong Kong Street Cart. There's always a line at Calexico for the freshly prepared Cali-Mexican tacos including chipotle pork and pollo asada ($3). Asiadog gives the drab hot dog a cultural makeover. The tangy Ginny is dressed with kimchi and nori flakes ($4.50).

On a recent visit, the hungry carnivore in me headed straight to the Cannibal stall, Resto's new sister restaurant. The pork head Cuban sandwich sounded like a natural win. But it was heavy on the bread and pickle and skimped on the meat filling, making pulled pork head looked more like scattered crumbs of swine. And it was bland. A $10 let down. The garlic spiced burger from Graffiti/Metaphor, on the other hand, is aromatic and juicy.

On Saturday only, look out for the tantalizing whole lamb roasting on a spit. And while you're there, stock up on an array of exotic spices, flavored sugar and loose teas from newcomer Spices and Tease.

Dine around the world in the park
Asiadog's Ginny with kimchi

Beijing ya bun from Hong Kong Street Cart
Graffiti/Metaphor spiced burger

Spit roasted lamb - Saturdays only
Lavender sugar sounds divine

Where's the pig face?

Open through Oct 21
11am - 9pm