Sunday, November 2, 2008

Bibimbap - A meal in a bowl

A little over a year ago, I posted a review of one of my family's favorite Asian restaurants, Dynamite Sushi. In that review, I mentioned one of my favorite dishes, a "Hot Stone Bowl" dinner item, whose Korean name is "Bibimbap." It was at Dynamite Sushi that I first encountered this wonderful dish, although I have had it elsewhere (Shira Kiku, formerly Goong Choun on Broad Street, in Nashua).

Yesterday, with Chardonnay home for the Halloween weekend from college, we visited Dynamite Sushi once again, and I ordered the Bibimbap with spicy pork as the meat. The fuzzy picture accompanying this article was my meal after it was delivered, taken by Chardonnay's cell phone.

Due to the use of a stone bowl (heated in the oven), this is not a dish I can easily make at home, so it remains a dish that I tend to eat occasionally as I am able to encounter it.

My research indicates that Bibimbap (which has several variations in spelling) is considered a Korean national dish. It can be prepared many different ways, with the constant being rice with the variations being the julienned vegetables and mushrooms, thinly sliced meat or chicken, and even a fried egg. The bowl is heated (the "hot stone bowl," of course!), and presented with the rice on the bottom, with the fried egg on top of the rice, with the vegetables and mushrooms next, then meat, with any garnish on top of that. In typical Asian style, the presentation of this dish segregates the vegetables and mushrooms layer into "pie wedges" that result in a very pleasing splash of color. Bibimbap can be made with many different kinds of meat or chicken, and Bulgoki (thin slices of marinaded steak) is a popular choice.

After the dish is served, the warmth of the bowl not only keeps the dish warm, but continues cooking the rice. The result is that after about ten minutes or so, the rice starts to form a crust where it touches the bowl, adding additional texture to the meal. (My entire family agrees that the crispy rice bits are the best part of the dish!)

If you haven't tried this dish, I heartily recommend it.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherds PieI've always liked the idea of Shepherd's Pie. In it's most basic form, it's a simple stew to make. I've had this in restaurants, and I've made it myself. Sandra likes it as well... up to a point. I'll explain that in a bit.

For the life of me, I cannot remember when I first had Shepherd's Pie. I do not remember having it at home as we grew up at all, nor do I recall having it when I was living in Miami.

I do know that when I was working in the North End of Boston (between 1987 and 1992), I not only knew what Shepherd's Pie was, but I had it on a semi-regular basis at some of the restaurants nearby.

To this day, the best version of the dish that I've had was from The Black Rose restaurant and pub on State Street near Quincy Market in Boston. I went there on a regular basis and had Shepherd's Pie there more often than not.

The dish isn't particularly difficult to figure out. That's lucky for me, since this was before The Food Network or being able to Google a recipe on the Internet was possible, and I do not believe that I had a recipe for this dish in my cookbooks at home. What it tasted to me was ground lamb, seasoned with Worcestershire sauce, mixed with onions and vegetables (peas, carrots), with a nice helping of mashed potatoes on top. Almost always, it was served as if it were baked in the bowl from which it was served. It wasn't particularly expensive, and was tasty and made a great lunch meal. (Meat, potatoes, and even a few vegetables, all in one dish!)

Sandra and I have a nice set of covered bowls that we used many times for making onion soup. The first time I made Shepherd's Pie at home, I knew that I just HAD to use those bowls! I've seen presentations of Shepherd's Pie since, usually made in a large casserole dish with portions cut out with a spatula, and to me, this is just no way to make the dish. It's not that much more difficult to cook it in the bowl that you will be serving it in, as long as the bowl is oven safe, of course.

Anyway, I didn't have too much trouble putting the recipe together. As I said, the ingredients were easy to detect from tasting it. I just sautéed the ground lamb and added freshly chopped onions (you don't want your vegetables too prominent in this dish), and continued cooking until the meat was done and the onions translucent. I may have added some chopped carrots that first time--I'm not really sure. I know I added some frozen peas near the end, to let them thaw out.

Ground lamb can get greasy, so it was necessary to drain the sautée pan once the meat was cooked. After that, I added some spices to taste: Worcestershire sauce (about two tablespoons), some onion powder, and some garlic salt. I tasted as I went along, and I was confident that I found the Black Rose's recipe. (As I said, it wasn't difficult.)

I then portioned the meat and vegetable mixture into the bowls, and then spooned some instant mashed potatoes (yes, I really used instant!) on top. I baked the bowls in a 350°F oven, and cooked it for about 10-15 minutes. Afterward, I turned the heat up in the oven and switched to Broil to give the potatoes a bit of a brownish tinge--about 4-5 minutes.

When the meal was served, I was ecstatic. The meat was bubbling underneath the dome of mashed potatoes. In fact, when I made a hole in the potatoes to get to the meat, a lot of steam came out of it! The taste was right on the spot!

Sandra, on the other hand, didn't like it much. The problem was that she doesn't like lamb at all. Not grilled, not cubed for Irish stew, and (apparently) not ground. The lamb was the deal breaker for her. In deference to her, in all my subsequent efforts in making this dish, I've been using ground beef. I think that ground beef lessens the "authenticity" (at least to the Black Rose taste I came to love), but it is perfectly workable, and I've come to enjoy the beef variety. Sandra does, too.

I never jotted down my recipe from that first time, since I managed to get it right just by using my taste buds. Since then, I've found a pretty good recipe by Rachael Ray on her Thirty Minute Meals show, which I now use as a guide. She goes into the details of mashing the potatoes (and still does the meal in thirty minutes!), which I don't do personally—Sandra is the one that usually mashes the potatoes. I still make the recipe to taste, but I use her ingredient list as a guide to make sure I don't forget anything. (Old age can do that to a guy!)

Last week, I asked Sandra if she'd like Shepherd's Pie. I got the idea from watching a show on Irish Pubs on the Canadian version of the Food Network. (Interestingly enough, The Black Rose was featured prominently on that show!) She thought it would be a great idea, but she didn't know how much mashed potatoes to make (she doesn't like instant mashed potatoes much, and doesn't mind making them from scratch for a meal).

I went shopping and got the requisite ground beef. Market Basket also had some Angus "pub burgers" (large, ⅓ pound burgers) and I bought them for a Salisbury Steak meal. When I told Sandra of my purchases, we figured it would be a great idea to make the Salisbury Steaks one night, and Sandra would make an extra helping of mashed potatoes. She put them in the refrigerator overnight, and then I used them to spoon over the bowls. It had been a couple of years since I made Shepherd's Pie, but it turns out that I still have the knack!

30 Minute Shepherd's Pie

Source:Rachael Ray—30 Minute Meals—Food Network
Prep Time:15 minutes
Cook Time:25 minutes
Yield:4 servings


2 pounds potatoes, such as russet, peeled and cubed

2 tablespoons sour cream or softened cream cheese

1 large egg yolk

½ cup cream, for a lighter version substitute vegetable or chicken broth

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan

1 ¾ pounds ground beef or ground lamb

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup beef stock or broth

2 teaspoons Worcestershire, eyeball it

½ cup frozen peas, a couple of handfuls

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Boil potatoes in salted water until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain potatoes and pour them into a bowl. Combine sour cream, egg yolk and cream. Add the cream mixture into potatoes and mash until potatoes are almost smooth.

While potatoes boil, preheat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add oil to hot pan with beef or lamb. Season meat with salt and pepper. Brown and crumble meat for 3 or 4 minutes. If you are using lamb and the pan is fatty, spoon away some of the drippings. Add chopped carrot and onion to the meat. Cook veggies with meat 5 minutes, stirring frequently. In a second small skillet over medium heat cook butter and flour together 2 minutes. Whisk in broth and Worcestershire sauce. Thicken gravy 1 minute. Add gravy to meat and vegetables. Stir in peas.

Preheat broiler to high. Fill a small rectangular casserole with meat and vegetable mixture. Spoon potatoes over meat evenly. Top potatoes with paprika and broil 6 to 8 inches from the heat until potatoes are evenly browned. Top casserole dish with chopped parsley and serve.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Crêpes, Part 1

I've always loved the idea of crêpes, ever since I heard about them on the Patty Duke television show in the early to mid 1960s. After all, the show's theme song introduces the two characters with with the following:

"Where Cathy adores a minuet,
the Ballet Russe,
and crêpes Suzette;
Our Patty loves to rock 'n' roll,
a hot dog makes her lose control—
What a wild duet!"

I must have been four or five when I first saw that television show, and I had no idea what crêpes Suzette might be other than it was something more worldly than you'd normally find in home town America. You see, in the television show, Patty and Cathy were identical cousins from different backgrounds; Cathy was the more cultured of the two, being raised in Europe. Patty, on the other hand, was your normal, every day rock 'n' rolling American teenage girl. Laughs galore when the two cultures collide!

Anyway, my mother wasn't the kind of person to cook crêpes—especially for a picky eater like me, even if she knew how to do so. In addition, I never found crêpes Suzette on any menus of any restaurants that I visited with my family, either (not that I'd know where to look, actually, thinking back).

I'm not sure when I discovered exactly what crêpes Suzette was, but it was probably from reading an encyclopedia or dictionary. It's a French dessert made with a thick orange sauce. Even after I figured out what it was, I believe that I have never had the opportunity to taste this dessert, even during the many times I visited France. (To tell you the truth, I'm not very big on desserts.) Still, the idea of crêpes was ingrained in my mind at a very early age thanks to American popular culture.

When I was in high school, I started cooking for myself (and my family), and found a recipe for crêpes in a recipe book. It was a dessert recipe, and (again) I'm not a big fan of desserts, and I didn't make them, but was intrigued enough to learn more about them. I discovered that they weren't just for dessert; there were savory styles for main courses or entrées as well as the sweeter ones for desserts. Still, I wasn't that familiar with them enough to try to cook them on my own.

After I started dating Sandra, she wanted to cook a special meal for me. She was going to prepare what she considered her special dish: Manicotti. Now, I had that before, and considered it to be (basically) the same as lasagna using a rolled pasta instead of the long, flat, layered pastas required for lasagna. Since both dishes had a lot of cheese (especially Ricotta, which I never seemed to have liked), I didn't think it would be anything special. Sandra and her mother also pronounced it noticeably different—almost like "MAN-i-gawt." I always considered myself a good boy friend, though; if Sandra wanted to cook me something special, then I would enjoy it.

I watched Sandra make her recipe, and the first thing I noticed was that she didn't use pre-purchased manicotti shells. Instead, she made flat pancakes, and rolled her mixture into those. Those "crêpes" that she made for her manicotti were, therefore, the first crêpes that I ever tasted. For the record, they were delicious: Sandra makes a good Italian sauce, and the small crepes didn't hold too much ricotta cheese. I had a few of them, and Sandra has made them occasionally ever since.

After I moved to Miami, I discovered a restaurant in nearby Dadeland Mall called "La Crepe Bistro." It was located just outside the mall's food court, and I believe it was there that I encountered my first restaurant crêpe face to face. That would have been the late 1970s—about thirty years ago. I'm not sure what I chose to be my first crêpe; I do know that I enjoyed it and visited that place many times with my mother, and then (after I got married), I went there a lot of times with my wife (and my mother would occasionally join us).

When we moved to Boston, there was a similar restaurant in Quincy Market near Fanueil Hall called the Magic Pan Crêperie. While this restaurant had sweet and savory crêpes, including a hot fudge ice cream crêpe for dessert that Sandra just loved, I still missed the ones from that little place in Miami.

Today, when I think back on the savory crêpes that I've had, my favorite (other than Sandra's manicotti, of course!) would have to be a chicken crêpe. This would be a savory crêpe, with boneless chicken in a sauce rolled into a crêpe; something like a chicken a la king in a crêpe. While I've ordered Magic Pan's dessert crêpe, I am still a savory crêpe kind of guy.

I haven't done much with crêpes over the years; they never were part of my cooking repertoire. However, I've recently seen some cooking shows on the Food Network that incorporated crêpes, and it suddenly occurred to me that crêpes would be a perfect "meal for two" to make now that my daughters are once again in college. Also, I no longer thought of them as exclusively French; Sandra's manicotti definitely used crêpes, and I realized that there is a lot of Asian foods that fit the pattern of a stuffing inside a roll (egg rolls and spring rolls come immediately to mind).

While up in Canada during Labor Day, I decided to jot down three "Crêpe Ideas for Two" which I put into my private recipe archive. These were just ideas that struck me at the time: Chicken Crêpes (of course!); Asian Crêpes (using either crêpes or egg roll wrappers) filled with pork, ginger, green onions, etc.; and an attempt to merge Sandra's manicotti recipe with something that I'd enjoy a little better—half "regular" manicotti, half meat-filled. I intend to experiment with one or more of these over the next few weeks, and will tweak the recipes until both Sandra and I are satisfied with them.

Of course, once that happens, I'll be happy to share my recipes here. (Which is why I entitled this entry as "Part 1.")

Bon Appetit!

Monday, August 11, 2008

I'm back...!

Just a quick note to let you know that I'm coming off my summer hiatus.

There will be more food notes and other odds and ends coming soon!

Stay tuned!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Loaf and Ladle

Lone Tree at Ordiorne Pt., NH, 11-May-2008For Mother's Day, Chardonnay and I went with Sandra to Ordiorne Point, which used to be a gunnery emplacement (Fort Dearborn) protecting Portsmouth Harbor during World War II. Before that, it was private land and marsh and today remains the largest strip of undeveloped seacoast on the NH coastline. Ordiorne Point has a few hiking trails and most of them have negligible elevation gain (in other words, you're hiking as opposed to climbing). The WW II era bunkers are still there, although the munitions are long gone. The land was considered surplus and was sold to the state of New Hampshire for $91,000 in 1962. Anyway, enough with the history lesson. The weather at Ordiorne this Sunday was lovely; not too warm and not too cold, with a nice breeze coming off the ocean surf.

We drove around to find a place to have a quick lunch, preferring to have a nice lobster dinner at home to needing to make reservations and wait, wait, wait for a table at a less-than-decent restaurant. I suggested the Loaf and Ladle, a lunch spot in Exeter that Sandra likes, and we drove there on the way home.

Exeter, NH, 11-May-2008The Loaf and Ladle specializes in sandwiches, soup, and salad. There are fresh baked goods for desserts as well. There's a tavern section of the restaurant, but it has never been staffed when I visit the place (the bar is definitely active--it just seems to not be staffed when I'm there!).

The restaurant is located on the banks of the Exeter river on Rt. 111 in downtown Exeter. There is no table service. Instead, you come in, order at the counter, and then bring your meal to one of the tables. There was an outdoor patio in use yesterday, although the three of us ended up sitting in the tavern section of the dining area (again, the bar was vacant).

The menu is rarely static. The sandwiches include roast beef, chicken salad, hummus, liverwurst, and other standard fare. You get your choice of bread. Yesterday, there was Sourdough Rye, Oatmeal, Sesame Seed Wheat, Loaf and Ladle Wheat, and a few others. I chose the "whitest" bread they had, which was the oatmeal. The soups that day included Strawberry Rhubarb, Spicy Black Bean, Chili, Boiled Dinner (you know you're in New England!), and others. Soups and sandwiches are each served with an extra slice of bread, cut about the size of Texas Toast--around two inches thick.

One thing that I don't like about this place is the layout of the order counter. It is set so that if there are more than a couple people waiting to order a sandwich or soup, the line will cross over the doorway. This can lead to some confusion as people attempt to leave or enter the place. The service behind the counter isn't speedy--this isn't fast food by any means--and this only seems to exacerbate the "pile up by the door" situation.

As the name implies, it's the soups and bread that are Loaf and Ladle's specialties. Everything is served fresh and even though I'm not really a "classic soup" (I prefer Asian styles) or a bread person, I've always been able to find something I like.

The place takes cash and credit cards, and it appears that they have alcohol (although, as I've already mentioned, I've never been able to sample any of it). The prices are reasonable for the fare they offer. I'd consider this a hidden gem of a place, and it's easy to see why Sandra likes it so much.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Brookstone Grille

Not too far away from the Salem / Derry line on Rt. 111 is what I would normally call a country club. The place is called Brookstone Park, which encompasses a golf course, practice range, miniature golf, an "ice cream shoppe," and the subject of this blog entry: The Brookstone Grille. (Apparently, the owners just love those quaint silent-e endings).

I knew about the Brookstone Grille for a while, but its location was a bit out of the way. My youngest daughter had pizza there a couple of times with a few friends from school, and all of a sudden, I started getting email from the Grille sent to my email address, but addressed to Sandra. What was even stranger is that every November, I get a special offer from the place for my birthday (Sandra's birthday is in November, not mine... whoever signed us up for this email must have gotten a wire crossed; the email doesn't appear in any way to be SPAM).

Last summer, Sandra and I decided to give the place a try.

Like most golf courses, the landscaping of the place is very nice. There's ample parking, although the spots closest to the restaurant always seem to be full. There is an enclosed full service bar area, a dining area, and a special area on the other side of the bar for a pizza and raw bar.

The place settings in the dining room look expensive, and the menu seems to specialize in grilled steak, chicken, and pork chops. There's also a section of the menu for pasta, fish, and other entrees as well. The prices are moderately high, but not abnormally so for a restaurant of this type. If the dining room is too fancy for you, you can always opt for the more casual atmosphere of the bar, or perhaps the raw bar (I've never eaten in the raw bar area, though). The full menu is available in the bar, which makes it very attractive for Sandra and me.

For appetizers, Sandra and I love the Pot Stickers, which are prepared in a large bowl with the dumplings sitting on top of the tip, and service with an interesting and spicy vegetable slaw. I've also had the Buffalo wings, although I believe that this is only served occasionally as an appetizer special.

The raw bar selections are amazing. Neither Salem nor Derry are on the seacoast, but the selections are always fresh. They offer tasty oysters, Cherrystone clams, seared tuna, and beef carpaccio. My favorite from the raw bar is what the Grille modestly calls their Colossal Shrimp Cocktail. At $3.50 per shrimp, and $18 for a half dozen, this seems to be expensive, but you won't believe the size of the shrimp you get! Those half dozen shrimp can be a main course in and of itself—and I've made them my meal on more than one occasion. They arrive perfectly chilled, and are presented with every two shrimp intertwined together and service with a deliciously wonderful cocktail sauce.

Sandra loves the creamy chowder at the Grille as well as the salads, and has had soup and salad for her meal many times. She has also had the pizza there, which is made fresh in-house. Sandra's favorite pizza here is the four-cheese pizza.

When I ordered a steak at the Grille, it was done exactly the way I ordered it (Medium-Well), and it was delicious.

Sandra and I visit the Grille once every month or two, mostly sitting in the bar and watching the local sports teams on the wide screen televisions there.

If I had to rate this restaurant, I'd probably give it three and a half to four stars (out of five). The food is always fresh and plated well. The atmosphere is relaxed and inviting—even the bar isn't too loud.

Perhaps this summer, Sandra and I will try out the miniature golf there, and perhaps end up at the Ice Cream Shoppe...!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Roll Your Owns

One of my family's favorite weekday meals is tacos. Although we use the packaged taco seasonings, we don't use the taco shells that they sell in the Mexican aisle in the supermarket. Instead we have what we've come to call "Roll Your Owns."

The process is simple. First, we brown some ground beef, discarding the extra fat that renders out. We use a wooden spatula to break up the beef into small crumbles as it cooks. Afterward, we add between a half cup and a cup of water and taco seasoning. Actually, we use a combination of one packet taco seasoning, and one packet "salsa mix," which I've found to give the meat a fresher taste than just taco seasoning alone. I've found that if you add too much water, the meat gets very runny; you can fix that up easily by adding a bit of cheese to make the mixture a bit firmer until you get the consistency you want.

As the meat is cooking, the rest of the taco ingredients are prepared. Lettuce is shredded, tomatoes are diced, onions sliced and diced, shredded cheese taken out of the refrigerator. We also add other things, depending on what's on hand: scallions, cilantro, whatever. All these ingredients, as well as the cooked meat, are put onto plates or bowls.

Next, we quickly wash the skillet we used to cook the meat, and then add about an inch or so of vegetable oil. The oil is heated until a drop of water "dances" when added to the pan.

Now, it's time to make the tortillas. We've found that about a dozen corn tortillas makes enough tacos for our family of four, so we usually make sure we have on hand two dozen tortillas in case somebody is hungrier than usual.

We fry the tortillas in the hot oil for varying amounts of time: about a minute for a "soft taco," a couple of minutes for a "medium taco," up to four or five minutes for a "hard taco" (folded) or "tostada" (flat). At our house, the "medium taco" is usually the favorite, with occasional requests for tacos or tostadas. The fact that they are "cooked to order" is why we call them "Roll Your Owns."

Once finished, the tortilla is placed on a plate covered with absorbent paper towel, and then the recipient will fill it with meat and various veggies and cheese, topping with taco sauce.

By the time four tortillas have been prepared, it's time to start again with the first person's second taco, and keep frying until everybody has had their fill.

Usually, at the end, there are still some tortillas, meat, and other ingredients left over. Not to fear! The remaining tortillas are cut into pie wedges (about six pieces per tortilla), and fried to make tortilla chips. Meanwhile, the remaining ingredients are collected into a single bowl to make taco salad. A few chips are crushed to top the salad, and the salad is eaten with the remaining chips.


Monday, March 3, 2008

Barguy's Focaccia

I've mentioned Chip Shots Grill and Sports Pub before, and today's blog entry is about one of my favorite sandwiches, which was "invented" at that pub.

I first had focaccia at a restaurant called Houlihan's, which I first visited when they had a restaurant in Quincy Market in Boston. That restaurant has closed and there is another in its place, but one of the sandwiches they had there was a "Brentwood Chicken Grill," which intrigued me because I grew up in Brentwood, NY, and also because the sandwich was served on "focaccia bread." (Note: the chain now has a "Brentwood Chicken Sandwich" which is now served on a whole wheat bun. Pity!)

Focaccia is a bread which is usually seasoned with olive oil, onions, herbs, cheese, etc. There are probably as many variations in how a focaccia is made as there are variations in how pizza is prepared. In Houlihan's case, the sandwich had some cheese, rosemary, and a nice texture. I had this sandwich numerous times, even after Houlihan's in Quincy Market closed--I found a location in Lake Grove, NY, across the street from the Smith Haven Mall on Middle Country Road.

Anyway, at Chip Shots, I saw a number of focaccia sandwiches in their specials list, but never bothered to order them. After all, the idea of teriyaki chicken on a focaccia roll didn't really appeal to me. However, one day, I saw a special focaccia sandwich with the simple name "Roast Beef, Swiss Cheese, and Mushrooms." I ordered the sandwich and was immediately hooked. THIS was a sandwich I really liked! I liked it so much that I came back the very next day to order it again!

When I came back the next week, the specials list changed. I mentioned to one of the owners (Shannon) that the focaccia sandwich I had the previous week was one of the first times I ever came back to Chip Shots solely for the food (I really like the atmosphere and the people there, which is my main reason for frequenting that place). Shannon assured me that I could order that sandwich off the menu, and there would never be a problem. I took her up on that, and it now is one of the only meals I eat there... when I like something, I like it!

Recently, that focaccia sandwich reappeared on the specials list at Chip Shots, only this time it was called "Barguy's Focaccia." The name "Barguy" is one that I used when logging into the NTN trivia games that were once at the pub, and is the wait staff's nickname for me. I was honored; this was the second time a special was named after me!

This past weekend, I happened to notice some focaccia rolls at Hannahford's when doing some grocery shopping. I immediately got the idea to share my favorite sandwich with Sandra. I looked at the price of roast beef, and found it prohibitive--more expensive than some steaks! So, instead of using roast beef, I used shaved steak, which was less than half the price of the roast beef. (Chip Shots once made it as a "steak sandwich" for me when they ran out of roast beef when I ordered it.)

I made the sandwich and omitted the mushrooms for Sandra's sandwich, since she doesn't like them. We sliced up some baby Vidalia onions as well. Sandra loved the sandwich as much as I did. The two of us have now agreed to make this an occasional lunch meal on weekends.

The recipe below is my own adaptation of the Chip Shots recipe. It is the version that I made this past weekend. My sandwich included the mushrooms; Sandra's didn't.

Barguy's Focaccia (Roast Beef, Swiss, Mushrooms)

Source:Chip Shots Grill and Sports Pub
Yield:One sandwich


1 medium sized onion focaccia roll

2-4 slices aged Swiss cheese

1 Tbs butter

1 Tbs Olive oil

¼ small onion, sliced

1 oz sliced mushrooms (canned is fine)

½ lb roast beef (shaved steak will also do)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Slice the focaccia roll into two slices and toast so that the inside gets a bit of color. Keep oven on after you remove the bread, and immediately add the slices of Swiss cheese evenly onto the sandwich halves.

Meanwhile, melt butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sliced onions and mushrooms to the butter/oil mixture, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent, about five minutes.

Cut roast beef slices in half or quarters, and add to the skillet and cook for another couple minutes until the redness in the beef starts to disappear. If using shaved steak, cook a bit longer until the meat is about medium done. Mix the meat with the onions, mushrooms, and then move to plate lined with absorbent paper.

Add the drained meat, onions, and mushrooms onto the sandwich halves on top of the cheese. Assemble the sandwich, adding toothpicks if necessary to keep the halves together.

Toast in the oven for 3-4 minutes until cheese melts.

Serve immediately.

Bon Appetit!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Veal Piccata

Let's face it. I love Italian food. Even if it isn't your every day red sauce meal.

First, there's nothing wrong with red sauce. I love it very much. My wife loves it as well.

However, you can't have tomato sauce every day, and Italian recipes offer much more than just sauce.

Enter Veal Piccata. I've always loved it. I can't remember the first time I had it, but it was most likely after I got married, since I wasn't the kind of person to experiment with new ideas before then.

Anyway, I made Veal Piccata about a year ago, and was amazed. The veal was grilled on my grill pan, and then added to the sauce.

Amazingly, I never kept the recipe I used!

This week, I got a good deal on Veal Scallopine at McKinnon's market, and I wanted to make Veal Piccata. So... I had to search the web to find the recipe I found back then. I think I managed to find it!

I made this on Tuesday, and it's just as good as I remembered.

Have fun!

Veal Piccata

Source:Gourmet, January 2002
Active Time:20 min
Total Time:30 min
Yield:Makes 8 servings.

Grill the veal while the noodles boil so both are ready at the same time.


1 ¼ cups low-fat chicken stock or low-sodium fat-free chicken broth

⅓ cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Boil stock and wine in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan until reduced by about half (to about ¾ cup), about 3 minutes. Whisk together flour and water in a cup, then whisk into stock. Boil, stirring, 1 minute, then remove from heat and stir in butter, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Keep sauce warm.


2 lb veal cutlets (also called scallopini; ¼ inch thick)

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 lemon, thinly sliced

Cut veal into 3-inch pieces, then pat dry with paper towels. Lightly oil grill pan and heat over high heat until just smoking.

While pan is heating, sprinkle veal with salt and pepper. Grill veal in batches, without crowding, until browned, about 30 seconds on each side, transferring with tongs to a platter. Grill lemon slices, in batches if necessary, until lightly browned, about 1 minute per side, transferring to platter with veal.

Stir parsley into warm sauce and pour over veal.

Serve with buttered noodles with chives

If uncooked cutlets are more than ¼ inch thick, pound to ¼ inch thick between 2 sheets of plastic wrap with a rolling pin.

Nutritional Information

grams fat2

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Rolled Tacos

According to the Wikipedia, taquitos are small rolled-up tortillas with some sort of filling, usually beef or chicken. They are also called Rolled Tacos, and sometimes (usually when made with flour tortillas) Flautas.

I first came upon these things as flautas when I was living in Miami. A few restaurant had these intriguing things in the appetizer sections called "Flautas" and I tried some. I wasn't particularly impressed with them at the time; they seemed to be crispy rolls that didn't really have much to offer as far as taste was concerned—they just didn't have enough filling in them for my taste.

Over the years, I saw flautas on menus, usually as an appetizer, but occasionally as an item in the "combination plates" as well. I didn't really dislike them, but I never really found myself impressed with them. In fact, my impression was that they were just chimichangas with smaller tortillas and without most of the filling. Almost always, they were served "dry" without any sauce on top as a chimichanga would be served, but with some sort of salsa to accompany them.

I'm not sure when I first encountered taquitos by that name. I'm pretty sure that, like flautas, they were on the appetizer or combinations section of Mexican menus. I noticed something about them almost immediately: they tasted better. I think the difference (to me) was that fried corn tortillas have an inherent crunch and taste that is simply lacking in flour tortillas. They still didn't have much as far as filling was concerned, but they were a step up from flautas to my taste.

Today, you can find taquitos in many supermarket freezer sections. Get a box of ten or twenty and heat them up in your oven. Simple meal or snack. Of course, when I first tried these frozen varieties, I knew that I needed something to dip them into. Salsa was an obvious choice, but I wanted something a bit special for these.

I'm not sure where I got the idea the first time, but I distinctly remember making a spicy ranch dip. I simply put some ranch salad dressing into a small dipping bowl. To this, I added some chili powder and a few drops of hot sauce. Voila! Instant classic in less than a half hour!

While I still get the frozen taquitos, I've noticed that a lot of them are now being made with flour tortillas: exactly what I didn't like about flautas originally! Luckily, the boxes will tell you what you are getting, but you should look carefully!

Recently, I started making taquitos from scratch. I surprised Sandra by making a breakfast for her one weekend. I made an omelet, and added ground chorizo and some salsa to make the filling, which then I wrapped into small corn tortillas that I first sprayed with cooking spray. I assembled the breakfast taquitos onto a cookie sheet and cooked them in the oven for about twenty minutes. Sandra really liked the result!

Sandra noticed recently that Rachael Ray had a recipe for taquitos on her "Thirty Minute Meals" show, and she asked me to capture the recipe for her into our recipe collection.

I'm excerpting her recipe below, which also includes some burritos (you decide if you want both taquitos and burritos!).

Poquito and Grande: Taquitos and Burritos

Source:Rachael Ray—30 Minute Meals—Food Network
Prep Time:15 minutes
Cook Time:30 minutes
Yield:6 to 8 servings


2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon dried oregano

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 can chopped green chiles, 4 ounces

A few leaves fresh cilantro or parsley, finely chopped

Vegetable or canola oil, for frying

12 (6-inch) corn tortillas

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Season the chicken with cumin, oregano, salt and pepper and mix in the chiles and cilantro or parsley. Dip the tortillas in 1-inch warm oil to soften. Tightly roll a couple of forkfuls of chicken up in the tortillas. Place seam side down and bake 12 minutes.

Dipping Sauce For Burritos And Taquitos

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 red onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon chili powder, a palm full

1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin, ½ a palm full

A pinch ground cinnamon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 (28-ounce) can fire roasted crushed tomatoes

Heat a sauce pot over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, red onion and garlic and soften 5 minutes then season with sugar, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper and stir in the fire roasted tomatoes. Reduce heat to low and simmer.


8 (8-inch) flour tortillas

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 ½ pounds ground pork

1 small zucchini, grated

2 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped

2 to 3 tablespoons (medium to hot) chipotle in adobo, mashed into paste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 (19-ounce) can black beans (recommended: Progresso)

2 cups shredded Chihuahua cheese or Monterey Jack or Cheddar

½ head iceberg lettuce, or 1 heart romaine, shredded

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Add the pork, brown it for 2 minutes then add in zucchini, garlic, chipotle in adobo and salt. Cook for about 7 to 8 minutes more.

Heat the last tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil in a small nonstick skillet. Add the black beans and mash with a fork. Season the beans with salt and fry until crisp at edges, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Soften tortillas in microwave or in hot oven. On each tortilla pile a little refried black beans, cheese, pork and lettuce. Tuck in the sides then wrap and roll the tortilla.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Super Bowl Sunday

Sandra and I have made a tradition of watching the Super Bowl and having some special snacks.

This tradition goes back to (I think) 1986 when a friend of ours named Michael was temporarily living in what is now the kids' room (the lease on his apartment expired and he was still trying to find a new place).

On Super Bowl Sunday morning that year, I was watching television and saw somebody preparing a snack dish. It was basically a steak, cheese, and onions sandwich. However, instead of serving it on a torpedo roll, the cook hollowed out a round bread boule and put the cooked ingredients into it. Cheese was added to the top (and I think there was some tomato sauce or something else which didn't appeal to me), and then the bread was cooked in the oven. The resulting "sandwich" was then cut up and served to people.

Sandra and I thought this was a great idea (without the sauce, of course), and I went to the store and got the ingredients. Later that day, we watched the Super Bowl while eating a pretty nice steak sandwich.

Ever since then, we made a habit of watching the Super Bowl and the steak sandwich was a part of it most years.

Of course, we've added different snacks over the years, including nachos, "Macho Dip" (described in a separate post, chicken wings, and lots of other snacks.

Now, my wife and I aren't avid football fans. I used to insist that I watched the Super Bowl for the advertisements, and to some extent, I guess that's true. However, with the Patriots once again being in the game for the fourth time since the 2001 season, I'll also be rooting for New England.

So... what's on the menu for Sunday?

Well, to tell you the truth, we really haven't decided.

We made the "Super Bowl Steak Sandwich" a couple of weeks ago when the kids were still around, since Sandra and I agree that it's too much for just the two of us to handle (the kids will both be in school this weekend).

Normally, I'd make chicken wings (or pick up those newfangled Hot Wings at Kentucky Fried Chicken—yum!), but Weight Watcher ranks them at three points EACH. Sandra would prefer something less intrusive, point-wise.

Macho Dip (refer to link above) is a possibility. The big problem is making "just enough" for game day without leftovers. We do have some leftover "verde" (green) enchilada sauce from a meal earlier this week, so this is a real possibility if I remember to get some cans of Campbell's cheese soup and a bag of Tostito's "scoops" chips for dipping.

We have some nice shrimp in the freezer, so Shrimp New Orleans is probably in the works. If Sandra feels like it, we can even add garlic knots as well to dip into the sauce.

I might be able to convince Sandra to let me make some Potato Skins. The recipe is quite simple: bake some potatoes, cut them in half and scoop out some of the insides with a spoon. (At this point, the potato shells can be frozen for later use... if you want to have them ready in advance.) Cook the scooped out and empty potato skins for twenty minutes—turn the skins upside down after the first ten minutes—at about 400 to 450°F. Add shredded cheese, bacon, and some green onions and broil until the cheese is bubbly. Yum!

Other possibilities:

  • Celery and carrots with ranch or blue cheese dressing

  • Tacquitos—we make a dipping sauce with ranch dressing, some chili powder, and hot sauce.

  • Nachos, if we haven't overdosed on Mexican...!

  • Shrimp cocktail (again, if we don't overdose on shrimp!)

Bon Appetit!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Foodie Sites for NH

I am an avid blogger. While this may be the only blog that I write, I tend to read and keep up with many blogs that span the range of my interests, from computer and technical information to food and even local sports (Hooray, Red Sox!).

There are a few places that I frequent to keep tabs on the food scene, and a few of them specialize in the New Hampshire region where I live. I'd like to share some of these sites. Note that this isn't meant to be comprehensive; it's just a list of some places I like to visit.

Modesty, of course, precludes me from listing this site. Besides, if you're reading this, I don't really need to suggest it to you!

First and foremost, there is Chowhound's New England board which is a place where you can go for "tips on dining, eating, and food shopping in ME, NH, VT, RI, MA, and CT" (there is a Boston board as well, as well as for regions all around the country and elsewhere). This is a place where people can post questions, make reviews, get recommendations, and talk about food in the New England area. If you visit there regularly, you will probably find people who share interests with yourself. I, for one, have found a few people that share my love for Asian cuisine, and have come to trust their recommendations.

Next is Seacoast Online, which carries information on the New Hampshire Seacoast region, including parts of Maine and Massachusetts. You can find articles from Portsmouth Herald and some other locally-driven newspapers here. Since I love visiting Portsmouth and the seacoast region, I find this a great place for information. Their "Entertainment" site has a section on Food & Wine and a section on Dining (restaurant reviews). One thing to be aware about is that there is advertising from different restaurants on this site, so they may not print "bad" reviews about advertisers.

On television, the TV Diner (on New England Cable News) and Phantom Gourmet (on Boston's TV38) give reviews and recipes from restaurants in New England. These are pretty good sites for getting pointers to local restaurants. Billy Costa used to be the host of Phantom Gourmet, but now hosts TV Diner after the Phantom moved from NECN to TV38. Both sites are useful.

I have always been a fan of a site dedicated to... Portsmouth, NH. I already mentioned my love of Portsmouth, and this site is probably the most encyclopedic about the region. As far as foodies are concerned, it maintains a list of restaurants along with a short description of each.

If you ever travel to Manchester (and more recently, Nashua), you have probably seen a free newspaper called The Hippo, which is a weekly guide to the Merrimack Valley in NH. There are weekly articles on Local news, Pop culture, Living (including Food, Wine, Beer... and a "Grazing Guide"), Music and Arts. I would imagine that it's audience is people between 21 and 65, including tourists. The publishers also put out a daily paper, The Manchester Express, which is also available as a PDF online.

There are also actual blogs that I read daily, but none of them (that I am aware of) are from people in my area. However, they are interesting in their own right, since food is not always a regional topic. I'll save them for another blog entry.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A new take on Food Porn

A pair of chicken wings that wish to remain anonymousAs I was traveling during the recent holidays, I went to a local Panera Bread to have a warm cup of tea, a few sourdough rolls, and to use their free wireless Internet (WiFi) to catch up on things happening. (By the way, their bread is always fresh, their wireless is easy to use, and their tea is delightful! Patronize them!)

I have a "folder of bookmarks" that I can open all at once into separate tabs within Firefox, and soon the dozen or so sites I regularly read were being loaded into my browser.

Well, almost.

Imagine my surprise when THIS VERY SITE did not appear. Instead, I got a message that my site was blocked. I couldn't imagine why this was, but I followed their "if you think this site has been blocked in error..." link, and found that the site was listed as "Pornographic." I filled in their feedback form and asked the people who ran the watch-dog site (with admittedly with a less than flattering comment) to re-rate the site. They must get scores of such requests, and I was a bit disappointed to find that it could take a few days or longer to get a site re-rated.

Note: Although Panera Bread apparently runs requests for web sites through an Internet filter, I do not mean any ill to that company for doing so. In our litigious society, it is possible for a place to be sued or forced out of business simply for "making available" illegal content. So, it's understandable that they would do something like this. It's their Internet they are providing; they can filter it any way they want!

My request to the watch-dog company with the Internet filter was sent out around noon on December 27. On December 29, I received an email stating that my site was being reclassified as "Web Communications," which is what I guess a blog is, rather than my suggested "Restaurants and Dining" listing—there wasn't a listing for "Food and Thoughts." That was actually pretty quick turn-around, and I'm happy this was settled.

But I got to thinking. In what universe could this site be labeled pornographic? I have no pictures of nudes (other than a penguin who wasn't wearing any pants to explain my holiday absense!), and I really don't talk much about "pornographic topics."

Well, I think I may have figured it out. My recent article on chicken wings mentioned a restaurant chain that has decent wings. The name of the chain is an intentional play on a slang term for a woman's anatomy.

Now, I've seen this restaurant chain bill itself as a "family restaurant," although I wouldn't go as far as making that description myself. However, mentioning the name of the chain five times managed to trigger some software into making a decision that my blog is a den of depravity.

Alternatively, perhaps somebody may have decided that this particular chain doesn't need "free advertising" from a person like me and reported me to the guardians of our morals on the Internet! If I managed to offend somebody, then I'm sorry. However, since that person, should he or she really exist, would probably never connect to my site again, I think my apology will be falling on deaf ears.

Of course, the use of the "porn" and "pornography" terms in this particular article may cause the entire situation to repeat.

Sometimes, you can't win.