|Kellerman Cranberry Sauce Photo by Naomi Kooker|
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Sunday, February 26, 2012
I took my three nephews - David, Michael and Tommy - when there were small to Boston's legendary Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe in the South End. I had just moved out of the apartment I shared with my husband, soon to be Ex. Charlie's was an oasis, and it was a way to thank my nephews for having come to my place to help pack boxes and hang out.
At Charlie's we shared some precious moments over pancakes (griddlecakes in their lexicon) and serendipity broke out when a famous Red Sox player walked in. You can read the whole post in Where Hash Rules, a delicious narrative about the people - past and present - surrounding this iconic diner, which opened in 1927.
I often bribe my nephews with food. So, when they came to help their city-living aunt pack boxes to move, I rewarded them with breakfast at Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe. Now, picture three brothers—ages 12, 10 and 9-ish—from the ‘burbs in the South End for the first time. Even looking for parking was exciting.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
If there’s anyone who knows how to make exceptional hot chocolate, it’s master pastry chef Jacques Torres—Mr. Chocolate himself.
A few years ago I took my teenage nephews (all three of them) on a Christmas jaunt to New York City. The weekend included a Knicks vs. Bulls game at Madison Square Garden; dinner at Blue Smoke; a stroll down 7th Avenue in Brooklyn (We stayed with a friend there); and a pit stop at Jacques Torres Chocolate in DUMBO before hitting the highway home to Boston.
The last stop made the most lasting impression. The hot chocolate was how I recalled it at Angelina in Paris (sorry, M. Torres, if you find the comparison unfavorable). For an impressionable American, taken there by a Parisian, it was a culinary “Aha!” moment: thick silky creamy chocolate—not cocoa—poured from a pitcher with a bowl of whipped cream to do with what I wanted. It was heaven.
The chocolat chaud at M. Torres’ cozy shop “down under the Brooklyn Bridge” brought me back to Paris and opened my nephews’ eyes to what good chocolate could do if you let it. Truth is, they were so taken aback by its richness they couldn’t finish it. Me? I happily drank the leftovers and zinged eastbound on Interstate 278 toward home.
M. Torres graciously spoke to PressureKooker, recently, imparting the three most important elements in making great hot chocolate:
1. Use good chocolate. “The quality of chocolate is very important,” he says in a lovely French accent. “Do not use cocoa powder—cocoa is a byproduct of chocolate. …It’s not a finished product.” (He special orders chocolate from Belcolade in Belgium.)
2. Boil the milk twice. While there’s no need for cream or anything richer than milk, M. Torres does recommend boiling the milk twice: once before you add the chocolate, then again after you’ve added the chocolate.
3. "Forget the marshmallows—I love marshmallows, but not in hot chocolate,” he says. “I think people put in marshmallows because they’re too lazy to make whipped cream. …Not Chantilly. Chantilly has sugar.” In fact, he prefers unsweetened whipped cream, softly whipped. “The cold cream on the top, once it starts to melt and the hot chocolate, together it’s heaven.”
Heavenly Hot Chocolate for Two
Time: About 5 to 10 minutes to make the whipped cream; five minutes to make the hot chocolate
12 ounces whole milk
4 heaping tablespoons good quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (for this recipe, I used Ghirardelli, 60 % cacao bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 pinch kosher salt
1 pint whole cream, lightly whipped by hand with a whisk
In a medium-sized, thick-bottom saucepan, heat the milk over medium-high heat until it softly comes to a boil.
Once the milk gets frothy, remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate, whisking quickly until it’s completely melted.
Put the mixture back on the heat and slowly bring to a soft boil. Keep whisking. Add the sugar, water and salt. Whisk for a minute while softly boiling.
Remove saucepan from heat. Pour hot chocolate into pre-warmed mugs (a good way to keep the chocolate hot). Top with whipped cream. Serve immediately, savor slowly.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
There’s nothing like the wafting smell of browning butter, the sizzle of placing your egg-soaked bread in the pan and smelling the mix of cinnamon and warmth as you await your French toast. The first time I made French toast as a kid I confused the process with pancakes. I loved both, and at home would alternate between the two for Saturday breakfast. OK, my mom was really the one who made them.
For the record, my mom has never called me dumbass.
We scrapped the pan-toast (which to this day might be a bigger hit than chicken and waffles, but we never tried it), and got going on the French part: beating the eggs, adding a dollop of milk, a sprinkle of cinnamon and frying it up. I’m sure it was fine.
Fast forward to high school when I waited tables at a rustic resort in Maine during the summer. Our cook was a groovy dude, Carey. And, for the record, I had a bad crush on Carey. He wore fringed suede boots, touted a thick beard and said “man” a lot. At dinner he and the sous chef fired up white Russians once the mis en place was complete—smart. It didn’t hurt he was a graduate of the CIA. I just didn’t know why someone would hire a spy to cook at a resort.
Then Carey blew my mind. To make French toast he whisked some eggs, added cream, and sprinkled in cinnamon. But he didn’t stop there. He shaved in some fresh nutmeg, a pinch of sugar, a few grains of salt, a dash of vanilla, then, true to his line-cooking expertise, added a healthy tablespoon of rum. That was the closest I was going to get to loving Carey. I’ve always made it the same way since, often without the rum.
Carey’s Sunday French Toast
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon cream or half and half, or whole milk
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 shaves of fresh nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 teaspoon sugar
1 pinch salt
6 slices regular bread, white or whole wheat
Real maple syrup
Whisk all the ingredients, except butter, bread and syrup, together in a shallow bowl.
Over medium-high heat, heat up enough butter to coat the bottom of a large skillet. Once the butter is lightly browned (you can smell it’s nuttiness), soak each piece of bread in the egg mixture and, two at a time, lay them in the skillet to cook. Turn down the heat to medium so you do not burn the bread. Once each side is cooked well, about 2 minutes each, turn them over. You may want to turn them over again to brown each side evenly.
Serve with butter and real maple syrup.
HOSPITALITY NOTE: One way to keep it all warm: warm the plates (provided they are oven proof) in about 150-degree oven. Heat the syrup.
Monday, February 6, 2012
Yesterday (February 5, 2012, Super Bowl XLVI), my salad was a Super Bowl salad. Today, it’s consolation leftovers. Well, not exactly. It’s still a salad, and given it was even a surprise to most Pats fans that we (it’s still we, no divorce) even made it to the Super Bowl, I’m consoled. It’s a new day.
Take my mom, a 76-year-old woman. She was depressed for two minutes after New England lost the game. Then she went like this: " 'Demaris, what are you thinking? Football is a violent game. You just lost your husband, and you've been through two cancers. Get out of your depression,' I said something like that to myself," she told me.
"The whole thing is if you can keep a positive attitude you can get through most anything."
To help kick-start a clean slate and promote a positive attitude, I invented these spicy walnuts. I know I’m not the first person to make spiced nuts. There are many brands out there. But these are pretty kickn’ and so simple to make you barely need a recipe. Now that's positive.
Inspired by the bleu cheese/buffalo heat without-the-wings combo, these nuts are delish in the It’s A New Day Salad with Gorgonzola dressing (See recipe below) or they can disappear on their own. Warning: They can be addictive.
Omi’s Spicy Walnuts
1 cup walnut halves
1/4 cup sugar
1 heaping teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Three shakes of Tabasco sauce
Toss all the ingredients in a Ziploc or other plastic bag. Shake until the nuts are well coated. Spread into a shallow pan and bake at 400 for about 8 to 10 minutes or until you start to smell the nuts. Shake them periodically and taste one (but careful, it’s hot, blow on it—I am not responsible if you burn your tongue) to make sure it’s lightly toasted. Monitor the nuts carefully as they get to the end of their baking time; they can go quickly from just rightly toasted to burnt.
Take out of the oven, cool and sprinkle over the salad or serve alone as a party snack.
It’s A New Day Salad
1 small head of iceberg lettuce, leaves washed, dried and chopped
2 handfuls baby carrots
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, washed & dried
1 whole red pepper, julienned
2 Tablespoons red onion, chopped
Serve with Gorgonzola or bleu cheese dressing
Omi’s spicy walnuts
Note: In Googling It’s A New Day, I discovered that I do not want to link to the Website using the same phrase; on the other hand, I do like the “clean slate” link, which talks about fulfilling career/personal goals.
Saturday, February 4, 2012
Coffee in Cambridge, Mass. is like chocolate in Paris, France—you got to go for it while you’re there because it’s the right thing to drink/eat. It’s like going to the moon and not meeting the man or going to Fenway and not using the restroom.
It took me a while to get to Simon's Coffee Shop but now I’m hooked and it’s not just because of the caffeine. These are serious coffee people. They buy their coffee from Barismo, a small-batch coffee roaster in Arlington started by former Simon’s baristas. (I love that about Boston. Toss a penny in the Swan Boat Public Garden pond and it doesn’t sink to the bottom—it’s too shallow—it casts off ripples. And not only that, Barismo folks are just about to open dwelltime in Inman Square. Ripple.)
Before adding cream I taste the house coffee, El Bosque (the forest) from Guatemala. It’s balanced, not too acidic, a nice medium roast. My friend calls me over to admire the foam on her latte. “Look!” There’s a swan swirl on top. Think the mark of Zorro or the X in Malcolm X. We think Erick did it, or it could be Jay.
Simon’s is narrow. The coffee bar and counter is on one side, tables and chairs on the other. When we go around 1 p.m. on a Saturday all the seats are taken. There’s a woman with her open laptop, and a man who appears to be waiting for someone or something. Nifty photos hang on the burnt-orange walls.
Jason Rayner (a barista) tells me they all practice “latte art”—swans, rosettes. “All of us can do ‘em,” he says, crediting David Schomer in Seattle, Wash. for starting latte art.
I’m taken with the swan. “Do you do skulls?” I ask the guy with tattoos, feeling self-conscious. “I’ve seen them done,” he says politely.
We take our coffees and leave for chez friend.
Photo courtesy @lvanderpool