Rao’s Restaurant in NYC is perhaps best known for its Lemon Chicken, a dish that recently inspired my friend and co-worker, Annie Petito, when developing her “Skillet-Roasted Chicken with Lemon Sauce” for Cook’s Illustrated. I’ve never eaten at Rao’s, but was so impressed by the bold lemon flavor of their chicken, that when I recently saw a recipe for their classic Italian meatballs, I thought I’d give them a try. I was not disappointed.
It seems like its been years since I cooked a lamb curry, so long in fact that I’m afraid I’ve long lost my go-to recipe, and had to do a quick on-line search for this one when my wife and I both had a craving for the dish over the weekend. Many that I came across were fairly elaborate dishes requiring building curry flavors through a combination of up to a dozen spices, not exactly what I had in mind as I raced around on Saturday afternoon pulling together ingredients. The base of this recipe is by Mark Bittman and is a simple curry made with not much more than a handful of ingredients, and store bought curry powder.
In my experience lamb is a polarizing meat, people either love it or hate it. Some don’t like it because they find it too gamey and strongly flavored, others find the prospect of cooking lamb stressful knowing that its taste and texture deteriorate quickly when overdone. Even those who love the flavor of the meat, shy away from cooking it at home and enjoy it only as a restaurant meal due to its relatively higher cost, and a fear that they might screw up an expensive piece of meat when cooking it at home.
I’ve ALWAYS loved the taste of lamb, but totally relate to the anxiety many feel about cooking the meat at home. Long cooked dishes like stews and tagines are a piece of cake, but quicker cooking methods where the goal is meat served up a perfect medium-rare always made me sweat a little. Happily, my years of experience with these cuts have helped me to overcome my anxieties, and I now cook lamb legs, racks, chops, and kebabs without a second thought.
Rich in flavor, tender and moist, and practically impossible to overcook; when we’re not roasting a whole bird, we are almost always cooking up chicken thighs in the Oui, Chef kitchen. There are probably dozens of chicken thigh recipes in our archives here, so the bar is set pretty high for another to be added to the collection. When I saw this recipe recently on Epicurious, I suspected that it might make the grade, but one whiff of the seductive marinade as I poured it over the chicken sealed the deal. The potent flavors of garlic and curry, tempered by creamy, Greek yogurt and left to infuse the chicken overnight (the recipes says you can let it sit for as little as 3 hours, but overnight is the way to go) is only half the magic. The rest comes when you mix pan drippings with some fresh yogurt, lemon juice and herbs for a sauce to serve up with the roasted chicken.
To die for!
My wife and I travelled to Nashville about a month ago and had a terrific time. Neither of us are huge country music fans, but we’d heard so much about the city’s burgeoning food scene and it’s deep recording industry heritage, that we decided to give it a whirl. We spent most of our first day at the quite excellent Country Music Museum and Hall of Fame and were having such a great visit that we totally lost track if time. Before we knew it, it was mid-afternoon, we were weak with hunger, and needed to nosh. Looking for something quick and cheap we popped down to the lobby level and grabbed a few fish tacos at Bajo Sexto. To be honest, we weren’t exactly expecting stellar fish in land-locked Nashville, but the tacos we had there were among the best we’d ever eaten! Light, fresh, crisp, boldly flavored, and washed down with a well chilled, locally brewed IPA, we were both in heaven. While that lunch wasn’t the best meal we had in Nashville (more on our amazing meal at The Catbird Seat in a later post), it absolutely inspired me to put fish tacos on my to-make list when we got home. This recipe is the result of that inspiration.
I arrived home the other night a little on the late side, and was so happy to have the awesome time-saving technique of spatchcocking in my repertoire. My wife had bought a chicken and pre-heated the oven so the wheels were in motion. A few quick snips with my kitchen shears to remove the bird’s backbone and a tender little butter massage, and this beauty was ready to roll. Spatchcocking (or butterflying) the bird does two things. It allows it to cook more quickly by splaying it out and opening up its body cavity, and also encourages even cooking by better exposing the dark meat portions of the bird, the legs and thighs, to a more direct heat. In the time it takes you to truss a bird you can spatchcock it, and once split open, is considerably quicker to the table. Whether you’re grilling or roasting a whole chicken, and aren’t bothered with the unconventional appearance of poultry that looks like it was run over by a truck, then you owe it to yourself to try spatchcocking.
I fell in love with this dish when I first saw it published in Bon Appetit a couple years ago. In fact, I found the photo of the dish so striking that I cut it from the magazine and pinned it to the bulletin board in my kitchen, along with a handful of other drool-worthy food shots to act as a small art installation decorating the space while my home was staged for sale. For the LONG 2 + years it took me to sell the house I looked longingly at the shot of this dish everyday, but for some damned reason never got around to cooking it until a few weeks ago. Such a shame, because this dish is so flavorful, and SO easy that I’m sure it’ll become a regular in my dinner rotation.
This dish is called “Pizza” Rustica, but it actually has more in common with a quiche than a pizza. I had never heard of the dish until this past Easter when my wife craved one, fueled by a memory of the “pies” her Grandmother brought to every Easter feast of her youth. Sadly, her Nana’s recipe is lost somewhere in her extensive family tree, so she did some on-line research and chose this one as the one that best reflected what she remembers her Grandmother making. It comes from one of our favorite pastry chefs, Nick Malgieri. I debated holding this post until next year as the Easter holiday approached, but this dish is so good, and would make such a great addition to a Summer pot-luck, I thought I’d share it with you now. The filling is a rich mix of ricotta, mozzarella, and pecorino, studded with a variety of Italian meats such as prosciutto, and dried sausage. It has a slightly sweet crust which balances the salty, cheesy filling beautifully, and when baked, makes a photo worthy star of any family spread.
How many of you have ever made your own pasta? I know it can seem a bit daunting, and with high-quality dried and fresh pastas available everywhere these days, many of us can’t be bothered with making it from scratch. But can I tell you something? Once you experience the ritual of making your own and then taste how clearly superior it is to ANY store bought brand, you’ll be a pasta maker for life.
Beans, beans the magical fruit, the more you eat the more you…..
I don’t need to complete the rest of that limerick for you now, do I?
I didn’t think so.
The fact is, that little ditty is burned into the minds of most kids by the time they’re ten years old, and may go a long way toward explaining why so many people have an aversion to eating beans. Let’s face it, the social implications of a poorly timed meal rich with beans can be staggering, especially for folks who don’t eat them as a normal part of their diet. You see, our bodies tend to adjust over time to the gas producing effects of beans, lessening their impact on our digestive tracts the more that we eat them. This is a good thing, because as an inexpensive source of protein that is low in fat and high in fiber and nutrients, we should all be cooking with, and eating more beans.