Saturday, January 29, 2011 like it or not

Its hard to truly describe just how much snow is out there. It seems a bit out of place at this point. Today is not that cold and the sidewalks are almost clear but yet there it is, in huge mounds on every street and corner. Some cars are completely buried still while other folks have entirely shoveled out their spot down to the blacktop. Kinda weird lookin'.

We're probably going through some storm withdrawal because people seemed almost disappointed in the lack of accumulation today. Or was that just me?
We delayed departure until our stomachs took over and did a stroll around the corner to our favorite breakfast spot, Pequena.

Usually I get the Chilaquiles Verdes - fried tortilla strips with chicken, topped with cheese in salsa verde. The green sauce is smack dab on the money and if you top it with two fried eggs, its almost too much food, which is almost impossible for me. There is something a little strange about eating chicken and eggs together on a plate but not here. Here there is something just right about it. They perfected this dish. When the egg yolk breaks and mixes with the green sauce and you get a bite of that cheese laden and verde soaked chip.....oh honey. The first bite sets off what I can only describe as multiple non-sexual oral joygasms.

This time around though we both got the Meat Omelet - chorizo or bacon with mushrooms and cheese, served with toast and potatoes. The potatoes have lots of red bell peppers and onions, almost taste like Yucca and are more yellow in color - really good, not at all oily. The omelet is light but also has that great seasoned grilled taste. They must then put it under a broiler of sorts to melt all that Oaxacan cheese. Plenty of buttered toast to go along side and it all works together until the last bite. Every mouthful has flavor, not like some omelets you get when you feel like you're eating a giant egg mattress. The meat is evenly distributed so that you get a nice chunk or chorizo in every bite. It was great.
We love this spot too. I big step up from Academy Diner but they all have their place. The waitress is super friendly and its tiny in there, reminds me of being in a little mexican dollhouse.

Friday, January 28, 2011

I said it once before but it bears repeating...

So I wrote before of my love for corn meal masa, mush, mash, polenta, whatever you like to call it.(See Corn Meal Masa 9/11) It's amazing as a side dish spiced up, with added vegetables, with a sauce, etc. I love to add a big scoop of it to my chili or posole to 1, extend the quantity and 2, the flavor is SO good together.

So anyway, P says last night boy this is like dumplings for chili and ding, ding, ding - I thought Hee Haw! That is a great way to serve it, little round dumplings on the top!! I love it. Visuals are so important you know with me. And a little zest of lime on top refreshes the chili like a splash of cold water on your face in the morning.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

When I'm awfully low, And the World is Cold, I Will Feel Aglow Just Thinking of You and The Way You Look Tonight

It was a long trip to Wednesday this week. More snow and then more snow and then more snow in the forecast. I made a goofy attempt at riding home after more freshly fallen sleet and fell smack down in the slushy road right in front of work. Not cool. It's weird because when you fall off your bike the series of events, how you fell and what actually got slammed around is super fuzzy. I'm not even sure why I fell so hard because I just turned the corner but somehow my knee and my face hurt at the end of it. The whole side of my body was wet so I slinked back and locked my bike before boarding the nearby bus in shame and hoped no one noticed. And like everyday here in Brooklyn, no one did notice me. Sniff sniff.

But thus is life after 40 in this town. Sigh. It's good though, it breeds humility and humbleness.

Thank goodness for chili con carne when you're feelin' all cold and a little needy! This is the working man's stew. Ground beef, roasted veggies, two kinds of beans. Am I right or am I right? It is all the attention I need tonight.

I got the fresh tomatillos, cilantro, green and red bell peppers, the biggest jalapenos from the market on the way home. I commenced to roast some and saute the others with some onion and garlic.

I browned the ground beef, added my special homemade chili powder and spices let that get all romantic with the vegetables before adding my beans, pinto and black and whole roma tomatoes.

A little thing I do at the end because P likes his chili thick is I add a bit of fine corn meal as a thickener and also a nice flavor boost.

Woke up today, my day off, to more snow but I know that I have that big pot waiting for me and the sun is coming out and nothing sucks at the moment.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Stay'in Alive

I got a great reveiw from P's boss about my habbie brownies (see, If Ideas were Horses)! So exciting! She said she 'loved them and the heat was perfect and they had just the right 'saltkick'", which I understood actually because I was a little nervous adding the salt to the nuts but thought it would make the whole brownie come together and makes sense taste-wise.
The good review gave me just enough confidence-kick to stuff some pork chops when I got home. The temps were dropping fast tonight. Lee Goldberg announced 'Brutal Chill' with appropriate graphics for the weekend. So I revved up that little Barbie oven and got those babies in there. I lightly sauteed some garlic, bread crumbs and spinach for the stuffing. After making the pockets and stuffing them, I added a slice of monterey jack cheese and then egg dipped and breaded the chops in seasoned Panko crumbs.
I'm forcing a baked sweet potato side because we need to eat them and I wanted to try a butter, brown sugar and chili powder topping .

Everything feels great at the moment. We both have tomorrow off and to my knowledge nothing horrible is looming out there for me and we get to sleep in and sit and have coffee together in the morning. The house is warm and smells like good food.

But just because I can't seem to let sleeping dogs lie, I googled 'more dead birds' because I've been curious to see if they've solved those mysteries. What I found was a bunch more disturbing articles about not only more cases of drop dead birds, crabs & fish but now also cattle mysteriously dying en masse. And its everywhere around the world. So, this could either be 'not unusual at all' as some report or it is directly related to all these temperature changes and record cold spells everyone is having this winter. So about a 'hunnerd fears come to mind and one is if the animals react this quickly to the change in weather, what the hell are we in for here in the next ten years?

Sounds like its time to go ride a bull named Fu Man Chu and live like we're dying and go rocky mountain skydiving and all that nonsense the pop country stars like to sing about. Better than sitting around waitin' to die I suppose.

But let me just add a sidenote here that the sweet potato sauce was like goodness dropping from the sky. I put some butter in a saute pan, heat on low, added a teaspoon of the cayenne chili powder mix along with a tablespoon of brown sugar and about a 1/4 cup of orange juice and a dash of salt. Let that thicken up. So Good!!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wunnerful, Wunnerful

I'm not sure where this came from but in regular rotation and pretty often, before the restaurant, back in the old house my mom would make sauerkraut and sausage with potatoes, beer brats and kraut! This was sort of unusual because she never made classic American stuff like fried chicken or mac & cheese or meatloaf, maybe the occasional burger. But come to think of it, we never missed a Lawrence Welk episode. I thought that might have something to do with the featured pretty young Mexican singer that my dad seemed to be extra interested in watching. But there were a lot of Amish people around that spoke German too, so who knows, maybe she traded a recipe or something.

I just read that 75% of Indiana claims a German heritage and I do remember most of my friends claiming to be half German and the rest was usually a 1/4 Irish or French. But when I was little I didn't understand any of that stuff, I just understood color of skin and there was only black, brown and white to choose from. And that's what you were. So when the french speaking black skinned Haitian boy with green eyes came to town, my world got spun. I think that was the first time I really understood there was a LOT more to understand about nationalities and race. Did that mean not all brown people were Mexican??...rut ro. I had some things to learn clearly.

So anyway, German fare was a big treat for me. She smothered it in black pepper but it was super good. I had a taste for this on Tuesday so I trudged it out in the slushy rainy mess with my trusty grocery cart determined to get my German on. It was a trek boy. I got stuck a few times and a nice lesbian came by that wasn't nice enough to help me get unstuck but she was nice enough to say 'good luck'. Then I finally reached the corner and there stood a three feet wide puddle that looked to be a mix of ice and deep water, so I had to turn it around and head up the other side to cross. It felt like miles, with the wind and the sleet but I finally made it home with my loot. Lots of ideas this week so I couldn't wait to get started.

The brats I would have simmered in beer beforehand but P didn't leave one so I just used water. When the water steamed off and the sausages were cooked through I added onions and sliced granny smith apples. Meanwhile I boiled the potatoes and then cut them up into big chunks. I threw in the kraut in its juices with the potatoes and meat and let everything come together and heat through. I added a good dose of black pepper and that was ready to serve. So hearty and good. If there is some left over I'll eat with pork chops. Good lord, someone turned up the knobs on my appetite this week. Must be the full moon.

I Feel Good, I Knew That I Would Now

About once a month for about a day or maybe two if I'm lucky I wake up with clear thoughts and I can actually articulate them and function like a normal human being. Today I stood up to my young boss when he asked me to take on yet another big project with yet again, no extra compensation. Not only that but had the nerve to ask while also telling me that I would not be getting a merit raise again this year even though he 'really, really thinks I'm super super great and wishes he had a hundred more like me', to quote him. Hmmm. Okay. So I was able to let him know that although I really, really like working there too and I know they'd never try to take advantage of the already over-taxed coworkers by falsely blaming the current economic situation on why they're not giving merit raises while still expecting '110%' and being the #1 store in the country.... basically, give me some more money kid or it ain't happening. We'll see what happens. He said he's digesting my thoughts and he'd need a few days. As long as I don't get fired, I'm okay. I said my peace and it feels gooooooood.

I got on my high horse and road directly home. So what goes better with self righteousness than... ravioli! I started right away to make that recipe I had mentioned earlier this week using the leftover ground pork and won ton wrappers from the steamed dumplings. I learned this easy trick in SF, where Chinatown is butted up to Little Italy, just like here in NY. Instead of a cream sauce I opted to go for a healthier basil pesto with walnuts using only chicken stock, no olive oil. I topped them with freshly ground and seasoned bread crumbs instead of Parmesan. I served them with the last of the chicken cacciatore.... And it too was gooooooooood!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

If Ideas Were Horses, I'd Ride This One Right Out of Town

I had an idea today. I've been trying to come up with a unique use for these dried habaneros that were the last of the season from Big Ed's farm. A couple of years ago everyone was putting chipotle peppers in everything and I really love playing around with the flavors in brownies so I created a Habbie Brownie with Spicy Walnuts.

First I mixed up a cup of chopped walnuts in some of my cayenne chili powder mix with a little cinnamon and then I toasted those up for about 10 minutes, added a little salt. Set those aside. Then I made my basic one bowl recipe with Baker's Square chocolate but added a third egg and to the flour mixture, a teaspoon of freshly ground habanero powder, a 1/4 teaspoon cinammon and a dash of nutmeg and two tablespoons of cocoa powder. To the nuts I added a 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips.

I actually love them! There is heat to the back end and you can actually taste the flavor of the pepper which is very different when mixed with chocolate. But they make a very good hearty chewy brownie. I sent a bunch with P for his boss, she's an adventerous eater and likes interesting foods. Hopefully I'll get a review tomorrow.

Unfortunately I didn't invent the wheel here. I researched and there were other pepper spiced brownie recipes on the web. Dang it. But I'm thinking they could possibly go over the tippy top with other some tweaking...maybe a chili caramel sauce running through them or caramel covered bacon bits sprinkles!!! Hee Haw!!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Two 4 One

I promised P I would make the steamed pork dumplings for him because when I made them a couple of months ago he was out of town. So, good to my word I remade them but somehow I screwed up and cooked the meat first when you're just supposed to let the meat steam cook inside the dumpling. Oops. They were still really good but steaming the meat keeps it soft so you could feel the meat a bit. Other than that it was fun to make them again and this time I added mushrooms and water chestnuts instead of bamboo shoots and lots of cayenne pepper in the sauce to give it kick.

With the rest of the pork meat mixture I'm going to make some ravioli. I'll do a simple light cream sauce. I'll add some frozen spinach for color. I'll use the rest of the wonton wrappers as the 'dough'. It's a nice little shortcut and will make a fun quick meal. This is especially nice because it doesn't waste any of the specialty ingredients I purchased to make the dumplings. No waste = Money well spent!

Wanna Go Where Electricity Ends

I love Brooklyn. There are so many amazing things about it. The people can be brilliant. But sometimes we dream on moving the hell outta here. Either to the west or maybe even back to the midwest which is really crazy talk. Could it be as cool as we remember? You know it never is, right?

I was recalling when I was very young and in our first house on Schele Ave in Fort Wayne, Indiana. My mom had a beautiful garden that ran down this hill in the back yard and ended in a small creek next to a woods. We had apple trees and mulberry bushes that produced huge black juicy berries that I ate the hell out of and shared with lots of pretty birds. And rhubarbs that I could just pick and dip in salt and eat right on the spot. I would make mud pies and cakes and I'd decorate them with all the colorful flower petals. I played in the creek and woods all day. Sounds great doesn't it?

But in reality we lived in a not so nice neighborhood. It was on the other side of the tracks literally and near all the factories and it wasn't beautiful. That little creek often turned white or orange depending on what they'd dump in it and it always smelled like oil. When you could see through to the bottom you'd see old bikes and cans, bottles and car tires. A lot of lunatics were in the neighborhood and it wasn't really safe for me to just play out by myself. But when you're little all you need is a sunny day and life is perfect.

Brooklyn can be beautiful but not always and not everywhere. And that is very apparent on any given day.

We sort of did the rushed breakfast today, just stopped at the corner dinerwhile doing chores and running errands. We had grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato and bacon, side of fries and coleslaw. They never disappoint at Academy Diner. Its always good and fast and cheap. We love that place. We inhaled that and then trudged through the dirty snow wondering if we would end up missing all the new stuff that we find beautiful and great here on a sunny day.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Try to Understand,... He's a Magic Man

This week, inspiration snuck in the back door to my subconscious and started kick boxing my piss poor attitude. Its winter, GET OVER IT! It said like a true New Yorker. So I did. I'm over it. I am embracing winter and vow not to complain again until the bitter end when you just have to honestly.

My focus is back to cooking. I began with a fantasy of eating a deep rich was chicken cacciatore, Hunter's chicken. I could taste the sauce in my mind. I needed to make it reality. My intention was to work off a real recipe and try to follow it as much as I could. I'm doing okay with that, but I just can't seem to help myself. I gotta do what I feel inside. What works for me is to read through all the top recipes first and then do a mash-up version of all of them.

Some of the great recipes used bell peppers, some mushrooms. Why not have both? The more vegetables in a dish the better. The roasted vegetables burst with aromas. All the ingredients feel so rustic. I do feel like a hunter.

After roasting the bell peppers, roma tomatoes, red onions and bella mushrooms you sear the chicken and then make the sauce of red wine, chicken broth and canned whole tomatoes. The wine picks up the bits and pieces on the bottom of the pan, reduces down and becomes very full-bodied. Then the chicken and added garlic braises in that amazing broth for 45 minutes only to come out and join forces with those vegetables along with fresh basil, rosemary and capers. Holy Good Lord this is something out of Lydia's Italian kitchen! I couldn't figure my way out of a paper sack this week and yet I made this??? Unbelievable.

This dish is the perfect winter warmer. Braised meats are consoling and soothing. Winter is something to celebrate! Winter is male for sure. I'd say he's kinda magical. He says 'You don't have to love me yet, let's get high awhile'. Then you relax and start to get it. The holing up, the quiet on the streets, the time to just chill your ass out and just be for a couple of months without that big 'ole sun making you feel inadequate because you're not out in the park enjoying yourself or throwing some stupid ball around. The bitter cold sort of making your apartment feel like a birds nest. It's revitalizing and its like this dish and old man winter.

The part where I let my hick show is I didn't have any freshly made pasta so I had to serve it over elbow macaroni. You can take the girl out the trailer park....