Monday, July 06, 2009

Authentic Alsatian kitchen linens

When cleaning up your kitchen after your latest feast of home-grown and locally-sourced ingredients, why must you dry your pots and pans with towels from an Indian sweatshop? It makes no more sense than cooking frozen shrimp from China, which by now have probably been re-engineered to eat corn. Instead, pick up a few kitchen towels from, where you can purchase authentic, handmade Alsatian products that are as beautiful as they are functional. Maybe you won't outfit your entire kitchen with them, but a couple will go a long way, especially as decorations. They're environmentally friendly, the way they have always been because they are hand-made and screen-printed in Alsace, the eastern region of France that has changed hands several times in history between France and Germany.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


In keeping with the small and passionate trend of eateries in Boston, Figs at 42 Charles Street is a delicious place for thin inventive pizza cooked in a brick oven.  With my friend Suzanne, we did a 1/2 & 1/2 order, a perfect deal for us as our tastes are quite different.  Her half was figs and prosciutto - rich, sweet and savory.  My half was caramelized onions, country ham and thinly shaved slices of asparagus - pretty much my dream combination.  We made the mistake of ordering the crispy asparagus appetizer as well (asparagus crisply fried in breadcrumbs) and pretty much ate ourselves into a lovely stupor.  A single pizza is far more than even two very hungry people could eat, but again so worth it.  My only complaint is the wonderful brick oven is directly next to their small bar where the red wine is stored.  There is no way this can be good for the wine and I found myself ordering a glass of white.

Neptune Oyster Bar

Neptune Oyster Bar at 63 Salem Street has the sweet luxury of being one street away from the popular and very tourist area of the North End.  Its amazing what one street can do, our party of four felt instantly welcomed and part of the neighborhood.  Neptune does not officially take reservations, but thanks to our hotel staff we were able to hold a table for our first visit.  But even if we had to wait, it would have been worth it.  Customers and staff alike held an obvious passion for food.  Always on the lookout for scallops, I had their perfectly pan seared scallops with a fresh pea puree and couscous lightly touched with truffle oil.  There was also a sample of east and west coast oysters enjoyed, and according to my friend Deb, they were the best oysters she's ever had.  I tried one and it tasted like the ocean, and although this is not my taste I understand its a good sign for oysters.

There are many more dishes to try at this restaurant and the specials (seared tuna, fresh crabs, fried oysters) seem to endlessly rotate.  But most impressive is the passion for fresh seafood and great service.  You are guaranteed a food experience with every visit.

Parkin' the car in the Havard yard!

Our kitchen continues to grow on the east coast!  As I'm living out of a hotel for six months (film life is odd at times) and unable to really cook, I'll be exploring the Boston restaurant scene.  No more doing the dishes for awhile!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

A splash of Tuscany in the California springtime (Limoncello for the layman)

This entry will be revised and completed over the course of the next week. (picture is of a half-recipe)

Unfortunately, not even our NY counterparts can pop over to Italy whenever they need a classic refreshing spring/summer drink (though they do better than most), so here is an original Italian Limoncello recipe to hold us all over. (Ironically this actually does require a trip to Italy, or at least some country that sells 100% pure Italian Alcohol that isn't available in the US). 

What's required for a full recipe (can be easily halved):
1 1L bottle of pure Alcohol (from Italy preferably.... buy in quantity and summon friends to do so as well)
10 Eureka Lemons - the freshest and thickest skinned ones possible.
Up to 350g Sugar
1L Water
3L Sealable glass jug (see picture)
1L Sealable glass jog/bottle to store and serve from

Step 1
Peel the lemons using either a paring knife or a potato peeler, which I think is easier. Just remove the yellow part of the skin, make sure not to include any of the white pith as it will make the Limoncello bitter. Place all the skins in the 3L jug and pour the 1L bottle of alcohol over them. Seal and shake vigorously to coat all the lemon. Place in a cool dark place like a cabinet and let sit for 5 days making sure to shake it at least once a day as the alcohol soaks in all the lemon flavor. The rest of the lemon is not needed so make lemonade or freeze the juice.

Step 2
Now it's time to combine tings and make the final Limoncello (it's been 5 days). First measure out 1L of water (the same amount of water as pure alcohol used) and measure out approx 250g of sugar. [If you used very sweet lemons like Meyer then use less sugar, maybe 200g, but it's all a matter of taste, trail and error. You can use up to 350g of sugar if you enjoy it more syrupy and don't like the alcohol taste or much less if you like it to be more pungent]. Put the sugar in a small saucepan with about 200ml of water. Over very low heat just melt the sugar - do not go all the way to the clear point, just dissolve it nicely into the water and set aside for a moment.

Next strain the lemons out of the glass jar and into a bowl that can hold twice the volume. While the lemons are still in a strainer, pour the remaining water over them to rinse off the remaining alcohol (save the leftover lemons to use for many other things like drink toppings or in desserts). Pour the mixture back into the now empty 3L glass jug and then pour in the warm melted sugar mixture. Seal the jar and give it a good strong 20 second shake. - finito!

Store the Limoncello in the freezer; I recommend decanting smaller portions of it into 750ml or 1L bottles to serve from. Chianti bottles with the straw on he outside are nice because you can hold them easily when frozen.  


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Thursday, May 07, 2009

NY is back

Oh no, NYC will not be pushed off the page! I just had to give up my California license plates, which I'm not happy about. So, I retaliate by re-staking my claim with this nice Sunday breakfast we had recently at 15 East.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Arrabbiata Dopo Lavoro

Since it's rare that I get home from work anxious to prepare anything to usual 541 standards (especially when it's just me) I'm gonna try to make note of some dishes simple and spontaneous enough to fend off the delivery guy's Pinto, yet servable without apology. This is a Patricia Wells recipe that is gratifyingly tasty for a meal you can make with stuff on-hand.

For 2:

Rigatoni, Penne, or other Tubular Pasta

1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 cloves Minced Garlic

1/3 tsp (generous pinch) Red Pepper Flakes

14oz Whole Peeled Tomatoes (half a large can), pureed

1/2 cup Italian Parsley, snipped

Sea Salt 

Black Pepper

Put a medium pot of pasta water (with salt) on high right off the bat, and add noodles as soon at it boils; it'll be ready to serve as soon as they're done. Mince the garlic, and in a pan large enough to hold the noodles, sauté in the olive oil with the red pepper and a little salt. Puree the tomatoes (quick work with a hand blender), and add them to the saucepan when the garlic is just golden brown. Simmer the sauce uncovered, stirring occasionally, until it thickens up (roughly the same time as the pasta is done) and add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. 

Wash and stem the parsley while  the sauce reduces, and locate scissors for it. When the pasta is just shy of al dente, drain it briefly and mix into the sauce, then cover while it absorbs the sauce until al dente (heat low or off). Finish the parsley prep by snipping it with the scissors into a coarse chop; Wells notes that this will release its flavor as well as a knife or food processor without the clumping. Mix in the parsley when its done, sparing just enough to sprinkle on each serving. 

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Short Ribs Braised in Chimay Ale

Sometimes when you're learning to cook you need to feel bad ass.  Enter the braised short ribs a la Zuni Cafe, a great restaurant in San Francisco. 

This recipe started out with a visit to the Whole Foods butcher counter where the ribs were cut across the bone into 2 in thick slabs by a wonderful power saw.  Back at home, they were trimmed of nearly all fat, very important as any excess fat becomes like jelly in the braising process.  Then the ribs were rubbed in sea salt (3/4 tsp per pd) and tucked overnight in the refrigerator.

2 1/2 pds Short ribs, cut across bone/trimmed/salted overnight
1-2 Tbls Mild Olive Oil
1 1/2 pds Yellow onions, cut 1/4 inch thick
2 Bay leaves
A few whole white peppercorns
Handful diced mushrooms (called for dried wild in water, but regular mushrooms worked fine)
Up to 1 cup Beef Stock
Up to 1 cup Chimay Ale
1/4 Dijon Mustard

Warm oil in a 3 quart saucepan over medium heat.  Wipe your meat dry, then brown on the three meaty sides about 4 minutes per side.  Pour off excess fat.

Rearrange meat bone side down in the pan.  Here I switched to a large creuset pan because the original 3 quart pan was too crowded, next time I'll brown in the same pan.  Add the onions, bay leaves, peppercorns, mushrooms, and equal parts stock and Chimay ale.  Watch how much liquid you add carefully, it should only reach a depth of about 3/4 inch to your 2 inch ribs.  I only ended up using about 1 1/4 cups of liquid total.

Bring to a simmer, cover and cook over low heat for about 2 hours.  Check several times to assure you are only at a simmer.  Turn the meat each time you check.  Meat is done when fork tender.  When done, prop the pan uncovered at a slight angle and let rest for 5 minutes.  

Turn on Broiler.

Skim the fat that has collected (reason for angling pan).  Season the remaining juice as needed.  Then brush the short ribs with the Dijon Mustard, I pushed aside the onions as needed.  And place the pan under the broiler about 5 inches from the element, to brown the mustard and glaze the remaining onion stem about 5 minutes.  
We served the ribs over a pile of buttermilk mashed potatoes and a side salad of lettuce, apples and mustard vinaigrette.  It's a committed recipe but with a little patience you'll have delicious results.

Just F*ing Good Waffles

This is a favorite weekend-morning recipe of ours so it is a fitting new addition to the Kitchen541 blog. We call it F*ing Good Waffles - it is a recipe that has survived and been updated taped to the inside of a kitchen cabinet... and now we share it with you.

Whisk together in a mixing bowl:
2 c. flour
6 tb. sugar
1 tb. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

and then add:
1 stick melted butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 to 2 cups milk (don't let it get too runny, it should remain thick batter)
3 tb vanilla (or more if you like)

that's all there is to it - now cook with your trusty 50 year old waffle iron and serve with any toppings (i recommend Nutella and strawberries) that you'd like.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

And we're back

Henceforth Kitchen 541 will be returned to its rightful place here in sunny Sothern California.... though there may be the occasional entry from New York or washington DC... time will tell. Cheers!