Saturday, August 28, 2010

Balsamic Honey Glaze...

...wrote a song about it. Like to hear it? Here it goes.
Back in cooking mode, but single in NYC for the weekend. Takeout? A cheese pie from the corner pizza joint? Not on your life! I have to bring my A-game to the table from here on out. So it's practice, practice, practice. Down to the local butcher shop I go for some chicken breasts on the bone and a scavenger hunt through the cupboards.
Balsamic Honey Glazed Chicken - by Blog O. Food
  • 3 chicken breasts, bone in
  • 3 lemons, juiced
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • Fresh herbs (tarragon and/or thyme) finely chopped
  • ⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped 
I marinated my chicken breasts in the lemon juice, oil, herbs and some salt & pepper for a couple hours in the refrigerator.
Start your glaze. Combine the balsamic vinegar, honey, water and garlic in a small sauce pan, bring to a boil, then simmer to reduce by one half.
Meanwhile, grill your chicken 7-8 minutes per side. It's my untried theory suspicion that a boneless chicken breast is easy prey to drying out when grilling. I believe that keeping the bone in when cooking helps the meat retain a little more flavor and moisture. But what do I know? Anyway, my breasts got the indoor grilling treatment on my double-sided cast iron grill from Lodge*. If you live in an apartment, or don't have an outdoor grill, this one will be in heavy rotation in your kitchen. I leave mine out on the stovetop.  It's heavy duty, versatile and needs little care aside from a good scrubbing after each use. (No soap! That'll remove the coveted seasoning you're looking to achieve with cast iron. Just use a good nylon pad and some elbow grease.)
How about a side dish? I did a quasi-Mediterranean variation on my hurry-up-and-eat couscous.
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1½ tsp capers
  • 6 oz black olives, sliced
  • 2 scallions (green or spring onions), sliced
  • 1 cup whole wheat couscous
  • ½ cup whole wheat couscous
  • ½ water or chicken stock
  • Salt & black pepper
Couscous basics:
1-1 ratio of couscous to cooking liquid.
1 pat of butter (½ Tbsp) and a pinch of salt per ½ cup of couscous.
Always bring liquid, butter and salt to a boil before adding couscous.
Remove saucepan from heat once couscous is thoroughly stirred in.
Allow to rest, covered, for 5 minutes, and always fluff with a fork before serving.
In a small sauté pan over medium heat, sweat the onions with some salt and freshly ground black pepper in hot olive oil until the onions become translucent. Add the red peppers and cook to heat through, about 2 minutes. Add the capers and heat through. Finally toss in the olives, cover, and keep warm over low heat until the couscous is done. Add the cooked medley and the sliced scallions to the couscous, toss ingredients to combine and serve immediately.
Not bad, BOF, not bad. The sweet and tangy glaze had a gentle garlic kick. It clung to my sliced chicken breast splendidly and brought the white meat to life. The breast itself was moist and tender. Maybe I do know what I'm talking about! I'll be using the Lone Ranger as my laboratory rat with this recipe. Try it out on a loved one of your own tonight!
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food
*BOF receives no financial remuneration when endorsing products.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Full Disclosure

It's not only vacationing that's kept me from You Gonna Finish That? No, I've gone and met someone. Oh alright, let's come right out and say it. I have a boyfriend, and we'll be referring to him as Peyton on this here bloggy posty thing. And that's all you're gonna get out of me for now. I will add this, he's a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. How's that for serendipity? So, to the detriment of the hard-earned loyalty of my reader(s), I've spent every weekend since returning to NYC down at his place in Philly, and not in front of my computer monitor, sweating over grammar and vocabulary.

Peyton makes me breakfast every Saturday morning.
Last weekend, after a day spent at Longwood Gardens, we did a grilled chicken Caesar salad for dinner. I paid, Peyton grilled (a real bargain for yours truly). I was in charge of the salad dressing.
Caesar Salad dressing - adapted from Antiquity
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 6 anchovy fillets
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
In a small food processor, pulse the garlic, anchovies, egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice and water until the mixture is smooth. With the machine running, slowing pour the olive oil in through the feed tube to make an emulsion. Stir in the Parmesan cheese with several grinds of black pepper. Taste for salt and set aside.
Peyton marinated chicken breasts in fresh herbs, some olive oil, a bit of white wine and a squeeze of anchovy paste for a couple of hours before grilling. Once the breasts were done (about 8 minutes per side on a hot grill), he put some nice sear marks on halved heads of romaine lettuce. You should see him with a carving knife. Like a surgeon!
I almost forgot, Peyton makes his own croutons. Don't you just love this guy!
Herbed croutons - a Peyton concoction
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3 cups country bread, crust removed and cut into ¾-inch cubes
In a heavy skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and herbs, and sauté until fragrant, just a minute or two. Remove from heat, add the cubed bread and toss to coat. Spread bread out onto backing pans and season with salt and pepper. Toast in a pre-heated 325°F oven, tossing occasionally, until golden and the moisture is baked out, about 15 minutes or so. Bring to room temperature uncovered.
Arrange grilled romaine on a plate, add croutons and drizzle with Caesar salad dressing. Garnish with some extra Parmesan cheese. Fan out sliced chicken breasts beside the romaine. If you have a professional chef at your disposal, make quick work of a fresh melon for some added color and tuck in. I picked a dry Australian Pinot Grigio to whet our whistles.
So, I'm back in the saddle with my own personal sidekick. Or maybe, at least in the kitchen anyway, I play Tonto to his Lone Ranger. That would make a most excellent nickname, don't you think?
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Where the Boys Are

I've had a love/hate relationship with Miami since 1997 when I was employed there for one rocky year. I had an amazing time... some of the time. Day-to-day life was a trial. It took four hours to open a checking account. My cell phone worked at the intersections of Lincoln & Collins, and Alton & 63rd. There was no such thing as service. Wait, that's unfair. There was service alright: glacial. God help you if you intended a quick bite before a movie, or thought you could duck out at lunchtime and pick up the dry cleaning. But oh, the coral white beaches! The cerulean water of Biscayne Bay! The nightlife! To friends back home, I described the clubbing as "hot and cold running [heavily edited]." I was out six nights out of seven, stumbling into my bed around 4 or 5 in the morning and coaching masters rowing by 6:30AM. Oh, to be young again. By the time I left, exhausted, all I could say about Miami is that it's a great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. Still, returning - even now - is a homecoming of sorts.
Like always, I stayed with old friends Gregg & Jimmy, two perfect hosts and great chums from back in the day. Jimmy has retired since my last stay, so he kept me on the golf course and in pool halls as much as possible, but I did manage a couple of workouts at the gym with Gregg to maintain my girlish figure. Neither Gregg nor Jim are slouches in the kitchen, but they do like to show off their town, and so we ate out several times during my visit. Of course we hit Kingdom for their phenomenal burgers. It's a ritual I adhere to, and as always, I stumbled walked away fat & happy, and one night, drunk off my ass after the owner spied my university shirt. All the men in his family had attended my institution, and in a show of solidarity, there was never an empty beer bottle in front of me for very long. I should have paced myself.
Biscayne Boulevard had another new dining entry for review, Balans. It's a London-based chain with three restaurants now in the U.S., all in the greater Miami area. They serve a sort of World Café mix of dishes, not at all cohesive, but all competently prepared. The dining space is very open and very chic in that Miami sort of way. Think CB2 with an Indonesian bent and more expensive materials. The best thing about the restaurant was the staff. A warm greeting and lighting fast seating by the hostess, and a confident, personable waiter who remembered drink orders and possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of sports, of all things. They could have served an old boot and I would have left impressed.
The food was tasty if not particularly memorable, the one stand out being the black bean soup. An interesting blend of mild and hot spices, smooth consistency with the liquid and beans cooked to perfection. I could have had that with a bit of melon on the side as a palate cleanser for a satisfying meal.
Balans, Biscayne
6789 Biscayne Boulevard
Miami, FL  33138
(305) 534 9191
Not everything was merely adequate this time around. One rainy day, we headed up to Aventura to see Inception (hated it!!!). Beforehand, we did our best imitation of Ladies Who Lunch at Café Bistro in Nordstrom. I know, who knew?!?!? Personal pizzas with thin crust. A turkey club with fresh herbs and whole turkey breast meat, not sliced processed crap. We should have eaten afterward to get the bad taste of that horrible movie out of our mouths.
Cafe Bistro at Nordstrom Aventura
Aventura Mall
19507 Biscayne Boulevard

Aventura, FL 33180
(305) 937-7267
On my last weekend, I convinced Gregg and Jim to head to South Beach to one of my all time favorite out door stands, La Sandwicherie. I discovered LS during my time as director of one of the rowing clubs in Miami. When I became the freshmen coach at one of the NYC universities, I would treat a few kids to lunch there daily during our winter training camps on Indian Creek. It was a hit with everyone with whom I ever shared it. The joint is about as wide as a broom closet and just a little longer than your average hallway, but the friendly French staff churns out the most amazing and delicious treats you'll ever eat. Pâté-filled baguettes, a Salade Niçoise authentic right down to the tiny bitter green olives. Their cornichons rival those found in little Provençale market stalls, and you'll want to savor the espresso coffee all afternoon. Bits of Spanish, French, German, Italian and even English make perfect eavesdropping entertainment as everyone stands or sits on barstools munching away on these marvelous creations. For me, no trip to Miami is ever complete without at least one stop at La Sandwicherie.
La Sandwicherie
229 14th Street
Miami Beach, FL 33139
(305) 532-8934
As luck would have it (or not), Mac's Club Deuce is happily located right across the street from La Sandwicherie. The Deuce Bar has been featured on Anthony Bourdain's travelogue "No Reservations", and made the cut in Playboy Magazine's 2010 Best Bars list. This is a no-nonsense dive bar at one of the major poseur intersections in the world, and if you wait long enough, just about every South Florida denizen will pass through its doors. There are the earnest daytime drinkers, political wonks, the Gay Mafia, leather-clad bikers, toothless old salts, addled tweekers, A-list pop stars. Every sub-group in human culture is democratically represented at some point during operating hours. When I was a local, I could be found there dependably at least three nights a week, pre-gaming before heading to Twist, holding court on the pool table, or ordering "one for the road" after the foam party at Salvation. I've made so many overnight best friends there, I feel I should pay a membership fee. The interior is dark & dingy and the decor a rundown Art Deco Moderne. The jukebox is epic. Some of the best graffiti ever penned stares you down from over the urinals. Two-for-one Happy Hour runs from just after sunup to sundown. You'll walk in a boy and strut out a man at Club Deuce.
Mac's Club Deuce
222 14th Street
Miami Beach, FL 33139
(305) 531-6200
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Where's Waldo?

Yeah, yeah... I know. Not peep since Great Chebeague. At least there was no cliff hanger closing out our last episode.
It's just that I've been travelling you see, eating out mostly, and playing golf. I think I cooked two meals the entire time I was away. Not much of a track record for a food diarist, but there it is.
We'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming shortly. In the mean time, here's a song about lumberjacks.
All together now - Blog O. Food