Category Archives: dinner

BIG, AND SMALL

Now that I’ve been in New York — and my cozy Bushwick apartment — for nearly five (!!) months, I’m getting a pretty good handle on all of the quirks of our kitchen. There are so many advantages to my new space that I know I will never take for granted: the space is huge, the biggest I’ve ever had, and our dinner table even bigger (it seats 10 comfortably!). But then, the drawbacks: our oven is about 1/3 the size of a normal household oven… seriously. Just a single pie or roast chicken leaves little room for anything else, so all of my oven work happens in shifts. It’s awkward, but luckily I have friends who really know how to go with the flow. And bottles of wine really fill in the gaps between courses!

SO SMEARED

This photo makes me laugh. Our chef at Lawrence is particularly clear about tidying up the plate’s edges, so as the dish moves from the kitchen to the pass to the dining room, the plate must look clean, impeccable, and gleaming white. So this meal —  smeared so grossly onto the plate, like it was dragged there by a hungry animal — made me giggle. It was also a clean-out-the-fridge kind of dinner, made in haste, and driven by hunger: stewed chickepeas, halved cherry tomatoes, garlic, shallots, tomato paste, sunflower oil, butter, chopped parsley and basil, and a big handful of wilted mizuna and micro arugula, added right at the end, all came together in a pretty tasty tangle. I had another plate after this one.

PASTA NIGHTS

Our freezer is always stocked with one of or two loaves of my sourdough, ready to be transformed into slices of toast, a tupperware of breadcrumbs, or a pan of garlicky croutons. Recently, I read about a curious walnut-bread sauce, thick and creamy and off-white in color, spooned over pasta and served with a glass of cold Ligurian wine. I pulled out some bread from my freezer and got to work.

It all starts with a loaf of stale or defrosted country bread, torn into manageable chunks and soaked in a pot of warm milk. A pan of walnuts is lightly roasted and then crushed in a mortar and pestle. A few cloves of garlic are peeled and lightly flattened. Then, the entire aromatic mess is blitzed with an immersion blender until pureed, but still chunky. With a wooden spoon, I whipped in a few cups of grated Parmesan and half a cup of good Italian olive oil. What appeared next was one of the most voluminous, gorgeous sauces I’ve ever made. It’s rustic and pasty — who likes that wan, pale shade of beige, anyway? — but the taste is totally remarkable. There’s that faintest shade of garlic, the salty punch of cheese, those sweet, earthy walnuts, and the tang and heft of the milk-soaked bread. I used Rachel’s recipe as a guideline and inspiration more than anything else, but if you’d like to follow it exactly, you can find it here. When we were ready to eat, I thinned out the sauce with a big splash of starchy pasta water, which loosens and relaxes the sauce, perfectly coating your pasta.

Okay, a few notes about the linguine, which was so easy to make. Marcella Hazan’s basic pasta recipe has always been my favorite, and I love her preference for intuitive dough-making: the feel and look of the pasta is way more important than precisely scaling out ingredients. Hazan estimates about one cup of flour for every two eggs, and I find those proportions to be exactly right. Our dough was springy, soft, and smooth.

The rest of the dinner was light and fresh, starting wedges of Tuscan melon and smoked Charlevoix ham. Next, an easy and colorful chopped Italian salad, using mostly bitter-tasting vegetables like radicchio and dandelion greens, all brightened by red bell pepper, golden raisins, shaved fennel, and chopped almonds. It might be my new favorite winter salad.

The rest was seriously simple: a wedge of my favorite 18-month aged Comte, straight from Jura, eaten with slivers of ripe Comice pears and sourdough toasts, followed by Italian blood oranges and dark chocolate-covered candied ginger, a lovely Valentine’s gift from my mom. The night was a perfect homage to the region of Liguria, and the certainly perked up our cold winter nights!

BIRTHDAY QUAILS

Not that I need an excuse to throw an elaborate dinner party, but it’s become something of a tradition around these parts that I host a big feast in honor of my friends’ birthdays. (Sometimes, of course, the birthday parties end in blood and tears).

So for Fred’s birthday, something special was in order. We began with fresh oysters, halved radishes, bowls of salty pistachios, and local charcuterie. We moved onto a creamy purple potato dauphinoise spiked with thyme and sage. We relieved palates with a shaved fennel, dandelion greens, blood orange and chicory salad. The main event was a heaping platter of roast quail, fried in duck fat and stuffed with black cabbage and bacon. We ate them with our fingers, squirting the birds with juice from lemon wedges. Then we tackled a huge board of cheeses – most of them local Quebec products that we also feature at the restaurant. (Have you ever had the Alfred le Fermier? It’s one of my favorites, like a creamy, milky gruyere).  For dessert, a leftover baked alaska pinched from work and a sweet chocolate ganache tart contributed by Seeger. There’s just something about cooking for friends… it always makes me feel great.

(Quail photo by Marc)

FAIL SAFE

Whenever I feel totally uninspired by cooking and the contents of my refrigerator, I reach for a few fail-safe tricks. Like: Boiling a pot of beans with an onion and some bay. Simmering a quick tomato sauce and adding dried pasta. A scoop of miso dissolved in some vegetable broth.

One of my all-time, fool-proof favorites: Roasting whatever I have around in the oven at high heat until dark, caramelized, and fragrant. I like to cut everything into similar sized pieces — here, I used a head of broccoli, a few wilting brussels sprouts, and a few cloves of peeled garlic — and coat with olive oil, lemon zest, aleppo pepper, and lemon juice. Simple. Twenty minutes later, fresh out of the oven, charred and crispy, I deglazed the pan with a little white wine and some starchy pasta water, just enough to make a light sauce. If none of that inspires you? Delivery pizza is totally a legit alternative.

RETURNING, AND SOME MUSSELS

When I first started working at Lawrence, I thought for sure that I would be able to make time for both work and writing. That between the long days making anglaise, puff pastry, bread, custards, and caramel, I would still feel stoked to write in this blog (or anywhere else!). Six months later, I’ve accepted the struggles that I’ve encountered when searching for energy and inspiration to ever visit this space, especially when the one thing that I blog about the most — cooking! — I simply don’t do much anymore. (I mean really: you don’t want to hear about endless breakfasts of avocado toast, lentil mush, and late-night popcorn). So one of the things that I thought about over the holidays was how to make this space feel engaging and special to me again. Because I’d really like it to be! And already: relaxing in this space again feels comforting and cozy.

These photos aren’t that recent, but hopefully still worth sharing. I’ve written about the beauty of steamed mussels before (my recipe can be found here). They’re one of my favorite dishes to make for friends because they’re awesomely cheap, easy, and healthy. And right now, they’re in season. I also added an obscene amount of chopped herbs (I used a mix of fresh dill, fennel fronds, parsley, basil, mint, and tarragon), pastis, and my secret ingredient — a tiny dice of raw celery. The steam relaxes the celery slightly and gives the dish a miraculous lift and lightness. We ate big bowls of brothy mussels with crisp duck fat-fried potatoes, a shaved fennel salad, and golden garlic toasts — made with my own bread! (A smuggled-home stump of Lawrence sourdough).

So here’s to more parties… and garlic toast… and brothy healthfulness… and finding time to spend in spaces that you love…. even if all you make six days of the week is avocado toast and lentil mush.

ROAST AND PUDS

Thanksgiving Meal #2. Sunday roast staff meal at Lawrence — standing rib roast, crispy brussels sprouts, stewed cabbage, and mini yorkshire puddings (I use Hugh’s recipe!). Considering how chaotic brunch service gets, I’m pretty proud at how well we pulled this one together.

GIVING THANKS

Around these parts, Thanksgiving is something of a week-long celebration. We’ll feast again with friends this Monday, but earlier in the week we hosted another small gathering. The idea was fowl, but definitely no turkey. What did we eat?

Fennel confit with saffron, currants, orange zest, coriander seed. (I make this all the time; it’s very popular around these parts! I always look for the tiniest bulbs at the market for the most tender flesh.)

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Sauteed chicken livers with torn radicchio and honey vinaigrette

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Shredded duck legs with lentils, kale, and duck-fat roast potatoes

Roasted butternut squash with herbs de Provence, fresh bay and smoked paprika

Crispy brussels sprouts with pancetta and pine nuts

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A big hunk of Comté from Jura and sourdough bread

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Tangerines!

There was lots of laughter, record playing, and garland-making. One of the best Thanksgivings I’ve had in ages. There weren’t even any leftovers!

PIZZA GRATITUDE

I’m grateful for so much this year, but right at this moment I’m eternally thankful for impromptu pizza parties. I’m thankful that Bottega has take-out. I’m thankful for their ‘bacio della Bottega,’ which are tender, steaming golf-ball sized nubs of pizza dough stuffed with molten ham and cheese. I’m thankful for the marriage of anchovy and tomato. I’m thankful for the laughter and love of my friends. I’m thankful for Adam’s seemingly endless amount of pizza-wine pairing knowledge. Happy American Thanksgiving, everyone!

FALL COOKING IS HERE

So I think we may have cracked the formula for not-fried-chicken-but-looks-and-tastes-like-fried-chicken-heaven. Or rather, not-fried-yet-seems-fried-guinea hen, which is what we tried at dinner the other night with our buddies Tim and Alina. The key is to wash and pat dry your fowl thighs (always thighs!) very thoroughly, then add to a hot, hot, hot skillet shimmering with a good amount of melted duck fat. Adam seared the thighs until golden brown and crisp (be patient, don’t peek) and then finished them off in a moderately hot oven (about 375 degrees) until cooked on the inside. The hens emerged with crackling, golden skin, and moist, tender insides — exactly what we were looking for.

Of course, the meal was really a lame excuse to open a bottle of knock-your-socks-off-good Aloxe-Corton burgundy that had been burning a hole in our pantry since Adam bought it last year, and we fleshed out the rest of the meal with other autumn-appropriate side dishes, like roasted Jerusalem artichokes (scrub them well, keep the skins on, and cut into very thin coins); stewed red cabbage with roasted chestnuts (so bready and delicious), guanciale and juniper berries; and the baby fennel confit that I once made for Cool Fest and is extracted from an old issue of Gourmet (the original recipe can be found here). It’s a very popular dish of which I never seem to tire— full of deep flavor from the saffron and coriander seeds, plenty of crunch from the chopped almonds and fennel fronds, and the pleasing plump and chew of raisins puffed up by olive oil and orange juice.