The Day After

What to do, the day after filling your belly to Santa-like proportions?

One: sleep in.

Two: Pack up the car and head north with your family.

Three: Watch the sunset.

Four: Eat leftovers. Leftovers!

Five: Play in the snow.

Six: Take it all in.

Seven: Go antiquing.

Eight: explore something new.

Nine: Try not to think about how much you ate yesterday and enjoy your LEFTOVERS!

Ten: Remember that there’s still some time of vacation left.

 

The Thanksgiving Sandwich (Tried and true and people been doing this for forever)

Squishy bread (no artisanal stuff here, folks)

Mayo (duh, my god, duh)

Cranberry Sauce ( see: 4 cups of cranberries, ¾ cup sugar, 1 cup water, ¼ cup honey, 1 orange’s zest, ½ tsp cloves, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp cardamom – Bring water to a boil, add cranberries, let them pop (about 10 minutes), reduce heat, add all that stuff, cook for another 7 minutes)

Turkey (white meat! Yum!)

Collards

Stuffing (moist. Delicious. Meaty.)

Brussels Sprouts (four halves work well)

Pepper. Pepper. Black Ground Pepper all over that sandwich!

Spinach or Arugula (if you want to get all healthy, cause that’s what Thanksgiving is about…)

Do not toast it. Leave it cold. Eat it before lunch the next morning. It’s a Brunch time fiesta. Then go outside and play with your family or friends or whomever makes you happiest.

Ps. Yes, I think this will show up somewhere in an official kitchen I happen to be a part of…

Thanksgiving: The Day Cooks Love (Or Fear)

Text: “How was your fantastic food holiday”

Message: “I’ve been waiting for your post.”

Question: “So, what’d you eat on Thanksgiving?”

It might be just the American thing to do: ask about that holiday where we gorge ourselves and delight and laugh at the fullness we feel, let alone and sometimes separate from the satiation that is ubiquitous throughout homes warmed by ovens cooking turkey at 350 for 3-6 hours. Or, it might be the fact that I think about, talk about, write about, take pictures of food twentyfourseven. Whatever.

To answer those questions: My fantastic food holiday was splendid. It was wonderful and full of family (not all of my family, unfortunately, since we’re all spread out across the country trying to take over, but of course!) and friends and going to the grocery store and stocking up, and writing down lists and trying to time the cooking procedures just right and working well with Nancy in the kitchen and the oven not working the night before and making ice cream that might not be ice cream rather just frozen milk fats surrounding brandy… it was ridiculous.

Thanksgiving is such a strange holiday for me. It’s one of those days that I feel drawn to the home so that I can really flex my culinary muscles – it’s a day that centers around my passion, so why wouldn’t I love every second of it? I get to go to the grocery store, fight through the hoards of people in line for a turkey, go to the wine shop to pick out a nice red to couple well with those few sides that people may or may not focus on, then come home, blast the oven, turn on the open flame, and zone out to the sizzling, whispering, steaming food in front of me.

It’s also the holiday that I feel most comfortable being away from home, strangely enough. In the past 8 years, I’ve spent 4 of them abroad or away from the home. It’s a nice challenge, it’s a nice reminder of home, when it’s so far away.

But this year. THIS year. This YEAR! I’m home. I’m on the path to turning my kitchen official. I’m making money so that I can splurge on that nice cheese to make the squash casserole just that much deeper, that much better. This year was great.

On the menu, dear readers all anxiously awaiting:

Turkey Prepared according to Saveur’s recommendation (including letting the bird sit in the refrigerator for two days, to “dry out” the skin to create oh-so-moist meat)

Grandma Slappin’ Good Stuffing (non-vegetarian, folks)

Homemade, not-so-bitter Cranberry Sauce

Butternut Squash Bake (or casserole, whatever nomenclature you prefer)

Mashed Potatoes (mmm Half n’ Half abound!)

Not Slimey, Not Bitter, Not disgusting Collard Greens

Brussels Sprouts cooked in a Wok. Who knew?

Braised Carrots

Gravy (please pass the water glass, it’s that good)

No Biscuits… sad face emoticon

Rye Whiskey Ice Cream

Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust

Spicy Pumpkin Pie

Since the Recipes would take up another four pages, let me choose some of the favorites:

Nancy’s Stuffing:

It’s a secret, how annoying.

 

Collard Greens (that won’t make you run to the garbage)

In order of appearance

6 Strips of bacon

Cook these strips, cut in half, for about 5 minutes over medium-high heat

Olive Oil – a splash(ish)

2 big ol’ handfuls of Collards (they’ll cook down)

Salt  (to taste)

Pepper (enough so that you can see it on the collards)

1 package of chestnuts

1 White (or red) onion, chopped (or diced, whatever floats your life-vest)

Add all of this to the bacon, and let it cook together, over medium-low heat, for about 45 minutes. It won’t get too soggy, I promise (there’s no real liquid in there, remember)

Add a couple swigs of maple syrup 10 minutes before you’re done cooking the greens. More if you like them sweet, less if you like them not as sweet.

Total, the flame should be kissing the bottom of your cast iron (or other pan) for about an hour and five to an hour and ten minutes.

If you let them cool, and save some for tomorrow, then they’ll be even sweeter and more tender. Just sayin, they go quite nicely on a “next day sandwich.”

In A Moment Of Pause

To no explanation, I have recently taken some time off from this blog, yet again. It seems as though I go through phases with writing, my motivations behind posting, for whom does this blog continue, and general feelings towards blogs.

It has been over a year since I started, since I moved to Korea, since I learned how to move my way around a foreign subway system, since I talked about CSAs, since I made granola and called myself a neo-hippie, since I wrote about an American holiday abroad, and eaten another domestically (see: Thanksgiving) I’ve played around with cameras, settings, and writing modes. Prose, memoir, poetry, photo essays, it’s all been good. But it’s all been foundational. And what a time to reinvigorate food, but the holiday built around food: Turkey Day.

It’s time for another change. I realized this in my “real world” life – that is to say, I moved back from abroad, I’m working as full time as a food service person can, I have a goal with this whole food thing – and now it’s time to transcribe that over to the writing world. Change it up. Switch up the style. Overhaul. Make-over. Life change. Mid-life crisis?  Redux. Fresh. Crisp.

A week or two ago I sent out an email, to kick start the whole process. It read something like:

Hey. I’m thinking of moving across the country, again, and starting a restaurant with my brother. I have some ideas, but we all know that cooks, chefs, people who eat food, all fall into ruts when it comes to flavor combinations. What I’m asking you for are suggestions. Do you have a recipe, a flavor sensation, a dish you had on the road that one time when you were driving across the country, that one street vendor you ate at when you were abroad, that you just can’t get out of your head? Well send it my way in any shape or form, and I’m about to start cooking it. I’ll post the results on my blog – picture style. We’ll discuss. You’ll get it fo’ free every time you come into my place. Thanks, Josh.

With that email, I think I have over 50 recipes that I’m now about to tackle. I made myself a little check list on a found chalk board, and I’m about to get down to business: five recipes a week. At least. Maybe ten. It’s all about starting slow and getting wrapped up in it, right? Isn’t that what passion is? I have a good kitchen in the heart of Brooklyn, and I’m about to tear it up.  Supper parties. Food tasting. It’s what I’m putting forth, and hoping that people meet me in the middle somewhere.

So with that in my “real life,” how dos that transcribe, transition, translate to in this blog? I want this place now to be a memoir, a conglomeration, a mélange of stories of this construction of a menu, and a palate through the food. Not as many stories in prose, rather photo essays with the occasional bursting forth of anecdote in words if so necessary. Also, information about when I’ll be tasting foods, when I’ll be holding dinners, and most importantly: what’s going on in the local community that’s shaping the seasonal palate.

Where do you, dear reader, come in? Well you keep those eyes flickering across the page, across the photos I attempt to take with my stupid iPhone or my camera(s) (ps. I’m trying to get my film camera back in action, cross those scrolling fingers!). But the most important thing is to respond. Send me recipes. Tell me that that one dish you made yesterday looks down right awful, never make it or that hot damn I need that crème brulee immediately, how do I ship it to you? You are a part of building a restaurant’s menu. Now take those little hands and grab the bull so that you can help create a menu worth coming back to. Honestly.

Also: If you have places that you think I need  to go (see: “Oh my, on the upper east side there is a little muffin place that you HAVE to go to, it’s stupid good” or “In Virginia, I had the best biscuits I’ve ever had. Good god I can’t stop thinking of them” or even “In Italy, there’s a little town just outside of Florence that serves that only steak worth eating in the world. You must go.

I must go.

 

When Description Prevails or Serving

To make time useful, satisfy a passion, and pay rent, my latest installment in living as a 20something is serving at a fine dining restaurant here in Brooklyn. I feel that, among other things, it is a nice way to complete and round out a 20something’s way of life: college eats, travel abroad, lounging in fields, eating random things that may not have an English translation, and working in the service industry.

Among other things (like teach), I feel that everyone should hold a restaurant job at least once in their life. It’s important to fully understand how much work it takes to keep people happy, full, and tipping well. I’ve worked in restaurants for a bunch of my life, actually. Well, to be clear: I’ve worked in the food world for a while. Busser, Bartender, Server, Caterer, Sous Chef, Manager, I’ve done a bunch of it (not to mention try my hand at a few recipes as well). And now, I’ve jumped back into the job with joy. Mainly because of the restaurant itself.

This place is an upstanding, upscale American cuisine place that does it up right. They take the seasons as cues for changes on the menu and go to the farmers market as much as possible. They listen to the customer to make sure that the food coming out is perfectly to the diner’s liking. They taste wines and keep their staff informed. And what I like most about it: I can talk to people about food for eight hours at a time. Ask me a question about artichokes, beets, duck, haddock, chicken, sweet potatoes, sunchokes, you name it I’ve got you covered.

And what this job really has enabled me to do is expand my verbal and not written capacity to describe food. So, on this day after a day of all ones (11.1.11) and a few days before that other day of all ones (11.11.11) – side note: is anyone weirded out by that or are there email chains going around about luck or non-luck if you don’t forward that onto seven people in the next three minutes? – I’m going to try something different: no pictures. Only words. Tell me if you get it.

Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, we have a plate full of vegetables and grains prepared five ways. First, we start off with a light salad of baby spinach and arugula, both light yet slightly bitter, topped with a sherry vinaigrette providing sweet notes to balance the subtle bite. This light salad is followed by couscous enlivened with rice wine vinegar, ginger, kosher salt, a touch of brown sugar, and extra virgin olive oil to give a hearty base to the green plate. Next, braised kale served with kosher salt, olive oil, to keep a thin flavor line between the couscous and kale, and braised Macoun apples giving it a deep, rich, dark green flavor brought out by the braise, yet autumnal and classic from the apple. Next, roasted sunchokes with olive oil and rosemary. The roasting brings out both the starch and sweetness from the sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes, and coupling that with rosemary provides for the perfect Fall dish. Finally, we have pan-sautéed Brussels sprouts with garlic, salt, a touch of maple syrup, and chopped fennel. This flavorful dish gives a hearty green – akin to a small leafy cabbage – some love with butter and garlic, some childishness with the natural sweetening from maple syrup, and a touch of elegance from the liquorish flavors bursting forth from the fennel taking this vegetable far from what mama used to tell us to eat. Together, we play on the sweet, savory, bitter sensations with a hint of sour nestling in the couscous and vinaigrette.  Please, enjoy.