A Productive Day Off & a Peruvian Dinner

17 Mar

Today was my first day off since last Thursday. It’s weird to have Wednesday and Thursday as a “weekend” but I’m getting used to it. There certainly isn’t the usual weekend traffic or people to deal with when trying to go to the gym, get groceries or run other errands. Everyone else is working while I’m doing all those things – it’s kind of nice. Today was just that – I ran a million errands all over Somerville in a matter of a few hours and managed to get a great workout in at the gym. I recently became a member at Healthworks in Porter Square and look forward to going whenever I can. It’s a women only gym, which is new to me, and a lot nicer than most of the other gyms I’ve belonged to. AND – since I’m going while everyone else is at work, I get whatever machine I want and don’t have to deal with the craziness of working out before 9am or after 5pm. Besides the gym, I went to the vet, City Hall, got the car inspected, and grabbed some things at CVS – I got a ton done today. A good amount of my time this afternoon was spent online and catching up on laundry too.

Tonight, my friend Jennifer came by. We drank August Briggs Cabernet and got dinner from Machu Picchu Restaurant in Union Square. They serve the most delicious Peruvian food and are right around the corner from where I live. We had a handmade tamale stuffed with pork and wrapped in a banana leaf, steamed fish served with spicy onions, tomatoes, and golden potatoes, and marinated beef served with canary beans and rice.

Dinner was delicious. Jennifer loves trying different cuisines – she’s a great dinner date! We were so busy chatting that we didn’t end up eating a lot and there are a ton of leftovers for tomorrow. Speaking of tomorrow, I have another day off and lots more I want to get accomplished. Goodnight all!

Restaurant Week – Take 2

14 Mar

Today marked the start of week 2 of Restaurant Week (RW). It was also daylight savings – so I lost an hour of sleep (booooo!). Last week was pretty crazy and tonight was no different. It’s great for the restaurant because every night has been like a Friday or Saturday night when we’re the busiest. As always, we like to change things up a bit and have a completely different RW menu this week. In addition to the usual dishes I prepare, my RW salad consisted of frisee, endive, shiitake mushrooms, goat cheese, toasted hazelnuts, orange segments and a banyuls vinaigrette – delicious! There were so many great textures going on. And I LOVE LOVE LOVE goat cheese in anything.

My amuse bouche today was marinated tofu with a carrot, bell pepper and scallion salad. We had some tofu in the house, so I figured this was the perfect use for it. I marinated it in rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice, toasted sesame oil and sriracha. It came out really nice. Since I started my job, I’ve definitely developed a pallet for spicier dishes – hence the little kick in my marinade with the sriracha. Time to think of tomorrow’s amuse now…

I’m home now and wide awake. I wish I could go right to sleep after work, but it’s really difficult after going so fast for so many hours and then coming to a screeching halt after service and cleanup. Instead, I spent some time catching up on emails and reviewing our wedding invitation layouts! We are so lucky to be working with my friend Jennie to design the invitations. She did our save the date cards and they came out wonderful – I can’t wait to see the invitations printed!

 

we're so happy with how our 'save the date' cards came out. they're fun and tell our story perfectly.

Well, I need my rest before another day of RW. Hope everyone has a fantastic Monday!

Living on the line

10 Mar

I can’t believe it… it’s been six months since I started my job as a line cook at Bergamot (and wrote in my blog – sorry all!) and boy has my life changed! No longer are the days when I’m up at 6am and home at 7pm! Now, I’m up at 9, err 10am, and home sometime between 11pm and 1am depending on the day.

There are a lot of things I love about my job – the people, the work I do everyday and the products we’re working with. I feel like I’ve found a great place to learn and grow as a cook. I learn something new everyday – whether it’s a new technique or cooking with an ingredient I’ve never used before. I’m working Garde Manger – where I prepare most of the cold appetizers for the restaurant. I also prepare the amuse bouche everyday, which is challenging and fun. The menu is constantly changing depending on what’s in season, which is great for me as I’m new to the biz. Unfortunately, what has been difficult is the little time I have with Jason, friends and family. I work nights and weekends, so it’s been hard to see people, but I’m trying to figure it all out and still have fun.

Luckily, I’ve got a very supportive network of people around me, who also love to eat! Take a look at who dropped in recently…

Here I am at work when Anna, Michaela and Jason came to visit!

This week is especially crazy because it’s Restaurant Week in Boston! We’re serving our normal menu and an additional Restaurant Week menu. I’ve really missed my blogging and will be making an effort to write posts more often. I hope everyone reading had a wonderful winter and is ready for spring. I especially can’t wait for the spring farmer’s markets to open up. I found a great site that gives a listing of all the markets in Massachusetts. I live a few blocks from the Union Square market, but may expand my horizons come the summer.

Enjoy the rest of the week!

More Blueberry Madness: Backyard Blueberry Pie & Buttermilk Pudding Cakes

28 Sep

With the last of my blueberry harvest, I decided to make my neighbors a blueberry pie. I had seen one being made on TV recently and got the itch to bake a pie. I decided to use a recipe I found online as a skeleton and then change it up a bit. You can find my Backyard Blueberry Pie recipe here.

The crust came out beautiful and the filling was super jammy and fresh. I know my neighbors loved it!

Here's my pie before going into the oven. I love how the crust looks already!

Post oven, the filling was bubbling away and the crust was nicely browned.

Even after that pie, I still had leftover blueberries. I took out a cookbook I bought earlier this year at school, The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern: Knockout Dishes with Down-Home Flavor, and decided to look for a recipe that I could use blueberries in.

I met the Lee brothers earlier this year at school when they came and gave a cooking demonstration. I really enjoyed their fun, easy-going take on food and cooking, and how a lot of their dishes are perfect for entertaining. I decided to make Buttermilk Pudding Cakes with a blueberry lemon compote (instead of the sugared raspberries the recipe called for). I used the same Blueberry Compote that I used in my FCI Menu Project. The recipe couldn’t be easier and I love making individual desserts – they’re nicely presented to guests and keep overeating at a minimum because they’re already portioned! The recipe yields 8 pudding cakes – you can see them in my standard muffin tin below.

When flipped out, they should be golden brown all around and ready to be topped with fruit, whipped cream, powdered sugar, ice cream, etc!

Here’s my finished cake with the blueberry lemon compote. I think the combination of the tangy buttermilk cake with this topping went great together. The Lee Brothers made this dish on Martha Stewart’s show and now the recipe (and a video of them making them) are posted here. Try this recipe next time you’re having company over – you won’t be disappointed. Enjoy!

Poulet Roti Grand-mere (Roast Chicken Grandmother-Style)

21 Sep

Last week Jason and I spent a night at his mom’s house and I thought what better way to pass some time while she and Jason were at a meeting than by making dinner for us all! I decided on a classic French dish we made over and over (and over) again in school, Poulet Roti Grand-mere, which means Roast Chicken Grandmother-style. Any dish with “Grand-mere” in it has the same 4 garniture: glazed pearl onions, bacon lardons, sauteed mushrooms and potatoes rissoler. It took quite a while to prepare everything, but in the end, we had a wonderful dinner. This is one of those dishes that I’d save for a Sunday afternoon when you have plenty of time to prepare it. It’s great comfort food perfect on a cool Fall or Winter day.

First, I prepped and trussed my whole chicken. I haven’t trussed a chicken in a while and was happy for the practice! After prepping my chicken and seasoning it with salt and pepper, I heated a large oven-proof pan on high heat on the stove and added a Tbsp of olive oil. When the oil was very hot, I browned the chicken on all sides. During this process, I started preparing my mirepoix of carrots and onions. I added the chicken trimmings and gizzards to the pan and put it all into a 425 degree oven. After 10 minutes, I added my mirepoix and cooked the entire mixture for another 30 minutes, basting every 10 minutes.

Here's my chicken ten minutes into being cooked. It's starting to brown nicely and I've just added my mirepoix of vegetables.

You know the chicken is done when the juices run clear and when the internal temperature reaches 145-150 degrees F.

Here's my roast chicken after 40 minutes in the oven - I love the color and the skin is so crispy!

While my chicken roasted, I started prepping and cooking the items for the Grand-mere garniture. This consists of cooking pearl onions glacer a brun (brown glazed), sauteing bacon lardons until crispy and rendering their fat, sauteing white mushrooms in the rendered bacon fat until browned, and cooking potatoes cocotte rissoler. Cocotte refers to the shape of the potatoes. Cooking potatoes rissoler is a 3-step process. First you cook the potatoes in salted boiling water until just tender and then let them air dry. Next, you saute them in oil until evenly brown and crispy on the outside. Lastly, you add butter to the pan and finish them in the oven, tossing frequently until done.

Here's 3 components of my Grand-mere garniture going at once along with my Jus de Roti.

When my chicken was done, I let it rest for 10 minutes before carving it. I used the pan drippings and mirepoix to make the Jus. First I removed any excess oil and caramelized the vegetables on the stove top. Then I deglazed the pan with white wine to get up all the sucs (brown bits) in the pan. Next I added chicken stock, strained the vegetables out and let my sauce reduce to a thick consistency. After that I adjusted the seasoning with salt and pepper. I carved my chicken into 10 pieces (4 pieces of white meat, 6 pieces of dark meat) and started plating!

Here are the 10 pieces of my chicken, ready to be served.

The dish came out wonderful – moist and really flavorful. We enjoyed it all with a bottle of white wine from the Hudson River Valley. For those of you who want to try this recipe out at home (and I suggest you do), I’ll be posting it on my Recipes page ASAP.

The finished dish: 2 pieces of chicken with the grand-mere garniture and jus de roti!

Dinner with Friends

14 Sep

Saturday afternoon I was in the mood to make a big dinner – something homey and warm since it was all of a sudden Fall. I invited my friend Michaela over and decided to try two recipes from one of my new cookbooks, Stir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition, from Barbara Lynch. She is one of my favorite chefs (who I would love to work for) and she has several fantastic restaurants in Boston.

I’d be elated to serve any of the dishes in this book for the most important dinner party – or dinner for just Jason and I on a weeknight – they’re all versatile and delicious. I decided on a dinner menu of Chicken Liver Pate with traditional accompaniments, Tomato Mozzarella Salad and Butcher Shop Bolognese with Homemade Fettuccine.

To start things off, I had to do some grocery shopping to pick up a few things that we needed – specifically meat and cheese! I conveniently (read: dangerously) live close to The Wine and Cheese Cask and Savenor’s Market. The Wine and Cheese Cask is pretty self explanatory and Savenor’s is an amazing butcher shop with local produce and other specialty items. They have three retail locations around Boston and sell to many Boston restaurants. I bet I’ll be BFF with these guys in no time!

Besides in school, I had never made chicken liver pate, but it turned out to be pretty easy and damn tasty! I can’t speak for Jason and Michaela, but I loved it. Again, fancy enough for a large group of VIP dinner guests but easy enough for dinner for two. Plus, I had to get chicken livers for my bolognese (the secret ingredient) and had extra that I couldn’t let go to waste! Here are my chicken livers being sauteed with the shallots.

This recipe is super easy and starts off by sauteing the livers in shallots that were sweated in grapeseed oil.

After the livers are cooked to rare/medium-rare, they are mixed with a port reduction, salt, pepper and a little cream cheese for complexity and texture. Everything is blended to delicious spreadable perfection!

Here's my finished pate with sides of cornichons and whole grain mustard. I served grilled bread on the side as well.

The bolognese starts with a mirepoix of vegetables. To that, the chicken livers are added (diced small – a brunoise as well) and then the ground meats are added. I used ground veal and lamb though the recipe calls for veal, lamb and pork.

Here is my mirepoix of veggies to start my bolognese - carrots, celery and onion, all cut in a small (brunoise) dice.

All the meat has been added to this dish - now all it needs are the liquids and time to simmer ever so slightly.

Once the meats are browned, chicken stock (I used my homemade stock), wine and chopped tomatoes are added – easy as that! I simmered my sauce for almost 3 hours on very low to concentrate the flavors, texture and color.

Here's my sauce right before I plated it. The color and flavors are more richer and darker.

While my sauce was brewing, I started on my pasta dough. I started making my own pasta a while ago and it’s one of those things where once you make your own by hand, see how easy it is and how much better it tastes – you’ll never go back to the boxed stuff (if you have a choice that is)! I don’t use a recipe either – it’s all about the feel of the dough. I start with eggs. A note about the eggs: I used 3 whole eggs this time. I typically use just egg yolks to get a richer pasta but wanted something a little lighter so I used the whites as well. To that, I add some extra virgin olive oil and salt. Once that’s mixed together with a fork, I start adding my flour gradually. Most people do this the opposite way and add their wet ingredients to their dry, but I do it the other way around. How much flour you use depends on several things – the humidity, the freshness of the eggs, the type/freshness of the flour, the temperature, etc., which is why it’s hard to give a measurement. I knead it all together until I have the elasticity and feel I’m after, then wrap in plastic and let rest for at least 30 minutes. I used All Purpose flour for this dough, but I’d suggest using “00” (double zero) flour if you can find it. 00 refers to the how fine the flour is ground – the most highly refined in this case. You’d have to go to an Italian specialty store to get it or King Arthur has an Italian-style flour similar to 00.

While the dough was resting, Michaela and I prepared the Tomato Mozzarella Salad. All our ingredients were so fresh – it was a perfect first course! We alternated layers of sliced tomatoes and mozzarella, placed a chiffonade of basil on top, seasoned with salt and fresh ground black pepper and then topped it all with a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil. It takes 5 minutes and makes for a beautiful presentation.

Now that our salad was done, it was time to roll out the pasta and get it cookin’. I have a small manual pasta machine my friend Amy gave me a long time ago. It’s been the gift that has kept on giving ever since! I learned from one of the chefs at school how she rolls out pasta and have used her technique ever since. Each piece of dough goes through the machine at it’s thickest setting several times to ensure all the dough is cohesive and smooth – folding it like an envelope each time. Then, you decrease the settings and roll the dough through to get the thickness desired. I typically go to the second to last setting so that I can see my fingers through the dough, but it’s not paper thin. Finally we cut the dough – I used the medium-sized cutter which made fettuccine.

My fettuccine right before going in the water.

Cooking fresh pasta is faster than you can imagine. 2-4 minutes is all you need until it is al dente. To plate this dish, I sauteed the cooked pasta in a pan with some of my bolognese, then topped it all with a generous portion of grated Parmigiano Reggiano and a few basil leaves to garnish.

Bellissimo!

It was a delicious dinner – great food, wine and friends. I can’t wait to have more people over for dinner! 🙂

Farmer’s Market Finds and Journeyman

11 Sep

I was so excited for the farmer’s market this weekend. We enjoyed our market goods so much last week I couldn’t wait to get more. Since we got the lay of the land last weekend, I started to get the idea of which purveyors sold what. I started though doing my typical walk through the market scoping out what looks good before I decide what to purchase. We ended up with a pretty good basket of goodies:

We bought lots of veggies - Japanese eggplant, yellow onions, shallots, green bell peppers and a cubanelle pepper.

More veggies - tomatoes and golden beets. I can't wait to use these!

Of course I had to get a big bunch of basil for a few of my dishes this week.

My plan is to make a caponata with the eggplant, peppers and tomatoes this week, plus a roasted golden beet salad with feta cheese. I may make a pesto with the leftover basil – have to see how long it keeps for. Basil is one of those things that doesn’t keep fresh long after you take it home.

Not sure how many of you are familiar with Union Square in Somerville, but it’s a pretty up and coming square, very close to both Harvard and Inman Square in Cambridge. We happen to live very close to it and have witnessed a lot of new restaurants and shops going in since we bought our house 3 years ago. There are even plans to put a T stop in Union Square in 2010. Jason got an email this past weekend from Urban Daddy announcing a new restaurant in Union Square called Journeyman. The description from Urban Daddy sounds AMAZING – here’s what they unveiled:

Behold: Journeyman, the brand-new, tucked-away Union Square locavore-cathedral, soft-opening this Wednesday and now accepting reservations for big groups. Walking up to Journeyman feels a little like you’re trespassing in a mechanic’s garage. It’s located on a short, dead-end street, and there’s no signage out front save for a metal beam sticking out of the ground with “Journeyman” cut into it (incidentally, we understand this is also how the band Journey got started).

But after some keen usage of your phone’s GPS and a little bit of testicular fortitude, you’ll walk inside and breathe in the minimalist SoHo-artist-loft-style interior (high ceilings, bookshelves), where you and about 35 of your friends will be able to hold a massive, multi-course feast. (Think of it as a permanent dinner party space, with a professional kitchen.)

As for what you’ll be feasting on: the menu changes daily, and they use only local ingredients. Think pigs from North Face Farm in Duxbury, fish from Cambridge-based New Deal Fish Market and herbs from a huge, floor-to-ceiling vertical garden housed right in the dining area. And to drink: small-batch organic wines and local beers, also constantly changing.

Are you kidding – THIS PLACE IS RIGHT IN OUR BACKYARD!! Almost immediately we logged online to the reservation site. The reservations for this weekend are all booked already but we got a reservation for September 26th! I’m so excited. I’ve seen some pictures of the space on Facebook and it looks pretty cool. I love that it only seats 35 people and the menu changes weekly depending on what’s good and in-season. They’ll offer 3, 5, and 7-course omnivore and vegetarian menu options – sweet! Aside from the excitement around this new place, we had a great weekend and I’ve got some excellent recipes to share – keep an eye out for them!