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Crispy, Plump, and Juicy Fried Oysters

19 Feb

Is there anything better than a pipping hot fried oyster? It’s sweet and briney juices just burst in your mouth after you bite through it’s crispy and buttery envelope, all contrasted by the lemony, tangy taste of homemade tarter sauce–Mmm mmm mmm!

I love fried oysters so much that I asked Santa to bring me some for Christmas–and lucky me, his elf Jenna (my wonderful sister-in-law) delivered! (this tells you how behind I am on my blog posts!)

Anyway, these oysters were so delicious they really were little, pipping hot Christmas miracles. If you love fried oysters too, here’s how to create your own little fried Christmas miracles:

Ingredients for Homemade Roasted Red Pepper Remoulade:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tspn Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup of olive oil
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 tspn minced garlic
  • 1/2 tspn anchovy paste
  • 1 tbspn Worcester sauce
  • Tabasco sauce
  • 1 7.5 oz can of roasted red peppers
  • salt and pepper

Check the seafood counter at your local grocery store for freshly shucked oysters by the pint. Jenna found these ones at Costco.

Ingredients for fried oysters:

  • 1 can of Wondra flour (or another brand of very fine flour)
  • Cayenne powder
  • Paprika powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 pints of freshly shucked Oysters (Jenna used Willapoint–for some great info on Oyster varieties I recommend checking out the Oysterpedia iPhone app from one of my favorite restaurants, Mermaid Inn)

Directions for Red Pepper Remoulade:

  • Separate the yolks and whites of 2 eggs and, in a large mixing bowl add the 2 yolks to 1 tspn of Dijon mustard.
  • While whisking the yolks and mustard vigorously, slowly drizzle in about  1 cup of olive oil.  After 2-3 minutes of whisking the mixture will emulsify into a mayo.  It will be thick, tight, and pasty.

Tip: to keep your bowl stationary, use a dish towl to create a "nest" for your mixing bowl that will anchor it while you whisk.

  •  Zest 2 lemons and add the zest to the mayo, then cut the lemons in half and add the juice of the lemons to the mayo as well. This will both loosen up the sauce, so it gets to the right dipping consistency, and add a nice tangy flavor.
  • Chop and mince 3-4 garlic cloves until you have about 1 tspn of minced garlic. Stir the minced garlic, and 1/2 tspn of anchovy paste, into the mixture.
  • Add 1 tbspn of Worcester sauce (or to taste) and 6 shots of Tabasco sauce (or to taste) to the mixture.

Shhh--Worcester sauce is Jenna's secret ingredient--it gives the remoulade a deeper savory flavor.

  • Taste the mixture, then add salt and pepper to taste. The consistency at this point will be that of an aioli.
  • Open 1 7.5 oz can of roasted red peppers, chop and mince them. Add them to the sauce.

Tip: IIf the sauce is too thin for your liking after adding the roasted red peppers, you can add some sour cream or mayo to thicken it up.

Ok, that’s the sauce! Now for the oysters…

Directions for making fried oysters:

  • First, pour in 2 quarts of peanut oil into a deep frier (or pot on the stove) and begin to heat. I like using peanut oil for frying because it has a high smoking point (the temperature to which an oil can be heated before it smokes and discolors—indications of decomposition) which means that it won’t absorb or transfer unsavory flavors into your meal.
  • Then, create the breading mixture by pouring enough Wondra flour into a glass baking dish to coat the oysters, about 3-4 cups.
  • Season your flour by adding salt and freshly cracked pepper, as well as a few dashes of cayenne and paprika powder.
  • Take your 2 pints of freshly shucked oysters and drain some of the liquid off (fun fact–oyster “liquid” is caused oyster liquer). Then, place your oysters into the flour mixture, coat, and toss.

toss your oysters in your flour mixture until they are evenly coated

  • Once your oil has reached 350 degrees F, you’re ready to fry! Before you begin, you may want to prepare a plate with paper towel on it to receive the fried oysters.
  • One at a time, shake any extra flour off of your coated oysters (to keep your oil fresh you want to make sure that the oyster is evenly coated, but there is no extra breading). Then, slip them into the hot oil, making sure not to overcrowd the frier (that way the temp of the oil will stay stable and the oysters will cook quickly and evenly).
    Once the oysters are fried, let them rest for a few seconds on a paper towel, to drain off any additional oil. You’ll know they’re done when they crisp up and turn a nice, golden brown. Enjoy!
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Lobster Roll “Research”: Best Lobster Roll in NYC

13 Jul

Trusty and I have some VIPs coming to town next week, and to adequately prepare for their visit we’ve been doing some lobster roll “research.” Our attempt to share the best lobster roll in NYC with our out-of-town gourmets led us to Grand Central Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station and Luke’s Lobster Shack’s new location on the Upper West Side.

First up was Grand Central Oyster Bar’s Lobster Roll Lunch:

Lobster Roll Lunch at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station

For $24 this lunch includes a giant lobster roll with two sides of sweet potato chips and coleslaw. If you’re a fan of the old school lobster roll (this approach tends to favor shredded lobster meat instead of big hunks, the lobster salad pays homage to Helman’s Classic Mayo, and it’s served room temp rather than chilled) than this is the roll for you.  The price is a little steep, but the serving size is generous (Trusty and I attempted to split it and still had left overs) and, what you’re paying for in part is the atmosphere. With it’s red and white checked table cloths, vaulted tile ceiling, dim lighting and no-nonsense wait staff, the dining room feels as though it’s frozen in the 1960’s. But it’s actually filled with the hustle and bustle of Grand Central terminal–you’ll see business men and women indulging in a cocktail at lunch, some tourists taking a break from being on their feet, and, appropriately, some old school New Yorkers who look like they dine there everyday. So, bring your wallet and your appetite and expect to enjoy a creamy, delicious roll as well as some excellent people-watching.

Our next stop was Luke’s Lobster on 426 Amsterdam (between 80th and 81st).

Luke's Lobster Roll

Luke’s serves their rolls Maine style, which is chilled with a swipe of mayo, a sprinkle of lemon butter, and a dash of seasoned salt (though you can order your roll without any of these, if you want). The other major characteristic of the roll is that it features large, meaty hunks of lobster, rather than a shredded lobster salad. Trusty and I agreed we preferred this approach, but I understand that this is a matter of personal preference.  I didn’t really go for the seasoned salt–for me, a good lobster roll is all about the lobster, and when it’s nice and fresh it has its own succulent flavor and sweetness that had to fight against the savory and salty seasoning to come through. However, Luke’s scored big points for chilling their lobster meat–not only does this help lock in the flavor of the meat, but it provides for a great contrast between the chilled lobster and the toasted bun. The other competitive advantage for Luke’s was their price; for $15 their roll was just as filling and much more affordable.

So what’s the verdict on the Best Lobster Roll in New York City? So far Luke’s and Red Hook’s lobster rolls are in the lead, but stay tuned as we complete our “research”–after all, this kind of project requires a thorough approach!

Lobster Rolls, Tacos, Doughnuts, (and Ukeleles!) at the Brooklyn Flea…Oh My!

10 Jul

My Trusty Sidekick and I headed to the Brooklyn Flea Market yesterday to support a new friend, Barry, of Great Plains Handmade Instruments. During the week Barry is an amazing teacher, and on the weekends he makes ukeleles, other instruments, and beautiful odds and ends–often out of salvaged materials like old cigar boxes.


We were  blown away by Barry’s booth and by all the other vendors there–from hand carved furniture to vintage dresses, sunglasses, and shoes to hand painted pottery.  Best of all was the food! We feasted on heaping lobster rolls, succulent braised beef tacos, and intensely flavored doughnuts. Here are the highlights:

Lobster Roll from The Red Hook Lobster Pound

These lobster rolls from The Red Hook Lobster Pound were hands-down my favorite part of the day. Overflowing with giant hunks of fresh, sweet lobster meat that was nestled in a lightly toasted bun and barely dressed with lemon, mayo, and green onion, this is my kind of lobster roll! Just looking at the picture I’m beginning to drool. At $16, it was the most expensive food item we could find at the Flea, but with all that meat we thought it was a great value. I fully admit that I’ll be stalking their Big Red Lobster Food Truck for the rest of the summer.

Braised Beef Taco from Chonchos Tacos

Trusty raved about the well-seasoned, tender braised beef in this taco from the Chonchos Tacos stand, which was $4. Similar to Red Hook’s lobster roll, which made the lobster meat the star,  the braised beef in this taco didn’t have to compete with much–just a traditional presentation of onions and cilantro.  And with all the flavor in the meat itself, all it needed was a little bit of hot sauce!

The talented guys of Porchetta

As soon as we entered the flea, our dog Sam took us straight to Porchetta’s stand where the guys were nice enough to offer her a little sample of their amazing roasted pork. I wish I got a better picture of their delicious sandwich:

Porchetta's slow cooked roasted pork sandwich

The sandwich, $10, features “pork three ways”–fatty belly, crispy skin, lean loin–all roasted with garlic, sage, rosemary and wild fennel pollen.  Meltingly soft and juicy, it was packed with flavor. While the lobster roll may have been the highlight of my day, this was the highlight of Sam’s.  She tried to talk us into setting up permanent camp underneath Porchetta’s table!

To beat the heat, we indulged in some crisp, cold, handmade sodas from Brooklyn Soda Works.  Formed in 2010, Brooklyn Soda Works is a labor of love by a young couple–an artist and a chemist–who make artisanal sodas that feature fresh, unconventional flavors like “Strawberry and Pink Peppercorn,” “Apple Ginger,” and “Dried Lemon, Juniper, and Hops.”

At the Flea we sampled two new flavors, “Raspberry Shiso,” and “Cucumber Sea Salt” :

The Cucumber Sea Salt was really surprising–it was especially thirst-quenching, and full of delicious cucumber flavor. The Raspberry soda, which was mixed with Shiso, a delicious Asian herb that can only be described as part mint-part basil, was also incredible.  The best part of both sodas was that there was hardly any sugar–they were truly refreshing and intensely flavorful. I was won over as a fan, and am eager to try more from Brooklyn Soda Works!

To finish off our trip to the Flea we treated ourselves to doughnuts from Bedford bakery Dough.

Dough's heavenly smelling booth

After our recent visit to the Doughnut Plant, the bar was set high.  But, Dough delivered. We tried a couple of flavors, including Chocolate Earl Gray, Blood Orange, and Hibiscus. My favorite was the Chocolate Earl Gray:

The Chocolate Earl Gray doughnut is INSANE.

The dough was soft and fluffy and the chocolate earl gray glaze was amazingly good–fragrant, flavorful, unusual, and not too sweet. (It got me excited to try this recipe to see how the flavor combination works in other sweet treats.) The Blood Orange flavor was another big hit:

Blood Orange doughnut

The sweet and tangy blood orange glaze was spectacular. Again, not too sweet, but it had a really concentrated blood orange flavor.

All in all, it was a fantastic trip to the Brooklyn Flea! Can’t wait to be back again!


Birthday Treat at the Doughnut Plant

26 Jun

The Doughnut Plant is no ordinary bakery. For starters, their hours are “6:30 AM-UNTIL DOUGHNUTS RUN OUT.” Famous for making doughnuts “the new cupcake” in New York, the Doughnut Plant has revitalized the art of homemade doughnuts with their creative, gourmet, and seasonal flavors. Case in point: the Crème Brûlée doughnut, one of the signature delicacies that put DP on the map.  The doughnut is hand-piped full of rich, vanilla cream, then topped with shiny, crackling, sugar that’s toasted with a chef’s blowtorched, just like an individual serving of the doughnut’s namesake dessert.

The famous chalkboard that's chalk full of DP's seasonal offerings.

Besides drawing attention for their immaginative flavors, Doughnut Plant has also earned accolades for their innovative preparation. Specifically, DP makes heavenly, trans-fat free doughnuts, going against the doughnut dogma that hydrogenated oils are absolutely essential to producing a light and airy doughnut.

The Doughnut Tray (all caps required) at the Doughnut Plant's tiny counter.

For my Trusty Sidekick’s birthday, we  ventured down to the Doughnut Plant (located at 379 Grand Street (Essex Street) on the Lower East Side) with a few friends to check out these claims for ourselves. And at $2.75/doughnut, we were able to try lots of flavors for not a lot of dough!

Trusty insisted on ordering the classic glazed doughnut (in order to establish a “baseline”). We also had to try one of DP’s signature square-shaped raspberry jelly-filled doughnuts. A Valrhona Chocolate doughnut and a Blueberry doughnut, two of DP’s current seasonal offerings, rounded out our order.

Blueberry and Glazed

The light, soft texture of each doughnut completely blew me away. It was as though cotton candy and a doughnut got together and had a baby doughnut–each bite literally melted in my mouth. And the taste of the dough itself is perfect–subtly sweet, but not overdone.

The sign of a well made doughnut: a soft and pillowy center.

The jelly-filled doughnut had a generous serving of home-made raspberry jelly, and the filling itself was packed with the sweet, slightly tart flavor of raspberries. The jelly was so intense and dark that Trusty and I wondered if maybe it was a mixture of both red and black raspberries?


The Blueberry was a big hit–the glaze was full of fresh, sweet blueberries that gave the doughnut great flavor.

Valrhona chocolate doughnut

The other doughnut that came out on top was the Valrhona Chocolate. I’ve never tried Valrhona chocolate truffles, but this doughnut made me want to! The flavor of the thick chocolate glaze was rich and intense–this was not your ordinary chocolate-glazed doughnut.

Can’t wait to go back and try more flavors SOON!

Quick and Easy Plum Tarte

9 Mar

I’ve mentioned previously why I think of Ina Garten, better known as the Barefoot Contessa, as my kitchen fairy godmother–basically it’s because her recipes are quick, easy, and delicious. What better combination is there?

Anna Pump, who once worked with Garten and now owns the wonderful bakery, Loaves and Fishes, creates wonderful food following Garten’s no-fuss philosophy. Lucky me, Trusty’s mom and dad always stop by Loaves and Fishes when they go out to the Hamptons and bring us one of Pump’s amazing Plum Tartes…which I promptly eat in one sitting.

Unable to track Pump’s recipe down, I’ve devised my own, inspired by hers–it’s quick and easy to prepare (partially because I buy the crust, frozen)–and not to brag, but this tarte tastes as good as the original! Hope you enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 pounds of firm, ripe Plums
  • 1/2 cup of creme de cassis liqueur (this is the secret ingredient!)
  • a squeeze of fresh lemon juice (about half a lemon)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Pit and slice the plums into wedges.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the plum slices together with the sugar, cassis, and the squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Let the fruit sit in the bowl for about 10 minutes; it will begin to macerate.
  4. Pour the plums into a frozen pie crust (or, extra points if you prepare your own!)

    Nothing wrong with taking a little shortcut...

  5. Arrange the slices so they are skin-side down. If you are entertaining, you can arrange the plums in a “flower” pattern by beginning at the outside and working your way in. Or, just go with an organic arrangement–it’ll taste just as good.

    Go with a fancy pants flower pattern...

    ...or take the no-fuss route (just make sure the plum wedges are skin-side down).

  6. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the the crust is lightly browned and the plum juices are bubbling.
  7. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature–enjoy!

    Sweet, juicy, and so easy to make!

Eclectic, Engaging Food at Alma in Minneapolis

28 Feb

It isn’t everyday you get engaged. And it isn’t everyday you eat a meal like the one you can enjoy at Alma. Yep, Trusty and I are enfianced! During an incredible meal at Alma he asked the big question. Because of the wonderful occasion and because of the delicious food it was a truly memorable meal.

In one word: Wow.

Food: The food was fantastic. Alma’s menu changes every 6-8 weeks, to offer new dishes that flavorful seasonal ingredients. They specialize in three course tasting menus for $45 per person–not bad at all for a fine dining experience.

I started with a warm Celery Root Souffle ($14 a la carte). De-lic-ious! Great texture and flavors. I’ve never had anything like it.

My second course was out-of-this-world amazing–lobster gnocchi ($17 for a la carte). It was fantastically rich and sweet, with giant pieces of lobster and a delicious orange truffle butter sauce. If we can get Alma to cater our wedding (fingers crossed), this will be on the menu!

So buttery and sweet...

My third course was Pan Seared Scallops with caramelized onions and beets ($28 a la carte). The scallops were seared to perfection–tender and sweet and soft. MMMMMMMmmmmmmmm.

My Trusty Sidekick started with a Mozerella and Beet salad with fresh basil and a light balsamic glaze. It tasted as fresh as summer.

For his second course, he tried Glazed Beef Short Rib ravioli with fragrant and delicious fried sage leaves ($25 a la carte).

His third course was the 12 Hour Beef and Parsnips, a slow-cooked pot roast over parsnips and balsamic onions, with a carrot butter sauce ($28 a la carte). Suffice to say we were both stuffed after our third plate…


…but of course the evening called for dessert! So, we split a chocolate tarte ($8) with chocolate sorbet and yummy, homemade potato chips. It was an amazing combination of sweet and salty.


What a sweet end to the meal.

Drink: As soon as our waitress figured out Trusty had just proposed, the matre d’ graciously sent over two glasses of champagne during dinner, and two glasses of Pacific Rim Framboise, NV, Washington during dessert. I usually don’t like Framboise–it can be cloyingly sweet–but this vintage (if that is the appropriate term) was delicious. I also enjoyed a delicious glass of rosehip herbal tea called “Bliss” at the end of the meal.

Service: Our waitress was fantastic, and the entire staff was so warm and welcoming. Alma’s hospitality was memorable–we’ll be back soon to enjoy their service again.

Scene: Because we went during an epic snowstorm the restaurant was literally empty! Trusty had called ahead to ask if we could be seated in a back, quiet corner of the restaurant, and when we arrived the Maitre d’ somewhat comically led us through Alma’s front room, which was empty, through their back room, which was also empty, and seated us at the very back corner table. When our waitress came over she informed us that the chefs were cooking for us. What an incredible evening. 

The interior of Alma.

The interior of Alma.

Cost: Our meal came to a little under $150 with tax and tip.

If you like, try: Heartland in St. Paul, Naha in Chicago

Spicy, Satisfying, and Inexpensive Korean at The Mill in Morningside Heights

23 Jan

Lately it seems like everyone in New York City has the sniffles, including me. A stubborn cold is going around, and I’ve been trying to shake it for over a week. When DayQuil and NyQuil fail, it’s time to bring out the big guns; it’s time to head to The Mill for some spicy and satisfying Korean food.

I think of The Mill as a little gem in Morningside Heights. It’s really the only authentic Korean food around on the UWS, unless you want to hike down to K-Town.  My Trusty Sidekick and I love coming here (even when I’m not under the weather) because the food is fresh, the portions are huge, and the service is fast. Best of all, it’s cheap. For a quick, inexpensive dinner, it’s hard to beat The Mill.

In one word: Qauthentic (quick + authentic)

Location: 2895 Broadway (between 111th St & 112th St)

 

The four complementary Banchan (small dishes) at The Mill are always fresh and constantly changing.

Food: As soon as you sit down four bowls of complimentary side dishes, called Banchan, will arrive, followed by a small bowl of miso soup. These dishes always make me smile–they’re fresh and constantly rotating. Trusty loved the spicy kim chi, while my favorite was the chilled, spicy and silky tofu. It was a great way to start the sinus-clearing meal.

Nothing like a rich, comforting Miso soup when you're sick--especially when it's free!

Trusty and I always order our favorite, go-to Bibimbap dishes. (Quick aside on Bibimbap–if you haven’t had Korean before, this dish is a must-try. The word means “mixed meal” and that’s literally what it is–a bowl of warm white rice topped with namul (sautéed and seasoned veggies) and paired with a raw or fried egg and/or sliced meat. On top of it all, you add gochujnag, a very spicy chili pepper paste, or chogochujang, a delicious, addictive Korean version of ketchup.  The dish can be served hot or cold, but usually comes in a very hot stone pot, and the ingredients are stirred together thoroughly just before eating.)

 

Magical, addictive chogochujang, a thick, sweet and very spicy sauce that's like a Korean version of ketchup.

I usually order Hwae Bibimbap ($12), which is a cold bibimbap (served in a stainless steel bowl instead of a hot stone pot) with assorted julianne vegetables and pea shoots, strips of slightly salty and sweet dried seaweed, julianne Fuji apple slices, and chunks of fresh, raw, sweet tuna or tilapia, all over warm white rice.

 

I love all the flavors and textures in this dish!

This dish combines all my favorite flavors and textures–I love the cold, sweet, raw tuna and tilapia with the warm white rice and the sweet and crunchy Fuji apples with the veggies–crispy lettuce and pea shoots dressed in nutty sesame oil–with the salty and slightly sweet seaweed–mmm. Tons of fresh, delicious ingredients that only get better with the spicy, sweet and vinegary chogochujang sauce.

 

Yum. I love the huge portions. The bowl is always way too big for me to finish!

Trusty always orders his favorite bibimbap, which is Mushroom Dolsot Bibimbap with Beef. It’s loaded with mushrooms, other veggies like bean sprouts, carrots, and zucchini, and strips of seared beef. 

Trusty’s bibimbap arrives in a piping hot stone pot, and when he mixes all the ingredients together the heat of the pot scrambles the fresh uncooked egg. The bowl is so hot that anything that touches it sizzles for minutes.  Before the rice is added to the pot, the bottom is coated with a yummy, nutty sesame oil, which makes the rice at the bottom of the pot deliciously golden brown and crispy–one of Trusty’s favorite parts of the dish.

 

Even Trusty can't finish his whole pot.

 

Drink: We usually order tea, which is a basic, but delicious jasmine. For my sick throat, it was especially good. If you’re in the mood for something else, The Mill also offers soft drinks, a selection of Asian brand beers, and cold sake. 

Service: The service here is fast, but impersonal; the no-fuss service here takes a back seat to the food. Expect to be seated immediately and expect your food to arrive within five minutes after you’ve placed your ordered. But, don’t expect any chit chat from your waiter. You may find the staff to be practically wordless–often food arrives without any explanation–but (I think) the food speaks for itself.

Scene: The restaurant is a small, simply decorated space. Framed Korean prints and old scrolls hanging on the walls give the interior a cozy, authentic ambiance. If there’s an open table in the back, asked to be seated there–you can peek into the kitchen and watch the kitchen crew roll dumplings by hand.

 

Interior of The Mill.

Dress: The Mill is pretty firmly in Columbia University territory, so casual dress code is more than appropriate. Jeans, t-shirt, whatever.

Cost: Our check came to $30 with tax and tip. A great price, and for the amount of food we got, it was especially reasonable.

Delivery: Delivery available from 95th to 125th St Riverside Dr. to Morningside Dr. $8 minimum.

If you like, try: Hangawi Grill in Korea Town NYC, Kang Nam in Albany Park neighborhood of Chicago