Our Daily Dinner

Our Daily Dinner

March 31, 2010

Chef's Night Off

Dim Sum Dinner

We decided to take a break from our usual Monday Japanese dinner and have Chinese food instead. George loves Chinatown. He used to go every week to have lunch at Jing Fong*. The place, reached by escalator, is of banquet-size dimension, hung with chandeliers. Tables are set with paper napkins. You usually share a table with six to eight people. Since prices increase after 12 o’clock, there’s a big rush prior to noon. Servers walk up and down the aisles with serving carts, bearing trays of a variety of dumplings.

I selected five trays of dumplings, filled with shrimp, spinach, pork, and various vegetables. In addition, I opted for a bowl of sticky rice and steamed Chinese broccoli rab from the hot buffet.

To maximize my Chinese expedition, I went to the Great NY Noodle Town** for an order of soup. This is a no nonsense place: a cook places a large amount of noodles into a container, chops up pieces of Peking duck and adds these to the noodles. The cashier then fills the container with broth, ladled from a big caldron. The soup costs $4.00.

When it was time for dinner, I steamed the dumplings in a bamboo basket over boiling water, heated the soup, and warmed the sticky rice and the vegetables in the microwave. George complained that he ate too much sticky rice. I had a stomach ache from the vegetables. But we had fun.

Besides, I knew that tomorrow we would have an Italian feast since, once in the neighborhood, I couldn’t help but stop by at Di Palo’s.

*Jing Fong
Chinatown/ 20 Elizabeth Street (bet. Bayard & Canal Sts.)

**Great NY Noodle Town
    Chinatown/ 28 1/2 Bowery (Bayard St.)

March 29, 2010

Buffalo Burgers

I had my first buffalo burger the day I saw my first buffalo, in fact, on the day when I encountered a herd of eight hundred of them. George and I were visiting our son, Jonathan, who was chef at an inn which was part of a 55,000-acre buffalo ranch in Wyoming. During our short stay we sampled buffalo chili, buffalo short-ribs, grilled buffalo steak, and my favorite, buffalo carpaccio. The buffalo meat is lean, rich in iron, and hormone free. It has a distinctive, meaty taste which is hard to describe. We loved it.

Back in New York, I was glad to find freshly ground buffalo patties at Citarella’s meat department. Their buffalo meat, I was told, comes from a ranch in Colorado. Another source for buffalo meat is Elk Trails Bison Ranch, whose owner, Ronald Kipps, sells fast frozen cuts at the Union Square Market.


Buffalo Burgers
Semi-soft Rolls
Tomato Slices
Roasted Potatoes
Wine: Bogle Vineyard Petit Sirah
Cherry Garcia Ice Cream

The burgers need little seasoning; a bit of freshly ground pepper will do. I sauté the burgers in hot oil-- rare for me and medium rare for George. Next, I sear the inside of the rolls in the remaining oil. I serve the burgers with slices of tomatoes,sprinkled with sea salt, and pan roasted potatoes, seasoned with rosemary leaves. George uses catsup.


Elk Trails Ranch

March 27, 2010

Tortillitas with Shrimp

Thanks to Mark Bittman’s recipe in the New York Times, these pancakes are a welcome addition to my dinner repertoire.

Tortillitas with Shrimp
Baked Kale
Wine: Babich Sauvignon Blanc
Dessert: Chocolate

½ cup chickpea flour
½ cup white flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup chopped green onions
12 small raw shrimp, peeled and chopped
About 1 cup of water, more if needed
Salt, pepper, thyme
Wesson oil

I prepared the batter, including the green onions and shrimps, ahead of time so that I wouldn’t have too much work to do at dinner time. When it was time for dinner, I pored a small ladle of batter into a pan with hot oil, and sautéd the pancake for about 3 minutes per side till slightly browned. I repeted this with the rest of the batter.

The only problem was that, by the time I cooked the last tortillitas, the first ones were cold. George always waits to start eating till I join him. Since I am cook, waiter, sommelier, bus boy, and dishwasher, that often takes some time.

I didn't care for the kale. Maybe I don't know how to cook it. Suggestions are welcome.

March 25, 2010

Chef's Night Off

Dominican Chicken Dinner

Sandy is a Dominican family-owned, small restaurant in Spanish Harlem that roasts the juiciest, most succulent chicken.

“Why do you bother to go there?” asks George. “I’m sure they deliver.”

I tell him that being there is half of the fun. I love the energy of the place with every server pitching in, refilling steaming trays with tostones, plantains, empanadas, blood sausages; removing chicken from the roasting racks. They chop up roasted chicken and pork butts with a machete with the energy of a prize fighter. Only a few speak English. Today’s special, I notice, is beef tripe soup and pork feet.

I order one rotisserie chicken, one madura--the soft and sticky, caramelized plantain adored by George--and a small order of rice and beans. Occasionally, I also get a Cubano, the Cuban super sandwich, with roasted pork, ham, salami, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, packed into a hero role, smeared with maoy. The Cubano reminds George of Cuba where he lived when he was a teenager.

The bill varies from $12.50. to $17. depending who rings it up.

When it’s time to serve dinner, I cut the chicken into serving pieces and heat tonight’s portions in the microwave oven for 1 minute. There’s usually enough chicken left for another meal. The rice could easily serve a party of four. Since I don’t’ like plantains, I have a salad.


Rotisserie Chicken
Rice and Beans
Green Salad
Wine: Bogle ineyards, Merlot 2008
Dessert: Cherry Garcia Ice Cream

Sandy (212) 348-8654 (Spanish Harlem)
2nd Ave.& 116 St.

March 21, 2010

A Word About Bread

I’m strong believer in “as the bread goes so goes the meal.” In other words: a good bread makes the meal. In fact, give me a good piece of bread and butter, and I could skip the meal. George used to bake bread at home. He’d get up at the crack of dawn and would bake several loafs of French baguettes. The aroma alone made me hungry.

Now I buy Pane Francese. The big square loaf is crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside. The bread is available at most specialty stores. One loaf lasts us about four days. To keep it fresh, I cut it in serving size portions, put it into a ziploc bag and freeze.

In addition, I always have a package of delba’s German whole grain pumpernickel on hand. Almost black, slightly sweet and compact, I serve the pumpernickel with cured salmon, or a strong, runny cheese. I also like Corrado’s French baguette. Le Pain Quotidien bakes excellent bread. I particularly like their Sourdough Peasant Rye; George likes their Five Grain & Raisin Bread. But it seems every time I shop there, they have raised their prices.

One of these days, I’ll go down to the Essex Street Market and look at Pain d’Avignon’s bread selection. I understand they carry 36 different kinds of breads and rolls, including mini-loaves which they call
recession breads because they are cheaper and nothing goes to waste. I’d buy five or six of the recession breads and prepare a dinner around


March 20, 2010

German/Alsatian Dinner

Andouille Sausage*
German Potato Salad*
Wine: Willm Gewürztraminer Reserve 2008
Dessert: Chocolate Ice Cream

When I read that Fairways had just received a shipment of canned, “artfully seasoned” sauerkrauts from a company in the Champagne region of France,I immediately dashed to the West Side. The sauerkraut that appealed to me the most, was seasoned with goose fat, white wine, and contained raisins.

Since I wasn’t about to cook choucroute garni, I bought a
variety of sausages from Schaller & Weber*, figuring we would
have a German/Alsatian feast.

The sausages were terrific, as was the German potato salad. The
sauerkraut, however, was a bummer. It contained too much goose fat
and lacked flavor. I tried to rescue it by adding coriander berries (wrapped in cheesecloth), white wine, and some salt, but to no avail. If I had bought Schaller & Weber's ready-made sauerkraut and doctored it up, I could have saved myself the trip.

The Gewürztraminer was too sweet and lacked Gewürtz. A Pilsner
beer would have been better.

*Schaller & Weber (upper East Side)

2127 Bway at 73rd St. (upper West Side)
(212) 595-1888

One Pot Dish

Porterhouse Stew

Ages ago, I used to make everything from scratch: stock, meat glaze, flavored butter, you name it. I competed with like-minded friends outdoing each other with elaborate meals. We lived in a large apartment which had an octagonal foyer where I once gave a sit-down dinner for thirty people

Today, I try to get as much help as I can from ready made foods, and Ottomanelli’s* Porterhouse Stew suits me just fine. To make sure that the meat is tender, I cook it for an additional hour, adding red wine as needed. The stew contains a fair amount of potatoes, celery, and carrots. But, since I like lots of vegetables, I steam some additional carrots, turnips and add some defrosted frozen white pearl onions which I sauté till lightly browned. I incorporate the cooked vegetables into the stew, add a strip of orange peel, and continue to cook the stew.

I usually prepare the dish a day before serving because it helps the flavors to macerate. When ready to serve, I heat the stew, adjust the seasoning and remove the orange peel. I ladle the stew into two big bowls, sprinkle the top with chopped parsley, and serve it with chunks of bread.


Porterhouse Stew
Wine: Côtes-du-Rhône, Saint Esprit 2007 Delas
Dessert: Chocolate


1 quart ready-made Porterhouse Stew
2 carrots, cut into bite-sized portions
2 turnips, cut into bite-sized portions
½ package frozen white pearl onions
1 strip of orange peel
Red wine, salt and pepper as needed
Chopped parsley for garnish

Left Over Stew

There’s always stew left over for a second meal. Since it's boring to serve the same dish twice in a row, I put the left over into the freezer and defrost it when ready to use. To change the flavor, I add ½ can of stewed tomatoes and, to give it some pizazz, I serve the stew in a scooped out ciabatta role.


March 15, 2010

Chef’s Night Off

Sushi & Sashimi

If it’s Monday, it must be sushi. Once I couldn't get to the store on Monday and bought the sushi on Tuesday. It fouled us up for the rest of the week. I buy the sushi and other items at the Japanese market, Katagiri*, which gets the prepared dishes from the Chiyoda Sushi restaurant.

The sushi is guaranteed to be fresh, and the quality is consistently tops. But shopping at Katagiri can be frustrating. Shopping carts are not permitted; aisles are cluttered with boxes; many packaged items are only identified in Japanese. Of course, that may add to the attraction of the place. It certainly is authentic.


Special sushi set:
Tuna, Fluke, Salmon, Sweetshrimp, Mackerel, Simmered Sea Eel, Sea urchin, Salmon roe, Vinegered rice, plus 4 small California rolls
4 pieces salmon or scallop sashimi
Soba Salad (Buckwheat noodle, sesame paste, romaine lettuce, soy sauce)
Beer: Sapporo
Dessert: Fresh pineapple, raisins & nuts

My only contribution to the meal is the dipping sauce based on a recipe from Edward Behr’s magazine “the Art of Eating.”

1/2 cup mirin (sweet cooking wine)
1 cup shoyu sauce (soy)
2 oz. Katsuobushi (dried bonito fish flakes)

Pour mirin into a pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer.
Add shoyu and fish flakes. Turn off heat.
Let stand till the flakes sink to the bottom.
Strain liquid through cheesecloth.
Transfer to a bottle.
Stored in the refrigerator, the sauce will keep for ½ year.

*Katagiri & Co.
224 E. 59th St. (212) 755-3566
Chiyoda Sushi (212) 400-8880

A La Bolognese


Ricotta and Parmigiano Reggiano Tortellini*
Dessert: Biscotti**
Wine: Frescobaldi Nipozza, Chianti Riserva, 2006

According to George, to cook pasta you have to be Italian, which I am decidedly not. Fortunately the pasta imported from Bertagni was so easy to prepare and so good, it made an Italian out of me. All I had to do was follow the cooking instruction, saute the cooked pasta in butter and olive oil till slighted browned, add grated Pecorino Grana and--voila--I had cooked the perfect pasta. Bertagni prides itself on being "The oldest filled pasta producer in Italy," and for good reason.

For the antipasti I put out Sicilian salami, pitted Niçoise olives, Italian semi-dried tomatoes, small balls of fresh mozzarella laced with olive oil, canned sardines, and bread sticks.

The Chianti did the rest.

The dinner reminded us of our visit to Bologna. Trying to come to terms with Bologna’s pasta alone kept us happily occupied. Among other things we learned was that in Bologna tortellini are round and that the pointed ones are cappeletti which come from Romagna. Tortelloni have the same round shape as tortellini, but are larger.

I think Egido’s almond biscotti are the best this side of the Atlantic, worth a trip to Arthur Avenue's Little Italy area in The Bronx. But I am no expert. For all I know, there is a better place in Brooklyn or in Staten Island. Some pastry mavens might even twice bake their own, fantastic biscotti. If you are one of them, please let me hear from you.

*Fresh Direct

**Egidio Pastry Shop (718) 295-6077
622 E 187 St.,The Bronx

March 11, 2010

George’s Second Favorite Dish: Meatballs

Without a doubt, one of George’s favorite dishes is the bouillabaisse served at Michel-Brasserie des Catalans in Marseille. Over the years we must have eaten there a dozen times and were never disappointed. The excitement starts the minute you enter the restaurant and see the bounty of today's catch arranged over ice. A motley group that may include rascasse, Saint Pierre, red mullet, whiting, monkfish, daurade, snapper, and grouper.

The meal starts with the fish soup, accompanied by croutons, and a bowl of fiery aïoli. The soup tastes so great, it's tempting to accept the offer of a second helping, but we have learned to restrain ourself and wait for the fish course. The captain debones our fish, places them on the plates, adds the potatoes--napped with fish soup--and more aïoli or rouille. It's hard to say what's more impressive: the ceremony or the meal.

Since I can't possibly compete with that, I settle for meatballs.


Baked Potatoes with Chives
Roasted Tomatoes
Wine: Bogle Vineyard Petite Sirah
Dessert: Chocolate

I buy most of my meat at Ottomanelli.* I particularly like their chopped meat which they grind to order. I use sirloin for tartare steak, round for hamburgers, and chuck for meatballs. To heighten the flavor of the meat, I add about one teaspoon of goose fat** and one tablespoon of Gold Medal Liver Wurst.** The costly goose fat paid off because it keeps forever; the left-over liverwurst makes a tasty sandwich.

I soak pieces of old bread in hot water, add the meat, goose fat, liverwurst, Dijon mustard, a dash of Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper. I mix everything with my hand. It’s messy, but it works. Next, I form the meatballs and roll them in a mixture of breadcrumbs and thyme. I sauté the meatballs over high heat till browned on both sides, remove them from the heat, and let rest for a bit.

Since tomatoes have little flavor this time of year, I pan roast cherry tomatoes, cut in half, over low heat till slightly browned, and finish them with Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, an a bit of sea salt.

York Ave at 92nd St.

**Schaller & Weber
Second Ave at 86 Street