Monday, December 29, 2008

Roberta's pizza in Bushwick

Priya and I were planning to have a sedate brunch at home last Sunday, but then Katie called and suggested brunch at Roberta's, a pizzeria in Bushwick run by some friends. Brunch at a pizzeria? Weird, but sounds good, so we went.

The place was pretty empty, and a friend was waitressing, so we got individual attention as pizzas slowly came out, one by one. We had an appetizer salad involving La Tur cheese and apples, and we split an order of French toast as another appetizer... I wish I'd taken a picture, but you get like four small slices, looks like they're cut from a baguette, soaked in syrup and butter. Nice.

It was weird getting coffee with pizza, but not so much when I ordered the guanciale (pig jowl) and egg pizza. Absolutely delicious for dinner, and even better as a brunch item. The yolk runs all over and you sop it up with cheesy, saucy pizza--mixed with the tomato sauce, it's almost like shakshuka--yum!

There were a bunch of new special pizzas being rolled out, and due to a kitchen error we got to try all of the ones we wanted! One amazing one was the finocchio, with a copious amount of sweet caramelized fennel atop:

Also, this one (called "The Good Girl") had sausage, taleggio cheese, and kale. The greens were perfectly crisped:

We also got to try some scrambled eggs with oysters poached in red wine--delicious!

Iron Chef

it's been a couple of weeks, I know.

this year, my school repeated our annual "Iron Chef" staff/faculty holiday party...we all go to the Spanish teacher's AMAZING apartment in Chelsea (her husband is the dean of NYU's law school, so they gave him two of their apartments and knocked out the wall between them, so she has a single room entertaining space that is literally larger than the footprint of my parents' house in CT...) and bring stuff we've cooked and eat and hang out and get judged.

This year, it seemed like the competitiveness went a little overboard, and I really disagreed with the selection of the "theme ingredient". Instead of a handful of ingredients to choose from, the Powers That Be declared that the theme this year was "regional cooking". Regions would be randomly assigned to the four teams (of 9th-, 10th-, 11th-, 12th-grade teachers) and we'd have to cook within our region.

It was basically the opposite of Iron Chef. The point of Iron Chef is that everybody has a specialty, and you can make that specialty apply to whatever theme ingredients you are assigned. With this new way, your specialty was thrown out the window. So if somebody was an amazing Spanish cook, they might get assigned Korean food, and if someone was focused on Indian food they might get assigned to do European food...blah.

Because there was so much complaining, the Powers That Be allowed people to draw twice and keep whichever they chose. In the end, our four regions were: American, American Regional (Southern), Mediterranean, and Latin American. Basically, the four most boring regions, stuff we eat all the time anyway. Sure, there might be a Chinese food specialist on your team, but most of the team couldn't cook that, so better to go with American, eh?

Anyway, we drew Mediterranean, so I made chicken marsala with Priya. We made it a couple of days early and had a nice chicken marsala dinner ourselves before fridging it. I think it came out great, among the best it's ever come out--very tender and delicious. With roasted-garlic bread, Caesar salad, and capellini:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

French Onion Soup and chicken/lentils/sausage

I got this idea that I was going to make onion soup--I really enjoy it, and I only ever have it when it's a big production with the Gruyere and the crouton and whatnot, and while that's fine, I realized I've never made it simply because I don't want to deal with all that. So fine, forget all the accoutrements--let's make onion soup.

I based it on Alton Brown's onion soup recipe, with some notable changes--first, I used around 32 oz of each type of liquid, not 10z, wanting to make a huge tank so I could bring it for lunch this week and still be able to freeze a bunch. I also had to make some sleazy "I don't have that" substitutions--dried thyme and bay leaves instead of a bouquet of fresh herbs, beef broth instead of beef consomme, shitty generic "apple cider" (which tasted like apple juice) instead of cloudy Lyman Orchards awesome cider...

I used my mandoline to slice an enormous bowlful of Vidalias and then spent the next HOUR browning them sufficiently. Once that was done, the soup itself was easy and fast. I transferred it from my Dutch oven to my stockpot after deglazing so I could add even more liquid (and make more soup!).

It was quite delicious, but arguably too sweet--next time I'll add about half the apple cider and maybe use some red onions mixed with the Vidalias. (I also think the sweetness was enhanced by the fact that it didn't have the cheese or bread in it cutting the sugaryness).

Needing a quick and easy main dish that didn't clash with bread+soup, I determined I wanted to use up the chicken breasts I had in the fridge, and also somehow make use of a mirepoix (I had just bought a bunch of carrots and celery). I browned some hot sausage in my Dutch oven and then browned chunks of chicken breast (sprinkled with paprika and za'atar) in the fat + some olive oil. Removing the meat, I threw in the mirepoix and sauteed til translucent; then I stirred in a bunch of French green lentils, added garlic and chicken broth, returned the meat to the pot, brought to a simmer, and let cook until the lentils and meat were done. It was pretty good for an off-the-cuff meal!