Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What's in the fridge?

A couple of nights ago I wanted to make an inviting, creative, healthy meal, but did not feel like going shopping so I looked in my fridge to see what I could come up with. After I passed by the beer and stale mixers, I saw some fresh Penne, Parmesan, cream, bacon, frozen peas, butter, olive oil, pepper flakes, all the good stuff...lovely!

  • I first cut up the bacon into smaller pieces and cooked it until crispy and than put it aside.
  • At the same time, cook the penne until al dente and put aside.
  • In a pot, slightly blanch the peas in water with a bit of bullion powder and then put aside.
  • In another pan (or in the pan you cooked the bacon if you want to get crazy) cook some onion, if you have it, and garlic on low/medium heat until slightly browned (in a tablespoon of butter and some olive oil). Add half a cup of cream or milk, a couple of tablespoons of butter and reduce to the consistency you like. Add the pepper flakes and any other spices you want to kick it up. Add as much Parmesan as you like
I added a decent Spanish red wine from Rioja to go with the Penne. It was really easy, cheap, somewhat healthy, not really, but pretty close, and quick to make.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Complete Meal

What is a complete meal? In which order should we eat? In the US, we eat bread first, than salad, than usually a large plate of meat with vegetables and a starch, and finally desert. In Italy, you eat the salad after all the main dishes and before desert. They usually start with a light appetizer, then have a pasta plate, fish plate, meat plate and than desert followed by an apperatif such as Amaro Averna. In Spain there is a lot of tapas and snacking and then the meal is served. In Sweden the meal is usually served at once similar to the US. In England they...well who cares about English food, seriously!?

Anyway, which method is best? Which series of dishes is most healthy? How fast should we eat? I remember growing up my family set the table and ate together every night, unless my dad was on a business trip or my brother in a tennis tournament. Looking back, eating as a family was huge in establishing the closeness we have now. I have no idea how my mom did it, my brother was a normally weird teenage and I was a fricking disaster, but she did it...and I'm glad she did.

Back to the subject. In my opinion, it doesn't matter how you eat, when you eat, how fast you eat, just as long as you eat with your family and friends as much as possible, eat healthy and definitely get creative and get your brain working. For some reason, most people in the US rush through meals and don't appreciate the importance of the nurishment of the body and soul while eating and don't take advantage of the opportunity presented every day. Whatever! I'm going to order a pizza tonight and drink a few beers while watching Entourage by myself!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Jacques Pepin

I'm 30 years old so I figured it was about time that I challenged my comfort zone and attempted a few new non-Swutch style recipes. I started reading Jacques Pepin's autobiography, "The Apprentice" a few days ago and discovered an excellent meal he concocted over 60 years ago called Poulet a la Creme, (Chicken with Cream Sauce). It was actually the first meal he produced by himself when he was only 14 years old. I tried it on my usual Guinea Pigs Mark and Aimee. The result was that Mark loved it, I loved it, but Aimee surprised me with her new vegetarianism so she couldn't eat it. That's fine though, means I can further explore the unexplored world of fish.

Here are the ingredients (serves 4):
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 Chicken (cut into 4 pieces - 2 legs, 2 breast all with bones)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 cup of fruity white wine (Chardonnay)
  • 1 cup of good chicken stock (I like Kitchen Essentials - it's a yellow box)
  • 1 small onion (peeled, split in half)
  • 1 Bouquet garni - Parsley (leave sprigs in), 2 Bay leaves, Thyme. I also put in Rosemary and pepper flakes.
  • Flour
  • 1 Cup heavy cream
  1. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a sturdy, big saucepan along with some good olive oil on medium high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and place in the hot pan skin side down. Brown the chicken on both sides.
  2. Once the chicken is browned, add the wine, chicken stock, onion and bouquet garni. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cover with tin foil for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and cover with tin foil to keep warm.
  3. Add kneaded butter, about a tablespoon, with flour, also a tablespoon and whisk into sauce. Whisk aggresively. Bring to a boil and than add the cream and boil for another 5-10 minutes to thicken the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. While the sauce is boiling, you may want to remove the bones and the skin from the chicken. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve over the chicken and serve immediately.
Along with the chicken, I made brown rice (which I always cook in chicken stock) and added parsley to the rice. I also made my mom's salad dressing with arugala, avocado, yellow pepper, corn, tomatoes, and some other stuff I can't remember. Add a baguette to dip in the sauce.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Buddha Bar

I went to the Buddha Bar in NYC last Saturday night with my colleague, Lauren. Quite an interesting experience to say the least. It is in the middle of the Meatpacking District and at first sight, it has the look and feel of walking into a nightclub, bouncer, red carpet, velvet rope, etc. The music is eccentric and comes from a dubious origin, but is excellent for the character of the restaurant/club. While the place is enormous, the music holds its own and is never too loud or too soft. We arrived at 7.30pm and it was half full. By 9pm it was absolutely packed with people. We had chicken dumplings, spicy tuna, lobster rolls accompanied by a few nice, strong vodka and tonics and ended with some chocolate volcano thing. The experience was above average, nothing spectacular. The fact that the waiter was rushing us to get out of there and flip our table probably put a slight damper on my attitude, especially since we dropped $150 on the meal...(I've spent that much on meals around the world and the experience was 10 times better.) However, the Buddha Bar is in the middle of the Meatpacking district and the night life of that area reminded me of my old days in Madrid, Spain (La Marcha!!)...the events of that aspect of the night are for another blog th0ugh.