Tasty Mr. Peanut

March 16th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Unchanging. Slightly retro. HG refers to Planters Salted Cocktail Peanuts. Crack open that pop-top lid and revel in whooosh of escaping air and fresh, peanut aroma. Grab a handful and yes, they’re nice with an ice cold martini. But, don’t stop there. These nuts have many delightful uses. HG likes to sprinkle them on a steaming bowl of congee. They are irreplaceable in a Tin Roof, the dessert of vanilla ice cream, Hershey’s chocolate syrup—and crunchy, salty peanuts. They are a splendid accompaniment to chicken curry. They are a nice addition to a chicken or beef or pork stir fry. When making a chicken salad with last night’s roast chicken add Planters to a dressing of mayonnaise and chutney. Make a place in your pantry for Planters’ unassuming, pleasant little treat.

Scrambled Eggs And Caviar: Billionaire Food

March 16th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Unless you’re a Russian oligarch, Goldman Sachs partner or Middle Eastern oil sheik, caviar has become unaffordable. HG is talking about the real stuff: Osetra, Beluga, Sterlet or Sevruga from the Black Sea. For HG, a wistful memory. But, all is not lost. HG can still feel regal by indulging in scrambled eggs on buttered toast topped with modestly priced (but very good) red salmon caviar. Proper ingredients are essential: Fresh eggs from a humane hen house, high quality sweet butter, sweet cream, creme fraiche (Whole Foods carries a good quality brand), Pepperidge Farm Thin White Bread and, of course, good quality red salmon caviar (Zabar’s will overnight it to you).

Melt generous amount of butter in your saucepan under very low heat. Gently scramble eggs with sweet cream (HG likes to add a few drops of Tabasco). Add eggs to saucepan (keeping heat low). Swirl eggs in pan, adding a bit more sweet cream. You want very creamy eggs formed into gentle curds. Top the white bread toast with eggs, add caviar and a spoonful of creme fraiche. HG likes this dish with chilled Prosecco or Gruet New Mexico Blanc de Blanc. HG doesn’t want to be a billionaire. HG just wants to eat like one.

Congee: Like Nestling In Your Mother’s Arms.

March 16th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Congee is the Queen of Comfort Foods. Soothing. Nourishing. Savory. Infinitely flexible. Essentially, congee is rice porridge. Bears a close resemblance to soupy grits. Doesn’t sound like much. But, HG and hundreds of millions of Chinese can’t be wrong (and not just Chinese, but almost every Asian country has its own version of Congee) It is very yummy stuff, indeed. Very addictive. When the world has been treating you shabbily and Mom isn’t around, turn to congee for comfort.

Okay. How to make it? That very good food blog, Loulies.com, has a sure fire recipe for a big pot of congee. Here goes: 10 cups of stock (chicken or vegetable). Two cups of rice. Two tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar. Five slices of ginger. Tablespoon of kosher salt. Bring these ingredients to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and keep pot covered. Stir occasionally. Cook for one to one and 1/2 hours until it has a porridge-like consistency. Add more stock (or water) if it gets too thick.

Now, you can get creative. Add to your bowl some left over chicken (as HG mentioned in yesterday’s Spatchcocked Chicken Post). Give it a hit of sesame oil. Maybe some sriracha for heat and spice. Sliced scallions. Parsley and/or cilantro. HG likes to top it with Planter’s Salted Cocktail Peanuts (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it). When HG lived in Vancouver he dined often at Congee House, a perfectly named restaurant. HG watched patrons add black hundred year eggs, bok choy, shrimp, duck, roast pork, chicken feet and more to their steaming bowls of congee. As HG said: Congee is flexible. HG’s congee favorite: Buy some shucked oysters at a Whole Foods fish counter. Chop coarsely. Add to your congee with some parsley and a bit of soy sauce. You will be grateful to HG.

Spatchcocked Chicken. Funny Name. Great Taste.

March 15th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

When you tell your butcher to “spatchcock” a chicken he may give you a funny look or call the cops. If he or she is a culinary sophisticate however; they will smile warmly in a knowing manner. After all, there is something double entendre about the word. Spatchcocking a chicken means “butterflying” the bird by cutting out the backbone. Simple. The bird then lies flat, cooks quicklly, crisps nicely, stays juicy and is easy to carve. Researchers have determined the name come from “dispatch the cock.” In other words, cook the chicken quickly. Let your butcher do the spatchcocking. You do the cooking and enjoying. Here’s how HG does it. Take a three or three and a half pound chicken out of the fridge. Bring it to room temperature. Give it a nice rubdown with garlic infused olive oil and a small bit of lemon juice. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place the chicken, skin side down, in a cast iron frying pan. Sear the chicken on top of the stove for about four minutes until the skin crisps.. Turn the chicken over. Give the birdie a nice dusting of Goya Adobo Seasoning (the magic powder which SHOULD reside in all kitchens) and some cumin. Put a lemon in the pan. Put the pan in the oven and keep it there for 35 minutes. Check for doneness (drumstick wiggles freely and juices run clearly). If not done, put it back in the oven for another five or ten minutes. Goes nicely with fingerling potatoes. Cut your roasted lemon in half and add the juice to some Greek yogurt — yes, HG is a bit of a Greek yogurt obsessive. That’s your sauce for the taters. When you do this dish there’s rarely any left overs. But, just in case…HG will follow up tomorrow with instructions on how to use left over chicken in The Queen of Comfort Food Dishes. Thoughtful HG.

When Butter Was King Of The Kitchen.

March 15th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

The late, great French chef, Fernand Point, said the basis of great cuisine was butter. High quality butter. And, lots of it. HG agrees.

HG’s thoughts linger on sole prepared at Le Dome in Paris or raie at Rech (also in Paris), both dishes unthinkable without great quantities of butter. Or HG’s favorite Paris breakfast: A fresh from the baker baguette, sweet butter and cafe au lait.

The valuable blog, Lost New York City, has retrieved the recipe for the spaghetti dish served at the Longchamps restaurant chain in days gone by. The basis is 3/4 cup of butter. Onions, shallots, garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes, tomato puree, a pinch of sugar, a pinch of all spice, salt, pepper, a bay leaf are browned and then simmered for about 40 minutes. This long simmering in butter creates a rich, buttery sauce that captures tomato flavor without a hint of acidity. When the sauce is complete saute 1/2 pound (or more) chicken livers and a chopped shallot in 3 tablespoons of butter. Add to the sauce. Pour over one pound of pasta (HG likes fettuccini). Grate parmesan and grinds of the pepper mill.

A dish that will not be applauded by cardiologists.

Longchamps: Affordable Dining Magic

March 14th, 2011 § 5 comments § permalink

While watching “Boardwalk Empire“, the HBO series about Atlantic City’s prohibition days, HG’s thoughts turned to Longchamps, that long gone, magical chain of New York restaurants.

Where’s the connection ? Well. One of the principal bad guys in “Boardwalk Empire” is New York crime kingpin (and World Series Fixer!) Arnold Rothstein. A.R. had a brother-in-law named Henry Lustig who was in the food business. A.R. owned an attractive piece of real estate at 78th and Madison. A.R. put up the money and real estate and a restaurant chain, Longchamps, was born. Longchamps was, of course, named after the Paris race track. The name was apt: A.R. and Lustig were gamblers (A.R. was shot and killed while playing cards). Both men loved horses and they wanted the restaurant chain to evoke a Parisian flair (though the cuisine was American and international). Eventually there were 12 Longchamps restaurants in New York. They were pure theater. The colors were red, gold, yellow and black. The interior design was by the German art deco expert Winold Reiss (with an assist from New York architect Ely Jacques Kahn). Multi level, beautifully lit, Longchamps had suave service and excellent wine lists. In the beginning, it copied the European custom of forbidding tipping by simply adding a 10% charge to the bill. The food was marvelous. And, the price was right. Not cheap. Not super expensive. Just in the middle. Everything went well until 1946 when the IRS slapped Lustig with a $10 million tax bill and a fraud indictment (he spent four years in prison). Longchamps was soon in disarray and losing money. Jan Mitchell, the remarkable restaurateur who had revived L├╝chow’s, the great German restaurant on 14th Street, bought Longchamps in 1959 and quickly restored it to glory. From 1959 to 1967 (when Mitchell sold out and the chain disappeared), HG was a frequent customer. Pot a Feu (better than Paris); lush spaghetti with chicken livers; creamy chicken curry; lamb chops; eggs benedict and the ultimate roast beef hash. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Longchamps always hit the spot. Following their wedding in judge’s chambers on Foley Square, HG, BSK and the wedding party celebrated with eggs benedict and champagne at the Longchamps opposite City Hall. In memory, every meal at Longchamps was a celebration.

The Automat: Good Food For The Masses. It Can Be Done.

March 13th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

During its heyday (1930’s-1970’s), the Horn and Hardart Automat chain of restaurants fed some 350,000 to 500,000 New Yorkers and Philadelphians daily. Fed them in sparkling surroundings at a very low price. The customer put nickels in a slot and out popped the world’s best macaroni and cheese casseroles, baked bean casseroles, chicken pot pies, beef pot pies. There were exemplary salads, pies, cakes, sandwiches (the BLT was a winner). The diner could also take his tray to the cafeteria section for beef stew, Salisbury steak, roast chicken and an array of vegetables (Harvard beets and mashed potaoes were HG favorites). Say the word “Automat” to a New Yorker of a certain age and get a big smile. Automats were fun. Gregory Peck, Tony Curtis, Woody Allen, Leonard Nimoy, Jerome Robbins, Neil Simon and Dick Clark all loved the Automat. So did HG. Armed with a handful of nickels little HG felt like a true adult as he assembled his meal of macaroni and cheese, coconut custard pie and hot chocolate. The last Automat (southeast corner of 42nd and Third) closed in April 1991, just about 20 years ago. For those who want to reignite memories, the Smithsonian in Washington has a 35 foot section of the Automat on display. But, unfortunately, no piping hot macaroni and cheese.

Bickford’s: Bleak, Lonely, Literary.

March 12th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Bickford’s was a chain of plain spoken, very inexpensive New York eateries that stayed open late and advertised: “Breakfast Anytime.” There were 48 in 1960; 42 in 1970; two in 1980. The last one closed in 1982. Should they be mourned? Yes. Somehow their bleak decor and the loneliness of the customers encouraged literature. The 42nd Street Bickford’s was the hangout of the Beat novelists, poets, musicians and critics. Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Alan Ginsberg all wrote there, aided by many cups of good Bickford’s coffee. In fact Bickford’s is mentioned in both Burrough’s Junky and in Ginsberg’s seminal poem, Howl. William Styron mentions Bickford’s in his work. So does Woody Allen. It was Andy Warhol’s favorite for takeout coffee. HG was fond of Bickford’s apple pancakes, rice pudding and cheesecake. In a wistful late night mood, HG wrote some very bad proletarian poetry at the Bickford’s on the northeast corner of 45th and Lexington. HG also spent a Thanksgiving there which was almost as depressing as the fictional Thanksgiving scene in Woody Allen’s Broadway Danny Rose.

New York doesn’t honor its writers and artists the way Paris does. Sartre and de Beauvoir are identified with Cafe Flor. Hemingway and scores of painters made the brasseries and cafes in Montparnasse their second home. And, this is acknowledged by those circular blue Paris signs. But, there’s no literary marker on W. 42nd Street. And like those missing markers, HG’s poetry has not survived (Thankfully!).

Superman And Batman Revisited: A Freudian Analysis by SJ

March 12th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

The connection between food and cartoon characters. A worthy subject as HG’s ponderings proved. Winsor McCay’s “Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend” illustrated the very British concern that partaking of a rarebit soon before bed would lead to extravagant and exaggerated dreams — a notion that mirrors my deep held belief of the connection between food and our unconscious. No wonder food plays such a prominent role in that hotbed of Freudian sexual sub-text — the Sunday comics: In a pretty much literal fashion, Popeye’s gulp of Spinach acts like a triple dose of Viagra — pumping his flacid forearm into a rod of Iron to take on the marauding Bluto (who is always right on the verge of ravishing Olive Oyl)! Dagwood? Blondie was hot! Tight sweaters! Serious cleavage! High Heels! And he had a crap boss, Mr. Dithers, who loved to humiliate him. Well, you cannot kill your boss and have great sex with your wife in your Sunday morning strip, so how do you express that dark Id? Well devouring a MASSIVE over-stuffed sandwich bigger than your head might be a good start. Which brings us right to Archie. Yessiree up in Riverdale you have Archie and the 3 components of his psyche: Reggie (the Ego), Mr. Lodge (Super-Ego) and yessss….stuffing his face to feed his insatiable hunger meet Jug Head a.k.a. Archie’s Id. So, why aren’t Superman, Batman, and the rest of the action force hungry? Well….that is a story for another day.

Superman And Batman: Too Busy To Nosh.

March 11th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

As you may have noticed, HG’s rarebit musings were illustrated with a drawing from Winsor McCay’s 1904-1913 comic strip, “Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend”. McCay also created the character Little Nemo (“Little Nemo In Slumberland” — 1905-1913) and “Gertie the Dinosaur“, believed to be the first animated film. This illustrative foray into the early history of comic strips led HG to ponder upon the linkage between comic strip characters and food. Popeye, of course, needed his spinach to defeat Bluto and retain the love of the, aptly named for a food maven, Olive Oyl. His pal, Wimpy, had no romantic inclinations. He lived to devour hamburgers, of which he would gladly pay you for on a Tuesday. Al Capp’s L’il Abner (and all of the Yokums) thrived on po’k chops. Dagwood, loving husband of Blondie, constructed gigantic Dagwood sandwiches. Garfield, the whimsical cat, is a chronic over-eater and Jughead, pal of Archie, is perpetually hungry. Hassenfeffer is commented upon favorably in “The Katzenjammer Kids”. The much beleaguered Jiggs of “Bringing Up Father” sought solace in corned beef and cabbage. (A cultural note from Our Friendly Neighbor To The North: Sunday dinner of corned beef, cabbage and boiled potatoes is known as a “Jiggs” in Newfoundland and Labrador.)

As for Superman and Batman (and of course Robin!): Too busy fighting the forces of evil to enjoy a nosh.

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