Thursday, April 22, 2010

Two (Die-for! Ha!) Steak Side Dishes

INGREDIENTS (both serve 4, and ideally would go best with a dark meat of some kind for the main event, such as steak or lamb):

(for the MAITAKE MUSHROOMS WITH FIDDLEHEAD FERNS--one of the best seasonal spring dishes I've ever put in my face)

1/2 pound fiddlehead fern fronds, brown stems trimmed and carefully cleaned of grit
1/2 pound maitake (also called hen-of-the-woods) mushrooms, brushed clean and separated into generous 3-inch pieces
4 tbsp. butter, divided
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 medium shallot, sliced thin
salt and fresh black pepper

1) Drop 2 tbsp. of your butter into a hot cast iron over medium-high heat and wait until foaming subsides.
2) Add shallots, garlic, and fiddleheads. Saute for about 4-5 minutes, until the shallots are nicely caramelized and the fiddleheads are bright green.
3) Move the fiddleheads to the side a bit and add your reserved 2 tbsp. butter to the center of the skillet. When foaming subsides, add maitake mushrooms.
4) Season with salt and fresh black pepper. After mushrooms have wilted/browned a bit, about 3 minutes, combine them with the fiddleheads.
5) Adjust seasoning to taste and remove from heat. Serve immediately. The fiddleheads are cooked when they have been sauteed 8-10 minutes and are about the consistency of young asparagus. They should look pretty much like the above picture. Be careful to heat them past their crunch, as bacteria have been known to hide in the little heads and you should cook them thoroughly. It's a rare problem, but might as well be safe, yes?

(for the BLT STEAK POPOVERS; original recipe by Laurent Tourondel uses gruyere, but hey, we didn't have gruyere)

two cups milk, gently warmed
4 eggs
2 cups flour
3/4 tbsp salt
1 generous cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
popover pan

1) Place the popover pan
in the oven, heating oven and pan to 350 degrees.
2) Whisk the eggs until frothy and then slowly whisk in the milk (so as not to cook the eg
gs). Set mixture aside.
3) Sift the flour with the salt. Slowly add this dry mixture and gently combine until mostly smooth.
4) Once combined, remove the popover pan from the oven and spray with non-stick vegetable or olive oil spray. While the batter is still warm/room temperature, fill each popover cup 3/4 full. Top each popover with 2-3 tbsp cheese (we used cheddar; Chef Laurent uses gruyere).
5) Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes, rotating pan half a turn after 15 minutes of baking. Remove from oven, remove from pan, and serve immediately.

(further dinner instructions)

1) Cook a steak or else a lamb chop just the way you like it. Serve with these sides.
2) Open a bottle of
Tröegs Nugget Nectar.
3) Enjoy together.


I've been on an American craft- and microbrew beer tasting kick of late because Gabe has a new job. Plus his old job. He still works at Woo Lae Oak, but he's also now employed by the lovely folks who run Bar Carrera on Houston and MacDougal, and they have just opened a fabulous new location called Custom American Wine Bar in Williamsburg. They worked with Gabe to write the new hangout's beer list, which brings us to...


Tröegs is a team of two brothers by the name of Chris and John Trogner who brew in central Pennsylvania and make things that tend to be completely delicious. They explain their brewery's name in this manner:

TRÖEGS (tr?gs) *v-tröeged, -tröeg'in The act of tröeg'in, ie "I tröeged it" or {slang} "that boy is tröeg'in" -adj. An aura of complete enjoyment and contentment, ie "My you look Tröegy this morning."

I hesitate to either question or believe their regionalisms, but holy crap nuggets, the Nugget Nectar is fantastic. (To be fair, their other style are also excellent, as I don't want to give the impression that you should be stocking up on Nugget and skip the JavaHead Stout or the Sunshine Pils, to name two...) Nugget Nectar is an Imperial Amber Ale made with classic European malts that is blown through the roof by way of Nugget, Warrior, Tomahawk, and other hardcore hops. 7.5 % ABV, IBUs guessed to be "93ish" by the brewers. I don't know that many other Imperial Ambers can hold a candle to this orange-hued cup of piney goodness, but you're welcome to buy me as many as you like to prove me wrong. The nose hints at biscuits from the Munich malts but is dominated by elegant floral hops and caramelized orange peel. So go ahead and taste it.

Smoother than you expected, yes? Creamier? With a lingering sweetness? Nothing a bit overpowering and everything neatly lined up like an OCD's medicine cabinet?

Go buy this beer right now, it's seasonal. Then eat it with STEAK and STEAK SIDE DISHES. You will not be sorry. If you are, call me, and I'll finish the bottle.


My friend Dahlinger mentioned gardening today, so I'm going to rant about it here for a minute. I love my garden like I love secondhand designer dresses, and the garden this year is--largely--no longer a seething hotbed of Jacobean political intrigue. It has its quirks, to be sure, and abandoned animals, and the odd crackhead who takes up half an hour or so of my time on any given Thursday May 20th yesterday in mid-afternoon when I wanted to be watering the shoots and the leaves. But that's pretty much every space in New York, so why quibble.

And anyway, I'd imagine we'll do a redux of the EXTREME SUMMER GARDEN series on this blog, so some context is good. This is my garden plot midsummer last year, and here's my opinion of what to put in a garden bed with limited space.

HERBS, and reasons to plant them: herbs are so expensive at the grocery store that sometimes I'd like to ask them what just a couple of basil leaves instead of the whole bunch costs. And they have a very short fridge life, which is maddening. Here's my inner monologue some mornings:

(warning: this is a perhaps mentally stultifying example of just how boring my inner monologue can be--proceed with caution...)

ME: Hungry. Not many options in fridge. I have plenty of noodles in the pantry. Hey, I could put that basil on them and some frozen peas. (opens fridge, finds that basil is brown when it wasn't yesterday) S** of a bitch, ten-dollar-basil!!! My nemesis. My love.

Something like that. Plant herbs, and plenty of them. Then when you want two parsley sprigs, go pick two parsley sprigs. Problem solved. I have this year (this is my 2010 garden during last month's rainy spell):

Italian sweet basil
Mexican cinnamon basil
Thai basil
Wild arugula (the crazy patch in the upper right)
Jamaican thyme
English thyme
Lemon thyme
Chocolate mint

VEG, accompanied by veggie warnings: everybody likes a nice zucchini frittata, or a yellow squash soup, right?


If you have an estate, plant squash. If you have your own island, plant squash. If you live in Dakota Territory and the nearest town ain't got no law to speak of and the last neighbor you had was a fur trapper who was gone the next morning and you tend to "disrecollect" things instead of forgetting them, plant squash. If you have a plot, like I do, then don't, unless your car runs on zucchini bread instead of gasoline. The yield is terrific, the space expended monstrous.

Caution: the byword of the man who encounters a pumpkin seed.

In my opinion, you want to plant things that either 1) cost less to grow yourself; 2) look too cool to pass up, or; 3) need to ripen on the vine to taste good. This means you will probably be planting tomatoes. Several kinds, preferably heirloom. It means you really ought to plant lettuce heads, because you can pluck the nicest leaves off for your fresh-from-the-elements salad and your plant will keep growing.

I have this season (we skipped the peppers we did last year only because they're so cheap in my hood):

"Pink lettucy mustard" (pictured--it's a hybrid green, and is fantastic raw in salads)
Red leaf lettuce
Yellow tomatoes
Little tomatoes I forget what kind
Big tomatoes I forget what kind
Purple broccoli
Red Falstaff Brussels sprouts

So that's the size of it, folks. I'm in favor of things that make it easier to cook dinner, essentially, when you're planting your garden. I'll be doing plenty more garden updates as the weather finally improves and the flora starts fawning at the sunshine, so stay tuned and eat well in the meantime.

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