Friday, February 18, 2011

New York Notes: My Heavenly Trifecta

Welcome to our new series of news and capsule reviews of New York food establishments.

I can hop a train and sit down to eat in New York in about four hours. Life is sweet indeed. And it’s especially sweet at this joyful spot on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, where three delights sit in a heavenly trifecta.

Amy’s Bread
gets a lot of well-deserved praise. I have a fatal attraction to the red velvet cupcakes because the frosting is unique and unlike anything I’ve tasted – the perfect balance of a little fluffy, a little creamy and not too sweet.

The Lobster Place seafood market is a valuable part of the trifecta here, but even more exciting at its Chelsea Market location. There, in a much bigger space than this Village shop, you can select a lobster or other shellfish and they’ll steam them to order. Pick up some accompaniments from their refrigerated case, take your tray to the food court tables and get cracking! Last summer, the lobster was $9.95 per pound. No, not a typo. Simply thrilling all around!

Murray’s Cheese not only has an awesome worldwide selection and a charmingly quirky attitude but a comprehensive educational program. There’s a full schedule of classes and even field trips to the countryside. Breakfast and lunch sandwiches are made to order … with cheese, of course.

I first discovered this trifecta on a Foods of New York tour, which I highly recommend.

You can replicate the experience at home, too. First, shop ’til your heart’s content at all three stores. In your home kitchen, use your Fissler knives to slice your sashimi-grade fish, bread and cheese with grace and precision. Steam live shellfish in a stew pot from the Solea or Original Pro collections. For a creative tool to clean and open oysters and clams, borrow a trick from the New York Times’ Flo Fabricant and use Skrub’a gloves.

A heavenly trifecta indeed.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Grammy Winner Michael Buble is a Fissler Foodie!

Look who’s a Fissler Foodie: Michael Buble in People Magazines Cooking With the Stars special issue! Michael has an armful of Fissler Original Pro Collection pots and pans in the beautiful Los Angeles kitchen he shares with fiancée Luisana Lopilato. Lovely Luisana is grating parmesan while Michael stirs the risotto in their big 9.6 qt Fissler Original Pro High Stew Pot (the right size for a party). You can watch them preparing their risotto at Michael just won a Grammy for his album “Crazy Love”. We congratulate the crooner for his big win last week, and for choosing Fissler to fulfill his culinary creations.

Pots de Crème: An Easy Dessert That Should Help You Get Lucky On Valentine's Day

In my near-annual search for an easy-to-make recipe that should help get my Valentine's Day date in the mood, I decided on Pots de Crème, this year. It's easy to make, eminently customizable with romance-inducing ingredients, and it even has a cute French name, accent mark and all, that sounds romantic even when the pronunciation is butchered. (and let's face it, women love a guy who can speak a foreign language and/or have an accent). If you own a blowtorch, and what self-respecting household doesn't have one, then you can sprinkle some sugar on top and make creme brulee. So if you're making dinner for a special someone, and need a nice capper that will transition from the dining room to the um, bedroom, then try these petit Pots de Crèmes.

I should note that this recipe is more Euro-centric, and therefore, very eggy. If you want a denser, heavier custard, use 4 egg yolks and all heavy cream in lieu of the eggs and milk listed below. That version is actually easier to cook in a Fissler pressure cooker, since you don't have to be as exact with the cooking time.

Pots de Crème

2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
1/3 cup white sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean

1. Split a vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the milk and heavy cream mixture. Bring this to a boil, then immediately turn off the heat. Let steep for 30 minutes, then strain or skim the skin off the top.
2. Meanwhile, whisk eggs and sugar together until you see a ribbon.
3. Pour some of the cream into the egg mixture and whisk together. Stir the egg mixture into the cream and stir until smooth.

Now you can customize your Pots de Crèmes. Here's a basic chocolate one. I made three, one with just chocolate, another with a dash of cayenne pepper, and one with cinnamon. Capsaicins from cayenne are supposed to get the blood flow going, and sweet spices like cinnamon are always an aphrodisiac scent. I also had cardamom whipped cream for even more fragrance, if need be.

custard mix
1/2 bar (50 g or 1.75 oz) dark chocolate, from 62%-71% cacao
1 tsp. cocoa powder

1. Either in a double boiler (a bowl held over a pot of boiling water), or the microwave, melt the chocolate. It'll only take 30 seconds in the microwave.
2. Temper the chocolate by whisking some of the custard mix into the melted chocolate, stirring constantly. Then pour the chocolate mix into the custard, along with cocoa powder, and stir.
3. Pour the mix into a ramekin or cup. Put into a Fissler pressure cooker and heat until the first ring. Turn the heat off and let cook for 12 minutes.
4. When done, open the pressure cooker naturally. Carefully remove and let cool. You can chill it once it gets to room temperature.

What can top chocolate as a Valentine's Day dessert? Caramel. My friend requested salted caramel. I have to say, this was the favorite for everyone.

2 cups sugar
heavy cream
1 tbsp. sea salt
custard mix

1. Heat sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat with just enough water to moisten the sugar. Heat until the sugar is an amber color. It should take about 20-30 minutes.
2. Turn off heat, stir in cream (it will splatter, so be careful), and whisk vigorously. Stir in salt. Let cool.
3. Stir in a couple of teaspoons of caramel sauce into the custard mix. Pour into cups or ramekins.
4. Put into a Fissler pressure cooker, heat until the first ring is raised, turn off heat and cook for 12 minutes.
5. Remove and let cool.

These desserts are best made ahead of time, which is for the better, since you can concentrate on other details tonight. So Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cooking Slippery Jacks in the Solea

This winter in the Bay Area was an amazing time for gathering wild mushrooms. Some of them are so tasty with such a delicate flavor, keeping the recipe simple is the best bet. Today I made a dish in my 2.4 quart Solea Casserole pot using Short Stemmed Slippery Jack mushrooms. These are a form of Boletes, like the famed Porcinis. Instead of having gills they have a spongy texture to the cap which melts in your mouth like a divine scallop. You can see in the picture below what I added to the pot.
About 2 cups of Short Stemmed Slippery Jack mushrooms
about half a cup of onions
a handful of garlic

First I heated the Solea Casserole pot to medium (cooking next to some chicken curry) and added a dollop of olive oil. Into the hot oil I put the chopped garlic. As the garlic toasted, I added the mushrooms and onions. Sometimes I will add the onions first, but I had cut the mushrooms in large chunks so together so they would cook evenly. After about 10 minutes of cooking and stirring I added some salt and it was ready to go!
They were truly delicious. This is the basic recipe that I use whenever I gather a new type of mushroom that I want to try, rather than have the flavor masked by too many ingredients. The garlic is essential to bringing out the flavor of mushrooms. The Solea Casserole pot was the perfect fit for this dish. The handles never got too hot which is a bonus when cooking on a crowded stove top. Even on the gas stove, it cooked evenly with no gumming-up of the pan so it was easy to clean.