BLUE CRAB GLASS NOODLES

You’ll find a recipe for this dish down below, but this one’s all about improvising. You can make something like it with whatever you have on hand. In my case, it was crab leftover from crab cakes, a green apple, green onions, and green chiles. I finagled a sour and spicy marinade. Tossed with a wild tangle of glass noodles, it reminded me of the perfectly disheveled look that Los Angeles can’t seem to shake.

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BLUE CRAB GLASS NOODLES
green apple, green onion, green thai chiles

for 4 servings:
4 oz. glass noodles, soaked in cold water 30 mins.
4 oz. cooked blue crab meat
1/4 cup finely diced green apple
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
3-4 thinly sliced green Thai chiles

marinating the glass noodles:
4 tablespoons hot chicken stock
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce, to taste
1/2 teaspoon oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon red chili oil

Combine the wet ingredients for the marinade in a bowl. Taste and adjust accordingly. Bring a medium pot of water to a simmer and add the glass noodles, cooking for several minutes until just tender. Rinse the glass noodles under cold water and drain well. Transfer the noodles to a larger bowl. Add the marinade and let the noodles sit for 5-10 minutes. Pour out any extra liquid that collects at the bottom of the bowl. Add the crab, apple, green onions, and chiles. Toss to combine and serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

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CRUSHED BUT NOT BROKEN

I don’t know how it happened, but I love that it did. After a dizzying array of superlative dishes — octopus, mozzarella, duck ragu gnocchi, sweet corn ravioli, rabbit, short rib — the dish that won my deepest admiration for Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles was a humble side dish (contorni) of fried potatoes with rosemary. This was the dish that I kept revisiting in my mind, weeks later. The potatoes were crunchy then soft, intensely fragrant then deeply savory. Seems simple, but you just don’t find potatoes done like this all around town. The key here is that the potatoes are crushed-but-not-broken, that transitional state at which potatoes, like humans, seem to shine brightest.

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FRIED POTATOES with ROSEMARY & SMOKED SEA SALT

inspired by Osteria Mozza, adapted from a recipe by Nancy Silverton:
about 2 pounds of small potatoes, eg. fingerling
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
about 1/4 cup fresh rosemary, stems removed and roughly chopped
1/2 tsp (smoked, optional) coarse sea salt or more to taste
freshly cracked black pepper

Microwave the potatoes for 3-4 minutes until slightly softened. Use the flat side of a cleaver or chef’s knife to smash each potato to about 1/2-inch thickness but still intact. Heat the oven to 400. Meanwhile on the stovetop, heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the potatoes but avoid crowding. When the potatoes are golden brown, add a portion of the rosemary leaves. After 30 seconds, use a strainer to transfer the potatoes and rosemary to a wire rack or a dish lined with a paper towel. Repeat in batches until done. If the potatoes are not fully crisp, transfer them to a baking pan and place in the oven until crispy. Toss with any remaining fried rosemary, sea salt, and pepper. Serve immediately.

MISO BLACK COD

Black cod is my Achilles heel. Whenever I see it at a fishmonger, I submit. This preparation popularized by Nobu is the reason. Miso, mirin, sake, and sugar — simple and painfully good. I’ve paired it with poached tomatoes that’ve been touched with the heat of a jalapeno.

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MISO BLACK COD with JALAPENO POACHED TOMATOES

adapted from recipe by Nobu Matushisa, for 4-6 servings:
3 tablespoons mirin
3 tablespoons sake
1/2 cup white miso paste
1/3 cup sugar
4-6 black cod fillets, about 6 ounces each
canola oil for cooking
a bundle of scallions, finely sliced
about 2 cups of small golden tomatoes
1 whole jalapeno, finely minced

In a small saucepan, bring the mirin, sake, miso paste, and sugar to a simmer. Transfer to a baking dish and let cool completely. Add the cod fillets and let marinate at least 3 hours or overnight.

To poach the tomatoes, heat water in a saucepan. When it is simmering, add the tomatoes for a minute. Remove the tomatoes from the water and rinse with cold water. Use a slice a cross-hatch on one end of the tomatoes, then gently peel off the tomato skin. Toss the poached tomatoes with the minced jalapeno, let sit for 30 minutes, then rinse the tomatoes with warm water to remove the jalapenos. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400. Scrape the marinade off the cod fillets and coat them with oil. Sear them in a hot pan for 2 minutes until browned, then transfer to the oven for about 10 minutes. (Alternatively, it is fine to place the fillets under a broiler for 1-2 minutes then reduce heat to 400) Serve immediately alongside chilled tomatoes. Garnish with scallions.

MAN IN MOTION

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Mr. Alpenglow spends his afternoons in the kitchen — sometimes pressing anise-scented breadcrumbs into halved oysters, sometimes slicing bright yellow tomatoes, always with a glass of Lillet, a ball of ice, and an orange slice. He wears a selvedge denim apron over a cream linen pullover. A 1967 album by The Velvet Underground and Nico plays. The guests will arrive soon. They’ll be greeted with a platter of French 75s.

Bullshit!

This is closer to the truth, as of late: Mr. Alpenglow gets home from work at 9:53 too tired to cook. There’s some leftover chicken tikka and naan in the fridge. Two minutes in the microwave. Scarf it down. Wash it down with a Peroni. Go for a swim. Briefly catch up on a world of misery, injustice, violence (NYTimes), and a potpourri of frivolity (NYTimes). Sleep.

So when I say “Dinner Parties as a Way of Life,” I know it’s a big ask. It’s not like I don’t empathize with the 9-to-5 crowd. I’m right there with you, dude. I work a desk job. I’m not throwing rando’ dinner parties on Wednesdays. The thing is, this blog is aspirational for me too. I use it to inspire myself to break out of routinized dullness. So tonight I summoned all I had. I sliced a handful of ripe figs and tucked them into the forgiving folds of prosciutto.

OLD WORLD

The bringing of the bread basket at a fine restaurant is always, for me, a moment of profound intimacy. Don’t judge, dammit, because I’m that guy who’ll methodically survey the pointy baguettes, the olive ciabattas, flatbreads covered with fragrant seeds, the rustic rosemary batard, and plump brioche, searching for my one true love: focaccia. A good focaccia will have feathery soft innards, a golden crisp exterior that’s nearly translucent when help up to the sun, and a heady aroma from olive oil and fresh herbs. When you bite into it, you should experience — in this order — sea salt, the richness of a crust saturated in hot olive oil, the loose crumb’s plush mouthfeel, and the lingering flavors of a savory garden at its peak. This particular focaccia recipe couldn’t be easier to execute. Be generous with olive oil. Take liberties with toppings. Most of all, share it with a sense of urgency.

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GARLIC ROSEMARY FOCACCIA 

adapted from a recipe by Tyler Florence:
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
3 1/2 to 4 cups of all purpose flour
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/4 cup olive oil plus more for drizzling
cornmeal for dusting
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, hand torn
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly minced
handful of small cherry tomatoes, sliced
freshly cracked black pepper
coarse sea salt

Place the yeast, warm water and sugar in a large bowl, stirring gently to dissolve. Let this mixture stand for 3-5 minutes until foam appears. Slowly whisk the flour and salt into the mixture. Pour in 1/4 cup olive oil and continue to whisk until the dough is smooth and elastic (add flour as needed), about 10 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and fold over itself a few times. Form the dough into a round and place in an oiled bowl (turn to coat the entire ball with oil so it doesn’t form a skin). Cover with plastic wrap or damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Coat a sheet pan with a little olive oil and corn meal. Once the dough is doubled and domed, turn it out onto the counter. Roll and stretch the dough out to an oblong shape about 1/2-inch thick. Lay the flattened dough on the pan (you can use a sheet pan or a baking dish, eg. Staub) and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400. Uncover the dough and dimple with your fingertips. Brush the surface with more olive oil and scatter the rosemary, garlic, and tomatoes over the dough. Season with salt and pepper. Bake on the bottom rack for 15 to 20 minutes until the focaccia is golden brown. (In the last 5 minutes, I like to drizzle with olive oil again to achieve a very crisp exterior)

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THE ART OF DAINTY THINGS

What is it about diminutive food? People love Lilliputian. It allows us to enjoy variety without having to commit to anything in particular. Then, company and pride permitting, you can return to collect the most irresistible morsels. This past weekend, I created a tea party menu of dainty delights for my brother’s lovely bride-to-be. Whatever appearance of effortlessness these pictures might convey, rest assured that my kitchen was a total disaster zone. Dainty ain’t no cakewalk!

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 MENU

Dungeness Crab and Avocado Tea Sandwiches

Serrano Ham, Manchego, and Quince Tea Sandwiches

Egg and Watercress Tea Sandwiches

Smoked Salmon Lollipops

Champagne Soup with Mara de Bois Strawberries

Rose Rhubarb Cakes

Lemon Poppy Seed Scones with Clotted Cream and Jam

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ROSE RHUBARB CAKES
adapted from a recipe by Kellie of Food to Glow

for the cake: 
150ml plain Greek yogurt
150ml grapeseed oil or light olive il
150g unrefined caster/superfine sugar
3 medium eggs
240g all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
5 drops orange blossom water
1 tsp finely zested orange peel
1 tsp finely zested lemon peel
100g rhubarb, diced not bigger than 1 cm
several drops of natural red food coloring

for the icing: 
50ml rhubarb juice (or more to your taste)
4-5 drops rose water (or more, depending on the strength)
200g unrefined icing sugar
1 drop of natural red food coloring

Preheat the oven to 340F. Use oil spray or paint oil in a bundt or savarin tin. Sift together the flour and baking powder; set aside. In a large mixing bowl whisk the yogurt, oil, sugar, eggs and bergamot/orange blossom water. Add the flour and zest and mix until no flour is visible. Add the food coloring if desired. Pour half of the mixture into the tin, top with the rhubarb, pushing some into the batter. Pour over the rest of the batter, smooth it a little then pop the tin into the preheated oven. Bake the bundt or savarin tin/cake for 35-40 minutes, or the loaf tin for about 50-60 minutes. Cover with foil if necessary towards the end to prevent over-browning. Test for doneness with a skewer – it should come out clean. If not, pop it back in to the oven for a further five minutes. Carefully upend the cake onto a wire cooling rack and leave to cool. While the cake is cooling, make the icing/glaze. Add the icing sugar to a bowl, followed by the rose essence and drop of red coloring. Gradually add the rhubarb juice until you have a thickish glaze.

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CHAMPAGNE SOUP with MARA DE BOIS STRAWBERRIES 

for 12 dainty servings:
0.25 liter dry Riesling
30-40g sugar
60 ml water
2.5 sheets of clear gelatin or about 5 tsp gelatin powder
0.375 liter rose champagne
strawberries, raspberries, and fresh mint leaves for garnish

Chill the Riesling and champagne in freezer for at least 30 minutes. Bring water and sugar to a boil then let cool down slightly. Soak gelatin in very cold water for approximately 5 minutes, squeeze to get rid of excess liquid, and add it to the sugar syrup. Let this mixture cool to room temperature but make sure mixture doesn’t start to solidify. Fill a large bowl with water and ice cubes and add a smaller metal or glass bowl over it. Pour the chilled Riesling into the smaller bowl and slowly stir in the sugar syrup mixture using a rubber or plastic spatula (metal tools will kill the bubbles once the champagne is added). When the syrup-wine mixture is just starting to thicken slightly, slowly pour in the ice cold champagne so as to lose as little of the fizziness as possible. Gently stir again to incorporate the wine and champagne. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours. Serve with garnishes of small Mara de Bois strawberries or raspberries, and fresh mint.

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SMOKED SALMON LOLLIPOPS with RED ONION CREME FRAICHE

for a dozen:
12 slices smoked salmon, cut into 2 rounds
6 ounces cream cheese
12 lollipop or popsicle sticks
1 bunch chives, snipped fine

for the red onion crème fraiche:
1 tablespoon finely minced red onions
1/2 cup crème fraîche
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
freshly ground white pepper to taste

Prepare 3/4″-diameter balls of cream cheese. Roll and refrigerate. Cut circles of smoked salmon. Wrap salmon circles around each ball of cream cheese. Twist a sheet of plastic wrap around each ball to form a round shape. Place each ball in the refrigerator until ready to use. Dip both sides of smoked salmon ball in snipped chives. Place lollipop or popsicle stick into bottom of smoked salmon. Serve chilled.

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DUNGENESS CRAB & AVOCADO TEA SANDWICHES

2 pounds Dungeness crab, cooked and shelled
½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons celery, finely minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
several sliced avocados
white sandwich bread

Combine the crab meat, mayo, celery, lemon juice, salt, and white pepper. Spread the mixture over white bread. Arrange sliced avocado over it, then top with the other slice of bread. Slice off the bread crusts and cut the sandwiches as desired. Serve immediately at room temperature.

DINING ALONE

There are two types of people in the world…those who panic at the thought of dining out alone and those who embrace it as hallowed ground. I fall into the latter group.

“How many in your party?”

Just one.”

That’s a major fork in the road when it comes to hospitality. Fine restaurants (not necessary fine dining) will treat solitary diners with a kind of warmth bordering on reverence not always expended upon larger parties. This is perhaps because solitary diners most resemble weary travelers in need of nourishment. Sometimes they are weary. Other times they’re just following their fancy.

I remember taking a small table next to the window at the corner of Prince and Sullivan in Greenwich Village. It was late afternoon and the place was mostly empty. I ordered a beer and a plate of fried oyster sliders — crunchy, briny, piping hot, deeply satisfying. At the time I was reading Melville’s The Confidence Man, about the myriad ways in which men and women aboard a transatlantic ship display, feign, and utterly lack confidence. The waiter unhurriedly checked-in from time to time. Nothing magical happened.

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FRIED OYSTER SLIDERS with GRIBICHE MAYO 
adapted from Andrew Carmellini’s recipe at The Dutch, NYC

for 8 sliders:
8 brioche slider buns or soft potato rolls, warmed*
1 bundle of fresh watercress (iceberg, romaine, spinach all work)
8 large fresh oysters, such as Wellfleets, shucked
2 cups cornmeal
1 tablespoon kosher salt, more for sprinkling
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
canola oil for frying

for the gribiche mayo:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3-4 tablespoons cup grainy mustard
2 hardboiled eggs, chopped
6 cornichons, chopped
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
freshly cracked black pepper and kosher salt

Combine all the ingredients for the gribiche mayo and chill. Combine the cornmeal, salt, paprika, and cayenne in a bow. Heat an inch and a half of oil in a deep, heavy saucepan or pot on medium/high flame until it is 350 degrees. Coat the oysters in the cornmeal mixture and flash fry them in the oil for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes until they are just cooked through. Transfer the fried oysters to a paper towel or wire rack to drain. Sprinkle them with salt immediately. To serve, place a few watercress leaves on the bottom bun and gribiche mayo on the top with the fried oyster in between. Serve immediately.

*I used soft potato rolls which I brushed with an eggwash and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds to mimic the brioche slider bun used at The Dutch. Popped them in the oven for a few minutes to warm.

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