Thursday, October 28, 2010

I hate to love you, Martha Stewart

Remember how I said I was never leaving our new kitchen in the post I just published?

Tonight is yet another reason why I think that might be true. It's clear to me that, quite possibly, some of my best cooking is yet to come.

I made a vegan meal for a couple of friends tonight (all right, so it was a vegetarian meal for those of us who sprinkled parmesan on top), and it was good. I mean good enough to make again good.

I got the recipe from the November issue of Everyday Food by Martha Stewart. I love the cooking show, and I just treated myself to the magazine subscription a couple of months ago. I'm going to sound like a lame ad for Martha Stewart but the thing about these recipes is that you can actually make them at home. Without a ton of effort. And they taste good when they're done. What can I say, it doesn't take a lot to make me happy.

I can't find it online but tonight's vegan meal was basically this recipe here, minus the stirring that comes with risotto, plus one dutch oven and a huge bunch of raw chopped kale added to it before it goes into the oven.

Again, the pictures aren't doing justice to this butternut squash kale risotto, served with a side of orange glaze snow peas with slivered toasted almonds. Until we find the camera, please feel free to use your imagination and a sprinkling of some benefit of the doubt.

I'm Never Leaving The Kitchen Again

Unless it's to go outside on the deck. Or into our new double-sink master bathroom.

I've been an absentee blogger of late, because we just moved into a new home. My last home for a long, long time. It's beautiful, and it's ours, and I woke up again this morning -- our 9th morning in this place - thinking surely it'll be time to check out soon and get back to reality.

It will come as no surprise to those who know me that the kitchen was a huge selling point. This doesn't make me special; anyone who likes to cook, or eat, really, is probably looking for a nice kitchen when they're home-hunting. I just never thought I'd end up with one. Certainly not now.

I'll post some 'after' photos soon - the countertops are still much too cluttered and we're awaiting a few key pieces that will surely sparkle in their new home.

This 'before' photo from my iPhone captures only half of the kitchen -- and not even the better half. The other side had a huge hole in it now filled with our newly acquired bottom-freezer platinum fridge.

This kitchen doesn't feel like mine yet. It's so pretty, so thoughtfully designed, and it makes me feel so ridiculously fortunate.

On our third night, we threw together a salad in this kitchen to accompany the Moontower and a Big-Medium with Spinach (now delivering to our new 'hood!) that we ordered for our first dinner guests. It was a memorable meal spent mostly on the deck. Lovely, but I longed to be in the kitchen some more.

I got my wish the next night.

It was a Friday, and we were standing around (the kitchen, of course), trying not to think about the weekend ahead, the still-full boxes we'd need to tackle and the considerable amount of homestuffs we still had to go back and get at the old house.

We did a damn fine job in denial and focused on the task at hand: what we were going to have for dinner. Going out was quickly ruled out. I wanted to be home; I wanted to be in our new kitchen.

Mike suggested we make some chicken wings, and ten minutes later we were headed to the grocery store with our list.

Our first real meal in this very real kitchen that really belongs to us was better than we could've imagined. (And imagination you'll need to go with these photos, also taken on the iPhone because we couldn't find the camera.)

Mike and I are huge fans of the Liberty Bar on Austin's east side. We're particularly fond of the East Side Kings food trailer parked in the back, so hip and popular even Anthony Bourdain had to hit it up while he was in town earlier this year. And it's within that trailer that one of our favorite foods - one of the best foods known to man, really - is cooked fresh and hot and brought to you on the back deck: Thai Chicken Karaage.

Chicken Karaage is Japan's version of fried chicken, and it blows KFC right out of the water, er, oil.

Jodi shared a recipe with us a few months ago for karaage, and I remember that evening having the following conversation: "Did you get Jodi's email?" "Yeah. I looked at the recipe, and there's something wrong. It can't be that easy." "Seriously. It can't be that easy."

People, this stuff was easy. Step 1: Toss chicken pieces (in our case, chicken wings) in cornstarch. Step 2: Fry it.

Ta-da! You've got chicken karaage.

Now, you can dress it up with a sprinkle of fish sauces, some fresh cilantro, pickled onions, jalapenos ... the possibilities are endless. Mike found a wing sauce receipe somewhere on the interwebz, akin to the East Side Kings flavors, and it was lovely. A bit of canola oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, lime juice, sugar and fresh cilantro. We threw in a splash of fish sauce for good measure. Because this wasn't the kind of sauce that would be harmed in any way by the addition of some fish sauce.

What we got from this easy fried chicken and this easy sauce was a taste explosion that rivaled East Side Kings. We hardly talked between the 'ooohing' and 'aaahing,' but most of the conversation went something like this: "I can't believe this shit." "Seriously. This is some great shit." "We never have to leave the house again." "Seriously."

So try this at home. Seriously.

We're not big fryers. In fact, that was my first time to ever fry a meal in my own home; I think it was Mike's second. You won't want to eat this every day, but when you do, pair it with something light. We ate this with a spinach salad drizzled with a bit of canola, sesame oil and soy sauce and a squeeze of lime to complement the chicken.

I can't say enough about this stuff. When you're in the mood for crispy, tangy, sweet, crunchy, spicy, hot, and otherworldly -- this will do in a pinch. Literally.

Monday, October 11, 2010

We caved.

At brunch last Saturday, there was quite a bit of talk about our new house (!) and our January wedding (!!).

Amid the chatter was a good bit of discussion about wedding registries. We are morally opposed to the idea and swore from Day One that they are tacky and, well, we aren't.

This weekend, though, we came to the reluctant realization (i.e., insistence by the four married people at brunch) that we're going to get gifts we don't want if we don't hit up a highfalutin store and register for those we do.

Enter Williams-Sonoma.

I'll admit, I rather enjoyed that little scanning item, dreaming about all the gifts we might now receive just because we're going to say those two little words. We were going to get married anyway. But now I might get those Wustof knives I've always wanted? A double-burner griddle for the many pancake brunches I'm dreaming about hosting?

And this awesome bit of machinery that's already been promised by my brother and his wife, something I've come *so* close to owning but never did plunk down the $300 to treat myself.

I don't have the courage to go with racy red or even a safe, pristine white. But this one will match our fancy new bottom-freezer fridge.

Friday, October 1, 2010

To Die For Wedding Menu

Our wedding caterer owns not just 2Dine4 Catering but the venue where we're getting hitched in January -- a renovated Craftsman-era home in east Austin that they use for supper clubs and corporate dinners.

He decided to turn our wedding menu into a supper club, so that we could tweak our Argentinean meal - a big nod to my heritage and, most especially, my father. We invited some of our best friends to join us for the four-course feast, which included complimentary sangrias, watermelon martinis and beer along with three fabulous appetizers for a pretty reasonable $50.

Here are some of the photos from last night's tasting, with the menu pasted below.

Hors D’Oeuvres
Petit Choripan on Homemade Bolillo Roll with Roasted Peppers, Onions and Chimichurri Aioli
Argentine Carne Empandas with Hard Boiled Egg & Fresh Herbs
Argentine Style Spinach & Asadero Cheese Empanadas with Olive Tapenade & Fresh Herbs (V)

First Course
Potato Gnocchi poached in Chicken (or Veggie) Stock with Cream, Wilted Spinach and Argentine Reggianito (C or V)

Second Course
Boston, Romaine & Wild Greens Salad with Red Peppers, Grilled Asparagus, Local Farm Vegetables and Lemon-Oregano Vinaigrette (V)

Third Course
Beef Milanesa a Caballo with Boggy Creek Eggs, Aged Provolone & Spanish Jamon Serrano served with Celeriac Whipped Potatoes and Wild Mushroom Sauce
Eggplant Milanesa a Caballo with Boggy Creek Egg, Aged Provolone & Smoked Tomato served with Celeriac Whipped Potatoes and Wild Mushroom Sauce (V)

Fourth Course
Dulce de Leche Custard Tart with Frozen Citrus Whipped Cream and Cinnamon Cookies (V)