Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Potato Soup with Sour Cream and Bacon

It's Wednesday, and that means I make a little attempt to cook a something from today's NY Times. Today’s recipe was…

Roasted Potato Soup with Sour Cream and Bacon

Here’s the recipe (courtesy of the New York Times)

4 thin-skinned medium potatoes, Yukon Gold or Carola, skin on, sliced ¾-inch thick
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
6 thyme sprigs
6 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
½ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons minced chives (optional).

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Toss potatoes in oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and bake uncovered until tender, about 35 minutes. Transfer to a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Pour 1 cup boiling water into baking sheet and swirl to deglaze, then pour into pot with potatoes. Add bay leaf, thyme and 5 cups boiling water, cover tightly, and set aside for 1 hour. Remove bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Using a hand blender or working in batches in a blender, purée soup until smooth, adding more boiling water if mixture is too thick. Season with salt and pepper, keeping in mind that the bacon garnish will be salty.

2. Just before serving, cook bacon in skillet over medium-low heat until crisp but not hard. Set aside, reserving fat. Reheat soup over low heat.

3. Pour hot soup into bowls and gently place a dollop of sour cream on top. Spoon about ½ teaspoon bacon fat on top and sprinkle with bacon bits and chives, if using.

I halved the recipe and skipped the chives. The potatoes looked great when they came out of the oven.

Here they are, after steeping, and right before their trip to the blender.

And after the blender, looking thoroughly tamed, bebaconed, and sour creamified.

Note that I actually added way more sour cream that the above picture would have you believe, it just sank to the bottom. After tasting, I added some salt and plenty of pepper. The end result was pretty yummy, but the predominant flavor was definitely THYME! It was a hearty and warming soup, good for cold icky days.

If I made this again, I’d definitely find a way to make it, somehow, more bacony. I thought the bacon would really stand out, especially with the addition of the bacon fat. It added some flavor and crunch, but in my (bacon loving) opinion, it could have been much stronger. Also, I think I’d add either some minced green onions or even frizzled leeks to give it a little zing for contrast. Or maybe I’d even roast a head of garlic while the soup steeps and squeeze (lots of) bits of roasted garlic in as part of the garnish.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Raisinhater Thanksgiving Traditions

Yesterday I was a little too overwhelmed and overstuffed to tell you in full detail about our Raisinhater Thanksgiving celebration. In fact, I think it’s a bit too much for one post, so you may not get it all today. What I will tell you about today is the newest Raisinhater family tradition.

When the Raisinhaters get together, they fire up the deep fryer. Last Christmas, C Raisinhater gave the Raisinhater parents this deep fryer as a gift. We immediately commenced frying. For our first season, we were fairly reserved. This year we took things to the next level. Cheese, leftover mashed potatos, leftover turkey - we fried it all. Here are a few of our greatest hits.

We started with onion rings. C Raisinhater made his traditional batter of flour, 1 egg, and enough coors light to create a thick sticky paste. Flour the rings, and coat them in the batter.

Toss them in the fryer.


As the weekend went on, we got more and more adventurous. We made coconut shrimp…

Clean and butterfly the shrimp, coat them in flour, then egg, and, finally, a mixture of breadcrumbs and shredded coconut. So easy, and delicious despite the dreadful photo!

Our frying finale was red snapper with spicy mango citrus salsa. I don't have pictures, but I do have a makeshift recipe.

Reduce equal parts (1/2 cup each?) orange juice and water in a small pan on medium heat with a teaspoon of cornstarch until thickened to the consistency of light syrup. Remove from heat. Add 1 teaspoon honey, a few small squirts of sriracha, one finely diced green or red bell pepper, one diced mango, and soy sauce and rice wine vinegar to taste (I probably used 2-3 T each). Stir together and set aside.

Cut snapper into small chunks and coat in flour and batter (same batter as used for onion rings above, but slightly thinner consistency created by extra coors light). Fry till lightly browned. Salt and serve with salsa. This salsa would work with non fried fish too, if you're feeling healthy. Feel free to email me for better recipe details.

Deep frying isn't our only holiday tradition. We drink pomegranate margaritas specially mixed by C Raisinhater, bartender extraordinaire.

We play the annual Gobbler Classic golf tournament

Even in very threatening weather

And sometimes we even drink a little moonshine…

Monday, November 28, 2005

Grilled Turkey

The Raisinhaters, they do not mess around on Thanksgiving. I went home to New Jersey for a four day festival of food and wine. We had turkey and short ribs and mini cheeseburgers and deep fried everything. Biscuits with sausage gravy and chocolate chip pancakes. I ate more in four days than I have in the past month.

It's too much to tell at once, especially today as I try to recuperate. So for now, I’ll just show you the turkey…

This year we grilled our turkey and it was fantastic – smoky flavored and tender. It was about a 13 pound turkey – we grilled it for 2 hours or so, replenishing the charcoal halfway through. Just put a drip pan (disposable!) in the grill to catch the fat, and arrange the charcoal in a ring around the outside of the drip pan. Here it is right before we ate it!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Cheese Straws

I love the suspense of waiting for the Wednesday paper, knowing I’ll have to cook one of the recipes. Will it be something I cant manage, like a pig roast? Will it be something with crazy ingredients, like live eels? Last week was Quinoa (keen-wah) – I didn’t even know what that was until last Wednesday morning!

And the keen-wah was lovely (albeit oniony) but I just cant tell you how happy I was to open the paper this morning and see CHEESE STRAWS!

Here’s the recipe from today’s NY Times

1/2 lb grated Cheddar
1/3 lb grated Parmesan
2 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of cayenne (I used far more, probably ¼ to ½ tsp)
1 stick chilled unsalted butter, cut into chunks
Ice water
Coarse salt.

As instructed, I added the flour and cayenne into the food processor and pulsed to blend. Every time I pulsed, little puffs of flour shot out the sides onto me, the countertop, and the floor. I added the butter chunks and pulsed again. So far, so good. Then, I added the cheese. How big is Mark Bittman’s food processor anyway??

I pulsed to mix, and ended up with cheesy powder!

The recipe says to “turn out on counter and knead by hand, adding a few drops of ice water if necessary.” I double checked the recipe. Perhaps I had missed the part where you were supposed to add some liquidy something. Nope. I turned out (into a bowl) and tried a little kneading. Powdery bits flew around. I added a few drops of ice water. Nothing. Two tablespoons of ice water. Nothing. Two more. Nothing. Four more. A little stickage. The rest of the bowl of ice water. Eureka! I squished the dough together and plopped it out onto the board.

I stuck it all back together to form a cheesy blob.

At this point, I got frustrated. I wrapped the dough in saran wrap and had a glass of wine. After my soothing beverage, I rolled (smooshed) out the dough, cut it into strips, laid them on a cookie sheet, and salted them generously. I baked at 450 for 7 minues and, despite how bleak things looked two or three photos ago, they turned out to be extremely tasty.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Chutney Begone!

I’d like to take this opportunity to speak on an issue about which I feel strongly.

Fruit and meat.

Evil together.

Yes, all meat. Even chicken and turkey and that tricky “other white meat,” pork.

Turkey sandwiches with cranberry relish? Blech. I know, oooh, pork and apples, I’m missing out. But I don’t like it. Not one bit. Fruit is for breakfast, with cereal. For snacktime, with cheese. As a supplement to a sad and meager lunch. And, most of all, for dessert with, yes, perhaps a bit more cheese.

I don’t mean to offend. I have no greater moral or philosophical objection to the pairing of meats and fruits. I think it sounds like a really flavorful and healthy meal, I just don’t like it.

I do make a few exceptions. First, fruits in disguise, such as the tomato. If nobody really believes it is a fruit in the first place, then I grant it vegetable status. Second, melon and prosciutto. Third, citrus. Lemon chicken? Delicious.

But then, on the flip side, there are those things that aren’t fruits, but taste like fruits. Also evil! This includes sweet potatoes, yams, and any of their nasty kin.

Beware! The holiday season is especially hazardous. Meat + fruit can creep up on you unexpectedly in the form of pot pie, “festive” sandwiches, ham with pineapples (why?), and hodgepodges of leftovers. Only through careful scrutiny and perseverance (and feigned allergies, if necessary) can you avoid the scourge that is meaty fruit/fruity meat during this season. Good luck!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Leftover Frittata

It isn't uncommon for my leftovers to turn on me. I routinely open a stray Rubbermaid container to find furry tofu or stanky veggies. Once, I even found RED mold on some leftovers. Vampire death mold!

I'm just cheap. I cant bear to throw away those last two bites of pasta. "I'll eat it for breakfast," I tell J. But it never quite happens the way I plan, and so the leftovers linger in the back of the fridge until they've reached the point of inedibility and I can, with slightly less guilt, throw them away.

On certain special and rare occasions, though, I eat up those leftovers, and get to spend the rest of the day with a self-satisfied smirk. With Thanksgiving approaching, it is doubly important to clean out the fridge and make some room for the turkey (or, in my case, six pounds of Artisanal cheese).

So this weekend, while trying (and failing) to complete the crossword puzzle, I made my old standby, Leftover Frittata.

MeBeth's Leftover Frittata

First, I preheated the oven to 350. I fried a handful of chopped onions in an ovenproof pan and added some diced cooked chicken (about 1/2 chicken breast) and crushed red pepper flakes.

Next, I threw in a few large spoonfuls of spinach, bacon and artichoke dip. Normally I just add whatever veggies are lurking in the back of the fridge (leftover broccoli is a good one) but I had some leftover dip, the ingredients were just right, and the sour cream melted nicely.

I removed the pan from the heat and added 4 eggs (pre-whisked).

I put the whole thing in the oven for about 15 minutes. Once the top got puffy and semi-solid, I coated it with some shredded cheddar and a little parmesan.

I threw it under the broiler for 3-5 minutes and the top came out crispy and golden, and I sliced it into wedges and served it with a salad.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Hay, Hay! Dulce de Leche!

Today’s entry is a twofer – a Raisinhater favorite as well as a post for the Hay, Hay! Its Donna Hay event hosted by Winos and Foodies.

For my first attempt, I used the recipe posted by Nic.

The cupcakes looked delicious …

But tasted nasty. Oooh so nasty. Thick and tough with a weird flavor. Sort of like Irish soda bread. I can only guess that I used baking soda instead of baking powder by mistake? Or forgot the sugar? Blech. They were dreadful. J licked the nutella off the tops and I threw them away.

I made another attempt, this time with Dulce de Leche instead of Nutella.

Dulce de Leche
is a creamy caramel-like spread originally from Argentina, and is a Raisinhater favorite.

Things seemed to be going well until the cupcakes were in the oven for a few minutes. A delicious caramel smell wafted through the kitchen and I peeked in the oven…

GAH, Dulce de Leche melting and dripping everywhere! Gooey sticky mess!! Caramel forever burned on to the bottom of the oven (or until I clean it, which will be never). But with a little cooling and a little shaping I was able to salvage them.

This batch was far tastier and cupcake-ier, but still a sticky mess.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Welcome to the Party

Come in, come in, let me take your coat.

Oh, thank you, you shouldn’t have, I’ll put this right in the kitchen.

I know, can you believe it? One day its 75 degrees and the next its nearly snowing! And they say its going to be an icy one this year.

You’re right, I don’t usually entertain. Stephanie, over at Dispensing Happiness suggested a holiday party and I thought it sounded like great fun.

Hell, yes. Here, let me get you a cocktail…

Yep, its just fizzy Poland Spring and Pom juice. I guess you could add some vodka too, but I’m more of a wine gal myself, so I just made it for the non-drinkers in the crowd, like all you pregnant ladies.

Harriet? What do you mean Harriet? She’s not marri – oooh.

No way - the guy at the gym? That one who’s always lifting and who walks like a crab? I had no idea they were even dating.

You’re kidding! If I were going to pick someone to be my, ahem, “donor” I think perhaps I’d check around the library rather than the gym. By the way, have you met Charles?

Talk amongst yourselves, I’m off to get the snacks…

Here, would you like an empanada?

Chicken, queso fresco, and tomatillo salsa.

Uh, huh. Even the salsa. It wasn’t too hard. My best friend Tyler gave me the recipe.

For the salsa, you just boil water and add tomatillos, jalapenos, onion, and garlic and simmer for a while.

Then you drain and dump those guys into the blender along with some cilantro and lime juice and the salsa is done.

I know, the blender! I was totally like “Tyler, you have to be kidding me, the blender? Not the cuisinart?” and he was like “I said blender, be-yatch.”

Yes, he really does talk like that. Anyway, when you have your salsa made, you cook up some chicken and shred it, and mix it up with the queso fresco and the salsa to make the filling.

Nah, the dough isn’t too bad. I actually made it the day before and stuck it in the fridge, and the salsa too, but the dough takes a while to thaw.

If you’re feeling lazy you can just use puff pastry from the grocery store instead.

Careful, the inside is still hot!

Thanks for coming over, bundle up and get home safely!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Minimalist Quinoa and Green Beans

It is Wednesday again and, as promised last week, that means I’m going to test out a recipe from today’s NY Times recipes and let you know how it goes.

I shouldn’t have been surprised to find that today’s Food Section was all about Thanksgiving. We Raisinhaters love the concept of Thanksgiving, after all, it’s a holiday devoted to food and food appreciation. What we’re not so keen on is the actual meal. Its not that we despise turkey, its just that there are so many things that are so much more exciting. So we do our own thing. Last year we had braised short ribs instead of turkey. This year someone very cleverly suggested lamb. Our side dishes are similarly random and, if I have anything to say about it, do not involve any sweet potatoes, and always involve stuffing with sausage.

There were a few of today’s recipes that were simply out of the question. For obvious raisinhating reasons, I was not going to make the Roasted Cauliflower, Raisin, and Anchovy Vinaigrette, and, although it looked scrumptious, the Haitian Turkey was a bit too much food for me and J. Instead, I decided to make Green Beans and Quinoa from Mark Bittman’s column and serve them with some chicken marsala. (Why chicken marsala? I was going to do a roast chicken, sort of turkey-like, but I’ve been craving chicken marsala recently and I think the oven is too filthy for chicken roasting.)

The green beans were easy – I just boiled some water, threw in some washed trimmed beans, and boiled till they got a little tender. I dressed them with the suggested olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. I’m not sure what exactly about these makes them “Greek” but they were crisp, zesty and amazingly easy. Behold...

I also made the Quinoa with Caramelized Onions. I’ve never made quinoa before and it was a pain in the neck to find it. In Whole Foods it is sold in the special plastic tubs (or perhaps in bulk at your non-NYC Whole Foods) near the raisins (gah) and candied ginger and other assorted nuts and whatnot. For this dish, I carmelized the onions with the brown sugar...

But when I added the quinoa and stock and cooked for 15-20 minutes, I was surprised by the result. It definitely wasn't the starchy side dish I had imagined. See, it is mostly onions...

I'm sure you could remedy this easily by adjusting the proportions but it was a-ok this way too. Its also highly likely that I messed something up - I've never made quinoa before and, until this afternoon, didn't even know how to pronounce it (Keen-wah).

And I’d like to close with a little public service message. PLEASE, whatever you do, don’t put raisins in the stuffing this Thanksgiving. Try sausage! How about oysters? Just add more celery. Whatever you do, resist that urge to ruin perfectly lovely stuffing with a bunch of foul shriveled rotten grape bits. Just hold the raisins.

And by the way, those raisins made of cranberries? They’re not fooling me!

Monday, November 14, 2005

What I Ate? - Everything.

They say that a goldfish will eat itself to death if provided with an unlimited food supply. Apparently, me too. This weekend was a festival of dining out and gluttony and wine overconsumption; my only meal at home was a snack of leftover dumplings on Saturday afternoon. There are no photos, and I do not wish to bore you with a recitation of all my meals.

Let me just say that if you go to It’s a Dominican Thing, you should have Un "Chin" de Todo (a little of everything – the appetizer sampler for 2) and Chicharron de Pollo de Rafaela (Rafaela’s perfect fried chicken chunks). If you go to Gnocco, I highly recommend the homemade tagliatelle with fennel and sausage ragu. Mmmmm. And the puffy gnocco appetizer. And the pizza. Really, probably anything. Scrumptious.

But the weekend of gluttony finally came to a wine-soaked end, and tonight I returned to my kitchen to scrape together some marginally healthy dinner for the two of us. By chance, I happened to have all of the ingredients for one of my favorite soups!

I’m generally not a soup eater – the lovely folks at Hale and Hearty do great work and I patronize them often at lunch – but I do love an occasional special soup on a random weeknight. This one is my absolute favorites. It is hearty and light at the same time (if that is possible?), it is spicy and comforting. I adapted an epicurious recipe…

Spicy Thai Chicken Rice Soup

4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 tablespoon Thai green curry paste
3 small garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 (1-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried coriander
1 bunch whole fresh cilantro, washed and big stems chopped off
1/2 cup jasmine rice
2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cut into dice-sized pieces
1/2 can unsweetened coconut milk, stirred well
1 16 oz package of whole frozen spinach leaves
1 T fresh lime juice
1 tsp salt

Add stock, water, curry paste, garlic, ginger, coriander, and whole cilantro leaves to a big pot, simmer for 15 minutes.

Strain out stuff and put broth back in pot. Add rice, simmer 15-20 minutes. Add chicken, simmer for 3-5 minutes, add spinach, coconut milk, and fish sauce, simmer for 3 more minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in lime juice and salt. Serve!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Raisinhater Favorites – Chimichurri Sauce

For those of you who read this site, its no secret that I am not exactly a vegetarian. Much like Jeeves' dependence on fish for his mighty plots to save Bertie Wooster, my brain is fueled by beef. I love it enough to keep on eating at Churrascaria Plataforma long after all of my dining companions have flipped their coasters. Even after they have ordered their deserts I am still waving down those handsome spear wielding meatmen for yet another crispy little meatlet.

I college I gave up meat for a year or so (didn’t everyone?) and it was really difficult for me. I’d have these fantastically vivid dreams of rare cheeseburgers with crisp raw onions and melted cheddar. Dad Raisinhater thought I was insane. He’d deliberately goad me by making grilled lamb when I came home for holidays, red inside with a crispy outside, dripping juice onto little toast points. (What would you do if your kid came home from college trash-talking the family religion?) I finally cracked under the pressure. Many vegetarians talk about the gastrointestinal pain of reintroducing meat to their diet. I expected complications and revulsion. Instead, it just felt like coming home.

I believe it is because of my meat-love that I am drawn so strongly to all things Argentine (including J). The Argentines are famed for their delicious beef and lamb, and the skill with which they prepare both. The Argentines have also perfected chimichurri sauce. Chimichurri is an oil, garlic and herb sauce used on meats in Argentina. It is typically used for drier cuts, such as grilled sweetbreads, chorizo, or the intestine parts, but I was fascinated with the novelty of herby meat sauce and started putting it on everything, particularly my skirt steak.

Traditional Argentine chimichurri is made from olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, other various herbs, and sometimes vinegar. I have a recipe (adapted from epicurious) I believe is far tastier. Epicurious says that his recipe, using a two pound skirt steak, serves 6. That is just crap. Using a 1.5 lb skirt steak it serves 2, or 3 if you have dainty eaters. Do not be fooled by the size of your skirt steak, it will shrink up when it cooks. Plus, if you make extra, you can use the leftovers to make steak quesadillas!

Skirt Steak with Cilantro Chimichurri

1 skirt steak (1.5 lbs approx.)
Some cumin and pepper
2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 bunch fresh cilantro leaves (remove stems)
1/4 cup (or more) olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne

Trim skirt steak. (Each person is given only a few special talents in their lifetime. I believe one of mine is skirt steak trimming. This is one of the only things I am actually really good at. My Raisinhater siblings got music and sports, I got meat trimming.)

Slice steak crossswise into 4” pieces. (Why? I don’t know, but it fits in the pan better.) Rub steak with salt, pepper, and cumin. Cook steak in big frying pan over high heat (or, if you don’t live in NYC, grill it outside) – it doesn’t take long. I like my skirt steak medium rare, with a crispy exterior. While steak is cooking, make the chimichurri.

Using a mini food processor, chop the garlic. Add salt, lemon, cayenne, and cilantro. Chop, adding some olive oil to aid the process. Keep chopping and adding olive oil until you get the consistency you want. Here’s what mine looks like…

Serve steak with sauce on the side, or just spread it all over the steak.

And a scary skirt steak closeup...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Chocolate Crepe Fix

About a month ago I quit smoking. I know some people that have quit smoking with relatively little angst – they just slapped on a patch, bought some cinnamon gum, and went on their way. These are the same people that say to me, "now that you've quit, aren't you just disgusted by the smell of cigarettes?"

As they're saying this, I'm trying to french kiss the grizzled barfly on the stool next to me because he's exuding eau de Marlboro. I love smoking, I miss smoking, and I need to stop writing this right now or I'm going to dash out and suck down a luscious pack of Parliaments. Oooh, I love that cute little recessed filter. Mmmm, I am now making subconscious flicking motions with my fingers.

(Elapsed time: 10 minutes for cold shower.)

Quitting smoking has certain noticeable physical effects other than the health benefits. Some are dreadful, such as the evil temperament, loss of lightning-fast metabolism, and inability to thwart mental blocks with a convenient nicotine infusion. Some, though, are actually not so bad. First, I can run faster and longer. Hell, I just ran a marathon. Second, I now have a new-found appreciation for chocolate.

Until a month or so ago I never really had a sweet tooth. Salt tooth, yes. Cheese tooth, absolutely. I have vices aplenty, but I'd order another glass of wine over a dessert any day of the week. Now that I no longer get that after-dinner cigarette, I find myself yearning for a little something in the cocoa family.

Last night we gobbled up the last of the Swiss chocolates (thank you, family of J, please go back to Switzerland soon!) so tonight I made crepes with chocolate sauce and dulce de leche as part of my nicotine replacement therapy program.

Crepes with Chocolate Sauce and Dulce de Leche

1 1/3 cups whole milk
1 cup all purpose flour
3 large eggs
3 T unsalted butter, melted
1 T honey
¼ tsp salt
Dulce de Leche
Melted chocolate chips

I was always intimidated by crepes - this was my first attempt and it was surprisingly simple. Mix first six ingredients together in blender. Refrigerate for at least one hour and up to one day. Heat 8” nonstick skillet on medium (I sprayed the bottom with nonstick spray). Pour ¼ cup batter into pan, swirl to coat.

Cook for approximately one minute, until bottom just begins to brown. Lift edge with spatula, and flip with your hands (much easier to use your hands rather than a spatula). Cook until other side lightly browns (about 30 more seconds).

Transfer to plate, cover with paper towel, repeat. Once crepes are cooked, spread half with dulce de leche, fold in half and drizzle with chocolate.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Minimalist Peanut Chicken Stew

Here at Raisinhater headquarters, we sometimes have a little problem getting rid of stuff. Specifically, old sections of the New York Times Wednesday food section. There are always a few recipes in there that I intend to try out. Yes, I could clip them and file them somewhere, but then I'd forget about them until the next time we move and just throw them away, potentially losing forever a recipe for something as delicious as Staff Meal Chicken or Prosciutto Balls.

Egads! So, instead, I save them in plain view around the apartment so they can torment me. At least that’s what old MeBeth Raisinhater used to do. But no longer – as of today I am turning over a new leaf. The new improved MeBeth Raisinhater is going to try at least one recipe from the new food section every Wednesday night. Then she is going to recycle the rest of the section rather than letting it lurk around the apartment to generate guilt and clutter.

Today, I chose Creamy Peanut Chicken Stew. There were other great options - I was particularly tantalized by the idea of making my own bacon, but I wasn't sure if I could find (or carry) a 5lb slab of pork belly on the way home from the office, and I don't have the patience to wait 7 days for it to cure. Also, the Kabocha Salad with Greens, Bacon, Cheese, and Pecans sounded good (mmm, bacon!) but I don't know what kabocha is, so that pretty much ruled it out.

Here’s the recipe for Creamy Peanut Chicken Stew (shamelessly copied from the New York Times)…

2 tablespoons corn, grapeseed or other neutral oil
8 bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
Salt and pepper
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon curry powder or garam masala
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup boiled and shelled fresh peanuts or ¾ cup peanut butter
Chopped parsley, for garnish.

1. Put oil in deep skillet or casserole and turn heat to medium-high. When oil shimmers, put chicken in skillet, skin side down. Season with salt and pepper and brown well, rotating and turning pieces as necessary; process will take 10 to 15 minutes. Remove meat and drain all but 2 tablespoons of fat.

2. Add onion and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Stir in curry powder and cayenne pepper and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add cream and stock and bring to a boil; cook until slightly thickened, 1 or 2 minutes. Stir in peanuts if using.

3. Return chicken to casserole, bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer, turning occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and tender, 20 to 30 minutes. If using peanut butter, whisk it together with about 1 cup of the hot cooking liquid until smooth, then stir back into the simmering pot. Taste and adjust seasonings, garnish and serve.

I decided to halve the recipe (two servings), and serve it over jasmine rice with collard greens on the side. Here’s my chicken, browning away...

I don’t have a deep skillet or a casserole, so I used a big pot, to no noticable disadvantage. Everything chugged along smoothly until I got to the point where I added the peanut butter. As instructed, after 25 minutes or so I whisked the peanut butter together with a few spoonfuls of hot cooking liquid, and returned it to the pot. The sauce thickened and became gloppy; it didn’t really look all that much like stew. More like the texture of takeout Indian food. Perhaps I was a bit overzealous in my reducing? Here it is on the plate (sans garnish because I forgot)...

Hellooooo PEANUT! I enjoy peanuts, peanut butter, and peanut noodles, but this was perhaps too much. The peanut butter definitely overshadowed the curry, onions, and ginger. Next time I'd use half as much and would add more chicken broth (or reduce less) for a thinner and more stew-like sauce. It wasn't dreadful, in fact it was fairly tasty, I just think it could've been so much better with a bit more liquid and a lot less peanut.

Collard greens were the big winner of the night. I used an incredibly easy recipe adapted from epicurious. Finely chop two pieces of bacon and heat over medium high heat in a skillet until crispy and brown. Slice the leaves from one bunch of collard greens in half, removing the tough middle stems.

Roll up the leaves like cigars and slice thinly. You’ll end up with a huge plateful of collard green strips. It will seem like a massive portion - fear not, it will be ok somehow. Throw them in the pan with the cooked bacon and toss around for a minute or so on medium. They will turn bright green and reduce in size (as promised). Salt generously.

Their bitter bite is a perfect match for the creamy peanut-buttery chicken and would go well with most other rich treats like macaroni and cheese.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Pork Tacos

Pork tacos! Today I had lunch at Mexicana Mama. My tacos were filled with chili roasted pork and chihuahua cheese over rice and avocado. Check it out...

Deliciously messy and spicy. I had to go home and take a nap immediately.

Stop by tomorrow night or Thursday morning for a new Raisinhater special feature - we'll be testing out and reviewing a recipe from tomorrow's Dining In/Dining Out section of the NY Times.

Monday, November 07, 2005

26.2 Miles of Food

I made it!! Yesterday I finished my first marathon. I’m not one to rush things, and the marathon is no exception, so my time did not exactly put me in prize-money contention. But it was an amazing experience, much more so because it took place throughout the five boroughs of New York. My marathon breakfast consisted of leftover pasta with Dad’s Marinara Sauce and Sicilian Meatballs. It served me well; I felt full but not sick, and it was the perfect combo of carbs and protein. Sort of like an energy bar but actually tasty and made of real food! I ate breakfast at 6:45 am, so by the time the race started I was hungry again. As I mentioned on Saturday, my during-the-run food consists of nasty powergel packets, preferably chocolate flavored. Although they sustained me physically, mentally I was starved for a proper brunch.

The NYC marathon goes through all five boroughs, passing through extremely diverse neighborhoods, both ethnically and culinarily. It’s a buffet of temptation and as my legs ran on and on, my mind wandered. Here’s where it went…

Miles 1 through 5 – TACOS - Once we crossed the bridge, I could see the word “taco” on every awning and all I could think of was spicy shredded pork in a soft warm totilla.

Miles 6 through 10
– SAUSAGE SANDWICHES – Somebody was having a marathon cookout and it smelled just like the sausage sandwiches with peppers and onions that we used to eat at Aunt Alyce’s Fourth of July party, with Aunt Mary making fun of the fat neighbors in caftans, the uncles smoking pipes under the carport, and my cousin Marlo, who used to wear root beer flavored chapstick.

Miles 11 through 15 – COORS LIGHT – This part of the marathon goes through some pretty industrial areas of Long Island City, and then over the 59th Street Bridge, so there isn’t much food around. Combine that with my family, at mile 12, cheering “14 miles ‘till beer time” and you get me, fantasizing about the ideal post-race beverage, for five whole miles.

Miles 16 through 20 – CHEESEBURGERS – Although this part of the marathon course goes through sections of East Harlem known for fabulous Mexican, Dominican, and Puerto Rican food, I smelled cheeseburgers on 85th street and that’s all I could think about. Cheddar cheeseburgers, specifically. With onions. And steak fries.

Miles 20 through 24 – FRIED WHATEVER – Dear Restauranteur, Please do not cook your delicious fried foods on marathon day in such a way that the marathoners can smell their wafting aromas. I did not know what you were frying, but I knew I wanted to eat it RIGHT AWAY. I would have eaten fried raisins at this point.

Miles 25 through 26.2 – ICE WATER – I was pathetic. I was running through central park dreaming of ice water. I think this is an appropriate sign of how traumatizing a marathon can be. Shaved ice, cubed ice, ice in starfish shapes. All I wanted was ice water.

And so my marathon journey came to an end, and after an obligatory apple and some Gatorade (blech), I realized I could have any of those tasty treats that I was craving on my run. The only problem – I couldn’t walk! My family eased me to a cozy bar and filled me with delicious beers and tater tots, which soothed me for the night. Today, I was unable to leave the house other than a brief jaunt to the wine store. It took me fifteen minutes to walk one (short) block. Tomorrow, I expect to be sufficiently recovered such that I can seek out those treats that tantalized me for so long. If you see a stuffed looking girl wearing a silver marathon cape and waddling around outside the Pearl Oyster Bar around lunchtime tomorrow, please say hi.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Raisinhater Favorites - Marathon "Food"

Saturdays are for Raisinhater favorites, but today is a special day – the day before the marathon! On this special day, marathoners are encouraged to eat the blandest, whitest foods they can get their hands on. Dry bagels, pasta with chicken broth, peanut butter and nothing sandwiches, blech. You don’t want to read about that, and I just cant bring myself to eat it, so my pre-marathon dinner (yes, tomorrow, for the first time, I will be running(?) the NYC marathon) will be Linguini with Sicilian Meatballs and Dad’s Marinara Sauce.

Marathoners are also encouraged to eat breakfast the morning of the race. Most eat a dry bagel or a powerbar, I’ll eat the leftover linguini and meatballs. I made up a theory about the garlic and the protein but really I just cant bear to eat something as pathetic as a dry bagel before going running for multiple hours.

But tomorrow, during the race, things will be different. I will eat a special crazy runner food that I squirt in my mouth from little foil packets. Sort of like what people in 1957 envisioned as the food of the future. And there are different brands and different flavors of these packets, and most runners have VERY STRONG preferences. And so my raisinhater favorite food for today involves a little taste test to select the least-awful of these little packets; one that will (hopefully) get me through 26.2 miles tomorrow.

First, my research methodology. Marathon training requires a lot of autumnal running; almost every weekend in September or October found me slogging around Central Park or up the Hudson River path for hours. During these training runs, I was able to sample almost all of the selections reviewed here today. The remainder of the testing was done at the NYC Marathon Expo on Thursday, where the GU folks helpfully set out a testing table for sampling the different flavors.

The brands:

GU – slightly thicker in texture, most pleasing and compact packaging.
Clif Shot – easy tear off top, pasty texture.
Powergel – thinner texture, larger portion, unwieldy golden package.

Each brand comes in multiple flavors:

GU Orange – tastes like creamsicles. A lot. Unless you LOVE creamsicles, stay away.
GU Vanilla – pleasant mild taste, inoffensive and seems like a good choice, until you try…
GU Chocolate – the tastiest of the GU by far, it has a mild chocolatey flavor and you can pretend you are eating chocolate frosting, delicious! This favorite is the first to sell out of running stores.

Clif Mocha Mocha – nutty coffee flavor, frankly, I expected more of a punch.
Clif Mmmm Chocolate – not as rich tasting as the GU chocolate, disappointing.

Powergel Tangerine – not like a creamsicle, more like an orange smoothie.
Powergel Vanilla – like the nastiest vanilla candle you’ve ever smelled.
Powergel LemonLime – like Gatorade in jelly form. Looks like snot though.
Powergel Chocolate – slightly artificial chocolate taste, gel texture rather than frosting.

Normally I would award top prizes to GU Chocolate. Taste-wise I think it’s a clear winner. It also gets tons of extra points for compact packaging. Most people prefer the GU texture, or even the Clif texture, to the more slimy Powergel, but Powergel has one thing the others don’t – caffeine! Most people don’t seem tremendously swayed by this fact, but it has achieved enormous proportions in my mind (not much to think about when you’re running for 3 hours) and now I feel that my running performance is dependant on a constant stream of the stuff. So my raisinhater favorite for today, and my food of choice tomorrow (until its time for beer) is Chocolate Powergel!