February 2005

Three Possible Titles: (1) Sunday Night Chicken; (2) Cooking For The Week Ahead; (3) Roast Chicken with Million Dollar Gravy and Arborio Rice Salad

Titling these posts takes effort. So you can pick which one you like the best. All three are appropriate. (Especially the last one–it makes a topical Oscar reference. I’m glad Million Dollar Gravy swept the oscars!)

Cooking a Sunday night dinner is a good idea. Many cultures build rituals around it. Like Italians. They have Sunday night gravy. They know cooking dinner Sunday night is a good idea.

Here’s why: whatever leftovers you have, you can eat for the rest of the week. (Or at least the first part of the week.)

And, pulling in from another source, I read (I think in Nigel Slater’s Appetite) that the best thing you can make in terms of stretching it over the week is a roast chicken. I have to agree with him. I definitely have enough for two more meals and even after that I’m going to save the bones for stock. Yes, Amateur Gourmet readers, very soon your beloved AG is going to make stock.

But first the chicken. Admire this chicken, don’t you want to eat it?


I used the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe. This recipe is fantastic. Here’s what you do. Buy a chicken. Rinse it inside and out and then pat it dry. Thomas Kellar in his Bouchon book says to put a lot of effort into patting it dry—you want to avoid steam in the oven. After that, sprinkle the inside with salt and pepper. “Be liberal!” says the Contesa. Then stuff that cavity with a bunch of Thyme, a head of garlic (a whole head) sliced on the equator, and a lemon cut in half. After that, melt 2 Tbs of butter and paint that on the chicken with a brush. Apply salt and pepper all over the chicken (be liberal, again!) and then tie the legs together. Put in a roasting pan and roast at 425 degrees for 90 minutes or “until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and a thigh.” This time, actually, I used a meat thermometer and it worked really well. The arrow rose to “poultry” and I knew it was time to come out of the oven.

Now here’s the part that’s spectacular. Return to that pic above. What do you see next to that chicken? A tiny bowl, right? Well that’s the Million Dollar Gravy. A brief spiel on gravy.

I hate gravy. I’ve always hated gravy. I never accept the gravy boat at Thanksgiving, in fact, if I had any control over it, I’d sink the gravy boat. (Sorry, after writing that sentence, I regret it, but I’m not going to delete it.) I just don’t like gravy. It’s gooey and thick and messy and unpleasant.

However, with that said, after making this gravy I’m a gravy convert. This gravy is delicious. It tastes like all those delicious brown crunchy bits you savor when you eat a roasted chicken. It’s like liquid chicken skin. Here’s how you make it:

So take the roasting pan after you remove the chicken from it and pour out the chicken fat into a bowl. (This is called “shmlatz” in Jew world.) There will be brown bits on the bottom of the pan—don’t lose these! Put the roasting pan on the stove, turn up the heat, and add 1 cup of chicken stock. “Cook on high heat for 5 minutes until reduced scraping bottom of the pan.” Once that happens, combine the 2 Tbs of chicken fat with 2 Tbs of flour and add to the pan. Boil for a few minutes to cook the flour.

Now when I did this, everything got crazy thick really fast. So when the time came to do the next step–strain into a small sauce pan–there was very little gravy and it wouldn’t go through the strainer. So I returned it to the roasting pan and added more chicken broth. I boiled it together and then just poured it into the bowl you see above. Honestly, that’s fine. It tastes so good. Especially if you follow this recipe, it tastes like brown chicken bits with lemon and garlic and thyme. All together now, k? Mmmmmm.

But I did not serve this chicken alone. With it, I made Amanda Hesser’s Arborio rice salad. I am really happy with this salad as a chicken accompaniment. It’s also really easy. But first, a picture:


I’m doing all this from memory, but that’s good because if I put it in my own words it’s not illegal!

So bring a big pot of water to boil. Add enough salt so you tatse the salt but it shouldn’t be salty. (That’s Hesser’s instruction, not mine.) Add 2 cups of the Arborio rice and stir stir stir. You can walk away a bit but come back and stir. The instruction is to cook until it’s chewy but not gummy. The thing is they don’t give you an approximate cooking time. In my mind, it took about 5 minutes. But I did a lot of tasting while I stirred. I tasted every few minutes or so and I suggest you do the same. Eventually, the rice won’t be crunchy, it will be chewy. Once you get there, pour it into a strainer and then from the strainer into a large bowl.

In that bowl, immediately pour 3 Tbs of olive oil over the rice, and 3 Tbs of red wine vinegar. Then zest a lemon over the bowl and grind some pepper over it. Use a spatula and distribute the rice around. You should let it sit for an hour. Go watch the Oscars like I did. You can do this while your chicken’s in the oven. If you start right when you put the chicken in, you’ll have a 30 minute window to do this salad leaving 60 minutes for the flavors to meld.

You should come back every so often and shift things around with the spatula. You should taste ample samples like I did because it’s delicious.

Now, eventually, take 1/3rd of a cup of pine nuts (ok, she calls for 1/4th a cup but I used 1/3rd a cup) and toast them in the oven. Put them on a baking sheet and just put them in with the chicken. They’ll only be in there 4 or 5 minute before they turn brown. Take them out! Add them to the salad! You’re done.

This rice salad’s delicious. I’ve never had a rice salad before, but this one is surely a winner. And with the chicken and the gravy it’s perfect. It all goes together like frick and frack, like Laverne and Shirley. Actually, it’s a threesome—so Moe, Curly and Larry; or Brad, Jen and Angelina Jolie.

What’s great is now I have a ton of rice salad and a huge half of a chicken to eat tomorrow night and the next night and the next night. Did I mention that this salad and the chicken regenerates in the fridge? It’s alive, it’s alive! But seriously, it’s a good Sunday night dinner. I am happy with it.

Bundty and the Bundtlettes: Mini Spice Bundt Cakes

So one of my big surprise happy happy birthday gifts this year was a mini-bundt pan featuring six “bundtlettes” given to me by Lisa and Annette with much love and affection. Saturday night, Lisa came over and we got bundty with it. This is our story.

But should we start with the final image? Sometimes that draws attention. Look how pretty these turned out:


Pretty as a picture, right? Well it is a picture, but you see the point. Bundlettes produce very pretty mini-bundt cakes, for sure.

We used this recipe from Williams Sonoma, linked earlier by one of my site readers. Identify yourself, whoever you are! I’m too lazy to find you! This recipe was a great recipe to start out with, so thanks for recommending it!

The biggest step in the whole mini-bundt process was greasing and flouring the bundt pan. I just rubbed a lot of butter in all the crevises and then floured it. This worked fine. Just use lots of butter. Get bundty with it. (Sorry, this will be a recurring joke. I apologize if you don’t find it funny. May I suggest that you resist it because you don’t know how to get bundty?)

Otherwise, the rest is easy. Just follow the instructions in that link. You make the batter. You pour it in.

Oh wait, that part isn’t easy. Here’s where Lisa and I have a big fight. I will recreate it for you now:


Lisa: I am distributing the batter evenly in the 6 pans like the instructions say.

Me: Yes, but I think it’s better to fill each of them up entirely than to spread them out evenly and only fill them 2/3rds of the way up.

Lisa: But I read a recipe for this earlier today that said to only fill them up 2/3rds of the way!

Me: But this isn’t that recipe!

Lisa: I don’t care! I’ll do what I like! Deal with it!

So Lisa won that little fight and we put them in the oven looking like this:


For a long while it looked like I would be the victor in the big fight because they weren’t rising. But suddenly, about 2/3rds of the way in (how ironic, right?) they did rise. And they looked perfect. We let them cool when they came out and eventually (and rather nervously) tapped them out on the rack. Lisa felt like a hero:


After that, it was just a matter of making the glaze (we used apple cider instead of apple juice) which we painted on and the let seep in. Eventually we achieved this final image which you’ve already seen:


Again, they look really pretty, right?

As for how did they taste? Well one confession. Lisa and I forgot—ok, I’ll take the blame–I forgot to add the vanilla. So this is lacking one tsp of vanilla. I’m not sure how that impacted the final taste. But ultimately, they tasted like baked donuts with an apple glaze. That sounds nice, right? Ya, it was nice. I didn’t love them. If they didn’t look so pretty and tasted this way I’d be like: “Yo, what’s the deal? This just tastes eh, y’all.” However, because they did look pretty I forgave the just ok taste. See, that’s what happens when you get bundty with it.


Chowing in Chelsea: Lunch at Rickshaw, Dinner at elmo

I live in Chelsea.

For those not from New York, Chelsea is the belly button of Manhattan. Ok, that’s not true. It’s a little lower—just so much lower, in fact, that to tell you where it is in an anatomical sense would be crass. Let’s just say that Chelsea is in the lower region of the city.

So while circumventing the scrotum, (haha–sorry—I couldn’t resist the anatomical humor), sometimes I get hungry. Lucky for me, just a few blocks down, a new dumpling bar opened up–Rickshaw. I saw it out of the corner of my eye while journeying for lunch the other day.

Here’s the thing about Rickshaw. It’s not that great. But it’s not that great in the way that Burritoville isn’t that great. Which is to say that it’s fine. It hits the spot. Not everything can be 4 star dining, right?

So I ordered duck dumplings–6 of them—in chicken broth (that’s one of the options) and a glass of Meyer lemonade. The Meyer lemonade cost $2.50 and I think this is a really good deal because Meyer lemons are really expensive and a glass of normal lemonade at The City Bakery costs like $3, so you’re having a more exotic experience for $0.50 less. With that said, the Meyer lemonade was tasty and unusual but had a strange undertaste like the chocolate mouse in Rosemary’s baby. I think Ruth Gordon made it.

Want to know who made my dumplings? You can see them here:


There’s that big glass plate window while you wait. If you were in a 4-star restaurant it might be fun to watch the people at work. Here, it looks like a bunch of overworked unhappy people forced to smile for the customers. I liked it!

As for the dumplings, again, I liked them:


Again, these aren’t great dumplings, they’re fine dumplings. Sure, they’re better in Chinatown, but you don’t live in Chinatown. You live in Chelsea. So why not eat these dumplings? I think you should.


For dinner on Friday night, I joined Lisa and Ben at elmo. elmo is a place that doesn’t believe in capitalizing its name. I hope you respect that.

Ben loves elmo. He loves elmo for its tuna. “I love the tuna here,” he said. “I have dreams about it.”

First we ordered drinks. Ben and I ordered manly drinks called Ruby Reds—pink grapefruit juice and grapefruit vodka. They cost $10 each. I found that a bit much, but they tasted good. Lisa ordered a diet coke, but for this pic she and Ben switched drinks. DON’T BE FOOLED!


Look how drunk he looks! Would he be so drunk if he was only drinking diet coke?

Now, as for the entrees, I decided to order something different from the tuna. I could try Ben’s tuna, so I ordered the sea bass. “Fool!” shouted Ben. “The tuna is glorious!”

Here is Ben with his tuna. He really loves his tuna:


Me? I ordered pistachio crusted sea bass. It was really tasty. It came with leeks and clams and a garlic tomato broth: (sorry this pic is so bleachy, I’ve yet to negotiate the flash non-flash aspects of my camera in dark restaurants)


So elmo is a fun place to go if you live in Chelsea. It’s a little pricey. There’s a little part of me that says, “If you’re going to spend that much money on dinner why not go somewhere really good like Babbo or Mesa Grille?” But that’s not really rational–those places are definitely more expensive and harder to get into. So elmo will have to suffice just like Rickshaw will have to suffice. Chelsea is all about compromise. But that’s what life’s like down here in the nether regions.

Two Missed Gifts in My Gift Round-Up

When rounding up my food-related birthday gifts, I forgot to include two fine gifts given to me by two fine people. So Johnny K (or Just John), thank you for “Eat Your Way to Happiness.” This book is very cute. The premise is that you really can “eat your way to happiness!” I plan to do it soon, after I work my way through “Cook Your Way To Misery” (last year’s birthday cookbook). So thanks John! And let’s not forget Ben who bought me coasters with Rosie the Riveter on them. Coasters aren’t a cookbook, but coasters are food related because you put drinks on them. So thanks Ben!

And that concludes (for real) my birthday gift round up.

Traumatizing Eggsperience


I must tell you this story about brunch the other day. Near where I go to school is a diner. We go to this diner often. Many of us are sick of it, but we still go there because it’s convenient and they have many many things on the menu that we can eat. That’s one of the nice things about diners—something for everyone.

So, as per usual, I ordered an omelette. It came to the table and looked nice and omeletty. I took a bite and decided it needed salt. I sprinkled salt on it. I took a few more bites. Tasted better. Then on my 4th or 5th bite I suddenly felt something very sharp in my mouth.

“Ow!” I said. “I feel something very sharp in my mouth!”

I reached in and pulled out a large piece of eggshell. This wasn’t a forgivable tiny piece of eggshell, but a large wall of shell that looked like a shiv a bird might carve in prison. As I pulled it out, I felt that there was a big part of it caught in my mouth.

“What’s going on, Adam?” asked my dining companions.

“Mrrwahyahaha,” I replied, as I dug around my mouth. I don’t mean to be graphic, but there was some blood on my finger.

Eventually it was determined that there was eggshell lodged in the gum behind one of my front teeth. We told the waiter. I showed him the blood, I showed him the shell.

“Well,” he shrugged, “it’s an omelette—it happens–eggshell in the omelette.”

We asked to talk to the manager. He came over. He shrugged. “It’s an omelette, what you expect?” He reached into his pocket and removed a toothpick. “Here,” he said, “Go to the bathroom, dig it out.”

Molly gave me her pocket mirror. I went to the bathroom. I tried to dig it out. I bled more. It wasn’t pretty.

Eventually, I decided to leave it alone and brush it out when I got home. The check came. The omelette was on the check. We found this ridiculous.

(Please note, here, that I come from a family of restaurant complainers—my mother or grandmother can get the entire table comped if they find an eyelash on their plate. I’ve always shyed away from gratuitous complaining, but here I felt justified. We’ll leave the parentheses now.)

We said to the waiter, “This is ridiculous! We shouldn’t pay for this!”

He shrugged and said, “We’ll make you a new omelette.”

“No thanks,” I said, growing bitter. “I’ll pay for it–fine–but I’ll never come back here again.”

There was a dramatic pause.

“Ok, one sec,” he said, and waltzed away. He came back looking stern: “We take it off. We take it off the check, fine.”

He acted like it was a big sacrifice when I was almost killed with eggshell. I left feeling minorly victorious, all the while touching the shell with my tongue on the way home.

When I got home, I brushed and swished and brushed and swished and brushed and swished and nothing happened. Something tiny fell out but I still felt the shell with my tongue.

Then I realized: maybe the back of my tooth is deformed, and what I thought was eggshell is actually enamel?

That is where I currently stand. You may think me a bad person, but let’s not forget that there was indeed a giant sharp shell in my omelette. What have we learned from this? Next time: order a burger.

Birthday Gift Round-Up

I haven’t had a chance to acknowledge all the lovely food-related birthday gifts I was given last week for my birthday. There used to be a time when the idea of giving me something food-related for my birthday would have been absurd. “A spatula? You got me a spatula? THAT’S IT, DAUGHTER, YOU’RE OUT OF MY LIFE—NEVER CONTACT ME AGAIN.” (Constance, if you’re reading this–daddy loves you. He wants you back in his life. I love the spatula.)

Now then, what did we get? Well three major clusters of food-related gifts. (I say “food-related gifts” because I don’t want to seem ungrateful for the gifts I received from people that weren’t food related. Like that large vibrating spider you gave me, grandma. Thank you.)

The first major gift: Cookbooks from Mom and Dad

Well you know they bought me a camera, but you don’t know about the cookbooks. My parents lavished me this year. What can I say, I have generous parents.

The cookbooks:

1. A Return to Cooking by Eric Ripert. I’m starting with this one because even though it was on my Amazon wishlist (that’s how my mom knew what books to buy) I didn’t really know what to expect–every time I’d seen it in the stores it was wrapped in plastic. Well. I dunno. This is the one I’m least enamored with. It’s crazy impractical. (I know this sounds ungrateful, but I love the other two a great deal—this one I’m kind of shoulder shruggy about). There are truffle recipes, foie gras recipes, and all kinds of recipes I will never make because the ingredients are so wildly expensive. However, there may be a few gems in there so I’ll flip back through it. The pages are really pretty though. I like the art.

2. The Bouchon Cookbook by Thomas Keller. Now this one’s really cool. It’s like all the doable recipes from The French Laundry cookbook multiplied and filled a new cookbook. These are recipes that are totally approachable and yet promise to be truly exquisite. Like the onion soup or the salads or the roasted chicken (there are several recipes for roasted chicken). This is a great cookbook–I’m excited to cook from it.

3. The Gourmet Cookbook by Gourmet. This is on my bed right now. I’m going to flip through it before I go to sleep. I can’t imagine I won’t like it. Gourmet is great because it marries the familiar and the exotic—every recipe has a little twist so they all seem worth making just to experience the twist. More on that once I cook from it.

The second major gift: Bundtettes from Lisa and Annette

These are so cute. They’re bundt pans but they come in a tray of six. I only have one recipe for them so far, but I’ll be cooking from them soon—so watch for that. Thanks Lisa and Annette!

The third major gift: Jacques Torres Hot Chocolate Mix from James Felder

James Felder is the nicest guy ever. You really need to go visit his website right now! He loves it when I link to him because he gets lots of hits, so do him a favor and click click click. After all, he bought me Jacques Torres Hot Chocolate Mix! Check it out—I made this last night:


What’s amazing about this mix is that the end result tastes remarkably like what you get in the story. It’s gooey and thick and filled with chocolatey gunk. I think it’s because there are reall pieces of bittersweet chocolate in the mix. Plus, you make it with milk not water. (I guess you make most hot cocoa with milk not water, but in my childhood my mom made it with water (mixed with Swiss Miss)—which is how I did it for most of my life too. I LEARNED IT FROM YOU, MOM, OK? I LEARNED IT FROM YOU.)

Now with all of that said, I have to make a confession. This kind of hot chocolate always hurts my stomach. I’m not sure why. But long-time readers may remember a LONG time ago when I made a dinner and a dessert that involved fresh homemade hot chocolate (with the chopping of the chocolate and everything) and I had an atrocious stomach ache the next day. Well this one wasn’t atrocious, but something’s going on here. Quality hot chocolate hurts my stomach. But it’s a testament to how good this is that I’m totally going to make it again—it’s worth the pain.

Thanks James and thanks everyone else! You made my birthday great.

I Went to The Gates

I made a special trip today to see The Gates in Central Park. Many people find The Gates suspect, they scream out “waste!” “pretension!” “orange!” but I just took it for what it was and found myself thoroughly seduced. I liked these gates. Here I am appreciating the gates. My facial expression seems to say: “Hmm, I mean, they’re big and orange and billowy, but I can still like them, right?”


And here’s a big gate in case you want to see one up close:


What I liked about the Gates most was the sense of being swallowed up in some surreal happening. There were Gates tourbuses, Gates tourguides, Gates t-shirts. There were tourists and locals, picture-takers and wanderers. In my biggest flight of fancy, I imagined we were in some enchanted kingdom that really liked the color orange. I left The Gates and went to the Time Warner Center so I could buy olive oil at Williams Sonoma. (See this is food related.) I attempted to pay the cashier in orange fabric. She smacked me. And my flight of fancy was over.

Taste Everything’s 2005 Food Awards: Most Soul Satisfying Bowl of Pasta to Eat After Buying A Backpack in the East Village and Walking to the West Village in 8 Degree Weather When You Think Your Face Is Going to Fall Off and Life’s No Longer Worth Living

OK, so a while ago (January 6th, to be exact) I was asked by Hillel Cooperman of Tastingmenu.com to participate in his inspired creation, The 2005 Independent Food Festival and Awards. The idea was simple: food bloggers get to give an award to something they feel passionately about in the food world, that they feel should be recognized. Here is their graphic:

So with a proposition like that and a graphic like that, how could I say no? I was drunk with power—I get to give an award! I felt like an Oscar voter only more capable (honestly, Forrest Gump over Pulp Fiction? Come on). So it was settled. Now only one problem—who should I give an award to?

There’s something you need to understand about me. I’m a total fraud. I have no idea what I’m doing. The very idea that I was asked to give an award is an affront to the entire food community. I have no real training with food, I have very little eating experience. I wrote a post once praising the Olive Garden. I am so inadequate it hurts. Why me, then, why?

But enough self-doubt. I was chosen to give an award and I would give one.

At around this time, there was a blizzard. It was a big blizzard. You may remember it? There was all that snow and all the other vestiges of a good old fashioned blizzard. Well around that time I needed a new backpack. My old backpack was positively coated in cat hair. There was no pouch for my computer—I’d developed the habit of putting my computer in a flimsy leather computer case and sticking that in my backpack along with heavy books and other heavy machinery. It wasn’t a great system.

Then, through some online maneuverings that aren’t that important, I discovered Crumpler bags which are bags built especially for Apple Powerbooks. I found the bag I wanted and I ordered it online. Shipping would cost $16.

Days passed. There was no notice that it had shipped. So I decided to look up the store’s number online so I could ask, “Yo! Hey! Where’s my bag?”

It was during this search that I made a startling realization. Crumpler was located in NEW YORK. In the East Village. (Actually, it’s on the Lower East Side, but I already submitted my post title to Hillel so let’s pretend it’s the East Villlage.)

I called the store immediately and I said, “Hey! Yo! I ordered this bag online and I had no idea you were in New York. I paid $16 for shipping. Did it ship yet?”

The guy looked me up. “Nope, it didn’t.”

“Phew!” I said. “Now then—can I come get it in person?”

“Sure,” he said.

And so I took the train down to Prince street and started walking east. It was wildly cold out. My face hurt the way your nose hurts when it gets hit with a tennis ball. By the time I found the store I was seriously wondering if I hadn’t frozen a mile back and it was only my ghost entering the store, ringing the bell.

I told the guy who I was. I took out my credit card. He said, “Listen–buying it in the store is actually more expensive than buying it online. The same bag you were going to buy online is $20 more here. So here’s what we’ll do—we won’t credit you the $16 back, we’ll just give you the bag and keep the original charge on the card.”

I was so cold I would have believed anything. I took the bag and walked out.

Now (and I realize this is a long-winded story but I’m an award giver and I HAVE RIGHTS) I was hungry and I had a coffee date in the west village. I had to walk from the East Village (OK, FINE, THE LOWER EAST SIDE) to the West Village and eat something along the way. What would I eat? What could sooth my soul at this desperately frigid moment?

There, on Sullivan street, I made a right turn and walked up towards Houston. On the right was a trendy restaurant, then Once Upon a Tart and then—hiding in the corner–Pepe Rosso, home of some of New York’s best and most reasonably priced Italian food.

There are only four tables in Pepe Rosso. At the time I entered, two were occupied. I threw my new backpack down on an empty one and shot my eyes up to the huge menu on the wall over the counter. I needed something warm and savory and comforting and filling and all those things you want when you’re frozen and you just bought a backpack. For whatever reason I chose Penne A La Vodka with Pancetta. I sat down and stared at a wall, like an angry character in an Alaska novel. I could barely muster the energy to read the New Yorker magazine I brought with me.

Time passed. And then the following was presented to me:


The picture is small (I took this with my old camera) but the moment is big. The award is for the “Most Soul-Satisfying Bowl of Pasta” and this surely was it. It was warm—the steam rose to my face and hinted of tomatos and garlic and onions and bacon. I let it rise and then I dug in and each bite went right to the places in my soul that were diminished–that needed replenishing. This pasta replenished them. By the time I finished the bowl (mopping it clean with the bread) I was restored. I felt ready to face the world again.

As silly as this award seems, let’s not forget that context matters. We rarely hear about the day Frank Bruni’s having when he goes and reviews the new upstart Moroccan restaurant on your block. Maybe he was beat up that morning by gypsys and he has a bone to pick. Maybe his sister-in-law just won the lottery and is going to buy Frank a boat. You never know.

Here, I was cold. I needed warmth. I needed comfort. I needed my spirits raised. Pepe Rosso did the trick and for that I deem them worthy of the highest honor I have ever been allowed to give: a 2005 Taste Everything Food Award. Congrats, Pepe, on a job well done. [And thanks, Hillel, for organizing this!]

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