Saturday, October 29, 2011

Home Cookin' - When life brings you lemons, make meringue!

My son decided he wanted a lemon meringue pie and I said, "Yeah, when I get around to it."  As fate would have it, we had no plans today and it was ugly out, so I broke out my well-worn Gourmet Cookbook by Ruth Reichl (2nd favorite only to Bourdain's Les Halles cookbook) and got to work. 
The instructions and recipe are very particular, but if you follow them to the nth degree you'll end up with as good a pie as you can get anywhere.
I skipped making my own crust because that's just too much work in conjunction with the rest of the recipe.  Yes, you may call me a sell-out, wimp, or more colorful expletives, but that's how I roll sometimes.
FYI, Giant brand pie crust is actually pretty good.  I read somewhere at some point that Giant brand was the best of the local grocery store's offerings, so I've used them when I didn't feel like totally destroying my kitchen. 
Pre-heat to 375
Here's what you'll need:
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 Tbs + 1.5 tsp corn starch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (remember to zest the lemon BEFORE you juice it)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 6 egg whites (be sure not to get any of the yolk in with the with whites when you separate or it won't work)
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Line your dish with the pie crust, fork it all over, and put a round of foil in it.  Add a bunch of dried beans or a pie chain to weigh it down and prevent bubbling.  Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the foil and weights.  Put it back in the oven for another 15 until it's nicely browned.  Turn the heat down to 350.
While that's going on, whisk the egg yolks.  In a heavy sauce pan whisk the sugar, cornstarch and salt together, then gradually add the water and milk, whisking until the cornstarch and sugar is dissolved.
Bring to a boil over medium heat, then take it off the burner.  Pour one cup of the gloppy cornstarch/sugar mixture into a vessel and slowly whisk it into the egg yolks.  If you go to fast, you'll end up with scrambled sweet, starchy eggs.  Once you've tempered the eggs you can add them into the pan with the rest of the sugar/starch mix.  Bring it to a simmer over medium heat, stirring, for about 3 minutes, remove from the heat, and add the lemon juice, zest, and butter.  Whisk until it's smooth and silky.  You're done with this for now.  Put a lid on it to keep it warm.
For the meringue, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until you've got soft peaks.  Crank the mixer up to high and add the sugar one tablespoon at a time until it just holds stiff peaks.
Hopefully your pie crust is still warm, if not, put it in the oven for a minute.  This is critical.  Everything has to be warm for it to stick together.
Put the filling in the pie, then top with meringue.  Make sure the meringue gets to the crust all the way around or it will separate and weep and generally look nasty.
Bake it for 15 minutes or until the meringue has a nice golden-brown sheen, as so:
You'll have leftover meringue, so you can get creative, or do what I did and just bake dollops of it on waxed paper for tasty treats as below:

Let the pie come to room temp before putting it in the fridge to chill for 2 hours minimum.  If you rush it it will weep.  Be patient.
Give it a shot.  It will produce one of the tastiest, lightest, creamiest lemon meringue pie you've ever had.
Let me know how it works out for you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bistro Le Zinc...La nourriture ├ętait bonne!

This is me with the owners of Bistro Le Zinc a week or so prior to opening.  David Ashwell, Chef, is on the left and John Warner, General Manager, is on the right.
The reason I'm posting this now, instead of in July when I had this meal, was that I had started posting to a Facebook Group instead of my blog do to the way Blogger was handling pictures.  Blogger has since improved greatly, so I moved back to that format.
Secondarily, The WaPo put out a bad review for these guys that I thought was way off base and I'd like to do what I can to assist in setting the record straight.  These guys know what they're doing.

I like it when you can mix form with function.  This is the salmon appetizer. 
Very nicely executed with lots of different flavors going on.
My wife got the French Onion Soup, or FOS if you're in the biz.  This was the best bowl of FOS I've ever tasted.  It wasn't a one-note affair.  It had depth and layers of flavors.
This was the Escargot.  Awesome with Stilton and roasted wild garlic.
This is a new trend you see in a lot of restaurants, and I like it.  Filtered bottled watered, made in-house, either flat or sparkling, at no additional charge, or in some restaurants at nominal charge.  I do not miss $14.00 bottles of sparkling water.
This was my son's dish.  He got the duck three ways.  The breast was wonderfully tender.  He ate everything.  At 9 years old, he's got quite the pallete.
This was my dish.  The Lamb Shank.  Falling-off-the-bone tender.  The lentils and potato were very tasty and well executed.
The Steak Frites.  Perfectly executed with a very nice sauce.  The fries were crispy and the roasted onions were creamy.  What more could you want?

David and John have worked very hard to bring this project to fruition and it shows.  I've been back several times and have found the place to be vibrant and generally packed.  Well done gentlemen.  I wish you continued success, critics be damned.

If you go, tell them you read about it on Pleasures of the Table!
Bistrot Le Zinc on Urbanspoon

Home Cookin' Butternut Squash with Sage and Parm

Looking for something different to do with butternut squash?  Give this recipe a shot.  Pre-heat to 400.
  • Start with a standard 20oz. package of butternut squash (or peel and cut your own)
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup finely grated parm
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper
  • 3-4 fresh sage leaves chopped
 Add the cream, chopped sage, salt, and pepper to to the squash and cover with foil.  Bake for 1/2 hour.
 After 1/2 an hour remove, mix in 1/2 the parm, then sprinkle the rest over the top.  Put it back in the oven for another 20-30 minutes until it's nice and crispy brown.  Remove from the heat and let it sit for a couiple of minutes...the cream will firm up.
And this is the finished product...first time I tried it and thought it was very tasty.   Good flavors, nice textures and colors.  A perfect side dish for 4 that doesn't require a whole lot of prep/attention.
If you try it let me know how you liked it!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dino in DC….Now That’s Amore.

Welcome to Dino in Washington DC..
Proprietor Dean Gold is and I have known each other since 2005.  He came from a background as a buyer for Whole Foods, specifically wine and cheese, but before that he was in the restaurant biz in California.

This is Andrew Shapiro, @ShapsinDC for those of you who Tweet.  He’s a fun guy and gave us great service the night we were in.  He’s got some serious opinions about the NCAA.

Andrew had just been featured in Washingtonian Magazine for his  Il Consigliere, which won him the #1 spot on the list of Manhattans to try in the DC area.  I have to say, it was pretty tasty.  I like a Manhattan that doesn’t burn you, but doesn’t taste like someone dropped raw maraschino cherry juice in it either.
Just FYI, Dean has assembled a very eclectic wine list and runs all kinds of specials. Check his website or get on his mailing list for updates.
My guest and I put ourselves at Andrew and Dean’s mercies and asked them to keep the food coming until we cried uncle. They did a stupendous job.
red wine
You’ll note lots of interesting items around the restaurant if you take the time to look.  Note the line on the menu about cell phones.  Inventive.
Shhh….artist at work.
help yourself
One of the things I really liked about the bar…there were little bowls of olives and pickled veggies…the string beans were particularly good.  They had a touch of anise that made them very light & fresh tasting.

This is a bowl of fried artichoke hearts.  They aren’t battered or breaded, just a little spice rub, lemon and salt.

There are bottles of concoctions and potions all over the walls by the bar.  I’m sure that they make it into the cocktails from time to time.
This is the beet salad with citrus and ricotta salata.  I haven’t had ricotta salata since my days at Papa Razzi!
duck neck

This is the stuffed duck neck made in-house with duck sausage, cardamom, ginger, allspice, orange and honey.  Nice.
This is the pork steak.  This dish brought me right back to sitting at my grandfather’s table when I was about 5 years old.   He was a butcher at A&P (for those of you who might remember that store) for 40 years and he used to bring home cuts like this, and prepare them like this.  Amazing.
This is the duck over a leek and cardamom reduction.  Very tender.
Fruite De Mer
This is the fruitti di mare.  The pasta was done just right and the dish tastes like fresh ocean.  Nicely played.
As I was saying about the potions….

The drinks aren’t all alcoholic here…this was a watermelon spritzer-type thingy that Andrew whipped up for my designated driver.  I should have tried it but I was too enthralled with my Il Consigliere.

Until next time…..keep it shakin’!
If you like what you read or have any comments please feel free to let me know…or Tweet me up.
Thank you for reading. Dino on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Don't pass on the Salt & Pepper

 The Palisades is a nice place to visit.  There are a couple of good restaurants to eat at, notably Salt & Pepper and Makoto.    This is a shot of Salt & Pepper's patio. 
 Chef Nate Auchter and his wife Lindsey own this restaurant.  I've known Nate for years and have seen him move up the chain.  When I first met him I think he was working for Todd Grey at Equinox.  He's got skills in the kitchen and is actually a nice guy.  That's rarer than you might imagine in the restaurant industry.
Cute stuff here and there around the restaurant.
Nice and comfy.  Understated.
Nice that we can go back to hanging stemware now that you can't smoke in restaurants.  What a pain it was to try to figure out where to put all that stuff! 
I asked Nate to cook what he'd be eating if he were having lunch, and this is what he delivered.  A Bacon Cheeseburger with a Fried Egg Topper.  Excellent!
The o-rings aren't done in the normal fashion in that they use pastry flour instead of all-purpose.  It makes them nice and crunchy without being greasy.  Cool idea.
If you're in The Palisades, make sure you stop by and say hello.  Be sure to tell Nate where you read about him!
Thanks for reading.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Merzi....Indian food fast, cheap and tasty.

Good afternoon Washington DC!  What a day Friday was!
 It started out raining cats and dogs, but then the sun came out and brought a little of the artist in me with it.
 I brought my appetite with me too!  I had heard of Merzi, but hadn't had an opportunity to stop in and check it out.  Note that the restaurant is right next to the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows Temple.  It's a fact.
 The idea behind Merzi is Chipotle meets traditional Indian.  Seems like a lot of folks are heading towards the Chipotle meets.....thing these days, and it's not a bad way to go.  Do it right and you can be successful.  Do it wrong, and you're a statistic.  These folks do it pretty well.  Choose your meat, your vehicle, i.e. rice bowl, naan, your toppings, your spices and your beverage, then pay.  Quick and fairly painless.  You can be out the door for less than $10.00 with a good lunch.
 One thing I noted in my visit was the branding and the build.  Interesting fonts, colors, and textures all put together very well.
 I shot some B&W to take the focus off the colors and let you see what I meant about textures.  Very pleasing to the eye.

 Back to the food..
 It's gotta be clean if you want to keep my business.  I showed up towards the end of lunch and the place was still fairly busy, but there wasn't any muck/grease/wasted food laying around.  Nice n' tidy, just the way I like it.
 I'm not sure what I had here, but it was lamb on naan with all of their spicy toppings.  I broke a sweat....  I also had a potato tikka.  Crisp and tasty.
The one issue I have is that the food doesn't come out piping hot.  As in my post about Shophouse, same issue.  The proteins need to be kept hotter. 

Neat place.  I definitely recommend stopping in for lunch.  Check it out.  The GM is named Colin.  Tell him where you heard about it!