Saturday, January 28, 2012

More Home Cookin'...Michel Richard's Chicken Osso Buco

Hopefully you're not bored by home cooking posts. 
If you like what you see, please click on one of the "share" features on the right for Facebook, Twitter, whichever your friends subscribe to!

I had to share this one because it turned out so much better than I expected.  This is Michel Richard's recipe for cooking chicken "Osso Buco-Style" from the book Home Food.  The whole shebang should take about 2 hours start to finish with plenty of time for socializing and wine consumption, or you can prep your veg/citrus earlier, put it in the fridge covered, and then assemble in about an hour/ hour-15.
Here's the ingredient list, preheat your oven to 325:
8 drumsticks, or 4 hotel quarters
4 tsps of flour
2 tbsp evo
1 carrot
1 onion
8 cloves garlic
1 cup chardonnay
2 cups tomato sauce
4 cups chicken stock
zest and juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange
salt & pepper
bouquet garni
1 chopped tomato for garnish
chopped fresh parsley
Note:  I had seven people eating so I doubled MY recipe.  What you see above will feed four.
Start by getting your mise together.  Dice all the veg, zest and juice your citrus, get your stock simmering, put your heavy-bottomed, oven-safe pan on the stove over medium to medium high heat.  After it's been on the flame for 3-5 minutes, put in 2 tbsp of evo and let that start to shimmer.
Put de chicken in de pan and brown on both sides.  Take the chicken out and keep it warm.
Put the carrots, onion, garlic, and celery in the pan and cook for 5-7 minutes, until it's soft and a little browned.
As so...then deglaze with the wine, using a wooden spatula to scrape up all the yummy browned bits.  Now the kitchen is really going to start smelling good.
Put the chicken back in the pan. 
Add the tomato sauce, garni, chicken stock, zests, and juices.  Put it in the oven, covered, for 30-45 minutes.  While that's going on, put a big pot of water on high for the pasta.
Once the chicken is done, pour some of the sauce from the big pan into a smaller one and heat on medium high to reduce...put your pasta in the pot of water you've got boiling.  Sprinkle some parsley in there!
Once your pasta is done, plate up!  This sauce is awesome.  We had 4 adults and three kids, and everyone loved it.
If you're lucky and you have friends who bake, maybe one of them will bring you an apple pie for dessert!  I am one of those lucky folks.
Perfect way to end the meal.  Thanks for joining Mike & fam!

As always, thanks for reading.  If you have any questions or comments please share them.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Home Cookin'! Graffiato's Pepperoni Sauce

Want to make your friends and family happy?  Those who are in the culinary cognizanti will remember this dish that got Gail Simmons...excited, shall we say?
Truth of the matter is it couldn't be easier, and it tastes damned good.
Mike Isabella was kind enough to share this recipe with the internets, so I thought I'd give it a shot and see if it turned out as well as it does in his restaurant, Graffiato.
Ingredients below are taken, without permission or credit, to the Washington Post's Recipe Database:


  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, cut into small dice
  • 5 medium cloves garlic, cut into very thin slices
  • 1 pound pepperoni, cut into thin slices
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed, toasted (see NOTE)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 to 12 ounces canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, chopped, with their juices
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
Start by getting all your ingredients prepped and ready to go.  Slice your garlic.
Dice your onion.
Toast your fennel seeds in a dry pan.  Keep an eye on it and shake often as they'll burn quickly.
Put the olive oil in a pan.  I made the mistake of using one that was too small right off the bat.  Use at least a 2 qt. heavy-bottomed pan.  Get it hot over medium, then add the onion and the garlic.  Saute until it's soft. 
 Add the pepperoni, toasted fennel seeds, bay leaf, cook and stir to get everything nicely coated, then add the tomatoes.
After a few minutes, add the chicken stock.  Wait until it's starting to boil, then reduce to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.  You want everything to be nice and soft.
After you've cooked it for the 45-60 minutes, take it off the heat and let it cool down a bit.  Then take the contents of the pot and puree the crap out of it!  You want it to be nice and smooth.
You'll end up with a quart+ of wonderful, spicy Pepperoni Sauce. 
This was so tasty I had to run some down to my neighbor.  His family was having roasted chicken and they used it as a topper.  They called me on speaker phone (all 4 of them) and gushed about how good it was and that it tasted JUST LIKE Graffiato's.

Give it a shot folks.  It's easy and awesome.  Great for dipping, using for pasta sauce (like I did that night) and possibly glazing. I haven't tried that yet, but I will soon.

Thanks for reading.  As always, comments and questions are appreciated.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


This is one of the little touches I like at Vidalia.  Fresh cornbread and onion focaccia.  It reminds me why I come here every year for restaurant week.
Vidalia can be an expensive place to indulge.  The service is on the money, and so is the food, so you won't feel so bad afterwards.
This is the smoked salmon appetizer that Matt and I shared.  Nice presentation.
This is the country pate.  He makes a good one.
No dinner at Vidalia would be complete without a side of Mac n' Cheese.  This version has panko and some pork products.  No Mac n' Cheese is complete without it in my book.

This was one of the best duck breasts I've ever had as far as the seasoning and tenderness of the meat goes.  I would have preferred the skin to be a little crispier and the fat to have been rendered a bit more, but that may be a trade-off. 
Matt's pork chop was well done (not overly cooked, but wisely prepared).  The seasoning was on target.
For dessert Matt had the Maple Brulee.  It was very maple-y, to coin a phrase, but it wasn't cloying.  The texture was exactly what it should be.
Speaking of Pietastic!  I love Jeff's Lemon Chess Pie, however, I think I've come up with one that is, dare I say, on par with his?  It's not a pie, but a lemon square.  I got the recipe from my mother-in-law.  When Jeff's ready to call me to the table, I'll bring him some and see what he thinks.

Thanks for reading folks.  Your comments and questions are always welcome.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Gambled and lost...South Mountain Grill at Snowshoe

Twice a year I travel to Snowshoe with my family and spend a week there skiing, eating and drinking.  We have had the pleasure of dining at a restaurant named Ember for the past several years.  It was owned by an eccentric individual, Brian Ball.  He might be wearing a kilt in December, or maybe pants, you could never guess which until you showed up, but that man knew how to run a restaurant from the kitchen.  He's currently the quality assurance manager for Orient Express Hotels.  My review of the restaurant Ember is here.

While I was working in November I happened to catch a clip of Brian serving Zimmern squirrel brains on Bizarre Foods. 

This reminded me to make my reservations for Christmas night.  When I called I found that Ember had closed and there was a new restaurant taking the spot named South Mountain Grill.  I was told that Brian was gone, but they were keeping the decor and were taking the food to the next level.  I suggested that that was a pretty lofty goal, but Chad the GM assured me I wouldn't be disappointed.

Let me tell you how the night unfolded.

For starters, were weren't given the table that I requested on the phone.   I wanted the table near the kitchen, and Chad explained that though they had removed that table and put in cocktail rounds that there was another table near it that he thought would suit me.  We were seated directly by the front door, nowhere near the kitchen, which is no fun at a ski resort.  We were accomodated when we asked for another table.  Strike one.
No bread was served to the table…we had to ask.  There were three different people pouring water for our table, but none for the bread.  Strike two.

This is a pretty artsy-looking restaurant, and a lot of money was spent on the design originally.  Approximately 1 out of every 7 light bulbs were burnt out this time, and none of the candles on the tables were lit.  Ball one.

There was no cocktail list offered, then we got a martini list from the sushi joint that shares their space. It listed several drinks, including one with champagne in it, but when the ladies at our table wanted glasses of champagne, none was available by the glass. Our server explained that they had Prosecco, but only by the bottle.  So what were they making the cocktail that was supposed to have champagne in it with? What self-titled high-end restaurant isn't carrying champagne these days?  Strike three.  You're out.

After our initial round of cocktails we decided on a bottle of wine. The server came to our table and told us they were out of that, and I chose another. She then camb back and explained that they were out of that too, but she did bring two bottles that they did have….which they offered at a slight discount.  Ok..good recovery there, though with a limited wine list you should have everything on it.  I'm not keeping score anymore.

We asked about the steaks as they seemed to figure prominently on the menu. Considering the prices I asked if they were prime, or if they were dry-aged in-house. The server didn’t know, and said she’d check with the chef. She came back and said they were prime cuts.  Primal cuts describe the basic divisions of the cow, not specific steaks.  Prime steaks are of a particular grade as determined by the FDA.  Obviously, someone skipped that day of training.

A few minutes after that we heard another server talk about the Prime Rib special. Our server hadn’t mentioned that, though she did mention the potato and leek soup. You’d think she might have remembered to mention it after our discussion about the steaks.  One of the people at my table changed their order.  Smart move.

While we waited for the entrees, we had a couple of appetizers.  A few were good, but the ceviche with avocado lacked...avocado.

After all that,, my 14 oz ribeye came out looking pretty think and weak. I had ordered it medium rare, which in my book is a cool, pink center. This came out raw, and the entire steak was room temperature. It had obviously sat in the window waiting on my wife’s perfectly done 2” thick pork chop.
 I sent it back (which I rarely do) and it came out done more appropriately, though I've seen better 14 oz. ribeyes at Giant.
Desserts were the high-point. There was a very nice cheese cake.  Some of the other folks in my party liked the flan.  However, I asked for a double espresso, which was served in two separate cups.  Seriously.  I then had a Sambuca up, which was served in a rocks glass sans the rocks. 
Moral of the story?  Train your servers.  Do a walk-through of the restaurant before you open on what is one of your 3 busiest nights of the year and make sure all your candles are lit and your bulbs are working.
Have someone check the bathroom once in a while.  Speaking of which, when I went to the restroom when we got there there was soap all over the floor and the place was a mess.  I mentioned this to the manager.  I hit the restroom again before we left, and was pleasantly surprised to note that it had been tidied up.  Unfortunately, whoever tidied up didn't wipe up the soap under the sink.  I was the one in for a 2nd surprise when I stepped up to the sink to wash my hands and narrowly avoided busting my keister on the slate floor.
Back to training your servers:  Make sure they know why you're in business.  Make sure they know what makes you different.  Make sure you're offering something that will enhance the experience of dining at your restaurant.  If you're the most expensive place on the mountain don't be happy with the $8.00 mixed drinks.  Offer up some $12.00-$16.00 crafted cocktails that show care and talent.  No champagne by the glass?  Any restaurant would have been happy to crack a bottle of the less expensive stuff and satisfy their customers. 
If you pride yourself on your steaks you'd better teach your servers about them.  If you're going to run a prime rib special you need to make sure they're talking about it, or you're serving lots of French Dips the next day, which is going to cost you more in the long run.
We ate out three times over the six days we were there.  This was the least gratifying and most expensive meal by far.  We were prepared for it to be pricey and we looked forward to it, as we do every year, but if the value isn't behind what you're charging, you only get my money once.  Next year I'll be spending my money at Foxfire and Sunset Cantina.  The meals we had there were less expensive by half, and much better created and presented.  They had signature cocktails, knowledgable staff, better food, and better atmosphere.
I look forward to trying the restaurant that will undoubtedly be taking the place of this one in two years as once anyone has tried this once, it's unlikely they'll return next season.

BTW, this was Christmas dinner.  We've been going to this same restaurant for years (the staff recognized us as we are there twice every season, once over Christmas and once over Presiden'ts Day) and we always tip with the thought in mind that the server is working on Christmas. It was a 7-top (4 adults and 3 kids) with a $350.00 tab, and she could have walked with an even hundred, but chose to auto-grat us at 15%. She gambled...and lost."> alt="South Mountain Grille on Urbanspoon" src="" style="border:none;padding:0px;width:130px;height:36px" />