Uncorked on Staten Island

This past Saturday I appeared at Uncorked — a food and wine festival held at Staten Island’s Historic Richmond Town. The festival was a wonderful celebration of the bounty of Staten Island restaurants. Uncorked is the brainchild of Pam Silvestri, former caterer and food editor of the Staten Island Advance.  Tents were spread around the grounds of Historic Richmond Town where guests grazed from delicious taste to taste. In addition, events included a session on food photography by New York Times photographer Andrew Scrivani, two sessions of Cheese School where students learned about cheese and wine pairings as well as food demonstrations. Demonstrating chefs included Staten Island chef Julian Gaxholli, Food Network star and cookbook author Daisy Martinez plus yours truly.

The subject of my demonstration was the Under-appreciated Chicken Thigh. I talked about At Home’s principles and demonstrated three recipes from At Home — Thai Thighs, Za’atar Marinade — also for chicken thighs — and Sweet & Sour Slaw. Just as I was about to grill the twenty pounds of Thai Thighs — plus three pounds of Za’atar thighs — that I brought, I discovered that their grill was out of gas. I suggested to the audience that they return in about 25 minutes — time enough to locate a fresh gas tank and get the grilling started. With the able assistance of three Staten Island Good Samaritans — a sister and two brothers — a hundred plus still hungry Islanders enjoyed Thai Thighs and Sweet & Sour Slaw. My hope was that I uncorked something new on Staten Island. I recommend Thai Thighs and a slaw as a welcome change to Memorial Day burgers.

Here are the recipes.

Thai Thighs
Chicken thighs pack far more flavor than breasts and are much more forgiving of overcooking. They take to the grill particularly well. Given their low price and myriad assets, they’re pitifully underutilized. The sugar in this marinade makes for an extra level of caramelization-and a messy grill. You can also use any of the marinades in this chapter and follow the marinating and grilling procedure above.

do ahead Thighs can be marinated up to three days ahead. It’s best to cook them the day you are serving them.

2 tablespoons chopped ginger
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 bird’s-eye chiles or 1 jalapeño, seeded, ribbed and sliced
1/3 cup lime juice
1 stalk lemongrass
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
kosher salt and pepper
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
leaves from 5-6 fresh cilantro sprigs (optional)
1 lime, cut into 6 or 8 wedges, for garnish

1 Cut the root tip and dry end of the lemongrass stalk, leaving a length of about 8-10 inches. Peel away the outer leaves, leaving the tender core. Finely chop.
2 Combine lemongrass with ginger, garlic, chiles, lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, oil, salt and pepper and mix well. Add chicken. Toss well and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
Just before grilling, add oil to marinade. Preheat grill to medium-high. Remove chicken from marinade, and allow marinade to drain off, but don’t wipe it dry. Place chicken on grill, smooth side up, and grill until nicely charred, about 4 minutes. Turn and grill the other side, about 4-5 minutes. Serve whole or thinly sliced, either hot or at room temperature. Serve with lime wedges. Tear cilantro and sprinkle it over the chicken.

Za’atar Marinade
do ahead Marinade can be made up to three days ahead and stored in the refrigerator.

Combine lemon zest and juice, garlic, thyme, za’atar, salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix well and let sit 5 minutes. Stir in olive oil until incorporated.

finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons za’atar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Sweet & Sour Slaw
This year-round slaw is simple to make. The touch of olive oil just adds a little glisten and can be skipped for a fully fat-free slaw. It pairs well with burgers and grilled chicken or pork chops. You can also add a julienned apple to the mix.

do ahead Slaw can be fully made up to a day ahead. As slaw sits, the cabbage will wilt and render water. This decreases the total volume and thins the dressing some. Re-toss before serving.
1/2 pound carrots, peeled
1/2 bunch scallions, chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill, loosely packed
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, loosely packed
1 medium cabbage, about 3 pounds
5 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 Cut cabbage in quarters. Remove the core and discard. Set cabbage flat side down and finely slice. Place cut cabbage in large bowl. Pick through to find any thick pieces and slice them.
2 With a box grater or the largest holes of a food processor attachment, shred carrots. Combine cabbage, carrots, scallions, dill and parsley. In a separate bowl, combine sugar, cider vinegar, salt and pepper and stir well to dissolve sugar. Add olive oil. Pour dressing over vegetables. Cabbage should sit in dressing for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Staten Island Postscript: Net Cost
An Uncorked attendee shared with me the challenge of finding ethnic ingredients on Staten Island. It seems they are few and far between. But this very same person pointed me to a “Russian” grocery store just down the road from Uncorked. Never one to pass up an interesting ethnic market, I visited Net Cost. There are Net Costs in the New York area and one in Northeast Philadelphia. Visiting ethnic markets is akin to traveling to far away places — except you get there faster.  Walking into Net Cost I knew I was not in Kansas any more — no less Staten Island. The aisles were filled with foreign speaking people and the shelves were filled with all manner of what for me were exotic products and what for the shoppers was a taste of home.

Earlier in this blog I suggested Thai Thighs as a welcome alternative to Memorial Day burgers. Well…do I have some Memorial Day burgers for you! This Saturday we open FROG BURGER, an outdoor burger stand featuring “flame-grilled backyard flavor” on the front lawn of The Franklin Institute. (Frog Commissary provides all of the food service at the Institute.) Frog Burger is the first of a one-two punch with Cleo’s Portico — offering light dining and drinking overlooking the Benjamin Franklin Parkway  — the following weekend in conjunction with the opening of the Cleopatra exhibit on June 5th. Here’s a link to a Philadelphia Magazine blog about FROG BURGER. In particular, look for news in the Philadelphia Magazine about the soon to be notorious “Love Burger” — a creation of my son, Noah with whom I am working on FROG BURGER.

FROG BURGER has been consuming over the past several weeks which accounts for a diminished number of At Home blogs. More details about FROG BURGER to follow.  Here’s our logo.

You can find me this Memorial Day weekend on the front lawn of The Franklin Institute. By the way, At Home will be available for sale at FROG BURGER. If you need a house-gift to bring to your Memorial Day picnic, stop by FROG BURGER and pick-up a copy of At Home. And if you are looking for something new for your backyard Memorial Day, look no further than At Home‘s Chapter 8: From the Grill and Chapter 13: Room Temperature Accompaniments.

Happy Memorial Day. I hope you spend lots of time at homes!

Thank you for visiting.

Your Home Entertaining Coach

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