Tag Archives: Entrees: Poultry & Meat

On the Table: The Farm Stands of Long Island’s South Fork

This is the companion post to On the Road: Farm Stands of Long Island’s South Fork. It is best viewed at the blog site. If you are not viewing it there, click on the title above.

Nearly every year for more than a decade, I cook for my brother’s birthday. This usually occurs over Labor Day weekend as his birthday is September 3rd.

My brother Fred is four years my senior. Fred lives in Tribeca with Nancy, his wife and my sister-in-law. They have a summer home in Remsenberg. Remsenberg is near Westhampton, the closest of the Hamptons to New York. One year, as the house was undergoing renovation, guest accommodations were trailers on the lawn with little in the way of kitchen. Noah and his friend slept in the cabin of the boat docked adjacent to the house. I grilled a lot that year. We enjoyed dinner on a 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood over saw horses. Usually at Fred and Nancy’s I have a great kitchen to work in and lots of slicing and dicing help provided. I always arrive to a generous bowl filled with chopped garlic. Generally, Nancy “procures” from food lists provided — often with the help of my nephew Jake.

Given this summer’s farm stand journeys, it made sense to incorporate a visit to the neighboring South Fork of Long Island for my shopping. Earlier in the summer I visited Fred and Nancy’s Long Island home with my friend Pascal and his daughter Maelle. On that occasion I visited the North Fork. There are On the Road and On the Table posts on that visit.

The North Fork had a very different character than the South Fork. Clearly, there are fewer affluent shoppers on the North Fork — it is not the chic summer paradise of the South Fork. The land is less valuable and the farms bigger — relying less on just selling at the farm stand and more on hitting the road to metropolitan farmers’ markets. With land less expensive, there are many more wineries on the North Fork than South.

While the focus of Fred’s birthday is a birthday dinner, inevitably there are other meals to be prepared for the gathered family and occasional friends. Typically the “arrival” dinner is cooked lobsters — supplemented with grilled shrimp, corn-on-the-cob and sliced tomatoes. Dessert is a low-fat yogurt “ice cream” cake — always plenty of fresh sliced fruit and berries and a selection of cookies from Olish’s. My role in this meal is modest with responsibilities pretty much limited to enjoying my lobster.

Friday’s Lunch

Ginger & mint lemonade
Mafaldine (pasta) with lobster, shrimp and fresh tomato sauce
Garlic-grilled ciabatta

I made a simple pasta sauce from a load of farm stand plum tomatoes and thin-sliced garlic — into which I folded left-over lobster — yes, there was left-over lobster! — and shrimp. This was tossed with my favorite pasta shape – Mafaldine — a wide crenellated noodle.

To make the Ginger-Mint Lemonade, I made a simple syrup flavored with lots of fresh mint. I combined this with fresh lemon juice, a fresh concentrated ginger tea sold at several South Fork farm stands, water and ice. There are recipes in At Home for Four Seasons of Lemonade including Minted Lemonade and another recipe for Ginger Syrup. You can combine these to make your own Ginger-Mint Lemonade. As my mother would always say, the key to making lemonade is to balance the sweet and sour – plenty of both without either overwhelming.

Saturday’s Lunch

Chicken tacos with sweet peppers
Heirloom tomato salsa
Arugula
Roasted “peanut” potatoes
Pickled cucumbers

The chicken was left-over from our previous dinner with salsa from the larder of ingredients I purchase from farm stands. I love tacos — the soft variety. They are easy to make, fun to eat and very under-used by the home entertainer. Arugula was incorporated into the taco.

The potatoes were the hit of lunch. I found these peppers toward the end of my South Fork tour at Balsam Farm. When I say I found them, it’s not like I was looking for them. Such are the pleasures of shopping at farm stands — sans shopping list. I had never before seen such tiny potatoes — Yukon golds. They are not officially named “peanut” potatoes, but guests mistook them for peanuts. They were simply cooked with lots of chopped garlic, a light coating of olive and a finish of sea salt – lots of sea salt. Crisp of the outside and creamy on the inside.

Saturday’s Birthday Dinner
As guests gathered we served Bellinis with local peach nectar

Hors d’ouvres on the Kitchen Counter


Montauk tuna tartare – spoons make for an elegant platform for an hors d’oeuvres. Here the tuna is diced with a little red onion with a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper. On top is unsweetened whipped cream accented with a little wasabi and topped with chives.


Pickled okra — I used the basic “Quick Pickles” recipe that is featured in the At Home blog athomebysteveposes.wordpress.com/recipes/.


Roasted tomatoes with fresh mozzarella & basil on crostini


Radishes and cherry tomatoes with sea salt.  Fresh, cold, crisp radishes are the perfect light summer hors d’oeuvres. It helps if the radishes are slightly moist so the salt can adhere. Recently at a wonderful dinner in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia Christina and I were served a pair of elegant radish wedges with a little “line” of pink sea salt at the peak of the wedge as a little amuse bouche meal starter. I have incorporated plattered wedges into my hors d’oeuvres repertoire.

Hors d’oeuvres in the kitchen were followed by a seated dinner in the dining room served on incredible “China.”

The first course was my translation of the soup prepared the previous weekend at Blooming Hill Farm by David Gould of Roman’s Restaurant in Brooklyn. Look for a coming post about Blooming Hill Farm.

Squash Soup
Red rice, corn & zucchini
Squash blossoms & Padron peppers

Our entree
Grilled Montauk swordfish with roasted garlic aioli and tomato relish
Grilled peppers & eggplant
Corn cakes with jalapeno

I loved the plates though, in general, I like food against a simple, patternless background. In retrospect I should have gathered the food closer together.

And dessert.

Blackberry sorbet
Honey-grilled doughnut peaches & raspberries
Farm stand zucchini bread & chocolate chip cookies

Behind the Scenes

Making Corn Cakes See Corn Cake Recipe on At Home blog Recipe Library

Sweet red peppers and scallions add color to the blanched and shaved corn and diced jalapeno add a little kick.

The vegetables were combined with a basic pancake batter of all-purpose flour, eggs, milk and baking powder.

I used a 1/4 cup measure and cooked pancakes in olive oil.

You need to regulate the heat so the pancakes brown evenly. Too much heat causes the edges to darken too much before the interior surface browns. Once the batter is set on top, you can flip the pancakes.

Brown the second side.

As the pancakes will be re-heated in the oven, they may darken a bit more. The pancakes went from the pan to a rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towel to absorb residue grease.  I re-heated the pancakes uncovered — after removing the paper towels — for about 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven just before serving. Pancakes can also be held in a 200 degree oven once they are hot for another 20-30 minutes — lightly covered — but not sealed in — with a sheet of aluminum foil to prevent from drying out. If you seal the pancakes in foil they will steam and lose their outer layer of slight crispness.

Grilling Peppers
By Labor Day Weekend, farm stands and bursting with a rainbow of peppers of various shapes, sizes and degrees of sweetness and heat. As with the rest of the Labor Day menu, the choice of grilled peppers grew out of what looked most appealing at the stands.

These were some of the peppers at Green Thumb.

Grilling peppers is very simple. Start by slitting peppers lengthwise and removing stem, seeds and membrane. Lightly coat with olive oil. Here I also added some chopped garlic. Your goal is to lightly char the peppers while getting them soft and pliable. If you cook them at too high a heat they char too much on the exterior without softening on the inside. Conversely, if you cook them too slowly — at too low a heat — they will soften without charring. I start the peppers with the skin side up. This allows the peppers to begin softening without risking over-charring the showy side of the pepper.

Once peppers start softening and the edges in contact with the grill char, turn the peppers. Continue cooking as the skin blisters and chars and peppers continue to soften. Not all varieties of peppers cook at the same rate so you need to pay attention.

One of the joys of grilling peppers — and the adjacent eggplant — is simply being outdoors in the cool Labor Day breeze and lengthening shadows of late afternoon with nothing to do but nurture your grilling peppers along.

The soup was one of those “complicated-but-worth-the-effort” affairs. Here are the components ready to go. The squash soup in the large pot — made from a long “stewing” of three kinds of yellow squash, onion and a corn stock. Added to each soup bowl just before serving is a saute of corn, zucchini and a cooked red rice. The recipe for this soup will follow the upcoming post about Blooming Hill Farm and the farm dinner.

Here the bowls are laid out on the kitchen island. Turning out the soup quickly takes a second pair of hands.  The mix of corn, zucchini and red rice goes into the bowl first. The soup is next. On top goes the squash blossoms and satueed Padron pepper. The soup is “finished” with a drizzle of very good olive oil. In the background are the dinner plates with the roasted garlic aioli, lemon wedges and grilled peppers and eggplant ready.

Making Blackberry Sorbet

There were luscious and plumb blackberries at the farm stands and sorbet seemed like the right light note to finish Saturday night’s dinner. Sorbet is simple to make. A lightly cooked the blackberries in a syrup. The hardest part is getting rid of the seeds by passing the cooked berries through a fine strainer.

At my home in Philadelphia I use a Cuisinart ice cream maker that has a built-in compressor. Here, Fred and Nancy happened to have two never-used Cuisinart ice cream makers that require overnight freezing of the chamber that provides the chilling of the sorbet as it turns. I was surprised how effectively these worked — actually making sorbet much more quickly than the one that I use at home. They are quite reasonably priced — less than $50 — and would make a very good holiday gift  — along with At Home with its large section on ice creams and sorbets including a Mastering Ice Creams recipe.

So that was this Labor Day Weekend. Cooking is an act of love. Giving the gift of cooking is unlike any other gift that you can give.

The Farm Stand Series — Coming to the end of the Road
This series about farm stands and farmers’ markets is coming to the end of the road with just a few more posts in the pipeline.

Two Nova Scotia Farmers’ Markets — Lunenburg and Halifax
Christina and spent a wonderful late September week in Nova Scotia that included visits to two very different farmers’ markets. The first was Lunenburg, a small town near where we stayed for the week. The second was the very large urban market of Halifax — the oldest continuous functioning farmers’ market, dating from 1750. Lunenburg, in particular, provided not just a warm and welcoming experience, but food for thought about farmers’ markets that I will share in the final post of the series.

Blooming Hill Farm
Blooming Hill Farm was the best farm stand visit of the entire summer. This post will focus on that visit the the farm stand dinner that I attended.

Reflections on a Summer’s Journey
This post will be a combination “Best of” as well as thoughts on how farm stands and farmers’ markets might be even better.

The Thanksgiving Series
Beginning in the next few days will be a series of posts sharing with you my process of planning for and hosting this year’s family Thanksgiving.

Happy Halloween!


Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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Filed under Entertaining at Home, Family and Friends, On the Table

On the Table: Farm Stands of the North Fork, L.I.

Reminder that if you are not viewing post at the blog site, it looks best there. To get to the blog site, just click on title. The blog site also gives you easy access to explore past blogs as well as the blog recipe library.

Dinner was at the Remsenberg, Long Island, home of my brother and sister-in-law. Remsenberg is about 10 minutes from the Riverhead “entrance” to the North Fork. I went there for a few days with my friend and At Home illustrator Pascal Lemaitre and his 7-year old daughter Maelle. The evening’s breeze had blown away the heat and humidity of the day so we had our Farm Stands of the North Fork dinner outside. It was my plan to divide our meal into “appetizers” and “dinner.” But it got late and we decided to enjoy everything at once on platters, “family style.”

With the exception of the shishito peppers that I picked up in Bordentown, New Jersey on the way to Long Island, and the nacho chips, everything came from my North Fork drive. As is always the case, I don’t exactly know what I will make when I start the drive. What I find leads me to a menu. The ability to use a big, outdoor grill — rather than just my trusty indoor grill pan — played a big role in determining my menu.

Our North Fork Farm Stand Menu
Garlic Sauteed Shishito Peppers
Tomatilla Salsa with Nacho Chips
My Mother’s Eggplant Salad
Sliced Pan-Seared Long Island Duck Breast
Brick-grilled Miloski’s Poultry Farm Chicken
Heirloom Tomato and Husk Tomato Salad on Leaf Lettuce
Grilled Ciabatta Bread
Creamy Roasted Corn, Sweet Pepper and Romano Bean Salad
Grilled “Fairy Tale” Eggplant and Baby Squash

Dessert
Grilled figs with Catapano Dairy Farm honey-lavender goat cheese
Cantaloupe

These are the wonderful small figs that I found.

Garlic Sauteed Shishito Peppers
These peppers came from a Bordentown, NJ farm. They simply require a quick saute in olive oil, toss in a little garlic at the end, turn on to platter and add lots of sea salt. See an upcoming post about Shishito peppers.

Tomatilla Salsa with Nacho Chips
Not the best photo. I love the sour acidity of a green salsa. Simply remove the husk from tomatilla, cut into food processor-friendly sized pieces and process until nearly a puree but still a bit chunky. Add garlic, a little jalapeno, red onion, lime juice, olive oil and lots of cilantro.

My Mother’s Eggplant Salad
The recipe for this is on page 79 in At Home. In making this, I took advantage of the grill to cook the eggplant rather than the oven as called for in recipe. Once eggplant is cooked it is scraped away from peel, coarsely chopped and combined with green pepper, scallion, garlic, lemon zest, olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper. I substituted red pepper and red onion for the green pepper and scallion.

Sliced pan-seared Long Island Duck Breast
The boneless duck breast was marinated in Dansom plum juice and honey. Just before pan-searing in oil, I dried the breast well. It takes about 3-4 minutes per side to cook medium rare. As with all meats and poultry, allow five to ten minutes for it to sit before slicing. This was conceived to be a little appetizer, but joined the dinner when we decided to enjoy everything at once at the table. It was served simply and unadorned and a huge hit.

Brick-grilled Miloski’s Poultry Farm Chicken
Pascal and I had eaten swordfish and soft shells the prior two nights so I passed on seafood. Miloski’s was a little off my tour path so Pascal, Maelle and I drove there the morning of our dinner. People sometime think chicken is a little pedestrian for entertaining. But a good roasted or grilled chicken can be a treat. My notion was to brick-grill the chicken which means using a weight on top. This gets explained and shown later in this post.

Heirloom Tomato and Husk Tomato Salad on Leaf Lettuce
Last evening Christina, Larry, my brother-in-law and I had a “tomato tasting.” It is easy to get caught up in the “heirloom” hype. I wanted to compare excellent, vine ripe “Jersey tomatoes” with a variety of more expensive “heirloom” tomatoes. They all were simply dressed with olive oil and salt and pepper. Of the six varieties we tasted, with the exception of one, the heirloom tomatoes had far better flavor and a nice balance of acid and sweet than the Jersey tomatoes and totally worth the price difference. Life is short and though it sometimes feels like this hot and humid summer will never end, before you know it, summer — and farm stand heirloom tomatoes — will be just a memory. Seize the day! Go get some heirloom tomatoes this weekend and share them with friends and family.

Grilled Ciabatta Bread
Ciabatta has a good crust and spongy texture that makes it an ideal grilling bread. Grilling bread makes for an easy embellishment to a summer’s meal. See yesterday’s post on Grilled Bread.

Creamy Roasted Corn, Sweet Pepper and Romano Bean Salad
Caught up in the “roasted corn” offered at North Fork Farm Stands, I decided to do a roasted corn salad. In addition, as raw peppers do not agree with Pascal’s constitution, I decided to roast the red peppers I would typically add to a corn salad for color. I had some Roman beans left-over from the prior night’s dinner. And that’s how this salad ended up on the menu. If I was doing it again, I would stick with simply blanched corn. I think roasting robs the corn of its essential sweetness. On it’s own and simply on the cob, roasting transforms the sweetness of corn into a sweet nuttiness. But it got lost in the complicated salad. Its dressing was a fresh, olive oil based mayonnaise, though you can certainly use a good store-brand.

Grilled Variegated “Fairy Tale” Eggplant and Baby Squash
These little beauties simply got split, brushed with olive oil and grilled. Raw eggplant is unpleasant so it is important to be sure eggplant gets fully grilled including the thicker, meatier end. You can tell when eggplant is fully cooked when you have the skin-side down and you can see the eggplant flesh on top slightly “bubbling” and pushing up.

Grilled figs with Catapano Dairy Farm honey-lavender goat cheese
Cantaloupe

There certainly were lots of fresh-baked farm stand pies that would have made a great dessert — especially slightly warmed in the oven and served with good vanilla ice cream. But after a big meal, something lighter and simpler worked better. Along with the duck breast, these perfectly ripe figs — split, lightly brushed with honey and olive oil and grilled and served with a simple fresh goat cheese, were dinner stand-outs. Here Maelle tries to control her impulse to consume all of the figs herself! Because the figs were so tiny, I grilled them indoors in a grill pan. The grates of an outdoor gill would have been too small for these little wonders.

Some behind the scenes looks

Grilling eggplant for My Mother’s Eggplant Dip and peppers for the Roasted Corn, Pepper and Romano Bean Salad.

Grill-roasting corn for the corn salad.

Grilling Fairy Tale eggplant and baby squash — everything get split in half and brushed with garlic-scented olive oil.

Making the Brick-grilled Chicken from Mikowski’s Poultry Farm

Ingredients included two chickens, two limes, dried farm stand chilies, garlic and cilantro.

I removed the backbone enabling me to butterfly chicken.

I used both the lime rind and lime juice to marinate chicken as well as lots of chopped garlic, diced dried chiles, lots of cilantro and salt and pepper.

The chicken marinated for about six hours. Overnight would have been fine.

The chickens were placed on the grill over moderate heat and weighted down with a large piece of slate found by my brother when I assigned him to locate a substitute for bricks which we did not have. The slate flattens the chicken and increases its contact with the grill. A single large weight was a challenge to handle requiring two substantial grilling tongs.

Nicely grilled on top…

..and bottom.

Finally cut up into friendly sized pieces and ready to platter.

Do Ahead Strategy
As I contend each time, this is a dinner you could do and with some planning and getting a few things done days ahead, you can get one relaxed hour…and more before guests arrive. And you can certainly pick and choose and do a less elaborate dinner.

Up to 3 days ahead
Complete all shopping except corn
Make Tomatilla Salsa
Make My Mother’s Eggplant Salad
Chop garlic

Day before
Buy corn
Split and marinate chicken
Rinse lettuce
Roast corn and peppers, blanch Romano beans and make corn salad
Marinate duck breast
Slice melon
Trim stems and halve figs
Pull and label bowls and platters
Set table
Refrigerate wine or beer

Day of up to five hours before guests arrive
Grill fairy take eggplant and squash
Split and grill figs
Slice tomatoes, onions and platter tomato salad – cover and refrigerate

As dinner approaches
Sear and slice duck breast
Grill chicken, cut into pieces and platter
Grill bread
Dress tomatoes
Platter everything not already plattered
Put everything out

Last minute
Saute shishito peppers

Enjoy and be proud!!

In the Coming Weeks — On the Road and On the Table
A Trio of Philadelphia Neighborhood Farmers’ Markets – Clark Park, Rittenhouse Square and Headhouse Square
Farm Stands of Lancaster County, PA
Farm Stands of Hudson Valley, NY
A Backyard in Moorestown, NJ
Farm Stands of The South Fork of Long Island, NY

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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Grilled Herb-Marinated Turkey “Flank Steak”

Grilled Herb-Marinated Turkey “Flank Steak”

Turkey is overlooked and under-appreciated most of the year. Grilled turkey breast is a simple and ideal addition to your backyard barbecue repertoire.  A boneless turkey breast is too thick to grill. The outside would become dry and charred before the interior cooked through. But by simply slicing a breast into “flank steaks” and giving it a good marinade, the turkey breast becomes both grill-worthy and grill-friendly.

There are several variables in grilling your turkey “flank steak.” These include how hot the grill – it should be medium-hot, and the variable thickness of the breast. It is very helpful to use an instant read thermometer. I live in a Center City Philadelphia apartment and do not have an outdoor grill. But I do have a grill pan and I am always prepared to grill — rain or shine. The photos in this recipe use my grill pan, but apply to your outdoor grill.

This recipes uses fresh tarragon. Tarragon has a particular affinity for turkey. But you could really use any fresh herb. You will need about the same amount of other fresh leafy herbs like basil or oregano, a bit less sage as sage is very strong and lots less fresh thyme. There are a dozen marinade recipes in At Home’s Chapter 9 — Easy Entrees: From the Grill and any of these will work. Take care when using a marinade with sugar as the long grilling time needed for the turkey could cause the marinade to burn. Try cooking over a more moderate heat or finish cooking turkey in a 350 degree oven once it is nicely charred on both sides on the grill. At Home also features a recipe for Grilled Turkey “Flank Steak” seasoned with mustard and soy — a Frog Commissary summertime staple — on Page 195.

Turkey also benefits from a condiment. See At Home’s Chapter 9: Cold Sauces & Condiments.

Do ahead You can marinate up to two days in advance. As with most things grilled, it best to eat shortly after removing from the grill and prior to refrigeration.

4 tablespoons chopped garlic
3/4 cup tarragon leaves chopped, about 3 tablespoons for marinade
plus 2 tablespoons to add after slicing
1 lemon plus 6-8 lemon wedges, trimmed
5 tablespoons olive oil
4 pounds boneless turkey breast
1 – 2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1.  With a sharp knife, cut turkey breast in half cutting parallel to cutting surface.  Rinse and pat dry.
2. In a dish large enough to hold breast, combine garlic, 3 tablespoons tarragon and olive oil. Add pieces of breast, one at a time and coat well with marinade. Cover and refrigerate at least two hours but ideally 6-8 hours.
3. Preheat grill of grill pan to medium high.
4.  Remove breasts from marinade, lightly scraping away some of the garlic and tarragon. The breast will take some time to cook and the chopped garlic will burn. Having a bit is fine, but you don’t want your breast covered with charred garlic.
5.  Place breast on grill or in grill pan and cook first side for about 8-10 minutes. Turn and cook until thermometer reads about 155 degrees in thickest part of breast, about another 8-10 minutes.
6. Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing. Cut into about 1/4-inch thick slices against the natural grain of breast.
7. Squeeze lemon over sliced turkey. Add salt and pepper. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons tarragon. Serve with lemon wedges.

Serves 6 -8

If your breast is skin-on, just peel away skin.

You will need a sharp knife. Place breast flat onto cutting surface.

Moving your knife parallel to cutting surface, cut breast in half.

You will have two thinner “steaks.”

One side may naturally break into two pieces. This is fine.

Rinse and pat dry.

Measure tarragon leaves into cup measure. A bit more or less really doesn’t matter much. Chop the tarragon.

Add garlic, chopped tarragon and olive oil to a dish large enough to hold breasts.

Mix well.

Add turkey “steaks” and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and ideally 6-8 hours. It is best not to cook from cold — especially when grilling something thick. By removing turkey from refrigerator and allowing it to reach room temperature, you are getting a head start on cooking by bringing the temperature from the 40 degrees of the refrigerator to the 70 degrees of a room. If you don’t do this, your turkey will require additional cooking time that could cause you to over-cook the outside while waiting for the inside to reach temperature. Ideally, remove from refrigerator three or four hours before grilling.

Pre-heat grill or grill pan over moderate-high heat. Add turkey. These are the two smaller “steaks.” Cook 6-8 minutes.

Turn and cook another 8-10 minutes — depending on level of heat and thickness of “steak.”

This is the larger “steak” cooking. Place thermometer in thickest part to check temperature as you go. The internal temperature of the turkey will continue to rise even after you take it off the heat. The recommended cooking temperature for turkey breast is 165-170 degrees. I find this takes the breast too far and dries it out. Your goal is no pink or just the barest amount of pink when you slice the breast. Removing turkey at about 150-155 degrees should accomplish this. Remember that your “steak” is probably not of equal thickness so it will not all be cooked exactly the same.

Here are the three pieces. Looks pretty good! Any grilled meat will benefit from resting at least 10 minutes before slicing. Slicing too soon causes the natural juices that need to settle in after cooking to drain away. Be patient.

Try to find the direction of the natural grain of the turkey and cut across it rather than parallel.

Here it is on the left, sliced and ready to go. Sprinkle with fresh tarragon, add salt and pepper — after slicing so the salt and pepper can get to the slices, squeeze lemon and serve with lemon wedges.

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At Home…Again and Backyard Burgers at The Franklin Institute

It has been four weeks since I last posted. The reason is no lack of enthusiasm for encouraging you to entertain at home more. It is that I still have a day job. My day job involves assisting in the management of Frog Commissary — especially our efforts at The Franklin Institute. The past six weeks have been especially busy with the opening of the Cleopatra exhibit and two new seasonal restaurants that we are operating there. These restaurants are Frog Burger and Cleo’s Portico. Starting this week I will get back to more regular posts. See the end of this blog for exciting plans for summer blogging.

Frog Burger is a no-frills hamburger and shake stand open during the summer months into fall on the front lawn of The Franklin Institute. It is near the familiar stainless steel airplane, overlooking the Parkway and Logan Square. In addition to hamburgers and turkey burgers, our menu includes Chesapeake Crab Rolls, Grilled Hot Dogs, Fries — including Garlic Fries and Jalapeno Fires — Fried Green Tomatoes, Gazpacho, Corn & Sweet Pepper Salad, Cole Slaw, the original Commissary Carrot Cake and Killer Cake Bars, thick Bassett’s ice cream milkshakes including shakes that include blended in carrot cake or killer cake plus Fresh Lemonade, Iced Tea and Hibiscus Agua Fresca. (Not bad for a little tent.)

People who remember the logo of our Frog Restaurant may remember the two dots over the “O.” It was never clear to people that those two dots represented the frog’s eyes — a very zen-looking frog. Two dots are reprising with the Frog Burger logo though we have tried to make the “eye-ness” more obvious and playful.

Part of the process of planning Frog Burger was to select a burger blend. Over a period of three weeks, at four different blind tasting sessions, our panel tasted — and often re-tasted 18 burger blends. A blind tasting means that panelists were unaware of what they were tasting. Blends ranged from supermarket-sourced to blends from New York’s premium meat supplier for restaurants. From the outset I established that we wanted a “backyard” burger that balanced “bib-worthy” juiciness, texture and taste. We also wanted “back-yard” friendly pricing.

Fundamental to a great burger is adequate fat content. An 80-20 blend — 80 percent meat to 20 percent fat — is the essential component of juiciness. So, all of our blends shared that component. Other components that affect taste and texture include the cuts used to make the blend and the manner of grinding the meat. Our more “exotic” blends included various combinations of skirt steak, brisket and oxtail, and, of course, chuck. Chuck is the humble foundation of most “supermarket” blends.

The panel consisted of myself, James and Lydia, our Executive Chef and Sous Chef, Larry, our Director of Operations, and my son Noah, with whom I am working on Frog Burger and Cleo’s Portico. We had an occasional “guest panelist.”  Our panel’s tasting sheets included columns for our three criteria — juiciness, texture and taste — and panelists were asked to rank each component of each blend from 1 to 5. At the conclusion of each session, we discussed our reactions to each blend. It was often easy to agree on what to eliminate. The poor buger usually stood out.  Usually a session ended with agreement to include two or three blends in a second round. As the process continued I came to believe that the hype about special burger blends was a bit of the kings new clothes. Here was a group of pretty serious burger tasters and it was rare to find any enthusiasm for the more expensive blends. (At the end of each tasting the blends were revealed.) Occasionally a panelist would speak in behalf of some more exotic taste that we assumed to be from the more exotic side of the ledger, but it was rare to find many allies for that burger to make it into the next round. Only one of the “better blends” hunf around through the final tasting though was on no one’s top choice.

At the conclusion of the process, a simple “house blend” from Esposito’s — located in the Italian Market was the winner.  It was actually the second least expensive of the blends that we considered and only 60% of the cost of the fanciest blends.

In the end, a great backyard burger has most to do with the fat content — an 80-20 blend, how you make the patty — the less you handle the meat the better the texture — a very hot fire to create a nice char on the burger — and the care taken to cook your burger to the correct doneness. At Frog Burger we cook burgers to medium unless specified. With anything beyond medium you can say good-bye to juicy. With regard to the fat content, remember that a fair amount of that fat cooks away. It is also worth the effort to toast the roll — a step many a backyard cook skips. The roll does not need to be warm so just lightly pre-toast the rolls to form a crust. The crust keeps the roll from absorbing too much juice and getting soggy. We use Martin’s Potato Rolls  — often available at supermarkets. Our burgers are served with lettuce, tomato and red onion on the side.

Among the burger condiments available are flame grill jalapenos and pickled red onions. The recipe for pickled red onions are featured in At Home. The recipe is from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook and printed with permission of the publisher. The Zuni Cafe is Judy Rodgers great San Francisco restaurant. Her cookbook also has her quintessential burger recipe that involves pre-salting the burger meat. Rogers’ section on The Practice of Salting Early is among the most useful cookbook advice I have ever encountered.  Because I don’t have permission from the publisher beyond At Home, I can’t post the recipe here. I strongly recommend Zuni Cafe’s Pickled Red Onions from At Home for your next backyard barbecue…or visit Frog Burger the next time you are around 20th & The Parkway. Frog Burger is open daily from 11:30 AM to dusk.

One last note about Frog Burger.  Our “signature burger” is the LOVE Burger, a “don’t eat this too often” cholesterol-laden affair that includes a juicy burger nestled between two grilled-and-pressed cheese sandwiches — the bread and cheese fuses — and adorned with lettuce, tomato and our “special sauce” — a sort of Russian-dressing with chopped bacon — just in case you feel cholesterol deprived. Eating a Frog Burger is an amazing experience — even if you do it only once.

Here’s a favorable review from today’s  THE PHILADINING BLOG.

Look for news about Cleo’s Portico in my next blog.

Featured Chef on Cookstr.com this Saturday, June 26th
On Saturday, June 26th I will be Cookstr.com‘s featured Chef of the Day. Cookstr.com is a web-based recipe source — “home of the best recipes from great cookbooks by acclaimed chefs and authors.” This is an honor and an exciting step in my efforts to spread the word about At Home. A series of At Home recipes will be featured on Cookstr.com. Check me out on Saturday.

Manou At BAC
Christina and I are on our way to New York this afternoon to attend the NY Premiere of Emmanuele Phuon’s work, Khmeropedies I + II at the Baryshnikov Art Center. Emmanuele is Manou, dear friend and wife of At Home illustrator, Pascal Lemaitre. Read At Home’s Postscript on Page 498 to learn more about the origins of this remarkable dance performance and dance troupe. The performance will be repeated Friday and Saturday. For more information.

Here’s Manou’s recipe from At Home for her Boiled Chicken with Ginger Relish & Sticky Rice. It is surprisingly refreshing on a hot summer’s eve.

Manou’s Boiled Chicken with Ginger-Garlic Relish & Sticky Rice

This is about as far from your mother’s boiled chicken as Philadelphia is from Bangkok. Manou, a friend and also the wife of this book’s illustrator, Pascal, served this to us on a visit to Brussels. The chicken is removed from the bone and served with a potent swirl of chopped ginger and garlic. Simple, humble and delicious!

do ahead Chicken is best if made shortly before serving but it can be made up to two days ahead, refrigerated and refreshed in stock. Relish can be made up to four days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Rice should be made just before serving.
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
1 cup small-cubed ginger
5 garlic cloves, crushed,
1 cup small-cubed garlic
1 cup fresh cilantro, rinsed and divided
2 bird’s-eye chiles or 1⁄2 jalapeño, thinly sliced
1⁄2 cup chopped scallion
4-5 pound chicken
1⁄4 cup plus 3 tablespoons fish sauce, divided
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
11⁄2 teaspoons salt, sea salt preferred
3 cups jasmine rice or other long-grain rice
1 To cook chicken: Rinse chicken, place in a large pot and cover with at least 2 quarts water. Add sliced ginger, crushed garlic, 1⁄2 cup cilantro, chiles and 1⁄4 cup fish sauce. Bring to a slow boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Add back water as needed. Cook until meat falls off the bone, about 90 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and allow it to rest until it’s cool enough to handle. Remove skin and pull meat from bones, discarding bones. Skim fat from stock and set aside. You will use stock to make the relish and rice and to refresh chicken, so save at least 7 cups.
2 To make relish: In a small sauté pan, heat oil over moderate heat. Add cubed ginger and garlic and gently sauté to soften without browning, about 3 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons fish sauce and 1⁄2 cup reserved stock. Cook over moderate heat until liquid is reduced to a glaze, about 5 minutes. Set relish aside to cool.
3 To make rice: Rinse rice well in strainer until water runs clear. In a pot, combine rice with 41⁄2 cups reserved stock. Bring to a slow boil, cover, and reduce heat to very low until all water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.
4 To serve: If chicken and stock are still warm, place chicken on platter and pour a little stock over it to moisten. If you cooked chicken well in advance and it is now cold, refresh chicken in a pot with stock over moderate heat until just warm. Add salt. Garnish with scallion and remaining cilantro leaves.
Serve with relish and rice on the side.
serves 6

Summer Blogging Plans
Many of this summer’s blogs will focus on weekly visits to area farm stands and farmer’s markets. Though not a locavore zealot, I am a strong believer in using locally grown produce. Summer though early fall is the time to incorporate trips to your local farm stand or farmer’s market into your At Home plans. So, each week — more or less — I’ll visit another place and create a new recipe for the At Home blog. My posting will begin next week at Maple Acres Farm located in Plymouth Meeting. Followers of At Home will be familiar with Maple Acres. I particularly love the variety of eggplant available at Maple Acres and will provide you with an easy recipe for grilled eggplant.

Please help me identify farmer’s markets and farm stands to visit. I am looking for suggestions with 50 miles of Center City Philadelphia. Post your suggestions in Leave a Comment at the end of this At Home blog.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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Thai Chicken Thighs Recipe

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.
3
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.

Serve with Sweet & Sour Slaw.

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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.
3
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.

FROG BURGER
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.

Steve
Your Home Entertaining Coach

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Henny’s Stuffed Cabbage Recipe

Henny’s Stuffed Cabbage

The night we opened Frog in 1973, my mother prepared her delicious sweet and sour stuffed cabbage rolls as Frog’s debut special. Over the years they have become a staple on our Rosh Hashanah menu, but there is no reason to restrict these wonderful morsels to that holiday. One roll makes for a nice first course; two or three for a filling entrée. Sometimes we make thumb-sized versions and serve them as hors d’oeuvres.

do ahead Stuffed cabbage is best when made at least one day ahead and reheated before serving. It can also be stored in the freezer for up to one month. Defrost and reheat in a 325º oven.

Cabbage Rolls
1⁄3 cup cooked white rice
1 large head green cabbage
6 gingersnaps
1⁄2 cup water
1 pound ground beef
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1⁄2 cup ketchup

Sauce
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup sauerkraut
15-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1⁄2 cup light brown sugar
6 gingersnaps, crumbled
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon pepper
1⁄2 cup ketchup

1 Cut out the core of the cabbage and place in a pot. Nearly cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until leaves can be parted easily, about 5 minutes. Remove cabbage, drain and peel off softer leaves. If inner leaves are still stiff, return to water and repeat. Pat leaves dry.
2 Make the filling: crumble gingersnaps in water to form a paste. In a bowl, combine paste, rice, beef, salt, brown sugar and ketchup.
3 To form the cabbage rolls, lay a leaf flat on a clean surface. Place about 3 tablespoons of mixture in the center of each leaf. Fold the two sides over the filling and then roll tightly and set aside, seam side down. Repeat with remaining ingredients, reserving the smaller leaves for the sauce.
4 Preheat oven to 350º. Chop reserved small cabbage leaves and set aside. Rinse sauerkraut well, squeeze out water and set aside. Gently squeeze tomatoes to remove some juice, then tear tomatoes apart.
5 To make the sauce, heat oil in a deep sauté pan and add onion. Cook until onion begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Chop reserved cabbage, add to pan and continue cooking until nicely browned, about 5-10 minutes more. Mix in sauerkraut, tomatoes, brown sugar, gingersnaps, salt and pepper. Continue cooking slowly for 15 minutes, adding water if it gets too thick.
6 To assemble, spoon half of the sauce into a baking dish. Place cabbage rolls in a single layer, seam side down. Cover with remaining sauce. Make a ribbon of ketchup across the top of the rolls. Cover with foil.
7 Bake for at least 2 hours. Remove foil after 1 hour and add as much as 1⁄2 cup water if cabbage appears too dry.
8 Serve hot or hold for one day and reheat in a 325º oven.
serves 6-8


After the core is removed, the whole cabbage head is briefly cooked in boiling war to soften leaves so that you can separate them from the head and roll. If removing  individual leaves becomes difficult, just return the head to boiling water again to further loosen leaves. Once removed from the head, if they are not soft enough to roll you can return them to the water to further soften.

It is important to pat dry the leaves. Dry leaves are easier to roll. Also, residue water could thin down the sauce.

Slowly saute onions until lightly browned and caramelized to bring out their maximum sweetness. Take care not to burn.


Cabbage leftover from the whole head — leaves too small to roll — get chopped and added to onions to be used in sauce.

Continue cooking until cabbage lightly browns.

The cabbage leaves will run the gamut from large outer leaves to smaller inner leaves. To make more uniform rolls you can use two small leaves together to make a larger roll. Try to keep the stuffing together and don’t worry too much of you have formed a perfect roll. As my mother used to say, “It all gets mixed up in the stomach.” If you want to make all smaller rolls, cut large leaves in half.

Here’s a very helpful tip: The outer leaves are best for making large cabbage rolls, but outer leaves tend to have very sturdy ribs that are difficult to soften without overcooking the leaves. To solve this problem, turn the leaves so that the inner side is face down and the outer side — now face up — exposes the sturdy rib. With a sharp knife, make a series of slits in the rib without cutting all the way through. Turn the leaf over and toll. The slits now make that much easier

Place a generous amount of sauce in over-proof baking dish.

Place cabbage rolls over sauce, top with move sauce and a ribbon of ketchup.

Cover with foil and bake for the initial two hours. Then remove foil, add some water if sauce appears  too thick and bake uncovered for an additional hour.

The finished product.

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