A Sarcastic Appetite


Alice Medrich’s Brownies with Sea Salt
April 27, 2013, 2:42 pm
Filed under: Recipes | Tags: , , ,

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You guys, I bought flour today. And sugar. I actually can’t remember the last time I purchased either. There has been cooking in the Sarcastic Appetite Kitchen since my little (long) hiatus, but baking sort of fell to the bottom of the list. I think of it as a Saturday afternoon activity, and, well, I’ve been spending my Saturdays doing other things.

But I spied this recipe in so many places that I could no longer ignore it. Cue a lazy Saturday with nothing on the agenda and I was off.

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You talk about brownies with serious bakers, and everyone starts talking about the (high-end) chocolate. Callebaut, Valrhona, Mast Brothers…you name it, someone’s got their favorite and it is the reason why their brownies are the best. I love this recipe because it flouts that: all you need is cocoa powder, plus the usual suspects (flour, sugar, eggs, salt, vanilla). Not sure if you have Dutch process or regular? It doesn’t matter! These brownies are so easy-going, I want to date them.

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My favorite part is the sea salt sprinkled on top. A very wise friend once introduced me to ice cream sundaes with sea salt and I’ve never looked back. These brownies do the same thing; the salt just makes the chocolate pop. Being gluttonous, I also added chopped semisweet chocolate chips (ok, ok, from Mast Brothers, guilty as charged) and the result was out of control.

If you’re feeling peppy, brown the butter beforehand. Add walnuts if you like. I upped the vanilla; you should too. These are gorgeous. I’m a little worried they’ll all be gone by tonight…and I’ll only have myself to blame.

Alice Medrich’s Brownies with Sea Salt

From Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet; adapted from the Amateur Gourmet, Smitten Kitchen, Bon Appétit….and probably elsewhere, too.

10 Tbps. salted butter (1 1/4 sticks) (it’s ok to use salted butter….trust me)

1 1/4 c. sugar

3/4 c. plus 2 Tbps. cocoa powder – Dutch, natural, whatever you have

1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

2 large, cold eggs

1/2 c. flour

2/3 c. chopped chocolate, or walnuts

nice flaky sea salt

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray an 8″ x 8″ (or similar sized) pan with cooking spray; layer a sheet of parchment paper in and then spray that, too.

In a large bowl over simmering water, melt the butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. It will look like it’s not doing much of anything, so turn the heat up a bit and eventually it will melt into a thick, dark paste. Set it aside and wait for it to cool a bit.  Use a wooden spoon to stir in the vanilla. Stir in each egg, one by one, letting the first blend completely before you add the second. Stir in the flour until it disappears, then stir for 40 strokes (it won’t take as long as you think).

Sprinkle the top with some really nice sea salt. Don’t be shy. Bake at 325°F for about 20-25 minutes (in a different sized pan, mine took closer to 30) until a toothpick shoved in there comes out not quite clean. Don’t overbake!

Cool on a rack. Try to have some restraint.

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10 Restaurants to Try
April 22, 2013, 7:31 pm
Filed under: Restaurant Round-Up

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Am I the only one who has a running list of places I want to check out? Is that why you always bother me for advice? (I consider it a compliment.) Lately I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed with what’s new, what’s old, and what’s just plain intriguing. If you’ve had one too many pad thais delivered recently, consider putting some clothes on and checking one of these 10 places out.

In no particular order:

1. Minetta Tavern– If you haven’t been yet, you’ve got to make it happen. It works equally well for a romantic dinner date and for a fun girls’ brunch. They have the best bone marrow around – and I’ve had it quite often. And their Black Label Burger may be expensive but it is no joke.

2. 456 Shanghai – Get yourself to Chinatown before it disappears completely. If you, like I do, often have a hankering for soup dumplings and don’t feel like leaving the island, this place does a pretty good rendition. They also have the most amazing cold sesame noodles I have ever had the pleasure of gobbling down. It’s always jammed, and it’s hilariously cheap; the last time I was there our bill was $30. For two. And we had wildly over-ordered.

3. Ten Bells – Is it a first date and you suspect she might be an intellectual lush? (Not that I would be referring to anyone in particular.) Then take her to Ten Bells, an awesome Francophile wine bar in the heart of the LES with an extensive and interesting wine list. They used to be cash only, which was embarrassing for all parties involved; thankfully that is no longer the case.

4. Aurora – Yes, I’m telling you to check out an Italian restaurant….in Williamsburg. They have a lovely outdoor garden when the weather is cooperating, and an adorable, dimly lit dining room when it is not. Prices are quite reasonable and they will very nicely split pastas for you, which means you can have yourself a bit of a tasting menu while you’re at it.

5. Carbone – Then, when you want Italian, but you won’t leave the island…this would be the place. From the guys behind Torrisi Italian Specialties and Parm (both are awesome) comes an old school Italian joint done right. Good luck getting in. I hear the meatballs are pretty fab and the bill can be a little breathtaking. Consider yourself forewarned.

6. Empellon Taqueria – Speaking of meatballs, I often dream about the ones from Empellon Taqueria in the West Village (its sister restaurant, Empellon Cocina, is in the East Village). Their tacos are no slouches either; go with the fish tempura, lamb barbacoa, or pork cheek.

7. ABV – I’ve been raving about this place since it opened. The only problem is, everyone else has been raving about it too and now it’s next to impossible to get in. I prefer to stop in for an early dinner on Sunday, when the crowd’s a little more mellow. Chef Corey Cova changes the menu pretty regularly, and it’s always a hit. No liquor here, but a great selection of wines by the glass more than makes up for it.

8. Le Philosophe – Chef Matthew Aita takes the classic French brasserie for a spin. Ligayan Mishan’s description of the tournedos Rossini alone has me salivating. Plus, the boys at Immaculate Infatuation claim you can get in and out (with wine!) for under $100, if you order right, and that’s reason enough for me.

9. Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria – ever since Il Buco opened this restaurant/cafe/specialty shop down on Great Jones, it’s been jammed in the best way. They have an incredible short rib sandwich that is really heavy on the black pepper crust but delicious with a little gorgonzola and caramelized onions. The cocktail list is great and changes seasonally, and frankly any place that has a cicchetti menu is all right by me.

10. Tertulia – it’s not new, but it’s awesome and I think underrated. I like to go on Sunday afternoons, when it’s quiet, but Seamus says if you get there by 7 on most nights, you don’t have to wait at all. They’ve added some new things to the menu (the duck rice sounds amazeballs) but the old standbys are pretty awesome too: pan con tomate, croquetas, etc.



A Weekend in Nashville
April 17, 2013, 9:03 pm
Filed under: Gluttonous Weekends | Tags: ,

Last weekend a friend and I made a quick decision to head to Nashville for not quite 48 hours….purely based on visions of beer, bourbon, and barbecue. I got a lot of flack from friends and loved ones – “you’re going WHERE?” “WHY are you in Nashville for the weekend?” “WTF?” – but it was all worth it. So here’s a quick recap of everything we ate. (Warning: it was excessive.)

We started off Friday night with drinks at Edley’s, where the smell of barbecue was so intoxicating I briefly considered ditching our reservation at City House. I’m glad we didn’t….but I’m sad I never made it back to try said barbecue. Instead, we enjoyed some pretty delicious local beers.

After a round, we headed to City House. The appetizers were phenomenal – some kind of broccoli salad; kale & fregola; and octopus with a chickpea puree that was out of this world. We split two pizzas, one lamb belly with the requisite egg, and a tomato-anchovy one that cut through the fat. Nice balance. Drinks were also delicious – I stuck to gin-based ones while my friend ran down the list of whiskey-based ones and our host[ess] was nice enough to squire us around. Win-win.

Saturday opened with coffee at a local place, followed by hot fried chicken at Hattie B’s – worth the airfare alone, in my humble opinion. $13 gets you some dark meat (or white, if you’re a wimp), 2 sides, and a beer. The heat level goes all the way from mild to ‘shut the cluck up’ – I settled on hot and was pleased but not overwhelmed by the slow burn. Nice little spot.

After meandering through Vandy’s campus and checking out the Frist, we decided we were parched and in need of some respite. This we found at Robert’s Western World, downtown, which offered cheap beer and live music. Yes, this is Nashville, and yes, they have this in spades. It was awesome. (Also awesome is Fireball. You can thank me later.)

Dinner that night was at Holland House in East Nashville, a spiffy little spot next to the well-regarded Pharmacy, which apparently has fab burgers but was too crowded for us to try.

After we got over Holland House’s ridiculous rules (you must be seated in order to drink, and no, that sofa by the front door doesn’t count; oh and also those bar stools have a wait list), we loved it. If you swan in and overhear a bartender with a British accent, introduce yourself and tell him a couple girls from New York sent you. We, ah, made an impression. He’ll take care of you.

We feasted here, and the food was awesome – a solid charcuterie plate with some out-of-this-world foie gras mousse, and some delicious fried yellow tomatoes and a chevre tart. We split a steak (rare) and perused their drinks menu of interesting riffs on old classics. I liked the Warsaw Mule, a take on the Moscow Mule, though looking back I couldn’t tell you what the difference was – only that it was delicious.

By Sunday we were running low on steam – and stomach space – yet still made room for multiple! donuts at the Donut Den and brunch at the Southern, including my first time with chargrilled BBQ oysters. It sounds like an abomination; it’s actually delicious.

And of course by the time we left we had only grazed the surface of where to eat and drink in Nashville – Patterson House, Catbird Seat, and Lockeland Table didn’t make it to the list. And our bourbon consumption was suspiciously low. A reason to head back, if you ask me. Which leads me to my New…Summer’s…..Resolution of 2013: more weekend foodie trips. Are you in?



Mushroom & Farro “Hash”
April 9, 2013, 8:55 pm
Filed under: Index of Recipes | Tags: , ,

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Last night I made this chicken from Alexandra’s Kitchen; it’s one of my go-tos. But we devoured it before I thought to take a picture. This blogging thing….apparently it takes some getting used to. (For the record, I use only thighs and I bake them at 425 for about 45 minutes. If you’re curious.)

So tonight I vowed to remember the photographic evidence.

Dinner lately has been somewhat of a challenge, and not just because my dance card’s awfully full. The Nutritional Ninja has diagnosed himself with psoriasis, and as a result prescribed himself a no-nightshade diet, which means no potatoes, peppers, eggplant…or tomatoes. Oh, and don’t forget he’s “practically” gluten-free….which meant that suggesting this mushroom and farro “hash” for dinner tonight did NOT go over well. Never mind that farro is a good source of protein, fiber, B vitamins, and vitamin E, or that the recipe would actually help me use up the dry sherry I had lying around in the fridge.

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I flew off the handle and made it anyway, forgetting the poached eggs because it’s filling enough on its own and I am spectacularly lazy. Roast some broccoli on the side if you want to up your veg intake. It’s delicious, and I suspect will be even better tomorrow.

Ripe’s Cremini Farro Hash with Poached Eggs 

Adapted from this Serious Eats recipe. Serves 2, with plenty leftover.

1 c. pearled farro, rinsed

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small yellow onion, diced

8 oz. cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced (I used shitake; they were delicious)

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

lots of salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 c. dry sherry

1/4 c. sour cream or greek yogurt

juice of half a lemon, plus more to taste

3 Tbsp. chives or finely chopped scallions to garnish

If you’re making the eggs:

1 tsp. white vinegar

2 large eggs

Cook the farro according to package directions. In a large saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onion and mushrooms; season with salt and pepper and add the dried thyme. Stir frequently for about 10 minutes, until the mushrooms have released their juices and the onion is soft and translucent. Add the sherry; let it evaporate almost completely.

By this time the farro should be cooked; drain it and add to the onion and mushroom mixture. Add more salt and pepper; pull off the heat before stirring in the sour cream (or yogurt) and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning. Keep warm while you make the eggs.

If making the eggs, boil some water; add the vinegar and poach those suckers. Soft boiled eggs would also work well here, as would fried. All you want is the runny yolk. Garnish the whole thing with the chives (or scallions).



Thirsty [Friday] Round-Up for the Week of April 5
April 5, 2013, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Restaurant Round-Up

Dinner at Colonie

Hello, friends. It’s been awhile. Let’s get down to it.

I canvas the food blogs, so you don’t have to. Sometimes a day or a year late.

Midtown Lunch reports that the beloved Xi’an Famous Foods is opening an outpost in Midtown – at 24 W. 45th St, to be specific. Curious about what to order when it opens? Look here.

Into uni? Check out a couple restaurants serving stand-out renditions: the uni panini at El Quinto Pino; the Ricci at Marea, consisting of little more than uni, lardo, and salt; and the Marrow, for the ultimate decadence: bone marrow topped with sea urchin. Done and done.

Smorgasburg expands, and my stomach awaits with delight. The new venue, in East River State Park, has all of the space and none of the gravel of the original – and with shade! I can’t wait. It all starts tomorrow.

Half of Immaculate Infatuation had a sick dinner in Brooklyn….in a yoga studio. It’s called Take Root and it’s in Cobble Hill, actually quite close to the Columbia Waterfront District. So trendy!

And dinner at Colonie in Brooklyn just gets better and better (photo above). Five of us shared just about everything on the menu. The rabbit & foie gras terrine was outstanding – like having dessert first. And they make a mean negroni.

Oh, and if you’re a fan of “Straya,” check out this little number on April 18: $65 buys you wine, dinner, and some music to boot. Color me intrigued.