Since last year was a big one (4-0, oh no!), this year we honored Amy's birthday with a little less fanfare. We had 15 pounds of live crawfish delivered up from Louisiana and had a crawfish boil for two Saturday afternoon. While we observed another year's passing with a feast reminiscent of the Big Easy, BFF Karen (who gets to live there) toasted Amy's birthday with a piece of lemon blueberry marscapone cake (and sent pics to prove it!). How lovely to be celebrated in two different states!
Winter Greens Salad
Thanks to a good deal from Living Social, we finally got the chance to check out Rooftop 120 in Glastonbury, CT for dinner. It turns out the hype is pretty well deserved, at least as far as the food goes, and for us, it's usually all about the food. It's a gorgeous space, with a dining room area as well as a (rather noisy) bar area which also has tables for dining. Although the titular rooftop overlooks a parking lot, it's always nice to be outside, or in our case, nearly outside, up high, with plenty of bright light and a view of the sunset.
We were seated in the bar area facing a table of 12 - a male doctor taking his all-female nurses and office staff to a thank-you dinner. (Either that, or it was some sort of harem situation). The bar itself was nearly full, and the tables filled up as we ate, so word is definitely out - this is where the "beautiful people" go. Chris ordered a Sazerac, but they were unable to make it; they don't carry rye. So he got a Manhattan instead, and while his first was delicious, the second, which was made by a different bartender (see below), was terrible. Thankfully, our server offered to get a new one made by the original barkeep. Since we here in the Constitution State are able to bring home wine leftover from a restaurant, Amy ordered a the 337 Cabernet which, when we finally got it, was perfect.
Braised Lamb Shank
On the website, the food is described thusly: "Progressive American Cuisine (focused on) innovative flavors that compliment the change in seasons." It being early spring, the seasonal menu was still their winter one, which was fine by us. And while we'd call it "upscale comfort food," we'd also concede that it was relatively progressive as well as innovative.
16-oz. Grass-fed Pork Chop
Chris ordered the Braised Lamb Shank - hand made red wine pappardelle pasta, tossed with roasted pearl onions, baby crimini mushrooms, and garnished with a goat cheese gremolata. Although Amy hates mushrooms, she gave some of the pasta and lamb a try, and it was amazing. The pasta was clearly fresh and you could taste a hint of the wine in it. The meat was incredibly tender and the flavor, outstanding.
Ever the carnivore, Amy chose the 16-oz. Grass-Fed Pork Chop. This ginormous hunk of meat was served on the bone and cooked perfectly to medium, as requested. It was juicy and tender and flavorful and had a really good sear on it. It was served with a sweet potato puree that balanced the pork nicely and a garnish of walnut brittle. While there was a lot of sweetness in the dish, the caramelized country apples offered a tart balance and the brittle gave it a nice crunch.
To sum up? The restaurant's website touts the views, the trendy atmosphere, the happy hour. That's all fine and good. We'll be back simply for the food, since it really was that good.
Banana-Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding
A few weeks ago, Amy had a girls' night out at The Melting Pot in swanky Darien, CT. Since then, she has taken on a slight obsession with fondue, vowing to re-create the restaurant's traditional Swiss fondue recipe over and over until she gets it just right. This is the tale of the first try.
Inspired by that night at T.M.P. as well as the advice of Megan Draper (of Mad Men, in case you weren't clear ((Meg and Ame seem to go way back)) in the second part of the first episode of the current season titled "The Doorway, Part Two," which BTW means everyone is into fondue these days...): "So the secret is to rub the pot with the clove of garlic and then add twice the Kirschwasser." Sage wisdom, albeit from a fictional character.
Scene: Spring Vacation.
The Players: A Couple in the Kitchen, relaxed and in love.
Setting: A gorgeous spring day - bright, sunny and cool.
Action: While Chris prepares the veggies, Amy infuses the cheese with love, garlic and twice the amount of Kirsch, as per Meg Draper.
Traditional Swiss Fondue (Take One!)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
1/2 lb. Emmenthaler cheese, shredded
1/2 lb. Gruyere cheese, shredded
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 ounce Westford Hill Kirsch
kosher salt and black pepper to taste
To dip (for two):
1 Granny Smith and 1 Gala apple (sliced thinly)
1 Asian pear (sliced thinly)
2 raw carrots, cut into rounds
1 head broccoli, blanched
2 each, white and purple potatoes, cooked
1 demi-baguette, cubed
small bunch green grapes
Rub the crushed garlic all over the inside of the fondue pot (see Megan Draper's instructions above). Place over medium heat and add Pinot Grigio and lemon juice. Allow to simmer for one to two minutes. Sprinkle cheese with flour, then slowly add shredded cheese/flour to wine mixture, stirring to melt. When cheese is completely melted, add Kirsch and allow to cook another one to two minutes. Serve in that pretty fondue set you registered for but have only used once in eleven years, with jeweled dipping forks and plenty of (French, si vous plait) wine (you're on vacation!).
For the past few weekends, Amy has been an omelet-making machine. People may not know this about her, but as a teenager, she waited tables and cooked at a breakfast joint in her hometown, so she's pretty good at making eggs of all kinds. And what's better, for breakfast, brunch, or dinner, than a light, fluffy omelet filled with all kinds of goodies? Not much, in our opinion! But the recent craving for omelets has less to do with eating them than making them, especially with the amazing tools that OXO sent us through their Blogger Outreach program. We'll get to that in a minute. But first, let's talk ingredients.
Although not a lot of preparation has to be involved in making omelets, we seem to think they come out better when both the eggs and the ingredients one plans to fill the omelet with have gotten to room temperature. What kinds of ingredients do we use? In Amy's mind, every omelet has to have cheese, and we use whatever we have in the cheese drawer or the cheese that will go best with the other ingredients we plan to use. Roasted peppers and onions go well with cheddar. Spinach and tomatoes are lovely with a little feta. Bacon and American - why not? This amazingly delicious omelet (below) was one of Amy's recent creations, made with a small wedge of Brie cheese, about 1/4 cup of cooked lobster leftover from an afternoon splurge with bestie J, and some freshly chopped tarragon. Oh yeah, that was some good stuff. Suffice it to say, just about anything can go in an omelet so use your leftovers and your creativity.
Once you have your ingredients together and your eggs at room temperature, you need to beat the eggs really well to get as much air as possible into them. This is what will make your omelet nice and fluffy. We also like to add about 2 tablespoons of milk per every 3 eggs as we find this helps the fluff factor. And this is also where OXO comes in, with their new egg beater. The design of this thing is genius - a no-slip grip handle, a smooth whirring motion in both the handle and the beaters, and best of all, it comes apart for convenient washing. Just throw the beaters into the dishwasher! Love. This. Thing.
Watching your cholesterol? Have an egg white omelet made by using OXO's egg separator. With different ridges to fit different size bowls, it's nearly impossible to make a mess with this. And it, too, is dishwasher safe. But no lie, the best thing OXO sent us was their new "Flip and Fold Omelet Turner." It simply does not compare to a regular old spatula. It is absolutely the perfect size and shape for, well, flipping and folding omelets. Every omelet we've made with this thing has come out just right and without a struggle. It also is dishwasher safe and since it is silicone, it is heat resistant up to 600 degrees (not that your omelet should get that hot).
The right pan is also a major part of making the perfect omelet. We always use a 6-inch non-stick omelet pan swirled with some melted butter, and we add our fillings and fold the omelet while the eggs are still a little soft.
So there you have it, some tips and tricks to making omelets, straight from a former teenage line cook, with a little help from our friends at OXO.
Basic Omelet Recipe
3 eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper to taste
filling combinations of your choice including such things as cheese, cooked meat, cooked seafood, raw or cooked vegetables, and/or fresh herbs, at room temperature
Crack eggs into a large mixing bowl (OXO's rubber-bottom mixing bowl is perfect for this, too - it doesn't tip!) and add the milk, salt and pepper, and any herbs you may wish to use. Beat the eggs well, until they are foamy and pale yellow in color. Heat an omelet pan over medium heat and put the butter in. Once butter is melted and hot enough for a droplet of water to make a sizzling sound, add the egg mixture. Let sit for about a minute so the bottom will set. Using a heat-proof spatula, gently push one edge of the omelet toward the middle of the pan and tilt the pan so the liquid flows to the other side. Do this until there is no liquid left but the eggs are still soft. Add fillings in the center of the omelet and gently fold one side of the omelet over the other. Cook for another minute to allow the fillings to heat through. Fold onto a plate and serve with toast and a salad for a delicious meal.
Disclaimer: We received the three OXO egg tools mentioned above for free as part of the OXO Blogger Outreach Program. We have not been otherwise compensated for our opinions which are, as always, our own.
It's Secret Recipe Club reveal day again! And we haven't posted anything since April 9th! Sorry about the unannounced hiatus, by the way. We have lots to catch up on, but first, you really need to check out the blog assigned to us this month for SRC - White Lights on Wednesday - where author Julie shares DIY projects, giveaways, cooking challenges, and PLENTY of fantastic recipes.
One of Julie's most recent recipes was for a "Mocha Cupcake Milkshake," and we can't tell you how tempting that was. Let's just say it's been bookmarked, and seeing as we are entering the chaos of the beginning of the end of the school year, we'll probably be making two of 'em quite soon. Several others sounded scrumptious as well, such as Tequila Infused Queso Fundido (hmmm...Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner), Thai Pizza with Peanut Butter Sauce (so creative!), and Butter Cream Chicken (decadently delish).
Still, we were in the mood for shrimp and Julie's Italian Lemon Shrimp sounded easy and refreshing - perfect for a pretty spring evening. And even though our last post was about a shrimp dish, again, that was way back on April 9th so we thought it would be okay.
We made the Italian Lemon Shrimp almost exactly according to the recipe, using Key West Pink Shrimp that our favorite market carries (frozen, unfortunately). These Gulf shrimp have a salty-sweet taste and firm texture that went really well with Julie's spicy buttery lemon sauce. A great match indeed! We served ours over angel hair and ate it all up.
Italian Lemon Shrimp
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chile flake
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
1/2 pound angel hair pasta
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut lemon in half and then into thin slices. In a medium bowl, combine Italian seasoning, oregano, chile flake, salt, and pepper. Add shrimp and toss to combine. Pour shrimp onto prepared baking sheet. Top with lemon slices and melted butter - evenly distributing both. Bake shrimp for 10 to 12 minutes, until pink and cooked through. While shrimp bakes, cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta water. Remove lemon slices from shrimp. Pour shrimp and butter onto drained pasta. Add reserved pasta water and Parmesan cheese to taste. Toss to combine. Top with more Parmesan cheese if desired.
We know that sometimes it seems we make a big deal of the so-called "changing of the seasons." Our readers in, say, Florida or, perhaps, California, may wonder why we make such a big to-do about our "crocus forests" or the fact that it has finally, on April 8th, reached 70 degrees. We suppose it has to do with the wide range of weather that we experience in New England on any given year. Let's take this particular school year for example (we are teachers in "real" life after all): we were hit with a hurricane (you read that right) in October. A hurricane which, according to Wikipedia (yes, we know it's not the most reliable, but admit it - you use it all the time), was "the deadliest and most destructive tropical cyclone of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, as well as the second-costliest hurricane in United States history." Once we got over that mess, we faced one of the snowiest years we can remember, which included a blizzard that dropped close to 3 feet of snow mid-February (see Nemo Gras). And seeing as the two of us (both in our 40's) can't really remember 3 feet of snow in our snow-measuring history? Well, that'something! While the uber-winter mix seemed to dissipate after that, it was cold, gray and rainy for so long that people were starting to mutiny against that crazy groundhog Punxatawny Phil who predicted an early spring: That damn TV rodent. He really must be taken care of, if you know what we mean...
Fast forward to today. We are tired. We are sun- and, hence, vitamin-D-deprived and we just want to enjoy some warm rays and non-blisteringly-cold winds. Is it really so much to ask? Sure we're a little excited about our crocus. Yeah, we are posting pictures of our spring onions. So sue us. We just can't help it. And when we texted each other about dinner today - something along the lines of, "let's do something lite (sic)" - "okay how bout (sic) yellow curry shrimp n veggies," a plan was quickly hatched. We even used a tool from our fancy garnishing kit (thank you, Turners!) to cut our carrots so they'd be prettier than usual. And, really, aren't they????
This recipe may not be the typical Californian's or Floridian's version of "light" but it was perfect for us New Englanders. Bright, colorful, cheery, and most importantly (for this time of year), quick and easy, we are adding this to our weeknight repertoire because we loved it's cheery springiness and the way it made us feel about the change of seasons. We enjoyed this served over basmati rice - and we even cheated a little bit by using Success Rice Boil-in-a-Bag, which takes 10 minutes, not-coincidentally about the time it takes to make the shrimp. How perfect is that?
1 15-ounce can light coconut milk
3 tablespoons yellow curry sauce (we like Trader Joe's)
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 pound green beans, chopped
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2-3 leaves basil, chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
In a large skillet, bring coconut milk to a simmer. Stir in curry sauce and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add carrots and green beans and simmer about five minutes until vegetables begin to soften. Add shrimp and cook until shrimp turn pink, about 2 minutes. Add lime juice, fish sauce, basil and sugar, and stir to combine. Simmer an additional minute to incorporate all ingredients. Serve over prepared rice, pasta, or simply with crusty bread for dipping.
It is officially spring in Connecticut. It's 70 degrees out, the sun is high in the sky even at 5:00 p.m., and we have mini-forests of crocus all along our driveway. Oh look! Our spring onions and chives are coming in! At last, at last, it's spring at last!
And it's Monday, so what better meal to make for this beautiful spring day than something for Meatless Monday? This Food and Wine recipe seemed like the perfect gift when it arrived in our email box last week and we saved it for a day just like this one. As usual, we made some adjustments based our tastes and what we had on hand.
What we loved about this recipe was the wonderful fresh taste it gets from the green vegetables, seasonal herbs and tangy lemon. While we enjoyed it hot, we could see gracing our summer picnic table as a pasta salad alongside some barbecue. Mmmm...mmmm.
Spring Vegetable Farfalle
adapted from this recipe from Food and Wine
2 slices white sandwich bread, finely chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons snipped chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch broccolini
1 pound mini-farfalle
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 fennel bulb - halved, cored and thinly sliced
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 drops lemon oil
Preheat the oven to 350. On a baking sheet, toss the bread with 1/4 cup of the oil and toast for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once, until golden. Let cool, then stir in half each of the chives and tarragon. Season the crumbs with salt and pepper and set aside. In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the broccolini until tender, 1 minute; using tongs, transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop. Boil the pasta in the broccolini water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. In a deep skillet or wok, melt the butter in the remaining 1/4 cup of oil. Add the garlic, fennel and broccolini and cook over moderate heat until the fennel is crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. Add the pasta, lemon juice and cooking water and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat until the water is nearly absorbed. Stir in the remaining herbs and lemon oil. Sprinkle the pasta with the bread crumbs just before serving.