A Jewish Puerto Rican Thanksgiving

November 23, 2015

Want to make the ultimate Thanksgiving turkey? That’s bursting with flavor and juicy as all get out? Follow our instructions below.

Thanksgiving 2008 by you.

This is by far the most colorful Thanksgiving plate I’ve ever seen.

So after visiting Guavate, Rachel and I knew that we had to try making Pavochon ourselves, the real Puerto Rican way. This year, it happened that Thanksgiving was only going to be 4 of us — Rachel’s parents and the two of us, so we were assigned to doing the cooking. So if we were in charge, why not mix it up and do it Puerto Rican style?

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Sous Vide Cheeseburger Project

July 5, 2013

So, as many of you know, I was the co-Founder of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters.

In the last 10 years, the phenomenon of Sous Vide, or thermostatically controlled water bath cooking, has caught on like wildfire, much of it due to the popularity of a massive set of discussions on eGullet about it.

Despite this massive amount of discussion about Sous Vide, I had no interest in the subject for the longest time.

In fact, I felt it was so geeky and so elitist and pretentious that the only way I was really interested in enjoying food cooked using this method was in fine restaurants, which could afford the expensive thermostatically controlled water circulators ($1000+) and had the need to utilize it for large-scale cooking efforts, for which the technique and the technology was originally designed.

But as with any technology, price does come down. And in the 10 years since the original eGullet threads started, microprocessor-controlled Sous Vide cooking systems have dropped down in price dramatically.

How cheap? How about $99 for the Dorkfood Sous Vide controller now sold on Amazon, combined with a cheap hot plate/cheap rice cooker or an electric crockpot and a package of Zip-Lok bags?

I was sent the Dorkfood controller to review by the manufacturer — I’ll have a more technical write up on ZDNet about it shortly.

But let’s get to the meat of the matter: Anyone with the willingness to do so can now cook Sous Vide, with minimal skill, budget and debugging required.

First of all, why would you want to Sous Vide anything? Well, the advantage is that you can cook a vegetable or a protein to its finished cooking temperature. Once it reaches that temperature, it is perfectly cooked. Because you are cooking it in a sealed bag in a water bath controlled by a computer, you have no loss of juices and the meat does not dry out.

The flavors using this process are absolutely intensified because you are cooking the meat in its own juices.

While Sous Vide is often used for extremely expensive cuts of beef, fish, seafood and poultry to cook right “on point” like the guys on Top Chef do, you can also use it to make the juiciest rare cheeseburger known to man.

And if that isn’t worth forgiving me for using a fancy French technique on the 4th of July to cook an All-American Cheeseburger, I don’t know what is.

You want to make one of these? Follow my lead, young Sous Vide padawans. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Read the rest of this entry »


Recipe: Pasta a la Gandolfini

June 21, 2013

James Gandolfini, who passed away at a tender young age of 51 this week, was an actor who played film and TV characters that were bigger than life.

More often than not, they were the “Bad Guys”. But from all accounts I have heard, especially from those who knew him personally, Gandolfini was a kind, gentle and generous man that respected everyone who he worked with. I never met him. I wish I did.

Gandolfini will always be known for his role in playing the modern-day Italian-American New Jersey mobster Tony Soprano, a thug with a heart, a family man, and a man with considerable weaknesses and great personal demons.

He was brutal, as a Mafia Don should be, but he commanded respect and he was obviously a guy that appreciated the good things in life. Like Gandolfini.

So for Gandolfini, who like his alter-ego Tony Soprano also grew up in the Garden State, in the exact Bergen County area I lived in for 22 years, I wanted dedicate a dish to him.

This is what I came up with — a  pasta twist on the classic Italian-American sausage and peppers that is seen in summer festivals and pizza restaurants as a sandwich all over the New York and New Jersey metro area.

But like Tony Soprano, this one has a bite.

The recipe is also somewhat heart-healthy as it only uses a small amount of oil. Given the circumstances of Gandolfini’s passing, he’d probably not want you to go the same way.

This dish calls for fresh ripened tomatoes (plum, if you can get them) and fresh basil. Don’t even bother to make it unless you have these.

Pasta a la Gandolfini

Servings, 2

1/2 Box of Dried Pasta (6oz) , Whole Wheat preferred

3/4lb  fresh Italian sausage, hot or sweet. If sweet add chile pepper flakes.

1 Tbps Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 White Onion, sliced

1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced

4 or 5 Cubanelle Peppers, sliced

1 Habanero Chile or other very hot chile pepper, fresh, julienned

4 Garlic Cloves, julienned

1 cup diced ripe tomatoes, preferably a variety from your garden

1 handful of fresh basil leaves (also from your garden)

Grated Parmigiano Cheese to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Cook pasta of your choice in salted boiling water to al dente consistency while you prepare the condimenti.

Remove sausage from casing if using links. Brown in large non-stick pan and drain to remove excess fat. Set aside in large bowl.

Using a silicone basting brush, brush a scant amount of olive oil in the pan, saute the onions and peppers of each type individually, adding to the bowl with the sausage as soon as you get some char marks and is just barely cooked.

Add the rest of the oil to the pan, along with the sliced hot chile pepper and garlic. Stir for 30 seconds then add the tomatoes. Once again, just cook until they barely wilt. Add the reserved ingredients back to the pot.

Reserve about 1/2 cup water when you drain the pasta. Add the pasta and the water to the pan and toss to combine with other ingredients.

Remove from heat, add the basil, black pepper & cheese.  Toss and serve.


Grillin’ on the Bay 2010

April 3, 2010

There are many things to like culinary-speaking about Brooklyn. It’s a huge melting pot for different cultures and many of New York’s food traditions, and most of the country’s best and most iconic ethnic dishes originate from there.

It has some of the best Pizza imaginable in the entire country and is the cradle of Jewish cuisine as we know it in the United States. Arguably the best hot dog on the planet originated in Brooklyn. And so on, and so on. Brooklyn is America’s premium brand name for ethnic culture.

However, I don’t normally consider Brooklyn to be a huge barbecue town. But last Saturday, my views on this were seriously challenged.

Click on the read the “Rest of this entry” link below for more.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Ultimate Potato Kugel

March 27, 2010

by Rachel Perlow

Jason asked me to share my recipe for potato kugel with you all. This is the best potato kugel you will ever eat. It’s a pain in the ass to make, but so worth it. Originally, it was created for Rosh Hashanah in 2005, but I made it for the next couple of Passovers as well. However, since we have started eating more healthfully, I have avoided making it. It is just too damn good, I can’t trust myself to be near it. Let alone making the extra dish to keep at home. Oy!

But please, you make it, enjoy, don’t think about all the carbs and fat, saturated fat at that. Go for it, and think kind thoughts towards me as I go without. Sniff. (Is the Jewish guilt coming through loud and clear?)

I was inspired by a couple of recipes, including one from our dear friend Melissa Goodman, combining them with Jason’s inspired idea to add caramelized onions. And schmaltz. You’ve got to use the schmaltz.

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Read the rest of this entry »


Matzo Brei 101

March 26, 2010

Here’s another classic resurrected for the Chosen People… Foodies. Enjoy.

— Jason

Matzo Brei — some people like to eat it just during Passover, but I like it all year round. To me, it’s the ultimate breakfast food. Both savory and sweet, it combines both aspects of French Toast and scrambled eggs in one package.

The version we are going to do is a savory version which we’ll top with syrup. You can also do a strictly sweet version, but I think the whole notion of that is insipid — you really want the contrast of the savory and sweet together.

The first thing you’ll need to do is take half a box of plain matzos (which you can buy year round), crack them in half, and then half again, and soak them in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes.

Then you want to drain them in a colander so they are just soaked and a little soggy, but not swimming in water.

Are you ready to make the greatest Hebrew contribution to breakfast and brunch cuisine? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link for more.

Read the rest of this entry »


NJ Dining: Lotus Cafe (UPDATED)

February 26, 2010

Lotus Cafe
450 Hackensack Avenue, Hackensack, NJ
(201) 488-7070

At first glance, you might dismiss Lotus Cafe offhand as your average suburban American Chinese joint in a strip mall, because that’s entirely what it looks like. For the first couple of years I lived in this area, that’s exactly what I did, and now I regret that mistake. While I wouldn’t say it has the depth that Petite Soochow or Chengdu 1 have with their Shanghainese/Sichuan cuisine, Lotus Cafe is putting out some seriously good select Taiwanese-style dishes on its menu, particularly all the noodle stuff they do.

Storefont, 2010

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Read the rest of this entry »