The CHOW Blog rss

Recipe inspiration, tips, and kitchen hacks from the Chowhound editors.

Lick it up

Summer’s fading, so now’s the time to lick, munch and slurp through NYC’s best ice cream sandwiches. New York Magazine puts its insatiable roundup rustlers on the cookies ‘n’ cream beat to find the top handheld treats.

But no Chipwiches need apply: instead, these frozen delights are made by hand using top-notch ingredients like Il Laboratorio del Gelato ice cream and cookies chunked with Jacques Torres chocolate. Much to our surprise, the winner wasn’t the sleek bar at ‘wichcraft, but the humble lil’ cutie at One Girl Cookies, a tiny storefront bakery in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill that slathers ricotta gelato onto cakey pumpkin puffs.

Not everyone loves these chi-chi creations, however. Over at Gothamist, a poster shudders at the mere mention of (two) cheese-flavored fillings, while the East Coast/West Coast throwdown on A Full Belly ends in a TKO for Frisco’s It’s It.

Created at the original Playland-at-the-Beach seaside amusement park in 1928 and still made at a Bay Area factory, the It’s Its is a swirl
of ice cream (I love the cappuccino) sandwiched between two oatmeal cookies, dipped in chocolate, and sold for cheap at a corner store on
those three days when it’s actually hot enough to eat ice cream in San Francisco. Speaking of the Bay Area, as if those stock options
weren’t enough, worker bees at Google’s HQ now get a special rainbow-labeled, locally sourced, trans-fat-free version in their in-house cafeteria.

This cheese stands alone

As the embers of the 2007 grilling season fade to black, 101cookbooks has a suggestion for sending the summer off right —a magnificently simple but surprisingly flashy recipe featuring Halloumi cheese.

The appeal: you get throw cheese directly onto a grill! And it doesn’t melt into a molten puddle. Instead, it warms up and develops
a tasty exterior crust. For reasons known only to food scientists, the obscure-but-wonderful Halloumi is one of the few cheeses that can
stand up to grill-level heat and emerge as a perfectly forged medium for, say, the mini-green bean salad/appetizer featured on 101 Cookbooks.

Also worth reading: the recipe comments section, where a debate over the national origins of Halloumi (“It’s Greek!” “It’s Cypriot!”) threatens to spark a low-intensity ethnic riot.

Fleur de Sel Gelato

Bacco has an incredible dessert: toasted olive oil cake with fleur de sel gelato and caramel baked pears. The fleur de sel gelato is amazing–smooth and distinctly salty. That gelato is, by itself, worth a special trip, says Robert Lauriston.

Ristorante Bacco [Noe Valley]
737 Diamond St., at 24th St., San Francisco

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Fleur de sel gelato at Bacar

People’s Choice: Unbeatable West Indian Oxtails in Harlem

Do not miss the oxtails at People’s Choice Kitchen, insists Uptownflavor. Great, refreshing juices, too, at this Caribbean takeout joint in Harlem. m de p’s favorite is half pineapple, half carrot with milk.

People’s Choice Kitchen [Harlem]
2733 Frederick Douglass Blvd. (8th Ave.), between W. 145th and 146th Sts., Manhattan

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Harlem? Does anyone eat uptown?

New “Oaxacan” Spot

La Morenita Oaxaquena is a clean, homey new restaurant in a mini-mall at Third and New Hampshire. Chile relleno here is great, says Chowpatty–stuffed with chicken in a delicate batter and swimming in a super-spicy picadillo sauce. Strangely, considering the Oaxacan pedigree, mole negro with chicken is just okay; it’s not the most complex or thick mole around. Still, there are a lot of other Oaxacan and other specialties, and reasonably price breakfasts (chorizo and eggs, chilaquiles, etc). No alcohol, but plenty of aguas including horchata with cactus fruit and walnuts (tuna y nuez).

Chiles rellenos with black beans, rice, and salad is $7, chicken mole is $7.50.

La Morenita Oaxaquena [Koreatown]
3550 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles

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review–La Morenita Oaxaquena, new in Koreatown

At Flushing Mall, Knockout Dumplings and Other Sichuan Chow

Recent dispatches from the Flushing Mall food have focused mostly on Taiwanese and northern Chinese bites, but there’s also a vendor of robust Sichuan chow to be found. It’s called Chengdu, and it’s tucked away in the corner of the food court. It’s on the far right as you enter the court from the south.

They serve pork-and-chive dumplings the size of golf balls in devilishly red chile oil–so fresh they’re bursting with juice, almost like soup dumplings, reports astrid. A sprinkling of minced raw garlic adds a pungent blast of flavor. Fiery beef noodle soup is another winner, says Chandavkl. Cold noodles in peanut sauce are also delicious, though not spicy. Hot and sour noodles look tempting: a giant bowl of dark red broth heaped with scallions and cilantro.

Chengdu [Flushing]
in Flushing Mall food court
133-31 39th Ave., between Prince St. and College Point Blvd., lower level, Flushing, Queens

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Awesome Sichuan Dumplings (Flushing Food Court)–long

Nanjing Cuisine, Just Ducky

Nanjing duck is completely unlike Peking or roasted duck, being boiled/braised and salted. At Nanjing Kitchen, an austere take-out joint in San Gabriel, you can go a la carte and pick up duck wings, legs, gizzards (very good), or whatever. Or you can get a half bird or a whole one. It’s usually pretty salty (but in a good way, says ipsedixit), but kevin found it rather bland–kind of like leftover dark turkey meat. A bum batch?

The noodles are quite good, especially jinling noodles, says Jerome. They have more Nanjing specialties, which are pretty tough to find around here.

Nan Jing Kitchen [San Gabriel Valley]
706 W. Las Tunas Dr., at Mission, San Gabriel

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a Triumpharite in the SGV: Nanjing Cuisine, Stuffed Sandwich, and Fosselman’s
Nanjiang Cuisine in San Gabriel and The Stuffed Sandwich in San Gabriel

Learning Chinese Cooking by the Book

Here are some recommendations for cookbooks that are both authoritative and accessible to those new to cooking authentic Chinese at home.

Comprehensive cookbooks:

Key to Chinese Cooking, by Irene Kuo, devotes its first half to teaching technique, and the second to recipes which build on the techniques.

The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking: Techniques and Recipes, by Barbara Tropp, is strong on technique and philosophy, very thorough, and the recipes come out great.

Yan-Kit’s Classic Chinese Cookbook, by Yan-Kit So, has a comprehensive ingredient guide with pictures and detailed instructions.

Regional cookbooks:

Land of Plenty, by Fuschia Dunlop, is chowhounds’ new English-language bible for authentic Sichuanese cooking, with clear explanations and terrific recipes.

The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen, by Grace Young and Alan Richardson, focuses on Cantonese cuisine, with background information on techniques and ingredients, and adds some interesting history.

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Suggestions on great Chinese cookbooks?

Best Oil for Chinese Cooking

Peanut oil is used frequently in high-heat Chinese stir-frying. It has a high smoke point, so it won’t scorch in the intense heat of proper wok cooking, and it imparts a characteristic flavor. If you don’t like peanut oil’s flavor (some find it “too peanutty”) or have a peanut allergy, use an oil with a neutral flavor and a high smoke point, like grapeseed or safflower.

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Chinese food cooking question…what kind of oil?

Fried Clams 101

“Big bellies,” “piss clams,” “Ipswich,” “steamers,” “soft shells”–these are all names for the same type of clam, says our resident marine biologist, FlyFish. The species is Mya arenaria; they’re the ones most often used for frying. They’re almost always what you’re eating when you’re eating whole fried clams. Typically, the only other kind of clam that gets fried is surf clam, which gets cut up and sold as “fried clam strips.”

The best soft shell clams are the ones with the biggest bellies. Luckily, says FlyFish, a lot of better claim joints will select only the bigger-bellied clams. (They’re wonderful simply steamed too.)

Here’s a clammy web site.

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Big belly fried clams