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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Golden Fried Tacos and Asada Like Bacon

Taqueria Reynoso is an odd little sit-down place with all the ambiance of a taco truck. "And yet, I keep coming back—even odder, I keep coming back for things I don’t ordinarily order," says daveena.

The taco dorado de barbacoa isn't something you see very often—a crisp-fried taco, a little larger than the usual, with a barbacoa filling that's velvety soft. Carne asada "has bits of beef that are fried hard, so that they hit a magical texture between jerky and bacon. Delicious." Tacos campechano combine the asada with chorizo—"on good days, there's an extra sprinkling of crispy bits on top," daveena notes.

And burritos al pastor are a perfect collage of ingredients: "the rice is fluffy and firm, the beans tender and flavorful (but not mushy), the al pastor savory with the stain of chorizo fat." Don't get carried away and order the super burrito version: "with the super, all the extra components drowned out the simple, perfect execution that makes this burrito so remarkable."

"I've only tried a few things here because the torta ahogada is so delicious," says Constant Velocity. That's a sandwich with meat (their carnitas are the bomb) and beans, "drowned" in one chile-hot sauce and another, limey one.

The chilaquiles are also quite good.

Taqueria Reynoso [East Bay]
3329 Foothill Boulevard, Oakland
510-261-7568

Discuss: Taqueria Reynoso – my new Fruitvale favorite – tacos campechano, tacos dorado de barbacoa, and the best bare-bones burrito

Sumiya Rises From the Flames

It's been about a year since a fire ravaged the yakitori house Sumiya and it decamped from San Jose to Santa Clara. It's still one of the top places in the Bay Area to get charcoal-grilled Japanese food, although it can be inconsistent—ideally, your skewered meats should be a bit charred and smoky tasting.

Definitely start off with the crispy chicken skin dip, which is sort of like a version of chips-and-salsa, with pieces of golden-brown fried chicken skin and a dipping sauce studded with chewy bits of octopus. When it's skewer time, there are various flavoring options such as the usual salt (shio) and soy, plus yuzu, ume, and wasabi. The light, fluffy, housemade chicken meatballs (tsukune) are perfect with the house sauce, while the minimalism of teba (chicken wings) shio shows off the flavor of the chicken and the skill of the griller.

The magic of the grill isn't limited to chicken, either—the grilled rice balls have "a wonderful smoky char," says ChewChew. Sweet, tender Monterey squid is also delicious with that edge of char.

Kurobuta pork sausage may not be what you'd expect in a Japanese house of chicken, but it's "deliciously complex," Melanie Wong says. "I loved the sauerkraut and mustard accompaniments and would gladly take these Kurobuta sausages over a Top Dog any day."

Sumiya recently started serving lunch, and while the yakitori items aren't available, there's an expanded ramen menu that includes "two well-crafted, pork-free ramen offerings," the chicken-based miso and shio, Melanie Wong says.

The tori miso ramen is amped up with cashew, ground chicken and "a couple slices of psychedelic fish cake," Melanie says. "The soup's flavor spectrum ranged from roast chicken to salty miso richness, then toasted nuts and garlic, and circled back to minerally chicken bones, shoyu, and roasted vegetables. While a pork-based stock might be deeper, this intensely umami, lighter version should satisfy any ramen craving."

Shio ramen is a more delicate affair of "crystalline clean flavors," Melanie says. It's perfect if you've been gorging on the salty, smoky goodness that is Sumiya's other offerings, but if you want a little more richness, add some of the butter that's served on the side.

Sumiya [South Bay]
2634 Homestead Road, Santa Clara
408-973-0604

Discuss: (Porkless) Chicken Ramen, Chicharron and Yakitori at Sumiya in Santa Clara
Chowdown Report: Sumiya in Santa Clara

Overheard on the San Francisco Boards

"The glossy masa had a satisfying silky mouthfeel and fragrance from the banana leaf. Shreds of white meat chicken were bathed in a thick sauce of ripe, concentrated tomatoes." - Melanie Wong on the banana-leaf-wrapped tamales from Los Mares in Healdsburg

"My wife Jing and I had recently been in the San Gabriel valley looking for these, and this version blew away what we'd found in SG." - Martin Strell on the jianbing guozi, or egg crepes stuffed with fried dough in a spicy sauce, at Everyday Beijing

"I still have a bit of reserve about fully embracing them after their disappearance, but the salmon is so unbelievably moist and delicious that I'm leaning towards total forgiveness." - jillyju, on the recently reopened Jamaican restaurant Yardie Jerk

Caviar at the Kids’ Table

Caviar at the Kids’ Table

Serving guests' tots at dinner parties. READ MORE

Juniper Flavors More Than Gin

Juniper berries are a key flavor component of gin, but they are also great in recipes, like CHOW's Poached Fig, Walnut, and Blue Cheese Tart.

Juniper berries are common in sauerbraten; rainey thinks Alton Brown's recipe is excellent, and says it makes enough marinade for two roasts.

cocktailhour grinds juniper berries with rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, and orange zest and uses the combo as a rub for duck. vincentinparisandrome finds that a mixture of wine, stock, and juniper berries makes a nice sauce for duck or pork.

caiatransplant poaches fish in dry white wine with crushed garlic, whole peppercorns, a bay leaf, and a small handful of whole juniper berries. "The fish comes out wonderfully every time," she says. mickeygee likes this salmon with martini sauce, which incorporates both juniper berries and the ingredients of the cocktail.

Juniper berries are also terrific braised with red or green cabbage or sauerkraut, and in choucroute garnie, the classic French dish of pork cooked in sauerkraut, say hounds. They work well with lamb too, and are a classic pairing with venison. Oh, and look for Scandinavian recipes, recommends eight_inch_pestle, who says, "Scandinavian food is lousy with juniper berries."

Discuss: What can I do with this bag of Juniper Berries, besides garnishing G&T's?

Using Up Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil are a flavor-filled addition to all kinds of dishes. They're a staple in thursday's kitchen for jazzing up quick dinners: "If what we're making seems a little boring," she says, "we throw in some sun-dried tomatoes and voila! A little sharpness, a little sweetness, a little color."

Many hounds use them with pasta. The simplest treatments: Sauté garlic in olive oil and add the sliced tomatoes and chopped parsley, or add them to your favorite pasta sauce. bear makes a more complex dish with Italian sausage, mushrooms, kale, and sun-dried tomatoes with farfalle or penne. The oil they're packed in is great for arrabbiata sauce, says mbfant, so don't toss it.

cookie44 loves braised chicken in sun-dried tomato cream, and lexpatti makes a goat cheese, pesto, and sun-dried tomato spread.

More ideas for sun-dried tomatoes:

• Purée with goat cheese and use to top crostini.
• Add to omelets, frittatas, and scrambled eggs.
• Mix into a compound butter with herbs and citrus zest.
• Add to sandwiches in place of fresh tomatoes.

Discuss: need ideas for using sundried tomatoes in oil

The Million-Dollar Chicken Recipe

Chowhounds are high on a simple Moroccan-style chicken recipe with cumin, cinnamon, dried currants, and prepared salsa that won the million-dollar prize in the Pillsbury Bake-Off.

"I've been making this since it was first published," says cinnamon girl. "I'm embarrassed to say I made it mainly [because] I was indignant that a recipe with a jar of salsa poured over some chicken pieces would win a $1M prize! But the sum of the parts proved to be greater than the individual ingredients." She prefers it made with bone-in thighs, rather than the boneless called for. "Before I put in the liquids," she adds, "I push the chicken to the edges of the pan, put the garlic in the middle and lightly cook, then put in the spices and stir them a bit being careful not [to] burn. It just adds something."

"This is unbelievably good," raves coll, who substituted beer for the water to good effect.

"It's amazing how the salsa cooks down and changes—there are no 'Mexican' notes to this dish like I feared," says Snorkelvik.

Discuss: Million Dollar Moroccan Chicken, Thanks Free Sample Addict aka Tracy L

Foods That Might Kill You, If Stupidity Doesn’t Kill You First

Time magazine has published an exceedingly silly list of the "Top 10 Most Dangerous Foods." Lazy beyond belief and essentially without any kind of organizing principle that might help give it shape or definition, the list includes stuff like rhubarb (pictured at right), because if you eat rhubarb leaves, they're dangerous!; fugu, which kills a tiny handful of people over the course of a given decade; and coffee, because ... well, someone got burned by it at McDonald's, once.

READ MORE

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"[S]tale pita bread makes the best tasting bread crumbs! Something about pita bread crumbs makes the food they are cooked with extra special. Nice texture, and good flavor." - smtucker

"I use mine when brewing iced tea or for punch type things like sangria or homemade margarita mix. I keep extras in the freezer." - just_M on mango pits and the fruit left clinging to them

"I never have a problem EVER if I crack them as I'm running them under cold water, once cracked they can sit in the cold bath until I'm ready for them. If I don't crack them, even if sitting in a cold bath—they are miserable to peel." - lexpatti on peeling hard-boiled eggs

Guava on Sweet Potatoes, Guava in Oatmeal Squares

What do you do with that big block of guava paste? It's traditionally paired with cheese as a cracker or crostini topping—and it pairs with a huge variety of cheeses, "from Manchego to queso blanco to cream cheese," says goodhealthgourmet. "I enjoy a slice with an equal amount of cream cheese and a cold glass of milk, delicious!" says mrbigshotno.1. In this way, it's practically interchangeable with quince paste, known as membrillo in Spanish, says goodhealthgourmet.

But don't relegate guava paste to the cheese plate. "Replace the fruit purée in a fruit muffin recipe with the guava paste," suggests goodhealthgourmet, or "use in place of preserves to glaze meat or fish (e.g. glazed pork tenderloin with guava instead of apricot)." Emme suggests guava as the base for a sweet potato glaze. "Reduce some over heat with butter, bake the sweet potatoes, then slice open, baste the tops and broil 'til golden and gooey," she suggests. Or try making oatmeal squares with guava filling: "make a crust, then spread with guava cubes, then sprinkle with more oat crumble, and bake," says Emme.

Discuss: Guava Paste....what to do?