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Incanto or A16? [San Francisco]

Sounds like Incanto is more up our alley. Thanks especially for the tips about noise - being able to hear each other talk is especially important!

Incanto or A16? [San Francisco]

A good friend is coming to town next weekend from the east coast, and I want to make sure I feed her well. I've been having a tough time deciding between Incanto and A16. Any thoughts?

(Right now I have reservations at Incanto, mostly because we're eating at Mamacita with a larger group of folks on Saturday and I thought it would be nice to eat in a different neighborhood.)

So what's the average Chowhound's age?? (Part 2)

29 - and another Sept. 9 birthday!

Jun 07, 2013
Abby0105 in Not About Food

First time in DC, and a week in Virginia - Tips?

You should be able to get good BBQ once you get to Charlottesville. I haven't been back in a year or two, but for a long time the gold standard there was Big Jim's. I think there have been some changes with their location/setup (catering and pre-ordered bag lunch only, I think), but someone on the Mid-Atlantic board can probably help you. I've also heard good things about Belmont BBQ, which is newer.

My Fried Chicken Experiment: Crispy but Bland

True - I dredge in buttermilk, but I don't soak it. Sorry for my lack of clarity. I was trying to draw a distinction between this and other recipes that call for soaking the chicken in buttermilk overnight.

May 21, 2013
Abby0105 in Home Cooking

My Fried Chicken Experiment: Crispy but Bland

Since trying this recipe a year ago, I have never used any other for fried chicken:

It's very similar to the way I've always fried chicken (as taught by my momma), with the addition of a dry rub. I've never brined or soaked in buttermilk.

May 20, 2013
Abby0105 in Home Cooking

*July 2009 COTM* SPICE: Saffron, Ginger, and Vanilla

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Vanilla Glazed Carrots, pg. 66

Mmm...short ribs. A strange choice for a warm, sunny day, but hubby requested short ribs for dinner so I pulled out this recipe.

The prep was very simple - combine seasoned short ribs in a roasting pan with a chopped onion, chopped carrot, and a bay leaf. Mix together a cup of white wine, a cup of balsamic vinegar, half cup of brown sugar, and a tablespoon of chopped garlic. Pour over the ribs. Back in your bowl, mix 2 tsp of tamarind paste with a cup of hot water, and pour that in the roasting pan. Cover with foil and roast for 3-3.5 hours. To create the glaze, Sortun has you pull the ribs out of the pan, then strain and refrigerate the sauce for at least an hour so the fat hardens and can be removed. Bring the sauce to a boil in a large sauté pan, add the ribs, and heat while reducing the sauce for 20-25 minutes.

The glazed carrots are also very straightforward: melt butter in a sauté pan, scrape a vanilla bean into the melting butter, add sliced carrots and half a cup of water, and cook until the carrots are soft and glazed.

I loved how easy these were, because many of the recipes in this book are more labor intensive. It was so hands off that I threw together the roasting pan ingredients in about five minutes, then took a two hour nap! I would definitely make these again. Served the ribs and carrots with crusty bread and a green salad.

The only challenge I had was that the fat in the sauce didn't harden after an hour in the fridge, so I tried to skim the oil off the top with a spoon, got impatient, and just threw all the sauce into the pan with the fat. I think this kept my sauce more sauce-y and less glaze-y. I found an online version of the recipe that suggested letting the sauce chill overnight, so next time I will roast the ribs a day ahead.

May 20, 2013
Abby0105 in Home Cooking

Eat Your Books and home cooking

I use it very similarly to look for ways to use my CSA veggies. I also use it when I have ingredients I need to use before they spoil. I find it mostly useful for these ingredient-based type searches. Over time, I've also played with the bookmarks feature to try to create groups of similar books, usually indicating the time/effort I have found most of a book's recipes to need ("Weeknight" vs. "Weekend projects"). If I'm following along with COTM, I add that book then search for recipes that use the veggies and that appear in COTM. This has really upped my participation in COTM since the CSA steers my food choices most of the year.

Apr 25, 2013
Abby0105 in Home Cooking

April 2012 COTM: Melissa Clark Month, Cook This Now: Spring

Creamy Leek Gratin with Parmesan, pg. 100


To make this, first boil 4-5 medium leeks in salted water for about ten minutes. Drain and pat dry.

To make the sauce, start with a roux. Melt 3 Tbsp butter, then stir in 3 Tbsp flour and cook for a minute. Whisk in 1 cup of warmed half and half or milk (that's pot #3 so far!!), and cook for a couple minutes more. Add salt, pepper, and a pinch each of nutmeg and cayenne. Wisk in 1/2 pound of Gruyere cheese. I thinned mine a bit with milk at this point because it was the consistency of paste.

Put the leeks in a greased 9x13 pan, cut side up. Pour the cheese sauce over the leeks, then sprinkle with parmesan. Bake at 400 F about 40 min or until bubbling and golden.

What a gooey glob of cheese! I admit, my leeks were a bit small, so my 5 probably weren't the two pounds she called for, but I just don't know if that would help. I plopped some goo on a slice of multigrain bread and ate it like an open faced sandwich with a green salad. On the plus side, all you can really taste was the Gruyere, which I love, but for three pots plus a baking dish, I wanted more. Not even curious enough to try again with larger/more leeks.

Apr 19, 2013
Abby0105 in Home Cooking

April 2012 COTM: Melissa Clark Month, Cook This Now: Spring

Pot Roasted Lamb with Meyer Lemon, pg. 103

What a hit! I was a bit skeptical, because hubby and I aren't always big on lemon and I really wasn't sure how we would react to lemon with red meat, but this was yummy.

To make, mash two cloves of garlic into a paste, season a lamb shoulder roast (I used boneless leg of lamb) with salt and pepper, then rub in the paste. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight (mine actually sat for 36 hours or so, no problems there). Bring the lamb to room temperature.

Heat some olive oil in a dutch oven and sear the lamb on all sides. Add the juice of two meyer lemons and enough water to come halfway up the roast. Bring the liquid to a boil.

Transfer to a 325 oven and roast for 45 minutes. Flip the roast, add 3 cloves of minced garlic, and cook 15 more minutes. Stir in the zest of the two lemons you juiced, uncover, and cook 15 more minutes. Take the roast out and let it rest 10 minutes before serving.

That's it! So simple that I was nervous it wouldn't be exciting enough to serve to guests, but it got rave reviews. Would make it again in a heartbeat. Served with a green salad and some roasted potatoes.

Apr 19, 2013
Abby0105 in Home Cooking

Honeymoon in Napa

Another +1 for the mountain wineries. I recently took some friends from out of town to Spring Mountain for a day, and it was a big hit. We visited Pride (one of my favorites, and a great place for a picnic with your Oxbow snacks), Smith-Madrone, and Keenan.

Of those, I always recommend Pride to visitors, because I think their tasting tour is one of the best values around ($10) and the views can't be beat. I really enjoyed Smith-Madrone, though it might not be for everyone. It has a very off-the-grid vibe - the tasting is really just you and the owner in a no-frills storage room filled with wine barrels, so if you're looking for big fancy estates and tasting rooms, this isn't it. But the owner is very interesting to talk to because he's been running the winery for 30+ years. Really enjoyed their Riesling. Keenan was fine, but I think my ho-hum response has more to do with it being the end of the day and less about their wine. I'm curious to try it again before I make a final judgment.

I also really enjoy Behrens Family, which we didn't get to visit on this last trip, and I've heard good things about Terra Valentine, which I haven't tried yet. Especially if you have multiple days in Napa, get off the valley floor and onto a mountain for one of them!

Cookbook of the Month April 2013 AD HOC AT HOME: Soups, Salads, Veggies and Sides

Heirloom Bean and Escarole Soup, pg. 115

LOVED this soup. To make it, there's a bit of pre-work. Namely, cooking beans and making stock. I used the Rancho Gordo Borlotti beans that Keller mentions, and they were awesome. These beans would make any soup taste good. They're pretty large, which made the whole soup feel hearty and substantial.

So once you have your beans cooked and your stock ready to go, you first cook carrots, leeks, and onion on low heat under a parchment lid for 30-35 minutes. Add the stock and a ham hock, and cook for another hour. While that's going, blanch your escarole. Once you're ready to finish the soup, pull out the ham hock, then shred the meat once it's cooled and add it back to the pot. Stir in the beans, season with salt, pepper, and red wine vinegar, then the escarole.

If your beans and stock are done ahead of time, this soup is easy enough to put together, though I have to admit I'm not sold on the parchment lid thing yet. I did not plan well and stayed up until midnight the night before to cook the beans, then started the broth at about 3pm on soup night. Between making the broth and the actual soup and trying to work from home all at the same time, we didn't eat until 10pm! I used a ham shank instead of a ham hock and omitted the leeks, but otherwise followed the recipe.

This is a really good, hearty soup for a cold, rainy night. We had this for dinner with just a loaf of rye soda bread. I would definitely make it again, especially if there's a magical day in the future where I have a freezer full of homemade stock and a pot of beans ready to go!

Apr 04, 2013
Abby0105 in Home Cooking

May 2011 COTM, PLENTY: Capsicums, Brassicas, The Mighty Eggplant

Savoy cabbage and Parmesan rind soup, pg. 104

Parmesan added to a pretty standard cabbage and potato soup, with a little bit of a kick.

To make this soup, start by sautéing an onion in olive oil until soft, but not browned, then add garlic and caraway seeds and cook for another couple of minutes. Add a head of shredded Savoy cabbage (minus 4 leaves that you shred and set aside) and a peeled, diced potato. After another couple of minutes, add broth to cover the vegetables and a parmesan rind, bring to a boil, and simmer for ten minutes. After letting the soup cool a bit, remove the parmesan rind, and "blitz roughly" with an immersion blender. Taste for salt (mine needed a lot!).

For the garnish/topping, sauté the reserved cabbage with 1/2 a green chile for just a few minutes. Serve the soup topped with grated parmesan and this cabbage/chile mixture.

I often make a cabbage and potato soup with green cabbage that gets pureed completely. This version, adding the parmesan and green chile, was just as easy to make and a fun variation. I would make it again. I served it with cabbage rolls, for a very cabbage-y dinner!

This seems to be the same recipe, with the addition of croutons:

Mar 27, 2013
Abby0105 in Home Cooking

May 2011 COTM, PLENTY: Roots, Funny Onions

+1 for this dish, really enjoyed it. I will add that I followed the recipe and added the chiles, garlic, and spices with the carrots, rather than cooking them for a few minutes with the onions first, and didn't notice the rawness. The combination did sit in the frying pan with the heat off for 10-15 minutes while I finished dinner, so maybe this "cooked" the ingredients enough to take the edge off.

Mar 27, 2013
Abby0105 in Home Cooking

April 2012 COTM: Melissa Clark Month, Cook This Now: Spring

Vietnamese Grilled Steak and Cabbage Salad with Peanuts, Mint, and Chiles, p. 114

Like JaneEYB, I liked this dish. We're about cabbaged out from the winter, so I took MC's suggestion in the "What else?" notes to serve the steak over arugula instead. I did make the spicy vinaigrette to lightly dress the arugula, and thought this was a nice combination. I marinated the steak for about an hour, and I thought the flavors were well balanced. The mango would probably be too much for this arugula version, but I can see it being appealing with the cabbage version.

Mar 27, 2013
Abby0105 in Home Cooking

Cookbook of the Month March 2013 EVERY GRAIN OF RICE: Beans and vegetables of all kinds

I made this over the the weekend, served as a side with Xie Laoban's Dan Dan Noodles. Really enjoyed the flavors here, I think fermented black beans are my new favorite secret ingredient!

Question for the group: in both this dish and in the Mapo Tofu (Pock-Marked Old Woman's Tofu), I was surprised the chili paste and oil didn't want to combine. I just had globs of chili sauce in oil. Did others have the same experience? (I'm using Lee Kum Kee Chili Bean Sauce.) Everything looked more uniform once I added the stock, and I enjoyed the end result, so maybe I'm all worked up over nothing?

Mar 26, 2013
Abby0105 in Home Cooking

Cookbook of the Month March 2013 EVERY GRAIN OF RICE: Beans and vegetables of all kinds

+1 for this recipe. Easy to make, simple flavors, really enjoyed it.

I also didn't have much liquid left in the pan, but scraped the ginger plus whatever liquid was clinging to it out of the pan and over the broccoli to serve without thickening with potato flour.

Mar 13, 2013
Abby0105 in Home Cooking

Cookbook of the Month March 2013 EVERY GRAIN OF RICE: Soups, Rice, Noodles, Dumplings, Stocks, Preserves and Other Essentials

Xie laoban's dan dan noodles (Niu rou dan dan mian) - pg. 278

My husband travels to Chengdu for work a few times a year, and the first thing he said when he saw this cookbook was "Are you going to make me Dan Dan Mian?!?" I, on the other hand, know next to nothing about Sichuan food, so this was definitely an experiment.

In this version, you first toast dried Sichuan chills and Sichuan peppercorns in oil, then add ya can, then ground beef and soy sauce. The sauce is made from chili oil, sesame paste, and both light and dark soy sauce (mixed in the bottom of your serving bowl). When you're ready to eat, boil the noodles, add to the sauce, then top with the beef mixture.

The end result was spicy! Right at the edge of what I can tolerate. At first, I thought the soy sauce overwhelmed all the other flavors (besides the spicy), but I acclimated to it after a few bites. I found most of the ingredients at Ranch 99 in Daly City (SF Bay Area), but not the Sichuan chiles or the ya cai. I should have bought the Tianjin preserved vegetable as a substitute, but I had a memory lapse and bought Sichuan preserved vegetable instead, which is just salted mustard greens. I'm curious to make it again with either the ya can or the Tianjin, since she says this is the ingredient that gives the noodles their distinctive taste. For the sichuan chiles, I used the author's suggestion to substitute chiles de arbol.

The good news is, hubby liked it, but he said this was nothing like Dan Dan Noodles he's ever had in Chengdu, which usually come swimming in a red broth, like this:

Are any of Fuchsia Dunlops other Dan Dan Mian recipes this brothy?

Mar 13, 2013
Abby0105 in Home Cooking

February 2013 COTM "Bistro Cooking at Home" Meat; Vegetables; Desserts

Could be, geekmom. I used Pippin apples because that's what I had on hand. They are usually great cooking apples, but certainly juicier than the Granny Smith called for in the recipe, which might have kept them from browning.

Feb 08, 2013
Abby0105 in Home Cooking

February 2013 COTM "Bistro Cooking at Home" Meat; Vegetables; Desserts

Roast Pork with Apples, Onion, and Sage - p. 241

Not impressed. Maybe my hopes were too high. After all, I had this pork roast on the brain for the last two days as it sat brining in the fridge. That's a lot of build-up. I did make a few changes, so I will take some of the blame, but not all.

First, brine the pork loin. In addition to salt and sugar, the brine recipe calls for maple syrup, sage, juniper berries, cloves, and bay leaves. Let the pork loin soak in the brine 24-72 hours before roasting. Here is where I will give the recipe credit: the flavors from the brine really did show up nicely in the cooked pork.

When you're ready to roast, remove the pork from the brine and pat it dry, then leave it to rest for about an hour to come to room temperature. Pour maple syrup over the pork, sprinkle with black pepper, then roast. Simple enough. (Tip: I had a feeling the maple syrup was going to wreak havoc on my roasting pan, so I put some foil down, and I'm sure glad I did! My pork didn't have much fat, so the maple syrup drippings created something the texture of peanut brittle on the foil.)

The apple mixture/topping/sauce (can't figure out what it was supposed to be) is where this really fell apart for me. Cook a chopped onion and four apples (peeled, cored, and quartered) in a sauté pan until the mixture starts to brown. Add Calvados, and ignite (ignition optional). Then add two cups of chicken broth and simmer. When you take the pork out of the oven, remove the rack with the pork, add the apple mixture to the drippings in the pan with fresh sage, and cook until the sauce comes together.

This apple mixture/sauce is where I'm lost. Nothing in my onion/apple mixture ever browned. Everything really just steamed and turned white and mushy (maybe it was crowded, I used my smaller pan). I left out the Calvados, but I just don't think that was a deal breaker here. It was really a miss in texture for me. Also, my pork didn't really have any drippings, so I just finished the sauce in the sauté pan. I couldn't find a center cut, bone-in pork loin, which is what the recipe calls for, so I used a boneless center cut loin, don't know if this would have made much difference.

I won't make this again. There are better pork-and-apple recipes out there.

Feb 08, 2013
Abby0105 in Home Cooking

February 2013 COTM “Bistro Cooking at Home” Savory Gratins, Gallettes, and Tarts; Fish, Bistro Style; Chicken and Other Winged Things

Risotto with Butternut Squash (and Maple Syrup) - p. 135

A pretty standard risotto. I completely forgot to buy maple syrup at the store, so I just left it out, and I didn't miss it. In fact, my dinner companion and I both commented that it might have been a strange addition.

Preparation was pretty standard, as I mentioned. Sauté onions and butternut squash (diced into 1/2 inch cubes) in butter and olive oil until the onions are soft. Add garlic, rosemary, and sherry vinegar (the recipe calls for the maple syrup to be added here also), then rice, then cook the rice by adding a cupful of broth at a time. Sherry is mixed in with the heated broth, which is atypical for me. (Usually I add the wine just after sautéing the rice, before the first cupful of broth.) Once the risotto is done, stir in fresh parsley and grated parmesan.

I served this as a stand-alone dinner, and thought it came out nicely. Again, nothing spectacularly unique, though the sherry and sherry vinegar were a nice touch. I also used a particularly strong batch of homemade vegetable stock, which I think balanced the strong sherry flavors. Not sure how it would have done with a weaker broth.

Part of me is curious about how it would taste with the maple syrup, but not curious enough to make a special trip to the store.

Feb 04, 2013
Abby0105 in Home Cooking

April 2012 COTM: Melissa Clark Month, Cook This Now: Winter

These were a big hit at the office. I found them to be very rich and could only eat very small pieces, so my husband and I saved a few for ourselves, then took the rest into our respective offices. They were a hit at both, and I even had a couple of requests for the recipe. I wish I had cooked the graham cracker layer a bit longer, I would have liked for it to have more crunch.

They seemed to be a bit mysterious to everyone. We both got a lot of "what are these?" comments, but they were mostly followed by "whatever they are, they're delicious!"

Feb 01, 2013
Abby0105 in Home Cooking

April 2012 COTM: Melissa Clark Month, Cook This Now: Winter

Fragrant Lentil Rice Soup with Spinach (Chard) and Crispy Onions - p. 51

I think this might be my new favorite lentil soup.

Didn't have much of a plan for dinner last night, except that I new I had some chard in the fridge. Turns out I had all the ingredients for this soup (with the exception of garlic cloves, which I sadly did without).

The key to this soup is the charred onions. As expected, the 22 minutes of cooking called for weren't nearly enough, but that's ok because I just let them cook while I worked on the soup. She has you cook three sliced onions (mine were huge, so I used 1 1/2) in olive oil and butter until they start to sweat, then turn up to medium high to brown them, then add an extra tablespoon of oil and turn the heat to high to char them a bit. These onions really were the primary flavor in the finished soup, so don't skip them!

The soup was fairly straightforward, though with a different combination of spices than I'm used to. Start by cooking a chopped onion in some olive oil. Add garlic (as I said above, I had to skip the garlic), chopped fresh ginger, a cinnamon stick, a bay leaf, cumin, and allspice and toast that for a minute. Add broth, water, salt, and rice (brown basmati) and bring to a simmer. Let the rice simmer for about ten minutes, then add the red lentils and cook for another thirty. Add baby spinach (I used my chard, which she suggests as a substitute in the What Else? section) and let it wilt. There's also an option to add fresh mint leaves here, but I didn't. The soup is served with a handful of the onions and a lime wedge.

As I said, this is my new favorite lentil soup. Maybe I'm burnt out of my old stand-by, which is heavy on cumin, ginger, and cilantro, because it was the more subtle cinnamon and allspice flavors that I really enjoyed. The addition of the rice makes it hearty enough for supper, but I bet you could leave out the rice and serve it as a first course. I tasted it before adding the lime juice and liked it, but the lime juice really did take it to the next level. Will definitely be making this again, especially since it uses ingredients I tend to have on hand (well, I don't always have limes, but I was sure glad I had some last night!).

Edited to add: this recipe is available in the google books version:

Feb 01, 2013
Abby0105 in Home Cooking

December 2012 COTM: How To Eat -- Basics, Etc; Cooking In Advance; One and Two; Fast Food

This dish didn't catch my eye when I was looking for recipes to try, but your description changed my mind. Though the chicken recipe was easy enough, I think still spent almost two hours prepping dinner. (I spent all the "down" time on sides: roasted beets, sautéed beet greens, and boiled new potatoes.) My chicken thighs released a lot of liquid, so reducing the sauce took a while. When I make it again, I will probably leave the sauce a bit thinner. By the time I stirred in the mascarpone, mine was a little gloppy, but tasted delicious!

Dec 18, 2012
Abby0105 in Home Cooking

Help me try a new Thanksgiving side...

I brought this butternut squash dish to my family's Thanksgiving a couple of years ago, and it was such a big hit that it has officially replaced the candied yams. I think part of the reason we enjoy it so much is that so many of our standards are sweet, it's nice to throw a savory dish into the mix.

Also, Martha Stewart has a "Colonial American Thanksgiving" menu on her website that supports the sweet potato spoon bread and succotash ideas. I think I might try the red flannel hash if I can get my hands on some fresh beets.

Nov 14, 2012
Abby0105 in Home Cooking

Sonoma/Napa winery choices

Papapietro Perry is one of my favorite Pinot producers. Definitely go there.

Nov 06, 2012
Abby0105 in Wine

October 2102 COTM: 660 Curries -- Legume Curries, Vegetable Curries

Cabbage and cauliflower in a spicy tomato-mint sauce, pg 468

This dish didn't jump out at me when I first looked through the book, but I made this as part of my use-all-the-veggies-in-the-fridge mission. To make the dish, cook 1 small red onion and 6 dried red Thai or cayenne chiles in canola oil for 5 minutes or so, then add a can of diced tomatoes, salt, and turmeric. Let the tomato mixture cook for a couple of minutes, add the cauliflower and cabbage, then cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir in fresh mint, cilantro, and curry leaves, and you’re done!

I used fresh tomatoes instead of canned, as well as some fresh Hungarian carrot peppers in place of the of the dried chiles. I think I overdid it on the peppers, because the recipe said this dish wasn't very spicy, but mine certainly was! That's what I get for blindly swapping hot pepper varieties I guess. In fact, it was so spicy I couldn't taste the mint or cilantro, which was kind of a bummer.

I made this with saag paneer, but that ended up being two saucy dishes that didn't go very well together so I ate it more as two courses than one meal. I think this would make a great side dish next to a dryer meat dish like tandoori chicken. I also wish I had made rice instead of serving with naan.

Hubby isn't usually big on cabbage or cauliflower (I made this while he was out of town), but I would make this again if I ended up with both vegetables in my CSA box.

Oct 17, 2012
Abby0105 in Home Cooking

October 2012 COTM: 660 Curries -- Beef, Lamb, and Pork Curries; Fish and Seafood Curries; Paneer Curries

I made a version of this with ingredients I had on hand plus some paneer I picked up on the way home. I used a combination of chard, beet greens, and turnip greens, omitted the ginger (thought I had some, was wrong), and used a commercial garam masala blend.

I was pleased with how easy this was. I fried the paneer cubes while I chopped the veggies for this and for the other dish I made, Cabbage and cauliflower in a spicy tomato-mint sauce. Once the paneer was fried, I found it easy to cook the two dishes side by side. All together, I spent about 45 minutes cooking.

I will definitely be making this again, since I nearly always have greens around and this is one of my favorite Indian dishes. Learnings for next time: don't skip the ginger and cut the paneer into smaller cubes (I thought one-inch cubes were a bit large). And of course, prep my own curry blends in advance!

Oct 17, 2012
Abby0105 in Home Cooking

Nor Cal tips

One suggestion to smooth out your itinerary is to head to Oxbow in the morning and put together a picnic to take with you.

Hall and James Cole are both on your way back to downtown Napa and take walk-ins. Might be a good choice for your third winery on your Napa day.

Need a Recipe for a Coffee Cake to Travel

This chocolate bundt cake has been on my list of recipes to try. She talks specifically about how well it travels, so it might do, though it's not a traditional coffee cake.

May 23, 2012
Abby0105 in Home Cooking