Monday, May 21, 2012

Spring Herbed Chicken

Peas are sprouting, blueberries and black raspberries are setting fruit, and garlic are knee-high, but still the only harvestables from my backyard garden are two strawberries and lots of herbs.  So, herbs it is.  Superbly featured in, oh, Spring Chicken!
Serves 4-6

3 lbs chicken legs cut into thighs and drumsticks
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 large bunch rosemary, roughly chopped
1 large bunch thyme, roughly chopped
1 T coarse sea salt
zest of 1lemon
juice of 1 lemon
1 T mustard
1 T honey
1/4 cup olive oil

Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a large, strong plastic bag.  Put in chicken pieces and turn with hands to coat.  Refrigerate (I put it into a large bowl in case of leaks) for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours, turning occasionally.  Remove from fridge about 30 minutes before you are ready to cook, to take the chill off.  Preheat oven to 425.  Place chicken pieces in a single layer in a large baking pan.  Pour remaining sauce over.  Bake, uncovered, for one hour.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Drinks and Dessert

Back Bar, in Union Square, was serving tequila mint juleps in honor of Cinco de Mayo last weekend. They were so good, Dave decided to try his own. We’re not sure exactly what the Back Bar recipe is, but here’s Dave’s!

Mezcal Mint Juleps

In the bottom of a mint julep cup, place 10 mint leaves.

Add a splash of water and 1 T agave syrup. Muddle lightly. Fill cup halfway with crushed ice. Pour in 2 oz. mescal and stir well. Fill the rest of the way with crushed ice. Garnish with spanked mint (to release the oils while leaving the mint looking beautiful lay a spring in one flat hand. Clap the other hand on top of it once).

Drink that while you cook something delicious like soft shell crabs on a bed of arugula with roasted potatoes (see our last post), and end the meal with rhubarb-blueberry-chocolate hand tarts and everyone will end the day happy!

Rhubarb-Blueberry-Chocolate Hand Tarts with red wine sauce

2 cups frozen or fresh rhubarb (in 1” pieces)
¼ cup sugar

2 cups frozen blueberries

2 cups flour
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/3 cup ice-cold water

½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips

2 ¼ cups red wine
½ cup sugar

1. Make the rhubarb sauce. Put rhubarb and sugar in a small saucepan and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently. It will become a thick saucey mush.

2. Meanwhile, make a pie crust. Put flour in bowl. Slice COLD butter into ¼ inch slices and put in with flour. Using two knives, cut butter into flour, crossing the knives in a scissor-like fashion until the butter is in little baby-fingernail-sized pieces. Then, blend together with hands, gathering small amounts in hands and rubbing quickly between flattened palms, touching as little as possible, until roughly blended. Add in ice-water and toss quickly with tips of fingers. Lay out a clean dish towel. Dust with flour. Dump dough into center of dish towel. Gather edges and use towel to squeeze into a ball, then set on counter, still in towel, and flatten with palm of hand. Open towel flat, dust rolling pin with flour, and roll to about 1/8-¼” thickness. Cut into 8 pieces.

3. In the center of each piece, place a dollop of rhubarb sauce, ¼ cup blueberries, and on top about 10 dark chocolate chips. fold edges of crust in and up about ½-1”, leaving the center of the tart open. Place on a lightly oiled baking pan and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes, until crust is beginning to brown and center is bubbling. Cool to room temperature before eating.

4. Meanwhile, put wine and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let cook low for about 45 minutes. Let cool. The red wine sauce will thicken as it cools. Drizzle over tarts just before serving.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Soft Shell Crabs and Roasted Potatoes

May, which is usually still early Spring, is a big tease for local, seasonal cooking: the gardens are bursting with sprouting things, while actually ready for harvest are mint, baby lettuces, chives, thyme, and rosemary. And at the same time, most winter farmers’ markets are winding down, and summer ones don’t open up again until June.  However, the few more substantial things that really are in season and available now are among the few things that really can’t be gotten any other time of year and are definitely not to be missed: fiddleheads, and soft shell crabs! Soft shell crabs are just-molted blue crabs. In addition to being delicious as blue crabs always are, when their shells are soft you can eat the whole thing: no cracking and picking and sucking, just mouthfuls of extra briny delight. Chesapeake Bay soft shells are the most famous, but blue crabs are native to the Atlantic waters from Texas to Maine, with Rhode Island offering an especially good New England source. And, believe it or not, potatoes from last season are still available! At this point, the skins on some of them are getting a little wrinkly and the eyes are starting to sprout, but that’s the perfect excuse for making peeled roasted potatoes. The outer layer of skin browns with a little crunch, while the center melts into creamy softness. We love the selection of purple, pink, yellow, and white-fleshed potatoes available at the winter farmers’ market this year. 

Soft Shell Crabs on a Bed of Baby Arugula

Serves 4

Dressed Baby Arugula
1 bunch baby arugula
2 tsp. lemon juice
3 tsp. olive oil
½ tsp. mustard
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
Mix together dressing ingredients. Toss with arugula. Arrange on four plates.

Soft Shell Crabs
2 T butter
2 T olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
4 soft shell crabs
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground pepper
½ bunch cilantro, chopped (~ ½ cup)
1 lemon
One medium (10-inch) skillet fits two crabs; to serve four people piping hot at once, use two medium skillets or one large.
In each skillet, heat 1 T butter and 1 T olive oil. Stir in 1 clove minced or pressed garlic into each and sauté 1 min. Meanwhile, salt and pepper crabs on both sides. Set two crabs in each pan. Sauté over medium heat, for five minutes on each side. Place each crab over dressed arugula. Drizzle pan juices over each crab. Top with chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lemon juice. 

Roasted Peeled Potatoes
1 large or 3-4 small potatoes per person.  (Use a variety of kinds, and especially a variety of colors!)
8-12 shallots
2 T olive oil
1 tsp. coarse sea salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
Remove eyes and peel and rinse potatoes. If using large potatoes, cut into 2-3” chunks. Peel shallots.  Put potatoes and shallots in a bowl and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then spread them out on a cookie sheet or roasting pan. Roast at 400 for about an hour, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


For a few months many years ago, I lived in a Sikh Ashram. The two strongest memories I have of it are the 4am yoga and the constantly brewing Chai. The delicious aroma of the Chai was even enough to overpower the competing not so delicious smell of our daily sweating. And homemade chai is one of those things that smells amazing and tastes even better than it smells. Brew a big batch, slowly, on an evening or day when you’re home, then throw extra in the fridge and reheat at will over the course of a week.

Chai for 6

8 cups water
3 T or 3 bags of black tea leaves
1 tsp whole pepper corns
1 T whole cardamom pods
1 stick cinnamon
2 tsp. whole cloves
¼-cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
Put all ingredients into a large pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a very low simmer and cook for at least 30 minutes and up to 90 minutes. Just before serving, turn off and add ½ cup milk. Put a strainer over cups and pour through the strainer.

You can also keep the milk out and scoop out tea one cup at a time, replenishing with water as you do so and adding more spices and tea and sugar every time you get below ½ full…and keep the pot going until Spring turns warm again!