Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Unidentified Flying Chickens

After reading an article in NYT about Korean fried chicken, Q became a man obsessed. I'm always up for a food adventure, so we trekked out to Jackson Heights (the Village of Commerce). Tucked away on Roosevelt Ave, is a little portal into THE FUTURE!



Okay, maybe not, but UFC, which stands for Unidentified Flying Chickens, is very mod and futuristic in d├ęcor. This is perhaps a bit misleading because with such technological advances, the food must by prepared by a quick death-ray blast, right? Not exactly. The chicken is cooked to order, and the method is slower than American deep-frying, so the wait for our order was about a half-hour for our soy-garlic wings and drumsticks. If you don't like to wait, then this isn't the place for you. On the other hand, if you're not a crybaby, and you don't mind waiting for tasty, quality food that isn't pre-cooked or waiting under heat lamps, then check it out!




We ordered a small size, which was just perfect for two people (although next time, I'll probably get a large). The skin was paper-thin and crispy with a delicious salty/sweet glaze. The chicken comes with an order of pickled radishes, and I cannot stress enough how friggin awesome that combination is. So, so good. We also ordered some hand-cut fries, but in all the hustle and bustle that comes after a Times review, they got lost. The staff was super-apologetic and even offered us some more chicken, which in retrospect we should have taken, but the fries eventually came. I'll just stick to the bird and the radishes next time. The place seemed to be pretty busy, but I hope that people learn to exercise a little patience and give the place a shot while they work out some kinks. If UFC gets a liquor license and pairs their wings with beer, I just may have to move to Queens.

Village of Commerce

I ventured out to Jackson Heights in Queens on Saturday, a land where suburban retail stores meet faux-tudor archictecture, creating a Village of Commerce--a magical land where one can find anything. Like this action figure from a KB Toy Store:



What's truly great about this figure is not just that the character's name is "The Meat," but that, like all of the other Rocky action figures, it has the name of the bout. Rocky vs. The Meat.

That's how I feel every day. I'm always vs. The Meat.

We popped into Patel Brothers, an Indian Grocery, to see if there were any spices I needed to add to my collection. I was tempted by this "authentic Indian dish."



Oh doughboy. Cuddly in any culture.

Monday, February 12, 2007

HOLY MOLE!

Rick Bayless is one of the creepiest men on PBS, and that's saying a lot. His eyes bore into your soul, as he delivers his cooking tidbits with such a knowing smile that you're positive "tortilla" must be an innuendo. The man knows his Mexican food though. I have yet to buy one of his cookbooks, and, as I previously mentioned, I can't watch his show without showering repeatedly, so I was excited when I found one of his recipes through the safety of the internet. Nothing pervy ever happens in cyberspace.

I was searching for pumpkin something, because pumpkin is one of my all-time comfort foods, and I was yearning for some squashy goodness. Spicy grilled chicken with pumpkin mole sauce caught my eye, and I wasn't going to let to cold weather or my lack of a grill stop me from mole pleasure.



The actual chicken is pretty tasty on it's own, thanks to a chipotle glaze, but the mole is the true star of the dish. The pumpkin flavor is subtle, more an afternote than anything, but the peppers make it flavorful and warm.

Be forewarned, this makes a ton of mole. Delicious, spicy, creamy mole. I used the leftovers as a condiment on turkey burgers the next night, and dipped some sweet potato fries in it. However, this dish had the unfortunate side effect of making me a total creep. I kept moaning the entire night about my creamy mole. Maybe this isn't the dish to make for company.
I am a big fan of cookbooks that not only deliver tasty recipes, but also teach me about the construction of certain dishes, so that I can understand how to modify or expand upon the recipes if necessary. Learning about how certain dishes are created helps me to improvise in the kitchen—something I love doing, but something which usually yields frightening results. Marcus Samuelsson's ode to African cooking, delivers on all accounts. I received this book as a gift from Q's parents, and I tried out the Curried Trout with Coconut-Chili sauce last month. The trout was super-duper easy, so I was looking forward to a bit more of a challenge with my next dish.

No challenge here, but I certainly did learn a lot about a cuisine that I'm not all that familiar with. Whenever I go out for Ethiopian food with my friends, we never have any idea of what we're eating, but it sure is good! I decided to try cooking an Ethiopian-inspired stir-fried beef stew from Samuelsson's book. He refers to it as Tibs Wett, but Meskerem in Manhattan calls it Tibs Wat on their menu, so I'm not sure what the actual spelling is. The beef (I used a lovely piece of hanger steak from my local butcher) is stir-fried with tomatoes, jalapenos, and a berbere spice blend in a spiced clarified butter known as niter kibbeh. I was interested in why the butter needed to be clarified before it was infused with the spices, and Cooking for Engineers has a lovely explanation.



The butter was insanely rich, and even though only ¼ cup was called for (it serves 6-8), I would still probably cut it down. It did add a fantastic flavor... just a flavor that went straight to my ass. Because the stew was stir-fried, the tomatoes and jalapenos don't get that stewey consistency, and instead retain their fresh crispness, which provides a nice counterbalance to the spiciness of the berbere. If you make the spiced butter and berbere mix ahead of time (I didn't), this dish comes together in minutes. It probably took me around a half hour. Not too shabby!

This dish, like a lot of Ethiopian food, is traditionally served with injera, the sourdoughy, spongy flatbread. Since I wasn't feeling ambitious enough to tackle this at the time, I just served the stew with some mashed sweet potatoes. However, Samuelsson does have a rather idiot-proof recipe in his book, so I definitely will try my hand at injera in the coming weeks.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Skip to My Lucali, My Darling

So right now I’m listening to a Bon Appetit podcast about the rise of artisinal pizzas (I know, I know, I’m the biggest dork ever), and they’re mostly concentrating on the recent surge of spiffy pizzas in California. Listening to people talk about pizza at 11:00 in the morning isn’t the best of ideas when you need to concentrate on work, but what can I say? I’m a rebel.

All this talk of pizza made me reminisce on my meal last Friday at Lucali’s (no website, but here’s a nice article listing location). Friday, if you weren’t in lovely New York, was fah-reezing and rainy, so that may explain why the place wasn’t terribly crowded. Q and I squeezed into a tight space (the space is small, so they have the seating jam-packed in there), and looked over at the chalkboard detailing the extensive menu. Pizza or a calzone. We opted for the pizza with pepperoni and fresh garlic. Looking over at other pies made me wish that we ordered fresh basil, but pepperoni and garlic is our staple.

The space is really cute. The “kitchen” is an open space in the back, where you could watch as the owner assembled each pie and shoved it in his wood-fired oven, which he apparently bought from a defunct pizzeria. The relaxed pace and open space (I RHYME!) gave the warm vibe of a home kitchen.



Now, a ton of comparisons have been made between here and DiFara’s, and yes, there are similarities. The crust is super-thin, and after a coating of sauce and imported mozzarella, the pie is finished with a turn of olive oil and grated grana padano, just like DiFara’s. However, the flavor of the crust just isn’t the same, and the mozzarella just seemed ok. The grated cheese on top does add a great flavor that I won’t tire of any time soon. Lucali’s pizza was good. It was very good. It definitely filled a void in Carroll Gardens, and I think residents appreciate that. I don’t think it’s go-out-of-your-way good like DiFara’s, though. I loved the atmosphere, but for a South Brooklyn pie, I’ll stick to Franny’s.

As a sidenote, it’s terrifying to eat pizza with Q.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Big Pig in the City

So, last Saturday, our friend Amanda alerted us to a free pig roast at a local bar. Free? Pork? I’m there. The Cherry Tree is a local bar located on the outer edges of Park Slope. It seemed harmless enough from the outside, and when we strolled in at 9:30 it was downright comfy. They had a nice beer selection including taps from SixPoint and Red Hook, and a great backyard, full of little caverns to sit and commiserate in.

Then it happened. The repetitive beat of the music stopped the beat of my heart. Justin Timberlake was bringing sexy back, and my hips began to spasm out of fear. Apparently this had the same effect on the rest of the clientele. I haven’t seen that much dry-humping since my 6th grade Spring Social. My friends and I made a quick escape to the back of the bar and were greeted by the smell of roasting pork.








Even though I had already eaten, I can always clear some room for free pork. After carving up the little fella, the chef seasoned the meat lightly with a little salt and maybe something else... cayenne, perhaps? I dunno. It could have used a little sauce, but hey, it was free! And it went so well with some SixPoint Sweet Action. After having our fill, we made our epic journey past the bumping and grinding teenagers, and were deposited out on chilly 4th avenue. Our faces were cold, but our bellies were warm.


That’ll do, Pig.