Did someone say pastrami?

One benefit to being stuck at home after a lil’ medical setback is that I finally have time to search through the multiple “Need to Sort” photo folders on our server. Some of these are over 2 years old!

*slaps wrist* Naughty girl.

Well for those of you aware of the recent Battlerruu: Pastramiii-uuu!!!! that took place during my inaugural trip to Katz’s Deli in NYC in February, I came upon some old photos of the beef stew and pastrami on rye at Manny’s.

Tell me it’s not about the gravy!

What else will I find in this digital drawer of old photatoes…I mean photos…someone’s hungry…

Smattering from the Big Apple: Part 2

It was sunny but a bit colder, and definitely more windy on our next February morning in Soho, but nothing was going to keep us from a morning lunch on the Lower East Side at Katz’s Deli. That’s right. I said “morning lunch,” not “brunch.” Once you see what we ate, it’ll make more sense.

Katz’s Deli
205 E Houston St

Given that Chicago has its own famous Jewish deli/cafeteria called Manny’s, the comparisons were inevitable. But it’s like Sophie’s choice over here, so I’ll just call out the stand outs.

Pastrami – Katz’s by a long shot.
Beef stew – Manny’s. It’s the gravy.
Lox and Bagel – Manny’s. Good at Katz’s but where’s the onion and tomato?
Knish – Katz’s. I’m no expert on Knishes but the chewy yet crispy texture of the dumpling, and really savory and peppery potato mash of Katz’s was highly memorable. I can’t remember how my last knish from Manny’s tasted, but that could just be my bad.

Looks like it’s a tie in the end. I guess it’ll take some more field research. Oh darn.

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Katz’s Deli in NYC and Manny’s in Chicago – two culinary institutions that I hope stay around forever and forever.

I weep for the pastrami I’ve consumed in the past as it’ll be hard to go back, if at all. Seriously, it’s as good as the legends say. Maybe even better.

If you’ve never had the delight of eating a knish, put it on your to do list. If you like savory mashed potatoes and fried dumplings, run don’t walk.

Oh and a side (or platter) of homemade beef stew doesn’t hurt either especially when you’ve got a chewy bit of knish to sop up all the brown gravy.

I admit it was hard leaving Katz’s without trying some other things like the matzo ball soup, chopped liver, cheesesteak, corned beef, and so much more, but people now were piling in and the love needs to be shared even though you really just want it all to yourself. Plus I think I needed to change into stretch pants.

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New York has the best toy store for those of us who love collecting art/urban vinyl toys. It’s called Toy Tokyo in the East Village and it’s simply put – a mecca of ultimate toy awesomeness. Managed by a staff of genuinely cool dudes like Lauren and David, Toy Tokyo never lets me leave empty handed. This time I scored big time with this Sam Flores vinyl figure. Check it!

I was still reveling in my find – annoying Jordan with the fact that “I got the last one!” – as we walked underneath some magenta awning for a snack.

East Noodle Robatayaki
119 2nd Ave (between 7th St & St Marks Pl)

This is our go-to place to sit down and have a drink and/or snack and revel in the toy purchases we just made down the street. It’s straightforward, super casual, and tasty if you’re looking for some charred and juicy nibbles of meat, veg, and seafood cooked on the robata or Japanese grill. East Noodle also offers steaming bowls of pretty tasty ramen. And for those of us who spent their load on toys, it’s cheap!

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Now it was time to visit my second favorite store in NYC – Forbidden Planet – which is one of the best comic book stores in the nation. It’s a bit of a trek north in Greenwich Village, but walking myriad blocks in NY don’t seem to phase me at all. Everywhere you go there’s something interesting going on…or being cooked…in a truck.

A-Pou’s Taste Truck
This was such a lucky find – Taiwanese potstickers! Turns out the owner Wen Pin won the Vendy Award for “Rookie of the Year” in 2010. These rectangular potstickers were so savory, porky, chewy, and umami-y to the max. Dip it into a little seasoned sriracha on the side and wooooo!

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It was dark outside by the time we headed back down south to call it a night. Of course walking down Broadway is such a bad idea if you’re trying to get home. Uh, hello, shopping! My legs were screaming at me to stop, but I kept telling myself that all I needed was a quick pick-me-up. Espresso? Gelato? Falafel? OMG, tacos!

Tribeca Taco Truck
What another great find! Some swear these guys have THE best tacos. Maybe it was the chilly night, maybe it was my need for a hot snack, maybe it was that my legs were turning to jelly, or maybe it was the Tribeca Taco stuffed with chorizo AND al pastor topped with cilantro, onion, picante rojo and salsa verde!

Jordan and I took our taco babies back to the hotel, plopped down on the bed, opened the steaming styrofoam and went to town. Super flavorful and kicked up with heat, the tacos were warm and soft and perfectly balanced with the richness of the chorizo, the toothsome tenderness of the al pastor, and the tart and refreshing cilantro, onion, and salsa combination.

The end to a perfect day. Adios Nueva York! Te amo!

Smattering from the Big Apple: Part 1

Despite Jordan and I being inducted into the hall of fame of “mutant viruses of 2012” all in the same weekend, we still managed to enrich our food tasting repertoire.

Here’s part one of the smattering of yummies I indulged in whilst my mind endured a feverish delirium…

Joe’s Pizza
7 Carmine Street @ Bleecker

Of course the minute we landed we headed north into Soho and then Greenwich with one thing on our mind – a NY slice. Joe’s is a straightforward joint that is authentic NYC. The pizza tasted friggin’ great after a stuffy plane ride.

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Molly’s Cupcakes
228 Bleecker St

I was dying for something sweet afterwards and just kitty corner to Joe’s was Molly’s Cupcakes from Cupcake Wars fame.

Peanut Butter Nutella – Peanut Butter cake stuffed with Nutella and topped with Nutella buttercream. Uh, yum.

Chocolate Decadence – Chocolate cake filled with chocolate mousse topped with ganache and chocolate curls. Seriously, this is ALL the chocolate you can stuff in a cupcake? Slackers.

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Murray’s on Bleeker
254 Bleecker St

This was a random walk-by then walk-through. I can never resist a deli counter with signs like “cave aged” above it.

I was lucky enough to get a taste of the paleta de bellota which I learned is the front leg versus the hind leg of the famous Spanish black Iberian pigs from which the even more famous jamon iberico is made.

It’s that beautiful cured leg on top of the counter that looks like its been chomped in the middle by Pac-Man.

It definitely wasn’t as melty as jamon iberico which makes sense given the part of the pig, but it had a straightforward, kind of more “working man” type meaty flavor – “working man” of course meaning only slightly lesser upper echelon of cuisine.

We also got some finnochiona which tasted like a kicked up sopressata and some thin slices of tasso ham. Did I mention that this snack was only about a half hour after leaving Molly’s?

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The Spotted Pig
314 W 11th St (between Hudson St & Greenwich St)

Although both our bodies were feeling the non-stop eight hours of walking creeping up on us (and catching up with a vengeance later), we mustered up our last bit of energy…to wait for two hours.

But, here are the dishes that made it worth it!

I thought the creamy Deviled Egg with the surprise of chili oil would be my fave, until I dived into the Chicken Liver on Toast. Damn.

Imagine a slathering of peanut butter and jelly on toast, but substitute the peanut butter for creamy smooth chicken liver, bulgogi-flavor, and a rich caramelized onion marmalade for the jelly. I’ve never had anything like it, and craved it almost immediately after I’d finished the whole thing.

But there was still, one more gastropub delight. Crispy Pig Ear Salad. Super crisp as you bite into them – the ears of course – melty fatty then slightly chewy. Good god.

It was pretty late when we hailed a cab outside of The Pig as Jordan liked to call it, but the place was still jumping when we left. We were wrecked but oh so happy with our food excursions for the day.

What awaits us on day 2?!

Meals from the Pantry: Sunday Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

One pot meals that get better over time are all the rage in our house lately. I’ve gotten in the habit of leisurely cooking a bit pot o’ something in my trusty Le Creuset dutch oven on Sundays, and it’s made dinners during the week (and lunches for the hubby) so convenient and stress-free.

Here’s a recipe I adapted from the iconic Uglesich’s Restaurant Cookbook for a Chicken and Sausage Gumbo. Their version takes two days, so I created my own version that still delivers the lusciousness and comfort of a traditional gumbo, while staying user- and pantry-friendly. If you want to kick it up for an occasion, use rabbit instead of chicken!

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Sunday Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
Adapted from The Uglesich’s Restaurant Cookbook

Ingredients
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup flour
1 medium white onion
2 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch of scallions, chopped (white part mostly)
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tbsp of parsley, chopped
1 dry bay leaf
3/4 tsp dry thyme
1/2 tsp dry marjoram
1/2 tsp dry basil
2 tbsp file powder
1 tbsp cayenne
1 tbsp Cajun spice powder (no salt version)
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cartons (32 oz each) low sodium chicken broth
1/2 lb andouille sausage, sliced into about 1/2″ thick pieces
1/2 lb (half pkg) Hilshire Farm beef smoked sausage, sliced into about 1/2″ thick pieces
2 lbs chicken breast (boneless, skinless)
Worcestershire Sauce
Salt
Black pepper
Hot sauce

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The hardest part of this gumbo is the prep. And the hardest part about the prep is poaching the chicken. And the hardest part of poaching chicken is being patient and trusting it’s getting cooked in the pot even though the water is barely simmering!

Poached Chicken
Recipe adapted from About.com

Ingredients
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
4-5 cups water
1 bay leaf
5 whole black peppercorns
Pinch of salt

Cut each chicken breast in half so they are all about the same size. Place chicken breasts snugly in ideally one layer in the bottom of a heavy-bottomed pot. If you have some pieces on a second layer, I wouldn’t sweat it but just try to layer evenly. Cover chicken with water (make sure all is covered). Add bay leaf, salt, and whole black peppercorns. Stir water just to stop the herbs from floating.

Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to low so that the water is barely at a simmer. Partly covered, simmer for 10-15 minutes. Turn off heat completely, and allow chicken to remain in hot water for 15-20 minutes.

Remove chicken to a bowl until it is lukewarm. Shred the chicken and set aside.

This can be prepared a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate over night.

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Now that you’ve got your chicken done, it’s time to gumbo! I highly recommend that you prep and assemble all the ingredients in a mise en place fashion so that you don’t get bogged down in chopping here and measuring there. Especially for something like a gumbo where a lot goes into a pot, not having to worry about prep while you’re cooking allows you to really focus on the flavor and seasoning which is where it’s all at anyway!

In a large pot or dutch oven, add the oil and set on medium heat.

When the oil is hot, add the flour. Try to sprinkle it evenly over the oil. You’re about to make a roux which is as traditional as traditional gets in Creole Cajun cooking! By using a whisk or a wooden spoon (I like to use both based on how things are progressing), stir the flour into the oil for about 20 to 30 minutes. You’ll see a lovely transformation take place where the flour and oil mixture transforms into a creamy base the color of peanut butter.

Add the onions, celery, green pepper, scallions, garlic and parsley. Saute until veggies soften and are mixed well with the roux.

Add the thyme, basil, bay leaf, cayenne, and about a teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of black pepper. Stir into veggie and roux mixture, then pour in can of crushed tomatoes.

Again continue to incorporate all ingredients well, then add the chicken broth.

Give everything a good stir and then add the shredded chicken, andouille, smoked sausage, file powder, Cajun spice powder, and some healthy dashes of both the Worcestershire sauce, and your favorite Louisiana pepper sauce or Cajun hot sauce.

Jordan being a hot sauce fanatic ensures we always have a good variety, but use what you like and how spicy you make it is up to you!

Bring the gumbo up to a boil, then turn down the heat until you have a gentle simmer.

Simmer on low partially covered for 2 to 2.5 hours, stirring occasionally.

Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper and cayenne and/or hot sauce (as desired).

Serve over cooked rice.

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This is definitely one of those dishes that gets better and better the longer it sits, but you’re going to want to treat yourself to a least a little bowl! Don’t forget you can garnish with a little chopped scallion on top too, and maybe a couple dashes of your favorite hot sauce.

Woo-eee!