Monday, December 20, 2010

City by the Day re-vamped!

It's still me. For the new year (a little bit early) I changed my look, but have no fear all else remains the same. I look forward to sharing more food in the near future.

Lazy Sunday - a vacation breakfast

I decided to try out Thomas Keller's method for poaching eggs because I was feeling very patient.

Only partly serious - it turned out to be straightforward and do-able.

I started by filling a medium-sized saucepan with water and brought it to a boil. Once boiling I added two tablespoons of vinegar, as per Mr. Keller's instructions. I brought the water down to a simmer, prepared an ice bath (oh! the excitement for what that will be used for . . .), cracked an egg into a little cup and was ready to poach.
I swirled the water with a wooden spoon (this appears to be the wooden spoon's only role in the egg-poaching process - I was a good recipe-follower and DID NOT use the metal slotted spoon to stir the water, god knows what would have happened) twice (no more. Once again, who knows the catastrophic results if one were to swirl thrice). With the water swirling I gently slid my egg into the water and let it cook for 1 1/2 minutes (sometimes 2 minutes, as needed). Then I gingerly lifted my little egg out of the water and slid it into an ice bath and left them there until they were ready to serve. My only problem with the ice bath is my eggs were a little cold, I'm sure this could be remedied by taking them out of the ice bath and letting them come back up to room temperature. My final qualm (trust me) with poaching is that I find the eggs sometimes retain secret hidden pockets of water that ooze out just when you think you've dried them completely and can safely break the yolk. All in all the eggs were cooked quite nicely, I will just have to work on the temperature and more complete drying. I'll get there.

I served 'em up with some crispy bacon and arugula tossed with olive oil and sea salt.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Salmon with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes and Israeli Couscous

The salmon at the market looked irresistible so off I went. I feel like I often pick my meals the same way I pick my outfits, one item jumps out at me and then I base the rest of the components around it. Thus I had my start - salmon. I considered doing an asian-flavored version with a panko crust but then was struck by a hankering for Mediterranean and decided to run with it.
I started with a bunch of tomatoes. I love tomatoes, but in the winter get frustrated by the hard, pink, mealy orbs parading around as tomatoes and often ignore them completely until the "true/good" fruits reappear in June. So I think I might have found a way around my tomato drought. I took six tomatoes, sliced them in half and tossed them with a bit of salt and pepper, 1/2-1 teaspoon sugar, fresh basil (a few leaves shredded), fresh thyme, three cloves finely chopped garlic and a drizzle of olive oil.
Arrange the tomatoes face down on a baking sheet and put in a 250 degree oven for 3 hours, or until shrunken and caramelized (see below).

To make the couscous toss a cup of Israeli couscous in a pot and toast it over the burner for a few minutes until it turns golden brown. Add in 1 cup chicken stock and 3/4 water. Cover and leave to simmer for 10-15 minutes until done but still al dente (no one likes mushy Israeli couscous). Zest a lemon and toss the finely grated zest in with the couscous, replace lid and let the flavors marry until you are ready to eat.

For the salmon, I used two filets and added salt and pepper and a smidge of olive oil and finished them by adding a few sprigs of thyme on top.
Then I put them in the oven to roast for about 12 minutes (10-15 depending on the thickness of your filets). Et voila!

To finish I laid my salmon filet on a little bed of couscous and topped it with the roasted tomatoes and some kalamata olives for a little Mediterranean kick.
I was inspired by a recipe from Gourmet that you can find here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Frances Restaurant

I made it to Frances. On a Friday evening we decided to head over to Frances restaurant in the Castro to try getting a walk in spot at the bar. We got lucky and even got our choice of seats. We cozied up in the window and hunkered down for what turned about to be a scrumptious, sumptuous, 2.5 hour-long feast.
We ordered their house wine which is cleverly served in a 16 ounce beaker from which the diner can pour as much or as little as they please (not to mention it's $1 an ounce, which is pleasant).
For our starter we went with the chickpea fritters which were accompanied by a tomato aioli. The fritters are rich and the texture unique, but in my opinion, fabulous (think thick polenta). It had a wonderfully light and crispy crust (cornmeal?) with a perfectly smooth interior - the aioli was superfluous.
I am often a salad skeptic, I enjoy them but usually they remain a simple refreshing interlude between the main events. At Frances, I think the salad might have been my favorite dish. A lovely mix of fresh greens with roasted beets, a little bit of citrus and ras el hanout (a traditional North African spice blend). The ras el hanout was interesting but not overpowering creating a FABULOUS dish.
Despite the fact that there were just two of us we decided to go big and had a first course (we didn't want to be gluttonous so we split one between the two of us, of course!).
We ordered the ricotta gnocchi with chanterelles, corn and cherry tomatoes. Another deliciously rich and creamy dish. Basically chanterelles are like my kryptonite and once I see them on a menu I can't help but order them (see below for more of my vice).

As one of our two main dishes we tried the saffron risotto made with carnaroli rice, lobster mushrooms, squash and tomatoes.

Followed by soul food farms chicken with polenta, corn and, you guessed it, chanterelles! I should start by saying the polenta upon which this lucky chicken sat was stellar - melt-in-your-mouth goodness. The chicken was perfectly cooked BUT there was a little bit of stuffing in the chicken (I'm pretty sure it was a stuffing) which was seasoned with tarragon which in this was a bit overwhelming for me and overshadowed the other flavors on the plate.
The food was lovely, but in a way, what was more remarkable was how pleasant the meal was as a whole. The company, the atmosphere, the service, and the leisure with which we were able to enjoy our meal. Thank you, Frances.