Food for Thought 2/23 – 2/27

Tomorrow night happens to be Fat Tuesday, and lucky for us, the New Orleans folks won’t be the only ones celebrating Mardis Gras this year!

Mardis Gras Celebrations

  • Mara’s Homemade over in the East Village has whipped up a special Mardis Gras menu just for Fat Tuesday. Although Mara’s serves Cajun food all year round, I think you’ll be more than satisfied with their Mardis Gras selection. And for a limited time only they will be serving New Orleans finest Abita beer on tap!
  • Fat Tuesday’s at Acme Bar & Grill– At Acme Bar & Grill Fat Tuesday lives on forever. With top notch Cajun cuisine, ABG is sure to round up an interesting local crowd for their Fat Tuesday parties, which are held the first Tuesday every month. I can attest to their food, but not their DJ.

For more Mardis Gras dinner celebrations check out about.com‘s list of highlighted events.

The Long Island Fare

  • After living in Manhattan for the last three years, I forgot all about the good Long Island Fare. Stay tuned for posts on Plainview’s infamous Coffee Shop and Martoni’s.

Brunch

  • I just can’t keep avoiding this post, so keep an eye out for my brunch recommendations.
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Lasagna at its Best

Lasagna is the perfect comfort food for the weather we’ve been experiencing over the last few weeks. After coming home from work, there’s nothing I savor more on a rainy or cold afternoon than a nice warm meal. And the combination of meat, cheese, pasta, and veggies really hits the spot for me.

After scouring the internet for the perfect lasagna recipe, one in particular stood out from the rest. And the winning recipe is (drumroll please) Barefoot Contessa’s Turkey Lasagna. Ina Garten, also known as the Barefoot Contessa, is probably the last Food Network chef I began watching, but also happens to be my favorite. Although her show might not seem as exciting as say an Iron Chef America or Emeril, there’s something comforting about the way she cooks that inspires me to get in the kitchen. I think Ina is so appealing to me because she is the most real of all the Food Network chefs, less of a celebrity and more of a true cook who is passionate about entertaining her guests.

In any case, her Turkey Lasagna recipe was not only simple but turned out to be the most delicious lasagna I’ve ever had. Anyone can write a recipe, but Ina was able to create a guide that actually translated ingredients into their most natural form; an incredible Turkey Lasagna. And though Ina’s original recipe appeared to contain the perfect balance of meat and cheese, I just needed to add my own little twist.

Since I try and cut out additional calories or fat when I can, I omitted the goat cheese and used 1lb of part skim ricotta and only 3/4 lb of shredded low fat mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese (1/2 in the dish, 1/4 on top). I also added 2 packages of frozen spinach which was a nice addition. Since the sauce is so rich, it doesn’t necessarily need all of the cheese the recipe calls for. Unfortunately I couldn’t find turkey sausage in my local supermarket so I bought ground turkey meat and added a few spices (fennel, caraway, cumin, garlic, salt, pepper & chili flakes) so that it would taste similar to sausage. I also added 4 oz of diced turkey bacon to the mix to give it a slight smoky flavor. I must admit that it really enhanced the flavor of the turkey. I highly recommend Ina’s recipe with these revisions if you prefer a healthier lasagna.

Lasagna on Foodista

And though the lasagna was phenomenal, it was even more satisfying knowing that each portion (9 total) only cost $2.50! You really can’t beat that. For those of you who live in Murray Hill and shop at Todaro’s, you’ll notice that they sell a portion of their Lasagna for around $7.00. This Turkey Lasagna is perfect for freezing, just make sure you wrap your portions twice to prevent freezer burn!

Price Breakdown of Ingredients:

  • 20 oz Ground Turkey: $4.99
  • 2 Packages of Frozen Chopped Spinach: $2.58
  • 1/2 lb Low Fat Mozzarella Cheese: $2.99 (From Wholesale Cheese Store in E. Village)
  • 1/2 lb Grated Parmesan Cheese: $3.99 (also from Cheese Store)
  • Small Onion: .50
  • Garlic: .75
  • 28 oz Can Crushed Tomatoes: $1.50 (on special)
  • 6 oz Can Tomato Paste: .89
  • 1 lb Fresh Pasta: $3.99 (can also use dried pasta)

GRAND TOTAL = $22.18

Portions: 9 total, $2.46 each

More Food Events, for $50

FOUNDED ON OYSTER SHELLS
The New Amsterdam Market is holding an artisanal bazaar this Saturday, February 21st. You must be thinking, what is that? I was too… Apparently the NAM is trying to push the whole environmentally and socially responsible food production movement on us. I mean if oysters are involved, why not?

The Founded on Oyster Shells event is being considered a fundraiser to keep these “artisinal bazaars” going once a month. F/ocus Rental Gallery is hosting the event in their beautiful ground floor loft in Hells Kitchen. A $50 ticket includes 7 Local oysters, generous servings of fish chowder, brewer’s bread and butter, fresh pickles and kraut, and locally brewed beer. Visit Brown Paper for tickets.


MARDIS GRAS BEER FEAST
Back Forty, which opened in late October by Peter Hoffman of Savoy, will be bringing Fat Tuesday to NYC with their Mardis Gras Beer Feast. In celebration of Sixpoint Brewery’s fifth anniversary, this “casual restaurant and bar” will be throwing a birthday party in celebration. Back Forty will be serving up heaping platters of Cajun favorites paired with top cask ales next Tuesday, Februrary 24th. For $50 a head, you can enjoy unlimited New Orleans goodness with strangers at fitting communal tables giving you the ultimate Mardis Gras experience.

Pancake Month at Clinton Street Baking Co.

As I’d mentioned yesterday, I headed over to Clinton Street Baking Co. to try some of their infamous pancakes since February is Pancake Month in New York. For the ill informed, Clinton St. is rotating a delicious assortment of cleverly designed pancakes every few week days. Unfortunately these inventive pancakes are only served during the week, while their equally tasty blueberry pancakes are served over the weekend (or as an alternative to the special on weekdays).

Out of any day this month I chose yesterday (Feb. 17th) not only because I was available, but because they were serving Crunchy Banana Pancakes accompanied by a Cinnamon-Chili-Chocolate Sauce. I could easily forgo the bananas, but the cinnamon-chili-chocolate sauce is just something I couldn’t live without trying. As of late, I’ve been experimenting quite a bit with the composition of brownies and I’ve been toying with the idea of incorporating a few bars of chili infused chocolate into the brownie mix. I figured a taste of the cinnamon-chili-chocolate sauce would be a perfect test trial.

Since Clinton St. does not take reservations, I anticipated a small wait. But, when my friend Diana and I arrived at 7:30pm, there were still a few empty tables seemingly begging for customers to devour pancakes on. Or maybe that was just my stomach talking? We were seated almost immediately and knew exactly what we wanted. I perused the menu, just for fun, and noticed that they offer a few weekly specials:

  • Burger & A Beer for $10 (Monday – Friday, 6-8pm)
  • 1/2 Price Bottles of Wine on Tuesdays (WARNING, the wine ranges from $38-$60)

After deciding that the wine was a little too pricey to accompany my pancakes, I ordered a Brooklyn Lager and the Crunchy Banana Pancakes. Since Diana isn’t a big fan of bananas, she stuck with their Wild Maine Blueberry Pancakes with Maple Butter.

After ordering the two of us could barely contain ourselves. We had planned our pancake outing nearly a month ago and our mouths were watering in anticipation of the fluffy goodness that was merely minutes away. As we eyed the other tables, hoping to get a peak of what we just ordered, we noticed that the other tables had been served miniature biscuits. Hmm, we thought; why didn’t we get these? We immediately tracked down the waitress and politely asked for them along with some of their Raspberry (and possibly Lemon) jam.

A few minutes later we were presented with four warm buttery miniature biscuits. Though they didn’t truly need any condiments, we figured we’d just smother them anyway. And what a brilliant idea that was! As soon as we had devoured the biscuits, we began eating the jam alone. It really was just that tasty. Luckily, before we made ourselves sick, our pancakes gloriously made their way to the table. The three fluffy pillows on each plate seemingly floated themselves right in front of us, all dressed up for the occassion; one was adorned in blueberries, while the other was covered in chocolate sauce and fried bananas.

I was so excited when they arrived I could barely eat them. I started cutting them up, not sure which section I should choose for my first bite. Finally, I was able to spear a forkful of the pancake, banana, chocolate sauce, and maple butter and immediately plunged it into my mouth. I was speechless. I then proceeded to shove forkful after forkful of pancake goodness into the endless pit of my stomach. After about five consecutive bites I came up for air, and then a feeling of euphoria came over me. All I could think was YUM!

I mean just look at these babies! They taste even better than they appear and I know you all want to get in on it. Tonight is the last night Clinton St. will be serving the Crunchy Banana Pancakes with Cinnamon-Chili-Chocolate Sauce but you pretty much get the Blueberry Pancakes any ol’ time. Though I must admit the Blueberry were a little too sweet for my tastebuds. But Diana devoured them all in one sitting, so to each their own.

For a list of Clinton St.’s daily pancake specials check their menu here. Get them while they last!

Also, be sure to grab a to-go bag of mini scones on your way out. Unfortunately we weren’t aware of that little perk : (. Silly us, we thought those paper bags were for special people.

CLINTON STREET BAKING CO. & RESTAURANT
4 CLINTON STREET (BETWEEN E. HOUSTON & STANTON)

Food for Thought 2/17 – 2/20

Oh so many things to discuss this week! I’m sorry I have neglected to post the last few days but it’s been crazy at work! I won’t bother you with all that so I’ll just cut to the lastest food news of the week…

Food Buzz

  • Did someone say Bacon Cups? Check out these beautifully designed and edible bacon cups that you can actually make yourself!
  • Deep Fried S’more On A Stick, Sloppy Joe on a Krispy Kreme, Deep Fried Peanut Butter-Covered Brownie Wrapped in Cookie Dough. Apparently THIS IS WHY YOU’RE FAT.

Events

  • For those of you that didn’t know, it happens to be PANCAKE MONTH at Clinton Street Baking Company. Tonight I will be trying out the crunchy banana pancakes with cinnamon-chili-chocolate sauce. Tomorrow I’ll have all the deets on making reservations, the wait time, and most importantly the pancakes!
  • Fourth Wall Restaurants is hosting their 44th Annual Wine Week that runs from March 9th through March 13th. So if you have an expense account and can handle yourself after a few drinks over lunch, head over to Park Avenue Winter, Smith & Wollensky’s, Quality Meats, Post House, or Maloney & Porcelli for a variety of wine specials and flights.
  • Lasagna Bake Off!!! Sunday night I was invited to a lasagna bake off and I want to take the cake. I’d like to try out a non-traditional recipe. Email me if you have any good suggestions!

Recipes

  • Speaking of Lasagna, I made a FABULOUS batch last night that only cost me $23! One entire tray feeds 9 people, which breaks out to about $2.56 per serving. Hopefully you’ll read more on this recipe, courtesy of Ina Garten, later today.

Recession Roast Chicken

Roast Chicken is an easy and inexpensive meal perfect for any weeknight dinner. Its versatile nature allows you to spice up your chicken any way you like. And as you might have seen last night on Top Chef, Roast Chicken isn’t only for us paupers. Even Fabio and Lidia Bastianich enjoy cooking and eating a mean Roast Chicken.

I decided to make a classic roast chicken so that I could use part of the chicken for other meals I intended to eat this week. I believe this picture proves that there are very few ingredients and steps involved in making a delicious and succulent roast chicken. For this recipe, I used about four pounds of chicken, which is twice the amount that I would normally cook, so that I could use the chicken for a chili recipe. Though, it’s not a bad idea to throw in additional chicken, as you can use it for chicken salad, to throw in a soup, or even to just eat over mixed greens. I prefer to cook larger quantities at once and then either use the leftovers for other dishes or pop them in the freezer.

RECESSION ROAST CHICKEN

Ingredients (Total Cost $7-10 for 3 servings)

  • 2 lbs split chicken (bone-in)
  • 1-2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 red potato, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 lemon
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Fresh Rosemary, chopped

Preparations

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Roughly chop or dice all of your vegetables and the rosemary.
  2. Rinse your chicken with water, making sure to clean underneath the skin and then dry off with paper towels.
  3. Rub the chicken with a thin layer of Olive Oil, just enough to coat on both sides. Then sprinkle a fair amount of salt and pepper on either side and place the chicken in your baking dish.
  4. Roll the lemon vertically on your counter (to centralize the juices), cut it in half and then squeeze the lemon over the chicken. After the lemon has been juiced, slice the lemon in 6 small pieces.
  5. Place the cut lemon slices and a few tablesoons of freshly chopped rosemary underneath the skin of the chicken on each piece.
  6. Lastly, distribute the chopped pieces of onion, potato, and carrot on the top and sides of the chicken. Feel free to sprinkle on some additional rosemary, salt, and pepper. You may also pour a small amount of chicken broth at the bottom of the pan which will make your chicken more tender.
  7. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake in the oven COVERED for 45 minutes.
  8. After the initial 45 minutes, uncover the chicken and bake for another 30 minutes.
  9. After the 30 minute period your chicken should be juicy and flavorful on the inside and perfectly crisp on the outside. Feel free to serve your chicken with any green vegetable and enjoy!

Food for Thought 2/9 – 2/13

Due to an excessive few weeks of dining out, I decided to give it a rest. That’s not to say I haven’t eaten this week, because we all know that would be a complete farce. So, I’m going to back track a bit and cover some of the restaurants I didn’t get to last week. I’ll also cover a few recession friendly recipes for the nights you decide you just can’t order in again.

FOODBUZZ

  • The newly opened Baoguette is on my list of to-do’s. Though this eatery is uncharacteristic of Murray Hill, I think it’s arrival was greated with open arms.
  • Inoteca makes its way to Murray Hill in the old Bar Milano space. What a great new addition to the neighborhood.
  • The Choice Eats Tasting Event is nearly here! Their 2nd annual event is being hosted at the 69th Armory on March 31st. Buy your tickets here to taste an eclectic array of the Village finest.

BRUNCH

  • Le Petit Abeille, Almond, and The Barking Dog. What we can do with and without…

DINNER

  • Kampuchea is a MUST post for this week. Stay tuned for elaborate pictures.

RECIPES

  • Recession Roast Chicken and Make Your Own Pizza will be light on the wallet and easy to whip up on any week night.