New York was doing its best to be jolly when I was in Manhattan recently for a friend’s wedding. It’s difficult to get New Yorkers down; they have been through a lot and have managed to keep their spirits up despite the many challenges they have had to collectively face. Everyone seemed to be excited about Barrack Obama’s inauguration; however there was no concealing the number of Rental Space for sale.
It’s an ill wind as they say and for anyone who had the mind to shop, there’s tremendous value to be had (that’s if you really need it!) and the added feel good factor of doing your bit for the beleaguered economy.
Sales assistants in fear of losing their jobs from week to week thank you sincerely for your business. The restaurants too are definitely feeling the pinch although my cooking teacher friends tell me there is an increased demand for basic skills classes as more and more people decide to eat in and need the skills to make their own lunches to feed themselves and entertain their pals.
For those of us who love our food, New York is full of gems and there is solace in knowing that restaurants, where one had to beg for a table a couple of months ago are now very glad and grateful for the business in restaurants.
New York restaurant chefs also see themselves as providers not just of comfort food but of an injection of good cheer in the midst of the financial gloom and widespread redundancies.
Some of the newest gems are tiny, I particularly enjoyed Porchetta on the lower East side, chef owner Sara Jenkins cooks heritage pork from Hampshire hogs in the tiniest of spaces. It is juicy and succulent inside and has a bubbly, crisp crackling on the outside. There’s just enough room by the marble topped counter for about six people to queue. The pork is rubbed with thyme, sage, rosemary, garlic and sea salt before being roasted, long and slowly. Punters can choose from the eight item menu. The pork is chopped and served in a crusty roll with a choice of different greens. The quintessential New York lunch is then wrapped in butchers brown paper to take out.. A ‘side’ of roast potatoes with crunchy burnt bits is a must, one bite and you would think you were in an old Taverna in Florence or Rome. It was just drop-dead delicious and a brilliant concept.
Just around the corner was another little cubby hole, Abaco Braśserie which sells powerful freshly roasted coffee, sublime hot chocolate and a selection of three or four cookies, again brilliant in its simplicity. The woman chef offers three or four choices from the ingredients she finds at the Farmers Market that morning, a soup, frittata, a salad…
Everyone is talking about local food, market ingredients and flocking to neighbourhood places offering good value for money.
Another well kept secret is the best hamburger joint in Manhattan; it’s in the most unlikely venue. Just inside the main entrance to the Parker Meridian hotel,, behind a heavy velvet curtain one finds the excellent aptly named Burger Joint. The choices are on a blackboard, you queue to give your order and wait your turn for a formica topped table – it was one of the best burgers I have ever eaten and believe me I am deeply wary of hamburger joints.
Any of Mario Batali’s restaurants are worth making a beeline for, including Lupa, Babbo, Esca, Casa Mono, Del Posto, Otto, and The Spotted Pig –, you can eat at the counter if you can’t get a table – even in this climate they are all still pretty busy. His food is mostly Italian and is honest and earthy. This is the place to go if you enjoy slow cooked dishes and lots of home cured charcuterie. All cutting edge chefs are doing their own curing and preserving – wonderful to see these skills being passed on. Mario Batali’s books are available from Amazon. www.amazon.com For sushi lovers the best is to be had at Sushi Yasuda on 204E 43rd Street. For those who want to combine some culture with shopping don’t miss The Museum of Modern Art – MOMA – and drop into the Bar at the Modern for lunch or a fantastic cocktail.
For another very New York lunch go to Momo Fuko Noodle bar in the East Village or the New Momo Fuko Kai – I so love David Chang’s food – great place to sample the new small plate craze.
If you are in New York over the weekend, don’t miss the Union Square Farmers Market on Saturday morning. Wrap up well and go early, it gives you a glimpse into what all the coolest New Yorkers are eating straight from the farms in upstate New York. Then go to Ino on Bedford and order a truffled egg toast for breakfast.
Now is the time to go to some top places that have been out of reach up to now, Per Se, voted number one for food and service by Zagats Guide, would be a good place to start. Daniel, Four Seasons and Blue Hill are all exceptional. Lunch is terrific value – same quality and food for a fraction of the price.
For great tapas try Tia Pol – there’s so much more, never enough meal times but you can pick up a picnic from of the great food shops, Dean & Deluca and Zabar’s. Last time I bought a sublime collection of treats from upstairs in the Time Warner building to eat on the plane – I was the envy of everyone around me. Here are some treats that I have enjoyed from Mario Batali’s book Molto Italiano to cheer us up on these frosty winter days.
Look out for Mario’s fantastic TV series ‘Spain on the Road Again’ with Gwyneth Paltrow www.spainontheroadagain.com.
Porchetta 110E 7th Street, New York 00 1 212 7772151
Contact details for Mario Batali’s restaurants www.mariobatali.com
Daniel 60E 65th Street, New York. www.danielnyc.com
Four Seasons 99E 52 Street (Park Avenue) www.fourseasonsrestaurant.com
Blue Hill 75 Washington Pl, New York. www.bluehillfarm.com
Mario Batali – Shrimp from the Devil Priest
Gamberoni fra Diavolo
This “guido” red sauce restaurant dish has probably never been served anywhere in Italy, but I have tasted thousands of versions in Little Italys all across the United States. Usually it is served with the option of “linguine, fettucine, bucatini, or capellini,” but I like it as a main course, after a light antipasto and a plate of spaghetti with bottarga. Italians serve most of their shellfish head and shell on, but you could use peeled shrimp here as well.
Makes 4 servings
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
4 jalapenos, seeded and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes
2 cups basic tomato sauce
1 cup dry white wine
20 large shrimp, head on, split down the back and deveined
4 1 inch-thick slices rustic peasant bread
2 tablespoons fresh marjoram leaves
¼ cup toasted bread crumbs
Preheat the broiler. In a 12 inch sauté pan, heat ¼ cup of the oil over a medium heat. Add the garlic and jalapenos and cook until softened , about 3 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes, tomato sauce and wine and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 4 minutes.
Lay the shrimp in the sauce and simmer until just cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast the bread on a baking sheet under the broiler, turning once. Place a slice of toasted bread in the centre of each four plates.
Place 5 shrimp on each piece of toast, and spoon the sauce over them. Sprinkle with marjoram leaves and bread crumbs, drizzle with the remaining ¼ cup oil and serve.
Mario Batali’s Lamb Shanks with Oranges and Olives
Stinco di Agnello con Aranci d Olive
I am certain that the combination of oranges and olives must be part of my primordial stew. I never tire of the combination – in fact, I am forever thinking of new variations on their life together.
Makes 4 Servings
4 large meaty lamb shanks, rinsed and patted dry
salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 red onions cut into ¼ inch dice
12 cloves garlic
1 navel orange, cut into 8 wedges
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
½ cup Gaeta olives
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup basic tomato sauce
1 cup chicken stock
zest of one navel orange
Preheat the oven to 375°F
Season the shanks liberally with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over high heat until smoking. Reduce the heat and sear the shanks, turning occasionally, until dark golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Add the onions, garlic and orange wedges to the pot and cook until the garlic is softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the rosemary, olives, wine, tomato sauce, and stock and bring to the boil.
Replace the lamb shanks in the pot and return to the boil. Cover tightly, place in the oven and cook for 1 to 1 ½ hours, until the meat is fork-tender.
Allow the shanks to rest for 10 minutes in the sauce, then transfer to warmed plates, sprinkle with zest and serve.
Mario Batali – Basic Tomato Sauce
Makes 4 cups
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion, cut into ¼ in dice
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
½ medium carrot, finely shredded
2 28 oz cans whole tomatoes
In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook until the carrot is quite soft, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, with their juice and bring to the boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer until as thick as hot cereal, about 30 minutes. Season with salt. This sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for 6 months.
Mario Batali – Clementines with Balsamic Vinegar and Pepper
Mandarini al Aceto Balsamico
My grandma always sent us a couple of boxes of clementines with the Christmas cookies, and they were always one of the quickest things to go on Christmas morning as we unwrapped the presents. Now, while I still love them right out of the peel, I also love the combination of real aceto balsamico and black pepper for an adult take on their simplicity.
Makes 4 servings
8 clementines (or other small seedless citrus fruit) peeled and segmented
2 tablespoons best-quality aged Balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Course black pepper
In a large bowl, toss the clementines, vinegar and sugar together well
Divide the fruit among four martini glasses of small bowls, being sure to get all the vinegar out of the bowl. Crack fresh pepper over the top and serve.
Mario Batali – Lemon Sponge Cake with Pear Marmalade
Ciambella con le Pere
The cakes in the family of ring-shaped ciambelle are more often served in the late afternoon, when nonna needs a sip of sweet wine before the evening apertivo.
Makes 6 servings
2 ½ cups cake flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
5 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup sugar
3 large eggs
grated zest of 6 lemons
½ cup while milk
¾ cup pear marmalade
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 8-inch round cake pans.
In a medium bowl, toss the flour, salt and baking powder with a fork to mix well.
In a large bowl, beat the olive oil and sugar together with an electric mixer until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Put the dry ingredients in a sifter and sift about one third onto the egg mixture. Add the lemon zest and fold in the flour and zest, then stir in about one third of the milk. Add the remaining flour and milk in two additions each, blending well.
Turn the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the cakes are beginning to pull away from the sides of the pans and spring back when pressed lightly in the centre with a finger. Turn the cakes out onto a rack and invert into another rack to cool.
To assemble, place one cake layer on a serving plate and spread the marmalade over the top. Place the second later on top and gently press the layers together. Sprinkle the top of the cake with confectioners’ sugar.
Marmellata di Pere
Makes 3 cups
2 pounds firm un-ripe pears, peeled cored and chopped into small pieces.
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1. In a large bowl, mix the pears, sugar and cloves together. Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside for at least 3 hours to let the juices start to run.
2. Transfer the pears and the juice to a large nonreactive saucepan, bring to the a simmer, and simmer gently stirring frequently, with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking until the pears are tender. Remove from the heat, stir in the pepper, remove the cloves and allow to cool. (The extra marmalade can be covered and refrigerated for at least a week)
Fool Proof Food
Ballymaloe Chicken Liver Pate
Serves 10-12 depending on how it is served.
This recipe has certainly stood the test of time; it has been our pâté maison at Ballymaloe since the opening of the restaurant in 1965. It is served in many different ways: its success depends upon being generous with good Irish butter.
225g (8oz) fresh organic chicken livers
2 tablespoons brandy
200-300g butter (depending on how strong the chicken livers are)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 large clove garlic, crushed
freshly ground pepper
clarified butter to seal the top
Wash the livers and remove any membrane or green tinged bits.
Melt a little butter in a frying pan; when the butter foams add in the livers and cook over a gentle heat. Be careful not to overcook them or the outsides will get crusty; all trace of pink should be gone. Put the livers through a sieve or into a food processor. De-glaze the pan with brandy, allow to flame, add the crushed garlic and thyme leaves and then scrape off with a spatula and add to the livers. Puree for a few seconds. Allow to cool.
Add 225g (8oz) butter and fresh thyme leaves. Puree until smooth. Season carefully, taste and add more butter, cut into cubes if necessary.
This pate should taste fairly mild and be quite smooth in texture. Put into pots or into one large terrine. Knock out any air bubbles.
Clarify some butter and run a little over the top of the pate to seal.
Serve with hot toast or crusty bread. This pate will keep for 4 or 5 days in a refrigerator. It is essential to cover chicken liver pate with a layer of clarified or even just melted butter, otherwise the pate will oxidize and become bitter in taste and grey in colour.
Vegetable Growing Course Barry’s Nurseries
Register for this course at their open day Sunday 25th January 2009. For details (086) 814 1133 firstname.lastname@example.org
Have Fun Learning Cooking Skills
Another series of Ballymaloe Basics starts on Wednesday 21st January for eight weeks. €50.00 per class or €375.00 for eight. Learn how to cook entire menus, starters, main courses and desserts. Booking essential, phone (021) 4646 785 or book online www.cookingisfun.ie
East Cork Tourism
For upcoming events www.eastcork.com
Frank Krawczyk is doing a range of delicious sausages and a frying chorizo to add to his cured meat range. Available at the Schull and Midleton Farmers Markets. Telelphone: 028 28579 email@example.com
Plan food that will last for more than one meal – roast organic chicken costs a lot more than chicken fillets but one can make several meals from it, terrific stock from the carcass and giblets plus a little chicken liver pate from the liver.