Monday, December 28, 2009

Nun Fail, Part Deux.



If you remember my post "Nun Cake, Sweet Tasty Nun Cake," then you will remember how I discovered that there is no love in Mr. Dave's heart for the eponymous cheesecake of New Skete. As much as I hate to bag on the cake making skills of the, undoubtedly lovely, nuns of New Skete. I found the stuff to be kind of funky. Clicky the linky if you are interested in a deeper review of the plain, stock cheesecake.

I make no secret of my maniacal nog-lust. I am an eggnog maniac from way back. I make nog, I drink nog, I love nog. So when I saw eggnog flavored Nuns of New Skete cheese cake at the Delmar Market, it was as if the nuns were telling me, "Gird your loins Mr. Dave. Can you handle eggnog cheesecake? Can you live at that speed?" Well, consider these loins girded yon nuns! I purchased your pricey nog-cake, I ate your pricey nog-cake and blechh. Nog fail, cheesecake fail, nun fail. Now I like nutmeg, but there be enough nutmeg flavor in here to make me vomitous. I am convinced that, knowing of nutmegs psychoactive/hallucinogenic properties , the nuns were intent on making me trip balls. There was a definite nog-i-ness to the slice, but inexplicably, this wasn't pleasant.

Anyhow, someone needs to bake me a worthy nog-cake. I demand it. Curses on you nuns for wetting my unholy appetite for nog (I am joking, bless all of your nunnish little hearts).

Saturday, December 26, 2009

X-Mas Log Cake



This year I briefly tossed around the notion of baking up an old fashioned Buche De Noel (Yule Log Cake). As I am shockingly lazy, this idea fell by the wayside. Lucky for me I was strolling through me local mega-grocer's market when I spotted the above gem. I rarely if ever buy an Entemann's of any sort, us Capital Region folk know the brand as a sort of poor man's Freihofer's (this is despite the fact that, unfortunately, both these traditionally NY companies have been bought out by Bimbo). I will never understand the strange and morbid curiosity streak that forces me to buy horrible, industrial, unhealthy products such as this, but it kicked in here. I bought the Entemann's "Holiday Log Cake", Mrs. Dave actually encouraged me in this case. I could tell she secretly fancied the little, cakey bastard. Here we have it un-boxed.



Note the cunning little plastic ax. I hacked a couple thin slices off.



What we have here is basically a decoratively frosted Swiss roll. Digging in, I was shocked by how dry the whole deal was. Even the frosting was somehow a little parched. This is weird as Entemann's products are usually unsettlingly moist (read transfats). Thoroughly disappointing, not even guilty pleasures to be had. Now I have to find a willing party to schluff 90% of this bad boy onto. Luckily, I have a pecan Lardy cake working in the oven. This will wash the saccharin mediocrity of the "Holiday Log" off my tongue with its unctuous beauty.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sometimes a Wrong Turn is a Right Turn



I was down at Rolf's Pork Store in a quest for a whole pork belly and a tenderloin for a delicious concept I came across (I shall leave you in suspense on that one). Anyhow, no luck on the belly, they weren't getting any until the next day. I bought a pound of bacon and the tenderloin to console myself.



I recently moved, so I am always looking for the shorthacks from downtown. My Garmin GPS put up a somewhat unorthodox route, but I said what the heck and decided to follow it. Long story short, the spiderweb-esque complexity of the various loop de loops of 787 were too much for my humble device and I ended up on the other side of the mighty Hudson. Looking for nice parking lot to bang a u-turn I stumbled upon the Rensselaer location of Hot Dog Charlie's.



Feeling as if the Hot Dog Gods were guiding my fate this frosty day, I parked the truck and went in for a half dozen to go. By the by, there is an Aldi kitty corner to the restaurant. I arrived home some time later with my prize.



I am of the mind that any food which comes in a brown paper bag through which grease eventually soaks, is a very good food. Me da' used to get get me a bag of Jack's Diner's (corner of Central and N Manning)crinkle cut French fries when I was a wee 'un, always with a warning not to put them on my pants. I purchased 6 small dogs with everything for a pittance, I think the total was 4.81$ give or take some red pennies.



I know that I tend to go on and on about these little hot dogs all of the time, and perhaps it is boring to some. But I never cease to be amazed by how much I enjoy the little guys. To my mind the flavor is surprisingly complex. The overriding flavor of the combination of onion, mustard, chili, and garlicky dog is bitterness. Pleasingly bitter flavors are fairly uncommon in American cuisine, and most "chili" type dogs end up somehow being very sweet. Anyhow, I had a nice, greasy hot dog lunch. I trust everyone will have a wonderful holiday!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Utica Greens



The regional dishes of New York have always fascinated me. Many times they are delightfully weird bastardizations of ethnic cuisine, hybrids that meld the products of our American industrial food machine with concepts from the old country. Utica, NY is known for several unique Italian dishes. I have already shared with you my take on Chicken Riggies, now we shall move on to Utica Greens. My interest in Utica food was reignited by a friend who came to a recent get together bearing said greens as well as a twelver of Utica Club (in bottles!). My recipe is a loose take on the one that he uses.

The typical Utica Greens are a spicy amalgam of escarole, long or cherry peppers, bread crumbs, prosciutto, pecorino and some other good stuff, broiled to form a golden brown crust on top. These are served as a side dish, with some bread, or in my favorite way, on top of a chicken cutlet sandwich.

Unfortunately, I couldn't track down any escarole. So in my tradition of bastardizing Utica recipes I used some kale and Swiss chard.



Remove veins, wash thoroughly, boil about 10 minutes in a couple inches of salted water, as per usual with greens of this type.



Chop up some long frying peppers. I like to kind of julienne them.



I saute the peppers until they are thoroughly done, even a little color is OK. Next I chop up about a 1/4 pound of prosciutto. In this application the less expensive stuff is fine.



Prosciutto likewise gets sautéed until lightly browned, towards the end I throw in a couple cloves of garlic. Into the pan goes the fried peppers, the cooked greens, good olive oil, and seasoning.



Next throw in about a cup of stock, you could use water, but I like chicken stock. When this reduces slightly add enough bread crumbs to absorb the majority of the remaining liquid and finish with about a 1/3 cup of good Pecorino. A word on the bread crumbs, to stay true to form use some cheap brand of bread crumb. You know what I mean, the kind in the paper tube. I use Cora. Resist the urge to use hand crumbled artisan bread or some other nonsense, this is a Grandma dish and uses cheesy, salt of the earth ingredients.

Finally, we top with a little more bread crumb and cheese and brown under a broiler.



There you have it, Utica Greens. I like my greens spicy so normally I would have also added a jarred cherry pepper to the mix. I thought I had them in my fridge but did not, so this mess of greens was a bit tame for my tastes. Tasty none the less. Serve as a side dish, tossed with pasta, in an omelette, with crusty bread, or in my favorite manner- as the topping for a chicken cutlet sandwich.



If you have never partaken, I recommend you give a go at making these one night. They really are a very good way (albeit not the healthiest way)to get some greens in your diet. Maybe next we will conquer Utica's third renown delicacy, Tomato Pie. We shall see.


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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pork Pies



I decided to make some British style Pork Pies after being inspired by this video. I love recipes that take very simple ingredients (in this case pork, fat, salt, pepper, flour), treat them with care, and turn them into into something great.

I started by brining some pork loin in a basic brining solution for a couple days.



I cubed up the meat,



and ran it through the coarse plate on my meat grinder. Next, I chopped some partially frozen fatback into a 1/8th inch dice.



The meat and the fat went into a bowl to await the most crucial ingredient to a pork pie.



The crucial ingredient I am speaking of is pork jelly. That is right, delicious meat jelly, a crucial player in creating the delicious texture of a pork pie. I made mine out of some pork neck bones and the skin from the fatback.



Strained and chilled you are left with a wobbly bowl of pork jelly. Some people would roast the bones for a darker, more strongly flavored jelly, but I like the more mellow flavor of raw bones in this application.



Some salt, and a bunch of cracked pepper go in and that is all she wrote. A lot of recipes call for sage and allspice, but I prefer the sweetness of pork by its lonesome.

Next, we have the crust to deal with. We use a traditional hot water pastry recipe for this. For the delightful flakiness of a pork pie crust, lard is the only lipid that will do. Melt the requisite amount in some water, I think it looks pretty.




Along with some standard white flour the water and lard become a rich, shiny dough. You need to throw the mess in the fridge for about an hour so that you can shape it into wee pies



I formed the pies by patting out a rough circle of dough by hand, putting a sort of flattened pork meatball in the center, and then folding the dough up around the sides. They get topped off by a smaller circle of dough and the edges are crimped with the tines of a fork. The last step is to poke a large-ish hole in the middle to allow steam to escape. I thought my pies came out looking very much like actual pork pies.



A little egg wash on top and these go in the oven for 45-55 minutes at 350 degrees.



I was very pleased at a nibble of the golden brown crust, richness and flakiness FTW. Pork pies are traditionally eaten cold as the jelly needs to set, I prefer them slightly warm. Here is an especially pretty one.



Here we have the center, slightly ugly and grey, but delicious none the less. You can see the coarseness of the pork flecked with fatback.



A little English mustard or some Branston pickle (which I picked up at the Slingerlands Chops) and you have a little slice of porky heaven in your hand. I was thoroughly pleased with how these came out, but I will see how some of my friends like them. I think the concentrated porkiness might be a bit much for some. If anyone is interested in a more exact recipe, let me know and I will post a follow up. Cheers.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

99 Cent Snack of The Day: Stewart's Deli Dog



I started my quest for local snacks that cost under 1.00$ a couple weeks ago with the lovely steamed pork buns at the Asian Supermarket. Today we have the Stewart's Deli Dog. Technically, one of these bad boys is outside of my pricing parameters, costing 1.19$. But when you buy two, the price of each drops to an acceptable .99 1/2 cents.

Unless you are over by Gus's, or near a Hot Dog Charlie's, your options for a quick, cheap, ready made, dirty water dog are somewhat limited in this neck of the woods. Of course you have Mobil's, Hess's, etc..., but I am loathe to eat any cooked meat from these chains. I don't know why I have this aversion as Stewart's is not exactly a Michelin starred establishment, but I am more comfortable eating there.

I go for the traditional deli dog (as opposed to Cajun or Kielbasa), with a generous amount of meat sauce as per our local hot dog tradition.



Then I wait for the impending intestinal distress, as it is surely coming. It is all worth it though, I think. Hot Dogs with meat sauce are one of those foods that I crave on about a 4 month schedule, it is some sort of strange, internal, hot dog biological clock.

By the way, Gus's and Hot Dog Charlie's both have slight variations on this theme for well under a dollar. So they go on the list as well.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

New Home. New P-Chops.

If you are wondering why my post-pace is somewhat slow lately, it is because the Dave family has made a move. No worries, we haven't gone far. We are still ensconced in the warm clutches of the exurbs of fair Albany. I am somewhat sad at the move, I have spent most of my life in Guilderland. I will miss many places, faces, and small familiarities. But as is the tragedy of the modern world, the community I live in now is nearly a carbon copy of G-town dropped on a vaguely different landscape. We have all of the same regional chains and markets. But you can be sure that I will be looking to uncover any small pockets of character in my new town.

If you know me at all then you will probably predict that one of the first things I did was to locate the closest Price Chopper. My new go-to location will be the one over by Bellini's in Slingerlands. This is one of those high-fallutin' "Market Centers" like the Kosher Chops. Of course, I found some interesting things for your viewing pleasure.

Apparently, the Market Center Price Choppers feature a passable selection of international products. We have a good, but small, selection of British foods to include Branston Pickle, which made me happy as I am making pork pies for Christmas this year (Branston Pickle is a traditional condiment). Also, there was a smattering of Polish pickled items that you don't see too much of (sauerkraut with carrots, etc...)

In the prepared food cold case I spied some Lebanese offerings. I am a huge Lebanese food fan from way back (I am sad that Phoenicians is quite the trip for me now). OK, off topic here, but if you are downtown by the CooP try the Moujadara wrap care of Al Baraki. Its a bit pricey at over 6 bucks, but it is absolutely delicious.



OK, back on topic, the Slingerlands Chops had something called "Lebanese Meat Pies."



I take it that these are a slight variation on the traditional Sfiha. I had to buy, and at only 1.00 each these were a bargain. They are 4.00 for two over at Phoenicians. I got both meat and spinach filled.



These were pretty good. The fillings were delicious, the meat ones were nicely spiced with the typical Lebanese cinnamon/allspice/pepper flavors. The spinach filled had nice onion and tart lemon flavor. The dough was a little weird, I think it was standard P-chops pizza dough. All in all, not a bad snack. For dessert, baklava.



The Baklava was decent and cheap as well. This stuff was definitely flavored with syrup (simple or mayhaps even corn) as opposed to the honey that I prefer. However, there was a generous nut layer.



This particular Price Chopper has a "Natural Food" corner in the back. You know what I mean, the part of the market with the brown flooring and 7.00 cans of tomatoes. Suburban hausfraus are very susceptible to spending their husbands six figure salaries on the sorts of products to be found there, so I can't blame the Golubs for the pretension. The item that I found that made me laugh and shudder at the same time is "Glutenfreeda's Real Cookies."



Just look at those faces! These are the faces I expect to see feasting on brains during the coming Zombie Apocalypse (2012? you can kick me in the grapes for that reference if you ever find me). Plus, the zany names for the cookies make me want to puke. "Peanut, Paul, and Mary," "Chocolate Minty Python?" Come on guys, really? I saved the best for last, the one with the cheeky innuendo.



"Peanut Envy." That is right folks, peanut envy. The open mouthed vixen gives the impression that she might be waiting for something more than a gluten free peanut butter cookie, no? Ahem, ahem. Perhaps Mr. Dave should get his mind out of the gutter.

Anyhow, surely more to follow on my new environs. I already have a backlog of photos and many projects in the works for the holidays. We will see how my aged egg nog turns out, sample the pork pies that I am making, as well as imbibe the special, triple fermented, spelt/honey/molasses spiced X-Mas brew that I whipped up. I hope the edges of your chairs don't break from sitting on them.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Miss Albany Diner. I Went to Say Goodbye Today- Local Albany Movie Trivia Too!



I am not going to sit here and give an in depth discussion of the Miss Albany Diner, most of those reading probably know the place pretty well. If you live locally then you will also know that the owners have decided to sell. Because of all of this the wife and I decided to trek down there to have a meal just in case the place gets sold quick and stuff changes.



I appreciate the place for its kitsch and attitude, which is not the kind of kitsch and attitude that comes from slick, hipster, marketing bastards. It is the kind that comes from the owners and staff plodding through years of diner operation on Broadway in Albany (quite the interesting corner of the world for a diner, I can imagine the characters that have stumbled through those doors). There are the requisite stodgy quotes on the menu boards about noisy children and the dangers of demanding too frequent coffee top offs.



Tiny printouts next to the booths proclaim "Butts on benches, feet on the floor." The atmosphere gives one the impression that the cook might come out of the kitchen and punch you in the face if one makes too complicated of an order. I love it.

It is sad that the place is going to be sold. No matter how hard a new owner tries, things will inevitably change. One more bright spot is extinguished in our fair city. That is why I made the trip for today's breakfast, I wanted to capture a moment in time and to remember the Miss Albany Diner as it is now.

I overheard an interesting conversation between the owner/cook and a patron concerning all of this. The surly gent behind the portal to the kitchen said something to the effect that it is just not the same since his parents left. I can understand this. He also seemed to be in a somewhat rotten mood, he yelled at the nice waitress which was a slightly uncomfortable moment. So maybe it is a time for change in his life and I don't begrudge him this.

Me and the wife ordered a grand breakfast. Omelet with bacon for her, Rocky Mountain High for me (side of grits too).



Delicious breakfast as usual, I bemoaned the fact that I might not ever get to try the advertised fried Spam and eggs or the Ugly Eggs (eggs with anchovies). But what are you going to do? Such is life. Things fade into the past all of the time, but as I approach thirty I find myself prone to fits of nostalgia, it seems that the world is changing exponentially. What will be left of my childhood to share with my daughter when she gets a little older? Sigh.

Anyhow, enough whining, here is some local Albany movie trivia. What is the significance in film of this booth at the Miss Albany Diner.



Along with an order of toast.



Anyone know? If you get it I will find some way to reward you or sing your praises. I will reveal the answer in a couple of days in any event. Have a nice Thanksgiving all, I have to work. Still planning on doing some tradition on Friday for the family, mayhaps I shall post about it.

**WINNER**WINNER**WINNER**

Well that didn't take long.



Happy Cuties of the Happy Cuties blog has correctly stated that this is where Helen Archer (Meryl Streep) sat and ordered toast in the film adaptation of Ironweed by William Kennedy. Big William Kennedy fan here, and not just because he is Albany born and raised like myself. I have another idea in mind to recreate Francis' path during the whole "sharp cheese sandwich" episode from the novel whilst actually eating a cheese sandwich. Anyways, huzzah for Happy Cuties.


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Lunch at the Coop

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Hungry David



So, I think I invented a sandwich. Probably not, I am sure this has been done, there is nothing good and original left in this world. But whatever, I am owning it and have named it "The Hungry David." It consists of some pulled pork (I bought a pound at Capital Q the other day), a couple slices of Wonder Bread, and an egg. I like an egg sunny side up in a sandwich like this, I don't care if I am taking my life into my own hands. I fear no egg. Anyhow, this was absolutely delicious. If you are squeamish, go for an over easy egg, but make sure there is still some runny yolk. The tangy pork, kissed by the rich buttery-ness of the yolk was the stuff angels sing about at night on their cloud beds.

If you are wondering what those weird white pieces on top of the yolk are, they are by products of my bathing the top of the yolk with the cooking fat to get them just a little cooked without loosing any drippy goodness. You should try this.


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