Tuesday, January 26, 2010

crispy pork and tequila uncorked

Lately, my work week diet has consisted of:

granola bars
energy drinks

(I'm exaggerating, Mom)

to make up for my weekend binges of crispy pork, micheladas, breakfast tacos, pan-fried dumplings, mojitos and more! My jet-setting ambitions have been replaced with restaurant hopping and recipe jotting to find the most delicious things to fill my belly!

Cowtown Diner, a new eatery in Fort Worth, strives to jazz up traditional diner fare with dignified pairings such as duck breast with a blood orange hollandaise and jalapeno cornbread waffles. During the opening week, my boyfriend and I arrived for an early Sunday dinner complete with a charming, yet quirky server and cucumber tequila martinis.

We began with puff pastry-wrapped venison sausage (spicy!) then settled on "DQ style" steak fingers and the "Thanksgiving 365" platter for dinner. My Thanksgiving-inspired smorgasbord was complete with moist turkey, succulent gravy, tart, cranberry compote, haricot verts and chipotle cornbread stuffing. The food was delicious and we left delighted.

A cold Saturday later, Ms. Fort Worth Foodie and I were also able to venture to Tu Hai for their acclaimed traditional Vietnamese cooking. We started with cool spring rolls stuffed with crispy vegetables, tender shrimp and pork. Arriving shortly after were steaming bowls of Pho and crispy pork with vermicelli. Both dishes boasted sumptuous, fish sauce-laced broths with plenty of cilantro, julienned carrots and bean sprouts in between.

A few evenings later, I had a hankering for plantains and planned a braised chicken dinner to complement the starchy, yet satisfying delights.

Braised Chicken Thighs

I love braising because it really transforms a modest protein. The dark meat of these braised chicken thighs are simply succulent with beer-braised mirepoix and aromatics.

Serves 2.

1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 T olive oil
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 sprig rosemary
1 t red pepper flakes
1 c beer (I used Rahr)
2 c chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a Dutch oven and season chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Sear chicken thighs on all sides in olive oil to develop a brown crust. Set aside. Add vegetables to Dutch oven with a dash of olive oil and saute until caramelized (approximately 5-7 minutes). Deglaze vegetable mixture with beer then vegetable stock and add rosemary sprig and bay leaf.

Return chicken to pot and nestle in braising liquid. Cover and place pot in a 350 oven for approximately 45 minutes until chicken is fork-tender. Remove from heat and let mixture "rest" on the stovetop for 10 minutes to redistribute braising juices. Serve chicken with braising vegetables atop pistachio pilaf.

Zucchini Mint Pico

1 medium zucchini, diced
2 T mint, chopped
1 jalapeno, ribbed, seeded and minced
1/4 c cherry tomatoes, halved
juice and zest of 1/2 lime
2 T red onion, minced

Mix ingredients and cool in refrigerator until ready to use. Serve aside braised chicken and rice.

Caramelized Plantains
2 ripe plantains, sliced on the bias
1/2 c brown sugar
6 T butter
1 t red pepper flakes
salt to taste

While chicken is braising, melt butter with brown sugar over medium heat. Add plantains, red pepper flakes and salt. Slowly caramelize plantains until starches break down and plantains are tender.

Pistachio Ginger Brown Rice Pilaf

3 c prepared brown rice, warm
1/2 c pistachios, chopped
zest of 1 lime
1 T ginger, grated on the microplane
salt to taste

Add ingredients to brown rice, stir and serve beneath braised chicken.

Raspberry Crumbles with Toasted Sesame Seeds

I love cobbler but feel so guilty eating it!

Growing up, my Uncle Bob and I would fight over the thickened, fruit juice-drenched pastry and completely ignore the fruit. This cobbler rendition showcases fruit as the star with just the right amount of "crust." Sesame seeds add an unusual nuttiness and complexity.

Serves 2.

2 c raspberries
1 T AP flour
2 T sugar
zest of 1/2 lemon
zest of 1/2 lime

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine berry mixture in a bowl. Set aside to macerate while preparing crumble.

Crumble mixture:

1/4 c sugar
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c AP flour
1/2 t salt
4 T cold butter, cut into small cubes

1 T toasted sesame seeds to garnish

Combine sugars, flour and salt. Add butter and crumble with fingers until butter is pea-shaped. To assemble crumbles, add berry mixture to ramekins (about 3/4 full). Top berry mixture with crumble and bake immediately for about 20 minutes until crumbles are browned and bubbling. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.

Serve with vanilla bean ice cream, take a bite and close your eyes with

tart, buttery



Saturday, January 9, 2010

2009 Foodie Favorites

Everyone else does it- so I thought I should too.
Here are my personal picks for my favorite local dishes!

Linguine & Dirty Martinis
2009 Foodie Favorites
(according to Callie)


Achiote Chickpeas, Lambert's: Caramelized onions and soft pita bread provide a perfect pillow for these flavorful chickpeas.

Bacon Chorizo Dates, Grace: These sticky, sweet, salty and spicy bundles are absolutely addicting- find them on the bar menu.

Flash-Fried Shrimp, Button's: Crispy-fried goodness flecked with spicy serrano peppers

Fried Calamari with Cashews and Wok Vegetables, Eddie V's: Perfect with a cocktail in the V Lounge, this hefty portion can feed several before dinner.

Shumai, P.F. Changs: Gasp! A chain restaurant?! Regardless, these little shrimp dumplings are delightful.


Cheeseburger, Fred's Cafe: Although these burgers are a bit grease-ridden, they top my list.

Cheeseburger, Boomer Jacks: Suprisingly, the burgers at Boomer Jacks are well seasoned, perfectly cooked and come complete with cold, cripy vegetables and a steaming hot bun- diced red onions instead of white are a nice touch.


Frozen Margarita, La Familia: My favorite margarita in Fort Worth- free from the scorned "sweet and sour" taste, these flaming mugs have a nice balance of sweet, salty and tart.

Jalapeno Cucumber Margarita, The Love Shack So7

St. Caroline, Grace: Not too sweet with an alluring flavor- includes St. Germaine Elderflower liquer, Prosecco, club soda and fresh thyme.


Strawberry Cake, McKinley's: Moist, delicious and not too sweet- perfect with a cup of coffee after a long shopping jaunt.

Traditional White Cupcake, Cupcake Cottage

Lemon Petit Four, Blue Bonnet Bakery

Cup o' Joe:

Aduro Bean Micro-Roasters:
Available at Cowtown Farmers Market and Artisan Baking Company.


Black Bean Hummus, Lili's Bisto: Arriving with a jalapeno drizzle, this smoky concoction is perfect spread over fried pita chips.

Guacamole, Mi Cocina: Delicious! I could eat an entire order alone.

Pam's Pimento Cheese, Central Market Sauce Bar: Not even a fan of pimento cheese, I have cravings for this garlic-infused treat!


Blueberry Struesel, Artisan Baking Company: These perfect-sized muffins boast an intense creaminess and lightness in texture.


Fuzzy's Taco Shop: Although I'm a bit biased to Fuzzy's, I really do love their queso topped with "Fuzzy dust" and fresh pico de gallo.

Queso al Fundido con Chorizo, Paco and John: Spicy and flecked with salty chorizo


Southwestern Greek, The Covey

Mary's Salad, Yogi's Bagel Cafe: Spinach, sesame seeds, green apples and pecans with a curried vinaigrette make an interesting combination with no protein needed.

Salsa (and freebies):

Red Salsa and Pickled Vegetables, La Familia: Still foamy from the blender, the salsa here is spicy and fresh. I love topping my salsa-drenched tortilla chip topped with their spicy pickled jalapenos, cauliflower and carrots.

Red Salsa and Black Bean Dip, Gloria's: This salsa and black bean dip can make a meal in itself. Both have a lingering garlic aroma and a bit of spice.


Chicken and Roasted Green Chile, Dutch's

Good Morning Torta, Paco and John: My Twitter peeps especially know my love for this modest sandwich layered with egg, black beans, queso fresco, avocado and poblano rajas between buttery, homemade bread. Opt for no mayo- the avocado and queso fresco add an appropriate creaminess.

Sweet Luv' Us Hummus Wrap, Spiral Diner: Sweet potatoes, hummus and spicy walnuts...'nuff said,

Tempura Fish Sandwich, Fuzzy's Taco Shop

Tenderloin Panino, Lightcatcher Winery: Although the locale is a bit of a drive, this sandwich complete with caramelized onions, mushrooms, arugula and a horseradish mayonnaise is well worth it.


Crab Cake, Silver Fox Steakhouse

Meyer Lemon Halibut, Ellerbe's Fine Foods:
The first bite of perfectly cooked halibut and tart, meyer lemon compote made me close my eyes in pleasure.

French-Style Mussels and Pommes Frites, Sapristi!


Cannellini Bean Soup with Chorizo, Lanny's Alta Cocina

Gumbo, Button's: Incredible depth of flavor!

Roasted Tomato Soup with Duck Confit, St. Emilion


Corn Cakes, Button's

Heirloom Squash, Pears and Spiced Pecans, Grace

Macaroni and Cheese, The Covey: Arriving in a steaming ramekin, this baked and breadcrumb-topped treat is the ultimate comfort food.


Antipasto Board #2, Nonna Tata: Arriving on a rustic wooden board, this delicious (yet pricey) snack to share includes assorted cheeses, cured meats and charcuterie offerings.

Fried Pickles, Razoo's: I don't even like pickles! These are good- especially dipped in ranch dressing.

Gorgonzola Fries, Lili's Bistro: Melted gorgonzola, fresh scallions and crushed peppercorns atop crispy waffle fries.

Truffled Popcorn and Peanuts, Tillman's Roadhouse

Sweet treat:

Pear Ginger Scone, Artisan Baking Company:
I would eat these scones over a rich chocolate dessert any day! Seasonality determines scone flavorings at this local produce-driven bakery.

Pecan Pie Sundae, Grace: Butter pecan ice cream, bits of homemade pie crust, salted caramel and candied pecans made an incredible sweet and salty combination in this summer treat.

Strawberry Thumbprints, McKinely's

Worth a Mention:

Banana Walnut Pancakes with Agave Nectar, Spiral Diner: Oh, holy yum.

Beef Bowl, Tokyo Cafe: Spicy beef atop white rice with scallions- so simple!

Chicken Fried Steak, Old Neighborhood Grill

Chicken Tamale, Gloria's: These airy, banana-leaf wrapped delicacies filled with tender chicken and potato are the best I've eaten.

Tarragon Chicken Salad, Z's Cafe: The anise additive in this creamy chicken salad is lovely smoothed atop wheat bread.

I hope you all enjoy and take advantage of your local eatery!


Sunday, January 3, 2010

lemon delights and icy nights

Our sudden snowflake-graced evenings in Fort Worth have been my excuse to:
snuggle at home with a glass of red,
simmer stews, chili and compotes,
or even better- enjoy an extended happy hour at Button's for delightfully-dirty martinis and comfort food at it's finest.
A group of us met at the increasingly-popular soul food mecca for some flash-fried shrimp with sliced serranos, fried green tomatoes and fried oysters. To wash down the crispy goodness, our spread was full with dirty martinis, vodka sodas, cosmos, whiskey and Shiner's. Dinner was a smorgasbord of tender, beef short ribs, creamed corn and fried leeks- the short ribs were tender, robust and stick-to-your-ribs tasty. After my caloric rendezvous, I arrived home happy, full and extremely sleepy.

A few nights later, on a "home alone" Saturday evening whim, I decided to host an impromptu dinner for six. Amongst (numerous) bottles of red wine, champagne and sangria, we snacked on a baguette-topped treat with goat cheese, arugula, grapefruit supremes and black pepper. For dinner, I made a quick risotto and toasted croutons while everyone chatted. This is an easy "one pot dinner" using bowls and spoons only.

Leek Risotto with Mascarpone and Marjoram

Serves 6.

2 leeks, thinly sliced (use white and light green portions and soak in water to remove grit before using)
2 c arborio rice
8 c (approximately) vegetable stock
3 T fresh marjoram, minced
1 c dry white wine
6 T butter plus an additional tablespoon for initial saute
rind of one lemon (peel zest with a peeler then slice to thin strips)
salt and fresh-cracked pepper to taste

On a medium-high heat, saute leeks, salt and pepper in a Dutch oven until leeks are coated in fat and translucent. Add arborio rice and saute to also coat in fat and begin releasing starches- do not brown. Deglaze pot with white wine and begin stirring mixture with a wooden spoon until liquid is just absorbed. At this point, add a ladle-full of stock at a time, stirring constantly as each ladle of liquid is almost absorbed.

The risotto will be finished at the point of al dente and will have a creamy appearance (approximately 20 minutes). When an al dente texture has been reached, add a final ladle of stock, remaining butter, herbs, mascarpone, lemon rind and a final seasoning of salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped herbs and gruyere croutons.

Oversized Gruyere Croutons

1 small baguette, sliced on the bias
1 T fresh marjoram, chopped
gruyere slices to top baguette
Toast bread in a 375 degree oven on both sides until browned and crispy. Top toasts with sliced gruyere and a sprinkle of fresh marjoram. Return to oven and continue toasting until cheese is melted and bubbly.
In another attempt to keep warm, I decided to dust off my mini-bundt pan and fill my apartment with an intoxicating lemon-herb aroma on a chilly afternoon. This recipe was based on a Martha Stewart pound cake recipe- I used Meyer lemons instead of regular to add sweetness and created a simple syrup to add moisture and mimic flavors in the mini cakes.

Meyer Lemon Mini Bundt Cakes With Lemon Thyme

2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1.5 c AP flour
4 T lemon thyme leaves
.5 t salt
zest of 2 Meyer lemons
1.25 c sugar
1 t vanilla bean paste
6 eggs, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a mini bundt pan and sprinkle bottom of each tin with a sprinkle of lemon thyme leaves. Set aside. Whisk together flour, lemon zest, salt and thyme leaves in a bowl. Set aside.

Cream cool butter with sugar at a medium speed in stand mixer for approximately 8 minutes until creamy and fluffy. Add vanilla bean paste and eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl with each addition. In three portions, slowly add flour mixture and mix just until incorporated- do not overmix.

Fill each individual mold with batter and smooth the tops. Firmly tap pan on counter to remove any air bubbles. Bake for approximately 20 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around cakes to loosen from molds and invert on a platter. Spoon warm lemon thyme simple syrup atop cakes and garnish with additional thyme leaves.

Servings: 12 individual cakes

Lemon Thyme Simple Syrup

zest and juice of 2 meyer lemons
1 c sugar
1 c water
3 sprigs thyme
dash salt

Combine all ingredients. Simmer at medium heat until liquid reduces by half. Remove thyme leaves and set aside to slightly cool before spooning atop cakes. Reserve extra syrup for cocktails, spritzers, etc.