Friday, January 30, 2009

Peruvian Roasted Chicken

Disclaimer: Did I say I was going to take better photos in ’09? Clearly you can see it’s a skill that still needs a lot of work.

I know so many people who list Pollo A La Brasa as their favorite food, and I have to agree. Peruvian rotisserie chicken looks, smells, and tastes like savory heaven. I’m a sucker for any good roasted chicken, but one rubbed down with herbs and cooked on a spit pretty much wins any Roast Chicken Contest. Ok, not that there is such a thing, but I’m just sayin’………..

I googled around until I found what I felt was a great Peruvian chicken recipe and got to work. After combining all of the ingredients into a paste, I massaged it all over my 4 pound chicken, wrapped it up tightly in Saran Wrap and set it in the fridge for two days to soak up all the flavor. The smell of the garlicky marinade was utterly divine.

Raw and rubbed down chicken!

In the meantime (meaning during the two days my chicken sat in the fridge) I tried my hand at making a big pot of Cuban black beans from this recipe. It’s always best to make soups/stews/beans/chilis a couple of days before you plan to eat them since the flavors come together so well while its resting.

Something about this photo seems inappropriate.....?!

Finally, on Day Three, I took the bird out and let it come to room temp on the counter for a couple of hours before putting it onto a beer can- I figured it was the next best thing to a rotisserie, which I don’t have. I put the chicken in the oven, the beans on the stove and whipped up a simple slaw of cabbage, red onion, red bell pepper, green onion, cilantro and a Latin-inspired dressing of cumin, coriander, garlic, red wine vinegar and olive oil.

Sigh.......another blurry, uneven photo.......

So………..the verdict? Oooooh so good, super garlicky, savory and tender. I had to stop myself from eating all of the crispy skin and the meat was flavorful and juicy. And did I mention that it made the house smell like what Nirvana must smell like (if Nirvana has a scent, that is)??? It didn’t taste exactly like the ones I’ve bought in the past, mainly due to my lower salt content, but I’m looking forward to playing around with the recipe and making it a bit closer to Pollo A La Brasa’s version.

Yummy sides of brown rice, homemade Cuban black beans and Latin slaw

The beans were also tasty, but I think I’m looking for more Mexican flavors. I noticed that a lot of the Cuban recipes call for red wine, and although it imparts a subtle flavor, the beans didn’t taste much like version I was hoping for.

Crispy chicken skin is almost as good as bacon.

Does anyone out there (or anyone’s Mexican grandmother) have a killer black bean recipe? I’d LOVE to hear of a truly authentic, tasty recipe.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Finally, this day has come!!!


Monday, January 19, 2009

Pre-holiday Lunch at Boulevard

It was a cold, windy day by the water in San Francisco, two days before Christmas. J and I were hungry for something warm, and although we initially thought to grab something yummy at one of the many of the eateries in the Ferry Building, we deemed it too drafty and searched for something cozier. When we spotted the groups of business executives and well-dressed ladies-who-lunch at Boulevard, the famed SF fine dining establishment, we looked down at our casual clothes, shrugged, and decided to take a chance.

We were lucky enough to score one of the seats at the counter right in front of the ovens (talk about cozy!) and had one of the better lunch experiences in recent memory…..wait, make that better meal experiences. Everything from start to finish couldn’t have been more perfect and it was the best way for us to kick off the holidays.

As I warmed myself with the heat coming off the vintage ovens, we sipped on champagne and were handed menus, although from where we sat we could see all of the delicious-looking offerings. I was completely enthralled watching the line cooks put together the most mouthwatering cheeseburgers (clearly their most popular lunch item), juicy medallions of pork swimming in some rich looking sauce and piles of crispy frites. J and I decided to get a mixed green salad, the lobster and white bean appetizer and the Kobe cheeseburger and share it all.

Artificial Intelligence Salad

Lobster and white bean appetizer

The mixed greens were so perfect that it almost looked fake, and each, bright leaf was coated in just the right amount of fruity olive oil and good vinegar. The creaminess of the large, white beans complimented the rich lobster meat and we loved it, but we both knew that the burger would be our favorite.

OK- I mean, what’s NOT to like about this? We savored each bite and almost divvied up the fries one for one since they were insanely delicious and completely addictive. I still dream about them! As we sat there and finished every last crumb, I felt very festive, my face warm from the heat of the oven and the two glasses of champagne. You know when everything just falls into place? It was one of those meals.

I can’t wait to go back!

One Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94105
Telephone: 415 543 6084

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cinnamon Crack

SO what are you doing right now, right this minute? If you’re at home and you have flour, milk, sugar, yeast, baking powder, baking soda, salt and vegetable oil on hand then I highly recommend you stop reading this, trot over to your kitchen and make these amazing cinnamon rolls. Well, wait- maybe you should finish reading the rest of this post and then run over and start the very easy process of creating what I like to call Cinnamon Crack. When I saw the photo on Pioneer Woman’s website I couldn’t stop thinking about them, and when I made the first batch (I’ve since made five!) I couldn’t believe that such little effort resulted in what has now become the most requested item among friends.

You noticed that I didn’t list cinnamon on that list of ingredients, didn’t you? That is because you don’t need it to start this recipe. You see, you spend about 5 minutes heating the milk, oil and sugar (Pioneer Woman scalds hers and then lets it cool to room temp before adding the yeast but I simply heated the milk just enough to dissolve the sugar, then stirred it quickly off the heat so it quickly came down to the right temp) and then add the yeast and flour and then just let it sit there for an hour. Add more flour, the baking soda, powder and salt after that, pop it in the fridge overnight and fuggetaboutit. Easy.

In the morning take the dough out and let it sit out for an hour or two to take the chill off, then take half, roll it out, slather it with enough melted butter to kill a cow, sprinkle a bunch of sugar and cinnamon over it, roll it up, secure the seam, slice, put in baking dish, then bake. Sixteen or some odd minutes later, you have perfect, fluffy, moist and tender cinnamon rolls which you then drizzle with whatever icing you like (I leave the coffee out of mine but I’m sure it’s delicious).

So your total labor time is about an hour and you get a HUGE batch of what are easily the best cinnamon rolls several of my friends and I have ever eaten. I can’t decide what I like better- the maple icing dripping into each buttery seam or the crunchy cinnamon butter lava that forms on the bottom of each roll.

You’re still reading? Get baking!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Where Everybody Knows Your Name:
The Coffee Table, Eagle Rock

I love eating out....not just for the food but for the experience, and J and I will be the first to admit that we probably eat out too often. It's a habit we're trying to curb a bit in '09, but there are some places we can't stay away from for too long. The Coffee Table in Eagle Rock is one of those places.

Yeah, yeah, it's cheesy to reference the theme song from "Cheers," but The Coffee Table really does feel like a place where everybody knows your name. We've been going there to grab weekend brunches for years now and the food is consistent, the staff friendly and the coffee strong and delicious.

It's a wonder I haven't blogged about it before, actually. We go on Saturdays or Sundays (or sometimes both!) at least three times a month. Maybe because its such a regular occurrence I never really think to take my camera, but I finally did this time. The food is freshly made and brought out promptly after you order it at the counter. I love that you can "tweak" pretty much any item on the menu and the cashier doesn't blink an eye. Here's how a typical order is rattled off by Yours Truly: "I'll get the Coffee Table scrambled, egg whites only, hold the cheese, wheat toast instead of potatoes and an iced coffee." I can think of a few places where the counter person would probably want to body slam me for making so many adjustments, but the guys and gals of CT just smile and put it into the system. Or maybe they do want to body slam me but hide their feelings. Anyway, J and I aren't really creatures of habit but somehow we almost always order the same things- J gets the Eggs From Hell (eggs scrambled with hot sauce, served with black beans and a tortilla) with egg whites only, easy 'hell' and no cheese. I flip flop between getting the aforementioned The Coffee Table scramble (a mixture of eggs, chopped chicken, tomatoes and scallions) , a Fresh Garden Sandwich (tomatoes, onions, avocado, lettuce, cheese and crunchy pepitas with aioli) or a turkey sandwich or wrap. The menu always features two soups which change daily, lots of burgers, pastas and main dishes since they are also opened for dinner.

On this particular day I opted for the wrap, and it was fresh and delicious. The menu is large and there are so many options to choose from; maybe one of these days I'll go bananas and order something other than my usual!!

After all, sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name.......don't cha?

The Coffee Table (Eagle Rock)

1958 Colorado Boulevard, Eagle Rock

(323) 255-2200

Monday, January 05, 2009

Marinated flank steak with herb pesto and balsamic caramelized onions

Happy New Year! The holidays are now behind me and I’m back at work, feeling the post-vacation blues. Sorry I haven’t blogged in awhile but the past two weeks were a whirlwind of family, friends, many glasses of champagne (I’m actually taking a break from the bubbly as I think I may have just consumed too much of it!) and quite a few too many dinners out. As with 95% of the population, I feel the need to renew, refresh and eat most of my meals at home for the next few weeks. Also, apologies as always for the dark, blurry photos. I think "take better photos" is on my list of resolutions for '09. Let's just hope it's possible.

Speaking of meals at home…’s one I made a little while back. It’s kind of a compilation of “greatest hits” and I just happened to have everything on hand to make all of the dishes. I think it was one of those nights where we contemplated going out…….wanting to eat restaurant-style food, but wanting to stay in our flannel PJ pants and soft hoodies while watching television. So I put two and two together and made a restaurant-style meal that could be eaten on the sofa, flannels and all!

First up, a hunk of our beloved Humboldt Fog goat cheese, served with some amazing Croatian fig jam I found at Whole Foods. Spread both on a slice of baguette, open mouth, eat, smile!

Tomato salad, the result of having more tomatoes than salad greens, ha. Tossed with a little homemade balsamic dressing and topped with lots of black pepper, which I love on tomatoes.

Cilantro-garlic shrimp: my sister made something like this awhile back and I’ve been copying it ever since. There’s no real recipe, and I use any combination of basil, mint and cilantro depending on what I have, then buzz it in a food processor with lots of fresh garlic, a touch of red wine vinegar, olive oil and salt/pepper to make a pesto. Put the pesto in a plastic bag with the shrimp, let it marinate and then bake it in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes.

Here’s what may possibly be my favorite way to eat steak- a skirt or flank steak, marinated in above mentioned cilantro/mint/basil pesto then grilled or seared in a pan, topped with loads of caramelized onions and served with extra pesto and cubes of either sweet potatoes of butternut squash. You get the beefy flavor from the steak, garlicy freshness from the pesto and the sweetness from the onions and butternut squash. The combination of flavors and textures is just absolute perfection and goes quite well with a nice, dry red.

Marinated flank steak with herb pesto and balsamic caramelized onions

2 TBS olive oil
2 large sweet onions, sliced into ¼ inch thick half rounds (if you can’t find sweet specifically, use yellow onions)
1 TBS brown sugar, packed
2 TBS balsamic vinegar

1.5- 2 pound flank steak (or skirt steak)
1 cup tightly packed cilantro
½ cup tightly packed basil (you can substitute mint if you like)
2 cloves garlic
3 TBS red wine vinegar
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

Put flank steak in a large Ziploc bag or non-reactive (glass) pie plate. Combine cilantro through red wine vinegar in a food processor; pulse to combine. Keeping the food processor on, slowly pour in the olive oil until the mixture is very well combined- you should be able to drizzle it onto something with a spoon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Save ¼ cup and set aside; pour the rest into the Ziploc bag with the steak and make sure the meat is well coated. Seal and put in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour but as long as overnight.

Before preparing the onions, take the steak out of the refrigerator so it can come to room temperature.

Heat the olive oil on medium-low heat in a large sauté pan and add onions. After a minute or so, add the brown sugar. Slowly sauté the onions until they are brown and caramelized, about 20-25 minutes, keeping the heat relatively low as to not burn them. Add the balsamic vinegar, stir to combine and take off the heat. Set aside.

Take the steak out of the Ziploc bag, brushing off excess marinade. Season both sides of the meat with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tsp of olive oil in a grill or large sauté pan until almost smoking and add the steak, letting one side sear about 5 minutes, then flip and let the other side sear for about 3 ½ for medium rare. Put the meat on a cutting board, tent with foil and let it rest for five minutes.

Cut the steak against the grain into ½ inch thick slices, drizzle pesto over it and top with the caramelized onions.

Serve with cubed, roasted butternut squash or sliced, baked sweet potatoes. Enjoy!

PS- the leftovers make a KILLER sandwich the next day……slightly toasted bread, slathered with Dijon mustard, some pesto, sliced steak, a mound of the caramelized onions, arugula…..oh yeah baby! You could even add a slice of swiss……..ok, now getting too hungry…………..!