Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Recipe: Manila Clams in White Wine with Saffaron

EHK and I decided to call it a lazy Friday in this past Friday after a tiresome work week. We've never been much of the going out to the bar/lounge/club crowd. Well we do like to go out but the night is usually centered around the meal. Enjoying it, conversing about it and not worry about the next event for the night. 

This particular night we wanted to unwind with a foodie movie... Julie & Julia as well as enjoy a scrumptious meal. So I picked up a 5lb bag of Manila clams and the latest copy of REAL SIMPLE (my favorite magazine... to thumb through when I have a free moment) at Costco. Have I ever mentioned how much I <3 Costco? If I could live there I would! I'm serious. It's got everything you could possibly need. Just think about it... I'm sure you'll find it in my mecca. Ok... back to the meal. We also picked up a loaf of Bread and Cie's Country Levain from Jimbo's. We'd love to actually pick it up from Bread and Cie but heading south from Del Mar/Carmel Valley in the Friday after work rush is pure madness so Jimbo's will have to do.

The last time BevMo had a 5 cent sale I picked up 2 bottles of Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio on the recommendation from one of my IP law classmates. A pretty good deal as the the breakdown was ~$4.50-5/bottle for an 86pt wine. Light, fresh, and crisp! I always have a bottle of white chilled for the next meal and this was the next bottle up :). Thanks for the recommendation Brian! I'll be stocking up at the next sale for sure.

I worked on the clams while EHK worked on the bread. I had initially planned on just slicing up the bread  and maybe giving it a quick toast to sop up the clam broth but he had the brilliant idea to toast it with some olive oil and finish with white truffle oil and sea salt. Uhm...yum even just by itself! I found myself happily munching on the deliciously fragrant slices.We also ended up fighting over the toast to soak up the flavorful broth.  The clams were a nice meal as always- tender, meaty and aromatic. I think the actual weight was about 4.82lbs (yea this for 2 people... so what!!!) so we were thoroughly satisfied by the conclusion of our meal.

This is my ideal Friday night. Good food. Good wine. Good movie. Good company.

    • ~5lbs Manila clams
    • 1 medium onion diced
    • 1 tbs of minced garlic (add more if you like garlic)
    • Unsalted butter
    • ~1 cup dry white wine of choice (something you'd like to drink)
    • ~1 cup chicken broth
    • Pinch of saffron
    • 1 crusty loaf of bread
    • Extra virgin olive oil
    • Sea salt
    • White truffle oil
    1. Wash the clams thoroughly to make sure all the sand and grit is out. Eating sandy shellfish is never fun. Check out the following link for step by step instructions on cleaning clams.
    2. Melt a pat or 2 of butter in a large skillet, brown garlic and sweat the diced onions till translucent.
    3. Toss in the clams and give a good coating of butter, garlic and onions. 
    4. Add white wine, chicken broth and saffron. Place lid on pan and give a good shake to the pan or stir as needed so clams get equal love in the liquids. Keep the lid on as much as possible so steam can build.
    5.  Take off heat when shells have opened, indicating they are done.
    6. Slice bread to desired thickness.
    7. Drizzle with olive oil on both sides and toast to desired color.
    8. Finish with white truffle oil and sea salt
    9. Enjoy clams, toast and the rest of that white wine :)
    Bread & Cie
    350 University Ave.
    San Diego, CA 92103
    (619) 683-9322
    M-F: 7am-7pm
    Sa: 7am-6pm
    Su: 8am-6pm

    12853 El Camino Real
    San Diego, CA 92130
    (858) 793-7755
    8am to 9pm Daily
    *other locations in San Diego County, check website*

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010

    Gone Vegetarian at Rajdhani: Artesia, CA

    I've got a few more posts about Chicago but I figured I'd take a break from it and post on a place a little closer to home today. A few weeks ago, BT and I met up with her beau, JB and two of his friends. Given that one of his friends is a practicing vegetarian, we opted for a vegetarian friendly place that evening for dinner.

    I'm not too familiar with vegetarian in OC/LA so I let the locals choose this one. Thus, we were off to Rajdhani in Artesia. Exiting off the 605 and heading down Pioneer Blvd., I couldn't help but notice the brightly lit shops with vibrantly colored fabrics, sounds of Bollywood spewing from speakers and the tantalizing aroma of curries. I'm thinking to myself... is this Little India? If not, then it should be. I don't hang out in this part of LA very much so I wouldn't know what the area is referred to as. 

    We managed to secure a tiny parking spot and headed into Rajdhani. We were promptly seated and I immediately noticed these tin plates and bowls on the table. Almost instantaneously, a train of servers with these giant condiment like caddies came by  scooping curries, soups and various cooked veggies into the tins and hawking their breads and crackers to sop up the contents. This constant train of food definitely encourages us to keep on eating. I'd say the bold flavors and aromas make you forget this is a meatless meal. Heck, I think I could be a vegetarian if I could eat like this everyday but then I remember pork. I <3 pork remember! So... don't count me in as a daily practicing vegetarian anytime soon.

    The savory part of this meal was so filling that by the time we got to the sweet part, it was literally too painful to consume the rosewater ice cream. But the icey, delicately rose flavored treat was a nice ending to a meal of mostly intense flavors.

    18525 Pioneer Blvd.
    Artesia, CA 90701
    (562) 402-9102
    M: Closed
    Tu-F: 11am-3pm, 5pm-9pm
    Sa: 11am-9pm
    Su: 11am-8:30pm

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    The French Pastry School: Chicago, IL

    In a past life, I went through a phase during my first year at UCSD contemplating leaving and attending culinary school. What stopped me? Well the guilt of leaving behind unfinished business did it. So I figured it'd be best to finish what I started at UCSD and if culinary school was still so strongly calling out to me at that point then maybe I'd be more serious about it. Its been several years since that time and I think now I much rather enjoy the finished delights at the front of the house than slaving in the back over them.

    Wandering around the city, EHK and I happened across the French Pastry School and decided to check it out since the smell of sweet buttery baked goods beckoned us. We were fortunate to be introduced to a member of the admissions staff who gave us a tour of the facilities and thorough introduction to the programs offered and instructors. I was in awe at all of the beautiful kitchen equipment and exquisite creations made by the students. My favorite memory of the school was being walked into the chocolate room. Its an enclosed room that keeps chocolate in ideal storage conditions. There I was greeted by the seductive aroma of chocolate and surrounded by all these lovely edible creations such as the white chocolate flower above.

    I still sometimes wonder how different life would be if I had acted on that urge years ago. However, I'm happy with where my life is headed right now and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Work can be stressful and preparations to return to full time schooling is giving me anxiety attacks but I find solace when I reflect on the people and things that bring joy and peace to my life.

    226 West Jackson Blvd.
    Chicago, IL 60606
    (312) 726-2419

    Monday, May 10, 2010

    Frontera Grill and XOCO: Chicago, IL

    On our second day, EHK and I lunched at Frontera Grill. Can't visit Chicago and leave without trying a Rick Bayless restaurant right? I had always been hesitant to try a celebrity chef's restaurant. I always imagine the wait staff to not be terribly friendly and it'd be crazy filled with clamoring fans hoping to catch a glimpse of the famed chef. But I think the urge to try the food would eventually win me over. Hal said it was crazy after he won Top Chef Masters and there was no hope in sight of catching a table as it was all booked up way far out so he nabbed a seat at the bar by himself one day and enjoyed a recreation of Rick's wining meal. Uhm... I'm kinda jealous. I've never been one to shy away from eating by myself if I can't find an eating partner. I would have definitely tried to beat Hal to that bar seat if I were there too. 

    EHK and I were still a little skeptical about Rick Bayless being the authoritarian on Mexican cuisine. C'mon...someone named Bayless? But I suppose his dedication in college to studying and appreciating the Spanish language and Latin America makes it more understanding. We'll hold judgement till after this meal.

    We arrived to find the bar area and main dining area completely filled. Fortunately it was about a 20-30minute  wait so not too bad.

    Once seated I ordered the aguas frescas of the day which was a hibiscus tea and EHK ordered a hibiscus lemonade. Looks just about the same so I only have a photo of my drink though his was more tart.

    Next came the appetizer, a Hawaiian Sunfish Ceviche.  To date, the best ceviche I've had was in a dirty 3 wall shack off a dirt road only the locals went to in Cabo. Uhm... this ceviche was actually pretty good. Excellent balance of acidity and spices married with the delicate chunks of fish.

    Next up was my order, Sapitos- a trio of gorditas covered in a chipotle and black bean sauce and toped with scrambled eggs, grilled chicken and chorizo with plantains, as well as crema and queso fresco. I think the sauce and crema made it a little rich for my taste. I had never had scrambled eggs that tasted like this. It wasn't quite the texture I was familiar with... maybe they had dribbled the eggs into boiling liquid? Nonetheless it was interesting. I enjoyed the dish in segments but all together I think it was overload.

    EHK ordered Tacos al Carbon- with red chile marinated Maple Creek pork, charcoaled pineapple, slab bacon and red onions. Served with black beans, guacamole, fresh salsa and homemade tortillas. I tricked EHK into letting me try his dish first. Haha... I had a hard time giving it up. Pork and I are friends. What a great combination of spices, with pork and more pork plus pineapple makes Liz = :-). 

    During our wait to be seated we eyed from the window at XOCO (another Bayless establishment) next door that churros were being made.  So we got an order of 3 for dessert.  Nice crispy pastries coated in sugar and I believe cocoa. We agreed to one a person and then tried to edge each other for the largest portion of the third one. I think I won :-p. 

    Ok... so Rick Bayless does know his Mexican food. You win this time Rick!

    Frontera Grill
    445 North Clark St.
    Chicago, IL 60654
    Tu: 11:30am-2:30pm & 5:20pm-10pm
    W-Th: 11:30am-2:30pm & 5pm-10pm
    Fr: 11:30am-2:30pm & 5pm-11pm
    Sa: 10:30am-2pm & 5pm-11pm
    Su-M: Closed

    449 North Clark St.
    Chicago, IL 60654
    Tu-Th: 7am-9pm
    F: 8am-10pm
    Sa: 8am-10pm
    Su-M: Closed

    Tuesday, May 4, 2010

    A Case for Encased Meats at Hot Doug's: Chicago, IL

    I had a free Southwest trip to use up before expiration and EHK accumulates quite a few SW free trips due to work travels so we decided on kind of a whim to visit Chicago a few weeks ago. We booked a lovely room overlooking the Magnificent Mile, at the Intercontinental Chicago which proved to be a very central location via Priceline for well below market value. I would definitely recommend using the "name your own price" function on Priceline for amazing travel deals. You just got to know what the market value is for your inquiry and be prepared to pony up as the bidding process will automatically charge you if you win the bid.

    Turns out EHK has a coworker that lives out in the Windy City and he invited us to lunch with him at Hot Doug's on our first day at 10 AM. Who regularly eats lunch at 10? Well he said its kind of the magic time to go if we didn't want to wait in line for 1-2 hours? Ok... I won't argue with the man since he apparently eats here enough to know the dining pattern. I was pretty excited to hit up this place since it's one of the stops Anthony Bourdain made on his foodie tour in Chicago for No Reservations.

    So Hal picks us up from the hotel and we arrive at the joint to find that a line had already started. I'm looking at this line and still thinking who eats this kinda stuff this early in the day? It's about a 20 minute wait so I suppose its not too bad.

    Standing in line we were in awe at all of the sausage choices. EHK and I ended up going with 4 sausage dogs and an order of duck fat fries. Hal warned us that regulars come for the sausages and ditch the fries but we are newbies from out of town so we couldn't leave without trying some.

    Duck fat fries. Fries fried in rendered duck fat. How could we resist? I'd never heard of such a thing so I just had to get an order. To be honest after trying them... not really something to write home about. They were good but for some reason I was expecting them to exude duck essence or something. Oh well. at least we can say that we tried these. Hal was right... ditch the fries next time. 

    Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck sausage with Truffle Aioli, Foie Gras Mousse and Fluer de Sel. Yum! Once I saw this on the menu, I knew it was a must order. The flavors of foie gras, truffle and fluer del sel were simply magical on the tongue. Definitely too rich for daily consumption but perfect for an indulgence every now and then. 

    Atomic Bomb... Damn Spicy Pork Sausage with spicy Mango Mayonnaise and Coolea Cheese. This was perhaps my least favorite sausage. I'm not a wuss when it comes to spice but I'm not  fan of spiciness to the point that all I taste is the heat and nothing else... eww.

    Cranberry and Shiraz Wild Boar Sausage with Sweet Curry Mustard and Smoked Gouda Cheese. This was another lovely combination that I enjoyed. I think I was a sucker for the sweet mildly spicy mustard atop the sausage. I think I'd like the cheese slightly melted or shredded next time.

    White Wine and Dijon Rabbit Sausage with Dijon Mustard and Goat Cheese. Not a bad sausage but I'm not the biggest fan of goat cheese. I just don't like that mustiness. I'd try it again with a different cheese next time.

    Hot Doug's sure puts up a pretty good argument for encased meats. I never thought such goodness could come from meats in tube form but I still think of that amazing Foie Gras sausage since we left. Till we meet again...

    Intercontinental Chicago
    505 N. Michigan Ave.
    Chicago, IL 60611

    Hot Doug's
    3324 N. California Ave.
    Chicago, IL 60618

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