Brooklyn-based

Hello, New York.

Long story very short, we’re back. Some of the story is already out there in bits and pieces, and I’ll probably write down a fuller recount of the events of the last two weeks somewhere soon, but for now, I just felt the need to post a little something here. It seems right and appropriate – after all, Last Night’s Dinner was born in Brooklyn.

A good 95% of our stuff – furniture, clothes, kitchen and pantry supplies – are still locked up in a Providence storage facility, but we brought a few essentials to get us started in our new home. We have our trusty iron skillet, two plates, two bowls, flatware and glasses for two, my favorite chef’s knife, a small pot, mixing bowl, rasp and reamer – just enough to get us going, and sustain us until the rest of our belongings arrive. At least we hope that’s the case.

Went out for a walk. Stumbled upon a greenmarket.

Our new kitchen is smallish but modern – long and narrow, but with a big window to let in the light and air, plus a brand new fridge, stove, and dishwasher (!). And on Sunday, the day after we landed here, we headed out for supplies. The Flatbush Food Co-Op was our destination, just a short walk away, but we were happily surprised to find that the Cortelyou Greenmarket was in full swing as well. We returned home with a bounty of local goods, and cooked our first meal in our new home that night: sauteed blackfish, zucchini and squash blossoms with lots of fresh young garlic, thyme and lemon, paired with a bottle of Wolffer Estate rose. To my delight, the baby ate a little bit of everything.

Untitled

It’s so good to be back home.

Paired Up

Femme Fatale

I got an offer I just couldn’t refuse last week, and of course it comes on the heels of me being all righteous about how I rarely accept free stuff for the blog. But it’s no secret that we’ve long been fans of Oriel wines, and they’ve been difficult to find since we moved here, so when the fine folks at Oriel asked if I’d like to receive some of the 2006 vintage of their Femme Fatale Rosé, I had to take them up on it.

Femmes Fatales

I was surprised and delighted when I arrived home on Wednesday to not one but two bottles, and as I hoped it would, the first bottle paired beautifully with the eggplant dish I’m testing to submit to a food52 contest.

Dinner:  September 3, 2009

I had a lot of fun planning a meal to pair with the second bottle for Thursday night, and ended up going with the sort of simple, unfussy fare that makes for a perfect patio dinner this time of year – a salad of fresh sweet corn from Confreda Farm, tossed with chopped tomatoes, slivers of fresh hot green chiles and a sassy lime dressing, all crowned with slices of seared fresh tuna. Mike and I both loved how the wine played with the sweet corn and the spicy chiles, and it was a perfect match for the rich, silky tuna.

Summer Layers

I have been battling a dreadful summer cold for nearly a week now, and the comedy of errors that was my Monday didn’t help matters at all. Rhode Island still celebrates V-J day, and because of the holiday the buses were running on a holiday schedule. There was another bus line that could get me to my train on time, but I reached the bottom of the very steep hill we live on just in time to see it whizzing by.

A sticky mile and a half later, I was at the train station, too late for my usual train but just in the nick of time to board the next commuter rail train. I arrived in Boston, trudged through the thick air to my building, and was greeted at my desk by stacks and stacks of files, all demanding my attention. I kept my head down, focused, and made a sizable dent in my backlog by the end of the day, then headed back to South Station, dreaming of home.

I’ll spare you details of the chaotic mess that my evening commute turned into, but suffice it to say that by the time I walked into the kitchen, only comfort food would do – comfort food, and the bottle of Domaine Tempier Bandol rose that had been chilling for days, awaiting the day that my sense of smell and my taste buds returned to normal.

Dinner:  August 10, 2009

So despite the heat, I turned on the oven and got to work on this summer vegetable gratin. I built many layers of colorful vegetables – thin coins of zucchini and blue potato, ripe red tomato, shaved fennel and sliced eggplant. I spread a garlicky opal basil pesto between each layer, covered the top of my baking dish (I used a loaf pan) loosely with foil, and slid it onto a baking sheet.

After about 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven, I removed the foil and added a mixture of fresh breadcrumbs, grated parmesan, and provencal herbs to the top. It went back into the oven until the topping was golden brown, then I pulled it out of the oven and let it rest briefly before slicing it up to serve. With a little arugula salad and that stunning rose, this meal was just what the doctor ordered.

Weekend Eats (and Drinks)

Lots of food and drink related activity this first weekend in our new home, as we embarked on our first Providence food safari to supplement the goodies we moved up from Brooklyn. We had beautiful weather, which made for more enjoyable wandering, and which also meant we were eager to unpack the grill and put it to use.

We kicked off Friday night with a round of cocktails and a delicious grilled chicken rubbed with lemon and herbs and loads of fresh garlic. While Mike took charge of the bird, I cleaned and steamed some artichokes and whipped up a garlicky lemon vinaigrette to serve on top. It was a simple meal, but it was light and tasty, and was made even better by the wine recommended to us by the guys at Eno downtown: Marc Kreydenweiss Partager Avec Toi Gewurtztraminer from Alsace.

A big priority on Saturday was to check out the wintertime farmers’ market at AS220, and were we ever glad we did. Though the space was small and the number of stalls was limited, we brought home something from just about everyone there, and have been happily eating our way through that bounty of local goodness.

Dinner:  April 28, 2008

The oysters we enjoyed pre-dinner from Matunuck Oyster Farm were fantastic, the greens for our salad and the fresh asparagus were delicious, but the star of Saturday dinner was this beautiful grass-fed ribeye from Simmons Farm. Bathed in a quick marinade and grilled to perfection, it was one of the most flavorful steaks we’ve had in a long time.

Dinner:  April 27, 2008

We want to get back into the habit of having seafood dinners on Sundays, so we took a trip to our nearby Whole Foods to see what they had to offer. Though I had never cooked with it before Sunday, the beautiful Arctic Char fillets that were on special caught my eye, so I picked one up. Arctic Char is a good choice as far as sustainability goes, and with salmon stocks in such peril, this seemed like a good opportunity to try an alternative.

I went fairly simple with the preparation, seasoning the fillets with sea salt and olive oil and searing them in a hot pan until they were just cooked through. I made a pesto of sorts with a big bunch of spring onions from the farmers’ market and a healthy amount of Meyer lemon juice, and served the fish on a bed of creme fraiche-enriched mashed new potatoes, finishing with a dollop of the spring onion pesto. The flesh of the char is very mild and buttery tasting, and the brightness of the pesto was a nice contrast.

A simple affair

Dinner:  March 6, 2008

Yesterday was a doozy. I hope to be back in force next week, but for now, I’ll just tell you briefly what I put together last night. I spotted some whole Spanish mackerel at Wild Edibles a few days ago, and hoped they would still have some available so I could make this, but when I stopped off on my way home last night there was no mackerel left. They did have some gorgeous fresh wild sardines, though, so I grabbed a pound of those instead. I halved a pound of fingerlings lengthwise and tossed them with olive oil, kosher salt, a copious amount of fresh thyme and a tablespoon or so of smoked Spanish paprika, then roasted them on a sheet pan in a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes.

I pulled out the potatoes and placed a layer of sardines on top, seasoning them with salt and drizzling a bit of olive oil on top, then placed them back in the oven (now at 400) for another 20 minutes, gently turning the sardines midway through. When the potatoes and sardines were done, I pulled them out of the oven and plated them on a bed of baby arugula, drizzling a good amount of sherry vinegar over the top. I finished them with a sprinkling of coarsely chopped raw almonds for a bit of crunch, and as a nod to the grilled sardine with romesco I had at La Laiterie in Providence our last trip up (which is where we had that waffle with foie, for those of you who asked).

2005 Albert Boxler Chasselas

This was a relatively quick and very easy dinner, the flavors harmonizing beautifully, and the whole meal was elevated by Mike’s wine selection, this 2005 Albert Boxler Chasselas. The light, bright flavor cut through the richness of the sardines and paired really well with the other flavors in the dish.

A perfect pair

Happy post-Valentine’s Day! I hope you are all basking in the afterglow of whatever sort of fun you engaged in yesterday.

duxelles

In the nearly five years that Mike and I have been together, we have never gone out to dinner on Valentine’s Day. In fact, with the exception of our traditional anniversary meal at Marlow and Sons, we prefer dining in on most real or manufactured holidays. It gives us a chance to do a bit of “stunt cooking,” trying new preparations and working with higher-end ingredients. When brainstorming ideas for our meal, I looked back through a long list of bookmarked recipes. I came across a photoset of the mini Beef Wellingtons the dynamic duo over at Married with Dinner had prepared over the Christmas holiday and it sounded like just what I was looking for. I mean, really, filets of beef, mushroom duxelles, puff pastry, foie gras… what’s not to love? As it turned out it was an extremely easy dish to put together on a weeknight since the most labor-intensive stuff could be done ahead of time.

mmmmm

Mike mixed up a batch of pastry dough on Wednesday, experimenting with a mix of half butter and half rendered leaf lard, but he was a little unsure about how well it would work for the Wellingtons, so I picked up an emergency back-up package of DuFour all butter puff pastry. He seared the filets in our cast iron skillet when he got home from work on Thursday and set them in the fridge to chill, and I prepared the duxelles in the same pan when he was finished. Once the mushrooms and meat were both well-chilled, I rolled out the pastry and got ready to assemble, layering the duxelles and filets on top of the pastry, topping each with a slice of foie gras, sealing them up and brushing them with a bit of egg wash before placing them into a preheated 400 degree oven.

into the oven with you

Because of the thickness of our filets, I let them bake for about 18 minutes before removing them and letting them rest while I sautéed a handful of green beans and made a quick pan sauce, again using our cast iron skillet. I combined about half a cup of red wine and an equal amount of Bobolink’s suckled veal demi-glace, reducing it until it was thick and syrupy, and finishing it with a knob of cold butter before spooning it onto our plates, setting the Wellingtons on top.

Dinner:  February 14, 2008

This was a truly luxurious meal, and as it turned out, when we added the cost of the filets of grass-fed Angus beef from Elk Trails, the tin of D’Artagnan duck foie gras, the puff pastry, the ingredients for the duxelles and pan sauce and the bottle of wine we picked up to go with it, we actually spent less than we do on most dinners out at our regular haunts. Nice, and we didn’t have to worry about disapproving stares when we mopped up the last little bits of pan sauce/beef juices/melty foie gras with our fingers.

tipples

Wine Pairing: Once we decided what we were cooking, we made a beeline for Uva Wines and asked wine guy Dan to recommend a bottle. We wanted something a little splurgier than normal, and he had a few good suggestions in our price range. He went to retrieve a bottle we had selected from the cellar but returned with that and another option, this 1999 Billard-Gonnet Pommard Premier Cru. One of the other store employees had recommended it as a great wine and a good match for our meal, and because it had a few more years in the bottle than the other wine we were considering, we decided to go for it. It was a delicious wine, round and velvety in the mouth with aromas of dark fruit and leather.

Not-Enchiladas

I had every intention of coming home last night and making enchiladas with some chicken we had left over from the weekend, but as you can see, that’s not exactly what I ended up doing. There was the ice storm. And the train delays. And by the time I finally got home it was VERY late and the last thing I was up for was frying individual tortillas and dipping them in sauce. So I punted, yet again, and ended up with something that had the flavor of enchiladas but was so ridiculously simple to put together I felt like I was cheating in a major way.

But it was so good we had two helpings each.

Dinner:  December 13, 2007

It’s amazing how any not-completely-from-scratch guilt just melts away when you’ve got a belly full of something good at the end of a long day.

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
8 oz. grated Monterey Jack cheese
Kosher salt
Hot pepper sauce
12 corn tortillas
1 12.5-ounce jar best quality tomatillo salsa, or equivalent amount of homemade
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons dried oregano

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Using 2 tablespoons of butter, generously grease the bottom and sides of a baking dish or cast iron skillet. In another skillet, melt the remaining two tablespoons of butter. Whisk in the flour and allow it to cook for a few minutes, then add the milk and whisk until smooth and thickened. Add a small handful of the grated cheese and stir through. Season with salt and hot pepper sauce.

Spoon about 1/4 cup of the cheese sauce into the bottom of the pan or baking dish, spreading it around. Add the shredded chicken to the remaining cheese sauce and stir through. Layer 4 tortillas on the bottom of the baking dish or cast iron skillet over the sauce. Spoon 1/3 of the salsa over the tortillas, then add half of the chicken/sauce mixture, half of the beans, a tablespoon of the oregano and 1/3 of the remaining cheese, distributing them fairly evenly. Cover with four more tortillas and repeat the layering. Top the next layer with the remaining tortillas, salsa and cheese. Bake for 35-40 minutes and allow to rest briefly before slicing. Serve with sour cream or crema and chopped fresh cilantro.

Four of 12

Wine Pairing:
We dipped into the mixed case we recently bought, selecting this 2006 Cuilleron Syrah. Mike and I both liked how it worked with our meal – lots of dark fruit and a bit of pepperiness which worked well with the richness and mild spiciness of the dish.