Restaurant Widow

Dinner: March 18, 2010

This dinner for one brought to you by the serendipitous discovery of leftover cooked pasta, a conveniently open jar of Poblano Farm pasta sauce, the end of a log of olive butter, and a whisper of freshly grated Pecorino Romano. And then (as a wise woman once said), “we crack an egg on top.”

Fried pasta with egg is one of my favorite things to eat when I’m dining alone, and it was just what I needed to help me feel a little less blue. I promise to try a little harder once I’ve got the fridge and pantry re-stocked this weekend.


Tim Wu is a Genius


This chicken? Make it. Seriously. Do not delay. I’m a sucker for anything with miso in it, so I already had high hopes for this bird, but it was even better than anticipated, and the Shoyu Onion Sauce put it over the top.

Shoyu Onion Sauce mise

This was so good, in fact, that I saved the pan drippings from the chicken, as well as the leftover sauce (we only roasted half a bird, but made the full amount of sauce), and repurposed these flavorful leftovers for Sunday brunch. I tossed a couple of cups of cubed potato with the drippings and a little splash of oil, then roasted them in our iron skillet at 425 until they were cooked through, turning the potatoes about midway through the cooking time. I took some thin slices of steak left over from Friday’s dinner and gently warmed them in the leftover onion sauce, added a generous handful of sliced scallions to the cooked potatoes, and served everything (surprise!) with an egg on top.

Sunday brunch at home

What a delicious spin on steak and eggs.

So yeah, make this chicken. And don’t forget to vote.

Rich Meat Sauce, Take 1


I got a major craving for pasta with meat sauce yesterday, but a long-simmered Ragu Bolognese was the last thing I needed to get started on at 7 p.m. I usually keep a supply of sauce portioned out in the freezer, but we ate the last of it ages ago, and it’s not exactly the sort of thing I cook during the summer months. I decided to make a quicker meat sauce instead, using a mixture of beef and pork, and deepening the flavor by including richly flavored ingredients and caramelizing the heck out of them.

Dinner: September 16, 2009

I used lots of onions, a generous pour of red wine, and a good amount of double-concentrated tomato paste as well as my usual canned whole San Marzanos. An hour and a half of cooking left me with a rich, meaty sauce that was just about what I had hoped for, but I think I’ll still call this a “work in progress.”

Ducks in a Row


There’s no question that duck is one of our favorite proteins to work with, but I will admit that we tend to rely on the same preparations for it: the breasts are usually grilled or simply seared in our iron skillet, and the legs and wings (and fat) generally make their way into confit. So when I spotted Mark Bittman’s recipe for a Vietnamese-style duck with green beans a little while back, I was intrigued: it had flavors that we love and don’t play with enough at home, and it looked like a good bet for a weeknight dinner, using things we already had on hand.

Dinner:  April 15, 2009

Mike volunteered to make it for our Wednesday night dinner, and while he would like to make a few tweaks to the recipe, we were both pretty pleased with the result. In particular, the method of putting the duck pieces in a dry pan and letting them cook in their own rendered fat was brilliant – the whole house smelled amazing, and the duck was intensely flavorful. We’re planning a do-over soon.

anchos y arboles

Thursday night’s duck dinner was a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing: some friends started tweeting about burritos in the morning, which led to Mike and I both developing a massive craving for Mexican food, which led me to start desperately thinking of what I could put together with the stuff we had in our fridge and pantry that night. Which takes us to our ever-present tub of duck confit. It really is one of the best “convenience” foods I can think of, but as I said above, we tend to prepare it the same way. And while there’s nothing wrong with a crackly-skinned, seared confit leg, with potatoes fried in the duck fat and a salad with sharp vinaigrette served alongside, I planned to go in a very different direction.

I started by putting together a quick sort of mole sauce: shallots and garlic softened in a bit of duck fat, some toasted spices (whole cumin, coriander and cloves), toasted almonds and pumpkin seeds, reconstituted dried chiles, a couple of chipotles in adobo, and a bit of thawed, reheated roasted tomato sauce and stock (a chicken and duck blend) from the freezer. This all went into a blender, along with a blob of sesame tahini (we were out of the traditional sesame seeds, so I figured, why not), a bit of tomato paste, some sherry vinegar, salt, canela, Mexican oregano, and unsweetened cocoa powder, and I blended it to a creamy puree. I adjusted the salt and acid until it tasted right to me, and added a little of the liquid left over from soaking the chiles to thin it out a bit.


With the mole done, I set my attention to the duck, shredding off the meat from a leg and a couple of wings, cooking it in the little bits of fat that clung to the meat until the edges were a bit crispy. I softened up some tortillas in a little more duck fat, stuffed each of them with a bit of the duck, then put them in a baking dish and spooned some of the mole all around. I added a mixture of grated cheeses (Smith’s cheddar and Divine Providence) to the top, and baked the enchiladas for about 25 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

I made a sort of lime crema by whisking a little fresh lime juice into the last of a container of crème fraiche, which I drizzled over the tops of the finished enchiladas, sprinkling some minced scallion and lime zest on for garnish, and spooned some slow-cooked Rancho Gordo beans onto our plates as well.

Dinner:  April 16, 2009

The rich, flavorful duck was a wonderful match with the flavors in the mole sauce – we liked these enchiladas so much, in fact, we ate the entire batch. I made enough mole to feed an army, and I plan to portion out the remainder and freeze it, so we’ll definitely be doing this version of enchiladas again.

Thank the Goddess

The days are growing longer, little green things are springing up all around, and though there’s still a chill in the air, I’m moving ever-so-gradually toward lighter meal preparations. Take this salmon. It’s MSC Certified Wild Alaskan Sockeye, so richly flavored, that it really needed little adornment to make it shine.


But I did want to do something more than just salmon, green beans and carrots, so I put together a sauce. It was inspired by the classic Green Goddess dressing, but since I lacked a few of the primary components of the standard version, I’d call this more of an anchovy and herb sauce. I combined a mixture of anchovy filets, garlic cloves, capers, lots of flat-leaf parsley, chervil, dill and young sorrel leaves in the small bowl of my food processor, added a pinch of salt and the juice of a Meyer lemon, and processed it to a slightly chunky paste. In a separate bowl, I whisked together a couple of ounces of creme fraiche with a heaping tablespoon of mayo, then I added the herb paste and stirred it until combined.

I placed the sauce in the fridge to chill briefly while I sauteed the salmon, rubbed with a small amount of olive oil, searing it on all sides and taking it off the heat while it was still just a bit underdone in the center.

Dinner:  March 17, 2009

I scattered some young leaves from Baby Greens on our plates, placed the salmon on top, and topped each piece with a drizzle of the sauce. Some sweet young carrots from Ledge Ends Produce, along with the last of the haricots verts I froze last summer, went alongside. In essence, this was a simple meal of fish and vegetables, but the easy, flavorful sauce added a nice bit of elegance and flair.

#1 Crush

Dinner:  November 13, 2008

Some people dream of dining at the French Laundry, Chez Panisse, or El Bulli, but honestly, I think my dream restaurant dinner would be at Lucques. I mean, Suzanne Goin just gets it, and every main dish or side or sauce that I’ve made, either direct from her book or inspired by it, has been a major hit.


This Romesco, for instance, almost didn’t make it to our plates because after my first taste of it, I couldn’t stop scooping it out of the food processor by the spoonful. All I could think about this morning was “man, I wish I had some Romesco.” It might have replaced harissa as my latest food crush.


The rest of the meal was simple: crisp roasted potatoes, some green leaves, sautéed Spanish mackerel filets with a squeeze of lemon juice, but the Romesco was the star. I want to put it on everything. I bet you will, too.

Romesco (adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin)

5 Ancho chiles (we were out, so I substituted Guajillos)
2 T raw almonds
2T blanched hazelnuts (forgot to blanch mine – oops)
1 ¼ c extra virgin olive oil (I didn’t measure. Don’t act like you’re surprised.)
1 slice country bread, about 1 inch thick (I used two slices of Seven Stars multigrain)
1/3 cup canned San Marzano tomatoes
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 T chopped flat leaf parsley
½ lemon for juicing (we had more Meyers than regular lemons, so I used one of those)
Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 375. Soak the chiles in hot water for about 15 minutes, then seed and stem them. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast them for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Fry the bread in a bit of the olive oil, then let it cool and cut into cubes. Return the pan to the stove, heat the chiles for about 2 minutes, then add the tomatoes. Cook them until they break down and the juices are reduced, then turn off the heat and set aside.

Pulse the nuts, bread and garlic in a food processor, then add the chile and tomato mixture and pulse again to combine. Pour in more olive oil while the machine is running until you have the texture you want. Taste for seasoning, then stir in the lemon juice and parsley.

Grill, interrupted

Dinner:  April 9, 2008

I was cooped up in the office all day yesterday, but from the windows on the 52nd floor of my building it sure looked like a great spring day outside. Since we didn’t have anything planned for dinner, Mike and I tossed a few ideas back and forth over email, and when I suggested chicken with a Mediterranean spin, he offered to break out the grill for the first time this season. Unfortunately, at some point during my commute home, the sky clouded over and a cold mist began to fall, and there went our plans for grilling.

I decided to roast the bird instead, after marinating the pieces in a mixture of fresh lemon juice, olive oil, lots of garlic, kosher salt and ground cumin. We snacked on hummus, marinated goat cheese and warm wedges of pita while the chicken cooked, and when it was ready I squeezed a bit more lemon juice on top and served it with a sauce of Greek yogurt, lemon and fresh dill, with marinated artichokes and garlicky olives on the side. The evening may have turned damp and grey, but our dinner was warm and bright, a reminder that sunnier days are just ahead.