Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Locanda Verde's Bloody Mary

The weather's getting crisp and and cool as winter approaches. It's this season that when I wake up on a clear Sunday morning, I have a craving for brunch with my friends. I start with a few early morning texts and before long, I have a group of four close friends to dine with.

My favorite place for brunch in the city is Locanda Verde, an Italian restaurant with curved doors and wood paneling everywhere, mirrors on the ceiling, delicious baked bread, and a roast chicken to die for. It is the brainchild of Andrew Carmellini, who has since gone on to open The Dutch, another great restaurant in the city.

Anyway, my favorite drink that is ALWAYS on the menu at Locanda Verde is their Bloody Mary della Casa. I have always wondered what goes into one. I was lucky that I frequent the bar often enough to know the bartender personally. With some luck and a lot of persuasion, I got him to reveal the secrets of the house bloody mary. Here it is!

Bloody Mary Della Casa (from Locanda Verde)
10 cans of tomato juice (roughly 8 ounces each)
1/2 quart lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
12 oz worcestershire sauce
8 oz balsamic vinegar
1 heaped tbsp cayenne pepper
2 heaped tbsp white pepper
3 heaped tbsp onion powder
3 heaped tbsp celery salt
2 tbsp regular salt (kosher is fine)
1 cup fresh horseradish (might be hard if it's out of season, in which case jarred horseradish is fine too)
3 heads of garlic, halved*
1 bunch of fresh basil, finely torn*

*Tie inside a cheesecloth and leave to soak over night. In the A.M., remove the basil and garlic.

The Bloody Mary batch must be made on the day before, i.e. Friday afternoon for Saturday brunch to ensure that it properly infuses.

To serve:
1 oz vodka
0.5 oz grappa
6 oz bloody mary mix
Serve in a highball glass rimmed with fennel salt (This is made by grounding fennel seeds in the spice grinder. Add to salt at a ratio of 4:1).
Garnish with a short bamboo skewer of pickled pepperoncini, olive, and mortadella.


Monday, September 12, 2011

The best roast chicken marinade

Summer is almost over and grilling season is ending. So in spite of the looming fall and impending winter, I decided to grill this weekend. It was probably one of the last weekends of nice grilling weather so I fired up the electric grill (I can't own a propane grill in NYC and my building disallows charcoal) on the terrace. 

For the marinade, I was inspired by a roast chicken that I recently had at Locanda Verde, an amazing Italian place in Tribeca. The restaurant is run by Andrew Carmellini, a wizard at Italian cuisine and excellent restauranteur. Locanda is definitely one of my favorite brunch spots in the city, as well as an amazing deal for dinner (get the blue crab crostini!). 

I combined thinly sliced lemon, salt, pepper, sugar, rice wine vinegar, olive oil, corn oil, rosemary, oregano, red pepper flakes, and roasted garlic puree and mixed well. I had purchased two whole chickens which I cut apart myself using the technique I learned here: I saved the two chicken backs and used them for stock (one onion halved, two carrots chopped, bay leaf, and parsley) which I made while the chicken pieces were marinating.

Once the chicken was done marinating, I cooked the chicken pieces on high on each side for about two minutes. I also grilled rosemary corn while these were cooking.

When I bit into the chicken, I was immediately reminded of the intensely juicy and flavorful chicken I had at Locanda. Even though I don't have a wood-fired grill, it was still comparable, sans the woody flavor that is oh so good. It was a perfect weekend to herald the coming of autumn.

Marinated Chicken Alla Griglia
Adapted from Andrew Carmellini (Locanda Verde)
An overnight marinade, plus about ½ hour of cooking time.

For the marinade:
¼ cup roasted garlic purée ( made by roasting whole garlic cloves covered in olive oil in the oven at 300 degrees for an hour)
½ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ grape seed oil or corn oil
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
1 lemon, thinly slices
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
For the chicken:
2 whole chickens, cut into pieces (thighs, drumsticks, wings and drumettes, and breasts)
½ teaspoon each of salt and course-ground black pepper

1. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
2. Place the chicken halves in a large container and pour the marinade over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the fridge for at least 8 hours, or overnight.
3. Fire up the grill or preheat the broiler.
4. Remove the chicken's from the marinade (but don't wipe the herbs off; they're delicious charred with on the skin). Season with more salt and pepper.
5. If you're using a grill: Place the chicken's skin-side down and grill them on high. After 2 minutes, turn the halves 45°. After another 2 minutes, turn the halves 45° again. Turn the heat down to medium and cook the chicken until the juice runs clear when you stick a leg with a knife, about 20 minutes, depending on your grill.
6. If you're using the broiler: Place the chickens on a roasting rack and broil them until the skins are crisp, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to 425° and bake the chicken until the juice runs clear when you stick the leg with a knife, about 20 minutes.
7. Serve immediately, with the vegetables and accompaniments of your choice.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Summer salad of Greenmarket heirloom tomatoes, radish, fresh basil and parsley, olive oil, lemon, and red onion

Saturday was a truly glorious day. I awoke at 8 am to the sun shining through my window and the weather pleasant enough to draw droves of New Yorkers outside for early morning strolls. I looked outside as the sun's line crept slowly through the city, heralding the day.

I decided that it was a perfect day to go visit the Union Square Greenmarket. I took the subway, which shot me down to the Union Square area like a bullet. Walking around the market was like being a kid in a candy store. The heirloom tomatoes were all in season; they were marvelous. There were tomatoes of all sizes and shapes and colors. Green, yellow, red, yellow-green, small, large, medium sized, enormous, tiny. I wanted to buy everything and more.

I ended up buying several beautiful heirloom tomatoes, a fresh bunch of basil enough to make enough pesto for several fat Italian mafioso, a few bottles of Greenmarket wine (both whites), some radishes, some cranberry beans, green peppers, and other fresh produce.

Tonight, after coming home from a long and exhausting day at work, the last thing I wanted to do was cook a long and involved dinner. I had been dreaming of the heirlooms all day and quickly opted for a light summer salad.

Summer salad of heirloom tomatoes

6 large heirloom tomatos, preferably from your local farmer's market
1 radish, sliced thin
1 small red onion, minced
1 tbspn lemon oil (or fresh lemon juice)
3 tbspn olive oil
2 tbspn parsley, finely chopped
2 tspn mint, finely chopped
2 tspn basil, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Bring a large pot of water to a roaring boil. In the meantime, prepare an ice bath.
2. Using a small knife, cut a very shallow X pattern on the bottom part of each tomato (the part opposite the stem).
3. Skin the tomatoes as follows: When the water is at a roaring boil, dip each tomato in the water until the skin begins to break apart. Transfer with a strainer to the ice bath immediately. When the tomato cools, peel the skin carefully and let dry on paper towels. Repeat for each tomato.
4. Cut the dried tomatoes into sections about 1.5 inch cubes. Salt and pepper to taste.
5. While the tomatoes' flavors are developing from the salt and pepper, prepare the dressing. In a bowl, whisk together the oils, herbs, salt, pepper, lemon juice, onion, and radish.
6. To serve, place a few pieces of tomato on each of six serving plates. Add the dressing. Garnish with a sprig of parsley.

Serves 6.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fluke Crudo

Now that summer's in full swing, I decided to make a no-cook dish for a dinner party. This is a delightful appetizer that stimulates the appetite.

I was walking through the Union Square Greenmarket, browsing some locally-grown produce when I saw these amazing grapefruits and oranges. They were plump and begging for a nice fish to complement them in a crudo.

I settled on some wild-caught fluke from Whole Foods. At $5.99 a pound, they were as equally affordable as delicious. The fishmonger was also kind enough to descale, gut, and clean the fish for me, and separate the pristine, skinless fillets from the bones and head that I will later use to make fish stock.

The dish came out perfectly; the acidity of the citrus "cooked" the fluke lightly, without muddling or masking the delicate flavor. I added a fine herb mixture of chopped parsley, mint, and basil to enhance the freshness of the dish. I think the only difference I'd make is to add some more spice.

Fluke Crudo (Adapted from Derek Wagner, Nicks on Broadway, Providence, R.I.)

1 pound skinless fillet of sushi-grade fluke, cut into pieces about 1/4 inch by 1 inch by 2 inches
1/2 cup lime juice
3/4 cup lemon oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 shallots, minced
3 fresh Thai chili, sliced razor thin
Salt and black pepper
Inner, light green leaves from 1 bunch celery
18 orange segments (from 2 oranges)
18 grapefruit segments (from 2 grapefruits)
1 1/2 teaspoons capers
1/3 cup coarsely chopped mint
1/3 cup coarsely chopped parsley
1/3 cup coarsely chopped basil
6 radishes, sliced thin.

1. In a mixing bowl, mix together the lemon oil, lime juice, and vinegar. Add the chilis, shallots, salt and pepper to taste. Add the fluke, toss gently, and let sit for about 10-15 minutes.

2. Place the celery leaves in the center of six plates and alternate two orange and grapefruit segments around them.

3. Mound the fluke on top of the celery leaves. Spoon the dressing over the fish, sprinkle the capers, herb mixture, and radish slices. Garnish with an orange and grapefruit segment, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.

Makes 6 servings.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Broiled giant oysters at Imperial Seafood Palace

You know the old adage that states that oysters are best in months that end in the letter 'r'? Recently I had an oyster which blew my mind, and it was in May. Surprised? I was too...

I was dining in Flushing, New York, at one of the best Cantonese restaurants in the tri-state area. The restaurant is called "Imperial Seafood" which received a rave review in the NYTimes in late 2009.

While the review says that one of the best dishes to get is the Dungeness crab steamed with glutinous rice, I contest that the giant broiled oysters are even better. They are the largest oysters I've ever had, by far.

the broiled oyster, with rice noodles, XO, scallion, and chili

We ordered one per person, at $3 a pop. Not bad a price. I can eat three at most, and I consider myself a big eater. We got them broiled, with rice noodles, XO, scallion, and chili. You can ask for them any other way -- they will gladly suggest a dozen different cooking styles.

The oysters are not for beginners. They are rich, heavy, and delicious. The spicy garlicky sauce complements the richness perfect. The noodles cut the heaviness of the oysters, just a tiny bit. It eases the pleasures of heaven a little, like that's even necessary!

Even my grandma seemed to enjoy them.


Imperial Seafood Palace
136-13 37th Avenue (Main Street)
Flushing, Queens
(718) 939-3501.