Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Homemade Aushak without the Third World Service of Afghan Grill

I love the Afghan Grill. I really do. But lately, my tolerance has wained for the incredibly poor (but friendly) service. I've written about them before here. So, I decided to try my favorite Aushak (leek dumplings with meat sauce) at home:

Fragrant Aushak meat sauce: tomato paste, ground beef, mint, cilantro, ginger, garlic, onion, corriander...lots of ingredients, really rich taste.

Sauteed leeks and green onions...

A teaspoon of leeks in a wonton wrapper...

Place a bit of beaten eggs along the edges and fold wrapper over. Pinch edges closed.

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Put meat sauce on the leek dumplings, dab Greek yogurt mixed with minced garlic and you're done!
Here's the recipe for the Aushak:
Aushak Serves 4
Leek filling
2 leeks (about 2 cups chopped)
3 green onions, chopped
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/4 tsp hot chilli pepper
1/2 a pkg of wonton wrappers
Cut most of green top and roots from leeks, halve lengthwise and wash well. Dry with paper towels and chop finely. Fry leeks and green onions gently in oil until soft but not brown. Combine leeks and green onions in a bowl with salt, cilantro and hot chilli pepper. To assemble: Place a teaspoon of leek filling in the center of the wonton wrapper. Using your finger, wet edges of eggroll skin with water and fold in half, sealing edges. Fold the dough in half and seal by pressing the edges together very firmly. Roll aushaks in flour and place on a tray. Cover with a cloth until required.
Meat sauce
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1 small onion (1/2 cup chopped)
1/4 cup water
1 clove crushed garlic
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
pinch black pepper
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1/2 bunch cilantro chopped
1/2 bunch mint chopped
For the meat sauce, blend onion and 1/4 cup water in blender until liquid, then mix beef in pan together with the onion and brown in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When dry add the remaining water and other ingredients to meat and cook 20 to 25 minutes over medium-low heat. Mix in cilantro and mint before serving. Final sauce should be very thick and dry.
Yogurt sauce
1 cup plain yogurt
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the yogurt, mix all the ingredients together and adjust seasoning to taste. To finish bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Drop in aushaks and boil for 5-7 minutes. It is best to do this in batches of about 10 at a time. Remove when cooked and keep warm over simmering water. To serve: spread some of the yogurt sauce on a plate. Top with hot aushaks and cover with more yogurt sauce. Top with meat sauce. Garnish with finely sliced fresh mint.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Restaurant Week: January 14-20

Obligatory Restaurant Week Announcement: A good way to sample local restaurants without breaking the bank. Some establishments offer the full menu (like 1789), while many showcase a more limited selection.

Lunch: restaurants that will offer a 3-course fixed-price lunch special for $20.08
Dinner: restaurants that will offer a 3-course fixed-pricedinner special for $30.08

I'll go during lunch, but will avoid dinners out this week (crowds similar to those you see on NYE and Valentine's...).

Go here to see the list of participating restaurants. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Cocktail food for dinner

Sometimes, when I don't feel like cooking or have nothing in the pantry, I make a meal out of cocktail food: cheeses, some processed/cured meat (that's charcuterie for those sniveling "foodies" out there), olives or pickles (cornishon, not gerkin), and ample amounts of wine...

Note the high-wire-level triteness of the "French" poster art plate--pretty awesome, wouldn't you say?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Thought of the Day: The Only Reason Sandra Lee Has a Show her camel toe. Or somewhere in Lubbock, there's a housewife buying a lot of taco seasoning packets, gallons of Stoli and grape juice for "cocktails", and hot glue sticks for "tablescapes". The combination artifice and processed wretchedness of this show is....stunning. Okay, so perhaps it isn't just the "toe".

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

BLT Steak= B-etter L-ook T-o (others for) Steak

Dear Frank the Assistant Manager and the water/bread guy at BLT Steak:

I'd like to thank you for your efforts. You two were the only ones who attempted any semblance of service on our inauspicious visit a couple of months ago to your establishment. The prime rib for two was delicious and came sizzling hot and perfectly prepared. The ginormous popover with big sea salt shaker was kitschy and cute (and equally yummy). Even your country pate in mason jar was a pretty delightful gimick. And the wine list...surprisingly decent! I even applauded the Long Islandite next to us with the very large diamond encrusted watch who (pre-cut his entire hunk of meat before feeding--like I do for my dog) got a nice bottle of Opus One (the "label" he heard about once in an episode of Entourage, no doubt)--and the way he talked about it was as loud as his watch. But I digress.

I had nothing against him (other than his existence). I was more angered by the General Manager who hovered over Joey Buttafuoco VI and his henchmen, smelling the sweet aroma of conspicuous consumerism and, perhaps, the large well-exercised bowels all the better to digest the pedestrian decadence of a meaty sales dinner, while ignoring the other diners--including us--on a somewhat busy Saturday evening. But that was only the beginning of the bad service. (And when I say bad, I mean it oozed the sickening scent of that which attracts a certain species of beetle .) It's unfortunate for all the hard work produced by the back of the house when the front of the house just f*cked it all up. Let me just list the various nodes of the bowel movement that was our experience that night:

1. We made a reservation for 7; we were seated at 8.
2. We called ahead and inquired about corkage. "Thirty-five," said the 14-year old hostess. Upon seating, the GM makes a b-line towards us and barks, "You know there's a charge for that don't you? [Yes, it's 35.] Sorry, you're wrong, it's forty (so deal)," [real professional]
3. Our server took our order. Someone else dropped it off. No one checked to see if the order was a) correct or b) if we needed anything in the hour and a half interim (except when the water boy came around to pour us more tap and until we summoned you, dear Frank to complain).
4. No one touched the wine that we paid "it's forty bucks (so deal)" for someone to effing pour.
5. The GM, after circle jerking with the "gentlemen" from Long Island, (I kid you not) SITS DOWN TO EAT WITH HIS FRIENDS, not once checking on us or the other tables. WTF? [scales the heights of professionalism].
6. The music was turned up so loudly (to drown out the reverberating din of conversation due to bad acoustics) that it was uncomfortable.

Look, here's the deal, Frank and water/bread guy (and the kitchen staff): you should tell Laurent Tourondel that you love your jobs and you like the idea of the restaurant. But when your captain is sinking the ship, aiming it directly at the iceberg called incompetence, you kind of wanna jump. There are many, many, many, places to go in this city to get a great steak at various price points (and this one isn't at the low end), so what people want is good service and atmosphere to accompany their yummy piece of flesh. You know this. Maybe he should as well.

Anyway, this could have been a great experience, as the food was pretty good. But as it stands, I will never go back, as the poor service and deeply JV operation reminds me more of a chain and less of a celebrity chef outpost. For the latter, I'll go to Brasserie Beck, WestEnd Bistro, or even Charley Palmer's. And for the former, I'll go to...well, I don't do chain restaurants.



Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Proof Proves Itself...

Extremely tender venison with delicious demi-glace.
We went to Proof for New Year's Eve dinner and were very happily surprised by the great food and service, as well as atmosphere. Like many newly-opened restaurants, the decor is spare and modern with dark wood and hints of shimmer from glossy lacquered table-tops. Glass shelves full of wine surround the room-- it is a wine bar after all. This night there was a $150 tasting menu, but we went for a la carte firsts and seconds. Everything was well-coordinated, the service polite and professional without being stuffy or condescending. They were very good to pour us the four bottles of wine we brought, as well as a bottle of Champagne.
Seared fois gras with a beautiful reduction and spiced pear.
(They allow corkage at a very reasonable $25 a bottle--as long as none of the wine is on their list.) And if you don't want to bring your own wine, they offer many, many cult wines and even a Champagne trolley! This place is just smart (unlike BLT Steak, which is ghetto, but more on that in another posting). I'll keep this short by saying that Proof is excellent and it now makes sense why it has gained so much success so soon. Here are some of the delectable dishes we had:

Day boat scallops with puree of turnip.

Sable fish, silky and creamy atop whipped potatoes and a bit of baby bok choi.
Wagyu beef carpaccio with pea shoots, cabbage, and a delicious peppery asian dressing.
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