Monday, February 25, 2008

Corduroy: A Delicious Sleeper

I love restaurants like Corduroy: quiet, great food, outstanding service, and not too cheesy hip on the scene.

Chef-owner Tom Power's dishes are understated and elegant, simply prepared showcases of premium ingredients. As a former apprentice to Michel Richard, his good training is obvious; and Scott Palmer, the restaurant's general manager, pulls the front of the house together beautifully. Our favorite server, Daniel, is one of the best in the city, having worked in the industry for 30 years. Polite, attentive, extremely knowledgeable, but not too showy, talkative or rushed.

Corduroy is a sleeper of sorts: quietly executing with perfection. It's not about the cheapening shine, raukous loudness of ostentatious celebrity (as Mr. Power has been characterized as the least famous of DC's celebrity chefs), rather it's about the art of food. Indeed, Mr. Power is more artist than celebrity. That's a good thing.(Laurent Tourandel and his entourage could learn a few things.)

In a few weeks, Corduroy will move out of its digs on K Street and into Penn Quarter at 1122 9th Street, NW . Wishing you much success, Mssrs Power and Palmer (and Daniel!)--we look forward to great meals with you in your new location!

Kobach Squash soup: One might be bored by the "it's been done before" puree of vegetables, but the flavor in this is beautiful; the texture silky and not a lot of fat or cream to distract you (as is typically the case).

Braised pork belly with savoy cabbage with Meaux mustard and a rich reduction. This is buttery, velvety, exploding with deep earthy flavors. Loved this.

Corduroy is a civilized experience that is not to be missed....

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What Washington Eats Wednesdays: Tofu Curry--So Liberal-ly, I Should Have Voted for Hillary

Went to Philly for a sort of culinary/romantic getaway this past weekend and came back with a bunch of delicious loot from the 9th Street Italian Market (apparently the oldest and largest outdoor market in the U.S.--kind of like the Eastern Market but ten times better and bigger). Got a bunch of grrrreaaat stuff from DiBruno's and Talluto's, which I will write about later, but I also purchased a bunch of lovely spices from one of the spice stores along 9th Street. Tonight, I had to make use of the beautiful golden curry that I bought. So I made something so liberal and crunchy, I should have just voted for Hillary in the Potomac primary (as of this writing, she's losing big time, and has run out of money). Anyhoo, so I looked in my fridge and cupboard and pulled together a tofu and vegetable curry, with potatoes, broccoli, diced lime rind, ginger, coriander, roasted red pepper and coconut milk. Served with brown rice and fried up a bit of onion roti bread. Woohoo, I won't shave my armpits this week!

Here's the recipe:

1 package(s) (14 1/2- to 16-ounce) extra-firm tofu, drained, patted dry, and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon(s) cornstarch
1 tablespoon(s) peanut or corn oil
1 bunch(es) green onions, chopped
3 tablespoon(s) fresh gingerroot, peeled, chopped
4 teaspoon(s) curry powder
1 teaspoon(s) ground cumin
1 teaspoon(s) grated lime rind
3/4 teaspoon(s) salt
1/4 teaspoon(s) cracked black pepper
1 1/2 pound(s) small red potatoes, halved
3 cup(s) water
1 can(s) (14-ounce) reduced-fat coconut milk
1/2 pound(s) broccoli chopped
1 large sweet red pepper chopped, (or use about 1/3 cup roasted red peppers from a jar)

In large plastic bag, combine tofu cubes and cornstarch. Shake until all cornstarch adheres to cubes. In heavy 6-quart saucepot, heat oil over medium heat. Add tofu cubes and saute until lightly browned on all sides -- about 5 minutes. Stir in half of onions, the gingerroot, curry powder, cumin, lime rind, salt, and black pepper; saute 1 minute longer.
Add potatoes, water, and coconut milk to curry; heat to boiling over high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook until potatoes are just tender -- about 20 minutes. Add broccoli and red pepper to curry; heat to boiling over low heat, stirring occasionally.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Another Pantry Meal: Lamb "Lollipops" and Leftover Chorizo & Clam Risotto

It's great to have nice stuff in the freezer. One can eat really well without having to do a lot of planning or weekly shopping. So, when scrounging for something to make on a random night in, it can be a sort of event.

We had a rack of lamb that we purchased from Costco a while back. Feeling that we have gone out a little too much lately (and we're also heading to Philly for a sort of food weekend next week), I decided to make something of the meat.

I cut the ribs into individual chops (or "lollipops" or even better "lolli-chops" since they're best enjoyed held at the bone and eaten like a lollipop), marinated them briefly in some country mustard, Worcesteshire and olive oil, then coated them in a dry mixture of rosemary, mint, garlic, oregano, and crushed pepper corns. I seared them in a very hot iron skillet then finished them in the oven at 450. We had some leftover risotto from PS7 (a lovely, smokey medly of spicey chorizo, clams, and arborio rice) so we used it as a bed for the "lollipops".

Cutting the rack of lamb into lolli-chops!

The marinade... Found some stuff to marinate the meat in: Worcesteshire, country mustard, and olive oil.

Dipping a lolli-chop in the marinade...

After marinating for 20 minutes, coated each chop with a mixture of herbs found in the pantry: rosemary, peppercorns, garlic, mint, oregano, and basil...

Seared the chops 2 minutes on each side, then finished in a 450 oven for another 5 minutes (for medium rare).

Lamb "lollipops" on top of Peter Smith's chorrizo and little neck clam risotto.

Had with our go-to favorite Shotfire Ridge, 2003 Shiraz (93 points, Wine Advocate). Not too bad for a lazy, make it up as you go meal.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

When Breakfast is Too Typical, Sweet, or Boring: Wheat Pita and Spinach & Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

I have a salt-tooth (that's the opposite of a sweet tooth). And unfortunately for me and (awesome) people like me, breakfast can be the worst. You have your choice of something carby and sugary, or fatty (eggy) and salty. Or boring. Like fruit. So why not have a bit of healthy-lower-carb-bread (like whole-wheat pita) and some spread or sauce that you would have had at (or was left over from) dinner.

This looks gross, but it's absolutely flavorful and yummy--and satisfies your umami quotient. I made the spinach pesto the other night. Here's my typical haphazard (but easy) recipe:

1/2 cup spinach

1/3 cup sliced almonds

2 cloves garlic

1/3 cup sundried tomatoes packed in oil

1 cup oil

1/2 cup grated parmesan

1/2 tsp lemon zest

2 tbsp lemon juice

salt and pepper to your fabulous taste

Combine all the ingredients (except the parmesan and oil) in blender. Gradually add the oil, maybe a tablespoon at a time. Blend/puree until the consistency of chunky paste (yum). Add salt and pepper. Put in bowl, then pour in the grated parmesan and blend with a fork--the consistency is chunkier and the flavor more nutty this way. Top your toasted pita with it.

That's it! Don't choke on it (as you gobble it down).

Monday, February 04, 2008

Monday Night Pantry Meal: Leek and Shitake Risotto with Tarragon and Tomato Shrimp Sautee with Ferrari Carano Fume Blanc

Okay, it's not completely from the pantry, but I had everything on hand. Keeping frozen shrimp is a great idea. They thaw easily and they're super versatile. Risotto can be doctored up in a million different ways. You just need arborio rice and some chicken stock. I have dehydrated shitake mushrooms and always have tomato and garlic. You just add other ingredients that you might have around that are relatively fresh. In this case, I had tarragon and leeks.

I made this up as I went along.

Leek and Shitake risotto

2 leek bulbs (white parts) chopped
1/2 cup shitake mushrooms, chopped
1 cup arborio rice
32 oz box of chicken stock (Kitchen Basics is good)
1/2 cup white wine (used Sauvignon Blanc that I was drinking)
pinch grey salt
pat butter
1 tbs olive oil

-heat oil, sautee/sweat the leeks. add the rice and stir to coat each grain with the oil and leeks til transluscent. add a quarter cup of stock at a time, continuously stirring until absorbed, then add more. add mushroom, wine, salt, and butter with the last quarter cup of stock. the grains should be fattened and somewhat soft (but not mushy) and the whole thing should be the consistency of somehwat runny oatmeal.

Tarragon and tomato shrimp sautee

1 cup shrimp
1 bulb garlic, minced
1 tbs fresh tarragon, chopped
1 tbs olive oil
pinch grey salt
couple grinds of fresh pepper
1 small tomato, chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
pat butter

-toss first six ingredients in bowl until shrimp are coated. let sit for a second and attend to the risotto. heat pan on medium, throw in the shrimp, sautee til pinkish. add tomato and wine, then finish with pat of butter.

Served this with my fave, Ferrari Carano Fume Blanc (this is basically Sauv Blanc grapes). Pretty cool, quick Monday night meal!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Cafe Lenfant: Best Crepes in Town

Cafe Lenfant is quickly becoming a neighborhood favorite of mine. After browsing furniture along U Street yesterday, we decided to have an afternoon snack at the little cafe at the corners of 18th, U, and Florida. Their crepes work well at any time of the day...especially their ham and gruyere with a Kasteel Triple beer (they have a small, but pretty good selection of Belgian beers and french wines) and a side of roasted potatoes. Heaven.

Man, I love this simple dish. The thin pancake was slightly crusty, the ham flavorful, the gruyere melted perfectly and was accompanied by a little green salad with a nice vinaigrette. The roasted potatoes were soft and tossed with herbs. All so good. For brunch, you can get the same type of crepe, but with an egg--they call it the Complete, and it comes with potatoes or fruit. The menu is classic and true cafe fare with a range of sweet (lemon and sugar, Nutella, etc.) and savory (ham and gruyere, roast beef and brie, salmon, etc.) crepes, tartines (open faced sandwiches--like a bruschetta but with a lot of variety for toppings), salads, and a couple bigger entrees like burgundy beef and tarragon and mustard chicken.

It feels suprisingly authentic. Though I kinda detest Paris and think the idea of a French cafe is a little cliche, there is a romance there, and it's captured here...and it feels real. There's nothing fake or wannabe about it. It's very simple bits of good food at good prices, no fuss, and it's served quickly. And the corner view of the street (along with the patio) makes for great people watching.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

When You Don't Have a Tedious Enough Personality to Enjoy Baking: Grilled Panatone & Marscapone

I don't bake. I'm not exacting, or patient, or able to follow rules. In fact, I can't stand following recipes. That's why I am a better cook than baker. Cooking is more forgiving and allows for interpretation and (even better) improvisation. Baking is more of a science with its measurements and coloring within the lines...and since I'm a scientist of the fake variety, it totally follows that I suck at this business of mixing and measuring and flour.

For those of you in the same boat, try this simple dessert. All it requires is the following:
-grill slices of Panatone bread
-whip marscapone cheese with your favorite liqueur (mine is Cointreau--better than Grand Marnier for food recipes)
-top the grilled bread with the cheese
-drizzle honey
-sprinkle with shaved dark chocolate

This is an easy, relatively elegant dessert for us rodeo clowns who find baking tedious. Tell your mama and your girlfriend with the matchy-matchy furniture/wardrobe about it.

p.s. It goes surprisingly well with a big red like cab or shiraz(or whatever is left over from dinner).

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