Thursday, December 19, 2013

Holiday Gifts

For you listeners of WBZ's Connosieurs’ Corner, the following is the list of the food gifts we discussed on the air.

Chococoa Whoopie Pies,

I have written about these whoopie pies before, bought and sent them around to clients and served them at a major family event...these are always a HUGE hit, and the best whoopie pies I've ever had!  You cannot go wrong with these.

Gingerbread Construction Company,

Muffins the size of your head, and delicious loaves and cookies.

Grandma’s Chicken Soup,

Good for your soul, and your tummy!

Dancing Deer,

Boston Coffee Cake,


You've never had popcorn like this!

Enjoy, and share some delicious gifts this holiday season!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

There is no need to knead…

So says Jim Lahey, author, owner and head baker of the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City.

Back in 2006, Mark Bittman of the New York Times interviewed Jim Lahey which morphed in to a video short for broadcast on the New York Times website, which in turn, created a bread baking movement that can only be described as “viral”.  Jim’s method is perfect for those bread bakers at home who can be described as “lazy”.  Since that perfectly described yours truly, I figured “why not”?

What’s the secret you ask?  In a word:  time.  Jim Lahey’s method involves mixing 4 ingredients together (recipe below, but flour, yeast, salt and water) by hand, or with a spoon, for 30 seconds, and letting it sit for at least twelve hours, or longer.  His theory is that this long, slow rise allows the yeast and flour to do their voodoo and allows the gluten to form naturally.  After rising, because you cook it inside a Dutch oven, which acts as a miniature steam oven, you get a spectacular crust and more spectacular crumb. Having made the recipe (I have his book, “My Bread”, but you can learn how to do it from the 6 minute video here or below), I can tell you that it works to perfection, turning out a beautiful artisan style loaf.   Or, if you don’t have the book, and you don’t like Mark Bittman, you can watch one of the thousands of videos from people like you and me who have done this method, or other closely related iterations.

The basic method (from the Sullivan Street Bakery website):


3 cups flour
1½ cups water
¼ teaspoon yeast
1¼ teaspoon salt
olive oil (for coating)
extra flour or cornmeal

Mix all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add water and incorporate by hand or with a wooden spoon or spatula for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Lightly coat the inside of a second medium bowl with olive oil and place the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest 12 hours at room temperature (approx. 65-72°F).
Remove the dough from the bowl and fold once or twice. Let the dough rest 15 minutes in the bowl or on the work surface. Next, shape the dough into ball. Generously coat a cotton towel with flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal; place the dough seam side down on the towel and dust with flour. Cover the dough with a cotton towel and let rise 1-2 hours at room temperature, until more than doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 450-500°F. Place the pot in the oven at least 30 minutes prior to baking to preheat. Once the dough has more than doubled in volume, remove the pot from the oven and place the dough in the pot seam side up. Cover with the lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake 15-30 minutes uncovered, until the loaf is nicely browned.”

I say, take it out, put on a cooling rack, and enjoy after cooling, if you can wait that long.  Make sure to have some butter handy, for a schmear, because nothing tastes better than a hot piece of bread with melted butter soaked into it.  I assure you, if I can do it, so can you…take a look at this loaf!

Next up…no knead challah. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Better Late than Never!

Thanks to Jordan Rich, for adding me to the “Connoisseurs’Corner” line-up on WBZ 1030AM here in Boston.  These great one and a half-minute spots run at 11:58am and other times during the day.  Subject matter ranges from food and gourmet events around town and in Massachusetts and other New England states, to specific restaurants and foods.  You can here them live on the radio, or by clicking here to listen to a recent few.

Though a little after the holiday, several readers have asked me for my potato latke recipe.  There’s nothing surprising here in the recipe…most latke recipes focus on the usual potato and onion mix, and this one is no different.  But, the key to success is adding something to keep the potatoes from turning brown, and someone once told me that a Vitamin C tablet, dissolved, and added to the mix early keeps them from turning, and does not impart any off taste.  The second key to success to hand-shredding the potatoes and onions (it tastes much better after you’ve bloodied your knuckles…almost like you’ve earned the right to eat something so bad for you), and lastly, frying in a cast iron skillet, or an enamel covered cast iron skillet.  The cast iron is important…anyone who has cooked in one knows that the heat retention of these cast iron vessels cannot be replicated in any other way, and imparts a golden brown deliciousness that brings tears to your eyes…

Trust me…hand shred and use cast iron.  You will not be disappointed and will be crowned the “Latke Hero” when these hit the table.

Without further ado…

1 Vitamin C tablet, dissolved in a couple of tablespoons of water
4 large russet potatoes or Yukon Gold potatoes, or sweet potatoes-make sure you peel them
1 large onion
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
2 tbl flour or matzah meal (I prefer matzah meal)
Canola oil or Olive Oil (traditional)

Hand shred potatoes  (or use a food process if you’re lazy)
Hand shred the onion (or use a fine chop)
Mix all ingredients together, and fry in a cast iron skillet
Drain on paper towels and serve hot.

Cry, as you revel in the taste, and in taking a few more minutes off your life.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

My luck!

We have come to the point where when a restaurant actually delivers on what it promises, I get excited.  Finally, in a little corner of the world, there are places that restore your faith in restaurant humanity.  Witness, the Horseshoe Pub in that bastion of fine dining…Hudson, Massachusetts.

Everyone knows what to expect at a “pub”…beers and burgers, or something like that.  When I go to a place like this, I’m not going to order the sushi special, because that certainly will be “special”; you have to stay in the place’s wheelhouse.  Order a beer, get some wings, grab a burger, and enjoy.  In today’s world, though, sometimes you still have to hope for the best, but expect the worst.  Thankfully, the Horseshoe Pub delivered…in spades!

The Horseshoe Pub is located on a side street in downtown Hudson…you almost need to know someone who can tell where to find this place.  However, once you do, you’ll find plenty of free parking.

Double-baked goodness
My meal started with a double order of “double baked” Buffalo wings.  “Double baked” is a bit of a misnomer-we asked the waitress, and she explained that the wings are flash-fried, then coated in the choice of sauce, then baked to cook the flavor into the wings; conclusion-evil genius!  Without a doubt, these could rank as my second favorite wings (the spicy wings at Sichuan Gourmet could still be in the lead, but it’s close).  I’ve had wings at all the big places, including the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, but baking in the oven, roasting the flavor right into the wings, brought these meaty wings to an entirely new level…I am salivating just writing this.

Everyone has some food they crave…some like sweets/chocolate/candy, others, like me, crave salty foods.  Every now and then, some food passes across a person’s plate and like a siren’s song, calls their name-these tantalizing little wings keep calling me back to Hudson!  It’s like crystal meth on a chicken bone!  Thankfully, my teeth won’t rot from these.

After the wings, I washed it down with a half-pound cheeseburger, with mushrooms and sautéed onions with American cheese and a side of onion rings (my mother’s phone call to lecture me comes in 5, 4, 3, 2…).  The burger was ample, cooked perfectly, and had a nice balance of the additional toppings.  My only complaint, and it minor, is that the roll the burger is served on was a common, Sysco roll.  I can find that roll in just about any other place.  I might suggest an onion roll, or a fresh bulkie roll, but I’m not marking them down for this…the roll was fine, just common.

What really grabbed me on this were the onion rings.  Just about every pub tells you they serve “hand cut” onion rings.  What they don’t tell you is that the cutting is done in some warehouse and by “hand”, they mean a machine operated by someone’s hand.  It’s the same with “hand cut French fries”.  Mostly that means someone putting a potato into some sort of press, and pulling a lever.  Sure, the lever is operated by hand, but if you think there’s some guy with a sharp knife meticulously cutting potatoes, or onions…well…

But while these onions rings may have been cut somewhere else, there was some onion voodoo going on in the kitchen, just without the chicken blood.  These rings were not your common breaded rings…they had a texture and taste that was just plain exceptional.  And, like the “Matt Garrett’s” of old, reminded me in some ways of the “onion loaf” the way they were stuck together and had to be pulled/cut apart.

Onion loaf!!!
For those of you unfamiliar, “Matt Garrett’s” was a small local chain that hit it’s stride in the early 80s in the Greater Boston area, with locations, among others, in Sudbury, Brookline, Brockton…one of their featured appetizers was the “onion loaf”.  A greater, and more deadly, food invention there never was, except for the “Bloomin’ Onion”.  It was basically a brick-sized and shaped fried onion loaf and it weighed about as much as a brick too!  It was so ridiculously dense that you couldn’t really pull it apart until the end…when it was delivered to the table, you needed to slice it with a serrated knife!  Basically, fried onion loaf slices!!!  I’m thinking they should have used these slices in place of sandwich bread, and stuffed some meat in between.  Can you imagine…a burger served between two onion loaf slices!?!?!?  OMG, I am starting to sweat just thinking about eating this.  But, for one brief moment last night, the onion rings at the Horseshoe Pub brought me back…and gave me chest pains.  Onion rings never hurt so good.

BTW, the salads looked good too.
Grilled steak salad

Now I know that even a blind chicken gets some grain now and then, and places can be “on” or “off” on any given night (as “” will surely inform), but I am happy that I was there on an “on” night, and I look forward to adding this to my select group of places to where I’ll return, if they execute the second experience as well as the first.  For now, I encourage you all to try and find this place.  The décor is nothing special, the location is totally off the beaten path, and the food is not fancy.  But it was well prepared, well executed, and well received.  Go forth, into the land, and eat!