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Entries in Chicken Liver (3)

Tuesday
Mar262013

Easter Eatables!

Today, I'm bringing you Iaciofano tried and true Easter recipes. Most of these are desserts, because unlike every other holiday, on Easter the Iaciofano's branch out. We don't bake the traditional ham. And we try to mix up the side dishes. However, we DO have some desserts (and one appetizer) that have been statistically proven to be reliable year after year. Here is our collection:

Fruit and Nut Trifle (pictured above)

Trifle
What You Need:
1 c of almonds chopped
2 t water
4 t sugar
2 t cinnamon
1 c dried apricots and cranberries chopped
2 t butter
2 pears cored and diced
mandarin orange segments – small can
1 Tbsp rum
4 cups of heavy cream
1/2 cup confection sugar
1 cup orange juice
raspberries for decoration
sponge cake – see below for recipe

What To Do:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl toss the nuts with cinnamon then water and sugar and then spread on a sheet pan and bake for 5 minutes and toast for about 7 minutes.

Chop dried fruit and cover with hot water and a little rum and let set for 10 minutes.  Drain the fruit and add to the nuts. Toss.

In a sauté pan heat the butter and add a little sugar. Add the diced pears and sauté and then add the fruits and nuts.

In a bowl mix the heavy cream with the confectioners sugar vanilla and rum.  Mix until cream is whipped to soft peaks.

Brush the cake with the orange juice to make it a little moist.

In a trifle bowl first add some whipped cream and then place the sponge cake on top to cover the cream.  Layer with the fruit/nut mixture and then add a little cream.  Follow with the cake and continue to build the trifle.  Finish with the whipped cream.  For a festive look top with fresh raspberries. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.

Sponge Cake

What You Need:
8 eggs
1 cup flour
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
orange juice for brushing (optional)

What To Do:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large square pan (13″x18″) and line with parchment paper.

Put the eggs into a mixer (Kitchenaid or hand-held). Slowly add the sugar to the eggs, beating until they are twice the volume from when they started and a pale lemon color.

Slowly add the flour to the above ingredients and also the lemon zest.

Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for 15 minutes.

After it’s done, you can brush the cake with some orange juice, using a pastry brush. This makes it nice and juicy, and adds a complementing flavor for the fruit and nuts in the trifle.

Try not to eat it all. Or eat it all. Whichever.

Ricotta Fritters

Nothing says "Easter" in an Italian-American household like ricotta cheese.

Why? I really don't know. BUT, I think it has something to do with the versatility of ricotta. You can make it savory or sweet, appetizer, entree or dessert. Or all three. Or five. But who's counting?

You are. And you should be. Just don't count the calories in these Ricotta Fritters. It's pointless. Between the ricotta cheese (full fat, please) and peanut oil you probably have enough to induce cardiac arrest in the newly risen Lord. 

Is that blasphemous? Not at all. Just the facts, here. 

So while there are many seasonal Italian desserts that would be appropriate for Easter (ex:Ricotta cheesecakestrufoli), the FACT of the matter is that these fritters will induce multiple Hallelujah's from your Easter crowd. They're even small enough to hide in those plastic Easter eggs if you like.

What You Need:
8 oz Fresh Ricotta cheese
2 eggs
6 tablespoons flour
20 grams or 3/4 oz butter, softened to room temperature
Grated zest from 1 lemon
salt

For frying: 
3 cups of peanut oil
An "ugly" pot
(An ugly pot is a cheap, deep pot reserved for unsightly tasks like frying. You really don't want to wreck one of your nicey-nice All-Clad variates with spitting hot peanut oil. Trust me.)
Thermometer (the oil should read 350 degrees)

Optional Toppings:
Honey with limoncello
Confectioners sugar

What To Do:
Put the ricotta in a bowl with the two eggs and mix until well combined.

Add the flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, working it into the ricotta with a whisk.

Add in the butter, lemon zest and a pinch of salt, mixing well. If the mixture is too runny, you can add another tablespoon of flour.

Set the batter aside and let it rest for 2 hours. We didn't do this. We have no patience.

Heat the peanut oil in your ugly pot to 350 degrees.

Test the heat by dropping a tiny ball of the batter into the oil. If it floats immediately to the surface and starts to turn golden brown, you are ready to rock and roll!

Drop the batter into the oil a tablespoon at a time, pushing the batter off of the spoon with a spatula.

Don't crowd your ugly pot! Fritters need room to breath and fry! Give 'em some space.

When the fritters are an even golden brown, fish them out of the oil with a slotted spoon.

Set them on some parchment paper to cool.

At this point, you can either dust them with confectioners sugar, or gently heat up some honey with a splash of limoncello in it. After your liquored-up honey is warm and runny, drizzle the fritters with it.

Eat these little babies immediately. I can't think of a reason not to...

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

We originally made this for John's birthday which fell on Easter Sunday last year. This recipe is from Naples at Table by Arthur Schwartz.

What You Need:

Serves 12

12 oz of almonds finely ground

6 eggs, separated

6 tablespoons sugar

8 oz of bittersweet chocolate

2 sticks of butter

10 tablespoons sugar

¼ cup sugar

What To Do: 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and butter and flour a 10 inch springform pan.  Line the bottom with wax paper or parchment paper.  Butter and flour the lining.

In a food processor grind the almonds in 3 batches pulsing each with 2 T sugar for a total of 6 T of sugar.  Set aside.

In a double boiler melt the chocolate and butter together.

In a mixing bowl beat the egg yolks until lemon colored and then gradually beat in the 10 T sugar.

Add the melted chocolate and butter to the egg yolks.  Stir to mix and fold in the ground almonds and stir will.

In a clean bowl beat the egg whites with the ¼ c of sugar until they are stiff.  The fold the egg whites into the chocolate batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake on a cookie sheet for 90 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool for 15 minutes and remove the sides  from the springform pan.

When the cake has cooked turn it upside down onto a serving plate and dust with confectioners sugar.

Italian Lemon Knot Cookies

What You Need:

Cookies:
5 cups of flour
6 eggs - well beaten
1/2 lb of butter at room temperature
4 oz cream cheese
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla
5 teaspoons of baking powder

Icing:
1/2 cup Confectioners sugar - more if needed
1 teaspoon of Limoncello
water if needed

Garnish: multicolored, round sprinkles

What To Do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slightly grease a cookie sheet, or line it with parchment.

Beat together butter, cream cheese and sugar in a standing or hand-held mixer until light and creamy.

Add in the eggs and the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder and mix to combine.

Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet. You may have to add more flour if it's an especially humid day.

The dough should come together easily and not be too sticky. You need to be able to roll the dough and tie it into knots.

Start grabbing pinches of the dough right out of the bowl. Roll them on a board that is VERY lightly floured. Try not to add too much flour at this point. Roll them until the strands are about 1/2 inch thick and about 4 inches long.

Tie the the dough strands into simple knots and place on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake in the oven for 6-8 minutes, until they are light golden in color and the bottoms are beginning to turn golden brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool.

For the icing:

Measure the Confectioners sugar into a small bowl. Pour the Limoncello over the sugar and whisk together until combined. You don't want this mixture to be too runny - it will zoom right off your cookie! If you need to thicken it, just add more Confectioners sugar. If you need to go a little thinner, add a touch of water (you don't want to overwhelm your cookie eaters with Limoncello at this point).

Drizzle the icing over the tops of the cookies and decorate with the multicolored sprinkles. The icing will dry so that you can store them all together in a happy little tin. Or take them to work with you in a plastic bag. Just don't accidentally sit on them like I did. Sat-on cookies don't have the same appeal. My co-workers still ate all of them, though....

Makes about 80 cookies (so you might want to share).

Chicken Liver Pate

Crust - What You Need:
8 ounces of cream cheese
8 ounces of unsalted butter
¼ c sour cream or heavy cream
1 ¼ t salt
2 ½ cups of flour.

Crust - What To Do:
Combine cream cheese and butter and add sour cream and salt and pulse then add the flour.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Pate - What You Need:
¾ pound of chicken livers cut into chunks
1/3 c madiera wine
5 T butter
2 slices of bacon drained and chopped
3 cloves of garlic crushed
2 large shallots minced
2 T cognac
¾ pound smoked ham ground
¾ pound ground pork
2 t. thyme
1 t dried basil
1 cup fresh parsley minced
2 large eggs beaten
2 T heavy cream
salt and pepper
1 egg beaten with 1T milk for glaze

Pate - What To Do:
Soak chicken liver pieces in madiera wine for 30 minutes.  Drain.  Melt butter in fry pan and add liver pieces, bacon, garlic and shallots and cook until livers are cooked but still pink. Warm the cognac and add to livers.

Add ground ham, pork, thyme and basil.  Mix and cook over medium heat stirring frequently.  About 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add parsley, eggs and cream.  Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside to cool.

Roll out 1/3 of the dough into a rectangle about 1/8 in thick.  Trim edges so they are even.  Spread one third of the pate on one half of the pastry leaving 1” border.  Fold over and press edges with a fork and brush with egg/milk glaze. Repeat.

Bake in preheated 400 degree oven on a lightly buttered baking sheet for 25 minutes.

Note: You can freeze these for up to 3 weeks.  Do not defrost before baking but add 10 minutes to the baking time.

Tuesday
Dec062011

Meals on Reels - Silence of the Lambs

We are back with another installment of Meals on Reels (cue the echo). Today we would like to talk about meat. A lot of meat. Sausage! Terrines! Duck! Lamb tartar! Pig feet (oh yes...)! aaaaaaand LIVER!

Silence of the Lambs is one of the all-time great movies. Perhaps up there with the Godfather (in John's opinion). For me, it hold a special place in my heart as Agent Starling is often named as the precursor and inspiration for my all-time favorite agent, Agent Scully.

Like Special Agents on a mission, I went with a friend (let's call her Starling) to Cannibal to eat liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti....or in this case pig's feet and a nice cider.

Agent Starling grabbed us seats at the bar/meat case where we got to benefit from the "Meat Head's" expert advice on what was fresh in the world of meat. We also had a nice view of various kinds of sausages.

In addition to an impressive collection of meats, Cannibal also has an overwhelming selection of beer. And cider! Not to worry, though, their wait staff is willing to help you select an options from their extensive array.

I started with a Crispin Cider, as I wanted something light and sweet to counter all the heavy, salty meat we would be eating.

Our journey through meat-dom began not with a four-legged friend, but a finned-one: Smoked Sable on Brown Bread.

This was one of our favorite dishes. The large, fresh chunks of sable were perfectly salted and tangy. Sprinkled liberally with leafy parsley and coasting along on deep, dark brown bread, this dish was a definite winner.

Next up: The Chicken Liver with Bacon and Onion Jam.

I've talked about my love for chicken liver before....and I've gotten mixed responses when expressing this love. Some people cringe in actual fear from me when I tell them how much I like chicken liver. Agent Starling, however, is not one of these people and so we happily smeared Cannibal's chicken livers all over various supplied chunks of toast.

Cannibals chicken liver is surprisingly light and airy – almost mousse like. Sans antlers, of course. The bacon and onion jam was an appetizer on its own. Sweet (I believe those onions were caramelized to achieve this sweetness) with spots of salty pork flavor. Pure genius. Paired with the liver....you don't need fava beans or a Chianti.

We then came to the Pig's Feet and Terrine interlude portion of our program.

The Pig's Feet was a special which we felt compelled to try. I mean, it's pig's feet. We should eat that, right? Wrong. I've eaten some strange things. I'm no Andrew Zimmern, but I've had tripe, alligator and some other things of questionable identity (never mind freshness). I'm more intrigued than grossed out by this kind of fare.

But the pig's feet were...bland. And gelatinous. And well, I was kinda grossed out, ok? I admit it. But that had NOTHING to do with the fact that I was eating pig's feet. It was the gelatinous thing. That really threw me.

Then some terrines wandered our way. I say "wandered" because we didn't actually order them. They arrived by accident and we were generously allowed to keep them. We kept obligingly sampling them, but honestly, they did nothing for us. We were unimpressed, although not grossed out. Just kind of underwhelmed.

"Maybe terrines aren't our thing," commented Agent Starling. I concurred.

However, tartare is DEFINITELY our thing. Lamb Tartare with Onion, Capers, Harissa Ailoli and Egg Yolk.

"This must violate all kinds of health codes," said Starling as the disk of raw meat with freshly cracked egg yolk was placed before us.

"Yeah, I figure we have a 50-50 chance here," I agreed.

Before we dug in, we donned the meat disk with some bready ears, just to throw some humor in the face of botulism.

I am thrilled to report the following two facts:

1. The Lamb Tartare was the second winning dish of the evening. We slopped up all that raw meat and egg yolk, even requesting bread reinforcements. The harissa provided a nice heat, while the capers threw in a salty punch.

2. We did not need to go to the hospital! Both Agent Starling and I are in super-fantastic condition, never requiring as much as a TUMS. So there.

Consequently, I visited the bathroom for the normal reasons (to take photos of it) rather than an emergency brought on by raw meat and eggs. And what I found was AMAZING! Quite like the interior design version of bacon and onion jam.

Curated well with art prints and accessories alike, Cannibal's bathroom was a spacious pleasure to visit. They even had a magnifying mirror! I have never seen that in a restaurant bathroom, have you?

Two other things of note: Cannibal sports a commissary-type general store with fun, packaged foods lining the wall shelving. They even have some throw-backs like Big League Chew.

They also have TV's. While we were eating, The Big Lebowski was playing on the big screen. I love you, Cannibal....now if I could only convince them to serve me a Vonder Slide....

Overall Dining Experience: The Black Swan

The Cannibal

113 East 29th St. (btwn Park & Lex)
New York, NY 10016
212.686.5480

Tuesday
Sep202011

The Darker Side of Meat – Prime Meats in Brooklyn

Sometimes the lighting in a restuarant can be less than optimal for food photography. I get it, it's mood lighting. No one wants to have all their pores exposed and chewing nuances uncovered under glaring tungsten lights. Even though that would work better for me.

Instead, it is often too dark to capture the beauty of what is before me. In my plate. And I usually refuse to use the flash.

It's distracting. I find it hard to hold a conversation with the person across from me if lights keep going off at the next table. But maybe I should just find a new dinner partner.

Either way, I try not to use my flash when dining at restaurants, and respect the delicate lighting balance of those around me. Consequently, I get photos like the above.

Photos like the above, which for some reason I thought would be funny to post today in my review of Prime Meats in Brooklyn which had the moodiest of lighting during my dinner last week.

Make no mistake – I plan on being flippant about the lighting sources, but not the food. I have never been so delighted by meat products. So, let's sink our teeth into the meat of things here:

As the pretzel above was too dark to see, I drew it for you:

This, funny, slightly human, smiley pretzel accompanied by a wonderful just-a-touch-sweet dijon mustard began our meal. The base of the pretzel is large, round and doughy. As you move to the top where the ends will eventually entwine around each other, it gets thinner. It's quite a feat of architecture. And it affords you, the eater, to have both the satisfying squishy part of the soft pretzel at the fat end and a crispier texture at the thinner ends. Geunius. As was the even, prefectly brown crust that encased it.

Next up was the Vesper Brett – a sample board of various cured meats, accessorized with pickled veggies of the sweetest-tangy variety.

Our plate included:

Landjager: This is traditionally a gamey sausage. This variety was venison. Soft, mild and smooth.

House cured bacon: This bacon was not pan fried and crispy, but cured. It was soft and suppple with a delicate and delicious ring of fat to one side.

Pastrami calf tongue: This had the texture of bologna - by which I mean there was very little striation in the meat (which would make sense as it's tongue). The pastrami flavor was quite nice, giving it a little herbed-pepperyness.

Smoke maple ham: Perhaps my favorite of the single meats. Juicy, dark pink and just maple-sweet enough. A triumph in sweet cured meats.

Chicken liver pate: Oh dear. I know you all think I'm strange for loving chicken liver pate. I don't just love it. I LOVE it. I would eat it every day. Prime Meats' liver pate might be my favorite that I have ever had. I'm serious. I like it better than Marmo's. Shhhhh....don't tell her. It was whipped up into a frenzy, so that not one chunk in the texture remained. Smooth like butter. And flavor? Oh yessss....so much. Chicken liver pate butter. I was smearing it on my funny face pretzel.

And now for the main act: The Burger. A 1/2 lb Creekstone certified Black Angus topped with Faicco's thick cut bacon, Grafton Cheddar nestled in a house made sesame bun.

I would like to say something about burgers and toppings: A beef patty is NOT a vehicle for toppings. It can have them, yes, but it SHOULD be able to stand alone. Meaning that it should have its own flavor, be rich and juicy and deep and tempt you to take another bite regardless of whether or not you get a mouthful of cheese or bacon along with that bite.

Prime Meats' burger was all that. And a side a hand cut French fries. We ordered ours medium rare (is there another way?), and I made sure to take bites that did not include the toppings. This burger had so much going for it.

Juicy? Yes! The juices happily blended with the sesame bun to create a wonderful pink gravy.

Flavorful? Indeed! It hit my tongue like a full bodied glass of red wine. The tasting notes would fill a book.

Again, the lighting prevented me from photography. So I drew you a picture:

Pretty, yes? YES!

And now, let's get back to the toppings, because I believe we chose expertly when we selected the bacon and cheddar. For comparison, here is a bacon-to-french-fry width chart:

Look how thick! This bacon was nicely salted, crispy and still chewey with a perfect fat-to-meat ratio. The Grafton cheddar glued everything together with a little bite that was just right. And the bun was dense, but not too bready. And moist! I hate a dry burger bun.

So while a burger should not be a vehicle for toppings, some power steering (the bun), functioning blinkers (the cheese) and a horn (definitely the bacon), make it a lot more fun to drive (by which I mean eat).

Additionally, while a restroom does not make a restaurant, it sure can enhance the overall dining experience. Consider Prime Meats' expertly tricked-out commode:

That floor is pure Italian geometry! And it matches the toilet!

And some nice old-timey wall scones adhered to smooth, blonde wood paneling.

With just enough room for a teeeny-tiny sink. Well done! Uhh....the bathroom, not the burger. That was medium rare.

Anyway, please get your carnivorous selves to Prime Meats. It's not a suggestion, it's a demand. I've never had a better burger. I may not be the final word on "The Best Burgers," but this one is mine.

Overall Dining Experience: The Godfather

Prime Meats
465 Court Street
Brooklyn, NY