Tag Archives: Lunch

2017 Cookery Project — Baked Chicken, Sausage, and Brussels Sprouts

Baked Chicken, Sausage, and Brussels Sprouts

Baked Chicken, Sausage, and Brussels Sprouts

There’s a rumour going around that some people don’t like Brussels sprouts.

I’ve been unable to personally verify the rumour, since I make it a habit to associate only with people of impeccable taste (and no active arrest warrants.) But if it’s true, I can only suggest that those poor unfortunates seek help before it is too late.

I love Brussels sprouts, so I was eager to try a recipe for Baked Chicken, Sausage, and Brussels Sprouts that I found on Nerds with Knives. Part of the attraction was that the meal could be cooked on a single baking tray.

In addition to the three ingredients already mentioned, the recipe called for lots of shallots—always a good sign—and garlic, Dijon mustard, honey, and Worcestershire sauce, all of which I keep in stock. I added fresh rosemary and a single lemon to my shopping list.

Here’s where I get to vent: Recipes always understate the amount of prep time. The published estimate of preparation time for this dish was 20 minutes.

The Brussels sprouts had to be cleaned and halved, the chicken washed and cut into chunks, and the sausages chopped into two-inch segments. The shallots had to be peeled and quartered, and the garlic had to be peeled and minced. The liquids had to be measured, poured, and whisked. The rosemary needles had to be chopped, and the lemon had to be cut into thin slices.

Granted, my knife skills leave a lot to be desired, mainly because I’m terrified of cutting off a useful body part, but there was no way in the world that I could do all that in less time than it takes to get through to customer assistance at the DC tax office on a good day.

So prep took about 40 minutes.

But the meal turned out really well.


★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.

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2017 Cookery Project — Bulgogi

Bulgogi

Bulgogi

Rice and beef, starch and protein. That looks pretty bland and uncomplicated, doesn’t it? Looks are deceiving.

The surprise comes when you taste the meat. It’s not just beef, it’s Bulgogi.

Bulgogi originated in what is now North Korea. At the end of World War II, refugees from the north brought it south. In South Korea, it’s now practically the national dish.

I used a recipe from Bon Appétit. The key to bulgogi’s taste is the marinade, which is a combination of soy sauce, crushed red pepper flakes, light brown sugar, toasted sesame oil, grated garlic, grated peeled ginger, and…grated pear? That puzzled me, so I researched it. Turns out that grated pear is a meat tenderizer, which allows you to use a cheaper cut of beef—flank steak, hanger steak, whatever—in the bulgogi.

The recipe said to let the steak marinade for 30 minutes at room temperature, or eight hours in the refrigerator. I let it sit overnight.

I removed the thin slices of beef from the marinade and cooked them undisturbed in a single layer in a hot skillet for a minute, then stirred them occasionally, until they were brown on all sides.

The marinade’s unlikely combination of sweet and spicy and hot and cool ingredients gives the finished dish a unique and, well, addicting taste. I made bulgogi twice in one week.


This is sort of a cheat, because I’d never post a low-rated dish unless it went spectacularly, memorably wrong. The boldface entry is my evaluation of the current dish.

★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.

2017 Cookery Project — Coquilles Saint-Jacques

Coquilles Saint-Jacques

Coquilles Saint-Jacques

I’m still feeling a little guilty about the collapse of my plan to make September a month dedicated to French Bistro Cooking. And here it is October.

Oh, well…better late, and all that.

Today’s lunch was Coquilles Saint-Jacques. I got the recipe from The Bistro Cookbook, which, mysteriously, seems to have no author. It was published by a company in Bath, UK, which makes me think that Jane Austen must have had something to do with it, but that’s just speculation.

Despite its murky origins, the photography in the book is first-rate, and the recipes are clearly written and easy to follow. For the Coquilles Saint-Jacques, I browned minced garlic and breadcrumbs in butter, then kept them warm in the oven. The scallops got two minutes on each side at medium-high heat, which some would say was slightly over-cooking them, but they were big sea scallops.

Served with parsley and sliced lemons. Pretty good!


This is sort of a cheat, because I’d never post a low-rated dish unless it went spectacularly, memorably wrong. The boldface entry is my evaluation of the current dish.

★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.

2017 Cookery Project — Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

I’d planned to dedicate September to working on Mastering the Art of French (Bistro) Cooking.

That didn’t happen.

I’ve spent very little time in the kitchen this month, preferring to loll around watching Nordic Noir television shows and old episodes of The IT Crowd all day. What time I’ve spent on food preparation has been indiscriminate and unfocused. One of the few memorable new dishes I made this month is the Shrimp Fra Diavolo pictured above.

Shrimp Fra Diavolo is an Italian-American dish, like spaghetti and meatballs. It originated in the United States, but a list of the ingredients–olive oil red pepper flakes, garlic, oregano, white wine, San Marzano tomatoes, basil–certainly reads like what you’d find by opening Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking and picking a recipe at random.

For the pasta, I used Ronzoni Supergreens, an “enriched pasta with 5 green vegetables,” which I chose entirely because of its green colour. That combination of red sauce and green pasta would make for a nice seasonal side dish, if it were December (which it isn’t) and if I made a big deal of Christmas (which I don’t).

The next day, I added more crushed tomatoes, water, and a little white wine to the leftovers, and wound up with a first-rate soup.


I’ve decided to start rating these experiments on a five-star scale, The boldface entry is my evaluation of the current dish.

★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.

Federalist Pig — Lunch on 17 September 2017

Sunday was a beautiful day in Washington, so I decided to journey up to Adams Morgan and try the new-to-me Federalist Pig for lunch. The restaurant has taken over the space formerly occupied by Döner Bistro, the awesome German-Turkish kebab place that I discovered much too late in its existence—it closed a few weeks after my first and only visit, and I’ve been craving kebab ever since.

Dining at Döner Bistro made me feel like I was back in Berlin.  A meal at Federalist Pig—Barbecue!—could only happen in the good ole USA.

It’s a bit hard to tell from the pictures, but Federalist Pig’s storefront is a painted image of a distressed American flag. It’s easier to see another of the restaurant’s distinctive features:  From what I’ve heard, there’s almost always a line out the door.

Sampler Platter

Sampler Platter

This is the reason for that line.

For my lunch, I ordered the Sampler Platter, which gives the diner their* choice of three meats and two side dishes. I chose brisket, turkey breast, and pork shoulder, with seasoned French fries and crispy Brussels sprouts as the sides.

The sprouts were deep-fried, and calling the fries “spicy” would be a serious understatement. For my taste, the brisket could have been a little more tender, but that’s a minor complaint. The serving size was generous—I couldn’t finish the dish.

Beautiful day, beautiful meal, beautiful new experience.


*Yes, I’ve surrendered. I’m now using the singular “their” and “they,”  because that battle has been lost. But I’ll fight to the death on the “hopefully” front, and I’ve got a restraining order to prevent anyone who uses the vile “pro-active” from coming within 30 feet of me.

2017 Summer Restaurant Weeks — Final Notes

Although various Restaurant Week extensions in the Washingon, DC metro area run for another 10 days, my late summer adventure ends here. Once again, Life has gotten in the way. It has a nasty habit of doing that, at the most inconvenient times.

“But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I eat,” as Robert Frost didn’t quite say.

So here are the final notes.


I usually try for a balance between old favourites and new venues, but this summer tilted heavily toward the familiar. I was a first-time visitor to only three of the 10 restaurants on this summer’s list. That may partially account for why I was so rarely disappointed with my meals.

The only real letdown was Honeysuckle, with its tiny portions of less-than-memorable food. I may be judging them too severely, because I was so fond of Vidalia, the restaurant that used to occupy Honeysuckle’s space.

While almost everything I tried was good, certain dishes stood out.


Best Starter

Vermilion’s chilled corn soup with poached prawn salad was simply amazing. Beautiful to look at, extraordinary to eat.

Best Starter – Runner Up

The polpette at Bibiana were the best I’ve ever tasted. I only wish there had been more of these little Sicilian-style meatballs—I could have eaten a dozen.


Best Main

This was a three-way tie. There’s no way I could choose the best among these mains, because they were all perfection on a plate. (Oops. I just noticed that all of them were served in bowls, not on plates. I’ll update this if I ever think of an appropriate complimentary word that starts with the letter “B.” Gotta preserve that alliteration.)

The duck fricassee at Café du Parc, with slow cooked lentils, charred quince, pea tendrils, and those little roasted potatoes, was perfect for a rainy day meal.

Cioppino. At Tadich Grill. A classic.

Vermilion scores again, with pork tenderloin in a rich sauce.


Best Dessert

Café du Parc’s brilliant mixed seasonal berries with Grand Marnier sabayon was a clear winner in the dessert category.


Best All-Around Meal

Gotta be Alexandria Old Town’s Vermilion, for the flawless meal and the superb service.


That’s it for 2017 Summer Restaurant Weeks. I plan to spend a lot more time on home cooking now that it’s over. Starting after the long Labor Day weekend, my foodie project for September will focus on French bistro classics.

(Note to self: 2018 Winter Restaurant Weeks are only five and a half months away.)

Bibiana — Lunch on 24 August 2017

2017 Summer Restaurant Weeks: Week Three, Day Two

The restaurant of the day—make that the ristorante della giornata—was Bibiana, an elegant Italian member of the Knightsbridge Restaurant Group, which includes some of the best dining establishments in Washington.*

(Years ago, Roger Price wrote a book that included a section on how to avoid people. He offered a list 10 sentences that were so profoundly dull they would immediately bring an end to any attempt to engage the speaker in further conversation. Two that I remember are “A girl I went to high school with works for the phone company” and “I used to live down that street.”)

I used to work in the building right across the street from this restaurant.

Polpette

Polpette

I had a special reason I wanted to eat at Bibiana.

When I was in Venice last spring, I had lunch at Ca’ D’Oro, a restaurant where, according to the Michelin Guide, “…the meatballs are…legendary.” Those legendary meatballs are called “polpette,” and Ca’ D’Oro’s were said to be the best in Venice.

I wasn’t impressed. I thought they were nowhere nearly as good as the polpette I’d had at Bibiana.

Had my memory been inaccurate? Time for a taste test.

Bibiana’s Sicilian-style meatballs with tomato sauce and white polenta won, hands down.

Dentice

My main was pan-seared Atlantic grouper. I had a little trouble identifying the vegetable component, which was eggplant caponata. I liked the slight lemony taste of the carrot purée, and the fish was perfect.

Dessert

A nice Baba al Rum for dessert, made with rum-soaked sponge cake, vanilla bean Chantilly fIlling, and pistachio gelato.


*The Oval Room and 701 are Knightsbridge restaurants. So are Rasika and its offshoot, Rasika West. Rasika has a good claim to being the best Indian restaurant in the US.