Month: November 2016

Who Makes the Best Chiles Rellenos?

The best chiles rellenos are a dream of melted cheese within a meaty, soft Poblano pepper cloaked in airy egg-white batter covered in fresh tomatillo sauce. I maintain that it’s difficult to find really good chiles rellenos in most Mexican restaurants around here. Making them involves a number of steps, and short-cuts can ruin the dish. Over the years, I’ve been served chiles rellenos that bummed me out, with tough unpeeled peppers, a thick clump of cold cheese, heavy, eggy batter tasting of the frying oil, and canned sauces. Abominations! To get the best chiles rellenos, I had to make them at home.  I’ve made them so many times, I no longer use a recipe. This is the process.   I broil the poblanos directly on a rack placed at highest level. Beneath them place a pan of water. The water adds steaming action, and catches any liquid that might be released from the pepper, and makes cleaning the pan easier. When the peppers are blistered and wrinkled on all sides, put them in a bowl and place a plate over the top. Let them sit. …

Thanksgiving Pies

Much to my childhood disappointment, I didn’t have grandmothers, and my mother didn’t bake. So I came to pie-making later in life, and had a frustrating time learning. I started with Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French cooking, but it wasn’t until I actually saw a person make pie dough in my kitchen that I started to be less afraid I’d screw it up.  For a decade, I followed Julia’s rigorous by-hand method of mixing the flour and butter. But making pie dough in a food processor is a snap and fool-proof and that’s how I do it today. I make all-butter crusts. My other tip: use the refrigerator. If the dough starts to get too soft at any point in the process, put it in the fridge for a bit. (That’s how to avoid some of the woogey edges you’ll see in my pictures!) Then take it out and continue forth. I’d love to achieve perfection. I haven’t. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. This pie crust was puffy, crisp and buttery. Apple pie is one of the …

Thanksgiving Hits

We used to go to friends’ for Thanksgiving, and it was a lot of fun, but we really missed cooking Thanksgiving dinner. So, the day after Thanksgiving, we’d spend the day making another Thanksgiving dinner.   One year, after a heavy morning of cooking, we paused for Cranbellinis. I made cranberry syrup by cooking cranberries, sugar and water and straining out the berries. A simpler method is to use cranberry juice. If you buy unsweetened, you’ll have more control over the sweetness level.  We used Cristolino cava, inexpensive, yet made in Spain using the methode Champenoise. Roasting rutabagas and turnips brings out their sweetness. Here’s a tip we learned from watching Lidia Bastianich. Add some water to the roasting pan and cover with foil. This will start some steaming action when you put the pan in the oven. When the vegetables start to get tender, remove the foil and let them get some color. I’m thoroughly tired of Brussels sprouts on every menu, and all the ways chefs try to make them sweet, and all the …

Thanksgiving Veggies

Thanksgiving is only a week away. Got my turkey order in at the very last minute. Now I’m thinking about vegetables. I’ve been making these little turnips for Thanksgiving, ever since I discovered that my local farm, Sport Hill Farm in Easton CT, grows them. They are sweet and crunchy. I slice them in half and brown them in a cast-iron skillet. They also pickle well. I like the quick pickle recipes in David Chang’s Momofuku cook book. And they also are quite nice roasted with other root vegetables, like parsnips, rutabagas and orange and yellow carrots. Time to start thinking about the pies…

Delicata Squash Casserole

Like its delightful name, the delicata is the most delicate of squash. So delicate you can eat the skin. No peeling needed. Here’s one of our favorite ways of cooking it, a warm and comforting fall dish. This is based on a dish my husband had when he was a kid at his friend John Paul’s house. He went home and told his mother that he’d just had the best dish ever — “zucchini and cheese.” So Michael’s mother called John Paul’s mother and got the recipe and started making it for the family. What a great Mom. We’ve adapted “zucchini and cheese” to delicata squash, which is in season now. Cut the squash lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds. Slice squash and place in casserole. Add the liquid. You can use milk, almond milk, or stock, or our decadent favorite, coconut milk, to cover the squash. Toss a little flour over the top so the sauce will thicken as it bakes. Top with grated cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 till the squash is tender and the cheese is golden, and good smells are …

Pork from the Farm

Our friend farmer Patti Popp of Sport Hill Farm asked how we cook pork hocks. Patti raises pigs and sells excellent pork. We got this pork hock from Sport Hill Farm. Pork hocks like to be cooked in moist heat. So first, I put the hock in a pot of cold water and brought it to a boil. Then I removed the hock, rinsed it, dumped out the water and rinsed out the pot. Then I put the hock back in the clean pot, added cold water, a bay leaf, a couple peppercorns, and some salt.  After it simmered for about three hours, and the meat was tender, I removed the hock, cut everything off the bones — meat, skin and the white blubbery-looing stuff — and chopped it up. This has to be done while the meat is still warm.  Note: Don’t throw out the cooking liquid. You’ll need some for the hocks and you can cook  a delicious green pea or bean soup in the broth. Then, I added a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, salt and pepper, a …

My Favorite Ethnic Restaurants in Bridgeport, CT

It surprises people that even though I’m a restaurant reviewer, I really don’t go out that much. It’s rare for me to go to a restaurant more than twice, unless it’s work-related. But there are places that I’ve been to many times, the regular spots I go to with my husband. These are my favorite ethnic restaurant in Bridgeport. I’ve written about most of these places, for the Hartford Courant, CTBites and others. Click on the links to read the full reviews. Mexican   El Paraiso for lunch.  Hearty plates of enchiladas, chile rellenos, or weekend Sunday pozole. La Mexicana for lunch. Carnitas tacos and fresh melon drinks.  Vietnamese Pho Thom for Vietnamese pho and spring rolls. The link is to their Pho Thom’s FB page because my article in the Courant has disappeared. Where oh where did it go? Thai It isn’t easy to find good Thai food. The best place to find excellent Thai restaurants is Queens, N.Y.  So I was thrilled to discover RuuThai serves dishes you won’t find anywhere else in Connecticut. Mussels pancakes. Full-flavored curries. Desserts for the adventurous. Here’s a …