Monthly Archives: February 2012

Brisket King of NYC – A Brisket-fest from Jimmy’s No. 43 and Food Karma Projects

Just look at that gorgeous piece of brisket from Ducks Eatery with its moist, pink center and perfect, crisp crust.  This was just one of the many samples that people flocked to Santos Party House to taste last night at the brisket showdown hosted by Jimmy’s No. 43 and its events arm, Food Karma Projects.  This year, the event moved from the cozy back room at Jimmy’s to a much more spacious venue with an expanded roster of chefs who flexed their culinary muscles in vying for the title of Brisket King of NYC, with a portion of the proceeds of the event going to support the New Amsterdam Market.

A selection of Hudson Valley created spirits

This year, the tasting selections also included a sampling of the spirits created by Hudson Valley purveyors.  In addition to producing wine in the New York area, many folks have taken up distilling, bringing back to life a number of alcoholic beverages that haven’t been seen in many years, using local grains to make them.  A friend of mine came with me to play foodie wing-person yesterday evening.  We dove right into the brisket-tasting, however.

Mr. Bobo’s

Brisket sliders

Back from last year‘s competition, Mr. Bobo’s brought their brisket sliders with them last night to give us a taste of the South and their barbecue cook-off prowess.  These were tasty, with moist, juicy meat, but we couldn’t risk filling up on them as we had a busy evening ahead of us.

Murray’s Cheese

Brisket with fontina on bread

As our second sample of the evening, this was an intriguing choice pairing the rich, fatty meat with a pungent cheese like fontina.  I would have liked to have said that I thought the pairing worked well, but for me, it didn’t, as I took a bite of basically mostly fat from the brisket.  My friend seemed to like it better than I did, saying that the dairy actually blended well with the meat.

John Brown Smokehouse

Burnt ends with foie gras and tangy coleslaw

Located in Long Island City (actually a part of Queens for the non-NYC-ers), if this delicious plate is anything to go by, I’m going to have to make the trek over there one day with the gang.  I’m more of a North Carolina/Virginia barbecue fan myself, but these crisp, savory burnt ends with a slice of rich, buttery fois gras all tied together with a pile of vinegary, crunchy coleslaw that had a tiniest kick to it could almost, very almost, convert me to Kansas City-style barbecue.  That isn’t  likely to happen, but this was a great dish.  Oh, and here’s what a whole tray of these juicy morsels looked like.

Burnt Ends

Joe Dough

Brisket sub with pickled onions and peppercorn mayo

Another returning competitor was Joe Dough with this incredible-looking sub.  Visually, this was probably the most appealing display of the evening.  Unfortunately, we both felt this entry was just so-so.  For me, the bread overwhelmed the meat completely, and I didn’t really get the feel for the whole concoction as I never got that bite of brisket, mayo, and onion all together that could have sold me on the sandwich.

Robbie Richter

Shabu Shabu

Robbie Richter, well-known in NYC barbecue circles, brought with him one of the more out-of-the-box brisket creations last night.  His Shabu Shabu transformed this cut of meat into an Asian-inspired delight with a delicate but flavorful broth, highlighted by a touch of heat and sharp anise notes from the Thai basil.  This is the kind of meal I want when I’m craving some warmth and comfort.  It was a hit with both of us for its uniqueness and terrific execution.

Patrick Connolly (The KitchenNYC)

Worchestershire-braised brisket with horseradish on bread

From Chef Patrick Connolly, now based at The KitchenNYC, came this plate of tender meat that had a zippy finish courtesy the braising liquid and the addition of horseradish.  As unlikely a combination as these all might be, it sort of reminded me of the way my family does roast beef, with the same kinds of flavors working in tandem.  The bread was definitely needed here to soak up all the lovely juices to enjoy one more time.

Ducks Eatery – Chef Will Horowitz

Bubby’s oak-smoked brisket with papaya salad

Here is what the brisket in that first photo looks like when it hits the plate: chunks of pull-apart tender, smoky, fat-flavored meat paired with a crunchy, tangy, citrusy slaw alongside a dollop of sweet-hot barbecue sauce.  For me, this is how I think every food-festival plate should work.  All five flavor sensors on my tongue got to join in the dance.  As my friend said, and I agreed, this entry really captured the taste of traditional “brisketness” of the brisket.  Such a shame that by the time we’d made our rounds and considered going back for seconds, that this station was all out of food.

Jimmy’s No. 43 – Chef Jessica Wilson

Beer-braised brisket with roasted grape chimichurri

The home team, so to speak, brought another terrific plate to the competition last night.  Their beer-braised brisket with roasted grape chimichurri combined succulent, rich pulled-apart meat with a pop of bright, herbal freshness all nestled in a flour tortilla, which helped to catch all the fantastic juices.  This is something I’d really enjoy having again, perhaps at one of the New Amsterdam Market days this upcoming season.  That’s just a thought – no pressure, really.

Thomas Perone (Joseph Catering)

Brisket on Polenta

With the assistance of some culinary students from Kingsborough Community College, Thomas Perone‘s team whipped up this red wine and grape jelly-braised brisket with rosemary served over polenta squares.  While the whole bite was really well-constructed and very tasty, what I enjoyed the most was eating up the polenta after it had soaked in the flavorful, leftover juices.

Bywater Bistro (Chef Sam Ullman) with Hudson Valley Harvest

Using New York State Empire apples alongside Hudson Valley grass-raised beef, Sam Ullman from Bywater Bistro kept his selection for last night focused on the super-local.  The meat had been dusted on the outside with an Asian-spice blend and then braised.  Served alongside an apple and fennel slaw, I did get the direction in which he was trying to steer our palates, but my meat was very dry, and I thought that the flavors didn’t quite come together to provide the balanced contrast that I saw in some of the other dishes that we tried.

Chef Emma Feigenbaum

Brisket meatball with mustard aioli

For the most original use of brisket of the evening, this plate took the prize for me.  Brisket was chopped up, rolled in panko, and then deep-fried on the spot.  For my friend, this was not really a winner, but for me, I had to give Emma some high marks for taking brisket way out of the realm of the usual.  Dressed with a dollop of mustard aioli, this tangy, savory, crunchy bite was delicious with the fat just melting away, keeping the interior meat moist and juicy.

Andrew Gottlieb

Red mole brisket with avocado crema and pickled onions

Recent Mac-n-Cheese Takedown winner Andrew Gottlieb took us to warmer climes with his spin on brisket in a red mole sauce.  The meat was tender and hearty with a great flavor from the sauce while the pickled onions and avocado crema gave it a crunchy, zingy lift.  This was the perfect small bite with which to end our brisket tour, but I did wish he’d made his own tortilla chips, as those would have elevated the dish even more for me.

Jake Schiffman and Jimmy Carbone

Stuffed full of brisket, we made our short list of the winners, put in our votes for the People’s Choice awards, and found a spot on the cushy sofas scattered around the room to digest the evening’s eats.  A short time later, Jake Schiffman and Jimmy Carbone (of Jimmy’s No. 43) took the stage to get the awards part of the competition started.  After introducing the competitors, the winners for the People’s Choice 2012 Brisket King crown were announced:

3rd Place: Murray’s Cheese (Brisket-Fontina Melt)

2nd Place: John Brown Smokehouse (Burnt ends with foie gras and tangy coleslaw)

1st Place: Andrew Gottlieb (Red mole brisket with avocado crema and pickled onions)

Annie Hauck-Lawson crowns Andrew Gottlieb People’s Choice winner

The judges for the more official part of the competition last night were: Charlie Granquist from the Food Network, children’s cookery writer Cricket Azima, Joe Distefano (a.k.a. Joey Deckle), Rev. Ciancio from Idle Hands Bar, Mark Russ Federman of Russ and Daughters, Chef Robynne Maii from Kingsborough Community College’s culinary department, Peter Kaminsky the author of Culinary Intelligence: The Art of Eating Healthy (And Really Well), Rozanne Gold, multiple James Beard Award winner and chef to former NYC Mayor Ed Koch, and Annie Hauck-Lawson editor of Gastropolis: Food and New York City.  Here’s how the chefs vying for brisket supremacy fared:

Best dish by a host: Chef Jessica Wilson cooking for Jimmy’s No. 43

Best interpretation of brisket: Joe Dough

Best deep-fried brisket: Chef Emma Feignebaum

Best student of Tom Deutsche: Chef Thomas Perone

Best reinvention of a condiment: Chef Patrick Connolly

Best brisket on a bun: Mr. Bobo’s

Best brisket not cooked sous-vide: Chef Sam Ullman

Best use of all parts of the cow: Murray’s Cheese

Best flavor condiment round-up south of the border: Andrew Gottlieb

Crowns waiting for the winners to receive them

So, who took home the big crown last night?  Drum roll please….!

3rd Place: Robby Richter (Shabu Shabu)

2nd Place: Ducks Eatery (Bubby’s oak-smoked brisket with papaya salad)

1st Place: John Brown Smokehouse (Burnt ends with foie gras and tangy coleslaw)

Congratulations to Chef John Zervoulakos of John Brown Smokehouse – 2012 Brisket King NYC

My friend and I had called it quite close with both of us having really enjoyed the Shabu Shabu and the Smoked brisket with papaya salad.  Two very different dishes which were well-executed, thoroughly delicious, and made us want more of them.  I had put dibs on the Burnt Ends coming in somewhere in the top three, really, though, I just wanted a tray of those ends for myself, no matter where it placed.  Thank you so much to all the hard-working chefs and cooks for a great evening last night.  Thanks, too, to Jimmy for making it possible for me to attend this event and to bring along another set of tastebuds with me to enjoy all the fantastic brisket entries in this year’s competition.  I’ll go take a nap now to rest up and get ready for 2013’s brisket showdown.

Buon appetito!

Oscar Party Cookies

Mini Statuettes

It’s Oscar night tonight!  After hemming and hawing and trying to figure out what to bring to the awards viewing party that a friend of mine is having, I decided to opt for making roll-out cookies and trying my hand at some Academy Awards-themed designs.  I am far from an expert in the decoration field so these definitely look rough, but at least I know that they’ll taste good.  I free-hand cut the statues and adapted gingerbread men and women cutters into actors, complete with gowns and hair-dos.  Let’s see how they do on the red carpet!

A gingerbread cutter gets transformed

Look at the handsome men who are going to this party!

And here are all the lovely ladies ready to accept their awards!

Maybe some of them will end up with a star on the walk of fame!

No matter what your plans are for this evening, I hope it will be spent in the company of your own personal stars, your friends and family!

Buon appetito!

Ack, it’s Lent – Recipes for Meat-free Fridays

It’s coming soon!

Almost everyone has this story.  You totally forgot it was a Friday during Lent until you realized you had eaten bacon for breakfast or had a chicken sandwich for lunch.  For me, I can eat vegetarian meals any other day of the week and then, on a Friday, I will crave a burger or spaghetti and meatballs like nothing else.  It will tear at my insides.  The next day, however, when I can actually indulge in one of those meals, I end up wanting falafel or something without meat.

You can’t really have pizza for every meal on Fridays

Fortunately, over the years, I have amassed a collection of recipes to help me navigate through the dietary path of observance during this holy season.  They are meat-free or can easily be adapted to be so.  This list should also help to avoid the reliance on the trifecta of fishsticks, tuna casserole, and pizza (English muffin or otherwise), that my folks put us through when we were growing up.


Risotto alla Gorgonzola

Swap out the Chicken Stock for vegetable stock or water.  This is great paired with the Spiced Pecan and Pear Salad




Farro Risotto with Roasted Butternut Squash and Thyme-Roasted Mushrooms

Why not try this paired with a Salad with Balsamic Vinegar-Fig Reduction?  You can use dried figs to make the dressing if you can’t find fresh ones.




No one ever said you couldn’t do breakfast for dinner.  It looks even more elegant with this Smoked Salmon Hash (salad recipe also in the post).





Flounder Florentine with garlic-roasted potatoes.  Not quite fishsticks and tater tots, and probably healthier, too.






Shrimp-Grape-Almond Salad really does serve up as a meal.  If you separate the dressing and the cheese, this would make a great packed lunch.





Sole with Lemon-Butter Sauce is so quick and simple to make and tastes amazing.  Buy the freshest piece of fish that you can find to cook this dish (it is definitely worth going to your local fishmonger for it).  Serve it alongside crunchy Green Beans with Almonds or a tangy Spinach Salad and don’t forget the bread to sop up all that amazing sauce!


Aw, you knew I was going to throw in at least one tuna dish, right?  Here’s Tuna Tettrazini, which was the version of tuna casserole served in my parents’ house.  Easy to throw together after a busy work week and creamy, cheesy and comforting.  Here, I’ve served it with Peas with Sautéed Shallots.



So, here you have it: 7 Fridays in Lent and 7 meal ideas to fix for them.  I have many other Recipes that you can search from as well, too, to get some more inspiration.  You could even pull together a bunch of Appetizers and Salads for dinner, if you like.  I bet it wouldn’t be the first time you’ve done that and called it a meal!

Buon appetito!

Smoked Salmon Mousse

The acclaim for the Smoked Salmon Mousse I served last night has taken me by surprise.  I just thought it was a simple appetizer I’d throw together for friends to enjoy while watching the Downton Abbey finale.  From the emails, texts and Facebook posts I’ve seen in the last 24 hours, it seems like it was a huge hit with everyone, more than the other things that I made for us to munch on while waiting to see if Matthew and Mary would finally get together (I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t watched it.).  It’s no small thrill for me to witness my friends enjoy my cooking, especially when the recipe is something I haven’t even attempted to make in years.

A Charlotte Mold – I tried to find a salmon-shaped pan but couldn’t locate one at any store in the city

The basic recipe is one that I found on many years back.  I’ve re-jigged it substantially here to fit my tastes.  By using wild-caught salmon in the fresh and smoked variety, the salmon-y flavor came through really intensely, like eating salmon spread slathered on a bagel.  Poaching the fish instead of using canned fish is actually an easy process, not dissimilar to the one for poaching chicken, but with less water and in a shallow pan.  It is also better than having to comb through a can of salmon with all the bits of random stuff in it, and taking the time to do this simple step really improves the flavor of the final dish.

Dill, scallions, and lemon – perfect with the salmon

In addition, I decided to add dill instead of cilantro to the mousse mixture and to amp up the citrus a bit by adding the lemon zest as well as the lemon juice.  I think that this gave it a nice tang as well.  Serving this with endive and radicchio made a crunchy, slightly bitter counterpoint to the creamy, richness of the mousse.

It does take a bit of work to put together, but the rewards are well worth it as the final dish is delicious!

In my original plan, I was going to be low-tech about putting this together, to keep in the Edwardian spirit of the evening, but in the end, I resorted to the efficiency of the food processor to give the mixture the texture for which I was looking, not completely smooth but not rough and chunky either.  Instead of using a machine to pull together the cream and the salmon, however, I decided that folding the fish into the whipped cream would give me a better result and lighter texture.  Something must have worked, as everyone really loved it.  This is one recipe I decided I should not keep hidden away in my files.

You are never too old to lick the bowl or spatula

Smoked Salmon Mousse

Prep Time: allow an hour cooking time, including time to poach the salmon, plus at least 8 hours setting time

Serving Size: 8-10 as an appetizer, maybe, as your guests will devour it


Waxed or Parchment Paper

Vegetable or Canola Oil

8-10 small dill sprigs

4 oz. piece of wild-caught Salmon

1/2 tsp. dry White Wine

1 small Bay Leaf

1 slice Lemon

1/4 c. plus 1 Tbsp. cold Water

2 3/4 tsp. boiling Water

1/2 packet of powdered Gelatin

1 1/2 tsp. Lemon Juice

3/4 c. Sour Cream

1/8 tsp. Tabasco sauce (add more to taste, but the dish shouldn’t be spicy)

4 oz. wild-caught Smoked Salmon, cut into small pieces

Zest of 1/2 Lemon, grated

2 Tbsp. Scallions, minced

1 Tbsp. fresh Dill, finely chopped

1/4 tsp. Salt

1/8 tsp. White Pepper, freshly ground

1/2 c. Heavy Cream (not whipping cream)

Endive and Radicchio spears


Prepare the Charlotte mold by cutting a circle of waxed or parchment paper the size of the bottom of the pan.  Oil the bottom and sides of the pan.  Place the paper inside the pan on the bottom.  Put a very thin swipe of oil on the paper.  Place the dill springs on the paper.  These will end up decorating the top of the mousse when it is unmolded.

Decorate the bottom of the pan by placing sprigs of dill on top of the paper lining

To poach the fresh salmon, put it, skin side down, in a skillet with 1/4 cup water, bay leaf, and lemon slice.  With heat on low, let it come to a simmer and watch the fish as the color changes from bright, vivid pink to light rose pink.  When the color has changed about halfway up the side of the fish, turn it over to cook it on the other side.  When it the entire piece is light pink on the outside, give it another 30 seconds, and then turn off the flame.  Remove the fish from the water and set aside to cool.

Poached wild-caught salmon

Pour lemon juice and 1 Tablespoon cold water in a small bowl.  Sprinkle 1/2 packet of powdered gelatin over the liquid and let it sit for a couple of minutes to soften.  Pour boiling water over the mixture and stir to dissolve the gelatin. The liquid will start to look thick.

Dissolved gelatin

In the bowl of a food processor, pour in the sour cream and Tabasco sauce.  Add the smoked salmon and the poached salmon.  Blend until smooth, allowing for some texture in the mixture.

Salmons and sour cream blended together

Add the dissolved gelatin, lemon zest, scallions, chopped dill, salt, and pepper to the salmon mixture.  Pulse again, several times, until everything is thoroughly blended together.  Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning as needed.  There should be a slight tang from sour cream along with an herbal freshness from the dill, a bright citrus lift from the lemon, and perhaps the teeniest kick of heat from the Tabasco.  These flavors will change again with the addition of the whipped cream.

Mixture with the spices added and the texture a bit smoother

At this point, in a separate bowl whip the cream until it is in the soft to medium peak range.  Do not over beat it.

Whipped cream

Fold one quarter of the salmon mixture into the cream, lifting from the bottom to incorporate everything.  Continue to add the salmon mixture one fourth of a time (i.e., three more times), folding each time to keep the mixture light. With the last fold, make sure that the cream and salmon are completely mixed together.  Taste again for seasoning.  Refrain from eating it all before you put it in the Charlotte mold.



Fully folded

Gently spoon the mixture into the bottom of the Charlotte mold, taking care not to disturb the dill springs on the bottom so that they set up properly.

Mousse mixture in the bottom of the pan

Continue to spoon the mouse into the pan until there is none left in the mixing bowl.  Gently shake the Charlotte mold to make sure the mousse is level.

All the mousse is in the pan

Ready to go into the fridge to set up

Cover the mold with plastic wrap and put in the fridge to set up.  The mousse should be kept in the fridge for at least 8 hours and can be prepared the night before serving.  When ready to serve it, remove the plastic wrap and run a knife alongside the edge of the mousse in the pan to loosen it.  Place the bottom of the mold in a pan of hot water to loosen it further.  Take a plate or platter, put it on top of the mold and flip it and the pan over together to release the mold.  You might have to give the mold a slight shake to release it fully.  Discard the waxed or parchment paper.

Smoked Salmon Mousse

Serve the Smoked Salmon Mouse alongside endive and/or radicchio spears.  Don’t anticipate having any leftovers.

Buon appetito!

Potted Crab

Potted Crab.  Not one of those dishes that I typically bring out for guests, in fact, I’ve never ever made it before yesterday. The season finale of Downton Abbey inspired me to try my hand at some more English fare.  My friends and are hooked on the show, so we all decided to gather to watch the Christmas special, which we just got to see today.   Instead of trying to pull together a massive dinner that might have been served in the dining room of the great house, we opted for a few sweet and savory nibbles instead…and a couple of bottles of something with bubbles, as it was the holiday season after all.

I’m not sure if this dish is completely typical of the period, but preserving food in fat is not an uncommon cooking method.  Duck confit, rillettes, and potted crab all fit in this category.  It allows the food to be stored longer and also stretches out the portions.  I like to take some of the fat and spread a thin layer of it on toast or bread and then slather the food on top of it.  It is super indulgent, but a little bit packs a big flavor punch.  I can’t eat it all the time, but some days it is the perfect lunch or teatime snack or even just an excuse to invite friends over to watch a little telly.

Potted Crab with Toast

Prep Time: 1 hour (with cleaning the crab)

Serving Size: about 6 ramekins (as a cocktail appetizer, one ramekin will feed multiple people)


8 oz. unsalted butter (2 sticks), melted and clarified (see below)

1 c. Jumbo Lump Blue Crab Meat (not backfin)

1 c. Snow Crab Meat

1/2 tsp. Allspice, freshly ground

1/4 tsp. Salt

1/8 tsp. White Pepper, freshly ground

1/2 tsp. Lemon Juice, fresh

Toasted bread or crackers


Leave one Tbsp.  of the clarified butter in the saucepan with the heat turned off.  Put both sets of crabmeat into the pan.  Sprinkle salt, allspice, and pepper over the crabmeat and add the lemon juice.  Fold gently to mix everything together.

Drizzle about 1/4 tsp. (it doesn’t have to be exact) of melted butter in the bottom of each ramekin.

Spoon crabmeat mixture into ramekin.

Fill ramekin 1/2 to 2/3 the way full with the crabmeat.

Pour additional clarified butter over the crabmeat until the butter covers it.  This will be several tablespoons of butter.

In the end, there will be a thin layer of butter over the crabmeat.

Place ramekins in the refrigerator to set for several hours (2-3) or overnight.  Bring to room temperature before serving by setting them out on the counter for 30 minutes.  Serve with toasted bread and/or crackers.

Kitchen Witch Tip:

Why to clarify butter?  Clarified butter, is butter that has been melted and has had the milk solids separated from the butterfat.  Although this isn’t necessary to do in everyday cooking, clarified butter has a higher smoke point so food can be cooked in it at a higher temperature without it burning.  It can also be stored longer than regular butter and does not need to be refrigerated.  Ghee, used in Indian cooking, is the same product.  Clarified butter can also be referred to as drawn butter.

Place 8 oz. of unsalted butter in a saucepan and set over low heat.

Let the butter melt completely and froth up.

Skim off the frothy part, the foam, with a spoon or ladle and set it aside.

Once the foam has been removed, a clear, yellow liquid, the butter, without the milk solids, will be left behind.

Clarified butter will keep for months in the fridge.  The key is to store it in a tightly sealed container, as it is sensitive to picking up odors from other foods.

The foam is still usable, too, and it is good tossed with steamed vegetables, maybe even these Green Beans with Almonds (if using in that recipe, do not use the butter for sautéing, as it will burn quickly).

Buon appetito!

New Amsterdam Market Valentine’s Gift Shop & Soda Fountain

Yesterday and today, the New Amsterdam Market held their Valentine’s Gift Shop & Soda Fountain in an historic, wood-beamed warehouse space downtown by the South Street Seaport.  With the outdoor market season several months away, this was kind of a reunion for some of the usual vendors.  It was really great to see everyone again and even more wonderful to check out all the delicious goodies that were for sale.

The market was set up in this beautiful, old space near the seaport.

Tinsel Trading Company‘s beautiful cards and boxes

Liz of Liddabit Sweets with her amazing display

Yum!  Look at this incredible chocolate cake

Candy bars and Caramels for your sweetheart!

What about picking up a bag of Spicy Cashews from Nuts+Nuts?

Or these colorful Macarons from Vallery of Jaune NYC

I selected a Rose & Orange Water one with its delicate, floral taste

Honey for your Honey?  From Bees’ Needs

Third Rail Coffee to brew up a something special

To treat myself, I picked up a jar of Blood Orange Marmalade from Anarchy in a Jar

If I had a sweetheart this year, I would have picked up some of this for him.

Or maybe I would have treated him to Taza Chocolate

Mast Brothers delicious chocolate is another tempting option

I love their packaging, too.

I hope that someone picked up these beautiful sweets from Pie Corps for their sweet

Or maybe gathered a few of their hand pies to pack up for a picnic

Along with some of this bright, cheerful fruit from Flying Fox Fruiterer

Perhaps grabbing one of P&H Soda Co.‘s seasonal syrup flavors to put in a hamper

Look at this list of soda selections to sample

With Anton of P&H mixing each one by hand

I tried the Goat’s Cheese Ice Cream with Quince Syrup – sweet, creamy and refreshing

I could also have opted for an old-fashioned Egg Cream using their incredible Chocolate Syrup

Of course, I also treated myself to a scoop of the fabulous Ri-cuddle Me (ricotta, orange, and cinnamon) and I’m Slightly Bitter (semi-sweet chocolate) ice creams from my favorite The Bent Spoon.

Although it was difficult to choose, as all the flavors were fantastic

And, then there were all these pints to pick from to take with me

With all these great things at the market, how could I not gather up some of them to bring home with me?

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

Buon appetito!