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19

Mar

Trinidadian Food- Buss-up Shot!

My friend Aziza introduced me to the cuisine of her native island of Trinidad and just like that my life changed. 

I wrote about it all for the righteous food mag - Serious Eats.  

Imagine the best possible combination of Indian curry and roti, Chinese Lo Mein and Afro-Caribbean callaloo getting along on the same plate with scotch bonnet pepper and tamarind sauce as their ring leaders. 

Old word recipes, pumped up with New World spice and ingredients.

In my tour of the Trini enclaves of Brooklyn and Queens I discovered the unusual delights of the medicinal tasting Mauby drink and the guilty pleasures of a chickpea fried Doubles. My learning included getting a hold of terrific names like Bake and Things; a category that includes one of the better sandwiches I’ve tasted - minced salt cod mixed with tamarind and pepper sauce stuffed in a roll - Bake and Salt Fish. 

10

Jan

A Roman Pizzaiolo in the Jungle

There is a giant wood fired stove in the jungle off the Nicaraguan pacific coast and twice a week a man from Rome fires it up to make incredible pizza.

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Sergio Terantini has lived in Nicaragua for 25 years and was married to a local woman. They split up, leaving him time to fuss over dough, sauce and cheese at Munchies Blues. Each of his handful of tables at this rustic al fresca restaurant set down in the woods along side a dirt road between the tourist town of San Juan Del Sur and Playa Maderas are always sold out.  

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Sergio is the only person he allows back in his kitchen. He doesn’t trust anybody with his ingredients or his process. Quality control, or simply just control, maybe the reasons for that, but I trust it also has to do with the fact that he likes to be the star of his show.

Sergio is a blues man and you will hear a lot of it coming out his stereo. He dances between the oven and his laptop selecting tracks from Itunes as each new pie emerges from the oven. Gorganzola, pepperoni and pecorino, each pie is unique and they roll out like sets at a concert.

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He tells me the essence of his restaurant is good music, played loudly, fused with good product.

All of his ingredients, aside from the flour, are sourced from Italy. He must travel two and half hours to Managua to secure his pecorino, gorganzola and speck.

Unlike the home country, pizza making in the jungle means a constant battle against moisture. The merits of a good pie are based on the crust and to arrive at that perfect crispy and chewy consistency has a lot to do with the how the dough is leavened.

Sergio leavens his dough 8 hours against the elements of the humid seaside tropics. I look forward to returning in the dry season to taste if his crust is any different. Not that it needed any improvement.

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06

Dec

Every September I gather friends on a beach to dig a pit and cook a hundred pounds of lobsters, potatoes and corn. It’s a full day effort and everybody lends a hand. It’s an exercise in traditional slow cooking. The results of salt, sweetness and sunset make for my favorite day of the year. 

07

Nov

Eat, Drink, Talk to Ghosts: El Dia De Los Muertos Feast

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It was early evening on the first night of El Dia De Los Muertos when I met Tatiana Garcia near the subway stop in Jackson Heights, Queens. Tatu, as she goes by, has a quick laugh and a preference for Gothic attire and elaborate rings. She works in the film world in New York now, but owned restaurants back in her native Mexico.

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The Day of the Dead, is that truly Mexican of holidays in which families honor those who have past, many times with mezcal or tequila, but more importantly with the beloved treats of the deceased placed on an ofrenda (altar).

When I asked Tatu about the significance of the holiday while growing up, she described lively artistic competitions in school on which class could build the bigger ofrenda.  When she hit her teens her relationship with the holiday became in Tatu’s word, weird. She had, you see, got into brujeria, witchcraft, with a chumon, a medium between the living and the dead. El Dia de Los Muertos was not about cut-outs of paper ghosts anymore.  

Back in Jackson Heights, we stood in front of a large grocery store that caters to the dizzying range of culinary needs for neighborhood whose residents span from Bogata to Banagalor.

We grazed the aisles for the flavors of Mexico: the chilis, the cilantro, the limitless limes; the tastes of home for Tatu, all of which would give character to the multi-course feast to be spread out on my dining room table the next night.

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Contemplating a pile of cactus leaves Tatu remarks,  “A thing about Mexico is that we accept the dead as part of the culture and are comfortable with that. For one day we will sit with the dead. Both sides of family. Death and spirits are close, passing back and forth.”

A little later, walking past the butcher counter, she paused to ponder the soul of Mexico. “We are people of nostalgia. It’s a burden too.”

The next morning I received a text from Tatu. “Please let me know if I can take a nap or something…I am exhausted, slept at 4am, cooking.

Tatu had been up all night  braising the chicken and the beef so that when she arrived to my loft six hours ahead of guests, she could cook these meats once more with the fresh marinades we would prepare.

A hallmark of Mexican cuisine and what makes the flavors so complex and delicious are the many stages of preparation that are involved in each dish. Even your simple truck taco has several rounds of toppings applied to it before the wrapped tortilla is handed to you. Your favorite dishes: cochinita pibil, tacos al pastor, carnitas; all of that meat has gone through a gauntlet of stewing, boiling and then another round of frying or braising . No short cuts.

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Tatu adds beef stock to Pollo y Res Entomotato. 

Read More

13

Aug

Watermelon is best eaten at high speed without hands or shirts. 
Photo credit: No Longer Empty. 

Watermelon is best eaten at high speed without hands or shirts. 

Photo credit: No Longer Empty. 

27

Jun

Eating My Way Through Tear Gas

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At the end of May I went to Istanbul to find the perfect Doner Kebab. The day I arrived anti-government protests broke out throughout my neighborhood. It was an incredible political awakening for the Turkish people. I covered those stories for The Week

While running to and from tear gas I was stuffing my mouth. I wrote the food story of the protest for Bon Appetit

(Ben)

21

May

Walk Away Pulled Pork Tacos

I call this crowd favorite “walk away” because you prep, turn on the oven and literally walk away from the kitchen for 8-10 hours. When you get back home dinner is done. 

In the first segment of my Mexico City & New York City hometown favorites meal we outlined how to make house cured Grav lox. Slow cooked pork tacos are just as easy.

Complete this meal in 3 stages:

1) Dry Rub and Rest

2) 8 hour cook

3) Shred and serve

Ingredients:

1) 11 lbs of pork shoulder

2) 1 can of tomato paste

3) 2 fresh jalapeno

4) 1 sprig of fresh thyme

5) 1 large carrot

6) 1/2 bulb of garlic 

7) 1 yellow onion

8) Fresh cilantro

9) 1/2 cup of kosher salt

10) 2 tablespoons of black pepper

11) 1 tablespoon of chili arbol 

12) 1/2 cup of brown sugar

13) 2 bottles of Dos Equis or your favorite Mexican lager.

Prep:

Mix all dry ingredients. Grind and stir until completely blended.

Cover pork entirely, wrap in paper and place in fridge overnight. 

Cooking:

Preheat oven: 150 degrees

Chop up onion, jalapeno, garlic and carrot.

In a roast pan, place meat and layer wet ingredients along with tomato paste and fresh whole thyme.

Pour one beer in pan.

Cover pan with foil and place in oven. Check on meat after 6 hours and pour second beer into pan. 

Shred and Serve:

After 8 hours check pork with knife. It should be falling apart. If not let it cook for another hour. It will not dry out.

Pull out and place meat in a bowl and tear into shreds with two forks. Make sure you extract the thyme leaves. 

Serve on a warm tortilla with fresh cilantro and hot sauce.

(Ben)

Handmade Raviolo

A few friends and I gathered the other weekend in La Malbaie, Quebec to make a feast for my mother’s birthday.  That day, we cruised around from Baie Saint-Paul, where we visited the renowned hotel La Ferme (of Cirque du Soleil fame) and had an amazing terroir lunch which inspired this meal.  We then went to ferme Basque to pick up free range foie gras, and then to the Migneron Fromagerie to see the sheep and taste their many varieties of cheese.  

Here are the steps to create the pasta course from our dinner that evening:

SPINACH RICOTTA RAVIOLO

Ingredients -

dough:

1 3/4 cups (8 oz) “00” flour

6 large egg yolks

1 large egg

1 1/2 tsp olive oil

1 tblsp milk

Filling - 

10 oz spinach

1 egg

1 cup ricotta

1/2 cup Parmigiano

1/2 tsp nutmeg

Salt and pepper

egg yolks (kept seperately from the mixture)

Steps dough

1. Mound the flour on a board or countertop, creating a well in the center wide enough to hold all of the eggs. Pour the egg yolks, milk and oil into the well.  Use your fingers to break up the egg yolks and then stir in a cirular motion, allowing the egg mixture to slowly absorb into the flour.

2. When the mixture is too thick to encorporate the rest of the flour, use a pastry scraper to lift the flour over the top of the mixture and cut it in, making the dough appear shaggy.  After this, form a ball.

3. Knead the dough little by little in a forward motion with the palms of your hands.  Reform into ball and repeat several times.  Let the dough rest while you clean your work area and sprinkle flour over it.

4. Knead again and again until the dough is silky-smooth and snaps back into place if you insert your finger and remove it.  Keep in mind that you cannot over knead, but you can under knead!  So keep going! Knead for 10-15 minutes and then knead some more.

5. Double wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest for 30 minutes to an hour.

Then: 

6.

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Repeat several times until it is thin.

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The water dabbed around the outside of the mixture makes the dough layers stick together.

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12.  Boil the Raviolo for 2 minutes in salted water.

13. Serve with a simple sauce such as a buttered sage.

14. Enjoy and wow your crowd!

20

May

House Cured Grav Lox

Time: 24 hours. 

I threw a giant party for my good friend Marela Zacarias. She’s from Mexico City and is an artist who loves me enough to lend me her beautiful sculpture “Manhattan”. I designed a meal that honored our hometowns and the food we love: tacos and salmon and cream cheese. 

I did not have time to smoke the salmon so I cured it with salt and sugar. This recipes is so ridiculously easy you have no excuse not to do this really well. 

Ingredients:

1 whole filet of fresh salmon 

2 cups of brown sugar

1 cup of kosher salt 

2 cups of fresh dill

1 Fresh lemon.


Prep:

5 minutes

Mix salt and brown sugar and cover filet entirely.

Chop dill finely and cloak all of flesh. 

"Cook":

24 hours

Wrap in plastic and then foil tightly. Then wrap in a cloth towel.

Let sit for 1 hour at room temp. Then put in fridge for 18-20 hours.

Serve:

Clean off dill and salt / sugar mix. The fish will be candied (denser than when you began). Slice thinly parellel to skin. Cover with sliced lemons prior to serving.  

15

May

In April I visited Montreal to do a story on that city’s happy hour culture. Matt and oysterman Daniel Notkin hold court every thursday for their Cinq A Huitre party featuring El Tinieblo Mezcal and amazing oysters.