Posts Tagged ‘beer’



December 30, 2012


When the Saints played the Colts in Superbowl XLIV (2010) I made up this dish, Mussels in Chorizo and Beer. It was the product of us being in a foreign neighborhood and running around trying to find cool ingredients for an extraordinary Superbowl concoction to make at our friends’ place. While it was being eaten almost no one yelled at the TV.

Even though it has no particular cultural alliance, once the mussels and chorizo came together I felt like it was reminiscent of something my Italian grandparents or great grandparents would have served back in the day. Back when Sundays were still a red sauce based, all day eating affair and calamari with the tentacles still totally freaked me out. (The ‘rubber bands’ were okay though.) All of my aunts, uncles and cousins would fight for a seat in the dining room, the losers sent to the card table parked in the back bedroom. I was the youngest and had my choice of laps to sit on, a great strategy especially at dessert.

The Christmas after that gourmet Superbowl when my cousins and I decided to honor the Feast of the Seven Fishes, I knew exactly what my contribution would be. We simmered pounds and pounds (and pounds and pounds) of mussels in the garlicky tomato sauce studded with spiced sausage. A side of pasta for folks like my dad and sliced up focaccia for the dunkers. The table groaned under six more fish, two more pasta dishes, salads and sides galore. It was a beautiful sight. All of the foods we were most excited about, all at once.

In more recent years we have experimented with some other seafoods and we have learned how to reign it in. This year, back by popular demand, we made the mussels again. I think they might become a regular addition to the table. We have some traditions and they are not strict, but it is sure that favorites will make an appearance; manicotti, antipasto with the biggest hunk of Parmiggiano you have ever seen, killer seafood salad, rum cake. Somehow even a platter of sushi has made it into the yearly mix. Our feast grows and changes a bit each Christmas, as does our family and by the same token it has a strong foundation in our history and represents the memories we share however hazy they may be. (Next year I promise to nail down the recipe for Pete’s Seafood Salad That We Think Grandma Used To Make.) The resulting dinner, both nostalgic and new, reflects everyone who has participated in it. And out of love, it also reflects all of those who eat it.


1 pound chorizo or hot Italian sausage

1 tablespoon butter

1 onion, chopped

2 shallots, chopped

1 tablespoon fennel seed

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large can chopped tomatoes

1 can beer

1/4 cup fresh dill or other fresh herb

4 pounds mussels, scrubbed

salt and pepper

  • Cook chorizo in a large saucepan, breaking it up into pieces until browned.
  • Remove meat with a slotted spoon and drain all but 1 tablespoon of the fat.
  • Add butter to the saucepan and sautee onion, shallot, red pepper flakes and fennel seed with a touch of salt and pepper.
  • Stir in garlic and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and add beer and dill.
  • Bring to a boil again and add mussels.
  • When most of the mussels have opened and are cooked through, Remove them and arrange in a large serving dish. Pick out and discard any mussels that have not opened.
  • Boil the tomato mixture for about 3 minutes, add the chorizo back in and heat through.
  • Season well and pour over the mussels in the dish.

Serve with bread for dipping.

(Photo courtesy of Jackii Laurenzano)


Tofu gets un-white. (DRY SAUTE TOFU)

May 4, 2012

What could be more boring than talking about tofu? I am sitting here at my computer thinking, ‘it’s white’. But I am also a little burnt right now. Not fully burnt, just sort of golden and a little crispy. If you would like your tofu to have similar qualities without sticking all over the barbecue grill and without globs and globs of frying oil, I propose a dry saute. You will need one block of firm or extra firm tofu to start.

A few keys to success! First, slice the tofu. I usually cut the block into two or three thinner slabs. Keep in mind the final shape you want the tofu pieces to have… and you can leave the block in its whole form if you want to. Next, press the tofu. Place the tofu slabs on paper towels between two sheet pans. I place something a little heavy on top of that like the tea kettle or a few cans of beer or something. You will see water  in the bottom pan being absorbed by the paper towels. Leave that to happen while you prep other ingredients. Thirty minutes? One hour?  All good. Once drained, Place the slabs into a non-stick or cast iron skillet. Do not add oil or butter or any of the things you were taught to do. Don’t do it.

Then let the heat do the work until the desired color is achieved. Flip, repeat. It helps to press down on the tofu in the pan every now and then with a spatula to help the remaining water sneak out and get that colorized color going on. Makes a nice texture on the outside, stays soft and bitey in the middle. Cut into shapes and proceed with your regular tofu repertoire. Marinate, stir-fry, throw it in a soup.

Tiny bowls!


Pizza heaven is near. (ARTICHOKE PIZZA)

March 28, 2010

Artichoke Basille’s Pizza & Brewery 328 East 14th Street , NYC  •  (212) 228-2004.

This is what I have done on various occasions, I have forced friends and loved ones to walk blocks -many blocks- out of their way for a slice of this stuff. In snow or rain, in inebriation or in just plain hunger, bringing someone important in my life to the gates of pizza heaven and then pushing them inside, o the happy joy! The authentic deliciousness of Artichoke is why, at any given moment of the night or day, there are straggles of people on 14th street lapping food off of paper plates or worse yet, massive, squirming lines waiting to eat. There is no inside seating, just a couple of counters, there is no long and useless menu, just four kinds of pizza. Perfect, delicious, unbelievable pizza in varieties like regular, Sicilian, crab and artichoke.

The first one I sampled was the namesake artichoke slice and it was kind of like eating a sofa. Pillowy and the wrong kind of chewy, full of heavy white ingredients like cream and ricotta with this big doughy crust, etc. And, while I was eating (outside the joint) some kids walked by and one of the kids was especially freaking out, yelling at people for eating this ‘burnt-ass’ rip-off pizza. He was really upset. He emphatically taunted pizza eaters his whole way to the corner. I felt  it was his right as a New Yorker to go into a tirade about his pizza opinion, but I can’t help but hope he gives it another chance, as I did.

Next time(s) around I avoided the artichoke and went for any of the other varieties and quickly, deeply have fallen in love. These Staten Island boys have figured out the oven type/temp and the ace recipe to produce the perfect cragged crust, bathed in perfect amounts of oil (which actually render your paper plate transparent) and an amazing, assertive red sauce, so hard to find but so obvious when you do that it’s nostalgic even. Toppings of  good salty cheese and fresh basil leaves make the combination of ingredients and textures attract and repel like two S.I. cousins out on a Saturday night. For reals.

So what if there’s a huge line, that’s what makes it extra-special when it’s all yours. So what if is three bucks fifty, slices are huge and I have had $4 slices in much worse places (sorry that NYC thinks it’s so special these days). Artichoke is open late and it produces righteous pizza. Makes me realize it’s high time I started to make up for all the mediocre stuff I’ve eaten over the years.  The shop is conveniently located on 14th Street just east of 1st Ave, I dare myself to avoid it when I am within a 10 block radius and I can’t (unless there is above-illustrated line). It really comes down to the fact that I love pizza because pizza, like few other things, even when it’s bad…it’s still kinda good. And when it’s great, it’s mind-blowing.



High lights. (FOOD ABROAD)

December 7, 2009

After embarking on a trip to Europe, recounting stories of all the good friends, good news and good times will take too damn long. Instead, here are a handful of delicious highlights (in pictures).


A villainous cheese plate:

The cheese that looks like a flower is some incredible stuff called tête de moine. It is cut horizontally with a special apparatus that shaves a thin layer  from the top of the cheese. As it is sliced in a circular direction, the cheese curls around itself. Then it melts in your mouth.

An adventurous charcuterie:

The light pinkish sausage at the top is French andouille… that lovely pattern is created by pig intestines and stomach. A little goes a long way.



I guess I ate some stuff during the days in Belgian, but the beer! The beer is special. In this photo is a golden, delicious Tongerlo. Also among my favorites were the Westmalle beers and the rare and fantastic Wechelse Tripel. Locals say not to drink more than three. Decent advice, I guess.



Never again will I accept the expression ‘as American as apple pie’. We need to simply give up and let the Dutch have this one. Here is a photo of Dutch apple pie from a cute little eatery called Winkel that specializes in the stuff. This inexplicable pie will have me chasing the dragon until I get to try it again. (Noordermarkt 43)

Sorry France, sorry Belgium:

And here we have the little corner shop where I innocently bought some fries. I thought I would walk around and eat them but they were so so so good, I had to sit down on the nearest bench to believe what was going on in that little paper cone. When I looked up, everyone around me was eating them, all in devout silence. I got spicy mayo as my saus but i heard that peanut sauce is also a popular choice. Later still, I discovered the real people’s choice is a mix of mayo AND peanut sauce. Must immerse in local culture. Must. (Voetboogstraat 31)


Dear Sandoony,

November 24, 2009

1158 McDonald Ave, Brooklyn

First of all, thanks so much for always hosting a great party. We think you are the best banya deal in town and we totally appreciate the long tables reserved for us, the sweet little group discounts and the fresh towels always stocked! Is there a keener way to celebrate with a pile of friends than a leisurely sauna and soak, a recline on the balcony (skin steaming in the chilled air), an awesome snack? And then do it all over again!

To make the most of this experience, it’s mandatory to observe the regulars. They come prepared with snacks, beverages, flip flops, hair masks, etc. The spa-goers claim a spot, set up shop and spend a day lounging. In and out of hot rooms and pools, snapping each other with leafy branches (platza). They read and play cards, eat a few meals with plenty of fine drinks, beer and vodka among the favorites.

Though guests may bring their own, it is the amazing quality of the food in the banya’s restaurant that is such a fantastic surprise. With well-priced house specialties like smoked salmon, borscht, pickled vegetables (including chayote and lettuce), whole prawns, and garlicy potatoes, we are transformed from a group of temporarily de-stressed and exfoliated New Yorkers into a hearty, red-nosed, robe-clad clan of Eastern blockers. The menu is extensive, everyone eats, and it doesn’t take long to get used to the idea of dining in a tiled room alongside a pool in a bathing suit. In fact, relaxed comfort might make the food taste that much better.

Though it is not fancy, everything is served with great pride and flourish. Food shaped into flowers (Sandoony is the only place this is acceptable), served with extra lemon, bright herbs, two kinds of bread and heaps of butter. The fish is perfectly cured and the soups restorative, each plate a meal in itself. Even an order of tea is accompanied by lemon, honey, sugar, milk and these fabulously sweet sour cherries. It is honest, well-done and downright delicious. No one bats an eye when a bunch of girls eat cupcakes and sip vodka. They just want to know whose birthday it is…

It’s kind of a steamy dream. Thank you.



Photos by Jean Naté.


Tearing it a new one. (BEERCAN CHICKEN)

June 6, 2009


I finally did it! And it was just as easy as I thought it would be, or as everyone said it would. What we’re talking here is a grill-ready, party-starting, (hilariously photogenic) dish called beercan chicken. The concept is to stick a half-full can of beer into the cavity of a whole chicken. The chicken, now supported by the can and its own legs in tripod fashion, is placed upright on the grill (or in the oven) and cooked to absolute perfection with beer basting the meat throughout the process. You probably know all about beercan chicken already and I am the one that is late to the party. But, I am late to every party and this chicken is damn good!

A dry rub seems to be the best method of seasoning for this because it sticks! The spices get nicely toasted while infusing their flavor inside and out. I splashed the birds with a very light coat of canola oil and a touch of lime juice before the spice-rub pat down and covertly slipped a few cloves of crushed garlic into the beer cans. For these party chickens we used the Salt Lick Dry Rub straight from the great state of Texas. (See Grandma, they did do something for us!) Since the rub does contain salt, I went very lightly on additional salt and pepper. It’s important to test how salty the spice mix you are using is, especially if store-bought, so as not to over season in the end. Tony Chachere’s, for example, is so salty that no extra dusting is needed. Brent’s Blacken Spice is lighter on salt, so ample salting will make it just right. Take a little taste of your chosen rub before the raw poultry gets involved.

On this new grilling venture J9 advised me to use tall boys, which made the half-can-of-beer-drinking contest slightly more substantial but unfortunately our little grill was not tall enough to replace the lid once the chickens were assembled and vertical. Since a firmly closed lid* is vital to the cooking process and I had lots of hungry people milling about, I thought fast and made the cavity a bit wider by cracking the breast bone with my bare hands. It was easy to jam the chickens a little further down onto the cans which adjusted the height, worked fine and prevented a reckless waste of beer. (Beercan chicken is foolproof!) For the first half hour or so the chicks grilled beautifully on the Weber, but to make room for some Arthur Avenue sausages, we moved them to the oven to finish them off (400 degrees, 30 minutes more). The smoky goodness of the grill was locked in and the Salt Lick spices made it especially addictive. After the mandatory resting period, we savagely carved pieces right off of the cans. The chicken quickly disappeared in a frenzy of smmmmmacking… and the sausages barely made it off of the grill.

*close the lid to keep in the heat, yes, but leave that little air-hole thingy open or you suffocate the fire. Ask me how I know…

The menu:
Sun-dried tomato hummus and pita chips
Olive tapenade + smoked mozzarella flatbread
Quinoa with roasted mushrooms and carrots
Marinated roasted peppers
Parsley and cheese sausages
Salt lick beercan chicken
…and grilled pizza dough handled in various creative ways

1 whole chicken, about 3.5 pounds
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 lime, juiced
1/4 cup chikken grillin spice rub of yo choice
1 can of beer
2 cloves of garlic crushed

  • Prep your grill or preheat oven to 400F.
  • Place whole chicken on a foil covered tray and remove gizzards. etc.
  • Mix oil and lime juice in a small bowl and rub it all over the chicken, inside and out.
  • Sprinkle chicken evenly with spice rub, inside and out.
  • Drink 1/2 can of beer and drop garlic into the can.
  • Place chicken onto can.
  • Grill or roast until clear juices run out of pierced flesh (pierce several spots, thigh, breast, leg)
  • Let rest ten minutes before carving and beware, the cans will still be very hot.


beercanchix_firePhoto by Stan


Dear Walter Foods,

October 27, 2008


253 Grand Street • Williamsburg, Brooklyn

You are a new face in a hood that seems saturated with restaurants…until the clock strikes one. Then the choices boil down to pizza and maybe a taco or two. Sometimes people who’ve been known to keep strange hours want a proper meal, not necessarily fast food, so thank you for a surprising late-night feast on Friday. We were recommended by our birthday-girl friend because the latest dinner service we could think of in the area was over. It was almost 2am upon arrival and the waiter seated us for dinner without so much as a huff. Before too long, and a few subtle questions it was confirmed that you are a relative of Barrio Chino. Great place! The sopa Azteca is a showstopper. But hey! This is about Walter.

As diners, MG and I have a good time no matter, either praising a meal or tearing it to tiny pieces. Most everything was great, the quality was excellent and our beverage pairings, with the help of crisp shirt waiter, were definitely a success. First course was a mix-n-match oyster plate, a little sparkling wine and one frothy, honey laden El Diablo. The oysters were fantastic! Sitting patiently in their pools of liquor accompanied by a fine mignonette (which I seriously wanted to drown everything in) and a cocktail sauce with extra-generous horseradish so only a dab was needed or else it would overpower the oyster. A spicy butternut squash soup followed with a punch of unimpressive heat which lacked a note other than hot-ness. Crunchy almond garnish was nice. In honesty, I do not love cream in soups which made it velvety and smooth but heavy.

Excitement for the menu took over and though it was a big undertaking of food, we went on to order the short rib burger and the lobster club with fries and salad respectively. A surf and turf of sandwiches. We imagined the short rib to be the shreddy long cooked ribs that we know so well formed into some type of patty, but instead it was simply genius…the short rib meat ground up and prepared like a regular burger. Served mid rare with bacon and cheese on a roll so shiny I could see myself, it was an exemplary specimen. The fries were killer too. If I had only kept that damn ramekin of mignonette!

After feeble attempts to tuck into the lobster club, we only got through half due to extreme fullness. The chunks of lobster were well sized and perfectly cooked, though overwhelmed by copious but ever-delicious bacon. Even just three strips per side is a little too much when trying to feature exquisite (I love that word!) lobster, sturdy as it may be. The accompanying salad was quite salty. You’d wonder after all that great stuff who is really paying attention to the second-class side salad…well, I guess we were because we immediately agreed that it was salty and after all that rich fare something a little green was definitely needed to cleanse the old palates.

With the sandwiches we had a Hitachino Pale Ale which had an interesting clove not clover taste (we questioned their relation, don’t think there’s any) and a good dark German ale on the waiter’s recommendation, love the bowtie. The staff was pro and friendly which can be hard to come by in these parts and the bar was lively. It got a little loud in there but it is at least 50% drinkin’ bar after all, so we don’t think you should worry about it. Schmancy, tried and true comfort food late at night…Walter, you’ve got a combo that could fly. Hope to see you soon over a French Dip.

Best of luck,