Posts Tagged ‘Chelsea Market’



October 14, 2013


A while back MG and I contributed some recipes to a secret project. Now the official Chelsea Market Cookbook is here! Let the world be exposed to Metalbelly‘s Texas Chili and my own golden garlic butter, that mysteriously tastes just like movie popcorn, as well as great stuff from people way more famous than us… lots of them! Check it out at Amazon.

One of my recipes, originally titled ‘Market Fish Stew’, was retitled Provençal Fish Stew and likened to a bouillabaisse in its description. While the use of leeks, fennel and pastis are typical of Provence, I have to admit my dish is way too simple (and adaptable) to hold court in the tradition of bouillabaisse. If the recipe I developed for the Chelsea Market Cookbook is a speedboat, the bouillabaisse I ate many years ago, at a tiny port restaurant in Marseille, was a French naval ship.

That first time, I didn’t really know what I was in for while hunting for the historic soup, but my goal was to find the perfect place to eat it. It should be noted, this was before personal opinions could be publicly accessed with ease. I couldn’t look at scores of reviews, there was no googling to be done. These were my early days of culinary exploration and because there were fewer resources, I was honing the skill of spotting a real deal restaurant by wits alone. With each new travel, in seas of tourist traps and among hordes of menus and foreign words, finding the local gem just by scanning the immediate details became my superpower.

The day I went shopping for bouillabaisse, I was on a solo mission with no one to translate or steer. As I wound through the streets of the port I scanned for a place with just the right light, a healthy level of sound, happy relaxed guests and staff, good smells. My ideal was smallish in size and maybe a bit off the path. Scan the menu, is it traditional and also unique? Is there variety, is there a clear specialty? This is the first glance.

I found my spot and ordered a bouillabaisse. Soon after, the waiter presented me with a plate of raw Mediterranean fish and various sea animals. However confused, I signed off with a nod. He disappeared leaving me to devour a whole basket of bread and rouille, a garlic and saffron ailoi, named for its color (rust). Rouille is a mandatory part of a bouillabaisse, meant to be sunk in the bottom of the soup, making the broth thicker and richer –not eaten as an appetizer. The waiter came back with a huge bowl brimming with the seafood in an incredible broth, thick with fishy shrapnel and a little gritty with seasonings. As I worked my way through that bowl of perfectly cooked fish, my guy refilled broth from a tureen and bread/rouille as needed. It was impossible to stop eating this bottomless bowl, and I probably took down enough for four people.

Sorry to report that I don’t know the restaurant name or the street it was on. I didn’t write notes on food then or take pictures of my meals with the enormous Nikkormat I was probably carrying. Since this momentous meal, I have researched and discussed many more details of regional French cooking, learning that there is much debate about what an authentic bouillabaisse really is; seasoning, type of fish, order of plating, etc. In my food-obsessed travels I realize that eating any dish in the place of its origin is such a unique sensory experience that it is hard to describe the final criteria when looking for the best local spot. One might say that you have to give yourself over to the place you are visiting, and its customs, in order to be admitted passage to an authentic experience. If you search for a restaurant with ketchup bottles on the table wherever you go, it is sure you will be denied this.

I walked Marseille top to bottom, letting it take me where it would. On a desolate road that ran alongside the sea, there were signs indicating boats in transit to/from Corsica, Italy and Algeria. I remember reading the exotic port names and feeling small and far away, isolated from the rest of the world (remember, no cellphones). I accepted that no one on the continent knew where I was at that moment and I could be anywhere according to the rest of the world. I continued into the ‘the pannier’ or old town which was a tight maze of narrow corridors. It must have been during a particularly quiet siesta because what was described to me as the must-see, crazy, condensed part of town was silent. The strange, lonely feeling deepened but didn’t last long. The noise level rose as the streets pointed back toward port and I turned a corner just in time to see an outdoor beer garden full of people (travelers) just like me. I hung with them for a bit before the desire to continue my loner journey resumed.

I bought some cheap cigarettes in an alleyway. I happened upon a gallery opening in a cavernous garage-like space with minimalist paintings and loads of wine. Way earlier that day I trekked around the moon rocks of the Calanques peering down at the very place the delicious bouillabaisse fish come from. Traveling with my stunning vintage Laguiole (like a good Frenchman), I sliced saucisson and broke bread under the immense statues of the Palais Longchamp before wandering the fine arts museum inside. At night I sketched the illuminated windows of St. Vincent de Paul and pretended I spoke only Bulgarian to maintain my solitude when approached by curious passers by.

I fell in love with Marseille and its briny breeze. Was intrigued by the local accent and its choppy Italian inflection, the cultural mash-up, the crossroads and that overall, “hey! we’ve got a port so we can go anywhere, but we stay right here” kind of feeling. And after taking all that in, I’m pretty sure I had a spot on bouillabaisse that day.


Give me a braise. (PORK BELLY)

February 3, 2011

Step 1. Find a gorgeous pork belly like this one. (The butcher rolled and tied it which made for a lovely presentation.)

Step 2. Take a look at this entry on the 3rd Ward blog and follow the recipe which takes you on a journey through seasoning, braising and cooling.

Step 3. Slice and sear the belly and use it in a delicious creation, as we did in our Noodle Bowls.

Step 4. Enjoy!


Drawings at the Chelsea Market.

November 1, 2010

Until December 1st view ‘Leftovers’ at the Chelsea Market. Or make a pumpkin-themed recipe.


Simple Pleasures. (ENDIVE SALAD)

June 12, 2010

‘Simple pleasure’ surely means different things to different people. It’s a sort of Hallmark-y title for a post, which is not my usual style, but there are reasons the phrase stuck. I have reasons. Simple: nothing more than a knife was needed to create this dish. It took about five minutes total. I used only the tiniest of cutting boards, leading to tiny clean-up. Six ingredients, all ready-to-eat, created a perfect flavor balance, but that is getting into pleasure. Pleasure: flawless local strawberries and a craving for slightly bitter endive that looked great at the supermarket. It was a coincidence that the perfect cheese to go with the salad was in my fridge, capra (goat) cheese infused with honey, and coincidences bring me great pleasure. Magical ingredient crema di balsamico* on top of my favorite arbequina Spanish olive oil….and the peppermill was full (refilling that thing can be so annoying), the opportunity to stop for a minute and share a bitter and sweet salad with my dear friend, all added up to aforementioned sappy phrase. Please refer to title.


Serves 2.

2 heads Belgian endive

1 large handful of strawberries, hulled and sliced

2 tablespoons good olive oil

6 turns of the peppermill

2 generous drizzles of crema di balsamico*

1/4 cup (approximately) soft goat cheese with or without a drizzle of honey stirred in

  • Peel one layer of outer leaves from endive and discard (they are usually bruised slightly).
  • Chop the endive crosswise into one inch pieces and separate the leaves with your fingers. Divide leaves between two plates.
  • Top salads with strawberries and drizzle with olive oil. Three turns of the peppermill over each plate, or to taste.
  • Decorate with cream di balsamico and drop cheese on top in haphazard chunks.

*Crema di balsamico is a delicious sweet-tart vinegar product which is made by a reduction of balsamic vinegar and Trebbiano grape must. Trebbiano grapes are the variety used in making balsamic vinegar and must refers to the pressed juice of the entire grape; skin, seeds and stems included. The result is a thick smooth liquid that needs no help in enhancing the flavors of cured meats, cheeses, fruit or vegetables. It can be used all alone as a glaze, dressing or garnish…a great secret weapon to have on hand. Available online or, if you’re local where I’m local, at Buon Italia in the Chelsea Market.


Let’s have a roast. (TOP SIRLOIN AND MARCHAND DE VIN )

February 28, 2010

These days we see a renewed respect for humanely produced food, animal and vegetable alike. The questions of when, how and where did this come from are no longer smudged lines in a product’s history. And though it may seem like extra work to find out such details, I have full faith that some day soon it will become as commonplace as checking the date on milk. Whole, organic, grass fed, hormone free, non-antibiotic milk, of course.

So sometimes when I want the skinny on what I am putting in the oven, I wind up making fingerprints on the glass cases at Dickson’s Farmstand, located in the Chelsea Market. I started out as a neighbor, working a few doors down from these serious meat men and now we are friends, taking time to discuss dishes, the best cuts for the job as well as the various methods of getting a great product to the table. But this is not special treatment. When the lines queue up at Dickson’s, everyone is regarded as a friend and all of these fine points are regularly discussed with great care.

That is how I ended up with these two lovely top sirloin roasts, I needed a well-priced and flavorful cut of beef for an event I was catering. The beef was to be sliced, sauced (recipe below) and served over a bit of leek veloute, a roasted potato cake by its side. For portioning, I allow at least 1/2 pound per person, especially for a fancier dinner where not every slice is going to be gorgeous and plate-worthy (but definitely perfectly mouth-worthy). Several steps go into cooking a great roast. They are not complicated but should be followed well, decisions are best made in advance so there is no second guessing when time is precious.

It is important to take the meat from the fridge at least one hour before cooking to come  to room temp. This helps it cook faster, more evenly and more precisely but don’t sweat it if there isn’t time for that to happen, especially if you have a meat thermometer. That will really keep you from going wrong even if the timing is a little off. It’s the ticket.

Then sear. Do not be timid, get hot, get smoky and brown it up on all sides. After browning I use a spice rub, since the best method for this cut is a ‘dry roast’ and you want to get all the flavor you can onto the meat. I never remember exactly what I use but I am pretty sure it was a mild mixture of garlic powder, mustard, thyme, cumin, ancho powder, salt and pepper. That is my loose outline for a basic rub in addition to whatever is laying around and/or catches my fancy. Maybe a drop of cayenne, a dash of  Tony’s? Use your creative license.

From there, the following irreverant method works out great! A simple trick of cooking the roast high and mightily at 500F for 5-6 minutes per pound and then turning the oven off for two hours. Do not open the oven door, don’t even think about it. The beef will be a perfect medium rare when you take it out of the undisturbed oven two hours later. I really liked this style and it yielded buttery, tender pink beef. You can always flash cook it a little more at the end if it’s too rare but you can never un-cook it… so might as well err to the side of less-done.

More traditional methods (for medium rare boneless beef roasts) are quite varied, some cooks favor high temperatures for less time (400F / 10 minutes per pound) and others go for lower temps for longer periods of time (300F / 20-22 minutes per pound). The most important step is to consult an instant read thermometer after the first 45 minutes of cooking and every 20 or so thereafter to get the temperature spot on. There are so many variations to be had, it really is best to use the thermometer in combination with your intuition because who knows how wacky your oven is, how the shape of the meat cooks, the starting temp…etcetera. The following chart from is very helpful for getting it right, an excerpt from a post dedicated to top sirloin. Dickson’s offers this chart representing a variety of animals.

Below is a cooking chart for top sirloin roast recipe. Remember you should always use an instant-read thermometer to check the doneness of a roast. The internal temperature will rise about 5-10 degrees during resting time, remove the roast 5-10 degrees before desired doneness.

Doneness Description Meat Thermometer Reading
Rare Red with cold, soft center 125-130 degrees
Medium-Rare Red with warm, somewhat firm center 135-140 degrees
Medium Pink and firm throughout 140-150 degrees
Medium-well Pink line in center, quite firm 150-155 degrees
Well-done Gray-brown throughout and completely firm 160-165 degrees

When cooked to desired doneness (accounting for the 5-10 degrees of carryover cooking), it is mandatory to let the meat rest for about 15 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to be reabsorbed and redistributed into the meat and not be lost with the first cut. Ok! Now you have the earned the right to slice up your materpiece and enjoy. The following recipe is an awesome and easy sauce. Marchand de Vin (Winemerchant’s Sauce) goes exceptionally well almost any grilled or roasted beef, a great acidic kick to cut through the rich flavors of well-raised meat.


(adapted from The Cook’s Companion by Stephanie Alexander)

1/2 cup shallots, minced

1 tablespoon sherry or sherry vinegar

1/2 cup red wine

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

juice of 1 lemon

pan juices from cooked meat (optional)

6 tablespoons of butter, cut into pieces

salt and cracked black pepper

  • Place first four ingredients in a pan and reduce liquids until the almost gone, but shallots are still moist.
  • Add parsley, lemon juice and meat juices, if using. And stir in butter until just melted.
  • Season with salt and pepper.