The Latest:
Sunday
Feb262012

back in the kitchen!

Last night it was all about being in the new kitchen...just taking our time noshing on apps, sipping a cocktail, listening to music...we grilled up some bone-in pork rib chops in the Lodge pan, roasted off Brussels sprouts and baby carrots, and served it all up alongside a baked potato.  Easy, hearty, warm, healthy, and delicious!  I'd say we hit all the marks.

Next time you're out at Fresh Market or Whole Foods (or D&D!), stop by the antipasti section and pick up some treats...this is a fun and inexpensive way to snack while you're cooking (and if you have company over, it sure is easy to assemble this perfect first course).  We chose some marinated mozzarella, whole baby artichokes, olives, peppadew peppers stuffed with aged provolone and prosciutto...and, some roasted and salted pistachios for crunch.  With this pre-dinner snack, a perfect aperitif: Champagne cocktails! Cocktails made with sparkling wine are impressive and fun to serve to guests too...and remember, if you're adding a liqueur or juice, avoid using a high-end sparkler; we poured Barefoot Bubbly (under $10!) over a hibiscus flower in syrup (drop the flower in the flute, pour the Champagne...you're done!).For the main event:

VEG: Preheat the oven to 400 for the vegetables; slice your Brussels sprouts and clean the carrots.  Spread on a cookie sheet and generously drizzle with olive oil.  Salt and pepper and into the oven on a middle rack.  Keep an eye on these guys but figure 20-25 minutes with a turn or two in the meantime...you want a roasted look and a little bit of crunch/color on the sprouts.

POTATOES: We tend to send these through the microwave (there is likely a button that says potato!) after pricking them.  Once the cycle is done, place them into your oven right on the rack to crisp up the skins.

CHOPS: Simple simple...but, your dinner's success hinges completely on the quality of the product.  In our case, The Meat House butcher shop had these local rib chops available with gorgeous marbling (flavor!).  Try to get nice thick ones (remember, before the butcher wraps up your meat, ask to see the actual pieces)...ours were about 1 1/4 inches thick...yum!  Let the chops come up to temperature before you throw them in the pan (figure a good 30-45 minutes on the counter out of the fridge).  Generously salt and pepper the chops on both sides and then drizzle some olive oil; rub the seasoning in with your hands. Heat up your Lodge grill pan on medium heat.  Grill the chops about 3-4 minutes/side for beautiful grill marks.  Then, drop them in the oven along with your vegetables and cook until you see about 150-155 degrees (with an instant-read thermometer) and then pull them out to rest for 2-3 minutes before serving (keep an eye on them, this won't take very long!).Plate it all up and serve with a French Burgundy wine; made from 100% Pinot Noir but less jammy than many we see here in the States, the Louis Latour we drank may be his least expensive version but geez, for $16 this is one you can drink all night...just perfect with the mild pork chops.So, we're back in the kitchen!  Of course, while this is a dinner you ought to eat soon, I'd say it's more importantly a meal you ought to make soon...everything tasted great, but the most delicious part of all was the time we carved out to fill up our new kitchen with our very first dinnertime.

Thursday
Feb162012

at last...almost.

With my Black Bamboo takeout, I love Asahi beer or Champagne...the bubbles cut right through all of the spices...Finishing up absolutely delicious Chinese takeout from Black Bamboo here in West Hartford, the Asahi Super Dry beer tastes just perfect...we are deep into week 7 without a kitchen...

...and so, not chopping vegetables, whisking marinades, resting steak, and plating pasta has been downright agony.  Absurd to begrudge the gut renovation of our kitchen...indeed, it's the most significant treat Allie and I could dream up...we talk, every single night over takeout, about what the very first meal might be.  For, in the meantime, no sipping the end of last night's wine while I dice tomatoes for a sauce and no sauteed garlic in the air, or the smell of fresh rosemary on my hands has been unequivocal torture.

The general contractor is expected to finish (yes FINISH!) a week from tomorrow.  Sigh...  What will we cook?

After Day 1: Demo nearly completed.Maybe we ought to make some super-easy pasta dish, drink lots of wonderful young Italian wine, and eat right there at the newly built counter...or a family recipe like meatloaf...maybe something old fashioned, time-consuming and ceremonial like Beef Wellington... ahhaha...whoa...maybe not.  Should we try our hand at something brand new?

Just thinking about it reminds me of a child who has had too much Halloween candy...or an infant on Christmas morning where it's all just so overwhelming that it almost stops being fun...  Is the very possibility of cooking again that exciting?  No...it's more than exciting. 

We're getting there...tile backsplash still to go in and cabinet hardware to be installed, etc etc

Maybe we eat on-the-go too much, or don't take (or make) the time to enjoy enough...but, we can all agree that when anyone takes the time to put up a proper marinara sauce, or BBQ chicken, poach salmon, or even whip up a simple omelette, life - and not just the food on the table - tastes better.  We are left not only full...but fulfilled.

...No matter what our first meal in the new kitchen, we'll cook it together...and, if we trainwreck the recipe and dinner is no good, we can always call Sonny at Black Bamboo to save the day.