Wednesday, March 2, 2011
When you find solid good ingredients, I find less is more. Someone has put a lot of care into making sure these ingredients exist, someone cared enough to sell them in their store, and you cared enough to seek out their product. So, does it really make sense to then burry them beneath other flavors and ingredients? Make these flavors the center of your meal. Pay tribute to them and those that made it possible for you to have them. In the Wellesley village we are lucky to have a few very specialized shops that provide great ingredients: Wasik’s Cheese Shop, where they claim the title as one of the oldest full service cheese shops in the country, and Tutto Italiano, where they have insanely good sandwiches brought to an ethereal level by the superb buttery prosciutto they sell. Barbara Lynch has been serving up portions of simple dishes that play tribute to seasonal ingredients in her Boston Restaurants for years, and this recipe, one of her own, does just that. The Prosciutto adds contrast in color and texture while the earthy Teleggio slowly melted in a bed of boneless, skinless chicken breast erupts as you cut into it, cascading down over the tomato and olive salad. With just two star ingredients this simple chicken breast is transformed into something extraordinary.
For the Chicken:
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (try to go organic, they will be smaller and therefore much easier to wrap)
6 oz. Taleggio, sliced into 6 pieces
2 T fresh tarragon leaves
12 thin slices prosciutto
2 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
For the Salad (optional):
½ c cherry tomatoes, halved and quartered
1 c pitted kalamata olives
4 small celery stalks, peeled and sliced thinly on the bias
1 bunch fresh parsley, stems trimmed
½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 T fresh lemon juice
Salt and Pepper to taste
1. Using a sharp knife, cut a 2-inch pocket lengthwise down the middle of the thickest part of the chicken breast – be careful not to cut all the way through.
2. Put a piece of cheese in the pocket, pinch the meat shut over it, salt and pepper the breast and top with the tarragon.
3. Wrap the prosciutto around the breasts, two pieces per breast. Be careful to get your prosciutto cut in strips, not disks, it will make our life way easier than mine was… If the cheese tries to pop back out, poke it back down with a finger as your wrap the prosciutto around it.
4. Heat the oven to 375.
5. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and sear the breasts about 5 minutes per side. Add more oil as needed. Do not try to rush it, the prosciutto will unstick from the bottom of the pan when it is ready to be flipped - otherwise you will tear it and cheese will go everywhere.
6. Put the seared chicken breasts on a baking sheet and bake until cooked through, another 8-12 minutes (or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 165).
7. Let the chicken rest, this will allow the meat reabsorb the juices.
8. To make the salad: combine all the ingredients but olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Combine the liquid ingredients separately by whisking and then pour over the chopped salad.
9. To serve: place some of the salad in the center of the plate and then place the chicken breast on top.
Monday, February 28, 2011
Alright, so as you all know my latest obsession is bacon-chocolate chip cookies and last week I promised you I would try to prefect them – while I have no yet decided on the perfect recipe I have learned a lot. For one – let the bacon sit in the dough for a while. The rest time will soften up your bacony bits as well as intensify their flavor. Also, the sugar used is important. Yes, sugar is sweet and so are cookies but the role sugar plays in baking is more complex than that: it adds volume, tenderness, texture, color, and acts as a preservative. I wanted fluffy gooey cookies so I used a lot of dark brown sugar which attracts moisture (more so than light) and reduces gluten content. Because there is less gluten the batter is lighter and therefore will rise more when baked. I know it sounds crazy, maybe it is crazy, but you seriously need to try folding bacon into your cookies – it is a surprising and wonderful combination.
½ c unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 c dark brown sugar
½ c white sugar
2 large eggs
1 t vanilla extract
2 c all-purpose flour
¾ t baking soda
1 t salt
9 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
8 oz cherry wood smoked bacon, fried and chopped
1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.
4. With a wooden spoon stir half the dry ingredients into the wet and stir until incorporated, add the rest of the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until fully combined and wonderfully sticky.
6. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
7. Bake 12 minutes or until the center is set and the cookies are a deep golden brown.
8. Let the cookies cool on the pan for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
|Natural Blonde Ale|
For me blonde ales are a meh beer, something to turn to at the end of a hot day (although it is more likely I will reach for an IPA). For some reason, however, this style has the reputation for being the penultimate American beer. Blondes are very approachable (I’m talking beer fellas) and are often medium to light in body with a clear crisp finish and a medium level of hops balanced by a slight malty sweetness.
The Natural Blonde pours a deep golden blonde with a quickly dissipating head that leaves rings along the glass as it settles. I found that this beer, in particular, was a steady drink. I did not become bored of it, my nose filled with the scent of ginger and citrus, nor did I feel the need to think much about it as I drank. There are subtle notes of grass and a slight floral quality but in the end it rather fit the generic description of a blond ale only with more hops and gusto than most. The light carbonation made the flavors sit high in the palate, elevating them above the flavor of whatever you are eating. In its own category I would give the Natural Blonde a B+.
Beer: Natural Blonde
Serving Type: Tap
Style: Blonde Ale
|The People's Pint|
The People’s Pint is a local bar/restaurant/microbrewery located in the charming town of Greenfield, MA. They describe themselves as:
“The People's Pint is founded with a commitment to simplicity and a reliance on self and the local community. The Company produces and provides fresh beers, flavorful sodas, and great food in a comfortable atmosphere which encourages respect for people and our environment.”
Which definitely puts them on my radar. I have been to The People’s Pint before, once when I was too young to drink, so I was very excited to go back and have the full experience. The interior is dark but cozy rather than seedy. In Boston this establishment would quickly turn into one of those dreaded hipster hangouts. A place for young men and women with “ironically” matching oversized and unfashionable outfits (or is it fashionable since everyone is wearing the same thing?) somehow accumulate in one place to discuss their disillusionment with society.
While there is a prevalence of plaid among the patrons the people darning the garments are more the farmer types, or townies, or families with young children (yes, they even have their own play corner).
|Kiddie Play Corner|
The customers are definitely a conglomerate or people touching on all walks of life. This charectoristic makes The People's Pint a great family place, a good date destination, and an excellent way to unwind at the end of the day.
Looking at the board behind the bar
|In house beers, sodas, and beer cocktails|
I notice that while all of their beer is made in house (they do not insult our taste by offering up pints of Bud Heavy or PBR) they also make all of their own sodas and have a selection of beer cocktails. I decide to start out with the most popular brew: Farmer Brown, while I wait for a table. A man with a chest length beard and knit ski cap pulls the tap and places the beer before me - without a word. I obnoxiously take pictures of him. He continues to ignore me.
|Bartender with a sunny disposition|
The beers here are absolutely fantastic, they are unique and there is something romantic about drinking your beer at the source. I almost prefer the wait, using the time to sip happily on my beer and watch the people around me interact. Once seated I look over the menu. It boasts many American/English bar classics: hearty soups, wings, burgers, and sausages but there are also a few wild cards such as green Thai curry and peanut noodles. The food reflects the kind of hodgepodge of customer base one expects here – the only unifying feature? Along with good beer we get damn good food.
I like a burger with my beer but I switched it up... a bit, ordering the squealer. Get this. The squealer is a burger made of Shelburne grass-fed beef and, wait for it, house-made bacon ground together served on a bun with all the usual fixings and chipotle mayonnaise. I decided I should, since I am going local and all, wash down my burger with a pint of 100% local ale. Nothing bad can happen in this scenario. Nothing.
A few years back I actually visited Shelburne farm, a delightful family run farm with all sorts of magnificent cows, chickens, and some of the best jerky I have ever tasted. The care they put into their animals must translate into something special, and it did. You have not had a burger until you have ground it up with bacon, do not try to argue this point. You have not had a burger. The squealer was rich, packed with flavor – yes the meat penetrated through the chipotle mayo and the onion and tomato and mustard and lettuce and ketchup and cheddar. It left all of the condiments behind in an operatic production of flavor that left you only a little bit shell-shocked at the conclusion.
|The Squealer: Shelburne grass-fed beef and house-made bacon ground together. |
Served with cheddar, roasted potatoes and chipotle mayonnaise.
|Steak and Stout Pie: A hearty stew of Shelburne grass-fed beef simmered|
in the Oatmeal Stout with local root vegetables and a flaky pastry crust.
|The 'no bones" Burger: House made veggie patty.|
|Special: Lam Dahl (locally sourced and pastured lamb)|
After that burger I had the bug. I needed more bacon. More sweet, smoky, fatty bacon. Well, the People’s Pint obliged. I was one and a half bacon-chocolate chip cookies deep when I finally realized I should probably take a picture of these disks of gooey perfection to share with you. They were positively Shakespearian.
|Bacon-Chocolate Chip Cookies|
Expect many attempts to recreate these cookies in the near future.
The People’s Pint is one of those wonderful havens from the world, be it the quiet of the country or, as in my case, the noise and overcrowding of the city. They remain true to their convictions and, because of this, they are able to share a wonderful product with their patrons. It remains one of my favorite pubs and will continue to do so.
|People's Pint: 100% Local|
When you go to a brewery, you must try the seasonal beers. Did you hear me? I will say it again, you must try the seasonal beers. This season at The People’s Pint they have a new and exciting beer called “100% Local Ale”. The description reads:
"The People's Pint is super proud to announce our 100% Local Ale. It's made with Barley grown in Hadley & Wheat grown in Belchertown; both malted by Valley Malt in Hadley. Four Star Farms in Northfield grew the Cascade and Nugget Hops and The People's Pint Brewery mixed it all together to make Massachusetts' first 100% Local Ale. Please enjoy."
And honestly, this green, locally sourced, way of thinking is something to be very proud of. The beer pours golden amber with a short, quickly dissipating head. It has a strong smell of ginger and lemon that carries over into the flavor. It is crisp with a very strong wheat presence, almost yeasty. The local American hops impart a zesty citrus flavor to this gloriously balanced and hoppy beer. This is truly a unique and honest beer, but not very complex, a definite must try but maybe not a mission brew. I give it a B+ for concept and taste.
Beer: 100% local
Serving Type: Tap