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Tea time

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I owe a blog entry on our wedding, of course, but for now let me post the sweet tea recipe that I served at the wedding, as i've had several people ask.

First, I use Harney and Sons 2 QT black tea bags. Best tea I've had, and a pretty good deal considering they make so much tea at a time. You can get them in NYC at their store, or online here: (get the bags, not loose tea).

I made in bulk, and that came out to 7 bags for 3 gallons. It's supposed to be 2 bags / gallon, but I like it strong.

First, boil 1 cup of water with 1 cup of sugar to make simple syrup. I ended up using 1 1/3 cup of sugar / gallon of tea.

After the syrup is done, let sit while you boil 1 cup of water for every tea bag you're going to use. I'd suggest starting with 1 cup of water + 2 tea bags/gallon. After the water boils, add the tea bags and let them steep for at least 15 minutes. Pour this into a pitcher and add the simple syrup. If you're making 1 gallon, you'll want 1 cup water + 1 1/3 cup sugar worth of syrup.

Fill up the rest of the pitcher with cold water and mix together.

Lastly, get some 16 oz mason jars and fresh mint. You'll put a sprig of mint in each jar and fill with tea, seal up, and refridgerate. Should easily keep for a few weeks. Drink right out of the jars.

Burger Review: Week 1

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My buddy Kevin and I have decided to embark on a low-brow culinary voyage to taste some of the best burgers NYC has to offer. Although this is hardly a novel idea, it is no less fun (or tasty!).

Last night, we started our trip at what might have been the top of the heap: Minetta Tavern. This homey, somewhat cramped space offers two choices on the menu for a burger, their "Minetta Burger" and their "Black Label Burger". The Minetta Burger is ground prime beef, and comes with a slice of gooey cheddar cheese and grilled onions, and weighs in at $17--not an inexpensive start, for certain. However, the Black Label burger, a slightly larger burger made out of 45 day aged prime beef (which comes with grilled onions, but no cheese), puts that to shame price-wise, lightening the wallet by a solid $26. The question we had was: Is it worth it?

The answer was less clear than we'd have expected.

The Minetta Burger was clearly one of the best burgers either of us had ever had. It was light, done perfectly, and extremely flavorful (although perhaps a bit salty). The onions were a very nice flavor as well, although I couldn't really taste the cheese.

The Black Label burger was a bit denser than the Minetta burger. It had, as Kevin described it, almost a nutty flavor. The flavor was certainly more complex than any burger I can think of, and rarely have I had a burger where the meat played so prominent a role in the flavor of the burger. The burger was a bit less salty as well. Ultimately, though, it was a truly excellent burger.

Both burgers were served on nearly perfect buns, as both Kevin and I commented during the meal. Firm enough to hold a super-juicy burger without falling apart, yet soft and light. No idea how they pulled that one off, but they were excellent. Both came with terrifically crisp fries as well.

Ultimately, we decided that if both burgers were on the menu at the same price, we'd be happy as pigs in the stuff that makes pigs happy to be in to have either. However, for the marked difference in price, our verdict was no, the Black Label burger was not worth the almost $10 up-sell. That said, they were certainly two of the best burgers NYC has to offer in our experience, although not a bargain by any standard.

Well played, Minetta Tavern. Well played.

Pull My Pork.

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I love barbecue. I love ribs, chopped BBQ, smoked chicken, smoked hot links. But one of my favorite kinds of BBQ is a really good pulled pork sandwich.

Now, there are really two ways to make pulled pork: True BBQ in a smoker (which is great, but a lot of work and tends to be a bit dry), and slow cook it with spices and BBQ sauce and vinegar (which is tender and moist, but generally missing that great, smoky flavor). However, I've tried to bridge the two with some help from my friend, Liquid Smoke.

I used a "picnic" pork shoulder, and this was my first attempt at this (and mostly, I made up the recipe), but it was really really good.

5 or 6 lb bone-in picnic shoulder (we'll remove the bone, so if you can get it already de-boned, go ahead).
-1/4 - 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
-1/4 - 1/2 cup water
-1/4 cup brown sugar
-3 - 4 cups ketchup/BBQ sauce/any combination
-4 oz liquid smoke
-1/2 cup or so maple syrup (preferably real stuff)
-1 medium onion, sliced into reasonably fine rings.

you want enough liquid to cover the whole shoulder, which is why the measurements are somewhat vague.

put all ingredients into crock pot, set on low. Let cook for 10 hours or so. You should not be able to pull a large chunk out of the pot without it falling apart. When it's that tender, turn off the crock pot, pull out all the meat to a platter and, using 2 forks, shred it to strands. Put it all back into the pot of liquid after it's shreaded and put the crock pot to "warm." Let it just sit in the warm juice for as long as you like. It'll just get better with time.

Serve on soft rolls with sides of cheddar cheese and pickle chips.

Cocoa extraordinaire

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This recipe comes from a reliable source and is the best cocoa I've ever tried (or, really close). I can't divulge the source or they could get upset, but here's the recipe. I haven't actually even tried making this yet:

4 tbs cocoa
1 oz milk chocolate
1 oz dark chocolate
pinch salt
tsp vanilla
scant 1/2 cup sugar
3 cups milk
1 cup cream

Scald milk, pour over dry ingredients, strain.

What to do with cold pizza

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Home alone for 2 weeks, I ordered a pizza 2 days ago, ate 3 slices, and have a big 'ole bunch of leftovers. So, trying to decide what to do with them, I came up with the following idea, which came out really well:

1, Take 2 slices of pizza, preferably the same size. They should be cold, e.g., right out of the fridge.

2, Take any toping you want on the pizza in addition to what's already there. It probably won't work with too much stuff, but you can put a fair amount on. I grilled some salami and used that, but diced chicken or leftover sausage or whatever. Oh, try to make sure whatever it is isn't particularly wet--it'll just get sloppy.

3, You'll need a Panini press. I have this one which I like because it's got a flat plate. A grill-like one will work here too. Get it nice and hot first.

4, Take slice one, the larger of the two if they're not equal sized and put it face up on the bottom of the press, put your toppings on top of this, and put the second slice upside down (cheese down) on top of the first.

5, close the press and let it cook.

As the pizza heats, the griddle will crisp the top and bottom at the same time as it slowly heats the middle and melts the cheese, goo-ing up the toppings together. This is a knife and fork meal, but it's damn good.


Best. Meatballs. Ever.

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The whole family loves meatballs & spaghetti, but neither Kim nor I can make good meatballs to save our lives. So yesterday, when I was told that Kim would be making meatballs & spaghetti for dinner at Katie's request, I decided that it was time to figure out how all those yummy italian restaurants make the big, fluffy meatballs I get on heros all the time. If they can do it, so can I.

A bit of research turned up a slew of recipes, but I chose one on Chowhound that seemed workable. The trick is plenty of breadcrumbs (I sort of knew this) and lots of milk (I didn't know this one). Here's the recipe, modified slightly by me:

1 lb. Ground round
1 lb. Ground pork
3 large eggs
1 1/2 Cup Milk
1 1/2 Cups bread rumbs
2/3 cup grated Romano or Parmesean
1/4 cup dried basil
1 tsp salt / 1 tsp pepper

What I did was add all ingredients EXCEPT the meat and made a sort of breadcrumb soup. Mix that until smooth and then add the meat and mix thoroughly. The mix will be sort of wet, but that's OK.

In a large pot (I used a big Le Creuset), I put in 2 full jars of good tomato sauce, and a can of "plain" tomato sauce (just to add volume so the meatballs get covered), and set over low heat. Roll into golf ball or slightly larger sized meatballs and drop right into warm sauce. Simmer for an hour or so and serve over spaghetti.

They were moist, light, and had tons of flavor. Kim loved them, as did I. Took a few, some of the sauce, a bit of grated mozz, and made as good a hero as I've had anywhere. Katie said they were "a bit soft" for her, but she ate them. Ellen, of course, wouldn't try them.

I'm thinking that next time I might brown them lightly and then put them in sauce. I think i'd have to simmer them longer if I did, but it might add a firmer crust. Worth a try.


Definitely brown them first. Roll them into golfballs, brown on all sides, and then drain on paper towels. I make a batch of 60 or 70, and then freeze them in groups of 11 or 12. I warm them up by just dropping them in sauce, frozen, and slowly reheat them with the sauce.



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I haven't posted in awhile, and of course leave it to my stomach to suggest a post, but today at the grocery store, lobsters were on sale. I think lobster may be my favorite food, and there are few ways I like it better than really authentic Maine lobster rolls. Here's how I make them:

-(3) top sliced hot dog buns per person
-room temperature butter
-1/2 lb lobster meat per hungry person. Figure about 1/4 lb meat per lb of lobster, so figure 2 lbs live lobster, steamed, per person. Get the grocery store to steam them for you and then you can pull the meat out yourself later when it's cool.
-1/4 cup mayo per 1/2 lb lobster
-1 stalk celery per person, diced
-sea salt

Chop the cold lobster meat into bite sized pieces. Mix the lobster meat, mayo, a teaspoon or so of taragon, a pinch of salt and the celery together in a bowl. Put back in fridge while you get the rolls ready.

Heat a fry pan or griddle to medium and lightly butter each side of the rolls. Griddle the rolls until they're golden brown on each side. Fill them generously with lobster salad and sprinkle paprika on top of each as you serve them.

Goes well with fries or chips or nothing at all. Don't skimp on the butter--it's vital!

So good. Oh, and if you can serve these while overlooking an ocean, so much the better...


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