Mom’s mac and cheese

Mom’s mac and cheese

My mother never made macaroni and cheese from a box for us, even though that blue box was created back in 1937, before I was born. She always made it from macaroni, milk, cheese and a little flour to thicken it. She also usually included wieners in the mix  and backed it in the over until it was brown and bubbly. So we’ve been making it mac and cheese based on her model ever since.

Mom probably include a bit of onion in her cheese sauce, and we always have. And sometime in the last couple of decades, we started added a little chopped green (and red) peppers to pick the flavor a little. But it still is a quick meal, taking just over half an our from start to finish.

I think she always used elbow macaroni, because all the other cool shapes weren’t yet available. We’ve settled on shell macaroni, but you can use any shape you like. Our latest revision of this recipe uses heavy cream instead of making a bechamel sauce. If you go this route, be sure to NOT use light cream, which will curdle when you bake it.

  • 1 lb macaroni, any shape you like
  • 1 lb wieners
  • 1 sweet green pepper or a mixture of any colors you like, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • Olive oil
  • ½ lb cheddar cheese (or any mixture of cheeses you like), cubed
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1 Tb Worcestershire sauce
  • Breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat oven to 375˚
  2. Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil and cook the macaroni until tender. Avoid stopping at al dente as the pasta will soak up the cheese sauce while baking.

3. While the pasta cooks sauté the onions and peppers in the olive oil until tender,
4. Add the cream and Worcestershire sauce.
5. Stir in the cubed cheese and stir and heat until melted.

6. Slit the wieners lengthwise so they will heat through and lay in a casserole dish.
7. Add the just-cooked macaroni, but don’t over fill the dish.

8. Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni, and sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
9. Bake 20-25 minutes until the cheese sauce is bubbling and hot.

baked

Serve at once.

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Egg Foo Yung: an easy dinner

Egg Foo Yung: an easy dinner

This simple recipe can be considered a “Chinese omelet,” with meat and vegetables. It takes very little time to prepare and served with rice makes quite a satisfying meal. This recipe is derived from one by Joyce Chen.

ingredients

  • 7 eggs
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • ½ cup celery, cut in thins strips
  • ½ cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup cooked pork or chicken
  • 1 Tb sherry
  • Olive oil

Gravy

  • 1 cups chicken stock
  • 1 Tb soy sauce
  • 2-3 Tb flour mixed into 1/3 cup of water

If you are using pork, cook it briefly so it is still tender. We found that if you use a boneless pork chop, you can cook it most effectively by placing the chop on the trivet of an Instant Pot with 1 cup of water. Cook for 1 minute and do a slow release for about 5 minutes. This should give you pork at about 138˚ F. You can then cook the rice in the pot while you are making the Egg Foo Yung.

  1. To make the gravy, heat the chicken stock in a saucepan and add the soy sauce. Mix the flour and water together in a small cup and slowly add to the stock with stirring until the gravy is thickened. Discard any lumps.
  2. Cut the pork or chicken into strips and then into small pieces for the “omelet.”
  3. Cut up the mushrooms and mince the onion.
  4. Cut the celery by shaving strips off the stalk so they are similar in size to the bean sprouts.
  5. Put the bean sprouts, celery, mushrooms, onion, sherry and pork in a mixing bowl and add the 7 eggs.

6. Mix the eggs gently with the meat and vegetables using a rubber spatula so as not to break up the pieces.

7. Heat the oil in a wide frying pan and scoop out about ½ cup for each patty. Fry on both sides until browned lightly.

Serve with rice and gravy.

 

 

 

Rustic Bread: Great bread with almost no work!

Rustic Bread: Great bread with almost no work!

I am grateful to Bob Scrofani for pointing out this simple bread recipe published on YouTube as Rustic Bread by “Flavors of Spain in the Southwest.” This is an experience report on how I did it and how you can, too.

The recipe is embedded in the video and in the comments, and it assumes you have a kitchen scale. There are hundreds of reasons to have one around, but I give the U.S. measure equivalents as well. The recipe uses all-purpose flour, and I use King Arthur for this. The cup/weight equivalent may vary for other flours.

This recipe takes very little work, but a bit of time, include 4 episodes of folding, 20 minutes apart. and a slow 12 hour rise.

  • 1000 g all purpose flour (7 ¾ cups)
  • 20 g salt (1 Tb plus ¼ tsp)
  • 1/8 tsp yeast (they suggest 1 g, but yeast particles vary a lot between vendors)
  • 780 ml water (26 oz) at 80˚
  • A plastic storage container (with lid) that holds at least 12 cups.

You will also need either a 4 qt cast iron Dutch oven or an equivalent casserole dish. We used a 2.5 quart Corningware casserole dish, and it was plenty big enough. Our storage container held 21 cups, and the dough never rose more than halfway inside the container.

  1. Weigh out the flour in the storage container, and add the salt, yeast and water. Mix with your gloved hand. You can try a wooden spoon, but it doesn’t pick up the flour along the bottom as well. Mix until all the dough is cohesive. Cover for 20 minutes.

2. After 20 minutes, you can begin folding the dough over itself inside the container until it is together in the middle. Try to stretch it each time you pick up a corner. You can do this best with a moistened hand. Cover for another 20 minutes.

stretch

3. Repeat folding after 20 minutes

4. Repeat folding the 4th time after another 20 minutes.

5. Cover and allow to proof/rise for 12 hours. If you can’t bake it at that time, refrigerate the dough, covered until you can.

6. When you are ready to begin baking, put the casserole or Dutch oven into a 475˚ F oven to heat.

7. Turn out the dough on flour board and divide it into two. Fold and stretch each one into a ball, and put each ball in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap or a plastic bag and let it rise for an hour.

8.  Remove one dough ball and flour it. Take out the baking dish and cover. Lay one dough ball into the disk, cover it and put immediately into the oven.

9. Bake covered for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes.

in casserole10. Remove the bread to a cooling rack. Make sure it is done by tapping on the bottom. You should hear a hollow sound. Be sure to let the dough cool at least 30 minutes.

11. Reheat the baking dish and cover in the oven and bake the second loaf the same way.

Even after all this baking and cooling, it is possible that the bread may be slightly damp.   I suggest you slice it half an hour ahead of dinner to make sure the slices dry out.

sliced

If you have left-over bread, you can make it into very good toast. In fact, you can slice the whole loaf, freezing the slices and take out a few for toast any time you want.

toast

 

Revisiting Sono Seaport

Revisiting Sono Seaport

Since we last visited Sono Seaport this spring, they have remodeled the place and chef Matt Storch (of Match and Match Burger Lobster) has remodeled their menu. The seafood is still provided by the Bloom Family and is as fresh as ever. The seating in fair weather is still outside on picnic tables and under umbrellas, although there seems to more indoor seating available for the cool weather to come. The umbrellas have been upgraded to much nicer ones, and the chairs along the larger tables are much nicer, too. The picnic table seem the same: hard to get both legs under if you have big feet.

But the soups are delicious and a greatly improved part of the menu. The clam chowder ($7 a cup) is at least as good as ever, although now served in pressed cardboard inside of dishes. The Lobster and Ocean Bisque ($8 a cup), is excellent with real pieces of lobster in it as well as at least one scallop and pieces of several other fish included. Again, no dishes, though.

lobster roll

The Lobster Roll on the menu is available in ¼ lb, ½ lb and 1 lb sizes for $21, $36 and $69. This is a Maine lobster roll, which is to say made with cold lobster and citrus mayonnaise, and served with potato chips and slaw. By contrast both Match sites serve a hot Connecticut buttered lobster roll. However, the delicious ½ lb lobster roll we got had an enormous amount of lobster that we could barely finish.

fried clams

If you are looking for classic fried clams, however, you may be disappointed. The menu only includes Clam Strips ($14). (Shades of Howard Johnson’s!) If you want actual belly clams, you won’t find them. The waitress suggested ordering Whole Clams and have them fried. Six clams for $14 and twelve clams for $28. These are meatier, she said than the clam strips but pretty expensive.  The 12 clams we got had less meat than the usual order of belly clams.

They’ve also done something weird to their French fries. They seems to have been par-boiled and then single-fried, which leads to a sort of mushy potato with a hint of having spent a little time in the fryer. Not all that successful. Skip them and ask for the onion rings.

mouse cake

They only had about 3-4 desserts, not printed on the menu, but we split an order of Chocolate Mousse Cake. The mousse was fine but the cake was tough and dry.

Both the Fisherman’s Feast and the Belly Clams  we had this spring are off the menu, as is the Lobster Ravioli. We hope some of these return.

tables

Sono Seaport is at 100 Water Street in Norwalk, and is open daily 11am to 10pm.

 

American Seasons: very disappointing

American Seasons: very disappointing

American Seasons has been helmed by chef/owner Neil Ferguson since 2015 and they had been doing quite well. But last night was simply an embarrassment. Maybe Ferguson was away and maybe the B team was in the kitchen, but we came away really disappointed and downright annoyed.

menu

The diminutive menu was delivered on one side of a single 8 ½ x 11” sheet, somewhat rumpled and stained. It has only 7 entrees and 7 appetizers, and last night it was hard to pick one we really wanted to have: none of them sounded very good. And they weren’t.

To be fair, the hot dinner rolls they served with butter were very good and one of the appetizers was quite good, but it went downhill from there.

parfait

That really good appetizer was the Chicken Liver Foie Gras Parfait with House Made Vegetable Pickles, and Toasted Brioche ($19). In Paté speak, a parfait is a smoothly ground mixture of meats. And it succeeded: it was silky smooth and delicious. We probably could have used more brioche to finish it off, but we held back to save room for our entrée. Bad decision.

beet salad

The other appetizer was a fairly ordinary beet salad ($18). Nothing special about it.

fluke

But my entrée, the Pan Roasted Local Fluke Brown Butter Vinaigrette, Capers, and Island Grown Salad ($45) was a horror. It was smothered in capers, the vinaigrette was very sour, and the fluke was tough and dry. We left it unfinished.

chicken

And the other entrée, Crisp Skinned Giannone Chicken ($39) with Fondant Potato, Carrot Purée, Honey Roast Carrot, and Sherry Vinegar Jus, was tough and dry. All of the chicken was chicken breast and it was just overcooked. Now the Giannone chicken procedure involves brining the chicken overnight and then air drying it to produce tender meat and crisp skin. Neither was in evidence.

We’ve written about American Seasons here, here, and here, and in all cases the result was better than this disappointing evening. It doesn’t seem that the kitchen was trying very hard especially considering the prices. Our bill with 3 glasses of wine, including tax was $186.18.

 

The Sea Grille is always excellent

The Sea Grille is always excellent

The Sea Grille on Sparks Ave, just next to the Shell Station has an unprepossessing exterior, but serves some of the island’s finest seafood in a friendly, family-style setting. The menu includes simply prepared seafood, broiled, fried or grilled as well as appetizers, soups, salads and Island Favorites, and more elaborate Creative Coastal items. The soups include E J Harvey’s famous Island Quahog Chowder.

bisque2

For dinner last night we had their Lobster Bisque, dilled in Puff Pastry ($13). This was a delicious bisque with the puff pastry floating on it, and with a number of tender lobster chunks included. Utterly delicious, and there is a lot of it.

salad

Our other appetizer was a special salad ($18) which seemed to consist of red lettuce, mini greens, tomatoes, croutons, thinly sliced radishes and goat cheese. Again excellent!

fried clams

If you want to have fried clams on Nantucket, this is the place to go. In fact, there aren’t many restaurants that do offer them, and you should be pleased to learn that the Sea Grille’s fried clams ($28) have been voted the best on the island. Worthy of the ones you get in Ipswich!  And the fries are freshly made from actual potatoes. One way you can tell is that the ends of each fry have a bit of actual peel still included. And they were also piping hot!

Finally, we ordered their Free Form Ravioli ($36),  (above) a creative dish with the handmade ravioli noodle on top of lobster, shrimp, scallops, ricotta, mushrooms, garlic and roasted tomatoes, and topped with crispy carrots. You will find this one amazing as we did.

The Sea Grille is beloved by both locals and tourists and you will love it too! The staff are knowledgeable and friendly and the prices reasonable. You can’t go wrong.

 

The Brotherhood of Thieves- still great

The Brotherhood of Thieves- still great

The Brotherhood of Thieves has been a fixture in Nantucket since 1972, with several renovations to improve its interior and add and improve the patio dining. The menu is mostly  burgers and sandwiches, but they do have some specialty items and additions daily.

Last night we went for dinner and I ordered their basic Brotherhood Burger.

burger

The burger was tender and juicy and perfectly prepared. And unlike the bizarre fall-apart Lola Burger, it stayed in its bun and had a really excellent flavor. By contrast, the competing burger was pretty tasteless.  The curly fried were  hot and had a good potato flavor, although they were clearly cooked from frozen.

wings

I also had a sampling of their Buffalo Wings (6 for $14) and found them well cooked, but a lot spicier than the ones I am used to. If you are expecting spicy wings, you’ll be getting them.

reuben

Finally, my companion had the Smokehouse Reuben (Slow-smoked corned beef, Gruyere cheese, sauerkraut, Thousand Island, and marble rye bread) for $19. There was certainly a lot of corned beef there and we were able to take half home for lunch. Beautifully prepared.

The Brotherhood has a nice little wine by the glass list and a goodly list of local and regional beers.

Again, the Brotherhood is one of those cases where the last formal restaurant ends up with some of the best food. You really can’t go wrong there.

table

Oran Mor Bistro

Oran Mor Bistro

Oran Mor has been fine temple of New American Cuisine for years and was taken over by chef/owner Ned Claflin three years ago. After a shake-down period the restaurant is humming along nicely with excellent service and quite a varied menu of interesting items.

rolls

The lovely restaurant on the second floor at 2 South Beach St seems airier than it used to, and the staff is unfailingly helpful and friendly. They now ask if you want bread (it’s free) and you should ask for it, because it is delicious. The waitress told us that they only make the Pretzel Bread on Mondays, and this is a shame because it looks as tastes like pretzel, but is as tender as any dinner roll. The other bread was rosemary focaccia, which was also very good. Both were served warm.

octopus

 

I took a risk and order an interesting but odd appetizer called Spanish Octopus and Pork Belly ($18). This was what my wife would call a “novel idea.” They were served with Putanesca sauce, Niçoise olives, fried capers, white anchovies and Mizuna (Japanese mustard greens). The pork belly was nice and tender but there was so much octopus on the plate that we couldn’t finish it. It was an interesting idea, but I don’t think it worked that well.

gemelle

On other hand, my wife ordered an appetizer sized portion of Lobster Gemelle with chanterelles, corn, leeks, lobster, cream and tarragon ($19). This was elegant and delicious with quite a bit of lobster and quite a bit of pasta for a half-portion. Actually, she found it too much for an appetizer, but you may love how generous this dish is. The flavor is rich, and with umami flavor of the chanterelles quite stunning.

duck

For my main entrée, I ordered Long Island Duck Breast ($34) with honey glaze, warm duck confit and potato hash, spring onion, peach and Calabrian pepper salsa. This was a great success, with the duck and peach interacting with the terrific potato hash. Top notch.

roast chicken

My wife’s entrée was a Smoked Half Chicken ($34), Pickle Brined with pimento cheese grits, braised greens and white barbecue sauce. This was tender and juicy and not the least dried out as roast chickens often can be. The pimento cheese grits (which the waitress identified as polenta [close!]) were a little overpowering, but overall this is a really excellent dish.

Oran Mor has again come into its own and you should give it a try. As far as we can tell, there is no handicapped access to this second floor restaurant, but they may have a way if you ask in advance.

 

Galley Beach: utterly top-notch

Galley Beach: utterly top-notch

Galley Beach remains one of Nantucket’s top restaurants in service, atmosphere, and especially in food. Under creative chef W. Scott Ossif, the food is not only gorgeous to the eye, but it tastes that good, too. You just about can’t go wrong here: the food is that marvelous.

The restaurant is perched right along the beach, with the outer dining room covered, but with side curtains open to the air if it is warm. The windows face the sunset and you can watch that lovely sunset almost any night.  

Starting with the Oyster Stew offered last night (shown above), the dish is simply a dazzling presentation, not some dull gray bowl of seafood and cream. And incidentally, it had 6 creamy, tender, whole oysters in it, not just a few pieces chopped up. And notice the thin sliced radishes, parsley and bits of red onion on top along with droplets of flavored oil! This is certainly best oyster stew we’ve ever had!

caesar

Meanwhile, our other appetizer was an elegant Caesar salad with fresh little white anchovies topping the toasted crouton bread. It was an outstanding presentation.

tuna

One of our entrees was also a menu addition, a medium rare tuna steak on wild mushrooms and little ends of summer squash and served with a sweetish peanutty sauce. It was both moist and tender throughout and perfectly prepared.

filet

Finally, our other entrée was Filet Mignon with tomatoes, cipollini onion. fingerling potatoes. And tomato vinaigrette. It was as you can see a beautiful creation, and the meat was moist and tender.

brownie

For dessert, we shared a warm brownie topped with vanilla ice cream and surrounded with salted caramel sauce and topped with a thin cookie. A perfect end to a fantastic meal.

Galley Beach is one of the islands most outstanding restaurants, and we can’t recommend it highly enough. Note that there is a $15 valet parking fee you pay in advance when you hand over your car.

 

 

The Proprietors: a breath of fresh air

The Proprietors: a breath of fresh air

If you’ve been eating at a number of Nantucket restaurants, you soon discover that their menus have an essential sameness and that is why you want to have a meal at The Proprietors.  The menu is made up of clever small plates of things you aren’t likely to find anywhere else: like Pig Ears, Bluefish Pate Focaccia, Chickpea Socca pancake with eggplant, and seared Halloumi cheese. And all of them are delicious. They also have Michale LaScola’s fabulous charcuterie platter.

Most of the plates are small, although they become more substantial as you go down the menu, and the last five or six are full entrée portions. They suggest two orders per person, and you can all share, of course.

One addition to the menu the night we were there was Crab Puffs ($19.50), more or les a crab salad spread on puff pastry. We were glad to be able to share that one.

Our other starter was the Pig Ear Fries ($19.50) with Cholula (shown above), lime and micro cilantro. If you aren’t familiar with it, Cholula is a well-known Mexican hot sauce that spiced up the pig ears. Fortunately, there was a jug of cold water on the table. No one could call this a small serving of pig ears, but in any case we couldn’t finish them all, delicious though they were.

trout

One of us ordered the large Chicken Fried Trout with Green Goddess, bacon vin and lemon confit ($22.50). You don’t get delicious crunch trout very often, but this is an exceptional dish.

rigatoni

The other entrée was Cavatelli with smoked corn, ricotta cream, chili and tomato sugo ($22). This was quite tasty, but we wish the cavatelli had been cooked just a bit more.

dessert

We weren’t entirely sure what we’d be getting when we split a dessert called Banana Bread Toast. (The diners at the next table had become very loud at that point.) It seemed to be chocolate banana bread, topped with chocolate ice cream and decorated with sweetened popcorn ($15). But it was a delightful surprise and a bit lighter than I’d feared. But I still miss the Flying Elvis!

You are sure to have a fine time at The Proprietors. There are so many items to choose from. We certainly welcomed its variety, and will be returning every year.