RECIPE: Truffle Mac and Cheese

Truffle Mac and Cheese, courtesy of Ina Garden

truffle mac and cheese

I’ve recently become obsessed with watching Ina Garden (aka Barefoot Contessa) on Hulu. I tried to watch Giada, but she was just way too perky for me (what’s up with her ginormous head?!?) Anywho, Ina is a bit more down to earth and laid back which I like. Also her food is classier and more gourmet whereas Giada’s food is California fun. Also, Ina Garden used to work for the White House (as a nuclear energy consultant) before leaving to follow her true passions and starting a specialty food store based off of Julia Child recipes!
One main tiff that I have with Ina though, and a lot of other food bloggers have also noticed this, is that she’s not that relatable though to her main audience. Not all of us have humongous kitchens that a family of 6 could live in, in the East Hamptons, with 2 refrigerators (not including freezers, those are separate), 2 dish washing machines, and 6 stove top oven! I was doing fine with this recipe, boiling 1 lb of pasta (my local grocery store didn’t have her fancy cavatappi so I had to use regular old elbow macaroni), chopping up the shiitake and cremini mushrooms. One of the first ingredients is truffle butter, and none of the local stores (including Whole Foods) in New Orleans carry this specialty item, the only online company I found was D’artagnan, and it would have cost $25 for the butter and $28 for shipping. I ended up using regular butter and regular truffle oil (which I had ordered online months ago and luckily kept in my pantry).  Once I had melted the butter and truffle oil, I added in the chopped up mushrooms and then add some cream sherry (whatever you do, don’t drink this with dinner. It is super sweet and 17% alcohol content. Definitely the wrong choice for dinner).  Once the pasta and mushrooms are done, set them aside.
Then she says to use a food grinder for the 12 ox of Gruyere cheese and 8 ox of extra sharp cheddar. I don’t  have one, so I thought ok, my mandolin slicer will suffice. WRONG! the cheeses crumbled under the pressure and so I spent about half an hour dicing up all the blocks of cheeses. And then she says to pulse fresh white bread until they’re minced. Also difficult to do without a food grinder……..I had to hunch over with a knife and cutting board and manually mince my bread into breadcrumbs. As you can probably tell from my tone, I was not pleased while making this and so there are no pictures of the process.  It’s cooking experiences like these that make me wish that my dream kitchen will become a reality sooner rather than later. At this point my mushrooms and pasta were cold and I had to reheat everything in a large bowl, mixing the cheeses with the mushrooms and pasta and whisked milk (which became super frothy. I recommend throwing this in a sink full of water to make washing later easier). Then set it in the oven for 35-45 minutes to allow the cheeses to melt and the bread crumbs to become golden brown.

delicious!

The truffle macaroni and cheese was delicious. The crispiness of the bread crumbs perfectly complemently the pasta texture (not too mushy!). I especially loved how the truffle oil accentuated each of the cheese’s natural flavors. It was amazing! I shared this dish with a few friends who also gave it rave reviews! I definitely recommend this

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/mac-and-cheese-recipe/index.html

Review from a fellow diner who had the pleasure of dining some of this terrific dish: “Just needed to send you a quick note to say how AMAZING your mac and cheese was… super decadent, loved the truffle oil, the cheese was great, and I also really liked the crunchy top to break up the texture. Thank you sooo much!!!”

Phoenicia in New Orleans, LA

Phoenicia Restaurant
4201 Veterans Memorial Blvd.
Metairie, LA

Phoenicia restaurant

I came across this place when I saw some really good reviews. But must be hard to get customers when you don’t have a website! I guess if the food here is as good as the reviews claim though, then they should have no problem! When we walked in, I was immediately impressed by the wide open spaces. No bumping elbows with your neighbors! I also liked the huge flat screen TVs everywhere.

free pita bread

the pita bread was very thin and warm! had the usual pita bread flavor. Not bad, but not great.

my friend ordered the moussaka because she had had it at another nearby Greek restaurant. She was very surprised by the eggplant tomato-based soup that came out.

moussaka

Both of us were not impressed although this is probably the legit moussaka dish. She ended up not finishing it, but loved her other dish, a meat pie appetizer. The filo dough was amazing!

meat pie

I had a gyro plate which is my usual choice at Greek restaurants. The meat was very tender and flavorful. I loved that it just disintegrated in my mouth. Delicious!

gyro plate $12

 

it came with a side of hummus which had this spicy chili sauce! an amazing combination!

Service could’ve been a bit friendlier. From the beginning, we had a stoic, somewhat stand-offish waittress. It took her  a while to warm up to us (not until we were asking for the check, it seems). I mean, we don’t need to become best buddies or anything, but a little friendliness never killed anyone (hopefully).

hummus with chili sauce

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Chau Chow restaurant in Boston, MA

Chau Chow restaurant
699 William T Morrissey Boulevard,
Boston, MA

So apparently this brick building has no sign on it to indicate that it is a restaurant so there is no picture of the exterior. There is a huge sign that overlooks the parking lot. I was surprised with how packed this place was. Parking here is significantly easier than trying to find parking in Chinatown.

shrimp shumai

We always order like 4 dishes of this shrimp shumai. the women with the carts always try to offer us chicken feet or pork in Chinese and my mom makes a face. haha. and of course we respond in English. I don’t understand why they bother with the Chinese, I don’t think anyone in our family looks Chinese…….

crab claw

my dad is partial to these crab claws that have a ton of minced shrimp inside too.

shrimp shumai with veggies

trying to be healthy, so we got some shrimp balls with veggies

shrimp noodle

one of my favorite dishes is this long rice noodle with steamed shrimp inside. I like the soy sauce that they use, it’s got a different flavor that regular soy sauce.

shrimp w eggplant

the shrimp with eggplant was alright but I really liked the tofu shrimp (which uses the same oyster sauced-based sauce with black beans in it.

tofu shrimp

I’m not sure what this dish is called but we just call it Chinese dessert. It is essentially a rice ball with some sort of filling and covered in sesame seeds.

chinese rice ball covered in sesame seed

Food was so good we ordered a shrimp lo mein to go to eat for supper later.

shrimp lo mein

Chau Chow on Urbanspoon

Mona's cafe in New Orleans, LA

Mona’s Cafe
4126 Magazine St.
New Orleans, LA

This location is one of four sites (which probably means it must be pretty good right?) Mona’s is known to be THE place for cheap and fast Middle Eastern food.

Mona's Cafe on Magazine St.

My friends’ ordered quite a few dishes starting with the Mona’s special appetizer for $14.95 (for two) which includes: hummus, baba ganuj, grape leaves, tabouli, falafel, kibby and lebna.

hummus

The hummus dip is chickpeas puree with Tahini (sesame seed paste) and lemon. It was your usual hummus dip.

Lebna

The lebna is a thick yogurt mixed with mint, sumac and olive oil. This was by far my favorite of the 3 dips that came with this appetizer sampler.

Baba ganuj

The baba ganuj is smashed eggplant dip with Tahini paste, lemon and mint. The eggplant flavor was a bit bitter.

Tabouli, Stuffed grape leaves, 2 falafels and 1 kibby.

Tabouli is a salad made of bulgar (wheat), chopped parsley and mint, tomato, onion, seasoned with lemon juice and olive oil.  Stuffed grape leaves containing a mix of meat and veggies. Falafels is fried ground chick pea with spices, onion, and parsley. Kibby is made with cracked wheat, ground beef crust and stuffed with spiced ground lamb, onions and pine nuts.

Safeiha $2.99

My friends also ordered 2 dishes in addition to the appetizer sampler. The safeiha is a mini pizza with ground lamb and beef, tomato, parsley, onion and spices baked on a pita bread.

Spinach pie $2.59

The spinach pie is a stuffed spinach triangle with onion and sumac spice.

The gyro plate $10.99

The gyro plate is ground lamb and beef with tahini sauce. I compared it to the gyro plate I had at Lebanon’s and I liked this one better. The meat was more tender and flavored better compared to Lebanon’s version (although I think the dips and sauces are much better at Lebanon’s). I noticed that they had brought out my food without tzatziki sauce which is one of my favorites! I asked the waittress to bring out a little bit for me and she did bring it out in one of those tiny sampler dishes. I was surprised that they had charged me an extra $1 for this tiny little sample.

Some things I didn’t like: I was confused when I was looking at my bill for $11 gyro + $1 sauce and it somehow came out to more than $14…. I was thinking maybe they charged me for my ice water? Because even with 10% sales tax, that’s not even $14… And also, while we were eating the waittresses were hanging out on the other side of this wall, so every time we wanted something, we had to get up and walk around the restaurant to get someone’s attn.

Mona's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Atlantic Fish Co in Boston, MA

Atlantic Fish Co
761 Boylston St.
Boston, MA

Newbury St. and Boylston St. are located in the Back Bay of Boston which means parking is nearly impossible. Lucky for us, we were able to find street parking on Newbury St (we were about to pay for a parking lot that was $13 per 30 min). My mom calls Newbury St. the “Rodeo Dr. of Boston.”

Atlantic Fish Co

When we walked in, we immediately felt under-dressed even though we were here for lunch.  But our waittress was so laid back and nonchalant that we were put at ease about our wardrobe and enjoyed an extremely nice meal.

ambiance

the complimentary bread dish came out right away and we were so pleased that it was warm! and the butter was spreadable! double kudos to AFC!

warm bread

Not only was the clam chowder stupendously creamy, but the sourdough used for the bread bowl was not overpowering the soup. Usually I’m not a big fan of sourdough because I feel like it has too strong of its own sour tendencies. This was not the case here where the sourdough blended in the background of the award winning New England clam chowder.

Award winning clam chowder in bread bowl

My friend ordered the sea-bass fresh fish pan-seared. The freshness was clearly evident from the first bite. Although there wasn’t much flavoring, it was still pretty good.

Pan seared sea bass

When I dug into my crabcake, I was expecting it to be mostly breadding or some other filler. With my first forkful, I could immediately see that the entire thing was all crabmeat. It was glorious! Especially when combined with the tartar sauce, my tastebuds could sing! The sides for both dishes weren’t that spectacular but we knew that this place was known for its “chowda” and seafood so we were extremely pleased on that agenda!

Crab cakes!

Atlantic Fish Co. on Urbanspoon

RECIPE: Boeuf Bourguignon

Courtesy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (2 Volume Set)

After watching Julie and Julia, I had to know what was so amazing about this boeuf bourguignon. I started off by going to Whole Foods, at 4, I figured be home by 4:30 and cook for 2.5 hrs (like they stressed in the movie) and then dinner at 7 PM. Perfect! First of all, I didn’t get home until little after 5……..

handy dandy bookstand

Have you read Julia Child’s cookbook? No wonder Julie Powell hallucinated conversations with the woman while cooking alone in her kitchen, the way it is written is that you practically hear Julia Child speaking to you through the pages. As per her instructions, I first simmered the 6 oz chunk of bacon in 1.5 quarts of water for 10 minutes. She specifically says to cut them 1/4 inch thick and 1.5 inches long. While this was going on, I set the oven at 450 degrees. After drying it, I sauteed the bacon in oil to brown them.

rump pot roast cubed

It took forever forever to dry the beef in  paper towels (“it will not brown if it is damp”).  Using the oil from the bacon (mmmmmm), I browned the beef in about 4 batches. She specifically instructs to use a slotted spoon, clearly she hasn’t mastered the art of chopsticks! (harhar)

chopsticks for life!

At this point it was closer to 6:30…. Ok this is not a book for the servantless American housewife. This is a book for a whole staff of servants! One to cube the beef, one to pat them dry with paper towels, one to brown them, one to sautee the mushrooms, one to brown the onions………

Beaujolais wine

Once the beef is browned, you can add it to a huge “casserole” (or in my case,  a dutch oven). In goes the sliced carrot and sliced onion (I actually had to turn on the movie and fast forward to the part where Julie Powell is making this dish to see how to slice the carrot and onion). Then in goes the 3 cups of Beaujolais wine (took me forever to find this bottle at Whole Foods cuz all the labels were in French…….I took Spanish in high school). And 3 cups of beef stock (can’t believe Julia Child had to wake up every morning and make stock that her various dishes would need. Today we can just buy it in a box!)

button onions

So I figured 2.5 hours to kill! I’ll get a ton of work done! But then I read about the next step and it refers me to 2 more recipes! One for brown-braised onions, which is 18-24 1-inch in diameter white onions in butter and oil. Then braised in beef stock for 50 minutes.

sauteed mushrooms

I was getting tired from all the cooking and hypoglycemia at this point that when I read the next recipe for sauteed mushrooms, I added the oil and butter and then dumped in 1 lb of sliced fresh mushrooms. Then  read the part where it says to sautee them in batches for fried mushrooms, if you throw them all in at once (How did she know that I threw them all in at once?!?) then the mushrooms will come out steamed instead of fried. Oh well, anything in butter still tastes good. They even stressed this point in the movie! gah!

korean rice

So the recipe says it can be served with boiled potatoes or egg noodles, but I’m asian, so it’s stick rice! I know all asians know to rinse rice grains until the water runs clear (or at least I hope they do). What is the secret to perfect Korean sticky rice? Soak the rice grains in water for a few hours.  Then once the rice cooker is done, this is of absolute importance, mix the rice rapidly! And try to push as much towards the center as possible (anything left against the rice cooker will brown faster).

finally!!

After 2.5 hours, dump the stew through a sieve over a sauce pot. Then pick out all the beef cubes and put them back into the dutch oven. Meanwhile, let the sauce thicken over medium heat. Took forever to pick out all the beef with chopsticks but oh well.  Once you have all the beef, add the browned onions (which smelled divine) and the sauteed mushrooms.

final product

Finally add the sauce over the meat and let it soak in the sauce which has thickened.

doesn't that look good?

I got a little beef, onion and mushroom all on one spoon. it was DELICIOUS! No wonder Julia Child is the queen of French cooking. Something I wonder about is how do we really know Julie Powell made every dish in that cookbook? If you look at her Julie/Julia blog, she never has any pictures. It’s just her word….

Dinner at 10 PM

This was so worth the wait! My significant other told me to FedEx his portion to him over night. Even though we spent Valentine’s day apart, I’m glad he sent me something for dessert cuz there’s no way I could’ve made dessert and eat dinner before midnight.

Godiva chocolate tower

 Some other beef recipes:
Beef Stew
Beef Wellington
The Perfect Burger
The Ultimate meatball

Sucre 2 in Metairie, LA

Sucre 2
3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd.
Metairie, LA

This branch opened Thanksgiving 2010, and boy was I glad that Sucre is expanding and spreading its joy to other neighborhoods besides Garden district. It’s location is just outside the Lakeside mall, which makes it convenient for exhausted and hungry shoppers but not so much for people looking solely to assuage a sweet tooth.

Sucre 2

Although the selection here is diverse and many, the price is also pretty high for dessert. Which makes this rare treat so much more special when it does happen.

what a beautiful sight as you walk in

The last time I had been here was over a year ago, and I had tried a few of the various cupcakes but mailed a box of macaroons to my S.O. I decided to treat myself to a box of macaroons this time!

the famous macaroons

This boutique specializes in hand-made chocolate desserts.

so pretty

Not only can you get delicious gelato in the store, but you can also follow the Sucre Gelato Truck on twitter. http://twitter.com/SucreGelatoVan

gelato

Even the queen of Southern cuisine, aka Paula Deen, has recognized this gem in New Orleans as one of her favorite sweets in the South.

so many to choose from

The genius in the kitchen is world famous and recognized for his skill, talent and creativity not only on the every day dessert scene but in the world of wedding cakes (which is the BIG DEAL for pastry chefs).

beautiful cakes

so hungry

I tried the chocolate macaroon, almond macaroon, pistachio macaroon, pecan macaroon, strawberry macaroon, chocolate covered caramel macaroon, and hazelnut macaroon. They were so light and airy and flavorful. It was amazing how the entire thing just crumbles at the slightest pressure in your mouth and yet it’s not dry! It’s very moist!

assortment of 8 for $14

Sucré on Urbanspoon

RECIPE: Beef Chow Fun

This recipe is the best because in a short 2 minutes of waiting, you can have a warm “brown bag” lunch. Of course the initial preparations take a bit longer, but the rewards are worth it. While everyone else in the lounge is pulling out their ham and cheese wrap or peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you get this heavenly aroma coming from the microwave and strangers are coming up to your table asking what’s in it (or are you will to trade lunches).

  • 10 ea Chow Fun Noodles (can be found in refrigerated section of chinese food market, ask for thick rice noodles)
  • 1 lb Beef flank steak sliced -   thin across the grain
    —————MARINADE:
  • 1 tb Dark soy sauce (has to be dark)
  • 1 tb Cornstarch
  • 1 ea Egg white
  • 1 tb Peanut oil (i use regular vegetable oil, peanut oil gives it a bit more flavor)
    ————-ADDITIONAL:
  • 7 tb Peanut oil for pan-frying
  • 2 ea Cloves garlic chopped fine
  • 1 ea Slice ginger cut julienne (minced ginger is fine too)
  • 1 tb Fermented black beans (dow -see) rinsed (i usually buy a jar of black bean paste at the grocery store)
  • 1 tb Dry sherry (any cooking wine)
  • 1/2 md Yellow onion peeled and -sliced
  • 1/2 ea Green sweet bell pepper -cored & cut julienne ——————————SAUCE————
  • 1 tb Dark soy sauce
  • 1/4 ts Sugar
  • 1 tb Dry sherry
  • 1 pn White pepper
  • 1 tb Oyster sauce
    —————————–FINAL———————-
  • 1 c Fresh bean sprouts

Instructions:

Slice the chow fun into noodles about 1/2 inch wide.

Slice the meat and mix the marinade. Marinate the meat for 15 minutes.

Heat the wok and add 2 T of the peanut oil.

Toss the noodles about in the oil until they are very hot and begin to color just a bit on the edges. Remove to the serving platter and set aside.

Heat the wok again and add 3 T of the peanut oil along with the garlic and ginger. Fry for a moment and add the rinsed black beans and the sherry. In this add the onion and green pepper just until very hot. Remove to the serving platter.

Heat the wok a third time and add 2 T of the peanut oil and the meat. Fry on one side only until it begins to brown.

Return the vegetables the noodles and the sauce to the wok and toss with the meat until hot. Add the bean sprouts toss just a minute or so and serve. Garnish with Chinese parsley.

Anna's Taqueria in Boston, MA

Anna’s Taqueria
236 Elm St.
Somerville, MA

Anna’s Taqueria is an authentic Mexican food staple in Boston. This place is well known for how quickly  your food is ready and how delicious it is for only $4.55. If you’re looking for some good cheap Mexican food, look no further!

Anna's Taqueria

It was hard to find a place to sit so we took our burritos to eat at home. We got here around 11:30 and there wasn’t a line. As we were waiting for the gentleman in front of us to order, a super long line formed behind us. Eek!

burrito!

My mouth salivates as heat radiates from the aluminum foil surrounding the burrito. The grilled veggie burrito came with an assortment of vegetables; very nice.

Veggie Burrito

the steak burrito was awesome!!! the steak was flavorful, staying true to inherent beef flavors. Even though it’s like an extra $1 for guacamole and sour cream, it’s totally worth it. The size may seem daunting but considering other restaurant chains that serve burritos (Chipotle and Qdoba), this burrito is on the smaller side. And much more authentic tasting!

steak burrito

Anna's Taqueria (Davis Square) on Urbanspoon