Recipe: Ake (Raw Liver) Poke

Ake Poke

Ake (raw liver) Poke

My blogger friend Jon in Albany gave me some incredibly fresh beef liver so I had to try this. The flavor is surprisingly mainstream and un-livery, with the taste and texture of any good poke. Serves 6-8 Hawaiians or maybe 100 haoles.

1 lb very fresh beef, calves or pork liver, cut into ½ inch dice with all connective tissue trimmed out
1 T toasted sesame oil
2 t Hawaiian pink salt or coarse sea salt
1 t grated ginger
¼ c (after soaking) reconstituted ogo seaweed*
¼ c scallion rings, including some of the green, plus more for garnish
¼ c red chili flakes or to taste
scallion rings and toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Method: mix all ingredients except garnish, and refrigerate half an hour hour or more to let flavors develop. Fine the second day, after that the liver flavor becomes a bit too pronounced.

* Ogo is a lacy red seaweed that seems to be traditional with this dish. I got mine by buying a bag of mixed seaweed salad and picking out the ogo. Green or black lacy seaweed would probably work just as well.

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Food for thought: Lucky Peach

I love David Chang’s profane, irreverent approach to cooking that turns out some kick ass cuisine. I loved his collaboration with Peter Meehan that produced the original issues of Lucky Peach, a quarterly publication which initially seemed dedicated to the virtues of eating the world’s best ramen in Tokyo and, since your stomach can only hold so much, barfing in the alley before going on to the next joint. However, after the first couple of issues the pub lost its way. Too much inside baseball, too much navel gazing. It has been a long time since I spent more than a few minutes on a new issue.

With the current “Versus” issue Lucky Peach seems to have got his groove back. Whether it’s permanent or not I won’t predict, but for under $10 for a copy on Amazon the barrier to entry is low. We have a great smackdown between Chang and John Besh on whether New Orleans or Maryland crab cookery is better, a New York vs San Francisco matchup which is brilliant on the NYC side then has the SF guy pretty much rolling over to expose his belly like a puppy, and an oddly abstract comparison of oysters. (East Coast are clearly better because, bluepoints.) There is also some kind of crazy graphic novel about Uruguayan spots in Queens, and even a few pie recipes. Check it out.

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Corned Beef is on sale! Here’s what to do with it.

The best thing about St. Patrick’s Day is not the green beer, but the ridiculous loss-leader prices on corned beef. I like to stock up on a few points and flats for future experimentation. Here are a couple that have worked out particularly well.

Smoked Corned Beef

Smoked Corned Beef (made with fancy eye of round for some reason)

Corned Beef Barbecue. Prepared using my standard brisket method with a brown sugar and black pepper rub (no need for salt obviously), 3 hours in the smoker followed by 3 hours tightly wrapped in foil in a 325 degree oven until falling apart.  The result lacked a smoke ring but had real smoke flavor and made a great sandwich.

Corned Beef Bahn Mi

Corned Beef Bahn Mi

Corned Beef Bahn Mi. This was a mashup of some leftovers. My own sourdough baguette, some Do Chua Vietnamese pickled vegetables in the fridge, mayo, jalapeño and some dried-out basil pinch hitting for the Asian herbs. The result was excellent. Next time I’ll add some liverwurst as a stand-in for pate.

While on the subject of St. Patrick’s Day sales, don’t forget about the cabbage which is also on sale this week for half off its usual price or less. A head will keep a month in the refrigerator (though you’ll have to discard the outer layer) so buy a few heads and treat yourself to some of the many cole slaw recipes on Burnt My Fingers.

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Recipe: Sticky Spicy Korean Marinade for Spareribs or Whatever

Marinated Korean ribs

Farmer style spare ribs with sticky spicy Korean style marinade

Da-yum! I do believe this addictive stuff is better than KFC. Same wonderful flavor profile of heat+sweet+spice but more of all. I was inspired by the new Koreatown cookbook which says it’s ok to use fish sauce, plus a recipe I pilfered from Apple of My Eye. Makes 1 ½ c sauce, enough for 4 pounds of ribs. Or try it on chicken, fish, or just rice by itself.

½ c dark soy sauce
¼ c gochujang
¼ c ketchup
2 T fish sauce (Red Boat recommended)
¼ c lemon juice
¼ c honey*
1 T ginger, grated
1 T garlic, chopped

4 lbs country style pork spareribs
½ c white or cider vinegar
2 t salt
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Method: Grate ginger, chop garlic (or grate on the same grater as the ginger, since you’re going to have to wash the grater anyway) and mix in a bowl with the other marinade ingredients *except possibly the honey. Boil water in a big pot, add vinegar and salt, add ribs and return to the boil. Boil 10 minutes then drain and, when cool, toss with the marinade. Marinate 4 hours or longer, mixing occasionally. The juices from the parboiled pork will mix with the marinade, diluting and flavoring it. Broil the ribs on a medium fire to give them a nice char (this tender cut is already cooked from the parboil) and meanwhile, transfer the marinade to a saucepan and heat to reduce somewhat. To serve, pour the sauce over the already sticky ribs, garnish with toasted sesame seeds, serve with rice and lots of napkins.

* I would consider reserving the honey until the final stage, when you are reducing the sauce before serving, to avoid sticking on the grill.

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Recipe: Utica-Style Chicken Riggies

Chicken Riggies

Chicken Riggies

There are a lot of renditions of Chicken Riggies on the internet, but this is the real deal. I know because I brought home an order from the Chesterfield Restaurant, where Mike Schultz claims he put this Italian-American classic on the map (whether he did or not, it’s a great story) back in 1989, and had it at my side for comparison as I worked on my own recipe. Serves 4.

½ stick butter (4 T)
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ small red onion, chopped
¼ c sweet peppers, chopped* (I use vinegar peppers and cut them into larger chunks than cherry so people can tell them apart from the cherry peppers)
2-3 medium hot cherry peppers* (depending on how spicy you prefer; remove pith and seeds unless you like very hot)
½ c white wine
½ c marinara sauce
½ c grated romano cheese
8 oz rigatoni

Method: Melt the butter in a sauté pan and sauté the chicken till it is uniformly white. Add onions, garlic and peppers and cook over medium heat 2-3 minutes. Add wine and cook down until the sauce has big, viscous bubbles (meaning the alcohol has evaporated). Add marinara sauce and cheese. Meanwhile, cook rigatoni in boiling salted water until al dente (about 8-10 minutes). Drain, add to the sauce and heat a little longer till the pasta is cooked through. It’s ready to serve immediately, but just as good reheated the next day.

Casa Visco

Casa Visco Spaghetti Sauce (standing in for marinara), Hot Cherry Peppers and Vinegar Peppers

* It’s worth the effort to find jarred Italian-American peppers like the Casa Visco items you see here. If you use fresh peppers allow extra sautéing time so they get good and limp.

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Talking with the trade at Craft New York Brewers Festival

Sold Out

The 2016 Craft New York Brewers Festival was a complete sellout. Get your tickets early for 2017!

Last weekend’s beer fest at the Desmond was a fabulous event. Regular, VIP and designated driver tickets all sold out and I will be sure and remind you well in advance so you aren’t disappointed in 2017. (Timing hasn’t been announced, but the event seems to happen the first Saturday in March.)

Crowd waiting at briefest

Crowd waiting to be admitted to the event

This was not a “how drunk can I get?” event but a serious tasting, with spit buckets and water refreshers on hand. The brewers ranged from the familiar—I was glad to learn Ithaca’s Flower Power is the #1 selling New York brewed IPA, as it should be—to microbreweries like Wolf Hollow, producing a quality IPA in the woods 20 miles south of my location. There was also excellent beer-matched food, my favorite maybe a deconstructed chicken pot pie and cappuccino milk stout truffle from Brown’s in Troy.

Wolf Hollow Brewery

Wolf Hollow is a new 7-barrel craft brewery right down the road from me in East Glenville, NY

However, I was there on a mission: to hear first hand from brewers, malt houses, barley growers and hop farms (actually never did find the last one) how they are preparing for/adjusting to the 2012 New York Farm Brewery Law that allows breweries extra incentives and a “Farmstead” label so long as a specified percentage of ingredients is grown in New York. This year it’s 20%, but the percentage goes up to 50% in 2019 and then 90% in 2024. The question is: where are the raw ingredients going to come from to fuel this brewing juggernaut?

Malt House reps

These malt house reps were confident the 90% NY product requirement will be met

Barley used to be a big crop in New York but our climate is just too humid and production has shifted to Canada and the Midwest. Two years ago most of the New York crop was wiped out by the fusarium blight. A “six row” variety seems to be disease resistant but brewers prefer “two row” because it makes more sugar so adjuncts are not necessary. Much experimentation is going on, much of it fueled through Cornell, to identify productive, disease resistant varieties that brewers will embrace. And you then need to convince farmers to switch over from reliable, subsidized crops like corn, wheat and soy.

Tim Butler, Empire Brewing

Tim Butler of Empire Brewing, which is adding a Farmstead brewery and hops field

Hops are a separate story. Before Prohibition New York was the largest hop growing state, with 140,000 acres under cultivation. But the bittering “C’s”—Cascade, Chinook, Centennial and Columbus—popular in craft beer are almost exclusively grown in the Pacific Northwest. Will they keep their characteristics when transplanted to New York? Some of the most distinctive flavors in craft beer come from proprietary varieties like Citra and Galaxy that are not available to new growers.

Egg Cream Stout

Craft New York Brewers Festival featured some unique brews

Unlike barley, hops farming has a relatively low barrier to entry. Planted in good soil with a lot of sun, your bines will be sprouting like weeds in the second year and producing copious cones in the third year. But that doesn’t mean they’re market-ready.

I spoke at length with Tim Butler from Empire Brewing in Syracuse. Empire is a commercial brewer which is establishing a farmstead brewery and is even growing its own hops. (Not Northwestern varieties but a couple of local natives which somehow survived from the old glory days, one found on an abandoned farm.) While supporting the initiative, from a practical standpoint he prefers to buy from a central point that can guarantee consistency and quality. Right now he’s working with a Canadian malt house that takes 20% New York barley, blends it with 80% Canadian and midwest, and delivers a product he can count on. Whether this can sustain as it gets to 50% and 90% is an open question. As to hops, he’s frequently approached directly by entrepreneurial farmers who have hops for sale and don’t realize the difference and usefulness to brewers of fresh hops vs dried vs pelletized. (Pelletized is by far the preference of Empire and most commercial brewers, meaning the hop farmer needs to add a processing step they may not have considered.)

Browns Pot Pie

Deconstructed chicken pot pie from Brown’s in Troy was among many beer-friendly foods

If the state incents farmers to grow more of a crop, and there is more of a market from the brewers and then more retail distribution, the entire product chain benefits (and so does New York State, through taxes generated on farm income and retail sales). That, Tim Butler pointed out, is the brilliance of the Farm Brewery Law. But we have to get there. Some of the players I talked to said there is “no problem” in meeting the 90% which seemed optimistic. One of the first farmstead brewers told me they’re working to amend the law to get more time, with a big argument being the flavor of the beer won’t be the same. (I don’t buy this one; they can still brew beer without the Farmstead designation and add new beers with the New York ingredients.) In the meantime, there’s a lot to discuss, and we can do it over beer.

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In praise of processed cole slaw

Kissle Cole Slaw

Kissle Cole Slaw comes in adorable little last-forever cups

You know I love cole slaw in all its forms… and that even extends to the pre-packaged stuff you see in your grocer’s cold case. I was reminded of this recently when my local ran a BOGO special from the versatile (or maybe mythical) Hans Kissle. A potato salad purchased on the same deal had the taste and consistency of library paste but the cole slaw was crisp and nuanced, and a tart dressing masked the preservatives. So good.

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Cory Nelson’s dream is alive in Troy, NY

Cory Nelson

“If you have a dream, you can bring it to Troy,” says Cory Nelson.

Cory Nelson wanted to have some kind of food business after graduating from Howard University, because “I am passionate about eating.” D.C. and New York City were already priced out of reach, so he did a search for smaller cities with the same potential (lots of millennials in search of a good time) and Troy, New York came up. Working with a community development organization, he got a loan to create a “seven day a week food truck festival.”

chalking and mopping

“Soft grand opening” minus five hours

I checked out the project the other day thanks to my friends at Yelp. It’s housed in a former coop grocery in the heart of Troy, a big open space with four windows for food service on one side, communal seating, a bar and a stage on the other. Troy Kitchen will act as an incubator for chefs who have worked in another restaurant and are ready to go out on their own. They get access to the kitchen and a food prep and service counter—everything they need so all they have to do is cook. The initial vendors are The Lobster serving fresh seafood rolls, K-Plate Korean Barbecue, Magdalena, a popular Mexican food vendor from the Troy farmer’s market, and a ramen place to be named later. They can stay a maximum of two years then someone else gets a chance. “Trying something new always has a risk,” Cory observed, “but here the risk is minimal.”

Lobster's shrimp BLT

Shrimp BLT from the Lobster at Troy Kitchen

I tried samples from The Lobster and K-Plate and both were excellent. But their kitchen activity was the only sign Troy Kitchen was hours instead of weeks from opening; Cory’s uncle was mopping the floor and construction detritus was everywhere. Yet I later heard that the “soft grand opening” during the monthly Troy Night Out went off without a hitch. Cory Nelson is on his way.

K-Plate bulgogi

Bulgogi from K-Plate at Troy Kitchen

This is a guy who has very specific ideas about what he wants and great confidence he can make it happen. There will be loud music (Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. at lunch, “high energy” at night), big open windows so passers by can see the excitement inside, purple lights to dress up the low slung 50ish building, and a fire hydrant sprayed gold at the entrance “because I can”. The color scheme (dark) and many of the other features were decided through polls on Troy Kitchen’s Facebook page.

“Food will bring them here, entertainment will keep them here,” he promises. “Troy Kitchen will extend the night.” The stage will feature live music and the bar taps will include both beer and wine (which makes it more affordable than poured from the bottle). Meal prices are supposed to top out under $10 so you can eat and have a couple of drinks, listen to music or watch an act, and be out the door for under $20. “A luxury experience at an affordable price,” says Cory. “And never a cover charge.”

What brought him to Troy specifically? “Architecture,” he answers immediately. “You don’t have to build anything because it’s already here—beautiful brownstones and tin ceilings. At one time Troy was the 4th richest city in the US, then it had a downturn, which meant that many of the buildings were preserved rather than being renovated.”

You can tell I am already a big fan of Cory Nelson, as I am of Troy in general. (And so are you, if you have enjoyed movies in which its nearly intact urban core has stood in for Victorian New York or London.) The birthplace of the shirt collar, the horseshoe, Uncle Sam and “The Night Before Christmas” is today a hotbed of hipster and tech activity. Cory’s timing and location are right on. Troy Kitchen is at 77 Congress Street in Troy, NY. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for the grand opening.

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Make mine marrow (BONE marrow, that is)

Bone Marrow Plating

Marrow bones with a bit of Fergus Henderson’s parsley salad. If you can, ask your butcher to saw the bones on the horizontal instead of across. The marrow is easier to get at and it will make a nicer presentation.

My market had a special on marrow bones so I had to bring home a batch. They couldn’t be simpler to prepare and enjoy. Stand them up in a pan so the insides don’t leach out, then cook in a 450 degree oven for 25 minutes. Serve with some good toasted bread and Fergus Henderson’s parsley salad to cut the unctuousness of the marrow:

Marrow Bones Raw

Marrow bones on their way into the oven

½ c Italian parsley, finely chopped
½ shallot, in thin slices
1 T capers
1 T olive oil
2 t lemon juice
Kosher salt to taste

Marrow bones cooked

25 minutes later, they’re done.

Allow 1 or more 4-6 inch marrow bone per person as an appetizer. Use a small knife (or a grapefruit spoon) to dig out the marrow, and don’t forget the stuff in the bottom of the roasting pan. When you’re done, you can use the roasted bones to make trendy bone broth, aka beef stock.

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Craft New York Brewers Festival is the real deal

Scene from a previous Craft Brew New York event in Albany, NY

Scene from a previous Craft Brew New York event in Albany, NY

I love beer, especially hoppy double IPAs brewed in small batches by lovable brewers from small artisanal breweries. However, I’m not in love with all the beer festivals that are sprouting up like hop bines in April. Many are road shows put on by commercial interests, and feature beers you can buy at any well-stocked beer emporium.

The 3rd Annual Craft New York Brewers Festival promises to be a different glass of suds. Coming up  Saturday, March 5 at the Desmond Hotel in Albany, it is sponsored by the New York State Brewers Association. This trade group has been an active promoter of pro-brewer legislation, and participating breweries are donating their kegs so the maximum amount of revenue can go to the association. You can get your tickets here.

The main event (VIP early entrance is already sold out) runs from 5 to 8 and features such breweries as Rushing Duck (keeping fingers crossed the War Elephant will be on offer), the Brewery at CIA, Empire Brewing, Good Nature Farm Brewing & Tap, Paradox, Rare Form as well as many more familiar names—45 breweries in total. The beers are poured by real brewery employees (or in some cases reps) so you can hobnob with them and get the stories behind the brews.

There is also a NYS Hops and Malts section where you can meet with the producers of these essential ingredients and, beer in hand, learn about the programs that have helped grow the New York State brewing industry from 95 breweries to 238 today. And there will be food sampling included with the price of admission from The Desmond Hotel, Browns Brewing taproom, Adirondack Pub, Albany Pump Station, Davidson Brothers, Druthers, The Ruck, The American Bounty at CIA, Knot of this World Pretzels, Catskill Food Company, Crossroads Brewing, Chef’s Consortium, The Mohawk Taproom, Honest Weight, The Ruck, The Hollow Bar + Kitchen, 20 North Broadway, Elegant Touch Catering & Events, and more to come.

Online admission price is $40 for the General Session, $55 for the VIP early entrance. Tickets, if still available, will be $15 more at the door so save money and buy yours here. Tickets include admission, a 5-ounce souvenir tasting glass and the freedom to enjoy unlimited 3-ounce samples of the various beers present at the event. This is a 21+ event, obviously.

The Desmond is at 660 Albany Shaker Rd, Albany, NY 12211, right next to the Albany airport. (I’m pretty sure they have a shuttle, if you agree this is worth flying in for.) See you there—I’ll be the guy trying to balance a note pad, a beer glass and a plate of hors d’oeuvres.

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