Paella on the Grill!

As I mentioned in my Scannicchio’s post, my father’s dear friend and his daughter came to visit Philadelphia a few weeks back. Last time my parents went to visit Pat in New Hampshire, they came home raving about his paella made entirely on the grill. Sounds interesting, I thought. My mother made her own delicious version this past summer but I knew I had to try the original. On a cold weekday evening, my husband, dog and I made our way to my parents’ house to finally see what this paella was all about.

Pat had spent the day touring colleges but made sure to hit up the Reading Terminal (my family’s go-t0 spot) for lunch and a little grocery shopping. By the time my husband and I got my my parents’ place, Pat had already prepared his mise en place of chicken, onion, chorizo and shrimp.

The clams were outside soaking in salt water. Pat’s theory is that the clams would feel more comfortable in a “natural habitat” and would thus be more likely to loosen up and release any sand and grit. Who knows.

Meanwhile, my dad’s homemade chicken stock (go Dad!) was bubbling away on the stove. Check out the rich, caramel color!

Finally it was time to bring the ingredients out back to the grill. Pat began by sautéing the onions, chicken and chorizo in the pan in a small amount of olive oil. The point is to infuse the olive oil so that when the roast is toasting, it takes in all of the delicious flavors of the onions and proteins.

While Pat was busy working out back, we were busy inside.

Just another Wednesday night, y’all.

Next, Pat toasted the rice in the flavored oil with added saffron. He used arborio (risotto rice) because it is the closest to the specific Spanish rice that he could find.

Remember, all of the cooking is happening on the grill, my friends. Once the rice was sufficiently toasted and aromatic, he began adding the stock ladle by ladle-full, similar to a risotto preparation. Once the rice was mostly cooked through, he added the chicken, chorizo, peas, clams and shrimp along with a healthy dash of saffron (well, this was “saffron” my mother purchased quite inexpensively in Israel so we had some conversation regarding the authenticity of the herb.)

The shrimp and clams went in raw due to their short cooking time. My mother and Pat had a brief “conversation regarding whether the clams should face up or down (Pat wanted down so the juices would release into the dish. Mom wanted up so it would look pretty. Pat won.)

We closed the grill and finished off the last of our champagne.  After a brief but impatient wait, the finished product was brought to the table straight from the grill.

Beautiful! My favorite parts were the crispy rice and chorizo.

Because Pat and Emily were visiting Philadelphia, we had to have cannoli for dessert (well, I went in for cannoli and came out with a few extras including my favorite pignolis and my mom’s favorite Irish potatoes. Something for everyone!)

Yelp Cocktails Week

Anyone want to check out Yelp Cocktails Week for 1/2 priced cocktails? It runs from Monday, April 4th-Sunday, April 10th. Each of the following bars will offer one specially priced drink–be sure to ask for Yelp Cocktails Week pricing.

Davio’s
Martini (regular price $12)

El Camino Real
Margarita (regular price $5)

Haru
Agave Cooler (regular price $12)

Knock
Basil Zinger (regular price $10)

Kokopelli
Kokopelli Margarita (regular price $10.50)

Lacroix
Blackberry Bourbon (regular price $12)

Le Castagne
The Philadelphian (regular price $12)

Locust Rendezvous
Pinnacle Chocolate Whipped Vodka shots (regular price $4.75)

Noble
The Run Tell That (regular price $11)

Opa
ANTHO (regular price $10)

Percy Street Barbecue
Percy Punch (regular price $8)

Positano Coast
Salvia (regular price $10)

PYT
Honorable Mention (regular price $9)

Ranstead Room
The Rumble (regular price $12)

Ristorante Panorama
il bar Champagne Cocktail (regular price $12)

Sampan
Junmai Fizz (regular price $8)

Smokin’ Betty’s
Berry Betty (regular price $9)

South Philly Bar & Grill
South Philly Tap Water (regular price $7)

Twenty Manning Grill
Cucumber Lime Caipiroska (regular price $10)

Valanni
Sangria (regular price $8)

Zavino
Root Bean Soda (regular price $8)

‘Cello Time!

I’ve always wanted to make limoncello. My husband and I enjoy after dinner drinks like port, sherry and limoncello and thought it would be nice to have a homemade selection of the latter in the freezer for guests or just an icy cold nip. I finally found my chance when I found key limes at Iovine’s. I picked up a bag (not inexpensive at $4.99,) tossing it into my basket with thoughts of key lime cheesecake. A few feet down the aisle, I happened upon blood oranges on sale–3 for a dollar. That’s my kind of citrus sale! I grabbed about 10 of them and the wheels started spinning. We’ve had excess vodka in our house for ages–the only alcohol left over from our wedding that we didn’t drink ourselves. After the homemade vanilla and those Sex and the City drinks (what are they called? Cosmos?) I made for my best friend’s bachelorette party we still had vodka to burn.

I perused the internet and found a variety of recipes. All of them started with peeling the citrus and soaking it in 750ml of vodka for four days to one month. I thought I would get more flavor by zesting the fruit. I will not do that in the future. Have you ever tried to zest key limes? Do it. Then you will know why I will never do it again. Beautiful color and scent though.

A month later I opened up the containers to a beautiful, rich orange and green.

I made a quick simple syrup of 2 1/2 cups of sugar and 3 1/2 cups of water (per 750ml vodka) Check it out simmering away.

 

Once the simple syrup cooled, I combined it with the vodka/citrus mixture and let it sit overnight. Then the fun began. Because I decided to finely zest the peel, it was impossible to strain the mixture–I had to do it about three different times. At some point during that process I remembered that my mesh sieve had mysteriously gone missing and had to fun out to Fante’s (poor me) to pick up a new one. I also grabbed a funnel because that walked too. Oh, and some pretty bottles because limoncello (well, key lime and blood orange ‘cello) can only be served in pretty bottles.

The straining process took a long, long time.

Did I mention it took a long time? Eventually I finished and poured it into my pretty bottles.

Each 750ml bottle of vodka gave me enough for one of those big bottles, two smaller bottles and a taste for my husband and myself.  The color has subsided in the fridge a bit and the ‘cello is awfully sweet–I prefer the tang of the key lime–but it’s been fun to break out the bottle for recent special occasions like my mother’s birthday or my brother-in-law and sister-in-law’s visit.

Chicken Pot Pie

I’ve been wanting to make chicken pot pie for a while now. Nothing says winter like a steaming hot slice of creamy chicken & veg mix beneath a buttery crust. A while back I picked up a bag of frozen mixed veggies in hopes that my pot pie dream would become a reality. I started searching for recipes until I found this one from the Pillsbury website. I figured you couldn’t really go wrong with Pillsbury.
The problem began when I realized at 7pm that the pie crust and veggies needed to be thawed. I removed them both from the freezer and sat down to watch Jeopardy. About 30 minutes later I started dinner once again.
Chicken Pot Pie (recipe adapted from Pillsbury)
1/3 cup butter (this is a lot of  butter. I used a bit less)
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup milk (I used skim)
2 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
  • Heat oven to 425°F. Make pie crusts as directed on box for Two-Crust Pie using 9-inch glass pie pan. (I used my pretty red dish that I got for a steal at Ross because I thought it would be better to have something a little deeper.)
  • In 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until well blended. Gradually stir in broth and milk, cooking and stirring until bubbly and thickened.

 

  • Stir in chicken and mixed vegetables. Remove from heat. Doesn’t that look yum!?

  • Spoon chicken mixture into crust-lined pan. Top with second crust; seal edge and flute. Cut slits in several places in top crust.  My nice, deep pie dish was a touch too big for the crust but you get the idea.

  • Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown. During last 15 to 20 minutes of baking, cover crust edge with strips of foil to prevent excessive browning. (A tip on that–I usually place the dish on top of two pieces of foil that I can simply fold up over the crust when necessary.) Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

 

I served it with a nice green salad. A perfect dinner for a cold and dreary day. The leftovers kept great for lunches as well.

Meme Fried Chicken Lunch

About two years ago, Chef David Katz opened Meme Restaurant and started a quirky lunch special. Each Thursday, and Thursday only, Meme serves a fried chicken lunch. The fixed price meal ($11) includes a thigh, drumstick, cornbread and a glass of iced tea or Miller High Life. For an extra $2 you can get the side of the day. Want something besides fried chicken? Sorry, Charlie. That’s the only option. There’s something about the whole situation that creates and allure and that allure has had me intrigued for the past two years. Unfortunately, I’m rarely able to enjoy a sit down lunch mid-week and when I’m available, my husband is usually working.

This past Thursday, the husband had off and I took a (much needed) mental health day. We planned on grabbing lunch at Meme before watching NCAA basketball that afternoon. We arrived at Meme around 1pm and were seated immediately. The room is small–it seems even smaller than when the restaurant’s former resident, Melograno, was there but Melograno packed that place with a bunch of tiny tables. Meme was a little more comfortable.

Our friendly waitress took our order (fried chicken, duh. All she had to do was find out what type of drink we wanted and whether or not we wanted a side) while I surveyed the restaurant. The diverse clientele ranged from business lunchers to contractors enjoying an end-of-day meal.  It was a beautiful and two women sat outside with young children and a large, large dog. I enjoyed seeing this unique conglomerate of Philadelphians all seeking the same thing–a decent plate of fried chicken.

And decent it was. The chicken arrived in a jiffy (my research tells me he cooks it in advance so it’s not piping hot and the flavors have time to settle.) I usually tend towards the crispier skinned bird but Katz’s chicken has a thinner crust.

The chicken was perfectly crispy with moist and juicy meat under the crackle of skin.  My husband was a fan of the smoky dipping sauce but I didn’t want to compromise the simple, salty deliciousness of the meat. Instead, I dipped my crumbly corn bread into the dip and washed it down with an icy cold Miller High Life. Life is grand.

The macaroni salad was decent–not too heavy on the mayo–but the star of the meal was, of course, the chicken. Now I see what all the buzz is about.  All in all, we were in and out of the restaurant in well under an hour (probably closer to 30 minutes.) My husband said it would probably be the shortest blog post ever. Chef Katz is doing great things at Meme and I love that he’s made himself accessible to more than just the typical foodie. If you’re in Center City West and have 30 minutes to spare, be sure to check it out!

Dos Segundos

What a way to spend a lazy Saturday. Complimentary nachos with two different salsas.

Yummy eggs with YUCA TOTS!! (lose the white bread though, dudes)

Mmmm…..

And, of course, the biggest, fattest burrito you could possibly imagine.

I abstained (save for a small sip–for research, of course) but there were also phenomenal margaritas including cinnamon-GINGER. Yes, it was even more delicious than it sounds.

What a great 2.5 hour brunch with new friends!

Scannicchio’s

Last week, my father’s best friend of 40+ years came to visit Philadelphia with his daughter, Emily, for a whirlwind visit to the region’s top colleges. It’s always so much fun when Pat visits. We eat a lot and drink a lot and my dad is very happy. I saw Pat and Emily, twice during the week. The first night we ate in with a massive amount of Pat’s famous grilled paella (to be blogged at a later date.) On Friday night, however, Emily wanted to visit an authentic Italian-American restaurant. It was immediately a battle between Villa di Roma and Scannicchio’s in my mind, although Scannicchio’s won out for two reasons: proximity to my house and its BYOB status. For some reason, I didn’t think Pat would be a fan of Villa’s jug of house red served in juice glasses, although it’s never bothered me. When in Rome, right? Pun intended.  Scannicchio’s it was and no one was disappointed. We first visited it with my parents a couple of years ago for some sort of family birthday or going away celebration. We can’t remember why we were there but everyone had a great time.

Pat and Emily got to our house about an hour or so before our reservations. Emily wanted a cup of coffee so I sent my husband and Pat off to the “Fine Wine and Good Spirits” store to pick up some wines for dinner while Emily and I set out in search of caffeine. Although I wanted to take her for a stroll along the avenue, I thought Ultimo Coffee on 15th and Mifflin, which also has the distinction of being attached to Brew, a boutique bottle shop. How cool is that??? I quickly eschewed my plan for peppermint tea and Emily got a chai latte while I settled for a little taste of the past.

My brother studied abroad in London and we all drank many a canned Strongbow during a chilly December visit. In fact, last time I was at Brew, I requested that they add Strongbow to their offerings so I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was available. Talk about customer service!

We arrived at Scannicchio’s just in time for our 6:30pm reservation and were seated by the owner’s friendly fiancee. As they dropped off the complimentary bread and roasted peppers, we opened my first ever rich, raisiny Amarone.

Our waiter came over to recite the specials and all of the appetizers sounded fantastic. They had my absolutely favorite arancini (which I pretty much have to get when they’re on a menu) so I was pumped! For appetizers, we ended up with two orders of the aranicini (they called them rice balls) and sausage and figs for the table while Emily got a salad of mixed greens and Pat got the special grilled romaine heart with strawberries.

The arancini were, not surprisingly, amazing. They were crunchy on the outside and soft, cheesy and gooey on the inside. As an added bonus, they came with a small serving of greens as well. While each order only had three balls, each one was pretty sizable, making sharing an option–not like you’d want to share this bite of deliciousness.

The sausage and figs was a surpringly good combination, although the darkness of the dish makes for a terrible picture. It was very sweet but the soft figs and chewy sausage provided a great textural combination along with a kick of syrupy balsamic. I would have liked for the dish to have a little more sausage though, as it seemed to be a bit fig heavy.

Pat’s salad could have easily been split between a few people as the romaine heart was generous. Pat believes it was grilled with the outer layer of leaves were removed in order to maintain the smoky grill flavor without the char of the leaves. The strawberry dressing and blue cheese were a perfect marriage for the crisp, clean bite of the romaine. What a refreshing dish.

We opened up another bottle of wine as the entrees came out. I didn’t really taste many of the entrees as I was busy focusing on my heart attack on a plate. I love fettucine alfredo. As much as I enjoy trying different things, I can be counted on to get fettucine alfredo at just about any Italian restaurant (Marra’s, Villa di Roma and Ralph’s come to mind.)  In my very unofficial search for the best fettucine alfredo in Philadelphia, Scannicchio’s is officially leading the way. The sauce was thick, flavorful and creamy. All it required was a quick twist of the pepper grinder and some parmesan for the added texture and it was perfetto!

Look at that thick, white sauce! The fact that I got two meals worth of food for $14.95 doesn’t hurt either.

It was around this time that they noticed me taking pictures and said “I hope you’re going to put them on the internet!” I assured them that I would.

I only tried two of the other entrees. My mom’s pork chop and Emily’s veal chop special. The pork chop was incredibly moist and chock full of flavor.

My husband’s white fish special.

My father and Pat both got clams with white sauce. One of them had fettucine and the other had linguine. About halfway through they realized they were eating the other’s dish. Whoops.

My dad got a side of escarole with white beans. I didn’t eat too much because my dish was more than enough, but the few bites I had were homestyle Italian perfection in the brothy dish.

Last up was dessert.  We had no need for dessert with the amount of food we had just consumed, yet everyone wanted to hear the options. We ended up  with three orders of blood orange sorbet (or was it gelato?), some other fruity gelato–maybe dried cherry and some crazy dessert of nutella ice cream sandwiched by two pizzelles for my mom.

The blood orange gelato was a little too fruity for my taste and I only had a few bites. Blood oranges are EVERYWHERE lately (including my house, where a batch of blood orange-cello was, ironically, straining through a coffee filter as we dined)

Oh whoops, did I forget to take a picture of the complimentary pina colada-cello that came with dessert? I guess we enjoyed them a little too quickly for that! Overall, Scannicchio’s is an amazing place to go with a group of hungry friends or family. While we enjoyed nicer libations, a group walked in with a cooler of Miller Lite and boxed wine as we were finishing up and they were welcomed just the same. Scannicchio’s welcomes all sorts of diners with open arms.

Shepherd’s Pie (Turkey Style)

When I was a vegetarian, I made a lot of dishes with “fake meat,” as I liked to call it. Boca or Morning Star crumbles were a great substitute for ground beef or turkey as long as you appreciated it for its own flavor and texture rather than looking for a real meaty flavor. My very loving then-boyfriend (and current husband) patiently and hungrily ate all of my creations from stuffed shells to shephard’s pie–all incorporating some form of “fake meat.” I think he even liked most of them.

Since renewing my meat-eating lifestyle, we’ve made over some of our vegetarian classics, carnivore-style. Zach’s famous stuffed peppers and my shepherd’s pie were two meatless mainstays that would transition nicely to our meatier meals.

Turkey Shepherd’s Pie (adapted by me for me)

-1 tbsp. olive oil

-l.25 lbs ground turkey (or 1 lb. ground beef. Turkey cooks down a bit more)

-1/2 onion, diced

-1 carrot, peeled and diced

-3 cups of broccoli (give or take, I’m totally guessing here.)

-2.5 cups mashed potatoes (guessing here too)

-1/2 cup parmesan cheese

-1/2 cup bread crumbs

-seasoning of your choice

1. Preheat oven to 400′ and put a pot of water on to boil (for the broccoli)

2. Saute the carrots, onions and garlic in the olive oil until soft. Add the turkey and saute until brown.

3. Meanwhile, prepare mashed potatoes. I was short on potatoes and usually have a little more. The potatoes are my favorite part.

4. Steam the broccoli in the water until crisp tender. Be careful not to overcook as they will continue to cook in the cassserole.

5. Start your layering! Coat a dish (I like to use a round pyrex, but a smaller, rectangular shaped dish will do as well) with cooking spray and layer the meat into the bottom. Follow with the broccoli and top it off with the mashed potatoes.

Check out these pretty layers.

Top with parmesan and bread crumbs, if you like a little crunch. Bake in the top third of the oven for 15 minutes or until the cheese gets brown and delicious. Then, if you’re like me, forget to take a picture of the finished product. Enjoy!

Valentine’s With My Valentine

Now that it’s March, I figured I should get around to writing this up (don’t even get me started on the Christmas braciole post that’s been hanging out as a draft since December.) My husband and I have never been big on Valentine’s Day, although we always do a little something nice to celebrate. This year we figured we’d eschew our normal tradition of going out to eat at a bar or gastropub and make a nice dinner at home. I bought two nice NY strips from my butcher and a variety of mushrooms, thinking it would be nice to have a mushroom risotto on the side.

I used to make risotto a lot when I was a vegetarian–it’s a great main dish option–but haven’t done so in a few years. I started off my sauteing chopped onions in some olive oil, then I threw in the rice to toast it up a bit and pull out the nuttiness of the grain.

While the rice was toasting, I started chopping the trio of mushrooms–oyster, shitake and cremini (I think–it was a while ago.)

Once the grains were sufficiently toasted, I started adding fresh stock, little by little. Well, I actually threw in a cup or so of white wine before adding stock. Wine makes everything taste better. The trick to risotto is patience, patience, patience. You are supposed to add the liquid by the ladle or cupful and then stir slowly until the rice absorbs the liquid. Then add more liquid and repeat…and repeat..and repeat. It’s a pretty time consuming, yet simple process. I read a long time ago that Italian tradition says that you are only to cook risotto with a wooden spoon and must stir it in the same direction the entire time. Who knows but I always like to follow Italian tradition.

After my husband heated up the grill, we popped open our last bottle of wine from Fattoria Fibbiano, the Tuscan agriturismo where we were engaged. I wasn’t sure how soon the wine was supposed to be opened so I was a little nervous.

After a few sips, he went outside to toss the steaks on the grill while I sauteed the mushroom trio for the risotto.

And continued to add liquid and stir (with my wooden spoon, of course.) When the mushrooms were done, I set them aside and threw some thinly sliced onions in the pan to caramelize.

The risotto finished up around the same time as the steaks and I tossed in the mushrooms, some chopped parsley, s&p and a generous sprinkle of parmesan.

I finished the caramelized onions with crumbled blue cheese and milk for a cheesy, oniony topping for the steaks.

Served with a side of grilled zucchini because, in my dinner planning excitement, I forgot to come up with a green veg.  As usual, I ate about half of the steak and went back for seconds on the risotto (leftover risotto turned into risotto cakes the next day.)

After dinner, we sat down for a quick and easy dessert for two self-proclaimed non-dessert eaters–chocolate covered fortune cookies from my friend, Rebecca and a glass of tawny port.

We used our red wine glasses for the port. So sue me.

Check out our fortunes.

Valentine’s Day was nice, of course, but I love spending time with my Valentine all year round. I love you, Zach.