Tag Archives: Comfort Food

ROC City Part 1: The Garbage Plate

Growing up in Rochester, New York, I never really understood why so many people would want to voluntarily call it home. It snows 9 months out of the year (yes, it snowed on Mother’s Day… that’s May 9, people), one of the greatest forms of weekend entertainment is a trip to Wegmans grocery store, and you can’t go out for a meal without running into your kindergarten teacher or your first boyfriend. However, now that I am a mature woman of twenty-COUGH, I see all the beauty that lies in The Flour City. That’s right. The food.

How could I have ignored the fact that the city I grew up in is famous for a flour mill, Genesee Beer, and Garbage Plates? Oh yeah, and Kodak… whatever.

This week, I’m going to share some of my favorite Rochester, New York treats in an homage to my hometown. It’s no New York or Boston, heck it’s not even Minneapolis, but it’s where I was born so it’s alright with me.

The Garbage Plate at Empire Hots

On the menu:
The Garbage Plate
Bread and butter (the requisite side dish)

This is how we do math in Rochester, NY. Don’t let anyone tell you different:

One plate / (macaroni salad + homefries) + 2 cheeseburgers + (finely ground beef sauteed with hot sauce and spices) + sauteed onions + ketchup + mustard = The Garbage Plate

Derivatives include substituting burgers for red hot dogs, fried fish, eggs (breakfast plate, duh) or the popular white hot dog, a Rochester special made from pork.

If you ever travel upstate, and yes this is the REAL upstate, you have got to go to the original Nick Tahou’s Hots for a Trash Plate. If you value your life and would rather not be shot, or if you simply want a Plate after dark (Tahou’s closes at 8PM because of all the crime they experience) go to Empire Hots in Webster, NY. It might not look pretty, but your taste buds will be singing a different tune.

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Why Don’t You…

Dear friends,

This weekend I’m taking off and I’m leaving my computer behind. I’ll be back on Tuesday with brilliant posts about Garbage Plates and sweet cheese Belgian waffles (you can hardly stand the wait, right?) but in the meantime I leave you with this list of things that I would be doing if I was staying in town this weekend. So…

Why Don’t You…

Get your drink on all sneaky-like at a speakeasy like Dutch Kills (27-24 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City) or Please Don’t Tell (113 St. Marks Place).
Or, opening this weekend and offering free hot dogs (I said FREE HOT DOGS! Go people, go!) in the old East Side Company Bar space on the Lower East Side, Painkiller. 49 Essex Street at Grand Street

Take a culinary vacation from impending rain, use whatcha got, and pretend you’re in Australia while you eat Fairy Bread in bed whilst watching Young Einstein.

Feed your sweetheart little dollops of heaven via chopsticks at Blue Ribbon Sushi. 119 Sullivan Street

Watch Food, Inc. or Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, both available instantly on your Netflix.

Bask in the lusciousness of a $26 pre-fixe lunch menu at Nougatine by Jean-Georges (1 Central Park West); none of the wallet strain, all of the succulent flavor that this famous French chef is known for.

Nurse your Sunday morning hangover with a stack of sour cream pancakes, heavy on the syrup, at Bubby’s (120 Hudson Street). Just don’t look too ragged. It’s a notorious celebrity hangout and you wouldn’t want to miss your chance to woo Justin Timberlake, now would you? Thought so.

Happy weekend, kiddies!

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Filed under Chefs, Miscellaneous, New York Restaurants

Food Cart Friday

I have to blame my hatred for lunch on my lack of midday meal options during the week. Anyone who works in midtown Manhattan knows that after your hundredth Cosi salad, Europa “pressata” sandwich, or Cafe Metro wrap, you grow to dread your lunch hour and look to McDonald’s as a source of nourishment. It’s that dire.

It is in that vein that I am constantly on the lookout for new and exciting midday menu options. Introducing Mia Dona‘s meatball cart. For $7 from 12-2PM Monday thru Friday midtown lunchers can enjoy 4 tasty meatballs on fresh baked rosemary focaccia with melted caciocavallo cheese and spicy arugula ($6 gets you the meatballs a la carte).

On the menu:
Meatball sandwich

Verdict: HELLO MY LUNCH HOUR SAVIOR! My dining companion, Meagan, put it best: “At 12:51 I opened the sandwich. By 12:54, it was gone. That sandwich didn’t stand a chance.” The meatballs were done just the way I like them: mostly ground beef with just enough spice to hold them together and give them a robust Italian flavor. The bread was soft and salty, the cheese the perfect smooth complement to the Italian spices, and the arugula the touch of spicy freshness needed to break through all the heartiness.

The Meatball Wagon (too few phrases inspire the salivary glands like ‘Meatball Wagon’ eh?) has only been open for just over a week but the woman working the cart told me they’ve been selling out every day. We commiserated over the lack of lunchtime options for a midtown worker and I sheepishly told her I’d traveled sixteen blocks and three avenues for this tasty treat.

“I’m too lazy to make my own lunch sometimes,” I told her, woman to woman. Midtown worker to midtown worker.
She responded brightly, “But you’re not too lazy to make the long trip for a meatball sandwich!”
Thanks for pointing out the great lengths I’ll go to for a meatball sandwich, Cart Lady. Thanks a lot.

If you’re in the neighborhood (or even if you’re not…), Mia Dona‘s Meatball Wagon is worth the trip and the $7 you’d normally spend on a mediocre salad at Cosi. 58th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue

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Some people eat to live… we are not those people

My family has many traditions, most of them based on food. I’m pretty sure that when asked “What would you grab from the house in the event of a fire?” my parents would answer the same: the dog and the Adirondack Country Cookbook. I could be blindfolded with my nose plugged and still recognize the taste of the pancakes and the cinnamon swirl raisin bread. Since this cookbook is no longer around (or if it is, PLEASE LET ME KNOW! Seriously… we’ve been searching) I pdf’ed the infamous raisin bread recipe, sent it to one of my favorite childhood neighbors, and saved it on my hard drive in case our decrepit old family copy of the cookbook bites the dust.

It’s all about preserving the recipes, people. I mean… the memories. It’s all about preserving the MEMORIES.

On the menu:
Spiral Cinnamon Raisin Bread

If you are Carol Knapp… or you know Carol Knapp… let me know. This bread deserves many kudos. Thanks, Carol!

This bread can be served as is, but I like mine toasted with butter. But you probably already knew that I liked mine with a little more butter, now didn’t you?

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The Cheesiest Mac of them All

I cook because I love food, but I also cook because I love making other people happy via food. One time my friend Meagan came over around dinner time when I had made mac and cheese, and proceeded to eat three bowls of it. I couldn’t have been happier. There is no higher compliment to a cook than guests going back for seconds.

On the menu:
Mac and cheese with pancetta (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Serves 6 as a meal, 10 as a side

6 tablespoons butter, divided
4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
1 cup onion, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup flour
3 1/2 cups (or less) whole milk
2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 pound macaroni (any medium-sized pasta will do: penne, orecchiette, gemelli, etc. – I used penne and gemelli here because it’s all I had in my pantry)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and get a large pot of salted water boiling for pasta. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; sauté until crisp, about 6 minutes. Add onion; sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add crushed red pepper and garlic; stir 1 minute. Stir in 3 tablespoons butter; allow to melt, then add flour and stir 1 minute. [Now is a good time to start cooking your pasta – cook until al dente] Gradually whisk in 1 cup of milk; simmer until thick enough to coat spoon thickly, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in all cheeses. Whisk in more milk by 1/4 cupfuls until sauce is thick but pourable. Season with salt and pepper.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add panko and stir until very light golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Lightly butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Add warm cheese sauce to drained al dente pasta; toss to coat. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over. Bake mac and cheese until heated through and topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes. [I added a little more cheddar to the top of mine, because I really, really like cheese… but if you’re trying to avoid a heart attack, maybe leave off the extra]

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Italian 101

A lot of times, all I want for dinner is something simple, something that will take me 20 minutes and minimal ingredients, and something that will fill me up and leave me happy. So here is a simple tomato sauce recipe that takes almost zero effort and can be used in everything from lasagna to chicken parm. And if you’re cooking for one, you can make the full batch and freeze what you don’t use for the next time you want something quick and easy. Way better than takeout and way more satisfying than a jar of Prego.

On the menu:
Parmesan chicken with tomato sauce over pasta

Sauce:
Makes 3 cups
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, 1/4 chopped and 1/4 chiffonade for garnish
1 tsp red pepper flakes
28 oz crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

Add olive oil, minced garlic, chopped onion, and chopped basil to a cold pot. Turn the heat to medium and stir until the ingredients in the pot are fragrant, about 10 minutes. Once the aromatics are fragrant, add the tomatoes and turn the heat down to low. Cook the sauce for around 5 minutes, taste, and add salt to taste. Let sauce simmer for another 15 minutes.

Chicken:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 egg
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp olive oil

Pound chicken breasts so that they are each around 1 inch thick. Mix together panko bread crumbs and grated parmesan. Dredge chicken in flour, shake off excess. Dredge in egg, and then in parmesan/panko mixture. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add chicken and cook on each side over medium heat, for around 8 minutes on each side or until cooked through.

Make pasta according to directions on the box. Plate pasta and chicken and pour sauce over the top. Grate more parmesan over the top and add chiffonade basil.

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Filed under Cooking, Heritage, Recipes

Beannachtai na Feile Padraig!

Ireland holds a special place in my heart, and it has very little to do with the green shamrocks and drunk dudes from New Jersey getting into fist fights in the streets of Manhattan. It has everything to do with this:

Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry

I spent six weeks exploring Ireland under the guise of “study” abroad in the summer of 2006. My time on the Emerald Isle supplied me with some of my fondest memories, and one day in particular stands out as one of the best of my life.

As the rain poured down on the small coastal town of Dingle in County Kerry on the Western coast of Ireland, a small group of us decided that despite the weather we’d venture the mile or so into town. We couldn’t spend one whole precious day sitting in the hostel. So we donned thin rain jackets, insufficient footwear, and our most ambitious spirits and powered through the sheets of rain that pummeled down from the skies. I have never laughed so hard and I have never been so drenched. By the time we reached Murphy’s Pub, each of us was soaked down to our skivvies and desperate for an Irish coffee, a bowl of chowder, and a thick slice of brown bread.

Many pints and bowls of chowder later, we were still damp but warm, sated, and happy. I know it was the company that made that day what it turned out to be, but the brown bread didn’t hurt.

Toasting in celebration of making it all the way into town! Murphy’s Pub, Dingle, Co. Kerry

This will never replicate the dense, dark bread served at most pubs and Irish restaurants in Ireland itself, but in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d fill my apartment with a familiar scent.

On the menu: Irish Brown Bread
Makes 1 round 9-inch loaf
(Adapted from Epicurious Brown Bread Recipe)

4 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup milk

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together flour, wheat germ, salt, sugar, baking soda, and cream of tartar in a large bowl until combined well. Blend in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until integrated. Make a well in center and add buttermilk and regular milk, stirring until a dough forms. Gently knead on a floured surface, adding just enough more flour to keep dough from sticking, until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Transfer dough to cake pan and flatten to fill pan. With a sharp knife, cut an X (1/2 inch deep) across top of dough, 5 inches long. Bake until loaf is lightly browned and sounds hollow when bottom is tapped, around 35 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool, right side up, about 1 hour.

You can serve this right away but it slices more easily after sitting at room temperature for a day.

Best served when your clothes are damp from a long walk through the rain in Dingle, heavily buttered and accompanied by sassy lasses and a frothy pint of Bulmers cider.

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