Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

We all have our vices; some of us more than others. As a chef, I of course love food, but sometimes other guilty pleasures come into play...

While at my favorite coffee stand, Vivace, I had a moment of clarity. What if I took my favorite booze for flavoring (vodka) and infused it with my favorite coffee (Vivace) to make one of my favorite drinks (White Russian) from one of my favorite movies (The Big Lebowski)?? Brilliant!!

Since I have no real guideline for this I had to wing it, as usual, so I felt that a half pound bag of whole bean vita blend could impart a strong enough flavor for two bottles of vodka to have a strong enough flavor similar to Kahlua. First, I allowed the beans to steep in the vodka for two days until they all sank, indicating that they were soft enough to then roughly chop them in the blender. Another five days and the brew was ready for the next step.

I knew that I needed some sweetness to create my own version of Kahlua, and to add to that deep, rich flavor I decided on a simple syrup made with light brown sugar and a little water. Once combined, the resulting liqueur is like Kahlua and vodka already mixed, simply needing to be topped with some smooth half-and-half.

The chef abides!!

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Another one of my favorite things are dumplings, and while it's easy to find, say, the Asian variety in Seattle, I've had a hard time to find some good pierogies here.

Pierogies are roughly Slavic in origin (Polish, Russian, Lithuania, etc.) but those boarders tend to bleed. Simply put, they're an unleavened dough with a filling. While no one in my family came from this region (just to the west, in Germany, for the most part), I have always loved them, and one of my favorite restaurants in NYC is still Veselka where they make eight different types of pierogies (as well as a mean Ukrainian borscht).

Since I haven't found my new pierogi spot yet, my only natural course is to do it myself and share it with you!

In my research I found that the dough is basic; simply flour, salt, eggs, butter and sometimes sour cream, which only means "required" to me since it adds flavor, thus an essential in my book. They can be baked, boiled or fried, but for now I'm sticking with the more typical boiled variety.

Traditional fillings include sauerkraut, meat, fruit, or my favorite: potato. Perhaps it's my Kraut/Patty heritage but I LOVE potatoes!! And the only thing better is potatoes with cream, Taleggio cheese and onions cooked in butter... Yeah! That's the way to go!!

For a sauce I chopped the white parts of fennel bulbs and stewed them with onions, garlic, cream and mixed mustard seeds as a sort of play on both braised cabbage and creamed spinach. To finish the sauce and retain the crunchy texture of the fennel I added the finely chopped green tops and fronds before it's reheated to order.

After boiling the pierogies I toss them in a little brown butter and garnish the dish with crispy, fried shallots that have been marinating in buttermilk before tossing in flour and frying to play on another traditional way of finishing the dumplings by sauteing them in butter and onions.

Hopefully, the things that I love will help influence the things that you'll love in the future!

With Love,


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