NoraWhen I set out to duplicate twelve chefs’ recipes over the course of this year, I knew that there were some chefs whose recipes could be attempted year-round and others whose work would fare best in certain seasons (summer and fall, I’m looking at you).  My birthday dinner at Restaurant Nora last year convinced me that Nora Pouillon, the patron saint of the DC organic dining movement, falls squarely into the second category.

And when I flipped through a copy of Cooking with Nora, her groundbreaking cookbook from 1996, I knew I owed it to Chef Pouillon’s recipes to wait until summer to try my hand at her dishes.  Cooking with Nora is not your average recipe collection; rather than grouping dishes by unifying themes (‘desserts,’ for example, or ‘fish’), the chef has opted to provide her readers with recipes arranged into multi-course meals by the season.  She’s practically giving you the blueprint for your very own organic dinner party, with everything from appetizer to entree and accompaniment through to the dessert spelled out.

She also presents her recipes in a narrative fashion, a style I first encountered in Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food.  I find this to be a very natural and useful way of having the author walk me through a dish from beginning to end, and it certainly helps me prepare my mise en place before I get too far ahead of myself.  When you’re trying to execute two or three recipes simultaneously, that kind of preparation in advance can be a lifesaver.

Roasted Red Peppers and Japanese EggplantFor my fifth attempt at recreating a chef’s dishes, I decided to take three recipes from one of Pouillon’s summer menus.  I started with a Jewell Yam Vichysoisse and then followed it up with Grilled Lemon-Marinated Chicken Breasts served alongside Japanese Eggplant and Roasted Red Peppers. 

Walking the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market, I was pleased – if not especially surprised – to see that all of the main ingredients to Chef Pouillon’s recipes were readily available (seasonality aside, Nora Pouillon is a member of FreshFarm Markets’ board).  It looked like I was well on my way to a fresh, local and seasonal jackpot.

Cold soup, grilled grass-kickin’ chicken and fresh veggies after the jump. (more…)

Thomas Keller Chicken and Tomato 004So here it is July, and I’m proud to say that I have taken another step toward the completion of my New Year’s Resolution (to attempt a restaurant-quality meal each month).  I’m not as proud to say that this still only makes four such meals despite the fact that July is the seventh month of the year, but I’m committed to picking up the slack so that I can still end the year with twelve of these experiences under my belt.

For this month’s challenge, I found myself intrigued by several tweets raving about Thomas Keller’s recipe for roast chicken.  “So simple!”  “So perfect!”  So I decided to try it for myself and see what all the fuss was about.  To complete the restaurant quality meal, I turned to Food & Wine’s archives and picked a suitably summery side from a list of Keller recipes: heirloom tomatoes stuffed with succotash.  Remembering what happened when I tried to channel Barton Seaver back in May, I knew I would be thinking long and hard about every grain of salt I added to these dishes.

Recipes for Thomas Keller’s favorite roast chicken and the succotash-stuffed tomatoes after the jump. (more…)

asparagus-ramps-and-shallotsLast time we worked on a “Favorite Five” with Counter Intelligence’s Melissa McCart, I ended up chasing yuzu all over the metro area before finding the juice at Hana Market.  This time, thankfully, our mission involved a list of ingredients that would make even the most ardent locavore smile.  The biggest challenge would be showing off the wonderful spring flavors to their best advantages.

When Melissa emailed us the list of ingredients that chef Barry Koslow of Tallula selected, we knew we wanted to participate again.  Koslow’s five were a veritable all-star list of the early spring farmer’s market:

1. Ramps
2. Asparagus
3. Spring Lamb
4. Morels
5. Fava Beans

salad-and-entreeSince we’d been eagerly awaiting most of these ingredients ourselves, it would be super-easy to work them into a dinner for the challenge.

As it turns out, three of the ingredients on the list – ramps, morels and asparagus – figure prominently in “Think Like a Chef,” Tom Colicchio’s cookbook that has yet to steer me wrong.  They are a “trilogy” whose flavors and seasonality naturally complement one another.  Colicchio provides several recipes that make use of this interplay, and I’ve been eager for the opportunity to try one of his more ambitious recipes as the second in my series of Restaurant Quality Dishes that I’m attempting as my Foodie Resolution for the year.

My efforts at asparagus soup with morel custard, fava bean and pecorino salad with prosciutto, and broiled lamb loin chops after the jump. (more…)

img_6895As you may recall, I resolved to try at least one restaurant-quality recipe each month as my foodie resolution for the year.  As you may notice, it’s now the last week of February and I have yet to report on any such efforts.

January kind of got away from me in this department, but I’m pleased to report that I started my resolution with a vengeance in February (for the record, I’m also committed to making up a recipe so that I still end up with twelve by year’s end).

I knew that I wanted to open strong – and local – so I spent some time looking around from recipes from some of DC’s best-known chefs.  What did I learn?  That most of those celebrity chefs are smart enough to put their recipes in book form.  As such, there are very few recipes from the likes of Michel Richard and Jose Andres that are available for free online.  As I progress through this resolution, I may just need to invest in a few more cookbooks (or reach out to some foodie friends for help).

img_6905I lucked out when I found out that Jose Andres cooked a few of his recipes for the Today Show last January – they were good enough to publish the recipes online.  I looked through them, and I was thrilled!  As it turns out, one of the recipes is for a “pork loin baked in sea salt,” and the technique is exactly like one demonstrated by Katsuya Fukushima at L’Academie de Cuisine last month.

I knew I had to try it – and I decided to do so along with seared piquillo peppers from the same Today Show segment.

Photos, descriptions and more after the jump. (more…)

reims-grace-kelly Happy 2009! 

To ring in the new year properly, we asked some of our foodie friends and neighbors about their food resolutions for 2009. Here’s what they shared:

Gansie of Endless Simmer: “Check out all of the farmers’ markets in the city and buy things that scare me.”

Boozy Betty, boozehound and cupcake eating champ: “To plan meals at the beginning of the week and to cook in advance as much as possilbe.  Mostly the goal is to avoid dinners of popcorn and yogurt becuase I did not plan ahead.”

Casey Taylor Patten of Taylor Gourmet: “Eat less Italian meats and cheeses. Waist line is increasing!” 

La: “Find new ways to use sausage. Does that sound really bad or is it funny? if that’s too dirty sounding you can use this one:  stop treating frosting as a main course.)” 

Chef Spike of Good Stuff Eatery and Top Chef: “Make as many different shakes as I can this year!”

Lauren of Capital Cooking: “My firm is participating in a wellness program and we were all given exams to evaluate our heath.  Turns out my cholesterol is super high, so my resolution is to eat foods that get my cholesterol to a normal level.  Bye-bye butter.”

David, Bacon Terrorist: “Uh, my girlfriend says its to try more new vegetables.”

Leah Daniels, Hill’s Kitchen owner: “My foodie resolution for 2009 is to cook more. With opening the store, I have had very little time to cook and enjoy meals. So, my aim is to do it more often. The other night I made a sweet potato cheesecake (with sweet potato butter from LowCountry Produce, ginger from TSP spices, and vanilla extract from Baldwin’s Extracts) and a pumpkin bundt cake. I was up until 2:30 am tending to my baked goods and had such a great time doing it. I need to schedule more adventures playing with food for 2009!”

Jeremy, Kansas City BBQ Master: “I resolve not to use too much rub on my smoked meat, allowing the meat to speak for itself.”

Teddy Folkman, Granville Moore’s chef and Throwdown Champion: “To expand my comfort zone of cooking and try my hand at Mexican and Italian. To eat out more. To perfectly boil an egg. No gray, a bright yellow yolk and barely cooked but not soft boiled. You’d think after 14 years…”

RJS , active duty Army buddy in Iraq who, true to form, sent us resolutions in bullet point format:
“FR #1:  Figure out a non-stupid way to incorporate food into my love-making.
FR #2:  Dine at Grant Achatz’s Alinea in Chicago and score a reservation in October for El Bulli the following year.
FR #3:  Stop buying expensive dinners for women.  Go out “for drinks” instead.
FR #4:  Eat more fruits and vegetables.”

(No dinners for women but food with the love making? Ladies, the line for RJS’ number starts here!)

Clinton, GM of PX and Eammon’s Dublin Chipper:  “To eat more things with my hands and share my food whenever possible.  I think in both cases, it’s more fun and just tastes better.  Dining and drinking is a communal experience, and better enjoyed when with someone.  I feel that you can better play off of each other’s palates, experiences, tastes and perceptions.  While too many cooks spoil the soup, too many tasters only enhance the libation.”

Ryan Jensen of Peregrine Espresso: “Delving deeper into the world of food preservation—pickling, canning, freezing, etc.”

Jennifer Motruck Loy: “To try more new recipes at home, and eat more green, earth-friendly foods!”  

Allison McConnell of The Humble Gourmand: “Using farmers’ market obsession, move closer to eliminating processed
food from my diet.”

Lemmonex of Culinary Couture: “To conquer my fear of pie crust AND educate the world that there are other foods besides bacon.”

Justin Ulysses Guthrie, mixologist at Central and Hummingbird to Mars (RIP): “No more of Michel’s food. If I have one more burger or kit kat bar, I’m going to grow a beard, start speaking French and open a restaurant called C… get it.” 

Jen and Tim W., foodies of Fairfax: “Our resolution for 2009 is to give screw cap wines more of a chance and include more wine in general in our cooking. ”

Ben (aka Nizam Ali) of Ben’s Chilli Bowl and Ben’s Next Door: “Remember, it will taste better with a beer!” 

Portside of Spirit Heels :”Experiment with one new menu or food item per week.”

Alex Nicholson of Brightest Young Things: “This year I want to connect more with the food I eat. Keep buying local, but also start visiting more farms and producers.”

Amanda McClements, food writer and Metrocurean author: “Cook more fish. I love fish but I’m bored cooking it at home, so I’m resolving to find more exciting ways to prepare it. I think Asian recipes may be the key.”

Melissa McCart, food writer and Counter Intelligence author: “Culinary travel. I’d like to plan a few more US city trips than I took this past year and a trip abroad this summer, whether it’s a cooking week, a sampling of street foods or a grazing and sipping trip.”

Tim Carman of the Washington City Paper’s Young & Hungry column and blog gave the question some serious thought:  “I wake up every day trying to figure out how to be a better food writer, a better thinker, a better journalist, a better husband, a better friend, a better brother, etc. The minute successes and failures are what drive me forward to do it all again the next day. Even now, I have failed to answer your question, but I had a good time thinking through it.”

As for us:

Mike of Capital Spice: “To attempt to cook at least one high-end restaurant-quality meal each month.”

Elizabeth of Capital Spice: “To master homemade gnocchi.”

Do you have a foodie resolution? Share it in our comments!