Beer-Roasted Chicken & Veggies (aka the “Finally, We’re Cooking With Gas!” Post)

New apartment =s new kitchen =s gas range =s GAME. CHANGING.

Now that we’re cooking with gas… ::pausing to rub palms together in a furtive motion::… drawing a blank except for bad cooking puns…

Eh, eff it. Let’s just cook.

Beer-Roasted Chicken & Veggies
Serves 4

roasting vegetables:
4 ribs celery, chopped
3 parsnips,
peeled & chopped
3 carrots,
peeled & chopped
3 small potatoes, chopped
1 head garlic, cloves peeled
1/2 onion, chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 Tlbs. olive oil (a healthy pour)
salt & pepper to taste


chicken:

1 large broiling chicken — (We purchased one of these fat boys (3.75 lbs.!) from The Meat Hook, a fantastic local butcher shop focusing on local and sustainable products.)
1 lemon, sliced
fresh rosemary
sea salt & pepper to taste

(1) 12 oz. beer … says the chef. One for the clucker, the rest for the homies

1.) Prep celery, parsnips, carrots, potatoes, onion and garlic. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.) Place roasting pan across two stovetop burners set to medium heat; add olive oil and all roasting vegetables, including leaves from rosemary sprigs.

3.) Roast vegetables until they begin to soften and start browning, or about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to evenly distribute heat. Salt and pepper to taste.

4.) Fun alert: As the olive oil dissipates, pour beer over the vegetables.

5.) To prep the chicken, tuck several slices of lemon underneath the skin and line chicken cavity with sprigs of rosemary. Salt and pepper generously.

6.) Once the vegetables have begun to soften — but are still mostly firm — turn off heat. Stuff chicken cavity with vegetable mixture and sliced lemon.

7.) Nest chicken in the center of the vegetables in the roasting pan and bake at 350 degrees for roughly 1 1/2 hours. (Smaller chickens will likely cook quicker.)

9.) At least twice during the cooking time, baste chicken with the broth utilizing a deep spoon or a baster.

10.) For the final 10 minutes, flip the chicken over so the reverse side has a chance to brown.

Let the chicken rest a few minutes, then dive in! We suggest plating the chicken and vegetables with a small side salad, and paring with the same beer you used to cook.

Enjoy!

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Pies ‘n’ Thighs, Back in Biz in Williamsburg (aka the “But Was It Worth the Wait?” Post)

Decent fried chicken? Check.
Fairly priced? No doubt.
Charming decor? Utterly adorable.
And the pie? Outta this world.

And yet, I hate to say it, but as I scraped together the few last bites of now-tepid collard greens, I couldn’t push back that nagging question that’d been lurking near consciousness since my first bite: This is what all the hype was about?

The briefest background for those not super-saturated with New York hot-button food topics: Chatter about the imminent reopening of this beloved neighborhood spot by this city’s fried chicken obsessed legions had reached near-deafening levels since the New Year.

More than a little swept away by the crescendo of voices — writers, bloggers and Twitterers, you too — chanting for Pies ‘n’ Thighs return, I was prepared for it, (dare I say it?) … this could be the best fried chicken I’ve ever tasted in my life. And, of course with that expectation in mind — it wasn’t. Good? Yes. OMFG-mind-blowing-beyond-words? Not tonight.

The skin was thick and a bit saggy on the bird, and I find one of the great joys of eating fried chicken to be the skin that’s so crisp it’s to the point of translucence. But let’s get down to it: Was the meat inside moist? Certainly. The whole meal ($10.99) was generously portioned and I handily finished everything, even my giant bowl of mac n’ cheese and second giant bowl of pork-laced collard greens. (I was very hungry.)

Unexpectedly — as I’m always a savory-first, sweets-second sort of girl — my favorite part of the meal was dessert. I shared a slice of peanut butter pie (bottom) and coconut cream pie with the chef, and both of them were just sublime.

The peanut butter pie reminded me of nothing so much as one giant Reese’s filling, only better, and as dense but creamier. It’s the sort of slice that’s best enjoyed by one forkful at a time — savor the bite, let the flavors melt into your mouth, set down the plate and go back for another bite a few (or 15) minutes down the way. It’s the perfect slice of pie for watching a movie.

And the coconut creme pie was pillowy and tropical, a luxurious pudding that was best eaten in-hand (so as to keep the filling from sliding off the crust). A thin chocolate layer added to the decadence. I’ll be chasing after the memory of slices like these when I order pie again in the near future.

So will I be back? Most definitely, for more things that come with biscuits, more pie, to explore more of the menu, and yes, probably one day for more of the protein portion of the restaurant’s namesake — although it’s telling that the fried chicken is at the last in line. Maybe by that time the hype will have subsided and the chicken and I, we can have a proper introduction.

No wonder chefs, restaurateurs and almost anyone involved with the business of food have a love/hate relationship (more like, hate/lukewarm like/hate some more) with the food blogsphere — although, for what it’s worth, that chatter showed me the door.

Pies ‘n’ Thighs, 116 S. 4th St., at Driggs St., 347-529-6090. Open daily.

Chinese and Japanese, Together Under One Roof? (aka the “No, Not Fusion… Something Else” Post)

“Hunan Delight Matsuya
Chinese & Japanese Cuisine”

One phone number, one address. And then there’s the matter of the handwritten sign that reads “FREE WINE” in the window.

What. I’ve been perplexed by this locals Upper East Side restaurant since I moved into the area.

The take-away menus make certain that it’s two restaurants — Hunan Delight, a Chinese restaurant, and Matsua Japanese cuisine — in one space. How can two such disparate cuisines — different ingredients, techniques, cultural histories — cohabit? How can this possibly work?

Well, except, it does. The food’s actually really good.

We came for the free wine, the Chinese food (after I found out Hunan Delight gets rave reviews online, to my surprise) and maybe a California roll. (It’s hard to mess up a roll made of crab stick, avocado and cucumber.)

What we discovered:

— Free wine offer is truly free: one glass of cheap, but crisp and very drinkable white wine, per person at dinner

— One of my new favorite Chinese dishes, called Green Jade Chicken ($11.95). Plump white meat pieces woked over high heat in “chef’s spicy sauce” (not really that spicy) along with matchstick-sized pieces of fresh ginger and string beans.

In the heat, the sauce caramelizes into a crisp, light glaze on the beans and chicken; the fresh ginger adds a welcome kick. This dish is the exact antithesis to the soggy, fatty, greasy Chinese food of styrofoam yore. It’s just lovely.

— And the sushi? You can find far worse sushi in supermarkets everywhere. Entranced by the platter of Dragon Rolls the sushi chef was putting up on the counter (see below) … so we ordered one.

It turned out to be a cooked roll (I still haven’t tried the raw sushi here) — shrimp tempura and cucumber on the inside, wrapped in eel and avocado on the outside.

— Doting, attentive service, of the sort you only get at a restaurant where the proprietors are that hands on, that involved, with everything.

There was a certain activity in the restaurant the night we were there, tables being reconfigured, the sushi chef turning out dragon rolls like nobody’s business, a party of young twenty-somethings turns up with a bottle of Johnny Walker.

Turns out, on this particular night the restaurant was hosting a friends and family Chinese New Year feast of epic proportions after the restaurant closed (11p). Being the last guests in the restaurant, and obviously geeking out about the Chinese New Year food, they kindly invited us to join … we didn’t, and in hindsight, wish we did. The food looked A-mazing and it was of epic proportions.

Still, this sit-down dinner for two totaled just $42.30 … also known in New York City as cheap.

Hunan Delight, a Chinese restaurant, and Matsuya Sushi, Japanese cuisine, share 1467 York Avenue, at 78th Street, 212-628-8161

Bay Scallop Carpaccio, Beer and Pretzel Caramels and Chicken-Fried Chicken Livers (aka the “Chelsea Hunt Recap” Post)

In the world of the BLD Project, dinner sometimes begins with a long, vacant stare into the fridge (cue lonely Western sounds).

Other times, dinner begins with a wintery, coat-encumbered embrace, at the conclusion of which a smiling bartender asks, “Would you like anything to drink?” … and hours suddenly disappear.

Then there are those nights when dinner is a hunt — a roving progression that is partially preconceived but inevitably involves detours, disappointments and discoveries. There is no nutritional rhyme or reason; a hunt is not for the faint of stomach. On this last one, in Chelsea, we killed it:

Target no. 1: Yancey Richardson Gallery. I was interviewing the (lovely) photographer, Alex Prager, for Art in America and needed to see these luminous beauties in person. Check.

Detour: En route to the next target, we were sidelined by Cookshop (cue screeching breaks) — it was the Nantucket Bay scallop carpaccio ($15) that captivated us.

As always, the chef was interested in the process — bay scallops are so small and delicate, to make a classic carpaccio would be intense. “I’ve got to see this,” he said. Mee tooo.

We were imagining something small but towering. Instead, the carpaccio was presented on a long, rectangular plate, rough-chopped pieces of the sweet bivalve accompanied by various dibbs and dabbs including grapefruit segments, diced black olives, shaved jalapeno slices, microgreens, radish, lime juice and olive oil.

The result was at once fresh, tart, sweet, but with a touch of heat; in short, delicious. More cerviche than carpaccio … letting that one slide.

“Shit. I think the market’s going to close.” We snapped out of the reverie of our perch at Cookshop’s bar. Back on task.

Target no. 2: Chelsea Market. In our sights, two of the market’s new tenants, Dickson Farmstand Meats, which locally sources its meat and butchers everything in house, and Lucy’s Whey, a cheese shop exclusively selling American artisanal cheeses.

As expected, both are excellent sources for first-quality, if pricey, delectables — Dickson’s entry-level meat, ground hamburger, goes for $7/lb., and many of Lucy’s cheeses have price tags upwards of $20/lb.

Discovery: That basket of simple, wax paper-wrapped caramels, beer and pretzel caramels ($1 ea.), from LiddAbit Sweets. To add the crunch and salt of a pretzel, and the hoppy-sweetness of beer, to that rich, caramel base? Brilliance.

Target no. 3: Tipsy Parson, for induction to the world of, yes, chicken-fried chicken livers ($12). (All in the name of research for amNewYork.)

I hear that liver is an acquired taste, and trying the dark, dense organ meat first alone, I can certify that I’m not there yet.

The liver is infinitely lightened when smeared onto a bit of the toasted rosemary bread and piling on the accompaniments — a sweet, green tomato relish, crispy fried batter bits, microgreens.

The cozy bar area — its shelves filled with tea sets, worn books and other bric-a-brac — invites lingering, and we did, over cocktails, the chicken fried chicken livers and the spread trio ($12) of pimento spread, black-eyed peas, ham salad and flakey, housemade crackers. It’s a bargain on the bar snacks menu … but then, I’m a sucker for finger food with some assembly required.

Whew. Getting tired or tipsy, probably both.

Target no. 4: Basis Foods. On the way to $2 PBRs — a 14th Street secret that’s not mine to reveal — we stopped to check on the progress of this new farm-to-market concept. Based on glimpses of a dark, entirely unfinished interior behind papered windows — this market’s got a ways to go yet. Check back in a few weeks.

$9.99 Chicken Feast for Two (aka the “Dallas BBQ, What!” Post)

It was the vinyl tarp banner, flapping in the afternoon wind, that stopped us:

TWO FULL MEALS FOR $9.99
2 chicken vegetable soups, 2 rotisseried half chickens
served with cornbread and a choice of potatoes or yellow rice
(Avail Mon.-Thurs. until 11:30a-6p, Fri.-Sun. 11:30a-5p
)

What. The chef and I, we stood there, incredulous. Watched the banner flap some more. It’s hard enough to get a decent meal for two at counter-service or fast food restaurants in New York City, let alone at someplace with sit-down service.

Granted, we were standing in front of a Dallas BBQ, a mini-chain perhaps better known for its boobalicious ads, tacky-cheesy quotient and fishbowl-sized drinks than real Texas-style barbecue. (As a friend once pointed out, “You don’t have to point out that the barbecue’s from Texas to a Texan, we’ll know right away whether it is or not. That sign’s for the rest of y’all.”)

Really though, who am I to judge? I wouldn’t go so far to say that I’ve outright avoided Dallas BBQ in the past … but pretty damn close. That is, until today.

The verdict: The soup, pleasant enough, nice rich flavor to the broth. Big slice of carrot, a couple of tender shreds of chicken. The cornbread, a touch dry and mealy, in the just the way a basic cornbread should be. The fries, piping hot from the frier.

And the chicken? Frankly, it was superb.

Skin crisped and golden, the chicken literally falling off the bone, dribbles of juice running down my hands for the rest of the meal.

Writing this post is almost making me crave Dallas BBQ — that’s right, I said “crave” and “Dallas BBQ” in the same sentence — right now.

Maybe this time around I’ll go crazy and try one of those fishbowl drinks …

Dallas BBQ has several locations around New York City.
See www.dallasbbq.com for location information.

Wednesday: Kashmir Grill Finds Its Stride (aka the “$3.99 30th Anniversary Lunch Special” Post)

Dang. In business for 30 years in this dismal neighborhood?!

photo-5Eighth Avenue near the Port Authority has to be one of the last bastions of that gritty, grimy, seedy New York City that far too many New Yorkers wax poetic about, wearing it as some badge of pride.

Well, I’ve seen far more of it than I ever cared to having worked nearby for not even a year — so I can’t imagine the tales that Kashmir Restaurant, an open-around-the-clock Pakistani-Indian restaurant located at the nexus of it all, could tell. If only these freshly-painted walls could talk.

From when I first heard that the restaurant had reopened as a counter-service spot with a spruced-up interior, and had done away entirely with the perpetually stale, and slightly terrifying (and yes, I ate there) lunchtime food buffet, it was only a matter of time until I made a visit.

photo-7Now known as Kashmir Grill, the restaurant is offering two “30 years promotion specials”: A $2.99 kabab roll and a $3.99 rice and chicken special (regularly priced $4.99). In hindsight, I think I would have rather tried the roll, which consists of two grilled kababs wrapped up in naan bread — all the better to sample the new grill feature that I’m assuming prompted the name change.

But I might be thinking about that now because the rice and chicken plate was, well, just okay. Not that I have an issue with offal, but I like to know when I’m ordering it. And I’m fairly certain that not all of the chicken meat was simply white or dark meat pieces, there were some other bits mixed in. The rice was satisfactory, if a little burnt. And the cuts of romaine lettuce laid across the top of the rice and under the charred naan — well, they were neither salad nor anything, other than out of place.

photo-6For the price, you can’t beat it, but I still prefer the meat plate from the nearby food cart, Meal O’Bama.

That kabab roll, on the other hand ... I’m still thinking about it. I think it’s the way to go; I have high hopes. Because really, Kashmir Grill can’t have made it this far for nought.