Sunday, December 28, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Cafe Drake was so happy this holiday to celebrate Christmas with friends and a most welcome visit from our Mother. MUCH more to come soon (including recipes, in-depth restaurant and bar reviews and a feature on Newport, Rhode Island)! In brief review, we enjoyed a seasonal snow just days before the 25th, and wonderful meals at new and old Brooklyn favorites: mounds of fried zucchini strips and tender calamari, braised baby octopus, fresh pasta and fish at the always warm and merry Fiore; sweet and tart Frozen Orchids in the moody twilight of holly-festooned Hotel Delmano; Hard Cider and Whiskey Sours at the cozy and luxe Black Rabbit; surf and turf at tony Dressler; juicy burgers with all the trimmings and Belgian frites at Flatbush Farm; creamy organic grits and Kentucky country ham at ever-popular EGG and much more.
Cafe Drake did manage to whip up a couple of holiday meals with the help of Mother, and we were lucky enough to be joined on subsequent evenings by Jen Lazzaro and Miki-san. Multiple courses spread both dinners over the span of satiating hours. Among the homemade highlights: foie gras pate with toast points, pomegranate molasses, red onion confit, cornichons and endive salad in a chunky mustard vinaigrette; broiled scallops with butter and lemon atop a bed of roasted Campari tomatoes; baked salmon with capers and white asparagus; sage and garlic-rubbed pork loin with tiny yellow potatoes and braised turnips, carrots and radishes; rabbit and wild mushroom pot pie with black truffle oil; ultra-aged Parmesano drizzled with sherry vinegar reduction and nestled amongst pear slices and roasted chestnuts; creamy, pungent Stilton bleu cheese with toasted raisin bread and cranberry chutney; a HOMEMADE bouche de Noel prepared by Miki; naturally, Mother's classic yeast rolls and on and on. Libations were equally festive, with plenty of bubbly (natch), vintage port, reserve Chardonnays and Petite Syrahs, grappa, muscat and ginger dessert wines and on and on again.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Gougères, savoury pastries from Burgundy, France, were reportedly the most beloved snack of writer and raconteur Colette. We love to channel her spirit here at Cafe Drake -imagining her gobbling each puffy cloud of cheese and egg from her bejeweled, plump fingers while reading in bed - by serving them hot with pre-dinner cocktails or champagne. Legend also has it that Gougères re-heat well in a low oven if frozen after baking.
1 cup warm water / 1 stick of butter, cut into pieces / 1/4 t. salt plus a pinch more / 1/4 t. dried mustard / 1 cup white flour (sadly, whole wheat won't do here) / 4 eggs / 1 cup grated Gruyere or Raclette cheese / a very small handful of grated Parmesan / 1/4 cup snipped chives
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees and butter two baking sheets.
- Bring water, butter, salt and mustard to a boil then reduce heat immediately.
- Add flour all at once and stir till the dough pulls away from the pan.
- Remove from heat and stir in the eggs, beating fully into the dough after each addition. Now your dough should be waxy, firm and golden.
- Add cheeses and chives and mix well.
- Drop by the tablespoon onto baking sheets, 2 inches apart, and bake for 30-35 minutes.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
The rules are simple: bake a dozen or so cookies and bring to the party. Boxes are assembled and everyone leaves with a selection of a dozen or so different sweets. See above our doggie box of goodies and photos from the late-afternoon soiree in Sunset Park. Susan put out a spread of snacks, including: roasted curry carrots, phyllo nests filled with rich Marsala chicken, tiny quiches, spinach and feta turnovers, gorgonzola and brandy dip, hoisin-kissed pork meatballs, egg and onion sandwiches and more! Cafe Drake grazed and sipped scotch and soda to our heart's content.
Cut 1-2 blocks of firm tofu into large pieces and marinate for 30 minutes in a thin mixture of hoisin sauce and white wine or dry sherry. Bake in a casserole with chopped green onions and dried red chiles for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove from oven and stir in 1/2 cup small peas and season with salt and pepper to taste. Great with rice or noodles.
PIZZA EXPRESS: Roll out pre-made pizza dough onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Cafe Drake loves Trader Joe's whole wheat variety. Bake for 3 minutes in a hot, preheated oven. Now take dough out and top with your favorite pizza sauce and any other ingredients you wish! Above we threw this one together in 5 minutes with sliced chicken sausage, chopped green chiles, oil-cured olives, snipped Chinese chives and crumbled ricotta salata and grated Parmesan. Return to oven for about 8 more minutes. Yup, it was a night to clean out fridge remnants!
Pick up an order of Cold Sesame Noodles at your local Chinese takeout and doctor at home with tons of chopped scallions and shredded, leftover cooked chicken breasts. Eat with a green salad for a delicious meal in 5 minutes!
Glazed carrots are a side dish that should be in everyone's repertoire this time of year. Simply peel the freshest ones you can find and saute in a couple of tablespoons of butter till slightly soft. Salt and pepper then drizzle with honey. Add a drop or two of water and cook until done. Turn up heat and stir till a shiny, thick glaze covers all. Substitute cider vinegar for water if you like a crisp, sweet-tart taste.
Roasted string beans are another side that goes with virtually ANYthing! At Cafe Drake we trim and toss them with olive oil and salt and a clove or two of garlic and simply roast in a 450 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Careful not to burn and stir at least once! You'll be shocked at the depth of flavor drawn from these humble veggies when prepared as such.
Who says good soup takes all day? For a MidEast treat on cold weeknights, saute an onion and some garlic in olive oil. Add a sprinkling or two of ground cumin and ground coriander. Cook for 1 minute then throw in: a quart of vegetable or chicken stock, a chopped zucchini, a can of tomatoes, a can of chickpeas, a bay leaf and a small cinnamon stick. Simmer for 30 minutes on low heat while you do other things. Good with toasted bread slathered with herbed goat cheese as seen above at Cafe Drake.
Ah, the Mexican lunchtime classic - La Torta! Cafe Drake switches out a large wholegrain roll for the traditional torta bread, but the name - and basics - remain the same here. Lightly toast a very large dinner roll and slather one side generously with refried beans. Stick back in the oven to warm through then top with sliced pickled jalapenos, shaved red onion, crumbly Latin cheese (or your choice) and fresh springs of sliced green bell peppers and plenty of cilantro. Tomatoes, meat and avocados all make wonderful additions.