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Hey there, some people get depressed when fall rolls around: bathing suits go back in the drawer, out come the scarves and rakes to collect all those colorful autumn leaves. Unless, of course, you live in L.A., in which case none of that happens because the weather is exactly the same as it was three weeks ago, three months ago, three yeas ago. As someone whose favorite season is fall, it's sometimes hard to be trapped in The Truman Show, weather-wise. Which is why I'm so grateful to go to the farmer's market and to see the fruits and vegetables cycling through their seasons. Stone fruit might still be abundant, and those heirloom tomatoes are still flying off the shelves, but this past weekend I saw persimmons, a sure sign that cooler weather is coming. And the woman who sells apples is back (she was gone all summer). So I'm giddy to get going with some fall flavors: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, all that good stuff. None of which appears in this newsletter, so this introduction is rather pointless except to justify the picture of persimmons that you see above. That's good enough for me! Now on to newsletter stuff...
What I've Been Cooking:
1. Monday Night Cashew Chicken.
Have I got a recipe for you! I seriously think this is going to enter our regular rotation, and yours too. I riffed on a recipe that I found on Epicurious and Craig and I devoured every bite. Here's how I made it: heat a wok on high heat and when it's hot, swirl a tablespoon of grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil) down the sides and add a cup of raw cashews. Toss all around until they take on lots of color (golden brown), and then remove them to a plate. Swirl in another tablespoon of oil and add a pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs that you cut into small cubes. This step took a while because for some reason the chicken thighs gave off a lot of liquid; wait for it all to evaporate and for the chicken thighs to take on some real golden brown color. Then remove to the same plate as the cashews. Swirl in another tablespoon of oil and add one chopped red pepper, the white parts of a scallion (thinly sliced), lots of chopped ginger and garlic (about a tablespoon of each, or maybe even more... we like a lot) and saute that all around.
When the pepper softens, and before the garlic burns, add your liquids. Now the recipe tells you to use just a tablespoon or two of soy sauce, but I use way more than that. You may find that very salty, so I'm warning you here. I use a lot of liquid here because it makes more sauce to drizzle over your rice. So I add about 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup rice wine, a few shakes of fish sauce, and into that I stir a little honey and some chili paste, either Sriracha or Korean chile paste (Gochujang) which is what I used here. All of that goes into the wok with the aromatics. Let that come to a simmer, add your chicken and cashews back into that, let that cook together for a minute, and then add the sliced green parts of your scallions. Serve over rice. You're going to love it.
2. Dinner for Ryan and Jonathan.
My friend Ryan O'Connell (seen on the left!) just got back from Austin where he was starring in an autobiographical Netflix series that he created based on his book I'm Special which we're all super excited about. He was gone for his birthday so I promised him a birthday dinner for him and his main squeeze Jonathan (seen on the right!) when he got back. Ryan requested a panzanella salad, and I was happy to oblige, especially since heirloom tomatoes are still plentiful here (see introduction).
Not to toot my own horn too much, but this salad elicited happy groans all around. What made it so good? Well the tomatoes, which only get better as the season goes along (especially the little cherry ones that I got from Cookbook in Echo Park). Also, I credit the olive oil I used (Seka Hills Tribal Blend) and the red wine vinegar (Katz's Late Harvest Zinfadel Agradolce), both purchased at Monsieur Marcel at The Grove (one of my favorite food stores in L.A). Finally, there was the bread, which was great sourdough (also from Cookbook) which I cut into large cubes, tossed in olive oil, and toasted in the oven, adding it to the salad only 20 minutes before I served it, so it soaked up all the tomato juices without getting too mushy. And I sprinkled everything with za'atar at the end for extra panache.
The main course was a cacio e pepe, using my favorite recipe by Mark Ladner (here's a post about it on my blog):
Finally, for dessert, I made one of my favorite recipes on the internet: the chocolate pudding from Simply Recipes. There are all kinds of chocolate pudding recipes out there--some call for tempering eggs back into the pot, others call for the food processor--but this one is so, so easy. You just whisk the dry ingredients (cocoa powder, sugar, corn starch) with milk, cook on the stove until thick, then pour into a bowl, incorporate an egg and some chopped chocolate.
I used Valhrona chocolate, mixed everything in a large measuring cup, and then used that cup to pour into these tea cups my friends Harry and Cris brought me back from France. When I served it, I topped with it with hand-whipped whipped cream and everyone was happy.
3. Roast Chicken and Its Leftovers.
I've written so much about making roast chicken on my blog that I'm not going into that here, but I'm still doing the Thomas Keller recipe in a cast iron skillet (see this post) and it's regular fixture here. The best part, though, is what you can do with the leftovers. When I make a big roast chicken like this, and it's just for me and Craig, I only serve the dark meat on the first night: the legs, the thighs, the wings.
Then, the next day, I'll make a salad with the leftover breast and serve it with a really good cheese. In this case, I bought a Stilton that was so good it was almost like dessert:
That's my kind of healthy dinner. Everything good for you (cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, chicken breast) and then one naughty ingredient to jazz things up (don't worry, I didn't use all of it).
But wait, there's more! I had leftover root vegetables and potatoes from the bottom of the roast chicken that I wrapped in foil. On Saturday morning, I put them in a skillet with some olive oil and heated them up as I scrambled eggs, fried some breakfast sausages from McCall's, and made toast. Behold, a breakfast fit for a king:
So the moral of the story is: roast a chicken one night, and eat for three more. Or something like that. Now on to restaurants.
Where I've Been Eating:
Ben Mims is a food writer from New York whose work I've long admired and, yet, we'd never met. That is until he messaged me a few weeks ago that he was coming to L.A. and that he'd like to meet up and would I be interested in checking out this new steakhouse on Hollywood and Vine by Adam Perry Lang called APL? I said: "Sure!" And so, on Sunday night, Craig and I met him there and he was a real delight.
APL has all the trappings of a regular steakhouse, and yet the food is a step above; not surprising since Adam Perry Lang is something of a legend in the food world, a meat master who's been championed by the likes of Jimmy Kimmel. The food at APL was really outstanding, beginning with these appetizers.
The French Onion soup with short ribs was so meaty and decadent, it really reminded me of something you would eat in France. And the shrimp cocktail had Beetlejuice-sized shrimp. But the best part was that wedge salad, covered in blue cheese, and topped with the biggest piece of bacon I've ever laid eyes on.
I'm not a big iceberg lettuce guy (sorry, Helen Rosner) but this salad may have converted me. It's killer.
As for the entrees, we felt like we had to try one of the dry-aged steaks, so we picked the bone-in New York strip.
The dry-aging gave the meat a real funk that's hard to describe. It definitely tasted meatier than your average steak.
But for my money, the skirt steak with chicken skin gravy was just as good and a more economical choice.
Here's Ben with all of the sides: fuck dat French fries (that's not a typo), potatoes aligote (mashed with cheese), and broccolini.
We had a great time with Ben at APL; definitely going back.
2. Cosa Buona.
I Instagrammed the other day that I think that the mozzarella sticks at Cosa Buona in Echo Park are some of the best things that you can eat in L.A.
I stand by that Tweet, and really love Cosa Buona, though we had the oddest experience when we went there on Saturday night. We put our order in, out came the mozzarella sticks, and then about five minutes later, out came the pizzas, before the Caesar we had ordered. We'd barely sat down, and there was all of our food, and it was only 8 o'clock. I hate being rushed at a restaurant and I'm not really sure what happened here: maybe they just fired the pizzas instantaneously the second the order went in? Or maybe we got someone else's? Either way, I had the Hawaiian, with pineapple and ham and jalapeÃ±os.
And Craig had the BBQ chicken pizza also with jalapeÃ±os, plus ranch dressing drizzled over the top.
The pizzas had lots of flavor and a great crust, though those jalapeÃ±os got kind of intense. Craig had to do some surgery on his pizza.
As is often the case, Craig said he had no room for dessert, but I couldn't miss the canolli. I promised myself that I'd only eat one; and that's all I'm going to say, your honor. I plead the fifth on the second cannoli.
One of the strangest places that I eat these days is Triniti in Echo Park. The chef worked at Noma in Copenhagen and the food is always fascinating, if not always filling. For example: that salad you see above had little gem lettuce, XO dressing, and crispy shallots.
It was good, but I was finished in a few bites, so went back to the counter and ordered the bread, which comes with cultured butter and jam.
You really shouldn't miss the bread if you go to Triniti. It's special: they toast it and then topped with that butter and the jam, it's all very wonderful. Also: that article I'm reading is about the woman in Amsterdam who testified against her mobster brother and now she's in hiding? It's a great New Yorker read.
Links and Things:
* Has Australia Abandoned The Salad Sandwich? (Besha Rodell), The New York Times
* The Single Best Thing To Cook with Chicken Breasts (Julia Moskin), The New York Times
* You Should Be Eating Pie For Breakfast (Daniela Galarza), Eater
* A Pasta as Versatile and Reliable as Your Pantry (Melissa Clark) (I love a good pantry pasta), New York Times
* Iâ€™m thinking of going vegan but Iâ€™m nervous about such a huge transition. Any advice?, The Guardian
* Macaroni and cheese flavored candy canes are the holiday mashup no oneâ€™s been waiting for, USA Today (via Towleroad)
* Marieâ€™s, a magnet for musical magical moments (This is what I miss most about New York; plus actual Broadway shows), Sydney Morning Herald
* Trailer for Samin Nosratâ€™s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat on Netflix (I cooked with Samin for my cookbook and sheâ€™s incredible), Vanity Fair
* Rachel Roddyâ€™s autumn minestrone recipe, The Guardian
Otherwise, I'm almost done reading Jessmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied Sing, and it's getting really good and riveting. Just for fun, I downloaded the audio book for Wendy Wasserstein's Shiksa Godddess, a book of essays that I loved reading long ago, and it's so great to hear her voice reading it (there's a great essay in there about her hiring a live-in nutritionist from Boca named Sue Rue and sneaking away at midnight to eat caviar and vodka at Petrossian). On Friday, Craig and I saw Beck in concert at the Hollywood Bowl and it was a great show. And last night, we watched Milos Forman's The Fireman's Ball, which is funny and fascinating, especially if you watch the supplemental material and you understand the stakes of mocking state employees in communist Czechoslovakia. (Hey I just spelled that and autocorrect didn't kick in. I can spell Czekolslovkiaaa!).
Until next time....