Friday, January 18, 2013

Where to Go in New York's Chinatown for Roast Duck to Go

         A few months ago, my friend Peter told me about Optical 88, an optical shop in the heart of Chinatown, at 116 Mott Street (Tel: 212-343-1947).  I am all for money saving and he raved about the service and the prices.  I looked on Yelp. There was not one bad word said about the place.  In fact, everyone was wildly enthusiastic. Everyone except Andrew.  He was slightly leery of a walk-in eye exam and the promise of a finished prescription in an hour.  But since I’d worked in Eye Care in my Ad career, I knew that whoever does eye exams has passed their own exams in order to be licensed.  So off we went, I got examined and in one hour I walked out of the store with a new pair of eyeglasses. They cost all of $130.00.  So when I ran out of contact lenses, I ran right back to Optical 88.  I got more than my contacts.  I got instructions on where to go to buy the best Roast Duck in Chinatown.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Meaty Mushroom Lasagna adapted from Giada di Laurentiis

         There are few dishes that are better to have on hand than lasagna. Over the years, we’ve all suffered through terrible versions of lasagna--people making the stuff with cottage cheese or ricotta, throwing in chunks of sausage instead of a proper meat sauce, jarred marinara called into use in lieu of homemade--let’s face it, lasagna is often terrible, especially the versions made directly from a box of lasagna noodles.  
          But if you go to the trouble of making a simple béchamel sauce with cheese, making a filling of meat sauce or vegetables  you are on your way to real lasagna. Made up in advance, its flavors meld into each other with the passage of a couple of days.  Kept sealed until plastic wrap topped with a layer of aluminum foil, this lasagna spent a whole week in the fridge before being baked on a night when we had a lot going on.  Nothing could have been easier than firing up the oven, baking the lasagna for 40 minutes, tossing a green salad then sitting down to dinner. 
          Today's version is a wonderfully rich pasta with layers of creamy béchamel, peppery mushrooms, smoky cheese and tiny pieces of prosciutto.  It’s so rich, you may want to practice some portion control when you serve it.  If you have leftovers, reheated in the oven, they too keep for a very long time and can easily make a quick meal anytime you need one.  Now I’ve made classic lasagna for years sharing it with you in its most classic of recipes:  We’ve also gone totally vegetarian with one version: But this lasagna straddles the line with its emphasis on meaty mushrooms and the secondary role the prosciutto takes.  What really comes to the fore is the use of smoked Mozzarella. It changes the character of the whole dish. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Asian Sloppy Joe Sliders, a recipe from Chef Ming Tsai

The Tastee Inn in Sioux City, Iowa
where you can get a Sloppy Joe or
Loose Meat Sandwich for $2.00
            The Sloppy Joe is hardly anyone’s idea of gourmet food. This may lie in the fact that making one requires virtually no culinary skills of any kind.  The original Sloppy Joe recipe calls for ground beef and celery to be cooked up with a ketchup sauce and then served on squishy white bun.  There may be dozens of secret family recipes for this classic but none stray too far from this basic formula.  And if, by any chance, it still sounds like there’s any degree of difficulty in making one, there are plenty of commercial products to turn to.  You can just open a can and you’re pretty well done.  Now if you are slightly turned off by the name “Sloppy Joe” which I confess I was, it’s precursor had an even worse moniker.  In Iowa, which lays claim to the invention of the Sloppy Joe, it was called a ‘loose-meat’ sandwich.  That was until the owners of a restaurant in Sioux City, famous for its loose-meat sandwiches, renamed it the Sloppy Joe in honor of their chef, a man named Joe.  It wasn’t really until the 60s that the name took hold. But it certainly never took hold in our house and quite honestly, I may never eaten one until I came across a recipe in this month’s Food and Wine Magazine.  Apparently, the Sloppy Joe is officially part of one of the great food trends of 2013.  Really!