French Roast is one of our favorite Upper West Side restaurants. Open from early to late they’re available for breakfast, lunch/brunch, dinner and late night. They also have a full bar with beer on tap.
Onion soup, escargot, moules and steak frites are some of our favorites. The Friday plat de jour, bouillabaisse is something special.
You can watch life go by on Broadway from their outdoor seating. If you’re in New York, keep in mind that there’s more to the city than Midtown and Times Square. Try the Upper West Side.
Pesce Spada Alla Siciliana (Sicilian-Style Swordfish)
This recipe is perfect for swordfish but works for any other thick fish steak.
In a pan large enough to hold the steak, heat oil and add onion and garlic. Cook until onion is lightly browned. Remove from heat – Add olives, water, capers, oregano and red pepper flakes and stir.
Season swordfish with salt and pepper and place it on top of onion olive mixture. Return the pan to medium-high heat, cover and cook for 3-5 minutes. Turn swordfish, cover and continue to cook until fish is cooked through, 3-5 minutes more.
This is a simple and quick recipe that I got from Bon Appetite.
Pat chicken thighs dry and season well with salt and black pepper. Place in a large resealable plastic bag and add vinegar. Seal bag and gently massage chicken to ensure thighs are coated in vinegar. Chill 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 400°. Remove chicken thighs from bag and pat dry with paper towels. The drier the skin, the crispier it will be when cooked.
Place chicken thighs, skin side down, in a dry large cast-iron skillet and set over medium heat. Cook undisturbed until they easily release from the pan, about 4 minutes. Continue to cook, moving chicken around occasionally to ensure the skin is cooking evenly, until golden brown, 8–10 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.
Set skillet over medium-high heat add garlic and cook lemons, cut side down, until edges are deeply charred about 5 minutes. Transfer to plate and let cool slightly.
Return chicken to the skillet,skin side down and bake until it’s cooked through, 10–12 minutes.
Squeeze lemon juice into a small bowl; add garlic, honey, and red pepper and whisk to combine. Whisk in oil and any accumulated juices on plate with chicken. Strain and season vinaigrette with salt and black pepper.
Drizzle half of vinaigrette on a platter and set chicken on top. Serve with remaining vinaigrette alongside.
A pork chop is as good an any steak if it’s prepared correctly. So here’s how to prepare a perfect pork chop.
Bring the chop to room temperature. Score the edges so the fat renders when it cooks. Blot dry and season with salt and black pepper. Heat a little oil in a pan and holding the chop with tongs and sear all the edges with the heat on high.
Then as one side browns add 2 pats of butter and some more oil. When the butter melts, tilt the pan and spoon it over the meat. Make sure that the hot pork fat, olive oil and butter sears every crevice. Do the same on the other side.
It’s a thick chop so give it another 3-5 minutes on each side on medium heat.
Remove the chop and let it rest. Pour out most of the fat from the pan add some oil, 2 pats of butter, the vermouth and currant jelly. Deglaze the pan, whisk the sauce and pour over the chop.
My friend Joe gave me two recipes, one for sausage and peppers and the other for gnocchi, that he found in the Wall Street Journal of all places. When I hear Wall Street Journal I think of finance, markets and banking, not Italian recipes. I tried them and they were both very good.
Sausage and Peppers
You can make sausage and peppers by simply frying some sausage and peppers. But a little extra effort can make it something special. In this version by Chef Mashama Bailey of the Grey, in Savannah, the key ingredient is the vinegar. It really brightens up the flavor. I adjusted her recipe down a bit from four lbs. of sausage to one.
Cook sausages until browned on all sides. Remove them and set aside. In the same pot, add peppers, onions and garlic. Sauté until vegetables soften, about 15 minutes.
Stir in tomatoes and vinegar. Return sausages to pot and stir gently to coat. Simmer until tomatoes reduce, adding splashes of water if pot looks dry.
Until I saw this recipe from Gail Monaghan, gnocchi were round, made with potatoes and boiled. Here they’re square, made with semolina and baked in the Roman style. The finished product reminded me of polenta. You can serve these with different kinds of sauce. We used a simple marinara.
Bring milk and nutmeg to a simmer. Off heat, whisk in semolina. Cook over low heat, stirring, until mass pulls away from pan, 3 minutes. Off heat, stir in 8 tablespoons butter, 1 cup cheese and yolks. Season with salt and pepper. Pour hot semolina mixture onto a foil-lined, buttered sheet pan. Use an offset spatula to spread mixture into an even rectangle ½ -inch to 1-inch thick. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 500 degrees with rack in the highest position. Use a sharp knife or pizza wheel to cut semolina into 2-inch squares.
Set gnocchi ½-inch apart on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Dot with remaining butter and sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake until golden, 15 minutes. (a minute or two under the broiler at the finish isn’t a bad idea)
Here I go again with another obscure brand of soda (4/3/18Manhattan Special). Cheerwine is obscure only if you’re not from the South and particularly it’s home state, North Carolina where it’s very popular. It’s an excellent wild cherry soda that’s been around since 1917.
It’s tasty, sweet, bubbly and not alcoholic although it makes a great mixer. Every so often I have a case mailed to me. With shipping it comes to about $2.50 per bottle and worth every penny. It’s taste reminds me of the fountain cherry sodas you used to be able to get in candy stores and ice cream parlors. It’s perfect straight from the bottle or on ice but you can be creative and make some interesting cocktails with it.
Cheerwine Old Fashioned
Add Bourbon, Angostura and Cointreau to a rocks glass. Add Ice and stir. Top Cheerwine and garnish with an orange slice.
Combine rum and lime juice in a shaker. Add ice and shake. Pour into a Collins glass filled with fresh ice. Top with Cheerwine and garnish with lime.
Cheerwine Bourbon Cocktail
Fill a shaker with bourbon, vanilla extract and lime juice. Shake with ice, pour into a rocks glass and top off with Cheerwine. Garnish with lime slice.
Pour Applejack, Campari and vermouth over ice in a Collins glass. Top with Cheerwine and garnish with orange peel.
A while back my daughter Kristina gave me a frying pan. It wasn’t just any frying pan, this one was hand crafted by a friend of hers, Marsha Trattner. Masha is a metal worker of the first order. She’s a welder and blacksmith making both functional and artistic items. Her site – She-Weld
Bridget and I recently went to one of Marsha’s forging classes. We started small, making some simple hooks to get a feel for the forge and tools.
Then we started on the main project – making a knife out of a rail road spike. Wei was our instructor and a natural blacksmith. He thoroughly explained every step and checked-in on us often to see how we were doing.
The basic idea is to heat the metal to make it malleable and then hammer it to draw it out and shape it. Sounds simple but it takes a hell of a lot of hammering, enough to leave me with a sore arm the next day.
After the forging the next step is fine tuning. That’s the grinding. You start with the blackened piece of metal that was once a railroad spike and finish with a shinny and sharp knife.
A simple recipe – add a salad and it’s a whole meal.
Pre-heat the oven to 450o. Place the cut potatoes in a bowl, add salt and pepper and enough oil to coat.
Mash and mix butter, mustard and oregano in a bowl. Season room temperature chicken with salt and pepper. Smear the butter mixture over the skin side of the thighs. Press the chicken pieces into the breadcrumbs so they stick to it.
In a lightly oiled baking pan, layer the potatoes and onions and then the chicken skin side up on top. If any of the butter mix is left, add it to the pan.
Bake in 350o oven for 35 -40 minutes or until thermometer inserted in to chicken reads 160o. Heat broiler and broil chicken about 2 or 3 minutes or until golden brown.
Most of you probably never heard of it but Manhattan Special is a espresso flavored soda. It’s not sold all over and is typically only available in Italian delis and grocery stores although lately it’s been turning up in some high end food stores. They’ve been in business for a long time (1896) and I remember drinking it when I was a kid in Manhattan’s Little Italy. It tastes like the best iced coffee you’ve ever had – only made from espresso and with a fizz. When we were kids we’d sometimes have it with a splash of milk, the way you would drink iced coffee.
A while back I found a vintage Manhattan Special bottle, empty of course. It didn’t hold much, just 6 ounces and it has their old Brooklyn telephone number on it with an “Evergreen” exchange. What I liked most about the old bottles is that instead of paper, the label is painted on. Spaces are left blank so that the man and woman are outlined in black (the color of the soda) and when the bottle was empty those spaces became transparent.