Posts tagged sausages

Artichoke Christina Barcelona

I am dying to go to Spain, particularly Barcelona. I’ve been obsessed for months now, reading Mark Kurlansky’s Basque History of the World and Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s amazing mystery The Shadow of the Wind. The movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona, viewed on my last plane flight, only fueled the fires of my travel bug.

Unfortunately I don’t see this trip happening in my near future, so I’ve tried to indulge in the next best thing: food. I started by experimenting with Food & Wine’s squid- and chorizo-infused farro salad, a recipe that emits its own particular brand of Spanish spirit, at least in my mind. Although farro is usually associated with Italian cuisine, the addition of smoky chorizo and plump squid transforms this dish into something that might be inspired by the Iberian Peninsula. I’m not expecting to find this meal in Spain, but in my Brooklyn kitchen, it did just fine.

farrosalad

This dish has an almost mysterious edge to it, introducing me to exotic flavors I don’t normally encounter in my everyday life. Jim and I used more squid than called for in the original recipe, as our fishmonger sold it by the pound and we didn’t want to waste it. We substituted dried oregano for fresh marjoram, and at the end we couldn’t resist throwing some fresh arugula into the mix. The peppery greens added a welcome note of freshness to the combination of smoky meat, chewy squid, and nutty grains.

We ate this for two nights in a row before heading out with friends to Soccarat, New York City’s new paella bar. Jim and I had amusingly observed that although our salad used farro instead of rice, the rest of the ingredients were quite similar to the traditional paella we were about to enjoy. No matter. At this festive sliver of a restaurant, we shared the arroz negro, a pan of luscious short-grain, squid-inked rice filled with shrimp, scallops, and cuttlefish. After one bite, I can honestly say that it transported us—in mind and spirit—to Spain. The word “soccarat” actually refers to the caramelized rice on the bottom of a perfect paella, and it was indeed the best part of the dish. Our waitress even scraped the pan for us with a large spoon, to make sure we didn’t miss any of it. As we ate one forkful after next, leaving nothing in the pan, I realized that my Spanish obsession isn’t over. Between the farro salad and our visit to Soccarat, I am more than ready to go. Where’s my suitcase?

Recipe for Farro Salad with Squid, Chorizo, and Arugula (adapted from Food & Wine magazine, April 2009)

  • 1 cup farro
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry chorizo, skinned and sliced (about 2 small links of chorizo)
  • 3/4 pound cleaned squid, bodies cut into 1/4-inch rings, large tentacles cut in half (We used 1 pound of squid, but 3/4 is probably just right)
  • salt
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 small bunch arugula, washed
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • freshly ground pepper

Place the farro in a bowl and cover it with cold water. Soak for 20 minutes. Drain. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the farro, cover and simmer over low heat until the farro is al dente, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chorizo and cook until sizzling, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the squid and cook, stirring, until just white throughout, about 2 to 3 minutes. The edges of the rings will start to turn in a bit when cooked as well. Do not overcook the squid. Remove the pan from the heat and season with a bit of salt.

Using a slotted spoon, add the chorizo and the squid to the farro. Add the tomatoes, parsley, oregano, vinegar. Tear the arugula leaves in half and add them to the salad. Add a few glugs of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss. Serves 4. Enjoy!

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Dinner at Prime Meats

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There’s a powerful duo transforming Carroll Gardens these days. The partners in crime sport beards, are known simply as “the Franks,” and are opening restaurants left and right on Court Street. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m talking about neighborhood wonder twins Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli, the owners of local Italian favorite Frankies 457 Spuntino. With the recent openings of Prime Meats and the Viennese-themed Cafe Pedlar, a soon-to-open retail store, and plans for Delightful Coffee Shop in Red Hook, the Franks have casually built a Brooklyn empire over just a few months.

None of these new projects has aroused more curiosity than Prime Meats. Although it will eventually operate as a full-scale restaurant, the smaller bar room opened a few months ago as a sort of underground speakeasy, serving Prohibition Era style drinks that Jim adores (his favorite is the absinthe-fueled Sazerac). I’m not much of a cocktail person, so while I’ve enjoyed hanging out among Prime Meats’s exposed brick walls, beautiful pressed tin ceiling, and dark wood bar for the past few weeks, what I’ve really been waiting for is the food. When we heard that the gas was finally turned on last week, Jim and I excitedly walked over to sample the abbreviated Germanic-themed menu.

As at Frankies, Prime Meats lets simple, high-quality ingredients speak for themselves, albeit with a focus on Central Europe. Even the wine and beer menu reflects this regional slant, with German beer and Alsatian, German, and Austrian wines. An abundant salad of raw red cabbage, lightly seasoned with lemon, balsamic vinegar, and sunflower oil, and crunching with walnuts, was a refreshing start to our meal ($7). Jim indulged in the säkrüt garnie, an overflowing platter of pork belly, kassler, and smoky sausages served with potatoes on a bed of tart sauerkraut ($14). I hadn’t seen this much pig on a plate since our vacation in Alsace eight years ago. Prime Meats plans to make its own sausages—the new kitchen at the back of the restaurant will be equipped for on-site butchering—but the wursts are currently procured from experts in Yorkville, Manhattan’s once primarily German neighborhood.

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I went with the Hungarian style pork gulyas, a peppery, tomato-infused pork stew served with a side of buttery, creamy, herb-infused spätzle ($12). Did I mention that the spätzle were buttery? Topped with friend onions, they were wonderfully decadent and authentic, better than some that I’ve tasted in Germany. We’ll have to make another trip to try the weisswurst ($9), the homemade pretzel with Bavarian mustard ($3), and the desserts (currently limited to a selection of artisanal cheeses).

Once the main restaurant opens in a few months, the menu will expand with more similarly-themed Central European selections, as well as additional vegetarian options. If the Franks are indeed building an empire, I am more than happy to live in it—as long as I am guaranteed a table at their restaurants.

Prime Meats, 465 Court Street  in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. T: 718-254-0327

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Back to the Blog: Prague and Vienna

Wow. I can’t believe I’ve been away from the blog for so long. What have I been up to in the past month, you might ask? Well, let’s see: There was that week spent in Prague and Vienna in mid-December. Then I jetted off to Italy for work and promptly came down with a cold. Another week later I flew home in the middle of a snowstorm and hurtled full-force into Christmas and all the family-visiting, meat-eating it requires. Since New Year’s I’ve just been…recovering. I’ve cooked a few meals and seen a few movies, that’s about it. But I’ve missed my little blog and I hope to get back on a regular posting schedule now that the holidays are firmly behind us.

I guess the appropriate place for me to pick up my blogging is back in Eastern Europe. Oh, Prague and Vienna. I loved them both, Prague with its weathered town squares and grey skies, and Vienna with its overwhelming, magnificent grandeur. Jim and I passed the week walking, talking, and looking.

Prague, view from the Castle

Prague, view from the Castle

But eating? I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of Czech or Austrian cuisine. Simply put, I missed my vegetables and I quickly grew tired of meat. But I really shouldn’t complain. Each city had its bright spots along the way, so here’s a quick tour:

You can’t visit Prague without trying the Czech sausages known as klobasy. Here’s Jim with one of our lunches from the Christmas market in Old Town Square. Served with thick slices of bread, these bright red sausages exploded upon first bite, their juices dripping down onto the plate.

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After finishing my klobasa I strolled through the Christmas market in search of dessert. Because of the sheer number of stalls offering them, a Czech pastry called trdlo was the obvious choice. For this snack, dough is wrapped around a rotating pin and baked over an open flame. When it has finished cooking, it’s rolled in a mixture of sugar and nuts, creating a simple and comforting treat. We asked the vendor about the origin of the word trdlo, but she said it was complicated; we think it might mean “horse collar.” In any case, don’t I look happy eating one in that photo below (right)?

Trdlo at the Christmas market in Old Town SquareMe, enjoying said trdlo 

A few other culinary highlights in Prague included a lovely dinner in the romantic cellars of Vinárna U Maltézských rytíru (Restaurant of the Knights of Malta), where I enjoyed duck breast, a red cabbage-stuffed apple, potato gnocchi, and a sumptuous apple strudel; a festive evening of singing, beer, and goulash at historic beer hall U Flekù; and sweet, decadent “pancakes” decked out with whipped cream, sour cream, honey, and blackberries at the well-known Cafe Slavia. Here, take a look at this breakfast of champions:

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When we finally made it to Vienna, we had little more than a day to see the city. Jim and I walked almost every inch of that town in seven hours, taking in the ornate architecture, museums, and never-ending stream of Christmas markets. (As you can tell, we certainly got our fill of holiday cheer on this trip.)

We made sure to stroll through the Nachtmarkt, Vienna’s sprawling open-air food market. It offered everything from produce and pastries to fish and poultry, with small restaurants peeking out from between the food stalls. I would have loved to stop for a snack, but we were pressed for time and had to keep moving. We contented ourselves with the sights and sounds of the vendors selling their wares on a busy afternoon.  

market

We rested our feet and filled our stomachs with an Austrian meal at Zum Weissen Rauchfankehrer, a traditional restaurant in the center of the city whose name translates to “The White Chimney Sweep.” The meal was a little ornate for our tastes, with several courses and a more formal atmosphere than we desired, but it was wonderful to relax and enjoy a glass of wine after our intense day of sight-seeing.

With all this travel and activity, I’m sure you understand why it’s taken me a little while to return to the blog. But I assure you that I am done resting my tired feet, and I am ready to blog in 2009. I can’t wait to see what the year has in store for us!

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