Tuesday, April 24, 2012

tuesday reviewsday: fast gourmet

What do you think of the title? I'm trying something new. Since I tend to be GO GO GO all the time, I don't always have time to post recipes. Buuuuuuuuuuuut that doesn't mean I'm not eating! Duh

I love trying new restaurants, or new dishes at old restaurants, or really just going out to eat in general. How would you guys feel about restaurant reviews? If you live in DC, you might even benefit from them. How's that for schmancy?

It's no secret in my familial/social circle that I live and breathe the Food Network. I get the strangest look when I tell people that during my workouts on Mom Mondays (as my coworker has so cleverly called Monday nights, since I have a hot date with my mom at the gym), I'm glued to Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. If you've never seen this show, just bear in mind that I'm silently judging you right now. Just a little.

Hi, parentals!

So once in a blue moon, Guy actually makes a stop somewhere in my vicinity, and I make a note to someday/somehow/some way get there. This place was actually featured on an episode that I haven't seen yet, but my dad managed to catch it I don't know, a year ago? He has been talking about it ever since. Non-stop. For serious. Every time we talk about where to go for family dinner, he spouts off a couple options and always manages to throw in "or we could go to the gas station..." which we all know to be Fast Gourmet. Except that until yesterday, I'm pretty sure I didn't know the name. I just called it "the Gas Station". Classy, right?

Seriously, this doesn't look like an awesome sandwich shop, does it?

So. Fast Gourmet. A small  (like 20 seat) sandwich shop attached to a gas station at 14th & W NW. Concrete floors, big refrigerated case of sodas, a high bar for about 8 people, and a couple small tables for the rest. Clearly, not a place you go in a large group if you plan on dining in. If you need descriptions of everything on the menu (aka the big hanging chalkboard above the register), look online before going in. Order at the counter, find your seat, and they'll bring the food out to you.

My brother, my dad and I each got a different sandwich, so we could try more (my mom got roast chicken). The first few minutes were spent playing musical sandwiches, and now I know which one to get next time! The food was quick, but not quick enough to make us suspicious of shady preparation methods. The pricing was reasonable, especially given the portions (aka massive). 

I guess it's about time I got to the food, right?

Up first: the corn empanada. Beware vegetarians, there's ham in here! Yellow corn and small pieces of diced ham cooked up in a thick and creamy bechamel, stuffed (how do you stuff bechamel?) into a flaky, crispy pie shell. The picture is deceiving; that plate is an appetizer plate! The empanada was small, but perfect for 4 people to get a good bite to try it. 

The brohim ordered this on a whim, which was a really good idea! Snaps to you, brother.

Say cheese, Brohim!

Next up: my awesomely delicious sandwich, the Cubano.  I'd just like to state for the record that this sandwich was roughly the size of my face. I ate every.single.bite. Black forest ham, succulent pulled pork, mild swiss cheese, grainy mustard, and thinly sliced pickles, pressed together on Cuban bread, made for a drip-down-your-hands juicy, crunchy-on-the-outside-but-soft-on-the-inside perfectly toasted fabulousness. I was borderline full after the first half, and made the excuse that it wouldn't travel well if I took the other half home. True story? I just didn't want to stop eating.

I opted for fried yuca on the side instead of their regular fries, because I have a hard time saying no to yucca. They were well fried: crispy but not greasy. Bonus points for sending out a side of that spicy mayo I love to drown in from any good pollo a la brasa joint!

In the background you can kind of make out  my brother's sandwich, the steak and cheese. I only had one bite of it, but it was pretty delicious! Roast beef, melty gooey cheese, perfectly grilled with that awesome charred flavor onions and mushrooms, with some lettuce and tomato to make you think you're eating healthy. 

I didn't get a snap of my parents' food, but my mom ordered the quarter chicken, which came with some really awesome sweet potato fries (I didn't taste the chicken). They were seasoned with sugar and cinnamon, which was different. As a savory fan, I was surprised to like these as much as I did. I do usually like my fries a little thicker (these were shoestring) and more potato-y, but these were pretty good. My dad ordered the Chivito, which is the favorite of the guy who was working the register last night. Steak, ham, bacon, plenty of mozzarella, olives, hard-boiled eggs (I know!) and marinated peppers. I wasn't sure about it since I'm really not a fan of olives, but they provided just the right amount of salty goodness. I didn't really taste the egg, but that could be because there was so much going on! If I could order that sandwich on the bread mine came on, I'd be all set.

Basically, you have to eat here. And bring me with you, thanks.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

chipotle chicken quesadilla

Of all the years of my existence, I thought the refrigerated deli section of the grocery store was the only place to get lunch meat. Now I'm not usually one to admit when I'm wrong, but I'll go ahead and say it: there's another way! I'm not sure if I was just blind or if our Giant really just didn't have a deli section (in which case I retract my former statement of being wrong), but to me, deli counters belonged in separate stores. Preferably with matzo ball soup on the menu.

Ever since I finally decided to go to the store during the deli hours (did you know it closes before the grocery store? That took me a while to figure out), I've been hooked. Since the meat is freshly sliced, it tends to be way more tender than anything I've bought pre-packaged. Also, it's a lot more fun being able to tell them exactly how much I want and what thickness I want it sliced. If you haven't tried this before, I'd highly recommend it. If you have, then congratulations on being smarter than me.

This quesadilla really doesn't have to be for breakfast, but I've been eating it in the mornings. And there's an egg on top, so that makes it breakfast right? It's good and filling, which is perfect for days when I am lazy can't find something to bring for my morning snack. Also, it cooks in like 2 minutes. Bonus points!

Chipotle Chicken Quesadilla (makes 1)

1 flour tortilla, soft taco size (I use Mission)
1 teaspoon canola oil, or cooking spray
1/2 avocado
2 ounces Boar's Head sliced chipotle chicken breast
1 ounce pepper jack cheese
1 egg
a few chives (optional)

Heat oil in a pan large enough to fit the tortilla. Lay tortilla in the pan and layer cheese, chicken and avocado (in that order so the avocado doesn't cook) onto half of the tortilla. Let cook for a few minutes (you should hear sizzling), and then fold the empty tortilla half over the fillings once the underside is golden and crispy. Press down and then remove from the pan. If you're adding an egg, crack it into the pan and fry to your liking. I love sunny side up or over easy, so I can dip each bite into the yolk.

Monday, April 16, 2012

flourless chocolate cake

Happy un-Passover!

I like being fashionably late, so this is totally appropriate.

You should make this cake anyway, because it tastes like Katherine's brownies. Make it for your favorite gluten-free friend or family member, or make it for yourself and hoard the entire thing. Just make it, ok?

Flourless Chocolate Cake (from Williams-Sonoma)

Unsalted butter for greasing the pan
  • 8 oz. semisweet chocolate finely chopped, or 8oz semisweet chocolate chips
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 equal pieces
  • 4 cold eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee dissolved in 2 tsp. water (I used half a shot of espresso)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cream of tartar, or 1/4 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 375*. Grease an 8-9" springform pan with a little butter. Fit a piece of parchment paper into the bottom, and set aside.

In a double boiler (or a pot with a few inches of water, with a heat-proof bowl on top), bring water to a simmer in the bottom pot. It's really important for the heat to be pretty low during this step, otherwise you'll kill the chocolate and have to start over again. Melt chocolate and butter together, whisking pretty consistently, until it's completely melted. Set aside to cool for at least 5 minutes.

While the chocolate is cooling, whisk cream of tartar/vinegar and egg whites with your mixer on medium-high for a minute, until frothy. Add half the sugar and whisk for 15 seconds, then add the rest of the sugar. Whisk for a few more minutes (mine took 2-3), until the egg whites are shiny and hold a stiff peak.

In a large measuring cup, lightly whisk together egg yolks, vanilla and coffee. Very slowly pour into the cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until no yellow streaks remain. If the chocolate is anything more than warm, pour a little into the egg mixture first and stir it in to bring the eggs up to temperature a bit (tempering). Then pour everything (still very slowly) into the chocolate. 

Fold about 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate with a rubber spatula, until no white streaks remain. Fold the rest of the egg whites into the batter, until again no white streaks remain. Pour batter into the pan and distribute evenly. Bake 20-23 minutes, or until the cake is just slightly jiggly in the center (if it's completely set it'll be too overdone once cool). Move the pan gently side to side to check. Don't move it too hard though, or you'll shake the air right out. Once the cake is done, let it cool in the pan for about 30 minutes. It will sink a little (maybe 1/2"), that's normal. Carefully remove from the pan (this is where the parchment paper comes in handy) and let it cool the rest of the way on your serving dish. Enjoy with some fresh strawberries and/or whipped cream! I'd totally go with and over or.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

cheesy broccoli gratin

When my brother and I were kids, we used to hate broccoli. Our parents would make us eat a few pieces with almost every meal (or at least, it felt like almost every meal), and let me tell you - it was a painful experience. My brother had it easier, considering he ate everything with ketchup. I, on the other hand, hate(d) ketchup more than I hated broccoli. 

The only shot they had at us eating our broccoli was by giving me the florets, and my brother the stalks. I guess it was a win-win for everyone involved, because they had to cook less broccoli (or make us eat more? Either way they win). These days, we both eat the whole piece (broccoli stalks are perfect for stir-fry, don't you know). 

The other night I needed a quick side dish, and knew it had to pass the test for both myself and the Boyfriend. I had some broccoli that needed using, and everyone likes cheese. Right? This was pretty tasty, with just a little bit of crunch from the panko and a bit of a kick from the pepper jack. I could have made it fancier with a cream sauce, but that night we were all about quick and easy.

This one is dedicated to the Boyfriend, who is a self-proclaimed broccoli-hater, unless of course there's cheese involved. He ate his entire plate of broccoli that night! I'm so proud.

Cheesy Broccoli Gratin (serves 2-4)

1 small head broccoli, broken into florets
3 oz your favorite cheese (I used pepper jack)
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400*. In a large pot, bring an inch or two of water to a boil. Toss broccoli in and reduce to a simmer, and cook for just 2-3 minutes. Remove broccoli from pot and run under cold water in a strainer to stop it from cooking further. Arrange broccoli in an oven-safe dish (I used my small cast iron). Top with cheese, sprinkle with panko, salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake 15-18 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and panko is golden.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

steak bulgogi

When I lived in London, I spent a lot of time down in the Piccadilly Circus area. The West End is over there, in all its theatre (oh yes, I went there) glory, and if you look hard enough there's always a student discount on a few shows every night. A few times, my friend and I would just meet there after class and see what was playing, and who had tickets available that night.

Living on the edge!

One night, as will typically happen when it's around dinner time, we were hungry. Sure there were plenty of popular tourist locations, but hello, we weren't tourists. We walked up one of the side streets, maybe even looking for something else (we may have been thinking Chinatown at first, which is right in that area), we found an amazing little gem of a restaurant that would become a favorite. The sign was pretty hard to see (we almost missed it when we tried to get there a second time), and the street was a quiet one, which could have meant one of two things:

a) it could have been horrendous and we would have ended up with food poisoning, or

2) it could have been a hidden treasure

I'm really thankful it ended up in the second situation!

Before this place, neither of us had ever had Korean BBQ, but we were instantly hooked. They have grills at each table (think Hibachi, but you don't have to share your table with five other families celebrating various birthdays and anniversaries, which I always thought was a little awkward no matter how awesome the flaming onion volcano was), and you order whatever meats you want. They may start it for you, but will leave all the utensils so you can cook things to your liking. If that's not awesome, then clearly you don't have your priorities straight.

My favorite meat is the beef bulgogi, thinly sliced pieces of marinated steak that are way more tender than a piece of meat that thin should be, totally succulent and ever so slightly sweet. Served with some sesame/chili chive slices, and I'm a happy girl.

This steak may not be the same cut, but the flavor's all there. I seriously had to stop myself from eating the entire thing as I sliced it, reminding myself that this in fact had to feed two people for at least one meal, if not two.


Beef Bulgogi (marinade from Can You Stay for Dinner?)

1lb steak, preferably flank (I used top round because it's what I had, and just sliced it in half so it was thinner)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup scallions (greens and whites), chopped
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

Whisk together marinade ingredients, place meat in a dish, and pour marinade over top. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes, but the longer the better. We cooked one piece after 30 minutes and one piece the next day, and the second one had more flavor (and was more tender). To cook, grill or cook in a pan over medium heat to your liking. It shouldn't take more than 3-5 minutes per side. Make sure you don't move the meat around while it's cooking, so you get a nice sear! When it's ready to flip (at the earliest), it will come up from the cooking surface easily.