October 31, 2011

Skillet Apple Pie (aka my newest obsession)

You know me as a friendly foodie, an easygoing gal, someone who likes to live and let live, agrees we can't all like the same foods or that would be boring right? Well that ends RIGHT DAMN NOW BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO MAKE THIS PIE.

I found the recipe via Flicks And Food, a San-Antonio based website that reviews food, restaurants, movies, and shares some delicious recipes, too. I follow them on Facebook & Twitter and stopped in my tracks when I recently saw a recipe for Skillet Apple Pie. Then and there I declared "it will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine!"

And it was AWESOME.

This couldn't be easier--melt a stick of butter and a cup of brown sugar in the skillet BEFORE placing the first crust in the cast-iron. Add your filling, top with the second crust, brush the crust with egg & sugar, and let the oven and the cast iron get to bubbling.

Sweet googaly-MOOGALY was THIS outstanding. The butter and sugar caramelize in the most delicious way, making the crust chewy and almost like a crackly brulée. YUM. You know how sometimes you take a bite of something and think "Hmm, it's missing something?" Not here. This is crack pie, I'm telilng you. It will be on my Thanksgiving menu this year, and I have a feeling I'll be trying all kinds of fillings. Up next, Skillet PEACH pie!

The recipe is below (note: I only used 2 lbs of Granny Smith total, and vanilla ice cream instead of butter pecan. There really is no wrong way to do this!)
See the original post here on Flicks & Food and tell them I said Howdy!

Now get back in that kitchen and finish making that pie! You can thank me later...by saving me a piece. Seriously...GO!

Skillet Apple Pie

• 2 pounds Granny Smith apples
• 2 pounds Braeburn apples
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 3/4 cup granulated sugar
• 1/2 cup butter
• 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
• 1 (14.1-oz.) package refrigerated piecrusts
• 1 egg white
• 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
• Butter-pecan ice cream

• 1. Preheat oven to 350º. Peel apples, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. Toss apples with cinnamon and 3/4 cup granulated sugar.
• 2. Melt butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat; add brown sugar, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, and place 1 piecrust in skillet over brown sugar mixture. Spoon apple mixture over piecrust, and top with remaining piecrust. Whisk egg white until foamy. Brush top of piecrust with egg white; sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar. Cut 4 or 5 slits in top for steam to escape.
• 3. Bake at 350º for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly, shielding with aluminum foil during last 10 minutes to prevent excessive browning, if necessary. Cool on a wire rack 30 minutes before serving. Serve with butter-pecan ice cream.

October 17, 2011

London: Lotus

I had an amazing visit in London--best one yet! Before I knew it, my last night in London had arrived. ABF was saving the best for last--we took the DLR (above-ground train) a quick stop or two to Lotus, a Chinese restaurant on a floating barge.

The layout was lovely, bright, and the rooms were buzzing pleasantly with conversation. It was a veritable United Nations of a dining room--people of all ages, races, and walks of life happily laughing, dining, and smiling. I'm in!

We started with something cool to drink-- a Tsingtao beer for ABF and a crisp Sauvignon Blanc for me.

As we sipped our drinks, we saw them bring a warming plate to our table. This was getting interesting!

Spring rolls came quickly, and there are 3 to an order, but they were already cut neatly in 2 for perfect, easy sharing. These were delicious, not greasy at all, and scrumptiousscrumptiousscrumptious!

We also ordered delicious shrimp fritters, again perfectly sliced in 2 for perfect sharing. These were fantastic, too.

And because this is London and they keep it classy, we had bowls with warm water and lemon slices to dip our hands in after all that fabulous finger food.

Up next, my main dish of chicken and sautéed veggies. This was light, fresh, a bit of heat to it. ABF's mixed veggies and chicken dish with cashews is warming in the background on the hot plate, along with the spring rolls and rice!

Everything was so good!
ABF's dish had a lot more mushrooms, but it was equally tasty. The food here was stellar from start to finish.
Continuing on the classy front, we got more "freshening" towels for final cleanup after all the nomming! Overall, I was so delighted with this outing. It was excellent, swift, and friendly (! in London!) service, top-notch food, and the location couldn't be more fun. If you're in London and you have time to take the DLR out east, stop by Lotus and have a fabulous floating meal. :)
The Lotus Chinese Floating Restaurant

9 Oakland Quay

Inner Millwall Dock

London, E14 9EA

Tel: 020 7515 6445

October 13, 2011

London: Bangladeshi on Brick Lane

After our Jack the Ripper tour (much less creepy than the one I took on my first trip to the UK in 1996, which happened on a cold, dark, rainy night). This time it was interesting but not scary, and a good 2 hours of serious walking. LaShauna & I were hungry, and we ended up having dinner on nearby Brick Lane, London's famed neighborhood known for having a jam-packed selection of curry houses.

Our tour guide mentioned Sheraz as a good spot for dinner--this restaurant is the site of the former "Ye Olde Frying Pan," which is where Mary Nicholls had her last pint before becoming the first victim to Jack the Ripper. The Ye Old Frying Pan sign is still fixed to the Sheraz building. The photo was too dark, but trust me, it's there!

The current incarnation of Sheraz is anything but foreboding. The guide clinched it for us by adding that we would get a 20 percent off discount for eating there after taking the tour. Deal!

It was pretty late, close to 10pm, so we got a seat immediately. Sheraz is one of the Brick Lane spots that serves alcohol (many don't for religious reasons), so LaShauna & I each ordered a glass of wine (nicely priced at around 4 pounds (6-7 dollars)!

Our server quickly brought us Chapati (£ 1.95~ around 3 USD), a crisp, unleavened bread, paired with a quartet of insanely flavorful, spicy (some hot, some HOT) chutneys, and I could easily have eaten too much of it!

I ordered the Chot Poti (£ 2.50~5 bucks), described as a famous appetizer in Bangladeshi cuisine. The chickpeas are cooked with lentils, cumin, chilli & coriander with tangy tamarind sauce. It wasn't searing hot, but deliciously tangy.

LaShauna had the chicken tikka starter (£ 3.25~7 USD)--I had a bite--tender white meat, spicy sauce, and soothing swirls of a cooling yogurt sauce baked in a clay oven- what's not to love?

For my entrée: Aam Murgh (£ 7.50~12 USD), which the menu calls a favo(u)rite dish of Bangladesh: chicken cooked with mangoes in a special Bangladeshi sauce of coriander & green chilis. This had sweet,ripe pieces of mango dotted through the spicy red sauce, but it wasn't sicky sweet. I really liked this dish--a great mix of savory & sweet.

LaShauna ordered the Tandoori Chicken (£ 7.50~12 USD) which she said was quite delicious.

While the salty, almost Pringle-like flatbread was great, I also enjoyed the order of Naan bread that came with my mango chicken--perfect for sopping up the rich, tangy sauce.

With the reasonable prices AND our 20% discount (which they honored without a fuss), we were delighted with our meal and our first foray into Bangladeshi food!
Whether you hit the affordable (and spacious, clean, and friendly) Sheraz or another nearby Curry House, don't skip a visit to Brick Lane if you're in London!

13 Brick Lane
London, E1 6PU
United Kingdom
020 7247 5755

October 12, 2011

London: Gordon Ramsay (part 2)

This meal was so wonderful that I just can't cram it all into one long post. This one covers our main courses and desserts (and the fabulous service from start to finish).

I was ordering from the fixed price menu and chose the Shin of Angus beef braised in red wine. It's served ‘en croûte,’ or in a pastry crust, with confit potatoes and mushrooms à la crème, with a parmesan emulsion. Sounds fancy, right? I was not prepared for the amazing, deep, layered flavors. This wasn't just some shredded meat.

It was tender, juicy, tangy from the red wine, and the pastry crust had a gorgeous parsley leaf perfectly baked into it. Even the Parmesan-crusted carrots were showstoppers. Attention to detail was perfect, not pretentious, and this was some down-home, comfort food that went off to college and got a Master's Degree. Wow.

LaShauna's dish was the Best end of Cotswold lamb with confit breast and braised shank, navarin of autumn vegetables and vitelotte potatoes. Gorgeous and cooked to her order--she was delighted with her choice, as I was with mine.

You'd think our meal was over, wouldn't you? How could there be more awesomeness? And yet there was! They brought us mango shakes in pretty glasses--we drank these down in no time. Light, not too sweet, and a perfect pause in the crave-worthy courses.

There was another server in the room who was from Italy (I'm forgetting his name, LaShauna!) When he heard that I was from Brooklyn, his eyes lit up and he peppered me with questions about where I live, how much I pay in rent, how's the commute, etc. He has been there before and wants to work there again, and when we wrapped up our conversation, he said "Maybe I see you in Brooklyn," and I have a feeling he just might! Again, I was just blown away at how personable and welcoming everyone was. You would think with such high-caliber food, setting, ratings, etc, there might be a bit of stuffiness, but you would be wrong. So deliciously wrong.

For dessert I picked the Banana parfait, another deconstructed dish with beautifully-appointed layers of peanut butter mousse and bitter chocolate sandwiched with caramelised bananas. It smelled heavenly and was light and lovely.

LaShauna's dessert was quite the stunner: Banoffee (a favorite British combo of toffee and banana-YES PLEASE) pie souffle, banana and salted caramel crumble. This was letter-perfect and she generously let me try a bite. It was almost ethereal!

I can't say enough about the amazing caliber of food. Every bite was packed with flavor, just right, and left me wanting more yet feeling perfectly satisfied. But above all of the deliciousness, the service left me almost speechless. I truly felt like I had come to someone's home for dinner, and they truly, truly, wanted to make sure that I enjoyed my visit. Which I did. Oh, how I did.

I stepped away briefly from the table to use the restroom (and someone leapt up to open the door for me--yeah, a girl could get used to this) and when I returned to the table, another unexpected treat was there: strawberry ice cream bombes in white chocolate shells--served on dry ice, of course! Thanks, LaShauna, for snapping a pick while they were still all smoky-looking!

One more touch before we left--dark, deep delicious chocolates on tiny trowels.
It's amazing how much deep, rich chocolate flavor can be in a teeny-tiny piece of chocolate!

After dinner, Robert asked if we'd like a tour of the kitchen. Now it was time for MY eyes to light up--oh my goodness yes! Robert led us back there and we got to see one of the most gleamingly-sparkling-clean kitchens you could ever dream of. My mother would LOVE it.

I was also delighted to see that the head chef is a woman! She was busy preparing pastry crust with another chef so we didn't bother them.

I could spend a lot more time going on and on about how amazing this experience was. Photos, words, and rapturous eye rolls just don't do it justice. Stellar, worth-the-flight-all-on-its-own service will have me dreaming about a return visit until it HAPPENS!
Thank you, Jean-Claude (that's him overseeing the arrival of some strawberry bombes to another table), Robert, and everyone else at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. You gave two American girls quite an experience that can probably only be topped by...another visit!
Restaurant Gordon Ramsay
68 Royal Hospital Road
020 7352 4441

October 11, 2011

London: Restaurant Gordon Ramsay (part 1)

My friend LaShauna had long praised Restaurant Gordon Ramsay (in London's Chelsea neighborhood) as a pinnacle in her dining experience, so when it turned out that we'd both be in London for a few days at the same time, she made this happen, and I will forever be grateful!

This is not an inexpensive place, but it's not completely outrageous, either. Still, we went for lunch and not dinner.
The interior was well-lit, warm, and sleek. We were the first to sit down and I quickly began to get nervous. I mean, beads of sweat on the forehead, do I belong here, am I in over my head nervous! It's laughable now, but I quickly realized the was the nicest place I'd ever been in my life, and I felt out of place, certain that any minute someone would escort me out as it was just clear I didn't fit in there. So silly!

The staff at Gordon Ramsay, however, quickly showed that this place not the least bit pretentious or stuffy. First, the surprisingly young female (!) sommelier, who's from Canada, asked if we'd like a drink. We started with a semi-dry Riesling. Crisp and delicious!

Up next, we met Robert (you'll see him later), whom LaShauna had met on her previous visit. When he found out that I live in Brooklyn, his eyes lit up and he told me his favorite BBQ place there--a place he discovered while training there with a chef. Robert was absolutely lovely and friendly, setting me completely at ease.

I ordered the set price lunch for 45 pounds, or almost 60 US dollars. Pricey yes, but I knew going in and I had saved up. THIS was the splurge of all splurges! LaShauna had tried the prix fixe last time, so she was going all-in with the a la carte.

First up came the bread and butter. You know it's not your every day...perfectly shaped like a beehive, and warm potato-rosemary slices and sourdough for us (2 of the many choices). Dreamy.

We were already on our way to an amazing meal!

Before our first courses came, the staff brought out a perfectly presented plate--langoustines with caviar in a fresh lemongrass consommé, which they poured at the table. Just lovely! Fresh, briny but not overly salty, and visually stunning. The sliced asparagus was stunningly fresh. If I didn't have better manners, I would have picked up the bowl and slurped every last drop.

The most impressive, noteworthy part of Restaurant Gordon Ramsay is definitely the service. Overseen by the effervescent Jean-Claude (though you're seeing Robert in this photo), not a single dish enters the dining area without passing inspection--servers stand at attention in the doorway until they get the discreet signal that everything passes muster.

My first course was the (deconstructed) salad of Szechuan pork, grilled tiger prawn, pickled & marinated vegetables, and daikon dressing. Aside from being visually smashing, it was also fresh and fabulous.

It was so pretty I almost hated to take a fork to it--and yet I did. Soft, tender pork, perfectly-cooked shrimp, and a bright, fresh dressing on the vegetables. Amazing!

LaShauna ordered the seared scallops, which also came with bacon, greens, peas and a poached quail's egg (they love quail eggs over there, don't they!) on top. She was very happy with her dish, too.

At this point we were both decidedly relaxed and happy, and we hadn't even hit the main courses yet! That post comes tomorrow......click HERE to go right to it!

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay
68 Royal Hospital Road
020 7352 4441

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