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Trading up Trader Vic’s

18 Feb

Colman Andrews writes wonderfully about Trader Vic’sinSaveur Issue #80
Makes us want to don a hibiscus-print dress, stick a gardenia in our hair, pop in South Pacific, and knock back a mai tai or two. Pupus anyone?
“When I think back on my many dinners at what was once, without question, my favorite restaurant, I recall first and maybe most of all the seductive aromas: the faint hint of smoldering wood from the Chinese ovens; the perfume of gardenias garnishing drinks; the sweet fragrance of the hot towels presented after the finger-food appetizers; the meaty scent of the rum-and-sugar-glazed barbecued pork and the roasted Indonesian lamb, with its hint of curry. After the aromas, I remember the music: soft, slightly fuzzy, the sounds of slack-key guitar bands and Martin Denny– esque exotica, issuing from little speakers under palm-leaf ceiling panels above the replica tikis, giant conch shells, or amber glass fishnet floats. Then I remember the almost military orchestration of the service: the hostesses in their tailored hibiscus-print dresses, the captains in their jaunty crested blazers, the three (if not four) levels of waiters and busboys in uniforms of descending grandeur; the practiced presentations at the table of communal servings of stir-fried vegetables or crusty cottage-fried potatoes dished up with unobtrusive flair, and the deft carving of heroic slabs of glistening mahogany-hued meat. “…. My parents started taking me and my sister there for dinner. On my earliest visits, my favorite dish was a combination plate—I don’t remember what it was called—that involved a hamburger patty, a toasted english muffin, a fried banana, and a heap of crisp shoestring potatoes. I subsequently learned to love the Cosmo tidbits—an appetizer assortment that included crab Rangoon (fried crabmeat-filled wontons), sweet barbecued spareribs, slices of lacquered pork loin, and deep-fried shrimp. I also developed an affection for the mahimahi, which was scattered with shards of almond, and, later, macadamia nuts—and certainly for the snowball: a big scoop of coconut ice cream topped with chocolate sauce and coated in shredded coconut.”

_________________________________________________

TRADER VIC’S LORE found a happy/tacky/tiki place in our imagination, huddled up against the memory of Greg Brady’s disasterous surfing wipeout caused by Bobby’s cursed ancient tiki necklace.
It steered our maiden voyage to Trader Vic’s on the Vegas strip. We slipped inside to enjoy a guilty pleasure and had the place nearly all to ourself. The mai tai was mostly shaved ice, but stiff. The lobster dumplings were sad little dough pockets smeared with something resembling seafood. $23. Thanks for coming out.

Perhaps Trader Vic’s is better reimagined. We are perfectly capable of riffing off the fabled Cosmo tidbits — an appetizer assortment that included crab Rangoon, sweet barbecued spareribs, slices of lacquered pork loin, and deep- fried shrimp.

And we’re going to serve them all, including rumaki, on this platter.

Of all these Polynesian delights, we are most enchanted by crab Rangoon — a treat we did not grow up with. The beauty of the faux-Burmese triangle shaped deep fried dumplings is in the dipping sauce. Less is more for the dumpling filling.


And yet, variations abound.

Ming Tsai tarts his Rangoon up by adding a cup of cranberry chutney to a 1 lb of crabmeat, 1/4 lb cream cheese, chopped chives and salt and pepper.
A baked version of the typically deep fried snack persuades us to preheat our oven to 350, spray muffin cups with cooking spray, press wontons so edges extend above the cup, and fill with a mixture of crab and neufchatel, and bake up to 20 minutes.
This gal makes her mother’s crab cheese wontons with 8 oz of cream cheese, three sticks of imitation crab meat (finely diced) two chopped green onion, 1/2 cup frozen peas, 1 tsp Knorr chicken bouillon, and lots of ground black pepper. She wraps them like tortelli and freezes them.

We also recall a crazy crockpot rangoon dip that melded crab, condensed shrimp bisque, worchester, lemon, soy sauce and scallion, and added cream cheese at the last minute. Served with vegetable sticks and fried wonton chips, it was a calorie bomb to be sure. But the hot dish is a nostalgic twist of 1950s clam and oyster dips.

More twists: smoked salmon cream cheese, or crab Rangoon-stuffed chicken breasts.

We are secretly planning to suss out chive or herb and garlic cream cheese. But we are going to err on the lighter side and keep the ratio heavy on the crab, so it’s not as bland and gloopy. And let’s not lie to ourselves — we want to make these using lobster.

TRADER VIC’S CRAB RANGOON
(A newer version calls for 6 oz crab, 2 tbsp cream cheese, two scallions (green part only), 1 chopped garlic clove, 1 tsp worchestershire, 1 tsp soy, 1 tsp toasted sesame oil, kosher salt and black pepper. Fry in peanut oil. Makes a dozen.)


We also think that chilling or freezing these before hand is a good idea.

36 pieces
1/2 cup fresh cooked crabmeat, drained and chopped
½ pound cream cheese, room temperature
½ teaspoon A-1 Steak Sauce
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
3 dozen wonton wrappers
1 egg yolk, well beaten
Vegetable oil, for deep frying
Chinese mustard
Chinese red sauce
Combine crabmeat with cream cheese, steak sauce and garlic powder in a medium bowl and blend to a paste. Refrigerate if not using right away. Set out 6 wonton wrappers at a time and place a heaping teaspoon of filling on each. Moisten edges of wrapper with egg yolk and gather corners at the top. Pinch edges together gently to seal.
Heat oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Heat oil in wok, deep fryer or electric skillet to 375 degrees. Add wontons in batches and fry until golden brown, turning often, about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to prepared baking sheet and place in warm oven while frying the remaining wontons. Serve hot with Chinese mustard and/or red sauce for dipping.

TRADER VIC’S MAI TAI
original version invented by Victor Bergeron, aka “Trader Vic”, in 1944.
2 ounces Jamaican rum (such as Appleton Rum Estate VX)
1/2 ounce orgeat syrup
1/2 ounce orange curacao
1/4 ounce simple syrup
Juice from one fresh lime
Sprig of mint (for garnish)
Pour rum, orgeat, orange curacao, simple syrup, and lime juice into a cocktail shaker with crushed ice. Shake well. Strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a slice of lime and a sprig of fresh mint on the edge of the glass.

TRADER VIC’S SCORPION

From “Trader Vic’s Tiki Party” by Steve Siegelman

2 ounces silver rum
1 ounce brandy
2 ounces orange juice
1 ½ ounces lemon juice
½ ounce orgeat syrup
1 cup crushed ice, plus additional ice cubes
1 gardenia, for garnish
Combine rum, brandy, orange juice, lemon juice, orgeat syrup and crushed ice in an electric blender and pulse for a few seconds, just until uniformly combined. Pour into a double old-fashioned glass and add ice cubes to fill. Garnish with the gardenia.

Tea and Sympathy

8 Jan

It’s painful to watch grieving loved ones in despair. You can offer solemn words and hugs, but we sometimes struggle trying to find the right way to let them feel supported. No matter if someone’s lost a loved one, a special pet, a job, a romance — food helps. Nothing too spicy or sophisticated — think mac and cheese, scalloped potatoes and ham.

The following homey classics aren’t sophisticated, but they’re in regular church ladies’ rotation for a reason: they are comforting, uncomplicated, and always appreciated.
If you’re really on your game, give someone you care about a food hug.
UPDATE: SEE NEW KING RANCH CASSEROLE VERSION AT BOTTOM!
UPDATE: church lady casserole a.k.a Peas Be With You!

JANICE BEATON’S MAC AND CHEESE

An 8 oz or 240 g block of cheese yields approximately 2 cups (500 mL) of grated cheese.

1/4 cup (60 mL) butter

1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped onions

1 tbsp (15 mL) minced garlic

6 tbsp (90 mL) flour

4 cups (1 L) hot milk

salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsp (30 mL) Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp (2 mL) cayenne

2 cups (500 mL) grated cheese (Janice says mix one cup of Gruyère or aged gouda cheese with one cup of old cheddar, edam or crumbled blue cheese)

1 pkg of penne (1 lb or 500 g)

1/2 cup (125 mL) coarse breadcrumbs

Bring 5 quarts (5 L) of water to a boil in a large pot.

In the meantime, saute the onion and garlic in butter over medium heat for five minutes (without browning). Add flour and cook (this mixture is called a roux) for approximately 10 minutes over low heat. Slowly whisk in the hot milk, along with the mustard and cayenne, to make a bechamel (white) sauce. Cook bechamel for 15 minutes over medium low heat.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Cook the pasta for approximately 13 minutes in rapidly boiling water. The pasta should be cooked less than al dente, as baking time in the oven will cook it further. Drain.

Add half of the cheese to the bechamel and stir until the mixture is homogenous. Add the pasta and mix just until blended. Place one-third of the pasta/sauce mixture in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch (23 by 33 cm, 3.5 L) pan. Sprinkle with half the remaining cheese. Add another one third of the pasta and top with the rest of the grated cheese. Layer the last portion of pasta over this and top with the breadcrumbs. Bake, covered (aluminum foil will do), for 35 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 400 degreesF (200 degrees C), remove foil and bake 15 minutes longer, until the pasta is bubbling and the breadcrumbs are browned. Let stand for five minutes, cut and serve. Serves 4 to 6.

BEEF SOUR CREAM NOODLE BAKE

2 pounds lean ground beef

8 ounces cream cheese

1/2 cup sour cream

1 pound cottage cheese

Minced green pepper

1/3 cup choped green onion

1/2 cup grated swiss cheese

2 cups tomato sauce

8 ounce package of egg noodles

In a large pan, cook noodles in boiling, salted water until tender. Drain & set aside. In a large bowl, mix together cream cheese, cottage cheese and sour cream. Add onion and peppers. Set aside. Brown ground beef & drain any fat. Season with salt and pepper. Add tomato sauce to ground beef. Grease 9 x 13 inch cake pan or casserole dish, and arrange the following layers: Noodles, cheese mixture, meat mixture – then repeat. Top with grated Swiss cheese. Bake at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes.

KING RANCH CHICKEN CASSEROLE

You don’t want to offer anything too spicy or exotic, but this has a cheesy, creamy, comfort. Great picture here.

Note: If you can’t find Ro-Tel tomatoes, substitute one 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes and one 4-ounce can chopped green chiles. Cojack is a creamy blend of Colby and Monterey Jack cheeses. Jack cheese can be used in its place.
KING RANCH CASSEROLE
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 medium onions, chopped fine
2 jalapeno chiles, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 (10-ounce) cans Ro-Tel tomatoes (see note)
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into ½-inch slices
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
4 cups shredded Cojack cheese (see note)
Salt and pepper
2¼ cups Fritos corn chips, crushed

1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 450 degrees. Lay tortillas on two baking sheets, lightly coat both sides with cooking spray, and bake until slightly crisp and browned, about 12 minutes. Cool slightly, then break into bite-sized pieces. Using potholders, adjust top oven rack to middle position.

2. Heat butter in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook onions, chiles, and cumin until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook until most of liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Add cream and broth, bring to simmer, and cook until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in chicken and cook until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Off heat, add cilantro and cheese and stir until cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Scatter half of tortilla pieces in 13 by 9-inch baking dish set over rimmed baking sheet. Spoon half of filling evenly over tortillas. Scatter remaining tortillas over filling, then top with remaining filling.

4. Bake until filling is bubbling, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle Fritos evenly over top and bake until Fritos are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Cool casserole 10 minutes. Serve.

To make ahead: The casserole can be assembled through step 3 and refrigerated for up to 1 day. When ready to serve, cover casserole with foil and bake until filling is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove foil, top with Fritos, and proceed with rest of step 4 as directed

Dishy Dinner Party Dish

18 Sep

We’re feeling a pang for the recently departed Sheila Lukins, arbiter of 1980s food tastes, including the then-unheard-of raspberry vinegar. We recently snapped up a copy of one of the best-selling cookbooks of all time, Lukins’ Silver Palate Cookbook.
This baby holds the coveted recipe for Chicken Marbella, a culinary marvel and memory maker.

In the ’80s, you couldn’t go to a dinner party or a picnic in the park without somebody serving it. The weird-sounding blend of olives, capers and prunes was the first main-course dish to be offered at the famous New York shop. It swept like wildfire into households everywhere, and for good reason. It’s fabulous.

We’re toying with the idea of serving it as chicken wings or chicken tenders. But first, we’re going to cook it old school in homage to Lukins as we lovingly pore over her hand-drawn illustrations and bright tasting creations that remain as relevant today as ever.

CHICKEN MARBELLA

Recipe from The Silver Palate Cookbook

“This is good hot or at room temperature. When prepared with small drumsticks and wings, it makes a delicious hors d’oeuvre. The overnight marinating is essential to the moistness of the finished product: the chicken keeps and even improves over several days of refrigeration; it travels well and makes excellent picnic fare. Since Chicken Marbella is such a spectacular party dish, we give quantities to serve 10 to 12, but the recipe can be divided to make smaller amounts if you wish.”

4 chickens, 2 1/2 pounds each, quartered

1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed

1/4 cup dried oregano

coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

1 cup pitted prunes

1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives

1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice

6 bay leaves

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white wine

1/4 cup Italian parsley or fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine chicken quarters, garlic, oregano, pepper and coarse salt to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.

Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork at their thickest, yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice.

With a slotted spoon transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pass remaining pan juices in a sauceboat.

To serve Chicken Marbella cold, cool to room temperature in cooking juices before transferring to a serving platter. If chicken has been covered and refrigerated, allow it to return to room temperature before serving. Spoon some of the reserved juices over chicken.

FROM THE “THAT WAS THEN” FILES…

Fisher Stevens looked like a middle aged man in this ’80s Seventeen magazine recipe for Spanish chicken, but he was only 21:

fisher's famous chic 1

fisher's famous chic 2

The recipe stands the test of time. It is simple and tasty.

FISHER’S FAMOUS CHICKEN

1/3 cup flour

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp paprika

1 medium broiler/frying chicken, cut into eighths

3 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 green and 1 red pepper, cut into strips

1/4 cup chicken broth

1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste

2 tomatoes, cut into wedges

3/4 cup small black olives, pitted

In a pie plate or shallow dish, mix flour, salt, pepper and paprika. Roll chicken parts in mixture until completely coated. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Place chicken parts in skillet; cook until golden brown on all sides. Remove chicken from skillet, and set aside. Using same skillet you browned chicken in, saute chopped onion, garlic and peppers over medium heat, stirring often until onion is soft and transparent. Add broth and tomato paste, and deglaze skillet by scraping up any browned chicken bits that remain on its surface; stir until sauce is smooth and well-blended. Return chicken to skillet, then add tomato wedges and olives. Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 25 minutes. Serves four to six.

Vintage vantage

18 Sep

What, pray tell, is this little bit of terrific?

We are so charmed by the little cocktail forks…. Our little fish dish is going to become the perfect pupu platter. Inspired by our Trader Vic’s obsession, we can picture serving rumaki or crab Rangoon with dipping sauce, or an assortment of mini grilled skewers.

Such a find!

But we wish we also had this to our inventory

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709D2A89-16C2-4F40-96A2-5F2900CFC457.jpeg

RUMAKI
This appeared on a Don the Beachcomer menu from 1941. Traditionally spiced chicken liver, water chestnuts wrapped in bacon.
But works with scallops, shrimp, smoked oysters, pineapple or stuffed olives.

Marinade:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 teaspoon sugar

Combine soy sauce, ginger, sherry and sugar in a small bowl. Add the chicken livers and water chestnut pieces and marinate them in the refrigerator for 1/2 hour.
Place 1 chicken liver piece and 1 chestnut piece in the center of each bacon-half, wrap, and secure with a toothpick. Tuck in green onion if you wish.
Place the Rumaki on a broiler pan or shallow baking pan and broil, about 5 or 6 inches from the heat, until the bacon is crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Or, you can bake the appetizers in a 375° oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Mythical New York never fades…

17 Sep

tavern_on_the_green

 

Tavern on the Green is closing.

From its perch in Central Park west, the elegant, multi-chandeliered Manhattan institution is said to have been in steady decline after peaking in the 1980s.

Its reputation as overpriced with mediocre service and cuisine were its ruin. Even the fabulous Jeremiah Tower couldn’t save it.

02_tavernotgreen_lgl

We strolled past one perfectly misty October afternoon and have always regretted not popping in for a cup of tea and dessert or a stiff drink. But, hey, we’re no sucker and we’re glad we saved our dough for Nobu.

But still. To imagine Tavern in its former glory… sigh. We especially like this New York Times reader’s comment:

“A family celebration and Mr. Woody Allen in a room next door. We discussed the pronunciation of Moet. All I could think was that he would ask me to play in his band as a ten-year old clarinetist.” — Kavi

The taste of a place you’ve never been to — leafy green trees in summer or polka dotted with white lights during winter, sparkling crystal, porcelain tea pots, a wealthy, elderly relation treating you after a matinee. Close your eyes. Invent some memories. Cook these recipes:

Tavern on the Green’s Maine Lobster Bisque

2 ½ cups dry white wine

10 cups fish stock

2 -1 ½ lb. lobsters

4 oz. butter

8oz onions, chopped

4oz carrots, chopped

4oz celery, chopped

10 oz. tomatoes, chopped

3oz. brandy

1 bay leaf

1 oz. tarragon

pinch cayane pepper

2/3 tsp. paprika

1 clove garlic, chopped

4oz roux

heavy cream

creme fraiche

salt and pepper to taste

Poach lobsters in rapidly boiling wine and fish stock for 6 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, remove meat from shell, discard coral and tomally, reserve shell and cooking liquid. Refrigerate meat and coarsley chop the shells.

In a separate stock pot, melt 4 oz. butter. Add onions, carrots, celery and tomatoes. Cook til tender.

Add the shells and cook til red. Add brandy and flambe. When flames go out, add 2 cups white wine, bay leaf, tarragon, a pinch of cayane pepper, paprika and garlic.

Saute mixture for approx. 2 minutes. Add reserved cooking liquid and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.

Add 4oz roux and cook 30 mins. more. Puree contents in a blender or food processor, strain well. Return soup to stock pot and add chopped lobster meat, heavy cream, salt and pepper.

Finish soup with creme fraiche mixed with tarragon and serve.

 

Tavern on the Green’s Chicken Francais

4 (6-oz. ea) boneless skinless chicken breasts
flour, for dredging
2 ounces clarified butter
1 cup white wine
2 small shallots, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
salt and white pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons Dijon-style whole grain mustard
1/2 cup heavy cream

Pound chicken breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap to make uniform thickness for even cooking. Dredge chicken breasts in flour, shaking off excess. Heat clarified butter in saute skillet over medium-high heat. Place chicken in pan and saute until cooked halfway through, about three minutes. Reduce heat to medium.

Turn over chicken and add minced shallots and garlic, cooking one minute until you can smell the aroma of garlic. Add wine to deglaze pan. Season with salt and pepper. Add mustard and stir into sauce. Let sauce cook for two minutes to reduce, then add heavy cream. Let sauce cook for another two minutes to thicken sauce slightly.

Serve with chardonnay.

Mark Sewall, Tavern on the Green, Inn at Silver Lakes, Helendale

 

Tavern on the Green Cheesecake
Servings: 6-8

1 b Cream Cheese

1 cup sugar

¼ tsp salt

2 cups sour cream

5 egg yolks

¼ cup heavy cream

½ cup milk

1 tbsp each orange and lemon zest

 

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees.

Mix the cream cheese, sugar, salt and sour cream. When it is smooth, add the egg yolks, one at a time, the heavy cream and milk. Stir in the lemon and orange zest. Mix until smooth.

Pour the mixture into a prepared 10-inch cake mould. Set in a larger pan and surround with one inch of very hot water. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.