Weekend food with Darina Allen: A week in New York

I spent a week in New York over the St Patrick’s Day festival. Even though the primary reason was to do events and interviews to promote Ireland and my latest book, Darina Allen, Simply Delicious: The Classic Collection (quite a mouthful!), it was also a brilliant opportunity to check out the New York and Brooklyn food scene.

Brooklyn has many tempting options. I love Roman’s, Marlow & Sons, The Diner, Hometown Bar B Que, and I also hear good things about Ugly Baby but we chose Chez Ma Tante (90 Calyer St) this time, and had a super delicious Sunday brunch, so good that I wished I’d been able to get back for dinner.

We particularly loved the oysters with parsley oil and yuyu, a 3in-high kale quiche with a bitter leaf salad, chips with aioli, stracciatella with toasted almonds, raisins, preserved lemons, and marjoram with sourdough toast. The standout dish was its craggy meltingly rich corn pancakes with maple butter.

There are pancakes and there are pancakes but these were by far the best I ever tasted: sweet, salty, crisp, and buttery on the outside, soft melting and irresistibly gritty inside. 

Tiny, Japanese panelled restaurant Hall is another little gem in the Flatiron. The juicy Washu (not wagyu) beef burger, served deliciously pink on a brioche bun, was delectable and only $5.99.

You also need to know about Superiority Burger, a tiny cult café on 430 East 9th St, in the East Village. It’s a veggie burger spot and to quote the forthright chef owner Brooks Headley, “occasionally vegan by accident”. The produce is superb — don’t miss the Superiority burger. There are different specialities every day including homemade gelato and sorbet. 

I Sodi and Via Carota in the West Village are two of my enduring favourites. I love the simple, rustic, but always edgy food that much-loved chefs Rita Sodi and Jody Williams offer. Its version of cacio e pepe, the creamy peppery Roman pasta dish, is the best in New York.

This is also the spot to enjoy a homey plate of braised tripe. No reservations at Via Carota, it’s open till midnight so is particularly worth remembering for late-night dining.

King on King’s St is wowing New Yorkers with its seasonal Italian menu — home-style cooking with a daily changing menu. The light is particularly wonderful at lunchtime in the chic but cosy dining room with the bonus of beautiful art.

La Mercerie Café and Roman and William’s Guild is a café on 53 Howard St in Soho and a luxury design store; super chic.

I also returned to both Café Altro Paradiso and Cervo’s, another favourite with lots of small plates, great salads and cocktails. I particularly loved the tortilla with butter beans and chorizo.

Daily Provisions on East 19th is my all-time favourite breakfast or brunch spot, certainly the very best house-cured bacon and egg sandwich in New York. They serve it in a brioche bun, both the texture and flavour are totally delicious. Don’t miss the gougère filled with mushrooms or spinach scrambled eggs.

The lively little Parisian-style café Buvette, on 42 Grove St, is also top of my list. Super coffee, viennoiserie, and little plates. Then there’s Maialino for many good things but if you haven’t already had its cacio et pepe scrambled eggs with sourdough toast put it on your bucket list.

Thrice Cooked Chips with Aioli

Serves 5-6

Almost everyone who ate at Chez ma Tante in Brooklyn ordered these chips, they come piled high on a plate, piping hot and crisp with a bowl of garlic aioli for dipping on the side.

4 -6 large potatoes (Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks)

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until almost fully cooked. Peel, cut into chips to a desired size.

Heat dripping or good quality oil to 160C/320F. Cook the chips in batches until golden, drain well.

Note: Do not overload the basket, otherwise the temperature of the oil will be lowered, consequently the chips will be greasy rather than crisp. Shake the pan once or twice, to separate the chips while cooking.

To Serve: Heat the oil to 190C/375F and fry once more until crisp and a deep golden colour. Shake the basket, drain well, toss onto kitchen paper, sprinkle with a little salt, pile high on a serving plate and serve with a bowl of aioli on the side for delicious dipping.

Aioli (Garlic Mayonnaise)

Serve with cold cooked meats, fowl, fish, eggs, and vegetables.

2 egg yolks, preferably free range

1-4 cloves garlic, crushed

¼ teaspoon salt

Pinch of English mustard or ¼ tsp French mustard

1 dstsp white wine vinegar

8 fl oz (225ml) oil (either sunflower, arachide, or olive oil, or a mixture) — We use 6 fl oz (175ml) arachide oil and 2 fl oz (50ml) olive oil; alternatively use 7/1.

2 tsp of freshly chopped parsley (optional)

Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the mustard, garlic, salt, and the white wine vinegar (keep the whites to make meringues). Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop, whisking at the same time. Within a

minute you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens you can add the oil a little faster, but don’t get too cheeky or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace. Add the chopped parsley. Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar if necessary.

If the aioli curdles it will suddenly become quite thin, and if left sitting, the oil will start to float to the top of the sauce. If this happens you can quite easily rectify the situation by putting another egg yolk or 1-2 tablespoons of boiling water into a clean bowl, then whisk in the curdled aioli, a half teaspoon at a time until it emulsifies again.

Superiority Burger

Makes 8 — 10 patties

200g (7oz) of red quinoa

110g (4oz) onion, chopped

2 tsp ground toasted fennel seeds

1 tsp chilli powder

200g chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 tsp white wine vinegar

150g (5oz) diced carrots

25g (1oz) coarse breadcrumbs

75g (3oz) walnuts, toasted and crushed

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tbsp hot chilli sauce

2 tbsp non-modified potato starch

Extra virgin olive oil for frying patties

To serve: Toasted buns, shredded lettuce, roasted tomatoes, pickles, Muenster cheese, and if you like sauces, honey, mustard, or a sauce of your choice.

Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F). Cook the quinoa in 300mls (10floz) of salted water until fluffy, about 45 minutes, then cool and reserve.

In a separate pan, sauté the onion until translucent and browned, and season with salt and pepper, the fennel seeds and chilli powder. Add the chickpeas and keep on the heat for five to 10 minutes, stirring constantly.

Deglaze the hot pan with the white wine vinegar and scrape everything stuck to the bottom of the pan back into the mix.

Using a potato masher, roughly smash the onion-chickpea mixture. Mix the chickpea mash by hand with the cooled quinoa.

Roast the carrots in the oven until dark around the edges and soft, about 25 minutes.

Add the carrots to the chickpea-quinoa mixture. Add the breadcrumbs, walnuts, lemon, parsley, and chilli sauce and season again with salt and pepper, until it tastes sharp.

Mix the potato starch with 1 tablespoon of water to create a cloudy, thick slurry. Fold the slurry into the burger mix as the binding agent.

Form the mixture into eight to 10 patties and sear in oil in a hot frying pan or cast iron skillet until fully browned, about three minutes on each side.

To serve, place each patty on a toasted bun with shredded iceberg lettuce, roasted red tomatoes, two pickle slices, Muenster cheese (if you like), and sauces such as honey mustard.

Taken from Superiority Burger Cookbook by Brooks Headley

Stracciatella with Raisins, Toasted Almonds, Preserved Lemons and Marjoram

Stracciatella is soft creamy cheese made from Buffalo milk in Bergamot near Puglia. It has a similar texture to the centre of Burrata.

Serves 6

110g (4oz) toasted almonds, coarsely and unevenly chopped

110g (4oz) plump raisins

5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

35-50g (1½-2oz) preserved lemon coarsely diced

Espelette or Aleppo pepper

225g (8oz) stracciatella

Flaky sea salt

Fresh annual marjoram leaves

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Mark 6. Blanch and peel the almonds, spread out on a baking tray and toast in the preheated oven for eight to 10 minutes or until golden brown. (You can also do this in a frying pan on a medium heat.) Set aside to cool, then chop coarsely and unevenly.

Put the raisins into a little bowl, cover with boiling water and allow to plump up for 10 to 15 minutes.

Drain and dry the raisins, put into a bowl with the toasted almonds and diced preserved lemon. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, toss gently.

To serve, put a couple of tablespoons of stracciatella onto a serving plate, spoon some of the raisin, almond and preserved lemon mixture on top.

Scatter with annual marjoram leaves. Sprinkle with a little pinch of Espelette or Aleppo pepper and flaky sea salt. Serve with a few pieces of sourdough toast. Repeat with the other plates.

Note: If stracciatella is difficult to source, buy the best mozzarella you can find, coarsely chop and cover with 2-3 tablespoons of rich cream. Marinade

Cacio e Pepe Scrambled Eggs

Serves 4

Inspired by the delicious cacio e pepe scrambled eggs at Maialino.

15g (½oz) butter

8-10 organic eggs

50ml (2fl oz) milk and cream, mixed

50g (2oz) Pecorino, grated

1 tbsp freshly cracked best quality black pepper

Salt

To serve: Chargrilled sourdough bread or toast

Whisk the eggs with the milk/cream and salt. Melt the butter in a sauté pan. Pour in the egg and cook over a medium hear stirring continually with a straight ended wooden spoon. As soon as it begins to scramble, add the cracked pepper and grated Pecorino.

Continue to cook for another couple of minutes until cooked to a soft loose scramble. Taste, adjust the seasoning. Turn out onto warm plates, sprinkle with a little more Pecorino and serve with grilled bread or toast.

Hot Tips

Prepare for Easter

Don’t forget to order your Easter Spring lamb from your local family craft butcher. The milk fed lamb is sweet, succulent and must be ordered ahead.

There’s still time to make the Simnel Cake, check out our favourite recipe on our website: letters.cookingisfun.ie/2010/03/27/baking-for-easter/

Time to get growing

Don’t miss theGrow, Cook, Eat programme. Yet another Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni joins the growing lists of TV cooks — chef Katie Sanderson of the Fumbally made her debut as series chef on Grow, Cook, Eat a few weeks ago, cooking a tempting dish of Berber eggs, delicious, simple and homemade, with home grown onions and free range eggs. Check it out on Wednesday nights on RTÉ 1 at 8.30pm.

Wild and Free….

Spring has brought a multitude of wild foods to forage, wild garlic, nettles, rock samphire, sea beet… Make a note of where you see the white sprays of the Blackthorn blossom in the hedgerows, that’s where you’ll find a fine crop of sloes in the Autumn. The Whitethorn or Hawthorn leaves come followed by the flowers which produce Haws in the Autumn. The Blackthorn flowers first and the leaves come later.

Five Great Cakes with Pamela Black

Pamela Black is our resident flamboyant cake maker — fast becoming a legend.

In this packed morning class, Pam will show you how to make five great cakes by different techniques. A classic, super versatile, Victoria sponge, a superb chocolate cake, our favourite coffee cake, a Celebration cake and a feather light sponge with summer berries. Expect lots of top tips from Pam, lots of fun and of course you’ll taste each delicious creation. Treat yourself or give a spontaneous present to a special friend. Thursday, April 18, from 9.30am to 12.30pm; go to cookingisfun.ie for more details or call 021-4646785

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