Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hart's Turkey Farm

Hart's Turkey Farm
I have no idea how old I had been the day when my father got that crazed look in his eye. I'll never know if his actions were premeditated or if he simply had a fever... a fever for Thanksgiving dinner. But I do remember his piling the clan into the car, and proceeding to drive about three hours and change north to New Hampshire to an institution I had never heard of before, but is well known to all presidential potentials during primary season. The place I speak of is Hart's Turkey Farm in Meredith, New Hampshire.
As fortune would have it, today we had an opportunity to go for one last day of skiing...t-shirt spring skiing is pretty bomb. And after the day had turned to mashed potatoes at Ragged Mountain, our jellied legs and stomach grumbles gave way to a need that must have resembled my father's driven by desire journey to New Hampshire so many years ago. A half hour drive later, and we had arrived at Hart's Turkey Farm. 
One of many dining rooms, note
the collection of turkey plates
as decor
The building seems smaller than image of the restaurant that randomly pops up in my dreams, especially now with the knowledge that it can hold up to 500 hundred people, and regularly welcomes bus tours and biker gangs... er ... gangs of bikers. It's an old school structure that has grown in size over the years since being opened by the Hart brothers in 1954. But the quality of the food has not changed. It's pretty affordable, generous in portion, simple and made from scratch. Wholesome, filling and comforting are so bred into the atmosphere and food served in this building that it's no wonder that the restaurant is a New Hampshire treasure.
The menu
Now, as you should be assuming, the dish that made Hart's famous is the turkey plate with stuffing, cranberry sauce, and gravy. But I should add that this place has a huge menu. There's turkey tempura, turkey pot stickers, turkey croquettes in addition to a pages-long menu of mozzarella sticks, salads, steaks, New England seafood, and pasta. So seriously, how could the bigger half and I possibly overlook ordering some sort of interesting appetizer?
Turkey croquettes with gravy
and cranberry sauce
We decided after much debate on the turkey croquettes. One order arrives with two turkey croquettes, served crispy and warm with a little dollop of house-made cranberry sauce and a generous smother of Hart's famous turkey gravy. The savory, warm and crispy on the outside croquettes were wonderful. Upon breaking the outer crust, you reveal a mixture of mashed potatoes, finely diced and sauteed onions, and minced dark and white meat turkey. It's like a little pocket of turkey day wrapped up in a package, especially when combined with the smooth, rich and salty gravy and that slightly tart but wonderfully sweet jellied cranberry sauce. 
The turkey plate
Of course, after the appetizer, I had to go with the turkey plate. There are three sizes that you can choose from: small, regular or jumbo. Since we had already gone with the appetizer and I am well aware that portions are generous, I ordered the small. (I know, you're disappointed in me.) I'm not going to hit you with all the fancy adjectives that I usually throw out, because you're probably getting sick of them. I'm just going to tell you what I had. It's thinly sliced white and dark meat turkey.... 
AHHH I CAN'T NOT WAX POETIC ABOUT THIS!!! The turkey is amazing. It's like your most successful Thanksgiving turkey... and while I think I'm going pretty pro with my t-day bird, this turkey is a sure thing without the three day brine, the lack of fridge space, and then the massive clean up. Each bite is juicy, never dried out. It tastes like a quality bird, prepared by people who do it every day, and totally rip each other up over anything that is less than perfect. The turkey prepared at Hart's must be prepared with some sort of brine to get the bird to stay so saturated with flavor... just a touch salty, but mainly clean, and even a little bit minerally at the end with the luscious dark meat.  Obviously it's fork tender, and as you dig through a bit of meat, you're going to give a little swipe in that delicious gravy, and a touch of the cranberry sauce. But then, to complete the bite, they have this incredible stuffing. 
Turkey close-up
Occasionally I'll go out to dinner at a local restaurant, something with early bird special type deals (hey.... the economy ain't what it was) and I'll order turkey with stuffing. The turkey might be acceptable, but damn, the stuffing almost always sucks. It'll be prepared with a touch of chicken stock and some kind of crappy stuffing mix. Not the stuffing at Hart's. They have this down to an art. I'm sure that the restaurant must prepare it's own turkey stock with the remnants of all the birds that they push through on a day to day basis. In addition to this, there seems to be an ample mix of the restaurant's rolls and corn bread, along with a generous mix of herbs and your necessary sweated down onions, etc in butter type veggies. The stuffing is light but balances the flavor of that perfect turkey, the gravy and the tartness of the cranberry sauce. 
If you do happen to make the journey to Hart's, don't snub your nose at offerings like the turkey club or for desserts the mudpie or Hart's root beer float (both amazing). But if you feel the siren call of Thanksgiving turkey when Thanksgiving is months and months away, you have but one mission. Head to Hart's, regardless of the multiple hour journey it may take to get there, and immediately take in the atmosphere, the good times, and that delicious turkey plate. 

Hart's Turkey Farm
233 Daniel Webster Highway
Meredith, NH 03253

Monday, March 12, 2012

Brooklyn Brewery

"Beer has dispelled the illness
which was in me."
One of the things that I was very eager to do during this most recent trip down to see Strathy was make a little jaunt into Brooklyn to visit the Brooklyn Brewery.  Seeing as how Strathy will soon be relocating from his current apartment in the Ironbound of Newark to a nice little space in Brooklyn, he was all but happy to oblige, and show me around a little of what will soon be his new neighborhood.
Strathy, my angel with beer tokens
The Brooklyn Brewery is located within what one could call the hipster heartland of New York. Though, as you will learn on the tour, it wasn’t always like that, and their location came about because when the brewery was founded in 1987 and looking for a location soon there after (though initially they had paid other breweries to prepare their recipe until coming to their own space), Williamsburg in Brooklyn had some of the most reasonable rent levels around the city. You’ll also pick up other interesting tid bits and stories along the tour, such as how initially the founders didn’t know about how they were supposed to pay off the mob, or how payment to Milton Glaser for the creation of their logo involved a lifetime guarantee of beer. Oh, and somebody stole a forklift at the beginning of the brewery days, and the founders  then stole it back… something like that. All these types of factoids make for an entertaining tour, but whatever. Let’s get to the beer.
Shiny new equipment
The current location of the Brooklyn Brewery is only about a year or so old. It’s located in an old stained glass factory, and all of the equipment inside was brought over from a German company. It took about a year for six of the German engineers to perfectly calibrate to the brew masters' liking, but to great results. Of the six or so brewmasters that they have on hand, any of these individuals and other employees can monitor all alerts that are going off in the brewery via their smart phones. Likewise, adjustments can be made to fix anything that might be going wrong from these devices, even while the person is located somewhere other than the actual brewery.
Our guide, located near the
facility's only bottling area
The bar area
The efficiency brought on by the upgrades in technology have led to expected upgrades in production for Brooklyn Brewery. They are currently located in 21 states, and numerous countries abroad, but are hoping to expand to be available in all states. In an interesting side note, only the liquid in kegs and in the 750 ml bottles are actually brewed in Brooklyn. All other regular bottles are brewed and packaged up at a facility in Utica, i.e., using Utica water, not Brooklyn water, thereby producing a difference in flavor in some of the varieties of beer, most noticeably the Brown Ale when one glugs on draft versus from a regular six pack. Last little brewing fact, the hops that are used are imported from Germany and Belgium in the form of pellets, but lager yeasts are cultivated, according to the guide, up in Utica, while ale yeasts are monitored down in Brooklyn.
Onto the beers that we were able to sample. I would guess owing to the size of the brewery, and the hoards of thirsty hipsters within, they’ve found that free tastings after a tour really don’t make sense. So as an equally opportune way of tasting several different varieties of beer, guests are invited to pay $20 bucks in order to get five beer tokens, and encouraged to grab a beer at the bar to enjoy while listening to the tour.
Bitter Ale, on cask offering
The first of the beers that I tried was the on cask offering (always go for the on cask offering), which was a bitter ale. True to it’s name, while the bitter didn’t show up until the very back end, it was a nice characteristic flavor note that presented itself after a long, smooth sip of this only slightly cool beverage. It wasn’t very carbonated, but just an overall, smooth, slightly spicy, little bit bitter at the end wonderful ale.
My cohort and long time friend, Strathy, dove right in on one of this favorite flavor profiles. Mary’s Maple Porter (sorry, no picture available) had the nice smooth chocolaty notes of a fine porter, but coffee flavor and robust aromas gave way at the end to that sweet, delightful flavor of maple syrup. It wasn’t cloying, or overly sweet, but just enough of a kiss to let you know that this beer was made with maple in mind. The beer was also delightfully smooth, only lightly carbonated, and had just a touch of hoppy bitterness to accentuate the sweetness.
Ama Bionda
Next on my list was a beer that was recommended by the tour guide, one which was brewed in partnership with the Amarcord Brewery in Apecchio, Italy, called the Ama Bionda. Normally I do not go for sweet beers, but I was a little seduced by the warm weather outside, and the opportunity to try something that is not readily available elsewhere. Upon further examination of the website, it appears that this beer is brewed over in Italy, using special orange blossom honey from Sicily and some very special water from springs that date back to the days of Rome. The recipe itself comes from a brewmaster over at Brooklyn Brewery, but it is the brewery in Italy that produces the beer as to capture a bit of the terroir of the land. And I think it was pretty successful. This is one of the sweeter beers that I’ve tasted, definitely utilizing a good dose of that wonderful light, floral honey, and other fragrances that derive from oranges and citrus. It doesn’t take like a hefeweizen, and I don’t think It’s supposed to. It just tastes like a very clean ale with a touch of sweetness, and fruit that must come from a very specific blend of malts. I think it was a little too sweet for Strathy… which I find odd, because he is a sweets hound. That’s right, Strath. I’m calling you out.
Brown Ale
Since we were already well on our way to a happy buzz and figured it wasn’t worth over doing it as there were more beverages to come later that evening, we made the Brown Ale, the particular brew that we had heard had a most detectable taste difference when tasting from a bottle versus that of a glass on tap, our final choice at the Brooklyn Brewery. Since I had only tasted this in bottles, I was eager to see if I could detect a difference as attributed to the differing water sources. I am sad to report that I could not.  I’m a loser. But the beer was delicious. Roasty delicious, and mildly spicy from the use of hops, it’s not quite a British brown ale, and not quite a southern brown ale, which is wicked sweet. The happy medium that they harmonize between these two styles just makes for a very robustly, roundly, and evenly keeled enjoyable dark beer. Despite not being able to detect a flavor difference, I still stand behind the delicious brown ale as one of my favorite dark beers.
And that does it for Brooklyn Brewery. Since their taps rotate regularly with very special offerings, I'll be back (-Schwarzenegger). It'll also be interesting to see where the brewery goes from here, as they're seeking to conquer the world and all. Delicious beer, and a fantastic time in Brooklyn. Doesn't get much better.

79 North 11th Street  
NY 11211
Taco truck!
And then beer munchies hit and we got tacos. I love tacos. 
And then I hit the lottery. No not really. But sometimes with friends, great beer and tacos, who really needs all that money anyway?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery

"I've never had knish." - your writer
"What the f*ck?!" - Strathy
Yonah Schimmel
And so we were off to Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery in Manhattan. Having never had a knish, I wasn't entirely sure what I should expect. I knew that they were potato based and involved some sort of pastry wrapping. I also was accutely aware that that this was one of those things that you can't get everywhere and is deeply embedded in Jewish culture. Long story short, I was both intrigued and delighted at the opportunity to try this comfort food, and to try it in a place that lies in high esteem among Jews and those lucky enough to be friends with Jews.
The font counter
Founded in 1910 on East Houston Street in Manhattan, this is a really unpresuming little shop. It's simple and a little cluttered on the inside, with a single tiny counter, a handful of tables at the back, photos and newspaper articles hung with pride all over the wall space, and smells of baked potato heaven that linger out onto the street on a cold day. Patrons drift in and out of the shop to pick up their beloved knishes and are greeted by a hardworking gentleman in a cap and apron that is obviously very proud of his wares.
A few tables at the back
So we entered this little shop, stepped up to the counter to examine the menu, and almost immediately the man behind the counter recognized that we intended to eat here. He graciously brought us to one of the tables at the back, and set us up with a couple menus. To order, I went with a classic potato knish, and since I love all things beets, I also ordered a glass of their borscht. My compatriot who was so horrified that I was still a knish virgin ordered a vegetable knish and a potato latke with sour cream and apple sauce.
Potato knish
The knish: You all know by now that I have a soft spot for anything that tastes homemade and comforting. This could become a dangerous habit for me, only prevented by the fact that I live four and a half hours away. Think of mashed potatoes that border the line between fluffy and dense enough to be a wonderful meal. They're not creamy, but they are rich. The spice flavor is earthy and deep with butter. Each bite of filling flavor is broken up by a simple smear of spicy mustard. And then there is the delight of the pastry that contains all of that starch. It is a bit one note in flavor, but god damn, if you only have one flavor to enjoy, it really should be of filling, buttery, slightly zesty potatoes.
The borscht: I love the ruby red color of beets. It seems to go for miles when eating the root vegetable sliced, pickled, in a salad, or roasted with a touch of tangy goat cheese. Now imagine the color that is produced when smearing a tiny bit of that goat cheese over a wonderful nugget of roasted beat. It's vibrant pink, isn't it? And the flavor? Well, that's a touch vinegary and tangy, sweet as all hell from the sugary beet, and also met with the vegetable flavor that you get from such a fundamentally vitamin-rich veggie. These flavors combined and pureed were the flavors of the borscht. Honestly, it did my hangover good, and was quite delicious.
The latke: I've had latkes before, but not quite like this. Unfortunately, the texture of this one kind of felt like it may have been warmed up in the nuker, because it was a touch greasy and limp. But the flavor of the shredded potatoes that had been browned nicely was delicious. With a touch of cool sour cream and a little apple sauce, it hit all those right notes of sweet, savory, and deep with more starch richness. 
I loved my first knish experience at Yonah Schimmel. The knishes were unique and brilliant and brimming with the culture, something preserved and alive and well in Manhattan. I really wish I had one right now. Thanks, Strath... per usual for opening my eyes. 

Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery
137 East Houston Street 
New York, NY 10002

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ellan's Pudim

I may not have mentioned this in the past, but I’m Catholic. I’m not by any means a good Catholic. I went to Catholic school, went to Mass every Sunday while young. But, yeah, I haven’t kept up with going to Church, because I suck. The one thing that I do try to keep up every year is to observe the practice of Lent (no meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays until Easter). You’re also supposed to give up something that you really enjoy. Sweets are a big one. Facebook is a new age one. For me, I’m giving up all sweets and candies… and soda. The first week always sucks. I’m tired and irritable like nobody’s business, and I pretty much turn into an absolute hater. The lack of sugar and caffeine make me feel like I’m going through Menopause. I hate Lent.
Making the caramel
So we’re just about over with the first week of Lent, and I’m over the hump of hot flashes anger. But god damn. Of recent, I’ve been tempted, and I failed hard core. The feat of Ellan concluded with a dessert called “pudim.” It’s basically a Brazilian flan. Same jiggly, smooth texture, same caramelized sweet scent. This version of flan will haunt your dreams, and hence why I failed to resist.
Covering the pan
with the caramel
The pudim starts out simple enough by preparing a caramel. Set a heavy bottom sauce pan over medium high heat, and pour in a little over ¾ cups of sugar. Once the sugar is melted, and darkened nicely into an amber hue, Ellan removed the pan from heat, and over the sink, he carefully but quickly poured in an equal amount of water, producing a large amount of steam. When the danger zone had subsided, he returned the mixture to a burner reduced to medium low, and began to stir vigorously as the mixture boiled. Ellan’s helpers in the kitchen were advised to stir the caramel mixture on the stove until it had reduced and thickened by about 1/3rd in the pan. At this time we also preheated the oven to 400 degrees, and prepared a large disposable metal tray as a water bath for the pudim to sit in while in baking.
Condensed sweetened milk,
regular milk, 2 eggs
As we stirred, Ellan began to prepare the custard. Into a large blender, he poured 2 little cans of sweetened condensed milk. He next took one of these emptied cans, and filled it to the top with regular whole milk, repeating the process a second time. With the two cans of condensed milk and the two cans of regular milk, he added two eggs, and about 2 ¼ tablespoons of corn starch, though I can’t be precisely sure as he was eyeballing some of these measurements. With all parties present in the blender, he turned the device on high and advised that about fifteen seconds should render the mixture smooth. He went on to recommend singing “one little two little three little Indians” in timing the appropriate count for the custard mixture to be ready. (What a charming teacher!)
Ready to be covered and
put into the oven
With the custard smooth, it was time to prepare the pan. He took one of of those deep tin pans with the characteristic dip in the center that produces the flan "donut" shape, and added the caramel that we had a prepared in a way that dripped all of the sauce smoothly around all inner surfaces of the flan pan. He then poured in the custard, and tightly covered with tin foil, at last placing the pan, foil-side up into the water bath that we had prepared earlier. Into the oven she goes.
Look at Ellan go!
About 45 minutes later, Allan pulled the pudim out of the oven, and checked on the firmness of the dessert. A few forks inserted into the custard proved firm enough. To speed along the cooling/firming process, he removed the pan from the water, quickly dried it off, and immediately stuck the pan into the freezer so that when it was time for the pudim to have it’s big moment, and be turned over onto a serving platter, it would be cool enough to retain its shape.
Beautiful pudim
After our feast of rice, moqueca, and salpicão, the moment came. Ellan turned over the tin pan onto a platter to reveal the most delightfully jiggly pudim, kissed on the top with that luscious deep brown caramel sauce that he had taken such care in preparing. The sides faded way to the golden milky custard, all the way to the smooth bottom edges. This was a lovely looking dessert; it’s appearance and the drama of the revelation only trumped by the flavor of that smooth, silky, rich and eggy custard, and the slightly burnt sugar sweetness that everyone loves in a great rich caramel.
I am very grateful having been introduced to this dish and will have to make it again for Easter… you know when I’m officially allowed to appease my inner fat kid and go all in on desserts again.
Thank you, Ellan, for a wonderful lesson, and a fantastically memorable meal.

Breaking Lent never tasted so
very delicious
For the caramel:
¾ cup of white sugar
¾ cup of water
For the custard:
2 little cans condensed milk
2 little can fulls (w/ emptied condensed milk can) of regular whole milk
2 eggs
2 ¼ tablespoons of corn starch

Monday, March 5, 2012

Ellan's Moqueca

I first had the pleasure of trying moqueca while visiting my brother in law over in California. The restaurant itself was called Moqueca, though at the time I had no idea what the hell that was. By the end of the night, we had ordered the restaurant’s namesake dish and were treated to a Brazilian fish stew that I will not soon forget, brimming with spice and seafood flavor. When Strathy mentioned that his roommate would be cooking a number of dishes from Brazil and asked whether there were any dishes that I would like to learn, I immediately brought up the moqueca, and Ellan has a hell of a version!
Rough dice of bell peppers
and onion
Unfortunately, since I’ve got a touch of a coconut allergy, Ellan graciously agreed to the version of this fish stew that omits the use of coconut milk. One thing to remember with his version is that he actually keeps all of the bones in the soup. As is the case with many soups, the longer that you are able to retain the bones for cooking, the richer the broth will be. Of course, the downside could be that you spend some time trying to pick around bones, or performing the ever graceful act of extracting bones from inside your mouth while still keeping the rest of the precious food inside. (Is there anything sexier?) So, I suppose my advice is, if you’re squeamish about bones, you might want to remove them from the fish, use them to prepare a sort of simple stock, and then discard before cooking the meat of the fish. That’s only if you’re a complete wuss. If among friends, and prepared to truly enjoy a rustic fish stew, go whole hog bones. It’s fun and I’m sure the broth that we tasted was much more rich as a result of allowing them to simmer during the whole of the cooking process.
So let’s dive into the big show: Ellan’s Mocequa.
Simmering fish head
and veggies
Ellan started out by roughly dicing one red bell pepper, one green bell pepper, and an onion for use later on. He also went ahead and heated up about 4 cups of water until simmering in a large saucier… a really large saucier. He then added the head of a dorado (I think that was the fish), and allowed to simmer for about ten minutes or so. When the eyes turned a milky white, you could tell that the fish meat itself was tender and flavoring the stock nicely.
Ten minutes having passed, Ellan added his previously chopped nions and peppers, giving everything a gentle stir, and allowed to cook a few moments more. Having determined that it was the right time to add the rest of the fish, he started to submerge the other pieces of dorado, each cut into about 1 ½ inch steaks by the man at the fish counter who had cleaned the fish. Our chef also added chopped cilantro, a few bay leafs, and three heaping spoonfuls of what he referred to as “his secret ingredient.” The secret ingredient, he explained was actually a type of palm oil that flavors this type of food back in Brazil called azeite-de-dendê. He covered for a few minutes, allowing the rest of the fish to begin its journey into the flavor of the soup.
Moqueca, nearly ready
A half hour had passed, and Allan uncovered his concoction, careful to check the flavors that had developed. The fish had cooked down nicely, rich and flaky and white. It was time to add an additional 2 cups of water (approximate), and then proceed to spoon in five generous tablespoons of regular old Italian tomato sauce. With a final gentle stir, a check on salt levels, and a few more minutes to simmer, he declared that the moqueca was ready.
This soup, just as I had remembered from my virgin experience out in California, was delightfully rich for a seafood soup. It had the savory flavor of the flaky fish, and the seductive aroma of tomatoes and cilantro throughout. The vegetables were tender, and there was nothing short of the most comforting of grandma qualities to every sip of broth. This is a wonderfully nuanced seafood soup, and one that is easy enough to prepare on the cold nights of winter when you need something to take the chill off... even if you aren't lucky enough to be Brazilian (yours truly included). Ellan’s moqueca certainly was a crowd pleaser at our dinner party.

Flaky fish and rich tomato
and cilantro aroma, delicious
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell papper, diced
1 medium white onion, diced
Approximately 6 cups of water, divided
1 whole dorado, about 2 1/2 pounds, cleaned, but skin on with head, and cut into steaks
3 small bay leafs
3 tablespoons of secret Brazilian oil: “Azeite de Dende”
5 tablespoons of Italian tomato sauce
1 generous handful of chopped cilantro

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Ellan's Salpicão

Boiling two chicken breasts
With a heavy heart, I have to admit that when Strathy said that Allan was going to be preparing a salad of potato sticks and chicken I was dumb founded. I’ve seen similar dishes on the buffet table of rodizio restaurants, and remember it being well… not memorable... except to say that it took up space on my plate where more meat might go.
But this is not the same salpicão. In fact, I’d say all other salpicão’s should cower in shame versus this salpicão. This salad, if you can really call it that, because most salads have this little notion of one trying to be “healthy,” well, this has all sorts of bad for you stuff spanning from those crispy little potato sticks your mother used to tell you not to eat too many of as a kid because you’d get grease all over your pants, and running the calorie gambit all the way to a whole jar of mayonnaise. Not a healthy salad. Just be forewarned. So delicious though.
Grating carrots
The most difficult part of this recipe was not all that difficult. It consists of boiling two chicken breasts for as long as it takes them to cook, and then cooking for a bit longer so that they are borderline stringy. At this point, Allan removed the chicken from the water, dried them a bit, and then threw them into a food processor for about 15 good pulses. When the chicken was really pulverized, but not quite turned into a paste, he began to build the rest of the dish.
Frozen diced veggie mix
Into a large glass casserole dish, he added about five cups of potato sticks. On top of this went three grated carrots, then the pulverized chicken. A bag of frozen peas, carrots, green beans and corn (dethawed) then went on top of the chicken, and about five long chopped stalks of celery went on top of the other vegetables.
Mixing the dry ingredients
Ellan gingerly mixed all of these dry ingredients a bit in the casserole dish, thoroughly combining. He then proceeded to sprinkle a  large package of raisins, and with reckless abandon, added a whole motherf*ckin’ jar of mayonnaise. Damn, that was a lot of mayonnaise. He began mixing the newly added ingredients with his hands so that all of the potato sticks and chicken flavor combined and soaked in the wet mayo. A few minutes later, with all items coming together, the salpicão got a bit of a dose of salt, and a handful of chopped parsley. The entire mixture was mounded onto a serving platter, and garnished with a pretty stalk of celery, complete with leaves.
Mixing in the mayo
This salad had kind of an old school, late 1960s exotic vibe for me. I could imagine Betty Draper serving it at that infamous party where she proceeded to go bat shit crazy because Don had used his seductive marking power to sway her modern housewife grocery store thoughts toward buying exotic imported Heineken for the dinner party that night. Or simply pool side at a sunny and raucous Rio pool party. Either way, it looked pretty awesome and unlike any other salad I’ve seen on any other given day. A solid scoop on my plate gave way to the most savory, unctuous, and interesting flavor. It was salty and rich, with the occasional crunch of celery and the zing of sweetness brought by each burst of raisin. It was, in a way, the best chicken salad mixture, as in a chicken salad that you might get in a sandwich, that I have ever had, with every bit of fattiness absorbed in those potato chips and giving way to flavor, flavor, flavor. 
Yes, I did have a couple scoops that were left over from our dinner party phenomenon via the wonderful Ellan for breakfast the next morning.
Quite a win for Ellan, and another way to look at salad. 

Delicious Salpicão
2 skinless chicken breasts, boiled and cooked until pretty stringy
1 package frozen peas, carrots, corn, and green beans
5 cups of potato sticks
3 carrots, run against a large cheese grater
1 large bag of raisins
1 jar of mayonnaise
4 large stalks of celery, finely diced
Handful of chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

A Brazilian Phenomenon: Ellan!

Almost every year, if I have the time and the money, I am lucky enough to go visit a friend or two that I used to see every day, but nowadays, with grown up jobs and significant others and the occasional kiddie or two, those friends become once or twice a year friends. Strathy, a dear friend of mine, hailing from the land of Virginia with an undying love for the city of Baltimore, is one of those friends. I met him in Cape Town, South Africa, and through pure cosmic coincidence, we  happen to be neighbors on adjacent houses on Church Street. Ten years and running, we’ve been friends.
My dear friend, Strathy
Fortunately for me, visiting Strathy is always an adventure, partially because he has always lived outside of New England, and that provides a fun “exotic” field trip, but he also has awesome friends! There’s nothing like going to visit a friends, meeting their buddies, and suddenly feeling like one of the gang. On this particular occasion, I had a free weekend, and Strath made the call to come down. We would be hanging out on one night with his roommate, the bubbly, joyful, and simply delightful Ellan.
Ellan hails from Brazil, and is fiercely proud of this, sharing pictures and stories of his much missed homeland, among a whole lot of boisterous laughter and the occasional comment praising our recently lost treasure, Whitney Houston. (I’ll admit at this time, I don’t know if I've never listened to so much Whitney in my life as during this little party.) But the reason that Strathy was so excited about my coming down to hang with the fabulous Allan was for good reason.
The amazing Ellan!
Back in Brazil, Allan had spent his youngest years observing the family culinary secrets in his mom's kitchen and later apprenticing with a private home caterer, learning how to cook all of Brazil’s most treasured dishes. He later, at the ripe old age of 19, opened a restaurant in his home town, and cooked up some pretty damn legitimate meat courses, until his opportunity seeking departure to the USA several years later.  I’m fairly convinced that I won’t be headed to Brazil anytime relatively soon. But Ellan’s cooking, and his enthusiastic style of teaching really brought me a touch closer to the Southern hemisphere.
Therefore, we’re going to take a little bit of a look at the recipes cooked by my new friend, Ellan, during my most recent visit to Strathy while he lived in the all too cool and somewhat well kept secret neighborhood of the Ironbound in Newark, New Jersey. I only hope I can do it justice.