Category Archives: Main Course

A Low Country Boil with e2 at Bayardstown Social Club

September 2013

If Fräulein Maria had raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens and warm, woolen mittens all at once, I imagine her sentiment would have matched my excitement for the Pittsburgh Urbanist‘s Low Country Boil. This dinner event definitely encompassed a few of my favorite things..!

Bayardstown

A Favorite Location: Bayardstown Social Club

In its own words, Bayardstown is a members-only social club in the Strip District of Pittsburgh that offers a shared backyard space to gather, eat, and drink [also a few of my favorite things]. In my own words, Bayardstown has been a unique and much appreciated addition to my list of summer sites. I’m a big fan of someone else making a campfire and playing great music for me.

Founding Members

The club takes its name from one of the oldest monikers given to the area and its inhabitants, the legendary Bayardstown Boys. Bayardstown was, and is, a group bound by community and while memberships are limited, the club serves as a place for members to hang out. Club members will be young city dwellers who share a love for the outdoors. Think of Bayardstown as a place to connect with those you would not normally encounter at work, at the bar, or down the block. Every night promises a different experience.

Chef Fit

A Favorite Chef/Restaurant: Kate Romane of e2

How do I love Kate and e2? Let me count the ways! Between beignet brunches, saucy dinners, pop-ups, farm dinners and more brunches, this girl has always delivered in a big way, and this night was no exception. This was a BIG low country boil! Forget Cross Fit. These ladies should patent “Chef Fit!”

Take A Picture

Kate Feeds The Masses

Low Country Boil

Ivy and Green Beans

Farm Fresh Tomatoes

Greens

Lawn Chairs and Food

Sunset and Lights

Smores

Libations

Delicious. Relaxed. Beautiful. Affordable.

If you see the Pittsburgh Urbanist or e2 names backing an event, be sure to attend!  I hope this is the first of many food-centric gatherings at Bayardstown because this night was up there with bright, copper kettles and brown-paper packages tied up with strings. It was definitely one of my favorite things!

Best of the PittsBurgers: Burgatory

July 2013

You might not remember May of 2011, but to some, it was nearly the end of the world. Back then, Harold Camping predicted the return of Christ, the emergence of Christians to Heaven, and the dawn of fire and brimstone for those of us below. It just so happened my pal’s birthday fell on Rapture eve. Being the heathens that we were, we decided the event called for a pre-celebration in the form of burgers and cocktails in a very fitting place…

B for Burgatory

Though Christ did not return to earth that fateful May, I have returned quite a few times to Burgatory, making it count amongst my Best of the PittsBurgers locales!

Burgatory

Fox Chapel / Waterworks
932 Freeport Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15238
412.781.1456
*This is the location I frequent, but there is a second locale in Robinson.

Blessed Be The Burger

Ambiance/Design

Strategic. Industrial. Witty. A Little Bit Mischievous.
Burgatory channeled the big guns for their branding, and it shows. Infographics and witticisms accent the industrial interior. Its location in a strip mall makes the interior an odd diamond-in-the-rough situation (unless your cups of tea are big-box stores, then diamond-in-a-diamond). Exterior and collocation aside, the interior is energizing but also arranged in such a way that individual tables and conversations feel relatively private, albeit, a bit muffled by said energy.

Honor Thy Burger

Burgatory Booth

Very Important To Note

Sourcing of the Meat

All Natural, Hormone Free Burgers are better for you and the environment. Plus they taste a HELLUVA lot better! Our beef burgers are ground and hand formed daily using our private label blend of sirloin, chuck, brisket and short rib. All of our burgers can be served TOPLESS or NAKED (WE’RE TALKIN’ NO BUN, FOLKS!) upon request. You can also substitute an All Natural Chicken Breast for any burger if you want to cluck it up. 

Burgatory makes a big deal about the purity of its meat, which I appreciate, but what is missing [or in any case, isn’t glaringly obvious] is the name of the meat source(s). Give me that assurance, and my locavore-loving heart will be completely at ease.

Burgatory Burgers

Quality of Meat Preparation

“Red, Pink or No Pink Center”

It’s hard to assess the inherent quality of the juicy, ground beef under all those rich toppings, but the burgers are prepared according to the more playful take on the rare-to-done spectrum and delivered as promised.

Pink Burgers

Toppings (ie: This is why you go to Burgatory!)

Life is all about choices. Do I strive to be a saint or do I revel in sin? Burgatory is all about choices. Do I want Angel Dust or Bourbon BBQ… or both?!? Picky people and confident creatives alike will relish in the control the grill relinquishes to them, and these power grabs span the entire menu. This also makes Burgatory a blessing when dining with kids who might not see the value in Truffled Shallot Aioli. These offerings aren’t limited to “do you want lettuce, tomato and onion?” I’m talking an infographic guided tour through robust flavors and potential combinations. The only danger zone is dining with the easily overwhelmed, indecisive type, in which case, point them to the classics and forbid them from flipping pages.

Sides

I revered potato chips as a food group when my lunches still came with notes on the napkins. As a noteless “adult,” these chips strike me as a cheap ploy. Clearly, the obvious companion to a burger is the french fry, so to make me pay extra for the rightful complement is counterintuitive. As expected, the fries also come with their fair share of options, so any inkling of an inner tantrum is quickly reversed.

Free Float for Kids

Cocktails

My most recent trip was a family affair, so I refrained from boozing, but in the past, I’ve partaken in delightful, fresh cocktails. If you’re going for icy decadence, you can also upgrade your milkshake to an adult milkshake. If kids plow through their entire meal to arrive at the clean plate club, they receive a free ice cream float. Burgatory means well with this gesture, but I’m not one to reward gluttony, so I’m on the fence about that incentive.

Price

The standard [but decadently stacked!] menu burgers range from $9-$12, which is consistent with other burger joints around this region and worth the cost of supporting local meat (see Sourcing of the Meat). As mentioned, paying extra to swap fries for chips grates on my sensibilities just a smidgen, but even that fee is pretty harmless. With so many options though, including boozy shakes and cocktails, the numbers can quickly add up to a decent investment.

In Conclusion…

Life is full of contrasting choices, blacks and grays, but sometimes, the middle territory is a helluva good time! Enjoy!

Pulled Pork & Plantains

July 2013

As a child, I met my pulled pork quota in the autumn months, in conjunction with the cider donuts and hayrides of the “Harvest Days” festival at a local farm. The fall association lingers, but lately I’ve been rethinking that timing for a few reasons. First, there is never a bad time for pulled pork unless you’re at a vegan festival (is that even a thing?). Secondly, I’m no grilling expert, so this is a convenient slight-of-hand, meat decoy.

Pork and Onions

Thirdly, even if I were a grilling expert, at some point, I’d want to join the gathering instead of watching it from behind a plume of smoke. Lastly, wouldn’t we all rather be lounging at the pool or in the thick of some summer activity while the meat cooked itself? In conclusion, pulled pork is summer brilliance (everyone knew that already, and I’m just late to the conclusion)!

Barley Beer

I’m also really late to the world of beer (ie: can count on one hand the number of times I’ve finished an entire beer all by myself!!!), but I do know it does wonders for meat, and bourbon does wonders for sauces!

Pulled Pork and Plantains

…and fried plantains do wonders for the whole compilation, so have yourself some summertime pulled pork ‘n plantains and thank me from your poolside lounge location!

Pulled Pork and Plantains and Bourbon

Pulled Pork & Plantains

Ingredients

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
4.5 lbs boneless pork shoulder (*or 6 lbs pork hip area?!?)
12 fl. oz Uinta Anniversary Barley Wine Ale (or the beer of your choice)
4 Tablespoons organic liquid smoke

Sauce Ingredients

1 cup local apple butter
1 cup organic ketchup (don’t go the corn syrupy ketchup route; just don’t!)
1/2 cup apple-cider vinegar
1/3 cup bourbon
2 Tablespoons Bourbon barrel aged Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons all natural Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Directions

Place onion slices in an even layer in slow-cooker insert. Trim skin and any excess fat from pork. Lay over onion. Pour in ale and liquid smoke. Cover and cook on low until meat is very tender, about 8 hours.

Remove pork to a large cutting board and onion to a large bowl. Discard liquid. Using two forks, shred pork.

Whisk apple butter with ketchup, vinegar, bourbon, Worcestershire, Tabasco, garlic powder and ground ginger in a large saucepan, then set over medium-high.

Bring to a boil, whisking occasionally, until apple jelly is dissolved and sauce is smooth, 6 to 8 min.

Add shredded pork and onion. Stir until all meat is coated with sauce. Remove from heat.

Serve on a grainy roll with fried plantains. Pork will keep well, refrigerated, up to 3 days.

Fried Plantains

Ingredients

1 plantain
3/4- 1 cup high quality peanut oil (enough to cover the plantains when frying)

Directions

Preheat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium high heat.

Peel the plantain and cut them in slices. Carefully add the slices to the heated oil.

Fry the pieces until browned and tender.

Drain excess oil on paper towels.

Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Curry Stew

April 2013

Like the tumultuous teen years, April brings many ups and downs. April in Pittsburgh feels like summer, then winter, then fall…all in the course of one day, which is why there is still time for a bowl of spicy stew with the fresh, summery accent of basil. Share with friends or feed yourself for a week!

Soup and Spoon

Sweet Potato Curry 01

Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Curry Stew
Adapted from Food52
serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 Tablespoons ginger, minced

2 pounds sweet potatoes (about two large), chopped into 1 inch chunks (or a little larger)
1/2 cup dry red lentils, rinsed and drained
1 can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes
1 teaspoon Cinnamon, ground
2 teaspoons Cumin, ground
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric, ground
dashes of Cayenne pepper (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon Sea salt (or to taste)

4-5 cups vegetable stock + extra as needed
1/4 cup creamy almond butter (or nut butter of your choice)

4 cups mixed greens (kale, chard, collards)
fresh basil, to taste
salted peanuts, chopped, to taste

Directions 

Heat olive oil in a large pot set on medium heat. Add the onion and begin sauteeing until onion is getting translucent (about 3 minutes).

Add the garlic and ginger, and continue to sautee for another 3 minutes, till garlic is fragrant.

Add the sweet potatoes, the red lentils, the tomatoes, the cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne and give it all a quick stir to combine.

Add 4 cups vegetable stock and bring mixture to a boil. If there isn’t enough broth to cover everything but at least 1 inch, add another cup of stock.

When soup boils, reduce to a simmer and cook for 40-45 minutes, or until sweet potatoes and lentils are very tender.

If you need more broth as the mixture cooks, add it.

Add almond butter and stir well.

Using an immersion blender or a food processor, blend soup till about half of it is pureed and the other half still has texture. The soup should appear creamy, but chunks of sweet potato should be visible.

Stir in the greens and let it wilt.

Season to taste, adding more salt and pepper as needed.

Serve, topped with fresh basil and crushed peanuts.

Chicken Noodle Soup Like Mom Makes

February 2013

As a child, I had a love-hate relationship with my mom’s soups.

Bowl of Soup and Baguette

The timing of her homemade soup was always perfect. Though she did tell me to put on more layers instead of raising the thermostat (what do I put over a sweatshirt mom?), at least she filled my wintry, cold core with warmth. My childish objection, however, was the ramifications of using a home-cooked chicken- the occasional bone or bit of fat or tendon, which prevented me from slurping recklessly to the bottom of the bowl.

Spoonful of Soup

Then I grew up. I roasted many a chicken and saw how much remained to be used, so finally I did what mom did. I boiled that leftover chicken with plenty of vegetables, added too little salt and mixed in plenty of [brown rice] noodles. As I ate spoonful after spoonful, the warmth of nostalgia superseded all my childhood complaints. Now it’s just a love relationship.

Much like my mom’s main kitchen repertoire, this soup is recipe-less. Just wing it!

Thai Chicken Curry

January 2013

With the sights, smells, sounds and whirling traffic patterns of India still whirling inside me, I was drawn to the curry element of this one-pot wonder from Bon Appétit (albeit a Thai chicken curry). In an effort to make the recipes of my monthly subscription, rather than just admire the beautiful food photography, I prepared this recipe for friends who had similar journeys still whirling inside them.

Thai Chicken Curry 01

An inexplicable potato-peeling zeal led me to overshoot the quantity of potatoes in this recipe, making my version thicker than the magazine photo I had admired, so choose your fancy. To potato or not to potato? One potato, two potato, three potato, four (pounds and then some)? Whatever your potato fancy, I do highly recommend sharing your version with good friends and the type of cocktails that improve as conversation flows and flavors come together!

Thai Chicken Curry 03

Thai Chicken Curry
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Makes 8-10 servings

Ingredients

2 teaspoons olive oil
4-6 ounces red curry paste (I used mild)
1 pound carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
5 pounds organic russet potatoes (1 bag), peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I may have gone a little overboard on potatoes)
1.5 pounds organic, skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 can (13.5-ounce or 15-ounce) unsweetened coconut milk
Chopped fresh basil
1 cup cashews, chopped

Directions

Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat.

Add curry paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add carrots, onion, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add potatoes, chicken, coconut milk, and 1 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Divide curry among bowls, and top with basil and chopped cashews.

An Ode To A Cabin In Autumn: A Fall Flavored Lasagna

September 2012

“Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love – that makes life and nature harmonise. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one’s very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” -George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)

I do find autumn to be quite delicious, especially when fall’s flavors are layered between noodles and cheese! The original Bon Appétit recipe called for broccoli rabe, which I replaced with brussels sprouts. Firstly, I associate those mini cabbages with fall more than broccoli rabe, and secondly, that’s what was available at my grocery store. I also used a brown rice noodle for the health and flavor merits, and this recipe could easily become a gluten free staple if you use an alternative flour (I only had whole-wheat pastry on hand). Extra dashes of red pepper flakes, added to the squash roasting stage, made for a kick of spice, contrasted by hints of cinnamon and nutmeg in the béchamel sauce.  Enjoy with hot cider or hard cider before your migration to successive autumns!

Squash and Brussels Lasagna

Adapted from my food publication deity, Bon Appétit.

Ingredients

Filling

1 local butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3 tablespoons olive oil plus more
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes

Fresh brussels sprouts (the typical grocery store sized bundle), rinsed, stalk removed and pulled apart into leaves

8oz fresh mozzarella, chopped
1/2 lb whole-milk ricotta
1 cup coarsely grated Parmesan
coarsely grated lemon zest from 1 lemon
1 Tablespoon minced fresh sage
1 Tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

Preparation

For the Filling

Preheat oven to 400°.

Place squash and 3 tablespoons oil in a large bowl; season generously with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Toss to coat squash evenly.

Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, spreading out in a single layer, overlapping slightly.

Roast until tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes. Let cool.

Mix mozzarella and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.

*DO AHEAD Squash and cheese mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately and chill.

Béchamel and Assembly

1/8 cup organic unsalted butter
1/8 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 cups (or more) organic half-and-half
Dash of freshly grated nutmeg and cinnamon
1 fresh bay leaf
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

10 oz Brown Rice Lasagna Noodles (Tinkyada)
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan

Béchamel and Assembly

Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat.

Add flour; stir until slightly thickened (do not allow mixture to turn brown), 2–3 minutes. Increase heat slightly.

Slowly whisk in 2 1/2 cups half-and-half, 1/2-cupful at a time, allowing béchamel to thicken between additions (adding half-and-half gradually will help to prevent lumps from forming).

Add 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg and cinnamon and bay leaf.

Reduce heat to low and cook, thinning with more half-and-half if too thick, until sauce is a milkshake–like consistency, about 10 minutes longer.

Cook lasagna noodles in a pot of well-salted boiling water until still quite al dente, 8–9 minutes. Transfer immediately to a large bowl of ice water to cool. Drain; spread out noodles on a kitchen towel or baking sheets lined with parchment paper, placing a kitchen towel or parchment between layers.

Ladle about 1/4 cup béchamel into a 11x9x2-inch baking dish; spread evenly over bottom. Line dish with a single layer of noodles, cutting as needed to fit (use large scraps in subsequent layers).

Layer 1/3 of squash over.

Scatter brussels sprouts leaves over the previous layer.

Dollop 1/3 of ricotta mixture randomly over greens.

Drizzle 1/2 cup béchamel evenly over ricotta mixture.

Repeat process 2 more times for a Total of 3 layers, finishing with a layer of noodles. Spread remaining béchamel over; top with Parmesan. Leftover noodles can be used for a freeform version with any leftover components.

*DO AHEAD Lasagna can be assembled 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Return to room temperature before continuing.

Preheat oven to 375°. Bake lasagna uncovered until bubbly and starting to brown, about 45 minutes.

Turn oven to broil. Cook until browned and golden, 4–7 minutes.

Let rest for 20–30 minutes before serving.

No man can taste the fruits of autumn while he is delighting his scent with the flowers of spring. 
-Samuel Johnson

May you taste the fruits of delicious autumn! Bon appétit!