Dining Out: Jesters Coffee Shop, Brookfield, CT (Breakfast)

I was going to post other things I’ve put together on my ownsome, but my cord to download from the camera has gone walkabout.  Without telling me, how unpleasant of it!   I DO want to post something today, so I think I will post a dining out review, since those photos are on the less-obtrusive phone.  And I can mail them to myself.

Jesters is a coffee shop in Brookfield, CT, that doesn’t just sell coffee, it sells a variety of smoothies (and you can come up with your own from the fairly large selection of fruits and veggies on site).  My favorite, which I’ve come up with on my own, goes more to the savory end of things:  cuke, kale, beet, carrot, lime, parsley, and when they have it, cilantro.  Hmm, when I make home-smoothies, I like adding a sliver of onion… I may ask for that next time I order a smoothie there!  (When I first discovered juicing/smoothies, I had no idea that the beverage wasn’t supposed to be liquid veggies and predominantly savory… but hey, even though I now know better, savory is still my personal choice!)

Dining Out, Jester's, Omelet, breakfast, coffee shop

Omelet, cut open to view some of the spinach. Cheese is a combo of cheddar and mozzarella. I vary it up every time I go. Coffee mug holds a lot, and is re-fillable at no extra charge.

 

They also make their own kombucha, four different flavors, and they sell it so you can take quantities home with you.  I haven’t tried this yet, but I haven’t ruled it out.  I think it is the “sweet” indication that stalls my exploration.

Along with beverages (their coffee is a choice between dark or regular roast, or you can have a variety of flavored coffees – some of which, like pumpkin or egg nog, are seasonal – I do like their egg nog coffee they serve in December, but have not sampled the others), they serve breakfast and lunch.  For the small size of the place, they have a strong variety of food, and they will adapt your order to your needs.  A lot of the traffic is take-out.

I haven’t stopped in for lunch often, but the menu at lunch is also promising.  This review will be breakfast-oriented.  I’ve eaten there enough that I can say I’ve tried every breakfast item I am interested in trying.

I feel and know I am best on a low simple-carb diet, and as regulars of my blog know, I cook gluten free at home (actually, I will have an exception down the road because I don’t see a way around it, and I want to COOK that particular item at least once with wheat so I can try to develop a work-around…).  Since I cook more at home, and try to limit eating out, I figure in my personal case I can eat out with some level of gluten, and so I order some things out, with it.  (PS, they do have gluten-free toast on the menu. For a little extra, you can also get organic eggs.)

What I am not crazy about:  The fried eggs alone seem watery, and the bacon is ultra thin, bland, and disappointing.

What I love:  The omelets.  The bacon is fine IN the omelet.  One only needs a hint, there.  The omelets can be crammed full (or less full) with just about anything you’d love in an omelet.  Toast comes with, but I always decline.  I’m satiated as is.  The photo here is an omelet with mozzarella, cheddar and spinach.  There are four or five other cheese choices, and a full range of veggies to put in there.  I do not know if they carry sausage; I’m not interested.

What I love:  The pancakes.  Okay, I don’t think they can make these gluten free, and I would personally order pancakes only super-rarely.  You have a choice:  plain, blueberry, banana, chocolate chip.  I’ve tested blueberry and banana.  Both of these are good.  They come with butter and REAL maple syrup, no fake syrup in sight.  The photo here is a short stack of two blueberry pancakes, but alas the blueberries sank out of photographic sight.  They were there.  These pancakes were great, light and fluffy and full of real-ness.  And yes, lotsa blueberries.  They just followed Newton’s Law of Gravity.

Dining Out, Jester's, pancakes, breakfast, coffee shop

I love the flavor of maple. I don’t like loads of sugar. So I do any pancakes as accordingly as possible, with just a sprawl. Great flavor from real syrup, minimal sugar. (But, I do go for the butter…)

There isn’t much syrup in that dispenser in the photo, but that is simply because I TOLD them not to waste more than a taste on me.   You’ll get more if you don’t specify.  I will note the one time I let them give me the standard three pancakes, I could not eat that third.  PS, if you love waffles, they have them here, too.  I have not tried them but I would assume they are good.

What I love: The Smoked Lox special.  I change it out and have them put it on rye toast rather than on a dense, stomach-clogging bagel.  They do sell a variety of bagels, but I really have a problem digesting that heavy of a bread in one sitting.  Or even in two.  For me, rye toast is much more flavorful than most other forms of bread, and if I am going to eat some food I don’t consider particularly healthy, it had better have some good flavor to it!  I suspect I am one of the few people who patronize this place (ah, oh no, they’ll figure me out!) who orders the smoked lox special on toasted rye bread.  Since sometimes it comes open-faced, or sometimes closed-up.  Depends on who is cooking that day.  I like it either way, but there’s a niggling suspicion that usually (not always) I get more salmon when it is open-faced.  The special comes with cream cheese, red onion slivers, and capers, and (almost always) lemon juice/slices.

Dining Out, Jester's, Smoked lox special, breakfast, coffee shop

They source a really GOOD smoked salmon for this!

What I love:  the smoothies as I’ve modified my own, detailed above.

Service and staff are extremely friendly.  And if I am not grabbing just a coffee to go, I ask for my coffee in a ceramic mug.  It might be environmentally friendly that way, but I think the coffee tastes better that way, too.  Who knows?

There are not a lot of tables, but this is usually not a problem, as I’ve indicated a lot of the business is take out.  They have free wi-fi, and they provide an issue of the Wall Street Journal for the days that particular paper publishes, for patrons to peruse.

I’m not a “breakfast wrap” person, but there are a variety of these you can order from the menu.  I think I like air pockets in my bread.  Or, something.  Whatever it is, wrapping stuff just doesn’t have it, in my book.

PS:  Editing to add:  the eggs are real eggs, not from a liquid-containing carton.  I cannot digest “liquid egg product”, so I’m glad I don’t even have to ask!

Breakfast Rating:  a good solid 4.5 out of 5.  Just don’t ask for a side of bacon and expect it to float your boat.  But yeah, we should eat less bacon, right?

Jester’s Coffee Shop
331 Federal Road
Brookfield, CT 06804

Very close to both CostCo and BJ’s warehouse stores, if you are of a mind to budget shop in the area…

 

 

 

 

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Dining Out: Red Carpet Restaurant, Adams, MA

Red Carpet Restaurant:

69 Park St (Route 8), Adams, MA 01220 

Adams is a small town nestled into the northwestern corner of Massachusetts, in full view of the mountain range and reserve featuring Mount Greylock, the tallest (3490 foot) mountain in the state.

Earlier that day, I visited the two main art exhibits at Williams College, Williamstown, followed by a trip to the birthplace of Susan B. Anthony, which is in Adams.  The museum  / gift shop caretaker kindly pointed me to this restaurant when I inquired about good local eateries.  (At the bottom of the post, I’ll talk more about these museums.)

Red Carpet Restaurant, dining out, Adams MA, scallops, beets

Excellently inexpensive lunch!  (I did ignore the “white gravy” stuff.)

Established in 1927, apparently this is the site of the oldest continuing full service (breakfast, lunch, dinner) restaurant in the Berkshires, if not Massachusetts itself.  It’s undergone ownership, name and decor changes over the years.  It has a country diner ambiance, with booths and bar seating available.  Unlike a stereotypical diner, the menu doesn’t go on for pages, but it is long enough to provide a variety of food.  They do serve liver and onions, seldom seen on New England menus, as well as a variety of breaded seafood, including a couple types of fish and chips.  I chose to get the lunch special of beer-battered sea scallops – there was a dinner-sized portion for more, too.  You get a choice of vegetable (those beets, or mixed veggies, or home-made cole slaw – I had an urge to improve my anti-oxidant intake, so I chose the beets), and a potato, either fried or mashed.

The dipping sauce for the scallops was a sour cream with dill and perhaps chives.  There was that infamous white gravy for the potatoes… I usually ignore that, but some folk love it.  (Its existence did not affect my rating!  There’s really no way to rescue it…)  The potatoes were fine without — nice and creamy, with a little added salt and pepper.

 

Red Carpet Restaurant, dining out, Adams MA, scallops

Scalloped close up!

The beer battered scallops were awesome!  Light and fluffy batter, but crispy on the outside, they barely needed their lemon or sour cream either – but I did avail myself of a little of both. The scallops themselves were cooked to a T, and had none of that metallic taste some scallops seem to have.  The beets were great, too.  It was all washed down with a nice cold glass of vintage 2017 iced lemon water.

This meal was of a good size for a lunch.  I was satiated without being stuffed.

Service was warm and friendly, like your typical good diner.

I do want to go back and try other menu items.  In the interim, I rate this restaurant 4.25, based solely on this one item (in itself probably a 4.5…) – when I do return, I hope to adjust this number upwards because I’ll have another item to add to that ambiance!



As far as visiting this area of Massachusetts goes, on the Wednesday I visited Natural Bridge State Park, North Adams.  An interesting park, it did not lend itself to photographing well while I was there.  It’s the site of an old marble quarry, and featured (before it burnt down in the 40’s) a mill for grinding less-optimal marble into calcium carbonate for manufacturing and food additive purposes.  It’s the site of the only white marble dam in the US.

The weather that day was spectacular, so I drove up to the top of Mount Greylock to have a look-see.  Beautiful territory, and you could see near forever.  A  little haze in the distance, but still very rewarding.  I was in awe!   It’s in a wonderful reservation established at the tip end of the 1800s.  The Appalachian Trail crosses it, among a lot of other trails.

Mount Greylock

View from Mount Greylock, which was more dramatic in person

On Thursday, August 31st, I took my tour of the Williams College Museum of Art.   It was a drab, overcast, sometimes-drizzly day, which didn’t clear up until much later that date.   This museum is free of charge to the public, but of course they accept donations.  (It was good, so I donated.)

The first exhibit seems to have moved on since I was there last week, Allegories of Paintings:  Meleko Mokgosi’s Democratic Intuition:  Lex and Love.  Mokgosi is Botswana-born.  According to the pamphlet, “The challenge for the viewer is to think through the connections that suture everyday experiences to the politics of democracy, and to stretch beyond her immediate knowledge to comprehend this connection as it appears in Southern Africa, and as Southern Africa relates to the world.”  Mokgosi’s canvases are HUGE.  Most of his work is realistic representations of people and objects, in sometimes-juxtaposed settings.  Oh, PS, allegories are not meant to be obvious.  Here’s a link to the artist’s own website about these paintings.

The second exhibit, The Anxiety of Influence: European and American Art, 1689–1913, can be described as follows:  “Bracketed by the earliest war for the control of North America and World War I, The Anxiety of Influence highlights seldom seen treasures from WCMA’s collection and illuminates the political, economic, and cultural tensions of the times. Works from Britain, France, Holland, Italy, and Spain are juxtaposed with those created in the Americas. Complex relationships—harmonious and contentious—mark the artistic exchange between Europe and America.” – from the website,   One of the most visually interesting juxtapositions was a Peruvian oil painting of the Madonna and Child, next to a Spaniard’s interpretation of the Madonna.  

william college museum of art, williamstown MA

The googly-eyes have it… notice more on top of the mound.

And, outside the museum – a permanent installation.  Yes, they’re supposed to be eyes.

And then, a drive to Susan B. Anthony’s earliest home.

susan b anthony birthplace, adams massachusetts

Lovely setting. I can’t recall when this house became a museum rather than a private residence.

The house was built in 1817, and she was born there in 1820  (Oops… originally I wrote 2020 and didn’t catch this… Bad bad Goat!).   She was raised and remained Quaker although her mother was Baptist.  The family left this bucolic setting (Mount Greylock is within range) when she was six years old.  The museum shows how homes looked in the 1820s, although most of the artifacts were not owned by the family (with some exceptions).  This is a two story home, but the museum is only housed on the first floor (the museum caretakers tried to get second floor access for visitors, but they couldn’t put in a mandatory fire escape, because the house legally cannot be visually changed now from what it looked like back then).

susan b anthony birthplace, adams ma

One can imagine cooking being done in this well-appointed fireplace. (See? Everything relates to food!)

The children would have lived upstairs.  Downstairs in one room Anthony’s father had a shop with whatever goods he could sell in the neighborhood.

There’s a lot of information posted in the home regarding Susan B Anthony’s activities over her lengthy lifespan.  She was active in the temperance movement, the abolition of slavery, the opposition to abortion, and of course the women’s suffrage (right to vote) movement.  Unfortunately, she died in 1906, before the Constitutional amendment granting us women the right to carry out the civic duty of voting was granted.

She believed in simplicity, but in honor of her mother, who was prohibited upon marriage into a Quaker family, from wearing the bright colors of red, Anthony took to wearing a red shawl in public in her mother’s honor.  One of those little-known tidbits!

Oh, PS, I love to travel and see  & learn things!!!!  

Susan B Anthony birthplace, Adams MA

Since it was on the main floor, this was likely the parents’ bedroom. Quilts and wall hanging were contemporary to the times.

Little detail:  You ask to get change in the New York City subway system from those machines they’ve set up for ticket purchase… you get the change in Susan B. Anthony dollar coins! 

Another little detail:  They did their best to chip down to original paint colors in the rooms, and match them.  There was an entire wall poster on that.  Maybe I’m easily amused?  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dining Out: Pera Bistro, Williamstown, MA

I went on “walkabout” last week, taking a spontaneous short vacation for four days, three nights.  Such is possible sometimes when one is retired.  It could never have happened in the years before this.  I just simply left home, telling the cats but no one else.  Okay, Master Card knew, or got to know.  Maybe not the best idea, but.  I did it, and came back to tell the tale.  (The old home is a mess, and the new home is not ready for me quite yet.  Mentally, I needed OUT.  And I needed a minimal schedule!)

Pera Bistro, Williamstown MA, dining out

Mussels with a clear shallot-lime wine sauce. Tender, flavorful, excellent!  That back bowl is for the shells.

I booked a motel in Williamstown, the northwestern-most corner of Massachusetts, for two nights.  I would have picked a Motel 6 or a Best Western had I seen one, but I ended up in a non-chain motel that I chose because a) those two chains weren’t available as far as I could tell, b) there was no second story to have to walk up to (my arm is still not much good for carrying things or holding onto railings, and since my knee is bad, railings are necessary for me), c) the price was right.  I ended up taking the room there the third night, too.  I liked the shower, and the Indian owners were personable.   The place isn’t fancy, and the rooms are small, but I’m not moving in!  The hotel key blends into the bedspread, but once I found it again, I was copacetic 😉 .   They provide continental breakfast, which I ate the first morning (cream cheese on toasted English muffin), but I do need more protein to start off a day without getting dizzy and running into walls.  Very clean, though.  Williamstown Motel.  I had a one-queen-sized bed bedroom, but I suspect photos on the site are from a wide-angle lens.  I’d down-rate them a star for that.  Not that I need a large room, but the principle of the advertising.  (But maybe they do have a room that big!?)

On the way up, I stopped for lunch at Aroma Bar and Grill, previously reviewed.  I’ve added an addendum to that post – I really wanted to try their pakoras again, to figure out what I’m not getting quite right.

I won’t be reviewing every place I ate at, just the outstanding places simply because… who has the time?

Dinner that first night in Williamstown was at the Pera Bistro.

Dining Out:  Pera Mediterranean Bistro 

60 Spring Street, Williamstown, MA, 01267

According to the menu and website, the owner is Turkish, and he prides himself on Mediterranean cuisine, and fresh foods.

I ordered the Prince Edward Island mussels du jour – that day it was mussels cooked in a lemon wine shallot sauce, and these were spectacular.  I would have loved to try the spanikopita, but the mussels won out.  They also have vegetarian grape leaves, pan seared falafel, or labneh on the appetizer menu.  Any of those would have been worth the try.  I considered returning for another meal, but hey… so many restaurants, so little time!!

For my main, I ordered the wild mushroom ravioli, with Marsala cream.  These were Cremini mushrooms, and hence not really wild, but hey, I was entirely in a mushroom state of mind.  I was less satisfied with this – I am not in particular a pasta/ravioli fan, so it’s my own fault.  The pasta and cream sauce were a little too rich (for me).  I will note however, this is an item true to the description, and I am not going to dock them points for my wanting to indulge my mushroom fetish without really thinking about what the rest of the dish would entail.  The mushrooms were plentiful and cooked right.

Mushroom Ravioli, Masala sauce, Pera Bistro, Williamstown MA

Pera Bistro Mushroom Ravioli. Note the glass of Sauvignon Blanc. If I order wine out, I like it to come with the meal, not in advance.

There were several seafood main dishes that sounded excellent, but if I go back, I can see just getting two or three of the small dish/appetizers instead.  They also served a few salad choices to which one could add optional falafel, salmon, lamb, shrimp or chicken for extra.  (I’d be tempted by the falafel, salmon or lamb…)

Service was excellent, and I was in a corner where my issues with eating politely considering my right arm could be mostly glossed over… I did what I could!  Mostly just ate slowly.

I rate this restaurant 4.2.  It is adjacent to portions of Williams College, so there is a sizable student population in the area (along with visiting parents).  The street this is on, Spring Street, is host to many other eateries as well.

I had an omelet one morning at Spring Street Marketplace – which is geared to the casual college crowd and serves great coffee as well as a large selection of fresh pastries for those who eat pastries.  (I don’t do well with excessive sugars/simple carbohydrates for breakfast, so I didn’t sample.)  They also have a lunch menu.  No actual review, but they do use real eggs rather than “liquid egg product”,  which would do a number on my gut.

Pera Bistro is highly recommended.


Well, I figured if on walkabout, and driving through Great Barrington to get up to my final destination, I should finally stop in at the Guthrie Center.  You know, Alice’s Restaurant?  You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant…

Great Barrington, Guthrie Center

The Guthrie Center

I had a fascinating talk with one of the caretakers there.  I was the only visitor at the time (last Tuesday right after lunch).  They do a lot of community service there, including, natch, a free Thanksgiving dinner.  There’s also periodic free meals to people in need, and there are music gigs.  It is located in a converted church, which is undergoing renovations at the moment.  They have a weekly non-denominational service, too, in the spirit of this building having once been a church.

The caretaker says that she believes that Alice now lives in Florida.  She sold the building to Arlo Guthrie in (if I remember correctly!!!) the ’80s.

Oh, PS, I saw Arlo Guthrie in concert as the closing act at the Clearwater Festival in NY this past June.

Arlo Guthrie, Clearwater 2017

Arlo Guthrie in concert at the Clearwater Festival, back on June 18th.

 

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Brussels Sprouts, Shallots and Pacific Salmon

I fell down a week ago and badly bruised my right, dominant hand, forearm.  This has limited my cooking and eating.  My knife work is down to about zero, unless what I’m chopping at is already tender.  I’m eating Brit style, fork or spoon in my left hand.  I haven’t seemed to have mastered left-hand-chopsticks, alas.  I’ve gone from being able to just be able to pick up my cell phone to being able to handle about ten pounds (if the object is in certain positions).  Improvements every day, but if that arm jostles just wrong, there’s a spasm of pain that ratchets up and down.

So right now I’m not cooking much.  And if I can eat it left handed, I’ll eat it… bringing the right hand to the mouth is more of an exercise in bringing my mouth down to the plate (something I’d prefer not to do in public), and washing my hair is best done one-armed these days.  My angle of arm attack for typing on my laptop was fine after the first day, however.  Years ago I trained my left arm to mouse.   This is cool.

Yes, I went to the ER.  This has hurt a lot more than any appendage I’ve past broken, but amazingly, I had broken nothing.  I’m pretty much off the naproxen sodium tablets (my potent NSAID of choice, often sold as Aleve, but being cheap when it doesn’t matter, I get the generic form).

So, the below is something I cooked prior to my accident, that I only had taken photos of because 1) it was at my new home and 2) those Brussels sprouts garnered at my local farmers market were stupendously HUGE.  I hadn’t planned on posting the recipe, as it is pretty simple and basic, but it was indeed yummers.

recipe, salmon, Brussels sprouts, shallots

Here we go!  I served this to myself out on my deck, on a beautiful crisp day in the ’70s.  I’m focusing on the veggies as much as the fish.  They paired up splendidly!

recipe, salmon, Brussels sprouts, shallots

I used two of these sprouts. Seriously GINORMOUS!

The fish was Pacific King salmon wild caught from Alaska, but use any salmon, trout, or Arctic char you desire.

I found really tiny shallots at that same farmer’s market (different vendor).  Maybe they made up in size for the Brussels???

recipe, salmon, shallots, Brussels sprouts

Chop chop, and awaiting the fry pan!

At any rate, without further ado:  the recipe.

Prep time:  10 minutes, maybe
Cook time:  15 minutes
Rest time: 3 minutes
Serves:  I ate this all by myself.  I can see adding another veggie in and serving two with this recipe.  But I was working hard that day around the future homestead… Oh, is that an excuse???

Brussels Sprouts, Shallots and Pacific Salmon

  • 1/2 pound or so of salmon
  • A drizzle of high heat cooking oil, such as avocado oil
  • 2 super large Brussels sprouts, or about 5 regular ones, slivered into 1/4 inch slivers.  Diced further if desired.
  • 1 or 2 normal sized shallots, adjust depending on shallot size.  Remove skins, and slice as above.
  • ground pepper to taste  (if you want salt, use it; I find that seagoing fish such as salmon doesn’t need it, but if you are using land-locked seafood such as trout or Arctic char, a sprinkle won’t be amiss).
  • 2 -3 teaspoons dried tarragon.
  • One large slice of lemon
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream, optional.  Personally, I prefer the full fat (no excipients or sugars version).  Leave off if dining Paleo or Whole 30.  

Get your oil in your skillet, and heat to medium high.  When the temps are there, add in the Brussels and the shallots.

Allow to roast just to the beginning of browning, stirring.  Reduce heat to minimum.

Add the salmon, skin side down, and grill for about 7-8 minutes, depending on seafood thickness.  I covered the pan with foil, since that pan didn’t have a lid.  Use your lid if you have one.

Just before flipping, add pepper and tarragon to the entire concoction.  Flip, and move the veggies around more.

Cook another five minutes, covered.

Re-flip to original side, about 30 seconds, uncovered, moving the veggies around again.

Plate, and squeeze the lemon over the dish.  Add a dollop of sour cream if desired.

Sit outdoors and enjoy the ambiance of life to its fullest! (I mean, assuming weather is permitting…)

Please enjoy!

I am planning on posting a few things that are NOT recipes in the next week or so.  Reviews of cookbooks and the like.  My trip to the Northeastern Organic Farmers Association.  (Which is where I did my arm in…)  I am working on (maybe not this moment) on a vegetarian Indian pakora recipe, but the two attempts to date, while tasty, didn’t hold together they way I wanted.  This is on hold until I can slice properly again…

This recipe is being shared on Fiesta Friday’s link party; give them a look-see!  Lots of real, healthy, excellent food!  Our co-hosts this week are Colleen and Alex!

 

 

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A Marriage of Marsala and Piccata, Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs – GF

Recipe, Marsala, Piccata, chicken thighs, gluten free

Chicken Marsala married with a willing appearance of Piccata. It’s not a dish of photogenic aspirations, but yes, I could do better if I remembered where I put my real camera! Back in Connecticut, for sure…  Meal cooked at my new home in MA!

First you buy some boneless, skinless chicken thighs… yes, I prefer the dark meat.  Although the Marsala preparation is one of the few ways that chicken breast is moist enough to be reasonably edible past the polite bites, to be honest, after 63 years of life I’ve yet to find a stupendously awesome preparation for chicken (or, especially) turkey breast.  So, I know it’s just not going to happen for me.  Y’know… after a few decades sometimes you just get to know what just doesn’t do it for you ?  Somehow, ya’think?

(AND, think about it… save money, eat chicken thighs!)

If you don’t want to read the discussion of the birds I plan to raise, please just scroll down to the recipe!  You’ll see it… big shocking pink headline! 

Eh, some folks prefer the breast (which I imagine is often because they are told it is “healthier”), and some of us prefer the dark side of the bird.  As far as health goes:  I buy free range birds (organic, effectively organic, or otherwise) or failing that, I’ll settle for simply organic birds on occasion.  There are indeed more nutrients in the dark meat than the white.  Yes, there’s also more fat, but I cut the visible bits off and out.  Okay, I’m still a sucker for very very crispy poultry skin… I just establish personal limits, if it pertains to a dish!)  Just getting the bird out on the field is a tremendous help!  None of this technically-organic “we will open up a small back door on the overpopulated chicken house after they’re too used to being indoors all the time, and hey, so… they didn’t know to go outside!  But we’re ORGANIC!” nonsense.  And, if they are outdoors, they will have LESS fat, and if they graze as is their nature, it will be a healthier omega ratio of fats.  Chickens are omnivores.  And, yes, added benefit, they love chowing down on TICKS… Less the rest of us have to worry about crawling upon our own persons…  Chickens also love vegetation, too.  Just like humans, if they get overcrowded, they suffer.  Just like humans, they are indeed omnivores.

I can’t WAIT to raise my own birds.  I’m gonna kick them out of doors, into chicken tractors, which will help them survive predators (if I am smart about it).  The meat birds won’t be Cornish Cross – I want a breed or two that downplays that breast, awesome cat food as it can make!  Plus, they really don’t thrive after over-breeding with being pastured, and they tend to grow so fast (including that so much vaunted breast) that they become too heavy to stand, and can break their legs just by standing on them.  At least when I break my own leg (ahem), there’s something more active going on!

 

Recipe, Marsala, Piccata, chicken thighs, gluten free

Lay out the meat in a bag, and seal it, before pounding it to the proper thin-ness. Since thigh meat gives off a few odd lumps, they are in there as separate pieces. But overall I tried cutting the thighs simply into halves.  Photo here:  Lightly dredged, post-pounding…

So, anyhow:  Chicken Marsala.  Chicken Marsala is based around the Marsala wines of Sicily, and recipes date back to the 19th century.  My recipe isn’t totally authentic even without considering the subbing of both thighs and rice flour, but I admit I was looking for variants I liked to eat the best in the past, to adapt to my fondness for the thighs.  I ended up infusing some piccata concepts (capers, lemon) into this dish, as well.

Recipe, Marsala, Piccata, chicken thighs, gluten free

I can dive into this photo:  the dredged chicken after having been pan fried until suitably browned.  It awaits its sauce…

I surfed the Internet a bit, and discovered there are a variety of preparations.  I am trying (not as effectively as I’d like… they are a major food group for me, unlike grains) to avoid nightshades – autoimmune condition of uncertain etiology — so adding tomato sauce especially when it is not definitive for Chicken Marsala means I won’t be using it in this recipe.

Recipe, Marsala, Piccata, chicken thighs, gluten free

Sauce, first stages, not fancy, sitting happily on my new induction range. Mushrooms, Marsala, chicken broth, garlic, more oregano. Sorry, but I could not remotely begin to redeem the photos of the sauce after I added the capers and sour cream. Some things photograph wonderfully, but taste poorly. Those images would have been the reverse.  Don’t ask.  

Some recipes I’ve seen out there use cream or sour cream, some recipes apparently add the capers and lemon, some do not.  And, actually, adding the capers and lemon can make this dish a chicken picatta, if one gets technical. I’m creating the style I enjoyed best, and in the meanwhile (since it won’t affect flavor anyway) making this gluten-free.  The commonality of a Marsala chicken dish (which makes sense, duh) is the Marsala wine.

Prep Time:
Cook Time:10-12 minutes for the chicken, another 6-7 for the rest.
Rest Time: Not needed.
Serves: 2 servings.
Leftover friendly?  Yes, save extras in the fridge.  I haven’t tested it in the freezer, but should be fine.  


Marsala Chicken Thighs, Gluten-Free

  • 4 Boneless skinless chicken thighs, remove any fat pads.  I use kitchen scissors.  (Feel free to sub in two white meat boneless skinless butterflied breasts, if you wish.  You can probably cook the meat a couple minutes less.)  I cut the thighs in half and would likely do the same for the breasts.
  • About 1/4 cup of rice flour.  
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, with extra reserved.
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 stick of butter (4 tablespoons)
  • 4 tablespoons of oil (I used avocado oil; some recipes use olive oil)
  • 4 ounces white button mushrooms (Cremini would be awesome, too), sliced
  • 1/2 cup Marsala wine (if you use the cooking variant, there’s salt already added to that, to make it unpalatable for up and up drinking.  Omit the earlier salt in such a case).
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth (low sodium, or homemade).  
  • 1 heaping tablespoon capers (rinsed and drained)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (I use whole milk sour cream, which has minimal if any extenders).  This is OPTIONAL. 
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon.
  • You can garnish with parsley or cilantro.

Prep all your ingredients so you can move quickly.

Place the meat in a layer in a large gallon zip lock or other sturdy plastic bag, and seal.

Pound the heck out of it with a rubber mallet.  I’m not sure where I put mine (I am living out of two kitchens two hours apart…) so I made do with a hard plastic potato masher.  This will flatten the meat so it cooks more evenly.  They also say it makes meat more tender, but I couldn’t tell.

In a bowl, add the flour, oregano, salt and pepper, mix gently.

Dredge the chicken through, piece by piece.  The coating will be very thin.  Place on a separate plate.

Melt the oil and butter in a LARGE skillet, medium high.

Add the chicken in a flat layer, and have your splash guard to hand.  (Use it.)

Cook a total of 10-12 minutes, flipping about halfway through.  Make sure your poultry is crispened and nicely tanned.

Remove the chicken to a clean plate, set aside (perhaps in a warming oven).

Add mushrooms, Marsala, broth, garlic, and any optional extra oregano to the ORIGINAL skillet.  Mix around with a spatula until the mushrooms are cooked through, about 5-6 minutes.  Add the capers.  Cook another minute.

Add the sour cream, allow to cook, while stirring, another 2 minutes.

Remove from heat, add the lemon juice, stir once, and pour over the chicken.  Add garnish if desired.  Serve it up!  This was quite good!

Recipe, Marsala, Piccata, chicken thighs, gluten free

Finished platter, holds two servings, assuming light sides. Shows off my wonderful cutting board in my new kitchen. (Cutting board made by the father of my old housemate – no, HE’S not old, except in the sense of past tense residence; cutting board recently refinished back in May or April with sandpaper, food-grade mineral oil and beeswax.)

Serving suggestions:  I simply had a leafy green salad with a mild vinaigrette on the side.   But for serving to others – I suggest colorful zoodles (yellow squash and green zucchini) sauteed briefly to retain some crispness, in a little chicken broth with diced onion or shallot, basil, thyme, a hint of salt, some ground pepper, and perhaps marjoram.

Ah!  This recipe has made its way over to Fiesta Friday, for your enjoyment!  Your hosts this week are: Liz and Jenny.


I haven’t tried arrowroot powder or tapioca flour yet in this recipe.  I will also make a variant without the cream, while reducing the Marsala sauce down further before serving, as I’d like to test out a strictly-Paleo version.  Possibly next time!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Cooking, Poultry | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Dining Out: Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao, Flushing, NYC

Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao (Chinese: Jiangnan, Shanghai, Wuxi, Sichuan), 59-16 Main St,  Flushing (Queens) New York City, NY 11355 

(This experience with a couple of friends was a jewel of an event!  Okay, it was back in mid-March this very year, but with one thing or another… this was mostly written up, but got lost in the shuffle.  Now it is posted!)

20170415_soup dumpling 1.jpg

I’ve been wanting to try Chinese soup dumplings ever since I broke my ankle back in late autumn, 2015.  What did the ankle have to do with it?  Oh, since I couldn’t GO anywhere, I had to amuse myself with Amazon Prime and, yes, YouTube.  Somewhere or another in there, I discovered both H-Mart (a Korean/Asian food market chain) AND I discovered Mickey Chen and another review of his, and his serious recommendations for Asian and other foods… but most specifically, soup dumplings, which I hadn’t heard of until then.  They sounded… fascinating!  (It probably helped that while I was down and out and stuck at home, I received both pork and shrimp dumplings from someone at work – authentic, Chinese home-made – I had fun putting together authentic dipping sauces for these, since I did and do own the condiments.  But, Soup Dumplings??? How fascinating!)

 

My very first one-hour drive after I could drive again… I went to H-Mart, just outside of White Plains, NY.  Stoked up on a lot of different veggies, condiments, and related items.  I ate at their food court, but while this food is far better than most food courts, it didn’t bop up and demand me to write it up.  I’ve gone to shop there a couple times since.  Awesome, and my GPS is a lot more cooperative than that first time!  It did NOT get me closer to soup dumplings, however.

Anyhow, back on  a Saturday in March, three of us got up and ready to drive down to Flushing, to suck down some tasty soup dumplings.  There was a bit of road traffic, but not so bad, actually (I’d eaten a hard boiled duck egg just prior, to edge off the appetite.  My friends mentioned eating an English muffin or two earlier).

For the three of us, we ordered four Xiao Long Bao servings... that’s four containers of pork soup dumplings, each container containing six anticipatory dumplings.  That’s 8 dumplings apiece!  (Hey, they’re largely broth!)

dining out, soup dumplings, Chinese, Flushing

Pork soup dumpling. Background on the plate contains mostly shredded pork, bean curd, Chinese celery – and a little ma po tofu.

The soup dumplings were to die for!  This restaurant serves three savory varieties – a pork, a pork and crab, and a (vegetable) one.  The broth in all cases but the last is likely pork/chicken based, because in order to make a soup dumpling, you need to stuff the dumplings while cold with stock/bone broth.  Which is solid/gelatinous.  Chicken really lends itself to making gelatin.  OR, use pig feet and make highly gelatinous soup from this! The pork or other ingredients are made into balls and combined with the stock and dumpling mixture is carefully molded around them.  They are steamed and served hot. 5+ out of 5 stars.  Yes, indeedy!

This restaurant also serves a dessert soup dumpling:  chocolate and Nutella.  I can’t eat most tree nuts nowadays, and in any case I’ve always loathed hazelnuts (Nutella), and had no desire to find out if hazelnut now also has the same horrid biological effect on my gut… so I declined the dessert dumpling.  If I’m going to play Russian Roulette with my biology, it would at least have to be with something I crave!  I’m given to understand if you like and can eat them, these dessert dumplings are good.  Try them, if you can.

Each of us ordered a main to share with each other. (Thereby I decided not to order tripe… Yes, I seriously considered it…  Dad and Mom both made and ate tripe back in the day.)

My absolute favorite of the three dishes was the Ma Po Tofu.  Made with silken tofu and some veggies, this was rather soup-like in consistency, and was well-seasoned Sichuan style, with numbing ground Sichuan peppercorns.   As I do not know what the broth base was, I cannot guarantee if this dish was vegetarian or not (searching online, I rather suspect not).  I do long to learn how to make this, too.  The tofu was extremely soft and would break up with chopsticks – it was best eaten as a soup with a spoon.  Looking online, the examples I have seen so far of this dish seem different than that served at this restaurant… I want to learn how THEY made it!  Totally awesome, and along with the soup dumplings, I rank this a 5 out of five stars!

I ordered the shredded pork, bean curd and Chinese celery dish.   The bean curd (tofu) looked from a distance like slivers of portabello mushroom… it was a very hard-textured preparation.  I liked this, but the seasonings were intentionally mild.  I think I’d have preferred more of a “kick” to this dish.  (But I was intentionally trying to vary up the menu of our shared entrees.)  The pork and the bean curd/tofu and the Chinese celery worked well together to make a great meal.  This one was just shy of 4 stars.

Our other diner ordered seafood with noodles.  This was also a mildly flavored dish.  I’m not certain what the other sea life in this dish was, but there were at least shrimp.  I found it okay – but I’m not really into noodles all that much.  Especially since these lacked the textural dimensions of the “pasta” that surrounded the soup dumplings!  However, I think the dish is genuine.  I rate this dish 3 out of 5.  It did what it intended to do, but would not be something I’d order again for myself.

I am ranking this dining experience and the meals as 4.9 stars out of 5.  The soup dumplings get about a 10 out of 5…  Nothing seemed Chinese-American or over-sweetened about the food here.  I really really want to go back, and wish that it was closer to my home than it is.  (Oh, General Tso’s chicken was on the menu… but I think that was the only bow to Americanized Chinese food that I noticed…)

WHY did I not post this post sooner?  Dunno.  Life has been, well, adventurous of late.  I still do want to go back to eat more soup dumplings at that locale.

I am also planning to learn how to make soup dumplings on my own.  Somewhere down an accessible road…

 

Posted in Appetizers, Asian & Asian Influenced, Commentary, Cooking, Soups & Stews | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Breakfast Today: Bacon, Scallops, Asparagus, Guinea Hen Eggs

This breakfast came together from various events…

recipe, breakfast, bacon, eggs, scallops, asparagus, paleo, whole 30

Tasty as all get-out, and simpler than it looks.

Friday, I picked up a quarter of a pasture-raised pig that I’d split with several other people (we each got a quarter).  I also took the head… yes, I’ll cook that for us here on the blog in the near future!

Yesterday, I tried the bacon (with two chicken and one guinea hen egg, asparagus and mushrooms…) and it was awesome!  Last night:  pan fried pork chops, also awesome!

recipe, breakfast, bacon, eggs, scallops, asparagus, paleo, whole 30

This bacon is a star!!!

The guinea fowl eggs:  Found at the farmer’s market on Saturday.  Naturally, I snagged a dozen.  Only $3 for the pack.

The scallops:  Sea scallops, on sale big time, for $9 a pound yesterday.  Now, you have to be careful buying scallops because a lot of them have water and stuff added, and sometimes they aren’t really scallops at all.  These cooked like they were dry (nice browning effect), and they certainly had that scallop flavor.  I will go back today to buy more, as it is the last day of the sale.  Scallops freeze well.

The cilantro:  At the same farmer’s market Saturday, I caught a whiff of the stuff across the aisle while I was waiting to pay for my lettuce and scallions.  Naturally, I added a bunch in!

The asparagus:  No special story behind that; it was already in my fridge saying, “eat me or compost me soon”.

recipe, breakfast, bacon, eggs, scallops, asparagus, paleo, whole 30

The prep plate

This sounds like a large breakfast, but it contains nothing starchy, and I will probably eat only one more meal today, late afternoon.  No it is not something to make when you are about to head out the door for work or such; consider it a weekend idea.  However it doesn’t really take that much time to put together – most of the time was spent tracking items down in the fridge…

Prep time:  10 minutes
Cook Time:  `10 minutes
Rest Time:   Not really
Serves:  the below is for one; simply scale up.
Leftover-friendly:  Nope.

Bacon, Scallops, Asparagus, Guinea Hen Eggs

  • 2 strips of high quality bacon
  • 4 sea scallops, patted dry.  
  • several (6-10) thin asparagus stalks, bottoms snapped off, and the remaining stalk broken in two.
  • 2 guinea hen eggs (or whatever eggs you like/have available), de-shelled and uncooked.
  • ground pepper to taste
  • A bit of fresh cilantro, to your preference.
  • 1 thin slice of lemon (for the scallops)

Cook your bacon on medium high heat, turning slices as needed.  Remove when done to your preferred done-ness to a paper towel to drain.

If you have excess bacon fat in your skillet, remove the excess carefully so as not to burn yourself (this bacon is lean… no excess fat today!)  Leave enough in to cook the scallops, asparagus and eggs.

Add the scallops to the pan.  Add ground pepper.  Let cook for about 1-1.5 minutes on one side, then flip to the other side.  Add more ground pepper as desired, then cook for another minute, and remove to the paper towel with the bacon.

REDUCE the HEAT!  On a regular electric range you may get impatient, but it helps for me to remove the skillet from the heat for a bit.  Have the heat at about low-medium to medium.  If it is too hot, the edges of the eggs will turn all brown, crusty and nasty.  Plus, you want to avoid overcooking the asparagus.

Add the asparagus and the eggs.  Cook the eggs however you like them – I wanted sunny side up, so after I saw they were cooking at the proper heat level, I covered the skillet so that the whites could cook through.  You can add more ground pepper if you wish.

Just before they are ready, return the scallops and bacon to the skillet (just to get them warm) and add the cilantro, just long enough to wilt slightly.

Plate your dish, putting the scallops to one side, and the eggs to another.  The rest can go anywhere.  Squeeze the lemon on the scallops (I don’t care for lemon on my eggs, not unless I am making a Greek dish…)

Eat and enjoy before it gets cold!  (Didn’t have my camera to hand, so these are phone shots, and I was more interested in eating than staging today…)

Oh, guinea hen eggs:  they taste just the same as chicken eggs, at least like pastured chicken eggs.  They are smaller, and their shells are definitely harder.  And that skin layer just inside the shell is tougher.

Breakfast is served at Fiesta Friday!  
This week’s hosts are:  Liz and Jenny!

 

 

 

Posted in Cooking | 3 Comments