Tag Archives: Comfort Food

Macro-Micro

12 Sep

New York City is never more beautiful than when it’s seen from afar after dark.

Seeing its pulsing, sparkling lights, flowing and dancing at a languid, dreamlike pace from a plane coming in for a landing at JFK can bring tears to my eyes.  And the city is never more alluring than when seen from the Triboro Bridge or the BQE, as it plays a glittering game of hide-and-seek between the monolithic, brutalist shells that pass for housing along the highways of the outer boroughs.

Since I don’t love driving in the city after dark, Isaac has been pulling the return leg of our upstate forays, allowing me to sit and gaze out on the view of the city I love the most.  When the sun has set and the lights are on, all the hard edges and drab grayness fade away and New York becomes the city of dreams and possibility.

Each tiny apartment, lit up like a Russian egg, glowing golden with the light over the kitchen sink or silvery cool from the television, is a little bastion of hope and exertion, a refuge from the hurly burly that is daily life in New York.

Because, it is this daily life that makes New York so hard to crack.  Even once you’re inside the city, walking through its hallowed halls, standing upon its celestial corners, it’s still the dream city.  It isn’t until you live here, really live here, that the trials begin.  The scrimping of money, the oppressive noise and heat, the long, dark, cold winters, year upon year of toiling, hoping it’s enough and waiting for that big break or genius stroke of luck.  That’s when New York becomes the fabled she-lion that gobbles you up and spits you back onto the streets, naked, shivering and lost.

It’s a giant, heroic struggle, pushing against a Herculean tide of people, time and ambition, locked in constant battle with hope.  Life in New York is big and diffuse.

My yard is never more beautiful than when seen just before the sun sets.

In the country, I’m finding that my cares exist on a far more granular level.  I forget about work and ambition and our noisy neighbors, about the herds of NYU students that have invaded my favorite ramen joint, about the crazy lady who sits on the corner near my office and sings, about where the markets are going and why.

Up there, the little things are what I care about.  The tenths of inches my kale has grown in a week, the tenacity of the spiders to not be vacated from their cozy corners, the miracle of a day lily blooming before the deer decided to make it a delicious afternoon snack.  This is what occupies me when I’m 200 miles north of New York.

It’s like splitting my time between the two halves of my favorite New York treat, the black-and-white cookie.

Which brings us to food.  Shopping for dinner upstate is so much more fun than down here.  It’s the same farmers with the same produce as I see at the greenmarket in Union Square, but up there, they seem much happier, too.  There’s time to answer questions and chat about the weather, to swap recipes and discuss pest control.  The farmers seem less guarded, less tired.  Perhaps it’s because they’re not being stalked by magazine writers, chefs and foodies.

This past weekend we made our first foray to the Kinderhook farmer’s market. It was wonderful, despite the threat of rain.  I was seduced by gorgeous yellow beets and a sour cherry tart.  Isaac fell for potatoes and corn.  Rounded out with delicious chicken from Olde Hudson Gourmet, and we had ourselves an epic meal of locally grown and produced goodness.

We cooked the beets and potatoes together and then mashed them and stirred in some delicious garlic, local butter and the beet greens.  I roasted the chicken and made a sweet-sour Anaheim chile relish that was as good with the chicken as it was stirred into the mash. And we ate it all with a salad of the world’s pepperiest, most delicious arugula ever.

And while I love cooking simple food made from simple ingredients and padding about in the grass, I miss spending weekends in the asphalt jungle a little bit.  So I’m looking forward to next weekend when we’re going to stick around in the city.

Now, if only I could decide which side of the half-moon cookie New York is.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Beeten & Mashed.

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The Chowder Bowl

5 Feb

So, the Giants won the Super Bowl.

Fourth Avenue Station, Brooklyn

If you’re anything like me, you’re still trying to figure out how they even got into what the NFL wants you to think of as “The Big Game” in the first place.

Perhaps, as a New Yorker, I’ve come to expect our teams to be mostly mediocre. The Yankees, as much as I love them, seem to have lost the come-from-behind fire that made them so exciting to watch for so many years. The Mets are always claiming to have finally procured that last player they need to become the best team ever, and then nothing happens. And then there’s the Knicks. Oh sweet mercy, the Knicks! Have you ever seen such a spectacle? They’re like a goat rodeo masquerading as a professional sports team.

Fourth Avenue Station, Brooklyn

I suppose I should admit right off the bat that I’m not a football fan.

That said, I was still aware that the New England Patriots were having a “magic season.” I knew that their quarterback was dating Giselle, I knew that they had the hubris to pre-print a book about their perfect year, I knew that they were virtually guaranteed to win. Yet I had no inkling that the team from our own backyard (also known as New Jersey) was even fair to middling this year.

And so, even though it is once again “TV free February,” Isaac and I granted ourselves a special dispensation to watch the game. And Puppy Bowl, of course. And since you can’t have a Super Bowl without food, I discovered something important, something I could get behind. This game wasn’t about a perfect season, or blue-collar heroes, about pretty-boy quarterbacks or coaching dynasties.

Fourth Avenue Station, Brooklyn

Oh no my friends.

This game was about chowder supremacy.

New England clam chowder vs. Manhattan clam chowder. Creamy and white vs. tomatoey and piquant. The chowder known around the world vs. the chowder maligned as the “other” chowder. The chowder kids cheer for vs. the chowder that makes kids groan.

Fourth Avenue Station, Brooklyn

But, not really. In my heart, there is only one chowder. New England clam chowder forever! I’ve tried to like Manhattan clam chowder, I really have. I love tomatoes and I love clams, but Manhattan clam chowder I do not love. It’s not a chowder. Chowders have cream and butter. But Isaac? Exactly the opposite. He loves Manhattan clam chowder best.

So instead of making New England clam chowder, which would have implied clandestine culinary support of the Patriots, or Manhattan clam chowder, which would have made the cook grumpy, a sure way to ruin the soup, we made Brooklyn clam chowder.

Fred loves football AND clams

What’s Brooklyn clam chowder you ask? It’s an homage to two of the greatest dishes we’ve discovered since moving to Bay Ridge.

The first is Polonica‘s cucumber soup; a simple broth, made creamy with a touch of sour cream and flavored with Polish dill pickles and tons of fresh dill. The second is a special we had once at local Italian stalwart Canedo’s; clams and mussels steamed in white wine with tons of garlic and hot, pickled cherry peppers.

Homesick Texan's Mythical Biscuits

Brooklyn clam chowder has its foundations in New England clam chowder, but the pickled peppers do give it a Manhattan chowder-esque reddish hue. I know it sounds weird to put pickles in soup, but you’ll just have to trust me on this. They add a beguiling flavor that’s very hard to put your finger on, an unexpected lightness and delicacy to a soup that can be a bit heavy.

Brooklyn Clam Chowder

If I may mix my metaphors, this chowder is a real home run. Especially when served with an endless supply of Lisa’s extraordinary biscuits, a pat of Ronnybrook garlic butter and a growler of locally-brewed SixPoint beer.

Brooklyn Clam Chowder

Top it all off with a Giants victory, and you’ve got the recipe for a very pleasant Sunday evening.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Brooklyn Clam Chowder.

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