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What's Your Delicious?

I want to know what you think is Delicious! Send me an email and tell me what amazing food experience I'm missing out on.

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Tuesday
Sep222009

Jewish New Year at Bubbe's House

Where: Bubbe and Poppa's House in Monsey, New York
What: Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year)

Bubbe and Poppa relaxing before the holiday feast

This Search for Delicious brought me back to my roots, to my Grandparent's home in Monsey, New York. I have been coming to this house for my entire life. The smells are so familiar, so comforting. When I walk in, it smells like my grandmother's roast chicken and potatoes, like being a kid and stealing a slice of turkey as it is being sliced by my grandfather (ok, I still do this). Every room is always exactly the same, preserved in time exactly as it was when I was a child. It feels like a big hug every time I step foot in the door. I don't build legos sitting crosslegged on the floor anymore, or race miniature cars down the linoleum floors, but as soon as we get there, my sister, brother and I still ritualistically rush downstairs to play with my grandfather's huge 1940s cash register, and ruffle through old photo albums with faded pictures while sitting on their well worn velvety couch.
Roasted turkey. Perfection.
This time, we had come to celebrate Rosh Hashanah--the Jewish New Year. My Grandparents (known to me as Bubbe and Poppa), are Orthodox Jews, and this is a very important holiday. One of the "High Holy Days." It is a holiday to celebrate life, and to pray for a sweet and happy year.

My Bubbe is an amazing cook. She just has a way with food. She cooks the same things everytime we go and she has perfected each and every dish. I have eaten all over the world, in some of the greatest restaurants on the planet. But still I find that eating my Bubbe's food satisfies my ultimate Search for Delicious like nothing else can. It is Delicious food, seasoned with history, with memories. It's indescribably Delicious.

Chicken soup with noodles and Matzoh ballsWe arrived Friday night. Bubbe lit the candles in observation of the Sabbath, and the New Year. It is always a very meaningful moment. Bubbe leans over the candles, silently praying and sobbing for all of the people she has lost over the years. Bubbe has had a difficult life and has seen a lot of tragedy. In fact, my mom wrote a book about her amazing life story called "Sala's Gift." (Amazon Link)

And then, there is the feast. Seriously, dinner was so good that night that I kept moaning with each bite. My mother told me I had to cut it out. The highlight, and probably one of my top 10 Most Delicious Things to Eat was the giant turkey neck, fresh from the oven. Rubbed with garlic powder, paprika, salt, and whatever other magic powders Bubbe sprinkles on her turkey, the neck is so tender and flavorful you can't believe it. I almost cried eating it. Long, thick strands of meat pull off the bone like some kind of meat Polly-O string cheese. If you haven't had a turkey neck in your life, you are making a BIG mistake. Best part of the turkey, by far.

Turkey neck, in all of it's glory
Turkey with potato kugel, cucumber salad, roasted string beansThe meal was accompanied by thick slices of Challah drizzled with honey (traditional to encourage a sweet New Year), cucumber salad, potato kugel (a sort of potato pie made with hand grated potatoes and onions, egg and flour), roasted string beans and Bubbe's cole slaw which is, in my opinion, the best and most unique cole slaw around. I really don't know how she makes it, though I've gotten the recipe many times, and attempted to make it myself over and over again. No matter how many times I've tried, it never comes out like Bubbe's. Her recipe is simple: cabbage, carrot, lemon juice, mayo, water, light olive oil, sugar and salt. How does she do it?? I think it's all in her hands. Magic hands.

We go to Synagogue (temple) for a while on Saturday, and when we get home, another unbelievable meal awaits us. This afternoon, it is

Bubbe's Magical colemy mother's legendary beef brisket, a sacred dish in my family. It is a relatively simple thing to make, but the combination of the meaty brisket, crushed tomatoes, beef stock, carrots and onions transforms the brisket into something other-worldly. It is a stunning dish. I made it for a client recently, and she emailed me that she "dreams about that brisket."  Really, it's that good. I have gotten my mother's blessing to post the recipe. Try making it and let me know what you think. I guarantee you will love it.

Accompanying the succulent brisket was Noodle Kugel (same concept as the potato kugel but made with well cooked egg noodles and sweetened with cinnamon and sugar), roast zucchini and of course, more cucumber salad and cole slaw. Mmm, mmm good.

Brisket, noodle kugel, zucchini and cole slaw. A light lunch.Going to Bubbe and Poppa's house is a  treasured experience for me. It is deeply engrained in my memories of childhood and it is such a powerful, memorable part of my life. So much of that is because of the unforgettable meals I have shared with my family and my extraordinary Bubbe and Poppa through the years. There is nothing more delicious than an outstanding meal, cooked lovingly by your grandmother, shared with your family as part of a meaningful family tradition, carried out year after year.

Saturday
Sep122009

Elegant and Extravagant Sit Down Dinner in NYC

 

What: Catered Sit-Down dinner for 14 Guests
Where: Client's Apartment on the Upper West Side

Row of uncut RavioliThe search for delicious began when I got a call from a client who I hadn't heard from in several years, asking if I could cater a dinner party for 14 people at his apartment. It was great to hear from this client after so long, so I knew I had to cook to impress!

We decided on a great menu:

  • Seared Scallops with Foie Gras and Candied Fennel
  • Sweet Potato Ravioli with Prosciutto and Fried Sage
  • Braised Veal Breast with Polenta Cakes and Sauteed Spinach
  • Chocolate Armagnac Cake with Fresh Whipped Cream

I cater all sorts of dinners. Sometimes, clients want something as simple as a roast chicken, string beans and some mashed potatoes. But other times, as you can see from the menu above, people want to go all out. When you invite guests to your home, and offer them a menu like this, you are treating them to a very luxurious, decadent dining experience. It makes for a really special night. It sure is nice to have a private chef cooking for you!

Scallops with seared foie gras, plated and ready to go

I love cooking dinners like these. First of all, I get to work with gorgeous high end ingredients like foie gras. It is thrilling to walk into a store and buy a very pricey goose liver. It's also a great way for me to be creative and show off some of my cooking skills. I get to really flex my culinary muscles.

I discovered years ago that I love making fresh pasta. It is a very intimate and rewarding cooking experience. You take a mess of flour and a couple of eggs (maybe a little olive oil, maybe a pinch of salt), and you gradually bring it together, kneading it for about 10 minutes, until it becomes a beautiful smooth dough. It's really very magical. (I'll do a post dedicated to making fresh pasta sometime soon.) Anyway, I always serve a pasta course for a sit down dinner, because people really appreciate handmade pasta. It's sooo delicious.

Veal breast about to go into the oven for a slow 4 hour braise

Finished batch of uncooked raviol

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the guests at the party was an expert on Spanish wines, and the guests drank about 8 bottles of a fancy Spanish wine. The expert declared it was probably the best wine Spain ever produced. Woah. Must've been some damn good wine. It's times like these when I start wishing I was a guest at my own party!

The scallops were really excellent. I get my scallops from an amazing fish place at the Union Square Greenmarket called Blue Moon Fish (http://www.bluemoonfish.com/). They're local Long Island scallops and they're incredibly sweet and juicy. I seared the seasoned scallops in a little butter and olive oil, then covered them with a big slice of foie gras that had been simply seared and topped with some fleur de sel. The dish was finished off with a nest of candied fennel (cooked in pernod, sugar and lemon juice) and a sauce made from a reduction of fresh orange juice, vanilla and a considerable amount of butter.

I served the ravioli in a rich, creamy sauce made from butter, heavy cream and sage (ok, this is not the healthiest meal. But why do you think great food tastes so good?).


Plated ravioli, topped with prosciutto and fried sage

I love braised meat. The veal breast, which I had slowly braised for four hours in veal stock, chopped carrots and onions, had that great earthy and comforting taste that all slow-braised meats do. On top of the polenta cake (which was fortified with marscapone cream and an amount of butter that shall remain nameless), and surrounded by garlicky spinach, it was the perfect main course for this happy, sophisticated and boisterous crowd.

And then the chocolate cake. A recipe from my Baking Bible: Dorie Greenspan's: Baking: From my Home To Yours (Amazon Link). It's a very rich, dense, flourless chocolate cake made with ground pecans and prunes steeped in armagnac. Buy the book. Best baking book ever.

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