Tuesday, September 29, 2009

White Bean Soup with Ground Chicken and Pork

I have been a terrible blogger lately- Fall is upon us here in Boston- and I have been out enjoying the crisp temperatures. But with those beautiful temperatures comes my love of warming comfort foods- nutrition for the body and the soul. Nothing says "comfort" to me like a big pot of soup, simmering on the stove promising to bring me back to the days of sitting in my mothers kitchen, perched on a stool behind the stove watching her add ingredients, taste the product and add some more ingredients. My obsession for the past couple of weeks has been the glorious Roasted Vegetable Soup (Stew) with Turkey Meatballs I made a few weeks back. Several batches later and I'm still enjoying the delicate blends of flavors and the fun of the different textures. However last night, being short on time, I decided to try something a bit faster to put together, a thinned white bean soup with ground chicken, and veggies.
After a particularly grueling gym session, I headed to the store to pick up the ingredients I thought I needed: Spinach, green beans, Serrano pepper, carrots, yellow onion, celery, parsley, sage, ground chicken, Cannelloni beans, chicken stock and a nice crusty loaf of whole wheat bread. There were a few disappointments to be had- short on ground chicken so I settled for a package of ground chicken, and a package of ground pork. Obviously this was not going to be AS healthy as I was hoping. Later, in the bean aisle- it appeared that there was a run on beans- why? I have no idea- but those were some barren shelves. Completely out of Cannelloni beans- I settled for a can of butter beans, and a can of Pinto beans. Fine, groceries paid for- off back home to start putting it together.
First task- finely dice onion, carrots, celery and a little salt, begin to saute with just a touch of olive oil in a pan-then add chopped Serrano pepper, and chopped sage-when the kitchen was smelling delicious- I added the ground meat to the mix, stirring frequently to brown it all. I then turned my attention to my base- into my food processor went several very small peeled cloves of garlic, and several handfuls of parsley- then both cans of beans (drained) into the mix. I began to pulse this to puree it, and then began adding the chicken stock- when all was said and done- I added about half a container of chicken stock. Back at the stove, I transferred all my browned meat and veggies into a soup pot, and then added about 10 oz of a beautiful fall Pumpkin Beer, and allowed it to cook down a bit- when satisfied with its reduction-I added the white bean puree to the pot. Then I set to work on just chopping some green beans into bite sized pieces, adding them to the soup, adding some frozen corn kernels to the mix, and then finally adding in a few big handfuls of baby spinach leaves. A stir around the pot, a simmer for a few minutes, and I began my own taste testing. Apparently the Serrano pepper did not contain enough heat-so a few drops of hot sauce went in, a bit more salt, and then another maybe three ounces of the beer, and the soup was ready to simmer for about a half hour, forty five minutes before I could spoon myself out a nice bowl for dinner.
This soup is delicious. My original picture had been of a thicker stew type meal, but this has a beautiful velvety smooth broth to it- beefed up with beans and a nice earthy flavor. The pumpkin from the beer is a nice background taste of fall- though the pumpkin flavor is indiscernible. The chicken/pork combination breaks up the broth-though it would be fine on its own, and the veggies are a love texture variation and boot of vitamins. I ate it with a quickly grilled slice of the whole wheat bread and it was a meal fit for a king- or at least- an exhausted girl after a busy day!
Future notes- Ill blanch the green beans prior to adding them to the pot to see if I can get them to maintain their pretty green color a bit better, and I think a bit more sage to make that flavor really come a live. Otherwise though- wow- I cant wait to have another bowl!

Monday, September 14, 2009

News Alert! Where To Eat celebrates 10 years!!

Aren't anniversaries wonderful things? Time to reflect back on where you've been, celebrate your progress and plan for the future! Well just 10 short years ago Where To Eat, a magazine publication throughout greater Boston, started their journey of showcasing the hot restaurants around the area we should all be checking out. After a decade of hard work- now its time to celebrate! How are they going to rock out their big day? By inviting their readers, or even just those people who love to eat, to check out 10 different restaurants over the next 10 months. Each restaurant participating in the dinner series will create special tasting menus to offer those in attendance- and each restaurant will offer a private cocktail party to the first 50 diners who sign up! These events will take place on the first Tuesday of each month, from September 15, 2009 (ok- so the first Tuesday starting in October) and continuing til July 2010- they are taking off December 2009. Most of the restaurants are offering these special menus of an appetizer, entree and dessert at just $33.00-not a bad deal!
More information below-hope to see you all there!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

MC Perkins Cove, Ogunquit, ME

The unofficial "end of summer" arrived this past weekend, and to commemorate it (because really who celebrates that?) J and I decided to head up to Ogunquit, ME one of the days as he had never been there before. Ogunquit was my childhood beach town when I was little- most weekends in the summer my family and I would pack up the car bright and early in the morning, and head up to this beautiful little artists community to spend the day basking in the sun. I should say- my family basked- I reapplied sunscreen every two minutes. And then, halfway through the day we would pull out the sandwiches we had packed, and chomp on cold cuts dotted with sand- because, of course, sand gets everywhere, and lots of fresh fruit. There is something comforting about these meals to remember-the smell of sunscreen mixed with the salt water, the hum of the seagulls over head... I of course thought that everyone should be able to share in this great memory, so Sunday J and I got in the car (with me driving!) and shot up to Ogunquit.
Now, Fall arrived here on the east coast with a vengeance this weekend, and Sunday topped out only around 65 degrees. A bit too chilly for sun basking in my opinion. So instead we took to walking around the town, popping into stores and restaurants and taking in the other side of Ogunquit. Finally, finding it was time for a good solid meal, we headed over to the area of town known as Perkins Cove and headed for MC Perkins Cove. Opening a few years ago, MC Perkins Cove has won a name for themselves as an American Bistro, touted many times over as one of the best restaurants in the area. I had been earlier this summer for lunch, and had been absolutely blown away by the incredible views of the cove. Its walls of windows looks out on one of the most spectacular ocean views, and its food and service had been delightful as well. I was excited to return.
The whole town had been incredibly busy all day with many people out and about enjoying those last few moments of Summer, so without making reservations I fully anticipated eating at the bar. On a whim, I approached the hostess and asked if there were any possible tables available- what luck- an immediate table was available. We took it and were sat with our menus, and offered water. We began to peruse the menus, and then chatted, and then perused some more, and formulated questions, and enjoyed the view, and chatted again before our waiter ever appeared at our table. When he did, it was apparent that he wanted to take our orders immediately, and that the time for dilly dallying was over. I asked my questions, and we placed our full order at his request. Mussels to start, plank roasted Haddock for my main, and Lobster Mac and Cheese for J.
To start bread was served, honestly delicious dense white bread that in some respects reminded me of corn bread. It was lovely. The Mussels arrived shortly after. The first time I had been to MC Perkins Cove I had also gotten the mussels and had enjoyed them- a thick pureed tomato base, spiced with garlic, and Linguica, chock full of good Mussels, and accented with cheesy bread. The Mussels served were full and delicious, with barely any closed or broken shells, and lots of Linguica added in. As its a sausage that I am not 100% familiar with, Linguica is a Portuguese based pork sausage, with garlic, onions and paprika often added. These were a nice addition- not as spicy as say a Chorizo but full of flavor, and the pork fat added a nice richness to the sauce. Also-the table bread was a delicious "soaking vehicle" for it. Here, again, we ran into a service blip. J left the table for a moment, and the servers pounced assuming that we were done with the dish. As it was-I think I was actually mid picking up a Mussel when they arrived, and so told them that no- we were not yet done. Some minutes passed, and the waiter and busboys continued to circle around the table, asking if we had finished the Mussels two more times, until I felt so uncomfortable that I let them clear the table. Finally, J returned, looked a little sad that the mussels had disappeared. But luckily, our meals arrived shortly thereafter.
J's was served was a half Lobster perched on top of a full crock of macaroni mixed with cheddar cheese and huge pieces of beautiful lobster meat. It was a gorgeous dish. Mine was served, an ample piece of Haddock sitting atop its cooking plank, on a huge, really huge, white plate decorated with herbs and a small portion of Jasmine rice. The dish was supposed to be served with a side of what was called Mom's sauce, a combination of many ingredients of which I can only remember horseradish, soy sauce, and perhaps Worcestershire? As the case may be- I was excited to try it, but my plate was served sauce less. I requested it from the server, but he was not aware of the sauce, and then asked the waiter. The waiter, who had originally told me about the sauce seemed completely confused by the question- finally he understood though and fetched the correct sauce. The fish had beautiful flavor to it though it was rather over cooked, the sauce was a really interesting combination of flavors with a good kick to it, and the rice was perfect. J's was incredibly delicious. The lobster shell still had tons of meat in it that he was able to get to once they finally brought out the claw cracker, and the Mac and Cheese itself had really nice flavor and texture with perfectly cooked sweet lobster. It was a really decadent dish.
By that point we were much too stuffed for dessert so we politely declined and instead took our drinks to the upstairs bar to enjoy the view more, and to vacate the table.
This meal was a big disappointment for me. I really enjoyed MC Perkins Cove on my first visit, with its serene setting, and deliciously fresh seafood. This visit however was the polar opposite. The word I kept using to describe it was "manic" as all staff hurried around the dining room without any real goals it seemed. This may have been slightly understandable if they had been packed, but as we finished up there were plenty of tables available for new diners. It appeared though that the back of the house was just as stressed though, as my meal was definitely over cooked, and the table next to us actually had to send back their steaks as they were also over cooked. I hate to say that this ruined MC Perkins Cove for me, but I would be more willing to try any other restaurant in that area than this one again...despite their amazing views, and creative offerings.

Restaurant Reviews: A dead art?

Last December I declared 2023 the year I would return to food writing.  It was a bold statement (even now as I look at my last published dat...