Pan-Roasted Halibut, Chanterelles with Pea Shoots

Dining date: 8/28/11

halibut1

I don’t cook with mushrooms a whole lot. In fact, I grew up not liking them, always pushing them aside on my plate. Now, I’m far from a lover of mushrooms (unless they’re truffles?), but I’ll usually eat them if put in front of me.

I stumbled upon some chanterelles at the Hollywood Farmers Market a couple weeks ago and just had to have them. I had no idea what I was gonna cook with them, but I was inspired to do something with them.

Taking my chanterelles home, I browsed through some of my cookbooks to figure out the rest of the dish. Immediately catching my eye was a recipe in Ad Hoc at Home for sauteed chanterelle mushrooms with pea shoots. It was relatively easy to do and I had most of the ingredients on hand. A recommended protein pairing was another recipe in the cookbook: pan-roasted halibut. My planning was done.

The two recipes, from Ad Hoc at Home:

Pan-roasted halibut

2 pounds halibut fillet, cut into 12 rectangular pieces
Kosher salt
Canola oil
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fleur de sel

Remove the fish from the refrigerator and let stand for 15 minutes.

Position oven racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Check the halibut to be sure all bones were removed. Season on both sides with salt. Add some canola oil to two large ovenproof frying pans and heat over high heat until it shimmers. (If you don’t have two pans, cook the fish in batches and transfer to a rack set over a baking sheet, then finish in the oven.) Add 6 pieces of halibut to each pan, presentation (nicer) side down, lower the heat to medium-high, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the bottom of the fish is golden. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 2 more minutes. Transfer the pans to the oven and cook for about 2 minutes, until just cooked through.

Remove the pans from the oven, flip the fish over, and “kiss” the second side for about 30 seconds. Transfer to a platter, and serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of fleur de sel.

Chanterelle mushrooms with pea shoots

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons of finely chopped shallots
3 thyme sprigs
8 ounces small chanterelles or other mushrooms in season, trimmed and washed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4-1/2 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 cups pea shoots
Extra virgin olive oil
Fleur de sel

Melt the butter in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook the shallots for 2 to 3 minuntes, until tender. Add the thyme and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are almost tender (if the pan becomes too dry, add a little of the chicken stock).

Add 1/4 cup chicken stock and cook, adding more stock as needed, about 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mushrooms are tender. Continue to cook until the stock is reduced to a glaze. Discard the thyme.

Add the pea shoots and stir just to wilt and incorporate, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with fleur de sel.

I began with the chanterelles, cooking them according to the recipe. I wasn’t too worried about this part of the dish; it was pretty straightforward.

chanterelles

pea shoots

chanterelles pea shoots

I was more concerned about the fish. I wanted to ensure I got a crispy, golden crust while not overcooking. The recipe called for the halibut to be cooked almost entirely on one side, carefully controlling the heat. It would only be flipped over at the end to finish the other side for 30 seconds.

halibut

halibut2

I was pretty happy with the way it turned out. My fish broke apart a little bit as I was flipping it and I wanted a little more browning, but temperature-wise I think I had it down. While a meaty fish, it stayed pretty moist. The chanterelles were delicious, and I really liked the bright crispness that the pea shoots brought to the plate. It was relatively quick to make too, always a plus. However, it was on the expensive side – the raw ingredients cost about $30 for the one plate.

The Taste: Picnic in the Hills (Los Angeles, CA)

Picnic in the Hills
The Taste 2011
9900 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Dining date: 9/3/11

The Taste’s final event of the weekend-long festival was this picnic, hosted by Giada DeLaurentiis. I was glad to return to Beverly Hills (my favorite of the venues I visited); for the most part, the set-up was similar to the other events at this venue. One of the main differences was that it was a picnic with more of a family focus. Plenty of faux grass, foliage and picnic benches were brought in to set the tone. Given that children 14 and under were free (and it was a hot, sunny day) this place was packed with adults and children alike.

Summer picnic? Of course there had to be a lemonade stand. Upon entering, everyone received a mason jar to be filled up at this stand. Fresh fruit and herbs were available for customization. Fun!

Angelini Osteria lasagna verde

BLD/Grace farro salad, wild arugula, parmesan

Clementine sloppy joe; summer fruit crisp

Dolly’s Sweet Dreams Cotton Candy

Factors Famous Deli pastrami reuben

Fig & Olive gazpacho

Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate

Huckleberry bbq pork n’ biscuit sliders, tabouleh salad, raw kale salad

Inn of the Seventh Ray mole braised short rib, 63 degree quail egg, cauliflower escabeche, crispy carrot

Kate Mantilini lamb lollipop; white chili

Lawry’s Catering watermelon arugula salad; mini roast beef sandwich

Lexington Social House fried chicken, corn salad

Literati Bar & Grill herb hummus; curry chicken salad

M Street Kitchen/Stella Rossa Pizza Bar grilled ciabatta, mozzarella, grapes, olive oil

Pitfire Artisan Pizza sausage pizza

Richard Ruskell Pastries at Montage

RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen ovaltine shaved ice

Sprinklesmobile assorted cupcakes

Terroni tagliatelle with beef and pork ragu; spaghetti; rigatoni with eggplant

Vinoteque on Melrose roasted tomato & herbed cheese tarlets; key lime cheesecake bites with toasted coconut

Waffles de Liege liege waffle

Wurstkuche duck, bacon & jalapeno sausage, sweet bell peppers, whole grain mustard

Even though there were a lot of children around, the alcohol was as plentiful as any other event. Below, a variety of soju as well as dark & stormy cocktails being made all afternoon.

“Hungry Girl” Lisa Lillien was interviewed by Rene Lynch of the LA Times, while Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos (“Extra Virgin”) hosted a cooking demonstration.

My favorite dish here had to be Lexington Social House’s fried chicken, which was also one of my favorites from this year’s Taste of the Nation. In both instances they used white meat (a drumette here), but was able to keep it very moist and flavorful. The well-seasoned batter had just the crunch I was looking for…so good. Selfishly, I had 5 or 6 of these throughout the afternoon.

A visit to Angelini Osteria has been long delayed on my part, so I was really excited to try the lasagna verde. It did not disappoint, displaying a homey, delicious ragu (made of beef and veal) topped with crispy fried spinach. I also enjoyed the dish from Inn at the Seventh Ray, which somehow was able to compact mole-braised short rib, cauliflower and a quail egg in one bite.

I found myself coming back multiple times to Terroni, which was making fresh pasta on the spot and serving a rotating pasta dish. Fresh pasta? I am so there. Of the three I tried, I liked the meaty tagliatelle with beef and pork ragu best, but they were all very good.

I enjoyed this event quite a bit and the whole festival overall. As food festivals go, I’d say The Taste is one of the more expensive ones (the last-week promotions made the price much more palatable), and I’ll be interested to see if is changed or maintained next year. I thought the venues were pretty well done, with the crowds not being too bad either. The abundance of tables and space was kind of unique and a definite plus as well.

 

Other posts from The Taste 2011:
Burgers & Beer | Secrets from the Kitchen & Cellar | Street Eats

Disclosure: This event was hosted.

Baja Night 3.0 (Los Angeles, CA)

Baja Night 3.0 – Mexicali Taco & Co., Ricky’s Fish Tacos, Churro Borough of Los Angeles
1st St & Beaudry Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 9/10/11

Street food has been spotlighted more and more in LA the last few years, largely led by the popularity of gourmet food trucks. However, two of my favorite “street food” options are not trucks at all; rather, they’re sort of pop-up food stands. This weekend, Mexicali Taco & Co. and Ricky’s Fish Tacos teamed up in downtown LA to serve their wildly popular tacos with a dessert guest – the Churro Borough. This was the third incarnation of “Baja Night,” an event that continues to grow in popularity each time.

I’m far from a taco expert, but both Mexicali and Ricky’s serve some of my favorite tacos in the city (and I know I’m not alone in that opinion). I regularly visit Mexicali due to its convenient downtown location and the fact that they serve at night. Ricky’s is a little bit further (based in Los Feliz) and pretty much only serves the lunch crowd, so my visits there are far fewer. A chance to have both side-by-side was not to be missed!

baja night

Ricky (center) and team setting up.

rickys

Mexicali grilling their meats in preparation for the crowds.

mexicali

The Churro Borough of LA setting up.

churro borough

While food wasn’t served until 6pm, dozens gathered beforehand to secure a table and ensure they would be one of the first in line. I had heard that Ricky’s sold out of the elusive lobster taco quickly last time, so I made sure to come early too.

Ricky’s Fish Tacos

rickys2

Lobster Taco, Shrimp Taco, Fish Taco

lobster tacos

fish shrimp tacos

fish shrimp tacos2

The fish and shrimp are regular options at Ricky’s, while the lobster is a special item that makes an appearance once in a while. I actually liked the fish best – the tender, flaky pieces of white fish were perfect with the light, crunchy batter. The lobster and shrimp didn’t disappoint though, with the characteristic spongy texture being a welcome change of pace from the fish. Raw cabbage, crema and a number of salsas were all available for customization. Hard to go wrong.

Mexicali Taco & Co.

grill meats

As usual, Mexicali served three meats (chorizo, carne asada, chicken) in four different forms (taco, zuperman, cachetada, vampiro). Basically, choose the meat then choose how you want it. We got at least three of the variations on this night.

Cachetada

cachetadas

The cachetada is a tortilla grilled until crisp, with the end-product resembling a large nacho. Topped with meat, cheese and a chipotle aioli, it makes for a fun play on textures between the tender, chewy meat and crispy tortilla. I think the aioli really makes the difference though, adding a little kick in each bite.

Zuperman

zuperman

The zuperman is basically like two tacos inverted on themselves. Kind of like a Mexican burger? That might be a bit of a stretch. Personally I prefer the individual tacos as they’re easier to eat, but I think it’s fun to eat it this way once in a while.

Vampiro

vampiro

My favorite item on the menu. The vampiro is a just like a quesadilla, but with a garlicky sauce on the inside. The garlic flavor isn’t overpowering at all – there’s just enough to remind you it’s there in each bite. My favorite meat in these concoctions is chicken; the smoky, tender chunks of dark meat work wonders with the garlicky, cheese goodness. So simple, but this has to be one of my favorite items to eat in the city.

Bacon-Wrapped Cheese-Stuffed Yellow Pepper

stuffed peppers

Carne Asada Nachos

nachos

Two specials for Baja Night were the stuffed peppers and nachos. The nachos actually resembled a cachetada in a way, having many of the same flavors and textures. Unfortunately, I missed out on the stuffed pepper in the whirlwind of food.

The Churro Borough of Los Angeles

I think that this was the debut of Churro Borough, a mobile shop offering up churro-ice cream treats. I love fresh churros and ice cream, so I was eagerly anticipating what they had as well.

Churro Nuggets

churro nuggets

Small inch-long ‘nuggets’ of churros were filled with ice cream, then frozen. Three interesting ice cream flavors were on offer, including vanilla custard, spicy hot chocolate, and Spanish latte. Sounded promising, but I didn’t like these at all. The churro was soggy while the ice cream had an odd texture as I think the interior was still too frozen.

Ice Cream Sandwich

churro sandwich

churro sandwich2

On the other hand, these ice cream sandwiches were made on the spot and were delicious. The churro was warm, sweet and flaky – totally what I was looking for. The ice cream (in addition to the three nugget flavors, horchata and blueberry-port creme fraiche were available) was much more apparent here too, and pretty tasty. The churro was just light enough so that you could bite into the sandwich and not have ice cream coming out on all sides. Really well done.

I had a lot of fun at this event. I knew the food was going to be delicious and it was great to have both Ricky’s and Mexicali side-by-side. The Churro Borough was a fun addition too, adding something sweet (that churro ice cream sandwich was memorable, for sure). If there was a slight drawback, it’s that lines were on the long side. Both Ricky’s and Mexicali can draw crowds on their own, so this wasn’t a surprise at all. If there is another Baja Night, I would expect the lines to be even longer…but it’s so worth it.

Shin-Sen-Gumi Little Tokyo (Los Angeles, CA)

Shin-Sen-Gumi
132 S Central Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Dining date: 9/8/11

ssg exterior

Little Tokyo has a lot of places that serve ramen, but the only really notable option has been Daikokuya. For me, the greatest downside is its own popularity – there is always a line outside, often very long.

Enter Shin-Sen-Gumi, one of the other super-popular chains in the LA/OC area (I tend to think of Daikokuya, Santouka and Shin-Sen-Gumi) which finally opened in Little Tokyo. They opened today, in fact, thus the dozens of flower pots outside the restaurant. I’ve been to the Gardena and Rosemead locations of Shin-Sen-Gumi’s ramen shops, and I’ve still liked Daikokuya better. At the very least, I thought, it would bring another legitimate option and maybe help alleviate the long wait times at Daikokuya.

ssg interior

The set-up is not unlike other locations of Shin-Sen-Gumi. The kitchen is wide open, with probably about 14 seats around a long counter.

ssg interior2

Gyoza

gyoza

These were pretty small. Bite sized. The wrapper was a chewy al dente and I liked the filling, which achieved a nice balance between meat and cabbage. However, I thought they were too browned, to the point where the dumplings were starting to burn, leaving an unpleasant aftertaste.

Chicken Karaage

karaage

A solid variation of the dish. The chicken was lightly fried and kept pretty moist.

One feature about Shin-Sen-Gumi is that the ramen is customizable. There are a couple dozen different toppings, as well as choices for the doneness of the noodles, amount of oil in the soup, and strength of flavor in the soup. There are even boxes asking if pickled ginger, green onions, and sesame seeds are desired. Sometimes I think it’s just too many options, but I appreciate the kitchen’s willingness to create what they call a “dream ramen” for each customer.

customization

Special Pork Belly Chashu

special chashu

Keeping it simple, I went with one topping (served on the side). While the Hakata Ramen comes with thin slices of chashu, this one is on a totally different level. Thick chunks of pork belly are braised until almost breaking apart, and the fat seems to just melt in the soup leaving a really flavorful and tender piece of pork. Having it served cool on the side, I just wish I didn’t see all of the coagulated fat. But man, it was tasty.

Hakata Ramen

ramen1

ramen2

Ah…the featured item. In my previous visits to Shin-Sen-Gumi, I’ve struggled with the noodles. “Normal” was a little too soft for me and “hard” was just too hard. I created my own checkmarked box right in the middle of the two (“kind of hard?”) and the kitchen was happy to oblige. They came out perfectly. The broth was milky, with an expectantly deep porky, salty flavor.

I’m going to have to reconsider which is my favorite bowl of ramen in the city. I finally got the noodles just the way I wanted them, making for a really good bowl. It was comforting, satisfying and full of flavor. I’ll be sure to drop by again soon and often (it is in my neighborhood, after all) to make another determination.

Clearly, Shin-Sen-Gumi is already a big draw (and given the popularity of the other locations, it likely will be for the indefinite future). By the time we were done eating, there were already about 20 people outside waiting for a seat.

ssg crowd

The Taste: Street Eats (Los Angeles, CA)

Street Eats
The Taste 2011
Paramount Studios
5555 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA
Dining date: 9/4/11

Day three of The Taste brought 4 events: Fashion Bites Brunch, Street Eats, Desserts After Dark, and Food Noir. I wanted to check out the Hollywood venue, and “Street Eats” would provide a perfect opportunity. I feel like ‘street food’ in LA is becoming synonymous with food trucks, but there’s a lot more exciting options in LA outside of the truck scene. This event had a good balance between trucks and established restaurants making their interpretations of street food – something that interested me. Ironically, this was one of the more expensive tickets at $150 ($90 with promotion).

Whereas the Beverly Hills events were concentrated under two large tents, the Hollywood events took place in the open air of the Paramount Studios backlot.

Akasha masala chicken taco, jalapeno slaw, chili chicharrones, peanuts

Ayara Thai chicken sate crostini

Border Grill churro tots, dulce de leche

Cast Iron Gourmet bourbon bacon chutney

Chichen Itza Restaurant black bean filled tortilla, turkey

Coolhaus Ice Cream Sandwiches

Firenze Osteria duck sausage, fresh pasta

Great Balls on Tires italian meatball

Guelaguetza tamales oaxaquenos: black mole and chicken breast tamales wrapped in banana leaf

Jitlada crying tiger beef

Loteria Grill esquites: corn kernels infused with epazote, chili powder, mayonnaise, lemon

Osteria La Buca corn on the cob, paprika, garlic aioli

Palate Food & Wine lamb flatbread

Pitfire Artisan Pizza heirloom tomato pizza; sausage pizza

Steel City Sandwich duck pierogi

Susan Feniger’s STREET kaya toast

The Foundry on Melrose grilled cheese

The Grilled Cheese Truck american melt; cheesy mac melt

As with all of the events, plenty of alcohol was available, inclusive of the ticket price. Wine, beer, tequila, vodka and a host of other spirits.

Fabio Viviani hosted a cooking demonstration where he made pork belly sandwiches, while Jet Tila (Wazuzu), Sang Yoon (Father’s Office, Lukshon), Roy Choi (Kogi, A-Frame, Chego) and Mario Alberto (Chimu) talked about the food scene in LA, particularly the rise of Asian cuisine.

Food highlights for me included Akasha’s chicken masala taco. I thought it was unique (naan -> taco?) with a well-executed, deep curry chicken flavor. The Italian meatball from Great Balls on Tires was easily one of the better things I’ve eaten from a truck, with a moist meatball complemented well by a tangy tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. Pitfire’s pizzas were rather simple and done well – the sausage had great flavor.  Coolhaus had a pretty long line each time I walked by so I didn’t get an ice cream sandwich, but I’ve been a fan of their stuff from the start.

I don’t think this event presented as much value as the others I attended, especially at the elevated price point. Not that anything was bad; this event had just as much to offer as the others. However, I don’t think the ‘street food’ theme commanded such a high price tag.

 

Other posts from The Taste 2011:
Burgers & Beer | Secrets from the Kitchen & Cellar | Picnic in the Hills

Disclosure: This event was hosted.

The Taste: Secrets from the Kitchen & Cellar (Los Angeles, CA)

Secrets from the Kitchen & Cellar
The Taste 2011
9900 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Dining date: 9/3/11

After Friday’s opening night event “Burgers & Beer,” Saturday brought two more: “Secrets from the Kitchen & Cellar” and “Taco Tequila Tryst.” I elected to go to the first. Whereas the “Burgers & Beer” event was focused around burgers, this one was open to the restaurants cooking whatever they wanted. Given I had close to 20 burgers the previous evening, I was looking forward to some variety.

The venue was set up pretty much exactly the same as the previous night, with two large tents housing the food & drink, and a number of tables outside. Also, a few tents with small stages were set up for various cooking demonstrations and chef panel discussions.

Cafe del Rey lobster ceviche

CHAYA Brasserie seaweed salad with chicken; compressed watermelon with basil oil

Craft sonoma pork, heirloom beans

Enoteca Drago cherry balsamic glazed roasted pork belly, sardinia fregola salad

Il Pastaio baked spaghetti wrapped with eggplant, mozzarella, tomato basil sauce

K-ZO crispy albacore

Larsen’s Steakhouse prime new york strip, creamed spinach, garlic mashed potatoes

Locanda del Lago rainbow trout marinated with celery, carrots, onions, juniper berries

Mezze ginger cookie, honey milk sorbet

Momed duck shawarma

Mr. Chow shrimp with glazed walnuts

Napa Valley Grille wild halibut crudo, summer root salad, gin citrus vinaigrette; heirloom tomato gazpacho

Oliverio at Avalon Hotel orecchiette with lamb ragu

Picca beef wrap, quinoa risotto, rocoto sauce

Public Kitchen + Bar pork sausage on ciabatta

Ray’s & Stark Bar marinated bay scallops; pork meatball

Sam’s By the Beach wild boar lasagna

Scarpetta yellowtail

Simon LA braised short rib, creamy farro, pea puree, toasted pine nuts, merlot glaze

Sotto crispy pork belly porchetta

Sushi Roku heirloom hamachi salad

Tender Greens wild alaskan salmon, corn, arugula, roasted peppers, red onions, cherry tomatoes, lemon basil aioli; agave cupcake, black mission fig

Wood & Vine foie gras & pork terrine

Dozens of wineries and spirits were featured, but my favorite drink happened to be this one:

Cuties has started bottling their citrusy goodness (I love their clementines). I tried the clementine/Mandarin juice and it tasted just like the fruit…I will be buying these in the grocery store soon. Love the bottle too.

I also dropped in on Scarpetta chef Scott Conant doing a cooking demonstration, the Lefebvres talking about their history and new show, and Craig Thornton (Wolvesmouth), Walter Manzke, Michael Voltaggio and Jonathan Gold discussing the role of social media in today’s restaurant scene. I thought these side events were an excellent opportunity for anyone wanting to take a break from stuffing their faces with more food.

My favorite dish would was definitely Sotto’s pork belly porchetta. The meat was rich and succulent with a complementary fennel flavor. And a crispy skin! So good. Neighbor Picca had another memorable dish, with chunks of beef and a quinoa risotto wrapped in lettuce cups, topped with a rocoto pepper sauce. Sam’s by the Beach had a simple-seeming lasagna, but it was comforting and delicious. Lastly, Chaya’s compressed watermelon were refreshing sweet bursts of flavor, while the basil oil really elevated the bites. Perfect for the weather.

I actually liked this event more than “Burgers & Beer” particularly for the wider variety of food, as well as the option of the chef panel discussions.

 

Other posts from The Taste 2011:
Burgers & Beer | Street Eats | Picnic in the Hills

Disclosure: This event was hosted.