Tuesday, September 23, 2014

We Serve Breakfast All Day!

The Hen House - Boston, MA

     Sometimes as I'm biking to school I get too into my music and miss the turns I need to make. On
Chicken and Waffles!
this particular day, it was an acceptable mistake because it resulted in me biking past a place called The Hen House down near the industrial area by Dorchester. As soon as I saw it I thought of Zack because he's been craving chicken and waffles for 3 years apparently. So one Wednesday we met up there for lunch. The Hen House is a little restaurant specializing in soul food. Yup... fried chicken, waffles, mac n cheese, collards. They've got a bunch of other sandwiches, pizzas, wraps and such if you're not into the artery clogging business.
     They've got a cool menu where you can choose 1) the type of waffle (cornbread, buttermilk, banana) 2) the type of chicken 3) type of sauce and 4) type of butter. I went with the cornbread waffle, chicken tenders, their honey bbq sauce and the regular whipped butter. The waffle I got didn't really taste like cornbread at all so I'm wondering if it was actually their buttermilk waffle. Either way, it was tasty, but a little more soggy than I would prefer. In the end I decided it was ok because the chicken had that little bit of a crunch that I was looking for. The chicken was really juicy too and on the darker side. I love dark meat, and I was surprised that it didn't seem like completely white meat. As far as the sauce, I ended up getting little cups of all of them and sampling them. I was a big fan of the honey bbq and the regular syrup. It's important to construct each bite appropriately when eating chicken and waffles. You need a little chicken, a little waffle, and a little sauce and butter. With so many sweet and savory flavors, I wonder why this isn't more of a staple. Oh yea... because we'd all be 5,000 pounds.
    After Zack and I finished our first waffles, we were still a little hungry so we got two fried chicken legs and a breast. Such a fabulous idea. This chicken was actually better than the tenders I think because it wasn't breaded. It was just fried with the skin on. Again, super moist inside and that crispy skin just killed me.
     I also got a side of collard greens which were great. There was some sort of shaved ham in them too which added a little saltyness. They were simple though and were actually a great palette cleanser after the chicken and waffles. 


Amrheins - Boston, MA

     So, my first impression of Amrheins is not a very good one and it bums me out! Mary has always raved about this place. She goes goo goo over their pumpkin risotto (which is literally cooked in a pumpkin) and loves their pretzel rolls they serve in their bread basket. So when Andrew came in town from the Netherlands and I had a Groupon that was expiring, I thought it'd be the best place to go. A) They didn't serve any pretzels rolls (big bummer) and B) it was about 2 weeks too early (seasonally) for the pumpkin risotto. Shoot.
     I really did like the atmosphere, however. It was very simple inside. Beautiful old style banisters and booths. They first opened their doors in South Boston in 1890 and boast the city's oldest hand carved wooden bar and the cities first draft beer pump. So they've got a great reputation and history backing them up, which makes me hesitant to be unimpressed.
     Either way, the rolls and olive oil/parmesan cheese dipping oil was delicious. They were soft and fresh just as expected. The appetizer we ordered was probably my favorite part of the meal, but this poutine was very different than the standard Canadian poutine (fries, gravy, cheese curds). These hand-cut fries were topped with pieces of braised short ribs, short rib gravy, Vermont cheddar cheese, and horseradish cream. I loved the big hunks of meat, the saltyness of the gravy and the sharp bite of the horseradish to balance it all out.
Shepherd's Pie
     For my main course I went with the shepherds pie and was rather unimpressed. It was served in a circular dish and was basically a mush of really small gritty beef, peas, green beans, corn and gravy and was topped with mashed potatoes. I thought the insides were a little too salty and really rich. But Jimmy said it needed salt, so either I'm crazy and can't identify salt or the powerful flavor I was tasting was coming from something else. The mashed potatoes on top were less than lack-luster too. They were clearly homemade (with the skins on which I like) which is good, but they were rather bland. Nothing special.
     I tried Jimmy's seafood alfredo and Meagan's seafood fettuccini and both were just meh. Andrew's lobster pie was tasty, but he was dissatisfied. So all in all, just a mediocre experience and not worth the money spent. But I'm still hesitant to say that. I'm not ready to give it a thumbs down yet. Maybe going back for that pumpkin risotto will change my mind.


Revere Center Cafe - Revere, MA

The Denver omelette 
    After hours and hours of dreaming of Ihop, David and I slipped in to a minor depression when we pulled up and the place had been torched and was closed. There's nothing worse than breakfast plans falling through (except dinner plans falling through when you're trying to get one last meal at Veggie Planet before they close their doors for good. I'm still reliving that nightmare). Luckily, thanks to my hawk eyes, I had spotted a small sign a ways down the street that said "We serve breakfast all day!" David has lived here for years and has never seen the sign or head of the place. Sometimes it pays to be constantly on the lookout for food. So we headed back to Revere Center Cafe to get our breakfast fix. 
     Revere Center Cafe is just a tiny, cute diner with a pretty intense menu. I ordered the Denver omelette and it was totally the best omelet I've ever gotten in a restaurant. Why? Because it so closely resembled the kind of omelet I'd make at home, but on a higher level. I say this namely because a lot of restaurants tend to serve greasy omelets with terrible cheese. It's a sad, sad story. I was so happy with this omelette because it had small pieces of bacon it, so you'd get the bacon flavor in every bite, but it wasn't greasy at all. Inside it had melted, shredded cheese and was chocked full of red, green and hot peppers and onions. It really wasn't spicy at all, it was super fresh, hearty and filling. It was so great. I couldn't get over it. They served it with their big hunky homefries, and I chose the marble toast. Both were great. The homefries were perfectly done, not deep fried and not overly salty. My only complaint was that it took a pretty long time to get the food, but it was well worth it. Return trips are definitely in order. 


The Very Best Brownies - My Kitchen, Allston, MA

This is far from appetizing looking, so don't judge
taste by my photo skills.
     How can you NOT try making a "Very Best Brownies" recipe when you see it? Beats me. I found these on Cookie+Kate, and at first I didn't really know what would classify them as the best brownies. It wasn't until I tasted that batter that I was beginning to be convinced that this would be a life changing evebt. She really just uses standard ingredients and a touch of coffee. But I think it's browning the butter that really makes the difference. That's a key step if you do it right. 
     Also I used pastry flour for my first batch (yes... they were so good that my roommates demanded another batch two days later) which gave them an awesome and thicker consistency. What I mean by that is that when you'd stir the batter it held together quite nicely, almost more like a dough rather than batter. Maybe like a sugar cookie dough. When I used all-purpose flour for the second batch, that more closely resembled a batter. These aren't cake-y brownies, but are rather dense, fudgey and incredible. When I baked them, a nice thin crust formed on the top. That was something I have never experienced before in my own homemade brownie. These were really the best brownies I've ever made you should probably make them right now. 

The Very Best Brownies

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch slices
1¼ cups pure cane sugar
¾ cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon espresso powder or very finely ground coffee
2 cold large eggs
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
⅔ cup pastry flour (or flour of choice)
2 ounces dark or semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped (or ⅓ cup chocolate chips)

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with two criss-crossed pieces of parchment paper, making sure that the paper is long enough to go up the sides a couple of inches. Grease the parchment paper.

2. Brown the butter: Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Continue to cook the butter, while whisking constantly, until it’s a pale golden brown and the particles suspended in it are reddish brown. This usually takes about 10 minutes.

3. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the sugar. Then add the cocoa powder, sea salt, baking powder and espresso powder. Stir until the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Let the mixture cool for 5 minutes.

4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula after each one. When the mixture looks thick, shiny and well blended, add the vanilla extract and the flour. Stir until you no longer see streaks of flour. Then beat vigorously for 50 strokes with the wooden spoon or spatula.

5. At this point, the mixture should be no more than slightly warm (if not, let it cool for a few more minutes). Fold in the chocolate chunks or chips.

6. Spread the batter in the lined pan, then use a knife to make light swirls in the top of the batter. Bake on the lower rack for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Cool the brownies in the pan on a baking rack.

7. Once the brownies are completely cool, lift the edges of the parchment paper and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Use a sharp chef's knife to cut the brownies into 16 or 25 squares.


Al's - Boston

   We did it. Joan and I met for lunch at Al's. We have been planning this for months because people
at her work rave about it all the time and apparently it's cheap. Well... we found out why they're all raving about it.
     First of all, the bread they serve their sandwiches on is super soft and lightly crisp on the outside. Second, it's all just amazing. We got the meatball parm sub and the hot pastrami. Their meatballs were enormous and juicy, and the marinara sauce they were bathed in was light but sweet. The hot pastrami was my favorite. I'm a sucker for pastrami. Especially when it's hot and is covered in melted swiss cheese and a little spicy mustard. I wouldn't say it quite reaches the same level as the pastrami sandwich from Katz Deli in NYC, but it came damn close


Carrot Salad with Lemon and Tahini - My Kitchen, Allston, MA

    Smitten Kitchen has so many good ideas. Some of her recipes are really complex and I just don't
have the energy. But sometimes they're simple and fresh and I love them. Like this one! Other than shredding the carrots, this is super easy and really delicious. It has a couple different parts (roasting the chic peas, shredding the carrots, making the dressing), but it's a really flavorful and filling salad. I found that when I shredded the carrots they got really juicy and were maybe a little too thinly shredded to eat like a salad. But if you bought them pre-shredded or found a way to cut them differently I'd say you can eat it as a salad. I really enjoyed putting it into a leaf of lettuce and making a lettuce wrap or throwing it into a tortilla. The toasted chic peas and pistachios added a great crunch to the rather soft salad. I found that if I let my chicpeas sit a few days, they got a little moist, so I'd have to re-toast them if I wanted them crunchy each time. 

Carrot Salad with Lemon and Tahini

1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas, or 1 15-ounce can, drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 pound carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley
1/4 cup shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped

1 medium garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and red pepper flakes to taste

Roast chickpeas: Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss chickpeas with one tablespoon olive oil, salt and cumin until they’re all coated. Spread them on a baking sheet or pan and roast them in the oven until they’re browned and crisp. This can take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size and firmness of your chickpeas. Toss them occasionally to make sure they’re toasting evenly. Set aside until needed.

Make dressing: Whisk all ingredients together until smooth, adding more water if needed to thin the dressing slightly. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Assemble salad: Place grated carrots in large bowl and toss with parsley. Mix in 2/3 of the dressing, adding more if desired. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle with a large handful of chickpeas and pistachios.

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