Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Total KO

KO Catering and Pies - East Boston, MA

Boston skyline from Piers Park
+ pies from KO Pies
     It's becoming apparent to me that David and I are forming this tradition of going out to eat whenever he takes me to the airport or after he picks me up, and I like it, because we don't eat out often and he lets me choose some place new every time. This time, I was on my way home for my little summer trip, and we stopped at KO Pies on the way there. Mary and I have been talking about this place for a while (sorry for going without you Mary!!), but I had never actually seen the East Boston location. It's honestly much nicer than the one in South Boston in that it's situated in a very low traffic area down by an industrial marina. I was so surprised how much art was down there too. There were beautiful, enormous murals all over buildings and sculptures scattered around in an effort to bring in some culture to an otherwise industrial/run down area. It was actually quite beautiful.
     Anyway, back to the restaurant. KO Pies had a cute little patio area with background music and outdoor seating that looked out (through the marina) over the harbor, with the Boston skyline in the distance. Inside it was a tiny little place with Australian flags, banners, artwork and clocks hung from the walls. It was was a very fast-paced environment where you ordered from one counter, picked it up from another and had to quickly scurry out to make room for everyone else. I didn't mind though, because it made me happy that this little place off the beaten path seemed to be doing so well.
Oh pie-lease...
     The food served at KO Pies mostly consists of these little handheld savory pies that are typical of Australian cuisine. To my surprise, they were very easy to pickup and held their shape without spilling all over you. We ordered 3 and the special of the day, which was a sausage roll. I would love if they could tell me what kind of sausage this was because it was incredible. It was basically a sausage like shape of meat surrounded by their golden brown, buttery, flakey crust. Now this crust was the same crust that came on all of the pies and rolls, and it was perfection. Probably the most delicious pie crust I've ever tasted, and I'm a pie crust fiend. It was definitely butter laden, and you could feel it. Amazing. Anyway, the sausage itself was salty and savory, but it didn't seem to have a casing, which made me wonder if they had used some sort of ground meat, threw in a bunch of spices and formed it into a little log. Either way, it was incredible. Pigs in a blanket has nothing on these rolls. No way.
     Among the actual pies, my favorite one that we got was the braised lamb shank. Duh. I love lamb. Anything to do with lamb will always be my favorite (thanks grandma). This pie had chunks of very tender lamb meat, carrots, peas and rosemary. So much rosemary, which is the bomb with lamb. I really liked that these pies didn't have a cream base inside, like a lot of chicken pot pies and things. This made them a) easier to eat and b) feel more satisfying since they filled the space with meat and veggies.
Braised lamb shank pie
      My second favorite was probably the Irish beef stew. It had tender chunks of beef with celery, carrots and a very light brown sauce. It tasted just like Irish beef stew. More rich, savory, herb flavors snuggled inside the golden, flaky crust. The third and final pie was the curried vegetable. I wasn't exactly expecting to see curry in an Aussie pie, but it was delicious. It had carrots, potatoes and some other veggies (maybe squashes?). Everything was just so tender, and I loved having a curry dish inside that pie crust. It was a way I hadn't experienced curry before.
     I would definitely recommend making a trip out to KO Pies if you haven't been before. It has a great atmosphere, a beautiful view and food unlike anyplace else in Boston. Do it. Do it now.


Lithuanian Kitchen - Boston, MA
Pink Soup

      I finally got to go to the Lithuanian Kitchen, and it was amazing!! Last year, when I started at Gentle Giant, I met a bunch of Lithuanians and they used to tell me about the Lithuanian Kitchen down in South Boston. I had heard that it was a quiet little place in the basement of a building where Lithuanian woman cooked some of their home cooked favorites on the weekends only. I needed to experience it. Finally, this year I asked Mantas if he could take me along one day, and he happily obliged.
    There's no sign and no open door. Just a Lithuanian flag outside and a doorbell to ring to have someone let you in. I love it. I love these hidden gems. It was just like everyone had described inside; a no frills dining room with older women doing what they do best.
     To start, I had what they call "pink soup" that was pink thanks to the beets. It was a cold, kefir based soup that was perfect on a summer day (kefir is kind of a cross between cream and buttermilk). It also had chopped up hard boiled eggs, green onions, pickles, and dill. Everything had dill. The soup was refreshing and had many different unique flavors. It was also served with a small dish with some boiled potatoes topped with bacon bits (real slices of bacon... not those stupid red nubs) and... more dill. But the deal was, you have this side dish of potatoes so that you can grab a small spoonful of them, dip them into the soup and then eat them. This way, the potatoes didn't heat up the cold soup. Genius. I love that someone came up with this. It was delicious, and I can't wait to try making it on my own.
     For the meal, Mantas had called ahead and ordered us some Zeppelins, or "Cepelinai." These are the most traditional and most loved dish from Lithuania, so I was pumped to be able to try it. It was a ball of mincemeat, surrounded in a very thick layer of shredded potatoes. But these potatoes were sticky, like sticky rice rather than like shredded potatoes in hashbrowns. You know what I mean? It was a very solid ball. A heavy ball. The cepelinai were served with.... more bacon bits, dill, sour cream and a very light broth/sauce. OH boy were these huge and incredibly filling. I felt like exploding, but it was worth it because they were so delicious. So very simple, but full of starchy, savory flavor.
    Everything here was meat and potatoes, as I had expected from Mantas' description. A lot of mincemeat, wrapped in different shapes of potatoes, different cuts of potatoes, or mincemeat inside of natural casing like a sausage. So much meat and potatoes... and dill... and bacon bits... and everything was served with sour cream. Watching these guys eat was entertainment in itself because they'd order one course... and then an hour later order another... and then maybe some time later order another form of potatoes. Precious.


Bittersweet Chocolate Orange Semifreddo - Boston, MA
Bittersweet chocolate orange semifreddo

     I just tried out something called bittersweet chocolate and orange semifreddo that I found on Food52. This was appealing to me because it seemed like a cross between a chocolate mousse and ice cream that you cut like a cake. Huh? Semifreddo is Italian for 'half cold" and is a common type of dessert in Italy. I feel so cultured.
     Honestly, it was more difficult than I expected simply because I don't have 8 hands... oh and because I don't have a stand mixer. I wasn't able to multi-task while making this, which is kind of essential because of the time sensitivity of the sugar syrup that has to get to a certain temp, whipping of the eggs, whipping of the cream, and melting of the chocolate. But I managed... and I managed without a thermometer and with the help of youtube.
      In the end, I think I liked the idea of it more than the actual end result, and I got mixed reviews from Eric, David and Mary. Eric loved it. I thought it was too salty. That was the first flavor I noticed (even though most people said they wouldn't have noticed the salt if I hadn't mentioned it. The second flavor that was almost too overpowering was the orange, and I didn't actually add the full two tablespoons. Mary put it a good way when she said that she felt like the orange and the salty flavors were definitely strong, but not too much. Instead, the chocolate flavor needed to be more prominent, perhaps with more cocoa powder or something. I agree, but I'd also suggest maybe doing less salt.  However, I loved the soft, almost airy texture of the semifreddo. It was lighter than ice cream and fun to eat it in slices. I'd definitely try it again, messing around with the salt and orange zest.

Bittersweet Chocolate and Orange Semifreddo 

6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon orange zest
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

1. Line 9x5 loaf pan with plastic wrap

2. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment (or with a hand mixer if you're feeling daring) , whip yolks for 3-4 minutes till light and frothy.

3. While yolks are whipping, combine sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan. Cook sugar syrup over high heat until it reaches soft ball stage (238 degrees on a candy thermometer). This took me maybe 8 minutes without a thermometer? But I was stirring it a lot, and I'm not sure if that's right. Youtube "soft ball stage" if you don't know what that means. 

4. With mixer on medium speed drizzle sugar syrup down the side of the bowl slowly. Add cocoa powder and salt and whip for 5-6 minutes until mixture cools and thickens.

5. In a separate bowl whip cream until it holds stiff peaks. Fold in orange zest.

6. Fold whipped cream into the cooled chocolate mixture.  Spoon about 1/4 of chocolate mixture into the prepared pan. Use a spoon to drizzle about 1/3 of the melted chocolate evenly over the chocolate mixture. Carefully spoon another 1/4 of the chocolate mixture into the pan. Drizzle with another 1/3 of the melted chocolate. Repeat another layer of chocolate mixture, the last of the melted chocolate, and finish with the last of the chocolate mixture (or add a little chocolatey swirl on top for funsies). 

7. Cover the pan with plastic and place in freezer for at least 8 hours or up to a week. When ready to serve remove the semifreddo from pan and peel off plastic. Slice into 8 slices and serve with a little whipped cream and orange supremes. 

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