Monday, October 5, 2009

It Ain't PB&J

Neil is in the kitchen deciding whether he wants to be famous or infamous, so this seemed like a good a time as any to leave him alone and write this post.  Just in case he chooses infamous and murders me with a fork.

He's a little torqued up because I want to include one of his recipes in this posting, and he's wondering what "he gets out of this all."  (Clearly, I have not yet bought him that Lemon Tree.)

I keep reminding him that he's the major reason I do this - pour my heart, soul, and spleen all over cyberspace in hopes of making a better life for us.  So if anyone has that tv show they need hosted or a book contract - you can email me by clicking on that little envelope, below.


Not that I don't understand his desire to want something for himself - it's primal and fundamentally male, the need to achieve on one's own merits, and not ride along on someone else's glory.  After all, no little boy playing pretend ever volunteers to be Tonto, Robin, or the Sundance Kid.  (There are, however, many grown men who volunteer to play Robin, but that's a very different post, so don't distract me.)

It occurs to me that men, regardless of our sexuality, go through several phases and realizations over the course of our lives: as kids we think our dads are infallible, only to learn as teenagers that they're not.  Then, in our twenties and early thirties, we focus our lives and work around our own goals, only to approach middle age and have to face the fact that we've become our fathers.  That we didn't play shortstop for the Yankees or become CEO or run for President.

This is the reason the only play most men know is Death of a Salesman, and why it makes us cry when we watch it.

But that's depressing, and Neil's recipe is delicious, so let's move on to that:

"Chicotta Focaccia" (by Neil; adapted from Bon Appetit)

1 medium zucchini, shredded
2 carrots, shredded
2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 container (15 oz) ricotta (part skim)
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 tsp grated lemon peel
2 pieces Focaccia, sliced horizontally
2 tomatoes, preferably plum or Roma, thinly sliced
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced

Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add chicken and cook through, about 7-8 minutes.  Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.

Mix zucchini, carrots and salt and set aside in a colander.  After liquid drains (about 15 minutes), squeeze vegetables to remove any remaining moisture.

Heat remaining Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add zucchini and carrots and saute 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add ricotta, parmigiano-reggiano, lemon peel, salt and pepper.  Stir to combine.

Lightly toast the focaccia in a toaster oven or under a broiler.  Once lightly toasted, spread ricotta mixture on the slices and continue to toast until ricotta is heated through and beginning to brown (4-5 minutes.) Add tomato slices and chicken.  Cut in half.

We ate these on Saturday night and they were even better than the Chirping Chicken we had on Friday.  It is worth noting that Chirping Chicken is delicious.  It's an Upper West Side institution that used to be a tiny take out place.  They had a big glass window and a huge grill, and when you'd walk by you could see, like, 100 chickens charring on that grill.  Then they moved across the street and added table service, though it still seems to be a largely takeout business.

I don't know what they rub those chickens down with - probably a mix of butter and crack - but they are so juicy and tasty and addictive that I've been known to inhale the entire top half of a chicken, plus one of their ginormous sweet potatoes that are the size of meteors.  They also have burgers and gyros, but ordering them would be like going to a pizzeria in Rome and ordering a salad.

Anyway, the reason we ate sandwiches on Saturday was that we were invited to a party.  We never know when we get a 7 or 8 pm invitation to a party, if there's going to be food.  Neil's generally fine, but I can't drink all night without eating.  Thus, we can eat beforehand, which Neil usually hates because then he's too full to drink, or show up late - which is dicey because some parties are clearly "just stop by for a while and have a few drinks whenever" while others are "please be prompt."  Alternatively, we don't eat, and then Neil gets annoyed that I want to leave by 10pm, but by that time I've had so few calories and so much alcohol that I'm seriously at risk of saying the things I normally whisper to Neil about people, at a volume everyone can hear.

This is not a festive occurrence.

Thus, we finally figured out a compromise on our way home from brunch with Suzette - we'd eat something on the lighter side, like a sandwich, in the late afternoon.  That way, if there was food, we could nibble, and if there wasn't, I wouldn't alienate the handful of people who are still permitting us to wear unstained clothing and spend an evening with them.

(There is an ironic end to this story.  The party was a housewarming for a couple we like a lot - and we must because the house they were warming is in Brooklyn, a place we only travel to after New York magazine runs so many articles about how hot and trendy and popular Brooklyn has become.  We spend an afternoon walking half-deserted streets in Dumbo or Williamsburg or Carroll Gardens and decide that the New York magazine folks are either stoned or having a laugh at the expense of a million Manhattanites who are preternaturally conditioned to jump on the leading edge of a trend and ride it straight into the ground.

Oh, and the party did have food.  Pigs in Blankets - which someone I used to know called "Hot Dog Roll-Ups", which is funny - Queso Dip, some odd dense small biscuits (scones?) with a lemon icing, and guacamole that was rapidly turning brown.

And we still left by 10 pm.)

By the way, we had brunch with Suzette at 202, and if you've never been: GO!  202 is the Nicole Farhi Store in Chelsea Market.  It's a restaurant and bar and retail store selling apparel and home furnishings. It sounds totally weird and high-concept, and it sort of is.  It is also, however, the purveyor of the finest fish tacos in New York.  Southern California-Mexican is, perhaps, my favorite cuisine, and Baja-style fish tacos are a classic dish.  In L.A. you can get them all over the place and stuff yourself silly for $5.  In Manhattan, you have to look all over the place, trying every Mexican, Tex-Mex, and Southwestern restaurant in the city (and, yes, even Brooklyn) only to find them (for $18, yikes!) in a sort-of-British style furniture and shmatta store in Chelsea.

I now realize I've written  his entry in reverse chronological order, which is kind of fun but can be kind of annoying if you do it too much (take note writers of Desperate Housewives - getting tired of the whole episode being a flashback).  I haven't gotten to Sunday - my cycling class, the new Lucky Burger on 23rd Street, or Neil's pasta dish from last night - but I'm tired and Neil's not giving up another recipe tonight and something smells like rubber cement and canned frosting and I should probably check that out.

It could be tasty.

The Last Word:

DO THIS, New York:

Go to 202.  If you skip the fish tacos, check out the French Toast or the Chicken Paillard.

Order some Chirping Chicken.  Don't eat the strange iceberg lettuce salad that comes with it, or the bright red "sauce."

Make those Chicotta Focaccia sandwiches.  Slurp.

DON'T DO THIS, New York:

I'd think twice before going to Brooklyn.

And before killing anyone with a fork.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm ... not sure I can relate to the macho talk, but the food looks great and spleen is a funny yet yucky reference. Thanks again! (I'm becoming a Do This NY groupie!)