Tag Archives: food

RETURN TO THE BASIL CAFE

The Basil Café in St. James, New York is a tiny little restaurant hidden always among trees and shrubbery that surround it. If you didn’t know it was there, you would drive right by it, and that would be a shame because you would have missed one of the best culinary dining experiences here on the North Shore of Long Island.

I returned to 413 Lake Avenue, St James to eat at the Basil Café at Sam’s request. It is his last day here on the island before he leaves and heads back to Boston, Massachusetts as a college student for the start of his second year.

Accompanying me was my wife and mother in-law.  My sister-in-law, her son Adam, and Sam were travelling separately.  I knew I had to suffer through this meal without wine, since I was the designated driver for this adventure. Jen is still in pain and her driving skills are not as good as they used to be.

We started with the humus appetizer, and those little bread triangles that are just so divine, along with the complimentary bread, of course.  As soon as my sister in-law arrived with Sam and Adam we ordered our entrées .

Sam and Adam both ordered the lamb shank. This Persian dish is called KHORESH BUDEMJAN. It is a lamb shank cooked and served in a tomato sauce with eggplant. Did I mention this a Persian restaurant that serves Mediterranean food. All I know is its dam good and if you haven’t been there before, this is the first dish I recommend to try. Assuming of course you like meat, more so lamb. I also recommend having the rice with it because you will want to eat every drop of the sauce.

My wife, ever the new food enthusiast, order the New York strip steak (medium rare). I did try a piece and it was very good but when in Rome order Italian. When in a Mediterranean restaurant, order the lamb! Jen hates lamb.  I however, desperately needed to try somthing else on the menu having already had the lamb shanks and they are to die for I need to see if that was just a fluke or was this chef as good as I’d hoped he was. The chef’s special was an eight ounce piece of sea bass in a butter sauce. It was served with your choice basmati rice or fingering potatoes. I choose the rice of course and it came with some of the best broccoli I have ever eaten at a restaurant. This dish did not disappoint me. The fish was cooked to perfection and the sides were perfect. I just wish I had a nice Chardonnay wine to wash it all down.

I recommended the rack of lamb to my mother in-law, who immediately ruined it by ordering it well-done.  My sister in-law, who truly is adventurous in terms of food, practically let the waiter order for her since she was not able to make up her mind. He recommend the Basil special which consisted of skewered chicken and beef over basmati rice, jeweled. Jeweled rice is something extra you can add on the top of the already good basmati rice. I am not sure of everything in it, it did have onions, currants or raisins, and pistachios all cooked in a succulent saffron sauce.  She loved it and next time would order just the chicken skewers.  She let Jennifer try a piece of the beef skewer, and that was enough to convince Jennifer to order the beef next time.

Both Sam and Adam finished every grain of rice and every bit of the lamb shank and sauce. Unfortunately, after all that food no one had room for dessert. This is a shame really because I so wanted the pouched pear in rice pudding. Always leave them wanting more I suppose.

Anyway, that was my Sunday culinary adventure. Sorry if I have not posted in a few days. I have been busy taking Sam back to College. Maybe, when Sam returns from school, I will see you at the Basil Café.

That’s all for now. Until tomorrow when my post will be about Grocery shopping.

The Drunken Chef (Russ)

STUFFED Baked Potatoes (ala Barbecue)

Happy Thursday. Yesterday, I had hot dogs with my famous spicy onions. That’s a recipe that already here (just click the link above) but here is a new one.

This recipe can be done on the barbeque or in the oven. So it is versatile and yumerific!

Stuffed Baked Potato Recipe

        Serves 8

SPECIAL IMPLEMENTS

Microwave

Barbeque or Oven

Cutting Board

Vegetable brush

INGREDIENTS

8 extra-large Russet Potatoes

2 pounds Bacon

1 large head of broccoli

16 ounces sour cream

8 ounces butter

Fresh chives

Olive Oil

Coarse Salt

Cheese sauce (click here for recipe)

DIRECTIONS

I selected my russet potatoes at the local farm stand from the loose pile sold by the pound.  Scrub the potatoes with a vegetable brush under cold water. Coat the potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle on coarse ground salt (McCormick salt grinder). Pierce the potatoes in several places with a fork. I think this step helps to prevent the potatoes from “popping open” while they are cooking in the microwave. Place oil covered and forked potatoes in a microwave safe bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Poke a hole or two in the plastic to let some steam to escape. Microwave these suckers for five to fifteen minutes on high or until the potatoes just begins to give to the touch a little. Check the potatoes after each five-minute interval of cooking for doneness. My six pounds of potatoes took the full fifteen minutes.  Be careful both the bowl and the potatoes are hot! Remove from the microwave using oven mitts. CAREFULLY remove plastic wrap. This whole microwave step speeds up the cooking time of the potatoes so they cook faster. After the microwave, you can transfer the potatoes to a four hundred degree oven for thirty minutes or very hot barbeque. Be careful not to burn the potatoes on the grill. I turned the burners off that were directly under my potatoes and finished cooking them just as if they were being “baked” in an oven.

While the potatoes are “baking” it time to steam the broccoli. Wash the broccoli under cold water. Cut the stems away from the head of broccoli. Cut the head of the broccoli into bit size pieces. Place the broccoli florets into a microwave safe bowl. Add a ¼-cup of water to the bowl. Cover with a paper plate to keep steam in bowl or plastic wrap and cut slits in plastic to let some steam escape. When the potatoes are cooked, (thirty minutes have passed) begin cooking broccoli in the microwave high for six minutes.

Remove broccoli from the microwave using oven mitts. Carefully remove the plastic or take off the paper plate.

Carefully slice open each potato and place on a plate. Add one half tablespoon of butter to each half. Add the steaming hot broccoli then cover with shredded cheddar cheese. Add bacon, sour cream and chives to finish it.

Cheese sauce option: For true over indulgence, make a fancy ass cheese sauce, like the one shown on the potatoes above. Instead of grated cheese, cover the whole potato with cheese sauce at the end. Mmm. Yummy.

Serve this with your favorite wheat beer like Weihenstephan or a Blue Moon.

Enjoy life, stay healthy, and may everyone be kind to you.

The Drunken Chef (Russ)

INSTA-POT PULLED PORK (CARNITAS)

Below is the recipe for pulled pork from an Insta-pot that I promised a while back. I use it for tacos, burritos or even nachos.

Carnitas Recipe

Serves 8

SPECIAL IMPLEMENTS

Insta-Pot

Chef’s Knife

Cutting Board

INGREDIENTS

SOFT TACOS

8 flour tortillas

1 large tomatoes diced

16 ounces cheddar cheese shredded

1 head lettuce (shredded)

1 jar taco sauce or Cholula hot sauce or both

Pitted and sliced black olives (optional)

Guacamole or sour cream (optional)

PULLED PORK

2 Loins of Pork

1 small can of chili peppers (pictured below)

1 onion

3 cloves of garlic

1 container of low sodium beef broth

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp Garlic powder

1 tsp Cumin

1 tsp Paprika

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp Black pepper

4 tablespoons Olive oil.

DIRECTIONS

PULLED PORK:

Cut the meat into large pieces. Season by sprinkling with onion powder, garlic powder, ground cumin, paprika, salt and black pepper. Let the seasoned meat marinate for a minimum of two hours in a zip-lock bag in the refrigerator.

In a 6-quart or larger Insta-Pot add just two tablespoons of olive oil. Turn on the insta-pot to Sauté and brown the meat in two or three batches. Return all the meat back into the pot. Add an onion that has been peeled and quartered to the pot. Add three cloves of whole garlic. Pour in enough beef broth to almost cover the meat.  

Cover and Cook for one hour on the “stew” setting. Move the meat without the cooking liquid to a bowl. It should fall apart easily. Use meat for tacos, burritos or nachos.

SOFT TACOS or BURRITOS:

Add cheese to a flour tortilla, add meat on top, and add guacamole and/or sour cream. Pour on the sauce of your choice (Cholula hot sauce or taco). Top with shredded lettuce and diced tomato. This also goes well with grilled red bell peppers and onion instead of the lettuce and tomato. 

NACHOS

Fill a platter with chips. Add grated cheddar cheese on top and melt in oven or microwave. Top with meat, guacamole, sour cream, sliced black olives; or add hot refried beans and jalapeno peppers for an additional extraordinary culinary experience.

This can be paired with a nice old vine red zinfandel or an Icey Cold Modelo Beer.

Enjoy life, stay healthy, and may everyone be kind to you. 

The Drunken Chef (Russ)

INSTA-POT Spagetti Suace

Good Morning. Last night was chicken cutlet parmesan and spaghetti night at Sam’s request. I was going to make it on Sunday, since this is usually a very time-consuming recipe making it the way my mother did it for years. Unfortunately, I got home later than expected, just after 5:30pm, so I knew I couldn’t keep everyone waiting too long for dinner.

I told my mother in-law, and wife, dinner would not be ready for two hours. “Why?” Jennifer asked. I answered: “I am making chicken cutlet parmesan tonight.” I answered. To which my wife replied, “OH! Sam must be there influencing you.”

Anyway, I decided to speed things up and make the sauce in the Insta-pot. Besides, this gave me the perfect opportunity to write-up the recipe on how to make sauce in an Insta-pot.  My coworker is thinking of getting one of these pressure cooker appliances for this very reason. She was a big fan of my pulled pork and brisket recipe from this very Insta-pot.

So here is the recipe:

Insta-pot Spaghetti Sauce

1 # 10 size can of plum tomatoes or 3 of those really large 32 once imported plum tomatoes

1 Large or two medium size onion

4 to 6 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons Parsley flakes or tablespoon fresh

1/4 tsp Oregano

1/2 tsp Basil

1/2 tsp Crushed red pepper

1 tsp Salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Fill the blender half way with plum tomatoes or one 32 ounce can. Using the pulse button and blender set to chop (lowest setting), pulse bleeder until the tomatoes are well chopped. Pour chopped tomatoes slowly into the Insta-pot and turn it on to the sauté setting. Repeat this three times (leaving the Insta-pot on of course). Stir the sauce after each addition. Roughly chop the onion and garlic. Add the roughly chopped onion and garlic to the blender with a 3/4 cup of water. Pulse until well chopped (Almost smooth). Pour the fragrant smelling onions and garlic into the sauce. Stir, stir stir. To get out the remaining onion, use an addition 1/4 cup water in the blender, swish it around, and pour it into the Intsa-pot and stir well. Add seasonings – parsley, oregano, basil, crushed red pepper salt and black pepper. Stir, stir stir. Keep stirring occasionally to keep the sauce from burning and until it starts simmering (bubbling up to the top).

Put on the cover and set to pressure cook on low pressure for 20 minutes. THAT’S IT DONE. Carefully release the pressure and serve.

That’s how to make homemade spaghetti sauce in an hour. If you want to add meat balls omit one can of tomatoes and cut back on the spices a bit.

This is what I used to make the chicken parmesan and then put it on our spaghetti. I thought it was good. Sam and my mother in-law both loved it!

I served mine with an ice cold Peroni beer along with some fresh grated parmesan cheese. I also made garlic bread for everyone. I had no time for a vegetable or salad, sorry. Bad Husband.

Until next time when I might be bring you a stuffed baked potato recipe, we’ll see. Be well, be happy and enjoy life.

The Drunken Chef (Russ)

CUCUMBER SALAD

This is one of those old timey’ recipes that I remember from my childhood. My mother used to make this once a year in the summer. I grew up in a suburb of New York where we were very close to Queens. The plots of land were small 45 by 75 feet. We had very little room in our back yard for a garden but we did grow fresh string beans and tomatoes every year. A small backyard was nice as a teenager because there was not a lot of grass to mow. One of the first things my brother did when we all got older was hire a lawn service. Thank you for that!

Since we didn’t grow are own cucumbers in our tiny backyard I suspect my mother purchased them at the local farm stand. Back then there were still a few small family owned farms on Long Island that existed close to the city. There you could get the BEST corn on the cob and fresh cucumbers. They are all gone now and if you want that kind of fresh produce you have to travel much farther east on Long Island then I am. It really is a shame. Mega-store produce is just not as tasty as the farm fresh stuff.

So that brings me to todays recipe. A coworkers of mine does have garden and he grows his own cucumbers. Wednesday he brought with him four cucumber to share. I asked if he minded if I made cucumber salad with two of them for our entire office. He sounded enthusiastic at the idea. So I brought in some ingredients from home to make cucumber salad.

INGREDIENTS:

2 of Rich’s cucumbers

3 or 4 thin slices of Spanish or Vidalia onion cut in half and sliced thin

1 cup vinegar

1 cup filtered water

2 tablespoons sugar

1½ teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon white pepper

¼ teaspoon dill (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

At home I poured all the liquid ingredients into a plastic Tupperware bowl. Then I added all the spices list above and brought that with me to work. I left out the dill because I was out of it. I will pick up more today at the market by my office. Once at work I began by peeling the cucumbers. Turns out, I had a crappy peeler in my knife bag and it took forever. I need to replace that. Then using a chefs knife and plastic cutting board I sliced the cucumber into pretty thin circles. I may bring in my mandolin next time to make the slicing easier. Then I peeled and sliced an onion into half moon shapes. I added both of these items to my brine like substance I made at home. I put on the lid and stuck it in the refrigerator to marinate over night.

I will be serving it today with lunch and let you all know how it turns out. The next batch I will make any corrections I need to my ingredient list and add the dill. There are two more cucumbers after all.

That’s all for today. I will see you all on Monday unless the urge strikes me to Barbeque this weekend and post it live in INSTAGRAM. Hmmm Maybe my famous drunken chicken? We will have to see.

Until then be well. Be happy, enjoy life and if you cant be good be careful!

CHICKEN ENCHILADA RECIPE

Last night was chicken enchilada night with rice and black beans. I stopped at the local market on the way home for some fresh ingredients. Obviously, I needed chicken cutlets. I purchased large flour tortilla wrappers as well. Don’t even try and give me any shit about not making my own. I needed rice too, so one box of Goya Spanish style rice with seasoning, yum. Lastly, I added one can of Goya Black beans to the cart. I had onion, garlic, and OH wait I almost forgot, the sauce. Instead of my usual red enchilada sauce, I opted for the green chili sauce.

At home, I gathered all my cooking utensils and implements of destruction.

Here you can see, in a previous version on my enchilada in red sauce, my individual serving dishes.

COOKING UTENSILS

Individual Baking dishes/pans

INGREDIENTS:

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 – 2 cans enchilada sauce

½ lb. cheddar cheese (grated)

½ lb. Monterey Jack Cheese (grated)

2 tablespoons Salsa

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Chalupa

Paprika

Onion powder

Chili powder

Garlic powder

Salt and Pepper

DIRECTIONS

Add two tablespoons of olive oil to a large pan and warm it up. Cut the chicken into large bite size pieces as the chicken will shrink as it cooks. Add seasoning to the chicken. You can also use Taco seasoning. Fry on med-low. I find if you cook the chicken on high it gets tough. Cook the chicken until is is no longer pink. In the meantime, make yourself some black beans and Spanish rice.

Once the chicken is done, break out the tortillas. Lay the tortilla flat. Place some cheese in the center like shown.

Then add chicken. You could at this point add rice and black beans, but I chose to serve those on the side. The choice is yours.

Now, let’s roll this Burrito bad boy. Fold over the right and left sides so they are just covering the chicken. Then fold up the bottom so it completely covers the chicken. Now roll the rest of the way. Place in your individual baking dish that you have added enchilada sauce too. This time, I used green chili sauce. Many times in the past I have used the red. Then cover with grated cheddar cheese. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Serve with sour cream, guacamole, Cholula sauce, and lots of cold beers!

Enjoy this. Enjoy life and be well!

The Drunken Chef (Russ)

#personalchef #thekitchen

CC’s cafe— manhattan, lower east side review

Last week, I had an adventure of my own in the city, also to see the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit at Pier 36. It was fantastic. I highly recommend going if you haven’t already. The exhibit was organized and beautifully put together. 

Once we were ready to leave, we began exploring lunch options. I initially had found a diner nearby, but once we walked all the way there, there was a sign saying they were closed due to a small fire that occurred last week. Very disappointing, especially on such a hot day when walking 5 minutes is enough to be exhausting. Thankfully, we found CC’s café close by and were able to eat there. 

The cafe was tiny, but decorated tastefully with art on the wall, unique ambient lighting fixtures, and some plants scattered around. We sat down right away, and were promptly given water and menus by the waiter. He gave us a few minutes to look at the menu, and then we were ready to order. I ordered a make-your-own-salad with spinach, cucumbers, olives, tomatoes, chickpeas, goat cheese, grilled chicken, and honey mustard. My dad ordered a tuna sandwich with potato salad, and my cousin ordered quesadillas. Everyone enjoyed their meal, and it was portioned well enough so that we didn’t have leftovers. The café was affordably priced too.

Each table was only able to fit two to four people, but there was one slightly bigger table that could seat about six people. The tables were spaced nicely, and there was counter and window seating too. It was evident that this café was a fixture in the community. There were a few other people there, talking to the owner or working on their computer, but it was overall a quiet environment, with the hum of the television on in the background, the city sounds, people chatting, and a boiling coffee pot. This is a great place to pop into if you’re in the Chinatown area and looking for a quick meal or just a snack. You can check out CC’s Café here.

CHICKEN CUTLET PARMESAN

This week, I made chicken cutlet parmesan with pasta. This was Sam’s original request. I was working on the chicken parmesan, but then Jennifer came home and asked: “If you’re making us chicken cutlet parmesan, can your make extra for chicken parmesan heroes for my class?” “Sure,” I said. “Can you make a Meatball Parmesan hero too?” “Sure,” I said. “Can you make a salad?” “Sure,” I said. Then it was off to the market last night to buy everything but the bread for today. Good thing I’m on vacation huh.

I made us the chicken cutlet parmesan last night. I also made all the extra Chicken Cutlets last night. I posted the recipe for Chicken cutlets about a week ago. Funny how that worked out as you start with chicken cutlets. Here is the recipe for Chicken Parmesan:

COOKING UTENSILS

Shallow medium size bowl or soup bowl

Large Baking dish

Fork

Plate

Paring knife

tenderizer/mallet

large frying pan

spoon

INGREDIENTS:

4 – 6 boneless and skinless chicken breasts

2 cups Ma’s Spaghetti Sauce

16 ounces whole milk mozzarella cheese

2 eggs

½ cup flavored breadcrumbs

¼ cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350°. Slice mozzarella cheese in ¼ thick slices using a paring knife or cheese cutter. Add sauce to the bottom of a large baking dish and place near stove. Slice thick chicken breasts in half.  Pound all chicken using meat tenderizer/mallet to ½ inch thick. Beat eggs in medium size bowl.  Heat large frying pan and oil over medium high heat. Dip one chicken beast at a time into egg mixture. Then, coat with breadcrumbs by pouring ½ a cup of breadcrumbs into a clean dish.  Place chicken onto on top of breadcrumbs and press firmly using fork. Flip chicken over and press chicken into breadcrumbs. Lightly shake off excess breadcrumbs. Place chicken breast in frying pan and cook until breadcrumbs brown on both sides. Remove chicken breast to baking dish with sauce and sprinkle tops with parmesan cheese. Cover chicken with sliced mozzarella cheese (Grated mozzarella can also be used), and bake in a 350° oven for 30 minutes.

Serve with Tossed Salad, Garlic Bread, and/or Italian green beans.

See, this recipe is easy-peezy after making the cutlets! Chicken Parmesan is the recipe I made for Jennifer the night I proposed on our front porch. It is also her favorite. I think it Sam’s favorite too!

Here is how I made the party heroes:

Chicken Cutlet Parmesan (party sandwich)

Meatball Hero Parmesan (party sandwich)

Salad: Party Tray

© Russ Ahrens and The Magic of a Perfect Pairing, 2021

Taproom review—bayshore, ny

On Monday night, I went out with two of my friends to the Taproom, a restaurant and bar located on Main Street in Bayshore. They serve a wide array of salads, sandwiches, burgers, and tacos, while also featuring a wide array of craft beers. Being that I’m not old enough to drink, I can’t say anything about the alcohol, but I can tell you the people sitting at the bar were very excited that the Islanders were scoring. I don’t know whether or not they won.

My friends and I were seated promptly upon arriving, and the tables were spaced nicely to accommodate for social distancing. Our waitress came over shortly after and asked us what we wanted to drink; we all ordered water. For appetizers, we opted for a plate of truffle fries and mac and cheese bites. The truffle fries were very flavorful, consisting of parsley, parmesan, and of course, truffle oil. It had been a while since we had them, and they are a favorite among all of us. The mac and cheese bites were tasty as well. We weren’t expecting there to be what seemed to be an anchovy dressing on them, but it added an interesting flavor to the mac and cheese. I would definitely be interested in trying a plate of mac and cheese there—the bites left me wanting more!

Onto our entrees, one friend ordered the Fried Wonton Duck Tacos. It came as a set of four tacos paired with chips and salsa. The chips were more chewy than expected, so we weren’t a huge fan of them. Our other friend ordered the Chicken Alla Vodka sandwich, since she loves Penne Alla Vodka, and enjoyed it as well. I ordered the Shrooms and Bulbs craft burger and the strawberry side salad with it. Both were phenomenal. I asked for my burger to be cooked ‘well done’ and I was impressed that it was cooked all the way through, since in the past I’ve found that can be hard to come by at restaurants. Another feature I like about the Taproom is that for their craft burgers and sandwiches, you can choose your side. You can either get french fries or sweet potato fries with your meal, or for an extra dollar, you can order Cajun fries, or for two dollars, you can choose from the strawberry side salad (this is also served as an entrée on their menu), truffle fries, or onion rings.  

Overall, the food was fabulous, but filling. Half of my burger and salad, along with half of my friend’s chicken alla vodka sandwich came home with us since we were so full. I’m looking forward to coming back here in the future, and maybe The Drunken Chef can write about the beer. In the meantime, you can check out the restaurant here. In addition to their Bayshore location, they are in Patchogue and Massapequa Park as well. 

Mac & Cheese bites
Truffle fries
Chicken alla vodka sandwich.
Fried Wonton Duck tacos

Hot Dog Onions (spicy)

This is the first recipe leading up to Memorial Day Weekend here in the United States. Print it out and save it. I’m picturing a nice sized three ring binder full of recipes for the year by the time we are finished with this project next May here at the Magic of a Perfect Paring!

INGREDIENTS :

¼ cup Ketchup

2 Onions

1 Tbsp. Olive oil

2 tsp. crushed red pepper

While hot dogs are cooking, make the onions:

Add oil to a medium sized non-stick frying pan and place on medium heat. Cut onions into large bite size pieces and add to pan.  Cook onions until translucent. Add ketchup and crushed red pepper and heat through. Serve on top of hot dogs or hamburgers.

NOTES

Serve Hot Dogs with spicy onions, chili, cheese, sauerkraut, relish, mustard, and ketchup.

Rubin Dawg = 1000 island dressing, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese melted on top.

Now Add Ketchup and a little Spicy Brown Mustard if you want.