Friday, November 7, 2014

Do you Kittiwat?

As a rule, I don't review restaurants. To do a real review, you need to share the bad along with the good, and I just hate criticizing someone else's hard work. (SIDEBAR: I mean, have you ever worked in a restaurant? It's tough, backbreaking work, and folks are often putting their hearts and souls on the plate. I'm not the sort that can write how much they suck without it feeling cruel. If you don't have something nice to say... right?? )

Today though, it's easy to break my own informal rule to bring you Kittiwat, a fantastic new Thai restaurant here in Frederick.

Sarah, Krista, and me, on a break between classes
I know, I've got crazy eyes and six chins here, but this is a pic of the inside of the latest Thai restaurant in town. Situated beside Baltimore Coffee and Tea on Crestwood, this super yummy joint is my latest obsession.

With modern design and a not overly huge menu, Kittiwat sticks to traditional Thai fare in a clean, modern setting. Nervous to really branch out and sticking with the Pad Thai? The menu gently suggests asking for it in the traditional manner, with dried shrimp added to the mix for authenticity. Do that...please.

Chicken Satay, which may be pedestrian, but delicious, with fab dipping sauces

Some sort of fried pumpkin special...which was also tasty and served with more awesome sauce

Breaking it down, here's what I love, and what I don't about my new favorite restaurant:

  • Food is spot on and fantastic. Served piping hot, I have yet to be disappointed by a dish, and I've eaten there several times in the past few weeks.
  • Service is terrific and friendly.
  • The space looks cool and hip.
  • It's close to work, and I can zip over for a quick lunch.
  • Panang curry...with shrimp...sooooooo good.
  • The sauces. Oh my, the sauces...
  • It seems just slightly pricey (pineapple fried rice with mixed seafood is $20, panang curry with shrimp is $15, fountain sodas are $3), though it could be that I am incapable of going to a restaurant and ordering a single dish, thus upping my bill. 
  • The lunch menu is tiny.
  • The kitchen closes between 2:30-4. This seems reasonable, but as I often work split shifts, I'm still sitting there when they're trying to catch a break.
  • The cool, hip look, with high, open ceilings, concrete floors and subway tile walls is almost certainly clankingly loud if there's a crowd. There's really nothing around to absorb sound, but hey, there's always take-out.
  • The type on the take-out menu is so, so tiny, that no one over 20 could possibly read it without a struggle.
The pluses (food, service, curry) are definitely way more awesome than my pickiness (a little pricey, loud, tiny type take-out menu), no question. So go, check out Kittiwat, enjoy a little red curry and a few spring rolls and have a great time. Let me know what you think.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Recipe: Cheddar-Ranch Smashed Potatoes

You've probably seen a version of potatoes like these all over Pinterest. But if you're looking to up the ante, THIS is the recipe you're going to want. They're a wee bit whiskey tango if you know what I mean (seriously, ranch dressing mix? What have I come to???), but don't let that stop you. If I'm eating cheese and potatoes, I've already thrown caution to the wind, so with these taters, we're going for broke. With the addition of mayo (I know it's weird, but go with it), they're creamier, and by adding some dry ranch dressing mix, definitely have that taste of ranch that kids love. Want to make them even more spectacular? Add some crumbled bacon on the top before serving. Sure, you're gilding the lily a bit, but what's a cup of water when you're drowning? 

Cheddar-Ranch Smashed Potatoes

Serves 4-6
  • 1 1/2 pounds baby red potatoes
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise (the real stuff, not light)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon dry ranch dressing mix
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives
Preheat oven to 400-degrees.

Scrub potatoes to remove any dirt. Place potatoes into a pot large enough to hold them and cover with cold water, plus 2" and a good pinch of salt. Place pot on stove and turn heat to high. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are just tender when pierced with a fork. Drain potatoes.

Cover a baking sheet with foil, then lightly coat with cooking spray. Place drained potatoes on foil and gently smash each one with the bottom of a glass or measuring cup until the skin breaks and they are slightly flattened, but not totally squished (chunkier will work better in this case). The potatoes should be close together and not spread out separately on the pan.

Place mayo, cheddar cheese, ranch dressing mix and chives in a bowl and mix until thoroughly combined. Spread cheese mixture on top of potatoes, then place in oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and beginning to brown. Serve while warm.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Recipe: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork BBQ

Dude--I seriously love my slow cooker. I know, I know. It makes you lazy, and yes, that can be true, but it can also be a lifesaver if you're running hither and yon all day long.

My family loves pulled pork, but I have neither the time nor the patience to smoke a pork butt all day. That's what Black Hog is for (amiright?). But when I want to make something they love, and keep the $$ low and eat on my back patio, this is the recipe I make. It's stupid easy, freezes well, and they'll gobble it up. For real.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork BBQ

Serves 6 (but easily doubles)
  • 2 cups tomato puree
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worchestershire Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 pounds pork loin (end piece if possible)
Place all ingredients except the pork loin into a 5 quart (or larger) slow cooker. Stir well to combine. Add pork loin to slow cooker and turn to coat. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours (no peeking!).
Remove cover, being careful of the steam, and remove pork loin carefully to a cutting board. Using two forks, shred meat, then return to the slow cooker, stirring well to combine with the sauce. Serve on rolls with a bit of coleslaw and you're all set!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Recipe: TKS Blondies!

For the past week, I've been on a quest to create the perfect blondie recipe. I've decided to make the kids their lunch every school day (something they've done on their own since late elementary school) as a challenge for myself for the next several weeks. As I'm a cook by trade, I thought that maybe I should actually cook something.

You know blondies...right? They're not chocolate like brownies, but are more like a bar form of chocolate chip cookies. With searching and testing and tweaking, I think I've worked out a terrific recipe that is the perfect mix of ooey and gooey. You can even whip them up today without a trip to the store - they're that easy.

TKS Blondies
Makes 9 big blondies or 16 small
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional, but they're delicious!)

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Spray an 8" x 8" pan with non-stick cooking spray. Tear a piece of foil approximately 18" long, then fold to fit bottom of pan, leaving excess hang over opposite sides to form a sling. Spray foil lightly with non-stick spray (like that --->).

Place melted butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla in a large bowl and stir to combine. Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl, and stir well to combine (it will seem a bit dry, but just keep stirring until it is all just combined). Add chocolate chips and walnuts, then stir to combine again. Spread batter in pan and bake for 23-25 minutes, until center no longer jiggles when shaken, and edges are puffed and beginning to brown.

Remove pan from oven and place on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Use sling to remove blondies from pan and place on rack to cool completely before cutting...if you can resist. ;)

Chef Chris

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Recipe: Italian Potato Wedges

So, it's a weeknight and I'm in a pinch for dinner. I'm tired of cooking the same old stuff, but not feeling super inspired. You've been there...right? Sometimes I feel like I live there if you know what I mean. I want the family to be happy, but they're so not into all of the fab Asian-inspired dishes that I'm into right now, so I'm looking for stuff that doesn't bore me to tears but will keep them happy too.

Enter Italian Potato Wedges.

I had potatoes. I had my own homemade version of Italian dressing mix in the cupboard. I had olive oil and an oven. BOOM. Quick side dish, tasty, no familial issues. Try 'em; you'll like 'em.

Italian Potato Wedges

  • 4 baking potatoes, scrubbed, not peeled 
  • 1 T. homemade Italian Dressing Mix (recipe below)
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 1 Good pinch of salt (optional, depending on how salty your dressing mix is)

Preheat oven to 400-degrees with a rack positioned in the middle of the oven. Cut each potato in half lengthwise, then each of those in half, then in half one more time, resulting in 8 long wedges per potato. Place in a large bowl. Add dry Italian dressing mix, olive oil, and pinch of salt (optional) to bowl with potatoes and mix well with your hands (the kids love this part!) taking care to evenly coat the potatoes. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray or coat with a bit more olive oil. Place seasoned potato wedges on baking sheet, one of the cut sides down.

Place in oven and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until side touching the pan is brown. Turn all wedges over to place remaining cut side down. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes, until potatoes are browned and tender.

Homemade Italian Dressing Mix (And yes, you should totally make your own. It's crazy easy and way tastier than the stuff you get at the market):
  • 1 T. garlic powder
  • 1 T. onion powder
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 2 T. dried oregano
  • 1 t. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 t. dried thyme
  • 1 t. dried basil
  • 1 T. dried parsley
  • 1/4 t. celery seeds
  • 2 t. salt
Place all ingredients into a resealable container. Mix well to combine. Store in a cool dry place.

To make dressing instead of using the dry mix, whisk together 2 T. dressing mix with 1/4 c. red wine vinegar and 2/3 cup vegetable oil. Store in fridge.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

I Want Mussels!

If you just started singing, you're showing your age. If not, hey, how you doin'?

January's fish-a-geddon is in full swing, though I'm finding that I have replaced meat with cheese. Huh. I didn't expect that...did I? Aside from one brief bacon cheeseburger incident (Hey-a pipe burst and soaked, oh I don't know...EVERYTHING, so yeah, I had a little breakdown and it was kinda like if you're going to do this, then do this, and get bacon on the cheeseburger because pig on top of cow is like, amazing, amiright?).

Anyway, tonight, I had a 2 pound bag of mussels and was ready to throw down when I realized that I have never shared this recipe with you. Say what? If you are a fish-hater, no worries. Just start thinking about cheeseburgers and come back in a few days.

If, on the other hand, you are a serious fish lover like me, you can't get faster, cheaper, or tastier than a big 'ole bag o' mussels. My 2 pound bag, easily enough for 2 adults, maybe more if you have something else to serve with them, cost just $5. Add a few shallots, a little leftover white wine (yes, I actually do have leftover white wine, mostly because I'm a total lightweight), some fresh parsley, salt, and pepper and you've got a delicious, super Frenchy meal. Just look at those suckers...

If you're new to musseldom, here are a few tips to help you along and possibly even save your belly:

  • Mussels are alive when you buy them, and it's your job to keep them that way until it's time to throw them on the stove. Avoid the plastic bag at the grocery store, or if you must use it, be sure not to tie it closed, because your seafoody little friends will suffocate and die. And nothing stinks up the joint like a dead mussel.
  • Keep mussels in the coldest part of your fridge, usually the bottom shelf in the back. If you can keep them on ice, all the better
  • Don't buy mussels until you're ready to cook them. This isn't a "do the shopping on Sunday, have them on Wednesday" scenario. Buy fish, eat fish. Don't plan on storing it for more than a day. Your fridge and your belly will thank me.
  • If the mussel shells are open, give them a little tap on the counter, then set them aside for a minute. You'll want to be sure they're still alive before you cook them, and this is a good test. If you have a few with broken shells or that won't close, just toss them in the trash.
It sounds like a bigger deal than it is, I promise. Once you're hooked on these little morsels of briny goodness, you'll be whipping them up all the time. For real.

Mussels in White Wine

  • 2 pounds fresh mussels
  • 1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium shallots, peeled and finely minced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • kosher or sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
Place the mussels in a large bowl of cold water. Allow to rest in the fridge for 15 minutes in order to have the mussels purge any sand or grit. (This is the longest part of the whole recipe, and really, what are you doing? Sitting there, drinking wine while your mussels soak and purge. No biggie.)

Drain the mussels and repeat the process with a second bowl of very cold water.

Drain the mussels again.

In a large saute pan with a tight fitting lid, melt butter and cook shallots over medium-high heat until soft and translucent, 4-5 minutes. Add the drained mussels to the pan, along with the wine and a generous dose of salt and pepper (don't go too crazy, you can always add more later).

Cover the pan and cook, covered, for 4-5 minutes, or just until the mussels have opened. Add parsley to the pan and stir well to distribute. Taste and re-season if necessary. Discard any unopened mussels. Serve with a hunk of crusty bread to soak up the juices and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

January Objective: Here Fishy Fishy!

Every January 1, I make a list of resolutions of that I somehow seem to break by January 2. You know the type -- I want to cook at home more, eat less, workout more and so on.


This year, instead, I've decided to make a monthly resolution objective. It seems more realistic to create a challenge that lasts a max of just 31 days, than try to commit myself to something for an entire year and fail. I mean heck... I LOVE a challenge. I trained myself and completed a marathon for heavens sake, and I don't even like to run! And 30 days? I can do just about ANYTHING for 30 days. Amiright?

For January, I've decided to give up meat and go pescetarian. That is, veggies and fish, but no beef, pork, chicken, duck, or any other creature along those lines. It's not so much the not eating anything with a face issue, but more so that with not feeling super healthy lately, I'd like to jump start my diet a bit and give some new things a try. I get into a rut just like anyone else, and I'm ready to challenge myself to eat...better. My super fab sister-in-law Mo went vegetarian last spring (the lowest maintenance vegetarian I've ever met btw), and I've found it inspiring.

Now don't misunderstand because hey, French fries are vegetarian, so yup, there are certainly loopholes (or escape hatches) in any veggie/fish-centric diet. In fact, tonight's super fab breakfast-for-dinner meal of eggs Benedict with homemade hollandaise sauce (sans Canadian bacon for me) hit the heart-stopping bill perfectly. Not to worry, my avocado sandwich for lunch had a healthier vibe to it.

So day one...success! Care to join me?