cod with vinegared beets, white anchovy aioli, black radish

What's the point of opening a restaurant if you're not opening the best damn restaurant in the world? Why go halfway? This is what I've been asking myself lately as I draw out sketches and ideas for the eventual form of the restaurant. I want this to be an immersive experience - I want the guests to come away from the meal feeling like they've just experienced a great film or book -  a sense of beauty, being uplifted, loss at the end.

I've suddenly been taken with the idea of starting Taiga as a series of pop-up restaurants across NYC. Learn to develop my craft more, get my name out there, practice, practice, practice. This is one of those dishes I've been practicing. That delicate cod, the sweetness and acidity from the vinegar-soaked beets, that umami punch from the anchovy aioli, crisp salt from the soaked carrot and sea beans. Bitterness from the radish. It's all about balance, about touching every flavor at once. 

1 cod fillet
1 golden beet, sliced
1 candy cane (or red) beet, sliced
1 carrot, shaved
1 black radish, sliced
2 oz champagne vinegar
2 oz canola oil, divided
1 white anchovy
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350. In a foil wrapper, toss beets with 1 oz oil and champagne vinegar. Add salt to taste. Roast for 15-20 minutes or until soft. Meanwhile, in a bowl of salted water, soak the black radish slices and carrot for 20 minutes. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, pepper, salt, and white anchovy. Mix until fully incorporated.

In a metal skillet, heat 1 oz oil over high heat until shimmering. Add seasoned cod, top side down, and cook 2-4 minutes, or until halfway opaque and it releases from the pan easily. Flip and repeat. Plate as desired and serve.

blueberry pie

Summer's half over. Where did it go?

I've mostly been working on the house lately - putting curtains up, digging out closets from under piles of junk tossed there from when A and I moved in March. It's slowly coming together to look like more than just an apartment but an actual home. I find myself wandering through the rooms, cup of coffee in hand, just appreciating everything. Grey and clean-lined with molding everywhere. It's perfect. 

To go with this picturesque setting, I of course need a pie. And what better pie to make than with blueberries from the height of the summer, sweetened by sunlight and heat. This pie is classic, full of tangy blueberry flavor and a rich, buttery crust that flakes on your tongue - just the way I like it.

2.5 cups all-purpose flour
2 sticks butter, chopped
1 cup cold water (all won't be needed)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar

3 pints blueberries
1 oz lemon juice
1.5 cups sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water

Combine flour, butter, salt, and sugar in a food processor. Pulse, slowly adding water, until chunky but incorporated. Wrap in plastic and place in freezer for thirty minutes.

In a small saucepan, combine blueberries, lemon juice, and sugar and cook over medium-high heat until blueberries begin to break down and become liquid. Whisk cornstarch with water until no lumps remain and stir into blueberry mixture. Bring to boil and reduce to medium high, stirring constantly, until it begins to thicken and a spoon can almost stand up in the mixture. Remove from heat.

Remove crust from freezer and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness on a flour-dusted surface. Fold in fourths and place on a greased pie pan. Unfold and tuck dough into pie pan, trimming off hanging pieces. Crimp edges. Place beans or pie baking weighs in the bottom. Preheat oven to 350 and bake for 10-15 minutes or until just beginning to brown and lightly dry to the touch. Remove from oven.

Remove beans from crust. Pour filling into pie crust and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. 


how to be a better cook: techniques from a professional kitchen

There are a lot of things I've learned since stepping foot into my culinary classroom a year and a half ago - and then at the places I've worked since then. Here are a few that translate from a professional kitchen into making the home cook's life a little easier.

1. Mise en place.

mise en place

mise en place

Oh, mise en place. That old French saying to have "everything in its' place". Having everything measured and in place before starting means that you won't get partially through a recipe and then realize your butter should be softened or you're out of chicken stock. When I say mise en place, I don't just mean your ingredients. Have all your equipment - pots, pans, foil, parchment paper at your ready.

2. Clean as you go.

It's simple but so elusive. Keep a clean workspace. After you chop an ingredient, wipe down your cutting board. Organize your ingredients. Wash down pots right after using. 

3. Read the recipe fully - twice.

keep a sharp knife

keep a sharp knife

Don't have any nasty surprises, like needing to allow the dough to rest for an hour, midway through the process. Read the recipe and then read it again to fully set up a working plan of attack.

4. The tape method.

Something we use at Milk Bar - always keep a piece of masking tape at the ready next to the recipe's list of ingredients. Mark out things twice - once as you've measured it. And then mark it again as you've added it to the pot. Then you'll never forget if you've already added the salt.

5. Don't overcrowd your pan.

Pretty simple but I'm as guilty of it as you are. You want to get everything done quickly and think you can squeeze in that extra chicken breast - and as a result, nothing is cooked evenly and bits of skin are sticking to the unoiled sides. Be patient, cook in batches or use a larger pan.

6. Get your oil hot.

Turn the stove on. Put your pan on. Walk away for a bit. Let it get crazy hot. Put your oil in. Let your oil get smoking hot. Then add the protein and it will never stick to the pan ever again! Why do we do this? We want the heat to expand the molecules in the pan and the oil to then cover all the microscopic nooks and crannies. The food and the metal of the pan naturally like each other and want to bond, so you need that hot oil to fully even out and slick out that surface before adding anything.

7. Test your oven.

 Do this. Get a sheet pan and place six pieces of evenly spaced bread on it. Bake for 10 minutes at 35o. Pull out the bread and look for where is darker than the others so you're aware of hot spots and unevenness to your oven. Also, get an oven thermometer and ensure that what your oven says is 350 is actually 350.

8. Let your meat rest.

Take your meat out at five degrees (Fahrenheit) under your desired temperature and rest on a rack for five minutes, flipping halfway through. This will allow all the juices running out of the constricting muscle fibers to reabsorb as it relaxes. Flip to ensure they stay near the middle.

9. Sharpen your knives.

Seriously. Buy a whetstone and take your knives to it at least once a month. You're far more likely to hurt yourself with a dull knife and any task is easier with a sharp one. Soak the whetstone and slide the knife's edge at a an angle along the rougher grit side about 10-15 times. Repeat on the fine grit side. Rinse. Check with your knife's manufacturer as to what angle to sharpen at.

10. Season, season, season. 

This is the biggest disparity between home cooks and professionals - season as you go. Add a little salt here and a  little there, tasting everytime, until you hit that perfect brightness of flavor. It should never taste of salt but salt will wake it up and make the flavors come through brighter - and it can't be accomplished with a little salt at the end. 

confetti cookies

Stop what you're doing. Seriously, put it down and grab the butter and the sugar. You need these incredible sour cream confetti cookies in your life. They're everything you'd want in a birthday-cake-turned-cookie, light and pillowy. There's nothing dense nor crunchy about these cookies, they're soft as sugar clouds on your tongue.

If you haven't noticed - the Spoontang Kitchen's actual space looks a little different these days. We moved from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side of Manhattan a little over three weeks ago. I'm slow to unpack, still living half out of boxes and my terrible memory of where I've placed the whisks. So it's a birthday of sorts, even if mine is still half a year away on the other side of summer, it's a time for something new. Something bright. These cookies are exactly what you need for spring, for that time of reset and renewal. Bright and celebratory and impossibly soft. 

recipe adapted from milk bar life. 

6 tbsp butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup rainbow sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350.

Cream butter and sugar together in mixer until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Add egg, sour cream, and vanilla. Beat until combined. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt and add to mixture, beating until well combined. Add sprinkles and beat until throughly distributed. 

On a silpat-lined baking tray, scoop dough into 1 tbsp size balls. You can even them out or leave them relatively unformed, as I did. Bake at 350 for 7-9 minutes for small cookies and 10-11 minutes for larger cookies. Remove when tops begin to take on a golden brown color. Cookie should still be soft to the touch. Allow to cool completely before attempting to remove from silpat.