Thursday, April 14, 2011

Harissa Faux-Lobster (Prosciutto-Wrapped Monkfish) with Morcilla and White Sweet Potatoes

Prosciutto-Wrapped Harissa Monkfish with Morcilla and White Sweet Potatoes
One weekday evening I found myself wandering through Reading Terminal after work with a strange urge to buy some Monkfish.

I didn't have a recipe in mind when I bought it, so when we got home and searched the pantry we began grabbing all sorts of leftovers to include:

  • an excess of prosciutto laying around from the weekend
  • a 'White Jewel' sweet potato from Fair Food Farmstand
  • a small bag of hot peppers
  • a nub of strangely dry morcilla from Garces Trading Co.
  • half a carton of vegetable stock
Harissa dressing and Morcilla chunks

We created an ad-hoc Harissa using the peppers and diced up the morcilla and sweet potato, which went into the broth to cook until tender. I removed the skins from the sweet potato and baked them in the oven coated in olive oil. I was hoping they would give a little crispness and texture to the stew.

Faux-Lobster...Prosciutto-Wrapped Monkfish
Monkfish has been called 'poor-man's lobster' because the texture can resemble that of a lobster tail. We figured that wrapping it in a pan-fried 'shell' of prosciutto would give it tons of flavor.  Sliced into coins, the tail was topped with harissa relish and served with morcilla & sweet potato stew. It was a strange combination of salty prosciutto, sweet potato, spicy pepper and rich cured morcilla...not sure if we would stick with the harissa and sweet potato again, but such is the result of a 'leftover challenge'.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bloody Good - An Early Look at The Farm and The Fisherman BYOB

Lately the concept of farm-to-table has been in full swing in the restaurant-o-sphere in Philly - Talula's Garden in the latest in a cavalcade of farm-to-table concepts.When it comes to the The Farm and The Fisherman, a BYOB located on the 1100 block of Pine in the space formerly occupied by Paul, the name is more than just a casual nod to convention.

We had late reservations on a busy Friday and even thought the week-old restaurant still exhibited some of the opening 'jitters' you would expect, we were impressed with the warmth and friendliness of the place.
The menu that was announced during their opening had already undergone some substitutions and revamping. Gone were two of the dishes that I had looked forward to most - a Lamb Sirloin & Neck dish and a sunchoke & lobster knuckle soup. There were still lots of seasonal offerings spread across the three sections (Appetizer, Mid-Plate, Entree).

Fresh Warm Rolls and Housemade Butter

Although the service was holding up admirably for an opening, there were a few noticeable gap. However we were plied us with some delicious, flaky and just-from-the-oven warmed rolls while we settled in, a real treat.

Pancetta Wrapped Egg with Russian Kale & Mushrooms
This was my favorite dish of the night, a Pancetta-Wrapper Egg served over Russian Kale with bits of pancetta and mushrooms flavoring the sauteed greens. Kind of a brunchy dish, but very delicious and gooey with lots of savory elements to soak up the sauce.

Bloody Beet-Steak - split, smashed and sauteed crispy in pan-drippings
This was the most cleverly simple dish of the evening - a smashed beet that was sauteed in pan drippings. The beet's skin crunchy and rich, similar to a baked potato...and to think I've been peeling these things all along. The richness of the drippings transformed the earthy sweetness of the beet into a satisfyingly 'meaty' dish.

Roasted Celery Heart, Creamed Rice Grits w/Parsley and Roasted Red Quinoa
Elizabeth giggled when this plate hit the table. "An over-sized kiwi fruit exploded on the plate!", was how she summed up this dish's look.  We had ordered it because the thought of roasting a celery heart whole seemed like some sort of vegetarian homage to offal, sort of a nose-to-tail approach to the part of celery that usually gets trimmed away or under-utilized.  The creamed rice was flecked with toasted quinoa which gave each bite some textural interest.

Pig Ear Salad w/ pine-nuts & sherry vinegar
Speaking of offal, the Pig Ear salad was an odd mix of elements - the ears were somewhat tender but piled on to the point that the overall chewiness of the ear took over all of the more delicate elements of the salad.

Sweet & Sour Pork Belly w/raisins & celery root
I think I've been affected from the excess of crispier lacquered preparations of pork belly that I've been having lately - I found the softer braised belly somewhat lacking in flavor and rather flat...perhaps the sweet & sour flavors were too much, but it seemed like the melted belly fat disappeared under the whammy of raisin & vinegar.

It's been about a month since we dined there and I after scanning the latest menu I see lots of changes. The fact that the beet steak is still on the menu confirms that the things we really enjoyed are a hit and, while seasonal, hopefully will be on the menu for a little longer.

Overall we really enjoyed the Farm & Fisherman's approach and clearly the more creative ingredients signal that there is plenty of worth checking out here. Add to the fact it's a BYOB and the service was excellent, Farm and the Fisherman will keep us coming back for a taste of the seasons.

Greek Wine & Octopus @ Opa

Pulling this article from the pile marked DRAFT articles that we never seem to get around to posting on our blog...

We stopped into Opa last month to grab a small plate and a glass of wine during happy hour. There's been alot of press recently about the beautiful interior and we enjoyed sitting at the bar and drinking in all the detail.

The wine list was (obviously) biased towards Greek wines, which is unique and makes for a fun tasting session.  However for many people, ourselves included, Retsina is the only familiar Greek wine and the staff was a little unsure on the specifics of each varietal; I overheard the bartenders having a quick conference to figure out how to describe one of the white wines to a curious patron.

Grilled Octopus & Chickpeas
Braised & Grilled Octopus with Chickpea.  I actually had forgotten completely about having this dish and in fact I hadn't even thought about posting about it until I saw the latest Citypaper review by Adam Erace on the octopus and then remembered I had a picture on my phone...which kinda says how forgettable we found the octopus.

A little less than tender, it wasn't a disappointing as some other octopus experiences that have been had around Philly (I'm looking at you Dmitri's is she.) but I didn't think it was the best in Philly.

We are looking forward to going back and seeing if this dish has been tweaked...from the Citypaper review it sounds like a few changes were made to the chickpea accompanying the octopus.  We'll also be ordering the kokoretsi  - a tasty grilled dish made with lamb offal.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Szechuan Pepper Calamari and Springroll-Wrapped Head-on Shrimp

We've been playing around with some Asian-style appetizers lately and two in particular were kinda fun to make.
Szechuan Pepper Calamari

We've been watching Season 5 of The F-Word and one recipe that stood out was a Szechuan Pepper Calamari - the detail on this that drew me in was the technique for scoring the calamari that created strange crispy strips instead of rings. The aromatic, almost floral aspect of the Szechuan peppers also brought some zip and interest to the dish. The cucumber salad accompanying it was pretty pedestrian but necessary to balance out the heat from the calamari.

Springroll-Wrapped Head-on Shrimp

We sort-of-borrowed stole this recipe from a dish we'd tried at The Corner. We took the idea of using unusually large head-on shrimp but replaced the shredded phyllo of the 'shrimp-in-a-blanket' with strips of spring roll wrapper, then deep-fried the shrimp until crispy and golden. We served the shrimp with a red-pepper & tomato chutney and dusted it with some smoked paprika.  The spring roll strips held up beautifully and kept a tight seal on the shrimp. All of the great flavors trapped in the body oozed out as you twisted the heads off and created a rich sauce inside of the crispy pastry.