Monday, March 19, 2012

Restaurant Review - Mara's Homemade, Syosset NY

A few weeks back, a buddy of mine texted me asking if I had been to Mara's Homemade yet. Not only had I never been there, but I had never even heard of it.  A former NYC hotspot that moved out to the Island, serving New Orleans-style grub and Arkansas Barbecue?  Sign me up!

We stopped by there two weekends ago for a drink at the bar and to have a couple of appetizers. We settled on a Bloody Maria made with jalepeno-infused tequila, something called a Crawfish Cheese Cake and some fried pickles.  The Crawfish Cheese Cake was like a souffle with cheese, crawfish tails and Andouille sausage.  Everything was delish!

Crawfish Cheesecake, fried pickles and a Bloody Maria
That experience was so satisfying, we knew we had to go back for a full meal.  Something we did this past weekend.  And it didn't disappoint. We started off with another Bloody Maria (it was sooooo good the first time around) and a Cajun martini made with tobasco and gin. Both were excellent. The spice on the rim of the Cajun martini, something I usually don't go for, was a nice addition.

Bloody Maria and Cajun Martini
For our round of appetizers, we settled on something called Crawfish Stuffed Bread, some fried green tomatoes and a 1/4 rack of their dry-rub ribs.  The Crawfish Bread was a hollowed out piece of crusty French Bread filled with a delicious mixture of cheese, crawfish tails and spices.  It was so good, I'm thinking it would've made a fine meal all in itself.  The fried green tomatoes were some of the very best I've ever had, and I'm obsessed with finding the best fried green tomatoes.  You didn't even need any of the Remoulade sauce they served with it. And we were dying to try the barbecue, so we had a little taste with the dry-rub smoked ribs, which were moist and excellent. Fell right off the bone. All the appetizers were outstanding!

Crawfish Stuffed Bread
Fried Green Tomatoes
Smoked dry-rub ribs...Arkansas-style!
For our entrees, Gia went with one of the specials...fried catfish served with a cheese sauce smothered in crawfish tails and shrimp and a side of collared greens.  I went with a serving of Crawfish Etoufee (actually a large side dish) with a side of Smoked Levi Beans.  Both were big hits with us. The cheese sauce on the catfish was actually much lighter than we expected but full of flavor, and the collared greens were cooked just right.  The Crawfish Etoufee was hot, spicy and wonderful, as were the smoked beans.

Fried catfish in a cheese sauce with crawfish and shrimp and collared greens
Crawfish Etoufee (foreground) and smoked Levi beans
We were pretty damn full at this point, but we had to try some dessert as well as some after-dinner drinks.  We went with the Chocolate Pecan Cake, a Bulleit bourbon on the rocks for Gia and a Sazarac made with absinthe and apricot-infused bourbon for me. Perfect ending for the meal.  I also accidentally ordered some beignets, but I was too full to eat them so we had them bagged to take home.  I didn't get a picture of them, but they were delicious!

Sazarac (foreground), Bulleit on the rocks, Chocolate Pecan Cake
All in all, it was a wonderful meal.  And the wait-staff and owners were all really nice people.  If there were any negatives it was that the food was so rich we didn't feel like eating for the rest of the weekend.  That and the menu has too many choices.  You find yourself wanted to order one of everything.  Then they add the specials on top of that and it's appetite overload. 

Next time we go, we are going to orders strictly from the Arkansas BBQ menu.  The link on their site calls it a cross between Texas and Memphis-style barbecue.  If the smoked ribs were any indication, then we can't go wrong.

If you are ever in Syosset, NY area you should check it out.  Highest possible recommendation!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Congo Bars

You need to make these.  Right now.  I'm serious.  They will change your life.  I didn't have time to take a photo of how my turned out, they were gobbled down in seconds!

Congo Bars | 7 Layer Bars
Here's the link.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Satayday Night Fever

And once you've tasted it you're gonna want to rock the disco!  It's an amazing satay chicken recipe from a couple of crazy canucks!  Janet and Greta Podleski from their new book The Looneyspoons Collection.  I have their other 3 books (which are now out of print) and they are FANTASTIC.  I got the new one, The Looneyspoons Collection for Christmas.  I've tried several recipes from it already and they've all been excellent.  Kinda wanted to do the whole Julie & Julia thing and cook a recipe a day and blog about it but really where am I gonna find that much time?  If anyone wants to volunteer to pay me to do it I will quit my day job to accommodate you...    Anyway you should buy this book, the recipes are healthy, the ladies give great health tips along side the recipes, the recipes are fun and yummy AND they all have silly names like Satayday Night Fever.  Next on my list to try are the Jerry Springer Rolls.

So check it out for yourself:

4 chicken breasts (they say cut into cubes, but that's too much work, later you're supposed to put them on skewers, I don't have time for that, so I just cut them into strips, chicken finger style.)
2 Tbs. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbs. honey
1 Tbs. lemon juice
2 tsp. grated ginger root
1 tsp. minced garlic

Marinate chicken strips in above concoction for at least 2 hours or over night.  Over night is best!

Grill for about ten minutes, turning often to cook all sides.  Or you can cook under the broiler, 4" from heat for 8 minutes total, turning often.  I broiled mine and they were delicious!  I would have liked to grill them on the BBQ, however today in Saskatchewan it was -52 Celsius with the wind and so venturing outside was not an option!  Global warming my ass!  While the chicken is grilling or broiling you gotta make the sauce...

Peanut Dipping Sauce:
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 Tbs. light peanut butter (I used the crunchy kind, cuz I love the texture of the extra nuts.)
3 Tbs. grape jelly (I know it sounds weird and you're already thinking it's gonna be gross, but just TRY IT!)
1 Tbs. reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes  (I put in a bit extra cuz I like it spicy!)

Combine these items in a small saucepan.  Heat over medium heat until mixture is bubbly and has thickened.

Serve hot skewers or "fingers" with dipping sauce.

And sorry, no photos, once we tasted them there was no time to get the camera!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Aces of Bases

Lately, a lot of the recipes I've been making use a cup of two of some kind of broth.  Beef broth, chicken broth, vegetable broth.  And I'm not really one for making my own broth. It's something that I just don't do.

Not that I'm overwhelmed by the taste of store-bought broth. And I'm not lazy in the kitchen, but I draw the line at making my own broth.  So it's to the store I go.  I've been avoiding the canned and packaged carton broths lately.  I just don't think they have enough flavor.  So I've been investigating various alternatives.


Better Than Bouillon

I like this one. It comes in a concentrated paste in a glass jar.  They have a whole line of organic and vegeterian soup bases.  I've found that it makes a flavorful, rich and hearty soup base even if I use slightly less paste/water ratio.  Most of these pastes/cubes/packets could use a little more water than they suggest.

Knorr Homestyle Stock

Comes in a four-pack of little tubs of paste/gel.  Each tub makes around 4 cups of broth.  This one is also good to use as a flavor boost for skillet dishes and the like.  Tasty and hearty.  Much more so than the canned stuff.  Very convenient to store in the pantry as well.

Bouillon Cubes

Has anyone else noticed that bouillon cubes look a lot different than they used to?  And not just the packaging. The cubes themselves are a bit moist.  Not nearly as dry as I remember from my youth.  Even so bouillon cubes have usually been my last resort when it comes to broth.  But I've found a few that have changed my mind.

Rapunzel Vegetable Bouillon 

They makes a Vegan Vegetable Bouillon that is damned good.  I would assume that all vegetable stock is vegan, but what do I know.  100% organic, as that is there gig.  I bought the batch with sea salt and herbs added, but you can buy it without that as well.  Made a nice veggie broth.

Knorr Caldo de Tomate

That's a tomato bouillon with chicken flavoring.  Yeah, the "chicken flavoring" kind of scares me too.  But it makes a really interesting and different broth.  Tomato based, yet you can still tell it's a chicken broth.  This one is non-organic and it has some MSG in it.  But it will do in a pinch.  Especially for Spanish or Mexican food recipes.  I make a chicken tortilla soup that I could see using this as the base. 

So what do you use as a stock/broth/soup base when you don't feel like making it yourself?