Thursday, April 30, 2009

winner winner chicken dinner

i love fried chicken. i have a lot of favorite foods but when it really comes down to it, my most favorite foods in the world are pizza, french fries, and fried chicken. if i had to eat one food for the rest of my life it would not be any of these three, but at least one would be part of my death row meal.
like so many foods i really love, i have a history with fried chicken. i can still see my mom shaking her chicken legs and thighs in no more than flour before frying them up for dinner. we used to go to this restaurant called zim's when i was a kid that was little more than a fancy denny's. but they had the best fried chicken wings, which we called drumettes for some reason (little drumstick?). we used to go there every christmas day for a number of years and all order those drumettes. my mom would try to replicate these delicious bits of fried goodness at home with ranch on the side for dipping. i am a total sucker for chicken fingers and fried chicken sandwiches, both with ranch dressing too.
i have needed a good fried chicken recipe for a while. seth makes chicken cutlet schnitzel which is dammed good but just not the same as picking up a piece of fried chicken in your hand and taking a bite. so a while back when everyday food arrived with a recipe for rosemary fried chicken, i didn't hesitate to make it. i have made it three or four times now and i just made it again last night. it is so good and so simple! i love it cuz you don't have to stand over a hot stove and fry the chicken all the way to doneness. you just get a nice crust on it and let the oven finish it off. its worth it to let the chicken marinate in the buttermilk for a few hours and you must use extra rosemary. i use just thighs cuz they are so meaty and delicious and the skin fries up really nicely.
if you love fried chicken like i do, cook this dish up in a hurry!

is there such thing as a free lunch?

i think that if you read this blog you get the idea that i love food. and there is one type of food i really love -- free food. one of the perks of being a health care provider is that you can take advantage of pharmaceutical company sponsored dinners. these meals do involve a lot of ethical questions but for the most part i choose to ignore those questions and just focus on the free meals at really great restaurants.
since i work on the seacoast of new hampshire these restaurants are in portsmouth and last week i found myself at jumpin' jays fish cafe listening to a lecture on smoking cessation in primary care. while i love a free meal i only go to topics i am interested in and smoking cessation happens to be a strong interest. with cigarette smoking increasing ones risk of all causes of death by 5,000 percent, i wouldn't be doing my job as a nurse practitioner if i didn't discuss quitting with my patients, and i do at every opportunity.
but this is really suppose to be more of a restaurant review than a post about health care so let me return to the restaurant at hand. i have wanted to try jumpin' jays for a while and i was excited that a good restaurant and a great topic were being offered together. the way these things work is like a prix fixed meal. this evening we had a choice of appetizer, salad, main, and dessert. the service is always quite wonderful and they start you out with a glass of wine the minute you walk in the room. they serve the appetizer and salad while the lecture is going on and dinner and dessert are served after.
i started out with the maine crab cakes served over baby greens and a wasabi remoulade. the cakes were almost all crab, spiked with kernels of sweet corn, and accented wonderfully with the spicy wasabi remoulade, which was a lot like spicy ketchup-mayo, but tasty all the same.
for my salad i went with the straight up caesar. i am a true caesar connoisseur as my mom makes one of the best most garlicky, anchovy-y caesars i have ever had. and i have to say that jumpin' jays caesar was pretty great. i find that many restaurants don't put a lot into their caesars, which tend to just be romaine lettuce with packaged caesar dressing. the dressing is usually thick and tangy without enough saltiness. but the caesar this evening was dressed perfectly with a dressing that really pulled in all the flavors of a true caesar. it did not come with anchovies but the dressing tasted like they were in there.
for my main i had the pan seared diver scallops served with a garlicky spinach and mashed potatoes. they were cooked well though they weren't really hot when they reached me and the serving portion was huge. yes this is a good thing but after an appetizer and a salad, not to mention two glasses of bordeaux, i was stuffed and couldn't finish all of my scallops.
being as full as i was and in the interest of getting back to portland at a semi reasonable hour, i left without waiting for dessert.
the lecture was surprisingly good, though of course all about the smoking cessation drug chantix. i tend to think its kind of funny that pharmaceutical companies think that by giving you free food and pens and boxes of tissue that you will actually prescribe their drugs more. but the reality is, if it didn't work they wouldn't spend their money on it. i for one am not swayed by the freebies and i always try to prescribe generic drugs to save my patients money. the trouble is, chantix really is the best drug for quitting smoking, its very expensive, and there is no generic.
and here is where the ethical question comes into play for me: if the pharmaceutical companies didn't pay for all these fancy dinners, or sponsor the doctors who give the lectures, would they be able to offer their drugs to consumers at a more reasonable price? but like i said before, i choose to focus on the free meal.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


i was just going to write a little post about artichokes when i checked mark bittman's blog to find a post about artichokes. the march issue of saveur had a great article about artichokes in which the author (david plotnikoff) summed up, more eloquently than i ever could, my childhood experiences with artichokes: "the big, meaty artichokes on my family table were served in an unpretentious style: steamed, pulled apart leaf by leaf, each leaf dipped in melted butter or best foods mayonnaise and pulled through clenched teeth to scrape away the flavorful flesh, until all that was left was the succulent heart." like the author, artichokes were commonplace on my family dinner table as a kid growing up in california. it wasn't until moving to the east coast that i realized how strange this strangest fruit really is. multiple times, when buying artichokes at the supermarket, i have been asked by the checker and other customers what they are and how are they cooked and eaten. they make me think of my mom and her obsession with best foods mayonnaise.
my cooking is pretty tame when it comes to preparing artichokes. though we eat them quite frequently, it is usually prepared as they are above. i do make this amazing turkey and artichoke stuffed shells that i can't get enough of. i substitute the ricotta for tofu, which i do in every recipe that calls for ricotta. its a great easy way to get some extra soy protein and i swear you can't tell the difference. i also prepare the recipe with whatever red sauce i feel like making. most recently we started buying big jars of marinated hearts at bj's and throwing them on pizza and in pasta.
the saveur article mentions that while most artichokes come from california there is a farm in maine that grows artichokes! four season farm in brooksville, me is run by barbara damrosch and eliot coleman. they have a farm stand that is open from 1-5 pm, Monday through Saturday, June 16 through September. it will definitely be on of my summer day trips to pick up some artichokes! and i am going to be adventurous and try some new artichoke recipes.

Monday, April 6, 2009

vietnamese penicillin

last weekend seth started to get a scratch in his throat. he was craving something that would soothe his sore throat and warm his insides. he knew what he needed, and it was pho. that delectable noodle soup that is eaten morning, noon, and night in the country of vietnam and is conveniently accessible in portland, maine.
now we usually hit up thanh thanh 2 but we have been meaning to try huong's downtown at 349 cumberland ave, so off we headed on foot. it was just after noon when we entered the tiny restaurant which is in serious need of a face lift. the eight or so tables are dominated by a large try of asian condiments. the walls and ceiling are a sad shade of white and of course there is the requisite collection of vietnamese kitsch decorating those sad walls. the menu is limited, only a few pages of classic vietnamese fare. but i never hold it against a place when they do a few things really good, and this is just what huong's did.
we started out with the fresh summer rolls with shredded pork, and incarnation i had never tried before, and i have had my fare share of summer rolls. they were wonderful, fresh and salty, complex and simple all at the same time. needless to say, we both ordered the pho, seth choose the beef pho while i stuck with the chicken. they were awesome! i love adding in the extras: fresh basil, mung bean sprouts, unidentified leafy greens, and fresh lime. i always add some hot sauce and hoisin to my steaming bowl to get just the right kick.
i carefully eyed the table of vietnamese diners to see the way they consumed their pho. in their right hand they held the chop sticks and in the left the soup spoon, which both ladled broth into their mouths but also aided the chopsticks in scooping up the solids.
the meal was a deal, as vietnamese should be, topping out at around $20 with tip. i remember this one place in the south end of boston that charged like $15 for a bowl of pho and all i could think about were the suckers that paid that much when the could have gotten a better, cheaper bowl in chinatown.
the pho did the trick in soothing seth's throat but unfortunately he still ended up with a full blown head cold and i inevitably started to feel that scratchy tickle in my own throat the following tuesday. as the day progressed i knew there was only one thing that would help my raw throat -- pho! seth did not complain when i suggested we hit up thanh thanh 2 for dinner that night.
on a side note, thanh thanh 2 is one of the reasons i decided portland was the town for me. i really thought i would love portland even before i visited but i truthfully envisioned myself stocking up on pho in boston's chinatown to store in my freezer for just such an occasion. so when seth and i first came to visit portland, on a very rainy weekend in early march, and marya and otis took us to thanh thanh 2 for dinner, i knew i had truly found home.
this time we started out with the fried egg rolls which are always delicious but a bit hazardous. they are so good yet served directly from the fryer and so i always burn my tongue in my hurry to consume their goodness. again i choose the chicken pho with the biggest difference between huong's and thanh thanh 2's being that the latter serves it with sliced jalapenos and less unidentifiable leafy greens. as always i loaded in the spicy and by the end of the bowl felt my sinuses clear and my throat soothed. seth branched out this time and ordered the thanh thanh mi vit tiem, a whole duck leg soup with yellow noodle and chinese broccli. otis has been raving about this bowl of soup for some time and seth felt it lived up to the raves. its pretty similar to pho, except its served with yellow noodles instead of rice noodles and there are more vegetables cooked in the broth.
as much as i consider myself to be a very adventurous eater, i only order two things at vietnamese restaurants: chicken pho and bun (rice noodles not in a soup) with grilled pork and hopefully egg rolls. its not that i am not willing to try new things, its just that these two dishes are so delicious and i don't want to be disappointed with something not as good. a lot of the time i look around at what other people get and it sort of looks like chinese food to me. if i wanted chinese i would get chinese, so i always order my standbys. there is one exception and that is when i have the pleasure to dining at pho viet huong on mulberry street in manhattan, where i always order the grilled beef and paypaya salad. it is always on the special menu and it is literally the food of the gods. if i had to choose one food to eat for the rest of my life this would be it. i have ordered grilled beef salads off of many a vietnamese and thai menu but none has ever compared to this one.
so i would like to say that eating the pho last tuesday healed me and i woke up wednesday a new woman. but i can't. my sore throat never did turn into a full blow head cold, but it did linger for quite a few days. in any event, we are lucky as hell to live in this northern new england city and have such awesome vietnamese food so readily available. seth and i suffered through three years in connecticut with only a few month window of good vietnamese food. so get out and enjoy these great options in the almost endless array of ethnic food in portland.
and someday, as portland food coma pleads, we may actually get some decent mexican in this town.