Thanksgiving leftovers, courtesy of David Chang

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. A holiday that is centered around food. And this is the reason why I feel that Thanksgiving is pretty awesome. It’s the start of the holiday season, you’re around friends and family, and you can stuff yourself silly with food; all together it’s a winning combination. But amongst the volume of eating you’ll find yourself with a mountain of leftovers. Unless you can go through a 14 lb turkey, several side dishes, and pumpkin pie, chances are you’ll need to find something to do with them. Have no fear, David Chang has ideas for Thanksgiving leftovers. And they sound amazing.

David Chang is the brightest culinary star of the moment. An opinionated and supremely talented chef who has been a game changer in the restaurant world. His Momofuku restaurants are considered some of the best in New York and his style of food is utterly unique and blow-your-mind delicious. Recently, he and Peter Meehan released an amazing cookbook, Momofuku, that tells the story of Chef Chang and his restaurants. Needless to say, David Chang knows how to make enticingly tasty food.

Last year, I wrote a couple of short posts about Thanksgiving; one was about what wine to have with the dinner, the other was what to do with the leftovers. Chef Chang has taken what to do with those leftovers to another level. In a recent article in Food & Wine magazine, Peter Meehan did a short feature on what David Chang would do with Thanksgiving leftovers. And the results sound amazing. For example:

What’s really cool about some of these recipes is that they aren’t too ‘chefy,’ – recipes that are crazy complicated with obscure ingredients and technique most home cooks don’t have. Most of these recipes are straightforward and use the leftovers that stick around from Thanksgiving. I’m already looking forward to trying some of them.

Enjoy this Thanksgiving! Take in the moment, exhale, eat up, and most of all have fun!

Photo courtesy of Food & Wine

On food magazines…

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A thought that has been bouncing around my head has been on the subject of food magazines. I admit that I love the idea of them. Some are excellent. Some have ‘opportunities’. But after going through one recently, I reminded myself that there isn’t a perfect food magazine.

I’ll admit there are plenty out there that are very good. Food & Wine leaps to mind. Saveur is also excellent. Cook’s Illustrated is outstanding for information. And with the demise of Gourmet, our world of food writing becomes a bit darker. But none of these magazines are perfect.

One of my favorites, though, was Chow. But to my disappointment, the magazine stopped printing and moved to a web presence exclusively. Chow was the closest to my views and perspectives on the world of food. RIP Chow. Ultimately, I’m a sucker for food mags and grab them at the ready on impulse. And given the number of magazines in the market, it seems that publishers think that there is a niche worth filling too.

Why is it that there isn’t one that completely gets it? (Although to be fair, there isn’t really a perfect magazine for any industry, I just wish there was one for food). Some magazines hit it too heavy with recipes that aren’t realistic or empowering. Some have very poor levels of editing and photography (I really want to out the one mag that inspired this post, but I’m taking the high road, but trust me, they sucked). Others just don’t really get it. The world of food and wine is deep and organic. It moves naturally with a skittish flow. Trends come and go. The ultimate point for any great magazine is to tell a story that can inspire. A lot of today’s current magazines aim for this but don’t always hit the bullseye.

What my expectations are for the perfect food magazine is this; great writing, interesting recipes, innovative ideas, a good mix of irreverence, and all of it wrapped into one beautifully designed package that screams to be read. I don’t think this is too much to ask.

I suppose that in today’s gloomy print publishing world, the thought of a perfect food magazine is fleeting. I may be alone as this recent article by the LA Times Russ Parsons points out; magazines are becoming more niche and focused in their goals. Which is fine, but within those defined goals, I still want the right mix that speaks to me. In the end, I have hopes for that ideal mag and will continue to read and dip my toe into what the newsstand has in store for me.

The easiest way to eat your veggies: Kale Chips

One of the chief takeaways when I read The Amateur Gourmet‘s book was in the section about shopping for groceries. The biggest tip was to buy what looks good to you, especially when it comes to produce. Buy what looks good – it can be seasonal or a bit curious looking or something that you’ve heard about and really want to try. This was the case with our last visit to the store when we saw the array of kale. Inspired by a write-up in a recent issue of Bon Appetit, we bought a bunch and were ready to roll.

What’s kale? In a nutshell it’s a hearty green that rolls around during wintertime. It’s full of vitamins and nutrients, which makes it really good for you. Kale has a flavor that is not like most other greens, so it’s a great change of pace to your cooking routine. Try it in salads, saute it with butter or bacon fat and garlic, or throw it in with pasta. Sometimes kale can be chewy and hearty, just be careful to cut the stems off and slice the leaves into thin strips, especially if you’re making salad – put on a vinaigrette and some Parmesan cheese and you’re done!

You can also make chips out of kale! It’s a really fun and easy way to incorporate healthy food to your plate. The February 2009 issue of Bon Appetit’s feature on kale offered some great recipes, but my favorite was the one for Tuscan Kale chips. Tuscan Kale is a tall flat leaf version of kale that is a rich deep green. To create this recipe, fire the oven up to 250, cut off the stems, toss them into a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and salt & pepper. Lay them flat on to a baking sheet, throw them in the oven until crisp (about 30 minutes) and you’ll have the easiest, tastiest way of getting one of the healthiest vegetables into your diet. Isn’t that easy? The recipe comes to us from Dan Barber of New York’s Blue Hill and it’s definitely a winner.

Give the recipe a shot, you won’t be disappointed. I like to freestyle on the recipe a bit by using Grains of Paradise in lieu of pepper; the floral kick provides a nice counterpoint to the chips. Enjoy kale and go out and eat your greens! The Tuscan Chip recipe is so easy you’ll find yourself doing it often and it’s a good show-off dish for when you have dinner parties.

Photo by Jamie Chung for Bon Appetit

Kale Chips on Foodista

Meal of Steel: Steel cut oats

Oats is one of those foodstuffs that is overlooked and unappreciated that it could be considered underrated. Most know it as being good for you and as a start to the day, but for many it’s not appreciated or revered as much as it should be. I’m part of the smaller group that eat it gleefully. I thoroughly love the stuff. It’s versatile – oatmeal is part of the four pillars of cookie awesomeness, it’s also commonly used as a topping for cobblers. But its best and most simple use is as oatmeal, providing the most latitude for food greatness and creativity.

Sure you’ve probably eaten rolled oats (think Quaker), but if you haven’t dabbled into the world of steel cut oats, I’d highly suggest doing so. It’s not that regular rolled oats are bad, they just don’t quite have the joie de vivre of steel cut oats. Why? Well, rolled oats require a bit more processing than steel cut oats and they don’t have the depth of flavor or texture (crunchy) that steel cut oats are renowned for. In particular, McCann’s is the Quaker of steel cut oats. Steel cut oats are created from the inner portion of the oat kernel – their name comes from the steel discs that cuts these portions into smaller parts. So this minimal overwork creates oatmeal bliss in your bowl.

I always shied away from steel cut oats because of the long prep time compared to rolled oats. But I found this really easy recipe where you combine boiling water and oats the night before – warm it up in the morning and you’re good to go! Don’t sweat that it’ll be left out for so long, you’ll be fine, your heart and your tastebuds will appreciate it over whatever else you’ve been eating in the morning. Steel-cut oats are inherently full of nutritional value and are high in B-Vitamins, calcium, protein and fiber while low in salt and unsaturated fat.

What to do with your steel cut oats when you’re ready to eat? Serious Eats asked that very question and you’ll find all sorts of interesting ideas. The general consensus is some sort of combination of brown sugar, butter, and maple syrup. I also like to add Craisins to the mix. Bump up the fiber and clean yourself out by adding Benefiber and flaxseeds if you like. Basically the choice is yours on what you’d like to add.

If you haven’t already given steel cut oats a try. The texture and flavor rival oatmeal and the health benefits make it that much more worthwhile. Plus they have all sorts of fun names like Irish oats and pinhead oats.

Eat at Mom’s

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One of the important things to consider about food is how it’s a part of culture. That it can be a part of tradition, history, and nostalgia. This is one of the things I love about food. Considering this, we must also remember those that we said farewell to. Those that left an impression which you’ll remember years down the road. It could have been the meal that you had with friends where you remember everything. Or it could be the dish that reaffirmed how food can be lyrical and sing to you. Or it could be a restaurant that for some reason, you’ll remember long after your last meal there. This is the case for a place in Seattle called Mom’s.

For many locals the pancakes at Mom’s were the best in Seattle. And they loved this place too. Sadly, Mom’s as we remember it, is gone. Mom’s closed down about two and a half years ago to make way for a MAC cosmetic store. Ugh. They closed for a number of reasons, but I think they didn’t fit in the image that University Village wanted for itself, so out went a place like Mom’s. It took U-Village a while to force out Denise Breen’s restaurant – a fun story I learned in my retailing classes at the University of Washington. The U-Village people kept harping on Denise to either sell or remodel, for the vibe of Mom’s is distinctively retro. But she still kept making great numbers and withstood the gloss that U-Village has come to fabricate so well. In fact, Mom’s was a part of U-Village for 20+ years before it closed. Not bad for someone that didn’t have classic restaurant experience.

So with a bit of folklore, Mom’s withstood all sorts of changes to University Village. Not many locals remember this, but in the early 90s, U-Village wasn’t exactly a place that Seattleites went to visit. Heck, I went to school there and I rarely went to visit. If you jumped in the wayback machine, the U-Village of 10 years ago is radically different than the one today. But even with those changes, people kept going back to Mom’s again and again. Many went to visit for the hand-dipped milkshakes or the turkey sandwiches. I was devoted to the pancakes.

Ahh, the pancakes. My most favorite pancake in the city. These weren’t little discs or big, dense frisbees; the pancakes at Mom’s were more like a more robust crepe. Close to food perfection, they were definitely on the thinner side, but they did have forgiving denseness. Because they were cooked on a seasoned griddle that needed a ton of oil, they had a texture unlike most other pancake places. There were also lots of small little bubbles throughout the pancakes, sort of like little receptacles for syrup. And the butter and hot griddle helped to create crispy edges all around. This was the best part about the pancakes; crispy and airy, they held up to the stampede of maple syrup and butter. The whole combination of the size, flavor, and texture was like breakfast nirvana. And it wasn’t just me. I had a friend who worked out of the country for a few years and one of the things he most looked forward to upon getting back were the pancakes at Mom’s. Imagine how crestfallen he was when he found out Mom’s had closed.

Thankfully the recipe is still out there. Denise Breen seemed to be an open and available restaurateur who didn’t mind sharing. I love that the tradition of Mom’s can be continued. Warning though, the recipe is super-idiosyncratic, so lot’s of steps are involved. I’m up to the challenge and maybe I’ll give it a spin this weekend.

Thinking of places that shaped our love for food is always wistful and nostalgic. It never hurts to look back, and I’m glad I was able to eat at Mom’s when I could.