Cold Weather Congee with Chicken Crackling

When it’s freezing outside nothing hits the spot quite like a steaming bowl on congee. Throw rice in the cooker with broth and while it’s cooking bake some lightly salted chicken skin between cookie sheets.  When it’s done top it with whatever meat you have sitting around (Asian sausages in my case), some green onions, fried garlic and scallions, kimchi, chopped roasted seaweed, chili oil and of course those amazing chicken skin crackers.

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Just go ahead and ignore that really ugly chipped plate and concentrate on that marvelous skin! Image

Susy Harper, London

Now that I’m done posting about all the London food fun I want to highlight one of my favorite shops there. I’ve briefly mentioned it here:(https://gigglinggourmand.wordpress.com/2011/05/10/london-islington/), but that doesn’t do it justice.  Susy Harper is a tiny shop tucked in Camden Passage in Islington. All of the clothing is made by hand using beautiful fabric and all at US contemporary clothing prices. Don’t get me wrong, I love many contemporary brands, but I’ll take handmade over made in China any day! The only down side is that they don’t participate in the VAT back scheme so if you decide to have it shipped to the US you might end up paying double tax. All the more reason to take a trip to London to go shopping! Some of my favorites:

http://www.susyharper.co.uk/shop/4580170263/AudC-%C2%A3%CC%B65%CC%B64%CC%B60%CC%B6/6831257

http://www.susyharper.co.uk/shop/4580170263/Flamenco-Skirt/6828615

http://www.susyharper.co.uk/shop/4580170263/ARBD-%C2%A3%CC%B62%CC%B66%CC%B65%CC%B6/6827042

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Bangkok Golden, Virginia

This weekend we visited Bangkok Golden in Seven Corners,VA. All I can say is the I can’t believe we haven’t gone before. I guess probably because it’s close to Mark’s Duck House and Korean food I’ve been less than motivated. Well, better late than never. The “trick” (which is all over the internet) is to skip the buffet (obviously), skim the Thai menu, and ask for the Laotian menu. We tried some excellent pork sausage with was loose, tender, and redolent of lemongrass. A papaya salad which was ordered “Thai hot” (medium) was almost to fiery, but it was lime-y, crunchy and made a nice contrast to the sausage and a Laotian duck larb (which was overshadowed by the other dishes). We also had some beautifully fried, greaseless shrimp cakes which aren’t picture here.

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Pretty good right? But I haven’t even told you about the pièce de résistance. Crispy rice salad. I think I’ve mentioned this a time or two (or dozen) before. I love, love, love, crispy rice. Give me some dolsot bibimbap, some tadig, or some socorat and I’m a happy gal. Who knew there was something just as good (better) yet to be discovered? It’s full of herbs, run through with a little pork, and finished with line juice and fish sauce. Next time I’m ordering my own. Sharing is for the birds.

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Also, did I mention the prices are great? We ordered enough food for two meals because we wanted to try so many things and it still didn’t break the bank!

Saving the Best for Last, Kitchen Table London

Kitchen Table is the dream child of Chef James Knappett who worked his way up through the ranks at places like Per Se and Noma. It’s a dark space set up like a bar around an open kitchen (much like Momofuku Ko, but bigger). Watching the action makes for a pretty entertaining meal.

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Especially when the chef is skewering and grilling venison hearts right in getting of you (they were delicious by the way, not at all gamey, but meaty in the best possible way).

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Lately I haven’t really had much use for tasting menus. Even when they are good, I’m too full at the end and there are at least a few dishes that I really would have happily done without. Not so at Kitchen Table. There were even a few dishes that I would have happily eaten seconds of (ok honestly, thirds – chicken skin with mascarpone and bacon jam anybody?!). Anyway, it turned out to be the best tasting menu I’ve had in eons. Too bad for me that if have to fly to London to get it again.
The menu here is pretty darn vague so everything is a bit of a surprise.

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Some of the more outstanding surprises included:

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Sweet raw shrimp on toast with some insanely rich brown butter.

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That afore mentioned chicken skin.

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Smooth whipped cod with fried bread.

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A tiny little beef sandwich with horse radish.

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The evening didn’t lack adventure either. No fewer than half the restaurants we at at in London had warnings to look out for shot in the game. And the Bob finally bit into some in his pheasant.

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Bubbledogs, London

The best meal we ate in London last time we were there was at Kitchen Table (a small bar behind Bubbledogs).  As a matter of fact it was the best tasting menu I’ve had in years. But more on that later.  This post is about the charming restaurant behind which that culinary excellence takes place. Sandia Chang who is married to James Knappett the chef at kitchen table is from CA, adorable, and introducing the English to just about the most all-American food ever, the hot dog. Oh and she’s pairing it with grower champagnes. She’s so enchanting, in fact, that even after we ate the gazillion courses at Kitchen Table we just had to try one of her creations. It was fabulous. Another place that I really, really wish had been around a few years ago.  I would have been a regular for sure.  We tried the Cesar which paired fresh, crunchy baby gem lettuce with really crispy chicken skin. All on top of a hot dog. Random. But really pretty much the best idea ever.   And as Chang points out to everybody who admires the Ferran Adria autograph on the wall, he came for her hot dogs, not the tasting menu!

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Homemade Tamales

It’s a Christmas Eve thing but we waited until New Years Day to make a homemade tamale feast. It was a perfect way to start of the year, a long, slightly laborious process followed by great fun with great friends. Lesson: hard work can pay off :)!  I’m not really going to tell you how to make tamales since this was my first time and the internet really has that covered (though I do think using good leaf lard and whipping the heck out of the dough until it floated in cold water really did result in really fluffy tamales). Instead I’m going to talk about fillings. I went with refried beans with queso fresco. There are really just three tips here, use lard in your beans (a little goes a long way), cook the onion until it’s practically melted away (but not browned) before you add your beans to the pot, and cook the beans for hours and hours so they become creamy – leave that potato masher in the drawer, time should do the work for you.  The rest of the tamales were filled with carnitas. I have a pretty much fool-proof recipe, you can pretty much make it with about a million variations.  Pull out your slow cooker, add a bone in, salted pork shoulder, cover it with liquid (broth, beer, water or a combination of the three).  Squeeze in some limes, add some dried peppers, cilantro, white onions, garlic, cumin, green onions, bay leaf, oregano (or again, whatever combination of that stuff you have lying around). cook overnight on low until the pork pulls very easily. Pull it and stuff some tamales full of it.  Tomorrow fry the leftovers in a pan until some parts are crunchy and serve carnitas tacos for dinner.

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