Saturday, February 13, 2010

My Old Friend Harry

One might think this should be on the other blog. It's a restaurant after all. But as I was finishing off my dessert last night (at the bar, that's how I roll, and yes I got dessert which is rare, but it was Friday and payday and damnit the lemon cheesecake sounded good) I realized that Harry Browne's might end up as part of a 97-MealsPerHour post at some point (The Quiet One and I are regulars for work there), dinner last night was about the kitchengeek in his hometown, the local fancy joint, and a Friday night getting to know a Winter Menu just a little better at an old standby.

I don't know why Harry's has so few opinions, reviews, or comments on the UrbanSpoon, it's the only restaurant in town on State Circle. I suppose most folks want to go sit at the joints on the water because they're on the water, but there's better food and better times a few blocks off City Dock in the 'town' part of downtown (and another favorite will be written up soon for that same reason). But as you stroll off the water and up the hill to see the nation's oldest continuously used legislative space (that'd be the State capitol building y'all), take a gander at the menu and stop in.

Harry's is many things, and many restaurants. It's the place where the legislature goes after hearings. It's the late-night bar for service industry folks and Johnnies too. It's a locals hangout and a fancy dinner; a glass of port or scotch and a classic Maryland crab cake done properly. It's also fine-dining service with white linens and a cold beer with snack mix at the bar to bring closure to a long day at the office. Sailors and servers, lawyers and students.

It is also a family joint. In two ways. Rusty's owned the place damn near forever. His father's memory is a part of everything he does, from running the restaurant day-to-day to the charity events in his father's honor. It's also a relatively long-standing staff, a family you get to choose if you're a local or just visiting town in the summer, crashing at the Calvert House for historic charm.

And recently, Chef Josh has popped out a new winter menu that has me wanting to go to Harry's for dinner as often as I can to make sure I can work my way through it. I'd go there for the regular menu, mind you. I'd go there even if it was just the bar. And this past week, it was barely just that as delivery trucks were not exactly considered snow-emergency vehicles that could break the City's 'no travel' bans. I beg to differ!!!

But just before the storms hit I noticed the new menu, and just after, I sampled again.

The Tempura Fried Lobster Tail with Arugula and Cream Cheese Grits is part fresh seafood for the winter months and part comfort food from below the Mason-Dixon. Just-cooked-through lobster with a thin and crispy batter presented beautifully with the tail fin still attached. Wild Mushroom Bruschetta with Brulled Talagio that MUST be a money-losing menu item for Rusty; but I'm unlikely to send a dish back for having too much talagio...ever. Crunchy bread, rich sauteed mushrooms, creamy talagio softened and draped over the dish.

Classics like the Caesar with classic (read anchovie) dressing, rich cream of crab soup, and the just-holding-it-together lump crab cakes are still available. But you can get those this me. Move on to something exciting.

None of you are surprised that I started by ordering the Pork Osso Buco with Jalapeno/Cheddar Grits with Fried Onions and Haricot Vert. Fork-tender, fall-off-the-bone pork over grits that a chef wasn't afraid to actually heat up with some real jalapeno flavor.

Last night was the duo of lamb. Rack medium rare, shank tender. Only problem was the shank needed another minute our two to be brought back up to temp and a ladle of braising liquid would have been groovy. But the lamb tasted like lamb, not just like 'beef with slightly different texture and flavor so I can charge more.' No, it was L-A-M-B, and it was good. Kale was tender and had chew to it, as it should. Glaze was grand for sopping...and I love sopping.

Dessert. Yeah, I ordered it. I mean, c'mon. Mike at the bar tells you "Yeah, it's made here. We have a pastry chef," and he's talking about Lemon Cheesecake with Raspberry Sorbet? Uh-huh. I go there. Sweet/tart creamy cheesecake with enough lemon that you knew it was really there.

Get off yur' duff, DC and Baltimore peeps, and get yourself to Annapolis. Cantler's and Davis's in the summertime. So many other choices all year 'round. Including Harry's for a nice dinner when you're done looking at the water.

Harry Browne's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

You KNOW This Story Ends Well

And it ends like this...That's right folks, with a Bacon & Sprout Hash for lunch today.


Life is good when you send out a Facebook update at 5pm telling the world you have kielbasa and wine and inviting folks to come watch the game...and they come and watch the game.

Life is stunning when you had homemade Lithuanian kielbasa dropped off at your favorite pub by a friend who just really wanted you to try it.

Life is beyond explanation when other friends text and say "Word is you're having a party? I just spent all weekend baking lasagna...three batches...I can bring some."

I know all of this because it happened to me!!!!

The kielbasa was mild, almost like a weisswurst, and smooth. It was a perfect foil for some vinegary goodness played admirably in this show by red cabbage, yellow onions, and cauliflower simmered in apple cider vinegar and chicken stock with thyme and smoky paprika. Uh, huh. Go get some!

Sunday, February 7, 2010


No, I did not fall of the face of the earth after getting the tzatziki done yesterday. But I did become friends with my couch after eating supper and really didn't move for about 7 hours. I mean, I got up to get more Tang and I moved my thumb occasionally to change the channel. But no real movement.

I had to get this posted today, though, as I have Lebanese peeps from WV to impress. And impress them I will (hope to do). It's not a site I knew before yesterday, but I have to believe the recipe from Green Prophet is somehow a legitimate expression of kibbeh goodness. I mean an environmental blog focus on the Middle East? They have to know bulgur and lamb.

Let me take this paragraph to remind you this lamb was purchased from a Maryland producer at the 32nd Street Farmer's Market in Baltimore. Fewer than 30 miles as the crow flies from my apartment and I can have fresh, locally produced meat. I'm slammed with work, you are too. But I can get up early on a Saturday morning and spend what good, quality meat is worth to have the real deal in my freezer and fridge.

Whipped up the outside layer of lamb, bulgur, and onions and pasted it in the food processor. Sauted the stuffing of lamb, pine nuts, onions, cumin, coriander, mint (No, no allspice. I didn't have it). Stuffed, fried on four sides about 10 minutes total, finished in a 350-degree oven for about 7-8 minutes. ATE!!!!!

Look what I saw when I first sliced one of these little footballs of goodness open...

Yeah, I was definitely excited about that look. Crispy and bulgur on the outside with juicy lamb and the crunch of pine nuts inside. A cool little hit of tzatziki over it all and chewy pita with which to sop it all up.

I'm not sure I got it all right. Like I said, I altered the recipe to fit what I had on hand here and wasn't in a position to head out to the store yesterday.

I have to say that while the recipe indicated you can go with beef instead of lamb. I dunno if I'd go there. I mean, I'm usually all for substitutes, but that just wouldn't have enough ooomph. You'd essentially have bland meatballs with crunchy bits. Not what I'd be into folks. I'm just saying. Lamb is good.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tzatziki Twist

You can find all sorts of recipes and definitions for tzatziki. The basics are pretty much a yogurt-based sauce popular from the Middle East to old Persia. Cuts heat on some dishes; adds smooth, creamy texture to others. In India, you'd call it raita. Same concept.

I have some sitting in my fridge right now that's a bright, smooth, creamy, and spicy blend. I'll be making lamb kibbeh later (thaw lamby, thaw) and wanted to give the tzatziki components time to blend together. Since the lamb will be mint, pine nuts, currants, cumin, and corriander; I still need a little heat to the dish.

Enter the Garlic. The primary ingredients are, of course, the yogurt, cucumbers, mint, and lemon. But raw garlic provides such a great small burst of spicy heat that I just grabbed for it and started mincing without really planning much out in terms of recipe. Apparently, I was not alone in this line of recipe-thinking.

I ended up with a fairly measurable set of ingredients so you can try it out sometime if you're so inclined.

I got a bit zesty in the process of making this...since I am now the proud owner of two (count 'em two) microplane zesters. I am geek, hear me zest! That's right, I'm proud of my little shaved lemon skin. Which is really what you see in that picture. Lemon skin. Ewww. I'm the friggin' Hannibal Lector of fruit. What is wrong with me??!!??

Ahem. Moving on.

So yogurt, which I didn't take a picture's yogurt? Check. Garlic? Check, Check. Lemon zest? Check to the Checkity.

What am I missing here?

Of course! Mint!

Sadly, the local mart did not have fresh mint (they did have lovely fresh rosemary). So I have a jar of dried mint now. I hope I don't get sick of kefta and kibbeh this winter.

A pinch of salt here, a turn of the pepper mill there. And you have tzatziki. Or at least some version of a yogurt sauce that I will call tzatziki (in part to practice my typing and get better with the "z" key. it's just too easy to spell raita on the keyboard without looking!)

Garlic, Lemon & Mint Tzatziki

2 cups plain yogurt (or greek if you can get it)
1 cup peeled, seeded, diced cucumber
Zest of 1 whole lemon (about 1 T)
Juice of 1 whole lemon (about 2 T from my juicy version today)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T dried mint
Salt and pepper to taste.

This one's easy. Measure it, chop it, squeeze it, put it in a bowl, stir it up. Taste and adjust.

Rosemary Dijon Potatoes with (perfectly) Poached Eggs

Ahhhhh, blizzards. And the good fortune to head to the store the day before with the intention of buying half n' half. As you know, all I really need to survive the storm is half n' half for my coffee. And I had coffee. And a bottle of Woodford (mmmmmm). And a couple bottles of wine. And dry pasta and canned tomatoes. I was set. I didn't need a thing. Except half n' half for my coffee. And I'd be able to ride the storm out no problem...

$200 later I had a 37-course menu planned for Snowpocalypse that might be one of the more ambitious multi-day cooking extravaganzas I've contemplated.

Ground lamb and homemade kielbasa are thawing now. You'll like what I have in mind.

That ham steak and those short ribs won't last long either.

But I woke up this morning without a breakfast plan.

Walked into the kitchen and saw the little taters sitting there just lookin' precious. So I took a knife to 'em and sauted with onion, fresh rosemary, and bacon drippings of course.

Since I knew poached eggs were going to be a part of the meal, I went ahead and started the water on to simmer. This is a ridiculously long process on an electric stove. Gave me time to contemplate the 'taters. And the Dijon I had purchased for Snowpocalype (intended to pair solely with that kielbasa, but I'm a multi-use kinda guy).

And you know I did get that half n' half after all. So there was that to pour into the mix and deglaze. That's right! I deglazed with half n' half. You got a problem with that?

If you do have a problem please click here to provide your comments to the management team and we will be sure to reply in an appropriate and timely manner.

I'll leave you with one final point and then on to the recipe...Pay close attention to this next photo. It is what your poached eggs should look like. Always. I've written about this elsewhere, but wanted to make sure you were aware that poaching eggs is serious business.

When you poach, you want a simmer. Just a simmer. Pour in a dash, like maybe a teaspoon and a half for a 4qt stockpot full of water to help the whites set quickly when you put egg to water. Crack the egg into a ramekin, bowl, or some other container. Tilt the container and pour the eggs slowly out into the simmering water/pour some of the water into the container. Slide the egg out slowly. Good simmer? Three minute max to a perfectly soft-poached egg. It really should jiggle when you remove it.

Now on to the sauce.

Rosemary Dijon Potatoes

1 cup diced small yellow wax potatoes
1/2 cup diced red onion
3 cloves minced garlic
2 T fresh chopped rosemary (reserve a pinch for garnish)
Grease from 2 strips bacon, cooked and removed
4 T Dijon mustard
1/3 cup half n' half (or heavy cream, milk, whatever, you could use chicken stock or water here really, the mustard will give most of the body the sauce needs)
Salt n' pepper to taste

1. Get your bacon started while you dice and mince and prep. When it's cooked remove the bacon and pour off all but about 2 T of the grease.
2. Add the onion and potatoes and saute on medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes, adding salt to sweat the onions. Add in the garlic and rosemary and toss through. Continue sauteing until the potatoes begin to crisp around the edges and cook through.
3. Add in the Dijon and stir through, then pour in half the liquid and deglaze the pan. Stir in the rest of the liquid as you remove the pan from the heat.
4. Plate it. Garnish it with fresh rosemary. Eat it.

I ate the bacon as I was cooking. You could crumble it back into the potatoes if you like.