@ COOK’s Studio Kitchen

I loved everything about COOK, including the opportunity to experience Pumpkin’s starring night, so I felt they each deserved their own post. Check out my Halloween night full of autumn culinary treats from Chef Ian Maroney, his wife Hillary Bor, + their team from Pumpkin! 

 

I’ve done nothing but gush since the rumors of Audrey Claire’s COOK – a studio kitchen hosting cooking classes and chef tastings. The corner space that once housed Snackbar transformed over months into an intimate gathering space to learn, dine, and make new friends. I’ve stalked the class listings since it’s opening in early September, kicking myself over not committing to classes that quickly sold out. Before I knew it, Halloween was rolling around and dressing up just didn’t thrill me this year. You know what did though? The promise of an intriguing meal with Pumpkin at COOK on Halloween night.

After dodging some costumed Rittenhouse youngsters, I was relieved to seek refuge in the comfortable space that is COOK. Lily and Jackie – the unassuming power-duo of cuteness who run the show at Audrey Claire’s COOK – greeted guests, hung coats, and encouraged mingling & exploration like hostesses you’ve known for years. After a quick intro, I explored my seat options among the crisp place settings. The counter seating is like an open bracket commencing a night of gastronomic commentary. Low light kept the seating area ambient while the illuminated kitchen and counter were ready to highlight every angle & hue of the night’s fare. The stage was perfectly set for a intimate dinner among 16 strangers.

I arrived early, not only to lock in some prime seat real estate, but also to indulge a growing hobby of mine – cookbooks. COOK’s library had some personal favorites – my technical bible Larousse Gastronomique; the beautiful imagery of NOMA; my current love affair with Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones, & Butter – and plenty others that went right on my Christmas list. I’ll definitely be back to cruise their shelves again, just hope that I can figure out if/when they’re open to the non-class-attending public.

COOK’s retail Pantry is tucked in a nook past the library with more awesome kitchen whatnots. I’ll take one of these beautiful leather knife bags in case you’re feeling generous – either color, I’m not picky.

If you have a friend who calls her/himself a “foodie”, just stop in COOK for the perfect birthday/house-warming/holiday gift. Place a tin of COOK’s own mulling spices with a bottle of full-bodied Cabernet in the center of a tea towel, gather the excess fabric, and tie with kitchen twine. Attach a gift certificate for Twenty Manning, Audrey Claire, or a class at COOK and you’re set!

7 o’clock rolled around and we took our seats, the chefs in final prep mode. Our lovely hostesses kicked things off with a quick ice-breaker – introducing ourselves and sharing our favorite Halloween costume. I had plenty to choose from – Madonna in full blonde wig & cone bra in college, Elvira with a hair bump taller than Snooki herself, and a love affair with my Elmo last year as Cookie Monster-ette.

And then it was on to the food! Pumpkin seriously impressed me with a technical, yet whimsical autumn tasting – an amuse en bouche and 5 beautiful courses. I have to give it up to our hostesses, especially Jackie, for the wine selections, too. I like wine, I just don’t know wine, so these 3 immediately go on my list of bottles to pick up next time I head to a BYO like Pumpkin.

Throughout the meal, Lily & Jackie were fully engaged with the room. They cleared dishes, poured soup & wine, snapped photos for the COOKbook blog, and kept the conversation going as the chefs focused on serving the next course. I’d love to have such an awesome job spending night after night with the city’s best chefs and culinary contributors. They were such great hostesses that they sent us all home with these cute little plants.

So I think this is more than a crush. I LOVE COOK! It was such a fun, educational, indulgent night and I can’t wait to get back there soon. COOK just launched their list of classes for December and they’re already starting to sell out, so make your reservation today.

COOK
253 South Twentieth Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
215.735.COOK
www.audreyclairecook.com

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To Taste: Grilled Hoisin Chicken w. Truffled Mushrooms & Noodles

On Day 4 of my staycation between jobs, I whipped up an umami-packed dinner for Dre & me. On Day 2, I took an Asia Mart adventure with Sarah in search of fun ingredients for the meal. I try to be somewhat adventurous each time I go to an ethnic market, so I picked up some bunashimeji (aka beech mushrooms), fresh vegetable noodles, & a new jar of hoisin. The beech mushrooms are so tiny and too cute! I filled them out with sliced creminis and enhanced them with the depth of fresh thyme from my Slug City.

Bunashimeji, Cremini, & Fresh Thyme

I begin by sweating shallots with a bit of olive oil in a pan and added the mushrooms & thyme. I tossed them as they sauteed for about 10 min and finished it with white truffle oil. I love truffle. I love the smell. I love the taste. I LOVE TRUFFLE!

Truffled Mushrooms

While my mushrooms cooked, I heated an awesome new grill skillet that Sunshine passed along to me. I marinated some chicken breasts in hoisin, ginger, & soy and seared them for deep grill marks on both sides until cooked through. The noodles took a quick dip in boiling water and were a perfect pillow for a pile of savory truffled mushrooms. This may be one of my favorite dishes I’ve made… and 5 years ago you couldn’t dare get a mushroom near my plate!

UMAMI!

Grilled Hoisin Chicken w. Truffled Mushrooms & Noodles

To Taste: Flavored Finishing Salts collabo w. Sunshine

Sunshine turned me on to this awesome how-to video on how easy and rewarding it is to make flavored finishing salts. Eric Gower, the handsome personality behind Breakaway Cook, introduces diverse suggestions for ingredients to flavor moist sel gris. I’m beyond envious of his spice shelf and could watch his videos over and over and over.

Creative Use of Salts from Eric Gower on Vimeo.

Sunshine suggested and I agreed that this was a great inspiration for a crafty foodie collaboration! She had also found some mini jam jars that would be perfect vessels to store our new seasonings. We chose an afternoon during my week of leisure between jobs and got to planning our approach.

In the video, Eric Gower makes 4 different salts with lavender, matcha, smoked paprika, & saffron. We couldn’t get our hands on any of those ingredients, so we thought of great flavorings of our own. Sunshine finally located the sel gris at Trader Joe’s that is suggested as the base for our blends and we prepared our ingredients for blending. We heated the oven to about 275degrees and started drying our lime wheels, herbs, mango, & bacon:

Lime Wheels, Bacon, Herbs, & Mango

While our fresh ingredients dried in the oven, we set up the food processing attachment to the Cuisinart stick blender Dre got me for VDay. Quickest way to my heart is through a kitchen gadget! First up was some crystallized ginger we located on a last minute trip to the Asia mart. We ground it and added in about 2 T of the sel gris. A few more seconds of blending and we had so simply made our premier flavored salt.

Crystallized Ginger Salt

Luckily, we saved some fresh mango slices to sample the salt on. It was a perfect pairing!

Crystallized Ginger Salt on Mango

We still had some time to kill while our items dried in the oven. Sunshine found some really fun Victorian-inspired banner designs that we printed out as labels for our jars. We cut and arranged them on the lids with pencil-written names. One already filled and four more to go!

Labeled Salt Jars

The fresh herbs were first to be fully dried so we ground up the basil, thyme, oregano, & parsley. The result looked like a bowl of emerald-speckled diamonds and tasted amazing on fresh tomato slices.

Herb Salt

We whirled up our lime batch next, but I somehow missed getting a decent pic of it. Once the mango was crispy, we added it to two separate batches: one with just mango and another with the addition of bacon for a sweet & smokey approach. Both looked and tasted beautiful.

Mango Salt

Bacon Mango Salt

By this point in the afternoon, we’d downed quite a few Absolut Boston (elderflower & black tea vodka) and Arizona Lemonade cocktails. We moved the party to the patio to snack and focus on sampling all of our salts. I pan-fried chicken breast and sliced some more tomato as simple hosts for the variety of salty tastes.

Flavored Salt Sampling

They were all amazing but our stand-out favorite was definitely the crystallized ginger. We finished up our meal with sliced fresh strawberries… with salts, of course! I’m sure our cholesterol levels were staggering by the end of the day.

Strawberry w. Mango Salt

Even the Baby Kitty joined us for a great afternoon on the patio. She loves to stalk flies from the edge of the garden.

Baby kitty stalking flies

I’m so glad Sunshine stumbled upon this project as it is one of my favorites to date. We have alot of fun ideas on using our salts, so keep an eye out for exciting updates.

Flavored Finishing Salts

Check out Sunshine’s blog post on our crafty flavored finishing salts project on Blog Full of Jelly!

Quickie: Grilled Somen Tuna Steak & Chili Oil Bok Chok

Waiting on the new external, so here’s a quick little treat to hold you over! I defrosted an individual tuna steak, marinated it in Somen dressing, & seared it on each side. While my grill marks set, I tossed baby bok choy in my wok with Somen dressing, chili-infused macadamia nut oil, minced garlic, chicken stock, & a splash of fish sauce until wilted and flavorful.  In under 15 minutes, I had a perfect, healthy dinner for 1.

Grilled Somen Tuna & Chili Oil Bok Choy

Saturday w/ Sarah: Ansill’s Menu @ Ladder 15

This past weekend, Dre & I went on a mission to the bookstore for Dalai Llama wisdom, food rules via Michael Pollan, & hopefully a continued subscription to Cook’s Illustrated. He headed off to work at 3 and I ventured across Broad is pursuit of a long-overdue Saturday w/ Sarah.

I’m glad I recalled that David Ansill (of Pif & Ansill restaurant notoriety) had revamped the menu* at the relatively new Ladder 15 – 1528 Sansom Street. Our waitress was great and beyond adorable, so I took her recommendation on the Pear Complex from their (also newly revamped) cocktail menu. DELICIOUS! We started off the meal with the Curried Lamb Empanadas. The three rich, crispy, & dense pockets were  savory and perfectly paired with an Apple Chutney & Mango Yogurt.

Curried Lamb Empanadas w/ Apple Chutney & Mango Yogurt

Ahh, the new buzz menu item around Phily – the Ladder 15 Burger! This burger is on a new level of decadence. Eff a kobe burger… a sizzling bone full of marrow & truffle sauce are where it’s at! For those that can’t handle it, they have a classic burger, too. Both are paired with perfectly crisp fries & parmesan mayo dipping sauce… with caviar on top?!?!

Burger 15 - Prime Sirloin, Braised Short Rib, Red Wine Mushrooms, Grilled Red Onion, Bone Marrow, & Truffle Sauce on Metropolitan Bakery Brioche**

Ansill’s self-titled restaurant (that unfortunatley closed last Summer) had a buzz menu item of its own – Korean Tacos! I never had the opportunity to try them, so it was exciting to have a second chance. The order came with (2) soft tacos – a Pork Belly one & a Braised Short Rib one. They were of a richness beyond my imagination with a fatty Korean BBQ marinade, kim chi, scallion, & sesame seeds. I WILL be back for these again soon… and to try whatever flaming dish I envied as it was delivered to another table.

Ansill's Korean Tacos - (1) Pork Belly & (1) Braised Short Rib

The highlight of the experience was not one, but two visits to our table by Chef Ansill. He made a welcome point to show Sarah his vision on topping off the Burger 15 and popped over again to see how we were enjoying everything. Now that’s a chef I can surely respect & support!

*Check out Ansill’s full new Ladder 15 menu HERE!

**Thanks to Metropolitan Bakery for their Twitter shoutout of my Burger 15 pic on Flickr!

Quickie: Sauteed Pierogies & Brussels Sprouts

Tuesday night, I found myself with an empty house and a surplus of Brussels sprouts inching their way to the trash bin. My Polish heritage inspired me to rescue the mini cabbages by pairing them with pierogies. I followed my usual Sauteed Brussels Sprouts recipe. Lazy & hungry, I resorted to boiling some frozen Poppy’s Potato, Swiss, & Monterey Jack Pierogies and quickly browned them in butter. I think I just discovered a new comfort dinner!

Sauteed Pierogies & Brussels Sprouts