November 22, 2009

The Naked Pint Beer Dinner

The Philadelphia launch of The Naked Pint, an Unadulterated Guide to Craft Beer (Penguin Group, November 2009) was a great event. In addition to authors Christina Perozzi and Hallie Beaune, Los Angeles Best Beer Sommeliers, the event featured beers from local women in the industry including Suzanne Woods, Sly Fox and the Beer Lass blog; Jodi Stoudt, Stoudt's; Whitney Thompson and Tracy Mulligan (Victory); Wendy Dormant (Dogfish Head), Megan Maguire (Ommegang), Seb Buhler (Rogue). Chef Terence Feury offered great pairings including the Chef's Tapas, Seared Sea Scallops with caramelized brussels sprout leaves, meyer lemon and forchette potatoes with Ommegang Rare Vos, Lightly Smoked Duck Breast with Autumn spiced croutons, dates and root vegetables with Dogfish Head's celebrated Raison d'Etre, and Rich Chocolate Cake with Rogue's Chocolate Stout. Keep apprised of our ongoing series of beer events by signing up for our newsletter!

To keep up with Hallie and Christina, follow their blog:

Fork's Butternut Squash Risotto

Chef Terence Feury

1 fall squash (butternut or kabocha), about a pound

3 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper

2 shallots

3 cups vegetable stock

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup minced white onion

1 cup Arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

3 tablespoons finely gratedParmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/4 cup Gorgonzola dolce cheese,broken into small chunks

Pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds)to garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Split the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Coat the insides with butter; season with salt and pepper. Slice shallots and sprinkle over the top of the squash. Place in a roasting pan and cover with foil. Roast in oven until the squash is tender (45 minutes to an hour).

Heat the vegetable stock in a saucepot and keep hot. In a large saucepan, sauté the onions in olive oil until translucent, then season with salt and pepper. Add the Arborio rice and cook for a minute until well-coated in oil and slightly toasted. Add the wine and cook on low heat until completely dry. Add 1 cup of the vegetable stock and stir slowly until absorbed. Add another cup and repeat. Add the rest a half-cup at a time until the rice is tender but not mushy. Keep warm.

Scoop the meat from the squash and purée in a food processor until smooth. Stir one cup of the purée into the risotto until it's creamy and smooth. Finish with grated Parmigiano and season with salt and pepper.

Spoon the risotto into bowls and place chunks of the Gorgonzola on top; sprinkle with pepitas and more Parmigiano.

September 20, 2009

September 12th Branch Creek Farm-to-Table Dinner

We canceled August 22 for a hurricane that never came, so we were worried when the forecast for September 12th called for 60% chance of rain. A little rain certainly would not put a damper on the dedication of Mark and Judy Dornstreich, owners of Branch Creek Farm, to provide Fork with gorgeous produce. So the Fork trip to Branch Creek Farm continued as planned. A one and half hour drive later, we found ourselves in beautiful Perkasie in Northern Bucks County near Quakertown.

Fork buys from several farms; why choose to highlight Branch Creek? Many Philadelphia "foodies" don't realize that Branch Creek was part of the original movement to bring locally grown foods to restaurants in Philadelphia. Like many of us, we don't find the restaurant or food industry immediately. Mark and Judy started as anthropologists studying food gathering techniques of developing countries. As academics, they traveled to New Guinea, India and other far parts of the world documenting the process of growing food. Their research process made them realize that they didn't want to be bystanders and they would become organic farmers. So when they returned to the US, the two worked for several organic farms to learn the ropes. In the late 70's, Branch Creek Farm was auctioned off and the Dornstreichs purchased the land. Quickly realizing that retail farm sales were difficult, they met an herb grower who was successfully selling to local restaurants. Back then, a handful of restaurants bought herbs from the Dornstreichs, but it wasn't until Chef Aliza Green, at Dilullo's in the 80's, questioned why restaurants couldn't access other local produce. By the time Fork opened in 1997, several options besides Branch Creek existed for restaurants to buy direct from farmers - including Green Meadow Farm, Greens Grow, The Herb Farm and others. At time, buying local was still novel. Today, Chef Feury purchases more than ever, and co-ops such as Lancaster Farm Fresh enable smaller local farms to access the restaurant market.

April 23, 2009

Shanghai Markets

One of my favorite things to do when traveling anywhere is to check out the food markets to see how the rest of the world eats. Here in Shanghai, there are wet markets that sell fresh vegetables, poultry, meat, seafood, fresh noodles, tea, etc. But one of the fascinating markets we went to was a food emporium of sorts. Located on Nanjing Road (one of the main pedestrian shopping areas), these stores have an array of Shanghainese snacks. Because of the humidity in Shanghai, many of these snacks are wrapped in small individual size packets.

Additionally, the market has a huge selection of dried foods - everything from vegetables, meats, fish, shrimp. Over 2,000 years ago, Chinese used wind and sun to dry their food to prevent spoilage and prolong food supply. Today, dried foods are part of their cuisine. I was fascinated by the meat section. Just like every other culture, the Chinese cured their own ham and sausages. They look exactly like prosciutto, but yet they are much saltier.

The ham cannot be sliced and eaten. Usually, it is used to flavor soup or sliced thin to give flavor to cooked dishes.

Shanghai Street Food

In the US, most Chinese restaurants serve Cantonese style cuisine, as a result, Shanghai cooking is one of the lesser known styles of Chinese cooking. It is much heavier and meat-centric than Cantonese-style food; in fact with over 20 million residents, you can find any style of Chinese cooking, or any type of international cuisine, for that matter! One of the best known examples of Shanghainese foods are its street foods. As you walk down the crowded streets, you can find street food at almost every corner. Soup dumplings are one of everyone's favorites. And three days into the trip I have definitely had my share of soup dumplings. They can be made with just pork or with pork and crab roe. The key to the soup dumplings is congealed soup stock which they mix into the dumpling filling and melts when steamed. Another major difference between the dumplings I've had in the US and those here (besides the fact that they are made to order!) is the thin dumpling skin here which never seems to break when you eat them. One "long" (笼) or one bamboo steamer with about 8 - 12 dumplings cost from 5 RMB to 50 RMB with an exchange rate of roughly 7 RMB to US Dollars! So one "long" is 70 cents at the street stand! Always be careful when eating hot soup dumplings because the juiciness may come squirting out. Usually they are served with Chinese vinegar and ginger slices.

Another common version of a dumpling is a lightly fried bun (sheng jian bao 生煎包) which are also filled with pork, cabbage and a touch of soup stock. The difference is that these buns are slightly larger, and have a little yeast. They are made on a huge round very hot frying pan, covered with a bamboo or wooden lid. The pan is constantly turned so it is fried on the bottom, but steamed on the top. It's finished with sesame seeds and green onion. Be careful, they look so good, but they are really hot because when they are cooked, the fat from the pork melts and keeps the stock really hot. According to my brother, he hasn't met anyone who hasn't burned their mouth or squirted hot oil all over their shirt the first time eating them!

April 22, 2009

Shanghai Adventures in Eating

After a 13 hour flight from Chicago, I finally arrive at my brother's apartment in Shanghai. He's been living here for almost three years, and this is my first visit with our entire immediate family. Mark claims that all there is to do in Shanghai is eat, shop and be massaged. What's wrong with that? With only 7 days in Shanghai, I'm looking forward to staying put.

As soon as I arrive, I'm offered a plate of Lion's Head Meatballs, a traditional Shanghainese casserole of large braised pork meatballs and greens, prepared by my brother's personal chef Gina. All my life I was under the impression that this is a Shanghainese dish, but Gina tells us that they originated in Yangzhou, a City near by Shanghai , and that they are just meatballs to Shanghai residents.

1 pound ground pork butt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tsp cornstarch
2 T chicken stock or water
1 T rice or shaoxin wine
1 tsp sugar
white ground pepper to taste
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 tsp ginger, finely minced
1 tsp sesame oil
(water chestnuts, finely chopped, optional)
extra cornstarch

2 T vegetable oil
1/2 cup to 1 cup chicken stock
2 tsp sugar to taste
3 T soy sauce
1 pound napa cabbage, cleaned

Mix cornstarch and chicken stock together in a small bowl. Set aside. In a larger bowl, mix ground pork, egg, scallions, ginger, sugar, pepper, sesame oil and cornstarch mixture Allow mixture to sit for 30 minutes or so. Add more cornstarch if the mixture is too wet. Then form the pork into 6 - 8 patties.

Heat oil in a saute pan. When oil is hot, add meatballs and brown over high heat until the outside is seared and caramelized approximately 5 minutes. Turn and brown the other side. When meatballs are browned, remove from heat. Using the same pan or casserole dish, bring 1/2 cup chicken stock and soy sauce to a boil. Lower heat, add meatballs. Add more chicken stock if necessary to cover the meatballs. Slowly braise for 10 minutes. Add cabbage and seasoning to taste.

March 6, 2009

House Cured Duck Prosciutto

Last week's Chef's Bistro Dinner focused on artisanal foods that Terry and his formidable team (Andrew Wood and Mike Ryan) made themselves including some house cured duck prosciutto and house made agnolotti pasta followed by some monkfish tails that Terry's favorite fishmonger, Tony McCarthy, brought in. With the exception of the monkfish which was extremely tasty, the meal almost brought me back to vacations in Tuscany where cured meats and home made pasta were the beginning of every meal including lunch!

Although it takes advanced planning, duck prosciutto is very easy to make at home, and is a great addition to any antipasto plate, or salad. As the starter for this week's dinner, the duck prosciutto was sliced thin and served aside a few thinly sliced pieces of seared duck breast, cassis mustard and a baby mustard green salad with celery root. The baby mustard green salad was sourced from Green Meadow Farm in Lancaster County. The spiciness of the mustard greens complemented the cassis mustard and fattiness of the duck.

We used moulard duck breast because the breasts are bigger and fattier than Pekin Duck. For home use, curing 4 breasts at a time seems reasonable and the shelf life of the duck is good if properly handled.

Duck Prosciutto

Approximately 2 lbs or 4 pieces of good quality, fresh moulard duck breast

1/4 tsp whole cloves
1/4 tsp whole allspice
1/4 tsp juniper berries

3 pounds kosher salt
3/4 pound sugar
1/4 tsp pink sea salt

red wine or red wine vinegar

Grind together cloves, allspice and juniper berries in a spice grinder. In a large bowl, mix together kosher salt, pink sea salt and sugar. Add spices and mix well.

Place salt into a shallow dish/tray and bury duck breasts into salt for 48 hours (36 hours for pekin duck breasts). Remove from salt, rinse off with red wine. Hang in a cool spot in your cellar. (The hanging spot should be less than 70 degrees Farenheit and 60% relative humidity, otherwise the outside will become too hard.) After one week, check to ensure uniform dryness. If the duck is not uniformly drying, then you should start all over with a new batch in a more humid location). If everything is drying properly, then you can let it continue drying for a total of approximately 2 weeks. The breast should be spongy on the fat, but not on the meat. Mold may develop, but that is part of the aging process! After the duck has dried, wipe off any mold with red wine or vinegar, slice and enjoy! Any sliced meat that is not immediately consumed, should be wrapped and refrigerated.

February 19, 2009

Salt Crusted Wild Striped Bass

Last night for Wednesday Night Chef's Bistro Dinner, Terry roasted a 30 pound wild striped bass that I described earlier in the week. There really is nothing like a fresh caught fish.

The method he used for making it is easy to do at home. Originally, I thought he was using the oven because of the stone, but actually we had to use the bread oven because it was the only oven big enough to fit the fish. Most people will settle for a 4 - 6 pound fish, which is a lot easier to handle.

The salt crust seasons the flesh of the fish as it cooks, but also forms prevents the fish from getting dried out and keeps all the juices in.

1 can or 26.4 ounces coarse sea salt
4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups egg whites
½ cup fresh rosemary chopped
½ cup thyme chopped

1 4# whole wild striped bass or other whole fish, gutted and cleaned
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cloves garlic
2 sprigs rosemary
2 sprigs thyme
1/2 lemon, sliced
½ orange, sliced

Egg yolks
Coarse sea salt

In the bowl of a mixer, combine salt, flour, egg whites, rosemary and thyme. Using a dough hook, mix ingredients together. Add water to consistency of playdough, firm yet elastic enough to enclose the fish without breaking. Set aside in an airtight container or plastic wrap.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Stuff the gut of the fish with garlic, rosemary, thyme, lemon, orange and salt and pepper to taste. Line a sheet tray or pan that is large enough to hold the fish with parchment paper. Roll out half the salted dough to ½” thick. Place sheet on parchment paper. Lay fish over top. Roll out the remaining salt mixture to ½ “ thick and drape over the top of the fish. Gently push down to create a tight seal with the salted dough and secure tightly. Trim the edges. Make sure there are no holes. Use extra dough trimmings to patch any weak spots.

Brush egg yolks all over the covered fish. Cover with additional coarse sea salt.

Bake in oven until golden brown, approximately 40 minutes, or internal temperature reaches 130 degrees F in the thickest part of the fish. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. Gently cut/peel off the salt crust. Remove from crust if desired. Serve with marinated fingerling potatoes, shaved fennel, nicoise olives, parsley coulis and lemon oil.

February 16, 2009

February 18 Chef's Dinner

Last Wednesday was Terry's first Chef's Bistro Dinner, and it was a full house! I think everyone in attendance would agree that it was a great dinner. The piece de resistance was the Lancaster County Farm Suckling Pig which he stuffed with ground pork loin and house made sausage. The pig was roasted whole and then served with grilled radicchio, fennel and apple.

This Wednesday, Terry plans to cook up a 30 pound striped bass that he will crust with salt and roast in our stone bread oven. The striper comes from Terry's favorite fish monger Tony McCarthy who he met during his days as Chef at the original Striped Bass. Tony is a one man show. Rather than buying at the fish market, he actually goes direct to fisherman to get his seafood. Although the suckling pig was the highlight of last week's dinner, Tony was able to secure incredibly fresh sea scallops from Viking Village for a ceviche, and Cape May Squid that Terry braised and served with hand rolled garganelli pasta. A 30 pound fish is likely to serve only 25 people, so arrive early to ensure you get a piece of this fresh catch! Dinner starts at 8 PM!

February 10, 2009

First Chef's Dinner - February 11

Since Thien's departure, people have been asking whether the Wednesday night Chef's Dinner will continue. The answer is "Absolutely Yes!" Even the sous chefs and I don't know what's on the menu for February 11th, but I do know that Terence ordered a suckling pig from Lancaster Farm Fresh...

Speaking of pork, one of the new dishes on the menu is the braised pork belly which Terence braises in white wine and chicken stock. The dish includes a piece of tender pork belly, a slice of roasted granny smith apple stuffed with house made sausage and a shaved fennel salad with prosciutto di parma.

January 28, 2009

Moving forward in 2009

As the second decade of Fork begins to unfold, it will do so in the absence of Chef Thien Ngo, who recently announced his retirement from cooking. Aside from being an inventive and visionary chef, Thien has always been a gracious friend and an excellent teacher.

Last summer when Chef Thien Ngo announced his intention to retire, I didn’t take him seriously at first. We had spent so many memorable nights around the table learning about new foods and sharing bottles of wine, it was surreal to think Thien would no longer be the commander of our kitchen… a position he held for nearly a decade. When Thien departs at the end of January, it will no doubt leave a sense of emptiness where his personality and culinary inventiveness once so modestly filled.

I knew that replacing Thien would not be an easy feat, and so I began contacting numerous friends in New York, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco. After months of searching, my partner and Wine Director Roberto Sella and I officially sealed the deal with Terence Feury. Terence’s résumé includes many of our region’s premiere restaurants. Most recently he opened Maia in Villanova, with his equally acclaimed brother Patrick, and before that he honed his craft at the Ritz Carlton of Georgetown and Philadelphia, the original Stripped Bass and Le Bernadin in Manhattan. Terence is a natural fit and shares Fork’s vision in terms of simple, straightforward, ingredient-driven food that focuses on fresh local fare with an emphasis on artisanal items such as breads, pastas and charcuterie. As you may know, Terence has a passion for seafood which no doubt will be a highlight of the menu. Though rest assured, Fork is not going to become a seafood restaurant. Terence’s masterful style, affinity for highlighting natural flavors and his sophisticated palate for wine and beer will figure prominently on our menu as well. As we continue to move the restaurant’s concept forward in its second decade, I am excited about collaborating with Terence to reinvent and refresh Fork’s new American bistro style cuisine. Welcome Terence!

I invite you all to join us at Fork to wish Thien a final farewell. I highly encourage you to make a reservation during these final days of Restaurant Week, which ends January 30. The three-course menu is one of the last opportunities to enjoy Thien’s outstanding cooking before his retirement.