Once a year I convince Neil to make something for dinner. Last year it was the beer can chicken, which was a hit. This year he made me jerk chicken, and I was very pleasantly surprised. Actually, he made it for his VT tailgate in Blacksburg first. It was a success there, so he offered to make it for me. He made it all by himself too! Although, I did have to educate him a bit on the spices. He spent a good deal of time looking through my spice cabinet for nutmeg :) Then finding allspice was another ordeal. Oh, and he started grating the ginger without peeling the skin. He's learning :)...and he's so going to kill me when he reads this.
Anyways, this chicken is very flavorful, and very spicy. I think the use of real habaneros versus all dry spices sets this apart from other jerk recipes I've tried. I experimented long ago, after having become obsessed with it in Jamaica, but nothing came close. Neil came across this recipe when he was planning his tailgate. I admit that he has a really good "eye" when it comes to finding recipes. This recipe is a keeper and will be our "go to" for jerk chicken. It packs intense flavor and heat in every bite. Make a lot, b/c leftover chicken salad with this is awesome.
I served it with chipotle pumpking polenta. But, if you need something to offset the spice, a savory/sweet fruit salad would be good.
Brioche is a delectable French bread. But unlike most French breads, it's extremely rich, a little sweet, and very "pastry-like". This is due to the high butter and egg content. It's absolutely heavenly, and my bread of choice for making bread pudding or french toast...although it tastes great plain. You can find it sold at any bakery and most grocery stores. I most often just buy it, but I took on the challenge of making it from scratch. It's not difficult, but it is a fairly long process because you have to let the dough rise multiple times before you can bake it. I've always loved working with dough, so the process wasn't a chore to me. I also believe that anything made at home with your own hands is rewarding and therapeutic. That's a feeling that you can't buy. If you don't care about those aspects, I don't see an advantage to homemade brioche versus store bought. I usually find homemade goods far superior, but in this case the taste/texture is essentially the same. However, you can't tell people that you slaved away and made it yourself :) Like any other bread, it freezes really well. I have half the loaf frozen in my freezer right now so I can use it for weekend French toast.
On another note, I finally checked out Eventide Restaurant in Clarendon this past weekend. The ambiance, food, and service were all very impressive. I had an excellent homemade pappardelle with crab meat, shrimp, mussels, and pancetta. The chef also gave us a complimentary treat of mini risotto fritters. The restaurant has a lounge menu/bar on the main floor, main dining upstairs, and a fabulous rooftop with lite "cold food" dining and a full bar. It's a great use of space and surprisingly large. They said the rooftop should remain open for a couple more weeks if the weather cooperates, so check it out while you can.
Btw, summer seems to be hanging around this week :)
We had a 9pm reservation but went early to try some drinks from the bar of famous, local mixologist Todd Thrasher. The drinks are phenomenal and by far the best I've ever had. He even makes his own tonic! There's a separate room for the bar that's very lively and staffed with friendly bartenders that will guide you through the difficult task of choosing a drink. A lite food menu is also served there. If you wish to have drinks alone, you can try Todd Thrasher's creations at the after hours "speak easy" PX in Old Town. I've been and it's a fun experience.
Chef Cathal Armstrong's restaurant has an Irish influence. By no means is this typical Irish fare, but you can see highlights. The tasting room offers a 5, 7 and 9 course tasting. You can choose your own courses, or allow the chef to surprise you. We opted for the 5 course "choose your own" tasting, but with several little additional surprise samplings from the chef, it's definitely more than 5 courses. They offer a wine pairing as well, but after already having a potent drink at the bar, I just got a couple glasses of wine. Portions of the courses were small, but by the end we were both happily stuffed. Everything we ate was delicious. But, I have to admit that nothing blew me away. I always look for that ‘wow’ factor when dining in a high end restaurant. That said, I just want to emphasize again that everything was consistently delicious, and maybe I set my expectations too high. I've been reading up on Chef Cathal Armstrong for years now, and God only knows what my mind conjured up. In any case, the overall experience was wonderful. We particularly enjoyed the butternut squash gnocchi and quail breast over a quail mousseline. Oh, and surprise courses from the chef of crab bisque and mini canapes were delectible. Service left a little to be desired. Our waiter was a little bland/rehearsed, but that's just the luck of the draw. He did everything right...just a little boring. They did acknowledge our anniversary by noting it on our menus and giving us a take home gift bag of Kerrygold butter, scone mix, and coffee beans. Btw, the butter is insanely good, and the waiter told us that it's sold at Whole Foods! This might become my new staple.
Btw, if you plan to venture to Restaurant Eve for the tasting room, try to make the reservation 2 months in advance. They were booked solid when Neil tried last month, and only a 9 pm was available. Restaurant Eve also has a "bistro" room which offers a more casual dining experience with an a la carte menu. If you work near Eve, then you must also try the Lickety-Split lunch special which offers two courses for only $13.50 during the week. Maybe I'll make my way there on a "sick day".
Now, on to the recipe. A while ago I blogged about a delicious pork dish that I tasted at Mourayo. It was pork loin medallions served with Greek cheese, fig sauce and honey. I did recreate this one at home and was very happy with the results. I used a pork tenderloin and cut it into 1 1/2 inch thick circles. I seasoned the medallions liberally with salt and pepper and seared them to medium rare temperature on a hot, greased iron skillet. I placed the pork on top of a honey almond sauce. I made this sauce by simmering and reducing 1/4 cup honey with equal part chicken stock. Add more/less honey and stock to suit your taste. Towards the end, I added slivered almonds to the sauce. I topped the pork with seared manouri cheese which can be found at your local greek market. Cut the slices thick because when you sear the cheese slices it will shrink in size. Sear them on a skillet until golden brown on both sides. Btw, Manouri cheese is a mild goat cheese and Neil didn't even notice!! Hopefully he doesn't read this blog too often :) Finally, I topped the seared cheese with a fresh fig sauce. It looks beautiful and the taste lives up to the presentation.
Last week started off a little shaky with football and colder weather attacking me all at once, but the holiday weekend turned it around. I stayed in town and enjoyed the amazing weather, which btw, is the nicest weekend we've had all summer. I went to some wineries on Saturday, and ended the day watching the first VT game of the season. Even though I'm not a football fan, I can't help but root for my Hokies. Neil actually went to Atlanta to witness the disappointing loss :( Sunday, I spent time at the Georgetown waterfront, which I haven't done all summer. I'm trying to pack in all I can outdoors with the short time left!!
I've been frequenting the farmer's markets too, and the heirloom tomatoes have been calling to me. They come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, sizes, and flavors. It's very confusing picking them out. I bought 3 different kinds from 3 different vendors. I don't even know the varietals I bought, but they were so pretty, and all tasty. I used them to make a tart, but these taste fantastic eaten plain with just salt and pepper.
I kept the tart simple, by layering tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, drizzles of pesto, and salt/pepper. I used my basic Pate Brisee "Flaky Pie Crust" recipe. I fully baked the crust, let it cool, and brushed a light layer of pesto. I then layered the cheese, sliced tomatoes, salt/pepper, and repeated the process. You could serve it immediately, or bake it in a 400 degrees oven for about 10-15 minutes. I decided to bake mine. Do keep in mind that the tomatoes are going to give off a decent amount of moisture which will keep the bottom crust from being perfectly crispy, but it's still delicious, so don't fret. Brushing with the pesto first helped. Another option is to roast the tomato slices separately first, and then add them to the baked crust. I didn't use any herb garnishes on this because I really wanted the tomatoes to dominate. Also, pesto already has basil. This tart was incredible! And just look at how gorgeous the tomatoes are! The markets are still selling them, so if you haven't experienced these yet, it's a must. Gotta end summer on a tasty note :) Go Hokies!!!