Polite Smiles and Braised Leeks

Riverside Park is quite charming in the snow.

Riverside Park really is quite charming in the snow. But the 10th snow storm of the winter is significantly less charming than the first. The novelty of this winter is dead.

Someone asked me recent how moving to Manhattan has been. The city is enormous, overwhelming, cold in all senses of the word, and intimidating. But I grew up in the South, where they always tell you ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.’ So the adjustment has been (smile). I think this politeness rule goes doubly true for the blog. So I’ve been a bit quiet recently. However, springtime has me coming out of my shell and loving trying to love my new home.

These articles really struck a cord with me. What to do if you’re falling out of love with New York. And most saliently, New York Doesn’t Love You.

Getting my engagement ring sized in the Diamond District.

Getting my engagement ring sized in the Diamond District. This sparkly strip of Manhattan really is delightful and you can easily burn an hour gawking at the windows.

Whenever I need some comfort food, I make braised leeks with vinaigrette. They are simple, hearty, and a cheerful shade of green. Transforming the humble, sandy leek into an elegant dish is the most satisfying act of alchemy of which I am capable.

Zev noticed my unusual obsession with leeks. I didn’t grow up eating them, but I have learned to love their versatility. Cheap, plentiful in the winter, and seemingly insubstantial, they are easily transformed into an impressive side dish by simmering them gently in stock for 10 to 15 minutes and smothering them in a tangy mustard vinaigrette. A perfect vinaigrette is all about the ratio of 3-1-1 (6 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar). I borrowed this recipe from Nora Ephron’s impossibly witty novel Heartburn.

Learning how to prep leeks was a culinary revelation. It felt like unlocking a little secret. Trim off 1/4 inch of the short white root fibers and generously lop off the tough fibrous green end to where the stalk isn’t tough and fiberous. Preserve a delicate stalk segment ranging in color from white to pale spring green. This is the tenderest portion of the leek plant and the most delicious. Slice the leek lengthwise down the middle and rinse out the sand between the layers. Lay the leek halves cut side down in a medium saute pan, add enough stock to cover, and simmer for 15 minutes until tender.

Serve warm or cool with vinaigrette. Imagine you’re sitting at a rustic patio table in the South of France opposite Julia Child and Stanley Tucci. Warm weather is on the way!

Old Blue is ready for the warm weather!

Old Blue is ready for the warm weather!

 

Culture Shock and Cooking

Meet our beautiful Peking duck, he was a total quack up.

Meet our beautiful Peking duck, he was a total quack up.

We returned to America earlier this month and were struck by two things; firstly, the icy blast of a polar vortex that was freezing much of the East Coast (including Manhattan, where we’re setting up home), and secondly, a jolt of culture shock. We slowly unpacked our bags, constantly expecting to wake up back in Southeast Asia on a damp mildewy mattress. But here we are, a month later, still hacking it out in snowy Manhattan.

It’s been just over a month since we came back to New York, and it’s starting to feel like home. I spent the initial two weeks driving up and down the east coast visiting friends and family, a leisurely and scenic tour up and down the East coast. I drove from New York to North Carolina and back, stopping in DC, Charlottesville, and Carborro. It was a very productive looking form of denial – denial of the culture shock I’m going through, denial of impending unemployment, and denial of being in a very inbetween place.

What better thing to do when you’re working through your culture shock than to cook? I cooked a seared juicy steak and creamed spinach for my mother, turkey pot pie for my father and sister, eggplant parmesean for my friends in Charlottesville, and even Peking duck for my soon-to-be-in-laws.

In case you’re wondering how to make Peking duck, check out this uber helpful tutorial from Serious Eats. It was a lengthy but surprisingly simple endeavor.

Links from around the interwebs:

The Reality Behind Instagram Feeds, so true!

Comfort Food for the Cold Weather: Bon App’s Cacio e Pepe

What Happens When You Live Abroad

The Hunt for the Perfect Understated Nail Polish