Modernist Foodie

Food escapades in modernist cuisine

Fried Brussels Sprouts, Fish Sauce, Garlic, Chilis

Growing up as a kid, I never really liked eating Brussels sprouts. However, as an adult, I certainly have acquired a taste for them. I usually oven roast or sauté them in a pan on the stove top but I must say that my absolute favorite method of cooking them is deep frying - yes, deep frying!

The exterior leaves get somewhat crispy and caramelized, and the flavor is deep, rich, and extremely savory. They are great on their own with a sprinkle of salt, but if you really want to put them over the top, dress them in a spicy thai-inspired vinaigrette with fish sauce. You might think fish sauce is unusual but it's not much unlike the Italian bagna cauda sauce, which uses anchovies.

Here's what to do:

  1. Pre-heat a deep fryer to 375 degrees F - I use the Waring Pro DF280 but if you don't have a dedicated deep fryer, alternatively you can use a dutch oven or large pot. To measure the temperature of oil, make sure you do so safely and use a thermometer that can measure high temps like a Taylor Thermocouple
  2. Slice the brussels sprouts in half
  3. Once the frying oil is up to temp, drop them in and fry for 2-3 minutes until brown and caramelized
  4. Remove from fryer and drain on paper towels to remove excess oil 
  5. Prepare thai vinaigrette by finely chopping thai bird chilis, grating a few garlic gloves using a microplane, and combining with fish sauce.
  6. Dress the brussel sprouts with the vinaigrette and enjoy!



Rancatore's Ice Cream

Rancatore's Ice Cream
1752 Massachusetts Ave, Lexington, MA 02420
(781) 862-5090

This past weekend my wife and I drove up to Burlington to grab some groceries at H-Mart. As we headed home, we drove through Lexington and decided to make a pit stop in the town center to grab coffee. We ended up randomly passing by an ice cream shop called Rancatore's and decided to stop in. There's a decent flavor selection, but what caught my eye was the "Tiger Milk" flavor. I asked the girl behind the counter what this flavor was all about, and it turns out they soak frosted flakes in the milk/cream and what's left over is the "tiger milk" that they use to make the ice cream. Momofuku Milk Bar's cereal milk flavor immediately came to mind, and my mind was set as to what to order. We ordered a small size (which actually isn't that small and comes with two scoops), so we also tried the hazelnut cream. The ice cream is dense and rich with a chewy consistency. Both flavors were excellent but I was really enamored with the tiger milk. I can't wait to go back!




Sycamore

Sycamore
755 Beacon St, Newton MA 02459
(617) 244-4445


Having spent my childhood and teenage years growing up in Newton, I can attest to the dearth of restaurants and the sad state of dining affairs that was in Newton for many years. Within the last year and a half, that has changed dramatically 
More and more legitimate restaurants (not you Appetito!) are opening in Newton like Farmstead Table, Waban Kitchen, and Sycamore. You no longer have to trek into the city to get a first rate meal.

In the Newton Center space formerly occupied by the butcher John Dewars & Co, Sycamore opened last year under David Punch and Lydia Reichert. Both chefs have solid pedigrees with experience at Ten Tables and Craigie on Main, respectively. The restaurant focuses on meticulously sourced meat and produce with respect for local traditions. They take ingredients of utmost quality and let them shine in creative, unexpected combinations.

My wife and I have only been once so far, but we'd love to go back. Here are pictures of some of the dishes we tried on our first visit.





Sweet Cheeks Q

Sweet Cheeks Q
1381 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215
(617) 266-1300


My wife and I recently moved but for several years we lived in the Fenway. A spot we enjoyed going to was Sweet Cheeks, one of the few southern barbecue restaurants in Boston. Located on Boylston Street, it is a short walk from the ball park and a great place to get a decent meal before a game.


The restaurant is owned and managed by Tiffani Faison who is most famous for her appearance on one of the first seasons of “Top Chef". Given her culinary resume and pedigree, the choice to open a more casual barbecue restaurant as a first solo project might come as a surprise. However, Faison grew up in the south, so in my opinion, this is as much about her returning to her roots as it is making a smart business decision - namely, filling the BBQ void in the Boston restaurant scene.

What we like most about Sweet Cheeks is that it's a fun, chill place. The music is loud and eclectic, ranging from old school 90s rap to more modern pop and rock. The bar menu is large and drinks come served in mason jars. The restaurant is one big dining area, and there's an unapologetically strong smokey smell - barbecue is prepared in a 4,700-pound smoker in the open kitchen.

Meats are available by the pound, in sandwiches, or on metal trays. Prices are a little on the high side for barbecue but reasonable overall in my opinion for a meal in the city. Prices are largely dictated by quality of ingredients, including hormone-free beef, Berkshire pork, and halal chicken.

Having gone multiple times, we've tried most of the menu. Biscuits are generously sized, and the honey butter that accompanies them is absolutely delicious. Trays come with both hot and cold sides, my favorite of which are the farmhouse salad and mac and cheese. As for proteins, the barbecued meats like brisket, ribs, and pork belly are surprisingly not the stars of the show. While they were good, what we loved initially and keep going back for is the fried chicken - succulent, moist meat with a super crunchy coating. It's some of the best fried chicken I've had.



If you are ever in the area, I would certainly give Sweet Cheeks a try. And make sure you get the fried chicken!


Lemon Mousse


Whenever I'm looking for a go-to dessert to bring to a party or social gathering, I always pull out this lemon mousse recipe which has never failed as a crowd-pleaser. It's based on a recipe by Joanne Chang of Myers and Chang and Flour Bakery here in Boston. She includes ginger in her version, but it requires grating fresh ginger and letting it steep in the cream over night. Sometimes these party dishes are last minute decisions for me and I don't have the time, so I end up skipping that step. Even so, the results are incredible.

The first step is to essentially make a lemon curd. Juice around 8-10 lemons to yield around 1.5 cups of lemon juice and then combine that with 6 tablespoons of butter and 1/4 cup of heavy cream in a medium sauce pan.

 
While this mixture heats, I separately whisk 6 large eggs, 3 large egg yolks, and 1.5 cups sugar in a medium sized non-reactive bowl.



Once the eggs and sugar are smooth and the cream/butter/lemon mixture has come to a simmer, I gradually whisk the hot lemon mixture into the eggs. Be careful to do this slowly and temper the eggs. I then return the mixture to the pan and cook to a temperature of 175 degrees. A pinch of salt and 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla are stirred in at the end.


The last step is to take around 3.5 cups of heavy cream and whip until firm. I typically use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer to do this since it's incredibly easy and fast but you could alternatively use a portable mixer or simply whip by hand.



Once the heavy cream is whipped, fold the whipped cream into the lemon curd until well incorporated. This lemon mousse is absolutely delicious. Enjoy a bowl on its own or serve with cookies and a slice of cake. It honestly goes well on anything. The lemon gives a slighty tangy, citrus taste while the whip cream keeps the mousse smooth and light. Go make this now!


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