Dreamy's Delights

It's all about the food!

Restaurant Review: El Techo de Lolinda, San Francisco CA

Jene and I spent last night in San Francisco to help celebrate our friend Darren’s 40th birthday party. Our first stop was a place new to us called El Techo de Lolina. It’s Latin American food served on the roof of the building. It’s kind of cool because it’s this big open space with clear plastic tents and heaters above the seating so you can look out over the city. We got there just as the rest of our friends were leaving but we opted to stay and eat, then catch up later.

The menu isn’t huge. A few small plate options, some meat options and some sandwiches plus dessert. We’ll come back to the dessert part πŸ˜‰

After looking over the menu we decided to order the ceviche which we both adore, the empanadas, a skewer of steak and the chicharrones. I’ll start with the ceviche. It comes out in a large goblet style dish with a side of corn chips. The first thing you notice is that the shrimp are HUGE. And there’s a ton of them. There’s shreds of radish and onions and cubes of avocado in with the shrimp. The menu says “shrimp, lime, roasted tomato, red onion, cucumber, avocado, cilantro” but I think it’s one of those recipes that gets changed up depending on who’s making it. The waitress told me it also had pineapple juice in it with the lime juice. I was resigned to delicately picking my way around the cilantro and grimacing when I got a bit and suddenly everything tasted like soap. BUT!! I don’t know where they got their cilantro but it wasn’t soapy and I actually enjoyed it. The other thing that stunned me was to find out that there was habanero pepper in the ceviche. All I got was a pleasant, gentle sensation of heat in my mouth that complemented the dish rather than leaving me gulping water and blowing my nose. I wish I could have brought home a gallon or two of this stuff because it was that fabulous.

eltechoceviche

The pictures are from their website because I was way too busy stuffing my face to take my own. This picture actually does them a disservice because the actual dish we got had way more shrimp. I thought about drinking the left over marinade but decided that would be a bit much. πŸ˜‰

Next was the chicharrones. I love me some dead pig. Even better I love me some slow cooked, deep fried, dead pig. You order it by the half pound. Jene and I only got a half pound because we wanted to try several other things too. I wish we’d ordered a whole pig or two’s worth lol.

eltechochiccarones

The menu describes the dish “Not your basic side-walk cracklins! Here we have roasted and fried chunks of pork-shoulder with house made tortillas, lime, salsa, escabech.” The tan item on the side that looks sort of like a friend corn tortilla is actually a big piece of deep friend pork skin. I ate most of it by dipping it in the chimichurri sauce which I’ll rave about in a bit. The meat was nice and crispy on the outside but fell apart when I tried to stab it with my fork. I have GOT to figure out how they make this dish. Driving to SF every time I want some would get pricey pretty fast lol.

Empanadas… “ground beef, potatoes, egg, raisins, chimichurri” The ingredients listed are wrapped in a pastry shell and baked or fried depending on who makes them. Honestly, this dish was disappointing. The flavor was very bland and the potatoes overcooked. I couldn’t taste the egg or the raisins. On the other hand, it’s how I got introduced to the chimichurri. Chimichurri is a condiment common in Latino food but one I’ve always avoided because it’s main ingredient is the dreaded cilantro. Or at least so I thought! My knowledge up until now has consisted of watching people make it on Food Network and it was always super heavy on the cilantro. After eating the ceviche and realizing how mellow the cilantro was I decided to give the chimichurri a try. I was blown away by how good it is. And after doing some research online I found out that the recipe actually calls for parsley and/OR cilantro. So I can make this again for myself without needing magic cilantro, hooray! It pretty much looks like a pesto sauce but has more tang from the vinegar and lime juice. I spent the whole meal dipping my food in it.

Carne skewer: flap meat, onion, zucchini, panca glaze. It was cubes of beef on a stick with veggies and a bit of sauce. It was good but it didn’t make me giggle from it being so good. I think I would just skip this next time and order more chicharrones.

And finally we come to dessert. One of the benefits of living in a large metro area is the access to amazing chocolate dishes. When I was a kid I hated chocolate with a passion. When I moved to Kansas City and had a wider range of brands to choose from I came to realize that I didn’t hate chocolate, I just hated CHEAP chocolate. Try enjoying Hershey’s after eating a Lindor truffle if you want to know what I’m talking about. Anyway, enough of my chocolate snobbery… One of the desserts listed is “Maria’s Ganachecayanne-cinnamon chocolate, graham cracker crumbs, seasonal fruit.” I ordered that and Jene ordered the “Tres leches – sponge cake, milks, whipped cream.”

I giggle when I eat something really good. I can’t help it, my taste buds are dancing around in my mouth and I can’t hide the enjoyment. The moment I put the first bite in my mouth I started giggling. I couldn’t stop giggling. Jene is staring at me across the table and telling me to stop giggling but I couldn’t lol. I did finally get it under control but wow, this stuff was incredible. The bottom of the cake is a super dense, rich but not bitter chocolate cake. It’s topped with about 1/3 of an inch of smooth, creamy ganache. Then the berries and graham cracker crust crumbles. It’s service in a short fat 1/2 pint jar. Their website doesn’t have a picture but it’s a really pretty presentation. My seasonal fruit was strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. As I was getting to the bottom of the dish Jene told me that if I started licking it he was leaving. I hadn’t even thought of that so I promptly started licking the dish. I told the waiter that I had a serious problem.. with a look of concern and worry he asked me what the problem was. “My tongue isn’t long enough to lick the bottom of the dish.” Fortunately he thought I was funny πŸ˜‰

So I give this place major thumbs up and highly recommend it if you’re looking for something to try in the city. The prices aren’t bad either for city dining. Jene and I spent about $85 with the tip. We didn’t drink much, he had a beer and I had a soda but still that’s quite reasonable. I look forward to trying it during the summer when the plastic walls are rolled up and we can get an even better view of the city.

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Kris’s Chicken Cacciatore

This is a recipe I made up completely on my own last night. I had a whole buncha boneless, skinless chicken thighs and a hankering for something tomatoey. So here’s what I did. There aren’t any pictures because I was too busy cooking to take them. This also makes a HUGE amount so feel free to scale it down.

12 LARGE boneless skinless chicken thighs

3 TB olive oil

1 large sweet onion, chopped

8-10 marinated sweet cherry peppers, seeded and chopped

1 cup diced celery

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 28 oz canned diced tomatoes

12 smoked green olives

2 TB capers

1 cup red wine

fresh thyme, basil and oregano (dried is fine if you don’t have fresh)

salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pot. I used my 7 1/4 qt Le Crueset pot. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and brown on each side in the oil. Remove from pot and set aside on a plate. Once the chicken pieces are all browned, pour in the red wine to deglaze the pot. Then add the onions, peppers, celery and garlic. Cook until the onions start to become translucent. Meanwhile, run the olives and capers through a mini food processor for a coarse chop. Or if you want, you can toss them in whole, I just prefer the smaller pieces. Stir in the olives, capers, canned tomatoes and the herbs. I don’t have measurements on the herbs because I just added them until it tasted right. Once you have all the ingredients stirred together, put the chicken thighs back into the pot. Carefully stir them down into the sauce. Cover and simmer over medium-low for 45-60 minutes. When it’s done the chicken meat should shred fairly easily. Serve it over mashed potatoes, rice or pasta. It came out excellent and I served it over the garlic mashed potatoes I posted about. If you skip the taters/rice/pasta this is also an excellent low carb dish. If you want a bit of extra flavor, grate some parmesan cheese on top.

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Garlic Mashed Potatoes

This is one of those side dishes that sounds easy to make and IS if you think about what you’re doing. Believe it or not, it took me several years to find just the right way to make them. I tried roasting garlic and stirring it in, chopping garlic and stirring it in and then finally, ran across a recipe where you boil whole garlic cloves with the taters and then mash them in. Talk about a cross between an “AH HA!” and a “DOH!”

So the first step is to get some potatoes. Now that you’re standing in the store staring at the potatoes, you realize “Oh! There’s more than one kind of potato!” Most people are most familiar with the standard Russet potato. It’s got a slightly rough, brown skin and is used for things like baked potatoes all the time. However, you’ve also got red potatoes, white potatoes and gold potatoes. Each one has a slightly different flavor and texture. My personal favorite is a gold potato. It’s creamier like a red potato but not quite as soft. It’s got a thinner skin like a red which makes it perfect for leaving the skin on during mashing. Everyone has their own little preferences. My dad swears up and down that the only potato worth eating is a russet. I think he’s missing out lol. And in case you want to get really brave, you can also find purple potatoes and other “heirloom” varieties. Be prepared to shell out some big bucks but it’s fun sometimes.

Ok, so you’ve picked out your potatoes of whatever flavor. The next step is to prep them for cooking. If you’re using russet potatoes you want to peel them first. If you’re using red skin, white or gold potatoes you can leave the skins on. Just wash them really well then chop them into chunks and put them in a pot large enough so that you can cover them with liquid and they don’t boil over. Add several peeled cloves of garlic (about 1 large clove per pound of potatoes.)

This is where you can get creative. Nothing in the rules says you have to use water to boil your potatoes. I am currently boiling them in beef stock. I’ve also used bacon fat as part of my boiling liquid in the past too. You can add herbs to the water too. This is a chance to add some different flavors and play around with your food. And you can always stick with water if that’s what you have handy.

Once you have your potatoes, garlic and liquid in the pot, place it on the stove over medium high heat. Let it come to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are tender but not falling apart. I’m sure there’s some sort of time guideline out there but I just stick a fork in a chunk of potato. If the fork slides in easy, they’re done. If not, they boil a bit longer.

Once the tater chunks are tender, drain off the liquid. I just put a colander in the sink and pour everything out of the pot. Set the pot a cool burner or a trivet. The following is for about 3 pounds of poatoes:Β  Start with a 1/2 stick of butter and put it in the bottom of the pan. Then put the drained potatoes back into the pot. Grab some heavy cream and pour in about 1/2 cup. Use a potato masher to mash everything into a creamy consistency. Add a bit more butter and cream if you need to. Season with salt and pepper.

This is another area of personal preference. Jene prefers his potatoes super smooth and silky. I like mine a bit chunky. Do whatever you like to make them the way you want them. Taste test frequently as you go along so that you know they’re rich and buttery. Enjoy!

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Frond and why it’s a good thing

Many of you might have run across chefs making reference to the “frond” in the bottom of the pan when cooking. It’s one of the situations where if you look up the word you know exactly what they mean but they have to use a stupid word for it. A frond is basically the brown sticky bits in the bottom of the pan left over after you sear a piece of meat.

frond1

If you look in between the pieces of meat in the pot, you’ll see that there’s a nice brown layer on the bottom of the pot. That’s the frond. It’s pretty much all the tasty meat juices caramelized down onto the bottom of the pot. There’s a lot of good flavor in it so you want to preserve that flavor. The best way to do this is called “deglazing.”

Once you have the meat seared on all sides (over medium high heat in an oiled pot) you remove the meat and add a liquid to the hot pan. You then use a spoon to scrap the meat bits loose into the liquid. This releases all that flavor into your cooking liquid. Be careful because the pan is very hot and the liquid will steam up and boil right away. For today’s dish I used red wine.

deglazing1

Here you can see where I’ve added the red wine to the pot and scrapped the bottom with a spoon. There’s still bits of frond stuck to the pot but that will loosen up as the short ribs braise over low heat. I started with about half a bottle of red wine then added a quart of beef stock and two 15oz cans of diced tomatoes for the cooking liquid for my short ribs. The beef was seasoned with a smoked salt and black pepper before being seared. I’ve seasoned it with caramelized onions, garlic, bay leaves and herbes de province. After letting the meat simmer 4-5 hours I added some chunks of celery, carrots and mushrooms. It cooked for another hour or so then I thickened the gravy and served it over garlic mashed potatoes. It was very tasty.

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