This post is written by guest blogger Maggie VanDagens
Spring’s first harvest, horseradish, bursts from the ground to waken our senses. The teary-eyed run from the house when you cook horseradish yourself. But here in New Jersey, Muirhead Foods produces a horseradish mustard that was an award-winner at the Napa Valley Mustard Contest.
Like all of their products, the horseradish mustard is an adaptation by Barbara Simpson, chef/owner, from the naturally flavored foods served at Muirhead when it was a Ringoes, NJ restaurant owned by her parents. Today, the restaurant is retired, but their horseradish mustard still provides a sweet tang to chicken and other meats.
Easy Chicken Breasts with Horseradish Mustard
4 chicken breasts, boneless
4 Tbsp Muirhead Horseradish Mustard
3 Tbsp butter
½ cup chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
Cooked rice or noodles for serving
Coat each chicken breast with 1 Tbsp horseradish mustard. Melt butter in a heavy skillet. Sauté both sides of chicken. Cover skillet and completely cook chicken (about 10 minutes). Remove cooked chicken and set aside. Add chicken stock to skillet and stir to deglaze solids from the skillet. Add heavy cream and cook to thicken sauce about 5 minutes. Serve chicken over rice or noodles. Cover with thickened cream sauce. Serves 3 to 4.
Muirhead has 29 finishing touches for your meals. To order the horseradish mustard online or get more information, visit Muirhead Foods. The Cherry Grove Farm Store on Route 206 in Lawrenceville also carries a limited supply of Muirhead mustards.
The Yankee Doodle Tap Room of the Nassau Inn dates back to 1937, and is rich in history. It has been patronized by both town and gown over the decades, but its apparent relationship with Princeton University is evident based on the photos of famous grads on the wall. The recent addition of First Lady Michelle Obama’s photo joins Brooke Shields as the only two females hanging in a sea of famous faces.
The rustic tap room has booths along the walls with oak tables that have names and initials carved into them, which is a reminder of the 19th century traditions of the university. On my recent visit I sat at the booth where Einstein carved his name. Even as a resident, it never gets old for me. I love the history here, and this restaurant is a great place to be surrounded by things like the original Norman Rockwell mural behind the bar given to the tap room by the artist.
The Yankee Doodle Tap Room was included on New Jersey Monthly’s list of “The Top Tap Rooms: Great Jersey Bars for Beer Connoisseurs”. That’s probably due largely to the 19 craft beers on tap, and they’ll be adding more kegerators to boost that number to 22!
I was invited to sample the new spring menu, which hasn’t been listed yet. As we sat waiting for the first dish to arrive, I was told that the executive chef, Michael LaCorte, had recently returned. CIA grad LeCorte worked at a few restaurants, including The River Cafe with celebrity chef David Burke before working at the Yankee Doodle Tap Room. He left to start the (now 4-star) restaurant Verve in Somerville with a friend, and is now back to share his skills once again with the Princeton crowd. Not only do we get a new menu for spring, but also a “new” chef.
Five dishes were brought to the table, one at a time. The New American cuisine featured wonderful colors, varying textures, comforting and classic flavors, and were beautifully plated. Despite the cozy atmosphere, make no mistake, they offer fine dining.
First up was a crab cake over apple slaw. This will be listed under small plates. After the first bite I knew I was in for a treat the remainder of the sampling. There was no heavy filler. This was mostly crab held together by a golden crust. The seasoning didn’t overwhelm the flavor of the crab. I enjoyed the soft center and crunchy exterior paired with the crisp and slightly tart slaw that cut the richness of the crab cake. One of the best I’ve eaten!
Next, a spring mix salad including arugula was served. There were fried medallions of goat cheese, slices of strawberries, and asprinkling of sliced almonds on the salad, and a drizzle of a balsamic reduction. It was delicious! The combination of sweet and salty, creamy and crunchy, warm and cool, and the peppery undertones of the arugula were balanced nicely by the strawberries. I was told that shrimp, chicken, or hangar steak can be added to this salad.
I LOVE mushrooms, so I couldn’t wait to dig in when I saw the wild mushroom risotto. It was perfectly creamy and the risotto was cooked through (one of my pet peeves). There was a touch of white wine in the dish, and it was topped with shavings of Reggiano Parmigiano, plus there was a drizzle of demi glace. It was heavenly, and I’ll announce it as my favorite. The risotto will be under starters.
Then came a cracked peppercorn crusted pan seared salmon filet on top of green beans, topped with a tarragon sauce, with orange segments and a side of basmati rice with chick peas. The salmon was perfectly cooked. It was moist and buttery accented by the tarragon. The orange segments added the necessary brightness to balance the rich fish and sauce, and the crunch of the green beans was a nice contrast. The rice and chick peas were a good accompaniment to this entrée.
Last but not least were the pan seared sea scallops served with sautéed baby spinach, a tomato marmalade, and basmati rice with chick peas. The scallops had a nice golden crust (but could’ve been just a tad bit crisper for me), and were perfectly moist inside. The flavor was pure and delicious. The tomato marmalade provided a good acidity against the scallops. This is also under entrées.
Perhaps I’m a little biased because this dishes are amongst my favorites, but then again, I might also be more critical because of this. No matter how you look at it, I thought these would be fantastic additions to the Yankee Doodle Tap Room spring menu. It’s a pity they’re tucked inside the Nassau Inn, because they’d get more exposure if it would have a street entrance like the other restaurants in town. I think this will be a restaurant to watch with Chef LeCorte being back, especially since I hear he’s working on a killer burger.
The Rocky Hill Inn is under the helm of chef/owner Evan Blomgren. It has evolved into a gastro pub since it’s opening in 2008, which according to its website, refers to a bar and restaurant that serves high end beer and food without pretension. The Rocky Hill Inn is actually a bar, tavern, and fine dining restaurant, all wrapped into one with the same menu, giving patrons a few options.
The bar can be your first stop, or your only stop. Not every restaurant has a liquor license in this area, so it’s great to have the choice of sitting at the bar, or having a craft beer with dinner in the tavern or dining room. They also serve wine, cocktails, and after dinner drinks.
The tavern is great for casual dining with or without kids. You can eat their famous burger, shepard’s pie, or fish and chips there, but you can also order sesame yellow fin tuna sashimi or local grilled double bone pork chop with chipotle sweet potato purée without feeling the need to dress up.
The dining room has transformed since first opening. They’ve removed the table clothes, and have gone for a more consistent look throughout. This area has three ‘spaces’ with two fireplaces, which makes it cozy. If you’re celebrating a special occasion, you can dress up (or not) and order something like the seared Maine diver scallops with wild mushrooms, pancetta risotto and white truffle oil, and it can quite romantic or great for business lunches or dinners.
My first experience at the Rocky Hill Inn was on Valentine’s Day just after they opened. We ate in the dining room, and I found it to be an idyllic setting. I ordered duck confit risotto as an appetizer (no longer on the menu), and I was sold! I loved it so much, I ordered it several times. One evening, I went out with a large group of friends and someone recommended the Griggstown Farm chicken. I wondered how great chicken could be. It’s just chicken. I was wrong. It was very flavorful, and now I’ve added it as one of my favorites.
What I like about this place is you can go in wearing jeans and a t-shirt, sit at the bar and watch a game while drinking one of over two and a half dozen draft or bottled beer with a burger, bring the kids to eat mac ‘n cheese with smoked bacon for lunch in the tavern, or dress up for a date, sit at the bar for a cocktail before dinner in the dining room, and return after your meal for a Glenlivet or Bailey’s to finish the evening.
The Rocky Hill Inn is a nice neighborhood restaurant, offering something for everyone. I highly recommend giving it a try if you haven’t already eaten there.
This post was written by guest blogger Maggie Van Dagens.
PREP THE DAY BEFORE.
BE SWEET ON VALENTINE’S DAY.
Muirhead Foods in Ringoes, NJ makes a sweet and tangy pomegranate sauce that’s a perfect Valentine’s Day topper for salads, chicken and a prepare-ahead dessert in a heart-shaped mold. The dessert was adapted by Barbara Simpson, the chef/owner, from a recipe served every Valentine’s Day, when Muirhead was a restaurant owned by her parents. Today, the restaurant is retired, but Muirhead produces fruit butters, jellys, and syrups, which all evolved from the restaurant’s kitchen. Enjoy the modern version of Coeur a la Crème which restaurant fans still remember, complete with the lively taste of Muirhead’s pomegranate sauce
Coeur a la Crème.
- Cheese cloth to line mold
- 2 cups heavy cream, well beaten
- 8 oz. cream cheese
- ½ cup confectioners sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 Tbsp sour cream
- 1 ½ cups strawberries, cleaned and sliced
- 3 Tbsp Muirhead Pomegranate Syrup
Line 6 inch heart mold with cheese cloth. Whip heavy cream until very stiff. Beat together cream cheese, sugar, salt, vanilla, and sour cream. Lightly fold whipped cream into beaten ingredients. Pour into prepared mold and fold over cheese cloth ends to cover mold. Place mold on plate and refrigerate overnight to drain out liquid. Just prior to serving, mix strawberries with Muirhead Pomegranate Syrup. Unfold cheese cloth, unmold heart onto serving plate, remove cheese cloth, garnish with fruit, and serve immediately. Unmolded heart may be stored in refrigerator for up to 3 days. Serves 11 (makes either 1 large heart (6 inches) or 11 small hearts (2 1/2 inches).
Muirhead has 29 finishing touches for your meals. To order the pomegranate sauce online and more information about their products, go to Muirhead Foods. Cherry Grove Farm Store on Route 206 also carries a limited supply of the pomegranate sauce.
UPDATE: The link has been updated to http://muirheadfoods.com. There’s no “www” in the URL.
The Princeton Public Library played host again for the fantastic cooking series Princeton Eats. Executive Chef Christopher Albrecht brought in several varieties of eggplants from the farmers’ market, and shared some recipes.
Albrecht is very charismatic, and a wonderful instructor. I sat there listening to him and was thinking “Here’s a James Beard recognized chef who’s at the helm of Eno Terra, which was once again listed as one of the Top 25 Restaurants in New Jersey, and he’s HERE at the library sharing his cooking techniques and recipes.” Thanks to the library, Terra Momo Restaurant Group, and of course Chef Albrecht!
He brought in Nadia, Rosa Bianca, Clara, Sicilian, and Fairytale eggplants. Chef Albrecht explained that eggplants are like sponges and absorb liquids like the oil they’re cooked in. To avoid this, they need to be disgorged by salting and draining them in a colander. This makes them firmer and less likely to absorb the oil. If you’re on a low-sodium diet you should stick to thinner varieties that you can avoid salting, or perhaps consider substituting the eggplant for another vegetable.
Albrecht sliced the eggplants and showed us how some have more seeds than others, and told us that they oxidize, so they’ll turn brown a while after cutting. He also showed us the difference between an eggplant with thick skin like the Sicilian, and a thin-skinned Rosa Bianca, which is one of his favorites.
On this day the Chef Albrecht didn’t cook, but did prepare eggplant caviar with a previously charred eggplant. He also brought the finished product of other dishes for us to sample. There was marinated eggplant, caponata (a Sicilian dish), and eggplant parmesan.
The eggplant caviar had a wonderful smokey flavor from charring it first. The marinated eggplant was grilled adding a touch of smokiness along with the brightness of the marinade, and had a meaty texture. The caponata was a sweet, sour, and savory combo that included red onions, capers, plum tomatoes, red wine vinegar, olive oil, basil, golden raisins and pine nuts. The caviar and caponata tasted great on the crostini supplied.
The eggplant parmesan was the BEST I’ve ever tasted! It was very light, and Albrecht used fairytale eggplant. There was no breading, it wasn’t oily, and he didn’t use heavy mozzarella cheese. He used parmesan cheese, which got crisp on top after baking, and added a crunchy texture that some might miss from the breadcrumbs without overwhelming the eggplant. After all, it is called eggplant PARMESAN, so why do others use a different cheese? I must admit, I scooped up a bit of the leftover sauce and put it on a crostini, and it was amazing on its own. I think this was the favorite, especially because no one has eaten eggplant parmesan this good.
After two years I just found out that a couple who attends every cooking class travels from Pennsylvania to see him in action. Talk about dedicated fans!
I also discovered that every Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday this summer Eno Terra hosts a Family Dinner night offering a three-course dinner. It features classic family recipes using their oak and cherry wood fire grill for only $19. Now THAT’S a deal!
Here’s the recipe for eggplant caviar courtesy of Chef Christopher Albrecht (pictured above), which can be served on crostini as an appetizer.
- 1 Sicilian (or any large) eggplant
- 4 cloves of confit or roasted garlic pureéd
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 4T extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Roasted peppers and/or mushrooms as garnish
- Preheat grill or cast iron skillet or hot oven
- Wash and dry the eggplant
- Place directly on skillet or grill or in oven without oil
- Heat the eggplant, turning on all sides until wilted and charred
- Scoop out the pulp, including seeds and place in colander or strainer overnight
- The next morning, finely chop the drained eggplant
- Mix in chopped parsley, pureéd garlic, half the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to the eggplant
- If necessary, add more lemon juice to taste. It should have a nutty and smokey, yet slightly acidic flavor
- Add garnish and serve
Norwegian Cruise Line introduced its Chef’s Table earlier this year. I recently sailed with them, so as a foodie I had to make a reservation for this event to see what the commotion was about.
The meal takes place just once per cruise. It’s an intimate nine-course dinner for 12 paired with wine by the line’s Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson. This special event includes a personal waiter, the head wine stewart describing the wines, and the executive chef explaining the dishes of every course.
It takes place in a private section of a restaurant for a more exclusive atmosphere, and lasts about three and a half hours depending on after dinner drinks (our group hung out for a while after the meal).
First we were served a glass of Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine in an adjacent lounge before taking a group photo with the chef, food & beverage director, and restaurant manager, and then a couple’s photos with just the chef.
The table was beautifully set, right down to the Versace chargers and place cards. Normally, cruisers on NCL enjoy Freestyle dining, so they eat with family or friends. The guests at the tasting had the opportunity to dine with others who appreciate fine food. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people.
Tomato, basil, and lavender lavosh were standing upright in a vase. These crispy blades of flat breads decorated the table with bold colors.
The first two courses were paired with a Matua Valley Sauvignon Blanc. Everyone loved this fruity wine.
The chef’s amuse-bouche embraced molecular gastronomy. The vodka and jalapeño ravioli topped with a mango sphere lead the way. The sphere instantly collapsed, and gently flavored the bite-sized hors d’oeuvre.
Up second was an Ahi tuna tartare with a sesame crisp and orange wasabi glaze. The sushi grade tuna practically melted in my mouth and the glaze added a nice brightness to the tartare.
The following four courses were paired with a Silverado Vineyards Chardonnay.
Asparagus cream was delivered next. This soup included cauliflower flan in the center, topped with crispy beetroot and saffron angel hair. The servers presented the flan in soup dishes, then poured the broth around it, which is common in finer restaurants. I loved the flan, and the broth was excellent, though I prefer mine with a dash of nutmeg.
A short crust tartlet was served as the fourth course, featuring goat cheese and sun-dried tomato, with basil oil and Kalamata olive tapenade. This was my favorite course. The classic goat cheese and sun-dried tomato duo was sublime in this tartlet, and the basil oil sent it to another level.
A plantain crusted, pan seared sea bass topped with mango, papaya and avocado salsa with a lobster velouté was served after the granita. The sea bass was cooked to perfection. I love plantains, but the they were a bit chewy, and therefore a little difficult to cut with the fish knife.
The last three courses were served with a Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon. This was my favorite wine.
The milk-fed veal chop was at least two inches thick, and was served with truffle veal jus, Anna potatoes and sautéed spinach. The chop was very juicy. I haven’t eaten veal in about 15 years, but I truly enjoyed eating this with the flavorful truffle veal jus. It was so large, I could only eat half, though most others seemed to have finished theirs.
St. Andre Triple Creme and Stilton were served with honey comb, port wine infused fig slices, bagel chips and pickled watermelon. Delish! The sweet items paired perfectly with the cheeses, and the diced pickled watermelon with a hint of allspice helped cut the richness of the cheese.
Two desserts were offered. A dome made with yogurt mousse and lychee raspberry crème over a hazelnut sablée with lime vanilla reduction was given to the ladies. A chocolate log, which was a spiced dark rum infused banana in cocoa mouse topped with chocolate ganache was given to the men. Loved my dessert!
After dinner, we walked back to the lounge for a digestif. Lavazza coffee, water, Glenlivet, Bailey’s Irish Coffee, Courvoisier V.S., Grand Marnier, Kahlua, and Sandeman Founders Reserve were offered. My husband ordered the Courvoisier, but I’m a lightweight and opted for the Irish Cream, which was a delightful conclusion to an amazing meal.
We received the two photos, and a sign and stamped copy of the menu from the chef. It was then revealed that a galley tour the following morning was also included, led by the chef himself. It covered several decks, including food storage areas, and took about an hour.
This meal is a deal! You only pay $75 for an experience that is better than most excursions at this price. It’s more than just great food, it’s the drinks, VIP service, photos, a galley tour, and conversation.
The only downside is this menu is the same on every ship, and hasn’t changed since its introduction in March. If you sail more than once with NCL and want to sign up for another dinner, you’ll have déjà vu, though I would gladly eat it again. Hopefully they change the menu by September so it only has a 6-month run just for a little variety, but I don’t foresee a change until perhaps the anniversary of the meal.
This month Master Baker Denis Granarolo of Terra Momo Bread Company led the class of the Princeton Eats food series at the The Princeton Public Library. He explained that the bakery is getting back to mostly baking bread, and shared some tips with us.
Granorolo uses instant dry yeast to make his dough. It can be added directly to the ingredients in the kneading process. Most people use active dry yeast that needs to be added to some warm water and sugar to activate it before mixing with flour and water to create the dough.
He explained that the differences in bread texture is due to the percentage of water in it. Less water makes a denser bread with smaller holes. A higher percentage of water makes a more rustic bread with larger holes, like ciabatta. Wetter doughs need to be folded more to give them the proper structure. Since they’re sticky, you just need to flour your hands for the folding process.
The longer doughs rise, the more they can ferment. The gas carbon dioxide produced makes the dough rise, the alcohol is released, but the flavor enhancing lactic acid bacteria remains. Each area has different bacteria in the air, which in turn produces a different flavor. This is why you can only make the famous San Francisco sour dough in the Bay Area.
Bakers are known for keeping about 30% of their dough as starters for the next batch. You can actually make a San Francisco sour dough if you have some of its starter dough. There are some doughs that span decades or centuries to make artisanal breads.
At the end of the hour, Granorolo gave everyone sample slices of some of his breads, and dough to make a small loaf of bread. My daughter brought hers home, folded it a couple of times, kept it refrigerated, and baked it the next day with my supervision (photo above). I must say, this bread had so much more flavor than my homemade bread. Of course, this is why he’s a master baker!
The Princeton Eats series continues on August 7th at 10 AM with Executive Chef Chrisopher Albrecht preparing a dish with ingredients from the Farmers’ Market.