Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Apples and Onions

Brined with spices and served with broccoli rabe sautéed with garlic and chili flakes.

One of the things I love about living in Beacon is that it really feels like a community that is growing and changing in an interesting way. For a long time I felt this way about Brooklyn, (where I had lived since the early 90’s) but as wonderful as Brooklyn is, it’s just too damn expensive now for artists and creative people to do anything but hustle to make rent.

I know I’m the bazillionth person to complain about how amazing Brooklyn used to be, but I was incredibly lucky to be one of the crazy, hearty few who lived in East Williamsburg back when it was practically deserted. It was a startling, magical, bizarre, occasionally terrifying place back then, and my roommates and I had absolutely no idea what it would become.

In 1995, if you would have told me that one of the hippest restaurants in NYC was going to open two blocks away from my house, I would have laughed loudly enough to startle the poodle-sized rats that lived in the burned-out minivan abandoned outside my front door. All we knew at the time was that you could rent a 3,000 square foot loft for a few hundred dollars, but you had to install your own toilet and either evict or adopt any animals you found on the premises (I love you Special Ed).

So Beacon may not be able to boast quite the same level of grittiness (thankfully), but it does have a bit of that creatively experimental spirit. Case in point, on a rough-looking corner lot, quite a ways off Main Street, has opened one of the coolest new businesses in town, Barb’s Butchery. Run by a former math professor named Barbara Fisher, it’s exactly the kind of butcher shop you dream would open up in your neighborhood. She sources as much as possible directly from local farms and so far, everything we’ve cooked from there has been fantastic.

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Lobster Mac and CheeseAre there people in the world (who are neither lactose or gluten intolerant) who don’t like mac and cheese? If there are, I certainly haven’t met them. Not liking mac and cheese is basically like not liking trees, or kittens. You may not be obsessed with trees or kittens but if someone showed you a few nice ones, you wouldn’t go, “Blech. Ew. No thanks. I despise trees. And that kitten is hideous.”*

I think I may have gotten slightly off-topic. What I’m saying is, for most people, good quality, home-made mac and cheese is a real treat so adding a bit of luxury to it just makes it even better. There’s something irresistibly compelling about a highbrow/lowbrow combination, right? The cozy thing becomes elevated, and the fancy thing becomes accessible.

*Nerd alert: This is completely off topic but I have recently discovered The Worst Cat Tumblr page and, I’m not even exaggerating, Matt and I laughed so hard for about 10 minutes straight, to the point that I thought I might need medical intervention. This is probably my favorite.

Lobster Mac and Cheese

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Blood Orange Margaritas

This drink is my vacation.

I know it’s a teeny bit late to say this but… Happy New Year’s Nerds! (Insert obligatory “I can’t believe it’s 2015 already and where the hell’s my hovercraft!”)

I think I’ve mentioned before that Matt and I have our New Year’s Eve ritual down to a science. Or an art. An art sounds better, doesn’t it? We make a fancy appetizer, steam lobsters, buy the crispiest french fries we can find and eat it all on a messy table lined with newspapers and butter drips. Heaven.

But this year we wanted to mix it up a little (imagine a middle-aged person doing jazz-hands when I say “mix it up” so you won’t be disappointed by what I mean). We still made lobsters and fries, of course (why mess with perfection?), but we went totally off-script with our beverage (that’s one of Matt’s hated words so I must use it as often as possible).

Blood Orange Margaritas

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Buckwheat Blinis with Salmon Roe and Crème Fraîche

I’m sorry, did you not know that we Nerds (with Knives) are not only skilled in the art of playing video games and discussing whether the 10th doctor was the best doctor (answer; yes. Yes, he was). We are also fancy mother-effers.

Yup. We enjoy the finer things (she says whilst dipping a burnt tater-tot into ice cold ketchup. Organic ketchup.)

It’s true. Every once in a while we like to make something that feels extra special. Usually on New Year’s Eve, we buy a little jar of salmon caviar and make our own home-made blinis. Now, I love caviar. It’s salty and briny and tastes like a mermaid’s dinner so one would think that the roe would be the star here. Wrong. It’s the blinis. They are so good. They have a lovely earthy flavor from the buckwheat flour but are also just a little buttery and rich. Honestly, I want to make them as pancakes for breakfast.

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Salted Caramel Peanut Butter Bars

Chocolate, salted caramel, whipped peanut butter, shortbread. Yup.

This, my friends, is one of those recipes that goes there. And by “there” I mean to that place of ultimate deliciousness that defies logic and reason. It takes all the elements that make treats actually a treat and truly (madly, deeply) delivers what it promises. Sweet, salty, peanut buttery, caramel-y, chocolatey, cookie-ey. All in one teeny little bite.

I say “teeny little bite” because these are so decadent that I think they’re best as little bite-sized squares but honestly how big you cut them is up to you. I mean, if you want to serve them as two 4″x 8″ planks, that is entirely your business. Nerds do not judge. Well, unless you get your Game of Thrones noble houses mixed up. Then we are merciless and will never let you live it down no matter how many times you explain that the banners of house Tyrell and house Martell look kind of similar especially from a distance oh my god just drop it already.)

Salted Caramel Peanut Butter Bars

I like to cut them into tiny, bite-sized squares.

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Mini Phyllo Cups with Cappuccino Cream

Mini Phyllo Cups with Cappuccino Cream

I don’t know if it’s a weird inverted class thing, but I’m always hesitant to make and promote a recipe that sounds – let’s say a bit too fancy. I imagine serving it up to a family of simple Northern playwrights and gauging their reaction. Would my guests nibble appreciatively while explaining how the semiotic thickness of a performed text varies with the redundancy of auxiliary performance codes? Or would they prod at the food uncomprehendingly and declare that they remembered this town when it were all fields? It’s always in the back of my mind, that.

And then I found this recipe and thought, sod it, let’s do this.

Mini Phyllo Cups with Cappuccino Cream

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Stuffing Cake Benedict with Chive Hollandaise

Stuffing Cake Benedict with Chive Hollandaise

This is one of those leftover Thanksgiving recipes I had been thinking about for years but just made for the first time this week. We almost always make some sort of hash with our favorite leftover stuffing and either top it with fried eggs or even bake eggs right into it but this year I wanted to try something different. Fancier, if you will.

This is now, officially, my favorite use of leftover stuffing ever. And it’s so, so simple. Add a bit of egg, form a patty, fry in a pan. Top with a poached egg.

The thing that elevates this to the stars is the unbelievably delicious chive hollandaise. If I had any idea how tasty and especially how easy it is to make this sauce, well… let me tell you that it would have been part of our Nerds brunch repertoire a long time ago.

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Leftover Turkey Curry

I don’t mean to get all romance-novel on you or anything but you know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you just know that something is right? Like it’s just the most perfect version of whatever it’s meant to be? That’s what it felt like the day, so many years ago now, when Matt said the words. Those perfect, beautiful words.

“Should I whip up a curry with the thanksgiving leftovers?”

Sigh.

Of course I said yes! I’m no fool.

We were still living in Astoria at the time, in an apartment that in all fairness can only be described as a “goat infested rat-hole”.  The place was grim. It was dark all the time because there was only about a foot of space between our our windows and the building next door (although when I didn’t have cable, I appreciated being able to see my neighbor’s TV from my couch. I think we watched a whole season of The Sopranos “together”).

Leftover Turkey Curry

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Curried Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Maple CreamI feel like it was only a few weeks ago that every post I wrote seemed to start with me whining and complaining about how cold it was outside. Well, prepare for a déjà vu because it’s frakking freezing again and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet. Oh joy. I know it’s going to warm up a bit again before the semi-permanent winter-long deep freeze hits us but, seriously Nature, can you give a girl a break? See, one of the things about buying a lovely, hundred-year-old house is that it’s goddamn drafty. Luckily I have a dog and two cats that want to be on a lap at all times so that helps. A bit. A teeny, tiny bit. Also, soup.

Speaking of déjà vu (and soup), it was about this same time last year that we posted our recipe for Mashed Butternut Squash With Thyme And Mascarpone, which has become one of the most popular recipes on NwK. I think butternut squash is so popular because it’s not only delicious, it’s also extremely easy to cook well. It has a gorgeous, silky texture (without any of the stringiness you find in a lot of pumpkins and squash) and it also has that beautiful, vibrant color that just screams Fall. It’s the vegetal equivalent of wearing a cable-knit sweater while walking through a pile of brittle, umber leaves. It’s Mr. Autumn Man’s favorite gourd.

Curried Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Maple Cream

Look at Nerd Tips below for nutrition as well as buying and storing tips.

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