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Monday, April 14, 2014

Restaurant Inspiration - Flatiron Room Mac & Cheese

The Flatiron Room, NYC. Photo Courtesy of The Flatiron Room 
It's often that I'm reminded of how lucky I am to have wonderful friends. 

The latest example of this comes courtesy of my good buddy Sonia. Not only did she recently treat me to a birthday night out at a majorly swanky and very cool whiskey lounge called The Flatiron Roombut she made sure we ordered the best thing on the menu - a unique and positively sinful Mac and Cheese with Brussels Sprouts, Dates, Hot Chilies and a Gouda Cream Sauce

If this combo sounds suspect to mac and cheese purists out there, I'm with you! But believe me, this dish is so inexplicably good that I knew by the second bite that I'd just have to make it myself. Rather than trying to explain the wonders of Flatiron's mac, check out what Haute Living had to say about it. They even voted it one of their top 5 mac and cheeses in NYC:

"We never thought we'd highlight any semblance of vegetable mac in our top picks, nor did we think we'd include a whiskey-slinging jazzy newcomer to the 26th street strip, but this positively scrumptious take on this fan favorite has us eating our words. Chef Susan Burdain combines brussel sprouts with radiatore pasta and tops it with a Calabrian chile cream sauce; panko breadcrumbs hit the final high note. 37 W 26th St, between Broadway and Sixth Ave."
Sautéing your base ingredients, Photo: NK
When finding Radiatorethe cool corkscrew pasta that Flatiron Room uses, proved oddly challenging, my super-sweet friend made sure to keep an eye out for it herself. Next thing I knew, the goods were in my hands and I had a big smile on my face. Sonia, did I mention that you rock? :) 

I was ready to go once a bit of research yielded the recipe we'll slightly adapt today. 

First, a few notes:

To point out the obvious, this recipe is not diet. Soooooo not diet. But Mac and Cheese is the best, so come along with me as we live it up! 

Expect more of a creamy cheese sauce than a typical cheesy, gooey Mac. You'll find the change intriguing. Something about the way the cream works with the spicy chilies to create a pleasant orangey-pink sauce (punctuated by sweet dates and smokey brussels sprouts) is pretty darn amazing. 

Don't skip the Panko if you can help it. There's nothing better than adding some golden brown crunch-factor atop this mac masterpiece. 

Finally, this dish is rich as all get out and is best served in small appetizer portions. You could be like me and have seconds but you may or may not spend the rest of the evening super full, reclined on your couch doing your best Homer Simpson. Not the worst thing in the world but I figured I'd warn you. 

Now that that's all outta the way...let's get to the kitchen. I hope you enjoy this splurge-worthy dish as much as we did. And if you're ever in NYC, be sure to stop by the Flatiron Room for finger or two of fine scotch and a skillet of this cheesy goodness: 

Flatiron Room Mac & Cheese - Gouda and Calabrian Chili Cream,
Brussels Sprouts & Dates, Photo: NK 

Flatiron Room Mac & Cheese
Recipe slightly adapted from + Flatiron's Chef Susan Burdain
Serves 5-6 as an appetizer

4 Cups (al dente) cooked Spiral Pasta (we used Radiatore) *just shy of a pound of pasta  
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
8 Brussels Sprouts, sliced in half and roasted in advance. See Note*
4 Ounces grated Aged Gouda Cheese 
1.5 - 2 Tablespoons pitted Medjool Dates, finely minced
2 Cups Heavy Cream
2 teaspoons Garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Calabrian Chili Relish/Paste (or finely chopped hot chili peppers)
2 Tablespoons minced Shallots
2 Tablespoons Hot Sauce (we recommend Cholula or similar - Tabasco would be too hot)
2 Tablespoons grated Parmigiana Cheese
Panko Breadcrumbs, for topping 
Equipment: a large, deep, ovenproof skillet - ideally a 10 inch cast iron skillet

*Note: to quickly pre-roast the Brussels Sprouts preheat the oven to 450 and simply slice them in half lengthwise, toss in a Tablespoon or Two of Olive Oil, sprinkle with Salt and roast for 20 minutes, turning once or twice. You can make these in advance and store in the fridge until ready to use. 

1. Prepare the roasted Brussels Sprouts if you've not done so already. Recipe above. 

2. Precook the Radiatore pasta if you have not done so already. It should be just firmer than al dente. Drain and set aside. Ideal cook time for Radiatore will be 6 minutes. 

Add Panko and it's ready to finish in the broiler, Photo: NK
3. Preheat the broiler. 

4. On your stove top, put the Olive Oil in your ovenproof skillet and heat until shimmering over medium-high heat. Add the Brussels Sprouts, Shallots, Garlic, Chiles or Chili Relish, & Dates. Sauté for a minute or so. 

5. Pour in the Cream, grated Gouda, and Parmigiana. Stir gently until cheese has melted, about 3 minutes.  Cook another minute or two so cream begins to bubble and thicken. 

6. Add the Hot Sauce and stir. Gently add in Pasta and toss until it is fully coated. 

7. Top the skillet with a few tablespoons of Panko Breadcrumbs and move it to the broiler to cook for 2-3 minutes until the Panko becomes golden brown and the cheese is bubbling. Serve hot and enjoy! 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Roundup: Mid Century Munchies - Mad Men Season 7!!!

Dust off your martini glasses and get out your finest mod attire because...
Image Courtesy of

The long awaited premier of Mad Men Season 7. 

It's hurts me to even utter these words but as you probably know, this is going to be Mad Men's final season. Over the past few years I've celebrated these momentous premier nights by cooking up some easy yet elegant Sixties-inspired dishes and hors d'oeuvres. Whether you're hosting a premier party or just want to amp up your own viewing pleasure with some tasty morsels, we've got two totally doable multi-course menus (plus drinks!) to choose from:

Mad Men Menu 1 - Retro Food Redux

Mad Men Menu 2 - Sixties-Inspired Party Bites

At the very least, please mix yourself a nice stiff drink while you watch the drama unfold. This season is sure to surprise, and it's only right that we send off our favorite angsty ad execs with a toast! Enjoy and thanks for the memories, Don. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Soup's On! - Quick & Healthy Tomato Bisque

Quite a few of my fondest childhood memories were formed during the summers I spent with my best friend at camp. Pre-teens at the time,  it was one of the few chances we had to escape big city life to see how the country mice lived. With fun-filled days spent swimming in the lake, doing woodshop, playing tether ball, and enjoying the splendor of nature, what do you think I remember most vividly? Grilled cheese and tomato soup day at the cafeteria! Typical, huh? But this was no run of the mill lunch. The tomato soup was surprisingly good and came to our communal table piping hot in big silver kettles.  Grilled cheeses were stacked on their side and served in baskets ten at a time. What 12 year-old could resist?

Fast & Healthy Cream of Tomato Soup, Photo: NK

Today, we'll tackle the tomato soup portion of this fond food memory, with some minor adjustments for health. If you've got ten minutes, you can try it too! 

Cooking from scratch is the best way to know just what you are putting into your body. While most canned soups come packed with sodium and preservatives, it takes almost no time at all to prepare a simple, blended soup with much less of the naughty stuff but still plenty of taste. Just to be a bit decadent, we'll make today's tomato soup into a bisque using a touch of almond milk. You could certainly use dairy milk or even cream (if you like it more rich), but I figured this version may as well be vegan (unless you'd like to garnish it with a bit of grated parm as pictured below).


Healthier Cream of Tomato Soup/Vegan Optional
2-3 Servings, or approximately 24 Ounces

14.5 Ounce Can Organic Diced Tomatoes (we prefer Muir Glen brand)
8 large Basil Leaves plus more for garnish
1/2 a Sweet Yellow Onion, roughly chopped
3 Large Garlic Cloves 
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/8 teaspoon Salt
1/8 teaspoon Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Sugar 
3/4 Organic Vegetable Broth 
1/4 Cup Almond Milk or Dairy Milk if you prefer 
Grated Parmigiana Cheese (optional) 

Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth. 
Pour soup into sauce pan and heat gently until fully warmed through. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed. Optionally garnish with grated Parmigiana Cheese.  
NOTE: I do not recommend freezing this soup as the consistency changes upon defrosting.   It's best served fresh! 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Asian-Inspired Meatless Monday - Fast Veggie Soba + Garlicky Greens

We may be omnivores here at Neurotic Kitchen but we sure talk a lot about Meatless Monday.  I mean it when I say that vegetables are truly among my favorite foods.  Just look at how I feel about the onion! I don't know about you but after a weekend of excess, a meatless meal always seems like a great idea. All the better if it happens to be flavor packed and incredibly easy. Today's Asian-Inspired Meatless Monday includes a fast-as-heck main course of healthy Soba Noodles with raw veggies and nuts, followed by a foolproof side dish of garlicky greens kissed with Asian flavors.  

A Raw Veggie Soba Noodle Dinner that comes together in minutes, Photo: NK

Both courses are also easily customized to your tastes and definitely lend themselves to your imagination. Master the method and the have a blast putting your own spin on things. With dinner ready in far less than a half hour, you'll have plenty of time to think up next time's new and exciting menu additions sans meat! Enjoy… 

Easy & Quick Raw Veggie Soba
Serves 3-4 

Noodle Ingredients:
8 Ounces Soba Noodles
1/3 Cup Slivered Almonds, toasted until golden
4 Scallions, slice 1/4 inch thick, both green and white parts
1 large Carrot, peeled and julienned or sliced into very thin coins then roughly chopped

Sauce Ingredients:
2 teaspoons Ground Ginger (or a Tablespoon fresh Ginger)
Zest of 1 Lime
2 Tablespoons Lime Juice
2 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Low Sodium Soy Sauce
5 Tablespoons Canola or Grapeseed Oil 
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce (plus extra if desired)

1. Mix sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside. 
2. Boil water for Soba Noodles. Once boiling, add noodles and cook for 4 minutes (they should remain al dente) before draining. 
3. Return drained noodles to pan and toss in Carrots, and Scallions and then combine everything together with sauce. Plate the Soba Noodles and top with Toasted Almonds. Serve with extra Soy Sauce on the side if desired. 

Next up, a delicious Asian veggie side that works with all types of greens and is ready in minutes. We like Bok Choy so we decide on that, but you could certainly use Chinese Broccoli, Chard, or even Mustard Greens. The sky's the limit and the results of this easy cooking method won't disappoint. Don't skimp on the Garlic either. I promise it's as tasty as it looks. 

Garlicky Boy Choy, Photo: NK

Garlicky Asian Greens 
Adapted from Auria's Malaysian Kitchen
Serves 3-4 as a light side dish

1 Lb Baby Bok Choy (about 5 heads)
8 Cloves of Garlic, thinly sliced and then lightly chopped
3 Tablespoons Peanut or Canola Oil
3/4 Tablespoon Vietnamese Fish Sauce or Soy Sauce 
1 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar
Crushed Red Pepper to taste, optional

1. Slice the Baby Bok Choy lengthwise into thin strips. 
In boiling water, blanch the sliced Bok Choy until bright green, about 1 minute or more. Drain greens and set aside. 

2. In a medium saute pan or wok, heat the oil over high heat. Add the Garlic and lower the heat to medium. Stir Garlic constantly and move the pan about until Garlic becomes golden in color, about 2 minutes. Take great care that Garlic doesn't burn and become bitter. 

3. Now add the Fish Sauce, Rice Vinegar, and optional Crushed Red Pepper. Turn Heat off.

4. Plate the Bok Choy and pour the garlic and oil mixture over each portion. Serve warm and enjoy!