Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter, Jersey Style

I'm back in Chicago after a long Easter weekend in the great state of New Jersey. We had beautiful, warm, sunny weather the whole weekend and spent lots of time outside which was wonderful. Let's start with Friday night. We went to see Wilco at the Wellmont Theatre in Montclair, just a mile or two from Peter's house which was so wonderfully convenient. No cameras allowed, but I got a picture in with my iPhone. The venue was small but the picture doesn't really show how close we actually were.

Of course, a concert must be followed by pizza. We stopped at Villa Victoria Pizza on the way home, nothing too special but just a great New York style pizza place. And with New York style pizza comes...garlic knots. Oh garlic knots, I've missed you. Garlic knots are pretty much just garlic bread but in roll/knot style. Almost every pizza place in New York has them and they fall somewhere between three and six for a dollar. A greasy bag is a good sign...

And a peek inside the bag...mmmmm.

So what do you think we did Saturday night? More pizza, of course! Peter's favorite pizza in the world is from Star Tavern in Orange, NJ. I think every time we've come home to Jersey we've gone to Star. It's really excellent pizza. Not my favorite in the world (another post, another day), but it definitely ranks high. It's very thin crust pizza (the best kind!) with great sauce, not too much cheese, and simple toppings. Here's what the New York Times had to say about it in 1992:

"...the 46-year-old Star Tavern in Orange, N.J., is locally renowned for superior, light-crusted pizzas with all kinds of toppings. It's a big barn of a place with an elongated bar, two overhead televisions blaring hockey games, and a 100-inch-television screen that descends for special sports events."

Not much has changed in 18 years, except some new flat screen tvs. Was 1992 really 18 years ago? Jeez.

For us, a night at Star always starts with a pitcher of Sierra Nevada.

Next up, a mixed salad and we really went crazy this time and got mussels marinara as well.

And finally, the pizza. We ordered three pies for five of us - plain, sausage, and mushroom. The sausage is my favorite. It's crumbled into very small pieces and they don't put too much on. That's cheese on the top there, and sausage on the bottom.

Happiness is a plain slice with crushed red pepper.

And finally, Easter lunch. The main course was a Honeybaked Ham. Honeybaked Ham is, well...heaven. I made a Barefoot Contessa potato salad to go with it, and there were also a couple other sides - mac and cheese, and green beans with almonds. This potato salad is made without mayo so it's light and refreshing. Here's Ina's recipe:

3 pounds small white boiling potatoes
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons good dry white wine
2 tablespoons chicken stock
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup good olive oil
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Place the potatoes and 2 tablespoons salt in a large pot of water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then place the colander with the potatoes over the empty pot off the heat and cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel. Leave the potatoes to steam for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender but firm.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the wine, chicken stock, lemon juice, garlic, mustard, 2 teaspoons salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Set aside.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them into quarters or halves, depending on their size. Place the cut potatoes in a large bowl and pour enough dressing over them to moisten. (As the salad sits, you may need to add more dressing.) Add the onion, tarragon and parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. Serve cold or at room temperature.

The store didn't have boiling potatoes so I used red skinned potatoes, which are substantially bigger so I had to boil them a bit longer (about 25 minutes). And I didn't use parsley, I didn't want to buy a big bunch and have most of it go to waste so I just skipped it. It turned out well though, I made it the day before so on Easter morning I refreshed it with a bit more olive oil, lemon juice, chicken stock, salt and pepper.

One more thing - the whoopie pies and cake made it on the plane, but I don't think I would make the whoopie pies to travel again. I wrapped them individually and kept them wrapped until I served them and it made them kind of moist and dense. They're better served fresh, but were still good. All in all, a great weekend!

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