Chocolate Souffle

Courtesy my Bong genes, I am born with a super sweet tooth. Cakes and Cookies had started becoming the staple fare at home, so the heart yearned for something else for that dose of sweetness. After our recent cruise experience, and all the lovely Souffles we had there, I gave into the desire of making some at home. Why not?! I still have that French love tucked away somewhere in my heart.Well, I had heard that making souffles was not an easy deal, but then hubby chipped in to say, that I should give it a shot. So Souffle it was, for a family dinner last weekend.  And everything tastes better with a dash of chocolate, so I thought I could not go wrong, could I?!

For the uninitiated, Souffles are light cakes which are made with Egg whites, sugar and separated egg yolks, as the main ingredients.They rise up, for the air bubbles created while whisking the egg whites into soft peaks, with some lemon juice or cream of tartar. Souffles can also be made savory. 

For a person, who is used to baking cakes, all the recipes which I came across, had no flour in them. That was something, which I was not too sure of. I had heard of flour less cakes, but making one on my own, seemed a tad risky to me. So I warned Hubby in advance that maybe we would have to entertain without dessert, if the souffle did not make it to the table. The other concern, were the Chocolate Chips. Hubby had picked up Dark Chocolate Chips, when we had to pick up semi-sweet ones. So I thought of adding some Chocolate syrup, to the molten chocolate, to make it a bit sweet and it worked wonders with the souffle. 

My warm CHOCOLATE SOUFFLE won me rave reviews at the family get together. Now I can safely say that, all the myth about the difficulty of baking souffles is surely an exaggeration. In fact, it is quite simple, and can be baked just before serving, with all the prep work having been done before hand. 


Dark Chocolate Chips: 3/4 cup
Hershey's Chocolate Syrup: 1/4 cup
Sugar: 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp plus more for coating the ramekins
Lemon Juice: 1 tsp
Egg Whites: 8(at room temperature)
Egg Yolks: 3(at room temperature)
Butter: 4 tbsp plus more for coating the ramekins(at room temperature)
Warm water: 2 tbsp
Vanilla Extract: 1 tbsp

Pre-heat the oven to 400F. 

Grease 4 ramekins ( I used 4 inch ones) with soft butter, and then coat them with sugar. Place the greased ramekins in the refrigerator. 

Temper the Chocolate chips in the microwave on High for 2 mins, stirring in between. This should melt the chocolate, if not microwave it for another 30 seconds, and stir again. Add in the butter  and the chocolate syrup and stir well. Lastly add in the vanilla extract. The molten mixture should have a silky shine to it. Let it cool. 

Meanwhile beat the egg yolks with the warm water slowly, so as to not cook the eggs. Add in the warm water gradually and keep stirring, till it has forms threads when poured with a spoon. Mix in the egg yolk mixture with the cooled chocolate mixture. 

Beat the egg whites with either lemon juice or cream of tartar, on a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer with a whisk attachment, or even with a hand whisk. After beating for around 5 minutes, add in 1/2 cup sugar and continue to beat first on Low, and then on High, once the sugar in incorporated. The egg whites should form soft peaks, and not stiff peaks, like in a  meringue. 

Mix around 1/4 the egg white mixture, into the chocolate mixture to thin it out a bit. Fold in the rest of the egg whites very gently in the mixture, following one direction, to incorporate air into the batter. This should be done very gently with a light hand, so as to not deflate the egg whites which have been whisked for so long. Pour the prepared souffle dough around 3/4 ths or 1/2 way into the prepared ramekins. The mixture at this stage can be refrigerated for up to a day. 

Bake  for around 20 minutes just before serving the souffles, as they tend to deflate after being out of the oven for long.Hence they are always served warm. 

Bake at 400F for around 18-22 minutes. Check around the 18 minute mark.If the center of the souffle is moist, with crumbs adhering to it, when pricked with a toothpick, that means the souffle is done. 

The sugar which coats the ramekins, forms a nice crusty exterior on the souffle, while the center remains warm and moist. 

I was a bit wary of how they would turn out, hence I filled in my ramekins only 1/2 with the mixture, but feel free to fill up to 3/4th of them. 

Serve the souffles in the ramekins itself, by placing the ramekins on individual plates, as they are quite hot when removed from the oven. 

Bon Appetit. 


GALATOIRES, NEW ORLEANS: In love with Foie Gras and everything French

I have always had a weakness for everything French. French Men. French Films. French Food. Champagne. French Cafes.French Kiss.The list is quite a  long one.Hence spent laborious hours in learning to speak the language,during my student years in Kolkata. The obsession still does carry on. My teenage dream of getting a French lover, or better still marrying a Frenchman did not quite fall into place, so nowadays I carry on my French obsession with French Food. The soul gets happy and happy whenever I seek a French culinary connection. Not to forget French Films always find a place in the Instant Queue of Netflix at home.

A trip to France and just France is on my wish list for so long, but somehow that just does not seem to fall in place.We do cross the Atlantic and go further on to India, but have not yet managed to stop midway in Paris.Did I mention my dream City! So we decided to get a local French flavour: headed to New Orleans in Louisiana. The target: FRENCH QUARTERS. Hubby had been to the city for quite a few times, but that was for a different reason. His tastes ran in Mardi Gras. Too obvious, given his gender. But my target was totally different. To explore the lanes and by lanes of the French Quarters, soak in as much French connection I could, and stuff myself with as much French food possible.

It was a tough choice, deciding on where to dine for our anniversary, as almost every restaurant in the French Quarter claimed to serve authentic French food. We decided on GALATOIRE'S. It had been under the same family ownership for over a hundred years, serving French cuisine. Jean Galatoire founded the restaurant  in 1905, at the French Quarters of  New Orleans, using recipes he had brought with him from the south of France. We could not go wrong with  something like this. We read about Celebrities lining up outside these doors to get a place. Moreover the restaurant had a formal dress code enforced, so we thought, why not. We do not get a chance to dress up formally every day in Kansas City, do we.

But it turned out to be quite an old school French joint. For the first time in my life, I was refused a drink,as it was not considered a lady's drink. The drink : SAZERAC.Wikipedia defines Sazerac as a New Orleans variation of the original Cognac or whiskey based cocktail, named after the 'Sazerac de Forge et Fils,' brand of Cognac which was its original prime ingredient. The cocktail is a combination of rye whiskey, cognac. absinthe and Peychaud's Bitters.

 So I settled in for a safer second choice: LEMON DROP. A vodka based cocktail, which was actually refreshing. But I was a bit glum at having been refused something I wanted. Had tasted Sazerac, just that very afternoon, and wanted to repeat the slight buzz.

Foie Gras on the menu took away the initial disappointment of being denied a drink. I had been harboring a desire of tasting foie gras, and finally I had it right in front of me. FOIE GRAS and TURTLE SOUP came to our table as appetizers. We let the soup get a tad cold, as we could not let the foie gras wait any longer on our table.The juicy fat goose liver was served on croutons,with a sprinkling of chives, a cranberry gastrique, and an apricot compote. The fat goose liver,just melted, as it touched my tongue. It was not wrong to say, it was heavenly.Wonder how could people ban something so heavenly in so many places.

Our souls were satisfied just by savouring the appetizers, but we still ordered for the main course. Hubby ordered for SHRIMP CLEMENCEAU. A house speciality, which did not disappoint his shrimp loving soul.  Shrimps, cubed potatoes, green peas, mushrooms, parsley in a butter-garlic sauce, touched just the right taste buds.

I opted for CRAB MEAT YVONNE, yet another house specialty. Decadent lump crab meat, sauteed in clarified butter with artichokes and mushrooms, with salt and pepper and a touch of celery. If I might add in my own 5 cents to it, this dish was even more appealing than the Shrimp Clemenceau.

We decided to skip dessert, as we were over stuffed. My French taste buds were on an all time high. A memorable dinner with a very old world charm.





A dash of pig fat adds extra goodness to any dish.Now that is something which is always echoed by TV's favorite chef Anthony Bourdain.Being an ardent fan of his, I really know how true that statement is.Two pieces of dry bread become magical when layered with pepperoni.So when we are cooking with piggy goodness, that dish royally treats our taste buds.So we decided to do just that: make it a piggy feast: Chorizo night. Tony took a backseat, as hubby decided to create some Mexican Chorizo magic. Chorizo is basically a Spanish  Pork Sausage. The Mexican variety is made of  Pork(Salivary Glands, Lymph Nodes, Pork Cheek,) Paprika, Salt, Mustard Powder, Garlic Powder, Oil, Vinegar and Soy Flour. It usually does not come in a casing, and can becooked like any ground meat. It was Chef Aaron Sanchez who came to hubby's rescue with his Chorizo and Potato Pepper Piccadillo recipe. To speak in desi terms, it is a spicier Aloo Keema, which caresses the taste buds in a comforting way, and where the mutton keema is replaced with a spicy ground pork. We are after all a TV obsessed couple, where our kitchen often becomes Kitchen Stadium, where television and food meet creatively.

It was my desire for something spicy, which led to the culinary replication and adaptation.When it comes to heat, if its not Indian, then its Mexican which satisfies my spicy taste buds and heat seeking soul.We did not have jalapenos at home, and we had also run out of olive oil. So the jalapenos in the recipe were replaced by the normal green chillies which we had picked up from the local Indian store. Yes, its the very same chilly which gives Maachher Jhol, the heat quotient and that sublime flavour.The absent olive oil, was replaced by good old canola oil. The taste did not even take a beating. We opted for some Indian bread rather than tacos or tortillas to go with the Chorizo. So it was Naan with a  good slathering of butter which made it a dinner to remember. For those of you who want to skip the piggy goodness, just substitute the chorizo with some mutton or chicken keema and temper it with some chilly powder.So give the calorie count a miss and give it a try !

Chorizo: 8oz pack(I used the Mexican variety, which is basically ground meat with spices)
Potato:2 : Peeled and cut into thick rounds
Canola Oil/ Extra Virgin Olive Oil: 4-5 tbsp
Salt: to taste
Jalapenos or Normal Green Chilly: 2: finely chopped
Onion: 1 large: sliced
Bell Pepper: 1 large: cut into strips
Chicken stock: 1 cup
Cilantro: 1/4 cup: chopped

Heat oil in pan and shallow fry the potatoes until they start to caramelise around the edges. Keep aside.

Toss the onions, chillies, bell pepper and chorizo in the pan, and cook  on medium heat till the veggies soften.
Keep stirring infrequently.

Add the chicken stock and season it with salt. The packaged chorizo already has some salt in it, so use salt with caution. Mix well. Increase the heat up a notch. Cook uncovered till the stock is reduced to around half.

Then add the cooked potatoes in it , and mix well. Continue to cook uncovered, till the liquid has dried up a bit more.

Finally add the chopped cilantro.
Mix well. Cook till you see the oil of the chorizo separating and the stock has almost dried up.

 Goes very well with any kind of bread, be it Tortillas, Rotis or even normal bread. I usually serve with hot naan glazed with butter.

Bon appetit.


Chocolate Chip Cookies De-mystified:

Just when I was sorting out the pictures of this blog post, I came across a post by a fellow blogger, about a baking class he attended. And somehow I found that very inspiring, going through the pictures and soaking in  the experience. It seemed to fortify my desire of attending a baking school and improve my baking skills. I am mostly a self taught baker, who started off at the old oven back in my maternal home in Calcutta. The old oven gave way to the convection microwave, and somehow some baking or the other, although pretty rudimentary, carried on.After shifting base to this country which I now call home, I fell in love with the lovely cooking range in  my kitchen. Baking began again, with a  new zest. Somehow I am not too keen on using cake mixes or cookies, and I like doing my baking from scratch. Puddings and pies, cakes and cookies, crumbles and strudels, yes, I did spin out all those.

The all time American favorite: the Chocolate Chip Cookie: happens to be my husband's favorite too. The man is choosy about what desserts he likes to have, and also his choice of cookies and biscuits. The store bought cookies were over, and there was half a packet of semi-sweet chocolate chips which had been lying in the refrigerator. So an hour before he got back home from work, the thought of baking him some cookies came to my mind. But cookie dough usually needs to be refrigerated, and I did not have that amount of time as I normally did when I baked cookies. Normally when i bake cookies, I usually keep my butter out of the refrigerator for a few hours to soften it, and which makes blending the dough easier. And then I keep the dough covered in cling film in the refrigerator for a few hours to firm it a  bit before baking.

However it was a different case this time. This was a sudden decision which needed a different plan of action. Then I came across my savior of the day: Stephanie of Joy Of Baking.She seemed to be also in a  hurry to bake up a batch of cookies, and so she took me through how to do it in her instructional video, which did not call for the refrigeration of the dough. When my husband wiped off  8 cookies in a jiffy, I knew that the plan and the recipe had worked.  So a huge thank you to Stephanie.

I also had to cook Chicken Curry and Rice for dinner and had a Hindi Movie date with hubby at the local theatre. The cookies turned out even better than I had imagined, and so did the dinner. The only dampener in the day was the boring Hindi film. Coming back to the cookies, I must say that I faced one problem. I do not have a stand mixer as has been shown in the video I was trying to follow. Mixing cake batter is something, but trying to cream almost frozen butter with two different kinds of sugar, did not quite work with the blender at home. I scraped all the dough off  into a large bowl, and whisked it all by hand. I guess I compensated for bunking gym for a day for the Bollywood flick, as It did take some muscle power to bring it all in one good consistency.  I remembered one thing, which I had heard from many people who regularly bake, that the cookie batter does not need to incorporate as much air as a cake batter needed.  Adding the eggs  to the batter made whisking a lot easier. I added the sieved dry ingredients in batches to the wet ingredients, and that made it easier to incorporate them and I was also saved from having flour all over meself. Another thing, which I would like to add is that my baking in general improved a lot, when  I started using standard measuring cups, as using the cups at home and the spoons, is not always a good idea, for something which always requires such specific measurements.

recipe courtesy:

All purpose Flour: 2 1/4 cups
Light Brown Sugar: 3/4 cup
Granulated White sugar: 3/4 cup
Butter: 2 sticks: 226 grams
Vanilla extract: 2 tbsp
Eggs: 2
Salt: 1 tsp
Baking powder: 1 1/2 tbsp
Semi-sweet Chocolate chips: 1 1/2 cups
Parchment paper
Baking trays

Take the two sticks of butter from the refrigerator and chop them into cubes.Microwave the butter for about 10 secs, to just take the chill off, yet keep it firm.  In a large bowl, add the cubed butter and the brown and white sugar, with a fork first to break it down. Then use a whisk to blend it all together.

Add the eggs in the creamed sugar mixture one by one, and the vanilla extract and keep whisking. The blending become easier at this stage. One trick, in baking is that, when you are whisking by hand, ensure that you only whisk in one direction, as this helps in folding in air in the batter.

In a another bowl, sieve in the flour, salt and baking powder. Mix the dry ingredients in batches in the wet mixture and blend for a few minutes more till it all comes together well.

If you have an ice-cream scoop, which scoops around 2 tbsp, then use that to scoop out dough in a parchment paper lined baking tray, leaving some gap in between. I did not have an ice-cream scoop, so I used two tablespoons to scoop out the dough. As I used butter right form the refrigerator, I did not need to refrigerate the dough. I flattened out each scoop of the cookie dough with my fingers, to give me a round shape.

Bake in a preheated oven at 375 F for around 10-12 minutes. When the cookies turn golden brown around the edges, take them out and cool them on a wire rack. I did not have a wire rack, so I just took the parchment paper off the baking tray with the cookies on it, and placed them on a table to cool down. The centers of teh cookie will be soft when you take the out, but they will firm up once cooled. If you want your cookies to be chewy, then you should only bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Or if you want them extra crisp, then bake them for 14 minutes. I baked each batch for around 12 minutes,and they were just perfect for me.

The batter made me around 35 large cookies.  The batter did not spread as Stephanie had warned it might, as the dough had not been frozen. All that I had were a big batch of large golden chocolate chip cookies.

Any leftovers of this dough can be frozen. Make small rounds of the dough and refrigerate them in a cookie tray. after the dough balls harden up, store them in a zip lock plastic bag and freeze them. Bake them to your convenience, but you might just need to increase the baking time by a few minutes.

With Thanksgiving just round the corner, I guess its time for me to bake some bread.

As I always say, Bon Appetit.


Staking it for Steak !

If someone asked me, if I could stake it all for one special dish on my plate, and repeated the identical query to my husband, while keeping us in two separate rooms: The answer would be identical: STEAK. Yes, we can say it once and a million times, we both love our share of steaks. And we both love it cooked medium rare, with the pink center gleaming as we cut into the flesh. That is exactly Delicioso. Mashed potatoes, green beans, french fries can be piled on.
I remember a trip to Summit County in Colorado, i guess almost two year back, where we had been for some Winter Sports. Snow Mobiling on the Rockies it was. After all the adventure and adrenaline rush, it was time to dig in to some good food. A good tip by our Snow Mobiling guide, led us to a quaint place called "THE HISTORIC MINT." The restaurant had a quaint factor about it. No wonder, as it had opened it doors in 1862. Old  Timers do not go wrong with basics, do they?! A well stocked bar was good enough, but what caught our eyes were two things.There was a counter resembling a deli counter, with a black board reading out prices of cuts of meats, and a peek around, revealed a huge grill. But hold on, that was not an open kitchen which we were staring at, or were the waiters dressed in casuals. What was exactly the deal?! Well, it was pretty simple. It was a place which catered to strict meat lovers. You ordered for your cut of meat, and headed off to the big grill, and grilled it yourself. So it was a barbecue without the cold Colorado Winter, playing tricks with us. The smile on our faces spelled it all out. A 22 ounce Rib eye it was, which landed on our plate, and hubby donned the grill master's cap. I added in my own expert comments, as he sweated it out on the grill. Our travel companions had settled in for a New York Strip Steak, and Kansas City loyalist had chosen the Kansas City Strip. The grill it was for all of us. The speciality of the grill was that it was made of lava rock, and therefore it did not leave any charcoal aftertaste on the meat. when we all dug into our meat, we thanked the local for the great tip about the eatery. Long Live Chuck, we all muttered in between our gulps. Boy, it was melting in our mouths. It was surely a steakhouse with a difference.
Needless to say,w e have steak cravings every now and then. Either we head for the steak houses, or on days, when we are too lazy, to venture out, we become grill masters at home. The love for Rib eye rules supreme usually. Just about sometime back,  I had picked up a leaner cut of Rib eye,from the local deli. well, we are both on a fitness regime, after all. PAN SEARED GARLIC CRUSTED RIB EYE with some heirloom potatoes and onions, with crunchy bacon, summed up the menu for dinner.The plate looked a bit messy for we were too eager to start digging in, rather than take a few aesthetic pictures. Did i mention how juicy and succulent the steak was. The man had nailed it yet again. Give calorie count a miss for a day, and enjoy meaty goodness, with crunchy potatoes. We all need to indulge ourselves every now and then.Even my trainer Sara feels the same.

Ribeye: 2
Garlic: minced: 3 tabsp
Olive Oil

Red Heirloom Potatoes: 4 per person
Onion: 1 medium sized onion cubed.
Fried Bacon: 4 slices
Olive oil
Coriander Leave: for garnish


Ensure that the meat is thawed. Season the meat with salt and pepper  and minced garlic on both sides. Marinate for a minimum of an hour.

 Take a large skillet and add butter and olive oil to it. Heat it to medium-high, but ensure that the grease mix does not get burnt. Toss in two sprigs of thyme in it and then carefully place the steaks one beside each other. Brown the steaks around 3 minutes on each side.

Transfer the meat to an oven proof casserole and bake at 350F for around 5 minutes more, if you want it medium rare like us. Add in the cubed onions beside the meat Take the meat out and let them rest on plates. Do not cut the steak just then, as this resting time allows the juices to re-allign in the steak. Keep the onions in a  separate bowl. The onions should just about get translucent and lose their crunch.

In the same pan, toss in the heirloom red potatoes. If you do not have heirloom potatoes, then use normal red potatoes, cutting them in half.

Add in salt and pepper and crank up the heat a bit, to add a crunch to the potato. Take the potatoes out, crumble the crispy fried bacon over it, add in some chopped coriander,and the baked onions.

Place the cooked steak on the plate, and add your potatoes beside it. Make sure to dispose off the thy,e sprigs,which we forgot to, before we took the pictures. We were to eager to start digging in.

Well, it is a hearty meal, so you will need to run a few extra miles on the treadmill. But let me tell you, it is totally worth it.

As I always say, Bon appetit !

For those of you who want to head to the Rockies, do stop over at:
The Historic Mint
347 Blue River Parkway,Silverthorne, Colorado: 80468


Twice Baked Potato with Stuffed Chorizo

Just before I started writing this post, I got a mail from a fellow blogger, who asked me for a few low cal recipes. But I was already in the mood to share some of our not so calorie conscious recipes with all of  you, so I guess, that request has to wait for some time. Lets face it, Pig Fat wins hands down in our kitchen. No hard feelings. Low cal recipes will surely come by, once we figure out a healthier way of eating. Our motto seems to be eating what our heart desires,(which is never low cal), and then sweating it out in the gym. Love the gym bonding we have. Touch wood.

Now its an established fact that we love to party and we love to socialize. Being foodies is another factor which binds us. And when it comes to serving our guests, we both agree that we should try and not repeat dishes we have already served the group coming over. So every time before a sit down dinner with relatives, or a super casual get together with friends or co workers, its always a brainstorming for what to serve new. And more often than not, it leads to a lot of arguments over the final decision. But as I always say, the couple which cooks together, stays together. My Mashi-Mesho(Aunty and Uncle) were due for dinner, along with a set of our friends. While the dinner menu was decided, without much culinary banter, it was the choice of appetizers which got me and hubby talking. He is usually the Iron Chef at home,while I whip up the normal mundane stuff. He wanted to serve Chorizo in twice baked small Red Potatoes. I was a bit wary of that,as these potatoes were so small, and stuffing them, seemed like a task to me. Moreover Mashi and the other lady coming over were not pork eaters, so that meant another set of appetizers for them both. I decided the easier route. To serve some store bought pot stickers. But as usual, hubby knew how to win an argument in style After cooking his share for the main course,he got going with his Twice Baked Potato with Stuffed Chorizo. 
The lovely aroma form the kitchen kept drawing me, in between my last minute sprucing up of the living room. Yes, the man was up to magic again. Let me share a lil secret with you'll. In a bid to give a taste test, I gobbled down one of the potatoes, before the guests were even anywhere close. I ain't complaining. I was almost in potato heaven, I can safely say. Although two of the guests, were not pork eaters, Hubby had made enough for everyone, and also a few extras, in case anyone wanted to sample.That was just being safe he said, as he got dressed for the party.

There is only one thing I remember when I served the two sets of appetizers:Twice Baked Potato with Stuffed Chorizo and the store bought chicken pot stickers with sriracha sauce. The baked potatoes were gone almost in a jiffy while the pot stickers got cold, as the adda(chit-chat) rolled on with the evening. It was diificult to understand who was a pork eater and who was not, as everyone was munching on and showering praises over my Iron Chef. Hubby's Appetizers were a huge hit, while the pot stickers found their friend in a cling film, and went to the refrigerator, to rest for the next day's breakfast.

Twice Baked Potato with Stuffed Chorizo: 

Red Potatoes: 14-15
Pork Chorizo: 10 oz
Onion: 1 small
Jalapeno: 1/2 de-seeded
Colby Jack Cheese: Grated to top the potatoes
Butter spray
Canola Oil
Sharp Knife
Tooth Picks

Wash the red potatoes very well, to remove all traces of dirt. Do not peel them.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Pre-heat the own to 350C. Take a fork and poke into the potatoes, so that they cook evenly. Toss the potatoes in the lined baking dish, and bake for around 10 minutes. Take them out and cool.

Meanwhile, heat up some canola oil in a pan. Chop the onions very finely and toss them once the oil gets hot. Fry them till the onions get translucent. Add the chopped jalapenos in it, and fry for a minute or two. Add the defrosted chorizo and cook well. When the chorizo starts releasing oil, you know that the chorizo is getting cooked through.The chorizo already has spices and some salt in it, so  add salt according to taste, and keep stirring frequently. Once its done, keep it aside.

Take the cooled potatoes, and with a very sharp knife, halve them very carefully. If the knife isn't sharp, then the baked potatoes might crumble. With a teaspoon scoop out the insides of the baked potatoes, to create a hollow to hold the stuffing. Once all the potatoes are done, scoop in the cooked chorizo and secure the two halves of the potatoes with a toothpick. Arrange all the stuffed potatoes in the lined baking dish. Coat all of the potatoes with butter spray to give them some crunch.

Take grated Colby jack cheese and pile on over the potatoes, where its cut through. We used Colby Jack, as that was available at home. You can use any cheese you like. Improvise according to whats there in the pantry.

Put the stuffed potatoes once more in the oven at 350C for around 5 minutes, only till the cheese melts. Serve hot.

Bon appetit !


Lobster Mania in Maine

I remember my earliest memory of Maine. It was surely Cabot Cove, a small coastal town of Maine and detective Jessica Fletcher. Yes, who can forget Murder, She Wrote. It was during wtaching this series that I learnt about New England's food: clam chowders and lipsmaking Lobsters, for the uninitiated. So it was always on my mind to visit Maine some day, and that it would be a trip driven by the search for the best clam chowders and lobsters. So it was surely Lobstah Lobstah all the way for a few days for us, and our shell-fish lovin soul was on the highest of heaven in our recent trip. New England with all its grandeur and quirkiness, and not to forget all the Seafood. 

We were loaded with our research on where to eat and where not to eat, from all possible sources. The most important part of our itinerary: Lobster Shacks in Maine. I have never been to Goa, even with my big Mumbai connections. So have never had the opportunity of what it is to dine in a shack. My only experience with a Shack, has been a pub, with has its branches in most major cities in India. The pub which serves golgappas dunked in vodka. But that's a story for a different day and  a different mood. Now we were on the Lobster quest, almost with the same enthusiasm as may be those on the Grail quest. And we zeroed in on a shack which was called just " Lobster Shack," at Two lights in Cape Elizabeth. With a name like that it had to be authentic. The experience did not disappoint us at all. We ordered for our lobsters, which were steamed to perfection. Then it  was upto us to break open the crustacean delight, and bite into its juicy goodness, while the sea breezes caressed our faces. Mind you, the food tray did not come with the usual tools you are served in a crab or lobster dinner, to break open the shell fish. So  we had to just rely and get almost primitive and rustic on our fingers. We sat on the picnic tables facing the harbour, with the twin light houses right in one corner. The lobsters were served with a small bowl of molten butter and another one of lemon juice. But after a few dunks, we did not even feel the need for any condiments. Maine lobster with all the hype of being the sweetest, was totally so sweet. It did get a bit messy, as we forgot to put on the plastic bibs offered with the tray of food, but who was complaining when it was heaven on a plate.  

 Anthony Bourdain usually never goes wrong with his recommendations, and  he did not even let us down when it came to Maine Lobster. Tony's recommendation was a fine dining restaurant called The Street & Co. in Portland, Maine. The decor was very warm and very old school. It had this charm in it, which almost took you back to ages. And it was located in a quaint lane, to which you had to walk to, because cars were not allowed in there.As we were looing for the right address in the lanes and bylanes, I saw an old lady clicking away a particular window on her DSLR. A closer look revealed it was the kitchen of a restaurant.Except for my reporting days, I had normally never seen a working kitchen of a restaurant I am supposed to eat in. As I reliased that I was staring into the kitchen of very same the restaurant which Tony had given so many positive reviews. After a long wait for our table(which saw me downing a quite a few martinis), we decided to splurge a bit. Ordered two Lobster dishes when every couple around us, seemed to be sharing one entree. Grilled Lobster on Linguine, Butter and Garlic. Honestly, I run out of words, if I have to explain the taste, as heavenly is an understatement. After the steamed losbters at the shack, the grilled version was a nice spin.Butter and garlic were the  best compliments for the al-dente pasta and the  grilled seafood. The big dent in the pocket was worth every penny. I was ready to just have dal-bhaat for a month at home, for having a meal like this. 

After having lobsters for almost every meal, we still wanted lobsters but with a twist. Hence we opted for Bouillabaisse after wiping clean our clam chowders at the Parkside on the Green located on the Main street in Bar Harbour. We were tired after all the hiking around in Acadia National Park, and the weather had suddenly turned chilly. So the  heart yearned for some good broth. The Bouillabase is a tomato and saffrron based broth with chunks of all possible sea food thrown in. From Lobster, to clams, from mussels to scallops, from Halibut to prawns, it was all there, in a very soul satisfying concoction. It was served with buttered croutons, which had a dash of mustard to it. I am not much of a tomato fan, and stuff like marinara is not at all up to my alley. So I had my reservations about ordering this, till I tasted the food. Deb's choice did not let us down. The taste was so subtle, that it brought out the true flavours of the medley of seafood in it. Dunking in the croutons, in the light broth was simply magic. The Clam Chowder we sampled in New England, in general, had a distinct difference from the ones, we have in the rest of the country. The Chowder here had a thinner broth base, was a bit saltier,and had a distinct flavour and aroma of the sea, which could be a bit too much for some people.  Paired with my pome-tini(pomegranate martini), dinner was delicious, in the simplest of words. 

The first meeting with the Lobstah was in fact the least impressive in comprison to the meals in the rest of the trip. Hence it finds its place in the concluding part of the write up. The first  rendezvous with the lobster was on a chilly evening. We decided to order Lobster Rolls from a nondesricpt vendor in Cape Cod. It was just two young boys, whipping up the food, along the roadside. As it was still time for dinner, we decided to do a sampler of the rolls. Contrary to what we had expected, the rolls were the colder version. That was a big dampener. I learnt my lesson pretty well. Before ordering lobstah rolls next time, I will surely ask, whether they are serving the cold or the hot versions. But it was the chopped lobster pieces, which could not let us complain, and the slight dusting of cayenne pepper on them, added just the right zing. 

Maine, Newport, Boston,Cape Cod, and the common factor tying all of them was their own rendition of Lobster.A gastronomique's trip it did turn out be, along with the sun and surf. My mind is still in Lobster heaven, I feel.  


Reindeer and Seafood on my plate: Alaska on my tastebuds

What exactly do you need on a dull day, when you have zero desire to cook yourself a meal. Add to it the craving for food, which are only available miles and miles away. What exactly do you do when your taste buds crave for a taste that is distinctly Alaskan. I am still looking for the answer, as I lust on and on.

 Alaska is not only about oysters and king crabs. Its about a whole lot of oysters and king crabs and not to forget all the deer meat. I know, I know, it should be mentioned as venison, rather than the crass deer meat, but the fact, I really do not know the exact terms for reindeer meat and caribou meat, hence the broad outline. Alaska has a distinct quality, it makes you feel hungry a little more often. No wonder I piled on all the extra calories around my tummy. Having four big meals in one day, not to mention the numerous snacks, that is stretching the limit a bit to far, for a size zero person like me. But I ain't complaining! In fact I am looking forward to anyone willing to volunteer to cook up an Alaskan feast for me and my hungry tummy and lusty soul. I guess I just have to take a trip down memory lane.

One thing was for sure. Me and hubby had decided that out first major meal in Alaska would have to be reindeer, after all the research work we had done. No offence meant to Rudolph and his friends. But alas, the first night our flight was so late, that we had to make do with our medium rare sirloin steaks. Not to mention, that they were too good. So the next morning, what we thought to be as breakfast, ultimately became brunch, only in the bid to devour only reindeer meat. The restaurant, quaint and tiny, though renowned, had a line almost stretching to the next block. In spite of our hunger, we weren't complaining. After all this hype, and after all this wait, when the reindeer sausage rolls actually did arrive, it was worth every bit of effort we had put in. The meat was softer than I had imagined, not quite similar to normal venison. And the crunch of the grilled sausage on the rolls, with the generous helping of mustard and fried onions, sealed the deal. The icing on the cake, the french fries, which had been fried in reindeer. The fries were so rich, that I even had an extra order of the fries to munch on during the day. And even after a few hours in the car, the fries did not lose their crunch.

 Well, it is difficult to find Mc D's and Subways, in the interiors of Alaska. So what become the definite choice, were quaint diners tucked away at the foothills, or near a creek flowing by. The menu and the cooking was totally rustic. But I guess, that was the best deal about taking a road trip from need of the last frontier to the other. We got to savour the traditional culinary favorites(which one will totally miss if one is taking a luxurious cruise). So for an evening snack, on a tiring day, I settled in for some steamer clams, in a garlic and butter and wine broth. The plate in which I was served was not something great, but the food which was served, was beyond doubt one the best steamer clams I have ever had. The simplicity of the recipe brought out the sweetness of the clams, and it had that touch to it, which you have, when mom prepares a dish. Food for the soul in the truest sense.

The super juicy caribou patties deserve at least a mention. Breakfast gets a different meaning when you bite into caribou meat, and hash browns.In a bid to hog the food,we forgot to take any pictures. At least my taste buds still remember the tasty deal. Following all the hype about Alaskan sea food, we usually ordered the same thing over and over again, for quite a few meals. The much spoken about FISHERMAN'S PLATTER. Talking of king crabs and oysters, it had all of that.Along with halibut fillets, clams, scallops, calamari, prawns, all fried in a light tempura batter. The sea food was fresh, the batter was crisp, and lightly spicy. Served along with a generous helping of the local shrimp cocktail, it was any seafood lover's paradise on a plate. The buttery corn and the mashed potatoes got a miss, as the sea food kept all of us hands on. Bon appetit !


Make-up Maniac's Tips and Tricks

Make up maniac, well, that is what I call myself. Not that I am always caked in make up when I step out of the house, but make up is something which is very close to my heart. I will not claim that I am self taught in make up artistry. Many influences, many people, many different make up phases, have all culminated to what I am today. One of my sisters in law(whom I have never met in person, but only communicated through social networks) kept urging me, to write something on makeup, so this post goes out to her.

Facing the camera happened by chance after finishing my masters, when I decided to make my home in Dilwalon ki Dilli. Lets say, I got lucky fast. And those were days, when make up meant, only a dash of lipgloss, and heavily kohled eyes. Its just a few days back that a friend of mine commented that she liked me better in my Aajtak days, as she called it, with this signature look. I was too icky about foundations and face powders, but learnt really fast, how important they were when you are facing the camera, which seeks to highlight even your minor flaws. so that is how the journey began, to camouflage the facial flaws while being on air, to finally becoming a full out obsession, and  a vast make up collection. I even gift my friends make up when I meet them(see how obsessive I am). 

Now the web is is flooded with make up videos and make up articles, so what more can I share in this niche world, where everyone seems to be savvy. Thought of sharing a few ideas and pointers, which helped me develop my make up skills over the years. 

Tricks and tips I found super useful. 

#1: Matching your foundation to your skin tone: 
Ladies, do not compromise on this please, as this is the biggest fauxpas that you can commit when you are trying to dress up. Try and identify the undertones of your skin. It will either be a yellowish undertone or a pinkish one. If you are unsure, seek the help of the consultant at the make up counter.No use guessing your shade, and ending up either too dark or bleached out. You just look freaky to others around you. A trick I have learned over the years, is that while buying foundation, its best to test it on your cheeks, near your jawline. If it blends well, and you cannot understand that you have make up, then you have gotten the right shade. Or else keep looking for your right shade. 

#2: Smoky eyes do not only mean shades of grey and black: get creative: 
The make up trend that's been here for long, and is here to stay for quite some time now. The rage across the green planet: Smoky eyes. This look can be achieved with almost any colour family. You just need three to four colours of the same family to get you super sexy peepers all smokin hot. Its that easy. Lets say, Purple. After applying your base, place the darkest shade of purple you have, on your lid(avoid the are near the tear duct.) Now take a shade of purple, which is slightly lighter,and with a different brush, apply it carefully on the crease. Now take the lightest shade of purple(if you do not have it, opt for light pearly pink), and with a different brush, place it around the tear ducts and as a highlighter up to your brow bone. Make sure you blend the colours around each other well, to avoid harsh lines. While buying eye shadows, check how pigmented it is. Swatch it on the back of your hand, and see how bright the colour is, after just one stroke of colour. The idea is to pack in the colour, without loading too much product. I go crazy for MAC. You take your pick. Always apply some light loose powder just below you eyes, to catch the colours which fall from your eyes, while applying eyeshadows. Brush away this powder, after you complete your eye make up.  Do not 
forget mascara and the eyeliner. Smokin smokin. 

#3: Opt for a good eye shadow base:
Please do not use your foundation over your eyelids, in a bid to save a few cents. It ain't worth it. You do not want your make up to start creasing or to melt away fast, and leave your eyes looking like raccoon eyes. Opt for a good eye shadow base or primer. My picks would be Urban Decay primer Potion and L'oreal 
De-Crease. Wait for a minute after you apply your base or primer to let it set, before you start applying your eye shadows. That time allows it to set well. 

#4: Coral blush suits almost everyone, rather than a bright perky pink: 
Coral is a color which not everyone is comfortable with. People would rather opt for shades of pink when it comes to blush. Pink is always a show stealer, I agree to that. But Pink blush does not suits everyone, neither does it suit all clothes. Opt for the shade of coral which looks good on you. Make up is all about experimenting and getting out of your comfort zone. MAC's Coppertone is a good shade of blush, which almost suits everyone. And if you want the best of both worlds, opt for colors which are a mix of pinks and corals. Case in point: NARS Orgasm. 

                                               #5: Heavier eyes pair with lighter lips, and vice versa: 
Red Lipstick, an instant mood lifter for me. Try it , and even you will agree. So whenever I opt for red lips(or anything brighter as that, like a super hot pink), I go easy on the eyes. Surely do not opt for a smoky eyes, when you have bright lipstick in mind. Opt for lighter eye shadows, nude and neutral shades. Champagne, brown, greys, pearl, go well with brighter lip colors. Urban Decay's Naked Palette is in fact a very good collection of shadows, for days when you want to go light on the eyes. If you do not wanna buy that, then just check the colors on the palette online, and find out your own dupes of the nude and neutral shades. You will get started on the nude trend. And when you are going heavy on the eyes, getting it all smokin hot, then please opt for nude lips. MAC's Myth or Rimmel's Airy Fairy are good choices.

                                             #6: Invest in good make up brushes:
Unlike make up , you do not have to invest in branded stuff, when you are picking up brushes.Look for decent stuff, but not exactly super budget brands. Pick up a few good eye shadow brushes. Get at least 4 for applying colour, 2 for blending, 1 angled brush for gel eyeliners, and a fan brush to dust away the excess powder which you put under your eyes, to catch the falling colors while applying eye shadows. Foundation is best applied with a damp sponge, but if you are comfortable with a brush, then opt for it. A large powder brush, and large blush brush are other basic necessities to your vanity. Keep checking for frayed ends of your brushes, and discard them when you start getting many frayed ends. always clean your brushes after every use. If you are not using a brush cleanser, then just clean them with warm wayer and soap, and let them air dry while laying them down a paper napkin.Store them well, dont let them get dusty, or you could land up with facial break outs.

#7: Gel eyeliners win over liquid ones: 
My Didibhai(a make up diva), introduced me to the world of gel eyeliners. I have not opted for anything else, after that. Its like an instant love story. I initiated a lot of my friends into this trend,and even they swear by it. Its worth the few extra bucks, coz one pot almost lasts 8 months or so. MAC's Fluidline range is a super winner anyday. I opt for Blacktrack in the Fluidline range, as I love my black eyeliners. It takes a lil bit of practice getting it right with an angled eyeliner brush, but practice on and you will be in love with it, even before you realize. If you are looking for budget brands, then Wet'n'Wild is a good dupe. These days every company has their gel eyeliner, so take your pick. Most of these are water resistant, so no need to worry during the hot and humid months. 

Woaah, I seem to just go on and on. Will make all of you make up maniacs, if I go on any further.Well, to cut the long story short, hopefully my basic tricks and tips will be useful for all of you to venture further in the make up journey. Start playing and the colors shall be in your finger tips so soon. Asta la vista  babies, till the next make up chit chat session.