Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Best Food Ever: Sushi Pizza, Sakana Oriental, Woodbury Heights

The Best Food Ever: Sushi Pizza 

I love pizza.   I love sushi. So  this is basically like heaven for me.  I know you think I'm nuts right now.   Your likely thinking of traditional pizza with cheese and sauce.  It's absolutely not that.  It's a pizza made of  fresh raw fish,  creamy avocado, and spicy mayo.  It's amazing.

First let's start off with the place,  Sakana Oriental in Woodbury Heights, NJ. It's conveniently located right on Route 45,  across from the Hollywood Diner.  From the outside, it looks like an old diner.   On the outside it looks industrial like cold metal.  Inside it is extremely welcoming, however.

When I was a kid it was a Chinese Buffet.  It's changed hands and names a couple times but has always relatively stayed with Asian cuisine.  It's not fancy,  that's why I love it.  I also love it because it's BYOB.  When you walk in your greeted by fish,  and I'd have to assume those pretty fish are not on the menu.    You are also greeted by whom I assume is the manager or owner because he is always there.  Sometimes this place is super busy,  think of any place that serves fish on a Friday during Lent.  There is also a lot of foot traffic from the take out orders, which seem to be really popular here.  

The seating is also like an old diner.  There are old, big, comfy booths that line the walls of the restaurant.  I like this because I feel like the enclosed booths offer more privacy,  so you can talk shit on anyone you want without your neighbors hearing.  Although I love the BYOB restaraunts in Collingswood,  they are over crowded and congested so hearing your dinner party can be difficult.  I don't feel that way at all at Sakana.  I feel like you'd be welcomed in sweatpants and a 6 pack of beer, as well as in a dress with a $50 bottle of wine.

They also have Thai and Chinese food,  which I feel like is par for the course for any kind of Asian restaurant these days.  So really you can bring someone who doesn't eat sushi because there is something for them to eat there.  Like Zachary,  who used to be obsessed with sushi until he threw up one time all night long,  and he hasn't eaten it since.  Which, can be heartbreaking.  Sushi is my first love.  And I can't share my first love with my second love anymore.   Now I am stuck with god damn wings,  believe me that's all I hear about.  Wings, wings, wings.   Anyway enough about my heartbreak,  this place also starts you off with Edamame,  which is definitely lighter then the usual Chinese fried chips which I can eat 3,000 of.

Onto the sushi pizza.  I literally cannot say enough good things.  Its fresh, creamy, and filling.  The smell that wafts off this little disc of happiness is amazing.  It just smells fresh.
It's from the appetizer menu,  but you could definitely make it into a meal with a seaweed salad or soup.  I've always gone with another person and split it as an app,  but it is filling.  One warning for you is do not go starving and expect it to be on your table in under 3 minutes.   I have not been there one time where it arrived before 15 minutes had passed.  It appears perfection takes time,  and this blogger is willing to wait for this little circular heaven.

The menu states that it's basically Spicy Tuna over a crispy tortilla.  I don't know who the hell wrote that description,  but it does the food no justice.  It's so much more than that.  First the crust,  or the crispy tortilla as they say,  is not really crispy at all.  If you've ever had a Chinese pizza or as some places call it a Scallion Pancak, then this will make sense.  It's thin like that,  but not deep fried so it's not crunchy.  It also does not have any scallions in it either,  which I am happy about because we don't need any of that takin away from the decadent fresh sushi.  The crust is soft but yet firm and holds the whole thing together well.   The crust is thick,  so it's gotta be at least eight of these pancakes squished together to make this perfect crust.

On top of that thick crust is a healthy portion of fresh tuna tartarki.  I had to google that last word,  because I had no idea what tartarki means.  To me it means "get in my belly", but to the Japanese it means pounded or hit into pieces.   The tuna is spicy,  but not soo much that it can't handle a little soy sauce with wasabi.  It is awesome dipped into some of that, just like a sushi roll.  

 It's got so much tuna on it,  that the price of $11.95 seems like an absolute steal.   You should eat it quickly,  before they figure out if they are charging too little for this 6 slice amazeballs thing.  Yes, I said it,  6 slices.  So each person get's 3 if you are splitting it with you and another person.  If you are splitting it with 3 people,  order 2.  Not because you physically need 2 to feel full,  because,  because.  That's why.  It will be the highlight of your day.  Don't short change yourself with only having two slices.

The fish is fresh,  and you know it's fresh because you smell every other aspect of the food-- but you don't smell anything fishy.   The fish is then topped with avocado which you can smell.  It's separated with all these fancy orange slices so you can slide each slice out easily.  If you ask me,  Chinese restaurants LOVE giving out orange slices.  I feel like they have stock in Florida Oranges or something.  They come with everything.  It's also sprinkled with a little bit of sesame seeds,  another staple in Japanese food.

I am urging you to go to Sakana Oriental  this Friday,  because ya know you aint supposed to eat meat.  Let me tell you how many times I've followed through with that rule...

Baked Coconut Chicken Nuggets

I really enjoy a good chicken nugget.  I also really enjoy when I can just eat them cold.  These nuggets of mine have a really nice balance of sweet and salty.  They are light and airy,  so you don't feel too bogged down by eating them.  The chicken nugget in itself is almost perfectly balanced with fat, carbs, and protein so you can feel comfortable having this as a prepped meal.    

When creating this I had the thought in my head that I needed something quick, easy, and that I could eat cold.  All day long during work I am in and out of schools and moving about.  I never really have time to sit down and eat.   So,  I really do need something I can carry around with a cold pack in my lunch box.  I also need something that's small enough to eat while driving.

This meal is all of the above for me.... I ate it for 2 weeks straight.

This recipe is super easy,   And pretty quick for how fabulous they turn out.  The chicken nuggets are tasty enough that kids would definitely eat them,  but healthy enough to trick the little suckers.  

Baked Coconut Chicken Nuggets
Prep Time:  20 minutes
Cook Time:  40-45 minutes
Servings:  Roughly 4

1 1/2 pounds of Chicken Breast
1/2 cup of Bob's Red Mill Unsweetened Coconut
1/4 cup of Shredded Sweetened Coconut
1/2 cup of Panko Bread Crumbs
2 eggs, beaten
Pinch of Salt
Pinch of Pepper
Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
Spray Coconut Oil

1.   Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2.   While the oven is preheating cut a piece of parchment paper to fit your baking sheet.

3. Clean and cut the chicken into chunks similar size chunks (so they cook evenly).  Dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt, pepper,  and red pepper flakes on both sides.

4.   Set up a two plate and one bowl station.  On one plate mix the two different coconuts,  on the second plate put your panko bread crumbs,  and in the bowl beat two eggs together well.

5.  Set up your station in this order:  Chicken on cutting board,  egg,  panko bread crumbs, coconut,  and baking sheet. 

7.  Coat a nugget in egg,  then panko,  then back in egg,  then lastly in the coconut mixture.

8.  Place on the baking sheet and continue process until all off the nuggets are coated. 

9.  Flash freeze quickly for 10 minutes on the baking sheet to help the mixture stick to the nuggets.  Spritz with coconut oil spray.

10.  After ten minutes place the chicken in the hot oven on the top rack.  Allow to cook for 40 minutes,  turning once and spraying opposite side with coconut oil halfway through cooking process.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Best Food Ever: Chicken Francaise, Babe's Bar and Grill

The Best Food Ever: Chicken Francaise

So, your like, doesn't she work there? She must be biased.  Maybe, but in order to maintain my blogging reputation I asked people at the bar if they had this dish from Freddy and every single person who did exclaimed how good this chicken was.  One person even told me they loved it more then when they had it in Italy.  I did not get one bad review of this dish.

This chicken is absolutely out of this world.  I'm not sure I've ever had a more perfectly balanced chicken francaise.  It isn't too eggy or heavy,  the lemon sits just right where it needs to be, and the sauce isn't creamy and lumpy.  The lemon is tart, but not over powering which is nice.  Balance is everything in a good francaise dish.  I would know, I've been eating chicken francaise since my dad and mom used to take me to the diner as a kid.   If your not from NJ, then you don't know what high regard we have for diners.  If you think chicken francaise from a diner can't be good,  then you've obviously never been to a NJ Diner.  For that, I feel sorry for you.

In Southern NJ we hold our diners in  almost as high regard as our hole in wall bars. So.. Onto Babes.

So, the place: Babes Bar and Grill, Gibbstown NJ.  It's a small hole in the wall bar situated in the center of a small town.  A town small enough that everyone, knows everyone.  Like your mother knows your best friends aunts cousin twice removed and how she handled her divorce.   If your not from here, entering the bar can be a little intimidating at first (so I hear) but once your inside you'll be treated like family.   I've worked here about two years so I don't really think about it, but I do see hesitant outsiders can be. Chances are though, you pull up a seat at the bar someone from the town you don't know will end up buying you a drink. If I'm there I'll ask you why you came,  simply out of curiosity.  We were in the paper once for our wings,  so a lot of people have come for that reason.  Others,  passing by and saw us on Yelp.  

The bar has a oval bar downstairs and tables upstairs.  Babes has known it's fair share of tragedy.  Last year when the "straight line winds" hit us Babes was destroyed.  I remember it like yesterday because I was running into the front door as it was happening, and it was terrifying. Babes, our local watering hole,  was closed due to extensive damages from the end of June until October.  Didn't I say it's a small town? We literally had NO WHERE TO GO.   It was hard for us all to be away, and wonder what was going on in there.  I saw it one time toward the end and it was ripped down to the studs and sub floor.  There was nothing in there but material to rebuild.  The small town bar was rebuilt and customers rejoiced.  People came back in droves to see the new digs. We maintained one small part of the old bar,  where it says Babes Bar and Grill in the old yellow and brown decor of our years past.  It's a reminder,  I think,  of how far we have come from that storm.  

Babes is really a family place.  The owners named the place after their mother Babe, who turned 90 this year.  Babe is my grandmother, Tooties, best friend.  That's how small this town is.  Even people in their 90s have retained their 70 year friendships.......

Now,  the chef:  Freddy!  He's young and has all the ideas that your thinking your crazy, but, it works.  Often I say, alright can I have something for dinner? And he'll say what do you want? And I'll say you make something up.  And he never disappoints.  Except when he kept giving me things with mayonnaise. That was in the beginning of our friendship.  Now we are on solid ground where he understands my total disgust with mayonnaise.  So lets talk about Thursday specifically because Freddy shines on this end of the week it's almost damn Friday night.  Thursday is dinner night, hence where this chicken came from.  He's always serving fresh seafood,  and an awesome outsider dish you wouldn't expect, like Risotto.    In the summer there are crabs, and in the winter clams and monstrous mussels sit atop pasta in varying sauces.  He has a spicy Fra Diablo, a Creamy White Sauce, Alfredo,  you name it... he makes it.  

The food:  Chicken Francaise.  I particularly loved this because it was a light lemon sauce and nothing was too over powering.  I don't handle cream sauces well,  so I was at first hesitant to order this.   The sauce was lemony and creamy in a sense that you could tell a lot of love went into it,  but not in the sense that he added milk or heavy cream.  The glossy creaminess obviously came from the butter hitting the pan at the very end.

The chicken is pounded thin and tender then lightly floured.  The floured chicken breast is then put in a super screaming hot skillet.  From there Freddy begins creating...

His sauce is built right in the pan and its lemony tart and creamy from the Parmesan cheese.   Once the chicken is done he adds in white wine and chicken stock. To finish the cooking off he hits it with butter which makes the whole dish glossy.   He tops the sauce and chicken over your pasta preference with whatever the vegetable is fresh for him that night.  Lastly he hits it with fresh parsley and BAMMMM.  Mouth watering explosion.  Like,  all else around you stops because your friggan eating chicken heaven.

I'd absolutely recommend any dinner he makes, especially the Loaded Nachos.

  I'll have to blog about them another time.  Here's another good one,  Mussels in Red Sauce over Linguine.
Another Thursday night meal.   

But, if you asked Zach he'd only eat the wings.  That's all he ever gets.  Most people come for the wings,  because they don't know about Thursday night.  A little small town secret I'm letting out of the bag. Your welcome Southern New Jersey!