Author Archives for A Capitol Contessa

About A Capitol Contessa

A woman who loves parties - both political and full of friends. I hope to inspire people to cook, entertain and have fun by sharing tips, tricks and mistakes along the way!

Chinese Chicken Noodle Salad

This week is a big one for my family because we get to celebrate my Aunt Janice’s birthday and nuptials!  In honor of Auntie Jan I am posting her famous Chinese Chicken Noodle Salad.  I have so many memories of having this dish at her house.  I used to spend at least a week at her house in Upstate New York every summer growing up and I would LIVE on this salad.  Its a great summer dish because its served cold/room temp and the leftover are just as good as when its fresh.  Perfect for a summer BBQ, picnic or easy weeknight dinners.  I finally managed to finagle the recipe out of her and I have been making it like a fiend all summer.  I tweaked the original (of course) just a little to make things a bit easier on myself and also because I like roasting rather than poaching chicken.  This is also a great salad to use up extra ingredients you have in your fridge so feel free to throw in snap peas or green beans etc if you have them on hand.  I am so happy for Auntie Jan and I am SO happy to have this recipe.

Chinese Chicken Noodle Salad (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  my Aunt Janice’s perfect summer dish
Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons black (or rice wine) vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons creamy peanut butter
  • 1 minced or grated garlic clove
  • 1 inch of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon peanut oil
  • 2 pounds bone in skin on chicken breasts
  • 8 ounces egg noodles
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3 scallions, cut into 1/2 inch lengths
  • 1 bell pepper (I used red) cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 a head of napa cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds

In a medium sized bowl wish together the sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, peanut butter, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes and peanut oil.  The sauce can be made several days in advance, just store in the fridge.  Heat your oven to 350 degrees and roast the chicken breasts on a baking sheet for 45 minutes, until cooked through.  Let cool and shred.  Chicken can also be made one or two days in advance.  Cook the pasta according to directions and drain.  In a large bowl toss the pasta with the sesame oil and set aside.  In a small dry skillet toast the sesame seeds over medium heat for 4 or 5 minutes (be careful not to burn).

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When ready to serve toss the chicken with the pasta and spread on a large platter.  Top with the napa cabbage, pepper slices, scallions and sesame seeds.  Drizzle on the sauce and toss – my aunt likes to set out the whole salad composed on a buffet and then toss with the sauce right before serving.  It makes for a great presentation.

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”Chinese

  • Servings: ”4-6″
  • Time: ”50
  • Print

 

ACC’s DC: The Salt Line

The Salt Line – 79 Potomac Avenue SE

Hands down this is my new favorite place to go in DC.  It checks every single one of my boxes – on the water, check; nautical theme, check; great cocktails, check; friendly and relaxed service, check; delicious food, check; primo dog watching, check!  Since this place opened I have tried to make myself a regular – you can go even on the hottest days as I swear the breeze at their outdoor bar is like no other.  So here is the scoop – it is a seafood restaurant/outdoor bar right at the foot of Nats park (you can see it peaking out behind the bar).

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When they first opened they didn’t have a website (!!!!) one of my biggest pet peeves but now it’s up so you can check out their menu.  Admittedly it’s a small menu but they do it right with New England style dishes and fresh seafood.  When you get there you can order oysters from cute little order cards on the table (with personalized pencils in replica oyster cans – this place thinks of everything).

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I love that they give you the size and salinity level of each oyster – I enjoyed the Moonstone and Nauti Pilgrim.  Also fun are their oyster shooters that include thoughtful toppings that match the liquor you shoot them with.  I have not tried their $90 seafood tower but man it looks impressive!

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Their lobster roll is everything this Boston girl dreams of (probably because the owner is from MA) with a griddled split top roll, lightly dressed lobster and incredible fries.  If you aren’t into seafood there are several good options like a 1/2 chicken and a burger.  The day time menu is smaller with more creative entrees on the dinner menu like rockfish with ramps.

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This is also a great place to stop just for a drink (make sure to check the Nationals schedule as it can get crowded before and after games).  They have several cocktails on tap, like a twist on a Cape Codder, and they have Del’s Frozen Shandys, the perfect anecdote to summer in DC.

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Lots of great New England and local beers on tap including my favorite local, RAR from Cambridge, MD.  All of the bartenders and servers just seem happy to be there and are helpful without being pushy.  The inside as just as great as the outside, though I will wait until the outside closes to actually sit there!

A comfortable bar and a good amount of tables means that this can be a year round day at the beach – they even had their own wall paper made for the bathrooms!  From the adorable details to the care they take with their menus, it’s no wonder Salt Line is already getting to be a popular spot.  And I mean really, food and drink aside, the dog stalking is on point – look at this little guy!

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Palak Chaat

We here in DC are lucky enough to have one of the most critically acclaimed Indian restaurants in the country, right here in our city.  Rasika, is an elegant and delicious journey through various Indian regional dishes.  Their most famous and addictive menu item is Palak Chaat – a pile of fried spinach covered in yogurt, tamarind and date sauces.  The dish is equally crispy, creamy, cool, hot, tangy and sweet.  It is not unusual for a single table to get multiple orders because sharing is near impossible.  I have always wanted to replicate the dish at home but getting it right was tough.  First of all without a deep fryer, getting that spinach super crispy is near impossible.  I decided to replace the spinach with kale and roast it instead of frying it.  As good?  Probably not, but way easier and healthier.  You still get that satisfying crunchy base for all the yummy toppings.  And those toppings are key – if you can find Tamarind sauce (I have the Maggi brand seen below) its the best option.  If not, get some tamarind chutney and thin it out with water until you can drizzle it.  If you have a local Indian market this is a great item to grab.

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This could serve 4 but honestly Patrick and I have eaten all 4 servings between the two of us so go ahead and make a double batch – this version is guilt free!  I still need to go to Rasika every couple of months to get my fix of the real thing but if you don’t live in DC this is the next best thing.

Palak Chaat (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:   Rasika’s most famous dish
Special Equipment:  none

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 bunch of kale, ribs removed and torn into large pieces
  • 1/3 cup non fat greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • pinch of cumin
  • 1 plum tomato
  • 3 tablespoons chopped red onion
  • 4 tablespoons tamarind sauce (or tamarind chutney thinned with water)

Heat your oven to 350 degrees with two cookie sheets inside the oven (i.e. heat the pans along with the oven.  In a large bowl combine the kale pieces with the olive oil and a sprinkling of salt.

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Massage the olive oil into the kale then spread evenly in a single layer on the baking sheets when the oven is at temperature (be careful those cookie sheets are hot!).  Bake for 12-15 minutes, tossing once in the middle of baking.

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Meanwhile combine the yogurt, lemon juice, cumin and salt and pepper.  Then seed and chop the tomato (using a spoon is the easiest way to get rid of the seeds).

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When ready to serve place the kale chips on a plater and scatter over the chopped tomato and red onion.  Drizzle over the yogurt sauce and the tamarind sauce.

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Palak Chaat

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 bunch of kale, ribs removed and torn into large pieces
  • 1/3 cup non fat greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • pinch of cumin
  • 1 plum tomato
  • 3 tablespoons chopped red onion
  • 4 tablespoons tamarind sauce (or tamarind chutney thinned with water)

Heat your oven to 350 degrees with two cookie sheets inside the oven (i.e. heat the pans along with the oven.  In a large bowl combine the kale pieces with the olive oil and a sprinkling of salt.  Massage the olive oil into the kale then spread evenly in a single layer on the baking sheets when the oven is at temperature (be careful those cookie sheets are hot!).  Bake for 12-15 minutes, tossing once in the middle of baking.  Meanwhile combine the yogurt, lemon juice, cumin and salt and pepper. Then seed and chop the tomato (using a spoon is the easiest way to get rid of the seeds).  When ready to serve place the kale chips on a plater and scatter over the chopped tomato and red onion.  Drizzle over the yogurt sauce and the tamarind sauce.

 

ACC Travels: Nantucket

As summer gets into its swing I know a lot of you have travel plans.  If I had it my way, I would spend the whole summer on Cape Cod, preferably Nantucket.  Unfortunately that is not in the cards, but I had a great trip right before the season officially kicked off so I can point you in the right direction for any of you lucky enough to visit over the summer.  Anyone who has ever been has been enchanted by this place but it does come at a cost – Nantucket ain’t cheap.  So I decided to share some places to eat and shop that include some higher and lower end places so you don’t have to eat just oyster crackers and water for the rest of your vacation.

For the Splurge…

The Straight Wharf – 6 Harbor Square

This place is such a little gem – right on the water (which is surprisingly hard to find on the island) and really special.

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The main dining room has luxury touches but feels very accessible with the colorful paintings and potted herbs used as centerpieces.

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A great way to start the meal is the spring pea salad with snap peas, english peas, parmesan, radicchio, pickled hots, and pistachios.  The perfect mix of textures and tastes comes together on the plate.

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Local oysters are also a hit, served with a lemony granita.  The menu changes often but if their version of a personal clam bake is on the menu, make sure to order it.  Lobster, clams and some of the best sausage I have ever had.  It is an elegant take on a causal meal – the perfect example of what this place does well.  To round out the meal if they have a special galette (you have to order it early in the meal) make sure to get one as they highlight seasonal fruit and perfect homemade ice cream.

Ventuno – 21 Federal Street

Located right downtown in a charming historic home, Ventuno feels like the best Italian dinner party you have ever been to.

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The cozy interior makes the most of the historic architectural details – we were seated right by the fireplace.

IMG_2314Have fun with the menu – there are small bites, larger appetizers to share and then first and second courses.  The fried olives stuffed with sausage are completely addictive and a perfect match to their house Negroni.  We also tried the crostini with local honey and ricotta.  What a beautiful little toast!

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They offer their pastas in two size portions so you can save room for everything else you want to try on the menu.  I had my mom’s favorite pasta, Spagetthi a la Vongole – and it was the best I have ever had.  Tender clams, crunchy breadcrumbs and a deeply flavored pasta was just perfection.

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Make sure to check out the extensive Italian wine list – there are a lot of pricey bottles but you can try some really great stuff by the glass and save yourself some money.

Toppers at the Wauwinet – 120 Wauwinet Road

I have been hearing about The Wauwinet for ages, my cousin and her husband actually got engaged at this incredible Relais and Chateaux approved hotel.  It is pretty far from downtown, out on the top part of the island, but they have a boat that will ferry you back and forth from the Harbor.  Brunch is a great way to try this incredible restaurant without breaking the bank.  Sure you could pop a $3,500 bottle with your eggs but you could also opt for the $14 sparkling cocktails (we went with option B).  Everything about this place is pitch perfect.  The shaded patio with views of the ocean – check.

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Bernaud china done with a Nantucket basket weave around the dishes – check.  Tender biscuits and pretzel rolls served in actual Nantucket baskets – check.

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We all felt incredibly well taken care of which is exactly what I expect in a hotel of this caliber.  Make sure to ask one of the hostesses to take your picture out on the sprawling green lawn that overlooks the water.  I am pretty picky about my lobster rolls and when I read that this one was served in a brioche roll instead of a split top bun (sacrilege!) I was nervous.  I am so glad I went with it – incredible french fries dusted with Old Bay and an all lobster meat, zero filler, roll bound together with brown butter mayo (!!!).

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Several of my group ordered egg dishes all of which they loved but everyone was stealing fries from me and others that had them so make sure to order a side of them if they don’t come with your brunch.  Freshly baked cookies was a sweet way to finsh off this lavish brunch.

For the save!!

Bartlett’s Farm – 33 Bartlett’s Farm Road

Whenever I travel I always want to cook with local produce and ingredients.  Not only it it an incredible way to taste local flavors but it also saves you a ton of money!  Bartlett’s Farm is my dream come true – family owned and meticulous about quality they have everything you could ever want for your Nantucket dinner party of your dreams.

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Fruits, veggies and baked goods alongside great cheeses and snacks as well as prepared foods means it’s a one stop shop.  They even have a great wine selection, carefully curated, and were just happening to be doing a rosé wine tasting right next to their rose bushes!

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Cisco Brewery – 5 Bartlett Farm Road

Right down the street from Bartlett Farm is one of the best reasons to visit Nantucket – Cisco Brewery.

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It’s not just a great craft brewery, they also have a distillery and vineyard on property.  They have live music, food trucks and SO many great doggies hanging out in the sun while their owners relax and party.

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This is the best gathering place – the minute we set foot on the property I start to smile.  It’s a bit out of the way but there is complimentary shuttle that will take you from downtown out there and every cab can find their way there blindfolded.

B-ACK Yard BBQ – 20 Straight Wharf

Located right next to the Harbor this BBQ place is relatively new and a great option for either lunch or dinner.

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The best way to try the most of the menu is one of their meals called “The Selfie.”  It comes with 2 meat options, 2 sides and rolls.  We loved the beef burnt ends, which is basically meat candy, and the mac and cheese is a must.  Split an appetizer (the dry rubbed wings are great) and then split the Selfie and you will have plenty of food.  This is a great option if you are traveling with kids as well (and if not they have an awesome craft beer selection!).

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Crosswinds – 14 Airport Road

If you ever watched “Wings” on TV you know that the airport on Nantucket is tiny and is supposed to have a cute diner style restaurant.  It does and it’s awesome!  It was 10am and Patrick and I are frantically figuring out new travel plans after cancelled flights (the hazards of being on an island) and we head into Crosswinds hoping to get some sustenance before we head out.  Little did I know this is the best diner on the island, maybe on the Cape!  I had to go with the grilled cheese and fries despite the hour and man were they good.  Definitely hitting this place up next time even if we take the ferry.

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There are so many other magical and delicious places to try on the island – Cru for oysters, Petticoat Row Bakery for amazing cakes and pastries,  Claudette’s Sandwich Shop by Siasconset Beach for beach picnic provisions – leave any suggestions you might have in the comments section.  Until next time Nantucket…

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Summertime Strawberry Sangria

One of the very first dinner parties my husband Patrick and I ever hosted was in the backyard of a house he shared with several roommates.  We invited a bunch of friends over and I attempted to be a hostess in a house I didn’t even live in.  It was a roaring success, which I mostly attribute to this sangria.  It’s that kind of drink that sort of sneaks up on you cause it is so easy to drink.  Mind you back then we were making a modified version with vodka in it as well.  Feel free to add some but it should definitely come with a warning label then!  Following that party we realized if we were going to keep our friends standing upright we would need to tweak the recipe given to us by a bartender at the famous Jose Andres restaurant, Jaleo.  So out came the vodka and I subbed mint with basil because I liked the flavor combos better but otherwise it is mostly as Mr. Andres served it.

If you have never used Liquor 43 before, go ahead and grab a bottle – it’s a citrusy liquor that could sub well in lots of cocktails that call for triple sec or orange brandy.  I think it is a bit more delicate and floral and it goes great in this drink.  The strawberries don’t make this overly sweet – they add a hint of flavor but mostly make for a delicious boozy snack you can munch on while drinking the cocktail.

Summertime Strawberry Sangria (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  special sangria at Jaleo
Special Equipment:  none

  • 8 strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups white grape juice
  • 1/2 cup Liquor 43
  • ice
  • 1 bottle Cava (I used my house sparkling)
  • a couple sprigs of basil

In a large pitcher combine the strawberries, white grape juice and Liquor 43.

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You can do this several hours in advance.  When ready to serve top with a couple cups of ice, carefully pour in the sparkling wine and toss in the basil.  Stir to combine and serve.

Summertime Strawberry Sangria

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 2 minutes
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 8 strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups white grape juice
  • 1/2 cup Liquor 43
  • ice
  • 1 bottle Cava (I used my house sparkling)
  • a couple sprigs of basil

In a large pitcher combine the strawberries, white grape juice and Liquor 43.  You can do this several hours in advance.  When ready to serve top with a couple cups of ice, carefully pour in the sparkling wine and toss in the basil.  Stir to combine and serve.

 

French Green Salad

Sometimes you just want a leafy green salad, am I right?  Especially when it gets hot out, and especially after you spent the weekend eating lots of fried things (guilty).  I tried my best to copy the green salad they serve at one of my favorite restaurants Le Diplomate.  Just like them I add fresh tarragon to the Boston lettuce and merely kiss the salad with dressing.  The addition of hazelnuts was my idea to give a little nutty flavor and crunch, but you can certainly omit them.  This is the perfect side for a nice grilled steak or some chicken.  Or grab a big hunk of french bread and a glass of rose and call it lunch!

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French Green Salad (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  the salad vert at Le Diplomate
Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced shallot
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 2 heads of Boston (also called Butter) lettuce, well rinsed and torn into bite sized pieces
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts
  • 1 to 2 sprigs of tarragon

In a small bowl combine the olive oil, champagne vinegar, shallot and dijon mustard.  Season with salt and pepper.  In a small dry skillet toast the hazelnuts over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Let cool.  Right before serving pull the tarragon leaves off of the sprigs and toss the leaves with the Boston lettuce pieces.  Add 3/4 of the dressing, toss, then add the rest only if you need it.  You want this salad to be very lightly dressed.  Top with the toasted hazelnuts and serve.

French Green Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 7 minutes
  • Print

Inspiration:  the salad vert at Le Diplomate
Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced shallot
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 2 heads of Boston (also called Butter) lettuce, well rinsed and torn into bite sized pieces
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts
  • 1 to 2 sprigs of tarragon

In a small bowl combine the olive oil, champagne vinegar, shallot and dijon mustard.  Season with salt and pepper.  In a small dry skillet toast the hazelnuts over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Let cool.  Right before serving pull the tarragon leaves off of the sprigs and toss the leaves with the Boston lettuce pieces.  Add 3/4 of the dressing, toss, then add the rest only if you need it.  You want this salad to be very lightly dressed.  Top with the toasted hazelnuts and serve.

Southern Fried Chicken Dinner

As I may have mentioned before, my mom’s desert island food is fried chicken (as is mine which would be really convenient if we ended up stranded on the same island) so in honor of her birthday today I thought I would post a menu all centered around my Fried Chicken Perfected – this has your weekend plans written all over it.

For this comforting, Southern themed meal I was inspired to use my vintage oyster cans as decoration.  I have been collecting these for several years – they are a symbol of the oyster industry that used to dominate the Chesapeake bay region.  I have them all over my house year round but they act as great vases for hydrangeas that I gathered from my front yard.  Since they were the center piece, and its almost summer, I figured just pull out all of my nautical gear and run with it.  How adorable is this row boat salt cellar??

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Paper placemats are my jam and great for a casual dinner party like this – I have several nautical themed ones (#ihaveaproblem) like this or these rope ones.  I used these rope napkin rings we got on Nantucket and the rattan chargers remind me of their famous baskets.  Seersucker napkins top off the preppy vibe.

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Curried Cashews

To start with I just wanted a couple of things to nibble on since the dinner is pretty heavy.  These curried cashews are easy to throw together and great with a beer or glass of rose.

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Broccoli Slaw 

I make this broccoli slaw from Smitten Kitchen ALL THE TIME.  It is so healthy and so addictive.  People will think you are nuts, shaving down whole heads of broccoli but they will be converts once they have tried it.  The dried cranberries give a little nod to my New England upbringing at this Southern meal and the slaw is a nice crunchy foil to the fried chicken’s tenderness.

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Fried Chicken Perfected

I can’t say better things about this fried chicken that hasn’t already been said by my friends.  Years of research and lots of mediocre fried chicken (which lets admit is still pretty good) led me to the perfect recipe that I share with you.  Eat it and be happy.

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Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese

Probably the second most requested thing I make right after the fried chicken so why not pair them together?  The Southern tradition of mac and cheese with fried chicken has been around forever and for good reason.  The velvety cheese sauce some times picks up crunchy bits of the chicken skin on your plate and then you are in heaven.

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Bourbon Peaches with Ice Cream and Candied Pecans

You need a sweet treat at the end of this meal and a nice simple fruit dessert is just the ticket.  I make these bourbon peaches just like I do in my pancake bar post – sauté them with a little bit of butter, sugar and bourbon.  You can use frozen peaches or fresh ones if they are ripe enough.  Either way paired with vanilla ice cream and candied nuts (I had Southern appropriate pecans on hand) they are delicious.

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So happy birthday mommy and I hope you all celebrate this weekend with fried chicken!

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