Finally, Ethiopic Restaurant Comes to H Street!

It's been a long week already, so to cope, Mr. Luz and I spent the night tucked into a huge pile of some amazing comfort food at Ethiopic Restaurant.

Ethiopic just opened behind Union Station on H Street NE, and the space and staff are as welcoming as the food.  Mr. Luz and I sat in a romantic alcove with a large window, so we had a little privacy while also sharing the softly lit dining room and piano music with the rest of the guests.  (Ethiopic is lined top to bottom with windows, and I can't wait to go there for a sunny Friday lunch.) Sam, the owner, accepted our ecstatic compliments on the food and the decor but said in the same breath "please tell us if anything changes, we are always looking for feedback."  Everything was so wonderful, I think we'll just have to go back at least once a week to stay on top of that for Sam.

If you've never had Ethiopian food, you'll love Ethiopic.  It serves richly flavored, spiced and stewed meat dishes with lamb, beef, and chicken and dark, delightful vegetarian dishes like curried potatoes with garlic, herbs and jalapeno, and split red lentils stewed with red pepper sauce.  And yes, you eat with your hands.  Like people used to do for thousands of years, until someone somewhere around 1800 B. C. (Before CrateandBarrel) decided to make a quick buck by telling folks that they should eat with metal shards.  In a comparably civilized manner, at Ethiopic you pick up each bite in spongy injera (a soft, sometimes sour flat bread).  And after you've scooped up the last bit of each dish off of your communal plate, you can fight over the large curried-potato-lentil-lamb covered injera that sat under it all.  Mr. Luz always manages to distract me when this time comes, and he always gets the lentil-sauce-drenched section of injera.  It happened again tonight, but make no mistake, I'm already plotting for next time. (And wondering if employing a wardrobe malfunction would be "so 2004")

On the flip side, if you're experienced with Ethiopian food, you'll also love Ethiopic.  We ordered the Lamb Tibs, and the Vegetarian Platter for one (with 4 vegetarian dishes and the spicy lemon tomato salad) with crispy fish.  Everything was cooked to maximize the flavor of the ingredients, meaning it was simmered so the flavors just melded without reducing everything to berbere-flavored mush. And speaking of the berbere (a fragrant and earthy blend of chilies, ginger, cloves, coriander, paprika, and other spices), everything was so fresh that each bite held one hundred flavors at once.  Even their collard greens-a dish done so often that now when it's bad it's still okay-tasted sweet and fresh rather than bitter or bland.

Invariably, Ethiopic will go through growing pains as all new and ultimately successful restaurants do.  But if Ethiopic's food continues to exhibit the same loving care and fresh ingredients that we experienced tonight, I predict that Mr. Luz and I will happily spend a good portion of our summer waiting in a line around the block for a table at our new favorite Ethiopian

Guinness Braised Corned Beef & Cabbage with Garlic Mustard Glaze and Parsnips

Now this here meal is for the meat eatin', beer swigging best of you.  I'm serious.

Even though my favorite vegetarian says she used to love corned beef back when she was a carnivore, I don't entirely trust her opinion-she's from the Midwest like me, and we'll eat anything.  Let's face it, no matter what the vegetarian says-corned beef, in all it's brined, hot-pink glory, is not something that everyone's going to be excited about.

In an attempt to make Mr. Luz love corned beef as much as I do (see: my Midwestern heritage) I douse mine in Guinness for a long braise in the oven.  After it's fork-tender, I mash the braised garlic in with some mustard for flavor and apple butter (see, supra, Midwestern), slather that over the top, and broil it for a second for a deep, not-too sweet, garlicy caramel glaze.  And though it still looks rather curious, Mr. Luz has happily eaten it for 3 days straight now (I like to indulge myself over St. Pat's day and make two briskets) and all I heard at dinner were happy noises.

As for the side dishes, I like to make a mash with the root vegetables that go into the braising liquid.  That way you can mix them with some non-braised veggies to even out the saltiness of the veggies cooked in the briny corned beef braising liquid, and you're not eating squishy potatoes.  I also simmer the cabbage separately so it's lighter in flavor and acts as more of a foil to all the earthy, salty goodness in your braising pot.
Note: March being the month after the Birthmonth and all, I have never succeeded in brining my own corned beef. Next year?

Guinness Braised Corned Beef & Cabbage with Garlic Mustard Glaze and Parsnips
(serves 4-6)

1 3-4 lb. Corned Beef Brisket
1 head of garlic (trust me)
3 medium carrots, coarse chopped
1 small onion, coarse chopped
3 potatoes, halved
4 large parsnips, peeled and coarse chopped
2 stalks celery, if you have any-coarse chopped
1 bay leaf
3 bottles of Guinness or another Stout beer
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs. fresh Thyme, chopped
2 Tbs. butter
5 cups of coarse chopped green cabbage
3 Tbs. apple butter
2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Add the carrots, onion,  celery, potatoes, and bay leaf to your roasting pan.  Remove the skins from each clove of garlic, and add all but two large cloves to the roasting pan. (Give the large cloves going into the roasting pan a good whack with the flat side of a knife to flatten/crush them a little).

Thoroughly rinse the corned beef and reserve the spice packet for the cabbage.  Put the corned beef on top of the veggies in the roasting pan, and pour the two bottles of Guinness over the corned beef.  Cover the roasting pan, and braise for 2.5 hours in the oven.  After 2.5 hours, if the brisket isn't fork tender, recover and increase heat to 350 degrees for an additional 30-45 minutes.
When the brisket has 30 minutes left, put the parsnips in boiling water and cook until soft.  Remove from heat, drain, and return to the pan to mash with a potato masher or a fork.

Add the cabbage to a pot with the remaining Guinness, and the reserved 2 cloves of garlic, chopped.  Add water to almost cover the cabbage with the cooking liquid.  Simmer, partially covered for 15-20 minutes-until the stalks of the cabbage are soft but the leaves still hold their shape. At this point you can remove the cabbage and reduce the braising liquid by boiling it, or you can leave your cabbage more "soupy." Add the Worcestershire sauce, and taste. If still doesn't have enough "zip" add 1 tsp. of the Balsamic vinegar at a time. 

Take the corned beef brisket out of the oven.  (Important: always let braised dishes cool in liquid or they'll dry out).  Remove the potatoes and carrots from the braising liquid, mash, and add to the mashed parsnips.  Add thyme and butter, and cook over very low heat until the butter is melted and the thyme is fragrant. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the garlic from the braising liquid, mash, and mix with the mustard and apple butter. Place the brisket on a broiler pan, spread the garlic mixture over the top, and broil-checking often-until browned.
Slice the brisket and serve with the reserved braising liquid, the parsnip mash, and

Puppies!! Snorglesnorglesnorgleaaaaaackk!

If you read the post below, thanks for sitting beside my imaginary therapy couch for a few minutes.  To show my appreciation, I give you puppy kisses:

Have a Little Faith, or "Let's talk about Me for a minute."

With the help of a few too many endorphins (see: Saints, Superbowl Champions) and alot of time spent with good friends and my wonderful partner, I finally had a much-needed "breakthrough" this month and it's feeling pretty damn good.

After one specific heart-to-heart with an especially sympathetic and wise soul (me in my Lady Gaga inspired eye make-up and medieval night costume, she with her lovely smile. Yeah, it was a little awkward, but I needed it) I realized that I've been struggling with a whole hell of alot of self-doubt for over a year, and I didn't even know it.  Not to get too far into the essentially boring depths of my personal life, but to say that I have a different outlook on life than the people I have been closest to since I started law school is a fairly healthy understatement (right up there with "Something's a little off with that Eric Massa guy").  When things are going wrong, I discuss, dissect, and seek real closure.  It's just what I do, and in general I'm proud of the fact that people know that I'll stand up for them should the need arise.  The rest of the group? It's avoid "conflict" AT ALL COSTS.  I've been ostracized more than once merely for standing up for myself or for people I care about, because, like I said, AT ALL COSTS and I guess I'm expendable. After awhile, all of that conflict avoidance starts stacking up between you and your friends, and all of the sudden, the people you were closest to are miles away.  And you start to feel like something's seriously wrong with you.

Scene II:  SELF-DOUBT enters stealthily, stage right.  Without making its presence explicitly known, it simply settles into the scene like a sinister arm chair, always bringing with it a sense that "something's not quite right."

Let's be honest...I really like myself.  I think that most bloggers have pretty high self-confidence--we talk about ourselves all the times, and people without a pretty strong sense of self-worth aren't really up for that.  But here I am, wrestling with this "Am I really a monster?" crap. ("Ouch, who put this sinister arm chair here?")  It took someone forcefully telling me that I'm pretty normal and non-monstrous, Gaga eye-make up and all, for me to start appreciating "me" again-confrontational, assertive-however you want to put it-me.  And that helped alot.  I guess the goal now is to get to the point where I don't have to ask other people "am I still a good person?" every time I get a conflicting message.  I have to believe in myself, and trust my decision-making even if the people closest to me would make different decisions. And if I have to check myself every now and then, which I do, I need to rely on the people who accept me for who I am and listen to what they have to say (when it's "Monster, absolutely" but more importantly, when it's "Monster? Are you crazy?") over the people who don't.

Because seriously, this self-doubt crap? It stops

Giant Homemade Girlscout Cookies III: Somoa Yoah

Hey ya'll, my birthmonth may be over (why have a birthday when you can celebrate the whole month?) but that doesn't mean the party has to stop.

This year my birthmonth was outright amazing, thanks to my friends and family. First, Mama and Papa BaCon flew into D.C. just a few miles ahead of a giant snowstorm to throw a Superbowl party (Who Dat!) and traipse about a creepy, snow-silent city after too much wine. (Mama and Papa BaCon are hardcore.  At Wisdom-a great bar-Mama ordered a drink called the Nacho Libre. From the menu: "Habanero infused tequila and pomegranate. Only an a**hole would drink this.")

From there we lived it up with good friends in New Orleans (with a detour in Shreveport for Me'me Williams' fantastically fun wedding). My birthday presents from Mr. Luz? Silver high-heel ankle boots with rhinestones, hot pink "snakeskin" and black velvet pumps, and a top hat. How can I not love this man?

Finally, Mr. Luz rounded up a wizard, a fair maiden, a witch and her newt, three medieval pirates, and a few unfortunate souls (unfortunate because they weren't in costumes while the rest of us got to be incognito idiots) for a quest to the Medieval Times Dinner Theater. I'm not sure that there's much to say besides "16 grown folks in paper crowns, drunken and shouting."

After celebrating for a month, I'm going cold turkey on sugar, alcohol, meat, and eye makeup. Just kidding!

Which brings me to the point of this post.  Cookies! Giant cookies! Giant Girl Scout Cookies! Seriously, you should make this.  It's easy, and cheap, and sort of scary but awesome.

The caramel is sort of "pull out your fillings" chewy, but worth it. Stick to the cheaper Brachs caramels or something similar.  They stay soft where the fancier caramels (ie: Werther's Chewy Caramels) get rock hard after they've had the chance to set more.

Giant Samoa Girl Scout Cookie Recipe:

Sugar Cookie
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt

4 cps shredded coconut
16 oz. cheap chewy caramels
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbs. butter (if unsalted, add 1/2 tsp. salt to melted caramel mixture)
10 oz. chocolate chips

Make the Samoa:
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Spread coconut in a deep baking dish and toast.  Stir every 5 minutes for 10 minutes, and more often for the last 10 minutes. Coconut should be toasty brown and crispy but still soft.
Turn oven up to 350 degrees, and grease a 11 inch round tart pan with fluted edges. (You could probably also do 2 pie pans, and bake for a shorter period of time. You'll just have a less-giant cookie). Cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in eggs and vanilla. On low, slowly beat in flour and salt until large crumbs form. Press dough into your prepared pan and cut a circle out of the center with a water glass. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until base is set but not tough. Cool.
Melt 1/2 of the chocolate in the microwave or over a double boiler (one larger saucepan with an inch of water heated to boiling, with chocolate in a smaller sauce pan placed over the boiling water but not touching the boiling water.) Using a paint brush or basting brush, carefully paint a thin layer of chocolate on the bottom and sides of the cookie. Place in the fridge until set.
Melt the caramels in the microwave or a double boiler with the milk and salt, stirring frequently.  Stir in the coconut.  When the chocolate on the cookie has set, carefully flip it over.  Spread the caramel coconut mixture onto the cookie base.  Melt the remaining chocolate.  Once it has cooled a bit, put the melted chocolate a plastic baggie, cut a small corner off of the baggie, and drizzle chocolate across the Samoa.  Bravo, you've done it!

NOTE: Don't put this cookie in the fridge once you've put the caramel on it. Trust me.