Chef Todd goes Italian with Vodka Penne Pasta

Chef Todd is showing off his Italian chops in this week’s special, with a dish that proves you don’t have to go to Little Italy to have a great meal Italian-style: Vodka Penne Pasta. This penne à la vodka is rich with prosciutto, tomatoes, basil, scallions, heavy cream, vodka and fresh mozzarella, just like you’d get on Murray Hill. Which makes sense, because Todd actually used to cook in Little Italy. Order a plate of his penne and be sure to ask for bread with it, so you can soak up that creamy, cheesy sauce. Primo!

Mind if we smoke?

We don’t think you will. In fact, we think you’ll thank us for smoking.

You’ll thank Marc for smoking, anyway. Since he got his big opportunity to smoke as much as he wanted at our house, he’s become quite the heavy smoker. Lately, he just can’t seem to quit smoking. Yeah, go figure, it’s a new year and everyone else is making resolutions to quit smoking — and this guy resolves to smoke more. In the past week, especially, Marc has been smoking like crazy.

Meat, that is. (What, you thought we were talking about smoking something else?)

He’s been smoking beef brisket (and if you’ve ever had our brisket, you’ll be delighted to hear that), he’s been smoking ribs, he’s been smoking pork chops, he’s been smoking sausage and he’s been smoking turkey. Now, you can benefit from all his smoking, in the form of this wonderful Choucroûte: an Alsatian smoked meat platter.

Meat platters like this are the quintessential bistro dish in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France, so influenced in the kitchen by Germany: great quantities of smoked meat, roasted to a turn, served with boiled potatoes, sauerkraut and flavorful mustards. This is our version. You get a plateful of smoked ribs, sausage, turkey and a pork chop. On the side, boiled baby potatoes and plenty of sauerkraut, made with Ruth’s special recipe that combines a touch of sugar and bacon to render the shredded cabbage sweet-tart-savory, not sour. The whole thing comes accompanied by two mustards — a hearty grainy mustard and a mellow honey mustard — and we suggest you ask for some bread as well, because you’re going to want some to soak up the sauce and juices. Order up a beer with this, and — ach du Lieber! — you can’t get a more heartwarming or satisfying winter’s meal. It’s on our specials menu this week; you need to get in here and taste it!

If for some reason that doesn’t ring your bell, though, we still have plenty of other delights with which to tempt you. Such as veal osso bucco; roasted half duck with cherry port sauce; long bone double cut pork chops wrapped in bacon and stuffed with prosciutto, Gruyère and apple with port and dried plum ginger sauce; slow braised lamb shank with rosemary-mint demiglace; a spicy jambalaya; four-cheese mac and cheese with smoked chicken and black truffle; Portuguese fisherman’s stew; mahi mahi with raspberry-chipotle glaze…

Come on by and fill your stomach and your soul with a lovingly prepared dish this week. Because at Bistro 185, we smoke ’em if we got ’em.

Behind the Dish: Cream Puffs with Chocolate Sauce

Cream Puffs with Chocolate SauceLast night’s James Beard Salmon Provençal is on the menu again tonight! As for tonight’s new James Beard dish, we think this one is going to make a great finish to your meal: Cream Puffs with Chocolate Sauce. The cream puffs are made from a classic French choux pastry recipe and baked up golden brown. We’re filling them with our own freshly made vanilla-bean ice cream before topping them with a chocolate sauce made of heavy cream and both semisweet and unsweetened chocolates and a final touch of powdered sugar.

So, your dessert for tonight is decided. Now your dilemma is: What to have for dinner? Luckily, we have some suggestions. Maybe you’ll want to try our Asian-Inspired Short Ribs. To create those, we’re removing all the bones from the short ribs except one, then wrapping the meat around that remaining bone to impart added flavor while it cooks. The ribs will be braised in a liquid including Asian five-spice powder, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, garlic, ginger and sesame seeds, and served with an organic brown rice pilaf.

Or, you might prefer our Baby Rack of Lamb. Or, you might consider our Lollipop Veal Chop, stuffed with prosciutto and Gruyère cheese, with shiitake mushrooms alongside, served with a porcini mushroom sauce.

Whatever you’re in the mood for, come in and look at our specials and our reliable regular menu. You’re sure to find something that will make you smile and get you ready to enjoy an elegant dessert to top off a delicious dinner.

How long has it been since you treated yourself? Too long, right? Join us at the Bistro for some pampering to start off your weekend the best way.

Behind the Dish: Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Pork Chop

Stuffed Pork Chop Wrapped in Bacon

Time for another “Behind the Dish” feature, this time spotlighting one of our fall menu specials. (Look for more such features in the days to come!)

Our fall pork chop dish is stuffed with aged provolone cheese, apple slices, and proscuitto. The boneless chop is seasoned and wrapped in thick-cut bacon and then cooked using the sous vide method — that is, it’s vacuum-sealed in plastic and heated for an extended period of time at relatively low temperatures. This helps it keep its original appearance, prevents it from losing excess amounts of fat (which would detract from the flavor) and provides it with a great texture.

Once the chop is thoroughly cooked, we crisp the bacon to make it flavorful and crunchy. Then we top it with a reduction of ginger syrup, maple syrup, apple schnapps and butter. That sauce also flavors the vegetable accompaniment of Brussels sprouts, pecans, a small dice of zucchini and yellow squash. (If you think you don’t like Brussels sprouts, just try them with this sauce. You will never think of them the same way again!)

Add a bed of mashed sweet potatoes, and you have one fantastic dish to warm up a cold fall night. Stop in tonight and taste for yourself!

Some dinner before your dessert?

After kicking off our Julia Project with a soup of the day and moving on to entrees, our feature for tonight is on the sweet side: Le Gâteau Victoire au Chocolat Mousseline – Chocolate Mousse Cake, from Julia and Jacques: Cooking at Home. If that sounds good enough for you to join us tonight (and when doesn’t Chocolate Mousse Cake sound good?), you’ll be faced with the dilemma: what to order for a main course? Fortunately for you, we have suggestions!

Not to skip anything, let’s take a look at appetizers first. Many of our offerings are standbys that are usually on our menu all year long and that our diners return to again and again, such as our Asian Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes, potstickers, and house-cured gravlax salmon with potato pancakes. Others, however, are only recently added, and if you haven’t seen us in a while, you might want to give one of them a try. Here’s one: Medjool dates stuffed with almonds and wrapped in bacon with a reduced balsamic glaze drizzle and goat cheese crumbles. Or how about fresh white figs stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in prosciutto with field greens and balsamic vinaigrette?

Now for dinner. How about a Black Angus Strip Steak with with sauteed shiitake mushroom caps and blue cheese mashed potatoes? Steak Oscar — topped with crab and shrimp — or perhaps Chilean Sea Bass treated in the same fashion? Whether it’s lamb shank, pork tenderloin medallions, roast duck with orange sauce or lobster ravioli that’s sounding good right now, you’ll love our specials.

One very seasonal dish you should know about before it’s gone: Wild Caught Alaskan Copper River Salmon with Ohio-grown English peas, haricots verts, asparagus, spinach, baby bok choy and baby redskin potatoes. It’s available only in very limited quantities, so make your reservations early.

Of course, our regular menu of comfort-food classics is always available to enjoy, so if you could go for some good old-fashioned chicken schnitzel and pierogies or a tasty Kobe beef burger, stop on by.

Whatever you’re in the mood for, we hope you’ll come in, bring a few friends to laugh and enjoy the time with, and make this Saturday night a little special.