Dining (almost) alfresco all day+ Priest strangler recipe

13 May

The Horseradish GrillOne of the best parts about living where I do is the amazing variety of restaurants right around every corner. And… when the weather is as it has been, dining on the patio is definitely where you’ll find me! Yesterday was (almost) the perfect day for it, too. I had the pleasure of brunching with a good friend of mine at The Horseradish Grill, situated across from a golf course, in a spot that has a long history. Its current owners have had it for about 17 years, but its been a part of the social and culinary landscape of the neighborhood for years and years and years before that. My friend said that she’d heard that it is the oldest continuously run food establishment in Atlanta. I kind of don’t think that’s true (I think its Atkin’s Park, although that is technically a ‘tavern’), but in any case, the restaurant absolutely captures the very essence of what brunch is all about and what southern dining is supposed to be like. We started out on the patio, but the light sprinkle of a southern rain chased us indoors. Inside is also pretty perfect – the amazing windows are such a seamless transition from farmhouse to garden.

Biscuits, of course, are the centerpiece of breakfast in Atlanta. These were somewhat underwhelming, honestly. A smidge on the salty side (and I know that a good baking soda biscuit should be a little bit salty, but these were even more so to my tastes), and they just didn’t hit the proverbial sweet spot on my biscuit target.

We started out with fried green tomatoes, which were perfect. The ones there are served with warm goat cheese, remoulade sauce (which is the perfect complement for fried green tomatoes – love the kick it gives), and spiced pecans (another little kick in the pants). These are some of the best fried green tomatoes ever, honestly. Not over-fried at all, and there is still that sweet resistance of the tomato itself.

Of course, by the time I’d sampled and enjoyed all of that goodness, I really didn’t have enough room for the main event, which in my case was the goat cheese, asparagus, and smoked mushroom omelet, which were accompanied by “hash brown” potatoes. It was super-fluffy, and I loved asparagus in the eggs! I’d never had that before, but I really enjoyed the firmness of the asparagus against the softness and creaminess of the eggs and cheese. The “hash brown” potatoes were really more like chunks of potatoes sautéed with parsley (I think). And they were perfect. Just the right amount of browning, and the brightness of the herb paired very well. I will *hope* to recreate this dish at home. I may add a little flavor to the omelet, but if I only get what they produced, I will be doing very, very well.

the blowing a joint birthday cake

May is a big month in my family – Daddy’s birthday is May 2, my sister Laura’s birthday is May 6, and then Mother’s day is almost always the next weekend. My mother and I were both out-of-town for their birthdays, so we had a delayed celebration for the birthdays last night at my family’s favorite restaurant, Portofino. We go there every year for my sister’s birthday. Its got an amazing patio for dining (the sprinkles had scattered and we were left with a perfect night for patio dining).

the patio at Portofino

We started out with an order off of their monthly special menu called “Priests Strangler.” The waiter (who I was very impressed with) came up with some creative possibilities for the etymology of such a dish, but who knows… (upon searching on the internets, I understand that it comes from the name of a pasta – strangolapreti or strozzapreti, which were historically dense enough to choke the relatively delicate constitution of a priest, or that they were so irresistible that the priests would eat until they were choking on them) What I do know is that it is amazing! Honestly, it set the bar impossibly high for everything that followed. They are essentially dumpling size gnocchi made with spinach and served in a browned sage-butter sauce. I do mean A-MAZING.Awesome Priest Stranglers!

here’s a recipe: (adopted from honestcooking.com)

  • 8 ounces (225 g) stale bread, turned into bread crumbs in the food processor or blender
  • 1 cup (.25 l) milk
  • 16 ounces (450 g) fresh spinach, thick stems removed
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup to 1 cup (75 – 100 g) white flour
  • A few gratings of fresh nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) salt
  • 6 tablespoons (85 g) butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 6 whole sage leaves, plus 4 sage leaves finely chopped
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Place the breadcrumbs in a small bowl, and cover with the milk. Combine to thoroughly moisten bread.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil, and season with salt. Add the spinach, and blanch until tender, 2-3 minutes. Drain well, and immerse the blanched greens in ice water to halt the cooking. Remove from the ice water, and drain in a sieve, squeezing well to eliminate as much of the water as possible. Chop well.
  3. Squeeze any extra milk out of the breadcrumbs (there should not be much, if any), and place in a medium bowl. Add the spinach, eggs, flour, and grated nutmeg. Combine until the mixture just binds together and holds, adding more flour if necessary, but don’t overdo it. It will be very wet. You want to add as little flour as possible, to keep your strangolapreti as light as possible. Its tempting to add more flour to make it more of a dumpling, but its a better result if you resist.
  4. Flour the counter. Divide the dough into 4 or 5 equally sized pieces. Coat your hands with flour, and take one of the pieces and place it on the floured counter. Using the palms of your hands, roll the piece out into a 1/2 inch thick log, which will be about 18 inches long. Cut the log into 1-inch lengths, and place the individual strangolapreti onto a sheet pan that has been dusted with flour. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
  5. Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Salt the water. Working in small batches, place the strangolapreti in the water – don’t overcrowd them. Cook until the strangolapreti rise to the surface; using a slotted spoon, remove them and place on a sheet pan in a single layer.
  6. Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium high heat. When the butter is melted, add the shallots and chopped sage leaves. Continue to cook, watching carefully, until the butter solids begin to brown and smell nutty. Remove from heat, add the strangolapreti, and serve, garnishing with the whole sage leaves. Drizzle with remaining butter.

Back at Portofino, they also make their own mozzarella there, which rendered us helpless but to sample the mozzarella salads and antipasti. Mike enjoyed the “fried mozzarella salad” while several of the rest of us sampled the “fresh mozzarella salad.” Both feature the housemade cheese and several varieties of heirloom tomatoes, as well as basil and a balsamic drizzle. We tried to get the wait-lady to share their milk source for the mozzarella to no avail. She told us that they use unpasteurized milk, but… Mike and I have made cheese a bunch of times, but the milk sourcing is so inconsistent! As my tomato and basil plants thrive, the homemade mozzarella is looming in my mind. In any case… back to the restaurant!

Their website indicates that they are a seafood-oriented Italian restaurant, and Daddy and Mike both thoroughly enjoyed their fish. Mike had the trout, and Daddy had the grouper, and if I were a fish-eating kind of gal, I probably would have joined them. Mike’s was served with spaghetti squash, and when he put it in his mouth, I could feel his happiness! Daddy was nearly mute after his entree was served, which can mostly be attributed to how good his was. That and that my mother had a glass of wine too much and was talking A LOT. 🙂 (I do love how passionate she is, though).

Aside from the amazing, untouchable, really better than anything else all day Priest Stranglers, my other main take-away was something that I’d learned before. Handmade pasta is definitely the way to go. My dish (with a pesto sauce over tomatoes), Laura’s (lamb Bolognese), and my mother’s (Cavatelli all’Amatricana) were super-tasty, but I think that the thing we all were most impressed with was the pasta itself. Exactly al dente, but SO much more flavorful (sauce or no) than anything you’ll ever get from a box. Must look into what I need to do to get going on that…


One Response to “Dining (almost) alfresco all day+ Priest strangler recipe”

  1. artzent November 16, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    I love your great blog and I thank you for the recent like on mine. Your support is greatly appreciated!

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