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Recipe inspiration, tips, and kitchen hacks from the Chowhound editors.

Talking Pizza in Poughkeepsie: Solid Square Pie at Aloy’s

Aloy’s, open since 1929, has had a few years to perfect its pizza sauce. It’s long simmered, rich and intense, with a pleasing hint of caramelized onion–terrific atop thin, crisp square pies with mozzarella, grated Parmesan, or both, says NewYorkDave. Another option: pizza Lina, a grandma-esque pie topped with crushed tomato, chunks of garlic, and a splash of extra virgin olive oil. “Their pie is semi-legendary locally and definitely a cut above the slop that usually passes for pizza across most of Dutchess County,” Dave adds.

Other choices on the menu of Italian-American standards: pastas (including daily-changing house-made ravioli), salads and antipasti, hot hero sandwiches, and chicken and veal entrees in parmigiana, marsala and francese treatments, among others.

Aloy’s Italian Restaurant [Dutchess County]
157 Garden St., between Brookside and Parker Aves., Poughkeepsie, NY

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Aloy’s in Poughkeepsie (Pizza/Italian)

What’s Cooking in the Kitchen

The Kitchen nails traditional dishes, like crisp gai lan in garlic sauce and chow fun with a delicious, eggy sauce. But be sure to check out the chef’s more unusual, creative dishes, like duck and fish with peppercorns, says alfairfax. The roasting spices on the duck’s skin, the melting duck fat, the chewy, salty funkiness of the fish, and the prickly, sour spice of the Sichuan peppercorns meld perfectly. It’s not a traditional dish, but perhaps it should be.

The Kitchen [Peninsula]
formerly Seafood Harbor
279 El Camino Real, Millbrae

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Question about The Kitchen, Millbrae

Three Chinese Favorites (and Why Hounds Love Them)

Congee Village is a perennial hound haunt for satisfying Cantonese chow. Pan (who has eaten a wide swath through the menu) and other devotees offer a few reasons:

- Noodles: chow fun with sliced beef and rich black bean sauce; crispy chow mein with beef and Chinese broccoli, or “Chinese vegetables” on the menu (“the answer to all the mediocre beef with broccoli dishes you’ve had elsewhere.”)

- Congees are a good bet, as you’d expect. Recommended accompaniments include fresh squid with ginger sauce, chicken with black mushroom, sliced fish and lettuce, roast duck and meat ball, sliced beef and fish. Avoid boring, under-flavored “Healthy Vegetarian Porridge.” mnk suggests ordering Chinese greens with garlic, then pouring some of the garlic sauce into the congee.

- Chicken: house special chicken, fried and sauced with an addictively good garlic-scallion mixture, is special indeed. Also great: steamed chicken with black mushroom, a many-splendored but harmonious dish that also contains Chinese sausage, lily buds, ginger, scallions and jujubes.

- Vegetables: simple, flavorful winners include Chinese greens with garlic, sauteed lotus root with special bean paste sauce, assorted vegetables Buddhist style (includes ginkgo nuts and bamboo pith), and eggplant and other vegetables with bean curd.

- Lamb chops are made with onions or black bean sauce, both terrific.

- Rice baked in bamboo: two standout flavors are chicken-black mushroom and two kinds of Chinese sausage.

- Seafood: shrimp with fish sauce, crabs with delicate black bean sauce, sweet/spicy/sour “Thai-style” clams, and sea clams and sweet pea pods with XO sauce. The latter dish is “wonderful–one of the best things I’ve had at Congee Village,” marvels Pan.

A few blocks away in Chinatown, Oriental Garden remains a fine, if sometimes overlooked, spot for dim sum. Shu mai (steamed pork dumplings) and cheung fun (rice noodle rolls), to mention just two, are tops. “Wow–that’s all I can say,” raves wingman, who has been making the rounds of Chinatown’s yum cha contenders. He says the relatively small Oriental Garden beats Golden Bridge and Jing Fong in quality and Golden Unicorn and Dim Sum Go Go in selection. Others praise the user-friendly illustrated menu and accommodating service, not so common at Chinatown’s larger dim sum halls.

Two blocks west, outside the orbit of many Chinatown diners, Chanoodle continues to serve houndworthy Cantonese. “Easy to forget about this place,” notes Chandavkl, but it’s worth remembering for dishes like its flounder and tofu casserole, a chef’s special. Deb Van D is a fan of its crisp-fried soft shell crabs. Past records have singled out salt-baked squid, powerfully flavored with fresh chiles, raw shallots, and fried garlic.

Congee Village [Lower East Side]
100 Allen St., between Broome and Delancey, Manhattan

Oriental Garden Restaurant [Chinatown]
14 Elizabeth St., between Canal and Bayard Sts., Manhattan

Chanoodle [Chinatown]
79 Mulberry St., between Bayard and Canal Sts., Manhattan

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Boston Hound Loved Congee Village
Chanoodle…any good?
Congee Village
Oriental Garden Dim Sum!

Where the Coctele Glass Runneth Over

After months of searching for a kick-ass Mexican seafood cocktail, Ollie reports finding the best campechana outside Mexico yet. At El Rinconcito, $9.50 gets you a cocktail glass brimming with seafood, tomatoes, diced cucumber, onions, and cilantro in a clamato broth.

El Rinconcito Del Mar [East LA-ish]
2908 E. 1st St., Los Angeles

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Craving a Great Seafood Cocktail/Campechana!

A Pint of Clam Chowder

It’s not yet time for local crab, but in the meantime, Spud Point Crab Company has beautiful clam chowder. It’s a white chowder with tons of chunks of sweet, tender clams and irregular pieces of potato. The savory, creamy base has the rich sweetness of roasted garlic and the flavors of black pepper, thyme, parsley, rosemary, and oregano. The garlicky, herbed style reminds Melanie Wong of the Monterey Italian clam chowders she grew up with. A whole pint, with oyster crackers, is $6.75.

Spud Point Crab Company [Sonoma County]
1860 Westshore Rd., Bodega Bay

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Clam Chowder @ Spud Point Crab Co. in Bodega Bay

Not-So-French Dip

The great pitfall of Los Angeles’ great sandwich, the French dip, is that the beef is often bland and flavorless. Yes, even at Philippe’s (where most hounds prefer the lamb or pork). Want better beef? Go for a prime rib dip. Here’s a tip from Pesky Humans: if you happen to be at The Palm, they’ll sometimes have leftover prime rib from last night’s dinner, which will have been transformed into a French dip lunch special. It is the best such sandwich he has ever had. “Simple and awesome, and highly recommended.”

Bandera’s French dip, also with prime rib, is widely favored; Houston’s has a similar sandwich, but the bread is not as good and soft as at Bandera, says Ernie. They’re about $15.

Taylor’s has a prime rib dip sandwich for $13 at lunch, and it’s delicious, says ostudio. It comes with a mixed salad, but you can get their Molly salad instead for a few bucks more. At dinner, the sandwich is $16.

Tam O’Shanter, owned by Lawry’s, does a sandwich bar where they carve the prime rib or brisket right in front of you. Needless to say, the French dip is very good.

Weiler’s Deli has a very tasty beef dip made with brisket, says davinagr.

If you were from Chicago, says RSMBob, “beef dip” would mean an Italian beef sandwich. Best choices in these parts: Chicago’s Best in Irvine, Portillo’s in Buena Park, and Taste Chicago in Burbank. Go for broke and get a combo of beef and sausage.

Eastside Market also does an Italian-style French dip (!!!) that’s pretty damn good, says JAB, and heckonwheels recommends 322 in Sierra Madre for a good Italian beef dip with spectacular mountain views.

And chefnico really likes the beef dip at–another L.A. institution.

Philippe The Original Restaurant [Downtown]
1001 N. Alameda St., Los Angeles

Palm Restaurant [Beaches]
9001 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles

Palm Restaurant [Downtown]
1100 S. Flower St., Los Angeles

Bandera Restaurant [Wealthy Westlands]
11700 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles

Bandera Restaurant [OC Beaches]
3201 E. Coast Hwy., Corona Del Mar

Houston’s Restaurant [Century City]
10250 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles

Houston’s Restaurant [Beaches]
202 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica

Houston’s Restaurant [Beaches]
1550 Rosecrans Ave. # A, Manhattan Beach

Houston’s Restaurant [Pasadena-ish]
320 S. Arroyo Pkwy., Pasadena

Houston’s Restaurant [South OC]
2991 Michelson Dr., Irvine

Taylor’s Steakhouse [Koreatown]
3361 W. 8th St., Los Angeles

Taylor’s Steakhouse [East San Fernando Valley]
901 Foothill Blvd., La Canada

Tam O’Shanter Inn [Atwater Village]
2980 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Angeles

Weiler’s Deli & Catering [West San Fernando Valley]
21161 Victory Blvd., Canoga Park

Chicago’s Best [South OC]
2540 Main St., Irvine

Portillo’s [South OC]
8390 La Palma Ave., Buena Park

Taste Chicago [East San Fernando Valley]
603 N. Hollywood Way, Burbank

Eastside Market and Italian Deli [Chinatown]
1013 Alpine St., Los Angeles

Cafe 322 [San Gabriel Valley]
322 W. Sierra Madre Blvd,, Sierra Madre

Canter’s Fairfax Restaurant [Fairfax Village]
419 N Fairfax Ave., Beverly, Los Angeles

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Best Beef Dip Style Sandwich in Los Angeles (Long-ish)
Phillipe’s Famous French Dip

Stuffed French Toast

Stuffed french toast is most often filled with cream cheese or mascarpone, but fruit, chocolate, preserves, and any combination of these are also popular. There are two ways to achieve the “stuffed” effect. One is to use a soft, thick-sliced bread, cut a slit in the center, and literally stuff the filling inside. The other is to sandwich the filling between two regular-thickness pieces of bread and cook so the sandwich becomes one “slice” of French toast.

For soft breads to stuff, hounds recommend slicing your own brioche loaves or challah, or buying the thick-cut “Texas Toast” loaves that many supermarkets sell.

To make a creamy filling, add a sweetener of your choice to taste to cream cheese or mascarpone (try honey, maple syrup, or caramel sauce). Stuff your filling inside or sandwich between slices of bread before soaking in your favorite French toast batter and cooking as usual. Or add fresh fruit, or jam or preserves to the cheese in addition, or in place of, sweetener.

For a chocolaty French toast fix, use ganache, chopped chocolate, or Nutella as your filling, with or without the addition of fruit of preserves.

Texas Toast loves this unusual combo: brie-stuffed French toast, served with fried bananas, pecans, and maple syrup.

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French Toast with creamy filling

Baked Chip Tips

While many baked potato chips fall flat in the taste department, Kettle Foods baked chips are very crispy, with a good snap, unlike the Lay’s-style baked chips, says DivaMac. They’re actually made from whole potato slices. Much of the competition makes, well, potato patties, composed of chopped and re-formed potato pieces. Kettle Foods’ hickory-flavored BBQ chips have a nice balance of sweet, tangy, and salty.

For do-it-yourself unfried chips, slice potatoes paper thin, brush with oil, and nuke in the microwave on high for 8-12 minutes just until they turn golden (keep a close eye on them, so they don’t burn), then salt to taste (piccola).

As a backup plan. Guiltless Gourmet’s baked chips will do in a pinch.

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Any good potato chips that are baked rather than fried?

One-Pot Meals

Sometimes you have to make a whole meal in one pot. Here are a few chowhounds’ go-to recipes for those times.

Tuna puttanesca is one of Muppetgirl’s favorites. Saute tuna, anchovy, capers, olives, onions, garlic, red pepper flakes, dry basil and oregano; add a large can of peeled tomatoes, simmer until it thickens, and “presto: deliciousness!” For a true one-pot meal, pour in a can of rinsed cannellini beans and skip the pasta.

kmr offers a simple take on jambalaya: saute coarsely chopped onion, red or green bell peppers, and some celery in a bit of oil until soft and browned. Add canned chopped tomatoes and juice; it should be kind of soupy. Add some sliced smoked sausage, a couple spoons of brown sugar, and as much Tabasco as you can stand. Simmer for 10-15 minutes; add chicken, shrimp, or okra if you like and adjust the cooking time to accommodate. When it’s done, add some fresh parsley and serve over hot rice. If you feel like using two pans, you can slice the sausage and boil some of the grease out of it before adding it.

Divamac shares two of her staple one-pot recipes:

White Chili

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of a knife
1 lb. ground turkey
3 Tbsp. ground cumin
3 Tbsp. pickled sliced jalapenos
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 can white beans
1 cup white corn, fresh or frozen
2 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, saute onion and garlic in oil for 5 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add turkey, stirring occasionally until browned. Add cumin, jalapenos, oregano, beans, corn, broth, salt, and pepper. Stir well. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes until it reduces and thickens a bit. Taste to correct for salt and pepper. Serve with cheese, avocado, scallions, warmed tortillas, etc.

Mediterranean Skillet Dinner

1 1/2 cups bulgur wheat
1 14-oz. can reduced sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
3 Tbsp. pesto (or more, to taste)
1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil
1 16-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Toast bulgar in a dry skilled until it starts to smell nutty. Add broth and cover. Cook until bulgur is tender, about 10-20 minutes, depending on how fine the bulgur is. Stir in pesto, tomatoes, and chickpeas. Cook until heated through. Serve topped with plain yogurt.

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Easy skillet meals

Local Farming 101

The choice between organic produce that has to travel great distances to market versus locally grown traditional produce can baffle even the most educated enviro-conscious Chowhound.

We’ve all heard the arguments for buying organic. Some hounds think it’s much more important to buy from local farms. Morton the Mousse thinks that it often makes sense to buy locally grown produce from small-scale farms who use environmentally sustainable, artisanal agricultural practices, regardless of whether or not those farmers are certified organic. Also, small farms can give more attention to their fields, which can mean less dependence on chemicals anyway, says ghbrooklyn. The organic buzzword has become overused; it’s more important to look for produce from “sustainable” local farms, argues Veggietales.

It may also be to your benefit. Large-scale organic produce is generally shipped in from far-away lands. It’ll be at least several days old, and will have been handled, stored in cold refrigeration, bounced, jostled, crossed time zones, handled again, shipped some more, and stuck in cold storage again, before finally making it to the grocery shelf, says Sethboy.

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Locally grown (not organic) v. Organic (not locally grown) ... which do you prefer?