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

A Really Righteous Fish Fry

Nevermind the charbroiler, says elmomonster–“Deep-frying is the only path to righteousness for tacos de pescado.”

The fish fillet in Las Cotijas’ fish tacos, dipped in batter and fried to golden crunchiness, could do double duty in an order of fish and chips. But here it gets wrapped lovingly in warm corn tortillas, topped with crisp shredded cabbage and squirted with pico de gallo and some tangy, mayo-y sauce.

Another nearby candidate for “best fish taco”: El Taco Nazo. Remember, there’s no relation to the other Taco Nazos, which are decent but pack a greasy punch.

Los Cotijas Taco Shop [South OC]
642 E. 1st St., Tustin

Los Cotijas Taco Shop [Little Saigon]
11951 Euclid St., Garden Grove

El Taconazo [Inland of LA]
14676 Pipeline Ave., Chino Hills

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Los Cotijas Taco Shop–Tustin–A Review with Photo

Hitting the Panchan Bar at Greenland

The newly renovated Greenland Market has way more products than before, including a “salad” bar with Korean side dishes (panchan) like dried little fishies, noodles, seaweed salad, Korean sushi rolls, rice cakes, and more. Great deals on fresh fruit and veggies, and there’s sushi-grade fish as well as live seafood and stew packages. For Valleyites, this blows away the Galleria market in Northridge.

Greenland Market [East San Fernando Valley]
17643 Sherman Way, Van Nuys

Greenland Market [Inland of LA]
18901 Colima Rd., Rowland Heights

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Asian Market Extraordinaire…......

Meatball Surprise

Several hounds express surprise about the deeply superior meatballs at Mary’s Pizza Shack, a small, local chain with all the trappings of a mediocre, family-friendly blandfest. They’re massive things–you get one giant meatball with your spaghetti, and it’s totally satisfying, says Melanie Wong. katya says they’re her favorite meatballs anywhere, hands down. The spicy sausage mixed in makes all the difference. Gerard can’t endorse the spaghetti itself, but the meatballs are great; he recommends the open-faced meatball sandwich, which comes with two of the gigantic meatballs, for $8.45.

Mary’s Pizza Shack [East Bay]
2246 Oak Grove Rd., Walnut Creek

Mary’s Pizza Shack [Marin County]
121 San Marin Dr., Novato

Mary’s Pizza Shack [Solano County]
1500 Oliver Rd. # E, Fairfield

Mary’s Pizza Shack [Solano County]
505 Davis St., Vacaville

Mary’s Pizza Shack [Solano County]
1460 Ary Ln., Dixon

Mary’s Pizza Shack [Sonoma County]
359 E. Washington St., Petaluma

Mary’s Pizza Shack [Sonoma County]
8 W. Spain St., Sonoma

Mary’s Pizza Shack [Sonoma County]
101 Golf Course Dr., Rohnert Park

Mary’s Pizza Shack [Sonoma County]
535 Summerfield Rd., Santa Rosa

Mary’s Pizza Shack [Sonoma County]
790 Gravenstein Hwy N, Sebastopol

Mary’s Pizza Shack [Sonoma County]
3084 Marlow Rd., Santa Rosa

Mary’s Pizza Shack [Napa County]
3085 Jefferson St., Napa

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Meatballs at Mary’s Pizza Shack (thanks katya)

Napa/Sonoma for Under $10

There’s good, cheap food in wine country if you know where to look. Carrie 218 recommends the corn dog guy on the corner of Napa Road and Eighth Street in Sonoma, who produces the most amazing corn dogs she has ever tasted. They’re entirely worth going out of your way for. Lakeside Grill at The Vintners golf course makes a mean burger for under $10, says djh.

The Michoacan taco truck on Salvador Avenue in Napa is a great option; Earl Grey goes two or three times a week. Especially good are the al pastor and the chile verde burrito, an indulgent treat with lots of crema.

The barbecue rig outside D’s Diner in Sebastopol does pork ribs, pork shoulder, chicken, and links in their smoker. The ribs are large and meaty, with a nice smoke ring and moderate smoke flavor; they’re falling-off-the-bone tender, for those who like that texture. The sauce is only okay, says Mick Ruthven, but the ribs are legit and some of the best in the San Francisco Bay area. And in Santa Rosa, Black Bean BBQ offers a hefty plate of food for $10, says Gerard.

Corn Dog Stand [Sonoma County]
Corner of Napa Rd. and Eighth St. E., Sonoma

Lakeside Grill [Napa County]
at The Vintners Golf Club
7901 Solano Ave., Yountville

Michoacan Taco Truck [Napa County]
Salvador Ave., Napa

Barbecue Rig [Sonoma County]
outside D’s Diner
7260 Healdsburg Ave. (Hwy. 116), Sebastopol

Black Bean BBQ [Sonoma County]
a.k.a. Stim’s Texas Bbq
557 Summerfield Rd., Santa Rosa

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Napa / Sonoma on the cheap – Eats for $10 and under?

Royal Kabab: Masterly Pakistani Meats in Huntington Station

Royal Kabab Grill excels at Pakistani-style grilled and pan-fried meats. sbp has eaten a swath through the menu. His favorites:

- Chapli kabab: minced beef in a powerfully seasoned, burger-shaped patty, pan-fried to a thick, caramelized crust. “Crunchy, gooey, savory, sweet, the crust alone had it all. Simply amazing.”

- Gola kabab: a sausage-like ground-beef kabab, also highly seasoned, with cumin and cinnamon notes, among many others.

- Bihari kabab: shredded beef in a spicy marinade of mustard oil, yogurt, and papaya (a natural meat tenderizer), grilled over charcoal. “Charred, crusty, sour, salty, but also mushy. It’s definitely an acquired taste, but I’ve acquired it.”

Also recommended: saag, tandoori shrimp, even plain rice, which gets a lift from an alluring touch of cinnamon. “Please go to this place; every time I’ve been there, it seems empty,” implores sbp. “The food is very good. Give them a pass on the somewhat confused service.”

Royal Kabab Grill [Suffolk County]
135-9 W. Jericho Tpke., near Pine Tree Rd., Huntington Station, NY

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Royal Kebab in Huntington, NY: Revisited

Quiche Tips

Chowhounds offer their tried-and-true tricks for avoiding soggy- or burnt-crusted quiche, and for achieving the most luscious filling.

Crust magic:

Even if you’re beginning with a frozen crust, blind baking (partially baking the crust before you fill it) is key to avoiding that soggy bottom. Line the crust with foil and fill it with rice or dry beans to keep it from puffing up, and bake it at 400F for 12 minutes.

To create a seal between the liquid filling and the crust to further ward off sogginess, brush egg white over the crust or sprinkle shredded cheese in the bottom right after you’ve blind baked it, while it’s still hot.

cheryl h says if you’ve got a pizza stone, baking your quiche on it will assure the bottom crust is baked through and not soggy.

Filling tips:

You can use almost any combination of vegetables, meats, cheeses, and seasonings to flavor your quiche, but all quiche filling begin with a custard base of eggs beaten with milk, half and half, or cream. Egg/dairy ratios vary greatly from recipe to recipe; for a 9-inch quiche, Chocolatechipkt likes a ratio of 1 1/2 cups of milk to 3 eggs. MollyGee notes that using low-fat milk, with its higher water content, can lead to a watery quiche or conversely, to a rubbery one, since a watery appearance may lead you to overbake.


Once you’ve blind baked your crust, it’s easy to accidentally overbake and even burn the edges when baking the filled quiche. You can avoid this by covering the rim of your crust with thin strips of foil after it’s been filled.

Here are two tricks for getting a panful of liquid filling in to bake without making a mess of your oven: 1) Place the filled quiche on a sheet pan lined with foil and put the whole sheet pan in the oven. 2) Pull the oven rack out, place the unfilled pan on it, and pour the filling in, preferably from a bowl or measuring cup with a spout.

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First-time quiche tips?

Margon Revisited: Deep, Homey Latin Flavors in Midtown

There are plenty of reasons people keep going back to Margon, the homey Cuban-Dominican lunch counter on 46th Street, but the yellow rice is as good an explanation as any. lawrence was expecting neutral, starchy stomach fodder, but their’s serious flavor in those grains. “It tastes like they’re using stew broth from their chicken dishes to cook the rice, it’s so flavorful and hearty.”

His second thought is probably the hound-endorsed octopus salad, with refreshingly chewy bites of sliced octopus. Chew a while, and you’ll get hit with briny ocean energy, tart lime, and the sweetness of the octopus itself. There’s a beautiful textural contrast too: crunchy onions and chile peppers against soft, acidic tomatoes. Another winner: red snapper stew, a hearty and well-balanced melange of fish, tomato, green pepper, and spices.

Margon is a great, great option, agrees david sprague. Cuban sandwiches are the big favorite, but just about any plate meal with rice and beans will do you fine. Some say that their Cuban sandwiches are only decent. Their chicken sandwich, however, is superior, says E Eto.

Margon [Rockefeller Center]
136 W. 46th St., between 6th and 7th Aves., Manhattan

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Diamond District lunch places
margon report

Fruit Leather from Your Oven

Homemade fruit leather is easy to make in your oven, and keeps well for a long time. In fact, says Infomaniac, it’s an ancient way to preserve fruit. Here’s his recipe:

For 1 sheet of fruit leather, about 12×17”:

2 cups fruit
2 tablespoons sweetener, or to taste (optional)
Flavoring extract to taste (optional)

Cut fruit into chunks and puree in blender or food processor until smooth. Put through a strainer to remove any skin or seeds. Stir in sweetener and flavoring, if desired. Preheat oven to lowest possible temperature. Line a 12×17” baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper. Pour the pureed fruit onto the baking sheet and spread it almost to the edges by tilting the pan or using an offset spatula. Bake for 4 to 6 hours, until the fruit sheet is dry enough not to stick to your fingers, but still moist enough to roll; it is done when you can touch the fruit and your finger leaves no indentation. Test the sheet in the center of the pan. If the edges are a little crisp, don’t worry–they’ll absorb moisture as the fruit leather cools and become pliable. Allow the fruit sheet to cool completely, then cut or tear into pieces without removing the parchment paper. Roll each piece up, parchment paper side out. It will keep, stored in an airtight container, for 30 days at room temperature or for up to a year frozen.

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Concord Grapes–Bunches!

Drinking Antioxidants

Eating blueberries and pomegranate seeds is a great way to get antioxidants into your system. When you’re tired of just chowing down on raw fruits, try juicing! It’s fairly easy to combine them into a palatable, healthful drink: whiz them up in a blender, and strain out the pulp.

Even easier: buy the ready-made juice at the store. Be sure to check the label to verify that there’s actual blueberry and pomegranate in there. Naked Juices, available at Whole Foods, is a very good brand for this sort of thing. Their blueberry stuff has a true blueberry flavor. Sadaf brand pomegranate juice is also nice; their stuff is 100% fruit juice, and it’s not made from concentrate. Good prices, too. Check it out at Sadaf.

RW Knudsen makes good 100% pomegranate juice.

POM Wonderful has 100% pomegranate juice, plus four other flavors. It’s available in most supermarkets and makes a nice cocktail mixer, too.

Trader Joe’s has blueberry/pomegranate juice, made from concentrate.

Middle Eastern markets will have pomegranate juice at good prices. And don’t forget pomegranate wine!

SF Chronicle recently did a taste test.

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POM= that pomegranate juice

Nabisco’s Royal Milk Cracker Bites the Dust

Royal Lunch has been on the shelves since 1902, says Nabisco, but they’re discontinuing production as of now. Once their current stock is gone, that’s it for the Royal Lunch. They’re on shelves right now, but that won’t last that long. Royal Lunch fans: buy them while you can.

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Nabisco’s Royal Lunch Milk Crackers have been discontinued