Guest Bloggers, Secrets of an Astoria Chef
Jun 18, 2012

NEW Column: Secrets of An Astoria Chef

Local chef, Clare Langan, shows you how to shop and prepare easy, delicious food. Up first: squash blossom & mushroom tacos!

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We’re thrilled to announce a new WHA contributor, Clare Langan! Clare is a graduate from The Institute of Culinary Education and a personal chef and food enthusiast. She interned in the Test Kitchen at Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine and developed and tested recipes with Top Chef contestant Candice Kumai, the “Stiletto Chef”. Along with her work as a personal chef, she is a teaching assistant at The Brooklyn Kitchen and Haven’s Kitchen. You can sometimes find Clare slingin’ pork buns at Smorgasburg or practicing my downward dog at Yoga Agora. She’s also proud member of Kitchensurfing

We hope this new column will inspire you to shop the many produce markets and specialty food shops that help define Astoria in addition to our vibrant restaurant scene. Happy cooking, Astoria!  -Mackenzi

Chances are, a conversation about Astoria involves food. Whether it’s the most authentic street cart falafel or which bar has the best mac ‘n cheese, it’s no secret our neighborhood knows how to eat.

But what about cooking? While I would happily eat at Arepas Cafe every night, I find myself at the stove most nights (in addition to my days as a personal chef, but more on that later). When I first moved to the area from Brooklyn, I was astounded by the selection of stuff – real Greek feta, syrupy pomegranate molasses, smoking hot dried chiles. Food begging to be cooked, eaten, and shared.

Every few weeks, I am going to share with you a recipe based on ingredients sourced from local vendors in and around Astoria.

This week, I traveled down the block to Bravo International, a regular old supermarket, gone global. Bravo carries an outrageous selection of Mexican ingredients – blue corn tortillas, anyone?

I also paid a visit to Brooklyn Grange, the mega rooftop farm located on Northern Boulevard in LIC.  They have a small farm stand and open house on Wednesdays from 1-6pm. I took a quick tour of the roof and met the farmer (how often does that happen in Queens?)

Here’s what I got:

  • Masa harina flour, blue corn tortillas, queso fresco – Bravo International, 34-12 34th Ave.
  • Squash blossoms – Brooklyn Grange, 37-18 Northern Boulevard (Wed only)
  • Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton de la vera) – EuroMarket, 30-42 31st Ave.

Now let’s get cooking, Astoria!

 Mushroom and Squash Blossom Tacos, Serve 2-4

These tacos pay homage to huitacoche, a pretty gnarly (edible) fungus that grows on corn; a delicacy in Mexico. I’ve never seen fresh, only canned. Here I’ve combined fresh mushrooms and masa-encrusted squash blossoms. These gorgeous blooms have a delicate flavor and silky texture. They beg for salt and fat (i.e. cheese). This is a truly satisfying dish, even for meat-eaters. Oh, it’s also gluten-free.

Grapeseed oil

1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

1/4-1/2 tsp. Spanish hot or smoked paprika (or combo of both)

2 large portobello mushrooms, de-stemmed and thinly sliced

5 shiitake mushrooms, de-stemmed and thinly sliced

1/4 cup beer

Kosher salt

Black pepper

4-6 squash blossoms, de-stemmed and wiped clean

1/2 cup masa harina flour

1 egg, beaten

Blue corn tortillas

Queso fresco, for serving


Mushrooms before

Mushrooms after

In a large skillet, heat 2 T. oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 4 minutes. Season with salt. Add garlic, cook 1 minute. Increase heat to medium-high and add mushrooms. Stir frequently until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to high and slowly add beer, stirring and scraping to pick up any brown bits (i.e. deglaze). When liquid has evaporated, turn off heat. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Heat a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add about 1 T. oil. Dredge the squash blossoms, one at a time, in masa harina, then egg then again in masa. Place in skillet and cook a few minutes on each side until golden brown. Place on paper towel and lightly sprinkle with salt. Roughly chop and set aside.

Char tortillas over and open gas flame or under a broiler. To assemble tacos, place mushroom mixture inside taco, top with chopped squash blossom and crumbled queso fresco.






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