Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Mini Knishes & Cold-Kicking Noodles

Je'Bon Noodle House
15 St. Mark's Place
New York, NY
(212) 388-1313

THE WEBSITE CLAIMS that Je'Bon is "The Jewel of St. Mark's Place!" I questioned that at first but then remembered that most establishments on St. Mark's are certainly not attempting for "jewel" status, so perhaps we'll grant Je'Bon its self-appointed title. Couldn't hurt.

Our story, however, begins before Je'Bon. It begins a few days ago when I promised a week's worth of Passover recipes. Today's recipe is a simple one, even simpler than yesterday's latkes, and improves on said latkes by mashing the mixture-bound potatoes instead of grating them and baking the result instead of frying it. This simple alteration yields the vendor cart staple: knishes. By making the knishes "mini" we enable the throwing of a few into your pocket to enjoy on-the-go, though I would recommend wrapping them up in tin foil or a paper towel before putting them in your pocket. One word: linty.

3 cups mashed potatoes (appx. 2 large Russets)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tbsp margarine
3/8 cup matzoh meal
1 egg yolk beaten w/ 1 tbsp water
oil + salt + pepper + rosemary

I peeled my potatoes and softened 'em up by boiling them a little while--until a fork can be stuck in fairly easily. At this point I removed them from the boiling water and let them cool off a bit before mashing them. Combine mashed potatoes with eggs, margarine, matzoh meal, and add seasonings to taste. Form into small, flat patties, arrange on well-greased baking sheet, and brush with egg yolk mixture. Bake in 400-degree oven for 20 minutes or until browned.

This is a good recipe for experimentation. For example, try doubling it and using a few sweet potatoes, or you could use all red potatoes for a different flavor. Other seasonings would work well; adding sauteed onions would kick it up a bit. You can make different sizes or, as I did, try stuffing a few of them with grated cheddar cheese. Good for breakfast and lunch, hot or cold! Nutritional value of zero-to-negative!

It was making these little buggers that made me late for my actual dinner date with a quite sick Mint. Given her cold and the absolutely miserable weather, choosing Je'Bon for hot noodles and soup was a wise choice.

You really can't go wrong with noodles

Now, as a rule, I try to avoid eating on St. Mark's Place (the cheep and deliciously authentic Kenka is a notable exception to this rule if you don't mind waiting outside for a table on any night of the week.) In some ways, St. Mark's, a locale noted for its grimy punk aesthetic, has actually fared better than other neighborhoods (i.e. Little Italy) in holding true to its roots while fending off the forces of gentrification, and in other ways it has lost all grip on its sanity; wig and sock shops do not a punk community make, though Kim's Video and Mint's beloved St. Mark's Comics do well to hold down the fort. Translate to food: this same struggle, between restaurants like the venerable and miserable Dojo and the ever-present Chipolte, makes dining on this block too damn difficult to endure.

Je'Bon surprised me. It's interior gave off the impression, like so many other recent additions to the block, it was trying too hard--a large space with brick walls and sleek light blocks, disco pumping from its raters, and a nearly-empty dining room perched above a completely-empty dining room. But the food is worth the space.

I had the steamed vegetable dumplings to start, which were fresh, crunchy inside, and came (excruciatingly) hot and sticky. Mint's udon noodles and chicken breast in steaming broth ($8) helped kick her cold, and my satay seafood ($11) was a sizzling cast iron pan full of thin noodles with huge shrimp and lots of squid and fish paste in a delicious, not-too-oily sauce. Both good choices for a rainy, rainy day.

MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: There's a wait at Kenka.

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