Dining at Disney – Sanaa

Time for another disclosure, this is my second favorite restaurant at Disney World and there are days I have difficulty making that ranking decision between Sanaa and California Grill. They are dramatically different restaurants both in food and price, but the quality shines through in both locations. The food is so unique here that we verify all of our dishes are nut and fish free so that we all can share bites of everything.

I remember our first visit to Sanaa and encouraging my husband and boys to try the bread service with all of the toppings, they weren’t sure about it, but I had visited India and knew how good this could be. Sanaa executes this perfectly and we now order it every time we visit; yesterday was no exception and it vanished quickly.


We ordered a South African wine to pair with our food; most of the menu is African and Indian flavors and my husband and I learned long ago that a wine local to the type of food will pair well.


All of our dishes were amazing, and I have sincere compliments to the chef; that original visit inspired me to bring lamb into my own cooking. My eldest ordered the lamb shank, on our original trip it was the youngest, and I tought them both to make sure they get the marrow from inside the bone as well as the meat from outside. After the duration of cooking it’s perfect. The meat simply falls off of the bone when you pick it up: perfection.


I selected the duck; I can’t get it fresh and I haven’t had success reproducing recipes with frozen so this has not made it into my repertoire. It was served a perfect medium rare, with very crispy skin and duck confit (made from the legs and thighs) on the side. Like the lamb and other red meats, when cooked correctly it simply melts in your mouth.


My husband opted for the Braaivleis, a trio of grilled meats; the meats aren’t ever listed on the menu as they are subject to change. His came with pork tenderloin, lamb chops, and a boar meat sausage. All were perfect and flavorful, with the sausage as a clear favorite of my husband and boys due to the unique flavor profile.


My youngest selected the Spicy Durban Shrimp with Aloo Masala after researching all of the terms so that he knew what he was ordering. Again, another amazing dish, the shrimp were full of flavor, and we may have to start ordering extra bread to soak up the sauces.


When it comes to nuts, the desserts are different story and my eldest made sure he ate enough that he didn’t want dessert. My youngest got the Spice Trade Candy Bar and my husband and I split the Kenyan Coffee Petit Entremet. Both were amazing.

  

If you are willing to be a bit more daring in food options, definitely try Sanaa.


Dining at Disney – Flying Fish

There are many opinions about the food at Disney. It is always difficult to determine the quality of the review in absence of knowing the style of the reviewer. Since you have all (hopefully) enjoyed my recipes, I hope that you have a distinct understanding of my tastes.

When we go out to eat, I prefer it to be either outside of my realm of expertise or take an investment of time not always available to me as a working mom.

We tried Flying Fish years ago before the recent renovation. The renovation was completely worth it. The overwhelming smell of fish is gone, the ceiling is higher making the whole restaurant peaceful (quiet), and the bar is beautiful.

  
We started with a cucumber martini with harshly muddled cucumber and Hendricks gin. Definitely good if you are a fan of either cucumber or gin. I will be abusing my cucumber more when I make my Hendricks and tonic at home.

The semolina bread with nori (seaweed) baked in served with a house made créme fraiche butter sprinkled with sea salt was earthy and really good .

  

We ordered the wine before the lobster bisque arrived. A Pinot noir was recommended to go with both our octopus/sea bass/shrimp and salmon.

  

The lobster bisque must have taken hours to make, the color could only come from using the lobster shells to make the stock. It was perfect and I now have a request from my husband to perfect lobster bisque.

My husband and eldest selected the same meal with one key variation. My eldest is allergic to fish and they replaced the sea bass with 2 jumbo prawn. The octopus was the star; it was cooked perfectly with the prawn as a close second. My husband claims it was the risotto. I'm going to disagree, I tasted the grilled tentacle and it was perfection; another skill I have yet to master. (This has been on my list for awhile to master.)

   
My youngest and I each selected the salmon. (If you must choose, select the octopus; although our waiter Chris says the lobster pasta is the best item on the menu.) The salmon, cooked medium as recommended by the chef, was cooked perfectly. It was completed by the grits, that simply added a creaminess to the dish. The carmelized onions and grilled avocado were a treat with the salmon.


If you haven't tried it or if it has been awhile, please check out the Flying Fish if it is in your budget, it was appropriately priced for a top tier Disney restaurant. It clearly ranks with California Grill and Citricos.

Chili-Lime Clams

Following the grad party, we capped off the craziness with one additional big event, my younger son earned his black belt. These two boys simply make me proud. 

I can no longer count how many grad parties I have attended this year, but we are now in the second week of what I will call “normal” for this summer and I am loving it. The pace is relaxed and I am enjoying being outside and cooking outside. 

Last Sunday was a typical Sunday dinner for us with my boys and in-laws. I had been eying up a new Bon Appétit recipe and was excited to try it. I made a couple of modifications and scaled it up for my usual group, but for the most part made it as it was described. I accompanied the meal with a spinach Greek salad, grilled corn on the cob, and spaghetti aglio et olio (garlic and oil). 

There wasn’t a lot to do in advance, so I started with the prep inside, chopping the shallots and garlic, scrubbing the clams, and rinsing the tomatoes and beans. If you haven’t cooked with clams before, “scrubbing” them is exactly what it sounds like, under very cold water, scrub the shells with a brush to remove all of grit so that it doesn’t end up in your meal.

              
Outside, I began to heat my grill and inside I boiled water and set up my skillet for the final pasta. I have a huge cast iron skillet that I put on the grill along with the corn. Once the pan was hot, I put the butter then shallots and garlic, quickly followed by the tomato paste. Grilling corn requires no advance work, the only trick is a couple of towels (that you don’t mind getting dirty) at the end to shuck them. They will be very hot, but the shucks and silk come off very easily. 

          
I added the tomatoes and chickpeas together to make sure that the beans were tender and that the tomatoes had enough time to fall apart (in the future I would cut the tomatoes in half to speed up the process. After they cooked for a bit, I stirred in the sambal oelek, and let it boil a bit longer. 

  

After adding the clams, I used foil to cover the skillet and drizzled the bread with oil.

    

I used most of the clam cooking time to shuck the corn and with a few minutes left added the bread to the grill. 

  

After they were done, I did a quick chop on some fresh basil and tossed the pasta with sautéed garlic, salt, pepper, Parmesan, and the basil while my husband tossed the salad. 

  

Dinner is served.


Chile-Lime Clams with Tomatoes and Grilled Bread

Entrées, Grilling, Shellfish, Summer, Tested and Approved!
Makes 4 servings ∙ Source Bonappetit.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, divided
  • 2 large shallots, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup beer
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) sambal oelek
  • 24 littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 4 thick slices country-style bread
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves with tender stems
  • Lime wedges (for serving)

DIRECTIONS

Prepare a grill for medium heat, placing a large cast-iron skillet on the grill to heat with it.

Once hot, melt 4 Tbsp. butter in skillet. Add shallots and garlic and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until paste darkens to a rich brick-red color, about 1 minute. Add beer, tomatoes, and chickpeas. Bring to a boil and cook until beer is reduced nearly by half and no longer smells boozy, about 4 minutes. Stir in sambal oelek, cook for an additional 4-5 minutes then add clams. Cover (if you don’t have a lid that fits, use a sheet of foil) and cook, stirring occasionally, until clams have fully opened; this could take from 5–15 minutes depending on size of clams and the heat level.

While the clams are cooking on the grill, drizzle bread with oil and season lightly with salt. Grill until golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes per side.

Remove from heat; discard any clams that don’t open. Stir in lime juice and remaining 2 Tbsp. butter.

Transfer toast to plates and spoon clam mixture over; top with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.

Grad Party – Success

It took a lot of work and our parents were amazing, it was a lot of fun and a great success. Our graduate is incredibly appreciative of both the party and the generosity of our guests. 

The cooking went as expected without a hitch and I had plenty of food. I would probably make a recommendation for those considering ribs for a large party to think about the type of ribs they have when calculating how many to make. All of my reading lead me to account for 3 ribs per person when serving other proteins. A typical baby back rib weighs 1½-2½ lbs., the ones I had were 3½-4½ lbs, I would have come closer to what I needed if I had done my calculation with the thought of 2½ ribs per person. 

On the day of the party, I started by getting the ribs and mac and cheese out so that they could come to room temperature for more even cooking. Everyone in the house chipped in; this included both boys, my mom, and my in-laws. Once everything was set, excluding the food, I sent my team on missions, boys to get the fried chicken, moms to get the cake, and men to get the beer. 

    
I set about to cooking and put the mac and cheese in the oven and started on the ribs. 

  

I took each pan of ribs out to my grill, and brushed one side with my glaze, and once they were on the grill I glazed the other side. 

  
I moved them through from one side of the grill to the other and ultimately transferred them to a cutting rack for my dad to cut them into single and double ribs and put them in the trays covered with foil to stay warm. 


Just before the party we set everything out and started the slide show. 


The recipes are as follows and can obviously be scaled as needed. I hope that you enjoy! Please ask questions if you have any regarding the recipes.

Thank you to everyone who helped!

Cole Slaw

Salads, Summer, Tested and Approved!

Makes Serves 10-12 ∙ Difficulty Easy

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 head cabbage
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 4 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp canola oil
  • salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS
Shred cabbage. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over cabbage. Salt and pepper.

NOTES
Add red cabbage and carrots, or use other vinegars for altering flavors and adding color.
Sticky Balsamic Ribs

Entrées, Grilling, Pork

Makes Makes 8 Servings ∙ Difficulty Medium ∙ Source Gourmet | July 2009

INGREDIENTS
For ribs:

  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 8-12 pounds baby back pork ribs, (8 racks; see cooks’ note below)
  • 1 cup water

For glaze:

  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar, packed

DIRECTIONS
Marinate and roast ribs:

Mince and mash garlic to a paste with 1 teaspoon salt. Stir together with rosemary, brown sugar, vinegar, cayenne, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Rub evenly all over ribs and transfer to roasting pans. Marinate, chilled, 8 to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 425°F with racks in upper and lower thirds.

Pour 1/2 cup water into each roasting pan and tightly cover pans with foil. Roast ribs, switching position of pans halfway through, until meat is very tender, about 1 3/4 hours. Remove pans from oven and transfer ribs to a platter.

Make glaze and grill ribs:

Add 1 cup hot water to each roasting pan and scrape up brown bits. Skim off and discard fat, then transfer liquid to a 10-inch skillet. Add vinegar and brown sugar and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil until reduced to about 1 cup, about 15 minutes.

Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium heat for gas).

Brush some of glaze onto both sides of racks of ribs. Grill, turning occasionally, until ribs are hot and grill marks appear, about 6 minutes.

NOTES
If you can only get larger ribs (4 racks), you will need more glaze; use 12 large garlic cloves, 3 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary, 3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar, 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne, 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper.

Ribs can be roasted and glaze can be made ahead and chilled separately (covered once cool). Bring to room temperature, about 30 minutes, before glazing and grilling. 
Sally’s Mac & Cheese

Entrées, Pastas, Tested and Approved!

Cook 30-40 minutes ∙ Makes 8-10 servings ∙ Difficulty Easy ∙ Source Aunt Sally

INGREDIENTS

  • 2-3 eggs beaten, large
  • 24 ounces cottage cheese
  • 16 ounces sour cream
  • 4 cups cheddar, shredded
  • 4 cups macaroni, cook as directed in salted water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Mix the ingredients in order and salt and pepper to taste. Optionally, top with panko or crushed saltines.

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

NOTES

Can be mixed in an oven proof bowl and baked directly or for more crispness on the top, bake in a 9 x 13 pan. Also scales well for large groups.

I have played with this recipe successfully including substituting Picolini for the elbows, dropping the cottage cheese down to 16 oz. and replacing with feta, and replacing half the cheddar with other cheeses such as smoked Gouda.

To make this as Bacon Mac & Cheese, use 3 eggs, and reduce cheddar to ~1 cup, and add 1 block of shredded sharp white cheddar, 1 block of shredded Boar’s Head 3-pepper co-jack, and ~1 pound chopped cooked bacon.
Sweet Rolls

Breads, Tested and Approved!

Difficulty Hard ∙ Source Grandma

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups milk, lukewarm (less amount of water used to dissolve yeast)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 envelopes yeast
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup butter, soft
  • 7 – 7 1/2 cups flour

Icing

  • butter, soft
  • powdered sugar
  • vanilla
  • cream or half and half

DIRECTIONS

Dissolve yeast in a small amount of warm water. Mix milk, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan and heat to ~105℉. When the milk is warm pour into a large bowl and mix in the yeast. Stir in the eggs and butter. 

Start mixing in the flour, stirring until thick and then kneading until soft and elastic. 

Allow to rise for 2 hours (until doubled) then punch down. Butter pans (allowing dough to rest) then make the rolls. Allow to rise until light. 

Bake at 400℉ for 15 minutes.

NOTES

Use light colored metal pans to bake the rolls, dark and glass pans can tend to over bake the bottom.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Breads, Tested and Approved!

Prep 2-2½ hours ∙ Cook 30 minutes ∙ Makes 3 loaves ∙ Difficulty Medium ∙ Source Mom

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 envelopes yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 5 – 5 1/2 cups flour

DIRECTIONS

In a large bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, salt, and yeast. 

In a pan, heat water, milk, honey, and oil until warm. Pour liquid over flour mixture and mix for two minutes with a mixer. 

Add white flour until smooth and elastic; knead for 5 minutes. Raise for 60-90 minutes (until doubled). Punch down and shape into loaves. 

Let raise for 45-60 minutes. Bake 30 minutes at 400℉.

Grad Party – Part 4

Only 21 hours before the party and I think we are set. I finally made it through 18 years of pictures, I had been delinquent for the past 10. But that’s not why you are reading this, today I finished the cole slaw. I did two quintuple batches and ended up with 3 full trays. I didn’t want to have the veggies around for long so my mom and I picked those up this morning: 10 heads of cabbage (9 green and 1 red), 10 bunches of green onions, and 2 lbs. of carrots. When we got home we cleaned them all and peeled the carrots. 

  

Then we went to work on slicing the green onions and shredding the the cabbage and carrots in the food processor. 

I placed each batch in my large bowl and added half of the dressing I made the other day. As always, I seasoned well with salt and pepper. Stirring was a little bit fun, but I managed to keep it all in the bowl. I followed it with the other half of my ingredients and ended up with 3 trays which are now in my MIL’s fridge since I ran out of space. 

  

My mother arrived yesterday to assist and also brought home-made rolls, ~17 dozen. She made them in large batches too and while time-consuming, it is simple to make good bread. The start is active-dry yeast, proofed with a bit of sugar and warm water until it’s frothy. This gets stirred into flour to make a sticky dough, then kneaded with even more flour until smooth. 

        

Then you let it rest to rise for about 1½ hours (still using the same bowl that she used when I was a little girl). 

  

After it’s risen you punch it down, let it rest briefly, shape it into rolls, and then let them rise again before baking them. 

      
I’m so excited to enjoy one of these with a bit of butter. 


I also have signs made, soda chilling, and they put up the tent today. I’ll have one more post tomorrow on the outcome, let’s hope the storms miss us!