June 26, 2013

For those who rail at train food

Amtrak is going to great lengths to get passengers to take a fresh look at the all-aboard menu.

By LORI ARATANI The Washington Post

(Continued from page 2)

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Rockin’ KB Chili

The Washington Post

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Amtrak executive chef Christian Hannah, left, with Washington chef Michel Richard, who is working with the rail company to improve the quality of meals sold on its passenger trains.

The Washington Post

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Still, Harvey, who is often upgraded to first class because of his frequent travel, said he's not sure he'd spend the extra dollars just to get the food.

Other passengers say Amtrak's meals have sold them on first-class travel.

Vans Stevenson, senior vice president for state government affairs at the Motion Picture Association of America, opted to take an evening train so he could have the dinner. As he settled into his seat on the 7 p.m. Acela out of New York's Pennsylvania Station, he studied the menu and contemplated his choices: herb-roasted chicken with mashed potatoes, Rockin' KB Chili (named for advisory team member Bob Rosar and his wife, Katy), a wheat berry salad. Hmmm. Stevenson nibbled on the Love Train Snacks, a mix of nuts and cranberries infused with chef Douglas' smoky rub.

"Tonight I'll probably do the herb chicken. But I've had the wheat berry salad, and that's also good," he said.

Next to him, Sharon Smith, an attorney who rides the train from Philadelphia to New York four days a week, said the meals are the best part of the ride. She ticked off some of her favorite entrees: Rockin' KB Chili, the herb-roasted chicken. She doesn't, however, care for the salted caramel creme brulee, which would accompany this evening's meal. Too sweet.

Stevenson later pronounced his chicken "moist" -- "they use the leg and thigh, so it's got more flavor" -- and the peas that accompanied it "flavorful." He knows it isn't the same fare he'd get at Richard's Central or Jenkins' Porchetta, but for what it is -- a meal on a train -- it more than did the job.

Said Stevenson: "It was all good."



Servings: Four to five

This recipe was inspired by New York chef Sara Jenkins, chef-owner of Porchetta and Porsena in New York and a member of Amtrak's Culinary Advisory Team. Jenkins worked with Amtrak's executive chef for long-distance service, Daniel Malzhan, to create the dish, which is being served on selected Amtrak routes. Riders on the Capitol Limited, which runs between Washington and Chicago, will be able to order the dish beginning in August.

Kosher salt

8 ounces dried shell-shaped or gemelli pasta (not mini-size)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 medium red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice

2 medium cloves garlic

11/2 cups (6 ounces) frozen/defrosted or fresh white sweet corn kernels

2 thin leeks, white and light-green parts, cut into 1/4-inch dice then rinsed well (4 ounces trimmed)

Leaves from 2 or 3 stems thyme

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) freshly shredded grana padana or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish

Freshly ground black pepper

16 cherry or grape tomatoes, each cut in half

Chopped parsley, for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add a generous pinch of salt and the pasta. Cook until al dente (just shy of fully done) according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Meanwhile, heat the butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium nonstick saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of salt, stirring to coat. Cook for about 5 minutes, until softened. Stir in the pasta cooking water; cook until the mixture has reduced by two-thirds, about 8 minutes. Turn off the heat.

Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the corn, leeks, thyme and salt to taste, stirring to coat the vegetables. Cook without stirring for 15 minutes or until the vegetables start to brown on the edges, then toss to cook until they are more uniformly lightly browned, for 5 to 7 minutes.

(Continued on page 4)

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Pan-roasted corn and leek pasta with seared tomatoes

The Washington Post


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