The Best Thing I Ate This Week: Lamb Brain Karahi, Farmer’s Market Crabcakes

Washingtonian’s food team shares favorite dishes from their past seven days of dining.

By: Todd Kliman, Jessica Voelker, Anna Spiegel

Todd Kliman

Lamb brain karahi (mughaz karahi) at Khan Kabob (4229 Lafayette Center Dr, Chantilly; 703-817-1200)

This is the best karahi I’ve had in ages—by far. The flavor is more concentrated, the texture is lusher, and there’s a subtle smoke somewhere in there, too.

Check that: This is one of the best dishes I’ve had in ages.

Karahi, if you don’t know, is both the dish and the vessel it’s cooked in; what hits the table at this Chantilly kebab house (co-owned by Tariq Khan, who broke off from the Ravi Kabob empire to open a place of his own), is a wok-like bowl of hammered metal but without the long handle, inside of which is a zesty, aromatic, sinus-clearing stew native to Pakistan and built on a foundation of garlic, chilies, cilantro, tomato, and ginger.

Brains, I realize, are not for everybody, but if you’re even mildly curious, perhaps I can nudge you to make the trip by telling you that they’re not served in their potentially off-putting wholeness but rather subjected to a fine dice and tossed with the sauce until they resemble curds. In other words, you don’t have to think for even one moment that you’re eating brains.

The naan here is fabulous—the rounds are cooked to a darker brown than most, and given a nice crowning scatter of sesame seeds. Tear off hunks to scoop up the stew, and just see if you can stop before the bowl is clean.

Jessica Voelker

Moorenko’s Cookie Overload

I can’t remember which Laurie Moore book it is in which she deplores the state of frozen confections, but I recall the gist of it is that most contemporary ice creams taste like a kid attacked them with her cookies. Instead of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, we have Half Baked, peanut butter sundae, and, yes, snickerdoodle.

I’m betting Susan Soorenko’s Cookie Overload could make a convert out of Moore. The Silver Spring ice cream maker—owner of Moorenko’s, available by the pint at Whole Foods, among other places—offers a take on cookies and cream with no giant chunks of sugary sandwich; the crumbly cookie is mixed into a concoction that’s rich with cream and egg yolk but has that signature snappy bite of all great ice cream. It also does what the best haute-nostalgia treats do: It reminds you of why you loved a food so much as a kid while still entertaining your grownup tastebuds.

PS: Moorenko’s also has a Silver Spring storefront at 8030B Georgia Avenue.

Anna Spiegel

Crabcakes from Chris’ Marketplace at the Dupont FreshFarm Market

It’s starting to feel like fall, but you wouldn’t think it wandering around the FreshFarm Market in Dupont Circle. The stands are still overflowing with heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn, and summer squash. One of my favorite Sunday summer dinners comes from Chris’ Marketplace, which is typically surrounded by crowds waiting to sample the crabcakes Chris Hoge has sizzling in a cast-iron skillet. The jumbo lump cakes are lusciously creamy and packed with meat (“filler-free” is a nice idea, but the crab needs a little binder to hold together). These keep their shape perfectly during a quick sauté at home. I like to make my own version from time to time, but this is a shortcut you shouldn’t mind taking, especially when you can harvest the rest of the ingredients nearby for homemade sides. My ideal spread: Chris’s gazpacho to start, which is addictive in its own right, and vegan, despite its richness. I like to dress it up with some diced cucumbers, peppers, and a drizzle of good olive oil for a dinner party. The crabcakes only need a squeeze of lemon and simple side of greens, but they’re even better alongside sweet corn. My go-to is a few ears from New Morning Farm for a corn salad, tossed with tomatoes and torn basil. The abundant bunches from Gardeners Gourmet are perfectly peppery and can live for weeks in a vase, so I tend to buy a few and whip up an easy basil aïoli to serve alongside (this recipe takes minutes). Even after the summer produce is gone, I still like to stop by the marketplace and just switch up the accompaniments. The best thing about the menu is that the centerpiece is already made, giving you plenty of time to catch an afternoon football game before heading in for dinner.

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Previous editions of The Best Thing I Ate