Posts tagged ‘Entertaining’

Pan-Roasted Mussels in Miso Broth


I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I was not always the omnivore I am today. There was a time when only hamburgers and rice were allowed to pass through these lips, and anything collected from the ocean was categorically forbidden. In a stunning example of mind over matter, however, at 20 years old I determined that fish were good for my health and thus I WOULD LIKE THEM. Beginning with steak-y fish like swordfish, tuna, and salmon, I gradually incorporated the entire classification. From there, mollusks made their debut — mussels leading the charge.

The appeal of mussels for me was really their connection to European culture (moules frites…mmm…), the obligatory slice of buttered and toasted bread served alongside, and the endless variety of delicious broths they swam in. My first experience was a tomato based broth laced with white wine, fennel, and plenty of garlic. To this day, it is my favorite preparation. Purists may prefer the simple white wine, garlic, shallots, and creme fraiche version, aka moules marinières. More adventurous souls have probably seen mussels served with curry or, as demonstrated below, miso. These Asian preparations are a wonderful diversion and can truly impress at a dinner party.

While you have to buy and cook your mussels the same day, you can make the base of your broth early, and your dinner party will come together in an astonishing 5 minutes — faster than it takes to toast your baguette! Also, this is a mussels prep that few people have tasted before: Bonus!

A note on mussels: don’t freak out or anything, but it is important to note that mussels can die between their moment of harvesting and when you are ready to cook. Nothing ruins the memory of a good dinner party like a bad shellfish, trust me! To eliminate these evil-doers, throw out any mussels in the bag that have broken or cracked shells. Mussels that are open and do not close tightly when rapped against the side of the sink or a countertop should also be tossed. After cooking, if you have a mussel that still hasn’t opened up in the heat of the pan, chuck it. WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT! Prevent mussels from dying on your watch by keeping them in a mesh bag on a bed of ice in your fridge. Do not suffocate them in a plastic bag, or you’ll end up tossing a ton of them.

Pan-Roasted Bouchot Mussels with Os, from the Momofuku Cookbook
(serves 4)

1/3 cup denjang, or shiro (white) miso
2 Tbs. sherry vinegar
2 Tbs. minced peeled fresh ginger
2 Tbs. sliced scallions (greens and whites)
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4-5 lbs. mussels
1/4 c. grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 c. dry sake (use dry vermouth if you can’t find sake)

Clean the mussels: Put them in a large bowl of cold water and let them sit for a few minutes to purge any grit, then scrub their shells clean of any debris, and rip off the ‘beards’ — the little fuzzy strands sticking out of the side of the shells. Smash together the denjang, sherry vinegar, ginger, sliced scallions, and garlic cloves in a small bowl. Set aside.

Pour the oil into a deep wide pot with a lid that will later comfortable accommodate all the mussels, and set over high heat. After a minute or so, when the oil is hot but not smoking, add the mussels. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then add the sake. Cover the pot and steam the mussels until they’ve all opened, about 4 minutes.

Remove the lid from the pot, scoot all the mussels to one side, and add the denjang mixture to the liquid in the bottom of the pot. Stir to incorporate it, which should happen rather quickly, then toss the mussels to coat them with the sauce and pan juices.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to four deep bowls. Discard any mussels that did not open. Pour the broth-sauce from the pot over the mussels, and garnish each portion with a heavy dose of black pepper and some of the julienned scallions. Serve at once.

Advertisements

June 9, 2010 at 3:13 pm 3 comments

Spring-y Saffron Chicken and Snap Peas

I am aware that this post is coming late: spring has long since sprung.  Morels, fava beans, and ramps – the heralds of the season in New England – have populated and then disappeared from the market shelves, making room for the first husks of sweet corn and mounds of heirloom tomatoes.  Nevertheless, I decided last night to peruse the “Spring” chapter of one of my favorite cookbooks with the aim of giving May a proper (though belated) send-off.

Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques is a truly wonderful volume for any cook who loves to entertain.  The recipes are elegant and intensely flavorful, though never overly complicated.  Their simplicity is juxtaposed brilliantly with their originality – I often ask myself, “why hasn’t anyone thought of that before?”  As an example, the meal I made last night involved thinly slicing sugar snap peas on the bias and sauteeing them quickly with onions and thyme, finished with saffron butter and lemon juice.  Surely, one need not prepare the snap peas this way to enjoy the delicious flavor combination, but I loved the way the peas separated from the pod, creating a varied texture and a far more interesting visual on the plate than the standard whole pod.

Another lovely feature of this cookbook is that it is organized around full meals.  For each season, Goin provides eight 4-course menus, including dessert.  I have had great luck cooking her recipes — her instructions are very clear and concise, and she always notes when some aspect of the meal can be done ahead.  Last night, I made just one course although it had three components: Saffron Chicken with Parmesan Pudding, Spring Onions, and Sugar Snap Peas.  RJ and I raved about the layered flavors of the chicken breasts, and I could not get enough of the green vegetables.  After an initially lukewarm reaction to the texture of the parmesan pudding, both of us came around to appreciating its subtlety when paired with the zesty chicken.  Only two things would have improved this meal: first, we should have listened to Suzanne Goin and used skin-on chicken breasts.  We missed the crispy goodness!  Second, in making this again I will definitely whip up a quick pan sauce to accompany the protein – why waste all those rich drippings?

Saffron Chicken, Spring Onions, and Sugar Snap Peas
Serves 6

1/2 tsp. saffron threads
3 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, separated
6 boneless chicken breasts, about 5 oz. each, skin on!
1 Tbs. thyme leaves, separated
2 Tbs. sliced flat-leaf parsley
1 lemon, zested
3/4 lb. sugar snap peas, sliced on the diagonal into 1/4 inch pieces
1 1/2 c. sliced spring onions plus 1/2 c. sliced spring onion tops
4 oz. pea shoots

Toast the saffron in a small pan over medium heat until it just dries and becomes brittle. Pound the saffron to a fine powder in a mortar. Dab a tablespoon of the softened butter into the saffron powder, using the butter to scoop up about half the powder. Set aside.

Stir 4 tablespoons olive oil into the mortar, scraping with a rubber spatula to incorporate all of the saffron powder. Mix with 2 teaspoons of the thyme leaves, all of the parsley, and the lemon zest. Pour this into a large ziplock bag with the chicken breasts, coating the chicken well. Marinate in the refrigerator at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Heat a large saute pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Swirl in 1 tablespoon olive oil and wait a minute. Place the chicken, skin side down, in the pan (you might need to cook the chicken in batches). Cook for 3-4 minutes, until the skin is crispy and golden brown. Turn the breasts over, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook them a few more minutes, until just cooked through and springy to the touch. Transfer the chicken to a resting rack.

Return the pan to the stove over medium heat for a minute. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, and when it foams, add the sliced spring onions, sugar snap peas, 1/2 teaspoon salt, a pinch of pepper and the remaining teaspoon of thyme. Cook over medium heat 2-3 minutes stirring, until the onions are translucent. Add the saffron butter and 1 tablespoon water. Swirl the pan, and when the liquid comes to a simmer, toss in the pea shoots and onion tops. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and squeeze a little lemon juice over the vegetables. Taste for seasoning.

Arrange the chicken on a large warm platter and spoon the vegetables over it. Serve with the hot parmesan pudding.

Parmesan Pudding
(obviously this part of the meal is not gluten free)

3 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/4 c. plus 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1 3/4 c. whole milk
2/3 c. heavy cream
1 extra-large egg
1 extra-large egg yolk
1 1/4 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Heat a medium pot over medium heat for 1 minute.  Add the butter; when it foams, whisk in the flour, 1 Tbs. at a time, and cook for about 5 minutes, being careful not to let the flour brown.  Slowly pour in the milk and cream, whisking constantly to incorporate it.  The butter and flour will seize up and get pasty at first.  Continue whisking vigorously as you add the liquid, and the mixture will become smooth.  Cook a few more minutes, until warm to the touch.  Remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk the egg and egg yolk together in a small bowl.  Slowly drizzle the eggs into the cream mixture, whisking continuously until combined.  Stir in the cheese, and season with a heaping 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Pour the mixture into a 8×6 inch (or equivalent) baking dish, and cover tightly with foil. [I used individual ramekins instead, and cut the cooking time to 40-45 minutes which seemed to do the trick!]  Place the baking dish in a roasting pan, and add hot water to the pan until it comes halfway up the outside of the custard dish.  Place the pan in the oven and bake about 1 hour, until the pudding is just set.

(You can make and bake the pudding ahead of time and refrigerate it, covered.  Bring it to room temperature about an hour before serving, and rewarm it in a 400 degree F oven, 15-20 minutes, uncovered, until it’s hot and begins to brown slightly around the edges.)

June 4, 2010 at 2:36 pm 4 comments

Back with a Vengeance: Momofuku-style

Hellloooooo, everyone.  I can barely contain myself, I am so happy to be back.  After a year of having my nose in a book, I can finally pull it out and put it to a better purpose: smelling the delicious aromas of caramelized meats, yeasty doughs, and rosy wines.  For my comeback tour, I am resuming the cookbook challenge, and am starting with a fabulous one: The Momofuku Cookbook.

As many of you may have heard, David Chang is the lauded proprietor and chef behind the Momofuku empire of the East Village.  A trip to visit my brother in New York last year included a dinner at Momofuku Ssam, followed by a return to the attached “Milk Bar” for this cake.  The dinner, though, was the highlight.  Ssam is known for several specialities, but none more famous than the pork buns.  From the first bite, we were soulmates.  Wrapped in an airy, tender bun is a slab of slow-roasted pork belly, slathered in salty-sweet hoisin sauce and punctuated with lightly-pickled cucumber slices.  I truly could have eaten 15.  RJ, too, was enamored.  I think his comment was, “you better take notes.”  Unfortunately, I had no clue where to start with making the white, spongy, slightly sticky buns.  I had never attempted anything like them.  But when the Momofuku cookbook came out, I no longer had any excuse.  I rolled up my sleeves and started kneading.

The results?  Incredible.  The buns tasted just as good as those from the restaurant.  Yes, the recipe is labor-intensive.  And, if you’re going for the full experience, you’re going to want to make up some of Ssam’s awesome condiments too.  I pickled some fennel and shiitake mushrooms.  Damn, they make for a good bun.

Momofuku’s Famous Pork Buns

FOR PORK
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
3 lb skinless boneless pork belly

FOR BUNS
1 1/2 c. warm water at room temp
1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. active dry yeast
4 1/2 c. bread flour
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons nonfat dried milk
1 Tbs. kosher salt
Rounded 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/3 c. rendered pork fat or vegetable shortening at room temp.

For the Pork:
Stir together kosher salt and sugar, and rub all over the pork. Discard excess. Nestle in a shallow dish that fits the meat snugly and cover with plastic wrap. Let brine, chilled, at least 6 hours but no longer than 24.

Heat oven to 450 F. Discard any liquid that accumulated. Put the belly in the oven, fat side up, and cook for 1 hour, basting it with the rendered fat at the halfway point, until it’s an appetizing golden brown. Then turn oven temp down to 250F and cook for another hour until belly is tender (not falling apart but it should feel like a down pillow when firmly poked).
OR: Pour in 1/2 cup broth and 1/2 cup water. Cover tightly with foil and roast until pork is very tender, about 2 1/2 hours at 300 F. Remove foil and increase oven temperature to 450°F, then roast until fat is golden, about 20 minutes more.

Remove pan from oven and transfer belly to a plate. Decant fat and meat juices from the pan and reserve (fat can be used for cooking later, and juices can be used to flavor a sauce). Cool 30 minutes, then chill, wrapped in plastic or aluminum foil, until cold and firm, at least 1 hour.

For the Buns:
Stir together warm water with yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer outfitted with the dough hook. Add the flour, sugar, milk powder, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and fat and mix on the lowest speed possible for 8-10 min. The dough should gather together into a neat, not-too-tacky ball on the hook. When it does, lightly oil a medium mixing bowl, put the dough in it, and cover the bowl with a dry kitchen towel. Put it in a warmish place and let rise until the dough doubles in bulk, about 1 hour and 15 min.

Punch down dough, then transfer to a very lightly floured surface and flatten slightly into a disk. Divide the dough in half, then divide each half into 5 equal pieces. Gently roll the pieces into logs, then cut each log into 5 pieces, making 50 pieces total. They should each be the size of a Ping-Pong ball and weigh about 25 grams or just under an ounce. Roll each piece into a ball. Cover the 50 dough balls with a draping of plastic wrap and allow them to rest and rise for 30 min.

Meanwhile, cut out fifty 4x4inch squares of parchment paper. Coat a chopstick with whatever fat you’re using.

Flatten out 1 piece of dough into a 6- by 3-inch oval, lightly dusting surface, your hands, and rolling pin with flour. Pat oval between your palms to remove excess flour, then fold in half crosswise over the greased chopstick (do not pinch). Withdraw the chopstick, leaving the bun folded, and put the bun on a square of parchment paper. Stick it back under the plastic wrap (or a dry kitchen towel) and form the rest of the buns. Make more buns with remaining dough, then let stand, loosely covered, until slightly risen, about 30-45 minutes.

Set a large steamer rack inside skillet (or wok) and add enough water to reach within 1/2 inch of bottom of rack, then bring to a boil. Carefully place 5 to 7 buns (still on parchment paper) in steamer rack (do not let buns touch). Cover tightly and steam over high heat until buns are puffed and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer buns to a plate with tongs, then discard wax paper and wrap buns in kitchen towels (not terry cloth) to keep warm. Steam remaining buns in batches, adding boiling-hot water to skillet as needed. Use buns immediately (reheat in steamer for a minute or so if necessary) or allow to cool completely, then seal in plastic freezer bags and freeze for up to a few months. Reheat frozen buns in a stovetop steamer for 2-3 minutes, until puffy, soft, and warmed all the way through.

Return buns (still wrapped in towels) to steamer rack in skillet and keep warm (off heat), covered.

TO SERVE:
Slice pork thickly against the grain. Reheat in 350 degree oven or in skillet until warmed all the way through and tender/jiggly (about 20 min in oven or 5 min in skillet). If you have any pork juices, warm them in the same container.

Brush bottom half of each warmed bun with hoisin sauce, then sandwich with 1 or 2 pork slices and some accoutrements: fresh scallions, sriracha, or the below:

Pickled Fennel
Cut a fennel bulb or two in half from root to stalk. Cut out the core, and cut the halves in half (along the same axis as before). Slice the fennel into thin strips, less than 1/8 in thick. Combine 1 cup of piping hot tap water, 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar, 6 Tbs. sugar, and 2 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, stir to dissolve sugar. Place the fennel in a quart size container, and pour the liquid mixture over the fennel. Cover and refrigerate. Tastes best after a couple of days, but can be used immediately.

Soy Sauce Pickled Shiitakes
Steep 4 loosely packed cups of dried shiitake mushrooms (about 1/3 oz) in boiling water until softened, about 15 min. Lift the shiitakes from the steeping water, trip off and discard any stems, and cut caps int 1/8 in. thick slices. Reserve 2 cups of the steeping liquid and pass it through a fine-mesh strainer to remove grit and debris.
Combine the reserved steeping liquid, 1 c. sugar, 1 c. light soy sauce, 1 c. sherry vinegar, two 3-inch knobs of peeled fresh ginger and sliced shiitakes in a saucepan. Turn the heat to medium, bring to a very gentle simmer and stir occasionally for 30 min. Let cool.
Discard the ginger and pack the shiitakes (and as much of the liquid as necessary to cover them) into a quart container. These pickles are ready to eat immediately and will keep, refrigerated, for at least 1 month.

May 26, 2010 at 1:01 pm Leave a comment

I Want Chocolate!

Chocolate brownie

I realized over the weekend that my first blogiversary came and went with no fanfare, public or private.  Indeed, it has been over a year since I started detailing my eating habits online, posing my food for pictures, and attempting to cook my way through an entire cookbook library.  It has been a wonderful experience thus far, and it is sad to me that only a year into the project my posting frequency has fallen off so dramatically.  I can keep explaining to everyone that grad school is frickin’ HARD, but that’s boring and obvious.  With the holidays coming up, cooking and eating will no doubt become a priority again, and you will see it all here!  Until then — we must celebrate with chocolate.

This amazing recipe comes from a cookbook I picked up in Les Galleries Lafayette in Paris.  Whether my French language skills were advanced or pitifully wanting at the time, I could understand the cover photo of a pan of brownies with multiple spoons digging in, and the simple exclamation that makes up its title: Je veux du chocolat! (I Want Chocolate!) with little effort.  So when I figured out that my blog’s one year anniversary had been achieved, I decided that I, too, wanted chocolate.  Though the book contains myriad iterations of chocolate confections – mousse, cake, cookies, ice cream, etc. – this one has always been a favorite of both mine and my mother-in-law’s.  It is quite simple to pull together, and is surprising in its rich cocoa flavor and dense, moist center.

All I ask is that once you unmold the perfection that is this dessert, and grab your fork and vanilla ice cream, you dedicate your first bite to the perpetuation of FromMyTable.com.  A votre sante!

Gateau au Chocolat Fondant de Nathalie (Nathalie’s Melting Chocolate Cake), from Je Veux du Chocolat
(serves 8 at least!)

Please excuse the irregular measurements — I am translating from the French here!
7 oz. (200 grams) bittersweet chocolate (I used 70% cocoa)
1 stick plus 6 Tbs. (200 grams) butter
5 eggs
1 Tbs. flour
1 1/4 cup + 1 Tbs. (250 grams) sugar

Heat the oven to 375 degrees (190 C.) and grease an 8- or 9-inch diameter springform pan or tart pan with removable base.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a microwave or double boiler. Add the sugar and set aside to cool slightly.

One by one, add the eggs, stirring well with a wooden spoon after each egg. Finally, add the flour and stir until smooth.

Pour mixture into the prepared baking pan and cook for 22 minutes. The cake should be still lightly trembling in the middle. Take out of the oven, unmold quickly, and let cake cool and rest on a rack until ready to serve. Bon Appetit!!

November 16, 2009 at 4:31 pm 1 comment

Profiteroles

Profiteroles

You will know that school is going well and that I have retained my sanity when posts appear here on From My Table.  As you can tell, it was touch and go there for a while, since my last post was put up here almost a month ago.  But today I finished writing my first paper (and it was a doozy!) and I finally have time to catch up here.  To set your minds at ease, it isn’t that I haven’t been eating or cooking.  I have just found that I can either post on the blog or cook and photograph, but not both.  I have stored up quite a few meals in my camera, but my typing time (and sterling wit) has been expended elsewhere for the past month — namely, at school.

Here’s the good news: I have a killer dessert for you.  Made of chou dough (the same used for gougères), these are simple and scrumptious and versatile to boot.  The ingredients are probably in your fridge and on your counter right now, and they take a mere half hour to make.  Plus (as if you needed further incentive), profiteroles cut an elegant figure and thus can be served at your next dinner party.  If you can wait that long…

Profiteroles, from the Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts

(Serves 6-8)

1 cup water
5 Tbs. butter
1 c. unbleached white flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a saucepan, bring water and butter to a boil. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, and sugar. When water and butter boil, add the dry ingredients at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. Continue stirring until the mixture forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan, like so:

profiterole-dough-ball-stage

Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 2-3 minutes. Then, beat the eggs in, one at a time. Each egg will make the mixture gloppy and slimy for a minute, but will turn back into smooth dough after some sustained stirring.

Profit-dough-gloppy

profit-smooth-dough

Lightly oil a baking sheet and/or line sheet with parchment paper. Using the wooden spoon or, if you’re fancy, a pastry bag, form mounds of dough 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Use about 1/4 cup of dough for each large puff or about 2 1/2 Tbs. for smaller puffs. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees then reduce temperature to 350 (don’t open the oven!) and bake for 20 minutes more for smaller puffs or 25 minutes more for larger puffs.

profit-dough-balls

When the puffs are firm, turn off the oven, remove the puffs, and using a small sharp knife, score a horizontal cut about 2/3 of the way up each puff (this is much easier right out of the oven when the puffs are crispy). Return the puffs to the still-warm oven for about 15 minutes to let the residual heat dry them a bit. Remove and cool completely.

Profiterole

When ready to serve, fill as desired by cutting the top from each puff at its scored mark, mounding the filling inside and replacing the top.

Profiterole-Caramel

My favorite fillings include:
Brigham’s vanilla ice cream with Herrell’s hot fudge sauce and/or dulce de leche (I used Stonewall Kitchen)
Home-made ice cream (coconut? strawberry? mocha chip?)
Apple chunks sauteed in butter, sugar, and cinnamon.
Cannoli filling (sweet ricotta, mmmm…)

October 3, 2009 at 3:19 pm 2 comments

Duck Lasagna Strapazatta

Duck Lasagna

The final recipe I tested for my Cookbook Challenge review of the Sweet Basil Cookbook was Duck Lasagna Strapazatta.  I picture many readers saying to themselves: “Duck – check.  Lasagna – check.  Strapa-wha?”  In general, I try not to go into long, pedantic descriptions of certain foods, as both the well-informed and the uninterested among us might yawn at a recounting of the conflicts over the definitive elements of cassoulet or the supposed aphrodisiacal properties of oysters. Yet strapazatta is not a term you come across frequently, and even my Google searches neglected to produce a consensus on the definition.

From what I gather, strapazatta literally translates to “bungled” in Italian and is used in cooking to refer to ‘free-form’ dishes.  I am copying the spelling directly from the cookbook, though online another recipe title often pops up: uova strapazzate, or scrambled eggs.  It seems likely that strapazatta is an Americanization of the word strapazzate and that the general concept is a stirred-up, rustic preparation — here, of lasagna (also known as lasagne: further proof of my theory).

So much for avoiding long-winded explanations…  To keep the rest brief: I liked this, I didn’t love it.  I think the best translation based on what I put on the table was the first: “bungled”.  The port made the sauce quite sweet, and it neglected the strong savory component (oregano? more fontina?) to counter it.  In addition, the noodles refused to cooperate — the short lasagna pieces didn’t separate well and I ended up having to place them in the dish in rows, much as I would have with whole lasagna noodles.  The texture was phenomenal, however, with the pleasing contrast of rough shredded duck, sheets of smooth pasta, and crusty cheese topping.  If I hadn’t been following the recipe so closely, for the purposes of a proper review of the cookbook, I might have thinned out the sauce with some beef stock and added a couple of savory herbs to finish.  All told, however, the ragu had real merit as a concept — it just needed a few tweaks and a different pasta to top.

Duck Lasagna Strapazatta, from the Sweet Basil Cookbook [Printable Recipe]
(serves 4 to 6)

4 duck confit legs

mirepoix2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
1 Spanish onion, diced (about 1 cup)
2 stalks celery, diced (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 Tbs.)
10 white mushrooms, quartered (about 2 cups)
2 large portobello mushrooms, stemmed and sliced into 1/2 inch wide strips
1 Tbs. dried porcini mushrooms
2 cups port wine
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. chopped fresh sage
2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup red sauce (use your favorite marinara sauce or follow the recipe below)

Fresh pasta sheets, cut into 3-inch wide strips
2 cups grated fontina cheese

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over moderate heat. Add the carrot, onion and celery. Saute the mixture for 5 to 10 minutes, until the ingredients begin to brown. Add the garlic and the white and portobello mushrooms. Continue sauteing for 5 more minutes, until the ingredients begin to caramelize. Add the dried porcini mushrooms, port, bay leaf, and sage. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then add the Worcestershire sauce and the red sauce. Decrease the heat and allow the sauce to stew for 8 to 10 minutes, until all of the flavors have had a chance to get acquainted. Stir the duck in with the sauce and remove from the heat.

Duck_RaguMeanwhile, in a large pot, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and the pasta, stirring it to keep from sticking. Cook for 1 minute, or until al dente [I used no-boil lasagna noodles and 2 minutes of boiling softened them up, though I would recommend serving this over penne rigate or rigatoni or even pappardelle — adjust cook time accodingly]. Drain thoroughly.

Duck_pastaStir the cooked pasta in with the sauce. Transfer the pasta and sauce to a large casserole dish, sprinkle with the fontina, and bake in the oven [at 350 degrees] until the cheese is bubbling. Serve garnished with parsley.

P.S. — the cookbook also suggests that subbing in sliced eggplant for the duck would make a lovely vegetarian version.

duck lasagna

July 16, 2009 at 10:58 pm 2 comments

Best Ever Chicken Scallopine

Scallopine

It seems I am not the only one lax in my blogging duties.  Some of my favorite sites are on indefinite breaks.  Granted, I don’t have a truly good excuse, as I am not in the middle of opening my own restaurant, mourning the loss of my pet, or recovering from a difficult break-up.  I’m more in the same league with Katie of Chaos in the Kitchen, who just wants to hang out with her kids, since my reason is that I’m pouty about not having my own kitchen.  This, however, is all about to change!  Starting July 6th, my table — of “From My Table to Yours” fame — will be relocated to Beacon Hill in Boston, MA.  From those heights overlooking the historic city, the dirty river Charles, and the ivory towers of Cambridge, I hope to bring my cooking to a whole new level.  Think: exotic cheeses from Formaggio Kitchen, game meats from Savenor’s, and guess what — a Whole Foods only a couple blocks from my front door!  If I can just manage to keep my graduate student homework to a minimum, I can really get something accomplished here!

So, unlike my compatriots listed above I am not on a break from posting, I simply need another week to gather myself together and get back into the swing of things.  To tide you over, I have a great recipe to share though I do need to make a confession.  While my Cookbook Challenge was conceived with the absolute best intentions, I always suspected it might come back to bite me in the arse.  The mission was to work my way through the massive collection of cookbooks I own so that I could at least say that I had tried several recipes from each one (and thus justify their purchase).  Yet deep down I knew that I had a dark secret — I buy books faster than I can cook from them.  Since the start of the challenge at the end of April, I have added five cookbooks to my collection, or seven if you count Ratio and The Flavor Bible in the count!  No matter — I won’t let my own weakness for shiny hardcovers and glossy photographs lessen my dedication to (or enjoyment of) the Sisyphean task of the Cookbook Challenge!

Next up: Sweet Basil by David Becker.  This book is particularly close to my heart since the restaurant Sweet Basil is located in my hometown of Needham, MA and is a favorite of mine.  Inside the small establishment, corrugated tin walls flank an open kitchen from which steam clouds billow and giant white bowls of pasta emerge.  Outside, crowds gather to await their tables, each couple sharing the burden of a mysterious brown paper bag.  Those in the know, of course, are aware that the bags contain wine and beer, since part of the charm of Sweet Basil is their BYOB policy.  And as Dave Becker confesses in the book, he’s seen wine harvested during the Reagan administration sitting on one table, with Schlitz in a can holding court at the adjacent one.  It’s just that kind of place.

What I loved most about this first recipe is that it came out tasting just like it does at the restaurant.  The characteristic flavors of bright lemon juice, pungent garlic and, yes, sweet basil, were all present and accounted for.  Each bite came alive in my mouth – and each tastebud was singing in chorus: salt! sweet! sour! umami!  (it’s true – it’s from the parmesan cheese).  I would not call this recipe the “Best” unless it really was extremely good and the best I’ve tasted.  Please make this.  Go.  Now.  Cook!  Or if you don’t cook, get yourself over to Sweet Basil on Great Plain Ave in Needham.

Chicken Scallopini with Lemon, Capers, and Tomatoes, from Sweet Basil the Cookbook [Printable Recipe]
(Serves 4)

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
All-purpose flour
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
3 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
8 cloves garlic, minced (about 1/2 cup – don’t skimp too much!)
1/2 c. white wine
Juice of 2 lemons
2 c. chicken stock
2 plum tomatoes, diced (about 1 cup)
2 Tbs. salted capers, rinsed (I used the capers in brine)
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil
1/2 c. grated Parmigiano-reggiano cheese

Cooked angel hair pasta for serving

scallopine-chickenPlace the chicken breasts, two at a time, between 2 sheets of plastic wrap [or in a gallon-size Ziploc bag]. Use the smooth side of a meat mallet [or a rolling pin] to pound them to about 1/2 inch thickness. Arrange the flour in a shallow bowl. Season the chicken with a pinch each of salt and pepper, and then dredge generously with flour, coating both sides. Shake off the excess and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbs. of the butter. When the butter melts, place the chicken in the skillet. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom. Turn over and cook for 2 more minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate (it is not cooked through at this point).

chicken scallopini sauceAdd the garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the white wine and the lemon juice. Simmer, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan for a few minutes until almost all the liquid is gone. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, and capers. Increase the heat to high, and bring the liquid to a boil. Simmer for 6 minutes, or until the liquid is decreased by about one-third.

Stir in the remaining 2 Tbs. of butter. Return the chicken to the pan and simmer for 2 minutes, or until the sauce thickens slightly and the chicken is cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with the herbs [and cheese] and serve immediately.

July 2, 2009 at 7:08 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts


Search For Blogs, Submit Blogs, The Ultimate Blog Directory
Food & Drink Blogs - Blog Top Sites