Archive for the 'Recipe' Category



Whiskey-Glazed Smoked Chicken

Smoked Chicken

Last December, as we were getting the keys to our new house from our landlord, we walked in and there was a giant box sitting in the middle of the empty living room.  It turns out that Angela bought me a smoker for Christmas. It just turned out that it arrived before we did.

I’ve used it a number of times since then and have mostly stuck to the “classics.” I’ve done pulled pork several times but I have trouble cooking it long enough to get it truly tender (I haven’t made myself get up earlier enough). The same issue came with brisket. But what truly shows the beauty of smoked meat is poultry. It’s not classic barbecue but chicken and turkey absorb the smoke beautifully. Not to mention the gorgeous exterior. I’m already planning to smoke a turkey for Thanksgiving this year.

I decided to change things up slightly on this chicken.  I usually smoke foods with hickory but I decided to give mesquite a try. I’ll gladly admit to be a novice smoker but there is a definitive difference between the hickory and the mesquite. The mesquite is a bit sharper and tangier in taste. While I don’t think it would work as well as hickory on pork, it adds a really nice bite to the chicken.

A smoker is really a bit of an extravagance but the more I use it, the more I know I wouldn’t want to live without it.

Whiskey-Glazed Smoked Chicken
Adapted from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing

Brine:
1 gallon/4 liters water
1 1/2 cups /350 g kosher salt
1/2 cup / 125 g sugar
8 tsp / 42 g pink salt

1 3-to-4 lbs. chicken, trussed

Glaze:
1 cup/250 milliliters whiskey
1/2 cup/125 milliliters maple syrup
1/4 packed cup/50 g dark brown sugar
pinch of cayenne pepper

  1. Combine all the brine ingredients in a large pot and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar.  Remove from the heat.  Cool to room temperature.  Chill in the refrigerator until cold.  Place the chicken in the brine, weight it down, and brine it for 18 hours.  Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse it under running water, dry it with paper towels, and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
  2. An hour before smoking the chicken, remove it from the refrigerator.
  3. Hot smoke the chicken at 200ºF until it reaches an internal temperature of 165ºF, 3 to 4 hours.
  4. While the chicken is smoking, place all the glaze ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer until the glaze is reduced to 1 cup.
  5. An hour and a half into smoking the chicken, brush the chicken with some of the glaze.
  6. When the chicken is finished cooking, remove it from the smoker.  Brush it with the remaining glaze and let it rest for 15 minutes.
  7. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Strawberry Lemon Marmalade

Strawberries

I started making jam somewhat by accident.  I originally bought a canner and associated tools so that I could get chicken stock out of the freezer and into jars.  Last summer I decided to branch out and try my hand at making jam.

Making jam in southern California is more relaxed.  There, strawberries are available virtually year round (I like to tell the story of asking in November when the last strawberries would be available and being told by the farmer that it was just the beginning of the winter crop).  On the east coast, there’s a much tighter time period where fruit is available and it turns out that I almost ran out of strawberry season in which to make jam.

My mom used to make lots of jams and other canned goods when I was much younger but had gotten busy and fallen out of the habit.  Given we were on the same side of the country now and that we were coming up to visit for father’s day anyway, we decided to do some strawberry jam making together.

So, this morning, we drove to a couple of farm stands.  Mason-Dixon Farms was out of berries for the year (but did have some of the first eastern shore corn of the year) and Brown’s Orchards didn’t open for another 45 minutes.  We decided to drive on for a bit because it was a beautiful morning and came across a sign proclaiming strawberries and pointing down a long driveway.  At first we drove past, but a u-turn later, we followed the road long enough that we thought we might have passed it.  But sitting in the back of a truck were several quarts of strawberries and a box to place money in.  After we almost bought them out of strawberries, we headed back to Brown’s to pick up some of the blueberries that their sign promised.

We first made strawberry jam from a very simple recipe.  Then we moved on to the strawberry lemon marmalade.  I first stumbled across this last year as I bought more strawberries than the jam recipe I was using called for.  Knowing Angela’s penchant for lemons, I decided to try my hand at marmalade.  The fact that I made it again is description enough of how it turned out last year.

Credit to my wonderful wife for the photographs.

Hulling Strawberries with my Mom

Strawberry Lemon Marmalade
Adapted from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

1/4 cup thinly sliced lemon peel
4 cups hulled and crushed strawberries (from about 2 quarts of whole strawberries)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 package regular powdered fruit pectin
6 cups granulated sugar

  1. Prepare canner, jars, and lids.
  2. In a sauce pan, place the lemon peel and cover with water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and then boil for 5 minutes.  Drain the lemon peel, discarding the water and reserving the peel.
  3. Place the crushed strawberries, lemon peel, and lemon juice in a large non-reactive pan.  Stir in the pectin until it is well dissolved.
  4. Measure the sugar into a bowl.
  5. Bring the strawberry mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally.   Add the sugar all at once.  While stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil that can’t be stirred down.  Continue stirring and boil for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat.
  6. Skim any foam off the top of the marmalade mixture.
  7. Carefully transfer the marmalade into the prepared jars, leaving a 1/4″ head room.  Wipe the rims, add the lids, then screw it in place.  Put the jars into the canner.
  8. Bring the canner to a full boil, then process for 10 minutes.  Remove the canner from the heat, allow to set for 5 minutes, then open the lid and remove the jars.  Allow the jars to cool overnight.

Makes about 8 jars.

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese

Angela and I have gone out to a restaurant for dinner on Valentine’s Day exactly once.  From the crowded restaurant to the subpar, but expensive food, it was an experience that we didn’t want to repeat.  So last year we went to our favorite pizza place. Given that Valentine’s Day was on a Saturday this year, I decided that I would make a special dinner for Angela. I decided on Tagliatelle alla Bolognese as it is one of Angela’s favorite foods. I made some bread and crème brûlée.

And then I went and ruined it by spilling hot chicken stock on my toe.  I had taken advantage of the fact that I had to stay home to watch the sauce to make a large batch of chicken stock.  All was going well until I was about to strain it.  I cook the chicken stock in a stock pot with all the solids inside a pasta strainer.  To get as much liquid out of the solids as possible, I had picked up the strainer and was trying to push any remaining liquid out.  This is when tragedy struck.  The strainer slipped out of my hands, sending chicken stock flying.  Some of it flew up and landed on my sock-clad foot.  I got the sock off as quickly as possible but the damage was already done.

My foot is finally starting to heal, a week and a half later.  I’ve been forced to wear sandals and socks to work since then.  It did, however, take my manager until yesterday to realize that I was wearing them and duly make fun of me.  Apparently wearing orange toed socks makes it more conspicuous.

Luckily, I only ruined the romantic mood on Valentine’s Day and not the food itself.  The bread and crème brûlée were done.  All that was left was to make the fresh pasta and it helped take my mind off the pain.  Angela can comment on the funny dance I did to distract myself further.

Bolognese sauce is deservedly one of the most classic Italian pasta sauces.  The long cooking in milk and wine helps mellow the beef to almost be reminiscient of veal.  It also helps mellow the normally acidic bite of tomato sauces.  In many ways, however, it almost seems to be the anti-Italian pasta.  It’s one of the few times in Italian cooking where the sauce is the star and the pasta merely the sideshow.

Despite my mishap, this was still the right choice for Valentine’s Day.  It’s a special meal, taking a good bit of time.  But that time and effort pays off in a dish that can only really be described in superlatives.

Homemade Bread

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 tbsp butter, divided
1/2 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup chopped celery
2/3 cup chopped carrot
1/2 lbs ground beef
1/4 lbs ground pork
salt and pepper
1 cup whole milk
nutmeg
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups canned tomatoes
1 1/2 lbs. fresh tagliatelle (made with 3 eggs and 3 cups of flour)
grated parmigiano-reggiano

  1. Put the oil, 3 tbsp butter, and the onion in a large dutch oven and place over medium heat.  Cook the onion, stirring occassionally, until it has become transluscent.
  2. Add the celery and the carrot and cook for about 2 minutes more, stirring regularly.
  3. Add the ground beef and ground pork.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring the meat, until it loses its pink color.
  4. Add the milk and bring to a simmer.  Cook at a low simmer until the milk has completely cooked away, 30 to 40 minutes.
  5. Add a pinch of nutmeg.
  6. Add the wine and bring to a simmer.  Cook at a low simmer until the wine has completely cooked away, 30 to 40 minutes.
  7. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.  Cook at the barest of simmers for 3 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally.  If the sauce dries out, add 1/2 cup of water, whenever necessary.
  8. Cook the fresh pasta and toss it with the sauce, adding the final tablespoon of butter.
  9. Serve immediately with grated parmigiano-reggiano.

Serves 6.

Penne con le Zucchine Fritte, Piselli e Pomodori (Penne with Fried Zucchini, Peas, and Tomatoes)

Penne with Fried Zucchini, Peas, and Tomatoes

When I announced to Angela what I was making for dinner last night, she was distinctly less than excited.  In her defense, my motive for choosing this recipe was mainly that I had a zucchini that had been sitting in the fridge long enough that I had started to worry whether or not it had turned into a home for something else.  Luckily for us it had not.

I say luckily as both Angela and I enjoyed it immensely.  This pasta was significantly better than it had any right to be given its ingredients.  It’s very simple and I always appreciate simple food but, looking at the recipe alone, I didn’t see anything that would differentiate it from the mass of other pasta recipes that have a base of tomatoes.

However, the distinct flavor of the fried zucchini slices makes the dish truly compelling.  It provides a nice counterpoint to the acidity of the tomatoes.  The peas are nice but mainly from a color and nutritional perspective.

But what will really keep me coming back to this recipe is how quick it is to make.  The longest part of the preparation is waiting for the water to boil and then cooking the pasta.  The sauce can be made entirely in the time that the pasta cooks.  It also reheats the next day fairly well.

Zucchini Frying

Penne con le Zucchine Fritte, Piselli e Pomodori (Penne with Fried Zucchini, Peas, and Tomatoes)
Adapted from Trattoria Cooking: More than 200 authentic recipes from Italy’s family-style restaurants

1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/4″ thick rounds
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 clove garlic, finely diced
salt and pepper
1 cup frozen peas
1 tbsp butter
1 lbs penne
1 cup grated Parmigiano Regiano

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the penne for one minute less than the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the zucchini and cook until both sides are golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.
  3. Add the garlic and stir briefly.
  4. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Cook over high heat until most of the tomato juice has evaporated, about 4 minutes.
  5. Add the peas and the butter and cook over low heat until the peas are warmed through, about 1 minute.
  6. Drain the pasta, reserving the pasta water.  Add the pasta to the sauce and cook for one minute over medium heat, stirring regularly.  If the pasta is dry, add some of the reserved pasta water.
  7. Remove from the heat and stir in half of the parmigiano.
  8. Serve sprinkled with the remaining parmigiano.

Serves 4.

Sliced Zucchini

Pain à l’Ancienne

Pain à l'Ancienne

We end up eating a lot of bread in our household.  And I make quite a bit of it myself.  In fact, one of the easiest ways for me to pleasantly surprise Angela is to start making bread before she gets home.  I’ve even developed a “quick” recipe for bread that I make regularly and is the metric for any bread we eat, whether I make it or it’s produced elsewhere.

This is not that bread.  The bread that I make, while quite good, does not involve any special technique.  I decided that I’d like to really take my bread making up a notch and improve both my knowledge of bread making as well as my technique.

Pain à l'Ancienne

This is my first attempt at a more advanced bread.  Actually, it’s my second attempt at this bread.  The first attempt was good but I improperly shaped it so it ended up too short.  I made this using the baker’s percentages (the recipe as written makes something like 6 baguettes which is 5 more baguettes than I would eat) which made it quite easy for me to use metric measurements.  The only hard part was measuring out 2 g of yeast.

The bread turned out quite well.  Given it’s overnight fermentation, it developed a very nice flavor.  The wetness of the dough led to a very light, airy dough; much more so than the dense bread that I normally make.

I will definitely be making this bread again whenever I have the time.  It went very well with an herb brined roast chicken and a bottle of 2007 Mandolina Rosato.

Pain à l'Ancienne

Pain à l’Ancienne
Adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread

300 g bread flour
6 g kosher salt
2 g yeast
240 g water, ice cold

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, salt, yeast, and water.  Beat with the paddle attachment for 2 minutes on low.  Switch to the dough hook and beat for 5 minutes on medium.  Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Remove from the refrigerator and allow to rise at room temperature until it has doubled, 2 to 3 hours.
  3. Using a plastic dough scraper, transfer the dough to a well floured counter.  Shape into a bâtard.  Carefully transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet and cover until ready to bake.
  4. In the oven, place a pizza stone on the top rack and a cast iron dutch oven on the bottom rack.  Preheat the oven to 500ºF.  Bring 2 cups of water to a boil.
  5. When the oven is preheated, place the baking sheet on the pizza stone and carefully pour the boiling water into the dutch oven.
  6. Immediately reduce the temperature to 475ºF and bake for 8 to 9 minutes.  Turn the bread if it is not browning evenly.  Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the bread is a rich golden brown.
  7. Remove the bread from the oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Makes 1 bâtard.

Roast Chicken

Chuleta de Ternera al Ajo Cabañil (Veal Chops, Shepherd Style)

Veal Chops, Shepherd Style

I’m starting to feel that the only thing I do on here is apologize for not posting more often.  My current excuse is that the holidays were hectic.  Angela’s parents came to visit for a week and then we went skiing in Vermont.   But now I’m back and will hopefully be able to provide a little more attention to this food blog of mine.

This meal actually occurred before our New England winter sojourn.  Angela’s mother (my mother-in-law) spent a significant portion of her college experience in Spain (she’s now a Spanish teacher).  Given that she hasn’t been back to Spain since, I had the bright idea that maybe I could bring a little bit of Spain to her by making something Spanish.  It didn’t hurt that I had a new Spanish cookbook that I haven’t had a good opportunity to explore.

Veal Chops

While Angela’s parents were here, we finally decided to take them up on their offer to let us do what we normally do (we always respond that we don’t normally do much of anything and that it’d be boring for them).  I was in desperate need of some black peppercorns, so we set out in search of the Penzey’s in Falls Church. That portion of the trip was relatively uneventful (except for being told that they are discontinuing the Sarawak peppercorns that we prefer). On our way back, we passed a 7-Eleven where we stopped to pickup a soda. Driving into the parking lot, I noticed that there was the Lebanese Butcher in the same shopping center. While not a particularly large shop, they do have a good selection of meats (but no pork) at good prices (particularly for veal). Because of the prices and the fact that we wanted something fairly simple, we settled on the veal chops. I also picked up some tahini, pomegranate molasses, and rose flower water. The last two are a bit harder to come by in western stores and have nothing to do with this recipe.

Mise en Place for Veal Chops, Shepherd Style

This is a fairly simple recipe but I managed to mess it up a bit when I made it.  After you brown the veal, liquid is added and it’s cooked at a low temperature for 10 to 15 minutes (simply 15 minutes in the original recipe).  Unfortunately, different stoves have different settings for low.  When we were in California, low meant turning the knob just lower than medium (anything lower and it wouldn’t cook at all).  Here in Virginia, low is turning the knob to almost off.  While I prefer this stove to the California stove, it meant that I overcooked the veal.  It wasn’t bad, just not quite where I’d like.  So be careful about what temperature it’s cooked at.

Veal Chops Cooking

Chuleta de Ternera al Ajo Cabañil (Veal Chops, Shepherd Style)
Adapted from The Foods and Wines of Spain

2 tbsp olive oil
4 veal rib chops, about 3/4″ thick
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp chicken broth

  1. Season the veal chops with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat.  When the oil is hot, brown the chops on both sides.
  3. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, vinegar, and broth and lower the heat to low.  Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the veal chops are cooked to the desired doneness.
  4. Serve immediately with roast potatoes.

Serves 4.

Gnocchi di Ricotta con Salsiccia e Finocchi (Ricotta Gnocchi with Sausage and Fennel)

Ricotta Gnocchi

As previously mentioned, Angela and I have been in the processing of moving for the last month.  In the beginning of November, we packed up (or more precisely had movers pack up) our apartment in Long Beach, CA.  Two days later we flew to Washington Dulles and made our way to Alexandria, VA late at night, dropping off our cats with my parents on the way.

In the course of waiting for our household goods to arrive and looking for a new place, we were staying in a hotel.  While hotels are wonderful places to stay when you’re on vacation, they’re far from ideal as a residence.  I intentionally had picked a hotel that claimed it had a full kitchen.  Apparently, a full kitchen means a refrigerator, dishwasher, two electric burners, awful pots, and no oven.  My best laid plans of regularly cooking dinner there were quickly dashed if only because the pots (there was nothing that would qualify as a pan) were beyond awful.  But we did manage to eat in part of the time. And that’s one of the major reasons for lack of posts here. There simply wasn’t anything to post about (as well as some other logistical problems; I had my camera but didn’t have the computer I need to edit photos).

Toasted Fennel Seeds in a Mortar & Pestle

But that part of our moving ordeal (and what move isn’t an ordeal?) is over.  We have moved into our very own (rented) townhouse in Old Town Alexandria.  We have our cats who are still terrified and huddling in the basement.  We no longer have a dish washer.  The kitchen is tiny but I’ve appropriated the sun room for storage and a prep area.  My parents hated our old couch  that they bought us a new one.  We’ve spent more at Ikea that I’d like to admit and we still need to make another trip there.  We have our Christmas tree up.  While it may not be quite there yet, it’s slowly turning into home.

And last night, we had our first dinner guest.  My cousin Alison drove down from D.C.  Because she’s family, I had no issue with using her as a guinea pig for a new recipe.  I had purchased some ricotta at the Alexandria Farmer’s Market that I needed to use. I originally thought of ravioli but I didn’t quite have that much time on a weekday (I’m not quite set in my work schedule yet). Instead, I decided on ricotta gnocchi. I had some time to stop at a grocery store so I decided to make the full ricotta gnocchi with the suggested sauce and all.

The ricotta gnocchi were very easy to make.  Much easier than pasta or potato gnocchi.  The sauce wasn’t difficult (it’s mainly chopping) but I had problems with the Italian sausage not producing enough fat so I kept having to add olive oil.  There also wasn’t much liquid in my tomato sauce so I had to add water to the overall sauce so that the sauce could actually simmer.  This does produce a lot of sauce relative to the amount of gnocchi.  It’s almost a more Italian-American ratio than Italian but you can choose to eat as much or as little of the sauce as you choose.

If you examine the pictures, I’m pretty sure you can tell Alison’s opinion of the meal.  I heartily concur.  Alison was going to look for them at the store but they’re easy enough to make that I’d recommend making them yourself.

Ricotta Gnocchi Cooking

Gnocchi di Ricotta con Salsiccia e Finocchi (Ricotta Gnocchi with Sausage and Fennel)
Adapted from Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home

Gnocchi:

Alison enjoying Ricotta Gnocchi

1 1/2 lbs. fresh ricotta
1 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
olive oil

Sauce:

2 lbs. italian sausage, removed from casings and crumbled
1 tbsp fennel seeds, toasted and ground
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 red onion, finely diced
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 rib of celery, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cups Basic Tomato Sauce
salt and pepper
Pecorino Romano

  1. Place the ricotta in a cheese cloth lined sieve set over a bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  2. To make the gnocchi, place the drained ricotta in a bowl with the flour, eggs, parsley, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Stir together with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.  Shape the dough into 2 tbsp balls and place them on a tea-towel covered baking sheet lightly dusted with flour.
  3. Cook the gnocchi in salted boiling water until they all float, about 7 minutes.  Place the cooked gnocchi in an ice bath and transfer them to a bowl.  Toss with olive oil and refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. In a large skillet, cook the sausage over high heat until it is lightly browned, about 15 minutes.  Add olive oil if the sausage starts to stick.  Transfer the sausage to a bowl.
  5. Add the fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, onion, fennel, carrot, celery, and garlic to the pan cook until the vegetables are softened and browned, about 10 minutes.  Add olive oil if needed.
  6. Return the sausage to the pan and add the tomato sauce.  If needed, add some water to the pan.  Scrap up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes.
  7. In more boiling water, cook the gnocchi until they again float to the surface.  Transfer the gnocchi to the sauce, toss well, and cook for 1 minute more.
  8. Served topped with grated Pecorino Romano.

Serves 6.

Provençal Rack of Lamb with Roasted Tomatoes

Provençal Rack of Lamb with Roasted Tomatoes

I typed up the recipe and posted the pictures to flickr a week and a half ago. Unfortunately, the real world interrupted and I never got around to writing an introduction. It appears that I’ve been a bad blog writer so my apologies. But this recipe should be worth the wait.

The best lamb I’ve ever had was Gigot D’agneau at a somewhat random bistro in Paris. The lamb was tender but flavorful. The accompanying gratin dauphinois was amazing (I had to keep close watch over it so Angela didn’t eat all of it). The ambiance was good including the French group at the next table reciting Chuck Norris facts in English (the rest of their conversation was in French). This is almost as good.

I noticed this when flipping through Gourmet and was immediately interested. Even the name makes it sound good. The in-magazine pictures didn’t hurt. We don’t usually eat rack of lamb because of the price but decided that it was worth a try.

Herb Marinade for Rack of Lamb

And it ended up being worth every penny. The lamb was tender and tasty. I’d almost recommend this as a dish to serve guests but the lamb is good that we ended up picking up individual lamb chops and biting off the bits of remaining meat. It probably is worth making a fool of one’s self for.

When making this, consider making extra potatoes (assuming they’ll fit in the pan). The potatoes are quite good and, in our household at least, extra potatoes are always well received.

This would go nicely with a nice Syrah or Shiraz (the 2001 Daniel Gehrs Shiraz we opened had gotten a little too old).

Browning Rack of Lamb

Provençal Rack of Lamb with Roasted Tomatoes
Adapted from Gourmet, October 2008

2 garlic cloves
salt and pepper
2 tsp chopped thyme
2 tsp chopped rosemary
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 medium tomatoes, halved
1 one lbs frenched rack of lamb
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
2 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4″ thickly
2 tbsp water

  1. Preheat the oven 400°F.
  2. Mash the garlic into a paste and add 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Stir in the thyme and rosemary and 1 tbsp olive oil.
  3. Put the tomatoes cut side up in a small baking dish. Sprinkle 1/3 of the garlic mixture over the tomatoes. Bake the tomatoes for 30 to 40 minutes total.
  4. Meanwhile, cut the lamb rack in half and dry the lamb with paper towels and season it all over with salt and pepper.
  5. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in an oven proof skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the lamb on all sides, about 6 minutes total. Set the lamb aside. Discard the oil.
  6. Add 1 tbsp more olive oil to skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and potatoes and cook into they are just beginning to brown.
  7. Add the water and stir in 1/2 of the remaining garlic mixture to the skillet. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.
  8. Rub the remaining garlic mixture on the fat side of the lamb racks. Place the lamb racks on top of the potatoes, fat side up. Roast in the oven until the lamb reaches an internal temperature of 135ºF about 25 minutes.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow the lamb to rest for 5 minutes.
  10. Serve with the roasted tomatoes.

Serves 2.

Baked Orecchiette with Pork Sugo

Baked Orecchiete with Pork Sugo

The lack of posts on here is due to the fact that I had to travel to the east coast for work (but I did update my flickr account).  I wanted to make something special for Angela for Sunday dinner but instead I ended up making something that I wanted to (oops).

This recipe appealed to me immediately upon reading it.  Combining pork and pasta, two of my favorite foods, it was like it was written for me.  I had initially hoped to remember to make the recipe sometime in the future when baked things would be desirable but the weather has cooperated and it’s been cool the past several days (or at least since I got back).

This is not something to make on a weekday. In fact, it’s not something to make on an average weekend. It takes a considerable amount of time and effort. And, me being me, I had to find a way to make it more difficult. Replacing canned tomatoes with fresh isn’t that much effort when the tomatoes are readily available but replacing store bought orecchiette with homemade is a bit more serious investment in time and effort. Which was really unintentional but the only orecchiette I could find were $6 for half a pound which is more than I was willing to pay. And I’m not going to figure out exactly what my hourly rate is making homemade orecchiette.

But, luckily for all that effort, this is good.  It’s very good.  It’s good enough that I’m looking forward to eating leftovers for lunch tomorrow (and that’s rare for me even with the best leftovers).  Angela thought it tasted a bit like pot roast (but with pork obviously).  It reminded me a bit of carnitas with pasta.

The pork and pasta marry well together.  The red pepper flakes give just enough heat.  It is very well balanced.  It’s also unlike any other baked pasta dish I’ve had.

Most baked pasta is relatively heavy of cheese and sauce.  The cheese is almost an after thought with this recipe.  The sauce is just the cooking liquid from the braise.  It’s as light as most baked pasta is heavy.  It’s pleasant simply remembering dinner.

And, luckily for me, Angela wasn’t upset that I picked this so I don’t have to sleep on the couch tonight.

Preparing to braise the pork

Baked Orecchiette with Pork Sugo
Adapted from Ethan Stowell via Food & Wine October 2008

3 1/4 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces
salt and pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
4 carrots, peeled, cut into 1/4″ dice
4 celery ribs, cut into 1/4″ dice
1 large onion, cut into 1/4″ dice
4 garlic cloves, finely diced
4 tomatoes, peeled, cored, and diced, juice reserved
1 1/2 cups red wine
4 sprigs of thyme
5 cups pork or chicken stock
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 1/2 lbs. orecchiette
2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

  1. Dry the pork on paper towels thoroughly, then season with salt and pepper.
  2. Place the olive oil in a large dutch oven and heat over medium-high heat until just before smoking.  Brown the pork in the olive oil on all sides, about 12 minutes.
  3. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic and cook until softened, about 8 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes and the juices and bring to a simmer.
  5. Deglaze the dutch oven with the red wine and add the thyme.  Boil the red wine until it is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the stock, season to taste with salt, and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer for 2 hours.
  7. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  8. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat and vegetables to a food processor, discarding the sprigs of thyme.  Pulse the food processor several times until the pork is shredded.  Return the pork and vegetables to the dutch oven.
  9. Stir the parsley, oregano, and red pepper into the dutch oven.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  10. Cook the orecchiette in boiling, salted water until they float.  Drain the orecchiete and stir into the dutch oven.
  11. Place the pork-pasta mixture in a large baking dish.  Sprinkle the cheese on top of the mixture evenly.
  12. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes.
  13. Remove from the oven, allow to rest for 15 minutes, then serve immediately.

Serves 8.

Homemade Orecchiette


Homemade Orecchiette
Adapted from
Epicurious

2 cups semolina flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup lukewarm water
salt

  1. In a bowl, mix together the two flours (don’t do this on a work surface, I tried and the water runs all over the place).
  2. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the water and salt.  Using a fork, slowly incorporate the water into the flour.
  3. Once the flour and water are mostly incorporated, pour the bowl contents onto a work surface.  Knead the dough until it comes together and then need for several minutes more.
  4. Cut the dough into 8 even pieces.
  5. For each piece of dough, roll it into a cylinder with a 1/2″ diameter.  Cut the cylinder into pieces 1/2″ wide.  Toss the various pieces with semolina flour then place it in the palm of your hand and press down on it with the thumb of your other hand and twist slightly.  Place the orecchietta on a baking sheet dusted with semolina.

Makes 1 1/2 lbs.

Gratin Dauphinois Madame Laracine (Madame Laracine’s Potato Gratin)

Gratin Dauphinois Madame Laracine

According to Patricia Wells, one can never have too many potato gratin recipes.  I agree.

It may seem as if I chronicle Angela’s dislike of foods too often on here, but I can always make her smile by welcoming her home from work or school with a potato gratin in the oven.  In fact, I don’t believe I’ve made one for someone who hasn’t fallen in love with it.

Potato gratins manage to be both decadent and homey at the same time.  While you may not have eaten them growing up (I know I certainly did not), they still manage to be comfort food.  Somehow they manage to transcend cultural boundaries.

If you’ve been paying attention, this recipe may seem similar to Gratin Dauphinois Madame Cartet (Madame Cartet’s Potato Gratin). And that would be due to the fact that they can be found in the same cookbook. In fact, they are on adjoining pages.

Why bother with different potato gratin recipes?  The obvious answer is that they’re all different.  But more precisely, they compliment other foods differently.  The gratin from Madame Cartet has dominate flavors of cheese and cream.  It is undeniably rich.  This gratin gains stronger flavors from the bay leaf and the nutmeg.  They help to reduce the richness of the gratin.  It compliments foods which are less rich.

This is a bit more complicated version of a potato gratin.  It requires the potatoes first be parboiled in milk which requires a little extra time but not that much extra work.  It mainly needs extra planning.

Gratin Dauphinois Madame Laracine

Gratin Dauphinois Madame Laracine (Madame Laracine’s Potato Gratin)
Adapted from Bistro Cooking

3 lbs. baking potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups whole milk
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 tsp salt
3 bay leaves
ground nutmeg
black pepper
1 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
2 cups grated Swiss cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. In a large sauce pan, place the potatoes, garlic, salt, and bay leaves.  Cover with the milk and 2 cups water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Stirring occasionally, simmer for 10 minutes over medium heat.  Remove from the heat
  3. Transfer half of the potatoes from the sauce pan to a large gratin dish.  Cover the potatoes with half the crème fraîche.  Sprinkle with half the cheese, nutmeg, and pepper.  Add the remaining potatoes then cover with the remaining crème fraîche.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese, nutmeg, and pepper.
  4. Bake the gratin for about 1 hour, or until it is crispy and golden on top.

Serves 6 to 8.