Saturday, November 17, 2012

Roasted Delicata Squash


This is dead easy and all you have to remember if you want crispy edges is, "the magic number is three". The Delicata squash half-moons are cooked on one side, turned to cook on the other side and then turned to cook on the original side once more for crispy edges and creamy flesh.


There may be other ways to achieve this, but this is my method learned by trial, error and, finally, success. Sometimes, as I did this time, I add about 1 1/2 teaspoons of brown sugar per squash when I'm tossing them with a very small amount of olive oil, salt and pepper but you can omit that if you wish. Occasionally I sprinkle some balsamic vinegar on the slices instead of brown sugar before they go into the oven. I liberally sprinkled the half-moons with Ras el Hanout, but mostly what I was left with was a mild aromatic flavor and some of the heat from that spice mixture. 


Delicata squash is a more-or-less dirigible-shaped white or yellow squash with green or orange-gold longitudinal striations and a pale yellow-orange flesh. It's classified as a winter squash, but is very thin-skinned. When roasted, the skin is very easy to eat. You can roast it, stuff it and bake it, saute or steam it.. It's not as packed full of beta carotene as some of the other winter squashes, but has good fiber, potassium, and vitamins C and B.



RECIPE: ROASTED DELICATA SQUASH

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Get Yer Groats On: Make Ahead Steel Cut (Irish) Oatmeal

Irish (steel cut) oatmeal with mix-ins: chopped, toasted almonds, un-sulphered, organic dried cranberries, a dash of cinnamon and a sprinkle of granola.
Once it gets chilly, I start thinking about adding oatmeal to my breakfast rotation. A bowl of oatmeal can be delicious, warming and nutritious. If you look at the types of oats available: hulled and whole (whole groats), steel cut (Irish), stone ground (Scottish), rolled, quick-cooking or instant, they are all whole grain and bring the benefits of that with them. The downside to the more highly processed oats is that the more a grain is processed, the easier it is digested which raises its glycemic level. To counteract this, eat your oatmeal with some protein, even adding milk can help.

Steel-cut a/k/a Irish Oats Steel-cut oat can come in several sizes (grades): pinhead (the largest), coarse, medium and fine. Which grade is pictured? I have zero clue, but I suspect pinhead. 

Quick-cooking and instant oats are like rolled oats (rolled and steamed) but rolled thinner and steamed longer. Also, if you buy prepackaged and flavored instant oats, check the ingredients. They often come with a bunch of sugar, fats, preservatives and even some mighty unnatural-sounding "natural" ingredients. I like steel-cut oats for their taste, texture and nuttiness.

I toasted these almonds in the toaster oven this morning, but you can do that ahead of time, or buy pre-roasted nuts.
Even if you stick with making your steel-cut oatmeal from scratch YOUR add-ins: milk, half-and-half or cream, fruit, sugar and butter - to name a few - while delicious, might counter-balance the nutritional pay-off. 

I like the taste of steel-cut (a/k/a Irish) oats but to prepare from scratch takes 30 to 40-ish minutes, including bringing the water to a boil. Soaking steel-cut or stone ground oats the night before cuts the preparation time to 10 minutes, but if you want to cut that down to 3 minutes for one or two servings at a time, this method works well.

I bring water to a boil, add the steel-cut oats and boil - not a furious boil, but more of an "angry simmer" - for 10 minutes, uncovered, stirring a couple of times. After 10 minutes, I turn off the heat, move the pan to a cool burner and put the lid on. Then I let it sit for a couple of hours without removing the lid. After that I pack the oatmeal in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator where it will easily store for 5-7 days. 

RECIPE: MAKE AHEAD STEEL-CUT (IRISH) OATMEAL

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Friday Dinner: the Amazing Macaroni and Cheese, Oven Ribs and Creamy Coleslaw


I don't make mac and cheese or any pasta at home, nor do I order it in restaurants. Why? Because the angel on my shoulder reminding me that, "It's not as much about what you eat, it's about portion size." gets smacked into oblivion by "want". However, Friday dinners cooked with my amica in cucina, Lynn are the exception and boy-oh-boy this mac and cheese was fun, easy and delicious.


We compare notes on cooking shows we've watched, or recipes found and this one (Maccheroni al Formaggio) came from Lidia Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali's cookbook, "Lidia's Italy in America". I don't post recipes if they are not original, unless we've made significant changes in ingredients, preparation or sometimes both. With the exception of the cheeses and our choice of pasta (shells over the recipe's called-for "pipette"), we made this exactly as written, cutting the amounts in half.

Generally, when we find a new recipe, we do some research but we've never been steered wrong by Lidia - "In Lidia We Trust".


Why did we get so excited about this recipe? There is no Mornay sauce (a béchamel or "white sauce" to which grated cheese is added). The sauce is cheese, milk and two sage leaves. I've seen references to this type of sauce, but hadn't seen any recipes. Another big plus is the topping. Day-old Italian (we used a baguette) bread is hand-grated using the large holes of a box grater, lightly toasted in butter, cooled completely and the crumbs are combined with Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano (we used Romano) cheese. The variation in the crumb size really contributes to the topping's crunchiness.

Oven Ribs and Creamy Coleslaw - oh yeah, we did have a couple of other dishes and they were delicious, too. Lynn made a rub with brown sugar, paprika, onion, garlic, salt and thyme, rubbed down the ribs (1 rack of pork spareribs), wrapped them and refrigerated them for 24 hours and then we cooked them, covered in foil with a little white wine in the bottom of the baking sheet for 3 hours at 250 F, then broiled them for a total of 5 minutes right before serving. We made Al Bergez' sauce to accompany the ribs.

My creamy coleslaw dressing wasn't too creamy or sweet (I never add sugar to my coleslaw dressing) and one important thing to remember - unless you like too much dressing - is to under-dress the coleslaw and let it rest in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. The moisture released from the coleslaw as it breaks down a little will add to the dressing and the salad remains crunchy without a soupy mess of dressing in the bottom of the bowl.

RECIPES: MACARONI and CHEESE and CREAMY COLESLAW

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Buttermilk Chronicles Part 1: Buttermilk Peach Smoothie

On my way to breakfast at Lynn's house yesterday - buttermilk biscuits, eggs, sausage gravy and fruit - I bought buttermilk for the biscuits. A quart. Why doesn't buttermilk come in pints and half-pints as it did in my childhood so I don't end up with left-over buttermilk? There are a lot of uses for buttermilk, but none of them were on my menus for the upcoming week. All I remember about buttermilk from my childhood is that my dad loved drinking it straight (with a little black pepper) and, as a child, I hated the taste. I had consigned myself to using powdered buttermilk for spur-of-the-moment biscuits ("Buttermilk Biscuits") when I had neither buttermilk nor milk (to transform into a substitute with lemon juice or vinegar).

Why I continued to hold this childhood prejudice against buttermilk I don't know. I love yogurt - the tangy-er the better. I make my own yogurt on the tangy side. Lynn talked me into taking the remainder home and I vowed to use it. This morning I made a buttermilk peach smoothie and I pronounce it... DELICIOUS! Will I buy buttermilk just for smoothies? YES!


I don't use ice in my breakfast smoothies because I think it dilutes the flavors. If all of the ingredients are frosty cold right from the refrigerator, or the fruit is frozen, it's absolutely chilled enough for me.

RECIPE: PEACH BUTTERMILK SMOOTHIE WITH NUTMEG AND LIME

Monday, August 6, 2012

Saturday Breakfast: Mashed Potato Pancakes


Ours weren't quite as fluffy as we expected them to be, but then I realized that 'somebody' (ahem, me) only beat the egg whites to 'soft' instead of 'stiff' peaks. Still, they tasted marvelous.

Who says you can't go home again? Taste memories are sometimes hard to recreate because what you remember tasting can be tied up with other kinds of memories: time, places, and people can all affect how you remember taste. Lynn, my co-cooking compatriot wanted to recreate the potato pancakes of her childhood from (long closed) "Farmer John's Pancake House" in Bakersfield, CA, formerly located at the corner of Union Ave and Golden State Hwy (Route 99). "Farmer John's" was a roadside diner and any of us who grew up in the U.S. prior to the 1970's can remember them well. They still exist, but largely they have disappeared, some have become regional chains and a very few are national or global chains.




Photos are reproduced with kind permission by Roadside Peek

These weren't the kind of potato pancakes like latkes that start off with shredded potatoes but American-style pancakes made with leftover mashed potatoes.



We modified the recipe from Aroostook on Food.com in that we did not add the sugar and added about 1 1/2 tablespoons of finely minced shallot. That amount of shallot was perfect - just a hint that didn't overwhelm.

Whether an exact re-creation or not, Lynn loved (as did I) how these turned out.

RECIPE: MASHED POTATO PANCAKES

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fried Asparagus with Miso Dressing


Found on Food 52, I made an adaptation of their adaptation of Nobu Matsuhisa's recipe in his cookbook "Nobu's Vegetarian Cookbook". I used onions instead of leeks and my sauce was thicker and reminiscent (in its consistency) of  Asparagus with Sauce Gribiche. Sauce Gribiche is a classic French sauce - a mayonnaise-based dressing with chopped boiled egg, herbs, and cornichons. I also used only about a 1" depth of oil for frying in a 10" skillet. My cooking compatriot (Lynn) wasn't as delighted with overall dish as I was, she loved the dressing and would also use it on a salad (I agree).


In Chef Matshuhisa's recipe, the leeks are deep-fried until browned, and then the asparagus is fried for a minute or two (depending on its thickness). While the asparagus tasted great, and except for the fact that the asparagus tips get crispy in such a delightful, delicious way, I will - while I will definitely make the other elements as indicated - likely roast the asparagus instead of frying it the next time. I fear neither the technique of frying nor the oil, but I hate dealing with a bunch of oil post-fry. I know you can re-use it but I use oil infrequently in that quantity. Yeah, a little lazy that way, but practical. If you do fry them, you will want to snap off all of the fried tips, dip them in a little dressing and eat them yourself. Just sayin'...

RECIPE: FRIED ASPARAGUS WITH MISO DRESSING

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Friday Dinner: Chicken Pot Pie with Savory Crumble Topping


Typically, chicken pot pie comes with a pastry topping that never seems to provide a good ratio of topping to filling once you've served everybody. America's Test Kitchen solved this by creating a recipe that provides a savory, crunchy topping for all. Besides the crispy, tender biscuit-y topping, it's the type of pan in which it's baked that really does the trick. You want a 13" x 9" pan with sides no more than 2 1/2 to 3 inchies high.


I don't think I'm telling tales out of school but if asked, Lynn (my cooking cohort) would be happy with topping, gravy and baby peas. The girl LOVES her baby peas! The topping is comprised of savory biscuit pieces that are first par-baked and then fully browned when the casserole goes into the oven. In fact, all of the filling ingredients are par-cooked and then baked  with the topping to heat everything up and provide the time for the biscuit bits to brown.


We've made this dish three times now. The first time around we made it as written and found it delicious- with two notes: not enough salt and felt it would benefit from some herbs. The second time, it seemed like there wasn't enough filling - and we adjusted the salt and added some thyme (but not enough for us). In between and before we cooked it last Friday, I looked at the recipe. It calls for "3 medium carrots, about 1 cup". Three medium carrots is definitely more than 1 cup so our adaptation includes more salt, the addition of a diced russet potato, herbs and some modification in how the amount of ingredients are defined.


This time was wonderful - although we still think we could increase the amount of herbs. The entire recipe as published calls for 1/2 teaspoon of salt, at one point during cooking the vegetables. It does call for adjusting the seasoning for the gravy to taste but  - and I didn't invent this - it is a conventional recommendation to season as you go.


RECIPE: CHICKEN POT PIE WITH SAVORY CRUMBLE TOPPING

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Friday Dinner: Grilled Steak, Potatoes and Salad with Corn, Tomatoes and Avocadoes

Nothing new or difficult here (except that I added the final butter to the sauce too soon so it was a little 'broken' by the time we served), but just want to memorialize a fun dinner where everything tasted delicious from appetizers through the salad course.

APPETIZER:
Acme baguette slices spread with Heidi Swanson's, "Parmesan Cheese Spread" (left side of the plate) or misozuke tofu (right side of the plate) and garnished with sun dried tomato, quick preserved lemon, roasted red pepper, confit garlic and caper relish - this recipe is at the bottom of the post. It is delicious and could top anything from a baguette to fish or chicken.

 MAIN COURSE
Grilled steak with Marchand du Vin sauce, No-Name Potatoes garnished with creme fraiche. However you cook your steak, take it out of the refrigerator at least 30 (I prefer 60) minutes before  cooking. After patting them dry, we generously season with salt shortly before they go onto the grill or into a smoking hot pan on the stove top. Lynn reigns as the steak grilling chef supreme - she has the mojo.


SALAD
Baby greens with grilled corn, cherry tomatoes, avocado and red onion, dressed in a red-wine vinaigrette.

RECIPE: SUN DRIED TOMATO, QUICK PRESERVED LEMON, ROASTED RED PEPPER, CONFIT GARLIC AND CAPER SPREAD

 + Quick 'Preserved' Lemons
 + Confit Garlic

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Friday Dinner: Coq Au Vin - Chicken Stew, to You


In the days of Yore (you know "Yore", it was before your parents' parents were born), when your rooster was too old to chase the hens, you cooked it. Old roosters make for a difficult chew so roasting was out of the question. Tough meat = braise, so maybe you dumped the dregs of your wine barrel (depending on where you lived, the wine might be white or red), some onions and mushrooms (or celeraic or carrots) cooked in the rendered lard of a hunk of salt pork into the pot and cooked Monsieur le Rooster (a 'coq') having been separated into his component parts, until the meat was edible and, "mon Dieu!", you have a sauce. Serve some chicken with a ladle of sauce on top, break off a hunk of bread to sop up the sauce and you have a tasty, filling meal.


One of the first published recipes for coq au vin was in Edmond Richardin's, "La Cuisine Française: L'art du Bien Manger" where he calls for mushrooms AND truffles, in 1906. I'd wager that as long as there has been wine, folks have used it to cook a hearty meat stew, using whatever vegetables were handy to extend the dish as well as for flavor. The preparation for coq au vin is similar to boeuf bourguignon. To thicken a stew, if flour wasn't in your pantry, you used blood from the former Monsieur le Rooster, at the end of cooking.


Nigel Slater wrote, "I once worked in a restaurant that, at the time, was considered to be the best in the land. At least several of the guides thought so. The chef patron had learned to make this dish in France, he understood its roots. We made coq au vin every week (believe me when I say that this is one of those dishes that improves, rather than deteriorates, after a few days in the fridge). I have never made it better than I did under his beady eye, but then we made it with the dregs of the glasses and bottles from the customers' tables. So whether it was the quality of the local birds, the excellent wines or that soupçon of saliva from each glass that made the difference I will never know."


Modern recipes can be tortured and time consuming. We have made it previously, using Julia Child's recipe - actually two recipes: one a "master" recipe for a ragout of chicken and onions in red wine, and the recipe for coq au vin. Not too long ago, we tried the version from America's Test Kitchen, "Modern Coq au Vin" and it was delicious.  The ATK recipe takes less time, but for us, it provided all of the flavor components from a traditional rendition and suits another Nigel Slater quote, "The sort of good-natured food that will fit in with us rather than us having to plan our day around it; the sort to eat off plain white plates on a paper tablecloth. The sort whose juices you mop up with bread and a plain, garlic-scented salad. In other words, a sound recipe that makes all the right noises." Mr. Slater's Coq au Vin recipe can be found here and if I ever run across an old rooster, that's the one I'll use.

We served our coq au vin with a spinach salad with raisin bread croutons, egg, toasted pecans, red onion and avocado and a red wine vinaigrette. Oh yeah, and bacon.
 RECIPES: MODERN (AND QUICKER) COQ au VIN

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Buttermilk Biscuits

Do you swear by butter? Shortening? Butter and shortening? Lard? Roll? Pat? Beaten biscuits? Should you add baking soda? Flour from hard winter wheat (Northern - higher protein) or soft summer wheat (Southern - lower protein)? For a simple recipe that home cooks have been making in a recognizable-even-today form since the late 18th and early 19th century, there are a myriad of variations based on location, availability of ingredients and the state of your household economy.

Countless women (and men, I'm sure) have made batches of biscuits every morning - and some every night. They are 'quick' (non-yeast) breads that in their best form have a great rise, are sturdy enough to hold up to a sausage patty and egg or gravy or, sweetened with a little sugar, a load of fresh strawberries and cream. ...or just a smear of butter and some honey or jam.
If you don't already have a buttermilk biscuit recipe that you think is perfect, give this one a try.

For me, I don't stock shortening or lard and I never remember to buy White Lily (or  King Arthur) soft, summer flour. I don't even have buttermilk in my refrigerator on a regular basis, but I have discovered powdered buttermilk - a righteous and more than acceptable substitution in baking applications. I've included three other buttermilk substitutions in the recipe.

I cut in the butter (refrigerator cold) with my fingers so that the pieces are not entirely uniform - some little pea-size pieces and others that I've rubbed between my fingers into thin flakes. After I've cut in the butter, I stick the flour and butter mixture in the freezer for about 15 minutes before I mix-in ice-cold water (or buttermilk, if you're using it). There are some other tips and all are in the recipe after the jump.

Baking powder. Must. Be. Fresh. If you don't bake too often, buy the little can and throw out what you haven't used once a year. Just do it. Don't make this recipe or any quick bread or biscuit recipe until you: (a) check the expiration date on your baking powder; and if it has passed (b) buy a new can. The small cans are pretty cheap. I also use 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. Too much of either and there's a noticeable 'off' flavor, but 1 1/4 tablespoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda passed my "Super Taster's" (my cooking compadre, Lynn - her palate is more sensitive than mine) taste test.

Biscuit cutters. If you don't have one, don't use a glass - use your knife. The sharp edge of a biscuit cutter or a sharp knife won't drag down the sides of the biscuit. Using a knife to cut your biscuits eliminates the need for re-forming the dough from scraps. Second generation biscuits are never as good as those cut the first time through. Place the biscuits close together on the pan for higher risers and an inch or more apart for crispier tops and bottoms.


RECIPE: BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Roasted and Stuffed Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Loin, No-Name Potatoes and Citrus Salad




I swear that this is (probably nearly) the last post for things made in 2011, but it's a great dish that we made for our 2011 New Year's Eve dinner. We'd been planning to make this pork loin roast since October 2011 when Lynn saw it in Bon Appetit. None of the components are difficult for the pork loin but there was a serious error in the original recipe when it came to cooking temperature and time - which I address in the recipe's head notes after the jump. 

Fortunately, others had gone before and there was very good information in the reviews. Ours looked like the roast in the magazine's picture and tasted like something you'd gladly open your wallet to pay for in a restaurant. It was all kinds of awesome.

A pork loin is butterflied, a layer of pre-wilted kale is spread on top, and on top of that a mixture of pork sausage, reconstituted dried mushrooms and apples, thyme and rosemary. The loin is then rolled and wrapped in a layer of prosciutto, tied and garnished with rosemary, browned briefly and roasted.
I was at Sur La Table looking to buy some kitchen twine because Lynn was out. All they had were ridiculously expensive (and small) packages of kitchen twine and these re-usable silicone bands for about the same price.  I have poo-pooed these in the past because tying your own roast or other cut of meat when called for is something you should know how to do.  However... the bands work beautifully, are easy to remove and easy to clean. These bands wouldn't work for every application, but they were perfect for this roast. Yay, technology!
Hello luv-ah!


I can't figure out what to name the potatoes. The closest I've come is "French-Fried Potato Columns" (not entirely accurate and kind of uninteresting), or maybe, "Potatoes Cooked Three-Ways". Ugh. My sister Chris served these a couple of years ago for our family's Christmas Eve dinner and I've been periodically obsessing over them since then.They taste  like french fries on the outside (but are not deep fried) and inside, but are approximately 2" high by 2 to 3" diameter "columns" and so there is a lot of fluffy potato in the middle. I don't eat potatoes very often and when I finally got around to asking her how she made them she didn't remember, didn't know where she'd found the recipe or even if there was a recipe. My research proved fruitless - I couldn't find anything exactly like what I remembered.
The potato "columns" drying after being boiled. After they've dried, the tops and bottoms are sauteed until they're a deep golden brown and then they're popped in the oven for about 15 minutes..

When we were out picking up the roast at Tacoma Boys (on 6th Ave. - great store) and other ingedients for the 2011 Christmas Eve dinner, I cornered her in the cracker aisle and wouldn't let her leave until she'd remembered how she made them. Which she did. I made a test batch for my sister Sara's family and got a unanimous thumbs up.

.The citrus salad was all Lynn's idea: a variety of greens, grapefruit supremes, toasted pecans and avocado in a grapefruit and Sherry vinegar vinaigrette. It was a perfect balance to the rich pork.

It was truly a wonderful way to mark the end of 2011.

RECIPES (after the jump):
- Roasted and Stuffed Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Loin
- No-Name Potatoes
- Salad with Grapefruit, Toasted Pecans, Avocado and a Grapefruit Vinaigrette

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Potato Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce and Fresh Peas

There was unfortunate sauce breakage, but other than that, the gnocchi were perfect pillows of  deliciousness.

 My long-held desire to make homemade gnocchi has been balanced by the spectre of gnocchi dissolving as the little dumplings hit the boiling water or ending up as a gummy, tooth-sticking mess, but for my (belated) birthday dinner with Lynn, my ever-ready amico in la cocina (Lynn had never eaten gnocchi - what? Impossible! Really?), we decided to give it a shot.

Fresh peas!

 "Gnocchi", derived from the Italian word "nocchio" (a knot in wood, or knuckle), is considered to have been introduced in Italy by the Romans who based their dumplings on a semolina porridge dough mixed with eggs. Potatoes didn't come into the mix until the 16th century. Gnocchi derivatives are geographically widespread and diverse in ingredients (bread crumbs, eggs, no eggs, etc.). As with many dishes, a dish of gnocchi (cheap-ish carbs or left-overs + liquid and a binder) is economical and filling the world over.

They take well to nearly any sauce, but a light hand with other ingredients is encouraged. These are delicate pillows that you don't want to crush (literally or as it applies to flavor). You can cut them and cook them without rolling to get the ridges, but those ridges - as with pasta shapes other than flat noodles - are certified sauce delivery systems.
This is the last picture before the one where the rolled gnocchi are in the pan. Dough-crusted hands are not a good choice to handle a camera.

In Lidia, We Trust

We have both watched Lidia Bastianich make gnocchi countless times on her cooking shows and didn't think of  looking elsewhere for a recipe. We looked around and found the same or very similar recipes from a variety of sources, but always held them up against Lidia's as the standard from which we wanted to start. We did  mine the internet for some videos and tips and found the following useful:
  • We chose to boil our potatoes although there are some methods that specify baking the potatoes (at 425F on a bed of kosher salt on a baking sheet). Start cooking the (skin on!) potatoes in cold, salted water and cook until a sharp paring knife or skewer slides in and out of the thickest part without resistance. Do not overcook and if the skins split, this will not bode well. Cooking time will vary with the size of your potatoes so start checking at 30 minutes.
  • Peel the potatoes while they're hot. Hold them in a clean, folded kitchen towel and use a sharp paring knife to gently peel off the skin.
  • I can't imagine making these without a potato ricer or a food mill. Some tips included substituting a grater, but YMMV.  You could even push the potatoes through the holes of a colander (as with spaetzle).  You want them fluffy! The riced potatoes need to be a cooled (so as not to cook the egg) and be a fluffy, airy mound when you start to incorporate the egg and then the flour.
  • Once you start mixing your dough  and until you are finished rolling and cutting the gnocchi do not stop. Work as fast as you can, over time the sitting dough gets moister as it absorbs the liquid from the potatoes.
  • Don't overwork the dough. This isn't pasta, these are dumplings. Work the dough a little more than you would biscuits. Lidia's recipe specifies that it should take about 3 minutes to incorporate the flour and that worked beautifully for us. Your hands are the right tool for this job.
  • When you cook the gnocchi, do not add them to boiling water, add them to water that is at a righteous simmer in small batches of a couple of handfuls at a time. If you are not serving them immediately, shock each cooked batch in ice water and set aside in a colander once cooled. I would classify "immediately" as 15 minutes. To reheat, saute them briefly in a little butter or add them to the sauce for just a minute before you serve.
  • If you want to make them further ahead of time or make them to be used on another day, place each dumpling on a clean, floured kitchen towel on top of a baking sheet - not touching - or a piece of floured wax paper or parchment and freeze. Once completely frozen, put the dumplings in a seal-able freezer bag, removing all possible air. They should last up to 2 months. Do not defrost the frozen gnocchi when you add them to the water. Add a scant 1 minute to the cooking time after the gnocchi rise. 
...and probably most importantly, do this with one (or more) people, especially if you're rolling the cut dumpling pillows to form ridges. The first ones will look awful, but soon you'll be rolling them like the Italian nonna you may never have had. You can see a couple of different methods here, or follow the directions in Lidia's recipe here



Even with all of the possible 'gotchas', this recipe isn't at all difficult. Just give yourself the luxury of time.

The one minor fail  was with the sauce. We made a reduced cream sauce with aged gorgonzola and peas. This type of sauce, with nothing to stabilize it, has a shelf life of approximately a blink of an eye before it breaks. If I hadn't added the peas, I could have re-emulsified it before serving. If we make this again, I'd follow the steps listed in the recipe (after the jump) for the final preparation rather than how we handled it last night.

RECIPE: POTATO GNOCCHI WITH GORGONZOLA CREAM SAUCE AND FRESH PEAS

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Friday Dinner: Tuscan Pork Stew and Polenta

Tonight, with rain coming down in buckets, it was a perfect night for a warm, aromatic stew over creamy polenta cooked with milk and finished with some Asiago cheese and parsley. When Lynn, my cooking partner extraordinaire, suggested that we make this I was immediately all-in but since polenta's not her favorite thing, I was a little puzzled. She found a recipe on the Food and Wine site and  and thought that polenta was just the thing. It looked great to me, too - pork shoulder marinated in wine, aromatics, rosemary, sage, bay, and cloves! ... and juniper berries! According to the writer, it was developed by Chef Joe Sponzo to be made with wild boar.

...not that we don't have feral pigs with a little wild boar in the historical breeding mix here in Northern California. When I lived in Clayton for a little while (in Contra Costa County), I would read news reports of the wild/feral pigs that are the scourge of parks in and around Mt. Diablo, but no... we used pork shoulder.

One thing that struck both of us about the recipe is that it seemed like it hadn't been adapted for pork instead of wild boar. Some of the aromatics (juniper berries, cloves) and methods (boiling the meat before searing and braising it - don't do it) seemed more oriented towards game so we made some changes that I'll pass along in the recipe. In addition to the stew and polenta - we went a different direction with the polenta - we had roasted asparagus (Spring!) with garlic, salad and we drank a San Giovese with dinner.

RECIPE: TUSCAN PORK STEW WITH POLENTA