Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Spaghetti and Bocce Meatball with Tomato Basil Sauce








     Mama Mia!  A Bocce Ball Size Giant Meatball! 
     When I first started working in Italian restaurants, occasionally we served a huge meatball with spaghetti as a special du jour for two guests.  The big meatball weighed over one pound!  When a waiter carried the spaghetti and giant meatball through the dining room, customers at every table stopped whatever they were doing and just stared at the magnificent sight.  Their jaws dropped in awe and they actually broke into applause.  A gigantic meatball sure is a crowd pleaser!
     Back in the mid 1900's, many Italian restaurants in New York offered a giant meatball.  By the time that the health food craze took shape in the early 1970's, the giant meatball was pretty much a relic of the past.    
     The Italian chef that first showed me how to make the giant meatball came from Northern Italy in 1984 and he was familiar with old school New York Italian style food.  It was nice to see a first generation Italian chef treat the old classic giant meatball idea like it was something novel and new.  His giant meatball sure brought back a lot of good memories.
     A bocce ball sized meatball is a real attention getter!  When a giant Italian meatball cooks, it fills the air with an aroma that can best be compared to an Italian love song.  A giant Italian meatball for two is just about as romantic as it gets.
     Romantically sharing an aromatic gigantic Italian meatball is the way to go.  Trying to conquer a gigantic Italian meatball with a machismo solo attempt is nearly impossible to do.  It is all too easy to hit the wall of too much of a good thing after getting halfway through.  Then all one can say is "I cannot eat another bite of this great tasting giant meatball or I might explode!" 

     Salsa di Pomodoro con Basilico:  (Tomato Basil Sauce)
     This recipe yields 3 to 4 portions of sauce.
     Tomato Basil Sauce is made just like Marinara.  
     Step 1:  Place a 28 ounce can of imported Italian peeled seeded San Marzano Tomatoes packed in their own juices in a mixing bowl.   (Or use canned Italian peeled seeded plum tomatoes packed in their own juices.)
     Crush and squeeze the tomatoes by hand till no large chunks remain.
     Set the prepared tomatoes aside.
     Step 2:  Heat 3/4 cup of pomace olive oil in a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 4 minced garlic cloves.
     Fry the garlic in the oil, till it cooks to a light golden color.
     Step 3:  Add 2 tablespoons of minced onion.
     Briefly sauté till the onion starts to turn clear in color.
     Step 4:  Immediately add the reserved prepared tomatoes and their juices.
     Add 1 small bunch of whole fresh basil leaves.  (medium to medium large size leaves)
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 5:  Bring the sauce to a gentle boil, while stirring often.  (Do not over heat this sauce!)
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to medium low/low heat.
     Gently simmer the sauce and stir the olive oil into the sauce once every five minutes.
     *The olive oil must be stirred into the sauce regularly, so the olive oil combines with the tomatoes and juices!
     Simmer the sauce for up to 40 minutes, till the excess tomato juices have reduced and the sauce becomes a medium thin tomato sauce consistency.
     Step 6:  Add 1 tablespoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Remove the pot from the heat.
     *Just like Marinara a Tomato Basil Sauce should never kept warm.  Tomato Basil Sauce is always reheated to order!

     Giant Bocce Meatball: 
     This recipe yields 1 giant meatball that weighs a little more than 18 ounces after baking.  
     *The restaurant technique for making a giant meatball involves repeatedly dipping the meatball in a deep fryer, till a crust is formed and it becomes fairly firm.  The giant meatball is then finished in an oven that is set to a moderate temperature.  
     *For home cooks, baking the giant meatball in a bowl shaped mold works well.  The baking of the meatball must be done in stages.  The excess grease must be removed occasionally.  
     Step 1:  Place 1 pound of lean ground beef in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 cup of water soaked Italian bread pith.  (Squeeze the water out of the pith before measuring the volume.)
     Step 2:  Add 1/4 cup of finely grated imported Italian Parmigiana Cheese.
     Add 1/3 cup of fine plain bread crumbs.
     Add 3 tablespoons of finely minced garlic.
     Add 1/4 cup of minced onion.
     Add 1 whisked large egg.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of leaf oregano.
     Add 1 teaspoon of basil.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped Italian Parsley.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 2 to 3 pinches of black pepper.
     Step 4:  Thoroughly mix the ingredients together.  Knead the mixture just like bread dough.
     Step 5:  Chill the meatball mixture in a refrigerator till it becomes stiff.
     Step 6:  Roll the meatball mixture into a very large meatball shape.
     Step 7:  Wrap the giant meatball with plastic wrap.
     Then wrap the meatball with aluminum foil.
     Step 8:  Select an oven proof soup bowl or mixing bowl that is shaped about the same contour as the giant meatball.  The meatball should fit tightly in the bowl!  A bowl that is about 5" to 6" wide should fit this recipe.
     Place the wrapped meatball in the bowl shaped mold.
     Step 9:  Set the bowl and the wrapped meatball on a roasting  pan.
     Bake in a 350ºF oven till it is cooked fairly firm to the touch.  (About 1 hour.)  Be sure to drain the grease out of the bowl occasionally.
     Step 10:  Remove the meatball mold and pan from the oven.
     Let the meatball cool to almost room temperature, so it is easier to handle.
     *Handle the meatball carefully because, it is still may not be fully cooked in the center!
     Carefully and gently roll the meatball out of the bowl onto the pan.
     Remove the aluminum foil and plastic wrap.
     Step 11:  *The outside of the meatball should be cooked firm enough, so the meatball does not lose its shape when it is baked a second time.
     Place the unwrapped meatball back into the bowl that was used as a mold.
     Set the mold with the meatball on the roasting pan.
     Bake in a 350ºF oven till the meatball is fully cooked and browned.  (A probe thermometer should read at least 165ºF in the center.)
     Be sure to drain the grease out of the meatball bowl mold occasionally.
     Step 13:  Remove the meatball pan from the oven.
     Drain the last of the grease off the meatball.  Gently roll the meatball out of the mold onto a platter.
     Keep the Bocce Meatball warm on a stove top.

     Spaghetti and Bocce Meatball with Tomato Basil Sauce:
     This recipe yields 1 extra large entrée that can be shared by two guests.
     *Wait till the spaghetti is almost fully cooked, before reheating the tomato basil sauce!
     Step 1:  Cook 1 large portion of thin spaghetti (capellini) in boiling water till it is al dente.
     Step 2:  Warm 1 3/4 cups of the Tomato Basil Sauce in a wide sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Step 3:  Drain the water off of the al dente spaghetti.
     Add the spaghetti to the sauce in the pan.
     Toss the sauce and pasta together.
     Place the pasta on a plate, so it forms a thick bed for the bocce meatball.
     Step 4:  Set the Bocce Meatball in the sauté pan that the pasta was tossed in.
     Add 2 ounces of the tomato basil sauce.
     Place the pan over medium low heat.
     Coat the meatball with the tomato basil sauce as it heats.
     Step 5:  Set the Bocce Meatball on top of the spaghetti.
     Spoon the excess sauce from the pan over the meatball and pasta.
     Sprinkle some finely grated Parmigiana Cheese over the meatball and pasta.
     Garnish with a parsley sprig.
     *Serve with grilled garlic bread.

     This is the king of meatballs!  When this giant Italian meatball is baking, the great aroma will fill the house!

Classic Marinara Sauce







     Classic Marinara!
     Marina Sauce originated in the galleys of Italian merchant ships and fishing vessels.  The way that Marinara Sauce is made is similar to how meals were quickly put together for fishermen returning from sea back in the old days, before radio communications.  Fishermen worked at sea till the job was done or the weather started getting rough and there was no time schedule.  Home cooks ashore often had to wait till the boats could be seen returning to port, before getting the meal started.  Home cooks in fishing villages developed great recipes that take very little time to prepare.
     The same can be said about meals prepared at sea.  Less than 100 years ago, a galley cook performed far more duties on a fishing boat than just preparing meals for the crew.  If repairs or hauling in a catch needed to be done, the task took priority over preparing a meal.  Often a galley cook was faced with preparing a meal for a hungry crew in short order and this is where Marinara Sauce fits in.
     Marinara Sauce can be made in a matter of minutes or it can be simmered for forty minutes, depending on the quality of the canned tomatoes.  In the old fishing boat days, the time that that it took to make Marinara also depended on how hungry the crew was!  It was never a good idea to keep temperamental fishermen hungry for too long, especially if the crew depended on the Vitamin C in tomatoes for preventing scurvy.

     Marinara can also be made with peeled, seeded overripe fresh tomato filets.  I once worked with an Italian chef in Florida that went to a tomato packing plant just to get boxes of overripe fresh tomatoes that were unfit for shipping.  Tomato shippers prefer to pack only unripe fresh tomatoes, because they are more durable when boxed and shipped.  A tomato packing plant usually gives the overripe tomatoes away for free to farmers that need livestock feed or to anybody that wants them.  Since the Italian chef got the overripe tomatoes at no cost, his restaurant food cost percentage was very low!

A la minute Marinara
     A la minute Marinara
     Italian chefs also make an a la minute Marinara.  This style requires high quality tomatoes, because the preparation time is short.  Crushed whole tomatoes are summered with garlic and olive oil for 5 minutes.  The prepared tomatoes are then set aside.  When an order for sauce made with Marinara is needed, the chef then adds the prepared tomatoes to a pan and finishes the sauce to order (a la minute).  This style of marinara works well for making regional pastas like those found in Rome and Abruzzo.  Spaghetti al Piselli e Pancetta or Bucatini Amatriciana are examples.
   
     Classic Marinara Sauce: 
     This recipe yields 3 to 4 portions of sauce.  (about 3 to 3 1/3 cups) 
     • The proportion of olive oil in a marinara sauce is about 20%.  Olive oil is the key to cooking this classic tomato sauce.  Without enough olive oil, a marinara will turn out to be "flat" like stewed tomatoes.
     • Only the best imported canned Italian tomatoes should be used to make Marinara Sauce.  This is because Marinara has evolved from a simple quickly made sauce to a sauce that shows off the best tomatoes in the house.
     • Canned whole peeled seeded San Marzano Tomatoes packed in their own juices are the best choice.  Another good choice is canned Italian peeled seeded plum tomatoes packed in their own juices.  If the imported can of Italian tomatoes also says "Con Basilico" (packed with basil leaves) on the label then that is good too, because basil sweetens tomatoes.  
     Step 1:  Place a 28 ounce can of imported Italian peeled seeded San Marzano Tomatoes packed in their own juices in a mixing bowl.   (Or use canned Italian peeled seeded plum tomatoes packed in their own juices.)
     Crush and squeeze the tomatoes by hand till no large chunks remain.
     Set the prepared tomatoes aside.
     Step 2:  Heat 3/4 cup of pomace olive oil in a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 8 thin sliced garlic cloves.
     Fry the garlic in the oil, till it cooks to a light golden brown color.
     Step 3:  Immediately add the reserved prepared tomatoes and their juices.
     Add about 12 whole fresh basil leaves.  (medium to medium large size leaves)
     Add 3 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 4:  Bring the sauce to a gentle boil, while stirring often.  (Do not over heat this sauce!)
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to medium low/low heat.
     Gently simmer the sauce and stir the olive oil into the sauce once every five minutes.
     *The olive oil must be stirred into the sauce regularly, so the olive oil combines with the tomatoes and juices!
     Simmer the marinara for up to 40 minutes, till the excess tomato juices have reduced and the sauce becomes a medium thin tomato sauce consistency.
     Step 6:  Add 2 tablespoons of minced Italian Parsley.
     Remove the pot of Marinara Sauce from the heat.
     *Marinara is never kept warm.  Marinara Sauce is always reheated to order!

     This is the way that I was taught to make Marinara during my first Italian apprenticeship.  As one can see, it only takes a few select ingredients and good cooking techniques to make a great Marinara Sauce!  

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Ratatouille







     Ratatouille! 
     Ratatouille simply translates to a stirred stew.  Ratatouille originated in Nice, France and it is a signature entrée of the Provence region.  Ratatouille is usually only made with field vegetables and herbs with no meat or meat broth.  Some chefs add mushrooms to enhance the flavor.
    Many chefs try to overcomplicate the traditional ratatouille recipe.  Some chefs insist upon layering the ingredients in a certain order, while other chefs demand that the ingredients be cooked separately.  Neither of those ratatouille cooking methods are correct, because by definition, ratatouille is a stirred stew.  This means that the stew is occasionally stirred till the ingredients are fully cooked.  Because vegetables are the featured ingredient, this also means that the ratatouille cooks in a relatively short amount of time.  The vegetables should only be simmered till they are tender and the flavors meld.
     There is no need to reinvent the wheel.  Ratatouille is simple French country style cooking at its best.  There is no shame in making food that looks like a stew!  Stewing is one of the oldest and greatest cooking techniques on earth, so cherish a stew for what it is!  As far as stews go, French Ratatouille is one of the best.

     There are two methods that I use to make ratatouille.  The first method is an easy method, which involves making a rustic stirred vegetable stew in one pot.  This simple method is described in today's recipe.
     The second ratatouille cooking method involves enhancing the vegetable flavor and this method is fairly simple too.  First, remove the seeds and pulp from the squash.  The squash pulp is then sautéed till it is caramelized.  Then tomato paste is added and the tomato paste is sautéed with the squash pulp till the tomato is lightly caramelized.  This French technique is called "Pincer," which means "to pinch more flavor from the food that is cooked." 
     After pinching flavor from the squash pulp and tomato, water is added to create a rich flavorful dark vegetable broth.  The broth is simmered and reduced, then poured through a fine mesh strainer.  The rich tasting Nicoise style vegetable broth is added to the ratatouille, after the vegetables are briefly sautéed.  This same pincer method is used to create the classic sauce for Poulet Nicoise!   
 
     Rustique Ratatouille:
     This recipe yields 2 large portions.  (About 5 1/2 cups)  
     The secret to making a good ratatouille is knowing when the vegetables are cooked tender, without being over cooked!  The herbs will be at their aromatic peak at that same time.  
     A few pinches of  Traditional Classic French Herbs de Provence can be substituted for the long list of herbs in this recipe, if you wish.  Keep in mind that the traditional French Herbs de Provence contains no lavender flowers!  Traditional French Herbs de Provence may contain lavender leaves.    
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauce pot or braising pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of chopped garlic.
     Sauté the garlic till it is a golden color.
     Step 2:  Add 1/4 cup of diced celery.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced onion.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced leek.
     Add 2 small chopped green onions.
     Sauté and stir till the onions turn clear and translucent.
     Step 3:  Add 2 cups of zucchini that is sliced in half lengthwise and cut into large bite size pieces.
     Add 1 cup of yellow squash that is sliced in half lengthwise and cut into large bite size pieces.
     Add 2 cups of Chinese purple eggplant that is sliced in half lengthwise and cut into large bite size pieces.
     Add 1 cup of chopped peeled plum tomato.
     Add 1/3 cup of red bell pepper that is cut into large bite size pieces.
     Add 1/3 cup of yellow bell pepper that is cut into large bite size pieces.
     Briefly sauté and stir till the vegetables just start to cook.
     Step 4:  Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of thyme leaves.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of marjoram.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of tarragon.
     Add 1 pinch of rubbed sage.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh basil leaves.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced fresh chervil.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of chopped Italian Parsley.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Stir the ingredients.
     Step 5:  Add 2 1/3 cups of vegetable stock.
     Add 1/4 cup of tomato puree.
     Bring the stew to a gentle boil.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to a medium low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the vegetables are tender and the broth gains a rich flavor.  Be sure to stir the stew occasionally, so the vegetables cook evenly.
 
     Ratatouille Presentation (Vegetarian):
     This recipe describes 1 portion.  
     Remove the bay leaf.
     Spoon 2 1/2 cups of the ratatouille into a shallow bowl.
     No garnish is necessary!
     Serve with sliced French baguette on the side.
 
     Ratatouille au Fromage:
     Ratatouille au Fromage is very popular.  For Ratatouille au Fromage, a nice select cheese is melted on the ratatouille.  
     For Ratatouille au Gratin, simply bake till golden brown highlights appear on the cheese!
     Step 1:  Place 2 1/2 cups of the ratatouille in an oven proof bowl or single portion casserole dish.
     Sprinkle 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup of your choice of grated melting cheese on the ratatouille.  (Gruyere, Swiss Ementaler or Monterey Jack are good choices.
     Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of fine French bread crumbs on the cheese.  (optional)
     Step 2:  Place the bowl under a broiler or in a 350ºF oven.
     Bake or broil till the cheese melts or till golden brown highlights appear.  (Never let cheese completely brown or the flavor will taste bitter!)
     Step 3:  Place the hot bowl on a doily lined serving dish.
     No garnish is necessary!
     Serve with sliced French baguette on the side.
 
     The flavor and aroma of ratatouille is satisfying and delicious!  The tummy actually hungers for more, after the first bite!  Ratatouille is one of the healthiest meals that there is.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Dijon Breaded Frog Legs with Dill Slaw




     Tasty Frog Legs!
     Breaded fried frog legs are popular in Florida, especially at seafood restaurants near the Everglades.  I wanted to try something different for today's recipe.  I have used a Dijon Mustard flavored egg wash when breading veal for a few French recipes in the past.  I thought the flavor of a Dijon Mustard egg wash would be a nice choice for breading frog legs.  The result was mighty satisfying!
   
     Dill Slaw: 
     This recipe yields 2 portions.
     Step 1:  Place 3 cups of very thin sliced cabbage in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of small chopped green bell pepper.
     Add about 1/5 cup of small thin match stick cut carrots for color.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh dill weed.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of rice vinegar.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of granulated sugar.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 3:  Add 1/3 cup of mayonnaise.
     Mix the ingredients till the cabbage is coated.
     Step 4:  Chill the slaw for 20 minutes, before serving.
     Mix the ingredients again, before serving.
   
     Dijon Breaded Frog Legs:  
     This recipe can yield 8 to 10 fried frog legs, depending on the size.  Only 4 frog legs are described in this recipe breading process.  
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of Dijon Mustard in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 large eggs.
     Add 2 pinches of tarragon.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Whisk the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Dredge 4 individual frog legs in flour.
     Dip the frog legs in the dijon mustard egg batter.
     Dredge the frog legs in plain fine bread crumbs.
     Step 3:  Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil to 360ºF in a high sided pot.
     Fry the frog legs, till they are fully cooked and the breading is crispy golden brown.
     Step 4:  Use a fryer net to remove the fried frog legs from the hot oil.
     Place the fried frog legs on wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan to remove any excess oil.
   
     Dijon Breaded Frog Legs with Dill Slaw:
     Place a bed of lettuce leaves on a plate.
     Mound 1 portion of Dill Slaw on the back half of the plate.
     Lean the fried Dijon Breaded Frog Legs against the Dill Slaw.
     Garnish with fresh dill sprigs and lemon slices.
   
     These frog legs need no dipping sauce at all.  The Dijon Mustard flavor is nice!  Tarragon compliments the flavor of Dijon Mustard.  

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Pastira








     Spaghetti & Egg Pie!
     Every culture seems to have a recipe that is associated with hard economic times.  Pastira can feed many people for a very low price.  Plain Pastira is a mixture of eggs, pasta, cheese and seasoning that is baked in a pie tin or casserole dish.  Pastira can be served as brunch entrée or as a main course for dinner.  
     Just about any kind of odds and ends from a refrigerator can be added to make a Pastira fancy, but the theme still should reflect upon a simple poor folks meal.  The Pastira recipe that I made for a photo example does has a few extra ingredients.  Onions, green bell pepper and Pancetta create a nice flavor that is economical.  Pancetta is an Italian dry cure bacon that has a very rich flavor.  I used Angel Hair Capellini pasta to make this recipe.  When a very thin pasta is used, the Pastira will have a dense texture.
      I used a small pop-ring cheesecake mold to make the individual portion Pastira.  Petite pop-ring molds are great for making free standing baked food presentations.  A full size Pastira is made with a standard pie and it is cut into pie wedge shaped portions.
  
     Salsa di Pomodoro:  
     Follow the link to the recipe in this website.
     • Salsa di Pomodoro

     Pastira:
     This recipe yields 1 individual size Pastira.
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of angel hair capellini in boiling water till it is al dente.
     Cool the pasta under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the pasta and set it aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 2 tablespoons of small diced pancetta.
     Add 2 tablespoons of small diced green bell pepper.
     Add 2 tablespoons of small diced onion.
     Sauté till the vegetables are tender and the pancetta is lightly browned.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the cooked pancetta, onions and peppers in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 large eggs.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Whisk till the ingredients are blended and slightly foamy.
     Step 4:  Add the al dente cooked angel hair capellini pasta to the egg mixture.
     Toss the egg mixture with the pasta.
     Step 5:  Brush a small 5" wide pop-ring mold with olive oil.
     Place the pastira mixture into the pie tin.
     Gently pat the mixture into the mold, so the surface is even.
     Step 6:  Place the Pastira on a baking pan.
     Bake in a 350ºF oven till the eggs start to become firm
     Step 7:  Remove the Pastira from the oven.
     Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of grated mozzarella cheese on top of the Pastira.
     Return the Pastira to the 350ºF oven.
     Bake till the eggs are fully cooked and golden highlights appear.  (A probe thermometer should read 148ºF.)
     Step 8:  Remove the finished Pastira from the oven and let it rest for 2 minutes.
     Run a paring knife between the Pastira and the sides of the mold to free the spaghetti pie, then pop the ring off.
     Use a chef knife to free the pastira from the base of the pop ring mold.
     Step 9:  Spoon some tomato sauce on a plate as a bed for the Pastira.
     Use a spatula to set the pastira on the tomato sauce.
     Sprinkle a little bit of fine chopped parsley over the pastira and sauce.
   
     Pastira is tasty and it fills the tummy up for a long time!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Estrogonofe de Frango






     Brazilian Chicken Stroganoff!
     Beef Stroganoff is popular worldwide.  Beef Stroganoff has probably been cooked in every major city around the world.  In the late 1800's, Beef Stroganoff was served in fine dining restaurants.  As time moved on, Beef Stroganoff eventually became a home style comfort food item with many recipe variations.
     The original Stroganoff was made with beef, onions, mustard, bouillon and sour cream back in the mid 1800's.  The addition of mushrooms was one of the first recipe variations.  In the beginning of the 20th century, many chefs added tomato paste to the original recipe which gave Beef Stroganoff a reddish orange color.  Not everybody liked the addition of tomato and the brown color version of Beef Stroganoff remained the most popular recipe.

     Brazilian Estrogonofe is a very nice Stroganoff recipe variation.  Tomato is nearly alway part of the Brazilian style Stroganoff recipe and chicken nearly always is substituted for beef.  For those who are not familiar with Brazil, the main language spoken in this country is Portuguese.  The word "frango" translates to pollo (Latin) or chicken.  "Estrogonofe de Frango" literally translates as Chicken Stroganoff, but as the language suggests, this recipe should be prepared with Brazilian flair.  
     Brazilian style Chicken Stroganoff is much lighter on the tummy than Beef Stroganoff.  In Brazil, Estrogonofe de Frango is rarely served with noodles.  It is usually served with fried potatoes or rice.  For today's recipe presentation, I chose to serve the Estrogonofe de Frango with Italian Fiori Pasta.  "Fiori" translates to flower in Italian.  Fiori pasta has a pretty looking flower shape that picks the rich sauce up nicely.
  
     Estrogonofe de Frango:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty portion.  
     Estrogonofe de Frango can be served over fried potatoes or rice and an artisan pasta is also a nice choice. 
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan or sauteuse pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter.
     Add 1/3 cup of thin sliced onion.
     Add 1/2 taspoon of minced garlic.
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 8 ounces of chicken breast filet that is cut into large bite size pieces.
     Add 3/4 cup of small portobello mushrooms that are cut in half.
     Sauté till the chicken is more than halfway cooked.
     Step 3:  Add 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth.
     Add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of Dijon Mustard.
     Stir the ingredients as the sauce comes to a gentle boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.    
     Add 1/2 cup of cream.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin consistency that can barely coat a spoon.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1/2 cup of sour cream while stirring.
     Gently simmer till the sauce is a medium thin consistency that easily clings to the chicken and mushrooms.
     Keep the Estrogonofe de Frango warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie.  Add chicken broth or milk if the sauce becomes too thick.

     Estrogonofe de Frango with Fiori Pasta:
     Cook 1 portion of Fiori Pasta in  boiling water over high heat till it is al dente.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Place a ring of the Fiori Pasta around the border of a plate and leave the center of the plate bare, to create a well for the Estrogonofe.
     Mound the Estrogonofe de Frango on the center of the plate.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.
  
     Estrogonofe de Frango is a tasty Stroganoff variation!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Old Fashioned Oyster Stew




     Oyster Stew!
     Oyster stew is a favorite at seafood restaurants from Maine to Florida.  Some chefs fancy up the recipe, but personal interpretations of old traditional recipes usually stray too far from what made the original recipe great.  The rule of thumb for making old fashioned oyster stew is "the simpler, the better!"  Let the fresh oysters, fresh milk and fresh cream do all the talking!  Nothing much of anything else is needed for making a great oyster stew.  
  
     Old Fashioned Oyster Stew:
     This recipe yields one portion.  
     Old fashioned Oyster Stew is cooked to order and it is never made ahead of time.  Oyster Stew only takes a few minutes to make and it is best when it is served as soon as it finishes.
     *Large fresh Blue Point Oysters, Virginia oysters or Apalachicola are best for this recipe.
     Step 1:  Shuck 4 or 5 large oysters and reserve the oyster liquor.  (The volume of the shucked oysters and oyster liquid should be about 1/2 cup.)
     Set the oysters and oyster liquor aside. 
     Step 2:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of bacon grease.
     Add a 1 teaspoon of minced onion.
     Gently sauté till the onions are clear in color.
     Step 3:  Add the oysters.
     Gently sauté the oysters till they are halfway cooked.
     Step 4:  Add the reserved oyster liquor.
     Add 1/2 cup of cream.
     Add 1 1/4 cups of whole milk.
     Add 1 small pinch of sea salt and white pepper.  
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
     Bring the liquid to a simmer.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer till the oysters are fully cooked and still very plump.  (Overcooked oysters will shrink and become tough!)
     Step 6:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Pour the oyster stew into a shallow soup bowl.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of paprika over the oyster stew.
     Serve with Oyster Crackers on the side.  
  
     The flavor of this simple oyster stew will bring back memories of summers at the beach and dining at old school East Coast seafood restaurants!