Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Blanc Ragoût de Veau et Champignon






     A French White Stew of Veal and Mushrooms!  
     The savory flavor of wild mushrooms is a classic accompaniment for veal.  Common button mushrooms or cave mushrooms used to be the only choice at common grocery stores, but fortunately that has changed.  Now most grocery stores carry Shiitake, Oyster Mushrooms and Portobello.  Dried Ceps, Cow Ear Fungus, Porcini or Morels are available at some grocery stores too.  To find highly prized mushrooms, like Chanterelles, Lobster Mushrooms or Black Trumpets, shoppers have to go to a gourmet food market.   
     Each edible wild mushroom has its own unique flavor.  Some recipes are designed to highlight the flavor of specific mushrooms.  For example, a classic French Blanc Ragoût is commonly flavored with Cep Mushrooms or a combination of Ceps and other wild mushrooms.  Today's Blanc Ragoût recipe is flavored with Dried Porcini, Shîtake and Oyster Mushrooms.  
     Italian Porcini are a strain of Cep Mushroom that grow in a specific region of Italy.  Environmental conditions cause Porcini to have a unique flavor.  Regular Ceps (King Boletus) tend to have a little bit richer earthy flavor than Porcini.  
     Shiitake Mushrooms have a mild forest mushroom flavor and they have many health benefits.  Shiitake are known for having anti cancer and anti aging properties.  
     Oyster Mushrooms vary in color and shape.  Some are mild tasting and some are very rich.  Oyster Mushrooms are named for their shape, but they do have a rich mushroom flavor with a hint of roasted oyster flavor.  Caution must be taken when eating Oyster Mushrooms, because these mushrooms contain a chemical that will make a person sick if alcohol is consumed.  The active chemical is the same as what is in the alcoholism treatment drug called Antabuse.  If wine is served with the meal, it is best to skip adding Oyster Mushrooms to the white stew.    
                             
     Blanc Ragoût de Veau et Champignon:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty portion.  (About 2 1/4 cups)
     Step 1:  Soak 3 or 4 dried Porcini Mushroom slices in 1 cup of water overnight in a refrigerator.
     Cut the Porcini into bite size pieces.
     Save the soaking water.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Sauté till the shallots turn clear in color.
     Step 3:  Add 7 ounces of veal stewing meat that is cut into bite size pieces.
     Sauté till the a few light golden highlights appear.  (Do not excessively brown the veal for a white stew!)
     Step 4:  Add just enough flour to soak up the excess butter in the pan while constantly stirring.  (About 1 1/2 teaspoons.)
     Stir till the roux combines and it is still a pale color.
     Step 5:  Add 3 ounces of dry white wine.
     Add 1 cup of pale veal stock or light chicken broth.
     Stir occasionally as the sauce comes to a gentle boil.
     Step 6:  Add 1 medium size peeled parsnip that is cut into large pieces.
     Add 4 or 5 peeled pearl onions.
     Add 5 large bite size pieces of peeled turnip.
     Step 7:  Add the prepared Porcini mushrooms and the reserved soaking liquid.
     Add 1/4 cup of thick sliced Shiitake Mushrooms.  (Cut any large slices in half.)
     Add 1/4 cup of Oyster Mushrooms that are cut in half.
     Return the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 8:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 3/4 cup of cream.
     Add 1 small bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Return the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 9:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Stir occasionally as the stew simmers.
     Gently simmer till the veal is tender and the sauce reduces to a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.  (About 30 minutes.  Add a splash of light veal stock or milk if the stew becomes too thick.)
     Keep the white stew warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie.

     Presentation:  
     This recipe describes 1 entrée presentation.
     Step 1:  Stir the white stew one last time.
     Remove the bay leaf.
     Step 2:  Ladle the white stew into a shallow single portion casserole dish.
     Set the casserole dish on a doily lined serving platter.
     Step 3:  Garnish the platter with curly leaf parsley sprigs.
     Serve with toasted sliced French bread on the side.
   
     This is an elegant Blanc Ragoût that is appealing on a chilly day!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Campanelle with Smoked Turkey, Portobello, Zucchini and Black Peppercorn Parmigiana Crème Fraîche








     A Rich Satisfying Pasta For Chilly Weather!
     Campanelle Pasta translates to "Horn Pasta."  Campanelle Pasta is also called "bells, little bells and flower pasta."  Campanelle is an Italian artisan pasta that really looks good on a plate.  The shape of campanelle can pick up any kind of sauce, including olive oil sauces.
     Crushed Black Peppercorn Parmegiana Crème Fraîche is the same sauce that many restaurants market as Alfredo Sauce.  A true Alfredo Sauce has no cream in it.  Real Alfredo Sauce is made with only butter and cheese, which is slowly stirred till it gains a thick creamy consistency.
     Crème fraîche is half soured cream.  The way crème fraîche is supposed to be made is to let cream sit uncovered in open air for a few hours, then the cream is refrigerated overnight.  After about 20 hours, the cream will become half soured cream and the texture will become dense.
     There is a fine line between crème fraîche and spoiled cream.  Airborne pathogens can contaminate the cream when it is left at room temperature, so the old method of making crème fraîche is no longer approved by restaurant health inspectors.  The safest way to make crème fraîche is to blend cream with sour cream.  Sour cream is just a thicker version of crème fraîche.  The flavor of sour cream blended with cream is the same as old fashioned crème fraîche and it is approved by health inspectors.
     Turkey has become popular in Italy in recent years.  Good fresh smoked turkey has a very appealing flavor.  Most lunch meat smoked turkey is artificially flavored with a smoke flavored liquid.  Real smoked turkey has a dark colored skin.  When the skin is removed, the meat underneath has a nice pinkish white color.  Turkey is a large bird, so just one smoked turkey wing has enough meat to make 2 to 3 portions of today's pasta recipe.
     I usually publish a few recipes each year that can be used for leftover Thanksgiving turkey.  Turkey a la King and Turkey Tetrazzini have to be the all time favorites.  A simple cream pasta, like today's recipe is a nice choice too, especially if the Thanksgiving turkey was smoked.  
  
     Campanelle with Smoked Turkey, Portobello, Zucchini and Black Peppercorn Parmigiana Crème Fraîche:
     This recipe yields 1 pasta entrée.
     Portobello, Italian Brown Mushrooms and Crimini are all names for the same field mushroom!  Cave Button Mushrooms are in the same mushroom family, but they are a different strain.  
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of Campanelle Pasta in a pot of boiling water over high heat till it is al dente.
     Cool the pasta under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Set the pasta aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped Bermuda Onion (or Sweet Vidalia Onion).
     Sauté till the onions start to turn clear in color.
     Step 3:  Add 1/3 cup of half moon shaped zucchini slices.  (demi lune)
     Cut 1 medium size portobello mushroom in half.
     Cut the mushroom halves into thin slices.
     Add the mushroom to the pan.
     Sauté the till the zucchini is al dente.
     Step 4:  Add 4 ounces of smoked turkey wing meat that is cut into bite size pieces.
     Briefly sauté for a few seconds, till the smoked turkey becomes aromatic.  (Smoked turkey is already fully cooked!)
     Step 5:  Add 2/3 cup of cream.
     Bring the cream to a gentle boil.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to medium low/low heat.
     Add 1/3 cup of sour cream.
     Stir the sauce till the sour cream is combined and the sauce comes to a gentle simmer.
     Step 7:  Add 2 tablespoons of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese while stirring.
     Add 1 small pinch of sea salt.
     Add 3 pinches of crushed black peppercorn.
     Stir the sauce till the cheese melts into the crème fraîche.
     Step 8:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.  (If the sauce becomes too thick, add a splash of milk.)
     Step 9:  Add the prepared Campanelle Pasta to the sauce.
     Add 1 tablespoon of thin sliced green onion.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of finely chopped Italian Parsley.
     Toss the sauce and pasta together.
     Step 10:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Mound the pasta on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with an Italian Parsley sprig.
 
     This is not a traditional Italian pasta, but new modern Italian turkey recipes are en vogue!            

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Pork Loin Schnitzel over Sweet Sour Banana Squash and Winter Vegetables








     Hearty German Style Comfort Food!
     When looking at a special du jour menu at the average American craft brew pub, tavern or local diner, a customer occasionally will see a token German style entrée offered during the fall and winter season.  Nine times out of ten, the German style special du jour will be Bratwurst & Sauerkraut.  More often than not, the dinner special is made with cheap low quality greasy bratwurst and canned sauerkraut that is not even prepared properly.  A German style dinner special like this is not worth writing home about, so why bother putting it on the special board!
     Offering the same old seasonal food items year after year is what many restaurants do.  This marketing strategy is good, if the food is well prepared.  If quality is not the name of the game, then a customer will remember how disappointing the Bratwurst & Sauerkraut special du jour was last year.  The customer might even say something like, "Does your chef know how to make any other kind of German food?  Or does the chef only know how to cook sausage and sauerkraut?"
     Obviously, if a customer inquires, then a customer shows interest.  In this case, a customer may be interested in German food, but only the same old Bratwurst & Sauerkraut special is offered.  The solution is to step up the quality and use a little bit of imagination when selecting a German style recipe for a seasonal special du jour.  There is more to German cuisine than just sauerkraut and sausage!                
     Today's German style pork schnitzel and root vegetable recipe is comfortable, hearty, easy to recognize and it is fairly healthy.  It can be modestly priced as a special du jour, because it is cheap to make.  It will certainly please modern customers that are interested in German style winter food, yet a customer might as well plan on cooking this at home, because the local diner chef will probably decide to run the same old worn out Bratwurst & Sauerkraut special once again!  Ce est la vie!  
     The Banana Squash and root vegetables are braised in a sweet sour sauce.  German style sweet sour sauces usually are on the delicate side.  Winter spices are first choice in this style of sauce.  The sour usually comes from cider vinegar.  This kind of sauce tastes great with banana squash, winter vegetables and pan fried pork schnitzel.
     Banana Squash are huge.  Just imagine a banana that weighs about 25 to 30 pounds!  This is what a Banana Squash kind of looks like.  Banana Squash come in a variety of colors that include green, white, orange and multi color.  Banana Squash can be purchased whole, but most produce markets cut these big squash into large sections that are easier for a customer to manage.
     I purchased one fourth of a whole Banana Squash.  The flavor is lighter than Butternut Squash and it is sweeter than Acorn Squash.  The aroma is fruity and this squash does have a hint of banana flavor.  Banana Squash are popular worldwide and they are classified as a winter squash variety.  They are currently available and now is the time to give this great tasting squash a try!
     When using pork to make schnitzel, the word "pork" has to be mentioned in the entrée title.  Otherwise, if just the word "schnitzel" appears on the menu, it is deceptive marketing practice because the customer will expect veal.  This standard happens to be law in Europe.
     The pan frying medium does make a difference with schnitzel.  Duck grease is traditional and so is lard.  A combination of lard and oil is good too.  Pan frying schnitzel with just vegetable oil will add no flavor.  Buttermilk is traditional for breading schnitzel, not egg wash.  The bread crumb mixture can be 100% bread crumb or it can be combination of flour and bread crumbs.  

     Sweet Sour Banana Squash and Winter Vegetables:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty portion or 2 petite portions.   
     Step 1:  Select a section of Banana Squash that weighs about 10 ounces.
     Use a spoon to scrape out the pulp and seeds.
     Cut the section of squash into 1/2" thick slices.
     Set each slice on its side and cut off the rind.
     Cut about 2 cups of bite size cube shaped pieces.
     Set the prepared Banana Squash aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauce pot (or braising pan) over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add the reserved Banana Squash.
     Add 1/3 cup of sliced Bermuda Onion strips.
     Add 1/3 cup of carrot that is cut into thick quarter wedges.
     Add 1/2 cup of peeled russet potato that is cut into thick bite size rectangular shapes.
     Gently sauté till the vegetables start to become aromatic.  Try not to let the vegetables brown.
     Step 3:  Add enough water to cover the vegetables with liquid.  (About 3 cups)
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of cider vinegar.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 3 tablespoons of raw sugar.
     Add 1 pinch of all spice.
     Add 3 whole cloves.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 4:  Raise the temperature to medium high heat.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.  (Do not cover the pan with a lid!)
     Add 1/3 cup of small chopped kale.
     Simmer till the potatoes are fully cooked and the liquid reduces to a thin sauce consistency.
     Keep the vegetables warm over very low heat.

     Schweinelende Schnitzel:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty portion or 2 petite portions.  
     Step 1:  Place 3/4 cup of flour in a mixing bowl.
     Place 3/4 cup of buttermilk in a 2nd mixing bowl.
     Set the bowls aside.
     Step 2:  Place 1 cup of flour in a 3rd mixing bowl.
     Add 1 cup of fine ground French bread crumbs.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Mix the ingredients together and set the bowl aside.
     Step 3:  Cut 4 thin slices of boneless pork loin that are about 1/4" thick and weigh about 2 ounces apiece.
     Trim off any excess fat.
     Use a mallet to pound the pork cutlets thin.
     Step 4:  Lightly season the pork cutlets with sea salt and white pepper.
     Dredge the pork cutlets in the bowl of plain flour.
     Dip the pork cutlets in the buttermilk.
     Dredge the pork cutlets in the bowl of seasoned flour and bread crumbs.
     Step 5:  Heat a wide sauté pan (or cast iron skillet) over medium heat.
     Add 1/3 cup of pork lard.
     Add enough vegetable oil, so the level of oil and melted lard is about 3/8" deep.
     Adjust the temperature, so the oil ands lard is 350ºF.
     Step 6:  Place the breaded pork cutlets in the hot oil and lard.  (Fry in batches if necessary.)
     Pan fry the pork cutlets on both sides, till they are golden brown  (Try to flip the cutlets only once.)
     Step 7:  Use tongs to place the pork schnitzel on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan.
     Keep the 4 pork schnitzel warm on a stove top.

     Pork Loin Schnitzel over Sweet Sour Banana Squash and Winter Vegetables:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty entrée.  (For 2 petite portions, place 1/2 on each plate.)
     Step 1:  Place a generous portion of the Sweet Sour Banana Squash and Winter Vegetables on a plate as a bed for the pork schnitzel.
     Overlap the 4 Pork Loin Schnitzel over the bed of vegetables.
     Step 2:  Garnish the pork schnitzel with a few cilantro leaves.

     Viola!  A tasty comfortable German style entrée for the autumn and winter seasons!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Hungarian Sweet Red Cabbage and Egg Noodles







     Sweet Caramelized Cabbage and Noodles!
     The Hungarian name for today's recipe basically translates to sweet cabbage.  Of course white cabbage is more popular, but this recipe can be made with red cabbage too.  The first time that I tried this cabbage dish was way back when I was a kid.  Some Hungarian friends of the family made Sweet Cabbage with Noodles and oddly enough, I recall that it was made with red cabbage.    
     Only a few basic ingredients are needed, so this Hungarian style sweet cabbage recipe can easily be made when unexpected company arrives.  The cabbage is sautéed in butter till it caramelizes to a brown color, then the cabbage is sweetened.  Even though this recipe seems easy, plenty of stirring is required to prevent scorching the cabbage.
     The cabbage cooks down so far, that there is only a small portion of whole sweet cabbage pieces left in the pan when the noodles are added.  It really does not take much sweet cabbage to flavor the noodles.  The cinnamon flavor combines with the sugar and caramelized cabbage to create a delicious aroma.  

     Hungarian Sweet Red Cabbage and Egg Noodles: 
     This recipe yields 1 hearty portion.  (Or 2 side dish portions.)
     This recipe can be made with White Cabbage or Savoy Cabbage too.  
     Penn Dutch Egg Noodles are similar to egg noodles that are popular in Eastern Europe.  Penn Dutch Egg Noodles can be found in nearly any grocery store.    
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 3/4 cups of finely chopped red cabbage leaves.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt.
     Sauté the cabbage till it begins to brown.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of granulated sugar.
     Gently sauté and stir the cabbage often till it caramelizes to a brown color.
     *After about 10 minutes, the cabbage and sugar will begin to caramelize to a dark color.  The cabbage must be stirred often when it starts to brown or it will scorch!
     Step 3:  Add 1/4 cup of water.
     Add 1 pinch of black pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon.
     Stir the cabbage.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Keep the sweet caramelized cabbage warm, while the noodles are cooked.  Allow the excess liquid to evaporate.
     Step 5:  Cook 1 portion of wide square cut egg noodles in a pot of boiling water over high heat.
     When the egg noodles become tender, drain the water off of the noodles.
     Step 6:  Add the noodles to the sweet cabbage in the sauté pan.
     Toss the egg noodles and the sweet cabbage together.
     Step 7:  Mound the Hungarian Sweet Red Cabbage and Egg Noodles in a shallow soup bowl.
     No garnish is necessary!

     This is a nice side dish for the holiday season!  

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Soul Food! ~ Smoked Ham Hock & Cabbage with Pot Liquor








     Down Home Cookin'!
     There is no shortage of great flavor in today's recipe.  Soul Food cooking is good old fashioned, down home cooking.  Soul Food is cooked in a way that ensures no nutrients will be lost and the food can be easily digested.  Soul Food is powerful food for the body, which houses the soul!
     Many athletes and competitive weight lifters say Soul Food is the number one body building cuisine.  When the body needs a combination of fast acting nutrition, combined with long acting power packed proteins and energy, down home cooking is the answer.  Soul Food provides comfort too, in both a physical and mental sense.  Because complex lipids and proteins are cooked in a way that allows easy digestive uptake, mental clarity and coordination increases.  The pot liquor contains cartilaginous compounds that help to prevent sports injuries by strengthening tendons and bone joints.
     Ham Hocks are the shank portion of the hind leg or fore leg of a pig.  The meat cutting district in Chicago has some great smoke houses that provide most of America with nice quality smoked meats.  A Smoked Ham Hock purchased in Chicago is usually as fresh as can be, so it will need very little preparation.  A Smoked Ham Hock that is a few weeks old will have a patina that forms on the surface.  The thin slimy patina coating can be removed by soaking the ham hock in boiling hot water for about 20 minutes.  This will make the ham hock meat cleaner tasting.  
     There is only a little bit of meat on a ham hock, but chewing the soft cartilaginous matter and sucking on the bone marrow is part of soul food dining.  Soft glutinous cartilage is an essential dietary nutrient for strong tendons, cartilage and strong heart valves in the human body, so a good ham hock actually is health food.
     Collard Greens & Ham Hocks are cooked with a slightly different method than what is used to make the cabbage version of this classic greens recipe.  The object is to cook the cabbage till it tender, but not mushy, so the simmering time is shorter than when cooking collard greens.
     The Pot Liquor is where all the flavor is!  The Pot Liquor is also loaded with easy to digest nutrients.  Never discard the pot liquor when cooking soul food and always serve it up with the greens!

     Smoked Ham Hock & Cabbage with Pot Liquor:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty portion.
     A freshly smoked ham hock needs little preparation.  An aged ham hock needs to be soaked in boiling water till the patina coating is washed off.  
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of bacon grease.
     Add 1/4 cup of finely chopped onion.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Sauté till the onions are a caramelized with light brown color.
     Step 2:  Add 1 smoked ham hock.  (Try to select a meaty ham hock.)
     Add enough water to cover the ham hock.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed red pepper.
     Bring the water to a gentle boil.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer till almost all of the water has evaporated.  (Do not cover the pot, so the steam escapes.  The onions will become very soft and dissolve into the pot liquor.)
     Step 4:  Add 4 cups of 2" wide sliced cabbage.
     Add just enough water to almost cover the cabbage.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.  (About 2 to 3 pinches)
     Step 5:  Raise the temperature to medium/medium high heat.
     Place a lid on the pot.
     Boil till the cabbage is a little more than half way cooked.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Remove the lid from the pot.
     Add 2 green onions that are cut into bite size pieces.
     Simmer till the cabbage tender and the pot liquor reduces to about 3/4 cup in volume.
     *The pot liquor should be very rich by now.  You should be able to see more cabbage than broth in the pot. 
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Remove the smoked ham hock and set it aside.
     Spoon the cabbage and the pot liquor into a shallow stew bowl.
     Set the smoked ham hock on top of the cabbage.
     Serve with corn bread or sliced white bread on the side.
     No garnish is necessary!

     Down home style Smoked Ham Hock & Cabbage with Pot Liquor recipe is a comfortable and delicious meal that can be served any time of the year!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Fusilli di Farro with Fire Roasted Tomatoes, Florence Fennel and Porcini








     Healthy Ancient Grain Pasta!
     Farro has been popular since the days of ancient Rome.  Historically, the word "farro" refers to grain flour made from spelt, durham or emmer.  All three of these wheat grains are currently grown in Italy.  In modern times, farro usually refers to flour made with emmer, spelt or a combination of both.  Durham wheat flour is now used to make most pasta, while farro is usually reserved for specialty pasta.  
     Fire roasted tomatoes are ripe tomatoes that are roasted over an open flame.  Canned fire roasted tomatoes are usually passed under the flames in a hot broiler flame.  Either way, the tomatoes are roasted till the skin turns dark brown or black.  The black skin is removed before the fire roasted tomatoes are canned or used to make a recipe.
     The rich flavor of Italian Porcini Mushrooms combines with the light aromatic flavor of fennel bulb to create a broad flavor range in today's pasta entrée.  Fennel Bulb is also called Anise Bulb or Florence Fennel.

     Dried Porcini Preparation:
     This recipe yields 1 small portion.
     Fresh Porcini are rarely available outside of Italy.  Dried Porcini are available nearly everywhere.
     Step 1:  Place 1/4 cup of dried porcini mushroom slices in 1 1/2 cups of water in a container.
     Soak the porcini in a refrigerator overnight, so the mushrooms fully reconstitute.
     Step 2:  Place the porcini and the soaking liquid into a small sauce pot over low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the porcini are tender and 1 cup of porcini broth remains.
     Step 3:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Set the porcini and broth aside.
 
     Fusilli di Farro Preparation: 
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Since the modern health cuisine began, interest in ancient grains has increased, so dried pasta made with farro is widely available.   
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of Fusilli di Farro in a pot of boiling water over high heat till the pasta is al dente.
     Step 2:  Cool the pasta under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Set the pasta aside.
 
     Fusilli di Farro with Fire Roasted Tomatoes, Florence Fennel and Porcini:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty portion.  
     This is not really a sauce recipe.  It is more like a vegetable ragout with a quickly reduced broth.  The olive oil helps to coat the pasta with flavor.
     Canned fire roasted tomatoes are a nice convenience.  Imported Italian or Spanish brands are the best choice.      
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1 thin sliced small shallot.
     Sauté till the shallot turns clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 3/4 cup of florence fennel that is cut into large bite size pieces.
     Briefly sauté till the fennel starts to turn translucent around the edges.
     Step 3:  Add 1 1/4 cups of coarsely chopped canned fire roasted tomatoes and a proportion of their own juices.
     Add 1 small pinch of crushed red pepper.
     Bring the sauce to a simmer.  
     Step 4:  Add the reserved porcini and the reduced porcini broth.
     Add 1/3 cup of chicken broth (or rich vegetable broth for a vegetarian version).
     Add 1 small pinch of ground sage.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till about 1/2 cup of liquid remains.
     Step 6:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of finely chopped Italian Parsley.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of virgin olive oil.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese.
     Stir the cheese into the sauce.
     Step 7:  Add the reserved portion of prepared Fusilli di Farro Pasta.
     Toss the ingredients together, till the pasta becomes hot.
     Simmer and reduce till most of the excess liquid evaporates and a thin olive oil broth sauce forms.
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Mound the pasta on the center of a plate.  Try to expose pieces of the fennel, tomato and porcini on the surface.
     Pour any remaining broth sauce over the pasta.
     Step 9:  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese over the pasta.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of finely chopped Italian Parsley over the pasta.
     Garnish the pasta with a sprig of Italian Parsley.
 
     The fire roasted tomatoes give this ancient grain pasta a nice rustic flavor!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Maple Sausage Toad In A Hole with Onion Gravy and Mint Peas








     Toad In A Hole!
     Toad In A Hole is basically a sausage stuffed Yorkshire Pudding.  After baking, the sausage looks like a toad poking its head out of a hole in the ground, hence the name of this entrée.  
     Uncased sausage is used to make Toad In A Hole.  After baking, the sausage patty should look like it is peeking out of a Yorkshire Pudding.  Many Toad In A Hole recipes use cased sausage links to make Toad In A Hole.  A sausage link does not resemble a toad!     
     Traditional Yorkshire Pudding is a simple egg batter that is poured into a hot pan that is placed under a roast to catch the drippings.  The hot grease dripping from the roast literally fries the batter at first.  After the oven temperature recovers, the Yorkshire Pudding puffs up and more than doubles in size.  As the roast cooks, the drippings and jus flavors the Yorkshire Pudding.  This kind of Yorkshire Pudding is usually large and it is cut into portions when served.
     English pubs and restaurants usually make individual size Yorkshire Pudding.  Oil or lard is placed in the the cups of a large muffin pan.  The muffin pan is heated till the oil becomes very hot, then the Yorkshire Pudding batter is poured in each muffin cup.  The individual size Yorkshire Puddings are baked till they soufflé and brown.  The finished Yorkshire Puddings looks like cups.  When served with roasted beef, the individual size Yorkshire Pudding is placed in hot beef jus and soaked till it is saturated with the beef jus flavor.
     There are two ways that individual Toad In A Hole can be made.  A raw oval shape sausage patty can be placed in the Yorkshire Pudding while the batter is still wet.  The result is a classic Toad In A Hole that is saturated with grease, which is not very healthy.  The second method involves cooking the sausage patty first, before placing it in the pudding.  The result is a healthier Toad In A Hole that is not greasy.  
     Maple Sausage is a traditional American breakfast sausage.  Maple Sausage can be featured in lunch or dinner entrées.  The maple flavor of the sausage tastes nice in Toad In A Hole.  
     Toad In A Hole is usually accompanied by gravy or beef jus.  Onion Gravy is a nice choice, because is compliments the Maple Sausage flavor.  Peas are one of the most popular vegetables in England.  Mint and peas is a nice light refreshing vegetable to serve with Toad In A Hole. 

     Onion Gravy:
     This recipe yields about 2 cups.  (2 generous portions) 
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 cup of small chopped onion.
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Set the onions aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while constantly stirring.  (The roux should be shiny, not caky.)
     Constantly stir the roux till it becomes a brown color.
     Step 3:  Add 2 3/4 cups of beef stock.
     Bring the sauce to a boil and occasionally stir as the gravy thickens to a very thin consistency.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add the reserved sautéed onions.
     Add 1 small pinch of rubbed sage.
     Add 1 small bay leaf.    
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the gravy is a thin sauce consistency that can coat a spoon.  The volume should be about 2 cups.
     Step 5:  Keep the onion gravy warm over very low heat.
     Remove the bay leaf before serving.

     Maple Sausage Patties For Toad In A Hole:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Divide 6 ounces of uncased maple sausage into 2 equal portions.
     Press each sausage portion into an oval patty shape that is about 3/8" thick.
     Step 2:  Heat a griddle or sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
     Place the sausage patties in the pan.
     Grill the sausage patties till they are almost fully cooked and most of the grease is rendered out of the sausage.
     *Try not to brown the sausage.  The sausage will finish cooking in the oven with the Yorkshire Pudding.
     Step 3:  Place the sausage patties on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan to drain off the excess grease.

     Yorkshire Pudding Batter:  
     This recipe yields 4 to 5 individual size Yorkshire Puddings!
     Yorkshire Pudding is a proportion recipe.  The proportion of each ingredient never changes, no matter what size batch is made.  This is one of the easiest proportion recipes to learn.  To make it easy, the volume of the eggs can be gauged in a measuring cup and this same volume of milk and flour can be established.
     Step 1:  Place 4 large eggs in a mixing bowl.
     Add enough milk to equal the volume of the eggs.  (A little more than 1/2 cup)
     Add enough flour to equal the volume of the eggs, while whisking.  (A little more than 1/2 cup)  
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Step 2:  Whisk the ingredients together.
     *The batter should be thin and it should resemble crêpe batter.
     Place the batter in a small pitcher. 

     Maple Sausage Toad In A Hole:
     This recipe yields 2 Toad In A Hole.  (1 portion)
     Only two Toad In A Hole are made in this recipe.  There is enough batter for 4 or 5 Yorkies.  
     Either make more Toad In A Hole or make plain Yorkies in the extra muffin pan cups.  The plain Yorkies can be used for other recipes.  
     Step 1:  Select a seasoned muffin pan that has 4" wide cups.
     Place enough vegetable oil or melted roasted lard in each muffin cup, so the oil is 1/4" deep.
     Heat the muffin pan in a 425ºF oven till the oil become very hot, but it is not smoking.
     Step 2:  Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a stove top.
     Immediately add enough of the Yorkshire batter to each muffin cup, so each cup is about 2/3 full.
     Place the 2 reserved maple sausage patties in 2 of the Yorkshire Puddings.
     Step 3:  Immediately return the pan to the hot oven.  
     Bake until the Yorkies puff up.
     Step 4:  Reduce the oven temperature to 375ºF.  (This step prevents scorching.)
     Continue baking till the Yorkies are lightly browned and crusty.
     Remove the pan from the oven.
     Step 5:  Use a thin spatula to remove the two Toad In A Hole from the pan and place them on a serving plate.
     Keep the plate warm on a stove top.
     *If plain Yorkies filled the rest of the muffin cups in the pan, invert the pan over a wire screen roasting rack to pop the Yorkies out.  The plain Yorkies can be refrigerated till they are needed.  

     Mint Peas:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.  
     The mint peas can be made while the Toad In A Hole Bakes.
     Step 1:  Cook 3/4 cup of frozen sweet peas in boiling salted water in a small sauce pot, till they become hot.
     Step 2:  Drain the water off of the peas.
     Return the peas to the sauce pot.
     Step 3:  Place the sauce pot and peas over medium low heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of light chicken broth.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 pinches of dried mint.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Bring the liquid to a simmer.
     Step 4:  Keep the mint peas warm over very low heat.

     Maple Sausage Toad In A Hole with Onion Gravy and Mint Peas:
     Step 1:  Pour about 1/3 cup of onion gravy on a plate as a bed for the 2 Toad In A Hole.
     Step 2:  Place the 2 Maple Sausage Toad In A Hole on the gravy.
     Spoon about 1/4 cup more of the onion gravy over each Toad In A Hole.
     Step 3:  Place 1 portion of mint peas on the plate.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.

     Toad In A Hole is a nice chilly weather meal!  

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Ziti e Spinaci con Besciamella Gorgonzola









     Ziti Pasta and Spinach with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce!
     Today's Ziti Pasta recipe features a gorgonzola cheese sauce that is accented with black peppercorn and garlic.  These flavors go well with spinach and in turn, the leafy green vegetable makes the cheese sauce feel a little lighter on the tummy.
     Cream sauce pastas are more popular in America than Italy.  Northern Italy is where cream sauce pastas can occasionally be found on restaurant menus.  Italian cream sauce pastas tend to be made with Besciamella Sauce (Béchamel Sauce), rather than a cream reduction.  Besciamella is a roux thickened milk and cream sauce.  Besciamella is not usually flavored with an onion, clove and bay leaf piquet, like the French version of this sauce.    
     To keep the spinach a bright green color, the spinach is quickly wilted, then it is then spread on a platter to quickly cool.  Using this technique to prepare the spinach will add more flavor and it will keep the spinach from turning an undesirable brownish green color.

     Besciamella Sauce:
     This recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups of thin besciamella sauce.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while constantly stirring with a whisk.  (The roux should be shiny, not caky.)
     Cook the roux till it turns a whitish color, with no hazelnut aroma.
     Step 2:  Add 1 1/2 cups of milk.
     Add 1/3 cup of cream.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.  (to taste)
     Stir the sauce as it comes to a gentle boil and thickens.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin sauce consistency that can coat a spoon.  The volume should be a little more than 1 cup.
     Step 4:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Place the sauce in a container.
     Set the sauce aside or chill it for later use.

     Garlic Spinach:
     This recipe yields 1 small portion.  
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Saute till the garlic turns a golden color.
     Step 2:  Add 3 cups of baby spinach leaves.
     Stir and toss the spinach with tongs till the spinach wilts.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the garlic spinach on a platter and spread it out, so it cools quickly.
     Set the spinach aside to cool.
  
     Ziti e Spinaci con Besciamella Gorgonzola:
     This recipe yields 1 pasta entrée.
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of ziti pasta in boiling water till it is al dente.  
     *The sauce can be made while the pasta cooks!
     Step 2:  Place a sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/4 cups of the thin besciamella sauce.
     Add 2 pinches of crushed black peppercorns.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of crumbled Gorgonzola Cheese, while stirring with a whisk.
     Stir till the cheese combines with the besciamella sauce and the sauce becomes smooth.
     *The sauce should now be a medium thin sauce consistency that can coat a spoon.  Add milk if the sauce becomes too thick.
     Keep the sauce warm till the pasta finishes cooking.
     Step 4:  When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain the water off of pasta.
     Add the wilted spinach to the sauce in the pan.
     Add the al dente cooked ziti pasta.
     Toss the sauce and pasta together.
     Step 5:  Mound the pasta on a plate.
     Sprinkle about 1 1/2 tablespoons of crumbled Gorgonzola Cheese over the pasta.
     Garnish the pasta with an Italian Parsley sprig.
  
     Garlic Spinach tastes great in a besciamella sauce and it goes well with the flavor of Gorgonzola Cheese!