Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Ziti e Rapini

     A Twist On A Classic Recipe!
     Ziti and Broccoli is a classic pasta entrée that is offered on the menu at many Italian American restaurants.  The classic preparation is simple.  Broccoli is quickly sautéed till it is al dente, then Besciamella Sauce and cheese is added.  After the sauce warms, Ziti Pasta is added and the ingredients are tossed together.
     Many chefs prefer a cream and cheese reduction method when making Ziti and Broccoli.  The result is a rich tasting sauce that has a much higher calorie content, which is okay because Ziti and Broccoli is most often offered as a special du jour during cold winter weather.  The extra heavy feeling of pasta with reduced cream and cheese provides long lasting warmth and comfort.
     Many Italian chefs prefer strong flavors and bitter flavors over mild tasting food.  When Rapini (Broccoli Rabe) is available, it can be used in place of broccoli when making Ziti and Broccoli.  "Ziti e Rapini" has a much stronger flavor and the Broccoli Rabe commands a slightly higher price.  The bitter flavor of the Rapini in a cream sauce with cheese is quite interesting, especially when served with an Italian dry white wine, like Pinot Grigio.  An acidic white wine helps to clear the palate, so the bitter flavor of the Rapini has a chance to shine.
     When making today's pasta recipe, the Italian cardinal rule concerning pasta sauce does apply.  Only make enough sauce to coat the pasta with flavor.  Pasta should never be swimming in sauce.  This is especially true when using the cream and cheese reduction method, because the tummy will feel full for days, if too much pasta with cream and cheese reduction sauce is consumed!
     Ziti e Rapini:
     This recipe yields 1 pasta entrée. 
     The better the quality of the Parmigiana Cheese, the better this simple pasta will be, so select an authentic imported Italian Formaggio Parmigiana.  
     Like many Italian a la minute pasta recipes, the sauce for this pasta can be made in the same amount of time that it takes to cook the pasta!
     Step 1:  Start cooking 1 portion of Ziti Pasta in boiling water.
     *Ziti takes about 10 minutes to become al dente and the sauce can be finished in the same amount of time!
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 2 teaspoons of Pomace Olive Oil.
     Add 2 cloves of chopped garlic.
     Sauté till the garlic is a light golden color.
     Step 3:  Add 1 1/2 cups of trimmed Broccoli Rabe that is cut into bite size pieces.
     Add 1 small pinch of sea salt
     Sauté and toss till the broccoli rapini is almost cooked al dente.
     Step 4:  Add 1 1/2 cups of cream.
     Add 1 pinch of coarse ground black pepper.
     Bring the cream to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Add 3 tablespoons of fine grated Italian Parmigiana Cheese.
     Stir till the cheese melts into the sauce.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat till the Ziti Pasta is ready.
     *If the sauce becomes too thick before the pasta is ready, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of milk.
     Step 7:  When the Ziti Pasta al dente, drain the water off of the pasta.
     Add the al dente Ziti Pasta to the sauce.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Mound the Ziti e Rapini on the center of a plate.
     Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of fine grated Italian Parmigiana Cheese on top of the pasta.
     No garnish is necessary!

     The bitter flavor of Rapini is a natural match for a Parmigiana Cream Sauce.  The coarse black pepper and garlic adds a zesty flavor accent.  This is a great pasta for a chilly day!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Down Home Stewed Pork Shoulder and Vegetables with Rice

     Southern Style Soul Food! 
     For today's down home recipe, the pork is sautéed and thin pan gravy is made.  The okra, hominy and tomatoes are simmered in the light pan gravy, till they become tender.  The stew is only seasoned with salt, black pepper and a little bit of chile pepper, so it is the cooking technique that brings the flavor out.    
     Nothing is wasted in a Soul Food recipe.  There is no such thing as adding something to a recipe and discarding the item later before the entrée is served.  A one pot cooking method is also common in Soul Food cuisine.  When everything is cooked in one pot, all of the nutrients remain in the pot.
     Southern Food and Soul Food are both traditionally served in large hearty portions.  A good size plate of Southern style Soul Food provides plenty of long lasting strength and it gives the soul a warm comfortable satisfied feeling!
     Down Home Stewed Pork Shoulder and Vegetables:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty portion.
     *Be sure to cook 1 portion of plain Brown Rice (about 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup) in a separate pot before the stew finishes simmering!   
     Step 1:  Heat a braising pan (or wide sauce pot) over medium heat.  
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of bacon grease.
     Add 10 ounces of lean pork shoulder that is cut into large bite size pieces.
     Lightly season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Sauté the pork till it is lightly browned on all sides.
     Step 2:  Add 1/4 cup of finely chopped vidalia onion.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced celery.
     Sauté till the onions start to turn a light brown color.
     Step 3:  Add just enough flour to absorb the excess grease while stirring.  (About 2 to 3 teaspoons.)  
     Stir till the flour combines.
     Step 4:  Add 1 cup of ham broth.
     Add 2 cups of water.
     Add 1 tablespoon of coarse ground mild red chile pepper sauce.  (Korean style Red Serrano Chile Pepper Sauce or Southern style Crushed Red Peppers in Vinegar is good for this recipe.)
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Stir as the gravy thickens to a very thin consistency.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 3/4 cup of diced peeled whole tomato.  (Canned diced tomato is okay for this recipe.)
     Add 1 cup of rinsed canned White Hominy.
     Add 1 cup of thick sliced okra.
     Stir the ingredients. 
     Adjust the seasoning with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 6:  Gently simmer till the pork is tender and the gravy reduces to a thin consistency.
     *When the stew finishes, there should be just enough thin gravy to coat the ingredients and flavor a portion of rice.  (About 1 cup to 1 1/4 cups)
     Keep the stew warm over very low heat. 
     This recipe yields 1 hearty entrée.
     Step 1:  Use a custard cup mold to place 1 portion of plain Brown Rice on the back half of a plate.
     Step 2:  Place a generous portion of the Stewed Pork Shoulder and Vegetables on the plate around the rice.
     Garnish with a parsley sprig. 
     Simple, hearty and delicious!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Apple, Walnut, Danish Bleu Cheese Cornbread Stuffed Pork Chop with Black Pepper Gravy

     Rich Gourmet Comfort Food For Cold Weather!
     Stuffed Pork Chops have a reputation of being heavy on the tummy.  Because Corn Bread was used to make the stuffing, today's Stuffed Pork Chop turned out to be a little bit lighter than expected, but not by much.  Stuffed Pork Chops definitely are a "sit down and relax for a while after dinner" kind of experience.
     Apple, walnut and Danish Bleu Cheese is a nice combination for a Cornbread Stuffing.  Walnuts add warmth.  Apple sweetens and lightens the stuffing.  Apple also tastes nice with Bleu Cheese.  A small amount of hickory smoked bacon is added just like a seasoning and it gives the stuffing a hint of rustic flavor.  If you like gourmet Stuffed Pork Chops, then this recipe is a must to try!

     Skillet Fried Cornbread: 
     This recipe yields about 2 or 3 spoon-bread style corn cakes.  
     About 1 corn cake will be needed per pork chop.
     When making an old fashioned Colonial American spoon-bread style cornbread batter, the amount of liquid added is usually judged by eye.     
     Step 1:  Place 1/3 cup of corn meal in a mixing bowl.
     Add 3/4 cup of Masa Harina.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Add 1 pinch of black pepper.
     Mix the dry ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Place 1 tablespoon of whisked egg in a separate mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of bacon grease.
     Add 2 tablespoons of milk.
     Whisk the ingredients together.
     Step 3:  Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture while stirring.
     Stir till a coarse dry looking dough forms.
     Step 4:  Add 1 teaspoon of milk at a time while slowly stirring, till the cornbread batter becomes a smooth dough consistency that is thick enough to easily stand tall when gathered with a spoon.  The dough should be slightly wet and it should be sticky enough to cling to a spoon. 
     Set the wet dough aside for 15 minutes.
     *The corn meal will soak up some of the excess moisture and the dough will look a little bit firmer.
     Step 5:  Pre-heat a cast iron skillet over medium/medium low heat.
     Add enough vegetable oil, so the oil is about 1/4" deep.
     Adjust the temperature, so the oil is 350ºF.
     Step 6:  Spoon 2 or 3 large dollops (2 1/2 to 3 ounces apiece) of the cornbread dough into the hot oil.  Be sure to leave some space between each dollop.
     Use a spatula or large spoon to press the cornbread dough, so it forms a flat oval shape that is about 3/8" thick.
     Step 7:  Pan fry the cornbread till the bottom side is fully cooked and golden brown.
     Flip the cornbread with a spatula and cook the other side till it turns golden brown.
     Set the corn bread on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan to drain off any excess oil.

     Apple, Walnut, Danish Bleu Cheese Cornbread Stuffing:
     This recipe yields a little more than 1 cup.  (Enough for 1 pork chop.) 
     Step 1:  Cut some of the pan fried cornbread into medium size pieces.  (About 2/3 cup is needed.)    
     Place the cornbread in a mixing bowl.
     Set the mixing bowl aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of finely chopped hickory smoked bacon.
     Gently sauté till the bacon is a light golden brown color.
     Step 3:  Add 1 tablespoon of small chopped celery.
     Add 1 tablespoon of small chopped onion.
     Add 2 tablespoons of peeled seeded chopped apple.
     Gently sauté for 1 minute.
     Step 4:  Add 1/2 cup of chicken broth.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of sage.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Gently simmer and reduce till all of the liquid evaporates.
     Step 5:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Add the apple, bacon and vegetable mixture to the cornbread in the mixing bowl.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of chopped toasted walnuts.
     Add 2 pinches of chopped Italian Parsley.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of thin sliced chives.
     Add 1 tablespoon of whisked egg.
     Add 1 tablespoon of small Danish Bleu Cheese pieces.
     *Danish Bleu is a soft cheese, so it will not crumble.  Just cut small dabs with a knife. 
     Step 6:  Add just enough chicken broth to moisten the cornbread mixture.  (2 to 3 tablespoons is plenty.)
     Gently toss the ingredients together.  (The cornbread will crumble while the ingredients are mixed and this is okay.)
     Set the stuffing aside.

     Apple, Walnut, Danish Bleu Cheese Cornbread Stuffed Pork Chop:
     This recipe yields 1 large stuffed pork chop.
     Step 1:  Select a thick 8 ounce to 10 ounce pork chop that has the rib bone attached.
     Butterfly cut the loin meat all the way to the bone.
     Step 2:  Place a generous amount of the Apple, Walnut, Danish Bleu Cheese Cornbread Stuffing in the pork chop pocket, but do not pack the stuffing too tight.
     Try to keep the stuffing even with the edge of the pork chop.
     Step 3:  Place the stuffed pork chop on a wire screen roasting rack on a roasting pan.
     Brush the stuffed pork chop with melted unsalted butter.
     Season the stuffed pork chop with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 4:  Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Roast till the pork chop is fully cooked and the stuffing reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165ºF.  The stuffing should be toasted to a light golden brown color on the exposed edge.
     Keep the stuffed pork chop warm on a stove top.
     *The sauce can be made while the stuffed pork chop bakes.

     Black Pepper Pork Gravy:
     This recipe yields about 1 cup.  (Enough for 3 or 4 portions.)
     This is a simple Pork Velouté Sauce with a generous amount of black pepper added!
     Adding the black pepper late in the recipe will enhance the flavor.  Timing is important when adding black pepper!
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour while constantly stirring with a whisk, to make a roux.  (The roux should look shiny, not dull and caky.)
     Constantly stir, till the roux becomes a blonde color.
     Step 3:  Add 1 1/2 cups of pork broth.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Whisk occasionally as the sauce heats and thickens to a very thin consistency.
     Bring the gravy to a gentle boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the gravy is a medium thin sauce consistency.
     Step 5:  Add 1/4 teaspoon of table grind black pepper.
     Keep the gravy warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie.

     Apple, Walnut, Danish Bleu Cheese Cornbread Stuffed Pork Chop with Black Pepper Gravy:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Place the Pork Chop with Apple, Walnut, Danish Bleu Cheese Cornbread Stuffing and Black Pepper Gravy the pork chop on a plate.
     Pour about 3 or 4 tablespoons of the Black Pepper Gravy on the plate around the stuffed pork chop.
     Step 2:  Serve with a vegetable of your choice.  (No potato or starchy vegetable is needed.)
     *The entrée in the photos was served with Stewed Sweet Snap Peas and Tomato seasoned with Herbes de Provence.

     This rich tasting stuffed pork chop is perfect for a cold winter day!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Schi and Krovyanaya Kolbasa

     Russian Cabbage Soup with Blood Sausage!
     Schi has been cooked in Russia for more than a thousand years.  As one can imagine, this simple meal has been part of many historic events and it has saved many people from freezing in the cold Russian winter.
     Schi is one of the most popular traditional recipes in Russia because it is so versatile.  The main ingredient is cabbage.  A wide variety of broths and meats can be adapted to this old fashioned cabbage soup.  Schi can be made vegan style too.
     Originally, Schi was cooked in very large batches till most of the liquid evaporated and the cabbage mixture was very dense.  The batch of Schi was placed in a container and allowed to freeze outdoors in the cold Russian winter.  The large block of frozen Schi was sawed into portions.  The frozen Schi portions were easy for soldiers or workers to carry.  Schi portions were also stored for home use.  When the frozen Schi was reheated, it provided an instant nutritious meal.
     Schi is a great cold weather soup that has a very nice flavor.  Women who cook a good Schi are highly regarded in Russia.  As the old Russian saying goes, "A woman that cooks good Schi, is the one to marry!"
     Schi is very easy to make and it is even better after being reheated.  In fact, to achieve the full traditional texture effect, the Schi should be cooked, then frozen before reheating.  Freezing does add a classic touch!  Today's Schi recipe is a very basic and it has no root vegetables added.  Adding root vegetables is traditional, so if there is some rutabaga, turnips or parsley root handy, then feel free to toss them in the pot.  Adding herbs and spices is a matter of personal choice.  In many regions of Russia, complex spice mixtures flavor the Schi.  
     How thick the Schi should be is also a matter of personal preference.  Many years ago, Schi was considered to be great if it was thick enough for a spoon to stand up in the soup.  In modern times, most Schi recipes have a little bit more broth.
     The most popular meats to add to Schi are beef brisket, wild game trimmings, sausage or pork shoulder.  Many kinds offal taste good in Schi too.  Since most traditional food in Russia has to be durable enough to last through a long winter, smoked or dry cure sausages are the top choice for adding to Schi.
     In the Ukraine, Krovyanaya Kolbasa is often used to flavor soups like Schi.  Krovyanaya Kolbasa is Blood Sausage (Blood Pudding).  Blood Sausage adds a unique blood Iron flavor and only a small amount is needed.
     Ukraine Krovyanaya Kolbasa is usually made by housewives and it can be difficult to find in American food markets.  Polish Kiszka is nearly identical to Krovyanaya Kolbasa, so it is a good substitute.  Chicago has a large Polish community, so Kiszka can be found in regular grocery stores in this area.  The next best bet is to shop at an Eastern European food market.  Places like the Jones Eastern European Food Market in Las Vegas stock a wide variety of old world sausages and regional Blood Sausage varieties are quite popular.

     Schi and Krovyanaya Kolbasa:
     This recipe yields 2 large portions.  (About 4 1/2 cups)  
     After cooking, the Schi must be refrigerated or frozen overnight, so it takes on a traditional look and texture.
     A rich homemade meat stock is best for this recipe.  Only stir the schi minimally, so the vegetables do not break apart.
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 cups of finely chopped onions.
     Sauté the onions till they are tender, but not browned.
     Step 2:  Add 7 cups of coarsely chopped cabbage.
     Sauté and stir till the cabbage wilts.
     Step 3:  Add enough meat broth to barely cover the cabbage mixture.  (About 3 or 4 cups.)
     *I used a home made meat broth that was made with pork and beef scraps and bones.  Any broth (including vegetable broth) can be used.
     Bring the broth to a gentle boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 8 to 10 ounces of Blood Sausage that has the casing removed.
     *Krovyanaya Kolbasa, Polish Kiszka or any rich tasting Eastern European style Blood Sausage is good.
     Simmer the soup till the cabbage starts to become tender.
     Step 5:  Add 3/4 cup of seeded chopped fresh tomato.
     Add 1 large bay leaf.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Gently simmer till the tomato becomes very tender.
     Step 6:  Add 2 cups of large diced potato.  (3/4" cube shapes)
     Simmer till the potatoes are fully cooked.
     *If too much liquid evaporates, then only add enough water to barely cover the vegetables.
     Step 7:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Remove the bay leaf.
     Allow the Schi to cool to room temperature.
     Place the Schi in a container.
     Freeze the Schi overnight or freeze it for later use.  (Schi can just be refrigerated overnight, but freezing is best!)
     Step 8:  Place the 2 portion batch of frozen Schi in a wide sauce pot.
     Reheat the Schi over low heat before serving.
     Allow any excess liquid to evaporate.
     *The finished Schi should have a higher proportion of vegetables than broth!

     Dill Sour Cream Garnish:
     This recipe yields 2 portions.
     Step 1:  Place 3/4 cup of sour cream in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of dill weed.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Place the Dill Sour Cream in a container.
     Chill till it is needed.
     This recipe describes 1 hearty portion.
     Step 1:  Ladle 2 1/2 cups of the Schi into a large soup bowl.
     Try to expose some of the bits of Blood Sausage on the surface.  (The Blood Sausage should look like minced grain and bits of meaty fat at this point.)
     Step 2:  Place a large dollop of the Dill Sour Cream on the Schi.
     Serve with sliced rye bread or an Eastern European style bread of your choice.

     This is a very rich tasting Schi that is perfect for a very cold day!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Spätzle mit Bratwürst, Roten Linsen und Paprikasauce

     Cut Spaetzle With Paprika Crème Fraîche, Red Lentils and Bratwurst Sausage!  
     This is a great German recipe for winter!  Brown Lentils are commonly served with spätzle and sausages in Germany.  Red Lentils are not traditional, but they are nice looking and they have a gentle flavor.  The entire look of this entrée is as bright as sunshine, when the Red Lentils are accompanied by a simple Paprika Sauce. 
    Spätzle literally translates to "little sparrows."  Spoon Spätzle rarely looks like little sparrows, but Pressed Spätzle or Board Cut Spätzle definitely has that look.  The size and texture of Spätzle is a matter of personal preference.  I make a lot of different spätzle sizes and textures for recipe examples.  Some people prefer a light fluffy texture, while others prefer a chewy texture or something in between.  The size of Spâtzle can range from thin tiny little noodles to extra long strands that are about 1/4" thick.    
     There are several kinds of spätzle.  Old fashioned Spoon Spätzle are made by using a spoon to stream a medium noodle batter across the surface of very hot water.  Spoon spätzle is the most tender of all spätzle and they puff up the most when they are fried.  Drip Spätzle are also made with a medium consistency batter.  The batter is poured into a perforated container over a pot of hot water and the droplets of batter create small plump noodles.  
     A slightly thicker noodle batter is used to make Pressed Spätzle.  The thick batter is pressed through small holes in a special device directly into hot water.  Pressed Spätzle looks like little sparrows.  This is the spätzle that most restaurants serve.  
     Board Cut Spätzle is a little bit more labor intensive.  Board Cut Spätzle can be very thin and tiny or it can be fairly large.  The size depends on how soft or dense the dough is.  The size also depends on the board cutting and scraping technique.  Board Cut Spätzle definitely looks like little sparrows, unless the noodles are cut and scraped into large thick strands.     

     Board Cut Spätzle Dough:
     This recipe yields enough spätzle for 3 or 4 portions!
     Step 1:  Place 2 large eggs in a mixing bowl.
     Whisk till blended.
     Set the whisked eggs aside.  
     Step 2:  Place 2 1/2 cups of bread flour or all purpose flour in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt.
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Stir the dry mixture.
     Step 3:  Form a well in the center of the flour.
     Slowly pour the whisked eggs into the well while stirring with a spoon.  
     Stir till the eggs start to combine with the flour.
     Scrape any dough that clings to the spoon back into the bowl.
     Step 4:  Knead till a stiff dough forms.
     Step 5:  *This step determines the texture!
     Add 1 tablespoon of milk or water at a time, while kneading, till a medium stiff noodle dough is formed.  The dough should be semi sticky.  
     *Only 2 to 4 tablespoons are needed, depending on how soft or firm that you prefer the finished Spätzle to be.  Do not add too much liquid or you will end up with a batter!  The dough should not be as stiff as an Italian pasta dough, but it should be firm.  After pressing a finger on the dough to leave a dent, the dent should remain intact. 
     Step 6:  Place the spätzle dough in a sealed container.
     Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour. 
     Mounting the Spätzle Dough to the board:
     The thickness of the dough on the board can vary.  Some people like to work a thick slab of dough, while others prefer to work a thin sheet of dough.  
     Allow the chilled spätzle dough to reach room temperature.
     Stretch and roll a portion of the dough out, so it forms a rectangle shape that is 2 1/2" x 10" and about 1/4" thick.  (Enough for large 1 portion or 2 cups of finished spätzle.)   
     Gently press the dough strip onto one end of a spätzle board (or a small cutting board), so it sticks in place.  Be sure to leave 3" to 4" of bare board as a leading edge where the cutting edge of the metal spatula will drag against the board. 
     Board Cut Spätzle:  
     This recipe yields 1 portion.  (About 2 cups.)
     A good German chef can stand twenty feet away, with his back turned and he can tell whether the spätzle is being made correctly just by listening to the sound of the knife and board!  If the knife is at too steep or too thin of an angle, it makes a certain noise when it drags across the board.  If too much force or pressure is applied, certain sounds can be heard.  If the knife is not worked fast enough, then the first few spätzle that land in the pot will overcook!  
     Medium size spätzle like the ones in the photos are the easiest to start with.  Once the board cutting spätzle technique is mastered, the sound and feel of making spätzle will become second nature.  A good chef can cut spätzle as fast as lightening! 
     Step 1:  Place a heavy pot of water over high heat.
     Bring the water to a boil.
     Reduce the temperature to medium heat.  There should be no signs of a rapid boil on the surface of the water.
     Step 2:  Use this technique to cut and scrape the spätzle into the pot of water:  
     • Hold the board (with the single portion of dough attached) with one arm.  The board should be held as close to the pot of hot water as possible.  The leading edge of the board can be rested on the rim of the pot of hot water, if the pot is heavy and stable.  
     • The other hand uses a long thin blade spätzle knife to cut the thin strips of spätzle with a scraping motion.  A long straight thin cake spatula can be used as a spätzle knife. 
     • The spätzle knife blade is placed against the board in front of the leading edge of the dough.
     Keep the blade at a 15º to 25º angle.
     • Drag the spatula blade back over the leading edge of the dough.  
     After making contact with the dough, apply a small amount of pressure with the blade, so the leading edge of the dough becomes flattened.  
     • Drag the knife back over the thin dough edge again.
     • Apply a little bit of pressure with the spatula blade while moving the blade toward the pot, to cut a thin strand of dough while scraping the blade against the board.  (Each strand of cut dough should be long and thin.  For the spätzle size in the photos, each cut piece should be about 2" x 3/16".)  
     • Continue moving the spatula blade forward toward the pot with a quick a sweeping motion.  The blade will scrape against the board and the piece of spätzle will fly into the pot.  (Just like a little sparrow!)         
     Step 3:  After the portion of spätzle is cut and in the pot of hot water, very gently boil the spätzle .  
     The spätzle are finished cooking when they float on top of the hot water for a couple of minutes and the texture is firm, yet tender.
     Step 4:  Use a fryer net to scoop the spätzle out of the water.
     Place the spätzle in a colander to drain off the excess water.
     Let the spätzle cool to room temperature.
     Place the spätzle in a container and chill them till they are needed.

     Red Lentils:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Red Lentils do not take much time to become tender.
     Step 1:  Boil 1 quart of water in a pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1 cup of red lentils.
     Return the liquid to a boil.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer till the red lentils become tender.
     Step 3:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Pour the red lentils into a strainer to drain off the liquid.
     Step 4:  Place the red lentils in a small sauce pot.
     Add 1/3 cup of chicken broth.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground celery seed.
     Add 1 thin sliced green onion.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Step 5:  Place the pot over medium low heat.
     Bring the broth to a simmer.
     Briefly simmer till the onions are tender.
     Keep the red lentils warm over very low heat. 
     Grilled Bratwurst:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Fresh sausage must be simmered at a low temperature, so the casing does not split when the sausage is roasted or grilled!  157ºF is an ideal temperature for the poaching water.  
     Step 1:  Simmer a small pot of water over medium low heat.
     Add a 6 to 8 ounce uncooked fresh bratwurst sausage.
     Simmer the sausage, till it is almost fully cooked.
     Remove the sausage from the water and set it aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan or griddle over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Grill the bratwurst till it is fully cooked and golden brown highlights appear.
     Keep the bratwurst warm on a stove top.

     This recipe yields about 3/4 cup.  (1 generous portion) 
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of semi sweet German riesling white wine.
     Simmer for 2 minutes. 
     Step 2:  Add 1/4 cup of milk.
     Add 1/4 cup of cream.
     Add 1/3 cup of sour cream. 
     Add 1 teaspoon of mild Hungarian Paprika. 
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Step 3:  Whisk the ingredients together.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.

     Butter Fried Spätzle:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion.  (About 2 cups)  
     Spätzle is usually finished by pan frying it in noisette butter!
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 3 ounces of unsalted butter.
     Cook the butter till it is a golden brown color and it emits a hazelnut aroma.
     Step 2:  Add 1 portion of boiled spätzle, while shaking the pan.  (About 2 cups)
     Lightly season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Sauté, stir and toss the spätzle, till the spätzle puff up and a few golden highlights appear.  (This only takes about 1 minute)
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Drain off the excess butter.  
     Keep the finished spätzle warm on a stove top.

     Spätzle mit Bratwürst, Roten Linsen und Paprikasauce:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Mound 1 generous portion of the red lentils on the center of a plate.
     Step 2:  Place a wide ring of the finished spätzle on the plate around the lentils.
     Spoon a generous portion of the Paprikasauce over the spätzle.
     Step 3:  Garnish the Paprikasauce with a few Italian Parsley leaves.
     Place the grilled bratwurst on the mount of red lentils. 

     This is a nice meal for warming up after coming in from the cold!  

Monday, January 23, 2017

Tourtière d'abats

     A Heavy Rich French Canadian Tourtière Made With Offal! 
     During the recent Great Recession, many fine dining restaurants perished because they failed to adapt to hard economic times.  When times are tough, there is no such thing as disposable money and the dining public seeks value.  Many fine dining chefs streamlined the list of gourmet ingredients and offered value oriented cuisine options, like a petite portion pre-fixe menu.  A few fine dining chefs in Las Vegas successfully survived the economic recession by grasping the opportunity to market gourmet offal entrées.  This strategy captivated members of the dining public that longed for classic offal entrées that have not been offered in restaurants for many decades.  Classic offal preparations usually offer good dining value too.
     The word "Offal" basically means secondary cuts of meat.  Secondary cuts of meat include organs and parts of a harvested animal that typically are not in high demand.  Liver, tripe, kidneys, neck bones, hocks, shanks and oxtail are fairly common offal offerings that can be found in nearly any grocery store.  To find even more specialized secondary cuts of meat, one must shop in an ethnic food market or visit a food store in the poor end of town.  
     The first time that I had Tourtière was back in high school, when I was invited to dinner at a French Canadian friend's house.  The family was from Quebec and their home cooked meals were heavy and rich, just like they were back home.  
     When the tourtière was cut open at the table, I smelled liver and kidneys.  I asked my friend what was in the meat pie and he said "Don't ask!"  Then he started laughing.  I guess that he thought that I had never eaten these items before.  I just responded by saying I like liver and dug into the hearty meal.    
     My friend then described the list of offals that were in the Tourtière that his French Canadian mother cooked.  Tripe, chicken liver, pork liver, calves liver, kidneys, beef heart, pork lardons and ground pork were the homemade meat pie.  The meat pie was also heavily spiced.  My friend then explained that this Tourtière was an old family recipe and that most modern tourtière are not made this way.  I never forgot that old fashioned Quebec style meat pie.  That old fashioned Tourtière tasted very rich and it was well prepared.
     Recently, I decided to make a few recipes that featured offal.  I remembered that French Canadian Meat Pie from way back in the high school days, so I did some recipe research on Tourtière.  I was surprised to see that no modern recipes for Tourtière had any offal in the list of ingredients.  Nearly every modern Tourtière recipe that I saw was made only with ground pork.  The Tourtière that I recalled from long ago was definitely not a simple Pork Pie.  
     I then thought that the French Canadian family's Tourtière must have been a very old recipe, so I looked into the origins of this meat pie.  French Canadian Tourtière was originally an Acadian recipe that was made with wild game offal or secondary cuts of farm animals that had its origins in old French cooking.  This may be the reason why the Tourtière was so heavily spiced.  Long ago before Canada and America were nations, the settlers wasted nothing.  Eating offal was routine.  Organ meat is highly perishable and in the old days the offal of any slaughtered animal was prepared first.  A big pie full of offal and meat scrap was a good way to get the highly perishable items cooked, so they would not spoil.  
     Tourtière is definitely a heavy hearty meal that is perfect for an icy cold winter day.  Today's old rustic style Tourtière d'abats version is as rich tasting as a meat pie can be! 

     Pâte Brisée:

     Tourtière d'abats Filling:
     This recipe yields about 1 1/3 cups.  (Enough for 1 single portion meat pie!  
     Any combination of offals is good for this recipe.  Lamb or veal kidneys were not available when I gathered the ingredients, but they are a nice option.
     There are three kinds of Beef Tripe that can be found in food markets.  Blanket Tripe is usually used to flavor sausage.  Honeycomb Tripe is by far the popular to eat.  Book Tripe is popular too and it was used in this recipe.  
     Step 1:  Place a small pot of water over medium low heat.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1/4 cup of small bite size pieces of trimmed Beef Book Tripe.
     Add sea salt.
     Simmer the tripe, till it is fully cooked and gelatinous. 
     Drain the water off of the tripe and set it aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of pork lard.
     Add 1 slice of hickory smoked bacon that is coarsely chopped.
     Sauté till the grease has rendered and the bacon becomes a golden color.
     Step 3:  Add 2 minced garlic cloves.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced celery.
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 4:  Add 1/2 cup of bite size pieces of calves liver.
     Add 2 coarsely chopped chicken livers.
     Sauté and stir till the livers are fully cooked.
     Step 5:  Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour while stirring.
     Stir till the flour absorbs the excess grease.
     Step 6:  Add the reserved tripe pieces.
     Add 1/2 cup of brandy. 
     Stir and deglaze the pan.
     Step 7:  Add 1 1/2 cups of beef stock. 
     Add 1 pinch of ground sage.
     Add 2 pinches of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of ground clove.
     Add 2 pinches of cinnamon.
     Add 2 pinches of nutmeg.
     Add 2 pinches of minced ItalianParsley.
     Add 1 small pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 8:  Bring the liquid to a gentle boil while occasionally stirring.
     Step 9:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the mixture is a heavy thick consistency, with a minimum of excess sauce.
     *Stir more often as the ingredients thicken!
     Step 10:  Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
     Remove the bay leaf.
     Place the offal mixture in a mixing bowl.
     Add 4 ounces of lean ground pork.
     Add 2 tablespoons of diced pork fat. 
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 11:  Place the Tourtière d'abats Filling in a container. 
     Chill to 41ºF.

     Tourtière d'abats:
     This recipe yields 1 single portion savory meat pie.
     Step 1:  Lightly brush a 5" pop-ring cake mold with melted unsalted butter.  The pop-ring mold should be 2 1/2" to 3" tall.
     Step 2:  Cut 1 round shaped sheet of chilled Pâte Brisée that is 10" in diameter.
     Cut 1 round shaped sheet of chilled Pâte Brisée that is 6" in diameter.
     Step 3:  Drape the 10" round sheet of Pâte Brisée over the pop-ring pan and press it into place.
     Roll a rolling pin over the rim of the pop-ring pan to trim off the excess dough.
     Step 4:  Place the Tourtière d'abats filling in the pie shell.  Fill the pie shell, so the filling is 1/8" from the top.
     Brush the exposed edge of the pie shell with egg wash.
     Step 5:  Drape the 6" round sheet of Pâte Brisée over the pie.
     Press the top sheet of Pâte Brisée onto the egg washed exposed pie shell edge.
     Step 6:  Trim the excess dough off with a knife.
     Press the pie dough edge, so it looks even and nice.
     Step 7:  Brush the top of the pie with egg wash.
     Cut 2 small steam vents on the center of the pie top.
     Cut a decorative shape out of the excess Pâte Brisée and place it on top of the pie.
     Brush the decorative shape with egg wash.
     Use the back of a knife to cut shallow decorative slashes on the pie crust edge.
     Step 8:  Place the filled pie mold on a baking pan.
     Place the pan in a 350ºF oven.
     Bake till the crust is a golden brown color.
     Step 9:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Allow the pie to cool to a safe serving temperature.
     Carefully remove the pop-ring mold.
     Use a spatula to place the Tourtière d'abats on a plate.
     Sprinkle 2 pinches of minced Italian Parsley on the plate.

     Tourtière d'abats looks as heavy and rich as it tastes!  This heavy meat and offal pie will provide plenty of warmth on a cold winter day!    

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Mafaldine with Chicken and Pecorino Romano Basil Crème

     An Italian Artisan Pasta With A Popular American Style Sauce!
     Basil Crème Sauce is not a traditional Italian pasta sauce.  There actually are very few cream pasta sauces made in Italy.  One exception is in the region close to the French border where recipes are designed to please tourists.  When a cream sauce is made for pasta, it is usually made with Italian Besciamella Sauce and not reduced cream.
     Basil Crème Sauce first started to be offered in fine dining cafés shortly after Alfredo style cream sauce reached a peak in popularity in the 1980's.  I do say "Alfredo style cream sauce" for a reason, because an authentic Alfredo Sauce is made with just butter and cheese, not cream.
     Back in those days, many chefs simply reduced cream at a moderate temperature, then added Parmigiana Cheese to make a sauce for pasta, which was marketed as Pasta Alfredo.  As one can imagine, the sauce was heavy on the tummy because reduced cream is like concentrated fat!  Even so, the American dining public simply could not get enough Alfredo style cream sauce and a few variations of the recipe soon followed, like Basil Crème Pasta Sauce.
     Chicken is another item that is rarely seen in an authentic Italian pasta recipe.  Adding chicken to a pasta is basically an American idea.  Oddly enough, Chicken Alfredo Cream Sauce pasta was very popular in the 1990's.  Nearly every restaurant in America offered this pasta on a menu during that era.
     All good things come to an end and the ill fated end of most trendy pasta recipes happens when a corporate restaurant chain offers their version of a popular pasta recipe idea.  Chain restaurants are notorious for bastardizing recipes to make it easier to make high volume sales.  In other words, Alfredo Sauce or Chicken Alfredo Pasta at a typical corporate chain restaurant is made with dehydrated instant cheese sauce.  That is as low as it gets and the result is a trendy recipe that burns out long before its time.  The same can be said about the Basil Cream Sauce Pasta that a well known national corporate restaurant chain started marketing about 10 years ago.  Because the quality of the pasta was so lousy at the chain restaurants, it is now difficult to sell a great Basil Crème Pasta even in a fine dining café to this day.
     Today's recipe is a throwback to the 1980's and 1990's, when café chefs were making Basil Crème Sauce with the cream reduction method.  Imported Italian Parmigiana or Romano Cheese was usually added to the sauce, in order to maintain high quality standards.  Parmigiana is the most popular choice, but Pecorino Romano Cheese is a good choice too.  Pecorino Romano is hard aged cheese that is made with ewe's milk.  Pecorino Romano easily melts when heated in a sauce.
     Fresh basil is the best choice for today's sauce.  Dried basil does not have a sharp enough flavor or enough color to be a featured in a Basil Crème Sauce.  Of course, adding chicken was par for the course back in those days, so chicken is in today's recipe.  
     For an authentic 1980's style Pasta with Chicken and Basil Crème, Fettuccine Pasta or Penne would be the only choice.  Both of these pasta shapes were popular in America back in that era.  In modern times, the dining public has taken a liking to artisan pasta shapes and Mafaldine Pasta is a great choice.  Mafaldine Pasta was named after an Italian princess.  Her life came to a tragic end during WWII and it was fitting for a nice artisan pasta to be named in her honor.  Mafaldine is a long ribbon pasta that has ruffle edges.  This fancy ribbon pasta picks up a sauce well and it is appealing to the eye.
     Mafaldine with Chicken and Pecorino Romano Basil Crème:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion.
     Only enough sauce should be made to coat the pasta with flavor!  Pasta should never be flooded with sauce.  
     Step 1:  Cook 1 large portion of Mafaldine Pasta in a pot of boiling water over high heat, till the pasta 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 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 4 ounces of raw chicken breast filet that is cut into bite size thin slices.
     Sauté the chicken till it is halfway done.
     Step 3:  Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Sauté till the garlic turns a light golden color.
     Step 4:  Add 1/3 cup of dry white wine.
     Simmer and reduce till the wine is almost evaporated.
     Step 5:  Add 1 1/2 cups of cream.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Bring the cream to a gentle boil.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Add 1/3 cup of fine grated Pecorino Romano Cheese while constantly stirring with a whisk.
     Constantly whisk till the cheese melts into the sauce.
     Step 7:  Add 3 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh basil.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.  (Occasionally stir the sauce.)  
     *The finished volume will be almost 1 1/4 cups.
     Step 8:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add the prepared Mafaldine Pasta to the sauce in the sauté pan.
     Toss the pasta, chicken and sauce together till the pasta is reheated.
     Step 9:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Use a long tine carving fork to twist the pasta, while mounding the pasta on the center of a plate.
     Spoon any excess sauce or chicken pieces over the pasta.
     Step 10:  Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of finely grated Pecorino Romano Cheese over the pasta.
     Garnish the pasta with a small basil sprig.
     Mafaldine with Chicken and Pecorino Romano Basil Crème is rich enough to satisfy guests when the winter weather is icy cold!