Archive for the ‘Italian’ Category
I’m not sure I will get sick of posting about lobster… ever. So may as well let the lobster stock usages post when they come. Since I have enough stock to last me until Christmas, there’s a good chance this wonderful trend won’t be ending any time soon.
Lobster Stock Usage #1: Risotto (I know, shocking)
Gnocchi is one of those great ingredients that you make yourself a few times and you’ll never go back to the store bought stuff. In fact the store bought stuff is fucking gross. It says chewy and never cooks properly like the cookbooks will tell you. Aside from using in a casserole I wouldn’t mess with the prepackaged stuff at all. The homemade variety, especially when fresh, is beautifully soft and light. They blend with any ingredients you toss with them and the dough melts on your tongue like any good dumpling should. Like pasta dough, there’s a little bit of a learning curve, but with the right tools and a little time it’s one of those ingredients you guests will immediately recognize as something special.
It’s worth noting that in my experience, even the homemade variety lacks that amazing delicate texture after a few days in the freezer, so try to use what you can the same day they’re made. If not, toss into a freezer bag and they should keep for 3-5 days no problem.
Balls. Yup, just balls. Only reason you’ll need. So after a few attempts with the risotto recipe, you may have found it doesn’t always come out so brilliantly. But you don’t want to waste your ingredients. The rice is a little too crunchy, or the final product was a thick and heavy blob of cement. These things happen, at least they happened to me more than a few times. So when I found out that I could turn my fuckup into a really tasty drunk munchie I was more than a little pleased.
Ahh puttanesca.. who said cheap and easy, couldn’t be something a boy could settle down with and raise a family? To have and to hold. To cherish and honor. Puttanesca, won’t you be mine? Will you be mine? I really am a sucker for girl that is both nutty, briny and spicy.
Pasta alla Puttanesca translates loosely into “whore’s pasta” in Italian, but she’ll always be classy to me. She goes brilliantly with farafell, penne, or in today’s case, bowties, but any type of pasta will be great with this sauce. Just be sure to use a deep pan so you can toss the pasta into the sauce to finish cooking, and save a little pasta water to thin and flavor the sauce.
The funny thing about cooking is that the amount of time and energy that goes into a meal doesn’t necessarily mean that the final product will be the home run you were aiming for. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve spent hours, and I mean hours, prepping a meal, reducing a sauce, braising meat, roasting vegetables only to be disappointed by the end result. To me it’s maddening to find a recipe that looks amazing and regardless of how closely I’ve followed the instructions or shopped for the most random of ingredients, the first bite falls flat.
Yeah your friends are raving how much they like it, yeah they’re so impressed that you put together some fancy dish for them, but deep down you don’t really give a shit because this masterful concoction you had your heart set on recreating Just_Doesn’t_ Hit. And you know you did things wrong, you can taste what didn’t get cooked right, or what flavors and textures don’t match up, and you eat begrudgingly wondering how the hell you missed the mark.
So when one does come across a recipe that can stand on its own, that doesn’t need frill upon frill of elaboration, where the ingredients enhance each other and meld into something that is flavorful and delicious and unpretentious, and that first bite forces you to pause and take in the fact that this is everything you could have possibly hoped for, well my friends, that needs to be shared.
For me, one of my all time favorite recipes is one I picked up reading Bill Bufford’s Heat (a great book for anyone that loves reading about the fine dining kitchen subculture or Italian cooking). Simple ingredients, enough technique to make it a fun challenge, and one of those dishes you hope you have extra bread with so you can soak up any remaining sauce.
If God came down from the heavens and told me that I would only be allowed to use a small handful of cooking techniques and skills to last me the rest of my days on earth, and I would have no other means of cooking for myself and family outside of this absurd and narrow restriction, making my own pasta would be at the very top of the list. And if God decided that pasta making from scratch wasn’t a choice, then well, that may be the day I sell my soul to the Devil (same applies for any restrictions God may find amusing regarding bacon).
So what I’m trying to say in not so many is make your own pasta. Basic, basic stuff pasta dough is, and on a lazy Sunday afternoon you can bust out enough pasta to last you a month. There are good arguments for making a lot of different stuff from scratch, all valid, but with pasta, once you get it right, there is nothing you can pick up at the store that will come close. Not Even Close.
Also, the sheer, almost limitless varieties of Italian pasta in all it’s variances is enough to keep any cook trying new stuff for years to come. Not to mention the skill lends itself to other ethnic cuisines as well (wontons, dumplings, manti). It’s probably going to take a few tries, but trust me, it is worth it!
I’m going to explain how to make nice and simple linguine (flat spaghetti) for this post.
Read the rest of this entry »
Gnocchi is all the rage these days, but there are so many recipes out there for home chefs that in my experience, fall short of hitting the mark. “Just boil water, add salt and boil till the gnocchi floats to the top,” is what you’ll read in most home recipes I’ve come across. Ummm, bullshit. Store bought gnocchi in my experience gets undercooked, becomes chewy, and is nothing in comparison to the dish when made from scratch even if it’s frozen for a week. If anyone has figured out how to cook well with pre-packaged store bought then hats off to you. What am I not getting!?
I’ve tried cooking it longer than the instructions say to, I’ve served it tossed with whatever sauce immediately after pulling it out of the water, and time and time again I’m chewing a starchy mess halfway through the meal. So if you are cooking a dish where gnocchi is the center piece and have the time, honestly, just make your own. It’s a little effort up front to use a gentle touch down, but once the technique of rolling the dough out properly, you’ll be able to make light, fluffy, delicious potato pastries the rest of your life. But hey, we’re all pretty busy right? Have a craving but not the time? Well, one way I’ve found to make the store bought stuff sing is to put it in a casserole dish. Hearty, rich, and perfect with a good Cesare salad this dish is a crowd pleaser and pretty easy to put together.
… Actually it means “little rice,” but as far as I’m concerned stirring is the most memorable part. I wish I kidding, but this little dish demands your undivided attention.
Cold evenings to me mean comfort food, and one of my favorites is the always labor intensive, joyously gooey risotto. I’ve failed to make a proper risotto more times than anything else I’ve ever attempted. Fortunately I have friends that have always been good sports. You kinda have to be when you eat crunchy, undercooked rice, or flavorless, goupy crap. It was maddening to not be able to figure out this dish. After some research I wasn’t any more enthusiastic. All the recipes pretty much say the same thing. But after a lot of trial and error, including a Friday night or two with a bag or rice and a glass of scotch, I got a pretty good handle on this temperamental and wonderful dish.