Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bucatini all'Amatriciana

A few weeks ago, the NY Times food section had a feature about gaunciale. It is a bit more difficult to find than pancetta, but Savenor's gets it in every once in a while. They had about a pound left the last time I stopped by, so I decided to give it a try. If you live in the Boston area, you could also try Formaggio. If you're in Seattle, you can get it from Salumi. Salumi also ships orders, so you can just put in an order online. Since it's a cured meat, it should last for a while.

Guanciale is the featured ingredient in bucatini all'Amatraciana, a traditonal pasta dish from Amatrice, Italy, so I figured that was the best thing to try it out on. Here's the recipe I used.

First, start with a basic tomato sauce (Onions, garlic, and San Marzano tomatoes).

Cook the onions and garlic
Hand crush the tomotoes
and add them to the onions and garlic with some thyme and/or oregano. I also like to add a pinch of red pepper flakes and about a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar.
While the tomato sauce is simmering, get a pot of water boiling and start preparing everything else. First cook the guanciale then add the other ingredients (see recipe).
When the water is boiling, drop the pasta and add tomato sauce to the guanciale, onions, garlic, and pepper flakes.
Once the past is al dente, drain it and add it to the pan. Toss everything together and let it finish cooking in the pan for a minute or two before serving. This lets the past soak up a lot of the flavors from the sauce. Serve and garnish with grated pecorino, parsley, and a dash of good olive oil.

Ginger Chicken Soup: Cures What Ails You

This is the perfect thing to eat when you're dealing with one of those horrible winter colds. Chicken soup has always been thought of as one of those cure-all dishes, but this version has loads of ginger and a little bit of spice. It really clears your head out.

2-3 cloves garlic, sliced.
~1/3 cup ginger cut into matchsticks
2 serrano peppers, chopped (seed them and cut out the inner membrane to reduce the heat)
2 stalks bok-choy
1/2 cup (or more) of chopped cilantro
2 scallions
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
chicken stock (not broth)
fish oil

First, get the rice started and stick the chicken in the freezer before you start preparing everything else. Chop up the ginger, cilantro, bok choy, and serrano as shown below.

Slice up the garlic and cook in a couple tablespoons of oil until golden. Remove the garlic and cook the ginger in the garlic oil for a minute.
Add the peppers, cilantro, and bok choy, cook for a few minutes, add the stock and bring it to a simmer. I've tried substituting chicken broth instead of stock, but it doesn't work.

Take the chicken out of the freezer and very thinly slice it - sticking it into the freezer makes it easier to get thin slices of chicken. After this cooks for a couple of minutes, add a couple dashes of fish oil. Add the soup to bowls with the cooked rice and garnish with thinly sliced scallions.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Usually I think of sushi and highly refined cooking when I think of Japanese food, but Japanese cuisine has its fair share of comfort food. Katsudon - a big rice bowl topped with a breaded pork cutlet and a sort of omelete - is one of my favorites. It's one of those dishes that will really warm you up on a cold winter day. As with most Japanese food, the key flavors come from a combination of dashi, mirin, and soy.

INGREDIENTS (2 servings)
-1 small onion
-2 scallions
-1 1/4 c dashi
-3T soy
-3.5 T mirin
-4 eggs
-2 thinly sliced, boneless pork chops
-panko bread crumbs
-3 cups cooked short grain rice

First, thoroughly rinse the rice and get that started. You want to be finishing up all the other elements of the dish just as the rice is finishing.

Slice up the onion and scallions, cook them until soft, and then add the dashi, soy, and mirin. Let simmer over low heat.
In the mean time, season the pork chops with salt and pepper and flour them. Beat one of the eggs, dip the pork chops in this, and coat with panko crumps. Let the pork chops rest for a couple minutes, then fry over med high heat for about 3 minutes per side. Add about 1 cm oil to a small pan, let heat for a minute or so, and fry them one at a time. When they are done, let them rest for a little while and then slice them up.

When the rice is done, beat the three remaining eggs and add them to the dashi/onion mixture. If you are making two servings, it might be easier to split the dashi and eggs into two different pans.
While this is cooking, serve the rice up into big bowls and arrange the pork cutlets on top.
Cook until the egg just begins to set and then pour the mixture over the top of the rice. You want the egg to still be runny so it seeps into the rice. If the rice is still really hot, it will continue to cook the egg. The timing for this step can be pretty tricky, and it might take a few tries before you get it down.
Here's the finished product.

Tagliatelle with parsnips and pancetta

I saw Jamie Oliver make a dish like this on one of his shows a couple of years ago. He used a vegetable peeler to shave the parsnips into ribbons, making them blend into the pasta really well. Parsnips have a really distinct flavor and can be overpowering if you just cut it into thick chunks, as you would if you were roasting them. This allows them to work as an accent in this dish instead of overpowering everything else.

-pasta (any wide noodle will do....the picture above is about 1/3 lb of fresh tagliatelle)
-parsnips (about 1 per serving)
-pancetta (sliced thin, about 4-5 slices per serving)
-rosemary (about 1 small sprig per serving)
-parmesan cheese
-olive oil
Optional(butter, cream)

Cut the pancetta crosswise into strips about 1 cm wide and shave the parsnips into long strips (like noodles) with a vegetable peeler. Saute over med hi heat with rosemary and olive oil until the pancetta begins to crisp and the parsnips start to brown.

If you are using dried pasta, you can start the pasta and then cook the pancetta and parsnips. If you are using fresh pasta, which only take a minute or two to cook, just drop the pasta when the pancetta and parsnips are done cooking.

Add the cooked pasta to the pan with the pancetta and parsnips, add freshly grated parmessan to taste and cook together for a minute or two.

An optional variation of this dish is two add a little bit of a cream sauce. To do this combine about 1/4 cup cream and couple tablespoons of butter in a small sauce pan. Heat this up over medium heat and grate in a bunch of parmessan cheese. Stir together and toss with the pasta.