Friday, December 31, 2010

Braised oxtail with gnocchi

Braised oxtail is soooooo good, and it's pretty easy to make. Gnocchi, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult. There are a number of gnocchi recipes on the web, so I won't put anything specific here, although there are a couple of things worth noting when it comes to gnocchi making. One of the objectives of making gnocchi is to have it as light and "cloud like" as possible. This, I found, involves a trade off in structural integrity and appearance. Basically, the lighter the gnocchi, the more you have to coddle it as you prepare it.
The basic ingredients in gnocchi are potato, flour, and egg. Egg is a binder that helps all the ingredients stay together. More egg, along with kneading the dough more, will give the gnocchi more structural integrity. It will also make the gnocchi heavier. Less egg and less kneading will lead to lighter gnocchi. I tried adding a minimal amount of egg (real pros can get away with no egg) and kneading, and while the gnocchi was very light, the first batch basically fell apart or was squashed into flat little discs when I tossed it in the pan.

Here's the recipe for the rest of this dish.

-oxtail (~3 lbs)
-1/2 bottle red wine
-1-2 cup veal or beef stock
-1 carrots, diced
-1 stalk celery, diced
-1/2 onion, diced
-1 small can crushed tomatoes or 1/2 small can tomato paste
-1-2 bay leaves
-1 Tbs black pepper corns
-1 clove
-2 cloves garlic, smashed
-1 sprig rosemary
-2 sprigs thyme
-canola oil
-salt and pepper

Season the oxtail with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. Heat up 1 Tbsp of canola oil in a heavy pot or dutch oven large enough to hold all of the oxtail in a single layer. Sear the oxtail on all sides at medium high heat. Remove the oxtail and add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Cook the vegetables, over medium heat until soft. You don't want to brown them.

Add the wine, stock, tomato, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, clove, and peppercorns and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and place a cheesecloth over the top of the braising mixture. Put the oxtail on top so that it is partially submerged in the liquid, but separated from the onions, etc.

Cover and place in a 250F oven for 3 hours. Remove, the oxtails, strain out the solids in the braising liquid, and then reduce the braising liquid until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. While the braising liquid is reducing, use a fork to remove the oxtail from the bone and break it into small chunks. Toss with the reduce braising liquid and let simmer.

While the oxtail is simmering, heat up a nonstick skillet, add butter, and the gnocchi. Brown the gnocchi, then add the oxtail. Toss everything together and let sit in the warm pan for a minute or so. Place in a serving bowl, garnished with grated parmesan cheese, parsley, and olive oil.

Ramen noodles with ginger scallion sauce, ginger-honey-soy glazed pork belly, and stir fried broccoli and carrots

This dish is pretty straight forward. For the noodles, I followed this recipe from the Momofuku cookbook, and the veggies were just stir fried over high heat with a little ginger. Here's the recipe for the pork belly:

1 lb pork belly
1 c soy sauce
1 c honey
~2 inch piece of ginger, grated.
5 spice powder

Preheat oven to 225F

Remove skin from the pork belly, rub five spice powder over the surface, and sear on medium high heat on all sides in an oven proof pan. Remove the pork belly and pour off most of the fat.

Add the grated garlic. You may also want to try throwing other aromatics such as garlic, bay leaf, or cloves. Cook for about a minutes, then add the soy sauce and honey. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to make sure everything is combined.

Put the pork belly back in the pan and place everything in the oven and let roast for 2.5 to 3 hours, turning and basting occasionally.

When the pork belly is done, remove it from the oven and reduce the soy-ginger-honey mixture over high heat until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add the pork belly to the glaze, and turn in the pan so it is thoroughly coated.

Slice and serve with the noodles and stir fried veggies.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Pickles galore

Finally, a post from DC. A few weeks ago, Liz and Zach came over to make tons and tons of pickles. While it was a fun operation, it left my apartment smelling like vinegar for several days afterwards.

I've actually only opened up one jar so far, but that one turned out OK. Most of the veggies we used came from the farmers' market, which were in their closing weeks here in DC at the time. The checklist of pickles includes typical cucumber pickles, green beans, red peppers, onions, hot peppers, carrots, fennel, radishes and garlic. We also made some jars of mixed vegetables along with some preserved lemons. Hopefully these pickles will make appearances in meals throughout the winter.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Last dinner in my Chicago kitchen

Here's the last dinner I made in my Chicago kitchen. Tomato salad, braised greens, grilled corn with chile and lime, and grilled steak. It was a bit of an eclectic mix. But it used up the last of the vegetables in the fridge.

The tomato salad was pretty straight forward. Just slice up the tomatos, mix with thinly sliced shallots, capers, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
The greens (purple kale) were braised in some pork stock and a smoked ham hoc that had been sitting in my freezer. I also added some red pepper flakes and raisins. The raisins add a nice bit of sweetness and they soak up a lot of the savory flavors from the braising liquid. To make this dish, you want to start by sauting one bunch of sliced up kale along with a few cloves of sliced garlic. Add the stock, ham hoc, raisins, red pepper flakes, and maybe a tablespoon of cider vinegar. Let this simmer for a while (until the greens are very soft), remove the ham hoc, pick off the meat and toss this in with the greens.
I served the corn with a chile lime spread. I made the spread by mixing melted or softened butter with mayo in about a 1 to 3 ratio, and then adding lime juice and Mexican chile powder. Slathered over some grilled corn, this stuff is really, really good.

Eggs in purgatory

I made this as an appetizer for a going away party Abby and I had back in Chicago. It's a crowd pleaser that's easy to make. Start with a basic tomato sauce recipe, such as the one used for this dish. Add a healthy amount of red pepper flakes to make the sauce nice and spicy.

Once your done with the sauce, pour it into an oven proof serving dish, crack some eggs on top, and bake until just done. Serve this dish with bread. I think it's best when you can brush the bread with some olive oil and throw it on the grill until it gets some nice grill marks on it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Grilled pork tenderloin with apple cider reduction, grilled sweet potato with rosemary, and wilted escarole with garlic chips

Here's another dish from back in Chicago. It's been a while, so I don't remember all the details, for the escarole, tenderloin and sauce. The sweet potatoes couldn't be easier though. Just chop up some rosemary, mix it in with olive oil, and toss this mixture together with some sliced rounds of sweet potato. Grill until finished. This is one of my favorite side dishes for summer grilling.

Catching up

It's been more than three months since I moved from Chicago to DC, but I still have a few photos from Chicago. Most of the dinners I cooked last summer were pretty straight forward preparations of ingredients I would pick up at the Wicker Park farmer's market (btw, I am shocked at how much more expensive the farmer's markets are here in DC). Here is one of those meals: a grilled lamb shoulder chop and roasted carrots with dill. I had made roasted carrots from one of the stands at the Wicker Park market earlier and they were soooo good. Here, I just tossed them with a little dill, olive oil, and salt.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Tasty, tasty goat at Birrieria Zaragoza

Last weekend, we inadvertently did a tour of Yelp's top Chicago restaurants. That Alinea would be near the top of Chicago's Yelp ratings is obvious, but we had no idea that (as of this posting) Birrieria Zaragoza would hold the top spot. A lot of people have issues with Yelp, and Zaragoza's perch on top of the Chicago Yelp scene has a lot to do with these issues: namely, small, self-selecting samples can hardly be expected to yield reliable results. Leaving aside the sampling issues, though, one fact remains. Birrieria Zaragoza makes some damn tasty goat. And it's a good thing they do, because that's really your only option if you choose to dine there. The menu consists of large plates of goat, small plates of goat, and goat tacos. If you aren't in the mood for goat, you can order quesadillas or tortillas and salsa, but if you aren't in the mood for goat, I have no idea why you would make the trek down to this place.
Zaragoza is a family run place, and everyone working there is super nice and clearly enthusiastic about what they do. So, while the food is great, the friendly service may be even better.

Birria is a stewed meat dish, typically made with goat, that hails from Central Mexico. Zaragoza's version is absolutely delicious. It's not too far away from Midway airport, so it's definitely worth checking out if you need to go there for any reason. The birria (pictured above) comes in a variety of different textures - from crispy to falling apart tender - depending on the particular cut. A plate of goat is served with freshly made tortillas, and it's a good idea to order a side of their salsa
You can eat the birria alone or you can make your own tacos. I recommend the later because the fresh tortillas are so good.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A couple Alinea pics

While we didn't take pictures of most of the meal, we did manage to grab a couple of snap shots...they aren't great, but I might as well post them. A shot of Alinea's impeccably clean, calm, quite kitchen. It seems like more of a lab than a kitchen.

Here is a picture of the English Pea dish that I liked so much. The dark spheres are "sherry caviar" that explode in your mouth when you eat them. Very cool.
And here are some shots capturing the process for the chocolate dish that they finish with. They start by laying out a rubber or latex table cloth, painting it with white chocolate sauce and arranging chunks of meringue, some type of coconut pudding or mousse, and chocolate disks (in the cups)
Then they spread chocolate cookie crumbs around the table and place these big, freeze dried chunks of chocolate mousse in the center
They smash the mousse into smaller pieces and then add chunks of menthol that are very, very Altoids on steroids.
And here is the finished product. Quite a complicated dish for something that the menu calls "Chocolate, coconut, menthol, hyssop."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Last weekend, we finally went to Alinea. We didn't get any pictures of the meal, but they probably wouldn't have done the food justice as the light in our dining room was pretty low. Here's a copy of the menu, though.
Each course has such a simple name that belies its sophistication. For example, "Tomatoes" included a number of different types of tomatoes, cut into different shapes with a variety of accompaniments such as a caramelized, balsamic onion, bits of grated parmesan, basil seeds, and crushed pine nuts, to name a few. However, the dish doesn't stop with the food on the plate. The plate is served on top of a pillow filled with air that is infused with the aroma of fresh cut grass. The air slowly escapes as you eat the dish, which manages to combine the summery, fresh taste and texture of tomatoes with a scent that is unmistakably summer. This might sound pretentious, but it works. The level of thought that went into this dish is typical of each course we had.

While it is hard to pick a favorite, I think the standout dishes were English Pea, King Crab, Hot Potato, and Black Truffle. The pea dish was incredibly creative, and I loved how each bite had a different combination of ingredients and flavors that worked together beautifully. The potato and truffle dishes were both single bites that were overwhelmingly flavorful. The King Crab dish was interesting because it presented the main ingredients - crab, rhubarb, lilac, and fennel - in three different preparation: one cold, one room temperature, and one hot. Each one was incredibly flavorful and completely unique.

While I'm typically not a dessert person, the Chocolate dish was also really impressive simply because of its presentation. The chocolate dish is prepared directly on your table, and resembles something like a cross between a moonscape and an edible Jackson Pollock painting. We were fortunate enough to have Grant Achatz assemble the dessert for us. I think my favorite part about the dessert, though, was the fact that they paired it with a port that was older than I am.

I've eaten at a number of really nice restaurants, and it is rare that I have a dish that surprises me. Usually, a dish impresses me because it represents a precise execution of familiar flavors. I know where the dish came from and, given enough practice, I might have been able to come up with something similar in my own kitchen. At Alinea? Not even close. Every single dish introduced completely different flavors and flavor combinations prepared in ways that I never would have dreamed of.

A meal here can be prohibitively expensive, but if you care about food, this is a place worth saving up for. If you're a sports fan, you shell out for tickets if your team makes it to the finals; if you're a food fan, you go to Alinea. This place serves the most interesting, if not the best tasting, food that I have ever had.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Grilled leeks with basil vinaigrette and grilled Mint Creek Farms ham steak

Here's another meal from the farmer's market. This is a fairly simple dish, so it was a good week night meal. For the leeks, just cut off the dark green parts, cut a slit, lengthwise, down the leeks, leaving a half inch intact near the base, and rinse the leeks. Braise in water with some bay leaves and peppercorns for about 15 minutes to soften them up. Remove the leeks, finish cutting them in half, and then grill for a few minutes on each side until they are slightly charred. Top the leeks with any vinaigrette and let sit for a few minutes to soak in the flavors. I made a vinaigrette from red wine vinegar, olive oil, basil, garlic, and mustard. While the leeks are marinating in the vinaigrette, grill the ham steaks for a couple minutes on each side. Since the ham is already smoked and cured, you only need to grill it long enough to warm them up and add grill marks. As with most other pork dishes I make, I finished them off with some fennel pollen.

Friday, July 16, 2010

My "Go-To" Pasta Dish

I probably make orechiette with rapini and sausage more than any other pasta dish. This is an easy dish to make, which may be why I turn to it so frequently, but it also has a really nice balance of flavors. Another nice thing about this dish is that you can leave the meat out without losing too much flavor, making it a nice option for vegetarians.

You can make this dish with regular supermarket brocolli, and it is quite good, but I prefer the more bitter rapini, or broccoli raab. This is a classic dish that appears on numerous restaurant menus and on this blog here and here. Because I make this dish so frequently, I have had the chance to tweak the recipe several times. The main difference between this dish and the last version that I posted is the addition of oven roasted tomatoes. In my opinion, the "brightness" and acidity of the tomatoes is a welcome addition to this dish. I've made this iteration of the dish three or four times and am pretty pleased with it, so I thought I should include a step-by-step on how to make it.

First, we'll start with the necessary ingredients. This recipe makes two large servings or four to five servings if it is served as the pasta course for a multi-course meal. If you gather and prep your ingredients ahead of time, assembly is a snap.
You will need 2 cups of dried orechiette, 1/4 cup walnuts (toasted), 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, 3 cloves of roughly chopped garlic, 2-3 oven roast Roman tomatoes, 1/2-3/4 bunch of rapini, 1 Italian sausage, 1-2 anchovy fillets, olive oil, and red wine or balsamic vinegar. You may also add 1/2 to 1 tsp of red pepper flakes if you want to add a little heat.

Start by bringing a pot of water to a rapid boil. Salt the water and blanche the rapini for a little over a minute.
Remove the rapini and rinse under cold water. Set the rapini aside and let it drain in a collander. Bring the water back to a boil and add the pasta (you can add a little oil to the water to reduce foaming in the pasta water). The pasta will be done in about 10 minutes, and you can use this time to finish the other ingredients. First, remove the sausage from the casing and break apart into small chunks.
Cook the sausage with 1 Tbsp of olive oil for 2 to 4 minutes over medium high heat. When the sausage has browned, drain on a paper towel, leaving the oil in the pan. Add the garlic, anchovy, and red pepper flakes to the pan and cook over medium until the garlic just begins to change color.
Once the garlic begins to turn golden brown, add the rapini and the oven roasted tomatoes. Before adding these ingredients, cut the rapini into 1 inch length, and cut the oven roasted tomato halves (you will have 4 to 6 of these halves) into quarters. (To make oven roasted tomatoes, just cut the roma tomatoes in half, length wise, toss with olive oil and salt, and roast in a 200F oven for about 8 hours).
Toss everything together and let the mixture cook for another couple minutes.
Next, you will need to add the walnuts. Make sure to toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan, toaster oven, or oven before using them. This brings out the flavor a bit. If you don't toast the walnuts, they can have a sort of stale flavor to them, so this step is key. Roughly chop the walnuts and then toss them in with everything else.

When the pasta is al dente, add it to the pan with all of the other ingredients along with 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the cooking water.
Toss everything together, then add the parmesan cheese, 1 Tbsp vinegar, and season with a pinch of freshly cracked black pepper.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Roasted chicken, carrots, spring onions, and blue potatoes

A lot of times, you hear cooks say a key to good cooking is to buy good ingredients, and try your best not to mess them up. This was one of those dinners. The farmers markets here in Chicago are in full swing, and just about everything I used in this dish except for the olive oil, butter, and lemons, came from either the local farmers market or the community garden. What I love about the farmers market is that when you buy something like a carrot, you have a huge variety to choose from. The same goes for just about every other vegetable or fruit, including the onions and potatoes I used in this dish. While roasted chicken and root vegetables are typically thought of as a fall or winter dish, the way I look at it, anything I get at the farmer's market is, by definition, seasonal cooking, and it tasted just as good on a warm summer evening as it would on a cold winter night.

Here's the recipe. It could not be more simple.

Brine the chicken (look up your favorite brine recipe online).
Remove from brine, pat dry, and let come to room temperature.
Season with salt and pepper, put a lemon wedge, herbs, and some smashed garlic cloves in the cavity.
Truss the chicken.
Toss the vegetables with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
In a 12 inch skillet, arrange the vegetables and place the chicken on top. Add a few lemon wedges to the skillet.
Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the chicken or place a couple pieces of butter on top of the chicken.
Roast in a 450 to 475F oven for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 400F and continue to roast until the chicken breast is 160F.
Remove the chicken and let it rest on the cutting board for at least 15 minutes.
In the meantime, toss the vegetables in the pan to glaze them, and add any herbs. I used a bit of dill, chives, garlic scapes, and parsley.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Golden beets with beet greens, farro, guanciale, garden herbs and lemon

Here's a recipe for a salad I made using some ingredients I picked up from the farmers market and the community garden this weekend. The main ingredients for this salad are farro and golden beets. I like to use golden beets for a dish like this because they are a little less sweet, so they don't overpower the other ingredients, and they won't stain every other element of the dish red, so the presentation will be nicer. Farro has a nice, nutty flavor that goes well with the beets.

1 cup farro
2-3 medium golden beets with greens
1/4 cup diced guanciale
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup+1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tsp mustard
1 Tbsp chives, minced
1 tsp mint, chopped
1 tsp oregano, chopped
1 tsp tarragon, chopped
1 tsp dill, chopped
salt, pepper

Srubs the beets clean. Make a foil envelope for the beets, and roast with 1 Tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper. I roasted them for 1 hour at 400F, and I thought they could have used at least another 15 minutes in the oven. While the beets are roasting, remove the thick stems from the beet greens and thoroughly rinse them. Bring about 2 cups of water or chicken or vegetable stock to a boil and add the farro. Let the farro simmer over medium heat for 25 minutes (longer if not semi-pearled). Blanch the beet greens in heavily salted water for about 1 minute. Remove, and immediately rinse with cold water or place in an ice bath. Next, saute the cubed guanciale (about 1 cm cubes) over medium heat to crisp up and render some of the fat. Once the fat has begun to render, and one smashed garlic clove to the pan. Remove the crisped guanciale, and add the beat greens. Saute the greens in the rendered fat until they are tender. Season with salt and pepper.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, herbs, mustard, and a smashed garlic clove. Season with salt and pepper and remove the garlic cloves.

When the farro is done cooking, drain in a collander. When the beats are done (a knife should slide to the center with little resistance), peel and cut into 1/2 in dice. Combine all the ingredients while they are still warm so the farro and beets absorb more of the flavor from the vinaigretter. Chill or serve at room temperature. This can be made a few hours before serving.

If I make this again, I might try adding toasted almonds or feta to give the dish another dimension. A little bitterness from parsley would have been nice as well, but I was limited to the herbs that were growing in the garden around the corner and, sadly, no one planted parsley this year. I also might dial back the dill a little. Dill has a pretty assertive flavor that can dominate the other herbs in the dish.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Monkfish with grilled asparagus and romesco

Here is yet another dish from the Ad Hoc at Home cookbook. The recipe calls for baby leeks, but since those are hard to find, I went with asparagus instead. I used the leftover romesco sauce from the previous blog post, and then I pan roasted the monkfish with rosemary, thyme, and garlic. I bought the monkfish at Isaacson and Stein, where they just sell whole monkfish tails, and they leave it to the customer to actually fabricate the fish. Monkfish are really ugly, prehistoric looking creatures, and a giant fish doesn't really yield that much edible meat. Monkfish are almost all head and jaws connected to a tail that propels said head and jaws towards its pray. With most fish, you can fillet them fairly easily with a couple quick swipes of the knife down each side of the spine. Monkfish are not so simple. I have seen monkfish fabrication as a challenge on Top Chef before, but I had never actually taken apart a monk fish myself.

To prepare the monkfish, remove it from the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking to let it get to room temperature. Season with salt and pepper, and then sear over high heat in a pan with canola oil for a few minutes (after about 3 minutes check to see if a crust has formed). Add 2 tablespoons of butter turn the heat to medium (you don't want to burn the butter) and, once melted, tilt the pan and baste the monkfish as it is frying. Once one side is nicely browned, turn the monk fish, add a couple sprigs of rosemary, thyme, and garlic along with another tablespoon of butter. Continue to fry/baste for another 3 to 5 minutes until the fish is cooked through and a golden crust has formed on the other side of the fish.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Romesco sauce

Last week, we had a great dinner with friends at Mercat a la Planxa (definitely get the tasting menu if you go there), and, being a Spanish restaurant, romesco sauce made more than one appearance in our tasting menu. While I've made several variations of roasted red pepper sauces before, I had never actually made this classic sauce. It's pretty easy to make, and, as this dinner shows, it goes well with quite a few dishes. Here, I served it two ways: with asparagus topped with a fried egg, and with lamb shoulder chops.The lamb shoulder chops had been marinated in a vacuum sealed bag with some oil that had been infused with garlic, pepper, bay lead, rosemary and thyme. Both the lamb and the asparagus were cooked "a la plancha" on my big cast iron griddle.

You can look up several variations of romesco sauce online. Here's what I ended up making, based on the ingredients I had on hand.
2 red bell peppers
4 plum tomatoes
1/4 onion
2 piquillo peppers
1 ancho chile
4 garlic cloves
1T red wine vinegar
1T sherry vinegar
1/4 c olive oil
2-3 inches of a bagguette, crust removed, cubed, and toasted.
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 tsp paprika
salt, pepper to taste

Half and core the tomatoes and bell peppers. Cover the tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, and garlic with some a couple tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 400F for an hour. Let cool and remove the skin from the tomatoes and peppers. Meanwhile, soak the ancho chile in warm water to rehydrate. Combine all the ingredients in a blender and season to taste with salt and pepper. Make sure to toast the almonds, otherwise the nutty flavor of the almonds (which is the thing that makes romesco sauce special) won't come through.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Porchetta with roasted fennel, salsa verde, and smokey pork broth

During the butchering demo at Mado, the chef described a porchetta dish that they had been running as a special for a while. It sounded so good that I had to give it a shot. Porchetta comes in various shapes and sizes, but it always involve a big hunk of pork, stuffed with something and slow roasted.
Roasted fennel makes a nice accompaniment to this dish. Roasting fennel completely changes it's flavor, mellowing it out and bringing out its natural sweetness. The pork shoulder that I used for the porchetta had a really strong, porky flavor to it, so the sweetness of the fennel provided a nice counterpart. I also added some sweetness to the dish by mixing raisins into the sausage stuffing.
This dish takes a long time, but the actual active prep time is fairly minimal. Start by getting yourself a nice big pork shoulder, preferably skin on. You can also just use a pork loin, but thats a pretty lean cut, so you'll need to be more careful with your cooking time. If you are using a shoulder, remove the bone (here's where I used some of the butchering tips I picked up at the Mado demonstration), and cut it so that it can be rolled out in one flat piece. Look up a recipe for you favorite pork brine, and let the meat brine over night, or as long as your recipe says it should (you don't want to leave it in the brine too long...I've ruined a couple roasts this way).

I had some pork fat in the fridge, so I used this to make a spread that would add some fat and flavor to the porchetta. I melted the fat and added a few cloves of smashed garlic confit and a bunch of chopped rosemary and thyme. I poured this mixture into the bowls of the stand mixer and then let it sit in the fridge for a little while until it began to set, then I removed it and whipped it into a spread using the mixer. After the pork was brined, I spread this mixture all over the inside, added raisins and a layer of sausage that had been sitting in the freezer since the confit collective dinner, rolled it up and tied it together.

I roasted it at about 275F until the the center of the porchetta was 160F. This took about 5 hours, but the time will vary according to the size of the roast. Next time I do this, I'll probably bring the heat down to 250F and cook it for longer (~8 to 10 hours). I might also try basting the roast more frequently and finishing it with a blast of super high heat. I think it takes a long time for the skin to get crispy, and it was nowhere near edible on this version. At least it looks pretty.
To serve, slice off big chunks, top with a piece of roasted fennel and some salsa verde and serve in a shallow bowl with pork broth.

To make the pork broth, I followed a pretty standard stock recipe, using pork neck bones (which I roasted beforehand) as the meat, but I added the fennel fronds that I had reserved from the roasted fennel and a smoked ham hock, which adds a nice smokey hint to the stock. I let the stock simmer all day, then I reduced it to about 1/3 of its original volume to get a really rich, flavorful broth.

Not only is this dish great right out of the oven, it makes awesome sandwiches. We had a ton of leftover, so we had porchetta sandwiches for lunch all week. Yum.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Black spaghetti with shrimp, soppresata, and green chile pesto

You can find the recipe for this dish here. It's one of the signature dishes at Babbo. Ideally, I would have used the tastier, smaller rock shrimp that the recipe calls for, but they didn't have any at the fish market. You can get the squid ink pasta here. As I've mentioned in previous posts, they (Maestri Pastai) make the best pasta out there.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pea, fava bean, and shrimp salad with mint, chives, parsley, and lemon.

This is more or less a reproduction of one of the dishes we had at the Purple Pig a couple weeks know a restaurant is good when it inspires you to go home and recreate everything you ordered.

~ 20 Shrimp, peeled and deveined
~ 2 cups of peas (fresh if possible)
~1 cup of fava beans
2 Tbsp Mint, chiffonade
1 T Parsley, finely chopped
1 T Chives, finely chopped
Zest and juice from 2 lemons
Olive oil.

Steam the shrimp for about 3 to 4 minutes. Shell the fava beans and steam for about 2 to 3 minutes. After steaming the fava beans, they will be much easier to remove from their skins and perfectly cooked for this recipe. If you are using frozen peas, just thaw them out in some water. If you are able to get your hands on fresh, English peas, boil them in salted water for a little over a minute and then cool them down in an ice bath. You still want the peas to have a bit of a bite to them. Toss together all of the ingredients and season to taste with salt. This should be a very acidic dish, so add more lemon if necessary. The lemon will cause all the nice green stuff to discolor over time, so you don't want to assemble this more than an hour or two before serving. You should serve it cold, so give it around 30 minutes in the fridge before serving.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

White asparagus soup with prosciutto chip, crispy asparagus tips, chive blossoms and truffle oil

I started off our dinner menu with a white asparagus soup. Asparagus is in season and the chives in the local garden were blossoming, so I wanted to come up with a dish that would take advantage of this. I really like how the white soup acts as a blank canvas for the garnishes. It really makes all the individuals pop. It tastes pretty good. The only thing I would change about this dish is the cooking liquid. I had to use chicken stock, but I would have really preferred a crab or lobster stock. I just wasn't able to find any shells to make a good stock with.
In previous dinner parties, I've had issues getting everything done on the timeline I was shooting for and pacing dishes so that they were served at the right time/temperature. This time around, I decided to do a lot of things at the last minute so they would come to the table fresh. To make that work, I had to act more like I was in a restaurant and get all my mis-en-place taken care of ahead of time. Garnishes for the soup are above, and the assembly line is below.
Here's the recipe.

2 bunches white asparagus
1 leek
1 small potato
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 T butter

Various garnishes

Cut off the white part of the leek, cut it in half and thinly slice. Cook in a pot with the butter over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Break of the tough ends of the asparagus and chop into 1 to 2 inch sections. Add to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 2 to 3 minutes. Peel the potato, dice, and add that to the pot along with enough stock to cover everything by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the bay leaf and let simmer for about 1 hour, until the asparagus is tender. Remove the bay leaf and puree the soup with an immersion blender. Stir in the heavy cream and season with salt and pepper. The quality of the soup will depend a lot on the stock that you use, and if it tastes a little thin, you can try adding more butter or cream, but keep in mind that the garnishes will add a lot of flavor.

The soup is best if you make it a day ahead of time and let the flavors mix. This makes it a great dinner party dish since it is one less thing you can do the day of. Reheat, serve, and garnish with what ever you like. I used crispy asparagus tips that I had reserved from the asparagus salad, prosciutto chips, chives and chive blossoms, and a few drops of truffle oil.

Crispy asparagus tips - Just toss with olive oil and a bit of kosher salt and roast at a very low heat (180-200F) for about 2 hours. They get nice and crispy and take on a very meaty flavor.

Prosciutto chip - Cook in a very hot pan with a small amount of oil for about 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side. The prosciutto will still feel flimsy when you remove it, but it will crisp up once you let it sit on a cooling rack.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Another big dinner

Abby and I made another big dinner last week for a multi-purpose celebration: mother's day, parent's anniversary, family friend's birthday. Here's the menu. Some of the dishes (asparagus salad and langoustines) are repeats from the last dinner party we did. I'll post pictures of new dishes separately.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pig Butchering Demo at Mado

A couple weeks ago, Abby and I attended a pig butchering demo at Mado. This restaurant is one of those places that specializes in head-to-tail cooking. Every week, they get a whole side of pig from a local farm, that they use to create specials throughout the week.
They sent us home with a sampling of different cuts that included some pork belly (see previous post), a cut from the leg, and a loin chop. Below is a picture of one of the dishes that I made. I made a confit of pork leg by slowly poaching it in rendered pork fat for a few hours, then I seared it and served it over white beans with bacon and rosemary, grilled asparagus, and a spicy aioli. The recipe for the white beans is below.
2 small cans of white beans.
chicken stock
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 strips of bacon, chopped, or 1/4 cup chopped pancetta
1 shallot, finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic confit
salt, pepper

Render the bacon in a saucepan, remove bacon bits and drain all but 2 tsp of the fat. If using pancetta, use some olive oil to cook the pancetta.

Cook the shallot and garlic confit over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add the beans, along with the rosemary and bay leaf. Keep the rosemary whole, so you can remove it later. Add chicken stock to cover, bring to simmer, turn the heat down to low, and simmer for about 30 minutes, partially covered. Remove the rosemary and bay leaf. If the beans are still soupy, turn up the heat to reduce it more.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Spring menu

Earlier this week, we went to the Purple Pig (see a friend's review here), where we had a truly fantastic, seasonal meal full of ingredients like asparagus, peas, ramps, rock shrimp, and fava beans all dowsed in a healthy dose of lemon. That put me in the mode to do a few spring dishes, so, yesterday, we had a couple people over for a big spring dinner. Here's the menu: cannellini bean salad with grilled tuna and endives, a shaved asparagus and pecorino salad, confit pork belly with fennel pollen and spicy piquillo aioli, seared scallops with meuniere sauce, langoustines a la plancha with anchovy and caper butter, minted pea ravioli with shaved parmigiano-reggiano, mint, chives, chive blossoms, and truffle oil, heirloom potatoes roasted in duck fat with garlic confit and thyme, and lake trout, roasted whole with lemon, served with classic aioli and a roasted red pepper, piquillo, and miso sauce. We served it with the following wines, which I thought were all pretty good: 2007 Cellar Can Blau Montsant, 2007 Pio Cesare Cortese di Gavi, and 2007 Domaine de la Villaudiere Sancerre. Yes, it was a lot of food.

We didn't get a picture of the cannellini bean salad, but you can get the recipe from an earlier post.
We got the asparagus salad idea from our meal at the Purple Pig. It's similar to a brussels sprout salad that we make a lot.
1 bunch asparagus
1-2 lemons
Extra virgin olive oil (preferably Tuscan or something with nice grassy notes to it)
Salt, pepper

Break off the ends of the asparagus stalks, slice thin, on a bias. To make slicing easier, keep the asparagus bound by the rubber band that it comes with. Since this is a raw preparation, you want to cut the asparagus as thin as possible so it won't be too tough. Use a mandoline if you have one.

Add the zest and juice from one to two lemons. Add about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil along with about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Add more olive oil and lemon juice if necessary. The amount of lemon to add depends on your preferences. This should have a very "bright" taste to it, so the juice from 1.5 to 2 lemons is probably best.

We got bits of pork belly from a butchering demonstration at Mado, which I'll post more on latter. The recipe comes from Ad-Hoc At Home, so I won't repeat it here. I served it with a spicy aioli that was left over from a yet to be posted meal.

The scallops, along with the langoustines, were impulse buys from our trip to Isaacson and Stein. They had big tubs full of big, fresh scallops and lovely, lovely langoustines. The scallops were given a quick salt water brine, then dried off in the fridge for a couple hours. I seared them over medium high heat in clarified butter. To make the meuniere sauce, simply add lemon juice, capers, and parsley to the butter and swirl around for a minute or so to emulsify the mixture a bit.The langoustines were definitely the highlight of the meal. We first had this dish at Prune, and we've bean wanting it again ever since.

Brine the langoustines in a salt water solution (2 cups water to 5 oz. salt) for 10 to 15 minutes and pat dry with paper toils.

Get a cast iron griddle piping hot. It may take up to 5 minutes. Turn your fan on, open the doors and windows. This will create a lot of smoke. Spread clarified butter over the cooking surface and immediately add the langoustines. If the smoke gets too out of control, turn the heat down a bit. Cook the shrimp for about 6 to 7 minutes on each side. While the langoustines are cooking, melt a stick of butter in a small sauce pan. Add about 10 anchovy fillets and crush in the pan with the melted butter until they break up into really small pieces. Add capers.

When the langoustines are done, place them on a serving plate, season with sea salt, pour half the butter over the top, and reserve the other half in a separate bowl for dipping. Serve lemon wedges on the side. Try to contain yourself.

We didn't get a picture of the ravioli. It is similar to this dish, but I added ricotta to the stuffing and took advantage of the community garden that has a bunch of blossoming chives right now.
For the fish, I just used this recipe, but I increased the cooking time to 50 minutes since this was one huge fish. It probably could have used another 10 minutes in the oven. I served it with a classic aioli and a red pepper sauce (you can find the recipe here). I really love this sauce. It goes great with grilled and roasted vegetables and meats and will probably be a staple of my summer cooking.