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.