Friday, April 21, 2017

Spaghetti alla Carbonara: "Coal Miner's Pasta"

Luscious and wonderfully indulgent, Spaghetti alla Carbonara is an Italian pasta dish based on eggs, pecorino romano, guanciale and black pepper. The key is to toss and thoroughly mix the cooked pasta off the heat with the cheese, eggs, pepper and pasta water, to create a creamy yet not overly thick sauce. A true carbonara has no cream, but although purists may shudder, I do sometimes add a little cream depending how I'm feeling. Like most recipes, the origins of the dish are obscure but there are many legends. As 'carbonara' literally means 'coal miner's wife', some believe that the dish was first made as a hearty meal for Italian coal miners. Romans use guanciale — cured pig's jowl — which is more delicate than pancetta — unsmoked Italian bacon — and also leaner. If you can find it, by all means use guanciale, otherwise pancetta or bacon work just as well. For the sheer wow-factor, I do like to drop an egg yolk into each nest of pasta, which guests stir to form an even creamier sauce. Garnished at the end with a flurry of coarsely grated Parmigiano, "Coal Miner's Spaghetti" must be one of the great pastas dishes of all time.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Serves 4

1 lb spaghetti
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb guanciale or pancetta 
4 large eggs, separated
1 1/4 cup fresh coarsely grated Pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp fresh chopped thyme leaves
1/4 cup heavy cream, optional

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta and cut the pancetta into 1/2 x 1/4 inch lardons. Combine the olive oil and pancetta in a large sauté pan set over medium heat, and cook until the pancetta has rendered its fat and is crisp and golden. Remove from the heat and set aside, being careful not to drain the fat. 

Cook the spaghetti in the boiling water until just al dente. Scoop out 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and set aside. Drain the pasta. Add the reserved pasta water to the pan with the pancetta, then toss in the pasta and heat, shaking the pan, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, and add 1 cup of the Parmigiano, the egg whites, thyme, pepper to taste, and the cream, if you're using it. Toss until thoroughly mixed and serve with a little extra grated cheese on the side. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Nigella's Gluten-Free Venetian Carrot Cake

Not all carrot cakes are created equal, especially where Nigella is concerned. This recipe, "originating from Venetian Jews, which sounds refreshingly medieval, made as it is from ground almonds, rather than flour, is enriched with eggs and olive oil and studded with rum-soaked sultanas." As she admits, "it's not much to look at'"– a golden disc about half the height of one layer of an ordinary cake – but it's incredibly moist and deliciously nutty, with a lovely citrus kick too. It's also gluten and lactose-free, for those who are sensitive to such things, but quite delicious in its own right. For a taller moister version, simply use a smaller 6-inch springform pan, cook it a little longer and the results are absolutely scrumptious.

Gluten-Free Venetian Carrot Cake 

Serves 8-10
Recipe courtesy of Nigella Lawson

Carrot cake:

3 tbsp pine nuts
2 medium carrots, about 8 oz
3 oz golden sultanas
2 1/4 fl oz rum
5 oz white granulated sugar
4 1/2 fl oz olive oil, plus extra for greasing
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
9 oz ground almonds
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, or to taste
1/2 lemon, finely grated zest and juice

Cream Cheese Frosting: 

8 oz cream cheese
3 cups icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the base of a 9-inch round springform cake pan* with baking parchment and grease the sides with olive oil. Toast the pine nuts by browning in a dry frying pan, then set aside. Grate the carrots in a food processor or with a coarse grater, then wrap in a clean kitchen towel and wrap them, to soak up excess liquid, then set aside.

Put the golden sultanas in a small saucepan with the rum, bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer for 3 minutes. Whisk the sugar and oil until creamily and airily mixed, then add the vanilla extract and eggs and, when well whisked, fold in the ground almonds, nutmeg, grated carrots, golden sultanas with any rum that clings to them, and finally, the lemon zest and juice.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared cake tin and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. The batter will be very shallow in the tin. Sprinkle the toasted pine nuts over the cake and put it into the oven for 30–40 minutes, or until the top is risen and golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out sticky but more or less clean. Remove from the oven and let the cake sit in its tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then un-spring and leave it on the rack to cool.

To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese in a standing mixer, until smooth, then add the sugar and vanilla, and mix until light and fluffy. To assemble the cake, place the carrot cake on a serving platter and spread with cream cheese frosting, and serve.

* NOTE: I used a 6-inch round springform pan for a taller cake and adjusted the baking time to 70 minutes, then turned off the oven and let the cake rest inside for another 10-15 minutes, so that the centre was cooked through.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Orecchiette with Sweet Italian Sausage & Broccoli

A traditional dish from Italy's Puglia region, orecchiette, which means 'little ears,' Orecchiette con la Cima di Rapa e Salsiccia is often made with robust rapini and fresh Italian sausage, however this Italian-inspired recipe by Emeril Lagasse features small florets of fresh broccoli which are quickly blanched in the boiling pasta water used for cooking the orecchiette, and removed while it is still crisp-tender. A wonderfully flavoured garlic, lemon and anchovy olive oil sauce is whisked together while the pasta is cooking and added to the sautéed sausage and pasta, along with a cup of pasta water, for a light and easy pasta that is soul satisfyingly delicious. 

Orecchiette with Broccoli and Sweet Italian Sausage

Serves 4

1 lb orrechiette pasta

1 head broccoli, cut into florets
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest, plus 2 tbsp lemon juice
4 anchovy fillets, minced
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1/4 cup white wine
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Parmesan or Pecorino, freshly grated, for serving
1 bunch chopped chives, for garnish

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions. In last 2 minutes of cooking, add broccoli and cook until bright green and crisp-tender. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta and broccoli.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together oil, garlic, lemon zest and juice, anchovies, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Add the sausage to the pot and cook over medium-high, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned and cooked through, about 6 to 8 minutes, adding some white wine to prevent the sausage from sticking if necessary. Remove from the heat, return the pasta and broccoli to the pot with the cooked sausage, and add the oil mixture. Toss well to combine, adding enough pasta water to create a thin sauce that coats the pasta nicely. Serve sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino and a flurry of chopped chives.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

White Balsamic-Braised Chicken with Leeks & Peas

Inspired by a recent recipe from Food & Wine, this delicious Braised Chicken recipe positively shouts springtime with a luscious combination of buttery leeks, baby green peas, fresh tarragon and crème fraîche with a splash of white balsamic vinegar that creates a wonderful tangy cream sauce for this easy and elegant entrée. Although the recipe suggests using whole chicken legs, both plump chicken breasts cut in a half or large succulent thighs would work equally well. Served with a heaping mound of creamy mashed potatoes and crisp french green beans, this dish makes a welcome addition to our culinary repertoire.

Vinegar-Braised Chicken with Leeks and Peas
Serves 6
Recipe courtesy of Food & Wine Magazine

6 whole chicken legs with thigh attached, bone in and skin on

Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 large leeks, halved lengthwise and finely sliced
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
10 oz package frozen baby peas, thawed
3 tbsp chopped tarragon leaves, plus additional for garnish
2 tbsp chopped parsley
3/4 cup crème fraîche

Preheat the oven to 425°F and position a rack in the upper third. Turn the chicken legs skin side down on a work surface and and cut halfway through the joint so that they lay flat, then season generously with salt and pepper.

In a large nonstick frying pan, heat half of the butter and oil. Add the chicken, skin side up, and cook over high heat until browned, 5-6 minutes. Turn and cook the chicken for another minute or two, then set aside.

Wipe out the frying pan, add the remaining butter and oil and cook the leeks over high heat until they begin to soften, about 4-5 minutes. Add the broth and vinegar and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper and pour the mixture into an ovenproof casserole.

Set the chicken on the leeks, skin side up and roast for about 25 minutes, until the breasts are cooked through. Turn on the broiler and broil for about 2 minutes, until the skin is golden and crisp. Transfer the chicken to a platter.

Place the casserole over a burner and boil over high heat until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the peas, herbs and crème fraîche, and simmer until the sauce is hot and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then pour the sauce over the chicken, garnish with additional tarragon and serve with creamy mashed potatoes and French green beans finished with silvered almonds.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Roast Lamb with Rosemary, Garlic & Anchovy Rub

There are few meals as impressive as a roasted bone-in leg of lamb. Studded with garlic, rosemary, lemon zest and anchovies, this simple and delicious roast makes a succulent centrepiece for any social occasion. Puréed into a coarse paste, the marinade is stuffed into small incisions around the boneless leg of lamb, then rubbed with olive oil and generously seasoned with salt and pepper. Roasted on high at 450°F for 15 minutes, then slow roasted at 325°F for about an hour, and the results are pink perfection. Lamb, like beef, doesn’t need to be cooked all the way, and is best at a rosy medium-rare — 135°F to 140°F when finished. Whether served as part of a traditional Easter dinner or quiet Sunday lunch with family, this recipe is easy to prepare, absolutely delicious, and goes especially well with my Mother-in-Law's special homemade mint sauce!

Roast Lamb with Rosemary, Garlic, Lemon & Anchovy Marinade
Serves 6-8

5 lb leg of lamb, bone-in
4 cloves garlic
6 anchovies
3 sprigs of rosemary, leaves only
1 lemon, zest only
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
salt and pepper, to taste

Using a small food processor, blend together the garlic, anchovies, rosemary leaves, lemon zest and 1 tablespoon of olive or anchovy oil until a coarse paste. Then using a sharp knife, make small incisions in the thickest portions of the lamb and fill the pockets with the garlic-herb paste, pressing the mixture in deep with your fingers. Rub any remaining paste over the top of the lamb and season with salt and pepper. Rub 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over the whole leg, then arrange on a roasting pan and preheat the oven to 450°F. 

Roast the lamb at 450°F for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325°F and continue cooking for 90 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the middle of lamb reads 135° for medium rare. Once the lamb is ready, remove from the oven and tent with foil for 15-20 minutes, allowing the juices to retract and make the roast lovely and moist. To serve, slice the leg of lamb onto a decorative platter and serve with Roast Potatoes and Sautéed Rapini, for a sensational Easter feast.

Susan's Magnificent Mint Sauce
Serves 6-8

4 tbsp fresh mint leaves, rinsed and chopped
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp hot water
3 tbsp white wine vinegar

Mix the chopped mint, sugar, hot water and white wine vinegar in a small bowl, until the sugar has dissolved. Cover and set aside.

Guy's Perfect Crispy Roast Potatoes
Serves 6-8

4-1/2 lb Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes 
3 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp lard or duck fat
Maldon salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 375°. Peel the potatoes and cut them into egg-size chunks, then parboil them in boiling water for about 6-8 minutes, but stop before they're cooked right through. Drain them in a colander and leave to cool slightly before shaking them in the colander back and forth a few times to rough them up a bit, which will makes the edges crispy. Season with some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the lard in a roasting pan and heat it in the oven until the fat is sizzling hot. Remove the pan from the oven and carefully add the potatoes in one layer, turning them carefully so they're coated all over. Roast for 45 minutes, turning gently at least once. If they look like they need a bit more browning, leave them in and turn up the heat slightly until they're golden brown and crispy. Before serving, drain well and season to taste with salt and a little pepper, and serve while they're hot. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Spanish Mackerel Teriyaki with Roasted Asparagus

A beautiful fish with iridescent silver and blue striped skin and tell-tale yellow spots, Spanish Mackerel are one of the richest sources for Omega-3 fatty acids with wonderfully flavourful dark meat. Delicious baked, grilled, poached or smoked, Mackerel is also popular served raw as Japanese sushi known as 'Saba', which is usually accompanied with fresh grated ginger, and sliced scallions to bring out the natural sweetness while counteracting the fish's rich oils. Marinating the mackerel in a sweet teriyaki sauce for a few hours before briefly sautéing in a nonstick pan makes for a simple, healthy and nutritious Good Friday fish dinner, delicious served with roasted asparagus and Basmati rice.

With dark meat, shimmering silver skin and tell-tale yellow spots, the Teriyaki marinated Mackerel filets cook over medium heat until golden on the underside

Flipped over and pressed down with a spatula to prevent the fish from curling, 
the mackerel cooks for another new minutes until cooked through

Spanish Mackerel Teriyaki with Roasted Asparagus
Serves 2

2 4-oz filets Spanish Mackerel, skin on
1 tsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup Japanese shoyu or Tamari soy sauce
1/8 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup miring rice wine
1/8 cup sake
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
1 tsp sesame oil 
1 tsp sesame seeds, for garnish

Mix the soy sauce, sugar, mirin, and sake together in a small saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook until thickened enough to coat a spoon, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Place the mackerel in a shallow baking dish and pour the teriyaki sauce over the fish and refrigerate for 1 hour.

While the fish is marinating, set the asparagus on a foil lined baking sheet and coat with a little vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper, then set aside. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Once the oven has reached temperature, place the asparagus in the oven for 15 minutes, until the spears are lightly browned and cooked through as desired.

Add a teaspoon of vegetable oil to a non-stick pan over medium-high heat and then place the fish skin side up and cook until the surface of the fish browns and about 3-5 minutes. Turn the fish over and using a flat spatula, press the fish into the pan to stop it from curling up, and cook until the fish is opaque. Serve the mackerel with a light drizzle of sesame oil and garnish with sesame seeds, then set over a bed of asparagus and serve with some white Basmati rice or soba noodles.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Cold Japanese Buckwheat Soba Noodle

A cold noodle salad is one of the perfect side dishes for the spring or summer. Light, cool and refreshing, this delicious recipe for Cold Soba Noodles absorbs all the flavour of the Asian-style marinade made with sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice, lime zest, brown sugar, minced garlic and a squeeze of orange. Delicious with Grilled Salmon, Ahi Tuna, Asian Chicken or Black Cod, these flavourful cold noodles add a umami touch to any Asian-inspired dishes.

Cold Soba Noodle Salad
Serves 2

2 bundles (3.5oz) of soba noodles (Japanese buckwheat noodles)
3/4 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 lime, zest and juice
1/4 orange, juiced
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp sriracha chili paste or similar, to taste
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
1 tsp sesame seeds

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook soba noodles for 5-7 minutes, until tender but not mushy. Drain and rinse with cold water until cool. Add all of the ingredients together in a medium size bowl and stir to combine. Add the cold noodles, cover and refrigerate one hour. The flavours will meld and the noodles will absorb the flavourful liquid. Serve with an extra scattering of chopped scallions and sesame seeds.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Miso-Marinated Black Cod & Shiitake Bok Choy Stirfry

Created by chef Nobu Matsuhisa in New York more than 20 years ago, this sweet and savoury miso-marinated black cod has been cloned by chefs all over the world. Nobu's fabulous miso-based marinade produces spectacular results with fatty or oily fish such as salmon, sea bass, yellow tail and scallops as well as chicken, pork and beef, but best of all — black cod. An ancient Japanese method for flavouring fish, the miso-marinade cures the flesh slightly and permeates it with a delicate flavour, and once grilled, caramelizes and glazes the surface, leaving the fish deliciously succulent. Although Nobu marinates the black cod for two to three days, it's also sensational when steeped in the marinade overnight or just a few hours. Moist and delicate with sweet soft flesh and signature buttery flavour, black cod is simply melt-in-your-mouth delicious!

Miso-Marinated Black Cod

Serves 2
Recipe adapted from Nobu: The Cookbook

1/8 cup sake 

1/8 cup mirin 
2 tbsp white miso paste 
1 1/2 tbsp sugar 
2 black cod fillets, about 1/2 pound each

Mushroom Bok Choy:
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 lb Shanghai bok choy, trimmed and thinly sliced
8 oz shiitake and beech mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
8 oz white beech mushrooms, trimmed
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

Bring the sake and the mirin to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Boil for 20 seconds to evaporate the alcohol. Turn the heat down to low and add the miso paste, mixing with a wooden spoon. When the miso has dissolved completely, turn the heat up to high again and add the sugar, stirring constantly with the wooden spoon to ensure that the bottom of the pan doesn't burn. Remove from heat once the sugar is fully dissolved. Cool to room temperature.

Pat dry the black cod fillets thoroughly with paper towels. Slather the fish with the miso marinade and place in a non-reactive dish or bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Nobu suggests leaving the cod to steep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days, however I cheat and chill it for just a few hours.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly wipe off any excess miso clinging to the fillets but don't rinse it off. Place the fish skin side down in a non-stick pan and cook until the surface of the fish browns and blackens in spots, about 3 minutes, then transfer to the oven and bake for 5 to 10 more minutes, until fish is opaque and flakes easily.

While the black cod is finishing in the oven, start the mushroom bok choy by heating one tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan oven over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant but not browned, about 30 seconds. Add the bok choy, mushrooms and ginger, and cook, stirring until wilted, about 5 minutes. Stir in the oyster sauce, sesame oil and salt, and serve when the black cod is done.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Salmon Teriyaki with Cold Soba Noodles & Broccoli

Teriyaki is a cooking technique used in Japanese cuisine in which foods are broiled or grilled with a glaze of soy sauce, mirin, sake and sugar. The word 'teriyaki' comes from the word 'teri', which refers to a shine or lustre given by the sugar content in the 'tare', which is boiled and reduced to the desired thickness, then used to marinate the meat or fish. 'Yaki' refers to the cooking method of grilling or broiling, where the meat is dipped in or brushed with sauce several times during cooking, which allows the sugars in the sauce to caramelize, for a deep, rich full-bodied flavour. Many kinds of teriyaki sauce are sold in grocery stores, but the basic sauce is so easy to make from scratch, and can be used to baste on salmon, chicken, vegetables and other fish all year round. This recipe for Salmon Teriyaki is delicious served with some steamed broccoli and Cold Soba Noodles, to soak up the lovely sauce.

Salmon Teriyaki with Chilled Soba Noodles

2 skin-on, organic salmon fillets
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup mirin
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, sliced, for garnish
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, for garnish

Chilled Soba Noodles:
2 3.5-ounce bundles of dried soba noodles
3/4 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 lime, zest and juice
1/4 orange, juiced
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup scallions, chopped, plus more for garnish
1 tsp sesame seeds, plus more for garnish

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the soba noodles for 5-7 minutes, until tender but not mushy. Drain and rinse with cold water until cool. Add all of the ingredients together in a medium size bowl and stir to combine. Add the cold noodles, cover and refrigerate one hour. The flavours will meld and the noodles will absorb the flavourful liquid. Just before serving, garnish with extra chopped scallions and sesame seeds.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the soy sauce, mirin, sugar, ginger and garlic. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the mixture becomes slightly syrupy, about 5 minutes. Let cool. Place the salmon in a shallow baking dish. Pour half of the teriyaki sauce over the salmon and refrigerate for 1 hour. Reserve the remaining the sauce.

Preheat an oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside. Remove the salmon from the teriyaki sauce, letting any excess drip off, and place skin-side-down. Cook the salmon until it is opaque in the centre, about 15-20 minutes. Brush the top of the salmon with the reserved sauce and garnish with green onion and sesame seeds. Serve with the chilled soba noodles and some steamed broccoli.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Lamb Chops with Roast New Potatoes on Arugula

Who can resist lovely fresh, lean and tender New Zealand rack of lamb, simply seasoned and pan fried with a handful of roast potatoes and a peppery bright green arugula? Quick, easy, healthy and delicious. Inspired by a recipe from Nigella's cookbook Nigellissima that I picked up at her book launch when she was in Toronto a few years ago, she says, "If you put your halved baby potatoes on to steam before you get started on the lamb chops, you can fairly effortlessly rely on a proper meat-and-potato supper in around 20 minutes. Steaming the potatoes is, for me, an important stipulation: a steamed spud is a sweet spud; more than that, cooked this way, rather than by boiling, the potatoes are dry when done, which makes them easy to fry to crisp bronzedness". Bronzedness? I don't know if that's a word, but it's certainly a fabulous recipe, and one that I make over and over again!

Lamb Chops with Mint, Chilli & Roast New Potatoes on Arugula
Serves 4
Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson

1 lb baby new potatoes, washed and halved but not peeled
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried mint
1/2 tsp celery salt
1 rack of lamb, cut into single chops
3 1/2 oz wild arugula
5 Campari tomatoes, cut in half
1 tsp Maldon sea salt flakes & black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint, plus some whole sprigs for garnish
Shaved parmigiano, for garnish

Put the halved new potatoes on to steam. Place the lamb chops in a dish that will fit them all in a single layer and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with red pepper flakes, mint and celery salt. Turn until well coated, and leave to marinate for 10 minutes. 

Heat a large heavy non-stick frying pan that will fit the chops in one layer, and cook on medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, depending on the size of the rack. While the chops cook, check that the potatoes are tender, which they should be by now, in which case, turn the heat off under the steamer. Turn the chops with tongs and cook a further 2-3 minutes. 

Arrange the arugula on a large platter and when lamb is done, but still juicily pink, arrange on top of the greens. Meanwhile, tip the steamed potatoes into the pan and fry for 3-4 minutes, then turn them over and fry for another 3 minutes, shaking the pan every now and again to make them tumble and turn in the hot, spiced fat. Using a slotted spatula, transfer potatoes to the platter and season with a flurry of Maldon salt, pepper, fresh mint, halved tomatoes and some shaved parmigiano — delizioso! 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Tagliolini Gratinati al Prosciutto con Besciamella

This sensational recipe from Locanda di Cipriani, on the tiny island of Torcello at the northern end of the Venetian Lagoon, is one of my absolute favourite pastas.  
According to Harry's Bar Cookbook by Arrigo Cipriani, in which a version of this recipe appears, Cipriani says that this dish is "one of the few combinations of French and Italian cuisines on our menu — the pasta and the ham are Italian; the sauce and the cooking method are French." It has become a classic of Locanda di Cipriani because everybody adores it, which is no great surprise. It is so easy to make and entirely delicious — the ultimate culinary combination.

100 grams of thick cut Prosciutto di Parma, about 2 slices

Julienned and sautéed for one minute

The sautéed prosciutto is added to the cooked tagliolini and tossed well with some butter and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 

The pasta is then placed in an oven proof casserole dish 

Topped with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, a cup of Béchamel sauce, a little more cheese and dotted with butter, the pasta is set under a broiler for 6-8 minutes until lightly golden and bubbly

The dish infuses the kitchen with the most mouth watering and intoxicatingly delicious aroma

Tagliolini Gratinati al Prosciutto con Besciamella
Serves 2 

3 tbsp butter

100 g prosciutto di Parma, thick cut, cut into julienne strips
1/2 lb dried tagliolini or fettucine egg pasta
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
salt and white pepper to taste

Béchamel Sauce: 

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 cup whole milk
1/8 tsp fresh grated nutmeg

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, make a bechamel sauce by melting the butter in a medium, heavy saucepan over low heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes. 

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1/4 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with nutmeg, and set aside until ready to use.

Preheat the broiler. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the prosciutto and cook it for a minute, stirring constantly. Cook the pasta in the boiling water untill al dente, then drain well in a colander. Put it in the pan with the prosciutto and toss well. Add another tablespoon of the butter, sprinkle with half the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and toss well to combine. 

Spread the pasta evenly in a copper grating dish or casserole. Spoon the béchamel sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano. Cut the remaining butter in to bits and scatter over the top. Broil as close as possible to the heat source or 475°F until golden and bubbly, about 6-8 minutes, and serve immediately.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Chicken Marsala with Creamy Dijon Mushroom Sauce

Chicken Marsala is an Italian dish made from chicken, mushrooms and Marsala wine. The chicken is traditionally pounded into cutlets, coated in flour, briefly sautéed, and then removed from the pan, which is then used to make a Marsala reduction sauce. I prefer to use bone-in chicken breasts with the skin on, and roasted whole in the oven until they are crisp and golden brown. Brushing the breasts with oil and seasoning with black pepper, paprika and a liberal dose of kosher salt ensures a perfect crisp outer skin. Just before the breasts finish roasting, the Marsala Mushroom Dijon Cream Sauce is prepared, by first sautéeing the mixed mushrooms in a little butter and olive oil until they're soft and fragrant. Some marsala and white are then added and cooked for about 5 minutes until slightly reduced. The sour cream and fresh thyme are stirred in at the end, and cooked over a reduced heat for another 6 to 8 minutes. Thick, creamy and absolutely swimming with mushrooms, the sauce is poured over the chicken breasts, that have been arranged in a warm platter, and garnished with a tangle of fresh thyme. Served with sautéed new potatoes and a spinach or vegetable gratin, this is an easy and absolutely delicious recipe.

Chicken Marsala with Creamy Dijon Mushroom Sauce with Thyme
Serves 2

2 chicken breasts, bone-in and skin-on, slit in half
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika

Marsala Mushroom & Dijon Cream Sauce:
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp vegetable oil
8 oz cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
8 oz shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/4 cup Marsala, or to taste
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, plus extra whole sprigs for garnish
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat the chicken breasts with vegetable oil and set on a foil lined baking pan. Season with fresh ground black pepper, paprika and a generous sprinkle of kosher salt — the more salt, the crisper the skin. Roast the chicken breasts for 35-45 minutes, depending on the size of the breasts, until they are crisp and golden brown. Turn the oven to low, cover the chicken with aluminium foil and begin the sauce.

Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted, add the sliced mushrooms and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, until the mushrooms are partially cooked through. Add the Marsala and white wine, and cook for 5 minutes allowing the wines to slightly reduce. Stir in the sour cream and thyme leaves, reduce the heat to medium and cook the mushroom sauce for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the chicken breasts from the oven and arrange in the frying pan, spooning the sauce over top, then place in the oven for 5-10 minutes. To serve, arrange the chicken on a decorative platter with the creamy Marsala Mushroom and Dijon Sauce over top, and garnish with fresh sprigs of thyme. Delicious served with mashed potatoes, rice or egg pasta.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Bibb Lettuce Salad with Fine Herb Vinaigrette

Tender buttery Bibb lettuce, at its flavorful best in spring, forms the basis for this simple salad, which is tossed with chopped fresh herbs and a light mustard vinaigrette. This salad is all about freshness. Use plenty of freshly picked fines herbes: parsley, chives, tarragon, and chervil; torn fresh onto a salad of Bibb lettuce, and finished with a light, and lively vinaigrette — merveilleux.

Bibb Lettuce with Fine Herb & Mustard Vinaigrette
Serves 4

2 heads Bibb lettuce 
3 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 
1 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar 
1 tsp Dijon mustard 
Malden salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste 
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives 
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon 
1 tbsp fresh chervil 
1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 

Separate the lettuce leaves. Tear the largest outer leaves in half, leaving the smaller leaves whole. Wash, rinse and dry the lettuce. In a large salad bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper to make a vinaigrette. Add the lettuce, chives, tarragon, chervil and parsley and toss well. Serve immediately. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Thomas Keller's Pancetta & Onion Quiche Lorraine

Thomas Keller, chef-proprieter of Napa Valley's French Laundry, is passionate about bistro cooking. He believes fervently that the real art of cooking lies in elevating to excellence the simplest ingredients; that bistro cooking embodies at once a culinary ethos of generosity, economy, and simplicity; that the techniques at its foundation are profound, and the recipes at its heart have a powerful ability to nourish and please. So enamoured is he of this older, more casual type of cooking that he opened the restaurant Bouchon, right next door to the French Laundry, so he could satisfy a craving for a perfectly made quiche. Quiche Lorraine or as Chef Thomas Keller calls quiche, "the sexiest pie", is an immensely important subject to Chef Keller. In his enormous and lavishly produced cookbook 'Bouchon', there are no less than 11 pages dedicated to making the perfect quiche with detailed explanations for the importance of each step. Named for the region of Lorraine in northeastern France, there are various versions of Quiche Lorraine, the most basic of which being just eggs, pancetta, milk and cream. The addition of onion confit and Comté cheese are just some of Keller's decadent adaptations which are absolute magic because the flavours complement each other so deliciously well. "I love quiche, but it has to be several inches high and made right," says chef Keller. Quiche, when done right, is a thoroughly luxurious experience — eggy, cheesy, creamy, fluffy, and rich. 

American restauranteur and cookbook author, Chef Thomas Keller

Covered with parchment, the onion confit is slowly cooked in butter with a bouquet garni 
on low heat for 2 hours, until exquisitely soft

One pound of pancetta

The pancetta is sliced into lardons

Baked at 375°F for 25 minutes

The onion confit and pancetta are combined with fresh thyme and warmed on 
medium heat for 3-4 minutes

The pastry is set within a greased springform pan and chilled for 20 minutes

Raw beans are poured into the pan to keep the pastry from puffing up, 
and then baked at 375°F for 35-45 minutes

Once the pastry is baked, the beans are removed

The quiche filling is poured into the cooked pastry shell and baked at 325°F for about 1 1/2 hours 

The quiche is done when the top of the quiche is browned and the custard is set 
when the pan is jiggled

The excess pastry is trimmed away along the edge and the quiche must be chilled slightly before serving, to allow the custard to set completely

Thomas Keller's Pancetta & Onion Quiche Lorraine with Comte Cheese
Serves 8
Recipe courtesy of Chef Tomas Keller

Onion Confit:

About 2 1/2 pounds (2 to 3 large) Spanish onions
8 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Bouquet Garni:
2 or 3 pieces dark green out leek leaves (6 to 7 inches long), washed
8 thyme sprigs
2 Italian parsley sprigs
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp black peppercorns

For the Pastry Shell:
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp sea salt
8 tbsp butter, unsalted, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/4 cup ice water
Canola oil to oil the pan

For the Batter:

2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
6 large eggs
1 Tbsp sea salt
1/4 tsp white pepper, freshly ground
6 gratings fresh nutmeg

For the Filling:

1 lb pancetta cut into 3/8-inch lardons
2 cups onion confit
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
2 tsp fresh thyme, minced
1/2 cup Comte or Gruyère cheese


Cut off the tops and bottoms of the onions and cut the onions lengthwise in half. Remove the peel and outer layers. Cut a V wedge in the bottom of each half to remove the core and pull out any solid flat pieces from the center.

Lay and onion half cut side down on a cutting board with the root end toward you. There are lines on the outside of the onion; cut along these lines which are the grain, rather than against them to help the onions soften more quickly. Holding the knife almost parallel to the board, slice the onion lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices, following the lines of the onion. Once you cut past the center of the onion, the knife angle will become awkward: Flip the onion onto its side (toward the knife), return the knife to the original position, and finish cutting the onion. Separate the slices of onion, trimming away any root sections that are still attached. Repeat with the remaining onions. (You should have about 8 cups of onions.)

To make a bouquet garni: Lay out 1 leek green. Place the herbs and peppercorns on top and wrap in the remaining leaf or leaves to forma circular bundle; tie securely with kitchen twine in at least three spots.

Warm 1/4 cup of water in a large pot over low heat. Add the butter and whisky gently to melt. Add the onions, salt, and bouquet garni, stir to combine, and place a parchment lid on top, pressing it against the onions. Cook very slowly, stirring the onions every 20 to 30 minutes at first, more often toward the end of cooking, for about 2 hours. The onions will wilt and steam will rise, but they should not brown. Check the onions after about 30 minutes: If they seem lost in the pot, transfer to a smaller pot and cut down the parchment lid to fit. If there is a lot of liquid remaining at this point, you can turn up the heat slightly to cook a bit more rapidly.

After about 2 hours, the onions will have softened but should not be falling apart; there still may be liquid left in the pot. Remove and discard the bouquet garni. Let the onions cool in their liquid. 
Transfer the onions, with their liquid, to a plastic container and refrigerate for up to a week. Drain the confit before using.


Place 1 cup of the flour and the salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer to low speed and add the butter a small handful at a time. When all the butter has been added, increase the speed to medium and mix until the butter is completely blended with the flour. Reduce the speed, add the remaining flour, and mix just to combine. Add the water and mix until incorporated. The dough will come around the paddle and should feel smooth, not sticky, to the touch.

Remove the dough from the mixer and check to be certain that there are no visible pieces of butter remaining; if necessary, return the dough to the mixer and mix briefly again. Pat the dough into a 7- to 8-inch disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to a day. (If the dough does not rest, it will shrink as it bakes.)

Lightly brush the inside of a 9-by-2-inch-hgh ring mold with canola oil and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Place the dough on a floured work surface and rub on all sides with flour. Flatten it into a larger circle using a rolling pin or the heel of your hand. Roll the rolling pin back and forth across the dough a few times, then turn it 90 degrees and roll again. Continue to turn and roll until the dough is 3/16 inch thick and about 14 inches in diameter. (If the kitchen is hot and the dough has become very soft, move it to a baking sheet and refrigerate for a few minutes.

To lift the dough into the ring, place the rolling pin across the dough about one-quarter of the way up from the bottom edge, fold the bottom edge of dough up and over the pin, and roll the dough up on the rolling pin. Lift the dough on the pin, hold it over the top edge of the ring and unroll the dough over the mold, centering it. Carefully lower the dough into the ring, pressing it gently against the sides and into the bottom corners of the ring. Trim any dough that extends more than an inch over the sides of the mold and reserve the scraps. Fold the excess dough over against the outside of the ring. (Preparing the quiche shell this way will prevent it from shrinking down the sides as it bakes. The excess dough will be removed after the quiche is baked.) Carefully check for any cracks or holes in the dough, and patch with the reserved dough as necessary. Place in the refrigerator or freezer for at least 20 minutes to resolidify the butter. Reserve the remaining dough scraps.

Put a rack set in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 deg.F.

Line the quiche shell with a 16-inch round of parchment. Fill the shell with pie weights or dried beans, gently guiding the weights into the corners of the shell and filling the shell completely.

Bake the shell for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the edges of the dough are lightly browned but the bottom is still light in color.

Carefully remove the parchment and weights. Check the dough for any new cracks or holes and patch with the thin pieces of the reserved dough if necessary. Return the shell to the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the bottom is a rich golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow the shell to cool completely on the baking sheet. Once again, check the dough for any cracks or holes, and patch if necessary before filling with the quiche batter.

Combine the milk and cream in a large saucepan and heat over medium heat until scalded (meaning a skin begins to form on the surface). Remove from the heat and let cool for 15 minutes before continuing.

Put 3 eggs, half the milk and cream mixture, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/8 teaspoon white pepper, and 3 gratings of nutmeg in a blender and blend in low speed for a few seconds to combine the ingredients. Increase the speed to high and blend for 30 seconds to minute, or until the batter is light and foamy.

This is the first layer of the quiche. Once you have assembled it, add the remaining ingredients to the blender and repeat the process to complete the quiche.


Put a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Spread the sliced pancetta on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until it has rendered its fat; the pancetta will not be crisp at this point. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

Combine the onion confit and cooked pancetta in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Season with the salt, pepper, and fresh thyme, then stir together until warm, about 3 to 4 minutes, then drain on paper towels.

Scatter 1/4 cup of the cheese and half the onion mixture evenly into the cooled quiche shell (still on the baking sheet). Blend the quiche batter again to aerate it, then pour in enough of the batter to cover the ingredients and fill the quiche shell approximately halfway. Top the batter with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese and the remaining onion mixture. Blend the remaining batter and fill the quiche shell all the way to the top. (If you don't have a very steady hand, you might spill some of the batter on the way to the oven; fill the shell most of the way, then pour the final amount of batter on top once the quiche is on the oven rack.)

Bake for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours, or until the top of the quiche is browned and the custard is set when the pan is jiggled. Remove the quiche from the oven and let cool to room temperature on a rack. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 1 day, or up to 3 days.

Once the quiche is thoroughly chilled, using a metal bench scraper or a sharp knife, scrape away the excess crust from the top edge. Tilt the ring on its side, with the bottom of the quiche facing you, and run a small paring knife between the crust and the ring to release the quiche. Set the quiche down and carefully lift off the ring. Return to the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Using a long serrated knife and supporting the sides of the crust, carefully cut through the edge of the crust in a sawing motion. Switch to a long slicing knife and cut through the custard and bottom crust. Repeat, cutting the quiche into 8 pieces. If you like, place the pieces on the baking sheet and reheat at 325°F for 15 minutes, or until hot throughout. 

Bouchon cookbook by Thomas Keller