Thursday, January 26, 2017

Manouri and Kefalograviera Tomato Salad

     A Salad of Tomatoes and Classic Greek Cheese To Wet The Appetite!
     Tomatoes and good cheese are a classic combination for a simple salad appetizer.  Today's cheese and plum tomato platter can be served year round, but this salad is best when ripe local tomatoes are in season.  If the tomatoes are Non-GMO organic Heirloom Plum Tomatoes, the flavor will be even better.
     Ripe Plum Tomatoes are a classic choice, but it seems like all Plum Tomatoes at regular grocery stores are genetically modified and grown at chemically dependent farms.  Plum Tomatoes at high production farms are shipped green, stored cold, then quickly ripened with ethylene gas.  The result of all this abuse is a plum tomato that tastes like cardboard.  The flavor is the key when making a simple tomato salad appetizer, so it pays to be selective when shopping for Plum Tomatoes.  
     Insalata Caprese is a classic Italian recipe.  The original Insalata Caprese was made with Fresh Mozzarella and a simple lemon flavored olive oil sauce.  Many chefs simply feature a top shelf olive oil with mild cheese from the Mediterranean region, with nothing extra added.  Depending on the cheese selection, the "simpler the better" does not always apply.  Today's recipe features a simple garlic herb vinaigrette that is not too acidic.  
     Today's recipe features two classic Grecian cheese varieties that are protected by originality control laws.  Both Manouri and Kefalograviera pair well with tomatoes.
     Manouri Cheese is made with the whey byproduct from Feta Cheese or sheep milk cheese.  Cream is added to give this cheese a light semi firm texture.  Manouri has a delicate texture that easily crumbles, so care must be taken when handling this cheese.  The flavor is light and it is not tart tasting like goat milk cheese can be.  Manouri is pleasantly light on the palate.
     Kefalograviera is a hard cheese that can be aged for an extended time to increase flavor.  A short aging period results in a smooth hard texture that is easily sliced thin.  Kefalograviera that is aged for an extended time will be extra hard and it will crumble if care is not taken when slicing.  Kefalograviera is usually made with goat milk, but depending on the local point of origin, sheep milk can be in the mixture.  The sharp flavor of Kefalograviera remains mellow on the palate even when aged for an extended time.    
     Garlic Oregano Vinaigrette:
     This recipe yields about 2 tablespoons.  (1 petite portion)
     For this cheese platter, the dressing should have a mild flavor that is not too acidic.  Virgin olive oil is far too strong of a flavor for the Manouri and Kefalograviera Cheese selection.  Pomace Olive Oil should be used to make the dressing, because it has a milder flavor.  Keep in mind that only a small amount of the dressing is needed, especially if the Plum Tomatoes are ripe and "sweet."
     Step 1:  Place 1 teaspoon of water in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of white wine vinegar.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of garlic paste.
     Add 1 small pinch of oregano.  (Rub the oregano between your fingers to release the full flavor.)
     Add 1 small pinch of ground dried mild red chile pepper.  (Paprika or dried Kashmir Pepper are good choices.)
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Set the mixing bowl aside for 5 minutes, so the flavors meld.
     Step 2:  Slowly add 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil while whisking, so the oil partially emulsifies.
     Place the vinaigrette in a container.
     Stir before serving.
     Manouri and Kefalograviera Tomato Salad:
     This recipe yields 1 appetizer salad portion.
     Manouri and Kefalograviera Cheese are available at Greek delicatessens.  These cheese varieties are shaped like thick wheels, and they are usually cut into wedge shaped pieces for customers.  Purchasing a thin wedge of each cheese will make assembling this salad much easier.
     Tango Lettuce is nice for garnishing plates.  If none is available, any petite spring lettuce green will do.
     Step 1:  Cut 1 ripe large Plum Tomato into 3/16" thick slices.
     Slightly overlap each of the tomato slices in a circle pattern on a plate.
     Step 2:  Cut a thin wedge of Kefalograviera Cheese into 5 long triangle shaped pieces that are about 3/16" thick.
     Arrange the Kefalograviera Cheese triangles in a star pattern on the tomato slices.
     Step 3:  Cut a thin wedge of Manouri Cheese into 5  long triangle shaped wedges that are about 1/2" thick.
     Arrange the Manouri wedges in a star pattern between the Kefalograviera slices.
     Step 4:  Place a few small pieces of Tango Lettuce on the center of the plate.
     Place a few small thin Bermuda Onion slices around the lettuce.
     Drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons of the Garlic Oregano Vinaigrette over the center of the cheese wedges and tomatoes.
     Viola!  A simple appetizer salad with a Greek theme!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Foie de veau a l'anglaise

     English Style Veal Liver The Classic French Way!
     Foie de veau a l'anglaise is an exceptionally nice veal liver recipe.  There is no similarity when comparing today's recipe to the old standard Liver and Onions entrée.  The classic French interpretation of English style veal liver makes use of a simple pork lardon (bacon), lemon and parsley butter flavor combination.  The lardons add a rich savory flavor that goes well with liver, while the lemon makes the sautéed liver light on the palate.  The high proportion of parsley in the butter sauce mellows the flavor and it has a medicinal effect.  Parsley actually benefits those who eat a meat rich diet, because it helps to alleviate gout symptoms.    
     I have cooked Shad Roe using this same l'anglaise preparation back when I was a sauté chef and saucier at an exclusive Florida yacht club, but never calves liver.  Oddly enough, the thought never occurred to me, even though I prepared 1 or 2 whole veal liver per week for two years.  For some reason I never thought that a lemon parsley butter sauce was meant for dark meats or offal.
     Recently while browsing through some old French cook books from the early 1900's, I found out that the l'anglaise preparation does apply to liver too, so I gave it a try.  The result was a flavor contrast that was so interesting and appealing, that it would even please guests that prefer to not eat liver at all, because of poorly prepared liver entrée experiences in the past.  The lemony parsley butter sauce does not mask the flavor of liver, but it does tame the rich flavor.    
     Classic White Veal is taboo in modern times due to ethical reasons.  Modern veal is basically a young calf that is treated humanely, so the meat is usually a reddish pink color instead of a pale pink color.  There also is very little difference between veal liver and calves liver in modern times.  Therefore, if no veal liver is available at the butcher shop or food market, then calves liver is fine for today's recipe.  If the strong flavor of beef liver is preferred, then by all means, use beef liver!  I am sure that the l'anglaise preparation will even tame the strong flavor of beef liver to an extent.
     Pomme de terre Rösti (Rösti Potato) was popular in French fine dining restaurants in the 1990's.  Rösti are a highly seasoned Swiss potato fritter that is usually prepared like a rustic potato pancake.  I used to make Potato Rösti everyday for just one lamb entrée on the menu at a Michelin rated French restaurant, when refined French comfort food was popular shortly after the events of 9/11.  Rösti is usually served for breakfast in Switzerland, but it is also a nice accompaniment for rich tasting meat or sausage.  A petite portion of Rösti accompanies today's offal recipe.

     Potato Rösti:
     This recipe yields 1 large Rösti that can be sliced into 4 to 6 petite portions!
     The potato mixture must be cooked shortly after grating or it will oxidize and discolor.  Soaking the grated potato in water to reduce oxidation will remove the starch that is needed to hold the Rösti together, so do not soak the grated potato!  Blanching the potato before grating is the best solution.    
     Step 1:  Place a sauce pot of water over medium high heat.
     Bring the water to a boil.
     Step 2:  Select a large 10 ounce russet potato.
     Peel the potato.
     Place the potato in the pot of boiling water.
     Blanch the potato for 4 or 5 minutes, so the surface is still firm and the center just starts to heat up.
     Step 3:  Remove the potato from the hot water.
     Let the potato cool till it can be handled with bare hands.
     Step 4:  Grate the hard blanched potato into a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped onion.
     Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 2 pinches of Herbs de Provence.
     Add 2 pinches of minced Italian Parsley
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 5:  Heat an 8" wide non-stick sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add the Potato Rösti mixture.
     Use a spatula to flatten the grated potatoes and even the edges, so it looks like a potato pancake that is about 1/2" thick.  (The height will reduce to about 3/8" after cooking.)
     Step 6:  Sauté till the bottom half becomes slightly crispy and firm, while occasionally gently shaking the pan to prevent sticking.
     Step 7:  Flip the Rösti.
     *Flip the Rösti just like flipping eggs.  If the Rösti is damaged or it falls apart, it is okay.  Just use a spatula to pack the Rösti back into a pancake shape!
     Briefly sauté the second side of the Rösti for 30 seconds.
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the pan in a 350ºF oven.
     Bake the Rösti till the potato is fully cooked and the surface is a golden brown color.
     Step 9:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Keep the Rösti warm on a stove top.
     *Just before serving, slide the Rösti onto a cutting board and cut it into pie shaped portions.  Use a spatula to transfer a Rösti portion onto a plate.     

     This recipe yields 1 garnish portion.
     Step 1:  Cut a piece of salt pork into diced cube shaped lardons.  (About 1/4 cup is needed)
     Soak the diced salt pork in ice cold water for 20 minutes, to leach out some of the salt.
     Drain off the water.
     Step 2:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
     Add the diced salt pork.
     Gently sauté till the the grease renders and the lardons are crispy golden brown.
     Step 3:  Use a slotted spoon to remove the lardons from the pan and set them aside in a container.
     Keep the lardons warm on a stove top.
     Step 4:  Place the lardon grease from the pan into a separate container and set it aside.  
     *The salt pork grease will be used to cook the calves liver later in the recipe.

     Foie de veau a l'anglaise: 
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Cut 4 equal size veal liver slices that are about 1/4" thick and weigh 3 to 4 ounces apiece.
     Dredge the calves liver slices in flour.
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved salt pork lardon grease.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Place the floured calves liver pieces side by side in the hot rendered grease and butter.
     Lightly season with white pepper.  (Salt may not be necessary, because salt pork grease was used.)
     Sauté till the liver is lightly browned on both sides and the liver is cooked to the desired finish temperature.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the veal liver slices on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan.
     Keep the liver warm on a stove top till the sauce is made.
     Step 4:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
     Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of finely minced shallot.
     Sauté till the shallot turns clear in color.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of finely minced Italian Parsley.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Stir till the parsley wilts.  (This only takes a few seconds!)
     Step 6:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Add 2 teaspoons of chilled unsalted butter while stirring, to finish the butter sauce.
     Pour the sauce into a ceramic cup.
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top.

     Step 1:  Overlap the liver slices across the front half of a plate.
     Place 1 thin half lemon slice on each piece of liver.
     Step 2:  Spoon a generous portion of the parsley lemon butter sauce over the liver slices and onto the plate.
     Sprinkle the reserved lardons over the liver.
     Step 3:  Place a petite portion of Potato Rösti on the back half of the plate.
     Serve with vegetables of your choice.
     *The vegetables in the photos are Braised Brussel Sprouts and Sautéed Portobello Mushroom Quarters.

     Classic Foie de veau a l'anglaise looks as good as it tastes!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Cannelloni di Agnello

     Lamb Cannelloni!
     Cannelloni is a favorite of many people, yet in this modern age there are relatively few restaurants that offer this Italian pasta on a menu.  In America, the best place to look for Cannelloni is at old school Italian restaurants in cities along the Northeast Coast.   
     Maybe the reason why Cannelloni is rarely seen on restaurant menus has something to do with modern interpretations of Manicotti.  Manicotti nearly always used to only have a cheese filling, but some modern chefs now use meat fillings to stuff Manicotti.  Meat stuffed Manicotti is usually offered at corporate chain restaurants, but these chain restaurants are not really authentic Italian restaurants anyway, so the classic definition of Manicotti is still valid.        
     Cannelloni is always made with pasta, while Manicotti is usually made with Crespelle (Italian savory crêpes).  Some Italian chefs do make Manicotti with large pre fabricated pasta tubes, but this is an exception to the rule.  By classic definition, Cannelloni is a meat stuffed cylinder shaped pasta, while Manicotti is a cheese stuffed cylinder shaped crêpe!
     Classic Cannelloni is made with a meat filling, but a dense vegetable stuffing is an option.  The meat choice is usually beef, which is flavored with soffritto and herbs.  There is cheese in the meat stuffing, but only enough is added to bind the ingredients together and give the stuffing a creamy texture.      
     The lamb harvest season takes place during late spring and early summer.  During this time of year lamb it is used to make traditional pastas nearly everywhere in Italy.  The cuisine of Rome and Abruzzo are both renowned for great lamb recipes and Cannelloni di Agnello is one of the best.  
     In this modern age, lamb is no longer limited to being a spring and early summer item.  Lamb is now frozen and sold year round.  Importation of lamb from Australia and New Zealand effectively doubles the length of the lamb season in the northern hemisphere.  Prime cuts of lamb are the rib rack and leg, which command a high price.  Shoulder cuts of lamb and ground lamb actually sell for a very modest price.  A good Italian pasta recipe, like Cannelloni di Agnello, can make a cheap package of ground lamb taste like a million bucks!   

     Salsa di Pomodoro:  
     Follow the link to the recipe in this website.
     • Salsa di Pomodoro

     Lamb Stuffing For Pasta:  
     This recipe yields about 2 cups.  (Enough for 2 large cannelloni.)
     This lamb stuffing can be used to make a variety of stuffed pastas, like Cannelloni, Tortellini or Ravioli.    
     Step 1:  Heat a braising pan (or wide sauce pot) over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 2 teaspoons of finely chopped garlic.
     Add 2 tablespoons of very finely minced onion.
     Add 2 tablespoons of very finely minced carrot.
     Add 2 tablespoons of very finely minced celery.   
     Stir and sauté till the soffritto vegetables become tender, but not browned at all.
     Step 2:  Add 10 ounces of lean ground lamb.
     Stir the meat with a wire whisk occasionally as it cooks, so any clumps of ground meat are broken up into tiny pieces.   
     Sauté till the ground lamb is fully cooked and lightly browned. 
     Step 3:  Add 1 cup of chicken broth.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.  (to taste)  
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of oregano.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.  (chile caribe)
     Add 1 pinch of ground fennel seed.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley.  
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of grated mozzarella cheese.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of fine grated Parmigiana Cheese.
     Add 3 tablespoons of fine plain bread crumbs.
     Stir as the cheese melts.
     Gently simmer and stir, till the excess liquid evaporates and the mixture becomes thick.  The lamb stuffing should be able to stand tall in a spoon.
     Step 5:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Allow the stuffing to cool to room temperature.
     Place the stuffing in a container.
     Chill the stuffing for about 1 hour, so it becomes dense and firm.

     Pasta Dough Recipe:
     Follow the link to the recipe in this website.

     Pasta Sheets For Cannelloni:
     This recipe yields enough for 2 Cannelloni.  (1 portion)
     • A ruler, yardstick or measuring tape is needed.  A 90º Plastic Carpenter Square is good for making perfectly square cuts.  
     • Most pasta sheet rolling machines produce a pasta sheet that is 6" or 8" wide.  A piece of pasta dough sheet for Cannelloni should be cut 6" x 7".  The 7" side will be the length and the 6" side will be the width.  
     • The reason why the width is 6" is easy to figure out by using a circumference calculation and common sense.  A rolled Cannelloni that has a diameter of 1 1/2" will require a 6" wide pasta sheet, so there is room for a little bit of pasta overlap!     
     • Keep in mind that the ends of each rolled Cannelloni will be trimmed, so the stuffing is flush with the pasta.  About 1/4" is usually trimmed off of each end, so a 7" x 6" pasta sheet rectangle will yield a finished Cannelloni that is about 6 1/2" long and 1 1/2" thick.           
     Step 1:  Place a long sheet of fresh pasta dough on a countertop.
     Cut 2 rectangle shapes that measure 6" x 7".               
     *A pizza cutting wheel is best for cutting pasta.
     Set the 2 pasta sheet rectangles aside.  
     Step 2:  Bring a large pot of water to a gentle boil over medium high heat.
     Place the 2 large rectangle shaped pasta sheet pieces in the hot water.
     Boil till the pasta has a firm texture and the pasta starts to float.  (About 1 or 2 minutes.)
     Step 3:  Drain the hot water out of the pot.
     Place the pot under cold running water.
     Cool the pasta sheets in the pot with the cold running water.
     Step 4:  Place the cooked pasta sheet rectangles on a dry lint free pastry towel and pat them dry.
     Set the pasta sheet rectangles aside.  (Keep the cooked pasta rectangles separated, so they do not stick to each other!) 
     Cannelloni di Agnello:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.  (2 Cannelloni)
     Semi dry cooked fresh pasta will stick to itself, so the pasta will not usually unravel after it is rolled into a cylinder shape.  The stuffing is also sticky enough to hold the pasta in place.
     Step 1:  Remove the Lamb Stuffing from the refrigerator and let it warm to room temperature.
     Place the 2 cooked 6" x 7" pasta sheets side by side on a counter top.  (The 7" side will be the length.)    
     Mound about 6 ounces of the lamb stuffing evenly across the length of each pasta sheet rectangle.
     Step 2:  Tightly roll each pasta rectangle, so it is a uniform cylinder shape.  (There should about 3/8" of pasta overlap. 
     Press any loose lamb stuffing into the ends of the pasta tube.
     Step 3:  Set the 2 Cannelloni next to each other on a cutting board.
     Use a sharp thin knife to trim the ends of the Cannelloni, so the lamb stuffing is flush with the end of each pasta tube and so the two Cannelloni are cut to equal lengths.  (The finished length should be about 6 1/2".)
     Step 4:  Select an individual size oval casserole dish that is about 8" in length and wide enough for the 2 Cannelloni.    
     Place about 2/3 cup of the Salsa di Pomodoro in the casserole dish.  
     Place the 2 cannelloni on the sauce, with the seam side facing down.
     Step 5:  Place the casserole dish on a baking pan.  
     Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Bake till the Cannelloni start to become hot.  (About 5 minutes)
     Step 6:  Remove the casserole dish pan from the oven.
     Spoon about 1/2 cup of Salsa di Pomodoro over the center of the Cannelloni.
     Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of grated mozzarella cheese over the sauce.
     Step 7:  Return the casserole pan to the 325ºF oven.
     Bake till the cheese melts and the Cannelloni becomes hot.  (About 6 to 8 minutes)  
     *Do not brown the pasta or cheese!  Browning creates undesirable bitter flavors.  It is okay if a few golden highlights appear. 
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Place the Cannelloni di Agnello casserole dish on a doily lined serving platter.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig. 

     The aromatic flavor of a classic Cannelloni di Agnello will certainly please guests! 

Fresh Pasta Dough ~ Fresh Pasta Sheets

     Making Fresh Pasta!
     Reorganizing and editing the old original recipes has taken more than one year and the project still has a way to go.  Deciding the best course of action when editing the old recipes usually involves making the project more user friendly.  One way to enhance the experience is to make use of hyperlinks.  For example, instead of printing a recipe for Pasta Dough every time that it is needed in individual pasta recipes, it is best to publish a Pasta Dough article that can be accessed by clicking on a hyperlink.  Those readers who already know how to make Pasta Dough can skip over the hyperlink, while those who are still learning can easily access the page.  
     I have a lot of fresh pasta making experience as a professional restaurant chef.  I first learned how to make fresh pasta while apprenticing with a great Sicilian chef in an Italian restaurant.  After the initial learning experience, I was making pasta like a seasoned pro.  Practice makes perfect!  The more fresh pasta that one makes, the more adept one will be at making fresh pasta!
     When I attended a four year BA degree culinary arts program at Le Cordon Bleu, I already had 30 years of restaurant experience.  On the day that the college culinary arts instructor had to teach the students how to make Italian pasta, many students lagged behind and the teacher became so frustrated that he yelled across the room to me and said, "Will you please teach those students how to make pasta the right way!"  
     I just went into action mode, just like teaching a line cook how to make pasta for the first time in a restaurant.  It was then that the students had an inkling of what laid in store for them in a professional environment.  Pro chefs have no time to fool around, so they get straight to the point and drive the point home in as little time as possible.  I used the same teaching techniques that the great Sicilian chef instilled upon me, when I made fresh pasta the first time.  Talking about the techniques, while the hands never let the pasta sit still, is the best way to teach pasta making.  Teaching pasta making is basically like developing interest first, then focusing the attention on the techniques, which in turn will develop a knack for the procedure with repetition.  With practice, a novice can make fresh pasta blindfolded.
     Oddly enough, making the pasta dough is not always the best place to start when teaching how to make fresh pasta.  It is better to let someone get the feel of the dough first while actively making pasta.  A learner will feel the texture and elasticity of the dough while running the dough through a pasta rolling machine.  When making pasta shapes, a learner will become familiar with how the dough reacts to stretching, pressure, etcetera.  In other words, shaping pasta is the best way to become familiar with pasta dough and this will make it easier to make a perfect batch of pasta dough from scratch on the first attempt.
    When making pasta dough, the proportion of flour to egg nearly always remains the same, no matter what kind of flour is used.  The basic proportion for Italian Pasta Dough is 1 cup of flour per large egg.  
     For certain pastas, only Semolina Flour (Durham Wheat Flour) is needed.  For pasta that benefits from more elasticity or a more refined texture, a combination of Somolina and High Gluten Flour is a good choice.  When making basic Egg Noodles, only Refined Bread Flour is used and no Semolina is needed.
     A very tiny amount of olive oil is added to Italian Pasta Dough.  Olive Oil acts as a buffering cushion and it helps to elongate the gluten strands, so the pasta dough becomes more elastic.  A little bit of salt is sometimes added to pasta dough recipe.  Salt adds flavor and it actually helps to prevent yeast contamination.  A tiny amount of water is also added.  Water helps to make the dough more pliable.  
     Pasta Dough can be started in a heavy duty steel gear driven mixer with a dough hook attachment.  This saves a little bit of time, but a word of caution must be mentioned.  Once the ingredients are combined, continuing to use a mixer to knead the pasta dough is not a good idea, because pasta dough is so stiff that it will wear out the electric motor in a mixer.  Therefore, it is best to just mix till the ingredients combine, then turn the stiff dough out of the electric mixer onto a countertop where it can be kneaded by hand.
     Pasta dough can be rolled into thin sheets with a rolling pin.  The rolling pin technique does take practice to master.  The problem is that sometimes there will be thin spots on a sheet of pasta when a rolling pin is used.  
     A simple hand turned pasta sheet rolling machine does make life easier.  A hand cranked pasta sheet rolling machine is a good investment.  Some are better than others, so it pays to do a little bit of research before purchasing a hand turned pasta sheet rolling machine.  
     After learning how use a hand turned pasta sheet rolling machine, a cook can turn out plenty of pasta sheets in very little time.  The pasta sheet thickness is adjustable and there will be no thin spots.  Pasta sheet rolling machines also have optional attachments for making Linguine, Fettuccine and other fancy pasta shapes.  All of the pasta shapes in the photos above were made with pasta dough that was run through a hand turned pasta sheet machine.              
     On a side note, there is a difference between pasta dough for hand rolling machines and pasta dough for machines that make extruded pasta.  Extrusion machines use pressure to force the pasta dough through a shaping plate.  Tube shaped pastas, like Ziti, are made with an extrusion machine.  Pasta dough for an extrusion machine is usually only made with Semolina and water, with no egg or oil.  The techniques used to make pasta with an extrusion machine are different too.  The extrusion pasta making topic is best left for another recipe article.                                

     Italian Pasta Dough:
     This recipe yields about 2 1/2 cups in volume.  (Enough for 3 or 4 portions of pasta, depending on the application.)
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/2 cups of semolina in a large mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 cup of all purpose flour.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.  
     Mix the dry ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Mound the dry ingredients on the center of the mixing bowl.
     Form a shallow well on the center of the mound.
     Add 2 whisked large eggs to the well.  
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil.
     Step 3:  Use a fork to gentle stir the eggs in the shallow well on the mound of flour.  
     As you stir the eggs, allow the eggs to gradually gather the surrounding flour.
     Stir till a dough starts to form.
     Scrape the ingredients that are stuck to the fork back into the mixing bowl.
     Step 4:  Start using your fingers to gradually incorporate the remaining dry flour mixture in the bowl into the wet dough mixture.
     Step 5:  *At this stage, the dough may become dry and crumbly.  If this happens, then add 1/4 teaspoon of water at a time while kneading, till cracks no longer appear on the surface of the dough when the dough is firmly pressed.  It may take somewhere between 1/2 teaspoon to 2 teaspoons to give the dough a smooth firm texture.  Be careful not to add too much water!  The goal is to only make the stiff dough pliable     
     Step 6:  Start kneading the dough with this method.  Flatten the dough, then fold the dough and flatten the dough again.  The dough should be pressed with the heels of your palms.  
     Continue to knead the dough till it is thoroughly blended.
     Step 7:  Check the texture of the dough.  Press the dough with 1 finger with enough pressure to make a dent in the dough.  The dough should only partially spring back when it has the correct texture. 
     *If the dough springs all the way back to its original shape, then it is too stiff.  The extra stiff texture can be corrected by adding a sprinkle of water while kneading.  If the dent in the dough remains without bouncing back, then the dough is too wet.  A wet dough can be corrected by kneading the dough on a flour dusted surface, till it becomes the correct texture.
     Step 8:  Form the finished dough into a thick rectangular block shape.
     Place the pasta dough block in a sealed container.
     Refrigerate the dough for 3 to 4 hours, so any coarse semolina in the dough becomes smooth.  
     Pasta Sheet Rolling Machine Techniques:
     Follow these instructions and tips for rolling out sheets of pasta!
     *A very light dusting of flour on the work surface is best, when rolling sheet pasta.  Sometimes I do not dust with any flour at all if the room temperature is chilly.
     *When running sheets of pasta through a pasta sheet rolling machine, the pasta will pile up like an accordion and stick together, so pause while running a pasta sheet through the roller and gently use the backs of your fingers to carry the pasta sheet out from under the machine and over the work surface, so the pasta sheet does not wrinkle.
     *For the start, set the rollers to the widest setting, then run the pasta through several times, till it becomes smooth and till it starts to become wide.  
     *If the pasta sheet has rough edges after being run through the first few times, then fold the sheet in half lengthwise and keep running it through till the pasta sheet has smooth edges.  This is only done at the widest setting on the pasta rolling machine.
     Step 1:  Cut or press a 1/2" x 3" x 10" rectangular slab of pasta dough.  
     Step 2:  Gently feed the thick slab of dough through the rolling machine at the widest setting to start the process.  
     *The first past through will usually result in a rough broken pasta sheet.  Fold and press the sheet and pieces together, before running the dough through a second time.  On the second pass through the pasta roller, the dough will hold together and start to look like a thick sheet.
     Step 3:  Continue to run the thick dough sheet through the pasta rolling machine at the widest setting several times, till the surface of dough is smooth and the edges are even.  
     *If the edges are rough, fold the thick dough sheet lengthwise and run the sheet through till the edges are smooth.   
     Step 4:  Set the pasta rollers on the machine to the next narrow setting.   
     Run the sheet of pasta through once.
     Step 5:  Continue setting the rollers narrower and rolling the sheet of pasta through with one pass each time, till the pasta sheet is the desired thickness.  (The finished pasta sheet should be about 1/16" to 3/32" thick.)  
    The finished pasta sheet can now be cut into shapes!

     *Descriptions of how to make specific pasta shapes, like Ravioli and Fettuccine, will be part of the upcoming fresh pasta recipes.  An easy shape to start with is Pappardelle.  For Pappardelle, all that needs to be done is to cut the sheet of pasta into long ribbons that are about 3/8" to 1/2" wide!      

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Quail with Roasted Pearl Onion Yogurt Sauce, Portobello Rice and Braised Swiss Chard

     A Modern Quail Entrée with Classic Accompaniments!
     For today's recipe, the goal was to create a modern Alpine ski lodge château health cuisine style quail entrée with classic influences.  Roasted game birds, like quail, appeal to those who seek healthy alternative meat options.
     Sauces made with Goat Milk Yogurt have been popular in in restaurants that feature modern French health cuisine.  Goat Milk Yogurt contains no fat and it has a zesty flavor.  Roasted Pearl Onions have a sweet savory flavor that adds balance to a yogurt sauce.  This sauce tastes very nice with roasted quail.
     Classic Braised Swiss Chard appeals to fans of modern French health cuisine.  Leafy Greens, like Swiss Chard, have a high nutritional value and the braising technique makes the nutrients easily available when digested.  Adding a small amount of fat (lardons or bacon) provides lipids that are essential in a cold winter climate.  Gluten free starch accompaniments are en vogue these days and rice is a natural choice.  Portobello Rice has a rich savory mushroom flavor.  The mushrooms add plenty of high nutritional value too.      
     Portobello Rice:
     This recipe yields 1 1/4 cups.  (2 to 3 portions)
     This is a simple boiled rice recipe!  
     Step 1:  Place 1/2 cup of water in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1/2 cup light chicken stock.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 cup of Long Grain White Rice.
     Add 1/3 cup of finely chopped Portobello Mushroom.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 pinch of Herbs de Provence.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Return the liquid to a boil.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Slowly simmer and steam the rice till it is fully cooked.  (About 20 minutes.)
     Keep the rice warm on a stove top or in a 135ºF bain marie.

     Braised Swiss Chard:
     This recipe yields about 1 1/3 cups.  (2 petite portions)
     Step 1:  Heat a deep sauté pan (sauteuse pan) over medium heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely chopped smoked bacon.
     Add 1 small shallot that is thin sliced.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Sauté till the shallot turns clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 bunch of Swiss Chard that is rough chopped.  (about 6 medium size leaves)
     Sauté the chard till it wilts.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of red wine vinegar.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of light chicken stock.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till almost all of the braising liquid evaporates.
     Keep the Braised Swiss Chard warm on a stove top or in a 135ºF bain marie.

     Quail with Roasted Pearl Onion Yogurt Sauce:
     This recipe yields 2 roasted quail.  (1 full portion)
     Select a European style Herbs de Provence that has no lavender flowers in the mixture for this recipe.  American style Herbs de Provence usually has lavender flowers in the blend.  French Herbs de Provence usually has lavender leaves in the blend and this is better for roasted meats.    
     Step 1:  Select 2 whole quail.
     Use short bamboo skewers to pin the legs to the lower end of the quail breasts.
     Lightly brush the quail with blended olive oil.
     Lightly season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Sprinkle 1 or 2 pinches of Herbs de Provence on each quail.
     Step 2:  Place 2 thick slices of onion in a sauté pan.  (About 1/4" thick.)
     Set the seasoned quail on the onion slices.
     *The sliced onion elevates the quail and protects the bottom half of the quail from scorching.  The roasted onion slices will later be used to flavor the sauce.  A sauté pan is used for the roasting because the sauce will be made with the pan juices.  Keep in mind that the handle of the sauté pan will be hot long after it comes out of the oven!
     Place 10 peeled pearl onions in the pan.
     Add 1/2 cup of chicken stock to the pan.
     Step 3:  Place pan in a 350ºF oven.
     Roast the quail till they are fully cooked and a few golden highlights appear.
     *Roasting quail beyond "well done" can cause the meat to become dry and chewy.  Take care not to roast the quail beyond the point of just being fully cooked.
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Remove the quail from the pan and set them on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan.
     Keep the quail warm on a stove top.
     Step 5:  Remove the roasted pearl onions and set them aside.
     Step 6:  Place the sauté pan with the onion slices and pan jus over a burner set to medium heat.    
     *Remember that the sauté pan handle is hot from being in the oven!  Wear an oven mitt when grabbing the hot handle.
     Add 1/4 cup of dry white wine to the roasted onions and pan juices.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce till only 2 to 3 tablespoons of jus remains in the pan.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     *Too high of a heat will cause the yogurt to break and separate.
     Add about 1/2 cup of goat milk yogurt (Greek Yogurt).
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Stir till the sauce warms and becomes smooth.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Step 8:  Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a ceramic cup.
     Return the reserved roasted pearl onions to the sauce.
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top or in a 135ºF bain marie.
     Quail with Roasted Pearl Onion Yogurt Sauce, Portobello Rice and Braised Swiss Chard:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Use a ring mold to place 1 portion of Portobello Rice on the center of a plate.  (About 3/4 cup.)
     Place 2 petite portions (1/4 cup each) of Braised Swiss Chard on opposite sides of the rice.
     Step 2:  Remove the skewers from the legs of the quail.
     Place the 2 roasted quail on opposite sides of the rice.
     Spoon a portion of the Roasted Pearl Onion Yogurt Sauce over each quail and allow the pearl onions to cascade onto the plate.

     This is a nice ski lodge style quail entrée for a chilly winter day!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Fusilli Col Buco e Scungilli al Passata di Pomodoro

     Corkscrew Pasta with Italian Sea Snail en Tomato Puree!
     Scungilli is a large Whelk (Sea Snail) that is very mild tasting.  The spiral shell of this type of mollusk is usually much larger than Conch that are harvested in Florida.      
     Sliced poached fresh Scungilli is a nice choice, but it is a bit hard to find outside of Italy.  Because snails are highly perishable, Scungilli is usually marketed as a canned seafood product.  Imported Italian canned Scungilli is a very nice product and the small cans are usually single portion size.  Canned Scungilli from Italy is used by many Italian chefs in America and the meat is always very tender.
     Fusilli col buco simply translates to "Corkscrew Pasta."  This artisan pasta shape can be used in place of Spaghetti, Capellini or Linguine.
     The Italian word Passata translates to "pass through" or in a culinary sense, "to pass through a fine mesh strainer."  Passata di Pomodoro is a tomato sauce that is pressed through a fine mesh strainer.  Passata di Pomodoro can also be made with a hand turned food mill that has a fine grade strainer plate.  The Passata technique results in a tomato sauce that has much better texture than one that is simply pureed with a blender or food processor.
     A basic coarse tomato sauce is used to make Passata di Pomodoro.  The sauce is usually only flavored with garlic and onion.  The sauce is lightly seasoned with salt and black pepper.  No herbs are added.  Passata di Pomodoro is traditionally accompanies Gnocchi and of course, Pasta with Scungilli.
     Many pastas recipes in Italy require specific sauces.  The first fine Italian restaurant that I apprenticed in actually had five different tomato sauces on the menu and each was traditionally paired with specific recipes.  The Passata di Pomodoro was only used for the Linguine with Scungilli and Potato Gnocchi menu items.  
     The Italian chefs from Modena, Venice and Sicily that I apprenticed with, could explain why certain tomato sauces are "recipe specific" far better than I can.  For example, I have noticed that the internet is flooded with Scungilli Marinara Pasta recipes.  Marinara is not well suited for Scungilli, because the basil overwhelms the delicate flavor of the Scungilli.  A simple Passata di Pomodoro is the perfect choice, because it accents the delicate Scungilli flavor.  After one taste, I am sure that anybody would agree.  Passata di Pomodoro is superb with Scungilli!
     Passata di Pomodoro:
     This recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups.  (Enough sauce for 2 petite portions or 1 large portion.)  
     Imported Italian canned crushed San Marzano Tomatoes and Plum Tomato Puree are best for this recipe.  Using these crushed and pureed Italian tomato products greatly reduces the labor time when pressing the sauce through a fine mesh strainer.  The strainer mesh should be less than 1/16".  
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 1/4 cup of very finely minced onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of very finely minced garlic.
     Gently sauté till the onions are clear in color.  (Do not brown the onions and garlic at all!)
     Step 2:  Add 6 ounces of imported Italian canned Plum Tomato Puree.
     Add 6 ounces of imported Italian canned Crushed San Marzano Tomatoes.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer the sauce for 15 to 20 minutes.
     Stir the sauce often.
     *Try to stir the olive oil back into the sauce, each time that the olive oil separates.  The sauce is finished when the ingredients combine and there is no loose tomato juice or olive oil that separates.
     Step 4:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Use a spoon or small spatula to press the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a container.
     Set the sauce aside or chill the sauce for later use.
     *Passata di Pomodoro is always reheated to order!    
     Fusilli Col Buco e Scungilli al Passata di Pomodoro:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion.
     Imported Italian canned Scungilli is available in 6.5 ounce cans.  A 6.5 ounce can is a single portion of Scungilli, so this is a nice convenience.  The canned Scungilli is usually pre-sliced and it is tender.    
     If imported Italian canned Scungilli is used, be sure to save the Scungilli Broth from the can.  The same applies to the poaching broth when preparing fresh Scungilli.  A small amount of the Scungilli Broth will be added to the sauce. 
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of Fusilli col Buco in boiling water over high heat, till it becomes al dente.  (8 to 10 minutes)
     *The Scungilli al Passata di Pomodoro can be while the pasta cooks!
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Sauté till the garlic turns a golden color.
     Step 3:  Add a 6.5 ounce can of imported Italian Sliced Scungilli meat.  (Save the broth from the can.)
     Sauté the Scungilli till it becomes warm.
     Step 4:  Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red chile pepper.  (chile caribe)
     Add about 1 1/2 cups of the Passata di Pomodoro Sauce.
     Add 2 tablespoons of the Scungilli Broth from the can.
     Stir the sauce.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Keep the sauce warm till the pasta is ready.
     Step 6:  When the Fusilli col Buco is al dente, drain the water off of the pasta.
     Add the Fusilli col Buco Pasta to the sauce.
     Toss the sauce and pasta together.
     Step 7:  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese on the pasta and sauce.
     Toss the sauce and pasta together a second time.
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Mound the Fusilli Col Buco e Scungilli al Passata di Pomodoro on the center of a plate.
     Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese over the pasta.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.

     The Passata di Pomodoro Sauce is so smooth, that it easily clings to the Fusilli col Buco.  The bright garlic, onion and tomato flavor is perfect with Scungilli!