Today’s guest post is coming at you straight from NYC courtesy of my good friend Arber. We met under non-culinary circumstances during my time as the master of web goodness at The City College of New York. I had the dubious honor of serving as the advisor for his student organization, a cluster of entrepreneurs, programmers and designers who created the brilliant website, In Your Class.com. Funnily, in order to get their student organization up and running as quickly as possible, they found it easier to take over an already established group rather that go through the appeals process to create a new one. Thus, although I am out and out Brazilian/Italian/African-American, I soon discovered that I was the newest advisor to the Albanian Students Organization. The founders (Arber included) were all Albanian, so to prove my mettle, I showed them all I learned from Wikipedia about Albania and had them fill me in on the rest of the important details. I adored the multiculturalism mixed with the laughs, and was totally honored that they asked me to be their advisor in the first place. Continue reading Classic Mussels with White Wine and Herbs
Authentic-tasting gnocchi are a tall order, but inspired by the charm and panache of the Franks (Falcinelli and Castronovo) of Frankie’s Sputino in Brooklyn, everyone is an expert Italian chef. Although this recipe was a part of my goal to make four gnocchi dishes for The Daring Kitchen, the preparation of the dish proved hardly a challenge. And not because the fickle gnocchi gods* were smiling at me that day, but rather that this recipe must be the master recipe for the most perfect gnocchi. In the amount of time that it took me to boil a pot of water and futz around with a marinara sauce, I had a dough that was pliant, smooth and gorgeous. A little effortless rolling and cutting resulted in photo-ready dumplings. And a quick trip into a jacuzzi of water yielded gnocchi that tasted of heaven. Where were the Franks grandmas so that I could kiss them on both cheeks and throw my hands up in the air? Continue reading Potato Gnocchi alla Sorrentina
Foodbuzz 24 x 24 | An Ode to Orvieto
This recipe was a part of a special menu for Foodbuzz’s June 2011 food blogger party, 24×24. Showcasing posts from 24 Foodbuzz Featured Publisher bloggers, the monthly Foodbuzz 24 highlights unique meals occurring around the globe during a 24-hour period. Read more about my meal along with all of the other recipes at An Ode to Orvieto.
One of my favorite things about Italy, particularly in the sleepier towns, meals are a whole lot more egalitarian. Wine is cheap and plentiful, and fresh ingredients used in wholesome cooking are never at a premium. Tasty is tasty, and everything else fails to make it to the table.
On a dinner out with a group of other students in Orvieto, one of the guys told me that whenever he saw “filetto” on a menu, he ordered it without hesitation. For the mounds of fresh pasta and pizza and risotto that we ordered as main courses over first courses, we never managed to get to the meat courses. Learning about this filet obsession shook me from my carb-focused complacency, and I decided to go with a Filetto ai Carciofi, a filet mignon simply grilled with artichokes. It was in that moment that I had felt as if I’d wasted how many dinners not indulging on a perfectly cooked steak. Better yet, the dear price tag was nowhere to be found – it was as if I had ordered a chicken breast back in the states, the cost so reasonable. I miss those days.
This dish has been adapted as a party pleaser, replacing the filet with a whole beef tenderloin. You have the joy of the same tender meat, but can slice thinly to feed a group. I’ve also found that buying the whole tenderloin results in a much cheaper price tag by the pound. As such, you can roast a tenderloin one night and cut individual filets with the rest for dinners later on. The artichokes are the perfect accompaniment, simmered in chicken stock and dressed in a lush, creamy bechamel. This is a seriously rich dish of food and a little bit goes a long way. You will be impressed with how far rich, fresh ingredients go in feeding a bunch, all the while keeping the price tag reasonable.
Beef Tenderloin with Artichokes in Bechamel
1 3-4 lb. beef tenderloin
sprig of thyme
6 c. of chicken stock
1 sprig of thyme
2 bay leaves
4 tbs. of butter
3 tbs. of flour
1 c. of heavy cream
2 1/2 c. of whole milk
4 tbs. of parsley
salt to taste
Season your beef tenderloin liberally with salt and pepper. Rub with olive oil and let sit out while you prep your artichokes.
Halve the two lemons and squeeze into a large bowl. Fill the bowl with water 2/3 of the way full. Remove the outer leaves of the artichoke until you get to the tender golden leaves in the center [photo]. Chop off the golden leaves to expose the hairy choke in the center [photo]. Use a pairing knife to smooth the outside of the artichoke and remove any tough bits of leaves [photo]. Cut off all but 1/2 of an inch of the stem and peel with a pairing knife or vegetable peeler. Cut the artichoke into quarters and scoop out all of the fuzzy choke. Rub all of the cut sides of the artichoke pieces with the halved lemon and then add to the water. Continue until you have prepped all of the artichokes.
Bring the six cups of chicken stock, thyme and bay leaves to a boil. Add the artichokes and simmer on medium high for 30 minutes. Remove artichokes with a slotted spoon and set aside.
In a skillet, add a bit of olive oil and heat on high. Add the tenderloin and sear on all sides until deeply browned on the outside and rare in the middle. Place tenderloin on a cookie sheet and bake in a preheated oven until cooked off to your desired doneness, about 5 more minutes for rare to medium rare. Remove from the oven and let rest.
While the beef is cooking, make your bechamel. Melt the 4 tbs. of butter in a sauce pan. Whisk in the flour to make a smooth paste. Continue to whisk and add the milk and cream. Working over medium heat, whisk until sauce thickens slightly. Add the artichokes, about 1/2 tsp. of salt and a 1/4 tsp. of white pepper to taste and stir. Continue to cook until the bechamel thickens around the artichokes. Top with parsley.
Slice the steak into 1/4 inch slices and surround with the artichokes and bechamel. Serve.
Risotto is one of those dishes that when I see on chefy shows on tv, I perennially call shenanigans. I have made many a stunning risotto in my day, and every single stinking one of them became glorious from the sheer amount of love (read: time) that was poured into the dish. A good risotto required at least a half an hour of my attention and stirring, a goodly amount of time spent prepping the ingredients beforehand and guests ready to tuck in immediately while its piping hot. As such, I only ever made for risotto for folks I truly loved (meaning that if you HAVE had my risotto, you can bet your cutie bootie I adore having you in my life). So the thought that risotto could share a plate with any other dish, and as a side item at that, was preposterous to me.
Fast forward a bit to the day that Santa Claus decided to bring me a pressure cooker. I was giddy at first, then frustrated with getting my new baby to do my bidding, but shortly thereafter, head over heels in love. I mastered the darn thing with no true hiccups and questioned why I hadn’t used one sooner. It was a dream! As a means of learning more about it, I turned to the queen of pressure cooking, Lorna Sass. As I poured through her book, Cooking Under Pressure, I found the traditional bevy of stews and braises alongside surprises such as meatloaf and bread pudding. There in the mix, I also found a recipe for risotto that purported the cooking time at under 10 minutes! And, even crazier, no stirring! I felt as if the world had been turned on its head a la Alice in Wonderland – what was this whimsically nonsensical recipe? And how could I wield it in my cooking arsenal?
This recipe below is based on my pressure cooker risotto experiments, and the result is mind-blowingly good. Yes, it takes only 10 minutes to cook. Yes, it frees you from 45 minutes of straight elbow grease. And yes, it’s simple enough to serve as a side. The only problem I now have is finding a dish complicated enough to cook for the folks I love for them alone. I’m fine with going on a bit of a culinary hunt for a challenge. But in the meantime, I’ll be whipping up this risotto.
The Quickest Mushroom Risotto Ever
1 c. of dried mixed mushrooms (porcini, chanterelle, shitake, hen of the woods or morels)
5 c. of chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 c. of dry white wine
1/2 c. of chopped onions
2 tbs. of butter
2 tbs. of olive oil
1 1/2 c. of arborio rice
3/4 c. of grated locatelli
1/4 tsp. of white pepper
salt to taste
4 tbs. of chopped chives
Bring 2 c. of chicken stock to a boil. Add the dried mushrooms and cover. Let sit for about 20 minutes, allowing the mushrooms to rehydrate. Drain the liquid off of the mushrooms and reserve. Pour the liquid into a quart measuring cup and add enough additional stock to make 3 1/2 cups.
Melt the butter and olive oil in a pressure cooker and add the onions. Cook for about a minute or until softened and then add the rice. Cook rice until slightly translucent. Add the wine and cook until absorbed completely. Add 3 1/2 cups of stock and white pepper. Lock the lid on the pressure cooker and bring up to high pressure. Cook for 5 minutes and then use a quick release method to bring pressure back to normal. Open the lid and return pot to the burner. Taste the rice for doneness and stir to allow the last remaining stock to be absorbed by the rice. If the rice is chewy and the stock has all been absorbed, add a little extra stock and continue to cook until the rice is tender. Stir in the cheese and taste for salt. Sprinkle with the chives and serve immediately.
If you do not have a pressure cooker and would like to make this recipe, use the same ingredients, but follow the instructions for Rock Shrimp Risotto.
I have lovely memories of my mom’s baked chicken parmesan – we’d come home from elementary school and she’s take seemingly no time in breading chicken cutlets, seasoning them with paprika and spices, and then letting them crisp up in a hot oven. They were always so juicy and deliciously perfect, I never ever questioned why we didn’t have Shake ‘n Bake in our pantry. Mom knew what she was doing (and still does!)
After I got married, my aunt gave me a convection oven as a wedding present and I had to see if the crisping action was all it cracked up to be. I made a riff off of my mom’s baked chicken with dijon and cream replacing the usual parmesan cheese. Then, to make things more complicated, I tricked it out deconstructed cordon bleu style with a slice each of prosciutto and provolone.
When the timer went off and the chicken emerged from the oven, the clouds parted in the heavens and the angels began to sing. It was ever so perfect, with prosciutto like bacon and “everything’s-better-with” melted cheese. J’adore!
I kind of like that Chicken Cordon Bleu has nothing to do with the culinary institute and is rather a cousin of retro throwbacks such as Chicken Kiev and other roulade-style meat dishes. It makes me feel like I need to tease my hair, put on an A-line skirt and play a little Jack Jones “Wives and Lovers” to get in an old skool mood. Ok, not really. But it does make me miss my momma, thinking about all the foods that are meant for family dining. This one is certainly high up on the list.
Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 c. of cream
1/4 c. of water
1 tbs. of dijon mustard
1 c. of flour
3 tsp. of salt
1 1/2 tsp. of black pepper
1/2 tsp. of white pepper
1/2 tsp. of garlic powder
1/4 tsp. of paprika
4 slices of prosciutto
4 slices of provolone (or fontina)
Set up a breading station with two shallow dishes – one with the eggs, cream, water and dijon and the other with the flour, salt, black pepper, white pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Dredge chicken breasts in flour, into the egg and then again in the flour. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and top with a slice of cheese and a few slices of prosciutto. Bake for 35-40 minutes on 350° or until the chicken is cooked through and the prosciutto is crispy and deep rose. Serve.
Filet be damned, I want a ribeye. I want a thick cut, well-marbled ribeye with a juicy center and a lovely charred edge. I want nary the spice or marinade other than a smattering of coarse salt or crushed pepper, with olive oil to marry it all together and a brush of rosemary as a whisper of flavor with each bite. In the words of Veruca Salt, “Don’t care how – I want it NOW!”
Kidding, I’m not a brat and I can totally whip this up for myself. It’s the best kind of recipe in that it’s barely a recipe. Making a steak at home is surprisingly forgiving and has more to do with the quality of the meat and the amount of time you give it to cook. Letting the steak come to room temperature before cooking, letting it sit on the grill undisturbed before flipping, and letting it rest so that the juices redistribute are all necessary steps to the perfect bite of steak. In addition, if you can splurge for a prime dry-aged steak, definitely do it. It’s a total treat, and though pricey, a lot less expensive than a steak dinner out on the town.
When you are purchasing a ribeye, look for rosy, well-marbled meat where the eye (the round of fat in the middle of the steak) is intact. This bit of fat keeps the meat moist during cooking and adds perfect flavor – shying away from the fat means you are denying yourself the succulence and juiciness that you so rightly deserve from your steak. Other than that, there really isn’t that much to it – season, grill, rest and dig in.
Tuscan Grilled Ribeye
2 ribeye steaks, 1 inch thick
kosher salt and pepper
sprig of rosemary
Heat a grill or a grill pan on high. Liberally salt and pepper steaks on both sides. Drizzle with olive oil and using the sprig of rosemary, rub the spices and oil into the meat. Flip and repeat on the other side, rubbing the flavor of the rosemary into the meat. Let steaks sit at room temperature while the grill heats up.
Grill the steaks, undisturbed, for 10 minutes on each side for medium rare. Let rest for at least five minutes before slicing. Serve.
Back when I was young, I remember my mom hosting a baby shower in my childhood home – gosh, it must have been for my cousin Sydney, but my mom or aunt would have to confirm. She hit up our Greek market for olives and fresh feta and grape leaves, none of which interested me at the young age of 10. But she also scored triangles of spanakopita (spinach was still gross to me at that age) and these miraculous cheesy alternatives called tiropita. I had my first taste of them sneaking one before the guests showed up and man, what a treat. Salty feta and crisp, buttery phyllo folded into golden triangles of deliciousness.
All of this was well before phyllo dough and phyllo appetizers became common fare at the market, and I’m kind of happy that it’s so easily accessible now. I’m able to pop into the grocery and make a lavish cheese pie of my own, all without any crazy trips to the market. I cut down on the traditional amount of feta and amp up the flavors with nutmeg and dried mint. I keep things creamy with a bit of ricotta as well, but feel free to substitute other cheeses such as cottage cheese or even crumbly, salty mizithra. Though I typically make this in a 13x9x3 inch pan and cut it into squares, this also works exceedingly well in a deep dish 9 inch round pan cut into triangles. If you’re planning a party of sorts, consider making this tiropita with a spinach pie as an accompaniment and a greek salad to tie the whole thing together. It’s a whole lot of buttery goodness without any fuss. And we all know that fusses are way overrated.
1/2 tbs. oregano
1 tsp. dried mint
12 oz. of feta, crumbled
1/4 tsp. of nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. of parmasean
16 oz. of ricotta
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
1 stick of butter
1 box of phyllo
In a standing mixer (or with an egg beater), mix together all of the ingredients except for the phyllo and butter until well incorporated.
Grease a 13 x 9 in baking pan. Working carefully and quickly, lay out a sheet of phyllo and butter with a pastry brush. Keep on alternating melted butter and phyllo until you have laid down half of the phyllo. Pour the cheese mixture on top of the phyllo. Top with alternating layers of phyllo and butter. Once you’ve finished with all of the sheets, cut the pie into squares before baking.
Place in the oven and bake on 350° for 45-50 minutes. If the top starts to get too brown, cover with foil for the remainder of the cooking time. Let sit for around 5 minutes before cutting. Serve.
The lovely leek is a tricky little bugger. While its cousin, the onion, smells fragrant and marvelous immediately upon entering the pan filled with butter or olive oil, the leek can be downright funky. But the patient are always rewarded for their efforts, and the leeks become luscious and silken if you let them hang out and do their thing. Crown this glory with white truffle oil and breadcrumbs toasted with a little butter and you are in for a real treat. Continue reading Potato Leek Soup
If I told you that this soup takes a mere 10 minutes to simmer for the taste of a soup labored over for a day (or two), would you brand me an infomercial? Because it’s true – every word of it. And it doesn’t come at the hands of any crazy Ron Popeil device, although you do pretty much “set it and forget it.” This baby is simmered to perfection in a pressure cooker, and for that great savings of time and effort and the steaming up of the household, I am eternally grateful. Continue reading Italian Sausage and Rice Soup
Much like my obsession with collecting bolognese recipes, I love love love a good roast chicken recipe. I adore the way in which a little love, butter or olive oil, salt, pepper and aromatics transform the lowly chicken into something worth honoring. Crisp, golden skin and tender meat come into their own with very little effort, and a homestyle supper is on the table for loved ones without a second thought. Or if you love them EVEN more, you’ll just tuck in with them without even leaving the kitchen. Best of all the leftovers make at least one more meal, if not a gorgeous chicken stock.
My husband saw me oogling over Jonathan Waxman’s pan roasted chicken cooked in a cast iron skillet and purchased me a Lodge Logic 15″ beauty from Amazon. It’s heavy as hell (a two-hand job) but an amazing holder of temperature and big enough for a chicken and a mess of roasted veg to boot. It needs a name. Like Thor. Or maybe the Kraken. So whenever I take it out, I’m releasing the…haha…you get it.
For the butterflying portion, you can certainly have the butcher do it, but it’s easy work with a nice pair of kitchen scissors. Simply cut out the back (and save for stock) and flatten the entire mess with a little pressure on the breast bone. Prepping the chicken in this manner cuts the cooking time way down and allows more of the surface area to come into contact with the lemon and herbs. The whole mess forms a delicious sauce for the incredibly moist chicken, all with no fuss at all. So basically, yes, your prayers were answered and that homecooked meal you’ve been dreaming about is here. Now. Go make it.
Butterflied Chicken with Lemon and Herbs
1 whole chicken
1 bunch of rosemary
1 bunch of thyme
1 onion, thinly sliced
coarse sea salt and black pepper
good olive oil
1 bunch of tarragon
1/2 c. of chicken broth
2 tbs. of butter
Preheat the oven to 450°. Rinse the chicken well and pat dry. Using the poultry shears, cut along each side of the backbone to remove it. Flip the chicken over and press down on the breastbone to flatten it. Liberally season with coarse salt and black pepper and then rub with a bit of olive oil. Place chicken skin side down in a cast iron skillet. Surround the chicken with the onions and top with the rosemary and thyme. Halve the lemons and squeeze the juice over the chicken. Tuck lemons into the pan with the herbs and onions. Drizzle with a little more oil and pop into the oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the juices of the thigh meat run clear when pierced with a fork.
When the chicken is finished, remove from the skillet to a platter and let rest. Put the skillet on the stove and heat. Add the chicken broth and scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. When the sauce thickens a bit, add the butter. Strain the sauce and set aside. If you feel diligent, you can also pick out some of the roasted onions.
Carve the chicken into pieces and serve with the sauce.