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
I’m not sure how my sister Lexi and I came up with this punch recipe, but it’s just ridiculously good. Despite the strong alcohol trifecta in play with this one, it tastes just like a smooth, delicious caramel apple. Plus, the Goldschlager, usually the troublemaker at the party, plays nice here with the perfect flavor of cinnamon. A little Martinelli’s on top for sparkle and a good quality fresh apple cider for body and you are in business.
We serve this cold, but you can absolutely have it warm as well – just make sure to add the alcohol after you’ve warmed the cider. This recipe also doubles and triples well into a punch for a bunch, so don’t be afraid to break it out at your next Halloween or Christmas party.
Caramel Apple Punch
1 1/2 oz. Butterscotch Schnapps
1 oz. Goldschlager
1 oz. Sour Apple Pucker
Fill a highball glass with ice and add the Apple Pucker, Goldschlager and Schnapps in that order. Fill the glass just about up to the top with apple cider and then top with a splash of the sparkling cider. Garnish with a slender apple wedge.
To make as a punch, combine 1 part Goldschlager, 1 part Sour Apple Pucker and 2 parts Butterscotch Schnapps. Add 4 parts fresh apple cider and 1 part sparkling cider on top right before serving. Serve in a punch bowl with thin slices of apple rings and the ice on the side.
There’s something to be a said for a good recipe passed on from trusted cook to trusted cook. Finding one of these gems is truly like finding a hidden treasure – the question is whether you’ll share once you do. Given that I’m not at all proprietary, and I love the fact that these posts get you guys cooking, eating and sharing in turn, how could I not pass it on!
This one comes from my grandmother, Vo, who was given this recipe by a friend, who in turn received it from her grandmother – the same recipe that she used back in Mexico. Something as seemingly pedestrian as salsa becomes a celebration of the sweetness of ripe tomatoes and the piquant flavor of jalapeno. I was surprised to learn that there’s nary the lime or bit of oil in this one – just veggies and goodness. Continue reading Fresh Tomato Salsa
Rob From the Rich and Give Truffles to the Poor
I know what you are thinking. Based on the fancy pants ingredients in this dish and the haute descriptions, this seems like something reserved for trust-fund babies and old money fat cats. Not the case, plebian reader. I like to think of this as superior breakfast for the adventurous palette. Got a little time after a hard week and want to treat yourself to something lovely? Snag the ingredients for truly THE best bacon, egg and cheese of all time. I’m talkin’ eternity.
This recipe is a lovely tower of creamy eggs, rich goat cheese bechamel, savory morel mushrooms, and prosciutto baked until crispy as bacon. The whole mix is atop a toasted round of brioche (cut with a $1 ring mold – pick one up and start impressing folks with your presentation skills) and topped with seasonal violets and leaves of fresh thyme. I usually tell people to make dishes for people that they love, but this is reserved for people in the upper echelons of your love contingency. Like the top 5.
Truthfully, you can go into this very budget-mindedly without sacrificing on taste. Brioche can be replaced with challah or another cheaper, eggy bread. Goat’s milk cheese can be acquired for a reasonable price and at most grocery stores. Same deal with the prosciutto. There is no replacement for morels and truffle oil, but they are your only splurge and you won’t be using a lot of them. If you want my opinion, although it won’t be nearly as luxe, you could get away with replacing the morels with a super fresh in-season mushroom and leave out the truffle oil. Not the same dish, but still decadent as hell. But really, get the truffle oil. You use so little and if you’ve never had truffles before, you need to. You really, really, really need to. Like now.
This recipe was born from our attempts (and by our, I mean my friends Richard and Amy, whom I invited to help me cook and who brought the lovely violets that I think make the presentation) to create an award-winning entry into the Marx Foods Morel Mushroom Competition. We were sent 1 oz. of morel mushrooms and asked to make something lovely. Well, creative kids that we are, we ended up making two dishes, and this, my darlings, is the runner up. Can you believe that we found something crazy enough to guild the proverbial lily? And it wasn’t truffled eggs? Make this one first, and then if you want to up the decadence, read our entry in the competition. By the way, I’d be remiss in not thanking Justin Marx for his inclusion of my humble site in the short list of competitors. Talk about good people 🙂 Not to mention their products are ever-so-lovely – I spend hours just thinking how much damage I can do with their fabulous ingredients. A cook’s dream.
But I digress, as it’s time for some decadence. This recipe is NOT hard to cook. In fact, the hardest part is the grocery shopping. It does, however, go in stages, with all of the components assembled at the last minute. It’s forgiving, though, so take your time stirring and assembling, and maybe enlist those aforementioned people you love in putting the whole thing together. And then get them to wash the dishes.
Morel Bacon, Egg and Cheese (Truffled Eggs on Brioche with Morels, Goat Cheese and Prosciutto Chip)
1/4 oz. of dried morels
1 c. of chicken stock
2 tbs of butter
3 slices of brioche
2 tbs. of butter
2 prosciutto slices
2 tbs. of butter
2 tbs. of flour
2 c. of milk
1/3 c. of cream
1 c. of mild goats milk cheese, grated (we used Midnight Moon Goat from Whole Foods, but use whatever you like, to include 8 oz. of mild soft goat cheese)
pinch of black pepper
pinch of white pepper
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cayenne
1 tsp. of salt
2 tbs. of truffle oil
3 tbs. of butter
1 tsp. of salt
1 tsp. of white pepper
2 tbs. of cream
fresh thyme leaves
Round one – prep your morels. Bring your stock to a boil and plunk in your morels. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes or until mushrooms are puffy and lovely. Strain, making sure any grit is poured out with the chicken broth. Slice morels in half and sauté in a pan with 2 tbs. of butter on medium love until soft – about 3-4 minutes. Set aside.
Round two – begin by prepping your brioche. Cut out slices from a loaf, or if you want to be ultra fancy, cut out rounds using a 3″ ring mold. Cookie cutters also work well. Plunk 2 tbs. of butter into a skillet and melt on low heat. Turn up the heat to medium low and toast the bread on each side until golden. Set aside.
Round three – make your prosciutto chips (and you can skip this step, my vegetarian darlings). Line a baking pan with foil and crank your oven to 450°. Lay prosciutto flat on the baking pan, making sure that the pieces aren’t touching. Place in the oven and bake until crispy and dark rose, about 10-12 minutes. Check once or twice to make sure that it doesn’t burn – there’s not much fat on the prosciutto so they can cook quickly depending on the thickness of the slices. Set aside.
Round four – make your bechamel (cream sauce). Melt 2 tbs. of butter in the same pot you sautéed your morels in on medium low. Whisk in the flour and stir until smooth and all incorporated – about 1 minute or so. Slowly add your milk in dribs and drabs, whisking to prevent lumps. Keep on whisking and crank the heat to medium to coax the sauce into thickening. When it gets lovely and creamy, pour in the heavy cream. Whisk and add the black pepper, white pepper, cayenne, nutmeg and salt. Turn off the heat and whisk in the grated cheese. If you are using goat cheese instead of a hard goat’s milk cheese that can be grated, just toss spoonfuls of it into the sauce and stir. Taste for salt and pepper and correct seasoning. Set aside.
Round five – egg action. Scramble together 6 eggs, truffle oil, salt and white pepper. Melt 3 tbs. of butter in a skillet on low and then slowly pour in your eggs. Keep your heat LOW the whole time and gently stir your eggs as small curds form delicately. This is a slow process, but not complicated. Just keep stirring until the eggs are creamy and shiny and still a little wet. Pour in the cream and turn off the heat.
Now, for the big finish – grab some plates and put a piece of brioche on each. If you are going for fancy presentation, put the ring mold over the brioche and gently put 1/3 of the eggs right into the ring mold. Otherwise, just portion the eggs right over the toasted brioche however you’d like. Split the morels amongst the three plates of eggs. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of goat cheese bechamel over the works. Sprinkle the thyme leaves and the violets over the entire plate. Spear the top of the eggs with a shard of prosciutto.
Tuck into some majesty.
Rock Me Gently, Rock Me Slowly
Risotto is such a walking contradiction – though it is a total dazzler and a showpiece at restaurants, it’s also such homey comfort food meant to be tucked into on a couch in pjs. It can be as dressy or as casual as you’d like it to be, just as long as it’s yours. I think that risotto has gotten a reputation for being fussy because of the many rules for it’s construction. The grains of rice should be tender while still distinct and firm. The dish should be creamy but not a mushy porridge. The ingredients all have different cooking times, but the components to be cooked to perfection all at the same time. It’s a little daunting.
I’m here to put you at ease – risotto is not hard. I repeat, risotto is not hard. You can make it if you follow the one major rule of risotto – be patient and give it time. If you rush your risotto, it will suck. If you don’t prep all your ingredients before you start, it will suck. If you walk away from it, it will suck. Don’t let your risotto suck, I beg of you.
There are a million variations on this recipe, and the good news is that you can use the same ingredients below and just swap out the shrimp for whatever your heart desires – blanched asparagus spears, porcini mushrooms, lobster, roasted butternut squash, you name it. The only thing that you absolutely cannot substitute is arborio rice. The grains, short and round, release starch slowly as broth is added during the cooking process – if you use a different type of rice, you won’t get that creamy loveliness that is the trademark of risotto. You top off the deliciousness by rapidly whipping in butter at the end, a process called “mantecare” in Italian. Do this, and you’ll be a risotto master.
This risotto uses rock shrimp, a variety that is much closer in taste to lobster despite the shrimp price. They have hard shells and are difficult to peel, which is why they are sold pre-cleaned and shelled – hooray for you 🙂 If you cannot find rock shrimp, feel free to use plain raw shrimp, or if your budget allows, some lovely lobster meat.
This recipe makes a ton of risotto (about 8 large servings) – I roll the leftovers into balls around cubes of mozzarella, roll in breadcrumbs, and fry as a lovely appetizer called arancini (or supplí in Emilia-Romagna). Also, because cheese and seafood is an italian no-no, I pick out the shrimp first. That being said, if you leave the shrimp in, I won’t be mad at you. Actually, I’ll be happy that you’re cooking not one, but two impressive dishes – and all with a whole lot of love!
Rock Shrimp Risotto
12-14 c. of stock, chicken, vegetable, shrimp or a combo (see recipe for shrimp stock below)
4 tbs. of olive oil
4 shallots, finely chopped
4 c. of arborio rice
1 pinch of saffron threads (optional)
2 tsp. of white pepper
salt and black pepper, to taste
1 and 1/2 lb. of rock shrimp, peeled and cleaned well
1 bunch of chives, chopped
zest of 1 lemon
4 tbs. of butter
Prep all of your ingredients before you start to make your life easier. When you begin, you should have dishes of all of your ingredients, measured out and within an arm’s reach. In a large pot, bring your stock to a simmer and keep warm throughout the entire process.
In a second large pot, add your oil and heat until shimmering. Add your shallots and cook on medium until translucent. Add your rice (and saffron if you are using it) and stir to coat the grains with olive oil. Continue to cook until the rice becomes translucent. Pour in the wine and stir until the alcohol cooks off.
Grab a ladle and spoon 2-3 ladlefuls of broth into the rice. Stir constantly to incorporate the broth and keep the rice from sticking. When all the broth is absorbed, add another 2 or 3 ladles of stock. Keep adding broth and stirring until the rice is tender (taste it to make sure) and a lovely, creamy sauce has formed. Once your risotto is cooked to perfection, add your raw shrimp and stir. The shrimp will need about 2 minutes to turn pink and cook all the way through in the hot risotto. Turn the heat from medium to low and add the butter in small chunks, stirring rapidly after each addition to melt the butter into the creamy goodness. Turn off the heat and toss in your lemon zest and 3/4 of the chives.
Spoon risotto into bowls and top with the rest of the chives. Serve immediately – risotto needs to be eaten right away, or you are missing out in a big way.
shells from 1 to 1 1/2 lbs of shrimp
2 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
1/2 small onion, roughly chopped
4 sprigs of parsley (with stems)
1 sprig of rosemary
1 tsp. of salt
1 tsp. of white pepper
2 bay leaves
8 c. of water
Add all ingredients to a pot and bring to a boil. Turn to medium low and simmer until stock has reduced by one half. Strain stock and toss solids. Save broth for some lovely like a gumbo or a risotto.
Fake It ‘Til You Make It
What’s the deal with the price gouging at the grocery store? Makes a girl get all huffy and work on a recipe for homemade majesty to save some bucks.
You’ve probably seen/had boursin before, a creamy fresh cheese spiked with herbs and a healthy shot of pepper. The cheese, created in Normandy, is a delicious treat on crackers and bread, and a perennial party pleaser. Problem is the stuff runs about $5-6 for a mere 5 oz. I could warrant spending that much on a fancier cheese, but on something in the aisle next to the Rondele? Forget it.
My childhood church put out a cookbook back when I was a kiddie, and one of the recipes in there was a Homemade Boursin. A combination of dried herbs, cream cheese and butter, it was close enough to the original stuff that I couldn’t see a reason to spend the money on the real stuff.
I don’t really know where the original recipe’s gone, but I’ve been making this version for years – a spicier alternative with both white and black pepper and a shot of chopped garlic. I also make it with half the fat by using Neufchatel and SmartBalance spread in lieu of butter and cream cheese (you can certainly go full fat if you’d like, though). The whole mess is whipped up in the food processor in mere seconds, and I then get to watch as it’s systematically devoured at parties. The best kind of recipe of all 🙂
To my vegan friends, I’ve made this with Tofutti and vegan margarine before and it is absolutely as good as the vegetarian version. Definitely give it a try – your dairy consuming buddies won’t know the difference.
Boursin (for Fakers)
8 oz. of neufchatel (or other cream cheese), softened
4 tbs. of Smart Balance spread (or butter), softened
1 1/2 tbs. of dried herbs (oregano, thyme, rosemary, tarragon – I just use Herbes de Provence and call it a day)
1/2 tsp. of white pepper
1/2 tbs. of black pepper
1/2 tsp. of salt
2 cl. of garlic, minced
Mix all ingredients well (or blend in a food processor). Serve with crusty bread, toasts or crackers.
Why Settle For Tres When You Can Have Cuatro?
My darling hubby has a thing for tres leches – regardless of fullness, his appetite gets a second wind if he sees this on the menu. For those that have not had tres leches before, it’s a luscious combination of cream, sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk poured over light cake. The result is a silky, moist hybrid of cake, pudding and majesty. Yup, majesty.
I decided to simplify the process with cake mix – god forbid I give you a cake recipe that involves skill because heaven knows I’m no baker – and one up the sweetness with a bit of salty coconut. Replace the water used in the box of cake mix with coconut water, and then swap out the traditional cream in the leche bath for cream of coconut, and voila, a showstopping dessert with little to no fuss.
Coconut Tres Leches
1 pkg of yellow cake mix (plus butter and eggs)
1 lg can of coconut water (without pulp)
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 can of evaporated milk (plain or fat-free)
1 can of coconut milk
1 pt. of whipping cream
1/2 c. of powdered sugar
1 tsp. of vanilla
shredded coconut (garnish)
Prepare cake batter according to the box directions, using coconut water in replace of the plain ol’ water. Make sure to strain the coconut pulp first if you can’t find coconut water without the pulp. Or leave it in for some texture in your cake – I like mine super smooth, so I remove it. Bake in a 13×9 pan according to the box directions.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the condensed milk, coconut milk and evaporated milk. Pour the leche mix over the cake, still in the baking pan. Watch as the cake absorbs the lovely milk mixture, just like magic.
While the cake does its thing, whip up some topping. Put a metal bowl (or the bowl of your KitchenAid mixer) into the fridge to chill. When it’s super cool (a la Miles Davis), take it out and add the cream, powdered sugar and vanilla. Whip like crazy with an egg beater (or the whisk attachment for your mixer) until the cream forms stiff peaks.
To serve, cut a slice of cake and gently remove from pan. Slather the creamy goodness over the cake and toss some shredded coconut on top of that for good measure. Stab anyone who tries to steal a bite with your fork.
Greatest Wrapper of All Time
Cha gio, the Vietnamese answer to the Chinese spring roll, are a heck of a lot more than a crispy wrapper around a bit of filling. The complex mix of tender pork, delicate shrimp and crab, and savory vegetables and spices form an addictive amalgamation that trumps the few shreds of cabbage and roast pork in a traditional spring roll. Combine this roll with the delicious crunch of herbs and lettuce, and finish the whole thing off with a dunk into some sweet and salty nuoc mam, and you are in for a treat.
I always order cha gio with all the fixings at Vietnamese restaurants, and feel that the presentation lends an air of luxury to the dish. And yet, when I was young, our Vietnamese friends would make the rolls in large quantities and share with anyone deserving of a little treat – cha gio were unpretentious and meant to be shared. I feel the same way about feijoada completa (the Brazilian national dish of black beans, rice, and assorted condiments) – in a restaurant, the many dishes of food that make up the meal add an element of grandeur to the meal, when in actuality, feijoada is the people’s food at its best. Just good, honest cooking meant to be shared with friends and family. Continue reading Cha Gio (Vietnamese Crispy Spring Rolls)
Pleat Me and Treat Me
Ah, kanom jeeb – you have officially earned platinum status in the dumpling ranks. You are a mere morsel of goodness, a two-bite treasure, and I thank you for gracing me with your presence. Jam from the wonderful food blog “Thai Cooking with Jam” explains that your name is derived from the thai words for “pleated snack”, but I posit that you legally change your name to the thai words for “pleated awesomeness”. Awesomeness indeed.
I know that you are a textural delight with your essential combination of crunchy carrots and water chestnuts carefully blended with tender shrimp and pork. You are also a luxurious treat with your delicate topper of lump crab. And yet, you don’t mind dressing yourself down on certain days with a crispy shallot or two. You are similiar to your Chinese brother, shu mai, and yet your combo of sweet and savory taste worlds away at times. Continue reading Kanom Jeeb (Steamed Thai Dumplings)
Steep Me in Majesty
I first had a taste of Rosemary Hibiscus Tea at the Fairmont Princess in Acapulco – I had a regrettable manicure at the spa, and an unforgettable cup of their “secret brew” before leaving the space. A combo of rosemary leaves and hibiscus petals, this sweet red treat was tart and garnet-colored like cranberry juice, only a little milder and much more floral. You can learn all about the flowers and their medicinal properties on Wikipedia.
Apparently, in Jamaica (where the flowers are called sorrel, and oddly, are called “Jamaica” in Latin America) the drink is spiked with a bit of rum as well. This recipe is the non-party version, but impress your bourgeois crew and serve this cooled beverage in a martini glass with a shot of Bacardi and a splash of Grand Marnier. It’ll make you spit your cosmo out the window and drink these from now on instead. Continue reading Rosemary Hibiscus Iced Tea