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Feb 11, 2016
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By the Book

By the Book: “Magpie” by Holly Ricciardi

Monday, February 8th, 2016



I made a mistake when I chose Magpie to cook from this month. I cannot make pies – never have been able, never will be able. But the book, a collection a recipes from Philadelphia’s Magpie Artisan Pie Boutique, looked so appealing, I was convinced I could.

The notion of making my own pie crust was scary, but I went for it. I definitely rolled it too thick, and despite baking it longer than instructed, it still wasn’t fully cooked. But the crust wasn’t the reason my Chocolate Blackout Pie didn’t work. The filling of milk, Valhrona cocoa powder (which I couldn’t find), egg yolks, espresso powder, sugar and cornstarch lacked the expected rich depth of flavor. It reminded me of Swiss Miss chocolate pudding – nothing wrong with that, but not the “chocolate knockout” I hoped for. Not even the chocolate cake crumb topping could deliver on such a promise. I guess I’ll continue to leave the pie baking to the experts.

The Rundown
Skill level: Moderate.
This book is for: Pie lovers with the experience to make them.
Other recipes to try: I doubt I’ll make a pie any time soon, but the herb-goat cheese quiche could tempt me. Maybe.


Chocolate Blackout Pie
1 9-inch pie

½ recipe Magpie Dough for flaky pie crust, chilled overnight (Recipe follows.)
2½ cups whole milk
6 Tbsp. Valrhona cocoa powder
2 tsp. instant coffee or espresso powder
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
½ tsp. fine salt
4 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1¼ cups crumbled chocolate cake (Recipe follows.)
Lightly sweetened freshly whipped cream, for serving

• Roll, pan and flute the dough as directed in the pie crust recipe. Then fully prebake the crust. Set the pan on a wire rack and let the shell cool to room temperature while you make the filling
• Whisk the milk, cocoa, and powdered coffee together in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Keep warm over very low heat.
• Whisk the sugar, cornstarch and salt together in a bowl. Add the yolks and whisk until smooth and pale. Immediately measure out 1 cup of the hot milk mixture and slowly add it to the yolk mixture, pouring in a thin stream and whisking constantly.
• Turn the heat under the saucepan back up to medium. Slowly add the tempered yolks into the pan, pouring in a thin stream and whisking constantly. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens to a pudding consistency and a few large bubbles rise to the surface, about 5 minutes.
• Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla extract. Let cool until slightly warm, about 5 minutes, stirring often. (Don’t cool it all the way or it will begin to set – if this happens, gently rewarm to remedy.)
• Scoop the filling into the prepared pie shell, spreading evenly and smoothing the top. Top with the crumbled cake, pressing gently into the surface of the filling Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight (at least 12 hours and up to 3 days) before slicing and serving. Serve with whipped cream.


Magpie Dough for Flaky Pie Crust
2 9-inch pie crusts

2½ cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. fine salt
¾ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch cubes and frozen
¼ cup vegetable shortening, preferably in baking stick form, frozen cut into ¼ inch pieces, and put back in the freezer
½ cup plus 1 Tbsp. ice cold water

• Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse the machine 3 times to blend. Scatter the frozen butter cubes over the flour mixture. Pulse the machine 5 to 7 times, holding each pulse for 5 full seconds to cut all the butter into pea-size pieces. Scatter the pieces of frozen shortening over the flour-and-butter mixture. Pulse the machine 4 more 1-second pulses to blend the shortening with the flour. The mixture will resemble coarse cornmeal, but will be a bit more floury and riddled with pale butter bits.
• Turn the mixture out into a large mixing bowl and make a small well in the center. If you find a few butter clumps that are closer to marble size than pea size, carefully pick them out and give them a quick smoosh with your fingers. Pour the cold water into the well. Use a curved bowl scraper to lightly scoop the flour mixture up and over the water, covering the water to help get the absorption started. Continue mixing by scraping the flour up from the sides and bottom of the bowl into the center, rotating the bowl as you mix and occasionally pausing to clean off the scraper with your finger or the side of the bowl, until the mixture begins to gather into clumps but is still very crumbly.
• Lightly gather the clumps with your fingers and use your palm to fold over and press the dough a few times, until it just begins to come together into a single large mass. It will be a raggedy wad, moist but not damp, that barely holds together; this is exactly as it should be – all it needs is a good night’s rest in the fridge.
• Divide in two to make two single crust pies.
• No ifs, ands, or buts, the dough must have its beauty sleep. That means 8 hours in the refrigerator at the very least. Extra rest is just fine; feel free to let the wrapped dough sit in the fridge for up to 3 days before rolling.
• To prebake the shell, chill the panned, fluted piecrust in the freezer until firm, 15 to 20 minutes.
• Preheat the oven to 375 with a rack in the center. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut an additional 13-by-13-inch square of parchment.
• Set the pan on the lined baking sheet. Set the square of parchment in the pie shell and gently smooth it into place, pleating as needed to fit it up against the bottom and sides of the shell. The edges of the paper will project beyond the rim of the pan; just leave them standing straight up.
• Fill the shell to the top with the dried beans. Gently stir the beans around with your fingers to ensure that there are no air pockets. Top up with more beans as needed to come level with the top of the fluted edge of the piecrust.
• Slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake the shell for 25 minutes.
• Set out a wire rack and alongside it a mixing bowl. Take the baking sheet out of the oven and set it on the rack; bring together the points of parchment and carefully lift out the beans and transfer them to the bowl.
• Slide the baking sheet back into the oven and bake the crust another 10 minutes for fully prebaked. Cool on a wire rack.


Chocolate Cake
1 8-inch square cake

¼ cup unsalted butter, plus additional for greasing baking dish
¾ cup all-purpose flour, plus additional for flouring baking dish
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. fine salt
6 Tbsp. Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ cup brewed coffee
½ cup whole milk
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp. vanilla extract

• Preheat the oven to 325 with a rack in the center. Butter and flour an 8 x8-inch baking dish.
• Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
• Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the cocoa and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Take the pan off the heat and whisk in the coffee, milk and sugars, mixing until dissolved and combined. Whisk in the egg and vanilla, then slowly whisk in the flour mixture.
• Pour the batter into the prepped pan and bake until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert on to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.
• The cake can be wrapped in plastic wrap, placed in a freezer bag, and frozen up to 1 month.

Reprinted with permission from Running Press Book Publishers

By the Book: “Mastering Pasta” by Marc Vetri

Friday, January 29th, 2016



A confession: I have never made pasta. I don’t own the fancy pasta roller attachment for my mixer; I don’t even have the one that attaches to the countertop. So I was in a tad over my head when I picked up Marc Vetri’s manifesto, Mastering Pasta: The Art and Practice of Handmade Pasta, Gnocchi and Risotto for this week’s By the Book. The first two chapters don’t even include recipes, just a meticulous scientific discussion of how complex combining wheat, egg and water really is.

I waded into the pasta-making pool with Pici Aglio E Olio, one of Vetri’s recipes that didn’t require a pasta roller. All I needed was bread flour, water, a touch of oil and elbow grease to churn out long ropes of pici. Though Vetri wanted noodles as long as 6 feet, my lack of counter space and coordination meant I halved the pasta dough and went for 3-foot-long noodles instead. Fresh pasta takes only a few minutes to cook, and my noodles hopped from boiling water into olive oil spiked with garlic and anchovy-based fish sauce in less than five minutes.

The final dish was simple, yet oh-so rich with yard-long toothsome noodles coated in a golden, pungent sauce. Don’t skimp on quality ingredients here; good olive oil and quality fish sauce are the primary flavors, so get what you pay for. Vetri’s recipe is almost overly detailed, but as a pasta novice, I appreciated the attention to technique. Without such specific instructions, I doubt my dish would have been as successful. Maybe it’s time to buy that countertop pasta roller after all.

Skill level: Intermediate to advanced cooks
This book is for: People with an Aziz Ansari-level of love for pasta and are prepared for complex sauce recipes, too.
Other recipes to try: Heirloom tomato and burrata lasagna, potato gnocchi with corn crema and corn salad
The verdict: After much debate, the reigning champ was dethroned. Mastering Pasta takes the crown.




Pici Aglio E Olio
4 servings

1 lb. pici dough (recipe follows)
1 cup plus 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Semolina or cornmeal for dusting
10 cloves garlic, cut into matchsticks
1-2 tsp. red pepper flakes
3-4 Tbsp. garum or good-quality Asian fish sauce
1½ Tbsp. chopped mixed herb (parsley, oregano and thyme are nice)

• Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface about 1/8-inch thick and about 18 inches square. Rub the surface of the dough with about 1 tablespoon of the oil, coating it evenly. The oil enriches the dough and keeps it from drying out as you work.
• Pour a pile of semolina or cornmeal near the corner of the work surface. Cut the dough square into strips ¾-to 1-inch wide. Starting at one end of a strip, use the heel of your palm to roll the strip gently back and forth on the work surface, stretching it lengthwise until forms a rope about ¼ inch in diameter. If necessary, rub a little water on the work surface to help the rope stick and roll more easily. As you roll, set the shaped portion of the rope into the semolina or cornmeal pile to prevent it from sticking to itself. You should end up with a rope 5 to 6 feet long in the pile of semolina or cornmeal. Pick up one end of the rope, drape it around a finger, and then continue to drape the entire rope around your fingers. Place the rope in parallel lines on a rimmed baking sheet dusted with semolina or cornmeal. Repeat with the remaining dough. Use the pici immediately or cover them and let them stand at room temperature for up to 2 hours. You can also freeze them in a single layer, transfer them to a zipper-lock bag, and freeze them for up to 1 month. Take the pasta straight from the freezer to the boiling pasta water.
• Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the pici and cover the pot to quickly return the water to a boil. Cook the pasta until it is tender but still a little chewy when bitten, 2 to 3 minutes.
• Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 cup oil in a large, deep saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook it, stirring occasionally, until aromatic but not brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of the pepper flakes and 3 tablespoons of the garum.
• Using tongs, drain the pasta by transferring it to the pan of sauce. Reserve the pasta water. Add 1¾ cups of the pasta water to the pan and stir vigorously over medium-high heat until the sauce reduces slightly, gets creamy, and coats the pasta, 2 to 3 minutes. Keep the pasta moving until the pasta and sauce become one thing in the pan. Taste it, adding more pepper flakes and garum until it tastes good to you. Stir in the herbs.
• Dish out the pasta onto warmed plates.

Pici Dough
1 pound

2¼ cups bread flour (11.5 percent protein), plus more for dusting
1 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup water, or more if needed

• Sift flour into a bowl. Mix in the oil and water with a fork or spoon until the dough comes together. It will look raggy at first; continue adding water by the tablespoon until the dough can be gathered into a ball. You may need to add up to 5 tablespoons more water, depending on the humidity in the room.
• Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it until it feels soft and smooth, about 3 minutes. Cover the dough and let it rest so it can relax, at least 5 minutes or up to 1 hour. Or wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for up to 3 days.

Reprinted with permission from 10 Speed Press


By the Book: “Puglia” by The Silver Spoon

Friday, January 22nd, 2016



The Puglia region of Italy is situated on the Adriatic Sea in Italy’s boot heel, and like other Italian regions, this picturesque locale has a distinct culinary heritage that the editors of The Silver Spoon Series attempted to capture in Puglia. Loving the idea of a simple Mediterranean pasta, I opted for the Fusilli con la Mollica, which essentially translates to twisty pasta and croutons.

With only seven ingredients including a healthy portion of pecorino cheese and anchovies melted in oil, I expected a rich, deeply-flavored, slightly salty bowl. Instead it fell flat, monotone with a bit of an unpleasant funk. I lay the fault for this strange flavor profile directly on the shoulders of the oil. The recipe called for two tablespoons vegetable oil, which did the job of melting the anchovies, but it did not impart the flavor that an olive oil or butter might have. The addition of some garlic, red pepper flake or a squeeze of lemon juice might have added some much-needed oomph.

All in all, this recipe was easy, the ingredients were accessible and it came together in a snap. But the results made me sad. Sad enough to drown my sorrows in a big bowl of pasta – just not this one.

Skill Level: Easy to intermediate
This book is for: People interested in learning about ingredients specific to this region of Italy and for those who can discern a good recipe before they make it, or are willing to take liberties with recipes when ingredients or instructions seem unclear.
Other recipes to try: Chard pie – at least it called for olive oil.
The Verdict:  Flour + Water. Hands down. No contest.




Fusilli con la Mollica
4 servings

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
Pinch of red chili powder
1 cup crustless croutons
4 salted anchovies
12 oz. fusilli pasta
¾ cup grated pecorino cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley

• Heat the oil in a frying pan or skillet. When hot, add a pinch of chili powder, the croutons and anchovies, stirring until the anchovies have melted. Set aside.
• Cook the fusilli in a large saucepan of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and tip into the anchovy mixture. Add the pecorino, then saute the pasta over a medium heat for a few minutes. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve immediately.

Reprinted with courtesy of Phaidon 

By the Book: “Eating Italy” by Jeff Michaud

Friday, January 15th, 2016




For this round of By the Book, I chose a twofold challenge: fettuccine with braised rabbit and porcini. First, there was the emotional challenge of cooking with rabbit (my childhood pet); and second, there were myriad techniques required to build a complex sauce. Luckily, the friendly butchers at Bolyard’s Meat & Provisions broke down two rabbits for me. By the time I saw my bunnies, they looked like just another cut of meat, not the cutest nose-wiggling animals on the planet. With the first obstacle down, it was time to rely on author Jeff Michaud to get me through the next one.

His pasta recipe was clear, resulting in beautiful fresh fettuccine that, when cooked, had the perfect al dente bite. I always recommend making your own noodles, instead of opting for store-bought. You get to play with your food, working with a hand-cranked machine and cutting shapes out of dough. It impresses people, but isn’t actually hard to do. It’s basically the perfect food.

The multi-step braised rabbit with porcini sauce took a lot of time. I had to rehydrate mushrooms, sear rabbit, saute onions, reduce wine, crush tomatoes, braise, shred, puree and top off with butter. But all that effort paid off with intensely deep, mushroom-forward umami flavor. Unfortunately, there were some practical problems. Primarily, this recipe produces nearly double the necessary amount of sauce. If I weren’t committed to cooking precisely by the book, I would never have transferred all my precious pasta into the vat of sauce. Also, this dish isn’t cheap: two whole rabbits and four ounces of dried porcini mushrooms cost a lot of money. That’s the consequence of cooking from a (not your) regional cookbook. But when you love a region, sometimes it’s worth the cost.

Skill level: Intermediate
This book is for: People with a lot of time, money and love for Italy.
Other recipes to try: Candele pasta with wild boar Bolognese
The verdict: Although the pasta had perfect bite and the sauce had miles-deep flavor, flaws in pasta-to-sauce ratio kept Eating Italy from beating out Flour + Water.




Fettuccine with Braised Rabbit and Porcini
6 to 8 servings

1 lb. (450 g.) Egg Pasta Dough rolled into 4 sheets, each about 1/16 inch (1.5 mm.) thick (recipe follows)
4 oz. (113 g.) dried porcini mushrooms (about 1½ cups)
2 rabbits (about 3 lb./1.3 kg. each)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup (60 ml.) olive oil, divided
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (2/3 cup/105 g.)
½ cup (120 ml.) white wine
2 cups (480 g.) canned plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, cored and crushed by hand
4 Tbsp. (56 g.) unsalted butter
2¾ ounces (78 g.) Parmesan cheese, grated (¾ cup), divided

• Lay a pasta sheet on your work surface and cut the pasta crosswise into 12-inch (30.5 cm.) lengths, making sure each one is well floured. Run each piece of pasta through a fettuccine cutter and fold it gently onto a floured tray. Repeat with the remaining pasta dough. Dust with flour, cover, and freeze for up to 3 days.
• Soak the porcini in hot water until soft, about 15 minutes. Pluck out the mushrooms and finely chop. Strain the soaking liquid through a fine-mesh strainer and reserve.
• Rinse the rabbits and remove the innards and excess fat deposits. Remove the hind legs and forelegs by driving your knife straight through the hip and shoulder joints. Cut each leg in half through the center joints. Snip through the breastbones with kitchen shears, then cut the rabbits crosswise into 5 or 6 pieces each. Season the rabbit pieces all over with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) of the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the rabbit pieces in batches to prevent overcrowding, and sear until golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter.
• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (175 degrees Celsius).
• Add the onion to the pan, and cook over medium heat until soft but not browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the wine, stirring to scrape the pan bottom. Simmer until the liquid reduces in volume by about half, 5 minutes. Put the tomatoes in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, and almost pureed. Add the tomatoes to the pan, along with the chopped mushrooms and the rabbit pieces. Add just enough of the reserved porcini liquid to barely cover the rabbit pieces. Cover and braise in the oven until the rabbit is so tender it falls apart, about 2 hours. Remove the rabbit, let cool slightly, and then pick the meat from the bones, feeling for small bones with your fingers. Shred the meat and discard the skin and bones. Put the braising liquid through a food mill or puree it briefly in a food processor. If the pureed braising liquid is thin, boil it until slightly thickened. Return the shredded meat to the pureed braising liquid.
• Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the pasta in batches to prevent overcrowding, and stir after a couple of seconds to prevent sticking. Cook until tender, 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on whether it is refrigerated or frozen. Drain the pasta and reserve the pasta water.
• Add the remaining 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) of olive oil and 2 cups (475 ml.) of the pasta water to the ragu. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then lower the heat to medium and simmer gently for a minute or 2. Add the cooked pasta, stirring constantly to prevent sticking. When the sauce is slightly reduced and coats the pasta, add the butter and ½ cup of (50 g.) of Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir until the butter melts completely, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to plates and garnish with the remaining Parmesan.

Egg Pasta Dough
1 pound (450 g.)

1¼ cups (155 g.) tipo 00 flour or all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
½ cup plus 1 Tbsp. (70 g.) durum flour
9 large egg yolks
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) extra-virgin olive oil

• Combine both flours in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Add the egg yolks, oil and 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) of water, mixing just until the dough comes together, 2 to 3 minutes. Add up to 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) more water, if necessary, for the dough to come together.
• Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until silky and smooth, about 5 minutes, kneading in a little flour, if necessary, to prevent sticking. The dough is ready when it gently pulls back into place when stretched with your hands. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 days.
• Cut the dough into four equal pieces and let them sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before rolling out. Shape each piece into an oblong disk that’s wide enough to fit the width of your pasta roller. Lightly flour a long work surface and set the pasta roller to its widest setting. Lightly flour one of the disks of dough, pass it through the roller, and then lightly dust the rolled dough with the flour, brushing off the excess with your hands.
• Set the roller to the next narrowest setting and again pass the dough through, dusting again with flour and brushing off the excess. Pass the dough once or twice through each progressively narrower setting. For thicker pasta, such as corzetti, you generally want to roll to about 1/8 inch (3 mm.) thick or setting No. 2 or 3 on the KitchenAid attachment. For strand pasta, such as fettuccine, or for cannelloni, you want to roll about 1/16 inch (1.5 mm.) thick (setting No. 4 or 5 on the KitchenAid attachment). For ravioli, you want to roll the pasta a little thinner, to about 1/32 inch (0.8 mm) thick (setting No. 6 or 7); ravioli sheets should be thin enough that you can read a newspaper through the dough.
• As you roll and each sheet gets longer, drape the sheet over the backs of your hands to easily feed it through the roller. You should end up with a sheet of 4 to 5 feet (1.25 to 1.5 m.) long. Lay the pasta sheet on a lightly floured work surface and use a cutting wheel, knife, or the cutter attachment on the pasta machine to create the right pasta shape for the dish you are making.



By the Book: “Flour + Water” by Thomas McNaughton

Thursday, January 7th, 2016


I’ve visited San Francisco twice and both times I tried, unsuccessfully, to get a table at the incredibly popular Flour + Water. So, when the book by Thomas McNaughtan came across my desk, I had to cook out of it. If I wanted to eat Flour + Water food, I was going to have to make it myself.

I chose the tagliatelle Bolognese, and used a dried tagliatelle rather than making it from scratch – instantly simplifying the recipe. To make the sauce, McNaughton emphasizes the most important ingredient: time. The man knows what he’s talking about. This sauce needs five hours to simmer, giving the vegetables, meat, tomato paste, milk and butter all a chance to meld flavors. The sauce gently bubbled, each ingredient slowly imparting its layer of flavor, while I watched TV in the next room. Honestly, the sauce worked harder than I did; I just had to give it time. And this ultra comforting bowl of pasta is worth the wait.

Skill level: Beginner, intermediate and advanced. The recipes seem carefully written. The skill level varies and depends on the complexity of the pasta shape and if you make it from scratch.
This book is for: People who love pasta.
Other recipes to try: Burrata triangoli with preserved lemon, summer squash and mint
The verdict: The dish was a hit. Check back next week when Flour + Water takes on Eating Italy by Jeff Michaud.


Tagliatelle Bolognese

4 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
12 ounces ground beef
5 1/2 ounces ground pork
3 1/2 ounces pancetta, chopped
3 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup milk
22 ounces dried tagliatelle pasta
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup unsalted butter
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for finishing

• For the Bolognese, heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot. Saute until soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the beef, pork and pancetta; saute, breaking up with the back of a spoon, until browned, about 15 minutes. Add 2 1/2 cups of the stock and the tomato paste; stir to blend. Reduce the heat to very low and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours. Season with salt and pepper.
• In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer; then gradually add to the sauce. Cover the sauce with a lid slightly ajar and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the milk is absorbed, about 1 hour, adding more stock 1/4 cup at a time to thin, if needed.
• Bring a large pot of seasoned water to a boil.
• Transfer the Bolognese to a 12-inch saute pan and bring to a simmer. Add the butter and begin swirling to combine.
• At the same time, drop the pasta in the boiling water. Once the pasta is cooked 80 percent through, about 2 to 3 minutes, add it to the pan. Reserve the pasta water. Continue to simmer, stirring constantly, until you achieve a sauce-like consistence, about 3 minutes. Season with salt. Remove from the heat.
•To serve, divide the pasta and sauce between four plates. Finish with the Parmigiano-Reggiano.


Reprinted with permission by Ten Speed Press

By the Book: “Eat Mexico” by Lesley Téllez

Thursday, December 31st, 2015



Eat Mexico: Recipes from Mexico City’s Streets, Markets & Fondas is Lesley Téllez’s ode to her time spent studying and indulging in Mexico City’s street food scene. As with most street food, time-consuming advanced preparation (mole sauce, homemade tortillas, slow-cooked pork) makes for fast, simple assembly come dinnertime. Expected dishes like enchiladas and tacos are approachable for novice cooks, while others like squash flower huaraches and stuffed cactus paddles require patience and a sense of adventure.

I chose to make pambazos, fried chorizo and potato sandwiches that were simple to assemble. Much of the work is done in advance (such as smoky-spicy guajillo sauce and a DIY crema sauce – though I opted to buy mine), and you need to plan in advance for this sandwich. I only let my rolls sit out one day to harden, and they were still far too soft and nearly fell apart when I attempted to toast them with the guajillo sauce. A few halves were sacrificed in the toasting process.

The filling calls for 8 ounces of chorizo to 1½ pounds of Yukon gold potatoes. Healthy resolutions or no, I’ll double the amount of chorizo next time – the mostly potato-filled rolls didn’t pack nearly enough of the rich chorizo spice as I’d hoped. Still, when slathered with rich crema and crunchy iceberg lettuce, this hefty sandwich made for a satisfying (slightly nap-inducing) lunch.

Skill level: Easy to intermediate. While some recipes are lengthy and call for hard-to-find ingredients, several only require patience and a few simple steps to achieve delicious flavors.
This book is for: Anyone who once wandered through the streets of Mexico City (or wanted to) and longs for a taste of that time.
Other recipes to try: Pollo rostizado en adobo (Roasted chicken in adobo), Bistec en salsa de chile pasilla (Steak in chile pasilla sauce) or Mole verde con pollo (Green mole with chicken)
The verdict: While the sandwiches were hearty and filling, they couldn’t compete against Hartwood’s elegance and complexity. Hartwood took on all comers to earn the top spot.






Pambazos (Fried Chorizo and Potato Sandwiches)
4 servings

4 Yukon Gold or any other small waxy potato (1½ pounds total), peeled
2 tsp. lard or canola oil, plus more for frying
½ small white onion, chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. Mexican chorizo, casings removed
4 day-old Mexican telera rolls, or hoagie or Kaiser rolls
½ cup Homemade Crema (recipe follows)
1 to 2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce

For the sauce:
5 guajillo chiles, seeded, deveined and toasted briefly on a comal
¼ cup chopped onion
1 small garlic clove, peeled
½ tsp. salt, or more to taste

• Place the potatoes in a medium pot and cover them with 2 inches cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer on high until the potatoes are soft when pierced with a fork, 28 to 30 minutes. Let cool, then dice.
• Meanwhile, make the sauce: Hydrate the toasted chiles in water until the skins are soft, about 20 minutes. Transfer, with ½ cup of the chile water, into a blender jar with the onion, garlic and salt. Blend until mostly smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the blender jar. The sauce won’t be completely silky-smooth. That’s OK. Taste again and add more salt if desired.
• Heat the lard in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, stirring until sizzling and aromatic, about 30 seconds, and then add the chorizo, breaking it apart into small crumbles. Raise the heat to medium-high and stir often until the sausage is cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.
• Stir in the potato and salt to taste. Cooked until warmed through, cover and keep warm.
• Cut each roll in half and remove some of the inner crumb. Brush the outer crust of each roll with a light coating of the chile sauce. Working in batches, warm 2 teaspoons lard or canola oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. When smoking, add one half of the bread, chile-sauce side down. Cook until dark-golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. Remove and add the other piece of bread, also chile-sauce side down. Repeat with the remaining rolls, draining between batches on a wire rack set on top of a baking sheet.
• To serve, spoon about ½ cup of the warm chorizo and potato mixture onto one bread half, then top with a layer of crema and fistful of lettuce. Cover with the other piece of bread. Repeat with the remaining pieces of bread and serve immediately, while the bread is still crunchy and hot.

Crema Casera (Homemade Crema)
1 cup

1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. plain yogurt (not Greek)

• Two days before you’d like to eat the crema, warm the cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. You should only heat to take the chill off; be careful not to overheat. Stir in the yogurt and turn off the heat.
• Pour into a small clean jar and let cool. Place the lid loosely on top, without tightening and let sit for 24 hours in a warm place.
• Place the crema in the fridge for at least 6 hours to thicken. Stir and add salt to taste (I like just a pinch) before serving.

Reprinted with permission by Kyle Books

By the Book: “Mexico: The Cookbook” by Margarita Corrillo Arronte

Friday, December 25th, 2015



When we decided to do Mexican for this round of By the Book, I was more than a little excited. I am a recent transplant from Texas, and Mexican food is my love language. I have yet to sufficiently explore Cherokee Street, and I’ve been going through some serious withdrawals in a city where Taco Bell-branded items make up a significant portion of the “Mexican Cuisine” aisle in some grocery stores. No offense.

I snatched Mexico: The Cookbook up when we were divvying our choices. The publisher, Phaidon, primarily prints books on the visual arts, but has taken on systematic tomes for different national and regional cuisines. The author, Margarita Corrillo Arronte, has researched Mexican cuisine for more than 25 years, and the book itself covers over 650 recipes from every inch of the country.

The breadth of Mexico was impressive, but also a little overwhelming. Some recipes, like the one I chose, vary by literally one ingredient and the region of origin. I appreciate the commitment, but could also do with a little more guidance. I chose to cook the Mexican beef tenderloin because it sounded both challenging (I’m not a big meat-cooker) and reasonable (with no ingredients that would be super-difficult to find). I found it to be both. It’s not just a steak to grill, but it doesn’t take three days to make either. And, for the amount of effort, the payoff in flavor and richness is huge. This is serious Mexican comfort food: sliced thin, the tenderloin is fork-tender – I only ever want to cook beef with that cut and method ever again – and the ancho chile sauce is good enough to drink. With a subtle, smoky heat and enrapturing umami depth, it could be poured over anything and be 100 percent delicious, as far as I’m concerned. I forgot to serve peas with the dish, but sopped up that sauce with every ounce of the recommended mashed potatoes. I can’t wait to cook my way across the rest of Mexico.


Skill Level: Intermediate. The recipes are clear enough, but don’t hold your hand with precise descriptions of what to expect, so they require a bit of trust, as well as a sense of adventure if you’re not used to cooking this kind of food.
This book is for: Anyone interested in Mexico and Mexican cuisine.
Other recipes to try: Shrimp with cactus paddles and cilantro, pork in green sauce
The verdict: This was a close call. Mexico offered transporting, authentic food with a lot of payoff for the amount of effort required – which, we agreed, made us more likely to cook from this book again rather than Hartwood, whose recipes are so labor-intensive. However, in the end, Hartwood remained victorious due to the incredible complexity of flavor those difficult recipes produce.




Mexican Beef Tenderloin
6 servings

1 ancho chile, dry-roasted
1 tomato, dry-roasted
1 clove garlic, dry-roasted
Pinch of oregano
4 Tbsp. corn oil
1 (2.5-lb/1.2-kg) beef
tenderloin (fillet)
2 bay leaves
1 cup (9 fl oz./250 ml.) pulque or 1 cup of beer (9 fl oz./ 250 ml.) with 1 tablespoon tequila
Sea salt and pepper

To garnish:
Mashed potatoes
Cooked peas

• Put the chiles in a small bowl with enough hot water to cover it and soak for 15 minutes.
• Put the chile with the soaking liquid, tomato, garlic, clove and oregano into a food processor or blender and process until combined. Strain into a bowl.
• Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the beef and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Add the tomato and chile mixture and cook for an additional few minutes. Add the bay leaves and just enough water to moisten the pan if it starts to get dry. When the mixture comes to a boil, add the pulque, adjust the seasoning if necessary, reduce the heat, and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.
• Remove the pan from the heat, transfer the beef to a work surface and let rest. Strain the sauce into a bowl and set aside.
• Cut the beef into slices and plate. Pour the sauce over the meat and serve with mashed potatoes and peas.


Reprinted with permission from Phaidon




By the Book: “Empanadas” by Sandra Gutierrez

Friday, December 18th, 2015



After spending the week up to my eyeballs in cookie dough, it was time to swap the sweet for the savory. Empanadas: The Hand-Held Pies of Latin America was the perfect substitution. Featuring 10 different dough recipes, two master meat recipes (flank steak and chicken), the book starts with the basics, then goes on to provide a variety of both fried and baked empanada variations from meatless to sweet.

Now I know this month is supposed to be Mexican fare, but I couldn’t pass up a recipe for a Chilean empanada. The Famous Beef, Raisin and Olive Hand Pies came together easily, though not quickly. The flank steak required a 90-minute simmer, and while this recipe yielded 22 hefty, flaky packets, assembling the  empanadas would have been more fun with a group or small assembly line of Latin cuisine enthusiasts. As I prepared the empanadas on Sunday during the football game, I received no such assistance. But that’s fine. Really.

The result was a meaty, subtly spiced, golden pocket with extra oomph courtesy of a Manzanilla olive and a little sweetness from the golden raisins. Perfect for a party or to make ahead for a grab-and-go lunch option, these baked empanadas were worth the effort.

Skill Level: Beginner to intermediate. Timing and planning are key. The dough needs to rest for a short time and then rest again after being divided into empanada portions. The flank steak needs to cook for a couple of hours and filling nearly two dozen empanadas is also time consuming.
This book is for: Anyone who enjoys spending time in the kitchen and wants to explore some lesser known flavors and rustic cooking traditions of Latin America.
Other recipes to try: Classic Ham and Cheese Pockets and the Red Pepper Salsa
The verdict: While flavorful and texturally pleasant, Hartwood remains the champ for its luxurious, fresh fare.




Famous Beef, Raisin and Olive Hand Pies
22 servings

¼ cup olive oil
2 cups finely chopped yellow onions
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. smoked Spanish paprika
1½ tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs. Cooked Flank Steak (recipe follows), finely diced
½ cup golden raisins
22 whole pitted green or Manzanilla olives
6 hardboiled eggs, peeled and quartered
1 egg white, beaten
1 recipe Bread Dough (recipe below)
Egg wash, made with 1 beaten egg and 2 tsp. half-and-half or milk.

• In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions; cook until they start to turn golden, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 20 seconds. Add the paprika, cumin, salt, oregano and pepper; stir well. Add the beef and raisins; cook for 2 minutes. Add ½ cup water (or cooking liquid from the steak) and simmer for 30 seconds, or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove the filling from the heat; transfer it to a large plate and let it cool for 30 minutes. Cover and chill it for at least 2 hours or overnight.
• After the filling chills, make the dough and let it rest, covered with plastic or with a damp towel, for 10 minutes at room temperature. Divide the dough into 22 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, folding the bottom onto itself so that the ends are at the bottom and the top are smooth (the way you’d shape rolls). Place them on a lightly floured baking sheet and cover them with a clean towel; let them rest for 10 minutes. On a well-floured surface, press each ball slightly into a flat disc.
• Line a tortilla press with a zip-top freezer bag that has been cut open on three sides so that it opens like a book. Place a disc in the middle of the tortilla press and flatten it into a 6½-inch round, about 1/8-inch thick (or roll it out with a rolling pin). Stack the discs with parchment paper in between to avoid sticking.
• Line three baking sheets with parchment paper; set them aside. Place ¼ cup of the filling, one-quarter of an egg and an olive in the bottom half of the disc, leaving a ½ inch rim without filling. Fold the bottom of the dough to meet the top of the disc, encasing the filling and forming a half-moon, and press the edges together well. Flatten it to make a 1-inch rim all around; brush the top of the rim with some of the egg white. Fold the side rims toward the middle of the empanada; fold the top rim toward the middle (like an envelope). Repeat with the remaining dough and fillings, until all the ingredients are used. The empanadas can sit uncovered at room temperature for 20 minutes before baking, or can be refrigerated for up to 1 hour before baking.
• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the empanadas on the prepared pans and brush them with the egg wash. Bake the empanadas for 28 to 30 minutes, until their tops are golden (rotate the pans in the oven halfway through baking, back to front and top to bottom, to ensure that all of the empanadas bake evenly). Transfer the empanadas to a cooling rack. Let them rest of 3 to 5 minutes. Serve them hot or at room temperature.


Cooked Flank Steak

1 to 2 lbs. flank steak
½ small white onion, halved
1 celery stalk (with leaves, preferred)
1 large or 2 small bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 large clove garlic
1 tsp. fine sea salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• Place the flank steak in a large pot. Pour in enough water to cover the steak by about 1½ inches. Add the onion, celery, bay leaf, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. Bring the pot to a boil; cover, lower the heat, and simmer for 1½ hours, or until the beef is easily shredded with a fork.
• Remove the steak from the pot, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid; set both aside. When the beef is cool enough to handle, remove any fat or sinew and slice it crosswise into thirds. Use your fingers to shred it into thin strands or chop it into a fine dice, according to the recipe; chill, covered, until ready to use.


Bread Dough

8½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tsp. fine sea salt
¾ cup melted pork or beef lard (or vegetable shortening)
2½ cups hot water (140 degrees)
Parchment paper cut into 28 (5-by-5inch) squares

• In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Make a well in the center. Add the lard and 2 cups of the water. Stir well with a spatula, until the dough starts coming together. Switch to your hands and add the remaining ½ cup water, kneading until the dough comes together (it will be soft and sticky). Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead for 1 to 2 minutes (adding more flour as needed), until the dough holds together in a ball and no longer sticks to your fingers. Return the dough to the bowl; cover it tightly with plastic wrap and let it rest for 10 minutes.




By the Book: “Hartwood” by Eric Werner and Mya Henry

Friday, December 11th, 2015



Eric Werner and Mya Henry opened their restaurant Hartwood on the edge of the jungle in Tulum, located on the Yucatan peninsula. The open-air restaurant (the jungle canopy serves as the dining room’s ceiling) has little electricity, which means the fresh Mexican fare is often prepared over open flame. It’s an idyllic setting that Werner and Henry encapsulate in their beautiful new cookbook, Hartwood. Nearly every recipe is accompanied by a large, beautifully plated photo, which is a useful guide for the more complex recipes.

For example, the recipe grouper with white bean salad and cilantro crema took about four hours to complete its many components. The bean salad requires soaking and boiling dried beans. Poblano peppers must be roasted, skinned and seeded. The dressing requires roasted garlic poached for 45 minutes in a liter of oil. But all this effort is what makes the end result so special. Everything is balanced, and each component works together for a truly spectacular dish.

Yes, it takes time to prepare, but there’s nothing worse than spending time and effort on a recipe, only to produce a lackluster meal. I will happily give my time to Hartwood again and again when the results are this good.

Skill Level: Intermediate. While directions are clear, they require multiple steps and there are often recipes within recipes. You must budget your time, but the results are worth it.
This book is for: Anyone who likes complex Mexican flavors and subtle heat
Other recipes to try: Pulpo asado with roasted potatoes and coriander dressing or the toasted coconut cake
The verdict: This dish set the bar high. Check back next week when Hartwood takes on the next Mexican cookbook.




Grouper with White Bean Salad and Cilantro Crema
4 servings

White Bean Salad
1½ cups dried navy beans or other creamy white beans, soaked overnight in water to cover
1 onion, cut in half
1 carrot, peeled and cut in half
4 oregano stems
2 Tbsp. kosher salt, or to taste
5 poblano peppers
Olive oil
4 cups arugula
½ cup cilantro leaves
½ cup Lime and Honey Vinaigrette (Recipe follows.)
4 grouper fillets (6 to 8 oz. each), skin on
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 red onion, thinly sliced
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed

Cilantro Crema
1 cup sour cream
¼ cup olive oil
1½ tsp. mashed roasted garlic (Recipe follows.)
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cilantro leaves (some tender stems are fine)
1 jalapeno, very thinly sliced
2 limes, halved

● Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
● Prepare the beans and poblanos for the salad: Drain the beans and put in a large saucepan, along with the onion, carrot and oregano. Add water to cover by 2 inches, then add the salt and boil gently over medium heat for 30 to 45 minutes, until the beans are soft. Drain the beans, discarding the onion, carrot and oregano. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
● While the beans beans are cooking, coat the poblanos with olive oil, put on a small baking sheet, and roast for 20 minutes. Flip the peppers and roast for 20 minutes longer, or until charred all over. Let the peppers cool, then remove the seeds and skin. Cut into ½ inch-wide strips and fold into the white beans. Set aside.
● Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
● Coat the grouper fillets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Oil the grill grate and grill the fish skin side down for about 1 minute to get nice grill makes. Turn 45 degrees and cook for 1 minute longer. Flip and repeat.
● Put the red onion and butter in a large cast-iron skillet. Transfer the fish, skin side up, to the skillet and drizzle olive oil over the skin. Roast in the oven until just cooked through, about 10 minutes.
● Meanwhile, add the arugula and cilantro to the white beans and stir gently to combine, being careful not to mash the beans. Add the vinaigrette and stir to incorporate.
● Make the crema: Combine the sour cream, olive oil, roasted garlic, salt and pepper in a blender and puree until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the cilantro in two or three batches, pulsing for about 10 seconds after each addition. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
● Spoon the salad on to individual plates and drizzle with the cilantro crema. Top with the grouper and red onions. There will be some brown butter left in the skillet — pour it over everything. Garnish with the jalapeno slices (about 2 per fillet) and limes.


Lime and Honey Vinaigrette

¼ cup fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes), or to taste
¾ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. honey, or to taste
1 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste

● Whisk all the ingredients in a small bowl until emulsified, then taste — everything should be in balance: the acid of the lime, the sweetness of the honey, the salinity of the salt. If anything is too faint, add more of whatever is missing. The vinaigrette will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator, whisk again before serving to re-emulsify it.


Roasted Garlic Oil and Roasted Garlic

6 whole heads garlic
3 thyme sprigs
3 oregano sprigs
1 1-liter bottle olive oil

● Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
● Slice off the top ½ inch of each garlic head so that most of the cloves are exposed. Put the garlic in a deep sturdy 10-inch pan with the herbs and add enough olive oil so that the heads are just above the surface. Cover with the parchment paper, then tightly cover the pan with foil. Roast for 45 minutes, or until the garlic is soft — check by piercing a head with a paring knife. Remove the parchment and foil and roast for 5 more minutes to brown the garlic a bit, let cool.
● Strain the oil into a 1 liter measuring cup; set the garlic aside. Return the oil to its original bottle (simply pour through a funnel set into the neck of the bottle). Cover the oil and keep in a cool, dark place (the oil will last longer if you refrigerate it; just be sure to take it out about an hour before cooking to liquefy).

Reprinted with permission from Artisan Publishing


By the Book: “Cairo Kitchen” by Suzanne Zeidy

Friday, November 27th, 2015



Being a sucker for beautiful food photography, there were at least six dishes in each of the nine chapters in Suzanne Zeidy’s Cairo Kitchen that I wanted to make for this final round of the Middle Eastern cookbook battle. I had to narrow it down. I considered that in the next few weeks there will be many potluck dinners and parties to which I will need to bring a side dish. With an eye toward keeping it somewhat light and healthy, I wisely settled on the Honey-Spiced Carrot Salad.

The recipe came together in a snap and only required about 15 minutes in front of the stove to boil water and blanch carrots. The rest of the ingredients were easy to procure, and I had most of the required spices and dressing ingredients in my pantry already.

The end result was a bright salad with a touch of warm spice from the cinnamon and nutmeg. although the texture may have been less grainy had it been have whisked together first instead of dressing the carrots with individual ingredients then mixing. Lemon juice provided an acidic balance to the honey and olive oil, while the carrots and raisins kept the salad pleasant but not overly sweet. Heads up to anyone inviting me for dinner: I’m bringing this salad.

Skill Level: Beginner to intermediate. The directions are thorough and easy to follow.
This book is for: Anyone wanting to feast on beautiful pictures and try beautiful food. The recipes vary from fried street food to hefty stews to sunny salads.
Other recipes to try: Oven-roasted Vegetables, Almond Semolina Cake
The Verdict: While the Honey-Spiced Carrot Salad came together well, it was not as complete and cohesive as last week’s eggplant. For this By the Book battle, Zahav takes top prize.




Honey-Spiced Carrot Salad
4 to 6 servings

500 g. carrots, peeled and sliced
50 g. raisins
2 Tbsp. walnuts, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh coriander, plus extra leaves to garnish
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. allspice
2 Tbsp. honey
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp. olive oil

• Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and prepare a large bowl of iced water. Blanch the carrots in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and place in the iced water to stop the cooking and retain the bright color.
• Meanwhile, soak the raisins in lukewarm water for 15 minutes until softened, then drain.
• In a large bowl, mix together carrot, raisins, walnuts, the chopped coriander and dill.
• Season with the cinnamon, allspice, honey, lemon, olive oil and salt, to taste. Toss all together and garnish with fresh coriander.



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