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Aug 18, 2017
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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The Weekend Project

The Weekend Project: Ravioli

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

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Everyone is happier with a bag of frozen ravioli they can pull out some cold January night and share with those closest to them. Easy to make ahead and freeze, these magical little pouches can be stuffed with any tasty filling and finished with a simple red sauce, a splash of olive oil or brown butter and a little shredded Parmesan.

Laura Schenone, author of The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken, spent several years searching for the story behind her disjointed family and the food that united them. The beguiling Genoese ravioli served at Christmas kept her searching for her family’s “true” recipe. In the end, she realized that all ravioli recipes and the time spent with others in the kitchen preparing pastas, gnocchi and sauces created a sense of community that defined her family and brought them joy.

 

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I am not Italian, and I have not mastered the art of hand-rolled pasta or ravioli shaping, but I remember with great clarity the toasted ravioli I shared with visiting aunts and uncles when they came to town to celebrate. Indeed, one of my favorite Christmas packages I shipped to my cousins in New Jersey was a Styrofoam box of frozen T-ravs.

This pasta dough can be made by hand or using a stand mixer and pasta rolling attachment. Both work equally well, but for simplicity’s sake, I’ve given instructions for the stand mixer in this recipe. If you want to learn how to make the ravioli by hand, I recommend Schenone’s book, as well as Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking for detailed descriptions, photos and helpful tips on how to hand-roll pasta dough.

 

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The Shopping List*
1½ lbs. assorted mushrooms, such as cremini, oyster or shiitake
1 small red onion
1 tsp. dried thyme
4 Tbsp. sherry
¼ cup breadcrumbs
1 medium butternut squash
1¼ cups mascarpone
1½ cups shredded Parmesan
1 cup ricotta
⅛ tsp. grated nutmeg, plus more to taste
5 cups all-purpose flour
8 eggs
4 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. finely chopped pistachios
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
Special equipment: Pasta roller attachment for stand mixer

* This list assumes you have canola or vegetable oil, olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper at hand in your kitchen. If not, you’ll need to purchase these items, too.

The Game Plan
Day 1: Make the butternut squash filling. Make the roasted mushroom filling. Make the pasta dough.
Day 2: Roll and fill the pasta dough. Freeze or cook the ravioli.

 

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Roasted Mushroom Filling
2 cups

6 to 8 Tbsp. canola or vegetable oil, divided
1½ lbs. assorted mushrooms, such as cremini, oyster or shiitake, stemmed and thinly sliced
1 small red onion or shallot, thinly sliced, divided
1 tsp. dried thyme, divided
4 Tbsp. sherry, divided
⅓ cup mascarpone
½ cup shredded Parmesan
½ cup ricotta
¼ cup breadcrumbs
2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Day 1: Warm a large wide-bottomed skilled over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil to coat the bottom of the pan and wait until it begins to smoke.
• Add enough mushrooms to fill the pan in even layer, one-quarter of the red onion and ¼ teaspoon thyme. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and pan roast 4 to 5 minutes, until the mushrooms release their liquid and are browned. Stir the mushrooms occasionally, adding 1 tablespoon sherry and more oil as needed to prevent burning.
• Place the cooked mushrooms on a baking sheet to cool and repeat the process, cooking the mushrooms in batches. Let cool completely.
• In the bowl a food processor, add the cooked mushrooms, mascarpone, Parmesan, ricotta, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper to taste and pulse until combined. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use.

 

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Butternut Squash Filling
2 cups

1 medium butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 tsp. kosher salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
¾ cup mascarpone
½ cup shredded Parmesan
½ cup ricotta
⅛ tsp. grated nutmeg

Day 1: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.
• Place each squash half skin-side down on the baking sheet. Liberally coat each half with 1 tablespoon olive oil and ½ teaspoon salt and pepper.
• Roast 1 hour 15 minutes, until the squash is golden and the flesh is tender. Let cool completely, then remove ½ cup roasted squash and place into a clean dishtowel or cheesecloth. Squeeze the cloth over the sink to remove as much water as possible. Reserve the remaining squash for another use.
• In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the squash, mascarpone, Parmesan and ricotta. Stir to combine, and season with the remaining 2 teaspoons salt, the nutmeg and pepper. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use.

 

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Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce
4 dozen

4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more to flour countertop
8 eggs
1 batch Butternut Squash Filling (recipe above)
1 batch Roasted Mushroom Filling (recipe above)
½ cup water
4 Tbsp. butter
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 Tbsp. finely chopped pistachios
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Grated nutmeg to taste

Special equipment: Pasta roller attachment for stand mixer

Day 1: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix 2 cups flour and 4 eggs on medium speed until evenly combined, then knead 7 to 8 minutes. The dough will be smooth and not sticky. Add flour 1 teaspoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached.
• Wrap the dough tightly in plastic. Repeat with the remaining 2 cups flour and 4 eggs.
• Refrigerate the dough at least 20 minutes or overnight.
Day 2: Dust a large section of clean countertop with flour. Dust 1 baking sheet with flour.
• Cut the pasta dough into 4 equal portions. Using a stand mixer fitted with the pasta roller attachment on the thickest setting, gently feed 1 portion of dough through the roller on low speed. Repeat, then adjust the roller to the next thinnest setting and gently feed the dough through twice more. Repeat, passing the dough through twice on each progressively thinner setting until it has passed through the thinnest setting.
• Place the long sheet of pasta dough on the floured countertop. Dollop about 1 tablespoon butternut squash or mushroom filling on the bottom half of the sheet about 1½ inches apart.
• Dip a brush or finger into the water and wet the dough around each dollop of filling. Fold the top half of the dough over the filling and line it up with the bottom edge, but do not seal.
• Working from the top to bottom, gently press the dough together around each filling dollop, pressing out as much air as possible and gently sealing the dough.
• Use a ravioli cutter or a sharp knife to cut the ravioli into individual pieces and place them on the baking sheet.*
• Repeat the rolling and sealing processes with the remaining batches of dough and filling.
• Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees.
• Meanwhile, add the butter to a large skillet over medium heat. Swirl gently until the solids take on a caramel color, 4 to 6 minutes.
• Working in batches, boil the fresh ravioli 2 minutes, until the pasta is cooked and evenly colored.
• Remove with a spider or slotted spoon and place them in the brown butter. Swirl to coat, then remove to a large serving dish and keep warm in the oven while you cook the remaining ravioli.
• Garnish the butternut squash ravioli with Parmesan, toasted pistachios and grated nutmeg. Garnish the mushroom ravioli with chopped parsley and pepper.

*To freeze for later use, place the baking sheets of ravioli in the freezer 1 to 2 hours, then store in zip-top freezer bags up to 6 months. Cook from frozen in a large pot of salted boiling water 4 to 5 minutes, until al dente. Strain and serve in brown butter sauce.

 

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Photos by Michelle Volansky

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The Weekend Project: Pretzels and Beer Cheese

Friday, October 28th, 2016

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Soft pretzels fresh from the oven are practically an out-of-body experience – especially when paired with beer cheese sauce, pungent mustard and a pint of a good beer.

Bad pretzels, on the other hand, are not worth the energy it takes to chew them. The disappointment of a stale or soggy pretzel can only be soothed with a significant amount of dark chocolate.

Don’t take chances on such despair. Homemade pretzels are not difficult, and with the right chemicals, safety gear and a friend to help shape and consume, this is a perfect activity for a Halloween weekend.

Like bagels, pretzels are made from a simple yeast dough that’s sweetened with malt syrup. After a short rise, they are shaped, submerged in a lye solution, and then baked for a few minutes. While a baking soda-based alkaline solution does produce pretzels with decent chew, a short bath in lye produces a much more robust color and flavor.

 

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Working with food-grade lye (available online) does require a few precautions. Be sure to wear clean rubber gloves, eye covering and an apron or smock to protect against any splashes. Also, work in a well-ventilated area. We took this step outside to avoid any overwhelming fumes.

And before you write this recipe off as too much work – yes, I hate buying extra equipment and ingredients for one recipe, too. I am always open to substitutions, but after hearing the results of other homemade pretzel experiments, the mad scientist in me was curious enough to see for myself. The conclusion in our household was unanimous: pretzels dipped in lye had a much better aroma, chew and color than those made with baking soda solution and were by far the favorite.

We provided you with a lovely, roux-based beer cheese sauce, but if you feel like upping your mad scientist game this weekend, a little sodium citrate will take the creamy texture of your sauce to the next level.

 

The Shopping List*
2 Tbsp. malt syrup
1 Tbsp. (1¾ oz.) active dry yeast
4 to 4½ cup bread flour
½ cup food-grade lye
Coarse sea salt
2 Tbsp. flour or 5½ g. sodium citrate
6 oz. lager
3 to 4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
Splash of Louisiana-style hot sauce
¼ tsp. paprika

*This list assumes you have kosher salt and butter at hand in your kitchen. If not, you will need to purchase those items, too.

 

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Mad Scientist Pretzels
8 servings

1½ cup warm water (approximately 110 degrees)
2 Tbsp. malt syrup*
1 Tbsp. (1¾ oz.) active dry yeast
2 tsp. kosher salt
4 to 4½ cup bread flour
2 quarts cold water
½ cup food-grade lye**
Coarse sea salt

Special equipment: clean rubber gloves, protective eyewear, apron, large nonreactive (plastic or glass) bowl

• In the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attached, combine the warm water, yeast, malt syrup and kosher salt. Let rest 5 minutes until the liquid begins to bubble.
• With the mixer on low speed, add the flour 1 cup at a time until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Increase to medium speed and knead the dough 5 to 6 minutes, adding more flour if it is too sticky. The dough should be soft, but not wet.
• Place the dough in a large mixing bowl and cover with a dry towel or oiled plastic wrap. Let rise 30 to 45 minutes, until it has doubled in size.
• Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet.
• Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll and gently stretch the 1 piece of dough into a 2-foot long rope. To make a traditional pretzel, form the rope into a U-shape. Cross one side over the other, then twist and fold the ends down to the bottom of the U and press gently to adhere. Place the pretzel on the baking sheet and repeat with the remaining dough pieces.
• Don clean rubber gloves, protective eyeware and an apron. In a well-ventilated space, add the cold water and lye to a large nonreactive bowl and mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the lye dissolves.
• Use gloved hands to gently submerge 1 pretzel in the lye bath 10 seconds. Return to the baking sheet and sprinkle with the coarse sea salt. Repeat with the remaining pretzels.
• Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until the pretzels are browned. Remove from cooking sheet and cool on a rack. Serve with beer cheese sauce or coarse-grain mustard.

*Available at Whole Foods
**Available online

 

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Beer Cheese Sauce No. 1
2 cups

2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
6 oz. lager
3 to 4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
Splash of Louisiana-style hot sauce
¼ tsp. paprika

• In a small pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter and add the flour and stir 2 minutes, scraping the sides to completely cook the flour. Add the beer and continue stirring until it warm.
• Add the cheese and stir until melted. Let simmer, stirring, until the beer has reduce and the cheese sauce reaches the desired consistency. A thick sauce takes about 5 minutes.
• Stir in the hot sauce and paprika and serve with pretzels. Sauce will keep, refrigerated, in an airtight container for several weeks.

 

Beer Cheese Sauce No. 2
Adapted from a recipe from The Modernist Cuisine
2 cups

6 oz. lager
5½ g. sodium citrate*
3 to 4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
Splash of Louisiana-style hot sauce
¼ tsp. paprika

• In a small pot over medium-low heat, whisk together the beer and sodium citrate until the sodium citrate completely dissolves. Bring to a simmer.
• Whisk in the cheese 1 spoonful at a time until melted.
• Stir in the hot sauce and paprika and serve with pretzels. Sauce will keep, refrigerated, in an airtight container for several weeks.

* Available online

 

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-photos by Michelle Volansky 

The Weekend Project: Orange Chicken

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

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Author Grace Young, who has penned Breath of a Wok and several other cookbooks on Chinese cuisine, was once asked where to get good Chinese food in New York City. “At home,” she replied.

This weekend, we’re making a favorite Chinese carryout dish in your kitchen using a classic quick cooking method. Stir-frying takes bountiful vegetables, seasons them with a little meat or aromatics, and then cooks them fire-hot wok. How can a simple, lightning-quick meal be something that merits a weekend project? A secret weapon: brine.

For this recipe, we opted to brine the chicken thighs instead of marinating them. This enhances the chicken’s flavor without adding extra oil. It should be done about six to eight hours before cooking, so the evening before you plan to serve the meal is an ideal time.

According to Young, the secret to good stir-fry is to get a well-seasoned, scorching cooking vessel. She suggests using a flat-bottomed skillet for those with a standard stovetop, and a round-bottomed wok if you’re lucky enough to have a professional range in your kitchen.

Once you’re skillet or wok is searing hot, flash-fry the aromatics with a little oil or water, followed by meat, then vegetables. Avoid oily, soggy stir-fries by cooking in smaller batches – never put more than a single layer on the cooking surface and keep the temperature as high as possible.

 

The Shopping List*
5 to 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 to 3 heads broccoli
5 egg whites
6 Tbsp. cornstarch
9 to 12 oranges
¼ cup sesame oil
½ cup minced garlic
½ cup minced ginger
30 to 36 oz. Belgian white ale
1 cup honey
1/3 cup soy sauce
White rice for serving

*This list assumes you have canola oil, kosher salt and sugar at hand in your kitchen. If not, you’ll need to purchase those, too.

The Game Plan
Day 1: Make the brine. Make the orange sauce. Brine the chicken.
Day 2: Make the orange chicken.

 

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Orange Brine

3 cups water
2 Tbsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. sugar
Zest and juice of 3 to 4 oranges (about 1 cup juice)

Day 1: In a saucepan over high heat, combine the water, salt and sugar and boil until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and add the orange zest and juice. Refrigerate until cold.

 

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Orange Sauce
1 quart

¼ cup sesame oil
½ cup minced garlic
½ cup minced ginger
Zest and juice of 6 to 8 oranges (about 2 cups juice)
30 to 36 oz. Belgian white ale
1 cup honey
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp. cornstarch to thicken
1 tsp. water

Day 1: In a large pot, warm the sesame oil over medium-high heat. Saute the garlic and ginger until fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes.
• Add the orange zest and stir to coat, then add the orange juice and beer and simmer until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add the honey and soy sauce and simmer 3 to 5 minutes.
• In a small cup, whisk together the cornstarch and water until there are no lumps. Slowly whisk the cornstarch mixture into the sauce until it reaches the desired consistency. The orange sauce will keep refrigerated 3 to 4 weeks.

 

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Orange Chicken
4 to 6 servings

5 to 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
Orange Brine (recipe above)
5 egg whites
5 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup water
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
2 to 3 heads broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
Canola oil, for frying
1 cup Orange Sauce (recipe above)
White rice for frying

Day 1: Place the chicken in the cold brine and refrigerate 4 to 6 hours.
Day 2: In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites and cornstarch together. Add the chicken pieces and toss in the mixture until evenly coated. Set aside.
• In a large pot bring, the water and salt to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the broccoli, cover and cook about 5 minutes or until tender. Drain the broccoli and set aside.
• Add about 3 inches canola oil to a Dutch oven or large pot and bring it to 325 degrees over medium heat. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain 325 degrees during frying.
• Working in batches, deep-fry the chicken 5 to 6 minutes, until golden-brown. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
• In a large flat-bottomed pan or wok over medium-high heat, warm the orange sauce until viscous. Add the chicken and broccoli and toss quickly to coat. Serve over rice.

 

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-photos by Michelle Volansky

The Weekend Project: Pita

Friday, August 26th, 2016

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We don’t even want to move during St. Louis summers, much less spend hours over a hot stove or oven. Inspired by the cuisine of the sunny Mediterranean, these recipes for pitas and two refreshing dips revive you for exciting warm weather adventures. Simple tzatziki brings together the cool flavors of cucumber, mint and lemon with the tang of a good yogurt. If you are feeling ambitious, you can make your own yogurt, or get creative and change up the herbs with whatever looks good in the garden. Dill, chives and oregano all make interesting and savory variations.

The roasted eggplant-mushroom dip is also childlike in its simplicity but surprisingly filling. It is one of my favorite dishes to take to a party or have around for lunch on the go; make a lot because it never lasts long. This dish is also ripe for creativity. Try roasting other vegetables and adding them to the blend.

The Gameplan
Day 1: Prep the pita dough.
Day 2: Bake the pitas. Make the dips.

The Shopping List*
1 package yeast
4½ cups bread flour
2 cups Greek yogurt
1 cucumber
1 bunch fresh mint
1 bunch fresh dill
5 to 7 cloves garlic
2 lemons
2 to 3 cups cubed eggplant
2 cups chopped mixed mushrooms
1 bunch fresh parsley
½ tsp. cumin

*This list assumes you have canola oil, olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper at hand in your kitchen. If not, you will need to purchase those items, too.

 

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Pita Bread
8 pitas

2 cups warm water (105 to 110 degrees)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 package (about 2½ tsp.) active dry yeast
4½ cups bread flour
2 tsp. kosher salt

Day 1: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the bread hook attachment, combine the water, oil and yeast. Let the yeast proof 5 to 10 minutes, until bubbles begin to form on the surface.
• With the mixer on medium speed, add 1 cup flour and mix thoroughly 1 to 2 minutes. Add the remaining flour 1 cup at a time, mixing each thoroughly before adding the next. Add the salt.
• Continue to knead the dough on medium-high speed 2 to 4 minutes, until it forms a ball on the hook and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Add more flour if the dough is too sticky. Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover with oiled plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Day 2: Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.
• Place a pizza stone or cookie sheet in a cold oven and preheat to 450 degrees.
• Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 8 3-ounce pieces.
• Lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough into 1/8-thick circles. Let rise on the work surface 20 minutes.
• Working in batches if needed, use a large, heatproof spatula to slide the pitas onto the pizza stone. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until puffed and slightly brown but still soft. Repeat with the remaining pitas, if needed. Cover them with clean towel to keep warm until time to serve with dips.

 

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Tzatzki
3 cups

2 cups Greek yogurt or homemade yogurt
1 cup peeled, finely diced cucumber
¼ cup minced mint
¼ cup minced dill
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
¾ tsp. kosher salt

• Day 2: Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Season to taste with salt. Serve with pitas.

 

Roasted Eggplant-Mushroom Dip
3 cups

2 to 3 cups cubed eggplant
2¾ tsp. kosher salt, divided
8 Tbsp. canola oil
2 cups chopped mixed mushrooms
2 to 3 Tbsp. olive oil
4 to 6 cloves raw or roasted garlic
¼ cup parsley, chopped
½ tsp. cumin
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

• Day 2: Cube the eggplant and toss in a colander with 2 teaspoons salt. Place the colander over a bowl and let the water drain from the eggplant, about 30 minutes.
• Place a large skillet over high heat until it just begins to smoke. Add 2 tablespoons canola oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Working in batches, add a layer of eggplant and saute until browned on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and let cool. Add another 2 tablespoons canola oil and repeat with the remaining eggplant. Set aside and let cool.
• Working in batches, add 2 tablespoons canola oil and add a layer of mushrooms. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and saute until the release their water and are browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and let cool. Add another 2 tablespoons canola oil and repeat with the remaining mushrooms. Set aside and let cool.
• In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the garlic, olive oil, parsley and cumin until combined. Add the eggplant, mushrooms, lemon juice and zest and pulse again until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper and pulse again to desired consistency. Serve with pitas.

The Weekend Project: Gnocchi

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

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Several weeks ago, we had the pleasure of attending Pastaria Nashville chef Josh Poletti’s Dorm Room Dinner at 33 Wine Bar. The meal was spectacular, but a gnocchi dish served in a clarified pork stock with shaved country ham reminded us how much we loved the simple, elegant French gnocchi.

French gnocchi are actually far easier to make than their potato-based Italian counterpart. Unless you have an Italian grandmother at your elbow correcting your rolling technique, you will make thousands of dumplings before you achieve a texture as light and airy as this joy of the French culinary world.

 

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French gnocchi are made from choux pastry dough, the butter-flour-egg base used for many like eclairs and profiteroles. For gnocchi, the dough is rolled, then cut into little pillows and gently parboiled. From there, they can be finished in skillet with butter or oil until they achieve a glorious brown crust. Crispy on the outside, light and airy on the inside, they have a delicate chew that pairs well with a simple seasonal saute of whatever you find at the farmers market.

 

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This month’s project took inspiration from Poletti’s dish and played with these French dumplings using Japanese flavors. To season the dumplings, we replaced the salt in the gnocchi with miso paste and served them in a rich mushroom stock with fresh bok choy and roasted mushrooms. A simple dish made elegant by technique and fresh ingredients, this Japanese nod to French cuisine will please the pickiest Parisian.

 

The Shopping List*
3 lbs. shiitake mushrooms
3 celery stalks
2 carrots
1 large white or yellow onion
1 large leek
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 to 2 Tbsp. dried mushroom seasoning**
3 Tbsp. shiro (white) miso paste
4 eggs
2 Tbsp. minced chives
4 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
1 8-oz. package enoki mushrooms
2 to 3 small heads bok choy

*This list assumes you have butter, garlic, flour and salt at hand in your kitchen. If not, you’ll need to purchase those items, too.
**Available at Penzeys or Asian markets

The Gameplan
Day 1: Make the mushroom stock. Make the gnocchi.
Day 2: Make the soup.

 

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Mushroom Stock
About 4 quarts

3 lbs. shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
3 celery stalks, cut into 3-inch pieces
2 carrots, cut into 3-inch pieces
1 white or yellow large onion, quartered
1 large leek, sliced in half lenghtwise and rinsed
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 to 2 Tbsp. dried mushroom seasoning**

Day 1: Separate the stems from the mushroom caps. Quarter the one-third of the caps; reserve the remaining two-thirds for the Japanese Gnocchi and Mushroom Soup (Recipe follows.). Place the remaining caps and stems in a large stockpot with the celery, carrots, onion, leek bay leaf, thyme, tomato paste and salt.
• Cover with 5 quarts water and bring to a boil over high heat. Skim any gray residue off the top, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently 30 to 40 minutes.
• Place a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl and strain the broth. Discard the solids. Rinse the sieve, line with paper towels or cheesecloth and strain the stock again. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

 

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Japanese French Gnocchi
6 cups

1 1/3 cup water
½ cup unsalted butter
1 tsp. kosher salt
3 Tbsp. shiro (white) miso paste
2 cups flour
4 eggs
2 Tbsp. minced chives

Day 1: In a heavy-bottomed pot, bring the water, butter and salt to a simmer over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted and the water starts to bubble, add the miso paste and whisk.
• Return the mixture to a simmer, add the flour and vigorously stir with a wooden spoon. The dough will pull away from the pot and form into a ball. Lower the heat to medium and continue stirring constantly until the flour smells toasted and the miso paste is fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. The dough should have the texture of Play-Doh starting to dry out.
• Place the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer and let rest 30 to 45 minutes.
• Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat.
• With the mixer running on medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, mixing in each egg thoroughly, then add the chives. Beat until the dough is silky and pliable, 1 to 2 minutes.
• Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Flour your hands and roll a piece of dough into a sphere the size of a golf ball, then roll into a rope ½ inch thick. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 1-inch pieces. Repeat with the remaining dough.
• Working in batches, add 20 to 25 dumplings to the boiling water, taking care not to overcrowd the pot. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, until the gnocchi rise to the surface. Gently remove with a slotted spoon or spider and transfer to a plate to dry and cool.
• Cover the parboiled gnocchi and refrigerate until ready to use.

 

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Japanese Mushroom and Bok Choy Soup
Inspired by a recipe from Pastaria’s Josh Poletti
6 servings

6 cups Mushroom Stock (recipe above)
4 Tbsp. grapeseed oil, divided
1 garlic glove, smashed
1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
2 lbs. sliced shiitake mushroom caps (reserved from Mushroom Broth)
1 8-oz. package enoki mushrooms, trimmed
2 to 3 small heads bok choy
6 cups Japanese French Gnocchi (recipe above)

Day 2: Bring the stock to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium, cover and simmer to keep warm.
• In a large skillet over high heat, add 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil and garlic, swirling until the garlic is fragrant, 10 seconds. Add half the shiitake and enoki mushrooms (enough to cover the bottom of the pan in a single layer), then sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and saute 1 to 2 minutes, until they start to brown. Remove and set aside. Add another tablespoon grapeseed oil to the skillet and repeat with the remaining mushrooms and ½ teaspoon salt.
• Reduce the heat to medium-high and add another tablespoon grapeseed oil. Add half the gnocchi and saute until browned on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the skillet, add the remaining tablespoon grapeseed oil and repeat with the remaining gnocchi.
• To serve, remove the stems from the bok choy and discard. Evenly divide the leaves and the mushroom mixture between 6 large serving bowls. Add 1 cup gnocchi to each bowl, then cover with 1 cup mushroom stock.

** Available at Penzeys or Asian markets.

-photos by Michelle Volansky

 

The Weekend Project: Dark & Stormy, two ways

Friday, May 13th, 2016

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After a busy day of spring cleaning and yard work and the warm air begins to settle in, we find ourselves daydreaming of summer vacation. And while the dog days of summer and a Caribbean cruise are still a long way off, we can find some consolation in the cool refreshment of a Dark & Stormy made with homemade ginger beer. And don’t sweat the DIY; the effort required to make ginger beer is about as taxing as a lazy afternoon on the beach.

Nonalcoholic ginger beer can be made in two ways. First, you can make a sugary solution to feed yeast, which provides natural carbonation for your sparkling beverage. Second, you can make an intense ginger simple syrup that is finished with a splash of soda water.

 

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The first method isn’t complicated, but it does require 24 to 72 hours and a little space in the refrigerator. You also need to be around every 12 hours or so to gently loosen the lid and allow some of the gas to release, otherwise your science project will explode and the clean up will be a very different sort of weekend project. The ginger syrup takes less time and can be refrigerated several months and added to almost any iced tea or summery beverage for a little extra sparkle in your summer.

The Gameplan
Day 1: Make the ginger beer or make the ginger syrup.
Day 2: Refrigerate the ginger beer or make a Dark & Stormy with ginger syrup.
Day 3: Make a Dark & Stormy with ginger beer.

 

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Ginger Beer
2 quarts

8 cups water, divided
Juice of 2 lemons
1 lemon peel
1 cup ice
¼ cup fresh grated ginger
1 star anise
¼ tsp. ground white pepper
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. Champagne yeast*

• Day 1: In a medium stockpot, bring 4 cups water, the lemon juice, lemon peel, ginger, star anise and pepper to a boil over high heat. Add the sugar, stir until it is dissolved and remove from heat. Add the remaining 4 cups water and ice and allow it to cool until it warm to the touch, about 110 degrees.
• Stir in the the yeast and place in a cool, dark place at least 3 hours or overnight.
• Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl; discard the solids. Funnel the liquid a clean plastic 2-liter bottle and cap.
• Ferment the ginger beer 12 to 24 hours, carefully opening the bottle every 12 hours to release pressure.
• Day 2: Pour the ginger beer into glass bottles with swing stoppers attached or growlers and refrigerate. Ferment another 24 hours, carefully opening the bottles every 12 hours to release pressure. (Note: Continue to open the bottles at least once a day as long as the ginger beer remains in the refrigerator to avoid a build up a pressure and potential explosions.)

Dark & Stormy (with ginger beer)
1 serving

3 oz. homemade ginger beer
2 oz. Gosling’s Black Seal Rum or another dark rum
¼ oz. lime juice
Lime wheel, star anise and white pepper to garnish

• Day 3: Pour the ginger beer, rum and lime juice into a rocks or highball glass. Add ice to fill, then gently stir to combine. Garnish with the lime wheel, star anise and white pepper.

 

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Ginger Syrup
Adapted from a recipe by Planter’s House’s Jamie Kilgore
3 cups

2 cups water
2 cups sugar
Juice of 3 lemons
2 lemon peels
½ cup grated fresh ginger
¼ tsp. white pepper
2 star anise

• Day 1: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan or pot, stir all the ingredients to a simmer over medium heat, until the sugar has dissolved and the ingredients have had a chance to steep, about 10 minutes.
• Remove from heat and allow the syrup to cool and the aromatics and ginger to infuse for 1 to 3 hours.
• Strain through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth; discard the solids. Pour into an airtight container and store, refrigerated, up to 3 months.

Dark & Stormy (with ginger syrup)
1 serving

2 oz. Gosling’s Black Seal Rum or another dark rum
½ oz. ginger syrup
¼ oz. lime juice
Splash of soda water
Lime wheel, star anise and white pepper to garnish

• Day 2: Pour the rum, ginger syrup and lime juice into a rocks or highball glass. Add ice to fill, then top with soda and gently stir to combine. Garnish with the lime wheel, star anise and white pepper.

*Champagne yeast can be found at most homebrewing supply stores.

The Weekend Project: Creole Cassoulet

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

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The first time we made a cassoulet was for the reception at our twins’ baptism. They were our first children, and our family and godparents came over to celebrate. It was the perfect dish for a cold, wintery weekend, shared among family and celebrated with much wine. That was many years ago, when we were just getting our sea legs in the kitchen.

A dish rich in flavor and history, the cassoulet is a traditional Southern French dish where three separate villages, Castelnaudary, Carcassonne and Toulouse all make unique versions, and each profess to have the one true recipe. Each town argues whether mutton, pork, duck confit or partridge enter into this hearty white bean stew.

 

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A cassoulet always contains at least two different meats, and it slowly turns into a steaming, gelatinous casserole with a savory crust created thanks to the large surface area of the traditional ceramic cooking vessel. It was originally a peasant dish made using whatever meats were around (like sausages, confit duck legs or preserved pork), then adding stock, beans and aromatics. The cook would then tuck the dish on the cooler side of the bread oven and let it slowly simmer away.

For this Creole-inspired version, we opted for black-eyed peas, homemade chicken andouille, pork belly and confit chicken legs, but feel free to substitute any of your favorite meats, sausages, etc. The essence of a true cassoulet is a patient cook who knows how to let the subtle flavors of a well-prepared piece of meat and good stock imbibe the humble bean to create a dish to warm friends and lead to a memorable evening.

 

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The Gameplan
Day 1: Soak the black-eyed peas and season the pork belly.
Day 2: Cook beans and assemble and cook the cassoulet.

The Shopping List*
1 lb. dried black-eyed peas
½ cup paprika
2 Tbsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. dried basil
2 tsp. cayenne
½ Tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ lb. pork belly
4 skin-on chicken thighs
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
2 whole carrots, peeled
2 whole ribs celery
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 quart chicken or blond stock
½ lb. chicken andouille sausage, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 bunch green onions, trimmed and diced, for garnish

*This list assumes you have olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper at hand in your kitchen. If not, you will need to purchase those items, too.

 

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Creole Cassoulet
6 to 8 servings

1 lb. dried black-eyed peas
½ cup paprika
6 Tbsp. kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
2 Tbsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. dried basil
2 tsp. cayenne
½ Tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ lb. pork belly
4 chicken thighs, skin on
Freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
2 whole carrots, peeled
2 whole celery ribs
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 quart chicken or blond stock
½ lb. chicken andouille sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 bunch green onion, trimmed and diced, for garnish

• Day 1: Pour the black-eyed peas into a large pot, fill with water and cover. Let soak 12 hours in the refrigerator or a cool place.
• Make a creole spice mix by combining the paprika, 6 tablespoons salt, garlic powder, pepper, onion powder, thyme, oregano, basil, cayenne, sugar and red pepper flakes together in a non-reactive bowl. Reserve ¼ cup; store the remaining spice mix in an airtight container.
• Cut the pork belly into bite-sized pieces and place a mixing bowl. Cover with ¼ cup creole spice rub and toss to coat. Place the pork belly in a zip-top bag and refrigerate overnight.

• Day 2: Liberally season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Let rest 20 minutes.
• Meanwhile, in a large ovenproof saucepan or enameled cast-iron pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pork belly and cook, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
• Raise the heat to high and add the chicken thighs skin-side down. Cook 7 to 8 minutes, until the chicken is browned and the skin is crispy. Flip and brown the other side, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove and set aside.
• Add the onion and 1 tablespoon salt and stir, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Saute 3 to 5 minutes, then add the garlic and stir 1 minute, until the garlic takes on a pale color.
• Drain the black-eyed peas. Pour them into the pan, stirring to scrape up any remaining brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the bay leaf, carrots, celery and thyme. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer 40 to 45 minutes, until just tender.
• Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
• Remove the bay leaf, carrots, celery and thyme and discard. Add the pork belly, chicken thighs and andouille to the pan. Bake 1 hour, until a gelatinous brown crust forms on top.
• Garnish with green onion before serving.
-photo by Michelle Volansky

The Weekend Project: St. Louis Mole

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

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We promise: The longest part of this weekend project is the shopping list. Once you have the ingredients for this rich Mexican sauce, the possibilities are endless. Historically, every Mexican family had its own unique recipe for mole. Mexican culinary authority chef Rick Bayless writes that all family moles can be divided into five general categories: chiles, sweet, sour, spices and thickeners.

 

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Cooks hand-ground and then slowly sauteed their version, using it to braise turkey, chicken, lamb or pork. This process took a team of women about a day to accomplish; so mole was reserved for high celebrations or important guest.

Today, ground spices ingredients are sauteed together, and when tender, the sauce is pureed in a blender and pressed through a fine mesh sieve, making it much more accessible for a home cook. We make a large batch of mole, then freeze it in one cup batches, where it will keep up to year.

 
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Make the sauce on Saturday, then relax on Sunday as you slowly braise your favorite cut of meat to unctuous perfection. For a richer, heartier dish, choose cuts of meat with more bones and fat like bone-in pork butt or rib tips. For a lighter, more elegant dinner, pieces of chicken or a classic St. Louis pork steak works wonderfully. For this project, we sliced the meat and served it simply in a tortilla with fresh cole slaw, but you could also serve it with any roasted winter starch, vegetable or salad.

 

The Gameplan
Day 1: Make the Mole Sauce.
Day 2: Cook the pork steaks in the mole sauce. Prepare the cole slaw.

The Shopping List *
½ cup lard, beef tallow or vegetable oil
6-8 dried mulato peppers
10-12 dried ancho peppers
12-14 dried pasilla peppers
2 small white onions
6-8 cloves roasted garlic
¼ cup raw almonds
¼ cup raw peanuts
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup sesame seeds
2 Tbsp. pepitas
3-4 whole cloves, smashed
1 tsp. peppercorns
1 tsp. coriander seeds
¼ tsp. anise seeds
¼ tsp. ground allspice
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp. dried oregano
1 tomato
1 tomatillo
1 package corn tortillas
3 quarts chicken stock
4 oz. 99-percent dark chocolate
4 ½-inch thick pork steaks
6-8 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
2 tsp. red wine vinegar

*This list assumes you have olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper at hand in your kitchen. If not, you will need to purchase those items, too.

 

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Mole Sauce
5 to 6

½ cup lard, beef tallow or vegetable oil
6-8 dried mulato peppers, stemmed and seeded
10-12 dried ancho peppers, stemmed and seeded
12-14 dried pasilla peppers, stemmed and seeded
1 small white onion, sliced
6-8 cloves roasted garlic
¼ cup raw almonds
¼ cup raw peanuts
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup sesame seeds
2 Tbsp. pepitas
3-4 whole cloves, smashed
1 tsp. peppercorns
1 tsp. coriander seeds
¼ tsp. anise seeds
¼ tsp. ground allspice
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp. dried oregano
1 tomato, roasted and chopped
1 tomatillo, roasted and chopped
3 corn tortillas, torn into 1-inch pieces
2 quarts chicken stock, divided
4 oz. 99-percent dark chocolate

Day 1: In a large enameled pot, melt the lard over medium-high heat. Add the mulato peppers and fry 2 minutes, tossing occasionally until they start to blister, but do not burn. Remove from the oil and set aside. Repeat with the ancho and pasilla peppers.
● Add the onions to the oil and saute 10 minutes, until they begin to caramelize. Add the roasted garlic, smashing the cloves with the back of a spoon while stirring.
● Add the almonds and peanuts and cook 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant. Add the raisins, sesame seeds and pepitas one at a time, stirring constantly to coat them in the fat.
● Add the cloves, peppercorns, coriander seeds, anise seeds, allspice, cinnamon stick, thyme and oregano, then add the roasted tomato and tomatillo. Saute 2 to 3 minutes.
● Add the corn tortillas and stir them until they have absorbed the remaining lard and liquid, about 1 minute.
● Return the chiles back to the pot along with 6 cups chicken stock and the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate melts and all ingredients are combined, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
● Remove the chiles form the sauce. Season with salt, cover and let cool 30 minutes to 1 hour.
● Once cool, use a stick blender to puree or puree in batches in a blender. Press through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. If the mixture is too thick, add the remaining 2 cups chicken stock.
● Mole will keep refrigerated in airtight containers for 6 months or frozen up to 1 year.

 

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Pork Steak Mole
4 to 6 servings

4 bone-in, ½-inch thick pork steaks
4 tsp. kosher salt, divided
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup Mole Sauce
2 cups chicken stock
Sesame seeds for garnish
1 package corn tortillas, for serving

Day 2: Generously season the pork steaks on both sides with 3 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper on both sides. Let rest about 20 minutes.
● In a heavy-bottomed skillet or enameled cast-iron pan, heat the olive oil over high heat until it ripples, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the pork steaks to the skillet, making sure not to overcrowd the pan, and cook 1 to 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.
● Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion and season with the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Saute until they soften and begin to color, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
● Whisk in the mole sauce and chicken stock, then return the pork steaks to the sauce and cover them with the sauce and onions. Cover and simmer over medium heat until fork tender, 45 to 55 minutes.
● Remove the meat from the sauce and slice into 1/3-inch strips. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve with tortillas and cole slaw.

 

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Cole Slaw
2 quarts

6-8 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
2 tsp. kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
3-4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. red wine or sherry vinegar, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

Day 2: In a large mixing bowl, combine the cabbage, red onion and 2 teaspoons salt. Use your hands to mix, gently crushing the cabbage and coating evenly with salt. Let rest 10 to 15 minutes.
● Vigorously stir in the oil to coat the slaw evenly, then mix in 1 teaspoon vinegar. Season to taste with pepper, salt and vinegar. Slaw will keep refrigerated in an airtight container up to 1 week.

 

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-photos by Michelle Volansky 

The Weekend Project: Figgy Pudding

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

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“Oh, bring us some figgy pudding/Oh, bring us some figgy pudding/Oh, bring us some figgy pudding/And a cup of good cheer!” Most everyone knows that verse from the classic carol “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” but few of us have actually eaten the heralded figgy pudding.

This dish started as a savory first-course pudding in medieval times, but by the Victorian era, it had evolved into the fruit-centered, brandy-driven dessert that was commonly brought to the table en flambé, decked with holly berries and served with whipped cream or a boozy hard sauce.

 

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This basic steamed pudding consists of breadcrumbs, flour, butter, sugar and eggs. It is then left to the cook to spike the dessert with alcohol, spices and dried or candied fruits like dried figs, raisins or currants. While cooking times can range from two to six hours, less time will produce a moister, less cakey pudding.

 

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Figgy pudding can be served immediately, but it shines best when the fruit has had a chance to soak up all the booze for at least a week or two. In fact, Anglican families in Britain know the last Sunday of Advent as Stir-it Up Sunday, when the traditional Christmas pudding was prepared for the holiday in a week’s time. Each family member gets a chance to stir the pudding from East to West in honor of the Three Wise Men and make a wish before it is steamed and left to rest for Christmas Eve.

This is a great weekend project because with a little preparation, this dish can simmer away on your stove all afternoon while you decorate or wrap presents. It also produces a lovely spiced holiday aroma while you enjoy a nip of brandy and a carol or two. Best of all, dessert is done and ready to enjoy all 12 days of Christmas.

 

The Shopping List*
12 dried figs
½ cup raisins or currants
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup dried dates
1 cup cream
1½ cups brandy, divided
2 cups bread crumbs
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ginger
½ tsp. grated nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cloves
1½ tsp. cinnamon
4 eggs
1½ cup brown sugar
12 Tbsp. (1½ sticks) butter
½ cup dark rum or spiced whiskey
Whipped cream for serving
4 Tbsp. brandy

*This list assumes you have all-purpose flour and salt at hand in your kitchen. If not, you will need to purchase those, too.

The Gameplan**
Active Day 1:
Prepare the Figgy Pudding.
Active Day 2: Resteam the Figgy Pudding. Prepare the Brandy Hard Sauce.

**This recipe is best after at least 1 week in the refrigerator, but it requires just two active cooking days.

 

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Figgy Pudding
12 servings

12 dried figs, roughly chopped
1 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
1 cup dried dates, pitted, roughly chopped
½ cup raisins or currants
½ cup cream
1½ cups brandy, divided
2 cups bread crumbs
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
½ tsp. grated nutmeg
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. ground cloves
1 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) butter, melted
½ cup dark rum or spiced whiskey
Whipped cream for serving
Brandy Hard Sauce for serving (Recipe follows.)

Active Day 1: Coat a large bundt pan, pudding mold or bowl with nonstick spray and set aside. Fold 2 paper towels into a thick rectangular pad about 4-by-6-inches and place it in the bottom of a large stockpot. Pour 1 quart water into the pan.
● In a saucepan, combine the figs, apricots, dates and figs with the cream and ½ cup brandy over medium heat. Let the fruit absorb most of liquid, stirring occasionally, 5 to 10 minutes. Set aside and let cool.
● Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl, thoroughly mix the bread crumbs, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt and cloves. Set aside.
● In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and eggs until a thick, creamy froth forms, about 30 seconds. Whisk in the butter and rum until combined. Slowly stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until a stiff batter forms. Pour the batter into the bundt pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil.
● Gently place the bundt pan in the stockpot, making sure the paper towel stays between the bottom of the pot and the pan to prevent burning. Add more water until it reaches two-thirds up the side of the pan.
● Place the stockpot over medium-high heat until reaches a gentle simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and steam 2 to 2½ hours, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pudding comes out clean. Add more water as needed.
● Carefully remove the pudding from the pot and let cool. Refrigerate 1 to 4 weeks.
Active Day 2: To serve the pudding, place the pudding back in a stockpot lined with paper towels. Fill the stockpot with enough water to reach two-thirds up the side of the pan. Place the pot over medium heat and steam 1 hour, until warmed through. Invert the mold onto a wide serving platter with a lip.
● Optional: To serve en flambé, warm the remaining 1 cup brandy in a saucepot over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully use a long-handled match to light the brandy, then remove from heat. Carefully pour the flaming liquid over the pudding in view of your guests, then wait for the flames to die before slicing.
● Serve with whipped cream and brandy hard sauce.

 

Brandy Hard Sauce
1 cup

½ cup brown sugar
½ cup cream
¼ cup butter
4 Tbsp. brandy
1 egg

Active Day 2: In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the brown sugar, cream and butter until melted and combined. Add the brandy and stir about 1 minute. Remove the pan from heat.
• In a small bowl, whisk the egg until frothy, then add it to the saucepan and stir until combined.
• Return the saucepan to the stove over medium-low heat and continue stirring until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon and starts to set, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve with Figgy Pudding.

 

 

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-photos by Michelle Volansky

The Weekend Project: Pho Bo

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

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’Tis the season for bone-warming comfort food. Pho bo, or beef noodle soup, carries all the rich intensity of a hefty French beef broth, but pivots and almost leaps with bright flavors of Vietnamese cuisine. It encapsulates the flavors of French onion soup, but instead of gooey, molten cheese, steaming broth is flavored with warm notes of cinnamon and star anise.

 

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Brilliant pho starts with rich broth that is best made at home. We simmer beef bones (beef neck bones and knuckles are much cheaper than oxtail or leg bones) several hours and often overnight. If the stock gets too concentrated and you aren’t ready to strain, just add more water.

 

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Pho is endlessly customizable. After filling everyone’s bowls, pour the boiling beef broth over the paper-thin slices of raw sirloin and watch it cook before your eyes. Then let your guests select from the cast of fresh herbs that make Vietnamese cooking so exciting: cilantro, culantro, purple Thai basil and mint. Don’t stop there. Sprinkle with scallions, a dab of garlic-chile paste and a squirt of hoisin to construct a seductive yet simple masterpiece of Vietnamese comfort food.

 

The Gameplan:
Day 1: Make beef broth.
Day 2: Make Pho Bo.

The Shopping List *
5 to 6 lbs. beef bones with marrow
1½ lbs. beef chuck or rump roast
2 4-inch pieces fresh ginger
1 large daikon
2 large yellow onions
1 cinnamon stick
5 to 6 star anise
6 whole cloves
4 Tbsp. fish sauce
1-inch piece palm rock sugar, plus more to taste**
2 12-oz. packages dried rice vermicelli noodles
3 cups bean sprouts
½ lb. paper-thin sliced sirloin or eye of round
1 cup fresh mint
1 cup fresh cilantro
1 cup fresh culantro
1 cup fresh Thai basil
1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced
⅓ cup green onions, thinly sliced
1 lime, sliced into wedges
Hoisin sauce to taste
Sriracha to taste
Garlic-chile paste to taste

*This list assumes you have kosher salt at hand in your kitchen. If not, you will need to purchase that, too.
**Palm rock sugar is available at Olive Supermarket in Olivette.

 

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Beef Broth
2 quarts

5 to 6 lbs. beef bones with marrow
1½ lbs. beef chuck or rump roast, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 large daikon, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large yellow onions, peeled and halved lengthwise
2 4-inch pieces fresh ginger, cut into ½-inch chunks
5 to 6 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
4 Tbsp. fish sauce, plus more to taste
1 Tbsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
1-inch piece palm rock sugar, plus more to taste

Day 1: Add the beef bones, chuck, daikon, onion and ginger to a large stockpot. Place the cinnamon stick, star anise and cloves in a piece of cheesecloth and tie together to make a bouquet garni. Add it to the stockpot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the contents. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to low and simmer 1½ hours. Use a slotted spoon, gently skim any scum or residue that collects at the top off as it cooks.
● Remove the chuck from the stockpot and let cool. Chop into small pieces and reserve to make Pho Bo (recipe follows).
● Simmer the stock at least another 1½ hours, adding more water as needed if the stock becomes too concentrated.
●Remove the beef bones and discard. Place a fine mesh sieve over another large pot and line it with cheesecloth or paper towels. Pour the remaining contents of the stockpot through the strainer. Discard the solids. Refrigerate the stock until the fat rises to the top and remove with a spoon.
● Once the fat is removed, bring the broth back to a simmer over medium heat and season with fish sauce, palm rock sugar and salt. Taste and adjust seasoning to create a balanced broth with a hint of salty, briny sweetness. Broth will keep refrigerated about 1 week or frozen 6 months.

 

Pho Bo
6 servings

2 12-oz. packages dried rice vermicelli noodles
6 cups Beef Broth (recipe above)
3 cups bean sprouts
½ lb. paper-thin sliced sirloin or eye of round
Reserved chopped beef (recipe above)
1 cup fresh cilantro
1 cup fresh culantro
1 cup fresh mint
1 cup fresh Thai basil
1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced
⅓ cup green onions, thinly sliced
1 lime, sliced into wedges
Hoisin sauce to taste
Sriracha to taste
Garlic-chile paste to taste

Day 2: Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.
● Meanwhile, fill a medium bowl with very hot water. Submerge the rice noodles and steep 15 minutes. Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook until tender throughout, about 15 minutes. Drain the noodles and rinse under cold water until it runs clear, about 2 minutes. Place the noodles in a large bowl and set aside. Discard the cooking water.
● Return the pot to the stove over high heat and bring the beef broth to boil.
● Place 1 cup noodles in each bowl and cover each with ½ cup bean sprouts. Add 3 to 4 slices sirloin and 1 to 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped beef. Pour 1 cup broth over the meat, gently cooking the sirloin.
● Serve with cilantro, culantro, mint, Thai basil, jalapeno, green onions, lime wedges, hoisin, Sriracha and garlic-chile paste to taste.

 

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-photos by Michelle Volansky 

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