Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lemon Gnocchi with Shrimp, Spinach and Peas

Gnocchi is one of my favorite Italian dishes. Like bruschetta, it's an Italian food word that people have some trouble with. Never fear, the Italian pronunciation police are here.

The "gno" makes a "nyo" sound with a silent "g".

The "cch" is pronounced as a hard "k".

The "i" is an "ee" sound as in "tree".

"nyo kee"

Gnocchi is the plural form of the word. The singular is "gnocco." So you might order a plate of gnocchi and savor each delicious gnocco on that plate.

Check your local grocery store and you just might find a package of fresh vacuum packed gnocchi near the pasta. These thick and soft dumplings can be made from a variety of ingredients. You will most commonly find Potato Gnocchi, but they are also made from semolina, ordinary wheat flour, bread crumbs, or similar ingredients. The smaller forms are called gnocchetti.

For this recipe, I used a pre-made vacuum pack of gnocchi but I very much want to try making gnocchi from scratch in the near future. Gourmet magazine featured this recipe for Lemon Gnocchi with Spinach and Peas in 2007. The recipe went on to win a blue ribbon award on epicurious where it has consistently received top marks with reviewers. I can tell you exactly why... The ingredient list is fairly short, the active cooking time is about 20 minutes and the flavor medley is freaking fantastic. You have the soft pillows of gnocchi covered in a flavorful cream sauce topped with the zing of fresh lemon and pop of bright peas. It’s truly a winner!

I altered the recipe slightly with the addition of raw shrimp that I purchased deveined and shelled. With a tablespoon of butter melted in my dutch oven, I threw in the shrimp and sauteed until no longer pink.

 Next, I added a chopped shallot and a three chopped garlic cloves.

I added one cup of heavy cream and a 1/2 cup frozen peas.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Osso Buco

Jim and I splurged last month to purchase two beautiful veal shanks from the grocery store to remake one of Italy's most renowned braises: osso buco. It's a classic Milanese dish cooked in a rich broth that includes tomato and wine. The dish is finished with lemon zest and parsley, which stand in for the more common gremolata that often accompanies it, along with a creamy polenta. The term ossobuco roughly translates to "hole in the bone" or "pierced bone." Once cooked, don't forget to dig into the amazing bone marrow!

I loosely followed a recipe I found on Epicurious. In addition to the two 14 ounce veal shanks, I gathered:
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups veal stock
2 cups chicken stock
3 cups canned plum tomatoes, drained and crushed
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 t dried rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

I was very excited to try out this Demi-Glace Gold. I had heard that many fine dining restaurants use this to make their veal stock, so I was anxious to see how it worked for me too.

I had help choosing the wine for this meal. Jim and I consulted with Central Markets wine experts to choose Italian wine for this special meal. I cooked with the one on the right, and we drank the wine on the left with the meal.

After seasoning the veal shanks with salt and pepper, I tied cooking twine around each to secure the meat to the bone. When braised, the meat will literally fall off if not tied together.

Next, I lightly rolled the veal shanks in flour, shaking off any excess.

Heat a large dutch oven over high heat. Put the oil into the casserole and let it heat. Brown the veal shanks in the hot oil for about 5 minutes, or until browned on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside. If the oil turns dark during the process, like mine did, discard it and heat a fresh cup of oil for the veggies.
Remove the meat to a plate and let rest while we cook the veggies.

Add the onion, celery and carrots to the dutch oven and cook over medium heat for about five minutes.

Stirring constantly.

Add the garlic, stir and cook for one minute until fragrant.

Add the one cup of dry red wine .

Cook for about two minutes, until reduced by half.

At this point it's time to add back the veal shanks and the rest of the liquid and spices.

In go the veal shanks.

Next we add two cups of veal stock, two cups of chicken stock and  3 cups of crushed tomatoes.

The herbs I added at the end are thyme, rosemary and a bay leaf. Once the liquid boils, cover, transfer to the oven, and cook for 2 1/2 hours at 350 degrees, until the meat is fork tender and falling off the bones.

I can't say why I don't have pictures beyond this point because I remember setting up the shots. I was so ecstatic to take pictures of our tiny espresso spoons being used to remove the bone marrow. The sauce looked completely amazing on top of the creamy polenta. I am just sick that the pictures seemed to vanish from my camera!

You will just have to imagine with me.

After 2 1/2 hours of cooking, carefully remove the veal shanks from the pot and set aside. The meat will definitely be falling off the bone. I had to use a combinations of tongs and a spatula to get the meat out in one piece. Next, I strained the braising liquid and discarded the herbs. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until reduced by a quarter. Using a skimmer or large spoon, skim off any grease or foam that rises to the surface. Return the strained vegetables and the veal shanks to the liquid and taste for seasoning.

To serve, cut and discard the twine, put a single osso buco (veal shank) in a bowl, and ladle about 3/4 cup of the sauce and vegetables over it. I made a super creamy polenta by adding 1/2 cup of cream cheese to the hot polenta and put that on the plate first, topped with the osso buco and then topped with a ladle of rich sauce and chunky vegetables. Garnish each osso buco with the lemon zest, and chopped parsley and season with pepper. It was TO. DIE. FOR. I can't wait until the next time we splurg and I can make this again, and hopefully get the pictures of the finished product posted.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Potage Parmentier

I've been ferociously fighting off a cold for nearly a week now. My month is very full and that is exactly what I told the doctor last week, "heal me" because I really don't have the time to lay around. Of course he told me what I didn't want to hear, I needed to lay low and rest. When I'm feeling under the weather, I usually make soup and fill it full of nourishing vegetables. Remember this Chicken Noodle Soup when I came home from New Orleans and was sick as a dog?

A co-worker of mine brought this Potage Parmentier soup to the office earlier this month when we held our first annual Soup Kitchen. Rita artfully combined the best of two superb recipes, one from Julia Child and the other from James Beard. There are many variations on this basic onion and potato recipe, some using leaks, some using cream at the end or water instead of chicken broth. I used Rita's soup recipe and also struck out on my own along the way.

I began with one large spanish onion, thinly sliced on my mandolin. It is a total of 3, almost 4 cups of sliced onions, in my dutch oven with 3 T butter over medium heat.

While the onions cook down, I used my mini chopper to mince a cup of carrots.  This was my addition, since I wanted lots of veggies in the soup.

Next, I mince a few stalks of celery. This is another of my additions, I just love using the leaves from the celery stalks in soup.

We have nearly 4 cups onions, 1 cup carrot and 1/2 cup of minced celery.
The veggies got a little dry, so I added another tablespoon of butter.

Continue to cook and stir over medium heat.

Then I sliced some baking potatoes very thinly using my mandolin.

When the vegetables were very very soft, I added a splash of dry sherry and let the alcohol cook off for about five minutes before then adding the potatoes.

Then I added five cups of chicken broth. You can use just water, or vegetable broth also.

Bring to a boil, then cover and let it simmer over low heat until the potatoes are tender. The potatoes are sliced so thinly, it really didn't take long for them cook, maybe 15 minutes.

I thought the seasoning of this soup was brilliant. 2 t salt, 1/2 t nutmeg and 1/4 t cayenne pepper.

The nutmeg adds that certain something that you can't quite put your finger on. The cayenne, adds a very very little burn to the soup which I think is essential! Don't skip!

Most recipes I read then have you push the soup through a food mill or ricer. I don't have one, so I used my immersion blender on the lowest setting to very gently puree the soup. I didn't want to turn this into a tub of mashed potatoes so I just zapped it a couple of times in different places to break up the potato chunks.

The last step was to add 1/2 cup of heavy cream, and serve topped with chives. I think this French soup was very easy to pull together, used common ingredients I had on hand and definitely got me on the right track to healing. I'm feeling better all ready!

HWM Potage Parmentier
(Onion and Potato Soup)

3 c peeled and thinly sliced yellow onions
1 c minced carrot
1/2 c minced celery
3 T butter
2 T dry sherry
4 c peeled and thinly sliced potatoes
5 c chicken broth
2 t salt
1/4 t fresh cayenne
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 c heavy cream
Garnish with chopped chives

Saute onion, carrot and celery in butter for 10-15 minutes over medium heat. Add sherry and stir until alcohol has evaporated. Add potatoes and cover with chicken broth. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Add salt, cayenne and nutmeg. Put the soup through a food mill, or use an immersion blender to break up potato chunks. Add 1/2 cup heavy cream and serve with a sprinkling of chives or nutmeg on top.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Veal Cutlets with Mustard Sage Sauce and a Poblano Potato Gratin

Longest. Title. Ever. But what else was I supposed to name this? I made two recipes, an entree and a lovely side dish that I can't wait to eat as leftovers.  My friend Paulina gave me the inspiration for this recipe. She posts on FB about her cooking, and my husband likes to always point them out to me. Her latest salivating dinner she posted about was Lobster Pot Pie. Doesn't that sound delish?  I ran into Paulina the other day and asked her about the Lobster Pot Pie, and then she mentioned in our conversation that she made Veal Chops in a Mustard Sage Sauce for Valentines Day. Yum! I knew this would be my next meal!

I had some poblano peppers in the house that needed to be used up, so I jumped online to see what new recipe I could make with these peppers to accompany the Veal. I found this Blue Ribbon Recipe for Poblano Potato Gratin on Epicurious, one of thier highest ranked recipes of all time. It comes from a 2008 issue of Gormet magazine and I just happened to have all the ingredients on hand. Lovely!

For the Gratin, you will need:
1 1/2 pounds fresh poblano chiles (about 5)
1 pound onions, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 pounds large Yukon Gold potatoes
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
I added:
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon White Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Ground Mustard
Scant dash of Cayenne Pepper

The first thing we need to do is burn the crap out of the poblano peppers. I char mine right on the gas stove. Alternatively, you can put these under the broiler in the oven. Turn every couple of minutes to get them black all over.
Next, put the peppers in a zip top bag and let them steam for at least 10 minutes. You could also put them in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.

While the peppers steam, slice the onion from root to tip.

Set over medium heat with a splash of olive oil or vegetable oil. This step cannot be rushed. Let the onions cook down for 15 or 20 minutes, stirring often and adding in more oil if the pan gets too dry. We are waiting for them to fully caramelize and turn a dark brown color.

Meanwhile, let's slice the potatoes! Peel them first, and then using a mandolin, slice the potatoes as thin as possible.

I found that putting the slices in a big bowl of water helps rinse the extra starch from them and also prevents them from turning brown.

Now that the poblano peppers have steamed, give them a good rub to easily remove the blackened skin.

Remove the seeds and membrane from the inside.

Then simply slice these into thin strips.

Add the poblano pepper strips to the caramelized onions. Stir to combine, then remove from heat and set aside.

I used my dutch oven to cook the potatoes with the cream and milk over medium heat. Bring it to just a boil, and stir often to prevent any milk from burning on the bottom. The mixture will thicken as it heats up.

I added a few of my own seasoning additions. 1 teaspoon Salt, 1 teaspoon White Pepper, 1/2 teaspoon Ground Mustard and a scant dash of Cayenne Pepper.

Generously butter a 3 quart baking dish.
When the milk comes to a boil, turn off heat and you can either add the onion and poblano mixture to the milk and potatoes... or...
You can add them in layers to the baking dish like I did.
I wanted to ensure the ingredients were evenly distributed, so I started with a thin layer of potatoes on the bottom, then topped with the onions and poblano peppers, then added more potatoes...
Until I dumped the rest of the milk and onion mixture on top. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour.
Everything gets brown and bubbly! Let this rest for 10 minutes before cutting into it.
Oh yum! I love how the sauce thickens and the potatoes are soft and the onion and poblano peppers so flavorful! Next time, I will ty adding a layer of Parmesan cheese in the middle and/or on top. I thought the gratin could use a little salt and in my opinion and the cheese would have supplied that salt flavor and act as a bit of a binder. I completely understand why this recipe is a Blue Ribbon Recipe.
I served this potato side dish along with veal cutlets in a rich mustard and sage sauce. Here is how I made the veal...
I first seasoned the meat with salt and pepper, then dredged in a bit of flour. You could then, dredge in egg and then a crunchy coating, but I wanted to keep these simple because the sauce is AWESOME!
I used the same pan that I cooked the onions and poblano peppers in. Add a tablespoon of butter to melt over medium-high heat.
Then, this picture is a fast forward photo of the finished product (I moved quickly and forgot to take pics, shame on me) Here is what you missed: I browned the veal on both sides, maybe a total of 4 minutes (not long) then removed them to a plate and tented with foil to keep warm.

Add about two tablespoons of minced shallots to same skillet and stir 1 minute. Add 1/3 cup beef broth, 1 tablespoon minced sage and two tablespoons of mustard to the skillet and bring to a low boil until very thick, scraping up browned bits, about 4 minutes.

Add 1/3 cup of half and half and boil until liquid thickens to sauce consistency, about 1 minute. Mix in remaining 1 tablespoon minced sage, add back the veal along with any juices exuded by the meat. Adjust seasoning. Place one cutlet on each plate and spoon sauce over.

Pair this with a nice salad (like the spicy caesar salad I made) and you have a really wonderful and flavorful dinner. Oh, Jim and I really enjoyed this!
My recipe inspirations: