Thursday, January 29, 2009

French Green Beans with Stupendous Shallot Dressing

1 lb of French ultra fresh green beans. You must use small tender thin beans for this. 3 Tbs of extra virgin olive oil 2 tsp of Dijon mustard 2 tsp white wine vinegar 1 bulb of minced shallots Steam the beans until just barely tender. While steaming, whish together the dressing ingredients adding salt and pepper to taste. When the beans are done, cool slightly under running water Toss immediately with the dressing and serve. A tiny garnish of Pinole over these adds a nice touch.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Winds of Change

We have entered a new era as a country as well as, a people with the election of our new Commander in Chief; this is time for all of Americans to change and embrace a rebuilding of all sectors of their country and their lives. I do not believe government can do it alone and thus no matter how high journalism has elevated President Obama, he cannot do it alone either.

We have a long road ahead of us and I hope and pray people will wake up and take this new wave towards recovery, reconstruction and resurrection of values lost to our nation. Renewal and change is hard work and requires conscious de-construction of the old to build new; so let us all get our heads wrapped around the concept and get to work; a positive attitude and yes we can! As one door closes, another opens...we just have to see the open door. ;-)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pears Nobile like Monet's Haystacks

Poached pears make a pretty dessert plate and are very versatile through the seasons. In winter, their flavor is heightened when accompanied by a good Gorgonzola, toasted bread and walnuts roasted with butter and salt. During the summer, serve with sweetened mascarpone and lemon peel curls.

6 firm pears with stems Juice of 1 lemon 1 Cup (240 mls) excellent red wine ¼ cup (60 mls) sugar ¼ cup (60 mls) currants 1 vanilla bean split 3 or 4 whole cloves Using a vegetable peeler, peel the pears leaving the stems. With a paring knife, cut a small slice off the bottom of the pears and stand them upright in a saucepan. Squeeze lemon juice over them, then pour on the wine and sprinkle with sugar. Add the currants, vanilla bean and cloves to the wine.

Cover and simmer for 20 minutes (or longer depending on the size and ripeness of the pears); do not allow them to become soft. Midway, turn the pears on their sides and baste several times with the wine. Transfer to serving dishes. Pour some wine syrup over each one and garnish.

A small variation on this theme is to leave them whole, unpeeled and set them upright in a baking dish like Monet’s haystacks. Drench them in wine and sugar and slow bake until they are soft and all the wine is absorbed (may take up to 4 or 5 hours, I used to use my wood oven after making bread or a roast and leave them in the oven all night) Serve warm or cold.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Martinotti Method, not Charmat!

It is interesting to learn, an Italian, Martinotti invented the Charmat method, which was then copied, “stolen” and made famous under the name of that Frenchman, Charmat.

We have done a true disservice to Federico Martinotti, director of the Enological Experimentation Institute of Asti in the ‘20’s. He was the inventor of what we call today Methode Charmat. He was THE inventor of the controlled fermentation method in autoclaves to create Spumanti. His method promised Spumanti with fruity notes, often sweet, by means of pressurized metal containers. This method became extremely popular given the speed with which a Spumanti could be produced as well as the economics of the method versus that of Champenoise also known as the classic method.

It was actually Martinotti who patented the autoclave in 1895 and then Eugène Charmat after the 1900’s who spread the method by implementing large containers for autoclaving. The correct name is and should be, metodo Martinotti-Charmat however if we give to Friar Dom Perignon the experimentation and success of fermentation in bottles for that wonderful sensation of classic spumante (alias Champagne), then truly, recognition should go to the Italian, Martinotti for his non-bottle method of fermentation.

The same grapes used for the classic method can be used for the Martinotti – Charmat method however this method renders softer colors, along the lines of straw with a tiny hint of green, fresher flavors and less structured at the same time as well as, less intense bouquets thus, the favored grapes for Spumanti are, Moscat
o, Prosecco, Malvasia and Brachetto.

The whole process is done in a large autoclave with the addition of selected yeasts and syrups but in a shorter amount of time re-fermentation is achieved and this is where the infamous Prosecco del Trevigiano arise. In fact, Asti is achieved from one fermentation, interrupting it in the middle of the fermentation. The first phase is stopped when 6-8 % alcohol have been achieved then, in a second autoclave the second fermentation occurs until it reaches 7,5 – 9% alcohol. The wine is then cooled to minus 4 degrees centigrade and transferred to a third autoclave for bottling. For the drier Spumanti, the Charmat lungo method is used, which requires a longer time on the “fecce.”

I conclude this with a nod to an old typical dance from the field workers of Polesine:

"…Xe quasi trent'anni che fo' l'campanaro E come un somaro me toca tirar Quando fo' don, don ,don Mando zo' le mie passion Quanto fo' din, din , din Me consolo col buon vin!…"

Monday, January 19, 2009

Go with Everything Dressing

1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil (for a stronger flavor) or use other type of oil depending on tastes.
¼ cup of red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 clove of garlic pressed
Salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp of sweet basil or Italian herbs or for a different twist Provence mix of herbs.

Combine ingredients in a covered jar and shake to blend. This can be mixed with a hand blender or a whisk noting that using good olive oil will make a nice thick and creamy dressing. For those who like Dijon, add more than one Tbs.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tagliolini with Herbs

Tagliolini alle erbe

9 oz fresh cream
4 oz whole milk
1.5 oz salted butter
1 oz gentle Parmesan cheese (not over aged Parmigiano Reggiano)
Concentrated tomato paste
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme, Marjoram

Chop the herbs:
1 small bunch of parsley
2 or 3 leaves rosemary
1 sprig of thyme
10 leaves of Sage
1 sprig of Marjoram

Melt the butter, add ¾ of the chopped herbs, add the cream milk and cheese and 2 tsps of tomato concentrate from a tube and salt. Take off the heat.
When the pasta is done add to the mix and cook high until the sauce reduces a little bit. Serve with fresh black pepper and the remaining chopped herbs, parmesan on the side if desired.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Dog Butts

As we organize the new kitchen, perusing Ikea this animal lover stumbled on a few fun items and instead of using them to hang leashes in the garage...this crazy creature wanted to put these in the kitchen for dish towels; loving them and planning to put more on the walls. ;-)

Paté with Grappa and Black Truffles

I have wanted to publish this recipe for a long time but could not find the recipe; it was packed away in a box I had packed eons ago thinking I would eventually be able to get back to the place I left it and voilà, I have and so, here it is.

This is one of the best paté’s I have ever tasted and if you want a little variation on a theme, add a tiny bit of black truffle. ;-)

300 grams (10.7oz) chicken livers
300 gram white onions
60 grams (generous 2 oz) salted butter
2 tablespoons grappa (please use excellent grappa, none of those flavored fruit things but, grappa from wine such as, Pinot Nero, Muller Thurgau, Moscato ecc.)
One half of a chicken broth cube (without MSG)
1 bay leaf (alloro)
Worcester sauce

Carefully clean every trace of bile from the livers if not already done for you (check to make sure). Also, clean as much of the connective tissue as well, which will give a creamier mixture. For this recipe to be it’s best, the livers must be ultra fresh.
Wash and dry them then proceed to cutting them into 2 or 3 pieces.

Thinly slice the onions. Melt the butter then add the onions and sauté over moderate heat making sure they do not brown in any way, cook until nice and glossy. Add the livers and the bay leaf, raise the heat and cook stirring frequently.
Add to this cooked mixture the grappa and let evaporate adding the crumbled broth cube at the end of evaporation (try to use broth cubes or concentrated meat extract pastes without MSG). Taste and if necessary, add salt and complete the seasoning with a dash of Worcester sauce. If desired, this is the time to add the black truffle.

Turn off the heat and remove the bay leaf. Transfer the mixture to a Cuisinart or blender or any type of electric grinder/chopper. Mix until everything is soft and creamy.

Grease a pretty mold and pour the mixture in pressing it lightly in to all the angles. Cover and refrigerate.

Before un-molding, place a dishtowel that has been soaked in very hot water and rung dry tightly around the mold. Place on serving platter and flip and un-mold tapping the bottom where needed. Serve with warm thinly sliced toasted crusty bread. Serves 8

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ultimate Chocolate Dessert

This dessert originates from Le Antiche Sere at Sogna in Italy; an old medieval borgo. I have made this dessert many times and every time the rave reviews were worth the every effort made.

13 ozs (365 grams) semisweet chocolate (use the best you can buy)
11 ozs (310 grams) unsalted butter
8 eggs, separated
10 ozs (285 grams) almonds, toasted and ground to a powder
¾ cup (180 milliliters) sifted powdered sugar (try to find powdered sugar without cornstarch if you can)
6 ozs (170 grams) white chocolate
2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) cognac

Variation of sauce: Bourbon Sauce
1 Cup Heavy Cream
½ tablespoon corn starch
1 Tablespoon water
3 Tablespoons Sugar (caster or baker’s sugar)
¼ cup Bourbon

Procedure for the chocolate soufflés:
Melt the semisweet chocolate and butter together in a double boiler (check out the awesome porcelain and copper double boilers at sur la table

Cool for 5 minutes

Beat the yolks and add them to the chocolate and butter mixture, stirring on very low heat. Then add the ground almonds and powdered sugar. Remove from the heat and allow cooling.

Whip the egg whites until stiff and gently fold into the mixture. Divide the mixture among 10 buttered ramekins or other similar forms and bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 350F or 175C.

Unmold and serve on a pool of warm white chocolate melted with a dash of cognac.
I find a nice Bourbon sauce changes this dessert from ultra refined to decadently wicked. This is the same sauce I use for my “knock-your-socks-off” bread pudding.
Whiskey Sauce: (again, please use good Bourbon!)

Place the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Whisk the cornstarch and water together then whisk into the cream and bring to a boil while constantly whisking away and let simmer for a few seconds, taking care not to burn the mixture on the bottom. Remove from heat.

Stir in the sugar and the bourbon. Taste to make sure the sauce is sufficiently sweet to taste with a good bourbon flavor and should have a nice thick consistency. Cool to room temperature.

I find this sauce served warm, just finished that is, over the unmolded chocolate tart to be "killer."

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Twenty days...

Ughh!!! 20 days of the flu, not a para flu but the real bastard thing! I lost sight of Golden Piglet, probably was afraid he could get it via the blog. ;-)

Anyway, I am now catching up on things I have wanted to write about and will begin organizing the new kitchen soon so the recipes will be-a-coming.

Happy Propserous New Year to all (hoping we can all hang through the economic mess)!