Happy New Year!!

hat new yearsLet me wish you all a very happy 2013!!

2012 was another year of ups and downs, chock full of both personal and professional challenges.  I do not know about you but I am up to my ears tired with the silliness in Washington and our chug, chug, almost chugging economy.  I am satisfied with the deal our elected representatives made albeit not a perfect one from any standpoint.  Still an effort of compromise was made on both sides and that is how adults get along.

That being said I am thankful to you all for taking the time to read my little blog. Your support is giving me continued inspiration to make, bake and serve many dishes I have wanted to try over the years. My biggest fan Suzanne has been my inspiration and partner in crime for many of these experiments and I want to especially thank her and look forward to many more near food fights with her in the kitchen.

May the New Year bring you all that you need and wish for!!

Eat Well and Smile Often,

tj

p.s.  Time to start planning your spring garden.  What will it be this year??

Basta Pasta or Sausage . . . or Meatloaf or . . . Meat balls!!

Spinach Ravioli with Basil, Olive Oil and Balsamic VinegarHo Ho Ho Merry Hanu-Kwansa-mas!!

I could not wait. Nope, I just could not do it.  I bought myself a Christmas present early.  I know, I know.  You are never supposed to buy yourself a present right before the holidays. But I just could not help myself.  Want to hear what I got? I got a ravioli attachment for my little Atlas pasta machine.  Man, it’s the coolest.  Roll out the pasta, drop it into the ravioli maker, spoon in some filling and Volia!  Raviolis!!

Pasta Maker AttachmentIf it were only that simple.  I had great fun whipping up the meat filling for those little pillows of goodness but it was definitely a trial and error process for me.  The pasta sheets kept ripping and sometimes the raviolis would not fill.  But after a few failed attempts I got it down.  So will you so don’t get frustrated just keep at it and soon your ravioli will be as good looking as mine.

This time around I used a classic technique that makes for a flavorful and meaty ravioli. I am so excited to share this with you as it is fun technique and it gives the meat a great texture and incorporates the different ingredient flavors completely. What is best about this technique is that you can use it to make raviolis, meatballs, meatloaf, sausage or meat patties.  Let me describe it for you.

Meat GrinderFirst: Put your food processor bowl, lid and blade into the freezer. You want the pieces to be as cold as they can be.  Having all of your ingredients super cool will aid their ability to combine.

Second: Grind the meat yourself.  Please use a meat grinder as this cuts the long muscles of the meat at regular intervals. I used a blend of lamb, chicken, pork and beef. Using a food processor to grind meat only separates the muscles strands and will cut them unevenly giving the final product a lumpy texture.

 

 

Third:  After all the meat is ground put it into the refrigerator covered or into the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes so that it becomes very cold.  

Fourth: Separate one egg for each pound of meat you will be processing.  You will be using the egg whites. Go ahead and cook up the egg yolk for breakfast or save it for your nog!

WhiteOnionFifth: Prepare your flavoring ingredients.  You will always need a little salt as this helps the proteins bind.  I saute’d an onion with some garlic and separately toasted about a tablespoon a fennel seed per pound. Don’t be bashful with any of the ingredients except salt. If it is not enough add more next time or vice versa.

Time to make Force Meat!!

Force MeatPlace up to one pound of meat into the chilled food processor.  Add the saute’d onion garlic mixture and a heavy pinch pf salt. Process at high speed for about 15 seconds then add the egg white while processing. Process for another 15 to 30 seconds and Voila! You have force meat.

To test the flavor I put a small pan of water on to boil. When the water begins to simmer, the point just below a boil when little bubbles gently begin to rise, drop a small soon of the meat mixture in to it and let it cook for about 3 minutes.  Remove it and cut the piece through to make sure it is done.  Give it a taste.  If it needs a little pepper go ahead and blend it in for another 15 seconds.  If it wants more toasted fennel, repeat the process.

Return the mixture to the refrigerator and let it chill for about 15 minutes before using. Now you can make raviolis or sausage or even Wanton, or Potstickers. This classic technique is so easy and all purpose you are going to blow your friends and family away with it.

I got so excited using my new ravioli maker that I had to whip up something a little extra so I grabbed a Spanikopita recipe off of the InterWeb and used it to fill some left over pasta I had lying around.

Spanikopita FillingSpinach Filling

2 bunch    Spinach, chopped and washed
1               Onion, chopped and saute’d
6               Green Onions, chopped and saute’d

Chop the above ingredients and saute’ them for about 10 minutes.

1 cup         Feta Cheese
1/2 cup      Ricotta
Salt and pepper to taste

Add the saute’d ingredients and the cheeses to the food processor and blend until all the ingredients are blended. Use to fill pasta or puff pastry as desired.

To see how I make my pasta read  my Roly Poly Ravioli!! post. The basic recipe I use is

Pasta Recipe

2 cups      Semoilina flour
3               Eggs, large
1               Salt pinch

Kneading PastaMix all the ingredients in a bowl and knead together. If the dough doesn’t stick together add one teaspoon of water at a time and mix well until the pasta holds together. Knead on a floured table for about 10 minutes until the dough ball is relatively smooth then let rest for about 15 minutes before using or wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator or freezer until needed.

Pasta DropMeat in the Ravioli Hopper

 

I rolled out the sheets of pasta and popped them in to the magic Atlas pasta maker and dropped in my new favorite meat filling into the hopper and look-out-world . . . Raviolis!!

Sheet of Raviolis!!

My holiday dinner this season will be cracked crab, chicken ceasar salad, antipasta with the ravioli to finish.  I hope that you are looking forward to your holiday meal as much as I am.

Eat Well and Smile Often!!

tj

p.s. I’ll start my diet next year.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!!

Herbed ChickenIn this corner, weighing in at a plump 3 1/2 pounds the current heavy weight roasted chicken champion of the world: Madeline Kamman’s Herbed Butter under-the-skin.
A traditional French technique for chicken that can be used for roasting or Sous Vide cooking. This mighty dish has charmed royalty the world over and stands as the pinnacle of simple poultry preparation.

Mahogany ChickenAnd in this corner, weighing in at a firm 3.25 pounds, the Contender,  made-by-mom-at home Mahogany Chicken. The pride of the borough, this friendly approach to adding flavor should not be underestimated; stylish, smart and sassy. Who will be the winner is anyone’s guess.  Kamman’s herbed champion has the breasts to put up a great fight.  But The Mahogany contender has got the legs to run away with it all.   Marquis of Queensbury rules apply!

Round 1

Round 1In the left corner prepped with just a rub of salt and pepper on the skin: The Mahogany Contender.  In the right corner with an herbed butter rubbed under the skin directly on the breast: The Herbed Champion.

The judges score this round evenly. An equal effort from both birds.

The Contender’s basting marinade is 1 part brown sugar, 1 part balsamic vinegar and 1 part dry vermouth applied after the first 45 minutes of cooking then every 15 mins after that until done.The Champion’s herbed butter is 1/4 cup butter, salt, pepper, garlic. rosemary, thyme and basil.

Round 2

Round 2In the left side of the oven The Contender holds its own against The Champion.  But don’t count out the slippery moves that Herbed Butter can bring to this fight.  The heat is up for both of them and so far neither is backing down from a basting.

Uh Oh! The Champ is showing signs of melting down while the challenger, showing great poise under all this heat, is just crackling away.  The crowd is silent watching these to birds go head to head in headless combat. Never before have we seen such fancy footless footwork.  Ding!  Saved by the bell.

Round 3

Round #The final round and The Contender is putting on a show.  Evenly browned after multiple bastings She’s showing no sign of legging off.  The Champ, a little unevenly used from the butter directly under the skin, is still in the fight. Her delicious herbs giving off the airs of a true champion, one who never quits.

 

The Fight is Over!!

End of FightAmazing!! Never before is the history of Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner have we seen anything like this before.  Who would have guessed it?  Folks, just who could have foreseen the outcome of today’s match up? Not you, not me, nobody could have predicted this!!  After 1 hour and 25 mins in a 350°F oven the judges score the final numbers equally at 170°F. I still can’t believe it. My hats off to both of these plucky fighters.  I guess we’ll just have to wait until after they cool down before we can get a taste of what happened here today.  My oh my! I’ve never seen anything like it before.  No sir- ee.

 

Judge’s Decision

In a 2 to 1 vote the new Roast Chicken Heavy Weight Champion of the World is . . . . an upset!!

Madeline Kamman’s age old classic recipe proved feisty but it’s moves were a bit outdated and predictable.  The Contender, made-by-mom Mahogany Chicken takes the title with it’s even browning and moist marinaded flavor.  Our hat’s off to both the fighters in this matchup.  What?  What’s that I hear?  A rematch??  That’s right folks you heard it here first.  These two birds aren’t done flapping their wings yet.  Until next time . . .

Eat Well and Smile Often,

tj

p.s. Run Chicken Run!!

Originally posted 6/11/12

Rice Right?? . . . Wrong!!

Catherine de MediciI recently got called on my cooking BS.

“Rice pilaf,” I exclaimed, “is purely a dish of western creation.”  You see, I received formal training in classical French cooking techniques and  . . .  well . . . all the best food and cooking techniques come from France. Right?!  I was caught in my little white lie by two very talented female chefs  who replied, “That doesn’t sound quite right.” They were right, I was wrong.  Um, it seems I forgot one part, the one where Everyone-Else-In-The-World cooks too. To state it correctly, Rice Pilaf is a Middle Eastern dish and our word Pilaf comes from the Turkish word Pilav. Oops, my bad.

Now to the title of this piece and how Pilav became Pilaf. In 1533, at the age of fourteen, Catherine de Medici of Italy married Henry II, king of France.  Henry, to our benefit you’ll soon discover, was much more interested in his mistress Diane de Poitiers than his new bride. Catherine as a result was excluded from politics and all things court like.  Instead of staying by her husband’s side she traveled the country with her entourage. Here comes the good part. The Italians, being the great travelers and traders they are, brought back not only goods for commerce but great heaps of culture from around the globe.  In Catherine’s entourage were chefs schooled in cross cultural cooking techniques and the dishes they inspired.  As they progressed around France, Catherine chefs would require the assistance of local cooks to prepare the Queen’s meals.  Catherine moved on but the cooking techniques remained, Pilaf included. While there has been some trifling debate as to whether Catherine actually had this much effect on French cuisine, those of us who study it can precisely time its rise to the Renaissance period. So there!

Did she or didn’t she?  I believe she did. Is it wrong of me to be grateful of the King’s infidelity?

 

Eat Well and Smile Often,

 

tj

 

p.s. I thought all the best chefs were men!  Ooops, my bad.

 

Simple Rice Pilaf

1  cup               Rice

3 Tbsp              Butter or olive oil

2  cups             Water or broth

2 Tbsp              Parsley, chopped

 

Place in a sauce pan water or broth and bring to a boil. Add a pinch of salt if water only.

In a sauté pan heat butter or olive oil over medium heat and add rice.  Cook for about 4 minutes.

Add rice to boiling liquid, stir, reduce heat to very low and cover.  Cook until all the liquid is gone.  Remove from heat, mix in parsley and serve.

 

Originally posted on April 30, 2012