Monday, October 26, 2009

in season: hide the cauliflower

That's not a particularly attractive dish right there. But it's one of those special recipes with hidden surprises. It is perfect fall food in several ways. Cauliflower is at it's best right now, and nothing is more warming and yummy on a chilly autumn day than a bowl of steamy, creamy risotto. This is a cauliflower and leek risotto. You can't really see the cauliflower hiding amidst the rice, but you take a bite and it bites back, just a tiny bit. Surprise. Need I say more? Recipe after the jump:


3 tbsp butter, separated
1 medium leek, chopped into half-moons
1 small head cauliflower, about 1 to 2 lb, cut into small florets
1 cup arborio or carnaroli rice
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth (vegetable broth if you prefer this dish vegetarian)
3/4 cup parmiggiano-reggiano, or more to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the chicken broth in a medium saucepan until boiling, then lower to a low simmer. Melt 2 tbsp butter in a heavy 4-quart pot over medium heat until foam subsides. Add the leeks and cauliflower and saute until just starting to loose the raw color, about 2 minutes. Add the rice and toast, stirring about 1 minute. Add the wine and stir, allowing a strong simmer until the liquid is completely absorbed. Add 1/2 cup broth and repeat the stirring and simmering process. Continue to add broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring and simmering, until the rice is tender and creamy looking, about 25 minutes. You may not need all of the broth. Remove from the heat, add the cheese, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

sorry to the swine

Pardon my absence last week. I had been feeling rather craptacular for several days, and wondered if my commitment to a 16-week quarter hog share with The Piggery CSA resulted in a bit of porcine revenge in the form of swine flu. I don't really know if that is what I had, but it seemed like everyone around me was afflicted and it dragged on and on and on. Anyway, to get back in the cooking saddle, I focused on - what else - bacon. A pasta that truly highlights the smokey, fatty, delicious cured meat - Pasta alla Carbonara. Technically carbonara calls for guanciale, but this is one case where I break from tradition because the bacon-based carbonara is what we in the US grew up on, and thus what I was craving on a very rainy, cold weekend.

Carbonara is pretty much the simplest pasta you can make. It takes no more time that whatever you need to boil your pasta. You may have twinges of guilt when you realize that the entire point of this pasta is egg and bacon fat, but you get over it pretty quickly. I balanced out the richness with some broccolini. Okay, I sauteed that broccolini in the excess bacon fat...recipe after the jump:

Serves 4

1 pound spaghetti
6-8 ounces thick cut good bacon, pancetta, or guanciale, sliced 1/2-inch thick
3 garlic cloves
2 eggs
1/2 cup grated pecorino romano (or parmiggiano reggiano)
freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. As soon as you drop the pasta in, start to saute the bacon pieces and the whole garlic cloves, rendering the fat just until the bacon starts to brown and crisp around the edges. You don't want to get the bacon too crispy or it will not incorporate nicely into the pasta. Remove the garlic cloves and let the bacon sit until the pasta is ready. Break the eggs into your serving bowl and whisk with a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. When the pasta is done, drain, then immediately transfer to your serving bowl with the eggs and quickly toss to coat the pasta. Add the bacon, it's fat (as much as you need to coat the pasta nicely), and the cheese and toss well. Taste and adjust for pepper. You may not need to add any salt depending on the saltiness of your cheese and bacon. Serve immediately.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

french food i DID eat in france: boeuf bourguignon

Technically J-Cat ate it, for our last dinner in Paris at "Josephine" Chez Dumonet. But obviously I had a few bites. With the weather getting chillier by the day, it's time to break out my favorite types of foods - slow-cooked, hearty, warming, intensely flavored, meaty.

There are thousands of recipes for Boeuf Bourguignon out there, ranging from the straightforward to the excessively complicated. And here is where I am conflicted. I love to make dishes in the most authentic way possible. But I also love simplicity and dislike fussiness. So where to find the balance without sacrificing authenticity? When it comes down to it, a dish like Boeuf Bourguignon just doesn't seem like it should be so complicated. Complex in flavor, yes, but at it's roots a simple, rustic stew. So this recipe by Ginette Mathiot, the "French Julia Child", which was published a few weeks ago in The New York Times, seems to strike a nice balance. Authentic in that it is the version that a French cook would cook in their own home, not the complicated beast of a restaurant version popularized by Julia Child. Both recipes authentic in their own way, and both yielding a more than satisfying result. Recipe after the jump:

Adapted from "I Know How to Cook" by Ginette Mathiot

1 tablespoon oil
3 ounces onions or shallots, chopped
3 1/2 ounces thick-cut bacon, diced
1 1/2 pounds stewing beef, cut into 1 1/2 -inch pieces, patted dry
Scant 1/4 cup flour
1 1/4 cups any type of stock, hot
1 1/4 cups red wine
1 bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs fresh thyme and 3 sprigs parsley, tied together)
Black pepper
3 1/2 ounces mushrooms, diced

1. In a heavy pan over medium heat, heat oil. Add onions and bacon and cook, stirring, until browned. Remove them and set aside; leave fat in pan.

2. Add beef and brown on all sides (work in two batches if needed to avoid crowding).

3. Sprinkle browned beef with flour, stir until browned and add stock. Stir, scraping bottom of pan, then add reserved bacon and onions, the wine and bouquet garni. Season with pepper.

4. Simmer very gently for 2 hours.

5. Add mushrooms and cook 30 minutes more. Season with salt and serve. Or, even better, reheat and serve the next day.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

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