Weekend Recipe: Orichette with Broccoli Rabe

May 30 2011 Published by under Recipes

When it comes to cooking, I absolutely love Italian food. Real Italian food, that is. In America, until recently, like all too many ethnic foods, Italian food was bastardized into trashy stuff - mostly sickeningly sweet tomato stuff from cans. Real Italian food is wonderful, simple, and fresh. Italian cooking is all about getting the best quality fresh ingredients, and doing as little to them as possible.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I went to Eataly. Eataly is a labor of love by the wonderful Italian chef Mario Batali. It's a sort of massive Italian market, with a collection of restaurants embedded in it, cooking the stuff that they sell. There's a pasta restaurant, a pizza oven, a seafood restaurant, a salumeria, a cruda bar (cruda is sort of like Italian sashimi: very fresh fish, served raw with a sprinkle of salt and olive oil), and so on.

We went to the pasta place there, and had the most phenomenal pasta dish. It was everything that I love about good Italian cooking: amazing ingredients, prepared in a simple way that brings out their flavors. It was amazing. So, naturally, I had to reproduce it at home. And being Italian food, that was pretty easy to do - because it's such a simple dish!

The dish was Orichette with sweet Italian sausage and broccoli rabe. Basically, you need a really good sausage, and really good fresh broccolli rabe. It's all about those flavors, without distractions.

The trick to this is the length of the cooking time. It took me a while to figure this out: I tend to cook veggies Chinese style, which means that I barely cook them at all. I stir fry american broccoli for under a minute. But that doesn't work for rabe. Broccoli rabe is an absolutely lovely veggie, but it really needs to be cooked well. When it's raw, it's got a very strong, almost overwhelming horseradishy bitterness. You need to really let it cook for a while to get it past that. But the thing about it is, unlike the typical American broccoli, it's got the strength to handle that. It doesn't turn into mush. You cook rabe for 20 minutes, and it's still got some body to it. Do it right, and it's one of the most lovely, succulent vegetables in the world.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound good quality sweet sausage meat. It's important to get a really good quality sausage. If you buy a cheap prepackaged sausage from the grocery store, the dish won't work. You want a really good fresh Italian sausage. We bought our at the butcher counter at Eataly. You should remove the skin, so that all you have is the meat, crumbled.
  • A head brocolli rabe, cut into roughly two-inch lengths.
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chili flakes
  • One cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (just enough to take the edge off the acid from the wine)
  • Olive oil
  • One pound orichette

Instructions

  1. Heat a saute pan. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil when it's hot.
  2. Throw in the sausage meat. Stir it around, breaking it up into smallish bite-sized pieces. Cook it on high heat until it gets nicely browned.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic and chili flakes, and then the broccoli. It will look like it's way too much brocolli rabe, but don't worry. It's going to cook down a lot.
  4. Stir around until the broccoli rabe starts to wilt. Then add the white wine and the sugar, and reduce the heat to a low boil.
  5. Start cooking the pasta. Orichette generally cooks for a bit more than ten minutes, and the broccoli rabe should cook for between 15 and 20 minutes, so work out your timing from that so that they'll both finish at the same time.
  6. When most of the white wine has cooked away from the sauce, add 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Whenever the sauce starts to look dry, add some of the pasta water. This adds some salt (because your pasta water should be salted!), and it also helps to build the sauce, because the starch acts as a binder.
  7. Taste the sauce, and add salt and pepper as needed.
  8. When the pasta is done, drain it, and add it to the sauce, drizzle with a few more tablespoons of olive oil, and toss it together.

Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

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Friday Recipe: Aioli!

Apr 29 2011 Published by under Recipes

Growing up in the US, I always thought of mayonaise as that revolting sweet bland white goo that you mix with tuna in tuna salad. I absolutely hate the stuff - it's disgusting.

So when I started learning to cook, and I saw recipes that used aioli, I avoided them. After all, aioli is just homemade mayo, right? Until a couple of years ago, when I was at Ming Tsai's restaurant, and they served a really fantastic carpaccio which was drizzled with a garlic aioli. I didn't know what it was - but it was fantastic, so I asked the waiter what the sauce was. I was shocked to find out it was aioli! So I broke down, and started trying to make it myself. And what a revelation: it's absolutely fantastic stuff.

It's extremely easy to make; it takes about 2 minutes to whip a batch together! It's versatile - you can use it with anything from a simple salad to a steak! And it's easy to play with - you can change it around by adding in different
flavors, to make it suit all sorts of different dishes.

I'll start with the master recipe, and then run through a bunch of my favorite variations.

Ingredients

  • One large clove of garlic.
  • One (light) teaspoon of dijon mustard.
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar.
  • 2 egg yolks.
  • 1/2 cup olive oil.
  • One generous pinch salt.

Instructions

  1. Crush the garlic, mince it, and then put it into a food processor or blender.
  2. Add the vinegar, mustard, and salt to the food processor/blender, and pulse it to get them to combine.
  3. Add the egg yolks - pulse quickly to combine.
  4. Turn on the machine, and then slowly drizzle in the oil. You add the oil slowly enough so that you never see any loose oil in the machine - it should be getting emulsified into the egg mixture immediately.
  5. When you've added all of the oil, turn the machine off. That's it: you're done. You've got aioli!
    1. Some nice variations:

      • Sun-dried tomato and paprika: this one is a fantastic topping for a good burger. Mince up some sun-dried tomato, and put it into the aioli along with a good tablespoon of smoked spanish paprika, and fold that in.
      • Tartar sauce: for the best tartar sauce you've ever had to go with fried fish, about a tablespoon each of minced onion, carrot, and celery, and about 1/2 teaspoon of tomato paste.
      • Salad dressing: if you like thousand island dressing, this will knock your socks off. Get some good quality pickles. Mince up about a tablespoon of pickle, plus a half tablespoon of red onion, mix it with about a tablespoon of tomato paste, and then fold that into the aioli.
      • Steak sauce: get a nice berber spice blend, and fold in a generous tablespoon. (Berber is, roughly, a blend of chili pepper, garlic and onion powders, cardamom, black pepper, and fenugreek.)

      This stuff makes me really regret how long I delayed in learning to make it. Unfortunately, my distaste for mayo growing up is really strong. It's taken time for me to learn to use it. I've got such an instinct for thinking that anything mayo-like is gross. I still have a reflex to avoid it, even when I know how good it is. I keep surprising myself by making it for my wife, and then being shocked when I taste it. Don't be like me: start enjoying this stuff now!

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Thanksgiving Recipe: Mark's Cranberry Chutney

Nov 21 2010 Published by under Recipes

This is a repost of a recipe from last year. I just made this year's batch, and I gotta say... this stuff is absolutely amazing. It's so good that I can barely believe that I invented this, even though I know I did, because I was there.

Since I started doing my family's thanksgiving dinner, I always made a simple cranberry relish - it's the recipe that's on the side of every bag of fresh cranberries - the cranberries, sugar, and oranges, into a food processor. The problem is, that really needs to sit for a couple of days, to let the flavors blend together, and to give the cranberry pectin a chance to thicken it. And last year, I completely forgot to do it in advance - on thanksgiving morning, I took the turkey out of the fridge, and saw my bag of cranberries.

So there was no time to let it sit. I figured I needed to do something else. What? Well, I love chutneys, and a good chutney sounded nice. I went hunting online for cranberry chutney. There were lots of recipes, but none of them appealed to me. So I said to hell with it, and ad-libbed.

The results were just delightful, and it's become the new cranberry tradition in the Chu-Carroll household. It's got fantastic balance: sweet, sour, spicy, and bitter all at the same time, in the right proportions to compliment the turkey.

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Saturday Recipe: Ginger Scallion Sauce

Jun 26 2010 Published by under Recipes

Today's recipe is something I made this week for the first time, and trying
it was like a revelation. It's simple to make, it's got an absolutely
spectacularly wonderful flavor - light and fresh - and it's incredibly
versatile. It's damned near perfect. It's scallion ginger sauce, and once you
try it, it will become a staple. To quote David Chang, whose cookbook
I learned this from: if you've got ginger scallion sauce in the fridge, you'll
never be hungry.

There are two main variations of this: there's a cooked version, and a raw version. Mine is the raw version. I love the freshness of flavor, and while cooking it will intensify some of the flavors, it will also detract from that delightful freshness.

Ingredients

  • Fresh ginger - roughly one inch, peeled.
  • A bunch of fresh scallions.
  • A teaspoon, give or take, of coarse salt.
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce.
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar.
  • 1/4 cup oil - peanut oil, canola oil, or something
    other neutral oil.

  • A dash of sesame oil.

Instructions

  • Mince the ginger. Toss the minced ginger into a food
    processor.
  • Cut the roots off of the scallions, cut them coarsely, and
    add them to the food processor.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor.
  • Run the food processor until everything is finely ground into a
    smooth sauce.

That's it. Ginger scallion sauce. Taste it - make sure it's
got enough salt. Don't add any soy sauce - just use plain salt if it
needs any.

So what can you do with it? Just about anything. A few
great ideas:

  1. Ramen noodles. Just cook up a batch of ramen, and toss it
    with a tablespoon of the sauce. You can also add some stir
    fried meat and veggies to make it a bit more filling.
  2. Grilled meats. Use a bit of the sauce as a marinade,
    then grill it, and dress it with a bit of the sauce
    when it's done.
  3. Use it instead of mayo on a sandwich.
  4. Add a bit more vinegar, and use it as a vinaigrette
    over a salad.
  5. Sautee some shrimp, and toss some ginger-scallion
    sauce in just before they're done.
  6. Get a nice whole fish, steam it cantonese style
    with just a bit of salt, soy, and sake. Spoon
    a bit of the sauce over it when it's done.

If you wanted to try to cooked version, you take the ginger, scallions, and salt, and puree them in the food processor. Then put them into a large pot. In a different pot, heat the oil up until it just starts to smoke, and then pour it over the ginger/scallion/salt mixture. When it cools, whisk in the rest of the ingredients.

But like I said - I think it's best to just stick with it raw.

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Saturday Recipe: Chicken Mole Enchiladas

Oct 17 2009 Published by under Recipes

I forgot to take a picture of this dish - so Physioprof, shut up :-)

I don't even pretend that this is an authentic mexican mole. It's
something that I whipped together because I felt like a mole, and
I worked from very vague memories of a mole recipe I read years ago,
and ad-libbed this. So it's absolutely not authentic - but it is
yummy.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds chicken breasts, bone in.
  • One large onion, diced.
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced.
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder.
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder.
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinammon powder.
  • 1 teaspoon mexican oregano.
  • 1/2 teaspoon epazote.
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely minced.
  • 1 large dried ancho chili pepper.
  • 1 dried serrano chile pepper.
  • One can diced tomatoes.
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped.
  • 1/4 cup tequila.
  • 1 dozen corn tortillas, lightly toasted.
  • 1 tablespoon whole almonds.
  • chicken stock.
  • Cheese. (I use cheddar; you should use a mexican queso blanco,
    but I don't have access to a decent one.)

Instructions

  1. Put a pan on high heat. When it's good and hot, start
    adding chicken thighs, skin side down, to the dry
    pan. (You're going to get fat from the chicken skin.)
    Brown them well on both sides, then remove.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium, and add the onions to the pan with
    the chicken fat. Stir, and let them cook for several minutes until
    they're translucent.
  3. Take the dried peppers, remove the seeds, and crush/chop them
    finely. (Depending on the peppers, they may be brittle, in which case
    you'll need to just crush them in a mortar and pestle; or they may be
    leathery, in which case you'll need to mince them.)
  4. Add the garlic, chipotle, and dried chilis to the onions, and
    let them cook for about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the tequila, and let it cook until most of the
    liquid has evaporated.
  6. Add the can of tomatoes, the cumin, the cinammon, and the coriander.
    Stir it to mix, and then re-add the chicken. Add chicken stock until
    the the chicken is covered.
  7. Let it simmer on medium-low heat for about 20 minutes.
  8. Turn off the heat, and remove the chicken from the sauce. Set it
    aside and let it cool.
  9. In small portions, move the sauce to a blender, and puree it to
    a smooth sauce.
  10. Put the pureed sauce back into the pan, and turn the heat on low. Let
    it simmer for another 10 minutes.
  11. Pull the chicken meat from the thighs, and shred it. Move it into
    another pan. Add a couple of tablespoons of the sauce, a cup
    of chicken stock, and simmer it for half an hour.
  12. Shred one half of a corn tortilla, and the almonds into
    the blender. Add just enough chicken stock to cover them,
    and puree until smooth.
  13. Add the pureed tortilla and almonds into the sauce, and stir
    them in. Let it cook until the sauce starts to thicken.
  14. Lower the heat on the sauce to low. Add the chocolate to the sauce, and
    stir until it's melted and well-blended in.
  15. Taste the sauce, and add salt, black pepper, and sugar to taste.
  16. Toast the tortillas lightly until they're softened.
  17. Into each tortilla, spoon a couple of teaspoons of the shredded
    chicken, roll it, and then put it into a baking dish.
  18. Spoon the sauce over the fill tortillas. Don't overdo it - you want
    them nicely coated, but not drowned.
  19. Shred cheese over the top of the sauce.
  20. Bake the casserole with the tortillas for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Serve it with a nice mexican rice and beans.

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Friday Recipe: Catfish in Dashi Sauce

Nov 09 2007 Published by under Recipes

This dish is one of my own creations. It's inspired by reading
Ming Tsai's cookbooks, and seeing how he combines things. But as far as I
know, he doesn't do anything like this.

You really need catfish for this. I've tried it with other fish, but
it just doesn't work as well. Catfish has a unique flavor and texture which
is particularly well-suited to this.

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