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Fettuccine in Butter, with Corn, Prosciutto, and Sage July 1, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in Entree, Pasta, Recipe.
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1/2 lb. fettuccine
1-1/2 cups corn kernels
2 ozs. thinly-sliced prosciutto, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
1 stick (8 tbsp.) butter
5 fresh sage leaves, chopped coarsely
fresh ground pepper
salt
Reggiano, shaved

Boil water for pasta in a large pot, lightly salted.

Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a large bistro pan or skillet at medium-low heat.  Add prosciutto, mixing evenly into the butter.  Using a wooden spoon or two, tease apart some of the more stubborn slices which might be stuck together.  Cook until pink throughout, about 4-5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Stir in a tablespoon of water to relieve the prosciutto.  Add 2 tbsp. butter, sage, and a few twists of fresh ground pepper.  Mix contents agreeably, then let them rest to infuse melting butter.

Add pasta to boiling water.

A few minutes before pasta is finished, move skillet to burner at medium heat.  Add remaining 4 tbsp. butter.  Add corn and cook until warm throughout.  (Add a tablespoon or two of water from the pasta if the corn mixture seems too dry.)  When corn is warmed, reduce skillet to lowest heat.

Drain pasta when cooked and add to skillet.  Toss pasta with skillet mixture.  Salt to taste.  Serve immediately, offering Reggiano on the side.

Time to Prepare: 25 minutes

Difficulty: 3/10

Serves: 3-4 people

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Easy to make and requiring very little time, this could be a “weekly” dish in late spring or early summer when corn is at is freshest.  Two or three ears of corn should be plenty.  (But it’s also fine to substitute quality frozen corn kernels at other times of the year, if need be.)

Though the Reggiano cheese is served on the side, without it the pasta lacks soul.

Sea Scallops w/Tarragon Butter Sauce June 28, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in Entree, Recipe, Seafood.
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2 lbs. large sea scallops
1 stick (8 tbsp.) butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tbsp. fresh tarragon, finely chopped
1 tsp. Kosher salt

Wash and dry scallops.  Rub scallops with salt.

Melt 1 tbsp. butter in a large skillet over high heat.  Sear scallops, turning once on each side to prevent sticking.  Cook until lightly browned on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes.  Transfer to a plate, cover, and set aside.

Add shallot to skillet and saute at high heat for one minute.  Add vinegar, wine, and any juices drained from the cooling scallops to skillet.  Deglaze, and reduce liquid at a controlled boil for 3-4 minutes.  Reduce skillet to low heat and add 3 tbsp. butter.  When butter is melted, add another 4 tbsp. butter and stir until butter in melted and creamy.  Turn off heat.  Stir in tarragon and salt to taste.

Arrange scallops on serving plate(s) and top with tarragon butter.

Time to Prepare: 20 minutes

Difficulty: 3/10

Serves: 4-6 people

Chive Oil Coulis June 28, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in Recipe, Sauce, Soup.
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1/3 cup chopped chives
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
pinch of salt

Puree the chives and oil in a small food processor until pureed.  Add salt to taste.  Drizzle over soups, or use for general presentation.

Time to Prepare: 5 minutes

Difficulty: 1/10

Serves: 6-10 people as light garnish

Risotto with Morels and Asparagus June 28, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in Entree, Mushrooms, Recipe, Risotto, Veggies.
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2 cups dried arborio rice (risotto)
1/2 lb. fresh morel mushrooms
1/2 lb. asparagus
5 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups boiling water
4 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup grated Reggiano

Pour boiling water over morels and stir gently.  Set mushrooms and liquid aside covered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove mushrooms from liquid broth with a slotted spoon, reserving liquid.  Pat mushrooms dry, chop into quarters lengthwise, and set aside.  Remove grit and solids from the broth, straining through a cheesecloth if necessary.  Set broth aside.

While mushrooms are soaking, cut asparagus in half lengthwise, then slice into 1/2 inch pieces on the diagonal.  Bring a small pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Blanche asparagus in boiling water for 4 minutes.  Drain.  Run cold water over asparagus until cool to the touch and set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large heavy stock pot over high heat.  When foam subsides, add shallot and thyme.  Saute for several minutes.  Chop finely 1 clove of garlic.  Add morels and chopped garlic, and saute for 3-4 minutes.  Add asparagus and mix well.  Transfer contents of stock pot to a bowl and set aside, covered.

Deglaze stock pot with 1/2 cup white wine.  Add mushroom stock to pot and bring to a boil.  Add vegetable stock and 2 cloves coarsely sliced garlic.  Bring liquid to a boil, reduce to a simmer and keep covered.

Heat olive oil in a 5-quart heavy pot over high heat.  Add arborio rice and stir well.  Add 1/2 cup white wine and stir until absorbed.  Reduce heat to medium.  Add 1 cup stock and stir until absorbed.  Cover.  Add another cup of broth every minute or two, stirring to ensure an even coating, then replace cover.  Repeat until risotto is tender and creamy, about 20 to 25 minutes.  (Some broth may be left over.)

Melt 2 tablespoons in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add mushroom and asparagus mixture and heat it just until it bubbles slightly.  Pour mixture into risotto and mix well.  Stir in Reggiano cheese and serve immediately.

Time to Prepare: 90 minutes

Difficulty: 4/10

Serves: 6 to 8 people

Heirloom Tomato Salad w/ Burrata and Rustic Ciabbata Croutons June 14, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in Recipe, Salad.
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1 loaf fresh Ciabbata
Approx. 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. fresh oregano leaves
1-1/2 cloves fresh garlic
1-1/2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
3 lbs. heirloom tomatoes
1 tsp. fleur de sel
2 tbsp. julienned opal basil
2 tbsp. julienned green basil
1 lb. burrata cheese
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
Kosher salt
pepper

Croutons
Preheat oven to 375° F degrees. Slice the loaf into large 1-inch thick slices.  Remove the crusts.  Tear the bread into chunks of roughly 1-inch in diameter.  Slice thinly one clove of garlic.  Put the garlic in a microwaveable bowl with a 1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil and microwave on high setting for one minute.  Set aside, letting oil cool until it is safe to touch.  Remove the slices of garlic from oil and discard.  Toss the bread chunks lightly in the olive oil, moistening them slightly.  (Squeeze bread gently to remove excess olive oil, if necessary.)  Place bread chunks on a baking sheet and toast them for 12 minutes or so.  Serve within 2 hours.

Salad Dressing
Using a mortle and pestle, make a paste from oregano leaves, 1/2 clove of garlic, and 1/2 tsp. of salt.  Transfer to a mixing bowl.  Stir in red wine and balsamic vinegars.  Whisk in 6 tbsp. olive oil and set aside.

Salad
Julienne the basil, chop the parsley, slice the shallots, and set aside, separately.  Remove stems from cherry tomatoes and cut each in half.  Cut half the heirloom tomatoes into wedges.  Cut the other half into 1/4-inch think slices.  Season slices with fleur de sel and black pepper.  On each individual salad place, place a few tomato slices, drizzle a tiny amount of vinaigrette over tomatoes, and top with a little basil.

Slice the burrata cheese into wedges.  Put equal amount of burrata on each plate, tucked in with the tomato slices.

Toss the tomato wedges and the cherry tomatoes in a large bowl with the shallots, 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, a twist of fresh ground pepper, and 3 tbsp. vinaigrette (or more — adjust to taste).  Gently toss in the croutons.  Divide the tomatoes and croutons among the plates.  Scatter parsley and remaining basil over the salads and serve within 20 minutes.

Time to Prepare: 45 minutes to 1 hour

Difficulty: 2/10

Serves: 6 people

Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin.

Berbere Seasoning April 10, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in African, Recipe, Spices.
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2 tsp. cumin seed
4 whole cloves
3/4 tsp. cardamom seed
1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
1/4 tsp. whole allspice
1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
Small dried chili peppers, to taste*
1 tsp. ginger powder
1/4 tsp. turmeric
2 1/2 tbsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. salt
Cayenne pepper, to taste*

Toast whole spices in a small, dry frying pan over medium heat for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid burning or excessive smoking.  Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.  Add dried chili peppers, stems removed, if desired.  Grind finely in a spice grinder (or mortar-and-pestle).  Remove larger pieces of cardamom husk, if any.

Transfer to small mixing bowl.  Add remaining powdered spices.  Cool to room temperature.  Store in sealed spice container for up to 6 months.

Time to prepare: 15 minutes

Difficulty: 1/10

Yields: Approximately one standard supermarket spice container’s worth of powdered seasoning.

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Berbere seasoning is an essential component of many East African dishes.  Much like Indian Curry seasonings, every chef has their own preferred blend.  The specific ingredients and quantities can vary quite a bit.  You can’t really go wrong here, so feel free to adjust or omit ingredients to suit your fancy.

*Berbere is often spicy.  Add up to 10 chili peppers to the grind mix, and add up to 1 tbsp. cayenne pepper to the powders.  If you would rather err on the side of less spicy, omit these ingredients and tailor the spice level of the mixture later.

Warm Wild Mushroom Salad with Soft Herbs, Pecorino and Hazelnuts March 31, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in Mushrooms, Recipe, Salad, Side Dish.
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2 lbs. wild mushrooms, cleaned
6 ozs. mixed salad of dandelion greens and watercress
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely crushed
2 tbsp. finely diced shallots
3 tbsp. sherry vinegar
9 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. thyme leaves
1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves
1/4 cup chervil sprigs
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chives, chopped to 1/2-inch pieces
Shaved Pecorino di Grotta (or Romano)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Toast the hazelnuts in a dry skillet on medium for a few minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Remove brown skins and crush hazelnuts coarsely.  Set aside.

Place diced shallots, sherry vinegar, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a bowl, and set aside for 5 mins.  Whisk in 5 tbsp. olive oil and set aside.

Clean and trim mushrooms.  Tear larger mushrooms into bite-sized pieces, 1-1/2 to 2 inches.

Heat a large skillet over high heat for 2 mins.  Add 2 tbsp. olive oil and heat for another minute.  Melt in 1 tbsp. butter and add half of the mushrooms to the skillet.  Season mushrooms with 1 tsp. thyme, 3/4 tsp. salt, and a few twists of ground pepper.  Saute the mushrooms for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender.  (Cooking time will vary with the types of mushrooms.)  Transfer cooked mushrooms to a bowl, and repeat cooking process with the remaining half of the mushrooms.

Meanwhile, place the greens and herbs in a large mixing bowl.

When the second batch of mushrooms is finished, add the first batch back into the skillet.  Add the vinaigrette to the skillet and warm with mushrooms for a minute or two.  When mixture is hot, pour mushrooms and dressing over the greens and herbs and mix.  Add 1/4 tsp. salt and ground pepper to taste.

Using tongs, arrange salad mixture on plates.  Sprinkle hazelnuts and pecorino over each salad plate.  Serve immediately.

Time to prepare: 30 to 45 minutes

Difficulty: 3/10

Serves: 4

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This is not a difficult dish to prepare.  Most of the time is spent grooming the herbs, washing the greens, and cleaning the mushrooms.  Once cooking begins the salad in finished in under 15 minutes.

To help time this dish with others, the mushrooms can be cooked up to 4 hours in advance.  Re-heat mushrooms just before serving, stirring in the vinaigrette until hot, as described above.

Celery Root and Green Apple Soup February 22, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in Cooking, Soup.
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1/2 stick butter (4 tbsp.)
2 whole celery root
2 Granny Smith green apples
1 large yellow onion, chopped
5 cups chicken stock
salt

Dice the celery root and apple into small cubes, about 1/2-inch. Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add celery root, apple, and onion. Cook for about 15 minutes, until celery root becomes soft and semi-translucent, but don’t let it brown.

Add 4 cups of chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

In small batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Add remaining chicken stock sparingly, as necessary, to keep the blending smooth.

After blending, return the soup to its pot and heat to a boil. Stir well. Salt to taste. Remove from heat. Serve within 48 hours, refrigerating as needed.

Time to prepare: 1 hour

Difficulty: 2/10

Serves: 6

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Be careful when blending.  Hot soup is a viscous, active liquid.  Keep blender portions to about 1/3 of blender capacity or less.  (It’s kinda crazy how easily hot soup in a blender can jump out at you, and believe me, that’s not something you are going to let happen twice.)

Moroccan Chicken Tagine December 30, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Chicken, Entree, Recipe.
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4 lbs. various chicken pieces, bone-in
1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight
(or substitute 2 cans chickpeas)
3 cups couscous
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. paprika
small pinch of saffron threads
2 onions, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2/3 cup golden raisins, soaked in warm water
24 pitted Kalamata olives
2 preserved lemons*, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
salt
black pepper

Time to prepare: 3 hours + overnight prep.

Difficulty: 4/10

Serves: 6-8

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1. Drain the chickpeas and rinse under cold water. Boil chickpeas vigorously in fresh water, about 10 minutes. Rinse again under cold water. Bring to a boil again in fresh water, and simmer, covered, for 90 minutes. Remove from heat and salt lightly. (You can skip this entire step if you use canned chickpeas, though the texture of homemade is preferable.)

2. In a large bowl, combine half of the olive oil with the sugar, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, paprika, and saffron. Add a teaspoon of salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Toss the chicken parts in spice mixture and set aside for 20 minutes.

3. Heat remaining olive oil in a large pan. Fry chicken parts in batches until well browned. Set aside.

4. Add the onions to the pan and stir constantly until golden. Stir in garlic, tomatoes, and one cup water, scraping the bottom of the pan to release browned bits.

5. Combine chicken, onions, garlic, and tomatoes in a large casserole. Add enough water to just cover, then bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 1 hour.

6. Drain the chickpeas and add to chicken with about 1 cup of water. Stir in raisins and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in the olives and preserved lemons and simmer for 30 more minutes. Stir in cilantro, remove from heat, and serve over couscous.

*Preserved lemons: I never make these the real way, which takes weeks. Instead, prepare a bowl of heavily salted water. The water should be as salty as sea water, of perhaps even more. Add 1/2 tsp. sugar per lemon. Slice lemons in thin wheels and let soak for 24 hours.

Duck Legs braised in Port-Soaked Cherries October 17, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Braising, Duck, Entree, Recipe.
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6 large duck legs, including thighs
1 tbsp. coriander seeds, lightly toasted
1-1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
1 tsp. allspice berries
1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 tsp. fleur de sel (or coarse salt)
1 cup tawny port
1/2 cup dried cherries, unsweetened
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
2 cups chicken stock

Time to prepare: 3 hours + overnight prep.

Difficulty: 6/10

Serves: 6

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There are five general steps to preparing this dish:

1. Prep – Duck is coated in a dried spice mix and refrigerated overnight. (Overnight)
2. Sear – Duck is browned in a hot pan. (30 minutes)
3. Prepare Braising Liquid. (10 minutes)
4. Braise – Duck is cooked in braising liquid, covered, for two hours. (2 hours)
5. Finish – Duck is dry-cooked, and sauce is made from braising liquid. (20 minutes)

Step One – Prep

Duck legs: Without cutting into skin, trim off excess fat. Place legs in a shallow bowl or sealable plastic bag. In a spice grinder or a mortar, combine coriander, peppercorns and allspice, and grind until coarse. Mix in thyme and coarse salt. Rub mixture evenly over duck legs. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Cherries: Soak cherries in port, covered, for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Step Two – Searing

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Heat a shallow braising pan or skillet to medium-hot. (I have made this dish using only a single shallow braising pan or bistro pan for steps 2 through 4. Some people prefer to use a separate skillet and braising pan, for the searing and the braising, respectively.) Sear 3 duck legs, skin side down for 8 minutes. Leave them undisturbed, checking only to ensure that they are not aticking and burning onto the pan. There is no need to add oil or butter to the pan before searing — enough fat from the duck will coat the pan suitably within seconds. Turn legs over and sear for 4 minutes. Remove duck legs and drain excess fat from pan. Repeat process for the other 3 duck legs. Reserve one tbsp. of duck fat after searing.

Step Three – Braising Liquid

Return searing pan to medium heat with 1 tbsp. duck fat. Add sliced shallots and cook for 2 minutes. Add cherries and port-soak to pan and reduce by half. Add stock and bay leaves and simmer until reduced by half.

Step Four – Braising

Arrange duck legs flat in the bottom of a shallow braising pan or bistro pan. Pour braising liquid over duck. Cover pan with parchment paper and close lid. Cook in the oven for 1 hour. Turn duck legs over and cook for 1 more hour. Reduce heat to 275 or 300 if liquid appears to be evaporating rapidly.

Step Five – Finishing

Remove braise from the oven. Turn on broiler. Remove duck legs from liquid and transfer to a baking sheet, skin side up. Broil duck legs on middle rack for 8 to 10 minutes, or until skin is crisp. Remove duck legs from broiler, cover, and keep warm until served (holding warm duck no longer than 15 minutes.)

While duck is broiling, prepare a sauce from braising liquid. Using a gravy separator or a large flat spoon, remove as much fat and oil from liquid as possible. “Hammer” braising liquid in a sauce pot at highest possible heat until thick and saucy, adding salt and pepper to taste if needed. (Do not over-reduce sauce or it will burn.)

Serve duck leg, accompanied by sauce.

If holding for one or two days, store duck legs and sauce separately in refrigerator. Skim fat from sauce before reheating. Gently re-heat duck legs in sauce, adding 1 or 2 tbsp. of water if needed. Finish duck legs under broiler, as above, and serve immediately.