Thursday, December 30, 2010

A really quick, easy, but amazing way to cook you some shrooms

Ok, I adore mushrooms. Short of my friend John Lange, I think I love them more than anyone else I know. So earthy, so versatile, to use some obnoxious chef terminology so full of umami (it's the japanese word for the extra taste sensation of savory). There are countless ways to cook/use them, but I thought I'd just throw out a really tasty, really easy way to do so, especially if you are doing some entertaining. It has great flavor, and makes for a really nice presentation...............what we are talking about is "en papilotte". Sounds fancy? Really it just means baked in parchment paper.
First, prep the parchment.
Basically, you just need to cut a big heart out of the parchment paper. After loading in all of your mushrooms and other items on one side, fold the other side over the top & starting at the bottome or tip of the overall heart, tightly roll the bottom lip over the top lip, until you have a nicely sealed oval shaped packet full of shrooms. This is just then popped into the oven for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees, then when you are ready to serve, pop it onto whatever plate you want to present on, tear a hole in the top, and voila, perfectly roasted mushrooms all with a little sauce in the bottom of the paper for all to enjoy, an people will think you a properly trained french chef, schooled in the techniques used by the masters, such a Larouse, or Pepin.
Anyway, enough of that, I guess I should include a recipe in this ramble.
1 lb of assorted, or not assorted mushrooms
**Just buy what looks best freshest at the market, but mushrooms with a little more body work best, such as the above pictured chantrelle or porcini, but crimini, hedgehog, even buttons all work
1 tblsp fresh chopped thyme
1 tblsp fresh chopped rosemary
1 tsp fresh chopped oregano
3 tlbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tlbsp butter, cold, cut into 5-6 pieces
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh black pepper
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
Optional - 1 tsp chili flake
Cut mushrooms into similarly sized pieces, especially if using multiple types. If just using crimini, not really necessary, but if you have large porcini, you will want to break them down a bit. Just make sure to leave them in pretty good sized pieces to be able to have a good, meaty texture at the end. Toss all ingredients together, except for the butter, and let marinate for ten minutes. Then, pile into parchment, as described above, top with the slices of butter, then seal the parchment, as described above, and roast and serve, once again, as described above. Dead easy, can be prepped ahead of time, and is absolutely wonderful.
As always, some ponderables..
"Every mushroom is edible.........once"
"One can only imagine the amount of mushrooms a sane person would have to eat to be convinced that a frisbee is a fearsome threat"
--Gary Lewis--
"Love is like a never know if it's the real thing until your already commited"

Monday, December 27, 2010

Gnocchi...a little bit of work, a whole lot of delicious

This is I guess another edition of the "dinners on a budget variety", but don't be put off by that. I make these all the time, and they are extremely popular chez moi and with fam and friends. Technically, I would say that this is actually a potato dumpling recipe as I don't use the traditional gnocchi roller to give it the classic gnocchi shape, but if you feel so inclined, feel free.

Just a quick note before we get into the recipe: It is easiest to get the dough all ready to go, stuff it into a disposable pastry bag, and then cut the dough with scissors as you squeeze it out directly into the boiling (salted) water (just remember to give each one a little squeeze as you cut it to give it the indentation to hold the sauce), but if you don't have a disposable pastry bag (and are too cheap to invest the $3.25 for ten of them), then it works just as well to put portions of the dough on a floured board, hand roll them into long "snakes" of dough and then cut by hand (really, by knife). That is how I will lay it out in the recipe below, but I prefer the pastry bag method. There are countless ways to serve/sauce the gnocchi once they are cooked, and we'll get into the variations and my favorites post-recipe, just don't think gnocchi covered in red sauce is the limit of these pillows of deliciousness.

Basic Gnocchi Recipe

3 large baking (Idaho) potatoes (about 1 3/4 pounds), scrubbed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt
1 tblsp fresh chopped thyme
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, or as needed

1)Bake potatoes at 400 degrees until tender. Then, using a kitchen towel to not hurt your hands, peel the potatoes completely.
2)Use a ricer to finely mill potatoes. If you don't have a ricer, mash them with a fork until no lumps remain.
3)Allow potatoes to cool, then form a well with them on your cutting board. Whisk together egg, salt, thyme, pepper and nutmeg. Place egg mixture in center of the well, and work into the potatoes with your hands.
4)Gradually, start adding flour & cheese into the mixture, kneading with your hands. Don't overwork the dough, or the gnocchi will get tougher. About 4 minutes should be plenty. Your hands may get a little messy, but that's part of the fun. Just scrape whatever dough is on your hands back into the dough. Note: you may not need all of the flour, just keep working it in until you have a dough that is no longer sticky to the touch.
5)Flour your work surface, and place dough on board. Flour the top of the dough, and divide into 5-6 portions. Take each portion and gently roll it into a roughly 1/2 inch thick rope (you may need to add flour as you roll to keep the dough from sticking, then cut into gnocchi. Take your thumb and make an indentation in one side of each gnocchi (this helps it hold the sauce) and place on a floured sheet.
6)To cook the gnocchi, drop into boiling salted water, and cook them for about one minute AFTER they rise to the surface. Gently stir as you do this. Remove with a slotted spoon and drop into ice water as you remove them. After they are cooled, drizzle with olive oil and you can keep them refridgerated until ready to cook.

To serve the gnocchi:

1)Remove from fridge and sit them out for 1/2 hour.
2)Brown some butter in a saute pan (just over medium heat until butter starts to brown and smell sort of like baking bread), and toss gnocchi in a even layer. Brown on both sides and then do one of the following

a)serve as is with the brown butter and some shaved parmesan
b)toss with your favorite (homemade of course) marinara or pesto sauce
c)Reduce 1/2 cup of heavy cream and 3 tblsp white wine by half, add 1/4 cup of gorgonzola, fontina, or gruyere cheese. Stir until cheese is incorporated, then toss in gnocchi
d)Cook some bacon lardons until crispy, add some finely chopped scallion and sage, then toss in gnocchi..................mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

As always, play around with how to sauce the dish. These little pillows of delight are quite versatile. Serve on a bed of spinach, or toss with some pulled roasted chicken and a little jus if you want more of an entree.

PS - for a great variation, add 1/4 cup of good quality ricotta to the gnocchi dough, you will need more flour to make it come together, but it is a great addition.

Noush, I expect reports of how your gnocchi came out by the end of the weekend :)

"The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later, you're hungry again"
---George Miller---

Enjoy, and let me know how the gnocchi come out

Monday, December 20, 2010


Firstly, apologies to all 10 of my followers, but I've been having internet issues chez moi, so that's why I haven't been posting lately. I'll make up for lost time, I promise. Secondly, ballsy title, I know, but it's true. I know I'm biased, and have a taste for this dressing because I've been eating it since I was 2, but it really is my favorite. Versatile, garlicky, salty, deliciousness.

The odd picture above is my mother, holding a jar of said vinaigrette, talking on the phone (quelle fucking surprise). It is there because it is actually her recipe, and I don't want to take credit for a recipe that isn't mine. I'll steal the recipe and publish it onto the interweb happily, but I won't take credit for it. Also, she will love the fact that that picture is online for all to see, so....added bonus. Anyhoo, on to the recipe.

2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tblsp maggi seasoning sauce (this stuff is great, available at most grocery stores, and is very versatile. Think soy sauce made by Germans...great in stews, soups, marinades, etc)
2 tblsp dijon mustard
1/4 c white balsamic vinegar
1/2 c olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh black pepper

Mix all ingredients other than oil together till emulsified, then slowly whisk in oil.

This is perfect for a nice mixed green salad, but also makes a great topping for slices of avocado, a great marinade for some grilled chicken, or is a great finisher for a lighter grilled steak dish.

As always, I'll leave you with a couple of quotes, these ones about mothers:

A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie. ~Tenneva Jordan

A suburban mother's role is to deliver children, obstetrically once, and by car forever after. ~Peter De Vries

All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his. ~Oscar Wilde

Mothers are fonder than fathers of their children because they are more certain they are their own. ~Aristotle

Saturday, December 4, 2010


My cousin Kenny is a huge Manchester United fan. Some may be tempted to call him a front-runner, but I must defend him. He was cheering for the reds long before they started buying championships etc, etc. By the way Kenny, nice game from Berbatov. 5 goals a game will probably keep Chicharito on the bench a while longer.

I am a dedicated Chelsea fan, and while we haven't been on form lately, we have some key players starting to come back into the fold and I think we should be coming in to form by say....December 18th or so. It just so happens that we play Man U. that day, so here is my proposal.

If Manchester wins, I will record myself singing Glory, Glory Man United and post it to this blog, however if Chelsea wins, Kenny, you must wear a Chelsea Jersey to work during the next Manchester game televised and send me pictures of it to post.

What do you say? DO WE HAVE A BET?

Sweet Potato Tartlets - better late than never right? Right?

Ok, here finally is my response to my sisters cry for written form anyway. I did call her and get her this recipe in time for her holiday meal for the record. I don't usually leave her hanging as this site was basically created to inspire her culinary adventures. This recipe also gets a high recommendation from Kenny "Mr Man U" Leahy. He ate a couple of these over the Thanksgiving holiday and either lies well, or did greatly enjoy them. I think this is a dead easy recipe that is a little fresher tasting than your average pumpkin pie, and a little easier too. Also, Miguel (my brother in-law), just for the record, scooping out the filling that my sister made into the pre-made pie crust that TESCO made, doesn't quite qualify you to make the statement "well, I made the desserts", but I least you were in the kitchen. :)

First up, the pastry crust. A quick note, the real key to this is using COLD butter and shortening, and ICE COLD water. Also, this is a basic recipe. You can get a LITTLE creative and add flavors if you like, but don't upset the overall ratios too much. Pastry cooking is a fickle bitch. I am usually a much better savory chef because it's less science and more feel and intuition. Taste it, adjust it, add this, add that. You can't do that in most pastry/dessert, and if you do make a mistake, you usually don't know until it's time to chuck everything in the trash and whip up some berries and whipped cream as a substitute dessert. So, ranting aside, get the basic recipe down first, so you understand the process, then try some variations on the theme.

1.5 cups + 2 tblsp AP Flour
1 tblsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes and chilled
2 tblsp shortening (also cold)
5 tblsp (or so, maybe 4, maybe 6) ice water - you love this sort of vagueness in recipes, I know

1)Sift together flour, sugar, and salt
2)Add butter and shortening. Rub them between your fingers until the mixture takes on a coarse crumb texture.
3)Add ice water 1 tblsp at a time, just until the dough comes together.
4)Shape and smooth the dough, then wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes

1/2 stick butter
1 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup Heavy Cream
1 vanilla bean (you could sub 1/4 tsp of real vanilla extract....I suppose)
3 tblps AP flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp fresh-grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 lg sweet potatoes, peeled, cubed, and boiled until soft

1)Using a egg beater, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy
2)Add eggs and beat for 30 seconds
3)Add heavy cream and vanilla, continue mixing
4)Add sweet potatoes, flour, salt, and spices gradually and continue to beat until smooth.
5)Preheat oven to 320. Get out your dough and roll on floured board until nice and thin. Using a small-medium cookie cutter, punch out dough and place in a small-medium muffin pan. The size you punch out the dough should be determined by the size of your muffin pan. The dough should just come up the edges but not overlap.
6)Scoop out the filling and fill the dough 3/4 full. Bake until filling is just set and pastry is turning a nice golden brown on the edges.

Hope you all enjoy this recipe, even if you have to stash it until next Thanksgiving.