PASTA alla PANNA WITH BRUSSELS SPROUTS…WITH PANCETTA AND GREEN ONION

1185030_266441590190815_42477728_nBrussels Sprouts are enjoying comeback over the last 10 years.  Once shunned by some home and professional cooks and those they cook for, these colorful little cabbage like marbles came into the own over the last 10 years.  Inventive ways of cooking them or even shaved raw into a slaw or salad they are a fall thru Spring staple.  Hardly an American Thanksgiving table anymore without a home cook’s interesting version of brussels sprouts especially ones that are caramelized with onions and maybe something sweet added.  Popular additions are onions, garlic, various nuts, Balsamic vinegar glaze, cured and/or smoked meats.  They are pan roasted, seared, oven roasted, blanched, oh you get the picture. My sainted Mom, she was an amazing home cook but Brussels Sprouts in the 1960’s home kitchen were a brutal affair and her’s were terrible.  In season she’d buy those nice little pint cups of them and out of season they came in a frozen square block (not even sure that frozen vegetable type is still around) and she would boil them until every article of clothing in the house reeks of the sulfuric cabbage stench.  Some how the cold outside and steam heat from the radiators in our house only intensified that stink in the middle of the winter. The end result were off colored mushy, tasteless, watery disasters.  Dislike.  Now I’m not picking on Mom….Brussels Sprouts and two other dishes out of the tens of thousands she made were the only 3 #fails in her kitchen.  So if she were still here with us I’m sure she’d not be too offended.  For a recent dinner at home for time’s sake I like to add the starch with the vegetable when it makes sense (AFO RULE: NOT EVERY MARRIAGE IS A GOOD ONE!!! I’m talking, in the kitchen of course!).  I had a pint of brussels sprouts, there’s always lots of macaroni in my pantry and there was green onion and pancetta in the fridge. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I used what’s labeled as GNOCCHI, it comes from Italy, dried pasta in 1 lb. It’s perfect for this dish.  Don’t confuse it with the potato or ricotta gnocchi which are totally different.  Medium Shells would be a good substitute if you can’t find the dry pasta Gnocchi.  I looked in the fridge again and saw the Parmigiano-Reggiano and heavy cream.  DONE.  Combine them all into a side dish (which can also be served as a pasta entree).  Let’s cook, enough of my bla bla bla.

PASTA ALLA PANNA (CREAM)  WITH BRUSSELS SPROUTS, PANCETTA AND GREEN ONION

  • 6 ounces PANCETTA, diced fine or thinly sliced and diced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 1  cup homemade or low-sodium /99% fat free chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup DRY WHITE WINE, preferably Italian
  • Coarse orKosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 16oz ( 1 lb) DRY MEDIUM SHELLS or DRY PASTA GNOCCHI (different from the fresh)
  • 1/4 cup HEAVY CREAM, ORGANIC would be best.
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO, have extra on hand for serving
  • 3 thin sliced GREEN ONIONS (SCALLIONS)
  1. Heat a  large skillet over medium heat. Add  1 tbs of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil then then pancetta until crisp, up to 5-7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon transfer to a paper-towel-lined sheet . Add another tbs of oil  to  the bacon fat in skillet  Add the sprouts and  cook, stirring occasionally until  golden Takes  about 3 minutes. Add the stock and season  to taste with salt and pepper. Cook for about 10-12 minutes until all the liquid is pretty much evaporated.  Add the cream and coat the sprouts with it. Cook for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.

  2. Cook the Dry Gnocchi (Secchi) or shells just till al dente. Drain but reserve 1/8 cup of the salted cooking pasta water.  Add the gnocchi back to the pot.

  3. Stir in sprouts  and cream mixture and  the cheese. Gently blend well.  If too thick add some of the reserved pasta water.  Add the pancetta and 1/2 the green onions and 1 tbs of the olive oil. Gently blend well. Serve with more Green Onion, Black Pepper and Parmigiano on top.

    Makes 4-6 servings for an entree, up to 8 for side dish.  Not too hard right?  Looks and tastes like you put out much more work.  BUON APPETITO….sorry Mom for throwing you under the bus for those nightmarish Brussels Sprouts you use to make. Everything else was amazing!!!

 *gnocchi secchi picture courtesy of Google Images

TOASTED SPINACH GNUDI WITH A SAGE AND PUMPKIN SAUCE..GNUDI CON SALVIA E ZUCCA

002GNUDI!!!  pronounce it  NYUU-DEE, an Italian food from Tuscany is as it’s name implies, sort of a Nude Ravioli.  It’s a dumpling made with ricotta, eggs, spinach, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and just enough flour to bind it so it’s not quite a gnocchi but close.  Italian cooking is wonderfully full of dishes that closely resemble each other but nuances in ingredient amount or region make them separate and unique.  Fantastic!!  Let me give a foodie PSA here while I have your attention.  You know that TUSCAN recipe or dish you are eating in a restaurant or making at home?  You know, that ULTIMATE TUSCAN soup, chicken, whatever?  It’s more than likely NOT TUSCAN.  Drives me crazy.  As someone who shares food ideas and knowledge calling something TUSCAN when it’s not drives me insane.  Imagine this for a minute…in Italy…at a restaurant or supermarket/store selling American foods…there’s an item called….NEW YORK CAJUN GUMBO….or KANSAS LOBSTER…or MIDWESTERN CLAM CHOWDER….clearly you get my drift.  Louisiana gets the gumbo…Maine gets the Lobster…New England or Manhattan get the Clam Chowder.   The term TUSCAN gets placed on any dish someone (usually a corporate boardroom) wants to for marketing purposes. People are attracted to that term thinking it’s bona fide Tuscan food, or the implication is that all Italian food is Tuscan, or that the American created dish is Tuscan.  Let me do my part to promote real Tuscan influenced food by giving you this recipe I came up with using a Tuscan dumpling and some of the more common Tuscan ingredients..spinach, pumpkin, sage.

Gnudi can be eaten out of the pot, or with butter, or pan toasted, or lightly sauced with butter based sauces, or tomato sauce. A recent batch of gnudi I made, after poaching them i let them “dry” for 2 hours then toasted them in butter till they took on a golden brown crust then simply sauced them with sauteed onions, pumpkin puree, butter, sage, parmigiano-reggiano or Grana Padano, black pepper, and Vin Santo (Spanish sherry makes a decent substitute if you can’t find the Vin Santo).

serves: 4                                          time: 3 hours (which includes the time to let the gnudi dry)

First, the GNUDI

1 CUP  WHOLE MILK RICOTTA, DRAINED

1 CUP CHOPPED FROZEN SPINACH, THAWED AND SQUEEZED VERY DRY (important!!)

1 CUP FRESH GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR GRANA PADANO

3 LARGE EGG YOLKS (ORGANIC WORK BEST) at ROOM TEMPERATURE

1 CUP SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR OR TIPO 00 from ITALY

1/8  TSP EACH OF  FRESH GRATED NUTMEG, KOSHER SALT, FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

2 TBS UNSALTED BUTTER

You can use a food processor or bowl for this.  Mix together the Ricotta, Spinach, Parmigiano, and yolks.  Pulse or mix till blended.  Add the nutmeg, salt and black pepper.  Mix.  Now gently add in the flour until fully incorporated. Let sit for 5 minutes.  NOW to form the GNUDI.  Some are made in the small oval shape like I do and some are made in the same size, just under 1 inch, in a ball. Keep the size and shape uniform for consistent cooking. As you make them, lay them onto a kitchen towel covered baking sheet.  Bring a large pot of water to the boil.   When you have finished the gnudi and they’ve rested, gently drop them into the boiling water. Let them cook  and as they are ready, they will float to the top of the pot.  Takes up to 5 minutes.  I use the 5 minute mark as my gauge.  Using a slotted spoon or kitchen spider transfer the drained gnudi to a parchment paper lined sheet pat.  Leave these to dry out now for no less than one hour.

SAUCE:

1 MEDIUM ONION, DICED FINE

6 TABLESPOONS UNSALTED BUTTER (EUROPEAN STYLE OR EUROPEAN WORKS BEST)

2 TBS OF VIN SANTO OR SPANISH SHERRY

1/2 CUP PURE PUMPKIN PUREE (PUMPKIN ONLY)

1/8 CUP RESERVED GNUDI COOKING WATER

2 SAGE LEAVES, WHOLE

FOR GARNISH:

4 CHOPPED FRESH SAGE LEAVES

FRESHLY GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR GRANA PADANO TO TASTE

SLIGHT GRATING OF FRESH NUTMEG AND /OR BLACK PEPPER

In a wide heavy bottomed pan melt the butter and then add the onions…bring to medium and let them slowly get soft. Takes about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the 2 sage leaves.  Now add the Vin Santo or Sherry.  Let cook for 2 mintues then stir in the pumpkin puree.  Add the reserved cooking water and bring pan to  boil then reduce to a simmer.  Let simmer for 5 minutes.   Now back to the GNUDI.

In a skillet heat the 2 tbs of butter and gently toast the gnudi on both sides, taking care not to overload the pan.  You may need to do this in 2 batches.  TOO MUCH CROWDING IN A PAN CREATES STEAM AND YOU LOSE THE BROWNING AND EVERYTHING IS RUINED!!!!!! When you have a nice color on the GNUDI like this:156142_2992380330921_1304531591_32200242_158577316_nyou are now ready to sauce them.  Bring the pan of Pumpkin Onion Sage sauce up to medium heat and gently add the gnudi and make sure you coat all the gnudi with the sauce.  TAKE NOTE: I’m saucing it in the Italian manner…as Lidia tells us..”Sauce is merely a CONDIMENTO, the star is the pasta!”…You always want the pasta to shine through, however I understand that most Americans are used to much more sauce on their pasta then they would have in Italy.  Want more sauce on this? Simply double the recipe. Tutti i gusti son gusti!! (Everyone to their own tastes)…back to my recipe.  After you’ve coated all the gnudi and it’s heated thru for a good 3 minutes remove from the heat and garnish with the chopped sage, nutmeg and grated cheese to taste.  Serve.  I’m starving now as I type all this.  It’s such a tasty dish.  0041As always, thank you for letting me into your kitchens….enjoy this little bit of Tuscany, I actually think the region around Siena is noted for their gnudi.  BUONA CUCINA!!

 

 

 

 

 

VIENNESE VANILLA CRESCENTS…VANILLEKIPFERL

00vanillenkipferlWIENER VANILLEKIPFERL……a very popular Holiday cookie these are AUSTRIAN VANILLA CRESCENTS.  This type of cookie is made all over the world for the Christmas season and sometimes for special occasions thru the year.  Wedding Cookies, Greek Kourabiedes, American Almond Crescents, the list goes on but at their heart they are a butter cookie made with finely ground nuts in the dough.  The nuts can be almond or walnut.  The butter is always present and in the central European countries the Vanilla Sugar is an ingredient as well.  Simply put, it’s granulated or fine granulated sugar infused with vanilla beans and is very fragrant.  So why am I focusing in on this Viennese version?  Well last Summer I visited Vienna and bought a cookbook, in German, called WEIHNACHTS BACKEREI…translates to CHRISTMAS BAKING.ho15577518_10208099303022724_1310207240_nNice looking book, i had to buy it. Cost 6.75 Euros. One of the recipes is the Viennese crescent.  I made them last Christmas using European butter and they were fantastic, so now I share this with you.  The butter I suggest to really make them over the top delicious is butter from Europe.  A little more costly for sure than U.S. butter but they are after all European butter cookies.  A few European brands are LURPAK, from Denmark, FINLANDIA from Finland, KERRYGOLD, from Ireland.  There’s also the US made in the European style PLUGRA.  They are richer than the usual American butter. If you can’t find them the cookies will still be fantastic!

VIENNESE CRESCENTS                            TAKES: 3 hours                    YIELDS: 48-60

the rezipe
2 cups sifted unbleached flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 TBS. vanilla sugar
1 TBS pure Vanilla Extract
3 egg yolks or 2 extra large yolks
1 cup Ground Almonds (or ground walnuts)
1 CUP COLD EUROPEAN BUTTER (or good quality U.S. butter)
2 TBS vanilla sugar plus 2 TBS Confectioner’s Sugar for coating
Cream the butter and the sugar, then the eggs, then the almonds and flour.All ingredients are quickly mixed to a smooth dough in your mixer and let cool for approx. 1 hour. Cut the dough into a small roll of small, coarse pieces, shape them into crescents and place on a  well greased baking tray or baking sheet. I’d use a SILPAT mat if you have them, or lightly greased parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees F in preheated oven for 12-14 minutes till firm and golden. While still warm roll in the Vanilla sugar and confectioner’s sugar blend.
If you like the taste of Almonds in this, add 1 tsp. Almond Extract while you’re mixing the dough.
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 Quantity: about  48-60 piecesbakingnight121915-025bakingnight121915-026
Let fully cool.  Store in air tight tins or in baking tins layered with waxed paper and well wrapped.fulleuropevaca-938Just to show you were I bought the cookbook, this is a roadside scene in the WIENERWALD, or the VIENNA WOODS which lie outside of the city of Vienna, Austria.  A magical land where Wiener Vanillekiperl fall out of the sky!!  Now that you have the recipe you don’t have to wait to take a trip to Austria.  Bring Austria to you own kitchen!!!
Glückliches Kochen!

FRITTATINE, “SPAGHETTI CROQUETTES” FROM NAPLES, ITALY

frittatine-010Back to Naples for some inspiration and ideas, there is just so much there to choose from that become magic and a feast in your kitchen and dining room.  FRITTATINE is one of those glories of the CUCINA NAPOLETANA.  Basically it is a SPAGHETTI or MACARONI CROQUETTE, the cooked pasta is bound with a BESCIAMELLA Sauce, cheeses, enhanced with vegetables and cured meats, then formed and coated in a light batter and fried. Many versions add a bread crumb coating over the batter.  My version is the breadcrumbed one. Why?  Because anything fried in breadcrumbs usually rocks and it’s SO GOOD with this creamy molten center that you’ll agree after one bite to continue to use the breadcrumb version.  Some background on this treat—-I’m always talking about my strong Napoletana heritage as it’s the city where my maternal grandmother lived for 10 years of her life, from 10 to 20.  The New York City region is heavily influenced in it’s ItalianAmerican culture by the immigrant Napoletani culture and foods, take spaghetti, take Pizza, take Sausage and Peppers, take Mozzarella, take Zeppole…you get the idea. However, FRITTATINE never really made that leap across the Atlantic like many other Napoletana dishes did.  Strange.  Now Potato Croquettes (or as the Napoletane called them PANZAROTTI) definitely made the jump, think of all the restaurants that serve them as a side dish, or how many of our own kitchens recreate that treat.  FRITTATINE? Never heard of them.  Apparently I missed them on a trip to Naples as they are one of the most beloved and popular FRIED SNACKS in the Napoletana Fry shops known as FRIGGITORIE, the best places to sample Naples’ famous street food.  One night in NYC at one of the the new wave of Pizzerias to hit the US, the PIZZERIE NAPOLETANE, pizzerias that adhere to a prescribed formula for making the unique Pizza Napoletana (of which the American NYC Pizza is based on) I encountered FRITTATINE.  Don Antonio by Starita in Manhattan is a palace of simple Napoletana foods and pizza.  A host of other pizzerie have opened in the last 7 years that follow the same certified formula.  I ordered the FRITTATINE and was in love.  Absolutely love croquettes and this creamy macaroni version made me swoon.Of course I needed to recreate them in my own kitchen and here we are.frittatine-008 Aren’t they beautiful?  They taste as good as they look.  Ones containing prosciutto cotto and peas, provolone and spaghetti or bucatini are the most popular.  This is one of those recipes where, AS LONG AS YOU STAY WITHIN WHAT WOULD ORGANICALLY FIT INTO THE RECIPE, you have some wiggle room. Fine dice of cured italian meats….italian greens….italian cheeses…..that’s what’s allowable.  I used Finely chopped chard and sopressata in mine.  Spinach works too.  Provolone, Caciocavallo, Scamorza, PrimoSale, Parmigiano, Mozzarella, Pecorino, Asiago some of the cheeses that work in this.   No balsamic vinegar, sun dried tomatoes, or gorzonzola please, and no chicken.  please. no chicken. One more rule..lol…No dipping sauce.  No side of Marinara.  They are rich and creamy and full of complex textures and flavors..no dipping sauce.  Overkill.  Let’s now fly over to sunny NAPOLI or just stay in your own kitchen and COOK WITH ME!  Time to make the FRITTATINE, translates as small fried things, or Fried Pasta Cakes.  Frittatine sounds best. FREE-TAH-TEEH-NAY.

MAKES: about 20 2 inch Frittatine                                       TIME: cooking and prep: 3 hours

10 tbsp. UNSALTED BUTTER
1 12 cups TIPO 00 FLOUR, or SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR
4 1/2  cups WHOLE MILK
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lb. DRIED  IMPORTED FROM ITALY SPAGHETTI OR BUCATINI
4 oz. PROSCIUTTO COTTO, or SALAME or SOPRASSATA, finely diced
8 oz. SMALL DICE OF PROVOLONE, or MOZZARELLA, or SMOKED MOZZARELLA
1/4 CUP FINE CHOPPED BLANCHED SPINACH OR SWISS CHARD, or COOKED PEAS
3 TBS. PARMIGIANO REGGIANO GRATED

 1/8 TSP. FRESHLY GRATED NUTMEG
OLIVE OIL FOR FRYING (or CANOLA, or VEGETABLE, or PEANUT)

2 cups UNSEASONED ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

Gently melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add 1/2 cup of the flour and while stirring cook for 2 minutes.  Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil, gently whisking (gently or you will splatter the hot milk/flour everywhere).  Once it’s boiling reduce to a simmer and let it cook until thickened, takes about 5 minutes.  Make sure to frequently stir so the flour doesn’t collect on the bottom and scorch.  Now set this aside, cover the pan with plastic wrap.
If using Spaghetti or Bucatini, break them half. Cook the pasta you are using just till al dente according to the package directions.  Drain and shake well to make sure all the water evaporates.  Add all the other ingredients except for the besciamella sauce and the breadcrumbs. Mix with the cooked pasta.  Now pour the sauce over it and mix well.  Press the mixture into a lightly greased baking pan and cover with plastic wrap.  Keep in the Refrigerator for no less than one and 1/2 hours.frittatine-001frittatine-002frittatine-005 You can use a 2 inch round cutter OR do what I did, and hand form about 20 of these frittatine.  Once they are are formed, place back into the fridge for 10 minutes.
 Make the batter by Whisking 1 cup of flours with 1 cup of water to make a batter.  Set aside.  Pull the Frittatine out of the fridge and dip first into the batter, then into the plain breadcrumbs. Line on parchment paper over trays till they are all coated.  Heat a heavy pan or saucepan with 2 1/2 inches of your oil until the thermometer reads 325 degrees F.  Now gently add a few of the frittatine at a time into the pan.  Fry till golden on each side.frittatine-006

When they are golden on both sides and somewhat firm to the touch, drain on paper towels or paper bags or racks.  SERVE immediately..you want them to be very creamy.  frittatine-007

Serve with an Arugula Salad with parmigiano, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and lots of fresh lemon juice.

frittatine-009Seriously, how good do they look???  Make them even smaller for a party appetizer or passed hors d’ouevres.  Just break up the pasta smaller or use small pasta for it

What fun it is to cook with you…..can’t wait to see your FRITTATINE!! BUONA CUCINA!!!

VERMOUTH AND LEMON GARLIC SHRIMP

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA There are many types of Shrimp sautees usually involving butter, olive oil, garlic and wine.  The most popular of course is the ItalianAmerican favorite, SHRIMP SCAMPI.  Once you have a basic technique or recipe down you can mix/match on it and build up into something new.  When you change even one part of a recipe you’ve created something new.  The rule to follow though, or I should say, the rule I follow is to keep the new ingredients in the same family/cuisine and the end result will turn into a great plate of food.  Case in point, Sauteed Shrimp, or Shrimp Scampi.  By changing one ingredient you create a whole new dish…White Wine has one flavor profile, but if you switch it up to VERMOUTH, now your dish will taste completely different. VERMOUTH is an old school fortified wine, so there we have the common denominator of wine.  Seafood and Vermouth are an old school pairing.  Look through some cookbooks from the late 50’s, early 60’s.  Companies like Martini and Rossi pushed real hard with the food industry to not only use their Vermouth as a drink or a mixer, but as an ingredient for cooking.  It works very well with fish and especially seafood like Shrimp, Clams, Scallops.

Vermouth is a flavorful and interesting type of fortified wine originally made with “WORMWOOD” which in French translates to VERMOUTH. 165994_3211681293308_1441686714_n-1 In Piedmont in Northern Italy various distilleries began to sprout up and Italy along with France because Vermouth country.  As a drink ingredient Vermouth is a main component of the MARTINI which, thanks to JAMES BOND became a signature of the swinging 60’s.  Think MAD MEN and suddenly Vermouth will pop into your head. In fact, that’s what happened when I decided to make this dish.  Mad Men was about to have one of its season premieres and there was a bag of U.S. Wild Caught 16-20 Shrimp in the fridge.  Vermouth in the cabinet.  Lemons in the produce drawer.  It all came together.   Vermouth Garlic Shrimp with Lemon and Parsley.  Vermouth is such a pronounced flavor that I decided a simple addition of Italian Flat leaf parsley would be plenty.  Vermouth is a blend of citrus peels, herbs and other aromatics so there’s the flavoring, no need to add additional green herbs with strong flavors.  And that’s how you take one recipe and create something new.  A few ground rules and you’re golden. So this post will contain 2 recipes..one for the MadMen inspired Vermouth and Lemon  Garlic Shrimp and then a way to make Pierre Franey’s style of Crevettes au Vermouth…fancy right? Didn’t know I could speak French?  Only when it comes to food. I’m not that good, lol.  The Franey’s French version adds cream to the dish.  Life is all about choices, your recipes and cooking should be the same way.

 

SERVES: 4                                           TIME: 35 MINUTES, prep and cooking

  • 1 ½ pounds raw  16-20 shrimp peeled and deveined.
  • 1/8 cup sifted all purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp. Sweet Paprika (use a Hungarian or European brand)
  • tablespoons  unsalted butter
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste 
  • 3 sliced garlic cloves 
  • ¼ cup dry white vermouth
  • 1/8 cup Olive Oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 6 lemon slices
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

In a heavy wide skillet/frying pan gently heat the butter and 1/2 the olive oil  Lightly dredge the shrimp in the flour mixed with the paprika and saute’ the shrimp till just golden on both sides, Takes about 5 minutes.  Do this in batches as overcrowding created steaming because of excess water created and the whole dish is ruined.  Keep the shrimp in on a platter lightly tented with foil. When you are all done saute’ the garlic for 2 minutes taking care not to let it brown or burn then add the Vermouth to the pan and deglaze it.  Add the lemon juice, the salt, pepper, parsley and the remaining olive oil.  Bring to a gentle boil then reduce to a simmer.  Add the shrimp back to the pan and gently heat through for 3 minutes.  Done.  Serve over rice or with potatoes or linguine.  Garnish with Lemon wedges.  Of course, before adding the shrimp taste the sauce and check for seasoning.

to the above recipe…if you want to make it in the style of CREVETTES AU VERMOUTH by Pierre Franey simply omit the lemon.  Omit the olive oil.  Omit the Garlic. Add the following ingredients:

4 tbs. additional unsalted butter

1/4 cup Heavy Cream

 

When you are ready to saute’ the garlic in the first recipe, instead, saute’ the onion till soft, about 7 minutes, then add the vermouth and deglaze the pan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce…add the heavy cream, then the additional butter. Blend well and then add the shrimp and heat thru on a simmer for 5 minutes.  French. nice.

Enjoy either. The Vermouth saute on top..and the Cream Sauce version adapted from Pierre Franey’s recipe.

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SAGE AND CRANBERRY ITALIAN SAUSAGE PATTIES…

003The Fall Season seems to turn even our foods in to rust, red, orange and muted green colored fantasies.  Seasons also affect my recipe development as was the case on a blustery autumn day when there was Italian Sweet Fennel Sausage, Calabrian N’duja(a chile spike Calabrian spreadable salami), fresh sage sitting in my fridge.  Grey and chilly outside meant something warm and fall-ish needed to be cooked in the kitchen and I came up with making sausage patties with the ingredients plus some pantry items like a bag of Dried Cranberries.  The pairing of savory minced meats with sweet dried fruits is a gift from the Arab countries and was brought to the Western Mediterranean during their conquests of those areas.  Raisins, currants, pignoli, almonds and so forth show up in ground meat and fish dishes quite often in places like Italy and Spain.  I pooled those resources to develop this VERY tasty SAGE AND CRANBERRY SAUSAGE PATTY.  There’s flavors from Southern and Central Italy here but I’m modifying the recipe for the blog since N’djua is a ridiculously tough food to find for most people.  Instead I’m going to use Spanish Pimenton (Smoked Paprika) and Peperoncino (Italian dried hot pepper) to replicate the flavors in the Calabrian N’duja.  A little finishing of the cooked patties with Marsala or Sherry nicely rounds it all out.I’m such a fan of the sweet /savory foods.  This is one of them.  Serve with bread, or a vegetable or even rice.

TIME: 35 MINUTES                                     SERVES: 2-3

2 lbs. the BEST ITALIAN PORK SAUSAGE MEAT YOU CAN GET (simply slit the casings and remove the meat)  you can use ITALIAN TURKEY SAUSAGE as an alternative.

2 TBS DRIED CRANBERRIES

1 MINCED SHALLOT

3 FRESH SAGE LEAVES, FINELY CHOPPED, plus some whole leaves for garnish

4 TBS MARSALA OR SHERRY

1 TSP. GROUND RED CHILES (or PEPERONCINO)

1 TSP. SPANISH PIMENTON (SPANISH SMOKED PAPRIKA)

(if you want less “heat” from the chiles, go with 1/2 Tsp and replace with 1 tsp of sweet paprika..but use the Pimenton as well.  Paprika is simply an Eastern European word for red peppers)

OLIVE OIL

Mix everything except the olive oil and only use 1 tbs of Marsala or Sherry in a bowl.  Combine till well blended. Let sit for 10 minutes. 401674_3107550370100_1304531591_32244544_484452443_nNow form into 4-6 patties. In a pan, add 2 tbs of olive oil and place on medium heat, and cook the patties until crusty and golden brown on each side, about 6 minutes per side.  Remove the finished patties to a platter and lightly cover with aluminum foil.  Add the rest of the olive oil to the pan and deglaze it with the remaining Marsala or Sherry. Add  a little more olive oil and then return the patties to the pan and simply heat them up in the pan sauce, about 2 minutes.  Done.  Garnish with dried cranberries and, although I didn’t when I made them in the picture, I’ve toasted almond pieces and garnished with them too. Sweet, savory, hot, porky, Mediterranean, herby, and with the almonds, crunchy.  This is when food talks back to you and you response, GRAZIE or Thank you.  Happy Cooking!!

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note:  no salt added, why? Sausage is well salted.  Adding salt to these patties would make them way too salty.

 

FENNEL AND TOMATO BAKED CHICKEN, COMBINING DELICIOUS ITALIAN FLAVORS

fennelchicken-003As the weather moves towards the colder side we look to our ovens again.  The aromas that envelope the home as a dish is roasting or baking bring on anticipatory hunger and a generally good feeling all around.  I find Baking/Roasting Chicken can turn a cold rough day into a warm hug everytime.  The combinations and cuisines are endless. Chicken is a blank canvas that pays off with a masterpiece when completed.  CHICKEN SKIN!!!  The flavor center.  It gives up its flavor to the meat and to the cooking juices while keeping some in that skin which makes it a delight.  My cooking is done mostly, almost 99% of the time in absence of a recipe, instead, i use my cooking experience and research to put together dishes that make sense.  Some are actual regional dishes with a set list of ingredients in a particular manner.  Then there are the other times when I use a basic template for a dish and play around.  Like I did one night after work with this BAKED CHICKEN WITH FENNEL, TOMATOES , AND MUSHROOMS.  Fennel (oftentimes LIKE TONIGHT AT THE SUPERMARKET, it’s mislabeled as ANISE, similar tastes but not the same) is in the fall and winter markets.  The type is actually FLORENTINE FENNEL, or FINOCCHIO, and is part of the ItalianAmerican holiday table.  That’s why I bought a big knob with stalks and beautiful fronds tonight.  But I once had some post-Thanksgiving finocchio hanging around in the fridge.  Fennel is often made as a side dish, roasted in the oven. SO….there were some Grape tomatoes and onions in my view, a nice pack of Organic chicken cut into pieces and I thought…let’s make a dish.  The chicken is well seasoned, the tomatoes are thrown in the pan along with some whole mushrooms, chopped fennel, olive oil, some cloves of garlic and White Wine and stock…and then baked. That’s it.  With those ingredients you CAN’T GO WRONG..your home will smell like a country restaurant somewhere in Italy or Sicily where Fennel is king.  Let’s make some chicken with fennel!!

TIME: 1 1/2 HOURS                                     SERVES: 4

1 ORGANIC OR NATURAL CHICKEN, CUT INTO 8 PIECES

2 TSP KOSHER SALT

1 TSP GROUND BLACK PEPPER

1/4 CUP OLIVE OIL

1 FENNEL BULB, TRIMMED AND SLICED

10 CHOPPED FENNEL FRONDS  (THE TOPS OF THE STALKS)

2 PINTS CHERRY TOMATOES

1 LB. WHOLE CREMINI OR BUTTON MUSHROOMS

1 MEDIUM ONION DICED

1 STALK FRESH ROSEMARY, LEAVES REMOVED

2 SMASHED CLOVES OF GARLIC

1/4 CUP WHITE WINE

1 TSP. HUNGARIAN PAPRIKA

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  In a bowl, liberally season the chicken with salt, pepper, paprika, and olive oil. In another bowl, do the same with the fennel, tomatoes, mushrooms, onion, garlic and fresh Rosemary. In a baking pan add the vegetable mixture. Then fit the chicken into the pan. fennelchicken-005

Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top, then the wine.  Place into the oven in the middle rack and let it cook undisturbed for 25 minutes.  Baste the chicken with the pan juices and rotate the pan. Bake for an additional 25 minutes, or until the chicken is reading 165 degrees F on a meat thermometer (so you know, that’s my BFF).  When the chicken is at that temp, remove from the oven. baste with the pan juices and then cover and serve in 5 minutes.Delicious and clean tasting. Meat and a plate of vegetables cooked in the pan juices.  So good.  I like roasted potatoes, or rice, or simply some good bread with this…up to you. fennelchicken-004That pan is DYING for what the Italians call FARE LA SCARPETTA!!  Scooping up those pan juices with a really well crusted piece of Italian bread.  Do it before someone else does…you cooked it, it’s your treat. You deserve it.  Now enjoy your meal!  Happy Cooking!!