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July 31, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Tortilla Soup

Buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and turn it into tasty soup with this recipe from the Food Network Kitchens chapter. There's miminal prep and the end result is very good.

The original recipe says to defrost the corn if you're using frozen kernels, but this isn't really necessary. If you remember to take the corn out of the freezer before you chop the onion and chile, it will be defrosted by the time you add it to the soup. If you don't remember, it doesn't matter. You can add the frozen corn right to the hot broth -- it will defrost almost instantly.

A few small changes I have made: I have added the instruction to seed the tomato, since I prefer not to have the seeds floating around in the soup. This is optional; if you don't care about the seeds, don't worry about it. I have directed the cook to add the chicken, tomato, cilantro, and lime juice, and then heat through, since the original recipe says merely to take the broth off the heat, add those ingredients, then serve, and the chicken wasn't hot enough that way. I've also added a couple of additional garnish ideas to the end of the ingredients list.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 chipotle in adobo sauce, minced
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp kosher salt
6 cups chicken broth, low-sodium canned
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 ripe tomato, seeded and chopped
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes)
About a dozen corn tortilla chips, broken a bit
Lime wedges, queso fresco, fresh salsa, avocado slices, optional

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, chipotle, chili powder, and salt and cook until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, reduce the heat slightly, and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add the corn and cook for 5 minutes more.

Stir in the tomato, chicken, cilantro, and lime juice. Heat through, about 5 minutes. Divide the tortilla chips among 4 warmed bowls, ladle the soup on top, and serve with lime wedges and other garnishes, if desired.


July 31, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Baked Eggs with Farmhouse Cheddar & Potatoes

A simple skillet breakfast from the Food Network Kitchens chapter in Food Network Favorites. It's easy to put together and tastes very good. My only question is about the "Note from the Kitchens."

The little blurb next to the recipe says "these eggs are the perfect lazy-romantic-morning breakfast." It's a recipe that serves 4, so I'm guessing that the Food Network has a more liberal definition of how many people can be present at a "romantic" breakfast than I do. At any rate, the dish is easy, although I don't know if I would call it "lazy," since you've got to dice potatoes.

Be sure to use a very well-seasoned cast iron skillet. When you make the nests for the eggs, it's not necessary to move all of the potatoes out of the way. The eggs will want to stick to the cast iron, so the nests should be shallow, with some potatoes still underneath the eggs.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: about 30 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 pounds red-skinned potatoes, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 large eggs
1 cup extra-sharp farmhouse cheddar, shredded (about 4 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Melt the butter in a large, well-seasoned cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally until tender and brown, about 15 minutes. Stir in the parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper, and remove from the heat.

Push the potatoes aside to make 4 evenly spaced shallow nests and break 2 eggs into each. Bake until the egg whites are cooked and the yolks are still runny, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle the cheese over the eggs and continue baking until it just melts, about 1 minute more. Serve immediately.

July 27, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Caramelized Lemon-Lime Tart

My last test from the Wolfgang Puck chapter! I'll be testing 3 or 4 more recipes from the Food Network Kitchens chapter in Food Network Favorites , and then at long last I'll be moving onto a new book.

This tart is quite good, if a bit, well, tart. If you like lemon curd, this dessert will probably appeal to you.

The crust is a pâte sucré, a sweet short dough that is extremely rich, and can be a pain in the neck to work with. Since the weather is blazing hot here at the moment, I had to keep putting my dough back into the refrigerator to firm up, since if the dough gets soft, it's almost impossible to roll out without it sticking to everything. It can, however, be patched without too much trouble, so if your pastry tears while you're putting it in the tart pan, just press it back together and don't worry about it.

In the book, the recipe says that it will take about 20 minutes for the curd to get thick. My curd took about half that time, and interestingly, the version of this recipe that appears on the Food Network's website says to cook the curd for 10 minutes. I wonder if the Food Network had to change the time estimate after comments from viewers? Another change which I had to make, but which isn't reflected on the Food Network's site, is that the crust needed longer than 5 to 10 minutes to get golden brown after its initial 20 to 25 minutes in the oven. I suspect that Puck uses a restaurant-grade convection oven, which could easily get the pastry deeply golden in only 5 minutes. In my home oven, however, I needed close to 15 minutes for the pastry to get completely browned. You don't want to rush this step, since the pastry does not get cooked again. For a crisp crust, cook it until it is deeply golden.

The recipe says to chill the tart for 3 to 4 hours, or overnight, before serving. I found that the texture of the filling was still way too soft after only 4 hours, and I strongly recommend that you let the tart chill overnight before serving. I've added that recommendation to the recipe.

Caramelizing the top of the tart takes a bit of time if you're using a small crème brûlée torch, and it could deplete your fuel pretty quickly. If you decide to caramelize the sugar under the broiler, watch very carefully, since the edges of the pastry could burn in an instant. The caramelized sugar does make it...interesting to cut the tart into serving pieces. The sugar doesn't necessarily break where you want it to. If the look of the slices is really important to you, you may want to cut the tart into wedges first, and then caramelize the top of each piece individually. That's the only way to guarantee that you don't have broken shards of glassy sugar on top of each slice.

Puck notes that the tart should be refrigerated for 30 minutes after the sugar is caramelized, but he fails to note that you shouldn't keep the tart in the refrigerator for more than an hour after the topping is caramelized, since the nice crisp sugar will become flabby and soft. I've added this note to the recipe.

Prep Time: about 1 hour, plus 1 hour chilling time for the pastry
Cook Time: about 30 minutes
Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Pâte Sucré
1 1/4 cups cake or pastry flour
4 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 pound unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
1 to 2 Tbsp heavy cream

Lemon-Lime Filling
4 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
2/3 cup fresh lime juice
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
Zest of 2 small limes
Zest of 2 small lemons
6 oz. butter, softened and cut into pieces
Fresh raspberries or strawberries, for serving (optional)

For the pastry: In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the flour and sugar. Add the butter and process until the texture resembles fine meal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the yolk and 1 tablespoon of the cream. Scrape into the machine and process until a ball begins to form, using the additional tablespoon of cream, if necessary. Remove the dough from the machine, and on a lightly floured surface, press down into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out the pâte sucré to a circle about 1/4 inch thick and large enough to slightly overlap a 9-inch metal tart pan. Fit the dough into the pan and trim the edges. Line the bottom and sides of the shell with parchment, or coffee filter papers, or aluminum foil. Fill the lining with dried beans, rice, or aluminum beans or pie weights, and bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool and remove the beans and the lining. Return the shell to the oven and bake until golden, 10 to 15 minutes longer.

In a large metal bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, 1 cup sugar, lemon and lime juice, and zests. Set over simmering water and continue to whisk until the mixture is very thick, about 10 minutes.

Turn off the flame and whisk in the butter, a few pieces at a time. (You don't want the mixture to cool down before all the butter is incorporated.) Strain the filling into a bowl (you'll need to push the curd through the strainer with a rubber spatula). Scrape into the baked tart shell and smooth with a spatula. Cool and then refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours, and preferably overnight.

Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar evenly over the top of the filling. With a propane blowtorch, caramelize the sugar. (This can also be done under the broiler. Place the tart on the broiler tray directly under the flame, watching carefully to prevent burning). Refrigerate the tart for at least 30 minutes, and no longer than 1 hour. Or, if desired, eliminate the 2 tablespoons of sugar and arrange circles of raspberries on top of the tart. Sift a little powdered sugar over the berries just before serving.

Cut into slices and serve. If you have caramelized the sugar, serve the tart with fresh strawberries or raspberries, if desired.

July 26, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Pan-Roasted Chicken with Port & Whole-Grain Mustard

This butterflied chicken cooks quickly and tastes great. A couple of quibbles: Wolfgang Puck could have been a bit more thorough in his instructions. And he's awfully parsimonious with the sauce.

The book has a side note with photos giving instructions on how to butterfly a chicken, but they're not terribly in-depth. This page from Weber is much more detailed and helpful. If you've never butterflied a chicken, don't be put off -- it's extremely simple and takes only a couple of minutes. Be sure to have the right tool, however; you'll need a pair of good kitchen or poultry shears to cut through the rib bones.

The recipe is oddly specific about one thing: the pan should be "14- to 16-inches," according to Puck. I'm not sure why that is. I used a 12-inch skillet without any problems. Perhaps the large size is suggested so that the chicken can be splayed out and as much of the skin as possible will be in contact with the surface of the pan. But that's only a guess, since no reason is given for the large size. I wouldn't try to cook the chicken in a pan smaller than 12 inches, since the chicken will just fit in that size pan.

Once the bird is butterflied, it takes about 40 minutes to cook. Puck's recipe indicates that after the skin is crisped on the stove, the chicken will roast through in about 10 to 20 minutes, but I suspect that he's basing those figures on restaurant equipment, which is generally higher-powered than your oven at home. I crisped the skin on my bird for 8 minutes, then roasted for about 30 minutes before the chicken reached an internal temperature of 180 degrees.

Puck's instructions for the sauce are somewhat vague: he tells the cook to reduce the port by half, and then to add chicken stock and "reduce again." Reduce by half again? It's not clear. I'd reduce that much again, but it's a guess on my part, since the recipe doesn't actually say so. You can use barbecue sauce instead of chicken stock, if you wish, although the texture of the sauce made with barbecue sauce was very thick, which Puck doesn't mention. If you use barbecue sauce, you may need to thin out the finished sauce with a bit of chicken stock so that it isn't too gloopy and sticky. The flavors of the sauce are excellent, but there's not quite enough of it. After the port was reduced to 1/4 cup, and the cream was added, there was barely a scant 3/4 cup of finished sauce, for 4 servings. I have doubled the ingredients for the sauce, to ensure that there's plenty to go around.

A final note: Puck's serving instructions are practically nonexistent. He says merely to put the chicken in the skillet on top of the sauce, and then sprinkle with herbs. And...then what? I suppose if this dish is served in one of Puck's restaurants, it might be brought to the table in the skillet (perhaps a shiny copper one) and then carved tableside by the waiter. At home, however, it seems strange to bring a whole chicken to the table in a skillet, where you'll have to try to carve it in the pan. I suggest that you carve the chicken into 4 serving pieces on a cutting board, and then if you really want to serve it in its pan, you can bring it to the table that way. Or just plate the chicken and sauce and forget about the skillet altogether. Be sure to put the chicken on top of the sauce, so that the sauce doesn't make the crispy skin soggy.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: about 35 to 40 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

3- to 4-lb. whole frying chicken, butterflied
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup port wine
1 cup chicken stock OR 1/4 cup barbecue sauce
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp Meaux or other whole-grain mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh tarragon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a very large (at least 12 inches) ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add the olive oil and swirl it in the skillet. As soon as you see wisps of smoke, add the chicken, skin side down. Try to get as much of the skin in contact with the bottom of the pan as possible. Sear the chicken undisturbed, while slowly reducing the heat to medium in small increments, until the skin is golden, about 8 minutes. Very carefully turn the chicken skin side up, taking care not to break the skin.

Put the skillet in the oven and roast until the juices run clear and the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh reads 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 25 to 30 more minutes. When the chicken is done, transfer it to a plate and keep warm.

Pour off all but a thin layer of fat from the skillet. Add the port, put the skillet over high heat, and reduce by half. Add the chicken stock and reduce by half again (if you are using barbecue sauce, you do not need to reduce). Add the cream, bring it to a boil, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the mustards and season with salt and pepper to taste. If the sauce seems very thick, add a little bit of chicken stock to achieve the desired consistency.

Sprinkle the chicken with the chopped herbs and carve into 4 serving pieces. Place a pool of sauce onto each plate, and top with a piece of chicken.

July 25, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Chino Carrot & Ginger Soup

From Wolfgang Puck, here's a soup that might taste amazing if you can get your hands on the special carrots he recommends, from Chino Farms near San Diego. But what about the other 99% of us who have to use regular carrots?

The recipe calls for a pound each of orange, yellow, and white carrots. If you can find these varieties at a farmer's market, definitely use them, since each variety has a slightly different flavor. Even if you can't find white or yellow carrots, orange carrots from the farmer's market will probably be sweeter and better-tasting than the carrots you can find at the grocery store.

I was stuck with standard carrots from the store. While the soup is still good, I didn't think it was terribly exciting or unique. It's a carrot purée with a very subtle hint of ginger. The deep-fried julienne of ginger that serves as a garnish helps to punch up the ginger flavor, but it's also an example of restaurant-itis. While it's simple to toss a handful of ginger into the deep fryer in a restaurant kitchen, at home you've got to find a pot and commit to using and then disposing of at least 2 inches of oil that you cannot reuse (unless you've got a need for ginger-flavored deep-frying oil). I didn't think that one little handful of fried ginger was worth the effort and waste required to produce it. If I were to make this soup again, I'd skip the garnish.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: about 50 minutes
Yield: 6 to 8 servings

1/4 cup peanut oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp minced ginger
1 Tbsp minced green onions
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound orange carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 pound yellow carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 pound white carrots, peeled and thinly sliced (if yellow and white carrots are unavailable, use a total of 3 pounds of orange carrots)
1 Tbsp salt, plus additional for seasoning
1/2 tsp white pepper, plus additional for seasoning
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 Tbsp honey, or to taste
8 cups vegetable broth, plus additional if necessary
1 cup heavy cream
4 oz. unsalted butter (8 Tbsp)
Oil, for deep-frying
1/2 cup julienned ginger

In a stockpot, heat the oil and sauté the garlic, minced ginger, green onion, and crushed red pepper for 1 to 2 minutes, or just until glossy. Do not allow the aromatics to develop color. Add the carrots, 1 Tbsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, turmeric, and honey. Sauté for 2 minutes, stirrring constantly. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the cream. Cook, uncovered, for 40 minutes or until carrots are tender. Add butter and allow to melt, then remove the pot from the heat.

Transfer soup to a blender and purée in batches. Put the purée into a new stockpot and add extra broth if it's too thick. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and honey. Keep warm. Deep-fry the julienned ginger until golden brown, about 1 minute. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

To serve, ladle the soup into warmed bowls and garnish with fried ginger.

July 24, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Pizza with Caramelized Onions & Crispy Bacon

A very good pizza recipe from Wolfgang Puck. The dough is the same recipe that I've already tested from Live, Love, Eat! , and just as with my previous test, the dough was easy to work with and tasted great. The only variation here is the toppings.

The combination of bacon, onions, and cheese was tasty. You could try any combination of toppings that you like: pepperoni with red sauce, pesto with spinach, olives and sausage -- whatever sounds good to you.

The dough recipe makes twice as much dough as you need for the amount of toppings. The extra dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

The recipe instructs the cook to bake the pizza on a pizza stone, but all is not lost if you don't have one. Use a regular baking sheet and cook the pizza on the bottom rack of the oven. To help prevent sticking, sprinkle a bit of cornmeal or semolina on the baking sheet just before you put the pizza dough on it. To get the pizza onto the stone or baking sheet, use a pizza paddle or assemble the pizzas on a sheet of parchment paper.

For the toppings and pizzas:
Prep Time: about 30 minutes
Cook Time: about 30 minutes
Yield: 4 main-course servings or 8 appetizer servings

2 tsp olive oil
6 slices bacon (about 4 oz.), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 small onions, peeled and thinly sliced
4 Tbsp mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup farmer's cheese
Freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
2 balls Pizza Dough, 6 oz. each (see below)
1 cup grated mozzarella
4 Tbsp grated Parmesan
4 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves

Place a pizza stone on the middle rack of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees. In a medium sauté pan, heat the olive oil, add the bacon, and cook until bacon is very crispy and all the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Remove all but 2 Tbsp bacon fat from the pan and discard. Place the pan over high heat. Add the onions to the hot bacon fat and cook until the onions are well browned, about 10 minutes, stirring often. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.

In a small bowl, combine the mascarpone and farmer's cheeses. Season with nutmeg and black pepper to taste. Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, stretch or roll each dough ball as thinly as possible into a 14- to 15-inch circle. Evenly spread the mascarpone mixture over each dough round. Sprinkle with the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, bacon, thyme, and sautéed onion. Bake until the pizza crust is nicely browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove pizza from the oven, transfer to a cutting board, cut into slices, and serve immediately.

For the pizza dough:
Prep Time: about 1 hour
Yield: enough dough for 4 eight-inch pizzas, or 2 twelve-inch pizzas
Make Ahead: up to 2 days

1 package (1/4 oz.) active dry yeast
1 tsp honey
1 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp olive oil

Dissolve the yeast and honey in 1/4 cup of the warm water in a small bowl.

In a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour and salt. Add the oil, yeast mixture, and the remaining 3/4 cup of water and mix on low speed until the dough comes together and clusters around the dough hook, about 5 minutes.

(To make the dough in a food processor: Combine the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the yeast mixture, water, and oil and process until the dough begins to form a ball that rides around the side of the bowl on top of the blade.)

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead by hand 2 to 3 minutes longer. The dough should feel smooth and firm. Cover the dough with a clean, damp cloth and let it rise in a warm spot for about 30 minutes (when ready, the dough will stretch easily as it is lightly pulled).

Divide the dough into four balls, about 6 oz. each. Work each ball by pulling down the sides and tucking them under the bottom of the ball. Repeat 4 or 5 times to form a smooth, even ball. Then, on a smooth, unfloured surface, roll the ball under the palm of your hand until the top of the dough is smooth and firm, about 1 minute. Repeat with each ball. Cover the balls with the damp cloth and let them rest for 15 to 20 minutes. At this point, the balls can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

July 18, 2006

Update to the Update

Unfortunately, I am feeling a bit under the weather. So all my estimates for when I'm going to be finishing up with Food Network Favorites are going to be pushed back by about a week. Look for new content on Monday, July 24.

July 13, 2006

Coming Up

I will be travelling tomorrow; look for a new entry from the Wolfgang Puck chapter in Food Network Favorites on Monday, July 17.

I intend to finish the Puck chapter and test a few more recipes from the Food Network Kitchens chapter next week. My full review of the book should be up by the end of next week or the beginning of the week of July 24.

Also beginning the week of July 24, I'll be starting tests on a new book. I'm taking a look at The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook , from Ina Garten.

Have a great weekend!

Food Network Favorites: Wolfgang's Beef Goulash

Wolfgang Puck is the last chef in Food Network Favorites ! We're starting his chapter off with a very good recipe. This goulash has a great flavor and is pretty simple to put together. The spaetzle that goes with it isn't quite as simple, however.

The flavors of the goulash were excellent, with both spiciness and smoky sweetness coming from the two different types of paprika. Be sure to allow the dish to simmer for the full 1 1/2 hours, so that the beef becomes tender.

Wolfgang Puck calls for freshly toasted and ground caraway seeds in this dish, but doesn't bother to give any helpful hints about preparing them. To toast the seeds, heat them in a pan over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, or until they become fragrant. Shake the pan often to keep the seeds from scorching. You can grind them in a mortar and pestle or a spice mill. Don't skip this step and use pre-ground seeds from the market; the flavor is infinitely better if you toast the seeds yourself.

The spaetzle batter is very sticky, and trying to force it through the holes of a colander into the boiling water requires some elbow grease. I thought Puck could have done a better job with the instructions for the spaetzle; in his original recipe he merely says to bring salted water to a boil and then force the batter through the holes of a colander. No indications of how much water, how big of a colander, etc. I recommend that you use a metal colander that fits into the top of a large pot. Make sure that there are a couple of inches between the top of the boiling water and the bottom of the colander, otherwise the batter will cook while it's still in the holes. Use a colander with large holes in it, and use all your upper-body strength to smear the batter through the holes. Puck doesn't indicate this, but you'll probably need to do the spaetzle in batches.

Or you can avoid all of that and use a spaetzle maker. If you don't make a lot of spaetzle, you probably won't want to invest in this gadget, but it certainly does make it easier to get the sticky, stretchy dough into the boiling water. In either case, all the effort to cook the spaetzle does pay off; it's the perfect accompaniment to the goulash. Like most soups and stews, this dish is even better the second day, after the flavors have melded overnight.

Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: about 2 hours 30 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cups thinly sliced onions
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 Tbsp caraway seeds, toasted and ground (see note above)
1 1/2 Tbsp sweet paprika
1 tsp spicy paprika
2 Tbsp minced fresh marjoram leaves
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
3 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 cups (1 quart) chicken stock
2 1/2 pounds beef shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Spaetzle (recipe below)

In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-low to medium heat. Add the onions and sugar and cook until caramelized, about 45 minutes.

Add the garlic and caraway seeds and stir for 1 minute. Add the paprikas, marjoram, thyme, and bay leaf. Sauté for another minute, until fragrant. Add the tomato paste, vinegar, and stock and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, for 1 minute. Add the beef, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the beef is tender and the sauce has thickened, about 1 1/2 hours.

Taste and adjust seasonings. Remove bay leaf and discard. Serve the goulash atop the Spaetzle.

4 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups milk
1 pound all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper
1/2 cup peanut oil
2 oz. unsalted butter (1/4 cup)
1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley

In a small bowl, beat together the egg yolks, egg, and milk. In a large bowl, combine the flour, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and mix by hand, until just well blended and smooth. Do not overmix. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, making sure that there is space between the water and the bottom of a metal colander that fits on top of the pan. Place the batter in the colander and smear through the holes with a rubber spatula to form the spaetzle. (Alternatively, use a spaetzle maker.) Cook 3 to 4 minutes, or until al dente. You may need to cook the spaetzle in 2 or 3 batches. Using a slotted spoon, remove each cooked batch to a bowl of ice water. When cool to the touch, drain well. Stir in half the peanut oil. (At this point the spaetzle can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

To serve, place a large sauté pan over high heat and add the remaining 1/4 cup of oil. Add the spaetzle and sauté until golden. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Toss with butter and parsley.

July 12, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Sicilian Harvest Salad

My last test from the Michael Chiarello chapter. Even after making this one, I'm not quite sure if it works or not. It's a mixture of savory and sweet ingredients that sometimes didn't seem to mesh very well. My opinion of the salad varied almost from bite to bite.

The combination of sweet and savory ingredients in a salad is not a new idea, of course, but I felt that there were perhaps too many sweet things in this particular dish. The dried fruit plus the fresh fruit had a hard time balancing with the onions, spinach, and radicchio. If I were to try this salad again, I think I'd reduce the amount of fruit by about half. The recipe below is Chiarello's original.

This recipe also suffers from "restaurant-itis" : making the Fried Rosemary is a very simple task, and in a restaurant with a deep fryer, you wouldn't even have to think about cleanup or waste. Unfortunately, this book is written for home cooks, so you'll have to devote a large amount of oil to the rosemary, and then you'll have to figure out how to store it or dispose of it. It's a lot of oil to use for one little ingredient. The rosemary tastes good, but I'm not sure if I'd bother to make it again unless I needed to do some other deep-frying.

Chiarello also doesn't bother to give any indications as to yield; how many sprigs of rosemary do I need for the recipe's 1 1/2 Tbsp? I had to guess, since the recipe didn't tell me. I fried 5 sprigs (each about 4 inches long), which yielded 3 Tbsp of minced rosemary. If you don't need any extra, fry about 3 sprigs. Be sure to mince the fried herbs very fine, otherwise they are too pungent.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: about 10 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

1/2 cup raisins
1 cup halved large seedless grapes
1 Tbsp diced dried apricots (1/4-inch dice)
1 1/2 Tbsp Fried Rosemary (see recipe below)
1/4 large red onion, cut into small slivers
Juice of 1 large lemon
5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large head radicchio (about 3/4 pound)
2 cups loosely packed baby spinach
12 thin slices prosciutto or capacolla, or 1/4 pound sausage, grilled and cubed (optional)
1 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted

Put the raisins in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand until plump and soft, about 10 minutes. Drain.

Put the raisins, grapes, apricots, rosemary, and onion in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice and stir in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Separate the radicchio into leaves, saving the heart for another use. Tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces and add to the dried fruit mixture along with the spinach. Toss well. Divide among 4 plates and top with the salami or sausage, if using. Scatter the pine nuts over the top.

Fried Rosemary
Oil for deep frying
Rosemary sprigs

Heat the oil in a small deep saucepan to 350 degrees (if you don't have an oil-safe thermometer, test the temperature after about 10 minutes by dropping a cube of fresh bread into the oil. If it immediately sizzles and turns golden brown after about 20 seconds, the oil is hot enough).

Deep-fry the rosemary in the hot oil for 30 seconds, then remove to drain on paper towels (be careful when you add the rosemary to the oil, as the oil will probably spatter).

Strip the leaves from the stems and crush the leaves in the paper towels to remove excess oil. Finely mince the leaves and store in a tightly sealed container.

July 11, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Bruschetta with White Bean Purée

Another recipe from Michael Chiarello where the proportions are a bit weird. This simple bean purée ended up tasting more like the olive tapenade that's mixed into it. And a bit of "restaurant-itis" sneaks into the ingredients list.

The first ingredient is "3/4 cup cooked white marrow or other white beans." Well, sure. I always have cooked beans just lying around. Ahem. In fairness, the "Kitchen Tip" does say that you can use canned beans instead. But 3/4 cup is about half of a 14.5-oz. can. What am I supposed to do with the rest of the beans? And is a purée made with only 3/4 cup of beans really going to yield 8 to 10 servings, as the recipe says it will?

I didn't think so. The recipe made with only 3/4 cup of beans and 2 Tbsp of olive paste was overwhelmingly olive flavored, and only produced about 1/2 cup of purée. That's 1 Tbsp of purée per serving, which isn't very generous. I got much better results by using the entire 14.5-oz. can of beans with the same amount of olive tapenade. This purée actually tasted mostly of beans, with just a hint of olive flavor. And the yield was much better: 1 cup of purée, for 2 Tbsp per serving.

The recipe below uses my revised amounts. If you actually do happen to have cooked white beans lying around your kitchen, use 1 1/2 cups.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: about 10 minutes, for the bread
Yield: 8 to 10 servings

14.5-oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed
Chicken or vegetable broth, as needed
2 Tbsp olive tapenade
3 Tbsp minced fresh thyme, plus sprigs for garnish, if desired
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1/2 tsp grey salt or other sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 loaf Italian bread
2 cloves garlic, peeled

For the purée: Combine the beans with a small amount of broth in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add the olive paste and minced thyme and blend again. With the machine running, add the olive oil and salt and pepper. Transfer the purée to a serving dish and garnish with sprigs of thyme, if desired.

For the bruschetta: Cut the bread into thick slices. Toast or grill until lightly brown and crisp. Rub the bread slices with the garlic cloves, then drizzle with a small amount of olive oil. Spread the white bean purée on the bruschetta and finish with a small pinch of salt.

Food Network Favorites: Salami Salad with Tomatoes & Mozzarella

This is an excellent way to showcase ripe, flavorful summer tomatoes. Michael Chiarello combines them with salami and cheese, and the results are quite good.

The "Kitchen Tip" suggests trying different kinds of salami in the salad. I made mine with sopressata, which was very tasty. You could also try finocchiona, Calabrese, or Genoa.

The more flavorful the tomatoes, the better the salad will taste. Chiarello's recipe doesn't say to seed the tomatoes, but I preferred to remove the pulpy, seedy centers from the heirloom tomatoes in my salad. The original recipe also merely says "vinegar" should be drizzled over the salad; use whatever sounds good to you. I recommend an aged balsamic.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 8 to 10 servings

1 pound salami, cut into 1/4-inch dice
6 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves (sliced if large)
1/2 pound mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch dice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Vinegar (such as balsamic or red wine), for drizzling

In a large bowl, combine salami, tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Toss well before serving.

Food Network Favorites: Homemade Tomato Soup

From the Michael Chiarello chapter in Food Network Favorites comes this recipe for soup that works even when flavorful fresh tomatoes aren't available. The proportions are all screwy, however, and the soup could use a lot more tomatoes in it to be worthy of the name "tomato soup."

This soup has all the telltale signs of a recipe that's been adapted down to home-cooking proportions from its restaurant origins, without the new amounts ever having been tested. For 4 servings, the soup uses one 14-oz. can of diced tomatoes, which isn't very much. Once you drain the liquid off, you've got a scant 3/4 cup of tomatoes. The tomatoes are then cooked with an onion, a carrot, and a celery stalk, which combine to make a very good-tasting vegetable soup.

Also wonky; the aromatic veggies are cooked in a whopping 1/2 cup of olive oil. The diced onion, carrot, and celery pretty much swam in that amount of oil, and the large amount didn't seem to serve any purpose. The olive oil is just there to cook the vegetables in, so a smaller amouhttp://s152160711.onlinehome.us/cookbook/mt/mt.cgi?__mode=view&_type=entry&blog_id=1#nt would certainly do the trick. The only explanation I can think of is that this recipe is usually prepared by the gallon, to serve restaurant diners (Michael Chiarello is executive chef of Tra Vigne, a well-know Napa Valley restaurant). In any case, something got lost in the translation, because aside from the balance of vegetables and oil being off, the yield is also wrong. Chiarello's recipe says that it serves 4. The only way that's true is if you're serving the soup in itsy-bitsy demitasse cups. The entire yield is only 3 1/2 cups of soup. It served 2 people for lunch at my house.

I have made some adjustments to the ingredients (using twice as many tomatoes, and half as much olive oil) to pump up the tomato flavor and increase the yield slightly. I recommend that you use the optional heavy cream; it helps to smooth out the texture of the soup and adds a nice creaminess. Chiarello's original recipe called for 1/2 cup, but I've given the option of using less, since even a smidge of cream will add a lot to the soup.

July 10, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Seared Pork Tenderloin with Cocoa-Spice Rub

A very good, albeit slightly too salty, spice rub for pork from Michael Chiarello. The sweetness of the cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves combine with the richness of unsweetened cocoa powder and white peppercorns for complex, sweet-savory flavor.

I realize that Mario Batali is getting short shrift, and all I can say is: his recipes aren't looking appealing. I'm ready to be done with Food Network Favorites, so Batali is going to have to be the one that got away.

As with Bobby Flay's recipe for pork tenderloin, Michael Chiarello calls for 12- to 16-oz. small tenderloins. If you can't find that size at your market, cut a larger 24-oz. pork loin in half crosswise, and then cut each piece in half lengthwise, so that you have 4 roughly equal pieces that will cook in the recipe's stated 12 to 15 minutes.

Chiarello tells the cook to toast your own peppercorns and coriander, and then grind them to a fine powder in a spice mill or a coffee grinder, and a "Kitchen Note" at the bottom says "If you don't want to clean out your coffee grinder, a mortar and pestle work just fine too." Unless you like pepper-flavored coffee, I highly recommend that you don't use your everyday coffee grinder for spices. Either use a spice mill dedicated to that purpose, or purchase a separate coffee grinder just for spices. I used the old-fashioned mortar and pestle, which worked just fine, although it does take a bit longer than an electric grinder.

I found the rub to be a tad too salty. I've listed the amount of salt in the ingredients list as "3 to 4 Tbsp." The larger amount is Chiarello's original recipe. He recommends grey sea salt, which is a nicely flavored salt and an excellent ingredient to have in the kitchen, but if you don't have it, regular sea salt is fine.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: about 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

1 Tbsp whole white peppercorns
1 Tbsp whole coriander seeds
4 1/2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
3 1/2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3 to 4 Tbsp sea salt, preferably grey
2 pork tenderloins, 12- to 16-oz. each, OR a 24-oz. pork tenderloin cut into 4 pieces, see note above
2 Tbsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, toast the white peppercorns and coriander seeds until they are fragrant and beginning to pop. Remove from heat and grind to a fine powder in a spice mill or mortar and pestle. Mix the ground pepper and coriander with the other spices, cocoa, and salt.

Trim the pork of fat and silver skin. Rub with a generous amount of spice rub. Heat the olive oil in an overproof sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Sear the pork on all sides until rich brown in color, about 2 minutes per side. Place the sauté pan in the oven and roast until the pork is 155 degrees in the center, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Let the tenderloins rest out of the oven for about 10 minutes before slicing into 1/4-inch pieces.

July 06, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Clam Sauté

A very simple, very tasty treatment for clams from Mario Batali. If you're not a clam fan, this is not the recipe for you, since there's nothing here disguising the essential clam flavor.

Because this recipe is so simple, you need to use the best possible ingredients. Find the freshest clams, and use a good white wine for steaming. To clean the clams, wash them under cold running water with a stiff bristle brush.

Serve the clams with a crusty French or Italian bread to sop up the wine broth.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10-15 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 1/4 pounds fresh clams, scrubbed and rinsed (New Zealand cockles or Manila clams)
1 cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

In a 12- to 14-inch sauté pan with a lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the garlic slices and cook until lightly golden, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the clams. Pour in the wine and cover the pan. Steam the clams until they open, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard any that did not open. Serve immediately, garnished with parsley.

July 05, 2006

Food Network Favorites: Penne with Cauliflower

From the Mario Batali chapter in Food Network Favorites , where frankly I'm having trouble finding recipes that I want to make. It may just be a seasonal problem; many of Batali's recipes call for heavy, meaty ingredients like osso buco, leg of lamb, pork chops, or veal meatballs (2 different recipes!). I might find some of these dishes more appealing in November when it's cold and brisk outside, but right now it's 95 degrees and leg of lamb isn't sounding too good.

I'll be testing the three lighter-sounding recipes in this chapter, and then I'm moving on to the last two chapters in the book. (The two remaining chefs: Michael Chiarello and Wolfgang Puck.)

This pasta isn't anything to write home about. it's a simple sauté of tomatoes and cauliflower tossed with penne and parsley. The texture was a bit dry and the flavors weren't terribly exciting. The recipe works; it's just kind of boring.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: about 30 minutes
Yield: 6 to 8 servings

1/2 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, OR 4 cups canned plum tomatoes, drained and chopped (about two 28-oz. cans plus one 14-oz. can)
1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
1/2 cup very hot water
1 pound dry penne
2 bunches Italian parsley, finely chopped to yield 1/2 cup
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated caciocavallo, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or pecorino cheese

In a 12- to 14-inch sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add garlic. Cook gently until softened and light golden brown. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, until they begin to break down. Add the cauliflower and stir well. Add 1/2 cup hot water, lower the heat to medium, and cook about 15 to 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook according to package directions. Drain.

Add the drained pasta to the pan with the cauliflower. Stir in parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss for 1 minute over high heat. Divide evenly among 6 pasta bowls, top with cheese, and serve immediately.

July 03, 2006

Holiday Weekend

I am taking a long weekend for the 4th of July holiday. I'll be back on Wednesday July 5th with tests from the Mario Batali chapter in Food Network Favorites . Only 3 more chefs left to test in that book, and then it's on (finally!) to something new.

Have a great holiday, and I'll see you Wednesday!




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