Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Rigatoni alla Genovese – Maybe the Best Meat Sauce You’ve Never Heard Of

I have no idea why this amazingly flavorful Genovese-style meat sauce isn’t way more popular than it is. It’s quite simply one of the best pasta sauces you’ll ever taste, thanks to a very slow cooking process, and massive amounts of onions.

So, I just thought of two really good reasons why this isn’t way more popular. The recipe takes you a good 10 hours to make. In case you haven’t heard, this is roughly 9.9 hours longer than your typical Millennial is willing to spend doing something.

Also, slicing six pounds of raw onions by hand is no one’s idea of a great time. And no, you can’t use a food processor, or veggie cutting gizmo you bought at 2AM. These machines will crush and bruise the onions, releasing harsh compounds that negatively alter the taste. Cut your onions by hand, with a sharp knife, or not at all.

As I suggest in the video, cut them one or two at a time, near a breezy window, while you brown the meat, and you’ll be done in no time. Once everything is prepped, the recipe couldn’t be easier. Simmer until the meat and onions melt into each other, and serve. I really hope you give this very old, virtually unknown, but very tasty meat sauce a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for enough sauce for 2 pounds of dry rigatoni (8 servings):
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces pancetta or salt pork, diced
2 1/2 pounds beef chuck, seasoned with 2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrot
1 rounded tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
2/3 cup white wine
4 pounds yellow onions, sliced
2 pounds red onions, sliced
water or broth as needed to adjust liquid level during simmering
salt to taste

-- To serve, simmer finished sauce with al dente pasta for a few minutes until pasta is cooked through. Finish with fresh marjoram, cayenne, and grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Walnut & Parsley Pesto – “A” Pesto, Not “The” Pesto

When someone hears the word pesto, they think of that delicious, but oh so common, basil, garlic, pine nut paste. While that particular pesto is amazing, I hope this walnut and parsley version serves as a reminder that “pesto” is not a recipe, but a technique.

First, grind some garlic and salt into a paste with a mortar and pestle. This releases the full fury of raw garlic’s real flavor. Fair warning: this is some strong medicine, and I mean that literally. To that we add some kind of nuts. Walnuts give you a gorgeous, buttery flavor and texture, and pair beautifully with the aromatic, bittersweet parsley.

Finish to taste with lemon juice and/or vinegar, and olive oil. Loosen with a little water if desired, and season generously with salt. That’s pretty much it. Feel free to add cheese, but I like to keep this as is. It has the flavor and mouthfeel of a rich butter spread, and I think the cheese would get in the way.

You shouldn’t need any cayenne pepper, since raw garlic prepared in this manner is surprisingly hot, but as usual, that’s up to you. I really hope you give this ancient raw sauce a try soon. Enjoy!

Makes about 1 cup:
4 cloves garlic, sliced
large pinch kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 cup chopped raw walnuts
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
juice from one lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
*to lighten, whisk in a few teaspoons of water

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Roasted Rack of Lamb with Strawberry Mint Sauce – Here’s to a Brighter Future

Like many Americans my age, I was raised with a jar of mint jelly in the fridge, and it never, ever, came out unless there was lamb around. In fact, if someone caught you making a PB&J with mint jelly back then, it was straight to the insane asylum. Nope, mint jelly was to be served only with lamb – and lamb only with mint jelly.

We’ve come a long way since then, and now, anything goes. Except for peanut butter and mint jelly sandwiches. That’s still considered crazy. But as far as mint sauces go, I love experimenting with new ideas, especially around Easter time, and I really liked how this came out.

As I mention, next time we’ll add our mint right before we serve, so to preserve that bright green color, but besides that, I really enjoyed the combination. Once it was properly seasoned, that is. I added more of everything; lemon juice, salt, cayenne, and mint, before it was just right. The ingredient amounts below have been properly adjusted.

Regarding the cooking method: I usually sear my racks in a very hot frying pan, then add the mustard/crumb mixture, and roast until we reach 125 F., internal temp. This time I tried an alternative method, where you sear it in a hot oven, then add the crumbs, and continue roasting until done. Which is a better method for the home cook? Probably the first one.

The good news is; if you watch any of our older rack of lamb videos, you see this method in all its glory. In fact, this “Pistachio Crusted Rack of Lamb” would not only show you our preferred technique, but would also go amazingly well with this sauce. I really hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 large or 4 smaller portions:
1 whole (8 bone) rack of lamb seasoned very generously with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and cayenne
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoons finely minced green onions
1/4 cup fine plain bread crumbs
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the *sauce:
2 cups fresh strawberries
zest of one lemon
juice from 2 lemons
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup freshly sliced mint leaves (add right before you serve!)
salt and cayenne pepper to taste

* Only do final seasoning when the sauce has cooled. When tasting the sauce, keep in mind it’s going to be used as a condiment, and not eaten plain, which means it needs to be very well-seasoned. This is why it’s better to taste on a cracker or piece of bread, instead of off the spoon. Other great additions to this sauce are things like balsamic vinegar, hot/sweet peppers, cracked black pepper, as well as other “sweet” herbs, like tarragon and basil.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Chef John is Off This Week

I mean, I'm off this week. I'm back East visiting family, and won't be posting any videos during this time. I wanted to mention this lack of activity so you wouldn't think I was actually "neutralized" by Big Sports Drink. We'll be back next week with two new videos as usual, so until then, behave yourselves, and as always, enjoy! 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Tartiflette – French Potato, Bacon, and Illegal Cheese Casserole

There’s nothing I like more than getting a food wish for something I didn’t know existed, and thanks to a Mr. Patrick Ryan, I now know that tartiflette exists. This striking looking dish is basically a potato, onion, and bacon casserole, topped with Reblochon cheese.

If you haven’t heard of Reblochon, don’t feel bad. It’s illegal here. Since it’s made with raw milk, which apparently is dangerous, even though people have been eating it for centuries, it’s not allowed to be imported into the country. However, while you can’t get the real stuff, without smuggling at least, you can get a wonderful substitute, called “Dancing Fern,” from Sequatchie Cove Creamery.

If you’re wondering what it’s like, this is their description: “…soft and supple texture and barnyardy aroma, along with notes of cultured butter, shiitake mushroom, and walnuts.” You can find it at your finer cheese shops, or from several online sources, and while very expensive, it really was a magnificent cheese.

If you can’t swing faux-reblochon, I’ve read about some people using half gruyere and half brie. After tasting the finished product, I can see how that combo could create a somewhat similar flavor profile. Of course, since we’re talking about potatoes and bacon, just about any melting cheese should work beautifully. I really hope you give this amazing casserole a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 8 portions:
butter for greasing casserole dish
3 pounds russet potatoes, cooked with skins on, in salted water
12 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large onions, sliced thin
salt, freshly ground black pepper, and cayenne to taste
1⁄2 cup drinkable white wine
3/4 cup crème fraiche
1 pound Reblochon cheese, or something similar like Dancing Fern

- 375F. for 45 minutes, or until potatoes are very tender

Next Up: Something from the French Alps

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Homemade Sports Drink – Because Greaterade > Gatorade

Michele was listening to sports radio a while back, and heard a story about how the Golden State Warriors, also known as the greatest basketball team in history, had banned Gatorade, and other similar drinks from their gym. 

Knowing that the latest science shows drinking large quantities of sugar water is a terrible idea for your body and brain, they started making their own “sports drink,” featuring Himalayan pink salt.

My first thought was, “That’s soooo Northern California,” but the more I thought about it, the more I realized what a great idea that was, and it inspired this video for what we’re calling, “Greaterade.” All the ingredients in this are easy to find, and the whole procedure only takes minutes. Really, the only “work” involved is coming up with the perfect formula for your own personal tastes.

The amounts given here will get you very close to the commercial stuff, although it will not be as sweet, so feel free to experiment. With apologies to the big drink companies for all those lost sales, I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 9 cups of Greaterade:
8 cups fresh cold water
3 tablespoons honey, or other sweetener to taste
1/2 teaspoon fine *Himalayan pink salt (mine was coarsely ground, so I used a rounded 1/2 teaspoon), or sea salt (or any pure salt)
3/4 teaspoon calcium magnesium powder (this is the one I used)
pinch cayenne
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 lemons, juiced
2 limes, juiced

* Note: this is NOT the pink salt we used for the ham video

Friday, March 4, 2016

Spring Vegetable Tartine with White Anchovies – Food Wishes and Little Fishes

It’s not unusual for me to borrow ideas from the various restaurants I visit, but they’re normally tweaked, altered, or otherwise adapted. This time, however, I just blatantly stole this spring vegetable tartine with white anchovies, as it. Why mess with perfection?

Yes, this spring vegetable tartine, featuring the awesomeness that is the white anchovy, was lifted almost verbatim from SHED, which is my current, “favorite place to eat.” If you’re ever anywhere near Healdsburg, CA (like within 500 miles), you simply must visit this amazing store/café/charcuterie/restaurant hybrid.

Now that I’ve offset some of my guilt for stealing this recipe with such a glowing recommendation, I can move on to this intensely tasty tartine. This would be incredibly delicious with just the aioli and vegetables, but when you add the “boquerones,” this goes from great sandwich, to memorable experience.

Even if you think you hate anchovies, which you really don’t, you may still love these, since they are so completely different. They are very mild in flavor, but still extremely savory. I was going to say they're a little bit like pickled herring, but that probably won’t help. Regardless, I hope you give this spring vegetable tartine a try very soon. Enjoy! 

Ingredients for 4 generous servings:

For the aioli:
1 or 2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch of cayenne

The rest:
4 large thick slices day-old French bread, toasted
16 white anchovy fillets (aka boquerones)
* 2 cups thinly peeled, sliced, or shredded fresh vegetables, moistened with a splash of lemon juice, and drizzle of olive oil.
edible flowers, optional

* Carrots, fennel root, radishes, celery root, asparagus, artichoke hearts, peppers, endive, micro greens, and any/all kinds of sprouts would work beautifully here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Cassoulet – The World’s Most Complex Simple Recipe

There are so many reasons not to make cassoulet. You need lots of ingredients, some of which take effort to find. There are many steps, and even some of the steps have steps. It will also seem like you used every pot and pan in the kitchen, which will be trashed by the time you’re done.

Speaking of time, this is going to take hours to cook, but only after lots of prep. You still with me? So, why would anyone go through all that? That’s easy. Cassoulet is one of the most delicious dishes you’ll ever have. Plus, it’s great for honing your observational skills, since no two cassoulet are the same, and the times I give are only a guide.

If you use a different bean, or more/less meat, or a different size/shape pan or casserole, you may need to add liquid sooner than two hours in. Basically, just keep and eye on things, adding broth when needed, until you’re happy with the final results.

Depending on how salty your meats are, as well as how highly seasoned you stock is, you may or may not need to add more salt to the final mixture. Other than that, and notwithstanding all that stuff I said earlier in the post, this really is a simple recipe. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 8 portions (I used a 12-inch pan, about 3-inches deep):

For the beans and cooking liquid:
3 quarts seasoned chicken stock or broth (The beans should be cooked in a lightly seasoned stock or broth, so add salt to taste. I didn’t add any on camera as mine was already seasoned.)
1 pound Tarbais beans, or other white beans, soaked overnight
4 ounces ham, bacon, salt pork, or pancetta, cut in 1/4-inch dice (as I mentioned, I experimented with large pieces, but it was too much)
1 bouquet garni (2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon black peppercorn, 6 springs thyme, 6 unpeeled garlic cloves cut in half, tied in cheesecloth)
- add reserved bones from your duck and pork if available
-- simmer for 45 minutes or until beans are almost tender
--- strain and reserve liquid

The other meat:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
12 ounces fresh pork shoulder or chop, cut into 2-inch pieces, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds (4 links) Toulouse sausages, or other garlic pork sausage
2 duck leg confit (most fancy grocery stores carry this, but you can order online, or make your own with this old recipe)
NOTE: This is traditionally a "poor man's" dish, and would not have nearly the generous supply of rich meats. So, if you want something more authentic, you can cut the meat amounts down by half at least. 

The veggies:
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced celery
1/4 cup tomato paste
3/4 cup white wine
1 teaspoon salt

The crumb topping:
2 cups plain breadcrumbs
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons rendered duck fat
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup cooking liquid
(warning, I don’t measure this stuff, so just add enough melted fat to moisten the crumbs until they look like damp sand)

- Bake for 2 hours at 350 F for 2 hours, or until most of the broth is absorbed.
- Add more broth, poking down a little of the crust into the beans.
- Bake for another 45 minutes, or until well-browned, and the meat is fork tender