Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Fettuccine Alfredo


Alfredo's Rome, Italy, 1962
The original owner of Rome’s Alfredo's Restaurant, Alfredo Di Lelio, is the originator of this 1914 delicious dish formulated for his pregnant wife who had to be enticed to eat.  

In 1950, with his son Armando, Alfredo Di Lelio reopened his restaurant in Piazza Augusto Imperatore n.30 "Il Vero Alfredo" (“Alfredo di Roma”), which is now managed by his nephew Ines Di Lelio, along with the famous “gold cutlery” donated in 1927 by the grateful American actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. Fettuccine Alfredo is immensely popular all over the world and this is despite the fact that many recipes being used are not exact!  The original pasta contained neither cream nor eggs. My brother Michael (center) was a big fan of fettuccine as shown in this early photo.

This is my version of the famous plate. The inclusion of the beaten eggs yolks give the fettuccine the authentic mouth feel and fabulous sense of richness found in the original dish.  Because the pasta is so very hot (200+F), the eggs temperature quickly exceeds 145 degrees hence there is no risk of salmonella.  

All ingredients should be at room temperature.

1 Stick unsalted sweet butter (1/4 pound) (This was originally made with European butter)
1 Cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 Cup fresh finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese)
1/4 Teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 Pound egg Fettuccini
3 Organic natural raised farm-fresh egg yolks (These should be a very bright yellow)

Fresh egg pasta is required, and when rolled out, it should be processed on the thinnest setting of your pasta machine. Making your own pasta, has, in this case, three advantages, first it is fresh, has the prescribe number of eggs, and thirdly, it is thin enough to make this a delicate dish.

Bring to high boil 6 quarts of lightly salted water. Sample the water with a cold spoon. The water should be only mildly salty. As the pasta cooks, it absorbs water so using salted water, one insures the salt goes where it is needed. As you see from the ingredients, even the butter, up to this point, is unsalted. The cheese has quite a bit of salt so we will wait until the last moment to correct for seasoning,

Cut the butter into 10 pieces on a small plate. This will ensure when the butter is added it melts and is incorporated quickly. Beat the yellow egg yolks in a separate bowl until very creamy. Now drop pasta in the boiling water and cook approximately three minutes, stirring to prevent sticking and sampling until the pasta is al dente (just cooked but still has a bite, not soft.) Drain pasta in a colander but not bone dry. Allow a little of the starchy water to remain with the pasta. Pour the pasta into the hot pot. While the pasta is still steaming hot, immediately add butter, cream and the beaten eggs. Toss immediately. Add the cheese, white pepper and toss well (2 minutes is not too long). Correct for seasoning.  Serve immediately. (Note: When prepared at the “ristorante”, a hot platter and the “Golden ware” would be used to toss the noodle as patrons salivated.)

Note:
1.      Cooking the Roman Way : Authentic Recipes from the Home Cooks and Trattorias of Rome by David Downie , the author claims that he has the real recipe straight from the "horse's mouth".
2.        See the web site: http://www.alfredo-roma.it/ on how Alfredo originally made this recipe. If you use European butter and rich fresh homemade egg noodles, you may make this without cream or beaten eggs.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Making Homemade Vinegar


                                      
Home made vinegar tastes a lot better than store bought perhaps because is not made chemically but allowed to ferment naturally. My sister asked if it was difficult to do. I told her if was easy. You take four left over wine bottles each with a smidgen of left over wine, either white or red. Then you place them outside your house strategically on the four coordinates, north, south, east and west. Stuff a bit of cheesecloth in the necks to keep out bugs and forget them for two weeks while they blow in the breeze. Check them Tuesday afternoon (or anytime you want) by smelling the neck. If they smell sour, the fermentation of the alcohol to vinegar is underway. If your climate is hot, wait until fall when the temperatures are below 85 F during the days. (Mother of vinegar can only tolerate 60 ~ 90F.)

Actually, I lied. Place the bottles anywhere you like. Good to place them where they will not be accidentally kicked over. Once you have captured a starter, you may add any wine to the starter and store the fermenting bottle (crock or glassware) covered with cheesecloth in your cupboard. If you continual add wine white to a starter that was originally red wine, it will eventual pale to white. To keep the starter active, keep it fed.

Vinegar maybe further aged in toasted oak barrels to add more flavor. A typical 2 liter barrel is around $50, while a larger 5 liter may run $80~85. They will need treatment as well as a spigot to pour vinegar and a stand. Follow barrel maker’s instructions to cure the barrel, which is the process that makes the barrel hold content and not leak.

If you want to skip finding vinegar spores, you may purchase Living Mother Culture (MOV) some from a wine equipment store or oak barrel store or even Amazon.com

Monday, August 3, 2015

Kicking Up Bottled Spaghetti Sauce


What most commercial sauces (i.e. canned) lack is a foundation of good tomatoes. Mario Batali is being a definite exception. He uses only the finest San Marzano from Naples. That being said, the sauce is not readily available in many stores nor is it imminent affordable. Bertolli Marinara Sauce is in many stores and is one of my favorites because it is easy to kick it up and the tomatoes are good ones. Fundamentally, the sauce, just as is, is ok. This recipe is easy to do and will transform the store bought in 20 minutes to one with a “fata in casa” (homemade) flavor.

1 jar Bertolli Marinara Sauce
2 Ounces of salt pork, cubed (discard tough skin)
2 cloves minced garlic
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 Tablespoons flavorful extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed Italian oregano
1 small sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Italian sweet basil

Add olive oil, crushed red pepper and chopped salt pork to a wide frying pan on medium. Cook until salt pork begins to clear but do not brown. Add garlic stirring continuously for a minute. Add a jar of Marinara Sauce and all the herbs. Reduce to low and simmer 10 minutes. Correct the seasoning as required.

A sauce should have a hint of sweetness and hint of tart. A tad of balsamic could augment this if needed. Enjoy.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Crespelle alla Fiorentina


This is a Tuscan favorite dating back to the middle ages. The French claim the crepe's origin but the Tuscans claim that Catherine Medici introduced it to the French Court. This dish is often served on Christmas.

Crepe Batter
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons melted sweet butter
2/3 cup luke warm milk
Pinch of salt
Butter to grease the pan

Filling
1 1/2 pounds ricotta (sheep or buffalo preferred)
2 1/2 pounds stemmed spinach, wilted1
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
A pinch nutmeg
White pepper
Sea salt to taste

Italian White Sauce with Cheese

This sauce is especially used for crepes, cannelloni or lasagna.

8 tablespoons of unsalted butter
8 tablespoons “00” flour
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup whole milk
1 cup on onion stock (see below)
1 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
White pepper
Salt

Onion Stock
Add one whole onion, cut up and one whole bay leaf to 2 ½ cups of cold water. Boil until onion is tender. Strain. Use this clear onion stock for this recipe.

Melt over low heat unsalted butter add and blend over low heat for 3 - 5 minutes flour. Slowly add cream, onion stock, chicken stock. Cook and whisk the sauce until it thickens. Season with white pepper. Add grated Parmesan cheese. Correct the seasoning. If the sauce has to stand for an extended period, it may be re-heated and strained through a medium strainer.

Passata di Pomodoro
3 ripe, peeled and seeded vine ripened tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
A small bunch of Italian sweet basil

Prepare a passata of tomatoes. Heat oil and simmer tomatoes with basil covered on medium low. Stir occasionally, mashing any parts that have not broken down. Cool and set aside until needed


Make the batter. Let batter rest in the refrigerator for an hour before using.

Make the crepes using either a well seasoned or a non-stick pan using a patty of butter for each crepe. Cook on both sides. No need to brown.  Hold cooked crepes layered between parchment papers until needed.

Prepare filling in a food processor. Taste it, add salt as needed. Crepes are delicate so the filling that is spread should not be too stiff. It may be softened by adding a bit of cream in the processor.

Assemble crepes each in its own 10 inch buttered oval Au Gratin pan. Roll cheese-spinach filling in crepe. Lay filled crepe lengthwise in pan, and then cover each crepe with white sauce. Top crepe with grated pecorino Romano cheese and a bit of passata.



Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake for 20 minutes until done.  Remove from oven and serve hot garnished with a sprig of fresh basil.

Notes:

1.      You may use pasta to make these, and in that case, they would be called Cannelloni or manicotti. If using fresh pasta, there is no need to boil it. The moisture in the sauce will cook it in 20 minutes. Manicotti, however, need be pre-boiled.

Squash with Shallots and Garlic served with a Tarragon White Wine Sauce


2 yellow squash, end removed, cut into ¼ thick lengthwise strips
2 Cloves minced garlic
2 small shallots, diced
Salt
Pepper
2 tablespoon butter

Béchamel sauce
3 Tablespoons butter
2 ½ Tablespoons flour
¼ cup dry white wine1
½ Cup Half and Half
Chiffonade of fresh tarragon
White pepper and sea salt to taste

Sauté squash in butter with shallots and garlic on medium. Until lightly browned. Drain pieces on paper towels then season with salt and pepper. Keep in warm oven.

Make Béchamel sauce by whisking over medium heat butter and flour. When roué is beginning to turn light tan. Remove from heat and whisk in wine. Return to heat, adding half and half or cream along with fresh tarragon. Correct seasoning when thickened.

Plate squash and garnished with béchamel sauce. Garnish with a sprig of basil.

Note:
  1. Wine choice is up to you. You may use part vermoth and part sherry or even a White Zinfandel. Add a pinch of sugar and a touch of vinegar or lemon can heighten the flavor of the sauce. Including finely chopped sorrel will add a lemony tinge.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Pear and Ginger Cake


Based on Penny Stephens What's Cooking Italian .

The taste is subtle. If you want to moderate the ginger, use 2 teaspoons. Pears are not a prominent flavor in this recipe. You may want to try adding vanilla or even orange extract. 



14 tablespoons Cup sweet butter softened
7/8 Cup white sugar
¾ Cup  flour
2 Teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
2~3 Teaspoons grated ginger
3 eggs, room temperature
3 pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar

Grease and line the base of a springform cake tin with buttered parchment. (If you like, line the sides of the pan with parchement as well. The cake shrinks when done so the side parchment is really not necessary.) Preheat the oven to 325 F*.
Cream together 12 Tablespoon of the butter with the white sugar on low speed. Wisk in eggs, one at a time. Sift baking powder and flour together. Add flour mixture, and ginger.Whisk mixture 2 minutes to a smooth consistency. Add a pinch of salt.
Sprinkle well buttered bottom parchment paper with brown sugar. Cover the bottom surface with uniformly thin pear slices. Use all of them; it does not matter if they are overlapping. Dot with butter.
Pour the mixture into the cake tin, making sure it is roughly level. Put a wrap of tin foil on the bottom of the springform to prevent butter leak from the topping.

Bake in a preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

This cake is delicious served warm with cream or vanilla ice cream. Best eaten within a day or two of baking.

Notes:
1.       The baking temperature varies with the depth of the pan. Changing the pan size alters both the baking temperature and time. Larger, more shallow pans need increased heat; smaller, deeper pans need decreased heat. The size of a baking pan or dish is measured across the top of the container from the inside edge to inside edge. The depth also is measured on the inside of the pan or dish from the bottom to the top of the rim.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Gifts from the Sea Risotto (Frutta de Mare)



This is a Venetian dish and very often, it is made with mussels, clams, squid and shrimp. You can use what is on hand in your area. Normally, tomatoes and mushrooms are omitted. It does not take long to make, and, most chefs to take advantage of the seafood’s freshness, prepare this the day they shop the ingredients.  The better the seafood or Premium Fish Stock (see http://www.barharborfoods.com/stocks.php), the better the risotto. The Bar Harbor Seafood Stock is sold online at Amazon



4 Tablespoons very flavorful extra virgin olive oil
2 Shallots finely chopped
2 Carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small stock of peeled celery, chopped, optional
1 Mediterranean Bay leaf
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (Carnaroli rice)
1 cup Sauvignon Blanc
4 cups prepared seafood stock (boil shrimp shells to help flavor this stock)
2 Cup chicken stock
1 pound shelled white ocean shrimp
2 baby lobsters, 3 ounce, slit shells down lengthwise
1 pound diver scallops
Sea Salt
1 clove crushed garlic, minced
Crushed red pepper optional
White Ground Pepper
Pinch or Italian oregano
1 level teaspoon of sugar
Halved Sun Gold Tomatoes or other ripe baby tomatoes
Cremini mushrooms sliced thin
Garnish chiffonade of fresh basil and diced chives for


Keep the stock warm in a separate pan. Boil shrimp shells, a bay leaf, and some threads of saffron to help flavor this stock. Skim out bay leaf and shells before using stock.

In a heavy bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat, add 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chopped shallots, optionally a pinch of red pepper, celery if you are adding it and chopped carrot. Cook just until shallots clear but do not brown. Add the rice. Stir and toast until all kernels are coated and fragrant about 2~3 minutes stir constantly.

Add the wine and bring to a boil. Allow wine to cook down and then ladle in the stock to just cover the rice. Add crushed garlic, sliced mushrooms. Cook and stir ten minutes, stirring frequently, maintaining a level liquid by adding more stock.

Add the scallops, tomato halves, oregano, lobster tails, and continue cooking covered until rice is soft but still very al dente. If too dry, add more stock. Add the shrimp, cook for just two more minutes covered. Remove from heat. Season with sea salt and white pepper. Garnish with basil and chives. Serve immediately.