About Mastering and Enjoying Home Cooking. Drink, Cook, and Live Well!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Hasselback Potatoes

Hasselback potatoes trace to Stockholm, Sweden, where the restaurant Hasselbacken first served them in the 1940s. Initially, the slices are closed but open as they cook where the edges become crisp and their center softens nicely.

Maris Pipers are the best potato for these, but any medium-sized, starchy  baking potato will also work. Flavorful olive oil is used or good sweet butter.

Hasselback Potatoes

2 medium Maris Piper baking potatoes
2 cloves garlic, sliced, (optional)
Extra virgin unfiltered first-cold pressed olive oil or clarified butter
Sea salt and white pepper
Rosemary, minced

If your potatoes insist on rolling around, shave off a small strip lengthwise so that they can sit on a flat bottom. Using a sharp knife, slice the potato thinly across, width-wise. To make things much easier, lay two pencil (or wooden spoon handles) either side of the potato as a knife-stop. Stuff thin slices of garlic (optionally) between the slices. Drizzle with olive oil or clarified melted butter. Bake for 20~30 minutes at 350 F. Add more butter or oil and sprinkle with rosemary and sea salt and white pepper. Continue to bake another for 20~30 minutes until the potato is cooked through and the edges are crispy.


Friday, January 27, 2017

Spanish Aioli Garlic Mayonnaise

Spanish aioli is often served with tapas, seafood or Paella. My friends like to dip vegetables in it. The blanching of the garlic tames an otherwise wild nature.

4 large cloves of blanched garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed Myer lemon juice
2 egg yolks, farm fresh
White pepper, to taste
Pinch of sweet paprika
Dijon Mustard optional, to taste
Sea salt
1 cup olive oil

Blanch garlic in boiling water for 1 1/2 minutes, then plunge cloves into cold water to stop the cooking process. Pat the cloves dry. Add minced garlic and a pinch of salt to a mini-food processor and chop fine. Add two egg yolks, lemon juice, white pepper, and pinch of paprika. Turn processor on and slowly drizzle in olive oil to make a thick mayonnaise. Correct the seasoning with extra salt, pepper, optional mustard and extra lemon juice as required and process again. Cool in refrigerator for two or more hours before using.

If the sauce breaks while making, for any reason, add an additional egg yolk and reprocess until thick.

Mostarda Ala Stefano (Mustard Relish)

This recipe was inspired by a picture appearing in the Cooking of Italy of a Cremona factory Mostarda, a Lombardy relish resembling chutney that is flavored with mustard oil. This flavor, however, was adapted from my Mango-jalapeno chutney. This is a very colorful eye-appealing mixture that can perk up a plate nicely.

Italian Mostarda is fruit with grapes preserved in syrup that gains quite a kick from a healthy jolt of powdered mustard seed, and is one of the standard condiments served with boiled meats in northern Italy. Found all over Northern Italy, the best known variation is that from Cremona (Mostarda di Cremona), which is also produced commercially. The true Mostarda is made from the grape "must" in the late fall and is characterized by the presence of candied fruit in a spicy syrup. This is somewhat different but delicious.

1 cup water
1/3 cup fine red wine vinegar
½ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup Molasses
1/3 cup Dark Karo syrup
Powdered ginger
1 tablespoon dry hot mustard
White pepper
Pinch of salt
Ground cloves
Small pinch cinnamon
Chopped Dried apricots
Golden raisins
Black Raisins
Dried cranberries
Small boiled white onions (fork tender)
Oil cured pitted black olives (optional)
White grapes
Black grapes
Red grapes
Lemon juice for one lemon
Maraschino Cherries

Add liquid ingredients and spices to a saucepan. Bring to boil. Then cool to warm before combining with ingredients.

Toss in stainless steel bowl. Toss well. Wait ½ hour. Taste for seasonings. If not spicy, salty, hot, sweet, sour enough, correct seasoning accordingly. This needs to be tossed for three or more hours (overnight is good) and should be best served warm. If preparing a day ahead refrigerate but remove and return to room temperature several hours before serving with main course.

Serve at the table in decorative Italian dish. Let everybody help themselves. Goes well with paella, Italian style cured meats, steak, lamb, or pork.

  1. I have seen recipes that claim the right ingredients or amounts are such-and-such. I venture there are no "correct" or "exact" anything when it comes to recipes that are handed down for decades or more. It is made from one or more available seasonal fruits. Mostarda di Cremona is a fruited mustard, like a chutney. It is made in Cremona, Lombardy on the River Po.
  2. The fruits can be whole, sliced or chopped, but they are usually peeled first, then simmered in sugar water.
  3. Types include: Agrumi is made from whole citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons and tangerines;
  4. Mostarda di Cremona Frutta Mista is made from mixed fruits such as apples, lemons, oranges, pears and tangerines;
  5. Mostarda di Mantova is made with apples
  6. Mostarda di Milano is made with citrus fruit and cherries. Mostarda di Milano is made with citrus fruit and cherries
  7. The taste combination of sweet, sour and spicy may date this back to Romans.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Spanish Chicken and Seafood Paella

Paella is a traditional dish of Valencia Spain. Authentic “arroz en paella” calls for the right pan and a thin blanket of special rice, which develops a crispy coating in contact with an enlarged cooking surface. To the natives of Spain, the most salient feature is what happens to the rice – the star of the show. As more mouths appear, the pan grows in girth rather than height. This is to preserve that contact surface. The larger the pan, the more attention is needed while cooking this (and the more heat). For pans over 26 inches, the usual heat source is a fire pit with a ring that holds the pan, and the pan is continuously tended until it is done.
This dish is as much a visual work of art as food. Taking the time to make this for your guest will leave them with a life memory they will never forget.

If you have never made paella, read the whole recipe to get an idea of the flow. The preparation time for this dish is considerable but the results are extraordinary. If you are looking for an inexpensive dish, this is not it! Despite the preparation time, the dish is easy to make if you pay attention. Most likely, you will need to span two burners on your stove and in doing so, you will need to move the pan around and rotate it as it cooks. Traditionally, paella pans are very thin to quickly transfer the heat, which makes them quick to burn if you are not paying attention. I use a very heavy cast iron skillet, which means I need to turn it less often but it retains a lot of heat so I anticipate temperature rise. The use of gas allows me to turn off and on the heat source as required.

You will need a large roll of heavy tin foil to make a cover for the 14-inch pan, use four large identical square pieces. Fold all pieces along one edge twice to join and form a middle seam. Prepare this ahead of time so when you need to cover the pan, it will be ready. When the cover is put on, you need two glove-type potholders to get an effective seal. Be careful not to dip your pot holder into the stock while doing this or you may bet a nasty steam burn.

Fish Stock
Fish heads from a nice variety of fish, shells from shrimp, shells from lobster, yellow onion chopped coarsely, two stalks celery, 2 whole carrot chopped, 2 cloves of garlic, and 10 cups of reduced homemade chicken stock, 2 cup dry white wine, 10 bay leaves, and cook 1 hour. Finely strain. Reduce to 8 cups. Let stand. Skim off any film forming on the surface. Absorb excess oil with paper towels dipped on top. For best results, make chicken stock yourself with little or no salt. Correct seasoning only after everything is reduced!  (Take a sample of the stock in a ladle; add a pinch of salt and taste to see how you have done.

Main Ingredients
22 mussels in their shells.
22 small manila or littleneck clams or 30~40 large cockles
20 large shrimp or mantis shrimp
6 scampi whole and intact (see picture)
20 scallops
1 pacific lobster tail, cut up
Optional Spanish Chorizo Sausages (if you have non meat eaters, cook these separate and served on the side or skip them)
2 Pounds chicken wings4 and legs or some of both
1 1/2 large Spanish (yellow) onion, chopped
1 cup sliced Scallions (green onions) (separate whites and greens. Cook whites with the other diced onions)
1 pound small squid, skinned, cleaned, discard tentacles/ sacs, remove cuttlebones, and cut into rings about ¼ inch wide
Two blue crabs or lobsters for décor
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 chopped fire roasted red pimentos or fire roasted red bell peppers
3 cups Callasparra Bomba rice1
1/8 teaspoon powdered saffron
1~2 teaspoon pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika aka Pimenton de La Vera)
Salt and pepper
6~8 cups fish-chicken stock (see recipe) – Extra as required
5 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
Olive oil
4 red Jalapeno peppers (for color on top)

Chopped Cilantro
Scallion (green onions) tops from above main ingredients
Lemon wedges
Spanish Aioli Mayonnaise (see recipe)

Heat barbecue. Pierce pimientos or red peppers with a fork. Roast peppers 4 minutes on a side until skins are black. (You can use a plumber torch to touch us spots that did not roast which will make them easier to peel.) Place cooked peppers in brown paper bag and set aside to cool (20 minutes). When cool, using your hands, rub off skins discarding all black skins. Discard seeds and inner white parts. Slice pimientos or peppers into ¼ strips. Cross slice pimientos to half length. Set aside for later.

Place a large pot of water to boil, which will be used to scald the crabs or cook the lobsters.

Scrub the clams and mussels well to remove beards and barnacles. Discard any with broken shells or those that do not close when tapped (just use live ones). Leave the mussels and clams to soak in cold unsalted water with a handful of flour or cornmeal for 30 minutes. Change water and cornmeal and repeat 30 minutes, drain, rinse, in cold water.  Remove the heads and legs from the shrimp, but leave on the tip of the tail shells. Scald crabs in boiling hot water for two minutes if live.  Remove crabs from pot with tongs retaining pot of boiling water for the sausage. If preparing lobster, cook lobster 10 minutes until done, and then drain. Bring fish-stock to a low simmer. Cover stock for later use.

Preheat oven to 220 to keep ingredients warm during assembly, as required.

Slice sausage length-wise. Drop sliced sausage in a pot filled with boiling with water.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Cut into slices one inch-thick. Fry in pan with a little oil. Remove to paper towels to drain. Keep warm (oven).

Pat dry the chicken and season it with salt and pepper. In a 14-inch or larger paella pan, heat the oil on high.  Add the chicken to the skillet, cook it for 10-15 minutes on each side, or until it is golden. Remove to paper towels to drain. Keep warm.  Pour out excess oil, retaining 3 tablespoon.

Meanwhile, pat dry the shrimp, scallops, and calamari rings. When the oil is hot, sauté the shrimp, calamari and scallops until almost cooked through, about 2 min. Season with salt, pepper, and paprika. Remove to paper towels to drain. Keep warm.

Bring the prepared stock back to a low boil. Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and sauté the onion until the onion softens and clears, about 5 min. Add garlic and the tomato, season with salt, a little more pimentón and sauté until the mixture, called the sofrito, has darkened and is a thick purée, 10 to 15 min. Stir frequently to insure mixture does not burn.

When the tomato-onion sofrito is ready, add the rice to the pan. Sauté until the rice loses its opaqueness, about 2 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high. Add saffron.  Pour in 4 1/2 cups of the simmering broth (reserving the balance). Stir or shake the pan to evenly distribute the rice in the pan.

As the liquid comes to a boil, arrange the mussels, chicken, sausage and clams in the pan, submerging them as much as possible below the level of the liquid. Add red pimentos or red bell peppers on top.  Arrange the shrimp and scallops, and calamari in the pan. Center small crab(s) or lobster on top in middle. Add roasted peppers on top. From this point on, do not stir the rice.
Cook the paella on medium-high, rotating and moving the pan over two burners to distribute the heat. Use tongs to examine the rice by pealing back an edge of the tin foil.  When the rice begins to appear above the liquid, after 8 to 10 min., reduce the heat to medium low. Continue to simmer, rotating the pan as necessary, until the liquid has been absorbed, about 10 min. more. Taste a grain of rice just below the top layer; it should be “al dente”. If the rice is not done but all the liquid has been absorbed, ladle a bit of hot stock around the pan and cook a few minutes more.

Sprinkle chopped green onions tops on top of the paella. Cover pan with tin foil lid prepared ahead of time. Using glove pot holders, squeeze tin foil to edge to form some what of a seal. A 100% seal in not required. Cook gently for another 3 min. to help ensure that the top layer of rice is evenly cooked. With the foil still in place, increase the heat to medium-high and, rotating the pan, cook for about 2 min., until the bottom layer of rice starts to caramelize, creating the socarrat, a caramelized layer. The rice may crackle somewhat, but if it starts burning, remove the pan from the heat immediately. (Getting the caramelized layer exactly right comes with considerable experience. You have to stay right on top on it checking often. It is far better to be under cooked than burnt!)

Let the paella rest off the heat, still covered, for 5 min. Sit everyone down at a round or square table. Keep your face away when you remove the foil as considerable steam could be emitted.  Serve the paella in its pan garnished with cilantro and lemon wedges.

Serve Spanish aioli  on the side along with a Lombardy Mostarda relish.

Purchase ingredients the several days in advance to save wear and tear on the chef.
Prep Time: Allow 3 hours, Cooking Time: allow 1 hour 15 minutes

Pan Sizes
1 cup = 14.44 cubic inches
For a 14-inch pan (27 cups), cups all based on 2/12 height.
For a 16-inch pan (34.8 cups), multiply the recipe amounts by 1 1/4
For an 18-inch pan (44 cups), multiply the recipe amounts by 1 1/2
For a 22-inch pan (65 cups), multiply the recipe amounts by 2
For a 26 -inch pan (92 cups)-, multiply the recipe amounts by 3

For Paella supplies see  http://www.tienda.com/paella/paella.html     All the best ingredients to make authentic paella - you can also get pre-assembled kits with many of the things you may need.


1.      See Bomba & Calasparra Paella Rice Paella Rice below

  1. Fresh Scampi are kept on ice and handy until near the end. Take care not to knock off their claws

  1. Buying seafood: Unless money is no object, shopping at the Asian market for the seafood can save you a lot of money. The Asians are sticklers for fresh or live product and carry a wide assortment of shellfish.

  1. Use center sections of chicken wings (these are called the “flats”.
 Callasparra Bomba Paella Rice

Each year a precious amount of the very best rice in Spain is cultivated in the village of Calasparra in the neighboring region of Murcia. The producers grow two historic varieties – Sollana (called Calasparra rice), and the coveted Bomba, which was nearly extinct until gourmet chefs recently recognized its superior qualities for producing the perfect paella.  Both types of rice are cultivated by hand in rice paddies along the banks of the Segura River. With little more than 1,700 acres a year, Calasparra produces just one half of 1% of Spain's rice production. The townspeople protect its quality by obeying rigorous DOC standards. Their Bomba and Sollana rice are the only ones in Spain awarded this distinction. What makes this rice special and worth the money you pay is its unique ability to remain “al dente” in the face of all that mashing around in liquid as it cooks. No other rice can take this treatment as well. The grain is much harder than any other variety in the world, thus allowing it to absorb more liquid (and thus flavor!) This rice maintains its consistency even under extended cooking; it never becomes sticky, fluffy, or mushy.

Figure 1 Mantis (Left) and Scampi (right) Shrimp

Here is another version with lobster: