Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pasta with mushrooms and braised celery in blue-cheese sauce

This makes about 2 adult servings:

1/2 lb. pasta (I used whole-wheat spaghetti)
good handful of fresh mushrooms, cleaned and quartered (I used cremini)
much smaller handful of dried mushrooms (I used porcini)
about 1 TBSP oil
4-5 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1-2 TBSP butter
good splash of white wine
2 TBSP a strong blue cheese, crumbled
a good glug of heavy cream (maybe 1/4 cup)
grated parmesan or pecorino cheese

1. About 15-20 minutes before you're going to start cooking, bring about 2/3 cup of water to boil separately (or heat it in microwave) and pour over dried mushrooms in a small heatproof bowl. Go find something else to do for a little while.

2. Back in the kitchen, set pasta water to boil. Heat a little oil (light olive oil or a neutral oil like canola - no reason to use the extra-virgin olive oil here) in a sauté pan — you can either use a small one for the mushrooms and avoid all the cooling-the-pan-down worries in the next step (but have an extra dish to wash), or the large one with a lid you're going to be braising the celery in. Once the oil is very hot, almost smoking, add the mushrooms and cook for a few minutes until nicely colored. Remove mushrooms from pan and reserve.

3. If you're using one pan, you're going to need to cool it down between cooking the mushrooms (which require high heat so they don't release all their juices) and adding the butter (which we don't want to scorch). Hold it off the heat for a minute, and add the celery first (this will cool the pan a bit). Give the celery a good stir, return the pan to the heat, and then add the butter. If you're using two pans, just heat your braising pan over medium heat, melt the butter, and add celery once butter is melted.

4. Cook the celery over medium heat until somewhat browned, stirring occasionally. Turn up the heat a bit, add the white wine, and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.

5. Once wine has almost boiled away, strain the liquid that the dried mushrooms have been soaking in directly into the pan. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for at least 10 minutes, checking periodically to make sure the liquid doesn't evaporate completely (if it does, add a bit of pasta-cooking water). Meanwhile, chop rehydrated mushrooms roughly, and add to reserved cooked mushrooms.

6. At some point the pasta water will come to a boil (if this happens before you've started braising the celery, turn heat off and bring it back to the boil after the celery is braising). Add pasta, cooking according to package directions (though I usually shorten the cooking time by a few minutes).

7. A minute or two before the pasta is done, add both mushrooms and the blue cheese, give a good stir, then add the cream and heat, stirring, until a cohesive sauce forms.

8. Reserve a cup or so of pasta cooking water, then drain pasta. Add pasta to pan and toss, adding a bit of reserved pasta cooking water if necessary to thin sauce.

9. Top with grated cheese, if desired.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pasta with garlic-braised cabbage and sausage

Like many of the recipes here at Domestic Left, this is an after-the-fact scribing of something I made a bit on the fly. The ratios I used tonight were:

about half of a small (maybe 6" diameter) green cabbage
3 medium-sized cloves of garlic
1/2 pound pasta (whole-wheat spaghetti in this case)
3 bratwurst (probably should have just used 2)

You'll also need:

olive oil

1. Cut cabbage into wedges through the center, so that a portion of the core holds each wedge together. Peel the garlic cloves and cut into largish chunks (about 1/4" cubes).

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Meanwhile, heat a decent amount of olive oil in a small sauce pan over very low heat.

3. Once water has boiled, add cabbage wedges to water and, at the same time, garlic chunks to oil. Boil cabbage for about 10 minutes, poach garlic in oil over low heat for about the same time.

4. Remove cabbage wedges from water with tongs; return water to boil. Strain garlic-oil into large skillet, reserving garlic chunks. Slice some bratwurst or other sausage into thin slices on a bias.

5. Heat skillet over medium-high heat until oil is hot, then brown sausage slices well on each side (amek sure to cook through if using raw sausage). Remove sausage and reserve, and pour off any excess fat. While sausage is cooking, chop blanched cabbage.

6. Return skillet to heat, add cabbage, and brown well, seasoning with salt and pepper. Return cabbage-blanching water to boil, and, when boiling, add pasta and cook according to package directions (though generally I take a few minutes off the package directions to ensure al-dente-ness).

7. Once cabbage in skillet has browned well, add a bit of pasta-cooking water to deglaze the pan. Add reserved garlic chunks and sausages to the skillet, reduce heat to low and cook through to blend flavors.

8. When pasta is done, reserve a cup or so of cooking liquid then drain the pasta. Add pasta to skillet, add some of the reserved pasta-water if dry, and serve.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

My new go-to pizza dough recipe

Shown here with tonight's offerings — for the kids, ham & mango; for the adults, ham, blue cheese, sautéed shallots and toasted pine nuts.

Recently I've been playing around a lot with the "no-knead bread" that is probably now an overplayed fad. The NY Times version of the recipe does indeed make a loaf with a "crisp crust and large, well-structured crumb," and it's pretty easy, but (a) it requires a Dutch oven, and my dark Calphalon one burns the crust a bit, and (b) it makes a great round loaf, which is great for parties etc. but no so much for the daily requirements of a family (i.e., slicing for sandwiches when the school lunch is deemed disgusting by your 9 and/or 11 year old). And while it makes a nice pizza crust, it's a bit difficult to handle on account of how wet the dough is.

I've had some success with Mark Bittman's faster, whole-wheat version — in fact, I quite like it a lot and my daughter seems to find it perfectly acceptable sandwich bread — but it does make kind of a dense loaf, and the spouse has used the word "veto" recently in reference to it.

I've found that by decreasing the water and increasing the flour slightly, you can get a dough that is just stiff enough to knead and shape, which can be used to make baguettes, bigger loafs or pizza dough. The idea of adding some rye flour to pizza dough came from the first decent baker to open an artisanal bakery in my hometown in the late 80s. Also, if you didn't plan 18 hours in advance, increasing the yeast a bit to compensate is fine for a pizza dough at least. Here's the starting-in-the-morning version I made today:

1. In the morning, before kids leave for school, mix together 3 cups white flour, 1/4 cup rye flour, 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp yeast in a medium-to-large mixing bowl. Mix in 1 1/2 cups water until a rough dough forms, cover with plastic wrap and put in a warmish place to rise (I put in on top of the fridge)

2. If you get the dough made by 8am, it should be ready to roll out by 5pm. Preheat oven to 450 degrees, with a pizza stone in if you have one. Turn out the dough onto a well-floured countertop and knead briefly. Divide in half, and roll out each half into a 15"-diameter round. Place rounds on sheets of parchment paper if using pizza stone or onto baking sheets if not.

3. Put toppings on pizzas, and bake each one for 10-15 minutes, until crust is done and cheese develops brown spots.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Roasted vegetable "poutine" with soy-squash gravy

At the gym the other day I was reading Calvin Trillin's article on poutine in the New Yorker, and, looking through my pantry and refrigerator for something to make for lunch later in the day, thought I would try my hand at a less-heart-attack-inducing version thereof.

For folks unfamiliar with this Quebecois dish (now, apparently, becoming popular outside la belle province) it is, in its proper form, nothing more than french fries topped with cheddar-cheese curds and then drowned in a thin brown meaty gravy (i.e., carbohydrates topped with fat and drenched in salt). Not something you'd normally make at home, but figuring that oven-roasted root vegetables have lots of the same qualities as french fries, and having on hand lots of potatoes, carrots and Shelburne Farms cheddar (courtesy of a holiday basket delivered to every family at my kids' school), I thought I would give it a shot.

I also had on hand some butternut-squash "stock," a by-product of making a butternut squash soup a week ago. From Cook's Illustrated, one of the best ways of getting a good, pure, squashy soup is to, instead of using either flavorless water or non-squash-flavored stock, reserve the seeds and strings from your squash, sauté them in a little butter for a good several minutes, then add water, simmer for 10-20 minutes, and strain. Even if you don't go to this trouble, it's always worth saving the strings & seeds from a butternut squash to add to onions, etc. when making homemade veggie stock (that is, if you make such).

So, without further ado, the recipe:

1. Cut up some potatoes and carrots - leaving the potato chunks fairly large but cutting the carrots smaller, because they are slower to cook. Also chop up an onion or two. Toss all together with some fat (home-rendered lard, bacon fat or suet is really tasty here if you have it, but olive oil is fine too), a bit of salt and a good amount of black pepper.

2. Put in roasting pan and roast at 425 degrees for about an hour, tossing a couple of times.

3. Meanwhile, cut up some cheddar into chunks if you don't have cheddar curds on hand.

4. Make the gravy: melt about 1 tsp butter in a small saucepan, and add 1-2 tsp flour. Cook over medium heat, stirring to mix thoroughly, until nutty-brown and fragrant.

5. Add 1 cup squash stock (or veggie stock made with squash innards, or just veggie stock, or really any stock you have on hand - just avoid super-salty canned stock or brother). Whisk to incorporate all of the butter-flour mixture, then bring to a simmer, add a good splash of soy sauce and cook for 10-20 minutes until slightly thickened (it should be just a bit thicker than water). Taste and add more soy sauce if necessary.

6. When vegetables are well-roasted, remove to serving dishes and sprinkle cheddar curds or cubes over. Add a splash of sherry to the pan and scrape up the browned bits; add this mixture to the gravy. Heat gravy for another minute or two, then pour over the vegetables and cheese.

Serve with plenty of bread to sop up the tasty gravy.