Who's the Baketard?

Why Baketard? Love to cook, hate to bake. Despite having gone to cooking school and working in some top kitchens, I never learned the baking side of things. I'm building my baking and photography skills, while sharing recipes that rock my world in the mean time.

Sunday
Mar102013

Torta Della Nonna

Earlier this year, I talked about my cooking trip to Sichuan and the great friendships I made while studying there. One of my fellow students is a journalist, and he wrote a fantastic article for this morning’s Boston Globe. Another is a retired university professor living in China for a year with his wife (who is teaching at the University), and the third, a retired exec from a large international accounting firm. The latter came to Seattle last weekend to stay with us and meet David for the first time. His only instructions were, “Rather than going out to dinner, let’s cook together. You invite your c*ntiest gays, and I’ll do the same when you come to Florida in March”.

I can do that. Game. ON!

Since we spent two weeks cooking Chinese food together, and have both burned out our respective husbands with Sichuan fare since returning to the US, I decided to cook Italian for him.  With the exception of the appetizer tartlets I mentioned recently, every dish came from Nancy Silverton’s Mozza cookbook, with which I am completely OBSESSED. We have used this book in the past for our cookbook club, where every dish blew our minds.

For this occasion with my friend, we started with the tartlets, moved on to a beautiful take on a caprese salad with burrata, pesto, pine nuts and oven-roasted tomatoes, made a pasta dish with homemade sausage, herbs and fennel pollen, and taking the main stage, a stuffed quail agrodolce dish my friend Becky took over and rocked. (It’s always to have a chef friend over for a dinner party. Especially when they ALSO meet the aforementioned “c*nty gay” requirement). I'll be blogging about the quail dish for sure.  This night was one of those perfect dinner parties for a host, where every dish outshone the last,...culminating in this cheese-filled Torta. This is, for me, the most intricate dessert I’ve ever made successfully to the point I’d call it a “10”, other than that Pastel de Tres Leches cake, which was also a bitch to make.

No weird substitutions or anything here, since it is a dreaded baking recipe. I did find unbleached pastry flour but I had to look for a while to find it. I didn’t find the Italian leavening at either of the Italian delis in town, so I used the baking soda/powder mixture and it worked great. I had to search for honeycomb, but if you have a grocery store with a good cheese selection, they're likely to sell it. (For Seattleites, I got it at the University Village QFC). This dessert looks so impressive with the cheesecake topped with the individual cookies and honeycomb. It’s definitely one I will make again, but there’s a significant time investment here.

Cooling the torta and the cookies

This dinner party involved lots of Negronis, many bottles of red and white wine, and we served the last of my homemade Arancello with dessert. After many jokes, puns and jabs at one another to accompany the food and wine, everyone stumbled their happy asses home. As my friend swerved downstairs to the guest room, he gave the concession I was waiting to hear: “Your friends are WAY c*ntier than mine”.

Well done, people.

Well done.

Torta Della Nonna

From Mozza, by Nancy Silverton and Matt Molina

Ingredients

For the crust:

11/2 cups unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1/4 teaspoon Italian leavening, such as Bench Mate, Pane Angel, or Rebecchi, or 1/8 teaspoon baking soda and 1/8 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of kosher salt

4 extra- large egg yolks

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (if not using Italian leavening)

All-purpose flour, for dusting

Unsalted butter, for the pan

1 extra- large egg white

1/3 cup toasted pine nuts

For the filling:

10 ounces Philadelphia style cream cheese

1 cup mild- flavored fresh goat cheese, such as Coach Farms goat cheese

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup mascarpone cheese

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all- purpose

flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 extra- large eggs

1 cup sugar

11/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For serving the tart:

Honeycomb

Two types of single- flower honeys, such as chestnut honey and wildflower honey

Cooking Directions

To make the crust, combine the flour, confectioners' sugar, butter, leavening, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, and mix on low speed until the butter and dry ingredients form a coarse cornmeal consistency, about 2 minutes. Add the egg yolks and vanilla, if you are using it, and mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Dust a flat work surface with flour and turn the dough out onto it. Knead the dough for a few minutes until it comes together into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour and up to three days; or freeze it for up to two months. (Defrost the dough overnight in the refrigerator.)

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Dust a flat work surface with flour, cut the dough into chunks, and knead the dough on the countertop to soften it, until it is the texture of Play- Doh. Cut off a 1/3 cup portion (about 3.2 ounces) of dough, wrap it in plastic wrap and return it to the refrigerator.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, butter the inside of an 11- inch flan ring, and place the ring on the baking sheet. Remove the remaining dough from the refrigerator. Dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour and roll the dough out to 2 inches larger than the ring, and to a thickness of 1/8 to 1/4 inch. Gently fold the dough in quarters and place it on top of the flan ring, placing the point in the center and gently unfolding the dough so the ends are flopped over the ring. Gently push the dough down to fit inside the ring, pressing into the crease around the inside circumference so the dough fits snugly against the corners and sides. (Don't stretch the dough to fit or it will shrink during baking.) Dip the knuckle of your index finger in flour and use it to press the dough into the crease to create a straight edge, not sloping sides. Roll the rolling pin over the top of the flan ring to cut the dough. Pull off the trimmed dough and discard. Place the tart shell in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes and up to one day.

Remove the 1/3 cup of dough from the refrigerator and place it between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll it into an 8-inch circle about 1/16 inch thick. Place the dough sandwiched between the parchment paper on a baking sheet and put it in the freezer to chill until it is firm but not frozen, about 30 minutes.

Adjust the oven rack so it is in the lowest position and preheat the oven to 350ºF and line another separate baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove the sheet of dough that you rolled very thinly from the freezer, lay it on a flat work surface, remove the top sheet of parchment paper, and use the 8-inch ring to cut a circle out of the dough, working quickly so that it stays cold. Pull away and discard the scraps of dough around the circle and cut the circle into eight or ten equal wedges as you would a pie— however many servings you want the tart to make. Still working quickly, use a metal spatula to carefully lift the wedges one at a time and place them on the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each. Brush the wedges with the egg white. Scatter 2 tablespoons of the pine nuts over the wedges, dividing them evenly, and gently press the nuts into the wedges to make sure they adhere; reserve the remaining pine nuts for serving with the tart.

Bake the wedges until they're golden brown, about 8 minutes, rotating the pan in the middle of the baking time so the cookies brown evenly. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place it on a wire cooling rack until the wedges cool, and dust them lightly with powdered sugar.

To make the filling, combine the cream cheese, goat cheese, butter, and mascarpone in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until the ingredients are combined and the mixture is smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula occasionally, about 2 minutes. Add the flour and salt, mix on low speed to incorporate, and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Combine the eggs and sugar in the bowl you mixed the cheeses in. (There's no need to wash the bowl.) Exchange the paddle attachment for the whisk attachment on your mixer and beat the eggs and sugar together until the eggs are thick and fluffy and the sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat just to incorporate. Gently fold one- third of the egg mixture into the cheese, using the flat side of a spatula to smash the cheese and break up the density of the cheese with the egg. Add another third of the egg mixture, folding it in with a light hand so the eggs stay light and fluffy. Fold in the remaining egg mixture, mixing until the ingredients are combined but there are still visible lumps of cheese in the mix. (The filling can be made up to four days in advance. Transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate until you are ready to bake the tart.)

Remove the tart shell from the refrigerator and pour the filling into the shell to fill it 1/8 inch from the top. (You may not use all of it but you don't want to overfill the ring; discard the excess.) Place the baking sheet with the tart on it in the oven to bake for about 40 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through the baking time for even browning, until the filling is set and the top is golden brown. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and set it aside to cool slightly. Cut the tart into the same number of wedges that you cut cookie wedges. You can serve the tart warm, or set it aside to cool to room temperature. (To rewarm the tart, place the whole tart or individual slices on a baking sheet and put it in a 350ºF oven until it is warmed through; about 5 minutes for slices, about 15 minutes for a whole tart.)

Just before serving, place the cookie wedges on the tart with the outside edges of the cookies about 1 inch from the edge of the tart. Lift the flan ring off the tart. Use a large knife to cut between the cookies, creating even slices using the cookies as a guide. Use a metal spatula to carefully transfer each wedge to a dessert plate. Spoon 1 teaspoon of honeycomb on one side of each wedge. Spoon 1 teaspoon of each of the two honeys into circles about the size of silver dollars on either side of each wedge. Scatter a few of the reserved pine nuts in the center of each pool of honey, but not the honeycomb, and serve.

Thursday
Feb282013

Chile Verde

February in Seattle usually involves two things: Rain and Clouds. Oh, and more rain. It’s bleak, and it makes me want to stay home in bed, lazing around with my dogs. It provides the perfect excuse for comfort food, too.

THIS, my friends, is comfort food.

I spent last week at a business conference in Phoenix. While I hated to spend any money supporting the tourist industry of the state with the most batshit-crazy Governor, and in a city with the most racist Sheriff in the nation, I loved the conference (great opportunity to network and to see old friends from all over the world) and I ADORE Southwestern food.

We ate well: We had dinner at Jose Garces’ new restaurant, Distrito. He makes incredible modern Mexican fare, and every bite was perfection. Thanks to recommendations from many of my friends, we also arrived early one afternoon to try the pizza at Pizzeria Bianco. This place is known for a long wait, but it truly is the best pizza I think I’ve ever eaten. It’s worth enduring the line to get in. Finally, we ate at an old Southwestern restaurant and had traditional, fiery Carne Adovada with beans and rice. It burned my face off in a good way, and sent me home hungry for more southwestern fare.  Reading through Saveur on the plane, I stumbled across this recipe and it looked so great I made it as soon as I got home. Carne Adovada is next on my list.

This Chile Verde recipe has heat to it for sure, but not unbearably so. It’s absolutely delicious and I hope you like it as much as we did. I doubled the batch—but it didn’t last long. Great heat, killer comfort food, and the tomatillos fill your mouth with a nice fiery tang. Speaking of which, tell your mom "hey" for me...

Chile Verde

SERVES 4-6

INGREDIENTS

¼ cup canola oil

2 lb. boneless pork shoulder, cut into ½" cubes

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

½ cup flour

8 oz. ground breakfast sausage

2 tbsp. ground cumin

1 tbsp. green chile powder

1 dried pasilla chile, stemmed, seeded, and chopped

½ cup chopped scallions

12 tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and finely chopped

2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped

2 serrano chiles, stemmed and finely chopped

2 Anaheim chiles, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped

1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped

2 cups chicken stock

1 (15-oz.) can green enchilada sauce, such as Hatch

Hot sauce, for serving

Roughly torn cilantro leaves, to garnish

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat oil in an 8-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Season pork with salt and pepper; toss with flour. Working in batches, add pork to pan; cook until browned, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; set aside. Add sausage; cook, breaking up with a spoon, until browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer to bowl with pork. Add cumin, chili powder, and pasilla; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add scallions, tomatillos, onions, serranos, Anaheim chiles, and bell pepper; cook until soft, about 15 minutes. Add reserved pork and sausage, stock, and enchilada sauce; cook until pork is tender, about 30 minutes. Garnish with cilantro; serve with hot sauce.

Monday
Feb252013

Flaky Tartlets with Sauteed Leeks, Pancetta and Sage with Madeira-Poached Cherries

Happy Winter!

Posts have been pretty sparse lately, because we’ve been pretty hard core about dieting for the new year. It has been an exercise in creativity making food low in carbs and calories which still tastes good, but it has been easier than I expected it to be. In the past 7 weeks David and I have both dropped about 20 lbs cutting out a lot of the rich food (and booze) which had become our norm. That doesn’t mean we don’t occasionally have a blowout, however, and splurge a little. We had one of those this weekend.

A friend of mine I met on my cooking school trip to China came up from Miami to visit us, and I wanted to be sure I did my job as a good host, ensuring he’d leave stuffed and hung over. Mission accomplished. We did an Italian dinner Saturday night, with most of the dishes coming from Nancy Silverton’s Mozza cookbook. They were all new recipes (to us) and they were all memorable enough, I’ll be putting them up on the blog in the next couple of weeks. A caprese salad made with Burrata, basil pesto, oven-roasted cherry tomatoes and toasted pine nuts. Quail, marinated in an Italian agrodolce, stuffed with pancetta, herbs and onion, wrapped in thinly sliced pancetta and roasted, served over tangy grilled radicchio with honey and fried sage. Roasted broccolini with balsamic and chile, and as a finale, Torta Della Nonna – probably the most ambitious dessert this baketard has ever SUCCESSFULLY made. It was stunning. More to come on all of that…

This starter is one I’ve been making for years, but never got around to posting on the blog. I started making these during culinary school when I was working my externship/stage at the Herbfarm. These pastries were frequent starters on their multi-course menu, they invariably come out flawless, the dough is easy to throw together in a food processor, and they *always* work.  Always. For a pastry recipe to consistently work for me, it’s got to be foolproof. Trust me, you won’t screw this up if you follow the directions. My friend Becky Selengut does a version with Camembert and port-poached cherries. It’s delicious. You can caramelize onions, shallots, leeks—whatever suits your fancy, and add something herby and some dairy to bring it together. The tart shell recipe is consistent, but the filling can change based upon what you have on hand.

Yes, there are three recipes here but my point is they don’t take a ton of work and they’re all do-ahead tasks: The shells can be made ahead and frozen, unbaked. The braiding of the crust takes a little practice but you can always do a simple crimp too. The filling can be made a few days ahead and the cherries can be made up to a month in advance, so this is a great dish for a dinner party or catering. The assembly is relatively quick, and they’re pretty.

I was fortunate enough to have a friend join us for dinner this weekend who is also a food photographer by profession. Her husband was unable to join us (I think he’s either having an affair or he just hates the gays) so I sent home a doggy bag for him. She surprised me Sunday morning with the gorgeous photo above, with a disclaimer that she’d thrown this shot together before letting him at the tarts, and that it was the best she could do at 2am, drunk and stumbling around the house. Girl, if this is your worst, I am even more in awe. Thank you for the thoughtful gift. (You can find more of Kelly’s gorgeous work at www.kclinephotography.com and http://nommynom.com ).

And now, we return to the previously scheduled salads.

Sigh.

Flaky Tartlets with Sauteed Leeks, Pancetta and Sage with Madeira-Poached Cherries

Modified from a recipe in the Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld

Tart Filling:

6 leeks, sliced

4 ounces pancetta, finely diced

¼ cup duck fat or olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 to 3 teaspoons champagne vinegar

¼ cup chicken stock

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup gruyere, grated

½ cup parmesan, grated

 

12 4-inch Flaky Pastry Tart Shells (Recipe Below)

Madeira and Sage Poached Cherries (Recipe Below)

Preparation:

Making the Filling: Slice the leeks, removing the tough green ends and root end (You want to have just the white and pale green parts). Slice in half lengthwise and then thinly slice into half rings. Melt the duck fat or heat olive oil, and cook the diced pancetta, stirring often, in a large skillet over medium heat until almost crisp. Add the leeks, garlic and salt and cook, stirring often until the leeks are very soft, about 10 minutes. Add champagne vinegar, reduce the heat to medium-low, and continue to cook until the wine has evaporated, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any caramelized bits on the bottom of the skillet. Add chicken stock, and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes. Add the crème fraiche, chopped sage, and cheeses and stir until you have a thick, spreadable and unified consistency. Season with pepper and additional salt, if needed. Be sure to taste the mixture before adding additional salt, as the parmesan will add quite a bit to the mixture. (The mixture can be prepared up to 2 days ahead and stored covered in the refrigerator.)

Filling and baking. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Divide the filling among the tart shells and spread it evenly with the back of a spoon. Bake in the upper third of the oven until the filling is set, about 15 minutes. The filling should still be soft but not runny. Let cool slightly, then transfer the tarts to a cutting board using a large spatula. Just before serving, top with 2-3 Madeira and sage poached cherries. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Variations

For large tarts, prebake 2 10-inch Free-Form Tart Shells. Divide the leek mixture between them and bake the tarts until the filling is set in the center, 20 to 25 minutes. Using a large spatula, transfer them to a cutting board and cut each into 12 wedges.

Herb Substitutions

In place of sage, use an equal amount of finely chopped rosemary, marjoram, savory, English thyme, or lemon thyme.

Flaky Pastry Tart Shells:

Makes 12 4-inch shells or 2 10-inch shells

2 cups bleached all-purpose flour (spoon and level; 9 ounces)

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 to 8 tablespoons ice water

Egg wash made with 1 egg yolk and 2 teaspoons water

Preparation:

Place the flour, butter, and salt in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse about 24 times, then open the machine and lift a handful of crumbs. The largest pieces of butter should be the size of raw grains of rice or barley. If there are larger pieces, continue to pulse the mixture. When the butter pieces are the correct size, transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of ice water onto the dough. Spread the fingers of one hand as if you were about to grab a large ball, and using your rigid fingertips as if they were a large fork, stir the dough quickly and briefly until the liquid is incorporated. Squeeze a handful of the dough in your palm. The dough should have just enough moisture to stay together. Break the piece in half. If it seems dry and crumbly, cautiously add more water a few teaspoons at a time until you can squeeze it into a ball that will not crumble when broken apart. If your kitchen is reasonably cool, the butter was cold, and you used ice water, the dough should be at just the right stage of malleability for rolling out, and it will be easiest to work with immediately. If your kitchen is very warm, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for about 15 minutes.

Rolling the dough:

Turn the pastry dough out on a lightly floured board and divide it into quarters for small 7-inch tart shells or in half for large 10-inch shells. Shape 1 piece into a disk and dust the top lightly with flour. Begin to roll out the dough, using quick but gentle strokes with the pin. Start with the pin in the middle of the round and roll to the top, then to the bottom. Rotate the dough 1/4 turn each time you roll to be sure the dough is not sticking and use additional flour as necessary. When the round is larger than 9 inches for a small tart, or 12 inches for a large tart, and about 1/8 inch thick, turn a 9- or 12-inch plate or bowl upside down on the dough as a template and cut around it with a sharp knife. Remove the plate or bowl.

Forming the edge:

Fold 1/2-inch edge of dough all around to form a decorative rim. Begin by folding a 1-inch-long section over by 1/2 inch, then overlap the fold by half and roll another piece of dough over, pinching it firmly in place. Continue to roll and pinch, and a twisted rope pattern will. Form. Roll out the remaining dough and crimp the edges in the same manner. Transfer the pastry shells to baking sheets lined with parchment paper and poke the interior of the shells all over with the tines of a fork. Refrigerate the pastry for at lest 30 minutes or up to 24 hours. If you wish, you can freeze the shells on the baking sheets, and when they are frozen, stack them inside freezer bags. Bake the shells without defrosting first.

Prebaking:

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Brush the rims of the tarts with egg wash. Bake the tart shells (1 baking sheet at a time) for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350°F and continue to bake until they are an even golden brown, 8 to 12 minutes longer. Lift a shell with a spatula and check that the underside is evenly brown. If the tart shells puff up during baking, press down the center of the pastry with the back of a large spoon. Let cool on the baking sheet.

Madeira and Sage Poached Cherries

1 cup dried cherries

2 cups Madeira

¼ cup sugar

1 bunch sage

Preparation:

Place all ingredients into small saucepan, stirring occasionally and simmering until cherries are plump and liquid is reduced by 2/3, about 30 minutes. Liquid should be thick and there should be just enough left to coat the cherries. Remove the sage sprigs and store in a covered container in the refrigerator, up to one month.

 

Sunday
Jan202013

Liquore di Anice Arancia (Blood Orange and Star Anise Liqueur)

It’s that time of year when we’re on our New Year Diet Plan, so not a whole lot of food or new dishes to blog about. Who wants to hear about salads, salads and more salads? Salad is what FOOD eats. Lots of stir fries (one with Dan Dan flavors may be worth blogging about later), chicken and seafood dishes. Meh. We have pretty much gone dry in the process too, which has been easier than I thought. With all this healthy crap, I’ve been twitchy on the weekends. Saturdays are usually when I go nuts on the more time-consuming meals, fresh pastas, more interesting sauces,…you know. Fun-cooking!

A couple of weeks ago I was digging through the refrigerator, trying to find something interesting and healthy (oxymoron) to do with broccoli, and stumbled across the last few drops of Liquore di Anice Arancia, an orange and star anise liqueur we brought home from Italy earlier this year.  It was the most amazing thing either of us had ever tasted, but we didn’t bring home much in the way of souvenirs and the bottle we did bring home was quickly shared with friends and gone. I saved the bottle in the freezer, just so I wouldn’t forget about it and in case I could coerce one of my traveling friends to bring back a bottle if ever I ran into anyone going to the Amalfi coast.

Our friend Judy, whose blog Over A Tuscan Stove provides constant inspiration, was helping me with a purchase I was trying to negotiate from here and I mentioned the liquor. When I showed her the label, she clarified that what I loved so much was the faint star anise note in the background of the drink, and that it would be child’s play to make at home. She also advised me to get the purest alcohol I could procure, so I ordered a big jug of Everclear online.

What the hell, right? Another new (to me) website I’m really enjoying is La Tavola Marche, from which the Rosemary and Lavender Cake I mentioned in my last post originated. They have a recipe for a Blood Orange Arancello, so I figured it would be pretty simple to add the star anise, triple the recipe and make it my own…..hoping it would taste like what remember.

We finished the liquor last night, and you know what? It tastes EXACTLY like what we remember! This is most definitely a recipe I'll repeat until they wheel my poor, pickled corpse away. Fortunately, in the meantime we have enough orangy, boozy goodness to last at least a week when we’re off these damned diets.

A few notes about the recipe: You will need to skin the oranges carefully, with a very sharp knife. You don’t want to get the bitter pith in with the peel. It took me about 45 minutes to fully peel 20 blood oranges and remove any last bits of pith. Consider it a labor of love. When storing this mixture, both throughout the process and when you have assembled the simple syrup with the infused alcohol, store it in a cool, dry place. The amount of simple syrup used here makes for a liqueur which goes down pretty smoothly. If you want it a little bit boozier, reduce the syrup mixture at the end.

Liquore di Anice Arancia (Blood Orange and Star Anise Liqueur)

Adapted and shared with permission from the kind folks at La Tavola Marche

The two week boozy peel soak

Ingredients

1.75 liters Everclear, or as close as you can find to pure grain alcohol. In a pinch, use vodka. 1.75 liters is the huge handled jug. (For professional drinkers)

The skin of 20 blood oranges. 

10-12 (about ¼ cup) star anise

1.75 kilo (3.85 lbs) granulated sugar

3 liters (~12 ½ cups) water

Preparation:

In a large jar with a lid, soak the orange-rind peels and star anise in the alcohol and leave in a cool dark place for about 14 days.

After it has sat for 14 days or so, filter the rinds from the alcohol. Boil the water & sugar, making a simple syrup, stirring to dissolve all the sugar in the water. Then add the orange flavored alcohol. Bottle.

Arancello, like limoncello will last a year or more in proper storage.

If the alcohol is too strong, it is also nice to serve it with a drop of heavy cream or dollop of whipped cream atop - then it is referred to as Crema di Arancello.

 

Wednesday
Jan022013

Chicken Crostone with Liver and Pancetta Sauce, and Rosemary Cake with Lavender Glaze

Happy New Year!

It’s the time of year when we all have to sit back, reflect on the past 365 days, cringe at the weight we gained over the holidays and make a bunch of healthy eating resolutions we will keep for precisely 16 days before we say, “Screw it” and go out for Mexican food after a rough day at work.

We just got back from a holiday trip to Mexico with friends where we ate too much, drank too much, and came back bloated and full of self-loathing (Ah, holidays). Fortunately, I convinced our trainer Anna the Horrible to help us with our New Year’s fitness challenge this time, so hopefully we’ll make it past the 16-day mark because this time we have greater incentive.  Here’s the deal: We want a 3-month challenge. There are four of us who train with her, all of whom want to lose some weight before the summer so we don’t have to go swimming in t-shirts, puffy coats and parkas. We will weigh in with her this week and she will set aggressive goals for each of us for the three month period. If/when we succeed in our goals, our reward will be that we get to set up a workout for her to do, including all the most torturous exercises she makes us do—VersaClimber, throwing a goddamned bajillion pound medicine ball at the wall while doing squats, medieval torture positions to be held while doing a Plank, etc. While she does these things, we will sit in the private training room, comfy on padded yoga mats, EATING FRIED CHICKEN. (I thought this was a brilliant incentive, if I do say so myself).  After some negotiation, she agreed. What we don’t know yet is what the penalties will be for those who DON’T make it, other than having to join her in the workout.

David and I are weighing in with her on Friday, which leaves us only a couple of days left to eat real food. With this in mind, I made a New Year’s Day delicious hangover dinner last night from a couple of different sources.  First, from the Mozza Cookbook, we made Chicken Crostone (It’s supposed to be guinea hen, but who has that lying around—HELLO) in a chicken liver and pancetta sauce.  It’s one of those slow braises which takes a while to make, but the active time is pretty minimal. It was rich, delicious and completely comforting on a cold, dark, hung over Seattle night.

Next, I made a recipe I found this weekend while bored-bored-bored on an airplane, surfing the web for Italian chef websites. It’s a rosemary cake, which is pretty typical for northern Italy, with a lavender glaze. Two of my favorite herbs in one dessert? SOLD! The recipe came from a website called La Tavola Marche. (Out of respect for their blog, I won’t post the recipe here, but you can get it by clicking this link).

Both dishes came out great, but were tough to photograph. There was little light left by the time I ran outside to take a photo glazing the cake, and the frosting looked a little bit nasty so I couldn’t help myself. I’m immature. Sue me. 

Bukcake or Cakekkake?

The chicken wasn’t done until it was pitch black outside (which is about 4pm) so by the time we had dinner there was no way to take a natural light photo. Oh, and the chicken, the sauce and the bread on which it rests are all shades of beige or brown.  This is basically my way of saying DON’T JUDGE. The photos are crap but the dishes were both relatively simple, hugely satisfying, and absolutely delicious.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did, and good luck with your new year’s resolutions. I’ll still be thinking of these recipes next week when we are dining on air with a side of dust and a slice of lemon (all of which are part of a healthy Gluten Free diet).

Guinea Hen Crostone with Liver and Pancetta Sauce

Adapted from the Mozza Cookbook, by Nancy Silverton

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 guinea hen thighs* (we used skin-on chicken thighs)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Flour for dredging
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, more as needed
  • 2 1/2 cups diced pancetta
  • 3 cups diced Spanish onion
  • 12 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • 4 cups dry white wine
  • 4 cups chicken or guinea hen stock, plus an additional 1 cup for the crostone
  • 1 pound (about 2 1/2 cups) cleaned chicken livers, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
  • 2 lemons, zest removed in long strips, and juiced
  • 4 (2-inch thick) slices peasant bread, such as ciabatta, each slice about 7x3- inches
  • 1/4 cup whole celery heart leaves, for garnish
  • 1/4 cup whole Italian parsley leaves, for garnish

Directions

*Note: You'll probably have to buy guinea hen whole legs rather than thighs. In this case, cut the drumsticks off and make a stock with them, just as you would a chicken stock. Use in the recipe instead of chicken stock.

With a clean kitchen towel or paper towel, pat the guinea thighs dry. Season them with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Dredge in the flour and pat off all excess flour. Meanwhile, heat a large (12-inch) saute pan over medium heat for one minute, and then add the olive oil. It should be hot but not smoking by the time you are done flouring the guinea thighs.

Brown the thighs, skin side down first, adjusting the heat and adding more oil so that the meat sizzles at a nice pace. Cook until golden, 2 to 3 minutes, and then turn the meat and cook another minute or two to color the other side. If your pan is small, cook the thighs in two batches. Transfer the thighs to a plate.

You will now need a 4-quart straight sided saute pan or an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven. This pan should be wide enough to have the thigh pieces fit in single layer and deep enough to hold at least 4 quarts of liquid (a stock pot will work in a pinch). Put this pan over medium-high heat. Add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the pancetta and sweat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onions and garlic and sweat for another five minutes or so, so that the onions are soft and translucent. Add the rosemary, sage, and a small pinch of pepper. (The pancetta should add enough salt to the sauce so don't worry about salting yet.) Sweat for one more minute. Add the wine, 4 cups of the stock, livers, capers, vinegar, and lemon juice. Add the reserved guinea thighs and bring the braise to a simmer. There should be well more liquid than is needed to cover the meat. This is a good thing, as this dish is all about having plenty of sauce and it will reduce as you cook it. Simmer until the guinea is fork-tender and the meat pulls away from the bone easily, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Carefully remove the thighs and reserve on a plate.

Turn up the heat and boil the sauce, stirring from time to time to make sure it isn't sticking and burning, until it reduces by half. To thicken it slightly, use a blender to puree 1 cup of the reduced sauce and add it back to the pan. Stir and taste for seasoning. Add a couple drops of lemon juice if needed. Salt is probably not needed, but use your judgment for final seasoning.

The dish can be made up to this point a day ahead.

To finish, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Put the bread slices in a small baking dish that has been generously coated with olive oil. Ladle the remaining 1 cup of stock evenly over all of the bread. Set two thighs on each slice, skin side up. Toast in the oven until the bread has turned a crispy golden brown on the bottom, about 10 minutes; use a spatula to check and be careful as the toast tends to stick. Reheat the sauce.

Remove the thighs from the toasts, and carefully remove the crostones from the pan and turn them over so that the brown side is up.

To plate, set one slice of toast on each plate. Remove the thigh bone from the meat and place the meat from two thighs on each toast. Spoon some of the warmed sauce over each thigh and a little more to run off the crostone. Garnish with celery leaf (inner yellow leaves only), Italian parsley leaf, and long strips of lemon zest.