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.

Monday
Jul022012

Strawberry Shortcake Trifle

This weekend we went strawberry picking. In Seattle, thanks to Jon Rowley (the man who brought us Copper River Salmon) it’s ALL about Shuksan strawberries. They’re ripe, they’re juicy and they’re extremely perishable. When you get your hands on some, you have about 30 seconds to figure out what to do with them before they begin to spoil. They’re that ripe.

This weekend, there Jon hosted a picking event at a farm in Mt. Vernon (about an hour north of Seattle). A group of about 20 people descended on the farm at 9am, got the primer on these gems, and were all set loose to pick their own.  It was muggy (rare for Seattle), rainy (not so rare) and a muddy mess in the fields, but we were determined to find our own perfect berries. Now, as someone who loves cooking and for whom sustainability is top of mind, it is very important for me to go to farms and get closer to my food. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Was that believable? Screw that pretentious blather. It was muggy and gross, and there was no cocktail service. But we had fun seeing some familiar faces, meeting some new ones, and joking about whether or not the berries would survive the hour-long drive home without turning into their own moldy ecosystem. “Oh my god, I blinked….I think it made my berries rot”!

Joking aside, it was a fun experience, and it was cool to learn about the berries, the marketing behind them, and meet the 6th generation farmer who hosted the group.

When I got home and hosed the mud off, I searched for strawberry shortcake recipes online. Fearing my baketardedness, I decided to go with Emeril’s recipe for a strawberry shortcake trifle. Trifles are delicious, and forgiving if you screw up the cake...WHICH I DIDN'T DO, for the record. The cake was delicious on its own, but adding booze to it at the end made it even better. The recipe calls for ½ cup of liqueur ala the famous 70s Jello Poke Cake. I doubled that for ours, and I think it could still take a little bit more. When in doubt, add more booze.

Yes, Kairu. I MADE the cake. From scratch. It didn’t come from Safeway. As you can tell from the photo, it was so delicious, it sparkled!

And you’re a bitch.

Strawberry Shortcake

(Adapted from Emeril Lagasse)

Ingredients

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled, plus 2 teaspoons, softened

 6 large eggs, at room temperature

2 tablespoons milk, at room temperature

3 1/3 cups granulated sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 pounds strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and sliced

1/2 cup orange-flavored liqueur, plus a little more for drizzling (recommended: Grand Marnier)

1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest

2 1/2 cups heavy cream

5 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and grease a 9 by 13-inch glass casserole with the 2 teaspoons of butter and set aside.

Combine the eggs and milk in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until frothy. Add 1 1/3 cups of the sugar and continue to beat at high speed until the mixture is quite thick and pale yellow, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Fold this mixture gently into the egg mixture. Gently stir in the melted butter and then transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan and bake in the center of the oven until risen and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack before proceeding.

Make the strawberry topping by combining the strawberries, remaining 2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup orange liqueur, and orange zest in a large bowl and tossing to combine. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all sugar is dissolved. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to assemble the dessert.

Make the whipped cream by combining the heavy cream with the confectioners' sugar in a large bowl and beating with an electric mixer or whisk until slightly thickened. Add the vanilla and continue to beat until the mixture nearly forms stiff peaks.

When ready to assemble the dessert, poke holes all over the cake using a cake tester or toothpick. Drizzle cake with a little orange liqueur. Cut the cake into 1 1/2-inch cubes and place half of the cake cubes on the bottom of a deep-sided dessert bowl. Add half of the strawberry mixture over the top of the cake cubes, juices and all, spreading strawberries evenly with a spatula and allowing the juices to absorb into the cake. Top with the remaining cake cubes and then the remaining strawberries. Top with the whipped cream and serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 hour in advance before serving.

Monday
Jun252012

Animelle di Vitello in Agrodolce (Veal Sweetbreads with Sweet and Sour Sauce)

I love sweetbreads. They’re delicate in flavor, they’re versatile enough to fry, roast, or stuff into something else, and they’re cheap. If you can find them, that is. I’m surprised that many butchers don’t carry them, and the vendors at my favorite farmer’s market only have them a couple times per year. When I can procure them, I buy a few pounds and freeze them. I can't help it. I LOVE THEM.

Sweetbreads fall into the offal category, and no, they’re not a nice way of saying “brains”. They’re typically veal, and they can be either thymus gland or pancreas. Most of the time you’re getting thymus.  When I tell people sweetbreads are part of a menu, most of them go to brains. I did too—WHO TAUGHT US THIS???  It’s like we all have unconsciously absorbed this mass of false information that has no basis in reality. Like being a Tea Party voter.

But I digress.

I have two favorite sweetbread recipes. One is from the Chanterelle cookbook, and the sweetbreads are fried and tossed in a spicy, deep ginger and orange sauce – like an upscale General Tso’s chicken.  The one I’m sharing with you today is from (I know you’re sick of hearing me rave about this book) Giorgio Locatelli’s Made in Italy: Food and Stories.  In previous blog posts, I’ve given you Giorgio’s balls.  You’ve seen the nettle risotto, and been warned about the prick if you aren’t careful with that. I’ve told you how my friend Becky came to dinner, tweaked his recipe and had a table of guests swooning over what she could do with her fish. This time, we’re going for the throat…

Sweetbreads are a bit of a pain. First, they have to be soaked for at least 24 hours, but all you have to do there is change the water a few times. Next, you have to remove the membrane from around them. Once they’ve soaked, it’s a pretty quick process. And yeah, I know it sounds gross to cook anything involving the word “membrane”. The meat sauce that goes with this dish will become your de facto meat sauce base. I promise. It’s like a quick demi-glace, and it’s incredibly rich. You can make the veal sauce and the agrodolce a day in advance if you like, and clean the sweetbreads a couple of hours ahead. Once your guests arrive, it’s a quick process to fry these up, toss them in one sauce and top with another.

The only variation I made to this recipe was to ignore the instructions for sautéed spinach, because I find it boring. I subbed in some garlicky sauteed pea vines instead. Use whatever veg you want here. The sweetbreads are the star of the show.

My copy of this book is from the UK, so the measure here are metric. I’m entering the recipe as it is given in the book, but italicizing my variations and commentary.

Animelle di Vitello in Agrodolce (Veal Sweetbreads with Sweet and Sour Sauce)

Adapted from Giorgio Locatelli

4 handfuls of spinach

20g unsalted butter

100ml extra virgin olive oil

4 large carrots

1 garlic clove

1 bay leaf

4 veal sweetbreads, each about 120g, peeled and washed

1 tablespoon plain flour

2 tablespoons sunflower or vegetable oil

8 tablespoons Veal Sauce (recipe below)

Agrodolce di capperi (recipe below)

Salt and pepper

Preparation:

Blanch the spinach in boiling salted water for 5 seconds, refresh under cold running water, drain and squeeze out the excess water. Put into a pan with half the butter and half the olive oil.

Blanch the whole carrots for a couple of minutes in boiling salted water drain and leave to cool naturally, then cut at an angle into slices about 1cm thick.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Centigrade (480 Farenheit).

Crush the garlic with the back of a knife and put into a pan with the rest of the oil, the bay leaf and the sliced carrots. Place over a very low heat, cover with a lid and gently stew for about 10-12 minutes, until the carrots are soft. Take off the heat.

If the sweetbreads are still whole, gently break them apart (They will fall naturally into pieces). Season and dust with flour. Heat a large sauté pan (that will transfer to the oven), add the sunflower or vegetable oil and put in the pieces of sweetbread. Cook until golden on all sides, turn the heat down, leave for a minute, then transfer to the oven for about 3 minutes until cooked through. When they are ready, if you press them with your finger they should be springy, like a sponge cake. Or your mom’s ass.

While the sweetbreads are cooking, put the pan containing the spinach on to the heat to warm through, and season. Then put the pan containing the carrots back on the heat to warm through.

Take the sweetbreads out of the oven and let the pan cool down slightly, put it on the hob (“What the fuck is a hob”, you ask? It’s a stove top burner. Not to be confused with a hob-knocker, which is an entirely different thing. Look that one up on urban dictionary.), pour in the sauce, and heat through. Toss the sweetbreads in the sauce to coat. Take off the heat and carefully beat in the remaining butter, taking care not to smash the sweetbreads.

Spoon the spinach into the middle of your warmed plates and arrange the carrots around. Lift out the sweetbreads and spoon on top of the spinach. Then pour the veal sauce over the top. Finish with a tablespoon of agrodolce over each plate.

Basic Sauce for Meat

Makes 750ml to 1 liter

2-3 tablespoons sunflower or vegetable oil

400g meat trimmings (chicken, veal, pork, lamb, beef, venison, duck, pigeon, partridge, your neighbor’s cat, feral children,…). Note: I didn’t have meat trimmings so I just bought a cheap cut of veal on the bone. Don’t spend a lot of money on this—it’s just to caramelize and give depth of flavor.

1 carrot, diced into roughly the same size as the meat (make sure the dice are the same size so they cook evenly)

2 garlic cloves

1 sprig of rosemary

1 bay leaf

1 shallot, diced

20-30g butter

1 teaspoon flour

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1.5 liters good stock (chicken, veal, etc., depending on your meat,) For this dish, I used veal stock, but really anything will do. It’s flexible.

400 ml (A little more than half a bottle) Chianti or other red wine. Note that this is optional for the basic meat sauce described here, but for this veal sweetbread recipe it adds amazing depth of flavor.

Preparation:

Heat the pan to medium-hot, then put in the oil.

Just before it starts to smoke, put the trimmings into the pan a few at a time, making sure they all touch the bottom of the pan. Leave these to roast without touching them for 2-3 minutes, until they start to become golden underneath. Turn them until they are golden and caramelized on all sides, another 5-10 minutes.

Add the carrot, garlic and herbs, and leave to roast for another 2-3 minutes, then add the shallots and roast for another couple of minutes.

Turn down the heat, add the butter and let it foam without burning. If adding wine, add it now and let it reduce until some of the alcohol has evaporated – I let it go 10-15 minutes.

Add the flour and tomato paste, turn up the heat again, and cook for a minute or so, until the temperature of the pan has come up again.

Add the stock, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Bring to the boil, skim, turn down the heat and cook for about half an hour.  

Put through a fine sieve and reduce until you have a sauce consistency.  I let this baby simmer and reduce for about 2 hours until it was a thick, deep, decadent sauce

Agrodolce di Capperi (Caper Sweet and Sour Sauce)

5 tablespoons white wine vinegar

70g caster sugar

100g capers in brine, drained, washed and dried

100ml extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

Make the agrodolce sauce by putting the vinegar and sugar in a small pan and letting it bubble up and reduce to a clear syrup.

Hand-blend the capers, very slowly, adding the syrup (as if making a mayonnaise), then blend in the oil (again very slowly, so that the sauce doesn’t split) until creamy. Transfer to a small pan and keep on a very low heat, without boiling, for about 15-20 minutes, until any excess liquid disappears and the sauce is very thick. Leave to cool.

Thursday
Jun212012

Croxetti al Sugo D’Anatra (Croxetti Pasta with Duck Sugo

Ok, first of all let me get this part out of the way. The reason I’m posting a big savory pasta recipe the first day of summer (instead of the first day of Fall) is this: We just got back from three weeks in Italy.  I know, I hate me too…but understand, we’ve been planning this trip, putting it aside for other (also cool, but not Italy) vacations, and then planning it again. We shelved it again last year the NIGHT before we were to leave, due to a doggie cancer scare and 19 weeks of chemo (she reacted well to the treatment and is still doing ok), and then patiently planned it again. Did I mention we've been doing this for for ten years? Ten. Fucking. Years.

So by the time we finally went, we did it up right. Two Michelin 3-Stars and a host of little mama and papa-owned restaurants, each with a handful of tables. We played in the north and spent more time in the South, seeing the requisite museums, ruins, and scenery that just didn’t seem real. The Michelin over-the-top restaurants made us swoon. So did the inexpensive trattorias. Equal swoonage, different experiences.

Our favorite small, local find was Vini e Vecchi Sapori in Florence. I had made reservations in advance through our hotel, because the Trip Advisor reviews on this restaurant gushed about how amazing it was, and they warned there were only 6-8 tables and that it filled up quickly. We were planning to meet some friends with whom I’d reconnected (after 20 years) through Twitter, since they were going to be in town at the same time. We had a complete blast. The place filled up quickly, the waiter (the owners’ son) came out and explained the menu to us in English, and we ordered as much as we thought we could handle. And then more. With four of us, all connected by food and snark, it was easy. We took a lot of pictures of the food, because when you’re on vacation, if you don’t…you won't remember what you had, or what the nuances were. Fortunately, there’s an app on the ipad which allows you to write on photos (DrawCast), so I could scrawl notes to myself.

There were two dishes that night that especially blew me away. Everything was good. Everything. But the osso bucco was the best I’ve ever tasted, and they did a duck sauce with pappardelle I knew I’d never stop thinking about.  Armed with a lot of red wine, I asked the waiter if there was any chance the chef would share the recipe. “Of COURSE”, he replied.

Mama had come out of the kitchen (reluctantly) earlier in the evening when someone wanted to take a photo. She was obviously uncomfortable with doing that. We could tell she was shy. Not so much when it came to talking about food. She came out, we went on and on about how amazing that duck sauce was, and she started explaining what she had done (in Italian). She lit up while talking about the food. Her son tried to translate as quickly as possible. I typed notes into my iPad as fast as I could while our friends Rob and Michelle recorded her instructions on their phone. The recipe wasn’t fussy or complicated. Just delicious. I’ll tell you how to make the sauce, but first there’s one more part of the story to tell: The Pasta.

The biggest highlight of our time in Florence was meeting up with my friend Judy Witts Francini. I met Judy when she came to Seattle in person a couple of years ago to give an Italian cooking class, but had been following her on Twitter for some time as well, and was an avid follower of her blog for years before that. (Her blog was where I learned how to make one of my favorite italian condiments, Mostarda. That’s worth its own blog post, though, because it took me four damned years to get my hands on the right mustard oil to make it and it’s a pain in the ass.) Judy was very generous with her time, took us out to Chianti to meet Dario Cecchini, who I’d read about and who was on my bucket list, and showed us all over the markets in Florence. Judy knows EVERYONE in town. There’s their regular prices for tourists, and then there’s “Judy-Price”.  We stopped at one shop for prosecco and little black truffle sandwiches, went to another for some local pastries, stopped to meet one of her friends who sold us incredible olive oil and aged balsamico, then to the butcher to see all the things they do with wild boar. Then there was the big market with the hottest Italian butchers you’ve ever seen. Hot men working with big meat. Pinch me.

Heyyyyyyy, Papi.....


One of our stops was to a specialty kitchen store, where Judy promised me I could find croxetti stamps. These pasta stamps are native to Liguria and if you’re lucky enough to go there, you can have them hand-carved to your specifications. In this shop there were a few different pre-made decorations available, so I chose one with a fleur de lis on one side, and a spiral on the other. Basically, you roll out fresh pasta dough, cut out circles with one side of stamp, and press them on the other side such that the design goes into the dough. This seemed to be the perfect accompaniment to the pasta sauce mama told me how to make.

Now, because the sauce was a translation and she was speaking in very broad terms, mine will likely not be the exact dish we had in Italy. This in mind, the dish I tried to recreate for us was delicious and to my taste-memory of that night, was very close. This is one of those recipes meant to be shared, so here you go. I’ve paired it with the croxetti but any pasta will do.

This recipe was my favorite rustic dish we tried on our trip. Next time, I’ll share the recipe for my favorite three-star dish. Thank god for chefs who share!

Croxetti al Sugo D’Anatra

(Croxetti with Duck Sugo)

For the pasta:

2 cups 00 flour

2 large duck eggs + 1 duck egg yolk

Salt (just a pinch)

2 Tbsp Olive oil

For the duck sauce:

1 young duck (Wild, if you can get one), cut into pieces

¼ cup duck fat or olive oil

1 celery rib, diced

1 carrot, diced

1 medium onion, diced

¼ lb. prosciutto, diced

Salt and pepper

Sage, chopped (I used two bunches—probably about 18 leaves)

1 bottle Red Wine

Fresh tomato puree in season, or 1 28-oz can pureed Italian tomatoes

Making the pasta:

I cheat with the kitchen aid when I make pasta. Pour the flour into the work bowl, put the eggs, oil and salt in a little well in the center, attach the dough hook and let it go until it forms a slightly soft, pliable mound of dough. You might need to add some water if it isn’t coming together, but don’t add too much or you will have to flour the shit out of your dough when you roll it through a pasta machine. Let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes or so and then roll it out using whatever pasta maker you use. I use the kitchen aid attachment for lasagna sheets for this one.

To make croxetti, put the pasta through your machine until it’s about the same thickness as a lasagna dough. (I tried rolling this down to setting 4 on the kitchen aid attachment, which was too thin and it wouldn’t hold the stamp pattern.  Setting 6 was too thick, and made too much bite on the finished pasta. Call me Goldilocks…I finally settled onto setting 5 which was just right. I’d guess it was about 1/8” thick).

Stamping Croxetti:

Using a corzetti stamp, cut out pasta coins and imprint with the stamp Place coins on lightly floured, parchment or clean towel-lined trays. Cover coins with a clean dry towel as you work with the rest.

 

To make the duck sauce:

Clean the duck, putting aside the heart, gizzard and liver.

Heat duck fat or olive oil in a hot pan and brown the duck for a few minutes, turning to ensure a good sear on each piece. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add celery, carrot, onion, prosciutto and the reserved duck offal. Sautee this mixture until the onion is translucent and the prosciutto slightly browned.

Add the wine to the pan and reduce by about 1/3. Add the tomato sauce and place the duck back into the mixture. The wine/tomato mixture should just about cover the duck pieces. If it doesn’t, add a bit more wine or chicken stock.

Simmer the duck, covered, for about 2 hours or until the meat is tender and ready to fall off the bone. Remove from heat. Once cool enough to handle, remove the duck meat from the bone and add back into the sauce. Add the sage, and salt and pepper to taste. There should be enough acid in the sauce from the wine and tomatoes, but tweak with additional tomato sauce as you see fit. The sauce should have a bite of gaminess from the duck, a very rich flavor from the long cook time, and a herby note on the front of your tongue from the sage. It should also be fairly thick by this point. If not, reduce it down a bit more, uncovered.

To serve, drop the croxetti into boiling, salted water and cook 3-4 minutes until tender. Drain and toss with duck sauce and top with grated fresh pecorino-romano or your favorite parmesan.

You will eat the shit out of this dish.

Wednesday
Jun062012

First Base Taquitos

“Tongue? GROSS!”

Seriously, this is the reaction some of my friends had when I told them what I was making this weekend. These are people who consider themselves very sophisticated eaters, game for anything. Seriously? Tongue is your line in the sand? Please—I know all of you and I KNOW you’ve had worse things in your mouth. I remember some of the trolls you used to date. Do you?

Besides, tongue is only first base. Wait'll you try my Home Run Sticky Buns.

We just got back to Seattle after a long, indulgent, much-needed vacation.  It was one of those great trips where we both had enough time to recharge our batteries and regain much-needed perspective, away from the daily stresses and frenzy of our lives. I managed to hold onto that vacation glow for about four days. After that, it was back into the whirlwind of work, friends and a catering gig I’d agreed to do months ago. Jetlag, meet two days of cooking.

Our clients wanted Mexican. We did this for them last year, and it was a success. The problem is, my catering partner and I do this as a hobby thing because it’s fun. We’ve both got some restaurant experience, we’re both good home cooks, and we’ve both graduated from culinary school…but we both have day jobs. Cooking is our passion. Catering is a fun thing to do every now and then to remind us why we’re home cooks and not professionals. "Ow, my feet! What do you mean we have to do our own dishes? Get your fat ass out of my counter space". Although we have a blast trashing a kitchen and each other for two days, it really is a lot of work. If you’re not a pro and try to do this, you probably end up like we do: Enjoying yourself but spending too much of your budget on (retail) food costs, making too much quantity, and doing too many complicated, expensive dishes like you would serve at home. Guilty, guilty annnnnnd….guilty.

All that said, we did better this time and the food rocked. At least, they acted like they were thrilled, but to be fair they had asked me to make some mean margaritas and they were REALLY mean. Abusive. My margaritas were hitters, and our diners were drunk.

We still made too much. We still spent too much on it. We could probably be more efficient. But that shit was delicious.

Back to the tongue—One of my favorite recipes is Rick Bayless’ Beef Tongue and Chorizo Tacos. He cooked this dish as one of his challenges on Top Chef Masters during the street food challenge in the first season. As someone who likes the taste of tongue (too easy—just don’t) I had to try it. Tongue is delicious, beefy, and tender when braised or boiled long enough. Ok, maybe that last sentence doesn't make it sound appealing, but it is. Really, it is. I find it slightly sweet, which really goes with all of the other flavors going on in this dish. We were blown away the first time we tried it, and since then I’ve adapted it to make my version of taquitos for parties. The tortillas are run through some warm oil to soften them enough to be pliable for rolling ahead of time. Enough oil remains in them to crisp up nicely in a blasting hot oven without being deep fried (as taquitos often are).  It’s a nice thing to have assembled and ready to throw in the oven before people show up. It’s also fun to let your guests eat them and discover how good they are before you tell them what’s inside.

By the way, this is the rest of our catering menu from the weekend. If any of the recipes look appealing, let me know and I’ll post them.

Appetizers

  • Chips, Guacamole, Pico de Gallo, Hot Chile Salsa, Mild Jalapeño Salsa
  • Beef Tongue, Potato and Chorizo Taquitos with Tomatillo Guacamole and Pickled Onions
  • Roasted Pepper Sopitos with Smokey Tomato Jalapeno Sauce 

Buffet:

  • Goat Cheese-Almond Chile Rellenos with Apricot Sauce
  • Tacos (2 types) - Al Pastor with Roasted Pineapple-Serrano Salsa, and Butternut squash with Greens and Vegetarian (snore) Mole
  • Caesar Salad
  • Mexican Rice
  • Refried Black Beans with Toasted Avocado Leaves

 Dessert:

Enjoy, and let me know if you decide to give my tongue a ride.

Beef Tongue, Chorizo and Potato Taquitos with Tomatillo Guacamole

Adapted from Rick Bayless

Makes 25 Tacos

INGREDIENTS

TAQUITOS

1 medium cow tongue, rinsed

1 pound bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 pound white onions, diced

1 pound chorizo, casing removed

1.75 pounds creamy boiling potatoes, cut into 2 inch pieces

Queso anejo or cotija and cilantro (for garnish)

TOMATILLO GUACAMOLE

1 pound tomatillos, husked, rinsed and quartered

2 Serrano chiles, stemmed

5 avocados, flesh scooped from skins

1 bunches cilantro, chopped, plus extra for garnish

1 large white onions, finely diced

1 large red onions, thinly sliced

25 4 1/2-inch corn tortillas

DIRECTIONS

TACOS

  1. Simmer tongue in salted water until tender (typically 3-4 hours), then cool, peel and clean cartilage, chop remainder into 1/4 inch cubes.
  2. Fry bacon until crispy, remove from pan and drain. Add onions to fat and caramelize.
  3. Separately, cook chorizo until cooked through and browned.
  4. Separately boil potatoes in salted water, drain and roughly chop into small (1/4 inch) bits. Add potatoes and chorizo to onions and cook until crusty like hash browns.
  5. Separately brown tongue in a little fat until crispy. Combine with potato-chorizo mixture. Season with salt.
  6. This filling can be made a day ahead.

GUACAMOLE

  1. Puree tomatillos and Serranos, mix into avocados, along with cilantro and onions. Sprinkle with salt.
  2. Cover red onion with very cold water. Salt generously. Let stand 10 minutes and drain.
  3. Heat about ½ inch oil in a pan (only until warm. You don’t want it so hot it starts frying) and slide tortilla into oil until softened and bubbling slightly, about 20 seconds..
  4. Remove tortilla and dab one side with paper towels. Fill the dry side with some of the tongue mixture, rolling to make a cigar shape. Place on a baking sheet, seam side down.
  5. When all of your taquitos are assembled, place the baking sheet in a 425 degree oven until golden and crispy, about 15-20 minutes.
  6. Top with guacamole, onion, queso anejo or cotija and cilantro.

 

Sunday
Apr292012

Ramacche (Prosciutto and Cheese Fritters)

I don’t think it’s a mystery to anyone how much of  a Giorgio Locatelli fanboy I am. Of my hoardish cookbook collection, his original book Made in Italy: Food and Stories remains my #1 desert-island book, and the one I most heartily recommend. I love how he writes. I love that the recipes are surprisingly simple for the most part, and convey restaurant-quality results while being targeted to the home cook. He has 8 pages on making the perfect risotto, and after reading it, you will never make risotto the same way again. (I wrote about his stuffed cabbage and nettle risotto last year. That nettle risotto is the first thing we make when the weeds hit the Farmers’ Market in the Spring.)

This past fall, his latest book, Made in Sicily came out. I was so anxious to get it in my greedy hands, I bribed a colleague in the UK (it was released there first) to buy it and shlep it to Spain with her, where we were meeting for a business trip. I could barely remember to greet her cordially before ripping it from her hands.

This book is brilliant.  As with his previous books, the recipes are clear, straightforward and unpretentious. He gives you enough of an overview of the region and ingredients for you to absorb some of the hows and whys behind the cuisine, and builds anticipation where you just have to try making the dish. I thought caponata was a ubiquitous Sicilian staple. I had no idea there were so many seasonal varieties (he provides recipes for 5 different variations, including a Christmas version).

The recipe I decided to try first was his recipe for Ramacche, which are prosciutto and cheese fritters. Giorgio’s balls are crispy on the outside, creamy and salty on the inside. They practically explode with flavor once you pop them into your mouth.

……

What? You guys are sick.

Ramacche

Prosciutto and Cheese Fritters

Serves 4

30g unsalted butter

a small pinch of salt

150g plain flour, plus more as needed

3 large eggs

150g prosciutto crudo, diced

100g caciocavallo or pecorino cheese, grated

2 tsp parsley and garlic*

sunflower oil for deep frying

*For the parsley and garlic, crush 1 clove garlic on a cutting board with the flat of your knife to make a paste. Add about 4 handfuls of flat leaf parsley and chop through the parsley and garlic to intermingle the flavors.

Put the butter and salt into a pan with 220ml of water and bring to the boil, then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flour with a wooden spoon. Put the pan back on the heat and work the mixture continuously with the spoon until it comes together in a solid ball of dough. Take off the heat again and let it cool, then put the dough into a food mixer with a paddle, add the eggs one by one and mix until they are all incorporated.

Add the prosciutto, cheese and the parsley and garlic, and continue to mix. The dough will be quite soft.

Heat several centimeters of oil in a pan (make sure the oil comes no higher than a third or the way up). It should be 180 degrees Celsius (355 degrees Farenheit). If you don’t have a thermometer, test that the oil is hot enough by dropping in a little bit of the dough. If it sizzles, the dough is ready.

Moisten a dessert spoon with water, then scoop out little mounds of dough, slide them carefully into the oil and let them fry gently for about two minutes, turning them so they are golden on both sides, and reducing the heat if they start to brown too quickly. Remove the ramacche with a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper, and serve hot.

 

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