Monday, October 15, 2012

Lamb Offals: coratella con la cipolla

Eating lamb offals is still quite common in the Center and South of Italy. In Rome there is a very traditional dish called "coratella con i carciofi", lamb offals with artichokes, which is always present at the table on Easter. Another variation of the dish, especially when it's not season for artichokes, is coratella with onions. It's indeed the one I made in this recipe.

You need very very fresh lamb plucks. I order them from my butcher with some notice. I got here the liver, that you can see on top, it's darker in color, the lungs and heart at the bottom. I cannot get for some reason the spleen and the sweetbreads.

Total weight was 1.5 kg, slightly more than 3 pounds, total cost 14 euros. 

Everything needs to be washed, dried with paper towels,  trimmed and cut in pea size pieces. It's bit of a tedious chore. Keep everything separated because lung, heart and liver have a different cooking time. 

I warm up a cast iron skillet on medium-high heat with some tallow (or lard, or lamb fat)  and add first the lungs (and some garlic and chili pepper), I stir them around,  they are going to get some color. After 5 minutes or so, you are going to hear a whistle, the lung it's very spongy so I just think at this point it has given out the retained water and hence the sound. You can add at intervals the other cuts in this order: sweetbreads, spleen, heart and hold the liver to the very end. After you added the heart but not yet the liver, deglaze with a cup of warm white wine, lower the heat and cover partially. Add some salt. It's going to take more or less 20-30 minutes to cook. It shouldn't be so dry that it sticks to the pan but you don't want soupy meat also.
In another pan add some sliced or chopped onions, like 2 onions,  and cooked them slowly with some olive oil untill they go to a beige to amber color, stir frequently, adding some salt and covering helps bringing out their own juices. It's going to take about the same time for the onion to cook than for the meat to be done. At this point, add the liver and the onion to the pan, with the rest of the offals to finish up cooking on high heat. No more than 5 minutes. Stir it around. You don't want your liver to cook much to keep it nice and tender. Adjust seasoning and if you like it you can add a squeeze of lemon, or little vinegar at the end. 

You can freeze left overs, defrost in the fridge and quickly steam to reheat. 

It's truly delicious!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Egg en cocotte with sweet potatoes and smoked wild salmon

I have all the intention to make my breakfast more interesting.
So, I think, very slowly, I'll go through my new little French book on cooking eggs.

What did I make this time? An egg en cocotte (shirred egg in English) with sweet potatoes and smoked wild alaskan salmon.
This is surely a keeper recipe. Also my little girl appreciated it! And it if the veggies are cooked the night before it is very easy to put it together in the morning.

This is what I used for one portion:

  • one small sweet potato (64 grams after peeling) diced
  • 2 tablespoons of minced onion
  • 1/2 garlic clove finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon of cream
  • very little chopped dill
  • half a slice of smoked wild salmon cut into strips
  • some ghee
  • salt and pepper
I steamed the sweet potato dices until almost tender.  Meawhile I softened the onion and garlic in a litte bit of ghee on low heat and then added the sweet potato. Seasoned and finished cooking. Out of the stove I added the salmon strips.
I preheated my oven at 180 C (375 F) and buttered a ramekin. I spooned the potato in the ramekin and made a nest in the middle, carefully cracked my egg there and season lightly. I boiled a pot of water, turned off the stove, lowered the ramekin in the pot (before boiling I checked how much water I needed to go to halfway the ramekin cup) and transferred in the oven. Cooked for 12 minute, until the white was set and the yolk still runny. I heated the cream, with a pinch of salt and drizzle on the egg. Sprinkled with some chopped dill and voila', done.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rabbit: Coniglio alla bergamasca

Coniglio alla bergamasca means rabbit cooked in the style of Bergamo.

Bergamo is a town located in the Lombardy province of Italy, one hour from Milan.
It is my mother's hometown and polenta and rabbit is very traditional dish there. I grew up eating it and fighting with my sister over the head and the liver! Rabbit brain, anybody?

Rabbit is very delicate meat and we generally favor rabbit over chicken. My husband, to tell the truth, doesn't like chicken at all, for him it's meat with no personality...maybe if I buy a poulet de Bresse he would change his mind, but I cannot bring myself to spend 20 euros a kilo for a chicken. That means more or less 50 dollars for a chicken! But we really like chicken stock, good thing is that I can purchase carcasses and wings from my butcher.

This recipe is  very, very easy and my children simply love it!

You need

  • 1 rabbit, cut into pieces*. In the States,  I remember,  rabbits came with no head except maybe at Greek butchers or Asian markets. If it comes with the head, ask your butcher to split it lenghtwise so you can access the brain. 
  • 5-6 cloves
  • 2-3 rosemary sprigs
  • white wine
  • some hot water or chicken stock
  • clarified butter 
  • olive oil
  • salt
Usually when you cook meat you are asked to warm up your skillet and sear the meat in hot fat. For this recipe I go againist common wisdom and follow my mom and she follows her mother recipe.
You need to clean perfectly the meat from fat. My grandmother used to say that while chicken fat tastes good, it's not the case for rabbit fat. Add some olive oil to your pan, then the rabbit pieces perfectly dried, some clarified butter, cloves, rosemary, salt. Saute' on medium-high heat until all the pieces are golden brown. Add almost a glass of warm white wine and reduce it. Then you lower the heat and add a little bit of stock or warm water when necessary to keep the meat from drying out, I put the lid on with a wooden spoon between the lid and the pan. Cooking time about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Check the leg if it's tender.
Ah, the liver and the kidneys go in the pan just at the end of cooking so they stay pink and juicy.
Make sure to add a bit of liquid when needed. My mom usually stops here. I strained the liquid, didn't really had time to defat but I wanted an emulsion of sort, so I whisked in some extra virgin olive oil (you can use butter if you use it) and added rosemary at the end because I didn't have in the house when I started cooking!  

*A big rabbit is normally too much for our family and the loin could come out a little dry. So, often I debone the ribs and loin, cut into cubes and save in the freezer for a ragout or for sauteing quickly.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Poached egg in artichoke bottom

I'd like to treat myself with a nice breakfast but I normally have to deal with a preschooler and a toddler and the most of the times I end up frying a sunny side up egg in ghee or I eat some smoked salmon with a cucumber salad. This morning when my boy left for school with daddy, the girl was still sleeping. Yeah! 
The second thing that normally stops me from a nice breakfast is to be undecided on what to do, time is precious with little children,  and/or I'm missing some ingredients. Well, not this morning...double Yeah!

This recipe is not a new combination...This in particular, slightly adapted, comes from a very cute French book on eggs.

 I used

  • 1 frozen artichoke bottom (advantages of living in France)
  • 1 vitamin C tablet (or lemon juice)
  • 1 egg left at room temperature
  • a drop of white vinegar
  • some veal stock reduction
  • a tablespoon or so of pouring cream
  • a teaspoon of grainy mustard
  • few strips of Serrano ham
  • thyme sprig for decoration 
  • salt 
It is not difficult if you know what you are doing an you have a little bit of planning. If you don't have access to frozen artichokes bottoms, which are very handy, you can use a fresh one. On internet you can find tons of tutorial on cleaning artichokes. Normally artichokes discolor quickly, one way to prevent it it's cooking them with a little bit of lemon juice. An alternative should be to use some vitamin C or ascorbic acid. I crashed a vit. C pill and add to the boiling water and simmer the artichoke bottom until tender. Check with the tip of a knife. You can cool in ice water if you want to stop the cooking.

Then, second step, I poached the egg. I left it out of the fridge overnight. I brought a pot of water to boil, added a splash of white vinegar and cracked my egg into a ramekin. I stirrred the water to create a vortex, with  the ramekin very close to the simmering water I  dropped carefully the egg in the water and stirred around a bit to envelope the yolk with the white. 3 minutes cooking and I transferred the egg in ice water, trimmed the bits of white hanging and put on the side.

I've alway some veal bones reduction in the freezer. When you make a veal bone broth reduce it down to a syrupy consistency and let in cool quickly, it will gel and you can cut in cubes to freeze and use that way to finish up a dish. I'm going to write a detailed post about this.

Meanwhile, if you don't have any handy, you can reduce some other stock. So, I defrosted some of my veal glaze and added some cream, reduced a touch more, added some salt, a drop of lemon for acidity and out of the stove some grainy mustard.
I boiled again some salted water to warm up my artichoke and poached egg.

Ah, then, while I did that in a little saute' pan with just a teaspoon of ghee I crisped up some Serrano ham.

Time to plate!
Artichoke bottom, trimmed poached eggs, a stip or two of Serrano and your creamy reduction on the side.

And then I had a big smile on my face for a while after this nice breakfast!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Beef tagine with sweet potatoes

It was really a long time I didn't make this dish...years,  in fact I still lived in NY, so at least 8 years ago.
It came out very nice and also my picky eater enjoyed the meat, he didn't touch the sweet potatoes, none of my children seems found of sweet potatoes.

This recipe is slightly adapted from the book of cous cous of Paula Wolfert, it is not just cous cous people, also full of tagine recipes and salads, some very interesting indeed!

How I made it

  • 3 slices of paleron (which in American English is the chuck roast, the roast from the neck with a thick gelatine vein going across it). Then I cut every slice in half to get 6 medium slices of meat, about 700 grams total
  • 2 tablespoons or a little more of beef tallow
  • 1 onion and half diced
  • some spices (1/4 tsp of turmenic and paprika and piment d'espelette or cajenne and dried ginger, and a pinch of cumin. 
  • some beef stock
  • 500 grams sweet potatoes
  • one big tomato, peeled seeded and diced, or two smallish 
  • some salt and pepper 
  • chopped coriander, ops, cilantro
I warmed up my Staub cast iron  skillet and added some tallow, then the meat slices nice and dry and let them color both sides. At this point I added salt, lowered the heat and covered, when the meat started extruding its own juices, I added the onion and the spices and a little bit of beef stock.

I covered the meat with some wet parchment paper and the lid and the pan went in the oven a 150 Cerlsius (about 300 F) for a couple hours.

I then added the sweet potatoes sliced ( I recommend to pre-steam the potatoes if you want to speed up the process) and the diced tomatoes, plus a little more salt and let it cook at higher temperature (around 170 C or 350 F) until the potatoes were tender and I was basting the potatoes with the juice from the pan from time to time to prevent drying out.
 Total time, maybe 4 hours. D E L I C I O U S!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

BONES: Insalata di nervetti

Everybody knows how nutritious and beneficial is a bone broth. But besides that there are other ways to enjoy and take advantage of bones.
Here I want to talk about a very traditional Italian salad:  insalata di nervetti

It's a very Milanese dish, a common antipasto to be found in osterie or old style restaurants. You can still buy it in most delis but I do not think it is done according to tradition anymore or using ingredients that are desiderable.

It is done with bones from the knee and from the shank, both veal and beef can be used. Veal is milder in flavor and  requires a shorter cooking. How do I do it? I clean the bones in water. Having the time it's good to soak the bones in ice water with some salt to get rid of blood and impurities. But when I don't have time, I blanch the bones and start again with fresh water, when comes to a boil, I lower the flame and simmer for 2-3 hours  (more if you cook beef), adding more hot water if necessary to keep the bones covered. I also add at the last hour of cooking my aromatic vegetables (carrots, celery, onion, leek, bay leaf, parsley stalks and a drop of vinegar for acidity.

You need to check that the cartilages attached to the bones are nice and tender.

When the bones are still warm, I pick all the cartilages and pieces of meat attached and season with a little bit of salt.

 I pack them in a glass, cover with a little parchment paper disk and press it  by inserting a smaller  jar (with anything heavy inside) on top, but you can use any other container and anything you have handy to press down the cartilages and meat. I wrap everything well and refrigerate overnight.

This is what I get the day after.

I slice it very finely, here I cut it in rounds but you can have small strips, it doesn't matter. You slice very finely some sweet onion and add to your cartilages, dress the salad with very good wine vinegar and super extravirgin olive oil, some parsley and fleur de sel and milled pepper if you like it. It is really delicious!

And the marrow??? And the bone broth? Well, I have more tips and ideas with you to share!  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Chargrilled cauliflower with tomatoes dill and capersWhole30 DAY 6

Yesterday morning, I looked at my almost depleted veggie section in the fridge, pull out a zucchini  and  around I also found some leftover chicken. So I sauteed some zucchini diced with some EVOO at low eat for a minute or so, added the shredded chicken to warm up, good sprinkle of salt. I also had some datterini tomatoes confit that went in. And I fried one egg. a little dust of my sweet pepper powder and breakfast was ready.

In the morning, I was seeing a friend and children, so we spent all morning outside. Good that I still had one leg of duck confit, easy and delicious protein. I still had cauliflower in the fridge and I was thinking of a recipe from Ottolenghi. Well, I confess, that I miss Ottolenghi recipes, they are brilliant but they need to get a major adjustment if  you want to make them Paleo. 

This really works! It's very yummi! 

Adapted from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook

Chargrilled cauliflower with tomatoes dill and capers

  • half head of a medium small cauliflower, divided into florets
  • 1 clove of garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon of coarse-grained dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon salted capers
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • some salt
  • a handful of green leaves (I used rocket)
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped dill
  • some cherry tomatoes
  • EVOO
Blanch your cauliflower florets in a big pot of boiling salted water for a few minutes, they need to stay crunchy. Drain and dip in iced water to stop cooking. Keep in the colander to drain well. Make your dressing. In a mini mixer, or by hand, chop the garlic, then add the capers,  when it's minced add mustard, vinegar and oil enough to make a creamy dressing. Adjust salt. Toss the drained cauliflower with some oil of your choice and season.
Preheat a cast iron grill pan on medium, then turn to high an quickly char the florets. While still warm mix with the dressing, with the green leaves and tomatoes, sprinkle with chopped dill.