Monday, May 31, 2010

Bucatini all'Amatriciana

This is my first foray into my newest cookbook, Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I've learned a lot about cooking already from reading this excellent book. Hazan has very specific ideas about how things should be done in the kitchen. I particularly love this passage on making pasta:

"In the sequence of steps that lead to producing a dish of pasta and getting it to the table, none is more important than tossing. Up until the time you toss, pasta and sauce are two separate entities. Tossing bridges the separation and makes them one. The oil or butter must coat every strand thoroughly and evenly, reach into every crevice, and with it carry the flavors of the components of the sauce. When you add the sauce, toss rapidly, using a fork and spoon or two forks, bringing the pasta up from the bottom of the bowl, separating it, lifting it, dropping it, turning it over, swirling it around and around.

Once the pasta is sauced, serve it promptly, inviting your guests and family to put off talking and start eating. The point to remember is that from the moment the pasta is done, there should be no pauses in the sequence of draining, saucing, serving and eating."

My Amatriciana sauce was immeasurably enhanced by South End Formaggio's house-cured pancetta, bursting with the flavors of fine pork, pepper and white wine.

-2 T. olive oil
-1 T. butter
-1 medium onion, chopped fine
-a 1/4 inch thick slice of pancetta, cut into thin strips 1/2 inch wide and 1 inch long
-1 1/2 cups canned imported plum tomatoes, drained and cut up
-chopped red hot chilli pepper
-3 T. freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
-2 T. freshly grated romano cheese
-1 pound bucatini

1. Put the oil, butter and onion in a saucepan and turn on the heat to medium. Saute the onion until it turns pale gold, then add the pancetta. Cook for 1 minute, stirring once or twice, and splash in some white wine if you like. Add the tomatoes, chilli pepper and salt, and cook in the uncovered pan at a steady, gentle simmer for 25 minutes. Taste and correct for salt and hot pepper.

2. Cook the pasta al dente, then drain and immediately toss with the sauce. Add both cheeses and toss thoroughly again. Feeds 4.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Liuyang black bean chicken (liu yang dou chi ji)

Tonight we're having four friends to dinner, so I'm attempting to execute four Chinese dishes at the same time, including one I've never made before: Fuchsia Dunlop's Liuyang black bean chicken. This dish makes generous use of the richly savory black fermented beans, a specialty of Liuyang in Hunan province. I actually bought two incorrect products by mistake before triumphantly locating the beans on my third attempt at the Chinese grocery. They came in a little bag, not a jar, labeled "salted black beans." These are actually soybeans preserved in salt, not the black beans you know from Mexican food, and need to be rinsed before use for cooking.

1. Cut a pound of boned, skin-on chicken thighs into bite-size chunks. Put them in a bowl with 1 T. of light soy sauce and mix well to marinate.

2. Peel the cloves from a whole head of garlic, cutting any very large ones in half. Peel and thinly slice a 2-inch piece of ginger. Cut the green parts of four scallions into 1 1/2-inch lengths. Rinse 4 T. black fermented beans in a strainer.

3. Heat 2 cups of peanut oil for deep frying to 350-400 degrees. Add the chicken and stir-fry until it has changed color, then remove from the wok with a slotted spoon and allow the oil to return to 350-400. Return the chicken to the hot oil and deep-fry again until tinged golden. Remove and set aside.

4. Drain off all but 3 T. of oil from the wok, then return it to a medium flame. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry a few minutes until they are fragrant and the garlic cloves are tender. Add the black beans and stir-fry until fragrant, adding a splash of Shaoxing wine. Now shake in some red chilli flakes and stir-fry a few moments until they have lent their heat and red color to the oil.

5. Return the chicken to the wok and toss it in the fragrant oil, splashing in 2 T. clear rice vinegar and salting to taste. When everything is sizzling, throw in the scallions, and stir a few times until barely cooked. Turn off the heat, stir in 1 T. sesame oil, and serve.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Spicy cold noodles with chicken slivers (ji si liang mian)

These cold, refreshing sesame noodles are a sweeter cousin of the more fiery dan dan noodles — and a great way to use up leftover chicken meat. They use the same essential seasonings in different proportions, but the heat of these noodles is tempered with sugar, garlic, bean sprouts and white chicken.

Adapted from Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty:

1. Cook 1 pound of fresh Chinese flour-and-water noodles 2-3 minutes until just al dente. Drain and rinse them with hot water, shake them in a colander and spread them out on a dish towel to dry. Sprinkle a bit of peanut oil over the noodles and mix it in with chopsticks to prevent them from sticking together.

2. Meanwhile, blanch the bean sprouts for a few minutes in boiling water, then refresh in cold water and drain well. Whack a leftover cooked chicken breast with a pestle or rolling pin to loosen the fibers, then tear into little slivers. Peel 3-4 cloves of garlic and squash them with the pestle. Thinly slice four scallions.

3. Now combine the following: 2 T. sesame paste, 1 1/2 T. dark soy sauce, 1/2 T. light soy sauce, 1 1/2 T. Chinkiang black vinegar, 2 T. chilli oil, 1 T. sesame oil, 1/2 T. sugar, 1/2 tsp. ground roasted Sichuan pepper, and the crushed garlic cloves.

4. When the noodles and bean sprouts are completely cool, pile the bean sprouts at the bottom of several serving bowls. Add the noodles, pour the seasonings on top, and top each bowl with a pile of chicken slivers and a scattering of scallions. Allow your guests to toss everything together at the table.Link

Monday, May 24, 2010

Shrimp scampi

Even though about five people read it, I had been updating this blog every day like a good blogger. I fell off the wagon a month ago after my trip to Portland, Oregon, where I ate such delicious foods at each meal that I became overwhelmed by the prospect of documenting them. I still plan to do so without too much more delay, but today I'll ease back into posting with something simple. Even people who don't cook should learn to make this dish. It's a universal pleaser, and hardly anything could be easier.

1. Cook a pound of spaghetti al dente in lots of heavily salted water and drain, reserving a little of the pasta water. Meanwhile, peel and devein a pound of shrimp and sprinkle with salt.

2. Peel and chop half a head of garlic and half a bunch of Italian parsley. Heat a swirl of olive oil and a large knob of butter in a large saute pan, then add the garlic, half the parsley and a bit of salt. Saute until it releases its aroma, being careful not to burn. Turn the heat down to medium-low, add the shrimp and a dash of white wine and saute until just pink. Squeeze with the juice of half a lemon.

3. Add the pasta to the pan, tossing well and moistening with reserved pasta water if needed. Stir in the rest of the parsley and a generous dash of red pepper flakes and serve.