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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Earful of Pasta

So my weekend diner and I were out and about a few weeks ago and chanced upon some orecchiette pasta, you know those small little ears of goodness! They happen to be my diners favorite type of pasta, so me being me I took it upon myself to try cooking a dish of these up for her this weekend.

I found these following recipe from Whole Nourishment  added a few little things to luxe it up a bit more (thinly sliced jamon for one). It's a great dish that is happily cook again and again.

 

Orecchiette with Asparagus, Ricotta, and Lemon

Serves 5-6

  • 1 lb. (500 gr) orecchiette
  • 1 mug of reserved pasta water
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large lemon
  • 2-4 tsp. red chili flakes
  • 1 small bunch (500 gr) asparagus
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
  • 250 gr ricotta
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Handful of fresh herbs, chopped (dill, basil, mint, parsley, or a combination works well)
  • Grating of parmesan (optional)
  1. Bring a large pot of pasta water to the boil. Salt water and drop pasta. Cook 1-2 minutes shy of package directions for al dente pasta. Don't forget to reserve a mug full of pasta water just before draining pasta!!
  2. In the meantime, heat a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add oil, garlic, zest from the entire lemon, and chili flakes. Sauté for a few minutes, until fragrant.
  3. Snap away woody stems of asparagus and cut stalks into coins. Add to skillet along with 1/4 tsp. salt. Sauté for 3 minutes, or until asparagus is crisp tender.
  4. Remove from heat. Stir in ricotta, juice from half the lemon, and a few splashes of pasta water to loosen the sauce. Add orecchiette, the remaining 1/4 tsp. of salt and a few generous grinds of black pepper. Add more pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce. (I ended up using 3/4 of a standard mug size of pasta water). Taste, adjust for seasoning, adding more salt or lemon if desired.
  5. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of herbs and an optional grating of parmesan

 


Monday, June 26, 2017

What to do With Leftovers?

 
So what do you do when you've very little time.to cook yourself dinner and you've some left over ingredients from your previous day's cooking? Usually in my house it's often an adventure into the unknown where at the end of the day what I'd envisaged in my mind looks and tastes different from what ends up on the plate. Thankfully today turned out to be one of those good moments. 
With the leftovers from my Francesinha I decided to try my hand at making a broken pork sausage tagliatelle pasta with a poached egg. 

In a nut shell all you need for this are the following:

  • Pasta of your choice
  • Cooked sausage chopped up
  • 1/2 a can of diced tomato
  • 2-3 chopped garlic cloves
  • Honey
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Herbs (thyme and oregano)
  • Poached egg
The directions are pretty simple, while you're boiling a pot of salty water for the pasta, chop and brown the garlic then add the cooked pork sausage (cubed).
Add the tomato, balsamic and honey to taste and add a little Worcestershire to add a little zing. Once the pasta is cooked combined with the sauce (and liquid from there cooked pasta), plate and top it off with the poached egg.
In total you should have your plate of pasta goodness ready to eat in under 15 minutes.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Croque Madame on Steroids

There is always something magical about a grilled cheese sandwich, hot melted cheese encased in two crispy slices of toast, what could be better? Add ham or bacon to the mix and shallows fry your bread in butter. So was born the croque Monsieur (bless the French); the croque monsieur is a baked or fried boiled ham and cheese sandwich. 

 

The Francesinha at Santa Francesina, Porto

The dish originated in French cafés and bars as a quick snack. With all things French cooking however a variant was born, add a fried egg to the mix and vola you have the croque Madame!

 

On a recent trip to Portugal I was introduced to something even more ethereal, there Portuguese take on the croque Mad koame but on such a whole other level, a meal (not a snack) by itself; the Francesinha!

According to Wikipedia, It is said that the Francesinha was invented in the 1960s. Daniel da Silva, a returned emigrant from France and Belgium, tried to adapt the croque-monsieur to Portuguese taste. Other versions date the Francesinha to the 19th century. It is a very popular dish in Porto and is associated with the city, although it can be sometimes found elsewhere in Portugal. A classic francesinha meal would include the sandwich, surrounded on a bed of chips doused in the famous sauce, and complemented with a fino, literally meaning thin or fine, which in this context refers to draught beer.

So in a vain attempt to recreate this magical sandwich in Singapore I set about making my Francesinha version 1.0.

 

The sandwich itself was great, while some recipes call for the bread to be not toasted I opted to shallow fry it in French butter (why? Because I can and there crispiness of the toasted bread would give the Francesinha another textural element). 

The sauce, the component that defines the Francesinha was decent but could do with as little tweaking; I'll need to add a little more piri-piri for a spicier kick and use a lighter white beer (I wanted to try using a dark beer for more flavor).

 

So here's the recipe in its entirety, thanks to www.portugesediner.com/tiamaria I tweaked it slightly due to the lack of some ingredients and I covered the egg with the cheese and baking it in the oven: 
Ingredients: 1 francesinha
2 slices of white, but not to soft, slices with aprox. 2 cm/0.8 inches thickness
1 linguiça
1 fresh sausage
1 small veal steak
2 slices of mild ham
7 to 8 thin slices of cheese
1 egg
Sauce: serves 4 or 5
6,6 dl beer (2 cans)
4 dl semi skimmed milk
1 dl whisky
2 dl tomato passata
1 bay leaf
1 medium carrot, peeled
1 small veal steak
2 cubes of meat stock
2 tsps corn starch dissolved in a bit of milk
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Piri Piri (portuguese hot chili sauce)
Preparation:
*Place all the ingredients for the sauce (except the corn starch and the piri piri) inside a heavy bottomed pan and take to the heat. Cook for approx. 30 minutes in medium heat. Season with salt and pepper and remove the carrot, bay leaf and steak.
*Add the dissolved corn starch to the sauce a bit at a time, stir, let it come to a boil and if it´s still to runny add a bit more. Don´t make a very thick sauce, it should fall from the wooden spoon in a constant thread, ending up in thick drops.
*Remove from the heat and add the piri piri to taste, which in my case means lots of it.
*Grill the meats, I use a press grill because it´s easier to cook the sausage and linguiça. Cut the sausage and linguiça in half and then in 4 equal parts.
Assembly:
*On top of a slice of bread place first a slice of cheese, on top place a slice of ham, then the 4 pieces of linguiça, on top the steak, followed by the fresh sausage, another slice of ham and another slice of cheese, top with the other slice of bread and on top a slice of cheese. Place one slice of cheese in each side of the sandwich – You can hold the cheese with skewers and remove them once the cheese is melted, later – and place one more on top.
*Put the sandwich inside a preheated oven for a couple of minutes just so the cheese starts to melt but let it toast. If you used skewers now is time to remove them.
*Fry the egg in a bit of hot oil.
*Remove from the oven, put the fried egg on top of the sandwich and immediately pour the very hot sauce over it – you want the bottom of the sandwich immerse in sauce – and serve with the fries and a cold, cold beer.
*Keep a bowl with the sauce near so you can add more as you go
.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Old Burger, New Burger

It seems these days there has been a reinvention of sorts in the way of some classic foods are being cooked; from sous vide, to the reverse sear, there's a promise that food tastes better, more complex. Which made me wonder what this new fad regarding the 'smashed burger' is all about.
The premise is simple, take your standard meat patty, halve it, cook it on a cast iron skillet and flatten the hell out l of it, add some melted American cheese between two flattened patties to keep them moist. The logic is a faster cooking time and a "crunchy" patty.
I decided to do a like for like comparison between a smashed patty cheese burger and a standard cheese burger, using the same amount of meat, and ingredients.. this was going to be fun!

The Bread
 
I sought about a quick and easy means to make my hamburger buns (I like the fact that I can say to people I've made everything from scratch). I found a 40 minute bun recipe online (thanks Google) and an hour later I had some buns ready for action! 

The Burgers 
Add some salt, peppery goodness and some gentle shaping the patties were ready. The smashed patties took 1 minute each, while my standard patty I had cook for 3 minutes (I like my meat medium rare!). 
I loaded each of my burgers with the following: mayonnaise, BBQ & Sriracha sauces, melted cheese, crispy iberico Jakob (fancy bacon) and lettuce.

 
Smashed Cheese Burger

 
"Standard" Cheese Burger

The Result
To be honest with you I couldn't really tell the difference between the two patty styles in terms of crunchiness; the melted cheese nullified the thin patties. Prep and coming time for the smashed patties was also longer and making sure the patty was flat enough and still "flip-able" may also be a challenge to some. 
Personally I'm a traditionalist, the original was more juicy and flavorful, crispiness wise both were on par. 

 
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