So I’ve been on blogging hiatus (nothing new there, but let’s call it a “hiatus,” as opposed to “laziness,” which is probably more apt) because work has been insanely busy and a lot of things have happened, including the following:
(1) Annette Bening held the door open for me as I was coming out of the ladies room, AND said “hello,” unprompted. While this was going on my husband was peeing next to Warren Beatty. No lie.
(2) I finally got around to watching Mad Men, and it’s really good, and it makes me want to watch DVDs instead of blog.
(3) Our wonderful friend Derek came to visit, and gave us a belated wedding present: a knife sharpener, and Williams-Sonoma vouchers. In other words, the best gift ever.
We bought some amazing Calphalon cookware with the vouchers, and I thought I would share this because it’s kind of a great deal. Don’t say I don’t do anything for you. Trust me when I say it’s the most amazing frying pan I’ve ever used, and you’d be an idiot not to buy it, unless of course you already have a great frying pan, in which case you know I was an idiot for not having one before. Thanks Derek!
After years and years and years of fussing with herbs and chicken fat and olive oil and raw animal carcasses, I think I’ve finally got roast chicken down. And when I say down, I mean it still doesn’t taste as good as Gena’s, but it’s close. And it isn’t even all that complicated, so I can save you all my years of effort and bad gravys (gravies? idk).
I didn’t take a picture of the chicken because we ate it. Sorry.
1 3-4 lb chicken
half a lemon
3 cloves garlic
1 sprig rosemary
1/2 tsp dried thyme or 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
butter, at room temperature
First, remove any gross innards your chicken may have and rinse it inside and outside with cold water. Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting tin, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Dry the chicken with paper towel, then squeeze the lemon half over the chicken. Take what’s left of the lemon, and stick the thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf inside it, then place inside the chicken. Crush the garlic cloves with the flat end of a knife, remove the skin, and put them inside the chicken too. Then tie the legs together tightly so the cavity is closed (the lemon and herbs will infuse the chicken with incredible flavor as the chicken cooks).
Liberally cover the chicken with salt and pepper, and then rub the butter into the skin so it goes nice and crispy. Pour two cups of water into the bottom of the pan (you may want to add some more water during cooking so the pan doesn’t get dry. Cook for 1 and 1/2 hours, depending on weight (the chicken breasts should be around 160 degrees with a meat thermometer), and rotate pan once. No basting, no muss, no fuss.
Our recent trip to Italy, during which we spent much time in a hotel room on the phone with US Airways trying to locate our luggage (we eventually went to the airport and found it ourselves in a big dusty room full of forgotten bags) will probably go down in history as the time we decided flying direct is worth the extra cash. But we did also go out to eat from time to time. When in Rome, after all.
Our last trip to New York, we tried to go to Babbo but had to make do with Mario Batali’s more downscale (but equally delicious) restaurant, Otto. This is apparently one of Mr Batali’s signature dishes, and it’s pretty fabulous. We also ate it in Rome in a tiny restaurant overlooking the Pantheon, and it was pretty fabulous there too. Mr Batali was kind enough to post the recipe online, and so I made it yesterday, with a few alterations. You can find bucatini in specialty Italian stores, and in Sur La Table, bizarrely enough. But don’t try Safeway (aka UnSafeway) in southwest DC, because they won’t have it. Or pancetta either. Or joy, or laughter, or anything except for Purdue chicken and ten different kinds of chocolate pretzel.
1/4 pound pancetta, sliced thin and cut into 1 x 1/4 inch strips
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 red onion, sliced into 1/4 inch stips
1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (you can alternatively just use a 28 oz can of good quality crushed tomatoes)
1 lb bucatini
parsley, leaves picked
Pecorino, for grating
1. Being 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt.
2. Place the pancetta slices in a 12- to 14-inch sauté pan in a single layer and cook over medium-low heat until most of the fat has been rendered from the meat, turning occasionally. Remove the meat to a plate lined with paper towels and discard half the fat, leaving enough to coat the garlic, onion and red pepper flakes. Return the guanciale to the pan with the vegetables, and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, or until the onions, garlic and guanciale are light golden brown. Season with salt and pepper, add the tomato sauce, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Cook the bucatini in the boiling water according to the package directions, until al dente. Drain the pasta and add it to the simmering sauce. Add the parsley leaves, increase the heat to high and toss to coat. Divide the pasta among four warmed pasta bowls. Top with freshly grated Pecorino cheese and serve immediately.
Except it isn’t lousy. It’s absurd, and when I say absurd, I mean it’s so good it makes me want to cry a little bit. The wonderful thing about gelato is it’s made with milk, not cream, so basically IT’S GOOD FOR YOU. And therefore you can eat it every day, twice a day, like I did in Italy, and not come home the size of a house.
3 cups whole milk
3/4 cup cocoa (I use Hershey’s Special Dark Dutch process, because I find the Ghiradelli one disappointing, but do what you will)
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbsps cornstarch
In a saucepan, heat two cups of the milk until barely simmering. In a bowl, whisk the remaining cup of milk with the sugar, cocoa and cornstarch until combined. Add the cocoa mix to the simmering milk and bring to a gentle boil, whisking constantly. By the time the mix boils, it should have thickened, but if not, whisk for another minute or two until it does. Pour into a heatproof bowl.
Remove from the heat and leave to cool. You can either leave it in the fridge overnight, or place the bowl over an ice bath and stir it every few minutes until it cools. I did the latter because the idea of waiting another day was too horrendous.
Pour into an ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s instructions.
Beautiful recipe for tuna and avocado ceviche, courtesy of my hero, Martha Rose Shulman of the New York Times. Martha Rose, I salute you.
1 pound albacore or yellowfin tuna, cut in 1/2 inch dice
1/2 small red onion, cut in small dice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 to 2 serrano or jalapeño chiles, to taste, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
1 ripe medium avocado, cut in small dice
Salt, preferably kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped cilantro to taste
Leaf lettuce, baby spinach or arugula, or radicchio leaves for serving
1. Prepare the tuna and refrigerate while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
2. Place the onion in a small bowl, and cover with cold water. Let sit five minutes, then drain, rinse and dry on paper towels.
3. In a medium bowl, combine the onion, garlic, chile, capers, avocado, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of the lime juice. Toss together gently. Add the tuna to the bowl.
4. Stir together the remaining lime juice and the olive oil. Pour over the tuna, and toss the mixture together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes, stirring gently from time to time.
5. Just before serving, add the cilantro and toss together. Taste and adjust seasonings. Line plates with salad greens, spoon the ceviche on top, and serve.
Considering I make this about once a week, and every time I make it I take pictures intending to blog it, it’s a real disgrace I haven’t put this recipe up till now. The holidays, blah blah blah, work, blah blah blah, busy and important. Really, I’m just lazy and I average three episodes of Law and Order: SVU a day and I drink too much. But this is a really, really good recipe, and I’ve been trying to make pizza from scratch since I was ten so I should know.
There are three things you’ll need (excluding ingredients). Well, you don’t explicitly NEED them per se, but they’ll make all the difference. These are: (1) a food processor or KitchenAid with a dough attachment; (2) a pizza stone and (3) an oven that heats to 550F or whatever the celsius equivalent is. The incredibly hot oven is mandatory, otherwise the dough doesn’t rise and crisp up and you get that icky, stodgy, heavy breadiness.
For the dough:
3 and 1/3 cups of unbleached flour
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 cups water (between 110 and 120 degrees F- I usually run the tap till it gets as hot as it can and the temperature is perfect).
1 sachet dried yeast
1 and 1/2 tsps salt
2 tsps olive oil
For the sauce:
1 large can crushed Italian tomatoes
3 lg cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
balsamic vinegar/white wine
For the pizza:
Anything else you can find- proscuitto and shallot, say, or capers and sausage.
45 mins before you want to start cooking, mix the water, yeast and sugar together and set aside for 4 or 5 minutes, until it looks foamy. In a food processor/ KitchenAid, attach the dough blade/hook and put in the flour, salt and olive oil. Turn on the machine and slowly, slowly add the yeast liquid until it all gets absorbed and forms a ball of dough that leaves the sides clean. If it’s too sticky, add some flour. If it’s too dry, add some warm water. You’ll know when it’s right because the dough will stick together in one piece and won’t get stuck to your fingers. Put in an oiled glass or plastic bowl (not metal, because maintaining an even temperature is crucial), cover with plastic wrap and set aside. It should triple in size within 45 minutes.
After 30 minutes, preheat the oven because it’ll take a while to get hot. Place the pizza stone inside. In a saucepan, heat the oil and fry the garlic for ten seconds or so before adding the tomatoes, oregano, pepper flakes and about 1/3 cup water. If you want to add a splash of white wine, do it now (I usually add a little balsamic vinegar at the end, for sweetness). Bring to a boil and simmer slowly for ten minutes (or until you need it).
Take your dough out and put it onto a floured surface. Cut it into four pieces, make them into patties and leave them to sit for another five minutes. Start working one into a pizza base by starting from the middle, pushing the edges out with your fingers and then stretching until it’s as big as you want it. John uses a rolling pin to get his totally thin, and that works. I like mine to be uneven though. Take the pizza stone out of the oven, place the pizza base on top and shape it a bit (but be careful because the stone is crazy hot). Then add the sauce (not the cheese) and place in the oven for 3-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of your base.
Once the base has puffed up and the sauce starts to look kind of matte, take the stone out and put on your toppings. Bake in the oven for another few minutes until the cheese is melted. It shouldn’t take very long. Voila. Finish with some olive oil and fresh basil and you’re done. The worst part now is figuring out whether you want to make the next pizza or just sit down and eat.
So simple, but also the most successful dish of married life so far (a chicken stroganoff tasted good but turned out a little watery). This comes from my mom’s recipe- she adds a lot of vegetables to bulk up the sauce so she can subtly get my stepdad to eat less meat. So sneaky, those Brits. I think they give it a really nice flavor though. I also doubled the tomatoes and added a splash of worcestershire sauce, just because.
This is great with spaghetti but also good on its own, with cheese, or as the base for a cottage pie. My husband makes it into sloppy Joes. It’s really simple, delicious and cheap to make, and comforting in the winter. Yields enough for about 4-6 people, or two with good leftovers.
1 lb organic lean ground beef (Trader Joe’s does a really good small pack that’s not expensive and the quality of the meat makes a huge difference).
2 large or 3 small carrots
2 stalks celery
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 28oz tin crushed tomatoes (without added salt, if possible)
dried Italian herbs
fresh basil, torn
splash red wine
worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper
Roughly chop the onions and celery- they don’t have to be too fine but you also don’t want too many big chunks. Finely chop the carrot- you can grate it, or also put it in a food processor and almost puree it, which really brings out the flavor in the sauce. In a large dutch oven or saucepan, heat 2 tbsps of olive oil and fry the onions and celery for about five minutes, until soft. Add the meat and garlic and brown it gently, breaking up the lumps with a wooden spoon. Add the carrots, salt and pepper, tomatoes, red wine, herbs and splash of worcestershire sauce and stir. Fill up the tomato can about halfway with water and add to the sauce so it’s a little looser- a lot of liquid cooks out and you don’t want the sauce to be too heavy. Bring to a boil and cook over a medium low heat for 20-30 minutes. I like to add the basil toward the end so you can taste it, but you can just as easily add it over the sauce with some parmesan and black pepper.