Homemade Fettucine Alfredo, Roasted Broccoli, Chicken Diavolo

Homemade pasta was cut to fettucine and used in fettucine alfredo - not my favorite dish. But instead of slathering pasta with creamy, cheesy sauce, I simply lightened it up by simply tossing the pasta in butter, grated cheeses and some cooking water. Quite good, and better for you.

Roasted Broccoli with oranges - zest and orange juice make a simple vinaigrette to top the broccoli. Mmmm. Recipe comes from Molto Italiano by Mario Batali. I think I used his proportions for pasta dough too. 3 cups flour, 1/2 cup semolina, 5 eggs. I think.

Chicken? Eh. It was OK.

Making the dough "well" used to intimidate me. It's actually quite, quite easy. Kneading is, well, I'd like to say minimal, but it's a little more than that. The rolling / cutting process is probably more time consuming than anything, really.

Sausage and Brown Mushroom Frittata

Recently we had this delicious frittata. You can see that there are slices of Texas Hill Country sausage (which is similar to kielbasa). This one is likely garlic sausage, which I prefer to most varieties, with pork and venison my second favorite. Large slices of crimini mushroom are added and a few fresh thyme sprigs. Most times I start this kind of fritatta with some sliced shallot and pancetta in small cubes - there may be evidence of their presence here - but I kind of forgot exactly how I made this one.

That's the beauty of Frittata - any reasonable savory or neutral base can be used. The egg mixture can be plain, or you can whip in cream, grated cheese or fresh herbs.  For more details on this technique, see my detailed article on frittata making.

The Essential New York Times Cookbook

The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century

If you've been reading my columns for a while you know that I'm picky about cookbooks - they have to be very, very good to make it onto my short shelf of favorites

So it's quite rare to see a book in a bookstore, immediately buy it, and have it be as good or better than I had anticipated. However, that's the story behind the newly published The Essential New York Times Cookbook edited by Amanda Hesser. 

Amanda is now almost a household name, even if you're not a NY Times reader, as she appeared in the movie Julie and Julia, owing to her role of publicizing  Julie's blog. Hesser has been one of the elite corp of NY Times food writers from the past couple decades. She strongly upholds their collective credentials with this impressive volume of recipes, history and amusing personal anecdotes. 
The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century is a fairly unusual cookbook, as it draw on recipes from as long ago as the 1850's, when the Times first began writing about food and cooking.  In some cases these ancient references serves as cultural history lessons, but in almost all cases the original recipes are quite useful and appealing renditions of classic or forgotten dishes. 

The recipes are drawn from columns as they appeared in the paper, or from the many cookbooks assembled by NY Times food writers. 

Several of the most important recipe sources I used to develop my own cooking skills tie to the New York Times publications and writers. So some of these recipes are already in my repertoire (or on my cookbook shelf). The New New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey (very hard to get now on amazon or ebay - good luck) was the first "serious" cookbook I used. The 60 Minute Gourmet columns were published every Wednesday and I used them extensively. Each week  I would make whatever two or three courses Pierre Franey happened to concoct. This ritual ended up being a key component of my courtship with Margie. Let's get back to the new book, shall we? 

The original publication date and source of the recipes are included. It's really exciting to read a recipe, find it appealing and then learn that it was first published in 1892 or 1907. 

In many cases there are comments from original recipe authors or other relevant anecdotes. 

So, it's quite uncommon for me to find a new cookbook and embrace it so quickly and strongly. I already recommend this book highly, as the recipes go far beyond the simple phrase "time tested", and the background stories surrounding them are a delight to read. 

I've already made two new dishes from the book - and each was an unqualified success. Actually, I've many more recipes from the book since I first drafted this list. A testament to the book's value, for sure. 
  • Winter-Slaw with Lemon and Orange Dressing
  • Italian Beef Stew with Rosemary
  • Buttermilk Herb Dressing
  • Sam Sifton's Pizza dough
  • Apple Galette
I also started a quick list of recipes that caught my attention. I was obviously in the salad section, and got distracted before I got too far, but here are some I liked and look forward to making: 
  • Puree of Celery Root
  • Fried Radishes
  • Warm Eggplant Salad with Sesame and Shallot
  • Airplane Salad (what ever that is)
  • Fennel and Apple Salad with Juniper Berries
  • Moroccan Carrot Salad 

Pizza with Carmelized Onions, Figs and Blue Cheese

Dough recipe came from The Essential New York Times Cookbook, listed as Sam Sifton's Pizza dough. Much like tomato sauces, I've made many, many pizza doughs over the years. This is not my #1 favorite, but it's near the top of the list. Labor is minimal, texture and flavor is excellent.

The Frankies Sausage with Peppers

Italian Sausage with Carmelized Onions and Roasted Peppers
-- was served over polenta with Romano cheese 

Another great recipe from The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion and Cooking Manual. While at times this cookbook seems almost too elementary, the Frankies share some great technique ideas. [Please click on the link to buy the book and support my tiny amazon commission. I won't print full recipes from other peoples cookbooks without permission. Plus, the book is worth it, a good resource and enjoyable read]. 

In the case of sausage with peppers, there are several keys that make this a truly above-average or better dish:

  1. Parboil Italian sausage links for 15 minutes, partially submerged in liquid in a large saute pan (sausage still won't be cooked through). 
  2. Roast red and yellow (and green if you want) peppers separately, grilled or broiled; peel in the usual manner, slice and reserve. 
  3. Carmelize onions on their own, before other ingredients are combined. 
Sausage is then taken OUT of it's casings, added to onions. Add tomatoes (San Marzano or fresh) then peppers.

The technique of cooking several ingredients separately is common in some super high end kitchens (think Thomas Keller) to allow each ingredient to be cooked to a desired done-ness and retain it's texture at a desired level. The opposite approach - creating a melthing pot of flavors, has is own distinct benefits. I like what happens in this dish - as it takes an immigrant classic and brings it up a level.

Black Beans with Dark Rum and Vinegar, Pumpkin Seed Guacamole

Note the near empty carnita dish behind the hot sauce bottle 

Another Taco bar for a recent family party:

  • Creamy Chicken Thighs and Kale
  • Grilled Chicken
  • Allspice and Cumin Carnitas
  • Pickled Onion
  • Radish Slices
  • Roasted Pumpkin Seed Guacamole
  • Fresh Tomato Salsa
  • Fresh Lettuce and Cilantro
  • "Bufalo" brand Mexican hot sauce (recommended !!)
  • Black Beans with Dark Rum and Vinegar
For the Guacamole: grind 1/3 to 1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds in a food processor and add to a traditional guacamole (about 3 large avocados). Garnish with whole roasted pumpkin seeds. 

For the Black Beans:  Saute onion, one jalapeno, one poblano pepper and a few garlic cloves in olive oil. Add to a pound of cooked black beans, season with a teaspoon of oregano, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, and 3 tablespoons dark rum. Heat to combine. Serve room temp. 

For Carnitas: 3 pounds carnita style pork dusted with 1/2 teaspoon each of cumin and allspice, then salt and pepper. Let sit for an hour at room temperature. Grill over indirect heat for 60-90 minutes to form a crust. Cover in foil and cook in 250 degree oven for 3 hours, until meat falls apart. 

Roasted Potato Cubes with Garlic

Potato cubes parboiled for 4 minutes. Tossed with olive oil, whole garlic cloves and S&P.  Roasted for 20 minutes or so at 425.

Pork Loin Stuffed with Pancetta

Stuffing included sage, thyme, garlic, pancetta cubes, mushrooms, pine nuts, egg. Topped with a thick slice of prosciutto and a few cubes of frozen chicken stock.

Pierre Franey's Linguini with Clam Sauce

A great recipe from my primary mentor Pierre Franey. The recipe can be found in the The Essential New York Times Cookbook, edited by Amanda Hesser.

What makes the recipe great is that it calls for fresh herbs - basil and thyme - and uses a little cream. Well, more than a little, but if you divide by 4, 5 or 6 servings, then it's just a little cream per serving.

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