Sunday, March 25, 2018

Egg Yolk Pasta Dough for a Torchio

With spring’s arrival, I become less miserly with my local farm eggs. Here’s a recipe for an egg yolk dough suitable for a torchio pasta press. I previously shared a dough recipe (here) that calls for 9 medium egg yolks. The following recipe uses 4 egg yolks and makes approximately 200 grams of bright yellow pasta dough.

115 grams Central Milling Organic Type 00 flour
4 egg yolks
Water, as needed

1. Sift the flour into the bowl of a stand mixer. Weigh the eggs yolks. When making this recipe, I start with approximately 80 grams of egg yolks. In a glass, beat the egg yolk mixture.
2. With the mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and running on low speed, slowly pour the egg yolks into the mixer’s bowl in small batches. Mix the dough for about 2 to 3 minutes. At this point I typically need to add a small amount of water—approximately 6 to 7 grams—to achieve the dough consistency I want. The dough should almost come together into a ball. It should hold together if squeezed, but the dough should not feel tacky or sticky.
3. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Using your hand, bring the dough together into a ball in the mixing bowl. Knead the dough in the bowl or on a work surface for approximately 30 seconds. Form the dough into a log that can slide into the torchio’s chamber. Tightly wrap the dough in plastic and leave it to rest at room temperature for 45 minutes.
I tested the above recipe, which serves 2, using a number of different pasta corta bronze dies from Emiliomiti, including a No. 98 rigatoni and a No. 173 elbow pasta die. Once extruded, I let the pasta air-dry for an hour or two.

To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fresh pasta, stir, and when the water returns to a boil, cook for approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Taste to determine if the pasta is ready. If so, drain and add the pasta to your ready sauce, mix the two together over heat and cook for about 2 minutes or more until the pasta and sauce marry.

This final mixing/cooking over heat takes pasta and sauce to their intended union. For 200 grams of cooked pasta, I typically have a modest amount of sauce in my pan. I aim for an amount of sauce that will disappear into the pasta as the sauce reduces and thickens with the pasta’s starch. Depending upon my sauce, I might add a handful of grated cheese during this stage and sometimes a splash or two of the pasta’s cooking water to make sure the sauce doesn’t get too thick. When adding cheese and/or pasta water to your pan, consider the amount salt in your sauce lest the finished dish become too salty.

I love the texture of pasta made with egg yolks. But what to do with your 4 leftover egg whites? Try using them to make cookies (here).

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Polpette in bianco

For my first post of 2018, I want to share an Italian meatball recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks of 2017, Two Kitchens: Family recipes from Sicily and Rome by Rachel Roddy.  Two Kitchens is Roddy’s second cookbook and, in my opinion, it equals her award-winning Five Quarters: Recipes and notes from a kitchen in Rome, which garnered the Guild of Food Writers’ First Book award and the André Simon Food Book award of 2015.

Roddy originally posted the following recipe for Polpette in bianco (Meatballs in white sauce) on her food blog, Rachel Eats. In this recipe in bianco means a white wine sauce.  After coating the polpette in fine breadcrumbs, you brown the meatballs in olive oil and then finish them in a bath of vino bianco. The wine reduces into a bright, delicious sauce that pairs with the richness of the polpette. Here’s the complete recipe from Two Kitchens (which, with a tweak or two, mirrors the recipe in Roddy’s blog). The dish serves 6.

250g minced beef
350g minced pork
75g soft fresh breadcrumbs
75g Parmesan, grated
1 heaped tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 eggs
fine breadcrumbs, for rolling
6 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
200ml white wine (you may need a little more)
salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Knead together the meat, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley (reserving a little for later), eggs, a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Work the mixture, kneading and then squeezing the ingredients together into a soft, consistent mass.
Pour [the fine] breadcrumbs on a plate. Take walnut-sized balls of the meat mixture and then roll them firmly between your palms into small, neat balls. Roll the balls in breadcrumbs and sit them on a clean board or plate.
Warm the olive oil in a large, deep frying pan. Crush the garlic cloves with the back of a knife so that they split but remain whole and add then to the pan. Fry gently until golden and fragrant, which should take a minute or so. Remove the garlic and add the meatballs. Fry the meatballs, increasing the heat a little and moving them around until they are brown on all sides. This will take about 6 minutes.
Add the wine, which will sizzle vigorously, and a good pinch of salt. Continue to cook the meatballs, nudging them around. As the wine reduces into a thickish gravy, scape it down from the sides of the pan and keep the meatballs moving so they cook evenly. You may need to add more wine. After about 5 minutes, taste a meatball to see how it is cooking. You may need to cook them a little longer; you may not. Adjust the seasoning if necessary and stir again.
Once cooked, turn the meatballs on to a warm platter, pour over the pan gravy and sprinkle over a little parsley to serve.
People can be funny about their family recipes. They fervently believe that their mother’s or father’s or aunt’s recipe for, say, meatballs, surpass all other versions. (Roddy uses the phrase the “blessed curse of mamma’s meatballs” to illustrate this point.) You might be tempted to pass on Polpette in bianco because how can it possibly compare to mamma’s meatballs? Here’s what you do: mix up a batch of polpette using your preferred ingredients and then use Roddy’s technique of breading, frying and braising. You’ll be happy you did. Since the recipe appeared in Roddy’s blog in 2014, I’ve made the dish a dozen times or more each year and I always use my polpette mixture, which, in all modesty, surpasses mamma’s version.

One last point before we leave polpette: the flavor of meatballs improves when they rest for a couple of hours in the refrigerator before being cooked. Plan ahead and your meatballs will repay your industry with better taste.

I wish more food writers turned out family cookbooks like Two Kitchens and Five Quarters. Roddy has complied recipes that I look forward to making every day of the week. I hope she’s hard at work on a third cookbook.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Best Cookbooks of 2017

A plethora of outstanding 2017 cookbooks made creating a list of the five best a happy challenge. After all, whittling is half the fun of this exercise. I present, in alphabetical order, my picks for the five best cookbooks of 2017.

Bäco: Vivid recipes from the heart of Los Angeles by Josef Centeno and Betty Hallock. Chronicle Books.

On Vegetables by Jeremy Fox. Phaidon.

Slow Food Editore – Osteria translated by Natalie Danford. Rizzoli.

State Bird Provisions: A Cookbook by Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski with JJ Goode. Ten Speed Press.

Two Kitchens: Family recipes from Sicily and Rome by Rachel Roddy. Headline Home.

Why these books?

Flip to any recipe in Bäco and find something exciting to make. Centeno’s cooking reflects Los Angeles’s cosmopolitan olio: The flavors of the Far East mingle with those of the Middle East and Spain, Portugal and France. Without talent, melding these cuisines risks making a mess. But Centeno has the skill to marry different food cultures to create New California dishes. If you like Travis Lett’s Gjelina, you’ll love Centeno’s Bäco.

Jeremy Fox’s On Vegetables gets my vote for best cookbook of 2017. Fox’s collection of recipes will help you to prepare sophisticated yet seductively simple food. Fox’s honest account of his journey to overcome self-doubt and destructive behavior makes On Vegetables worth reading apart from the world-class recipes.

In 2011 I traveled to Bologna and lugged back a very weighty tome entitled Le ricette di Osterie d’Italia by Slow Food Editore. Nancy Danford has translated this massive Italian compendium into English. Yes, this new version leaves out many recipes contained in the original edition, but Rizzoli still deserves kudos for making this English-language Osteria available. (Note: Even trimmed, the new version contains 1000 recipes!) Want to make Crostini con gambi di carciofi from Osteria di Montecodruzzo in Emilia-Romagna? Well now you can even if you can’t read Italian.

State Bird Provisions opens with its recipe for Buttermilk Fried Quail. What follows is a collection of recipes divided into four sections: Savory Larder; Savory Recipes; Dessert Larder; and Sweet Recipes. Boasting big, bold flavors, State Bird does its thing in its own way: Kosho made with Meyer lemon instead of yuzu, and dashi spiked with rosemary, ginger and citrus. Like aiolis? Good! You’re in luck: The book includes 11 different recipes. State Bird Provisions sits proudly alongside my well-worn copy of Bar Tartine: Techniques & Recipes.

Rachel Roddy follows up her award-winning 2015 cookbook, Five Quarters, with Two Kitchens: Family recipes from Sicily and Rome. Like her first work, Roddy fills Two Kitchens with recipes that you will cook again and again and again. Favorites include: A dead simple yet delicious dish of potatoes and greens; a recipe for meatballs dusted with breadcrumbs, fried and then braised in white wine that bubbles down into a bright sauce; and a comforting braise of chicken with potatoes, anchovies and rosemary. In addition to having a knack of cherry-picking the best recipes from friends, family and others, Roddy writes extremely well. I cannot wait to see what she turns out next.

A lot of books vied for a place on my Best Of list: Bread is Gold by Massimo Bottura; Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden; Kaukasis by Olia Hercules; Tartine All Day by Elisabeth Prueitt; and Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner…Life by Missy Robbins. I really looked forward to Bianco by Chris Bianco, but found it disappointing. Probably my unrealistic expectations. But check it out: Bianco might speak to you.