Archive for October, 2009

Roasted Tomato Bisque with a Gorgonzola & Prosciutto Crostini

Posted in bisque, crostini, prosciutto, Soups, tomatoes, Vegatables on 14 October 2009 by restaurant refugee

It was supposed to be a Fall Friday dinner – hearty foods, rich and lush flavors – but Mother Nature decided not to fully cooperate.  Temperatures spiked into the 80s but I had already decided that “Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese” was on the menu.

The dish is listed in quotes because it is a playful take on the children’s classic (which is something that I love when I’m sick – in case any of you ever need to know.)  This Roasted Tomato Bisque with a Gorgonzola & Prosciutto Crostini is a low and slow dish that can be made faster – I am listing the “fast” way because that is the one I use most frequently.

Roasted Tomato Bisque with a Gorgonzola & Prosciutto Crostini – Serves Six

  • 30 ounces of tomato sauce
  • 1 pint of cognac
  • 2 medium shallots
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 4 ounces of freshly grated parmesan
  • 1 cup of half and half
  • 1 cup of dry white wine
  • 12 leaves fresh basil
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 6 tablespoons of flour
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 ounces Prosciutto di Parma
  • 1 country-style baguette
  • 3 ounces of Gorgonzola

Thinly slice the shallots and set them aside.  Chop the garlic and set aside.  Cover both with a damp paper towel.

In a stock pot, melt one stick of butter over low-medium heat.  When mostly melted, add the flour to the pot and whisk until blended.  Add a sprinkle of salt and lower the heat.  Stir frequently.  The mixture, also known as a Roux, will require near constant attention – stir several times per minute – and will get progressively more brown.  roux-tan-This picture* is pretty close to the color you want.  It will take about 30-45 minutes to achieve this color.

If you have a Sous Chef in the kitchen, turn over the final fifteen minutes of stirring of the roux to him/her while you melt some butter in sauté pan and add the garlic.  Let it simmer for a few minutes and add the shallots and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Once the roux is almost at the right color, add a half a pint of cognac to the sauté pan.  Strike a match (or tilt your pan if you’ve got a gas stove) to burn the alcohol away leaving just the flavor of the cognac.  While this fire looks really cool in the kitchen, stop showing off and blow it out already.  Add it directly into the roux, stir once, remove from heat and cover.

In the same sauté pan add a pat of butter and melt over medium heat.  Slice the basil into strips and add to the pan.  Let simmer for a couple of minutes and add most of the rest of the cognac and repeat the trick with the fire.  Add to the roux pot.

Pour in the tomato sauce, the cream, one teaspoon of salt, one teaspoon black pepper.  Raise the heat to medium-low while stirring frequently.  Just before it reaches the bubble point stir in the parmesan – adding the cheese slowly while whisking briskly.  Once all of the cheese has been incorporated, add in the white wine.  Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and let it simmer.   Taste again – you have been tasting while cooking right? – and add salt and pepper to taste.

If you want an extra smooth consistency, then either run your immersion blender through the bisque or let the bisque cool completely and run it through a blender.  The pureeing is an overrated step, but that is a personal choice.

Slice the baguette on the bias – you want the Crostini to be at least five inches long and one third an inch thick.  Brush them with olive oil, place on a baking pan and into an oven preheated to 375 degrees.  Let them toast for five minutes.  Remove them from the oven and reset the oven to a low broil.  Layer prosciutto atop each piece, and then top the meat with Gorgonzola and return to the oven. Make sure that the oven rack is placed in the middle of the oven and not too close to the broiler. Broil until the cheese is melted – about five minutes.

bisqueServe with the Crostini on the side of the bowl or directly in the soup as I did and enjoy.

* this picture is not from my cooking but grabbed from somewhere on the interwebs; unfortunately I neglected to save the link.


Sunday Dinner Parts III & IV – Apple & Pear Dumplings

Posted in apples, dessert, pears on 12 October 2009 by restaurant refugee

The big lessons from the third course of the Sunday dinner I have been chronicling are related to instincts.  Not following my instincts led me to over-cook a lovely beef tenderloin.  I hewed to instructions from another party rather than what I knew to be true.  Besides my error, I also assume that everyone reading this has a solid recipe for grilling a tenderloin and lobster too.  IMG00034

So here is a picture of the least over cooked plate – Surf & Turf: Grilled Beef Tenderloin, Lobster Tails, Asparagus, and Garlic Smashed Potatoes.

Now let’s jump to the Sweet Course.

I normally favor cheese versus confections but this is Fall and apples and pears should not be ignored.  These Dumplings are rather easy, can be made several hours in advance of final cooking, fry quickly, and there was an implied promise DC Striving that I would post this recipe.  This is my kind of dessert.

Apple & Pear Dumplings with Warm Caramel Sauce

  • One medium Apple (I used a Golden Delicious, but any in season apple that bakes well will do)
  • One Ripe Pear
  • Two Tablespoons of Honey
  • One teaspoon of fresh ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch of Corn Starch
  • Sugar
  • Powdered Sugar
  • One Egg
  • Wonton Wrappers
  • Caramel Sauce (There is a very helpful recipe here, but I place caramel sauce on the list of things that make more sense to purchase than make and I purchase the one from Whole Foods)

Peel and core the apple and the pear.  Brunoise the fruit – the extra small dice allows the dumplings to cook faster.  Heat a pat of unsalted butter in a large sauté pan, add the apples and pears.  Pour the honey over the fruit, add one teaspoon of the cinnamon.  Toss until evenly coated and taste.  That’s enough cinnamon for me but some may wish to have even more.  Stir in a pinch or two of corn starch (it will act as adhesive and absorb excess moisture) and set the mixture aside to cool.

IMG00029Once the fruit mixture has cooled to room temperature or thereabouts, beat the egg in a bowl.  Using two spoons, fill each wonton and seal with the egg wash.  Using the back of a fork to further seal them isn’t a bad idea either.  Sprinkle them with a sugar and let them sit at least thirty minutes at room temperature.  If making dumplings well in advance of frying them, refrigerate them after the initial thirty minutes room temperature period.  Remove them from the refrigerator at least twenty minutes before frying.

Heat fresh vegetable oil in a frying pan to 350 degrees.  Once hot place the dumplings in the oil until golden brown on each side – about two minutes per side.  Place on a paper towel to drain excess oil.  Using a strainer, top with powdered sugar and serve with the caramel in a bowl (get’s pleasantly but not dangerously hot with 30 seconds in the microwave.)


Sunday Dinner Part II – Tagliatelle with Pork Ragu & Tomato Cream Sauce

Posted in pasta, pork, slow cooking on 5 October 2009 by restaurant refugee

Tagliatelle with Pork Ragu & Tomato Cream Sauce

The first time I had a tomato cream sauce was more years ago than I care to recall while I was doing a three month stint in Boca Raton, Florida.  I worked 90 hour weeks, had a barely-existent social life, and generally hated my time down there.  Among the few highlights were a bartender who was particularly nice to me, and a semi-regular lunch at a little café a few blocks from my office.  At least once a week, I would watch an incredible sauté cook produce pasta after pasta in a postage stamp sized kitchen.  My favorite was the Linguini Beanie, the signature dish of Beanie’s Café.  It was sautéed veggies with a simple tomato cream sauce.

Since that summer I have made countless versions of that dish.  This recipe bears almost no resemblance to the initial but it is very much the product of those brief lunches watching the kitchen.  It continues to evolve and I may never stop making this pasta because it brings me so much joy and still reminds me of the sliver of light it brought to very dark times.  I show my love through food and this dish shows more than most.  It was a natural choice for the second course for Sunday dinner.

Tagliatelle with Pork Ragu & Tomato Cream Sauce

Serves 4-5 entrée sized portions or 6-8 midcourse portions.

1 pound ground pork – 80/20 is preferred but any with a fat content greater than 10% will work

10 cloves of garlic

1 dozen fresh basil leaves

1 shallot thinly sliced – have you purchased a mandoline yet?

1 tablespoon fresh oregano

½ cup of sherry

¼ cup of olive oil

30 ounces of tomato sauce

½ cup of half and half

6 ounces of Parmigianino Reggiano cheese

1 pound of Tagliatelle

1 stick of salted butter

Kosher Salt to taste

Fresh Pepper to taste

I used a slow cooker to make this dish but you can also do this in any pot that conducts heat well if you have a burner with a consistent and low flame.  Start the slow cooker on low and add the olive oil. Smash the garlic cloves with a knife Pork Ragu 1or other implement and add to the oil.  Roll the basil leaves into a finger and slice into ½ inch strips and add to the oil.  Add the oregano and a sprinkle of salt to the oil.  Let it cook for about 30 minutes while the meat comes to room temperature.  Failing to cook meat at room temperature is among the most frequent mistake people make with food.

Once the garlic and other spices has had a chance to soften and get to know each other, add the sherry and the ground pork.  You will need Pork Ragu 2to use a wooden spoon to separate the meat but wait just a minute until everything has come back to temperature.  Stir the meat around until it has the ground meat texture.  It will take about an hour to mostly brown and cook.

After the meat is mostly cooked, add the tomato sauce and the half&half.  Add a healthy sprinkle of salt and pepper and let cook for another hour.

The sauce now needs to be transferred to a stock pot and the temperature brought to a low boil.  Grate in the parmesan cheese but leave enough cheese to finish the bowls tableside.  Once the cheese is incorporated, lower the heat and return to the slow cooker.  Place the slow cooker on the Low setting for another 30 minutes.

The sauce is done at this point and the slow cooker setting should be set to warm until serving.

None of you need me to explain how to make al dente pasta or serve from this point, right?  OK, good, let’s move along.

A couple of things to note about this dish:

  • There are a few things that are on my Not Worth the Effort to Make from Scratch List, and unless you’re expert chef with an hankering to make your own pasta, Tagliatelle is on that list.  I am in love with the pasta from Severino.
  • Also on the aforementioned list is Tomato Sauce.
  • I am really sorry that I forgot to take a picture of the final product.
  • This dish can be condensed into a 30 minute cooking time by not using a slow cooker and doing all of the steps at higher heat.  It will still taste good but not nearly as good.
  • One really good time saver is to swap the ground pork with oven roasted sausage.