Monday, October 18, 2010

Fricassed chicken with onions

This is another recipe from Marcella's Italian Kitchen, the book that Marcella appears to be most fond of, but which slipped through to the keeper from the public's perspective. You don't hear of it much, relatively speaking.

I find it to be perhaps the most personal of her books. While her first two books defer to the classics, you get the sense she is letting her hair down here, playing in the kitchen. She also seems content, and refers happily to her son and his antics.

I have eyed this recipe off for a while. I bought the ingredients for it several times, but deferred the execution as it takes a couple of hours to come together. The technique certainly results in some tasty onion - you could do a lot with that, the onion. I think I prefer it to the onion Marcella makes for her onion pasta from Essentials. Just put the onions in the pan with some olive oil, wait an hour and then season and lightly brown it. Perhaps put some parsley with it and what a delicious pasta sauce. Or fritatta base. It could be used anywhere really.

But in this case it is used to fricassee a chicken - my preferred way to cook a chicken, although my standout favourites are to use garlic, rosemary and white wine (possibly with cherry tomatoes and olives) or red cabbage (with mash). How many ways do you need I wonder?

I felt a bit like Colonel Sanders browning the chicken in flour. It was really a form of frying with all the vegetable oil.

But in it went. I was concerned that there wasn't enough liquid, although some seemed to appear from the chicken over time. The onions also stuck to the bottom of the pan a couple of times, perhaps because they were so sweet I don't know, but that was something to watch for.

The end result was sweet. Really really sweet. Of course, my dining companion was in heaven, as she loves all sweet things. I must admit I gave it a good bash, although I have less of a sweet tooth. It is quite incredible to think all that sweetness comes from the onions. If you did not cook, who would think that onions could be so sweet?

I do not think I will make this one again, although I may be encouraged to.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Frittata with onion, tomato and basil

I picked up some nice free range eggs, tomatoes and basil at the markets yesterday and so thought I would put them to good use for breakfast by making a frittata.

You can make a french omelette very quickly, but I didn't mind waiting a little longer for this.

As it turns out, it took a little longer again, but it was worth it. I think this is the most successful frittata I have ever cooked. First, the onions are softened and browned. This produces the most sweet, delicious substance and is quite remarkable given it is 'only' onion, salt and oil. Then the fresh tomato is added. I was a little worried about the absence of some juice in the tomato, especially since Marcella talks about simmering, and the oil floating free from the tomato (in the same way it does when preparing a tomato based pasta).

I need not have worried, this absolutely mindbendingly delicious substance turned out just fine. It just took a little while. When people complain to me about this - that is, time spent cooking, I ask them how they would have spent their time otherwise. Watching TV? It is a good way to spend one's time, I think.

Once cool it was mixed with the eggs and basil and I went ahead with the slow cooking on the stove. I have bought a large non-stick frypan especially for frittatas and it worked a treat with this one. I let it cook a little longer this time, until it really was cooked except for a bit on the top. I then put it under the stove for another 30 seconds or minute, and we were away.

It looked like a colourful thin pancake, waiting to be sliced. It was extremely enjoyable, and tasted of so much more than just egg (as is the case with crap cafe frittatas). You could taste everything in it: the onions, the tomatoes and the basil. It really would be a nice thing to cut and take to a picnic or to have at a barbecue. I like the idea of having little squares for people to munch on as finger food when they arrive at your house for dinner.

I will be cooking this again.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Spaghettini with scallops

Wow! This pasta blew us away. I wanted to buy some seafood when I went to the Rocklea markets and was lucky to spot some fresh scallops. I had been eying off Giuliano Hazan's Spaghetti with Scallops from his 30 Minute Pasta book for a while. It is based on a similar recipe of Marcella's from Essentials.

I find it very difficult to find fresh scallops. Most are frozen crap. But at the markets I bought about 300 grams of fresh for $10.

Not much in this recipe. The best Hazan recipes don't have many ingredients. Garlic, parsley, chilli flakes and breadcrumbs are about it. I tried to make the breadcrumbs in the oven first, after blending some old bread. I burned them, and then had another go in a skillet as suggested by Marcella in Essentials.

The pasta sauce itself was simple. I was worried about the liquid coming from the scallops but need not have because it was that tasty sauce that made the pasta. There was no browning, or consequential pasta water, in sight, but that didn't matter.

The pasta water reference confuses me a little - should water not have come from my scallops? Why would you need the pasta water?

In any event the dish was an absolute triumph. The pasta was indeed the hero, and the sauce tasted of the sea, but in a good way - in the way you want seafood to taste. Every bite was delicious. A runner for the best pasta dish I have ever eaten. Certainly the best seafood one.

Hats off to Giuliano for this one, and Marcella before him. This dish is stellar.

ps - anyone got any tips on how to remove the beet stains from my chopping board? They made some of my scallops red.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lamb chops with garlic, rosemary and white wine

I'm fond of lamb chops. They are quick, easy and tasty. Australia has good lamb chops, I think, and you don't need to do much to them. I normally just cook them with salt, pepper and olive oil. You can let them rest and then put some more oil in the juices and serve with a slice of lemon if you want to be fancy.

Having said that I adore the Italian combination of garlic, rosemary and white wine. I have learnt to cook chicken with it. I can see you can cook veal with it. And this is the quick version for lamb chops from Marcella's Italian Kitchen.

It went well. I used bread to mop up the juices, which I never tire of.

I'll be making this again.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lamb with green beans and vinegar

I have made this dish before, a few times. I've never nailed it, although it has been delicious every time. Some times I have not had all shoulder, or it wasn't on the bone. Some times it has been too oily, or fatty, or I didn't have enough oil to brown the lamb, or the beans were not cooked enough.

Tonight it all came together.

First I got lamb still on the bone. As Marcella said to me on 22 June 2010:

"David, why all this anguish? I meant exactly I wrote, 3 pounds of lamb shoulder with its bones in, cut into pieces. Certainly we make stews with bones in, the meat attached to a bone has always been known to be the tastiest. Food is meant to be worked with and savored, not sipped through a straw. In reading your blog, I deduce that you are not browning the meat in hot enough oil. If you were, you wouldn't have to keep on replacing the oil. Bear in mind that I have cooked all of those dishes myself exactly as they are described. On your first try, follow the recipe literally without improvisations then make any changes you choose on subsequent efforts. I believe moreover, that you ought to be cooking a dish either from my directions or Giuliano's, not from a combination of both. I have no idea what "working a cracker" might mean. Is that Aussie talk? "

I got the butcher to cut it up. It wasn't in 2 inch chunks, but that didn't matter in the slightest. And I did follow the instructions to the letter. I measured the oil, which I normally wouldn't do, I even measured the onion (normally I take 1 onion to be about 1 cup). I browned the large chunks of meat well, seasoned it well, measured the vinegar out and didn't touch it for an hour and a half.

When I had a peak then the meat was tender but there was a bit too much liquid. I let it simmer off a bit, but didn't want it all to go as it is so precious.

It all worked. The meat was tender. The vinegar had transformed into a delicious sauce. The beans were cooked but still had some bite.

We used bread to mop up the juices and scraps of meat and beans. Marrow was sucked from the bone.

This is a stew Marcella says she is fond of in More Classic Italian Cooking published in 1978. Well, I am very fond of it now, some 32 years later. And so are my guests.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Easy dinner

I stopped in at the little shopping complex on the way home today, and just bought a few things: a chicken, beets, and a pumpkin. At home I cooked a pan fried chicken with white wine rosemary garlic and chili flakes, as well as a beet salad and roast pumpkin.

The chicken was divine, and the salad excellent. Pumpkin was pretty good as well.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Dinner from the garden

Someone at work brought in some tomatoes and herbs from his garden. He had cherry tomatoes, roma tomatos, mint, parsley and basil. I thought I would cook dinner with it, and ended up with basil and tomato pasta (based on the 30 Minute Pasta recipe) and a simple cherry tomato, basil and mint salad (dressed with olive oil, salt and red wine vinegar in the usual fashion).

Very fresh. Very simple. Delicious.