Monday, June 21, 2010

Veal scaloppine with marsala and cream

When the recipe calls for dry marsala, do not use sweet.

And that's all I have to say on the matter.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Meat broth (2nd try)

(See the both bottom right)

Well, I wanted to make my second batch of meat broth. It is used in so many soups for starters.

This time I just did what I was told in "Marcella Says". I followed the instructions pretty well to the letter.

At least I tried. I went back to my butcher's, and asked if they had any cheap cuts of meat out the back, or at least any bones.

Yes he said, he has meat on the bone, Osso Bucco, it's frozen but would be fine.

And only $15 per kilo.

Ah, I said, do you have anything a little cheaper. Like offcuts, or even bones, out the back?

He checked. No, nothing out the back. No offcuts. No bones.

No bones, I said. My butcher doesn't have any bones?

That shamed him into a discount on the frozen osso bucco. I also bit the bullet and bought some chuck steak.

I think the main difference this time though was in the volume of water. I just used the Marcella Says meat broth technique, and the resulting liquid was quite delicious. Not as meaty as last time, but much more palatable. Delicious.

I'll freeze this little number in the morning. Might even make some risotto next weekend!

Swiss Chard, Cannellini Bean and Barley Soup

I was determined to make another soup after the success of the Giuliano Hazan minestrone last week, which I might say was used for no less than 3 meals during the week. Every skerrick was eaten.

Plus we have the weather for it at the moment.

This soup is unusual in that uses two pots. It is also unusual, for me, in that one of the pots contains barley. I've drunk some beer in my time, but I've never cooked with barley.

The third reason this soup is unusual is that it is not cooked in water, or broth. Water that is used to cook the barley is added in the end, but the main vegetables just cook by themselves for almost an hour (I added a little water following the barley water - I think next time I will add more as it is quite delicious and you do look for it each spoonful).

You can see the first base of onion, carrot and celery on the bottom left. The barley is cooking on the top right (broth and stew are also cooking).

The barley broth was really intriguing. I'd never tasted anything like it. That is what this soup is about, to me. That barley broth.

I don't have any scales, so I used a big bunch of chard. When the soup was done there was fear that it would be "fat camp food". But it didn't taste like fat camp food. It was intriguing. That barley water saw to that.

To me it wasn't as obviously delicious as the minestrone, but we enjoyed it, and were intrigued by it. It was immensely filling. I gave each of us 2 ladles of it, but I think we could have done with less.

I'm going to cook this one again, to make up my mind whether or not it is a keeper. I like the fact it is different. And you don't need broth to make it, if you have run out.

This is from Marcella Cucina.

Lamb stew with Vinegar and Green Beans

I've been eyeing this little stew off for a while. I must say it didn't look like much in the book. The title pretty well describes the ingredients.

One of my favourite Italian dishes is the Lamb Stew with Tomatoes, Olives and Parsley from Giuliano Hazan's How to Cook Italian. So I held hope for this dish. I was a little confused by Marcella's reference to lamb being "on the bone". Was it meant to be on the bone when it was cooked? I didn't think so. I ended up buying a kilo of the chopped lamb I use when I cook Giuliano's dish.

I noticed that Marcella said to brown the meat deeply. Giulano says to brown his lamb stew lightly. I did brown the first batch deeply, or at least more than I do the other stew. The problem with multiple batches is that the subsequent batches have to deal with the juices from the first batch. This makes it harder to brown deeply.

I didn't think that would matter.

I then had to brown the onion. By then, there wasn't any oil in the pan or juices for that matter, so I used my common sense (the most important ingredient in cooking, according to Marcella) and added a little more olive oil.

The other difference with Giulano and Marcella's technique on the stew is that Giulano calls for the meat to be seasoned on the plate, whereas Marcella does it when it is in the pot.

This is the first time I have cooked with green beans for a long time, perhaps ever. This made me think of my grandmother: she used to cook them for roasts. She snapped the ends in the same way I was, following Marcella's directions.

And then the vinegar. So much of it. A certain someone in the house used to hate vinegar. But then she fell in love with it on salads (stingily applied, of course). But half a cup is a lot. I gave it a little taste before I put it in.


You can see my lamb and beans in the top left. On the top right I am cooking some barley for my soup, which is in the bottom left. The bottom right is the famous Hazan meat broth (which is still on the stove as I type).

A Hazan stove if ever there was one.

But back to the stew. It was in. It was away. Marcella didn't say to stir every now and then, as Giuliano does, but it didn't seem right not to. So I did. As time progressed, the flavour improved.

By the time the hour and a half was up, I was a believer. I tested the lamb carefully, as often I have to cook the cut I buy for longer than is suggested. It all seemed to be in order.

It was served following my Swiss Chard, Cannellini Bean and Barley Soup, which I will blog separately about. I heated a serving bowl in the oven and served the lamb in the middle of the table.

It was simple, and delicious.

The best bits were the sauce (very often the case isn't it), served with a well browned bit of meat (it really made a difference!) with a beautiful bean (which, Marcella would be pleased to hear, didn't taste like grass after so much cooking).

We kept eating it, picking away in the bowl, looking for the brownest bits of meat to eat with sauce and beans.

We decided the correct ratio of meat pieces to beans was 1 to 2.

Crusty bread also did a little hunting for sauce.

The vinegar convert declared that this was superior to the Giulano stew, but that could be because we eat so many olives, tomatoes and parsley.

This one will be made again, and gets put in the winners list. The question is how to brown the meat better after the first batch, while still retaining the juices for the cooking since they must add so much to the stew.

Perhaps the answer is to tip the juices off with each batch and use new oil each time (using less oil for each batch).

Has anyone else turned their mind to it between mouthfuls of lamb, beans and sauce?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Veal slices topped with prosciutto and sage

I have written about this dish before, as I have the minestrone, but I thought I would also say a few extra words about this one too.

It is from Giuliano Hazan's How to Cook Italian. A few veal slices. Prosciutto. Sage. Butter. White wine. 10 minutes of your time.

Such a delicious course.

Both of us made happy noises as we polished off our veal slices. A little indulgent with the butter and prosciutto, but only small servings, and they only needed to be after our generous minestrone soup for our first course.

I couldn't be happier with our meal tonight. It is not that difficult to eat like a king if you make the effort.

I'll be cutting up some fruit later on in the evening just to finish things off.

Giuliano Hazan Minestrone

I have probably written about this before but it is worth writing about it again.

The recipes that get me excited are those that are simple and delicious. Both Marcella's and Giuliano's recipes aim for this. I suspect that this is the approach of Italian cooking in general, but I have noticed that the Hazans take it a step further than other, respected Italian cookbooks, which sometimes have one or two or even more ingredients than the equivalent Hazan recipe.

I'm over complicated. I cooked Thai for 5 years. That's bloody complicated. Simple honest flavours that emphasise or make delicious the ingredients I'm cooking is what I am after.

Anyway, back to the meal I just had. It is winter where I live. Soup weather. The soup I make the most often is the french style vegetable puree soup, with just 1 or 2 veges. Usually with homemade stock but sometimes just water.

I haven't really cracked the equivalent technique in Italian cooking. You develop the base I guess, onions, and possibly carrot and celery, and then add the ingredients in the order in which they need to be added in order to cook. Meat broth tends to be added instead of chicken stock.

I haven't really gotten into a routine of cooking meat broth.

Then the other difference seems to be that the ingredients aren't pureed once they are soft. For clarity, Marcella said in Cucina. It is for clarity that they keep their shapes.

Clarity or not, as I said I haven't really worked out a generic technique for Italian soups in the same way I have for french. Although perhaps it is similar and just as I described above. I need to get more into a routine of the broth. I just find it hard to order a kilo of meat from the butcher and put it in a stock pot.

But back to dinner. I've made it before but I've forgotten how good it is. Giuliano Hazan's minestrone soup from Every Night Italian. It only has vegetables in it, and salt and pepper and olive oil. Just vegetables! Topped with a little parmesan, and eaten with bread. It is so delicious.

No meat broth. Just vegetable goodness and water.

It certainly hit the spot tonight in the cold. Warming and comforting. Full of goodness, but that is neither here nor there. It's so delightful and satisfying. You can imagine generations of cooks, around the world really, preparing a similar soup in the hearth using local and seasonal vegetables for dinner.

And I can whack it in the fridge and munch on it for days.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mid week feast

I left work early today to see a doc about a cough. While waiting for my prescription I picked up a kilo of chopped lamb pieces as well as some extra rosemary and parsley. Home a little early I was able to whip up a mid-week feast, which pleased my dining companion no end when she arrived home at 7.

The feast was:
- Bruschetta with basil and tomato;
- Giuliano Hazan's Lamb Stew with Olives and Parsley from his How to Cook Italian: I know I keep cooking this dish but that's because it is so good and so easy. I cook it with red wine as I never seem to have white around.
- Marcella's Potato Salad from Marcella's Italian Kitchen, with olives and parsley (WARNING: olive overload but come to think of it they aren't even in the recipe);
- Boiled Broccoli with Salt, Olive Oil and Pepper (Neil Perry);
- Baked eggplant slices (Alice Waters)

Well I can tell you I am as full as a fart now. The stew was delicious; the potato salad was a little full on (simpler would have been better); the eggplant was a touch underdone and the slices could have been bigger.

The broccoli was the star. So creamy and delicious.

One thing I noticed was that I did seem to be suffering from salt overdose by the end of it. Everything had a lot of salt and olive oil on it. Brings out flavour, says Marcella, and makes food taste of itself. No need to hide behind trickery like the Thais for example.

I get that, and can see how it all works, but here there was just a bit too much salt in all my dishes. I'm not sure what could have broken that up. Dump the potato salad perhaps, or had a real salad instead of a vege dish.

Anyway, all good. I'm stuffed as I said, mainly on veges. Can't complain about that. And lots left over for tucker during the week.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Smothered Onion, Tuscan tbone, Roast chicken

I've cooked these dishes before but I thought I'd mention them again as I had them for dinner.

Hunger dictated I cooked the steak first, with the cracked pepper, salt, garlic rub and olive oil. Marcella would not be pleased to hear the olive oil went on before the steak was cooked but I had already put oil on my new fancy steak pan.

Due to popular demand I also cooked the Smothered Onion pasta. The first time I cooked this is was possibly the best thing I've even eaten, but I was a bit ho-hum about it the second.

This was the third.

All went well. The wine I'm using isn't the best for cooking. It has a sharp tang.

I didn't go mad for it, although it was well received. I think I want to cook it a fourth time with better wine and reserve judgement on whether or not I want it to be something I cook regularly until then.

I also cooked Chicken with Rosemary and Garlic from Giuliano Hazan's How to Cook Italian. We'll eat that tomorrow or the next day.