Wednesday, April 24, 2013

black pepper tagliatelle

This was an easy one: When mixing up the pasta, you just add a copious amount of black pepper. I'm a fan of black pepper, so I was totally on board.

Other than that, it was just about sautéing some parsnips and pancetta. 

OK, so I cured my own pancetta. But not specifically for this dish. It was just in the fridge. Its a benefit of being obsessive.

Boil the pasta, toss with the pancetta and parsnips, and it's all over.

I found this recipe on Cooking Channel's website. It doesn't call for the black pepper in the basic pasta. Weird. I'll tell you a secret: Add 2 tablespoons fresh ground black pepper to the eggs in the pasta part of the recipe. That may be the way it all goes down in the book.

Also, fresh pasta dishes? We have reached the point where I preface posts about them by saying, "This was an easy one." Uh huh. That's right.

Up next: Warm lamb's tongue salad.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

marinated baccala; black and white strichetti

I will admit here: I had this chunk of salt cod sitting in my refrigerator for more than a year. In fact, I had had it so long that more than one refrigerator was involved. When I started, I saw how much I needed for the three salt cod dishes in the book, and I just bought that much.

One of the dishes, the Baccala Mezzalune, got made pretty quick. But I didn't love that dish, so my urgency to finish the other two waned. The always seemed like dishes I could knock out whenever, then whenever started to slip to almost never.

Then the cod managed to slip to the back of the fridge. And you know how that goes. Then it got moved, which, frankly, is sort of insane.

Luckily, the salting is a preservation technique, so it could wait forever. Then one day, I was cleaning out the fridge, saw the white chuck of dried fish, and decided to check this one off the list. 

The Marinated Baccala was a breeze. After soaking the cod for a couple of days, it marinates in some oil.

It goes with some baby fennel, which reminds me that one of the reasons I held off making this dishes in the first place was that I wanted to grow the fennel myself. And as I recall, I tried. It never went well. So I bought fennel. Shrug. 

The next night I made the Black and White Strichetti, which involved making a sauce of the cod and tossing it in big bowtie pasta, half of which is colored with squid ink. 

It was funny looking at our dishes after Pam and I were done. She had picked through and mostly eaten the white pasta, I had picked through and mostly eaten the black pasta. Mainly, I wanted to see if I could discern a difference. Maybe a little. Maybe. Not really, though. It just looks neat.

Both dishes were much better than than my first attempt at working with it. And I am happy to report there is no longer any salt cod in my refrigerator.

Up next: black pepper tagliatelle

Monday, April 15, 2013

veal breast (with bonus brussels sprouts)

I have two butchers that I deal with with some degree of regularity. And while I felt confident that both of them could get me a veal breast, I knew that I shouldn't just walk in to either and expect to walk out with one, so i called the one that's closer to where I live. It was a Friday morning, and I wanted to make this dish on Sunday.

"We can get it, but you have to order it in advance. We put in our order for the weekend on Thursday nights,"

Doh. That was close.

So I called Stachowski's Market in Georgetown. Friends have had luck with specialty cuts there, and I've had some of it, and it's always fairly amazing.

"We can get it, but we have to order it," guy on the phone tells me. "Hold on. Let me go look to make sure."

(Taps fingers on the desk for about five minutes.)

"I was wrong. We have one. It's about 10 pounds and I can't break it. That OK?"


At this point, I realized that I didn't know how much that piece of meat was going to cost. But I once watched Jeremy buy a piece of meat there that cost more than either of my first two cars, so I was prepared to be shocked.

My anxiety lasted until I went to pick it up the next day. When I walked in and asked for it, I was immediately tagged as "that guy who wanted the veal breast." That's fine. So that guy I talked to on the phone, which is how I immediately tagged him, went to the walk-in and brought back the vacuum-sealed piece of meat. It was gorgeous. It looked just like a brisket, which is what it would have grown up to be, but the meat was snowy white.

I took the bag to the counter, and there was some discussion among the employees about how much the veal breast cost per pound. The numbers swung rather wildly, and each number set off calculations in my head. But when it was all said and done, the total price came out to be less than half the price of either of my first two cars, so I consider it a win.

In conversation, it came up that I barely needed half of this for the recipe I was doing. So he offered to split it and just sell me what I needed, which made me scratch my head, since he pretty much told me on the phone that that wouldn't happen. But by then, I wasn't afraid of the price, and figured I'd find a second dish to do with the rest of the meat.

The dish itself was easy. Just rolls the veal roast up with pancetta then cook it low and slow with a ton of onions.

So many onions. The stack started like this:

And ended up like this:

I've been looking forward to this dish, because it looks so delicious in the photo in the book. A nice piece of rolled meat, with a ton of onions in a red sauce.

Mine was not red, at all. I looked again at the recipe, and there is nothing in it that would make it red. So I'm not sure what to think about that. But it was delicious. It tasted a lot like French onion soup, with a big hunk of meat in it.

I like French onion soup. And big hunks of meat. So all good.

Made the Brussels sprouts with pancetta to go along with it. My reasoning was that the pancetta in the sprouts would go well with the pancetta in the veal. My secondary reasoning was that something with pancetta in it always goes with anything else, whether the other thing has pancetta or no. So it seemed destined for success.

Up next: hey, is that salt cod in the fridge?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

duck brasaola

I was really looking forward to this dish.

I like duck. A lot. I like cured meats. A lot. I like curing meats. A lot. Even though it sort of scares me. Maybe because it scares me?

Anyway, the photo of this dish in the book is gorgeous. The meat looks all jewel-toned and beautiful. It looks like salmon, really. So it was with great anticipation that I made a spice rub, bathed a duck breast, tied it up and hung it in the refrigerator. All I had to do was wait three weeks, and I would be having jewel-toned duck.

I looked at the duck breast after about a week, then after two weeks, and I was worried. It looked like it was turning black. I sort of shrugged and accepted I couldn't know what it looked like inside yet. Jewel-toned, probably.

When I took it out of the fridge, it looked like this: 

Not optimistic.

I made the beans, and the red onion jam that go with it. Then I sliced the duck.

There were really no jewel tones. It sort of looked like raw duck in the middle. I tasted it. It tasted a little like nicely spiced raw duck. With an unfortunate dry, black crust.

We'll file this one under "learning experience."

The beans and the red onion jam were delicious. Actually, so was the spice rub. I used all those with other dishes.

Up next: An unmitigated success story.