Monday, May 23, 2016

Scott Conant: Ramp Risotto

So after depriving my area of Dallas of ramps, I had to actually make something with them.  Because if I'm going to be mean and buy them all, the least I can do is eat them and then post about it so everyone can see how awesome my dinner was, right?  Well, ramps are awesome in risotto, as I soon discovered.  In case you were wondering.  The bulbs easily take the place of garlic, and the leaves add a pretty green element to an otherwise neutral affair.  I'm not sure I've ever met anyone who turned down rice covered in cheese, but if you know that person, it just means more of this for yourself.  And I always condone food selfishness.

Ramp Risotto
From Chef Scott Conant, Alto restaurant, New York, NY

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ramps
1 small shallot, finely chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 cup Vialone Nano, Carnaroli, or arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth, simmering in separate pot on stove
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Kosher salt to taste

In a wide, heavy-bottom saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat.

Finely chop ramp greens and stalks, reserving greens for later. Add shallot, ramp stalks, and pepper flakes, and stir until the shallot is translucent, about two minutes. Add rice to pot and cook over medium heat for two minutes, stirring to coat rice with oil.

Pour in ¼ cup of the wine and boil until almost absorbed; a little liquid should remain on top of the rice. Add ¼ to ½ cup of hot broth at a time, stirring the rice constantly until almost all of the liquid is absorbed. Add another ¼ cup of stock, the remaining wine, and a tablespoon of olive oil, continuing to stir.

Add the ramp greens and more stock as needed and continue cooking and stirring until the risotto looks creamy but is still al dente, about 18 to 22 minutes. Remove from heat and let the risotto stand for about 30 seconds. Add a drizzle of olive oil, butter, and cheese; stir until well combined. Season with salt.

Makes 4 servings

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Ina Garten: Chicken with Morels

I know it doesn't look like much.  I swear, it almost seems like the stuff that doesn't look like much turns out to be a party in my mouth, and the stuff I slave over and make all pretty does nadda for me.  I'm sure there's something incredibly deep and philosophical to be gleaned from that observation, but I'm too busy planning when I'm going to be eating the leftovers.  My dad almost licked his plate, and the man is super picky.  Morels + cream + crème fraîche = manna.  Serve it with some mashed potatoes or bread or anything that will sop up that luscious gravy.

Chicken with Morels
Adapted from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten

1 ounce dried morels, soaked for 30 minutes in 3 cups very hot water, OR 8 to 10 ounces fresh morels
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for dredging
¼ cup clarified butter
⅓ cup chopped shallots (2 large)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
1 cup Madeira wine
1 cup (8 ounces) crème fraîche
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

If using dried morels, lift the morels carefully from the hot water in order to leave any grit behind in the liquid. Rinse a few times to be sure all the grittiness is gone. Discard the liquid and dry the morels lightly with paper towels. If using fresh morels, wash gently and dry the morels lightly with paper towels.  Set aside.

Sprinkle the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Dredge them in flour and shake off the excess. Heat half the clarified butter in a large sauté pan and cook the chicken in 2 batches over medium-low heat until browned on both sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove to an ovenproof casserole.

Add the rest of the clarified butter to the pan along with the shallots, morels, and garlic. Sauté over medium heat for 2 minutes, tossing and stirring constantly. Pour the Madeira into the pan and reduce the liquid by half over high heat, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the crème fraîche, cream, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3⁄4 teaspoon pepper. Boil until the mixture starts to thicken, 5 to 10 minutes. Pour the sauce over the chicken and bake for 12 minutes, or until the chicken is heated through. To make ahead, refrigerate the chicken and sauce in the casserole and reheat slowly on top of the stove.

Makes 6 servings

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Serious Eats: Pickled Ramps

Oh my gosh.  Score of scores!  I found ramps at my local grocery store!  So you know what I did?  In case you're wondering, no, I did not share the beauty of ramps with my fellow shoppers.  No, sir.  I bought every last one of those babies and left an empty bin to disappoint everyone who came after me.  Too bad, suckers!  Well, then I got home and realized that I probably couldn't eat all of my lovely ramps fast enough, so pickling to the rescue.  Look at those lovely pinkish stems!  And the bright white bulbs!  I seriously cannot wait until I can plop some of these of some tender roasted pork.

Pickled Ramps

1 pound ramps, carefully washed, ends trimmed
1½ cups white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
1½ cups water
1½ cups granulated sugar
¼ cup kosher salt
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon yellow or black mustard seed
6 allspice berries
1 pinch red pepper flakes

Carefully pack ramps into a sterilized quart-sized jar with a screw-top lid.

Combine remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil, whisking until sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour hot brine over ramps (it should fill the jar completely, if you have excess, discard). Screw on lid and allow to cool at room temperature.

Transfer to refrigerator and allow to rest for at least 3 weeks and up to a year before consuming.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Andy Ricker: Phat Phak Kuut (Thai Stir-fried Fiddlehead Fern)

I think this is the first time I've seen fiddlehead ferns in my neck of the woods.  Okay, bad wording.  There are no woods around here where fiddleheads might be found.  The ostrich fern, from which we get these lovely little curls, would not like 105°F in the summer, so I know for a fact these were shipped in from somewhere much more hospitable, but I'm not complaining.  I decided to do something a little bit different with them, but imagine my surprise when I found that you can actually make a Thai dish with these babies!  Really yummy, but even with using the minimum 4 chilies, the top of my head nearly blew off, so maybe start with...oh...say...ONE.

Note:  I had no pork stock sitting around waiting to be delicious, so I used some ham stock concentrate (Better Than Bouillon), and all was right with the world.

Phat Phak Kuut (Thai Stir-fried Fiddlehead Fern)
From Chef Andy Ricker, as seen on The New York Times cooking blog

1 pound fiddlehead ferns (about 4 cups)
2 tablespoons’ worth of garlic cloves
4 to 10 small, fresh Thai chilies, depending on your tolerance for heat
4 tablespoons neutral oil, such as peanut or rice bran
2 tablespoons fish sauce
4 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
¼ teaspoon MSG (such as Accent), optional
Freshly ground white pepper, to finish
½ cup pork stock

Clean the fiddleheads by soaking them in cold water and shaking them dry in a colander. Trim the stem of each within an inch or two of the curled top. Slip off any slimy brown skin. Pick over for sticks, dirt and bugs. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it well.

Smash the garlic and chilies into a rough, lumpy paste in a mortar and pestle.

Blanch the ferns for a minute or two. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wok or wok-style pan over medium heat. Add garlic and chilies and cook until fragrant but not brown.

Take the ferns out of the blanching water, shake them dry in a colander for a few seconds (a little water is not a problem) and toss into the wok. Crank the heat all the way up. Stir-fry for a minute, add the fish sauce, stir-fry again for a few seconds, then add the oyster sauce, sugar, MSG, and white pepper. Stir-fry for a few more seconds, then add the stock and cook until sauce is thicker than water but nowhere near a glaze.

Serve on a large platter or in a shallow bowl. Eat hot.

Makes 4 servings

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Le Cirque: Spaghetti Primavera

Ever since I had some sort of boxed pasta primavera salad as a child and enjoyed it, I've wondered what exactly makes something "primavera".  So I looked up the word, and primavera means the season of spring.  So it makes sense that this dish includes all sorts of lovely vegetables that can be found in the springtime.  But I couldn't make just any old pasta primavera.  I needed to find the original, the ultimate, the one that started all of our silly primavera fantasies.  And not shockingly, this Italian-American pasta dish comes from Le Cirque in New York City, a French restaurant started by an Italian.  That's not a confusing background or anything.  But history lessons aside, I can guarantee this is a delicious dish to make when the green is starting to appear and the coats go back in the closet.

Note:  I think you can pretty safely use whatever spring vegetables float your boat.  I added fiddlehead ferns and ramps to mine, as they seem like the ultimate spring veggies in a land where asparagus seems to grow all year long.  For the chili I used a Fresno, but I definitely think I could have gone hotter.  Also, I used linguine, not spaghetti.  Not that it matters.

Spaghetti Primavera
From Le Cirque restaurant, as appeared in The New York Times, 1977

1 bunch broccoli
2 small zucchini, unpeeled
4 asparagus spears
1½ cups green beans
½ cup fresh or frozen peas
¾ cup fresh or frozen sugar snap pea pods
1 tablespoon peanut, vegetable, or corn oil
2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon minced hot red or green chili, or ½ teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 cups 1-inch tomato cubes
6 basil leaves, chopped
1 pound spaghetti
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons chicken broth
½ cup heavy cream, approximately
½ cup grated Parmesan
⅓ cup toasted pine nuts

Trim broccoli and break into florets. Trim off ends of the zucchini. Cut into quarters, then cut into 1-inch or slightly longer lengths (about 1½ cups). Cut each asparagus into 2-inch pieces. Trim beans and cut into 1-inch pieces.

Cook each of the green vegetables separately in boiling salted water to cover until crisp but tender. Drain well, then run under cold water to chill, and drain again thoroughly. Combine the cooked vegetables in a bowl.

Cook the peas and pods; about 1 minute if fresh; 30 seconds if frozen. Drain, chill with cold water and drain again. Combine with the vegetables.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, heat the peanut oil and add the mushrooms. Season to taste. Cook about 2 minutes, shaking the skillet and stirring. Add the mushrooms, chili, and parsley to the vegetables.

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan and add half the garlic, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook about 4 minutes. Add the basil.

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet and add the remaining garlic and the vegetable mixture. Cook, stirring gently, until heated through.

Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until almost (but not quite) tender, retaining a slight resilience in the center. Drain well.

In a pot large enough to hold the spaghetti and vegetables, add the butter and melt over medium-low heat. Then add the chicken broth and half a cup each of cream and cheese, stirring constantly. Cook gently until smooth. Add the spaghetti and toss quickly to blend. Add half the vegetables and pour in the liquid from the tomatoes, tossing over very low heat.

Add the remaining vegetables. If the sauce seems dry, add 3 to 4 tablespoons more cream. Add the pine nuts and give the mixture a final tossing.

Serve equal portions of the spaghetti mixture in hot soup or spaghetti bowls. Spoon equal amounts of the tomatoes over each serving. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 as a main course; 6 to 8 as an appetizer.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Bon Appétit: Iced Turmeric Latte

When I saw this fun yellow drink in my food magazine, I was drawn to it immediately.  Turmeric has all these great health benefits, so why not turn it into something else I iced latte!  Seems perfect.'s not.  This drink is not good.  It's not in the least bit sweet, and it tastes like some sort of bad herbal medicine.  And after I went out of my way to find cashew milk and fresh turmeric root!!  Maybe it's good if you're just that crazy about getting some fresh turmeric in your diet, but personally I'll stick with Indian food.

Iced Turmeric Latte
From Bon Appétit magazine, April 2016

1 cup cashew milk
4 teaspoons finely grated fresh turmeric
2 teaspoons finely grated palm sugar or raw sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 pinches of ground cardamom
Pinch of flaky sea salt
Lemon wedge (for serving)

Whisk milk, turmeric, palm sugar, ginger, lemon juice, cardamom, and salt in a small bowl until sugar and salt have dissolved; let sit 5 minutes to let flavors meld. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a measuring cup, pressing on solids to extract juices; discard solids.

Fill a glass with ice. Pour latte over and serve with lemon wedge.

Makes 1 latte

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Jalapeño Margarita

What do you do when it's Cinco de Mayo, and you don't get off work until 7pm?  You rush home and make yourself a big 'ol margarita and drink it on your porch as the sun goes down, that's what.  Because let's be honest.  Any margarita made in the comfort of your own kitchen is going to be better than whatever dribbles out of the machine at your local Tex-Mex restaurant.  Warning: this puppy is strong.

Jalapeño Margarita

2 ounces fresh squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes)
2 tablespoons agave nectar
2 ounces good tequila
1 ounce Grand Marnier
½ ounce jalapeño liqueur (or more, to taste)

Combine all ingredients and pour over ice into a margarita glass.  Drink and enjoy.