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Mussels With Chorizo and Beer

Your first instinct might be to disagree, but mussels are actually a great food for entertaining: They’re cheap, they’re quick and easy to cook, and they give your guests a tactile connection to the communal aspect of sharing a meal as everyone dives in to a steaming pile of mussels to unearth the tender treasures hidden inside. What more could you need? Pairing mussels with chorizo is a classic combination, and this is my cook-with-what-you-got take on the dish, which came about recently when I had some leftover mussels from the restaurant and a bunch of hungry family members to feed.

mussels

2 T extra virgin olive oil
8 oz Mexican-style chorizo
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 bell pepper, sliced
1/2 jalapeno, or to taste, thinly sliced into rounds
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
12 oz beer, preferably a lager (I used Dos Equis)
15 oz whole peeled canned tomatoes
5 lbs PEI or other mussels
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Place the olive oil in a large skillet in your wood oven or on the stove over medium-high heat. Once it starts to smoke, add the chorizo and brown it off, using a wooden spoon to break up the meat as it cooks.

Once the chorizo is broken up and caramelized, add the onion and bell pepper, season with salt and pepper, and allow the vegetables to sweat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the jalapeno and garlic and cook the mixture for 3 minutes more. Add the beer and stir well to dislodge any delicious caramelized goodness from the bottom of the skillet. Bring the mixture to a boil and allow the beer to reduce by three-quarters.

While the beer is reducing, open the can of tomatoes, pour them into a bowl and use your hand to crush the tomatoes into little bits. You can just use diced canned tomatoes, but something about those big uniform chunks of canned tomato is just off-putting to me. So I prefer this method. Add the tomato to the skillet, re-season to taste, and allow the mixture to simmer gently for at least 15 minutes, until the flavors have all come together and the tomato liquid has reduced somewhat.

While your sauce is cooking, clean your mussels. If you haven’t cleaned mussels before, a quick primer: Place the mussels in a bowl of clean, cool water. As the mussels sit in the water they will filter out some of the sand and grit in their systems and leave it on the bottom of the bowl instead of in your teeth later. Use a brush to scrub the shells to dislodge any other dirt or barnacles that will come off and muddy up your final dish. Some of the mussels will have hairy fibers sticking out of one side of their shells. This is called the beard. Use your fingers or tweezers to pull these off by tugging them outward from the side of the shell. If a mussel is open, give it a squeeze or tap it on the edge of the counter. If it doesn’t close back up, throw it away. Same goes for any cracked or broken mussels.

Once your mussels are all clean, preheat a large roasting pan in your wood oven. Your oven should be very hot – pizza hot. Add the mussels to the dry pan and then pour the chorizo sauce over the top. Slide the mussels back into the oven and allow to cook just until the mussels open, rotating the pan once. If your oven is hot enough, this could happen in as little as 1-2 minutes. It won’t take any more than 5.

Remove from the oven, serve immediately with some crusty bread, and be happy.

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Ricotta Gnudi With Roasted Cabbage and Marconi Peppers

This recipe requires some patience and planning, because the gnudi take three days to make. Before you run for the hills, I should clarify: The gnudi take about 10 minutes to make – they’re really easy – but three days before they’re ready to use. So plan ahead, and your foresightedness will be rewarded. In case you’re asking yourself what in the world a gnudi is, a quick explanation – the word comes from the Italian for “naked,” so named because they are sort of like ravioli without their pasta clothing. The recipe I’m using here for these delicious cheesy dumplings comes from April Bloomfield, chef of the Spotted Pig and other restaurants in New York.

dish

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1 lb ricotta cheese
2 oz heavy cream
2 oz parmesan cheese, finely grated
1-2 C 00 semolina flour or as needed
3 Marconi peppers, or orange bell peppers
2 T vegetable oil
1 head red cabbage, core removed and shredded
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 C vegetable stock
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 T fresh chopped savory or thyme
1 T unsalted butter
salt and pepper, to taste

To make the gnudi, combine the ricotta, cream and parmesan in the bowl of a food processor. Season with salt and pepper and blend until smooth, about 2 minutes. Cover the bottom of a sheet tray or baking dish with a 1/4-inch layer of semolina flour. Using a 1/2 oz ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, portion the gnudi mixture onto the flour. Give your hands a nice coating of flour and then use your palms to roll each gnudi into a uniform ball shape, placing each back in the layer of flour. Once all the gnudi are rolled, place the sheet tray or baking dish in your refrigerator, uncovered. Allow the gnudi to rest for three days, gently shaking them or re-rolling them once a day to keep a thin coating of flour over their entire surface.

On the day your gnudi are ready, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, roast the peppers in your wood oven until soft and charred all over. Remove, place in a bowl, cover and allow to steam for 10 minutes. Peel and slice into thin strips. Set aside.

Preheat a large skillet or roasting pan in your wood oven. Add the vegetable oil and heat until just smoking. Add the shredded cabbage, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 2 minutes more. Stir in the vegetable stock, mustard, savory and sliced peppers and bring to a boil.

At this point, add your gnudi to the pot of boiling water. Cook until the gnudi float, about 3-4 minutes. Remove the gnudi from the water and add them to the cabbage pan along with the butter. Cook one minute more to allow the liquid in the pan to tighten up slightly and coat the gnudi. Transfer to a serving platter and enjoy the fruits of your extended, albeit light, labor.

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Stuffed Peppers With Feta, Pecans and Cherry Tomatoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our dry, hot summer here in the Midwest produced a bumper crop of peppers of all shapes and sizes. You couldn’t swing Wilbur Scoville around at my farmers market without knocking over an overflowing bin of banana peppers or scattering a pile melrose peppers across the grass. This recipe is a simple late-summer side dish I concocted to make use of the bounty. I used round of Hungary peppers here, which look sort of like small, squat, deeply ridged red bell peppers. They have a deep, sweet flavor, like red bell pepper concentrated. If you can’t find them, substitute pimento peppers or small red bell peppers – but you will probably need more stuffing to fill them.

7 round of Hungary peppers, or small red bell peppers
1/2 C pecans
6 oz feta cheese, preferably goats’ milk
1 C quartered cherry tomatoes
1 T fresh chopped parsley
1 T olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste

Cut the tops off the peppers as if you’re carving a pumpkin. Use your fingers or a spoon to remove the seeds and ribs from inside the peppers.

While you are cleaning the peppers, place your pecans in a dry skillet and toast in your wood oven, tossing occasionally, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Break the feta into small chunks and place in a bowl. Add the cherry tomatoes, parsley and olive oil. Roughly chop the pecans and add them to the mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir well to combine.

Stuff the mixture into the cavities of the peppers up to the top. Transfer your peppers to a baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake in your wood oven until the peppers are just beginning to get tender, about 10-15 minutes depending on the temperature of your oven. Remove the foil and allow the peppers to continue cooking until the filling is bubbly and golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and serve. I really can’t think of much this wouldn’t taste good alongside, from burgers to bass, so go ahead and make some the next time you’ve got your oven fired up, no matter what else is on the menu.

 

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Proof the yeast

If your dough did not rise your yeast was dead. I proof the yeast by putting it in the water which should be 100 degrees F. If it is bubbly aftger about 10 minutes then it is viable. The flour has plenty of sugars that the yeast can eat….

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Perfect

I have used this recipe and wow! I have never tasted pizza crust/base so good. I use a tandoor instead of a pizza oven and the pizzas come out perfect. Thanks a billion!

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Pizza With Roasted Mushrooms, Cherry Tomatoes, Red Onion and Basil

If some evil, freedom-hating pizza dictator locked me in a cage and told me I could only have one topping on my pizza for the rest of my life, I would probably go with mushrooms. So here’s a recipe for a simple, more “traditional” pizza sporting some flavors that play well together, while still highlighting my personal desert-island topping.

You will notice that I roast my mushrooms before I put them on my pizza. While raw mushrooms have their place (where, I do not know), it is most definitely not on pizza. I think this accomplishes two things: First, you get more flavor out of your shrooms by pre-roasting and getting some nice Maillard reaction happening; second, roasting the mushrooms separately removes a lot of water that would otherwise end up in your pizza, leaving you with a less soggy pie.

As always, please refer to my first pizza post for my ramblings on dough: http://www.fornobravo.com/cookbook/index.php/12-recipes/pizza/172-pesto-asparagus-and-egg-pizza

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For the pizza sauce:
1 1/2 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 C yellow onion, sliced
1 1/2 cloves garlic, smashed or coarsely chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh basil
1 14.5 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

For the pizza:
1 T extra virgin olive oil
4 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
4 oz mozzarella cheese
1/4 red onion, sliced paper thin
10 sungold cherry tomatoes, halved
4 fresh basil leaves, torn
Freshly grated parmesan, as needed

To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, season, and sweat, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are just starting to turn golden around the edges. Add the thyme and basil and allow to toast for 15 seconds, then add the tomatoes, using a spoon or your hands to break up the flesh. Reduce the heat to low and allow the sauce to simmer until it has thickened considerably. Remove the thyme and basil sprigs and use a stick blender or food processor to puree the sauce until smooth. If your sauce is still too thin return to the heat and allow it to reduce to proper pizza sauce consistency.

Meanwhile, roast your mushrooms in your wood oven. Preheat a skillet large enough to hold the mushrooms in a single layer. Add the olive oil to the pan; it should smoke. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and return to the oven. Do not stir your mushrooms for 2 minutes. You want your shrooms to sear, and stirring too much or too soon is going to drop your heat, causing the mushrooms to start leaching out water and steaming. Roast the mushrooms, stirring once or twice, until they are golden brown and delicious, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

To assemble your pizza, stretch or roll your dough using your preferred method. Top with a thin layer of sauce. Sprinkle with the mozzarella. Top with the roasted mushrooms, halved sungolds and red onions. Give the whole pie a dusting of parmesan, then transfer to your wood oven and bake until done. Remove the pizza from the oven and top with the torn basil leaves. Portion as appropriate and consume as desired. And then, if you’re like me, make another one.

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Curried Cauliflower With Chickpeas and Golden Raisins

 

This dish is actually one of my wife’s specialties. As a cook, I work in the evenings and thus miss out on dinner at a normal time, so it is a comforting feeling when I walk in the door and can tell just by the aroma of curry in the air that my late-night meal on the couch is going to be delicious and satisfying. I’ve done a little tweaking to the recipe, adapting it for the wood oven and adding golden raisins to the mix, which I think provide a nice sweet counterpoint to the earthy one-two-three punch of cauliflower, garbanzos and curry.

1 1/2 T vegetable oil
1 large head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained
1/2 red onion, sliced thickly crosswise
6 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
1/4 c golden raisins
2 tsp curry powder
salt and black pepper to taste

In your wood oven, preheat a roasting pan or skillet large enough to hold the cauliflower in one layer. Add the vegetable oil to the pan – it should be hot enough that the oil is just starting to smoke. Add the cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Allow to roast for 2-3 minutes or until the florets have begun to caramelize on the pan side.

Add the chickpeas to the pan and stir. Roast for another 2 minutes or until the cauliflower is even more caramelized and the chickpeas have begun to blister. Add the sliced onion and garlic, stir to distribute, and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the onion and garlic have softened and begun to frizzle around the edges and the cauliflower is al dente.

Add the raisins and curry powder and stir well to distribute. Cook for one minute more to allow the raisins to plump and the curry to toast and perfume the dish. Remove from the oven and serve. This dish would be a great accompaniment to roasted lamb, or simply serve it over cooked rice or orzo with a dab of sambal for an easy and tasty vegetarian meal.

 

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