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Braised Shell Beans With Parmesan Broth

There’s nothing like fresh shell beans, in my opinion. No matter what you do, you can’t get the same result with canned or dried beans. Cooked properly, the texture and flavor can’t be beat. I used cranberry beans for this recipe, but you could substitute just about any fresh shell bean you can get your hands on. And if you weren’t already, hopefully this recipe will be a wake-up call – save your parmesan rinds! They’re a ready-made flavor booster. Throw them in soups, or use them to make parmesan stock, as we’re doing here, and then save the stock for the next time you have a pasta dish, soup or sauce in need of a kick in the seat, flavor-wise.

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3 carrots
3 ribs celery
2 large yellow onions
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh parsley, plus 2 T fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp black peppercorns
3-4 rinds from parmigiano reggiano
12 C water
2 T butter
2 lbs unshelled fresh beans, preferably cranberry beans
zest of 1 lemon
salt and black pepper to taste

First, make the parmesan broth: Roughly chop 2 of the carrots, 2 of the celery ribs and 1 1/2 onions. In a large pot, combine the vegetables, half the bay and thyme, the 2 sprigs of parsley, peppercorns, parmesan rinds and water. Bring to a boil on the stovetop or in your oven, then allow to simmer about 2 hours, or until the liquid has taken on a rich, parmesany flavor. Strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer. Reserve the liquid and discard the solids.

While the stock is simmering, shell your beans and set aside. Cut the remaining carrot, celery and half an onion into a brunoise, or very fine dice. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest of the lemon in long strips. Using kitchen twine or cheesecloth, tie the remaining thyme, bay and lemon zest into a small bundle.

When the parmesan broth is ready, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in the bottom of a pot large enough to hold the beans and broth. Add the finely diced vegetables and sweat, stirring often, until softened and translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the beans, parmesan broth and herb bundle. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook in a low wood oven or on the stove until the beans are tender and creamy inside. This could take anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the type of beans you are using. My cranberry beans took about an hour and a half. If necessary, add more water to the pot so that the beans remain just covered with liquid until they are done cooking.

Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Stir in the remaining butter and allow the broth to thicken slightly. Immediately before serving, remove the herb bundle and stir in the chopped parsley. These beans are good enough to enjoy on their own, but if you are looking for pairings I’d say a slow-roasted pork shoulder or lamb shank would do nicely, or even some smoked ham. Or just serve over rice with some roasted broccoli alongside, and you’ll be all set.

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Rating: 5.0/5 (4 votes cast)

Slow-Roasted Duck Breast With Rhubarb-Savory Compote

The bright acidity of rhubarb is a great counterpoint to the meaty richness of duck breast. This is a wonderful dish for the wood oven, because that faint lick of smokiness infused in both the meat and the compote really ties everything together. It’s also very simple, but the depth of flavor will make it seem as if you worked on the dish for hours. Savory is delicious, underused herb that adds a nice minerality to the compote. If you can’t find it, try substituting marjoram or chervil.

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2 boneless duck breasts
1 onion
10 oz rhubarb
1 T plus 1 tsp vegetable oil
1/4 C plus 1 T sugar
1/4 C red wine
1 T butter
1 T fresh savory, chopped
Salt and black pepper, to taste

First, clean up the duck breasts: Remove any silver skin from the flesh and any excess fat and skin from around the edges of each breast. Using a sharp knife, score the skin of each breast in a crosshatch pattern, being careful not to cut through to the meat. Set aside.

Preheat a roasting pan or large skillet in your wood oven. Meanwhile, cut the onion into a small dice. Do the same for the rhubarb. (Hopefully it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: You need to remove any green leafy parts from the rhubarb and use the red stalks only – the leaves are toxic.) Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to your preheated pan, then add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and sweat until translucent, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the rhubarb and the sugar to the pan and allow to cook until the rhubarb becomes soft and starts to break down. If you get a little caramelization during this process, all the better. Once the rhubarb has starting falling apart, add the red wine and allow to reduce until your mixture has taken on a somewhat thick, jam-like consistency, 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and savory. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as necessary.

To cook your duck breasts, place a heavy skillet in the mouth of your oven, where the floor is still warm but the air above the pan isn’t blazing hot. Add the remaining teaspoon of oil to the pan. Season the duck breasts liberally with salt and pepper and then place them in the pan skin side down. What you are trying to do is slowly render the fat on top of the breast, so that you are left with crispy skin, a thin, unctuous layer of fat, and rosy medium-rare meat.

Allow the breasts to slowly render, draining off any excess fat as necessary. This process can take as long as 15 minutes, depending on the level of heat you’re working with. If you notice that the meat side of the breast is starting to cook, pull the pan farther back out of the oven. At this point you only want to render fat, not cook the meat.

Once a good deal of fat has rendered and the skin is beginning to turn golden, slide your pan into the heart of the oven and allow the breasts to roast for 3-5 minutes, depending on the heat of your oven. You’re looking for crispy mahogany-hued skin and medium-rare meat. Again, depending on your oven temp, you may cook the breasts entirely on the skin side. If you check and the skin is done but the meat still feels under, flip the breasts over onto the meat side and cook for 30-45 seconds.

Remove from the pan and allow to rest for five minutes. Cut the duck into thin slices and serve with the compote. Enjoy it as-is, or serve with some braised lentils and wilted spinach, and you have a fine meal on your hands.

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Rating: 4.0/5 (4 votes cast)

Red Kuri Squash-Brown Butter Puree

Here’s a quick, easy recipe that’s a perfect addition to any festive holiday meal spread. Feel free to substitute pretty much any winter squash you can get your hands on – butternut, acorn, buttercup, hubbard, sweet dumpling, pumpkin. They’re all complemented wonderfully by the nutty flavor of brown butter. The only variety I would avoid is spaghetti; the texture just won’t be what you’re looking for here.

1 medium-sized red kuri squash
1 tsp vegetable oil
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic, peeled
8 oz unsalted butter
Juice of 1 lemon
salt and black pepper, to taste

Cut the squash in half through the stem end. Use a sturdy spoon to scoop out the seeds and guts, just like you would do with a pumpkin. Rub the two halves with the vegetable oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place 1 clove of garlic and 2 sprigs of thyme inside each cavity. Place the squash halves open side down on a small baking sheet or skillet and slide into your wood oven to roast. Cook, turning the baking sheet occasionally, until the flesh of the squash is soft. You should be able to poke the skin of the squash and feel the flesh give way underneath. This could take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the temp of your oven and the thickness of your squash.

While the squash is roasting, prepare the brown butter. Place the butter in a tall-sided saucepot over medium-high heat. Allow the butter to cook. First it will boil, which will then subside and be replaced by foam. Once the mixture begins foaming, stir frequently to prevent the milk solids from adhering to the bottom of the pot. When the foam begins to dissipate, you should be able to see the browning milk solids. Once they’ve reached a nice dark brown, remove from the heat and add the lemon juice to stop the cooking process. The mixture will boil violently for a moment, so just stand back and be careful.

Once the roasted squash is cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop the flesh out of the skin. Discard the thyme and garlic from the cavity. Place the flesh in the bowl of a food processor. With the motor running, slowly add the brown butter to the squash. Use the butter to taste – it will depend on the size of your squash and your personal weakness for delicious, delicious brown butter. Some squashes have more moisture content than others as well, so if your puree seems a bit dry feel free to add a small amount of water to improve the consistency.

Season the puree with salt and pepper to taste, serve and be ready to have leftover mashed potatoes at your next holiday dinner, because this creamy, unctuous little devil is going to steal the show.

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Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)

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.

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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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Rating: 4.3/5 (4 votes cast)

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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Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)

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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Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)

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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Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)