Many years ago on a business trip to Barcelona Spain I was introduced to paella. It was brought to our table in a large shallow pan (that I've since learned is a paella pan). we all grabbed our forks and began eating in a communal fashion right from the pan.
The paella contained a nice selection of shrimp, mussels, and clams in addition to the rice. I found myself however ignoring the seafood and scarfing down the rice. It was that good. I thought I was crazy for doing to but I've learned that is the normal response when presented with a good paella. I've never forgotten that experience.
Paella uses a special rice, preferable Bomba rice from Spain. It absorbs significantly more rice than the ordinary long-grain rice we Americans are used to. (You should never try to make paella with long grain rice.) The heart, soul, and essence of paella is that layer of rice in contact with the bottom of the pan. The cooking caramelizes it and gives it a fantastic flavor.
Sound interesting? Then watch this video:
Then hurry over here and buy a paella pan and some bomba rice (that's what I've done):
The recipe for this sauce came my way as part of a larger recipe for salmon. My Sweet Lady Wife is not normally a big fan of sauces but she loved this one. It is such a multi-purpose sauce that I thought it deserved to be published on its own. I can already see this with pork tenderloin, for example.
4 tablespoons European butter 1 medium-large shallot, finely choped 6 mushrooms, sliced pinch of saffron ¼ cup dry sherry ¼ cup vermouth ½ cup heavy cream 1 teaspoon fresh chopped dill 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
Put the saffron and sherry in a bowl and let stand for a few minutes.
Melt the butter in a sautee pan over medium-high heat. When the butter has stopped foaming add the shallots. Let them cook for about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until they start to brown. Add the saffron-sherry. Deglaze the pan. Add the vermouth. Cook, stiring frequently until the liquid has been reduced by half. Add the cream, dill, and parsley. Cook, stssiring frequently, until the sauce has reached the consistency you desire.
My wife said, "Honey, I've tried to make lasagna and it never turns out right. Can you try to make lasagna?" The gauntlet had been thrown down. Though I'd never made lasagna, I was sure that after a few iterations I'd have a recipe for a lasagna better than I could find in any restaurant. I was right.
I researched lasagna recipes online and in several cookbooks, and consulted my Italian friend Kitty. I synthesized what I learned into a single recipe. I made a test batch and though it was really good, I found a few areas for improvement. The result of this effort I call my Ultimate Lasagna.
This recipe make a lot of lasagna - enough to fill a 9x13 inch baking dish plus two smaller 8x8 inch pans. My practice is to make a batch, divide the leftovers into single-serving sizes, and then individually vacuum-bag them and freeze them.
First, some straight talk: You are not doing yourself any favors by using lasagna noodles from your neighborhood supermarket in this recipe. Don't get me wrong: I use a lot of dried pasta. Just not here. I have a little Italian deli nearby that makes pasta to order. If I'm under a time constraint I will order my pasta from him instead of making it myself.
If you absolutely must use dried pasts then look for the 'No-Boil' pasta. It is thinner. I've used the DelVerde brand with acceptable results. Keep in mind however that fresh homemade pasta makes a significant difference. I know because I've made it both ways.
Instructions for making pasta are here. You want the pasta to be about 1/16 inch thick. I cut mine into 13-inch lengths to fit easily into the baking dish. I normally make the pasta a few days ahead and freeze it with a sheet of plastic wrap between each sheet of pasta.
When it's time for assembly, thaw the pasta but don't boil it. It will get cooked in the oven.
Strip the casings off the sausage and break it up. Chop the pancetta into about a 1/4-inch dice.
In an 8 quart (or larger) stock pot, add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the sausage. Using a spatula, break the sausage up into very small pieces as it browns. Once the sausage has browned, remove it from the pot with a slotted spoon. Put the pancetta in the stock pot and brown it. Once it has browned remove it with a slotted spoon as well. Pour off about half the fat, leaving the remainder for flavor.
Add 1/3 cup of olive oil and the garlic. Saute the garlic over medium-high heat. When the garlic begins to brown remove it from the pot and discard it. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Return the sausage and pancetta to the pot, add the chianti and let the mixture cook until the liquid is reduced to about half.
Add the crushed tomatoes. Add the oregano, thyme, rosemary, fennel, and sugar. Stir, cover, and reduce the heat until the sauce is just simmering. Let it simmer for 2-3 hours. You want the end result to be 4-5 quarts of sauce.
4 lbs whole milk mozzarella, cut into slices Ricotta mixture Sauce Pasta
Preheat the oven to 400F.
You'll need a 9x13 inch baking dish plus two smaller 8x8 baking dishes. For the 8x8 pans I use the disposable aluminum pans I find at the supermarket or dollar store. Coat them with olive oil or non-stick spray.
Start with a layer of sauce. Keep in mind that the pasta will absorb sauce while it is cooking so don't be stingy with the sauce. Each layer of sauce will be almost a cup.
Add a layer of pasta. If your sheets of pasta are not as wide as the pan then overlap them slightly.
Add a layer of ricotta.
Add a layer of pasta.
Add a layer of sauce.
Add a layer of mozzarella slices
Add a layer of ricotta
Add a layer of sauce
Keep adding layers in the following order until the pan is full:
Pasta Sauce Mozzarella Ricotta Sauce
I like to have the top layer be mozzarella so it looks nice and cheesy.
Tent the pan with foil and bake for one hour. After removing it from the oven, let the lasagna rest for about 15 minutes before serving.
Cook the spinach according to the directions on the package, Using a food processor, finely chop the mushrooms. Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a saute pan and saute the garlic until it begins to brown. Add the chopped mushrooms and the spinach. Cook until the liquid has evaporated. Remove the spinach-mushroom mixture from the heat and refrigerate it for an hour or until it is cool. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and mix well.
Beat the eggs and place them in a flat bowl. Mix the breadcrumbs and oregano in a second flat bowl.
Preheat the oven to 500F.
Butterfly the chicken breasts so that you have four nice thin cutlets. Pat then try with a paper towel. Place a heaping spoonful of the spinach-mushroom-cheese mixture on the wide end of each cutlet and spread it out a bit so that the it covers about halfway up the cutlet. Start from the wide end and roll the cutlet up. Secure it with toothpicks.
Dip the chicken rolls in the egg then in the bread crumbs. Place them in a baking dish and bake for about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
"Who are these bloggers? They’re not trained editors at Vogue magazine. I mean there are bloggers writing recipes that aren’t tested, that aren’t necessarily very good, or are copies of everything that really good editors have created and done. So bloggers create a kind of popularity, but they are not the experts. And we have to understand that."
I've got news for you, Martha: Recipies I've received from bloggers have been universally better than the receipes I've found and tried in Martha Stewart Living.
Spaghetti. Specifically my Sweet Lady Wife's spaghetti. For the 37 years we've been married it has been her specialty. It's the dish I'll never try to duplicate. It's the dish my son always wants on his birthday.
My wife has always served toasted garlic bread with her spaghetti, made using just French bread and Lawry's Garlic Spread. Unfortunately, the stores in are area have stopped carrying it. What would my wife's spaghetti be without her garlic bread?
I decided to make my own spread that would be equal to or better than Lawry's. Here's what I cam up with:
This is the time of year when my Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker is one of my favorite kitchen tools. It has a built-in compressor and refrigeration lines to freeze the ice cream mix. No ice neaded. No rock solt needed. Just pour the mix into the container and set the timer.
To complete the 'Easy' part, I have a recipe for an ice cream mix that is super simple with no cooking (and no eggs) required. (I once performed a comparison test. I made ice cream using my recipe and I also made a second batch using the classic custard recipe with eggs. I found no dicernable difference in teaxture, mouth feel, or creaminess.)
Here's the basic mix:
1 cup whole milk
2 cups cream
1/2 cup sugar
Mix those three together long enough to dissolve the sugar.
Chocolate Ice Cream: 8oz of the best semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate you can find, ground up very fine. (I heat the milk and mix the ground-up chocolate with the hot milk so that the chocolate is thoroughly dissolved into the mix)
Raspberry ice cream: Add about 12oz pureed raspberries (pour the pureed raspberries through a fine strainer to remove the seeds.)
At 10am this morning as I walked into the supermarket I wasn't sure what dinner would be. I wanted something nice but easy.
At 10:06 I walked past the meat department and spied the king salmon on sale. At that point I knew. I asked the butcher to cut me two nice single-serving filets of the salmon. From there I went to the deli and grabbed a package of Nuovo chicken florentine ravioli and some pesto.
This meal was prepared in about 20 minutes start to finish. The ravioli is fresh and cooks up in about 4 minutes. And yes. It tasted as good as it looks.