Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Jewish girls can cook Italian

It has been awhile since I have blogged. My lapse is not due to lack of cooking - I have made blondies and roast chickens and shrimp scampi and other blog worthy meals since I last wrote. I have just either forgotten to pull out the camera mid-thru cooking or found the camera with a dead battery inside OR perhaps the most likely reason of all- laziness.

So, tonight I bring you a house favorite. My house, your house..pretty much all houses...Spaghetti and Meatballs...My son, Max LOOOOVES spaghetti and meatballs. Its the one meal he actually requests and its always satisfying to me to make it for him. I know there are so many variations of "balls and sauce" and there is probably nothing remarkable about mine, except that..well..they are really good.

Meatballs , in Italian families probably invoke much the same debates as matzoh balls in Jewish families. Some like them small, some large and meaty...I prefer the larger variety. If you like smaller sizes of course, roll them accordingly. I added in some turkey to the recipe to make it a bit lighter. (I know, real Italians are aghast!) This recipe is more about the meatballs than anything else. You can use a jarred spaghetti sauce, but after all the effort in making perfect, homemade meatballs you may want to doctor it up a bit - at least!

This is perfect with the Caesar Salad recipe (listed on this blog). The only other requirement is crusty garlic recipe for that follows too!

Meatballs & Spaghetti

For the meatballs:

  • 1/2 pound ground turkey
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 1/4 cup fresh white bread crumbs (see picture - just throw the slices in a food processor)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 extra-large egg, beaten
  • Vegetable oil
  • Olive oil
  • 3/4 cup warm water

Place the ground meats, bread crumbs, parsley, herbs, Parmesan, salt, pepper, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 3-inch meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs.

Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don't crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels.

You can put the meatballs directly into the sauce while you make the garlic bread.

Garlic Bread:

  • 1 loaf crusty french bread- cut in half length-wise.
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbl kosher salt
  • Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375.
In a small saucepan, melt butter and garlic over low heat. Add salt and simmer until fully combined.
Lay the open bread halves onto a cookie sheet and brush the garlic & butter mixture all inside the bread. Close the bread in half and wrap in tin foil. Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven, open the bread and place open faced back on the cookie sheet. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Turn on broiler and broil bread for 3-4 minutes until lightly browned. Slice and serve.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Punitions - "Punishment" Cookies

I'm doomed...Well, I should say France is doomed for me. I have tried and planned now twice, to visit there and both times I was derailed. The first time, tickets were bought, hotels were booked and itineraries were planned. We planned on 2 weeks in the South of France (okay, not Paris) and scheduled to leave September 14, 2001. I don't have to tell you why that trip was canceled...

Then, my honeymoon in 2006- we had planned on going to France with a vacation we won in an auction- last minute we find out that the auction does not include trips to Europe and Jamaica welcomed us instead. Don't get me wrong, I loved my honeymoon of lazy resort living and the scenery and the was lovely. But it wasn't France...France holds this mystique for me like no other. I imagine myself with a loaf of crusty bread, a huge chunk of cheese and of course a bottle of Bordeaux (yes, I know that in my dreams I'm not necessary in Bordeaux drinking this wine) overlooking the Seine. Or maybe renting a little villa in Aix en Provence, cooking rustic, provencal dinners with fresh, local ingredients. I have over fantasised about all French food related things. I imagine the bakeries, the cafes, the wine.. I don't know if its going to ever live up to my dreams but at the very least, I can attempt to bring what is French, home.

I found this recipe on a Thailand blog of all places and it just called out to me like no other. Buttery shortbread (an excuse to make Poilaine Bakery's punitions), dark chocolate ganache AND salted caramel??! It is basically nirvana in a cookie..(Did I mention how French these seemed?)

I spent the better part of 2 hours making these- not because it should take that long but because,well, I sort of left out the sugar in the cookies and had to start over. Undaunted, I began again and I am very glad I did. The cookie is soft, buttery with crisp edges and just the right amount of sweetness. Then the dark chocolate and caramel hit you at the same time I have to say anything else here?

A couple notes: When you think the cookies are done, they were done 3 minutes earlier. They should be pale with light golden brown edges. (I probably left mine in 1 -2 minutes too long)

When you add the cream to the caramel it will bubble up pretty hot and fast- don't worry that is normal!

Punishments (Punitions) - as written from Smitten Kitchen
Adapted from Boulangerie Poilâne, via Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan

1 1/4 sticks (5 oz; 140 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Slightly rounded 1/2 cup (125 g) sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 cups (280 g) all-purpose flour

1. Put the butter in the work bowl of a food processor* fitted with the metal blade and process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the butter is smooth. Add the sugar and process and scrape until thoroughly blended into the butter. Add the egg and continue to process, scraping the bowl as needed, until the mixture is smooth and satiny. Add the flour all at once, then pulse 10-15 times, until the dough forms clumps and curds and looks like streusel.

2. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and gather it into a ball. Divide the ball in half, shape each half into a disk, and wrap the disks in plastic. If you have the time, chill the disks until they are firm, about 4 hours. If you’re in a hurry, you can roll the dough out immediately; it will be a little stickier, but fine. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 1 month.)

3. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

4. Working with one disk at a time, roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it is between 1/8 and 1/4 inch (4 and 7 mm) thick. Using a 1½-inch (4-cm) round cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as you can and place them on the lined sheets, leaving about 1 inch (2.5 cm) space between them. (You can gather the scraps into a disk and chill them, then roll, cut, and bake them later.)

5. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are set but pale. (If some of the cookies are thinner than the others, the thin ones may brown around the edges. M. Poilane would approve. He’d tell you the spots of color here and there show they are made by hand.) Transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool to room temperature.

Keeping: The cookies can be kept in a tin at room temperature for about 5 days or wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 1 month.

Chocolate Ganache

3 1/2 oz very good quality dark chocolate
1/2 cup cream

Chop up the chocolate into small pieces. Add the cream to a medium pot saucepan over low heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the chopped chocolates to the pan, turn the heat off, and let sit for two minutes to melt. Whisk until the ganache is smooth and let rest until cool down a bit. Fill a medium pastry bag with the ganache. If you don't have a pastry bag, you can improvise one with a regular ziplog bag. Add the ganache to the ziplog bag, seal it close and cut a hole in one corner so you can squeeze out the chocolate.

Let the ganache cool down just a little bit, then pipe it along the edges of a cookie to form a sort of levy. Do this to half the amount of cookies or shortbread you made. Let sit to cool down and set a bit more. Meanwhile, you can make the caramel.

Salted Butter Caramel
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup salted butter, at room temperature, cut into chunks
1/4cup+2tablespoons cream

In a medium pot, add the sugar and let it melt over medium heat. Shake the pan occasionally to make sure all the sugar is melted. Stir if you need to. Add cream to a small pot and bring to a gentle simmer. When the sugar melts and turn amber, add the cream and stir vigorously to mix well. Add the butter in small chunks and stir to blend. Set the caramel aside to cool down until lukewarm but still liquid.

With a spoon, spoon the caramel in the center of each cookie making sure the caramel stays inside the ganache so you don't make a mess. Cover each one with another cookie to make cookie sandwiches.