Sunday, May 8, 2016

Spinach and Ricotta Tortellini with Asparagus, Leeks and Pancetta

Spinach and Ricotta Tortellini with Asparagus, Leeks and Pancetta


For me, this is all about redemption.

Inspiration Behind the Dish

Last month I published my first attempt at a tortellini dish that I made from scratch. Everything about the dish was satisfactory to me except for the shape of my pasta. I'll be honest and note here that the flaw haunted me, so I needed to exorcise my demon to retain my sanity. In addition, I also used the opportunity to document with more detailed pictures the process of making the tortellini.

Dish Details

I used my tried and true pasta dough recipe which can be found on pages 102 to 104 of Cook Like A Rock Star by Anne Burrell with Suzanne Lenzer. I pulled from a number of sources for the tortellini filling including Two Peas and Their Pod, food.com and Cooking with Manuela. In addition, I relied upon a number of YouTube videos in order to shape each tortellino. I paired my tortellini with a seasonal vegetable side dish from page 174 of Michael Chiarello's Casual Cooking By Michael Chiarello with Janet Fletcher. I would hope that this dish would be at home at any Italian trattoria.

Ingredients

For the filling:
8 ounces chopped spinach, rinsed
10 ounces ricotta cheese, drained overnight
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 egg
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the pasta dough:
4 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water, plus more as needed
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the vegetable side:
1 1/2 pounds medium asparagus, tough ends broken off, then cut into 1-inch lengths
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces pancetta, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 cup leek, thinly sliced, white and pale green sections only
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Method

1. Prepare the filling. Place the wet spinach into a nonstick skillet and season with salt, then place over medium low heat and cover until wilted, approximately 5 minutes. After the wilted spinach has cooled, combine the it with the ricotta, parmesan and egg, then season with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside while the pasta dough is prepared.


2. Prepare the pasta dough. Whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, olive oil and water in a small bowl, then set aside. On a clean flat surface (I recommend a rimmed baking sheet in the event the well breaks), place the flour and dig a well in the middle so the flour resembles the shape of a volcano. Add the salt to the well, then pour in the wet ingredients. Using a fork, stir the eggs in a circular motion while simultaneously adding flour to the eggs slowly until the eggs are thick enough not to spill over the side of the well. Add the remaining flour to the eggs, and once it has become a homogeneous mixture, knead the dough by rolling it over onto itself with the heels of the palms of your hands, then turning it 90 degrees and repeating the process until it is tacky but not sticky adding more flour or water, as needed. While kneading the dough, ensure its consistent throughout by periodically piercing it with your finger to test the inside. Once the dough is kneaded, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest for one hour, however the dish can be prepared one day ahead up to this point.


4. Roll the dough. Open the setting of a pasta roller to its widest. Cut off a portion of the pasta dough and flatten it, ensuring to re-wrap the remaining pasta dough that isn't being rolled. Dust a clean working surface with flour and pass the portion of the dough through the pasta roller, then fold it into thirds and pass the dough through the roller a second time at its widest setting, dusting the dough with flour if it feels too sticky, as needed. Fold it into thirds again, passing the dough through the pasta roller a third time at the widest setting and again, dusting the dough flour if necessary. Adjust the pasta roller to the next thinnest setting (i.e. if the roller is widest at setting 1, switch it to setting 2), and pass through the pasta roller just once at that setting. Continue to pass the dough through the roller once at the next thinnest setting, dusting the dough with flour as required, until your pasta sheets have reached the desired thinness. (My Atlas machine has six settings, but I rolled my dough to setting 5.)


5. Shape the tortellini. Once the pasta sheets have been rolled to the desired thickness, use a ring mold to cut circles into the pasta sheets and retain the excess for another use.


Place 1/2 teaspoon of filling in the center of each, then using your finger, wet with water the edge of one-half of the circle, as demonstrated by the grey shaded area in the picture below.


Fold the circles in half and seal the filling inside, ensuring that no air has been trapped inside the tortellini.


Fold one corner towards the center and, using a finger, wet the tip as demonstrated by the grey shaded area in the picture below. Fold the second corner towards the center to seal the two corners so they stick together.


As you finish each tortellino, place them onto a flour dusted sheet pan and put the sheet pan in the freezer so the pasta doesn't dry out.


6. Prepare the vegetable side; boil the pasta and finish the dish. Bring two pots of salted water to a boil over high heat-one medium and one large. While waiting for the water to reach its temperature, render the pancetta in olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat until slightly crisp, approximately 5 minutes. Add the leek to sweat.


While the leek sweats, add the asparagus to the medium pot and cook until tender, approximately 3 or 4 minutes then drain and add the asparagus to the skillet with the pancetta and leek. Season with salt and pepper to taste and toss to coat the seasonings.


Add the tortellini to the large pot and boil until they float to the top, approximately 2 minutes. Remove the cooked tortellini with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate. To present, spoon a tablespoon or two of the vegetables onto a plate, then top with 4 to 5 tortellini, then serve immediately.

Final Thoughts

Unlike my previous tortellini attempt, I am pleased with the shape of the pasta I made. In addition, my suspicions were correct! By using a ring mold with a larger diameter, I was able to have better control over the final shape of the tortellini. Also, I might suggest to make the tortellini gradually, as each pasta sheet is rolled to the desired thickness before rolling more pasta dough so it doesn't dry out. Lastly, Mrs. Stuntman thought the vegetable side was seasoned perfectly and paired well with the spinach and ricotta filling. She even requested I prepare it again.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Presenting: Pan Seared Sea Scallops with Roasted Corn and Pea Purée

Pan Seared Sea Scallops with Roasted Corn and Pea Purée


Call this a continuation of my recipe redux post from last September...

Inspiration Behind the Dish

Last autumn, I prepared a scallops dish for my friend, Gwen, at Simply Healthy Family. If you click through to the post I wrote for her, I describe the evening I prepared the dish when my daughter finished her scallops and asked for more, which was unusual for a dish that's not kid favorites, such as burgers and pizza. She remembered the experience because she recently asked when are you going to cook scallops again? so I decided to use the opportunity to replicate the first scallops dish I published here because, even then, I was unhappy with it's execution.

Dish Details

I hope that this dish would be at home on any fine dining menu. For it, I used the same pea purée that I utilized in the dish I referenced above (however I omitted the tarragon sprig since I didn't have any fresh tarragon that evening) and my tried and true technique I've utilized since I figured it out two years ago. I also adapted the corn salsa I originally paired with pork chops.

Ingredients

3 ounces bacon, diced
2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1 stick unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 ounces U-10 sea scallops
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Lemon thyme leaves, for garnish

Method

1. Roast the corn. In a medium skillet, render the bacon fat over medium heat until just shy of being crisp, approximately two to three minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate, then drain the bacon fat from the skillet and reserve for another use.


Add the corn to the same skillet where the bacon was prepared and roast until brown over medium heat, stirring periodically, approximately twelve to fifteen minutes. Remove the corn to a bowl, then combine with the bacon pieces and season with salt and pepper to taste.


2. Purée the peas. Start on the peas while the corn is roasting. To do so, combine the peas and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and cover. Check the peas every three minutes until the peas are soft. Once velvety, strain the fluid from the peas but reserve the fluid. Purée the peas in a blender, adding the reserved liquid and one tablespoon olive oil until the purée is smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


3. Sear the scallops. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over high heat. Pat the scallops dry with paper towels, then season both sides with salt and pepper. Sear the scallops on one side only until browned, approximately sixty to ninety seconds. Remove to a plate to allow for carryover cooking. To plate, smear two tablespoons pea purée, onto a round plate, top with three scallops close together so they resemble a triangle, spoon some of the corn mixture over the scallops, then garnish with the lemon thyme leaves.

Final Thoughts

I remember watching a TV show that only lasted for one season on Bravo Network about five years ago called Rocco's Dinner Party. Each episode started with three chefs that prepared a dish in a qualifying round, then two of the three moved forward to host a dinner party for Chef Rocco DiSpirito and his celebrity friends. The chef who did the best won a cash prize. In one episode, Chef DiSpirito was thoroughly unimpressed in a qualifying round when one of the contestants prepared a dish using the combination of scallops, corn and bacon.

My point is the flavor affinity of this dish isn't very creative, however the picture of the finished dish is now my new favorite. I gave my friend, Faith of An Edible Mosaic and Healthy Sweet Eats, an advanced copy of the picture of the finished dish and one of the things she liked about it is the use of negative space: the way the food was concentrated on the center of the plate and the black plate against the white background. I've noticed that a plate with multiple contrasting colors on it is more visually appealing, so I'm very proud of the six colors on this dish. In fact, this photo has replaced my steak au poivre picture as my lock screen wallpaper on my phone.

Finally, my daughter finished her dinner the evening I prepared this dish just as quickly as she did last autumn and she's requested I prepare it again.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Pork Chop with Caramelized Onions and Cinnamon Rice Pilaf

Pork Chop with Caramelized Onions and Cinnamon Rice Pilaf


Last September, I published a pork chops dish for #SundaySupper that was not satisfying from the standpoint of it's plate presentation, so I decided to replicate it again.

Inspiration Behind the Dish

I remember reading in Think Like a Chef by Tom Colicchio with Catherine Young, Lori Silverbush and Sean Fri that Chef Colicchio doesn't change the proteins on his restaurant menus very often, but he will change the vegetable accompaniments depending on what's in season and what is at it's peak. Using this theory, I consulted The Flavor Bible to re-pair pork chops for spring produce. Spring onions are obviously in season around now and onions were strongly suggested as a pairing with pork. I knew caramelized onions were sweet and thought it would be a good substitute to apples that are in season in the autumn.

Dish Details

I prepared my pork chops using a tried and true method from Chef Tyler Florence. In addition, I utilized the guide to making rice pilaf and my love for caramelized onions can be traced back to this recipe on epicurious which I found about six years ago. I'd imagine this dish would be at home on any casual chain restaurant, however I'm unsure if one would go through the trouble of brining their chops.

Ingredients

1 gallon water
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup kosher salt plus more as needed
Thyme sprigs
4 pork rib chops with the bone frenched
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
2 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
2 large yellow onions, peeled and cut in half lengthwise, then sliced thin
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 shallot, chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup white rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/4 cup chicken stock
Italian parsley leaves, chopped (for garnish)

Method

1. Prepare the pork chops. Brine the chops by combining the water one cup kosher salt and brown sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the thyme sprigs and the pork chops, then cover and refrigerate covered for two hours.


Once the two hours have elapsed, drain the brine and discard the brine. Pat the pork chops dry with paper towels, then season on both sides with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Once hot, sear the pork chops in the skillet, approximately three to four minutes per side, then remove and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm while the onions and rice are prepared.


2. Caramelize the onions. In the same skillet used to prepare the pork chops, melt two tablespoons butter in an additional two tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Once melted, add the onions and stir, coating them in the fat. Continue to cook the onions until they reduce, soften and turn a golden brown, stirring occasionally, approximately twenty to thirty minutes. Stir in the granulated sugar, then season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.


3. While the onions are caramelizing, prepare the rice. In a medium saucepan, melt one tablespoon unsalted butter in one tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot to sweat, then season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, approximately two minutes. Perfume the shallots by adding the cinnamon, then the rice. Stir the mixture until the rice is toasted and coated in the oils, approximately 3 minutes. Stir in the wine and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and let it steam until the rice has absorbed, approximately twelve to fifteen minutes. Once the rice is finished, remove from heat and fluff with a fork. To plate, spoon a portion of the rice off center on a warmed plate, then rest the pork chop on the rice so that the frenched bone is raised. Drizzle some caramelized onions over the pork, then garnish with parsley leaves.


Final Thoughts

If you look closely, you'll find that I seared the pork chops in a stainless steel skillet in the picture above yet I instructed to sear them in a non-stick one. I made this change because I thought the onions might be able to pick up some of the pork fond but I found the sear on the pork a little too dark and I didn't want my onions to have a charred taste when they were supposed to be sweet so I switched pans. Additionally, Chef Florence instructs to finish the chops off in the oven and I did in this case but I omitted it from the instructions because I found them to be a little dry, despite the fact that they were brined. If the pork chops are one-inch thick or more, roast them in the oven at 350° Fahrenheit until their internal temperature reaches 140° Fahrenheit, approximately thirty minutes. In the end, I found the onions a very good substitute for apples and am surprised it isn't more common.

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