Feb 17 2011

For the Love of Hot Sauces

Justin Levy

When most people go on vacation they hunt for postcards, key chains, shot glasses or other small trinkets to bring home as mementos of where they have been. While those things are nice, I have never been one to much care for spending money on postcards and key chains. I usually like the photos that I take better than the postcards and the fact that the photos are digital means that I can edit and publish them instead of having to hang on to a piece of card stock. I’m not a key chain person. Just give me the keys necessary to get through the day and I’m fine. Shot glasses and other small trinkets can be fun, especially if they’re a bit funky and fun. So, what do I hunt for when on vacations or look forward to when family or friends head away to foreign lands? Hot sauces, spices and oils.

Growing up with a Jamaican step-father I have a deep passion for spicy foods. When I was young I wasn’t allowed to get up from the table until my plate was cleared no matter how spicy it was. As I grew up I became intrigued by the different layers that hot sauces, curries, jerk seasonings and peppers presented to my palette. Some immediately sent excruciating stinging pain through my lips and the tip of my tongue while others had a deep smoky spice accompanied by a light burn minutes after eating and in the deep regions of my throat. I began experimenting and researching different types of sauces, spices and peppers with the goal of educating myself on all things spicy.  No, this is not to say that everything must be over-sauced in mouth-scorching hot sauce or so much spice that you need an ice-scraper to get it off. I appreciate properly seasoned and sauced foods and have grown my range to not be so simple as to think that Red Hot is the only sauce available.

Once I began to travel more for business trips and vacations, especially to the Carribean islands, I started to seek out collecting different hot sauces, seasonings and oils from around the world. Now when family or friends travel they know what will put a big smile on my face when they come back. I’ve had jerk sauces and seasonings that I bought from women who were cooking it in their kitchens and then selling their concoctions in the open markets the next day and have tried spicy oils where a drop into a vat of chili turns it spicy throughout, among many other experiences. What always amazes me is the variety of combinations and different flavor layers that are created by using, in general, the same ingredients. It’s simply incredible.

Being fellow foodies, I wonder if, when you travel, do you hunt for unique spices, oils or sauces to bring home with you, even if they’re not spicy?

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Photo Credit: ASurroca


Feb 10 2011

Baked Mac N Cheese with Cherry Peppers and Bacon Recipe

Justin Levy

If you’re looking for a light, healthy, low-carb, low-fat dish then you’ve arrived at the wrong recipe today. This baked macaroni and cheese with cherry peppers and bacon screams not healthy but is a soul-warming, hearty, cheesy, wonderful delight that will have everyone at your kitchen table begging for more. Never again will you eat boxed macaroni with fake cheese powder!

The great thing about this recipe is that it is fairly easy and straightforward to make, except it does require a bit of prep time. It’s a great dish to make with your spouse or kids so that you can divide up the tasks such as the shredding and chopping.

Baked Mac N Cheese with Cherry Peppers and Bacon Recipe

Ingredients

Mac N Cheese

  • 1/4 lb shredded Fontina cheese
  • 1/4 lb shredded Asiago cheese
  • 1/4 lb shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 lb chopped bacon
  • 1 lb Cavatelli pasta – you could substitute elbow macaroni or any spiral pasta that you prefer which will hold up to a heavy cheese sauce
  • 1/3 c Hot cherry peppers (or to taste) – seeded and sliced into rings
  • 2 c milk
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 4-5 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Breadcrumbs

  • 1/2 French bread – chopped into squares
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic – finely chopped
  • Small handful of finely chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Topping

  • 1 large tomato sliced thin

Preparation

Mac N Cheese

Bring water to a boil, add pasta and cook for 6-8 minutes until just before reaching al dente. Since the pasta is going to continue cooking once added to the cheese mixture and then will be baked, it shouldn’t be cooked fully at this stage.

In a small pot, add the milk and bring to a simmer but avoid burning.

In a larger pot, preferably a heavy-bottomed pot such as a dutch oven, cook the chopped bacon over medium to medium-high heat until crispy. Remove the bacon and set aside for later. Add the onions to the bacon grease and cook 2-3 minutes until the onions become translucent. Add the butter and stir with a wooden spoon until melted. Whisk in flour for 1-2 minutes and then whisk in warmed milk and let come to a simmer until it begins thickening. Slowly add the cheese and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until it is fully incorporated. Add the pasta, cherry peppers, bacon, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Fold in all of the ingredients and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Spoon the macaroni and cheese mixture into either a large glass baking dish or, even better, gratin dishes.

Breadcrumbs

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and place chopped French bread onto a baking tray for approximately 8-10 minutes or until the bread is crunchy. Remove the bread from the oven and place into a food processor and pulse the processor until finely crumbled. If you don’t have a food processor, you can always finely chop the bread but it is definitely easier with a food processor.

Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat and add the chopped garlic. Allow the garlic to cook for 1-2 minutes, add the breadcrumbs, parsley, salt and pepper. Incorporate together and cook for another 1-2 minutes then add the Parmesan cheese. Remove from the heat and sprinkle evenly over the macaroni and cheese.

Add 2-3 tomato slices across the top, depending on the size of your baking vessels, and bake in a 350 degree pre-heated oven for 10-15 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and the cheese bubbly.

Remove from the oven and serve either as is or transfer to a serving dish.

Enjoy!

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Feb 8 2011

Griddled Smashed Red Potatoes

Joseph Gionfriddo

This is a truly simple yet impressive side dish which produces a crispy, smoky, slightly charred exterior unlike any potato you have eaten before.   I can honestly say that this is my favorite potato side dish…or at least one of my top three!

Griddled Smashed Red Potatoes Recipe

Ingredients

1 pint small round red potatoes
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Vegetable oil for cooking
Shaved sea salt (or the fanciest salt you can find, preferably slightly coarser than kosher salt)
Fresh ground black pepper
Extra Virgin olive oil for serving

Special Equipment

Cast iron griddle or pan

Preparation

Put the cleaned red potatoes in a large saucepan and add the red wine vinegar, a pinch of table salt, a dash of vegetable oil, and enough cold water to cover.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium and cook at a low boil until fork tender.  Just before you remove your potatoes from the water you should begin heating your griddle to low/medium for this application – you will want to have your pan heated for a solid 10 minutes before you begin cooking on it.

Once your potatoes are fork tender, drain them in a colander, do not rinse and do not allow them to cool.  For this step in the recipe you must work somewhat quickly while the potatoes are still warm, if allowed to cool they will crumble and separate instead of smashing and maintaining their structural integrity.  Place a clean paper towel on your work surface, place a potato on top and with another paper towel and the palm of your hand with steady, slow, firmness press down and gently smash the potato to an even thickness roughly ¼” to ½”.  Place all your smashed potatoes on a separate tray.

To crisp the potatoes, oil them with vegetable oil and add them to the cast iron pan being careful not to crowd, working in batches. Cook for approximately 5 minutes on the first side or until slightly charred and crisped. Then carefully flip using a spatula or putty knife and cook for 2-3 minutes on the second side (since the potatoes have been heated the second side won’t take as long).  Remove to a separate tray and keep warm until all potatoes have been griddle crisped.

To finish I drizzle with a good extra virgin olive oil and lightly season with shaved sea salt and just a hint of freshly ground black pepper. Carefully flip the griddled potatoes and drizzle and season the second side as well. As one of my mentors told me a long time ago: “Good food is seasoned, great food is seasoned thoroughly.”

In my opinion these potatoes do not need any garnish, sauce, or additional seasoning.  They go perfectly with grilled or roasted meats and are well worth the extra trouble and attention to detail it takes to produce the “just right” amount of char.

Enjoy!

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Feb 5 2011

Prosciutto and Grana Padano Cheese Stuffed Hot Cherry Peppers Recipe

Justin Levy

Are you looking for a fun appetizer that you add to your Super Bowl menu?  Wouldn’t it be great if it was something different than the regular wings, cheeses, dips, salsas and cracker variations that we’re all used to?

Even if it’s not for the Super Bowl, this is a fast appetizer to make as a snack or to bring to dinner parties. We make them all the time and they have been a hit every time we’ve brought them to a party.

Not only will your appetizer be the talk of the party but it is incredibly easy to prep and doesn’t even involve any cooking!

Prosciutto and Grana Padano Cheese Stuffed Hot Cherry Peppers Recipe

Ingredients

  • Whole cherry hot peppers – try to get a brand that are a bit firmer and larger of a pepper as it will hold up better when you stuff them
  • Prosciutto
  • Grana Padano cheese – if you can’t find Grana Padano, you can substitute with Pecorino

Preparation

Total prep time: Approx. 10 minutes – depending on how many cherry peppers you’re preparing

Cut off the top of the cherry peppers just below the stem. Using your fingers or a small knife, cut out the seeds and rinse out the pepper to remove any remaining seeds.

Cut small squares of the Grana Padano or Pecorino cheese just big enough to fit into the pepper once wrapped with the prosciutto. While you don’t want to cut it too big, you do want to cut it big enough so that it will fit snug inside of the pepper.

Take the prosciutto and cut it into strips that will be long and wide enough to wrap around each piece of cheese a couple times around. This doesn’t have to be an exact cut and you can usually use your fingers to tear strips of prosciutto to use.

Take your prosciutto, wrap it around the cheese and then stuff inside of the cherry pepper. Place on a nice tray or plate and you’re ready to enjoy!

See, told you it was simple!

Enjoy!

Note: Usually there would be an enticing picture of the recipe but I accidentally ate them all before snapping a photo…they’re that good!

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Feb 1 2011

Proper Care and Seasoning of Cast Iron Cooking Equipment

Joseph Gionfriddo

For this post I want to address a question received by one of our readers regarding the proper seasoning and care of cast iron cooking equipment. But before I provide my answer I must take the time to reference the cookbook that really got me into cast iron cooking in the first place, Seven Fires, Grilling the Argentine Way, written by Argentina’s most famous chef Francis Mallmann.  Throughout this book full of wonderful recipes there are many side notes, quotes, and chef tips related to all things having to do with wood-fire cooking.  One of these particular side notes is Chef Mallmann’s perspective on proper care and seasoning of cast iron pans and it is so perfect that I want to share it for this post.

While reading this quotation keep in mind that Chef Mallmann has multiple restaurants and cooks more in cast iron than anyone you know or ever will know.  However, the general idea and romance of cast iron cooking is absolutely there, so check it out, and then read my more practical approach.  In the end do whatever you feel is best for your personal style of cooking.

“I depend on cast iron, and I respect it, but I don’t go through the elaborate steps that some aficionados do when cleaning it. I know that many people never wash their cast-iron pans with soap and water, scouring them instead with coarse salt, then oiling the pans to develop a nonstick patina that’s equal to Teflon. I’m not one of them. I find that a pan that is oil-seasoned often smokes while it’s heating up; I prefer to oil my ingredients just before putting them on to cook. As far as cleaning off the sticky bits, pouring boiling water into a pan or dousing a very hot pan or skillet with a ladleful of warm water shocks them so you can easily scrape them off with a big spoon, spatula, or-my favorite chapa tool- a wide putty knife (the kind used by housepainters and plasterers).

I confess that my pans often show rust and some even crack from time to time but I just chalk that up to paying my dues.”

My personal philosophy regarding proper care and seasoning of cast iron boils down to one basic philosophy: don’t wash it, instead wipe it down thoroughly with a clean dry towel while the pan is still hot after each use.  The resulting temperature of cooking with a cast iron pan on medium/high heat will sanitize it thoroughly and the same heat will loosen any of those aforementioned “sticky bits” so that they can be easily removed with your spatula prior to wipe down.

When you purchase a new cast iron skillet or pan what I recommend you do is apply a teaspoon or two of vegetable oil (not olive oil as it can not stand up to the same level of heat that vegetable oil can) to your pan and with a clean paper towel rub it into the entire surface area of the pan (both sides). Really take your time and massage the oil into the cast iron until the whole thing is evenly saturated.  Now what you need to do is add some heat.  This is a great time to see how your pan heats up.  Start at medium heat for about 10 minutes, notice if your pan smokes, how hot it feels, how a drop of water sizzles on it, etc.  Next increase the heat to medium/high and let sit for another 10 minutes.  What you have now essentially done is fired on your new pan’s nonstickiness!  Let the pan cool somewhat, but while still warm, carefully wipe the entire pan thoroughly with a clean kitchen towel.  You have now successfully seasoned your cast iron and will not need to do it again.

While I do oil season my pans unlike Chef Mallmann, I do agree that the initial best way to keep food from sticking (even in a seasoned pan) is to oil your ingredients prior to adding them to a hot pan, and it is something that I do every time I cook.

To summarize what you must do to keep your cast iron pan performing to its utmost potential thoroughly scrape down and then while still warm, wipe your pan clean after each use.  Personally, I do not feel that water is needed to clean these pans at all, but it can be helpful if you have an extreme case of “sticky bits”.  Regular practicing of these few steps will help your cast iron maintain its wonderful non-stick properties for as long as you own it!

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Photo Credit: cinnachick


Jan 25 2011

Charred-Aged Provolone with Oregano and Tomatoes (“Provoleta”) Recipe

Joseph Gionfriddo

Most people will laugh at how simple this recipe is, but this simplicity is what I want to come through here.  Argentine food is best when uncomplicated and to me the most influential recipes have always been those with very few ingredients. When this is the case, quality is of the utmost importance as is the attention to which the chef pays to cooking. For this dish, and for Argentinean cooking in general, the two most important factors are having a well-seasoned cast iron griddle or pan and having a comfortable working relationship with Medium/High heat.

Charred-Aged Provolone with Oregano and Tomatoes (a.k.a “Provoleta”) Recipe

Ingredients

Aged provolone cheese, cut into rounds 1/4″-1/2″ thick (Note: Get the best, most dense provolone you can find from your local Italian deli or market, and have your deli man slice it for you to your desired thickness, as a smooth flat surface is the key here.)
Extra virgin olive oil
Diced tomato
Dry oregano
Sea salt

Special Equipment

Cast-iron griddle or pan

Preparation

  • Preheat your oven to 350.
  • Get your cast iron skillet evenly heated to Medium/High, or just before the point of smoking.
  • Lightly oil your provolone, one side only, and wipe off any excess, you want it well lubricated but not saturated.
  • Carefully place your provolone firmly, oiled side down, on your cast iron griddle.
  • Let sear for about one minute or until the corners of the cheese start to brown lightly and lift from the griddle.
  • With a flexible metal spatula carefully lift the provolone off the griddle, being careful not to disrupt the seared surface, it will require some scraping to get underneath but with a little careful nudging, should not stick to seasoned cast iron, and should be light to medium golden brown, too much searing will result in a darker color and a bitter taste.
  • Place the provolone seared side up in an oven safe casserole dish, and bake for about 5-10 minutes, until cheese begins to bubble and is soft in the middle.
  • Remove from the oven and drain off any excess oil/grease and top with a pinch of diced tomato, oregano, and a little olive oil, season lightly with a small pinch of sea salt.

Provoleta is best when eaten still warm, with some crusty bread.  It is a very filling appetizer and contrasts nicely with a mixed greens salad dressed with simple vinaigrette.

Again this may seem like a lot of words for such a simple recipe, but the key is in the technique. I can honestly say that all my friends, family, and regular customers who come to Caminito and eat Provoleta, say it is the best cheese appetizer they have had. It is in my opinion certainly more flavorful and interesting than another fried mozzarella stick!

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Photo Credit: Justin Levy


Jan 7 2011

Rustic Cooking with Cast Iron

Joseph Gionfriddo

Ok, so, I know I have been on a serious hiatus from my writing on Prime Cuts but I am coming out of hibernation and am gearing up to hit you guys with a slew of fresh info pertaining to the meat-centric way that I cook food. I had been racking my brain and trying to come up with the perfect topic for my first post back and then it hit me, I should share the rustic cooking method that I have been working on perfecting over the last year.

This cooking medium/method has really changed the way I think about food: and is best explained in two short words: cast iron. I purchased a flat surfaced cast iron griddle last Fall and since doing so, I have tried cooking just about every food imaginable on it. With this post I hope to spark some cast iron interest in you and help you key in on points that will help you when experimenting with your griddle techniques.

I think most of us have stashed away somewhere in our house, a dusty old heavy cast iron skillet which we may not have used in ages (or ever). But this should truly not be the case. Cast iron should be a regularly utilized part of all our cooking routines. Cast iron heats up evenly, retains its temperature for a really long time, and when seasoned properly is nearly stick proof. This last characteristic is what has been so crucial to me lately. When you can get food to cook evenly at high heat without sticking to the cooking medium, you allow yourself an amazing range of browning/searing/charring that would simply not be possible with other conventional cooking surfaces.

In Argentine cuisine next to the wood burning grill (Parrillia) the cast iron griddle (Chapa) is perhaps the most important cooking surface in the kitchen. This is what prompted me to really start getting comfortable with my cast iron griddle and after much practice I can honestly say that I am able to sear just about any food on my chapa and create the perfect amount of char. The advice I would offer to any new cast iron cookers is to practice cooking at medium/high heat and really get comfortable working at this temperature. Get to know the speed at which different foods cook and note the resulting amount of char produced. You will need to keep a mental record of how everything chars but as a general rule of thumb, remember that the higher the sugar content/the quicker and darker the resulting char will be.

My personal recommendation for a cast iron griddle is something flat with a good amount of surface area such as one from Lodge Cast Iron which has two surface styles and fits securely on most modern stovetops. But by all means if you already have a cast iron pan hiding in your house, use it before you buy anything new. Practice getting your sear down in small batches and then if you still need to upgrade, you will have a good idea of exactly the griddle size and style you are looking for.

In my restaurant I use my griddle the gaucho way: directly on top of my wood fire. However you can replicate this traditional method using your gas or electric stovetop and often with more consistent results as stovetops heat more evenly than a wood fire. Cast iron will take a while to heat up, so at med/high give it a good 5 minutes pre-heating time if using a gas stove and 10 minutes if using electric. Before adding any food to your griddle, place a drop of water on the griddle. The water should spatter and evaporate almost instantly and your griddle should be just about smoking. When this ideal temp is reached carefully apply a thin layer of vegetable oil to the griddle (watch out for flare ups) and begin searing away, while always being careful not to over crowd the cooking surface.

As for getting the food off of the griddle, my personal suggestion is to invest in a new metal putty knife or paint scraper with a flat flexible scraping surface. You want a tool that will make even contact with the cast iron surface and then cleanly get under the food and enable you to best flip and remove items from your griddle without disrupting the charred surface you have worked so diligently to create. Practice and experimentation will be your biggest allies when cooking with cast iron. But remember that any food that can be pan seared, fried, or grilled can just as easily be griddle/seared, and what a difference in both appearance and flavor it makes!

Coming up in my next post, my two favorite griddled foods: Provoleta a.k.a. charred-aged provolone with oregano and tomatoes and smashed griddled red potatoes with olive oil and sea salt!

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Photo Credit: buchman


Jan 5 2011

Dusting Off and Refreshing Prime Cuts

Justin Levy

When we launched Prime Cuts it was our goal to provide you with content around all things cooking including information, techniques, tips and recipes. Of course, since our name is “Prime Cuts” and we own an argentinean steakhouse we wanted a primary focus of our content to be on proteins, and specifically, steak, as well as the dishes, sauces, beverages and techniques associated with them. As our restaurant continued to grow and get busier we sought out help from a diverse group of contributors to keep new content flowing into your RSS readers or inbox. While this strayed away from the focus on steaks that we had originally intended, it allowed us the ability to focus on the restaurant, which demanded a lot of our attention, while still keeping up with the blog. Our contributors provided mouth-watering recipes, the joys of a French press and tons more.

But, as 2010 set in, the restaurant continued to grow and was growing, at times, at an even faster rate than we had anticipated. Along with that we had a lot of other things that demanded our time both personally and professionally. This perfect storm of circumstances led us to put this blog on the back burner. Sure, we created some content during 2010, but not nearly as much as we wanted to and not on a regular basis.

As we spent the better part of December planning out what 2011 would look like for us at Caminito, we made dusting off and refreshing Prime Cuts a priority for the two of us. We decided that we wanted to bring the blog back to its roots with no other contributors besides the two of us. This forces us to keep it a priority since we’re solely responsible for producing content. If we don’t write, then you don’t get anything new to read. This will put pressure on us, especially once Summer comes around and the restaurant picks up a lot. We’ll definitely have guest posts along the way and may even open our arms again to regular contributors later in the year.

We’re really excited at digging back in around here. We both have some recipes, techniques and tips that we can’t wait to share with you! To help us stay on a regular schedule and also not to suddenly start flooding you with new posts, we’re going to stick to 2 posts per week, one from each of us. Some weeks we may have more than that, especially if we put together a series or have a few guest posts and some weeks we’ll probably only have a single post. We’ll call it an average of 2 posts per week. Deal?

We hope that you had a wonderful holiday season and that 2011 is off to a great start! We hope that you’ll forgive us for not writing enough during 2010 and will pop back in and say hello during 2011.

Cheers!

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Photo Credit: elmada


Jul 11 2010

Fabulous Fish Tacos

Melissa Delgaudio

Talk to me long enough (like, five minutes) and a few things about me will become readily apparent: (1) I hate being cold, (2) I love to eat (and cook), (3) I’m madly in love with my kids, and (4) I love, love, LOVE spending time in California, especially San Diego.

San Diego is just about the best place on Earth. It’s beautiful, the weather is (almost) always spectacular, and it has a relaxed, laid-back attitude that always makes me feel right at home; always perfectly at ease.

One of the great side benefits to San Diego’s climate, as well as its seaside location, is that there’s plenty of great seafood, and always lots of yummy ways to eat it. In fact, if the city had a signature dish, it’d have to be fish tacos.

Usually, when I mention fish tacos (here on the East Coast), people wrinkle up their nose and say, “Huh? That doesn’t sound good.” But once people try them, they’re hooked.

Fish tacos exemplify everything that’s great about San Diego. They’re delicious, light, unpretentious, and easy to make and eat.

Since I don’t get to San Diego nearly as often as I’d like, and since fish tacos aren’t available at most restaurants back East, I had to learn to make them myself. They’ve become a staple in my house. My kids love them, friends magically appear when they hear that they’re on the menu for the day. They’ve become my signature dish.

Over time, I’ve honed my recipe pretty well, I think. Give ‘em a try on your grill tonight (you’ll be glad you did!)

Fabulous Fish Tacos Recipe

Ingredients

1 pound of your favorite white fish (my choice is Mahi Mahi, but Tilapia works well)
¼ cup olive oil (don’t use extra-virgin here; the flavor is too strong)
The juice of one lime
One jalapeno pepper, seeded, and chopped
¼ cup chopped cilantro
8 fajita-sized flour tortillas

Garnishes & Toppings

Shredded cabbage
Your favorite hot sauce
Crema (if you can find it) or sour cream
Thinly sliced scallions (green onions)
Chopped cilantro
Pico de gallo

Preparation

Put fish in a Ziploc bag. Stir together the olive oil, lime juice, jalapeno pepper, and cilantro; pour over the fish. Allow to marinate for at least 15 minutes, but not more than about an hour.

Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.

Remove the fish from the marinade and place on the hot grill. Grill for about 6 minutes, turning the fish over after about 4 minutes, or until it’s white and flaky. Flake the fish into a bowl.

Serve with warm tortillas and fill with your toppings of choice.

See how easy that was? This couldn’t come together faster, which makes it a great meal to serve during the work week. It’s light and delicious, which makes it perfect for summer. It’s even pretty doggone healthy, so you won’t feel guilty about “indulging.”

I hope you enjoy my little slice of San Diego. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to make some airplane reservations; there’s a flip-flop-wearing town on the West Coast that’s calling my name.

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Photo Credit: Neilwill


May 31 2010

Fresh Pasta

Justin Rasmussen

So, sometimes cooking leads you down dark, scary paths that seem hard to come back from.  A perfect example of this is when you realize how simple it is to make your own tomato sauce. Next you decide to make your own sausage, then make your own ricotta, then you start thinking about making your own butter and then suddenly you have a farm in your back yard and you realize you’ve gone too far. However, while going down this path, making your own pasta is one that is worth the simple effort especially when paired with light, delicate sauces.

My brother and I decided to give it a shot. How hard could it be right? Well, with the wrong recipe and a new pasta rolling machine, it can be quite the hilarious task. We first started with differing recipes, my brother wanted to try a KitchenAid recipe while I wanted to attempt a Martha Stewart recipe.  I know that the recipe for pasta dough is stupid simple but as I looked across all of my cookbooks, they all differed and varied in the amounts of the flour and egg and the amount they yielded.

At first I made a nice flour mound shaping it into a bowl, then I cracked the eggs into the middle, I started bringing in the flour and then like a fool I broke the wall and egg went everywhere. I started throwing flour down like it was a chemical spill. I managed to save the dough or so I thought. We kneaded it and the dough just never came together so we sat it aside. My brother then turned his attention to his KitchenAid recipe using his mixer to do the handy work, the recipe and the mixer didn’t offer much help. The dough was almost dried before we finished rolling it out.  Almost completely defeated for failing to complete a stupid simple recipe I decided to open up the Ratio app on my iPhone by Michael Ruhlman. This book and app by the same name has intrigued me for a while, thinking how could this guy get something right that so many people have missed. In fact, I was thinking that Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio was the book for me, very formulaic in it’s ratios, giving you a base to start from.

I found the pasta dough recipe in Ratio and weighed the ingredients out and began mixing, then kneading, and finally resting. After resting, my brother and I rolled out the dough and started to use our pasta roller and cutter, it worked perfectly. We dried some for later and the rest threw into a pot of boiling water to go alongside a rough version of Scott Conant‘s tomato sauce I remember seeing on No Reservations. I remember the sauce being basic and simple to make but Scott always insisting it was fresh and light which is exactly what I was looking for to pair with my fresh pasta. Once the pasta was about 90% there I pulled it into a pan and finished it in the pan with the sauce to help the noodles soak up and bind well with the sauce. The end result was fantastic, light, airy and filling.

After this journey of making my own fresh pasta I wondered why anyone would buy fresh pasta instead of making it themselves.  I understand if you don’t know how to make all the fancy noodles but for the basic strand or ribbon pasta like fettuccine, linguine, lasagne, or spaghetti; it’s incredibly simple to do it yourself.

To be honest, I wasn’t a believer in the ratio thing until I started seeing so many differing recipes for the same dish for the same serving size. This was when I started looking for something more standardize and when I found Ratio. If you haven’t read it yet you should, whether you’re new or experienced it is good to have these ratios by your side rather than ten recipe cards or books. Michael Ruhlman walks you through how to add almost any variation you can imagine which is the real power behind Ratio, enabling you to make recipes rather than super-powerful, celebrity chefs telling you what to make this month. I love this and think it is kind of cool to enable yourself to make your own recipes for basic stuff because now you know how not to mess up what you’re making. You can now add your own personal or cultural touch to anything without worrying about botching the whole thing.

Fresh Pasta Ratio Recipe

3 Parts Flour
2 Parts Eggs (Figure about 1 egg per serving)

Example: Roughly 2 Servings

6 Ounces Flour (weighed)
4 Ounces Egg (weighed)

Combine flour and egg and knead until smooth like any other pasta dough, nothing new or different but the ratio is dead on. After the ratio you treat the dough like any other pasta dough, rolling it out and cutting.

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