Posts Tagged ‘cookbook’

A Gnocchi Fiasco

Monday, March 29th, 2010

I am a pretty good cook, and I don’t mind saying so. I don’t think I’d be blogging if I wasn’t. Often, my friends will make comments like “Of course it’s good, you made it!” or “Everything you make tastes good, Teri.”

I’m here to tell you that that is not always the case. Sometimes…things happen. Like with these gnocchi.

We’ve got this Meatless Monday thing going on, as you know. So far, we’ve had Chipotle Bean & Cheese Burritos, Fake Lasagna (Cheese only, obviously!), and Basil & Sun-Dried Tomato Panini with Fresh Mozzarella. I’m still struggling to find a meal where David truly doesn’t miss the meat, but we’ve been doing pretty well with the dishes we’ve tried. Last week, I attempted a dish from the “Hearty Pastas” section of Giada De Laurentiis’ Everyday Pasta: Gnocchi with Butter Thyme Sauce. It sounded delicious, and Giada made the gnocchi sound almost simple. The pictures were beautiful, and I really like gnocchi in general, but have never tried to make them. I thought with a crusty Italian bread and a Caesar salad, we’d have a pretty good meatless meal.

And if the gnocchi had worked out at all, we probably could have.

I’m not sure what went wrong. I thought I was doing the right thing. The dough came together, I rolled it out like play-dough snakes and cut the gnocchi into one-inch pieces. The recipe sounded so simple. Giada promised they were worth the work, even though gnocchi are available at your regular store. She lied to me.

Most of the gnocchi just crumbled in the water. They crumbled further when they hit the butter sauce. I ended up with a saucepan full of extra-gummy, gluey, greasy-from-all-the-butter mashed potatoes. Yuck. (I also tried to use light butter, which was a mistake. It melted way wrong, and tasted worse than margarine! I can’t blame Giada for that part, but the damage was already done.) We ended up ordering a four cheese pizza from Homemade Pizza Company. They saved dinner!

I’m posting the recipe from Giada below, in case anyone with real gnocchi experience has some ideas on how to correct the recipe, or maybe a more trustworthy gnocchi recipe to share. I’ll admit, I’m a little leery of trying gnocchi again–seemed like a lot of work, and in this case, all for nothing. Once bitten, twice shy, and all that.

In the meantime, I will take comfort in the fact that over at the Food Network website, two people seemed to have failed at this recipe for every one person that made it work, so it’s not just me.

Here's what the gnocchi should have looked like, from The Food Network

Gnocchi with Butter Thyme Sauce
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’ Everyday Pasta

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 (1-pound) russet potato
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup shaved Pecorino Romano

Directions

Cook the butter in a heavy medium skillet over medium heat until it begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the thyme leaves. Set aside.

Pierce the potato all over with a fork. Microwave the potato until tender, turning once, about 12 minutes. Cut the potato in half and scoop the flesh into a large bowl; discard the skin. Using a fork, mash the potato well. Mash in the salt and pepper. Mix in 3 tablespoons of the egg; discard the remaining egg. Sift the flour over the potato mixture and knead just until blended.

Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece between your palms and the work surface into a 1/2-inch-diameter rope (about 20 inches long). Cut the dough into 1-inch pieces. Roll each piece of dough over a wooden paddle with ridges or over the tines of a fork to form grooves in the dough.

Cook the gnocchi in a large pot of boiling salted water until the gnocchi rise to the surface, about 1 minute. Continue cooking until the gnocchi are tender, about 4 minutes longer. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to the hot thyme-butter in the skillet. Toss to coat.

Spoon the gnocchi and butter sauce into shallow bowls. Top with the Pecorino and serve.

Note: Absent some expert advice (and I don’t think Giada is reading!), I don’t think I’ll be trying this again. Just too much work to risk it not turning out again. And I can get gnocchi off the shelf anywhere, including my local supermarket.

Alton Brown Book Signing at Borders in Chicago

Friday, October 16th, 2009

It’s no secret, at all, that we love Alton Brown around here. The recent Good Eats Anniversary special on Food Network called Alton’s classic show “Good Eats” one part Julia Child, one part Mr. Wizard, and one part Monty Python. That’s about the most apt description I can think of. Ten years ago, Alton set out to create a cooking show that would be fun and educational, and I don’t think anyone is doubting that he was successful. Even the shows about things I don’t like (Brussels Sprouts, Okra) are fun to watch. Sometimes, they even make me think, briefly, about trying those things. As I’ve said before, when we’re looking for a go-to recipe, for pretty much anything, Alton’s the guy. Below is a snapshot of all the Alton dishes I’ve made for the blog. The best thing about an Alton recipe is it quickly becomes a standard. Many of the things you see below are made frequently around here.

  • Pancakes
  • Salmon
  • Rice Pilaf
  • Stuffed Pork Chops
  • Pork Wellington
  • Pan Roasted Steaks
  • Pulled Pork Sandwiches
  • Fried Chicken
  • Fajitas
  • Baked Brown Rice
  • Homemade Pizza
  • Stovetop Macaroni & Cheese
  • Chicken & 40 Cloves
  • Baby Back Ribs
  • Cheese Fondue
  • Waffles
  • French Onion Soup
  • Coconut Macaroons

So when we heard that Alton Brown was doing a signing for his new book, Good Eats: The Early Years, we were there. (P.S. Amazon has it for half the price of Borders! If you want it, I recommend you get it there)

ab book2

I plan to review the book in full once I get through it, but from what I’ve seen (Mostly from the time I spent waiting in line!) it looks excellent. The book goes through all of the recipes from Seasons 1 -6 of Good Eats, and provides updates, behind-the-scenes info, and even deleted scene-style additional recipes that didn’t make it into the original episode. I’m excited to look back over some of our old standbys and see what new tips Alton has for us!

Borders, on the other hand, gets a not-so-great review. When we saw Alton at Crate & Barrel a few years ago, there was a crazy-large crowd, but they still managed to let everyone at least have a chance at hearing the discussion/demonstration that he did. We really enjoyed that demo, but in this case, Borders had people waiting in all different sections of the 3 level store. Determined by an unpublished wristband system. We were on the same floor as Alton, and you could hardly hear that he was speaking, except that the group closest to him laughed every now and then. Why not at least broadcast that audio through the speakers over our heads, instead of the innane music we could also barely hear?

Ultimately, David and I were the only ones out of a group of 4 that stayed. The wait was too long, with too little reward it seemed. And I mostly agreed. David and I already had a signed book from the Crate & Barrel appearance, so why wait around? On the other hand, once you’ve waited around for 2 hours, what’s another hour and a half? At least we do have a signed book to show for all that waiting.

Dave’s friend Phil left reasonably early, and his friend Mike left about an hour or so after that. Dave and I stuck it out. When we’d gotten pretty close to the end, AB walked out into the crowd and offered to sign books for children so they could go home. It was a nice gesture, but it also happened right next to us in line–and it was fun to hear his conversations with the little kids.

ab kids signing

When we finally got up to our turn with AB, we introduced ourselves, got our picture taken and were pretty much on our way.

ab signing

Except, in an amusing turn of events, when we mentioned that Mike had gone home earlier (but we were still hoping to get his book signed) Alton added a tongue-in-cheek personal message to his autograph:

ab mike's book

It was all in good fun, I promise.

P.S. I also had a chance to flip through the Cake Wreck’s book while waiting in line, and I feel like buying it for everyone I know for Christmas. It’s such fun, and a great intro to the Cake Wrecks blog. I really wish I’d gone to Jen’s book signing when I had the chance, but Skokie seemed a little far for a Thursday night. *shrug*

Presents!

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Can I just take a minute and say how much I love my husband?

Well, I do. And not just because he buys me presents. But this post is about presents. šŸ™‚

I’ve been traveling a lot lately for work, so getting a call from him when I landed in Denver, telling me he’d ordered two presents for me was really fun. As was the anticipation of waiting for them to come in the mail. (For him, probably the most fun was me needling and whining to get him to tell me what they were. I figured one out, but his lips were sealed on the other).

I don’t want to say too much about them, because they both deserve full reviews here, but he ordered two fantastic books for me.

The first (the one I had figured out) is called The Cook’s Guide to Chicago. The blurb on the back says “This is not a cookbook, it’s a cook’s book!” and that seems about right. Though there are recipes sprinkled throughout, the book sets out to uncover the best specialty food stores and specialty equipment shops in the city. I’m excited to work my way through it.

cooks-guide-to-chicago

The second book is a naturally fit for me, and one I’ve had my eye on for a while: Tom Colicchio’s ‘Wichcraft: Craft a sandwich into a meal–and a meal into a sandwich. I haven’t had a chance to look through it fully, but it’s a beautifully constructed book with a wide range of sandwiches. It makes me sad to think that I’ve missed my chance to stop into a ‘wichcraft shop twice now (once in NYC, once in San Francisco). Next time the opportunity arises, I’m going to take it for sure.

wichcraft

I’ve got one more book burning a hole in my bookshelf, and this one was actually a birthday present from Leah: it’s called Jam It, PickleĀ  It, Cure It and Other Cooking Projects. Another beautiful book full of pictures (I don’t know why that matters to me, but it does!) and a lot of cool “projects,” like making Oreos from scratch. Or bacon. It looks really fun, and definitely the kind of thing I’ve been into lately.

df-jam-pickle-cure_300

I’m really excited about all of these and I can’t wait until things slow down at work a little more so I can really get in the kitchen and use them!

Cookbook Review: A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenberg

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

I adore Molly Wizenberg, and I adore her new book. It just makes me smile.

mollysbook

I had kicked around the idea of starting a food blog for awhile, but Orangette was the blog that tipped the scales. When I found Molly’s blog, I spent an entire weekend reading it from start to finish. Every month, I find myself enjoying her column in Bon Appetit, even before I know that it’s hers.

She’s a talented writer, with a passion for food. And I hope, someday, I can grow up to be just like her.

In the meantime, I have her latest book to enjoy.

Through a series of essays, anecdotes, and vignettes, Molly reminices about her life, love,Ā  and family. The stories are funny, touching, even heart-warming at times. And each one is punctuated by a fabulous recipe. So far I’ve made a version of her Banana Bread, and her dad’s take on French Toast (coming soon!). But I find myself wanting to bookmark or dogear nearly every recipe–even the ones that I wouldn’t normally consider (Hello, Cider-Glazed Salmon).

I’ve found myself moved to tears by Molly’s writing, and inspired to get into the kitchen nearly every time I pick up the book.

I’d recommend the book to nearly anybody who likes what they see here, though I don’t dare compare my writing to hers. Molly’s better at this food writing thing than I could ever hope to be. There are enough recipes to say that it qualifies as a cookbook, but to be honest, it reads more like fiction.

The book is broken into 45 small chapters, each one followed by a recipe.

The following is a list of recipes found in A Homemade Life:

  1. Burg’s Potato Salad
  2. Blueberry-Raspberry Pound Cake
  3. Banana Bread with Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger
  4. Coeur a La Creme with Raspberry Puree
  5. Burg’s French Toast
  6. Chocolate Cupcakes with Bittersweet Glaze
  7. Stewed Prunes with Citrus and Cinnamon
  8. Hoosier Pie
  9. Bread and Chocolate
  10. Buckwheat Pancakes
  11. Fresh Ginger Cake with Caramelized Pears
  12. Fruit-Nut Balls
  13. Espresso-Walnut Toffee
  14. Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cake with Glazed Oranges and Creme Fraiche
  15. Coconut Macaroons with Chocolate Ganache
  16. Bouchons Au Thon
  17. Tarte Tatin
  18. Bread Salad with Cherries, Arugula, and Goat Cheese
  19. Roasted Eggplant Ratatouille
  20. Dutch Baby Pancakes with Lemon & Sugar
  21. Jimmy’s Pink Cookies
  22. Italian Grotto Eggs
  23. Dried Fruit Pie
  24. Rum Cream Pie with Graham Cracker Crust
  25. Ed Fretwell Soup
  26. Doron’s Meatballs with Pine Nuts, Cilantro, and Golden Raisins
  27. Scottish Scones with Lemon & Ginger
  28. Cider-Glazed Salmon or Saumon Gelee a La Louis XIV
  29. Cream-Braised Green Cabbage
  30. Slow-Roasted Tomatoes with Coriander
  31. Slow-Roasted Tomato Pesto
  32. French-Style Yogurt Cake with Lemon
  33. Cranberry Chutney with Crystallized Ginger and Dried Cherries
  34. Radishes and Butter with Fleur De Sel
  35. Red Cabbage Salad with Lemon and Black Pepper
  36. Butternut Soup with Pear, Cider, and Vanilla Bean
  37. Chana Masala
  38. Fennel Salad with Asian Pear and Parmesan
  39. Sliced Spring Salad with Avocado and Feta
  40. Custard Filled Corn Bread
  41. Tomato Soup with Two Fennels
  42. Frisee wth Ham, Eggs, and Mustard Vinegarette
  43. Caramelized Cauliflower with Salsa Verde
  44. Zucchini Noodles with Pesto
  45. Pistachio Cake with Honeyed Apricots
  46. Vanilla-Black Pepper Ice Cream
  47. Spicy Pickled Carrots with Garlic and Thyme
  48. Pickled Grapes with Cinnamon and Black Pepper
  49. Arugula Salad with Pistachios and Chocolate
  50. Little Corn Cakes with Bacon, Tomato, and Avocado
  51. The Winning Hearts and Minds Cake (Or, Our Wedding Cake)

Cookbook Review: Think Like a Chef by Tom Colicchio

Monday, March 16th, 2009

As the name suggests, Tom Colicchio’s Think Like a Chef isn’t just a collection of recipes. Like the name says, Collicchio has set out to demonstrate how a true chef makes dinner: not from a written recipe or list of ingredients, but from a quality ingredient and inspiration.

think_like_a_cheft_book_jacket

The overarching theme of the book is one I hear him reference over and over again as head judge on Top Chef, mainly that when you taste great food, you know that it’s coming from someone who cares about food, thought about the ingredients, and really put their heart into it. And yes, that sounds a little bit like Carla “putting the love” in her food, but I think it goes deeper than that. For Collicchio, being a chef means respecting the ingredients enough to use the proper technique to make them shine.

The book opens with something of a memior, as Collicchio describes the development of his culinary career, with special care to show how his background and family shaped the chef he ultimately became. The early food chapters describe some very basic techniques (pan roasting, braising, blanching, stock-making, and sauce-making) that are building blocks for any asipring cook. Collichio explains them well, breaking them down step by step, and illustrating with gorgeous, uncomplicated recipes designed to teach by doing, and really inspire you to get in the kitchen and start trying them out.

The following chapters focus on the ingredients (as Collichio’s cooking does) and gives you a glimpse into how Tom’s recipes must develop. A chapter on Roasted Tomatoes, for example, teaches you what to look for in quality tomatoes (apparently, “Everybody knows the best tomatoes come from New Jersey”), how to roast your carefully chosen tomatoes, and then five different recipes that showcase these roasted tomatoes. The best part of this approach is that you turn the page at the end of this section imagining what else you might do with roasted tomatoes.

And that, I’m sure, is the point.

This book is beautifully photographed, and a pleasure to read. And even though many of the recipes use ingredients that aren’t often found in my humble home kitchen, they inspire me to expand my culinary repiortare ever-so-slightly. I guess you might say they inspire me to “think like a chef.” Go figure.

The book includes a foreword by Danny Meyer, and a preface and introduction from Collichio himself, and concludes with a resources section, as well as a detailed index. In between, you’ll find the following sections and recipes:

1. Techniques:

  • Roasting (Roasted Chicken, Pan-Roasted Striped Bass, Pan-Roasted Sirloin, Roasted Herbed Leg of Lamb, Salt-Roasted Salmon, Pan-Roasted Sweetbreads, Pan-Roasted Soft Shell Crabs with Pickled Ramps and Creme Fraiche, Pan-Roasted Lobster with Bay Leaf, Pan-Roasted Salsify)
  • Braising (Braised Short Ribs, Braised Beef Cheeks, Braised Fresh “Bacon,” Braised Red Snapper)
  • Blanching
  • Stock-Making (White Chicken Stock, Brown Chicken Stock, Lobster Stock, Veal Stock)
  • Sauce-Making (Beurre Fondue, Beurre Blanc, Apple Cider Sauce, Basic Vinaigrette, Tomato Vinaigrette, Lemon-Rosemare Vinaigrette)

2. Studies

  • Roasted Tomatoes (Roasted Tomatoes & Garlic, Roasted Tomato, Zucchini, and Eggplant Lasagne, Roasted Tomato Risotto, Clam Ragout with Pancetta, Roasted Tomatoes, and Mustard Greens, Sea Bass Stuffed with Roasted Tomatoes, Seared Tuna with Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette and Fennel Salad, Braised Lamb Shanks with Roasted Tomato, Caramelized Tomato Tarts)
  • Mushrooms (Pan roasted Mushrooms, Roasted Sea Scallops with Mushrooms, Marinated Mushrooms, Salmon Braised with Mushrooms, Polenta Gratiin with Mushroom “Bolognese,” Pan-Roasted Quail with Swiss Chard and Mushrooms, Caramelized Mushroom Tarts)
  • Braised Artichokes (Artichokes Braised in Olive Oil and White Wine, Artichoke Salad, Artichoke Vinaigrette, Oricchiette with Artichokes, Cabbage, and Cranberry Beans, Artichoke Ravioli with Artichokes, Peas, and Asparagus, Quick-Braised Striped Bass with Artichoke and Zucchini, Slow-Braised Chicken with Artichokes, Artichoke & Tomato Gratin)

3. Trilogies

  • Asparagus, Ramps, & Morels (Ragout of Asparagus, Ramps, and Morels, Baked Free-Form “Ravioli” with Asparagus, Ramps, and Morels, Sole with Morelss, Ramps, and Asparagus, Asparagus Soup with Morel Custard, Pan-Roasted Poussin with Morels, Ramps, and Asparagus, Morel, Ramp, and Potato Gratin)
  • Lobster, Peas, & Pasta (Basic Boiled Lobster, Fettuccini with Lobster and Peas, Basic Pasta Dough, Chilled Pea Soup, with Lobster, Pasta, and Pea Salad, Spiced Roasted Lobster with Pea Ravioli, Lobster Risotto with Peas, Lobster Spice, Lobster Butter)
  • Duck, Root Vegetables, & Apples (Roasted Duck, Root Vegetables, and Apples, Braised Duck with Apples, Root Vegetable and Apple Ragout with Duck Crepes, Basic Crepes, Duck Confit, Root Vegetable Soup with Apples and Duck Ham, Duck Ham, Duck Rillettes, Duck, Root Vegetable, and Apple Terrine)

4. Component Cooking

  • Spring Vegetables (Pickled Ramps, Pan-Roasted Ramps, Pan-Roasted Spring Onions, Rhubarb Chutney, Fava Bean and Pecorino Salad with Prosciutto, Swiss Chard Cannelloni with Chanterelle Sauce, Pan-Roasted Asparagus)
  • Summer Vegetables (Summer Vegetable Ragout, Ratatouille, Eggplant Caviar, Pan-Fried Eggplant, Corn Relish, Corn Chowder, Creamless Creamed Corn, Corn and Potato Pancakes, Zucchini with Lemon Thyme, Pan-Roasted Zucchini, Pan-Fried Zucchini Blossoms, Pickled Watermelon Rind, Tomato Consomme, Green Tomato Chutney, Pepper Chutney)
  • Fall Vegetables (Braised Red Cabbage, Roasted Savoy Cabbage with Raisins, Roasted Endive with Whole Spices, Glazed Endive Leaves, Endive Chutney, Onion Confit, Honey-Glazed Onions, Puree of Onion Soup, Onion Marmalade, Balsamic Onion Marmalade, Potato, Leek, and Bacon Pan-Fry, Diced Potato-Leek Soup, Roasted Potatoes, Leeks, and Bacon, Boulangerie Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts with Bacon)

5. A Few Favorites

  • (Lentils, Foie Gras Terrine, Poached Foie Gras, Pan-Fried Oysters, Cured Salmon, Lemon Confit, Cannellini Beans, My Favorite Chicken Soup)

In conclusion, I would recommend Tom Colicchio’s Think Like A Chef for the ambitious home cook or growing foodie. The book is well-written, and full of information about Colicchio and his personal style of cooking. I thinkĀ  most anyone whould have osmething to leanr here, but if you’re skittish in the kitchen, you’ll probably be intimidated by a lot of these recipes. I, personally, am excited to try a number of these dishes. I picked up the paperback version of the book, which is well worth the $15-20 price tag.