Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Larue’s Classic Meatballs

Larue’s Classic Meatballs 
Serves: 4-6
Larue's Classic Meatballs

This is not your mother’s spaghetti and meatballs. Instead this is a MEAT meatball, an entrée on its own, a knife and fork meatball.  It is loaded with flavor – sautéed and then braised for added flavor. The key to making these meatballs is to brown them first in a skillet and then braise them in a sauce of red wine and tomatoes. Do not let the list of ingredients turn you off on these. They are simply the most wonderful classic meatballs, which can be served alone with crusty bread to sop up the wonderful thick sauce or make meatball sliders for your family or guests!
  • 10 oz ground beef chuck or veal
  • 10 oz ground pork shoulder
  • 2 oz minced pork fat or bacon
  • 2 oz prosciutto
  • 1¼ C loosely packed Italian parsley, minced
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1½ tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp crushed red chili flakes
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice
  • 7 slices white bread, finely ground in a food processor
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2/3 C whole milk ricotta, drained in strainer
  • 2 Tb milk
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 6 Tb extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ C red wine
  • 4 C canned tomato puree
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 C beef or veal stock or water
  • Grated Parmesan cheese & parsley for garnish

In a large bowl, combine 10 oz ground beef chuck, 10 oz ground pork shoulder, 2 oz bacon or pork fat, 2 oz chopped prosciutto, 1¼ C minced parsley, 2 tsp dried oregano, 1½ tsp fennel seeds, 1 tsp crushed chili flakes, ½ tsp ground cumin, ¼ tsp ground allspice, and freshly ground 7 slices of white bread and season generously with salt and freshly ground pepper. Using your fingers (FUN!), mix ingredients until combined; set aside.
Mixed meat and spices
In a medium bowl, whisk together 2/3 C whole milk ricotta, 2 Tb milk, and 3 lightly beaten eggs. Add this to meat mixture and gently mix just until it is incorporated. Put all into refrigerator and chill for 1 hour.
Ricotta sauce
Heat oven to 300 degree F. Grease a rimmed baking sheet with a little olive oil. Using a 2 oz ice cream scoop, portion mixture, roll into meatballs with your hands, and transfer to greased baking sheet. Heat 3 Tb olive oil in a 3 qt high sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the meatballs – do not crowd or they will steam instead of brown – cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer meatballs to a plate; wipe out the skillet. Repeat with remaining 3 Tb olive oil and meatballs.
2 oz meatballs--pre-cooking 
Sauteed to a wonderful brown
Return reserved meatballs from plate to skillet along with any juices from the plate. Add ½ C dry red wine; increase heat to high and cook for 2 minutes to boil off alcohol. Stir in 4 C canned tomato puree, 2 minced garlic cloves and 1 C beef or veal stock, bring to a boil, and tightly cover skillet. Transfer to oven; bake until meatballs are tender and have absorbed some of the sauce, about 1½ hours.
To serve, transfer meatballs to a platter, spoon over sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan and parsley. Serve with bread on the side or as a slider. Sit back and enjoy the food and the compliments. You will be amazed at how moist and tasty these meatballs are. They are outstanding. Serve with a fruity Zinfandel, a robust Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Merlot or your favorite GSM!  So many choices...it just has to be great!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cathy's Apple Pie

Cathy's Apple Pie

Classic apple pie
Hooray! Our daughter came home for a visit – Cathy, of the famed roasted radishes recipe (see blog 3/19/12). She has always, and I mean always, made our apple pie.  She has truly perfected the recipe and we usually make it at home, together – well what mother could ask for more? It has loads of daughter/mother and family love as well as apples, lemon, nutmeg and cinnamon. Perfect. She baked. I took pictures. Unfortunately it was nighttime before we got around to the pie – there was massage and manicures for daytime activities. Hence, the pictures are not as spectacular as I would have hoped. I really must get the fancy lighting I need. The pie tasted GREAT –well worth the effort.  Cathy is also a master at creating a lattice top – well, truth be told, she taught me.

I am usually an all-butter crust fan – easily exchanging flavor for flakiness and, like a lot of us, I’m pretty freaked out by shortening in general. I mean what is it – exactly? But, Cathy has been baking this scrumptious pie using a magical blend of both vegetable and butterfats. To compensate, I provided the butter-flavored vegetable shortening and Plugra – a rich European butter. This was so wonderfully rich that within minutes of hitting the warm oven, the unmistakable scent of buttery goodness hit the air.

Lattice-top Pie Dough
  • 3 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tb sugar
  • 7 Tb vegetable shortening, chilled, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 10 Tb (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into ¼ inch pieces
  • 8-10 Tb ice water

Pulse in a food processor: 3 C flour, 1 tsp salt, 2 Tb sugar until combined. Scatter 7 Tb shortening over the top and process until mixture has texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds. Scatter 10 Tb butter pieces over flour mixture, cut butter into flour until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs with butter bits the size of small peas. Put mixture into a bowl.

Sprinkle 8 Tb ice water over mixture. With the blade of a rubber spatula, use a folding motion to mix. Press down on dough with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to 2 Tb more of ice water if it will not come together. Divide dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Flatten pieces into 4-5 inch disks, wrap separately in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days or frozen for up to 2 months before rolling.

Classic Apple Pie
  • 2½ lbs. McIntosh apples (5-6), peeled, cored and sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 2 lbs. Granny Smith apples (4-5), peeled, cored and sliced ¼ inch thick
  • ¾ C plus 1 Tb sugar
  • 2 Tb all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tb fresh lemon juice and 1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Recipe Lattice-top Pie Dough (above)
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten 

Adjust oven rack to its lowest position and heat rimmed baking sheet and oven to 500 degree F. Remove one piece of pie dough from refrigerator; let it stand at room temperature until malleable.

Roll dough on lightly floured work surface to 12” disk. Transfer dough to pie plate by rolling dough around rolling pin and unrolling over a 9” pie plate. Working around the circumference of pie plate, ease dough into pan corners by gently lifting dough edges with one hand while pressing around pan bottom with the other hand. Leave dough that overhangs lip of plate in place; refrigerate dough-lined pie plate.

Peel, core and cut 2½ lbs McIntosh and 2 lbs Granny Smith apples.  
Apple peeling!
Slices apples
Toss apple slices gently in a large bowl with 1 Tb fresh lemon juice and 1 tsp lemon zest. In a medium bowl, mix ¾ C sugar, 2 Tb flour, ¼ tsp salt, ½ tsp nutmeg, and 1 tsp cinnamon. Gently toss dry ingredients with apples. Turn fruit mixture, including all juices, into chilled pie shell and mound slightly in center.

Getting messy with the apples - the best utensil - your hands!
Ready for the pie
Roll out second piece of dough and follow directions for lattice top as described on previous blog: Summer Honey Caramel Peach Pie, posted 7/9/12. If a novice to lattice-top pies, a blog reader pointed me to an article in Fine Cooking, which has some great directions that could be helpful, particularly the photos/instructions on how to weave the lattice. See: http://www.finecooking.com/articles/making-lattice-top-fruit-pies.aspx. Brush the crust with the lightly beaten egg white and sprinkle with the remaining 1 Tb sugar.

Place pie on heated baking sheet and lower oven temperature to 425 degree F. Bake until top crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Rotate pie and reduce oven temperature to 375 degree F; continue baking until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30-35 minutes longer.

Perfect lattice
The use of two different apples in the filling provided for both distinct but complementary flavors and texture. The combination of tart Granny Smith and sweet McIntosh creates the richest apple flavor. They also cook at different speeds, which makes for a multi-textured filling. For the crust to remain crispy, Cathy found it best to bake the pie first at very high temperature to bake the filling, while placing on a heated baking sheet, on the lowest rack, ensured the bottom remains crisp.

Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours before serving. The pie can be stored at room temperature; wrapped tightly in aluminum foil, for up to 2 days.  In our house, it would be a miracle if it lasted that long! Although traditionally served in fall and winter – apples are prevalent year-round, which leads to year-round baking and eating apple pies.  Enjoy!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kabocha Squash with Sunchokes, Mushrooms & Cheese

Kabocha Squash with Sunchokes, Mushrooms & Cheese
Serves: 4
Kabocha Squash with Sunchokes, Mushrooms & Cheese 
This is the second vegetarian entrée option for your Thanksgiving meal…or any other time. Last week I posted a Roasted Acorn Squash recipe. Take your pick or serve both and let your guests choose. They are terrific. An obvious but unappreciated upside to stuffing and baking squashes is as the ingredients cook gently inside, they infuse their flavors into the gourd’s flesh, and the dish becomes more than the sum of its parts.

Kabocha squash are available year round.  The flavor and texture of the Japanese pumpkin is likened to that of a sweet potato crossed with a pumpkin and sweeter than butternut squash. You can easily recognize a kabocha by its dark green color with some celadon colored strips and a dull surface. Similar in shape to a pumpkin, it is a bit more squat, has a very short grey stem and is denser than a pumpkin because of its smaller cavity. The firm flesh inside is an intense yellow-orange color.
Kabocha squash

Sunchokes, also called Jerusalem artichokes, are an edible knobby looking tuber, which look a lot, like ginger root. They grow underground, much like a potato.  You do not need to peel them; the skin is edible. Simply scrub them clean under cold running water with a stiff brush. They taste slightly nutty, and savory like a cross between an artichoke heart and the best potato you’ve ever had.
If you have not tasted Tallegio cheese, you are in for a treat. It is a semi-soft Italian cheese that has a strong aroma but its flavor is comparatively mild with a buttery, fruity taste. The texture is moist to oozy.  Spread any leftovers on bread and enjoy. If you have to substitute, I would recommend a strong Limburger, Fontina or Gruyere.
  • 2 Kabocha squash, about 3 lbs. each (or sugar pie pumpkins)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3 Tb unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces dried mushrooms  - can be porcini alone, or a mix of porcini, oyster and chanterelles
  • 3 Tb extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 10 large cipollini onions, thinly sliced (or leeks)
  • ¾ lbs sunchokes, scrubbed and thinly sliced, about ¼ inch (unpeeled)
  • 3 Tb chopped fresh sage
  • 1 C fresh breadcrumbs
  • ½ lb Taleggio cheese, cubed
  • White truffle oil or shavings of white truffles (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350-degree F. Put 4 oz dried mushrooms in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water. Set aside.  Scrub clean the kabocha squash and cut off the top quarter of pumpkins (including stems). Scrape out and discard seeds and fiber. I use a grapefruit spoon to do this as it scrapes clean and easy. Generously season pumpkin cavities with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. Put 1 Tb butter in each cavity.

Sliced sunchokes 
Sunchokes with mushrooms
Scooping out the squash
In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm 3 Tb olive oil. Add 10 large thinly sliced cipollini onions and cook, stirring, until translucent, 5 minutes. Season with salt. Stir in very thinly sliced unpeeled ¾ lbs of sunchokes and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook 10 minutes. Meanwhile drain mushrooms and roughly chop. Add mushrooms to pan. Cook 2 minutes more. Season mixture to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Cipollini onion 
Stuff squash: Put squash on a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan. Divide filling between cavities, packing down if necessary. Drizzle olive oil, cover with foil and cook in oven until tender, about 2 hours.

Meanwhile in a sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt remaining 1 Tb butter. Add 3 Tb chopped fresh sage and cook 1 minute. Add 1 C fresh breadcrumbs and cook, stirring, until toasted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Squash with the fixins'
When squash is finished baking, remove from oven and mound each with cubed Taleggio cheese.  Return to the oven until cheese melts, 5 minutes. Divide breadcrumb mixture over tops and return to oven for 2-3 minutes. Drizzle a little optional white truffle oil over squash. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

With the melted cheese....
This is a rich and filling entrée. If you plan to use a side dish, I would recommend cutting in half or quarters being careful to get equal parts of the filling and wonderful topping. Wine pairing is relatively simple – champagne, of course, Viognier, a buttery California Chardonnay or dry to off-dry Gewurztraminer or Riesling.  All wonderful.

We loved this entrée…even my carnivore husband!  We shared recently with friends who were equally enthusiastic and no one mentioned a need for meat. Since all were avowed carnivores, this is quite a recommendation. Give it a try!

Bon Appetit!


adapted from recipe by Chef Michael Tusk, SF