Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gobble Gobble, Happy Thanksgiving!

This year is our first Thanksgiving in warm Texas, and our first Thanksgiving meal without turkey. Two years ago, Michele's dad roasted a Turkey with amazing sausage stuffing, and baked a raspberry jam cake. Last year in Chicago, we had some friends over and made spinach stuffed Turducken, baked pasta and chocolate pumpkin muffins.

This year, although no turkey, we had an amazing meal nonetheless. Consider this Thanksgiving as our ode to Emeril Lagasse, as Michele made a Baked Acorn Squash with Italian Sausage and Rigatoni, and a Roasted Cornish Hen Stuffed with Oysters, both recipes inspired by Emeril. What's Thanksgiving without a tasty seasonal desert? I was responsible for making a Apple Crostata, a sweet desert I have recently fallen in love with.

Our whole three course meal took close to 4 hours to make, and I snacked on several amaretto cookies ( baked by Hsinmei). The pasta sauce was perfectly savory, a tomato base with strong hints of fennel and spices from the Italian sausage.

While enjoying our feast, I started to think about what thanksgiving really is about, other than a good excuse to pig out...

So, we give thanks to all those who supported us throughout the year, and give thanks to everyone near and dear to us. We give thanks to having a healthy, happy life; and a happy belly of poultry, pasta, and mele crostata....

Baked Acorn Squash with Italian Sausage and Rigatoni
4 medium acorn squash, halved and cleaned
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound rigatoni pasta, cooked until tender, tossed in olive oil and cooled
1/2 pound mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Season the squash with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet, flesh side up and add 1/2 cup water to the pan. Cover with alluminum foil and bake until tender, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
Incorporate the ragu ( see below) with the rigatoni. Spoon the pasta mixture into the cavity of each squash. Sprinkle with mozzarela on top. Place the filled squashes on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake until the squash is heated through and the cheese melts, about 20 minutes.
Place the filled squash in the center of each plate. Garnish with parsley and serve.
For the Ragu:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 pound italian sausage, broken into pieces
4 cups of tomato sauce
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 1/2 cups chopped, peeled tomatoes with juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup chicken stock
Black pepper

Heat oil in a large skillet and saute onions, garlic, salt, and white pepper 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and basil; cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Add sausages, and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in stock, tomato sauce, remaining ingredients; cook for an hour and half

Roasted Cornish Hen stuffed with Oyster Dressing
1 pint shucked oysters and their liquor
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped yellow onions
1/2 cup chopped green bell peppers
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup chicken stock or water
1 tablespoon chopped green onions
2 cups (1-inch cubes) French bread or homemade-style white bread
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
4 Cornish hens
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Drain the oysters, reserving the oyster liquor. Set aside.
Heat the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, the cayenne pepper, and saute, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the bay leaf, garlic and basil, and saute for 1 minute. Add the stock and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the green onions, oyster liquor and the bread cubes. Stir to mix well, and remove from the heat.
In a large mixing bowl combine the bread and vegetable mixture with the oysters and cheese. Stir with a wooden spoon to mix thoroughly. Set the stuffing aside as you prepare the hens. Season each hen, both inside and out, with1/4 teaspoon salt. Place 3/4 cup of the stuffing into the cavity of each bird and use toothpicks and twine to tie the hens so that the cavity is shut and the legs are tucked in. Twist the wing tips behind the backs of the hens and place in a large casserole dish.
Drizzle each bird with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and place in the oven to roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the cavity of the hens registers 165 degrees F, about 1 hour. Remove the hens from the oven and serve immediately!

Apple Crostata

For the pastry:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated or superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 pound (1 stick) very cold unsalted butter, diced
2 tablespoons ice water
For the filling:
1 1/2 pounds McIntosh, Macoun, or Empire apples (3 large)
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup granulated or superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

For the pastry, place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse 12 to 15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube. Keep hitting the pulse button to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough becomes a solid mass. Turn the dough onto a well-floured board and form into a disk. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Flour a rolling pin and roll the pastry into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer it to a baking sheet.
For the filling, peel, core, and cut the apples into 8ths. Cut each wedge into 3 chunks. Toss the chunks with the orange zest. Cover the tart dough with the apple chunks leaving a 1 1/2-inch border.
Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Pour into a bowl and rub it with your fingers until it starts holding together. Sprinkle evenly on the apples. Gently fold the border over the apples to enclose the dough, pleating it to make a circle.
Bake the crostata for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden and the apples are tender. Allow to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature, a la mode with vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thai Curry Night with friends

I remember the first time I had a delicious Thai curry, was a summer in Berkeley. It was the first time I discovered pineapple and red duck curry, and I have not been able to top that wonderful Thai dining experience yet- eating a spicy fragrant red curry, while enjoying the summer Californian breeze, sitting on a second floor patio, surrounded by trees situated in a cute neighborhood.
A part of our Thanksgiving fun was to cook a remaining ( half ) duck, and since I happen to have some golden delicious pineapple in the fridge, I decided to invite some friends over and make red curry. While the poultry and grocery ingredients were fresh, I cheated and used a store-bought packett of red curry. This small packett of dense flavors made my life so much easier. Also, making one - pot dishes makes me so happy, because there's a lot less cleaning/washing to do....

Hsinmei and her hubby came over, and she baked fresh amaretto cookies. Yum!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Inferno Cacciatore Duck

The southern Italian man was craving for a cacciatore dish, which means "hunter" dish, a tomato-based stew cooked with meats, typically with rabbit or chicken, as a "hunter's meal". In southern Italy, cacciatore often includes red wine while in northern Italy There are many different variations of this dish based upon ingredients available in specific regions. For example, in southern Italy, cacciatore often includes red wine while northern Italian cacciatore would use white wine.

Stasera, ( tonight), we added our own twist - cacciatore duck, with dark German beer and jalapenos. Of course, we start with the basics: olive oil, onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms....

Serving for two persons
half a duck ( drum, thighs and half breast, all should be equal sizes)
half pound of king oyster mushrooms, coarsley chopped
one onion, diced
one jalapeno, diced
one bottle of good german dark beer
two large tomatoes, diced
one ciabatta bread


In a dutch oven, heat olive oil and sautee the onions until they change color. Next, stir in the diced jalapenos, and cook for about 3 - 4 minutes. Add in the pieces of duck, sear on both sides until it turns into a golden color. Add salt and pepper to season. Add in mushroooms, and cook until they break down, for about 20 minutes. Next, pour half a bottle of beer and cover the pot with the lid, and cook for another 15 minutes.
In the meantime, slice the bread and plate on the bottom of a serving dish. Lay the duck and ingredients on top.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

fusion turkey meatballs in clear broth

Traditionally with Chinese food, you make "meatballs" from pork, fish, or seafood.

Since ground turkey breast is so much more popular in the supermarkets here ( plus it's leaner, healthier) I used ground turkey with some asian ingredients to make delicious juicy meatballs

ground turkey breast
minced apples
minced ginger
ponzu soy sauce
white pepper
chopped leeks
shikake mushrooms, chopped finely

Mix together in a bowl, scoop into individual small balls, and cook in a broth. Here, I served it in a clear broth with tofu noodles. Talk about low calories!

Consider this our diet meal, while we are preparing ourselves for December....

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Treats for Italian Class Festa

Congratulations to all of us who completed Italian due! What a great festa we had, with all sorts of deserts, ( biscotti, tiramisu, Italian torta) wines and munchies!

Last time Gaby and I made a tiramisu for the festa after Italian uno. This time, people from our Italian class suggested making a pasta, but I was worried that a cooled pasta or risotto dish would not be so great... Michele and I bounced some ideas off each other, whether to make a pasta or rice salad....then came a great idea, which is to bake some frittatas! The idea sparked inside me - I should make frittatas with pasta inside! Frittatas are baked omelets, Michele told me that his family would always use last night's leftover pasta for breakfast frittatas the next morning. I made them in small muffin tins, like mini quiches ( without the pie crust of course), so it's easy to serve. It's perfect as an appetizer or a brunch treat when entertaining. Here's the recipe for Linguine, Smoked Mozzarella and Prosciutto Frittatas ...

Linguine, Smoked Mozzarella and Prosciutto Frittatas

Serving Size: makes about 18 mini frittatas
1/2 pound linguine pasta
7 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
6 ounces diced prosciutto
5 ounces smoked mozzarella cheese, diced (1 cup diced)
1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese
1/4 cup of finely chopped chives
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook pasta until al dente, drain the pasta in a colander. While the pasta is still in the colander, use kitchen sheers to cut the linguine into smaller pieces. The pasta should measure about 3 cups.

Grease a muffin tin, and Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a blender combine the eggs, milk, and mascarpone cheese. Blend until well combined. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the cut pasta, prosciutto, mozzarella cheese, Asiago cheese, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir until the ingredients are combined.
Next, fill the muffin tin until both the pasta and the liquid reaches the top.

Bake until firm and cooked through, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for at least 3 minutes before removing from the tin.

I hope everyone enjoyed the mini frittata, and I look forward to pushing through Italian tre!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Butternut squash n chicken livers risotto, perfect for the fall

It's the flavors and the colors of butternut squash that make it so well-suited and comforting for the fall season.

I love squash and chicken livers, so naturally, when Michele suggested to make this risotto dish, I was ecstatic. Wolfgang Puck made a similiar recipe, Pumpkin Risotto, but without the chicken livers and king oyster mushrooms.

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 bunch of king oyster mushrooms
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
About 6 cups of hot chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 butternut squash, one half baked in the oven and then pureed; the other half, peeled, cut into small dice, and Sauteed in a little oil and butter until tender
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup of fresh chicken livers
2 eggs
bread crumbs


Take the diced half of butternut squash and saute them in butter, salt and pepper in a saucepan.

Set aside. In a dutch oven, or a medium sized saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute, stirring continuously, just until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Next, add the sliced king mushrooms, cook until softened. Add arborio rice and continue to stir, using a wooden spoon, to coat the rice with the oil.

Add white wine and continue cooking, stirring often, until it has been absorbed by the rice. Pour in enough chicken stock to cover the rice completely, about 3 cups, and continue to cook, stirring often, until all the liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, prepare the chicken livers. Rinse the chicken livers ( about 5 - 6) in water. put in a small bowl and pour some white wine over it, let the livers soak for about 10 minutes. Pat the livers dry. In another small bowl, beat 2 eggs, and sprinkle in salt and pepper. Dip chicken liver in the egg, coat bread crumbs. In a pan with vegetable oil, gently fry the chicken livers. Drain on paper towl, set aside.

Going back to the risotto, pour in 1 cup more of the remaining stock and stir and cook until it has been absorbed. Repeat with 1 more cup. Add the remaining cup and cook, stirring, until the rice is al dente, tender but still very chewy, and most of the liquid has been absorbed.
Stir in the pumpkin puree and the diced pumpkin and reduce the heat to very low so that the risotto doesn't simmer anymore. Stir in the Parmesan and butter to give the risotto a nice, creamy finish. Spoon, serve immediately into shallow serving bowls.

Buon Appetito!