Friday, June 14, 2013

Spring Dishes Part II: Asparagus Fettuccini with Lemon Cream Sauce and Lemon Fried Chicken

Technically, this sauce is more like a custard, or maybe like a light version of Hollandaise (whichever you prefer). The story of the inspiration for this dish goes back to last week and the necessity for a quick meal. You see, last week my fiance and I went back to my childhood home in upstate, NY (we landed at JFK and picked up a rental car, so you can bet we stopped in to our favorite Brooklyn Bagelry to scarf down a couple of pumpernickel everything bagels--his with tuna salad and bacon; mine a bacon, *fried* egg and cheese) for a much needed visit to family and friends. We took our Chihuahua mix, Lucas, who had an amazing trip ('cept the actual flying; he didn't love that--heck, he didn't even like it much). Even though it was a visit and a vacation, we had things we needed to accomplish: my fiance had yet to meet our new nephew and I'd yet to see him since the week he was born; my brother made us all very proud by being the opening band on Friday at an enormous outdoor music festival (of course the all-day torrential downpour tried to wipe the grins off of our faces) and the bulk of the trip was devoted to looking at and possibly booking a wedding venue. Amidst our growing to-do list was a private goal I'd been entertaining since we purchased our tickets: cook a (belated) Mother's Day dinner for my Mom and an (early) Father's Day dinner for my Dad. Because staying with my Father coincided with my dear friend and maid of honor's taking a couple of days off to come upstate with us and look at venues, I found myself with limited time to realize my grand Father's Day dinner plans (originally it was supposed to consist of curried cauliflower fritters, new potato and baby spinach curry and chicken tikka masala)--roughly 25 minutes to cook and plate a dinner for five people, to be exact. I settled on Italian and a dish of Jamie Oliver's I'd tried before and absolutely adored: his sausage carbonara, only I'd remembered it with zucchini, as laid out on this blog. I just took the elements I liked best about both recipes and improvised a little and we were in business. Thankfully for me and for our dinner, m.o.h. Sharon is a kick-ass sous chef, and between the two of us we managed to bang it out in the nick of time! :) In a way this dish is also inspired by my Mom's own special dinner, which was another pasta dish: gemelli pasta and pencil asparagus in a white wine, butter and garlic sauce with lemon-zest rubbed, fire-grilled organic chicken breasts. You'll see elements of both in this dish, but the most important thing about it is that it is tasty. If you'd like to make a lovely vegetarian version of this dish, the chicken breasts are optional. I purchased my pasta fresh-made in the refrigerated section of my grocery store, but if you have time and the right equipment, feel free to make your own! Tonight I'm serving it alongside an arugula and mango salad dressed in lemon juice.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

Asparagus Fettuccini with Lemon Cream Sauce

1 bunch asparagus (about 12 stalks), fibrous ends snapped off and sliced into 1/2" pieces
3 large egg yolks
2 Tablespoons butter
zest of 1/2 lemon
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pkg (10 oz. to 16 oz., depending on where you purchase it) fresh fettuccini (or pappardelle, whichever you prefer)
3 to 3.5 Tablespoons cream
flat leaf parsley, minced, for garnish
2 chicken breats, butterflied and dredged in flour, salt, pepper and some lemon zest

1. melt butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium heat. Add a few drops of olive oil to keep the butter from burning. Add sliced asparagus (except for the tips), salt and pepper and sautee for 5 or so minutes. Add tips and cook 2 - 3 minutes more.
2. While Asparagus is sauteeing, put on a large pot to boil with at least 4 quarts of water and 1 Tablespoon olive oil. In a small bowl combine egg yolks and cream and whip until completely incorporated, then mix in lemon zest. Set aside for now, away from the stove or another heat source.
*Optional*: If you're planning to make this with chicken breasts, remove asparagus (once cooked to your liking) from the pan and set aside in another small bowl. Sautee chicken until cooked through, no more than 4 minutes on each side. Remove chicken to a cutting board and clean the blackened flour out of the pan, before adding 1.5 to 2 Tablespoons of butter to the pan. After the pasta has been cooked (next step), use a salad tossing fork or meat fork to brace the chicken breasts against the board and dice the chicken into bite sized pieces.
3. Cook the fresh pasta for 1 - 2 minutes, or according to directions on package. Before draining pasta, reserve 1/4 c. cooking liquid.
4. Toss all ingredients together, stirring well to help the egg yolks turn into a custard-y pasta sauce. If the pasta is dry, add reserved cooking liquid. Once sauce is glossy and smoothly coats the pasta and ingredients, plate up and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese and minced Italian parsley as garnish.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Spring Vegetable Frittata

I don't give my mother enough credit. In listing my inspirations for cooking and culinary adventures, I often talk about all of the different cuisines I've tried, the recipes I've consulted and the blogs I follow, but I don't talk about my first inspiration: my mother. When I was growing up we had a home cooked meal practically every evening and a hot breakfast every saturday and sunday. Even so, I don't have many memories of my mother slaving over a hot stove or laboring for hours to bake desserts--not to say we didn't have lots of delicious, homemade baked goods in our pantry--she just made it look that easy. My mother is a whirlwind in the kitchen and a champion improviser. She was also the first person to ever bring me into the kitchen and teach me the art and science of cooking. I wanted to feature one of her recipes for Mother's Day, but my mother hardly ever made the same dish twice (except for her amazingly delicious vegetarian cream of soups featuring fair trade wild rice, which deserve their own special category). Sure she had a few standard tried-and-true knockout dishes that she went to time and again when her fridge wasn't full of seasonal veggies, but when she had a fridge full of fresh, organic produce she would often throw together a quick, delicious stir fry, or a scrumptious frittata. It was in this spirit that I threw together my spring vegetable frittata with spring onion chevre and roasted asparagus. My mother loves redskin potatoes, so I chose them as the base/crust of this frittata. If you'd rather have a pastry crust this makes a great quiche. In the spirit of my mother's endless culinary creativity and ability to make a delicious dish out of virtually any ingredients, I encourage you to look at this recipe as a jumping off point. Don't get me wrong, it's super tasty as is (and something I'd have been proud to serve my Mom, had we been able to spend Mother's Day together, but we live on opposite sides of the country; sad) and I'd recommend trying it at least once this time of year. Roasting the asparagus gave the dish an extra dimension of flavor, as did carmelizing the shallots in sherry. But the real flavors of spring were captured by the green onion chevre, which I made a couple of hours ahead of time by adding the sliced-thin white parts of a few green onions to a softened log of goats milk cheese and allowing the flavors to marry by chillIng it, covered in plastic wrap, in my fridge for a couple of hours. Serve it alongside French style peas (simmered in chicken stock with mint and escarole or lettuce), or a butter lettuce and pea shoot salad dressed in something citrus-y. Whatever you serve it with, enjoy it with your mother. Or at least call her.

A quick note on what didn't work: I thought I'd managed to move with my 9" spring form pan, but I was mistaken, so I used a stove-to-oven 10" stainless steel saucepan; because of the extra space the egg was spread too thin for my liking. If you have a larger pan I'd suggest using more eggs. Or just use something the rough size of a pie tin.

Also, get a mandoline if you can and just use it carefully. I purchased mine for 17 bucks plus s & h and it made my potato slices delightfully uniform.

Spring Vegetable Frittata

Green onion chevre
(Make ahead of time, if possible, and let chill in the fridge)
3 - 4 green onions (also called scallions or spring onions), white and light green parts sliced thin, dark green tops discarded
1 log of goat's milk chevre (8 oz), softened

1. Combine all ingredients and allow to chill in the fridge up to 4 hours, wrapped in plastic wrap.


5 medium sized baby redskin potatoes (also called new potatoes), sliced potato chip thin, about 1/8" thick (use your mandoline if you've got one)
1 bunch asparagus (optional: pre roast asparagus at 425 for 15 or so minutes, until the sugars begin to visibly caramelize); approx 1 dz spears, fibrous ends snapped off and sliced into 1/2" slices
4 oz. Green onion chevre
6 eggs
3 Tbl milk
1/2 Tbl butter
1 Tbl (total) extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 Teas. Cooking sherry
2 small shallot cloves, diced finely

1. Preheat oven to 425; grease baking dish and arrange potato slices in bottom of dish 3 or more layers thick (trust me, even if you can't see the bottom you'll end up with empty spaces in between because the potatoes shrink in the oven).
2. Roast the potato crust in the oven for about 15 minutes (it's ready for filling when the potato slices are soft enough to be easily pierced with a fork).
3. While the potatoes are roasting, caramelize shallots: in a separate pan over medium to medium high heat, melt butter (with a few drops of olive oil drizzled in to prevent the butter from burning) and add diced shallots. Stir and cook for 5 or so minutes, until shallots start to become translucent. Add sherry and cook, stirring every 1 to 2 minutes, until caramelized (brown or burnt looking areas start to appear on your diced shallots, indicating that the sugars are starting to gather). Cool shallots and meanwhile:
4. Whisk together eggs and milk. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Add sliced asparagus and cooled caramelized shallots and stir to combine.
5. Allow potato crust to cool for a few minutes (so you don't cook your egg filling the minute you pour it in). Turn oven down to 350.
6. When potatoes/baking dish are cooled sufficiently top with egg/asparagus/shallot mixture.
7. Using a teaspoon, drop 1/2 teas dollops of green onion chevre into the egg mixture. Spread the dollops out as evenly as possible.
8. Put (now) assembled frittata in the oven and cook until set (approx 15 or so minutes). Serve with your chosen side and enjoy.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback.