Riso Cacio e Pepe – Inspired by Massimo Bottura

A simple risotto spiked with handfuls of Parmigiano Reggiano and black pepper would have been the safe route to take when putting together a dish inspired by Chef Massimo Bottura, the featured chef from the first episode of Chef’s Table.

I tried to stay away from that, to riff on the theme of risotto, but create something new, something that nods to the classic dish.

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Naturally, the solution was to watch what Mr. Bottura did when he sought to create a dish to showcase the best of Emilia-Romagna. I quickly realized that one item had to retain its star status, the cheese. As I said, this won’t be like making traditional risotto, but it graciously shows its respect. Everything is done separately and brought together at the end. At home, our rice making process is basic. High quality rice, butter and water go into a covered pot on medium-high heat for about 15-20 minutes. For the science of cooking rice, search elsewhere, this isn’t “How to Boil Water.”

Riso Cacio e Pepe

2 cups Arborio rice
1/3 lb chunk of Parmigianino Reggiano  (½  finely grated, ½  finely shredded with rinds set aside)
1 cup milk
4 Tbsp. butter
4 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

While the rice cooks, in a separate saucepan on medium-low heat, pour in the milk (organic grass-fed or raw if you can find it) and add the rinds from the Parmigiano-Reggiano so they can steep for about 20 minutes. You can steep the cheese on a lower heat and longer to achieve an even deeper flavor.

In the meantime, preheat your oven to 350°.

On a nonstick or silicone cookie sheet, make four small piles with the shredded cheese, and flatten them out so they are circular and level.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove and let cool. Once cooled, they will be crispy discs of cheese, cracker-like in texture.

Once the rice is done, discard the rinds, and pour the milk into the pot along with the grated cheese and half of the butter. Turn the heat to low and whip the rice vigorously with a spoon or spatula until the cheese and butter are completely incorporated. You’ll end up with a viscous, rice pudding-like product.

Then, fry the eggs with the rest of the butter until they’re over easy, the yolks are going to be very runny.

To serve, divvy up the rice into four deep bowls, making a crater in the middle. Place your egg in the crater and break the yolk. Season with salt & pepper, emphasis on the pepper.

Place a Parmesan disc on top to cover each bowl to make a crispy, cheesy lid

Resist the temptation to stir it all together. I chip away at the Parmesan disk as if it were the top layer of crème brûlée, scooping up a little yolk, a little crispy egg, and a lot of the creamy, Parmesan tinged rice.

Elements of risotto, pasta, with Parmigiano as the star, all combine into one decadent bowl. I sincerely think this dish pays a great deal of respect to episode 1, and its focus on the magic of the Mr. Bottura’s home region. Enjoy!

Szechuan Roasted Eggplant

Recently at the market, I spotted a large basket of eggplants in various shapes and colors. Their fate was not clear to me at the time, but something in the back of my mind was encouraging a Northern Chinese approach.

I’ve seen this dish many times in magazines and on cooking shows, yet never thought to do it myself. Hindsight being what it is, I realize now that it’s because of the remarkable ease of preparation, not to mention its natural photogenic quality. With so many angles, shadows and sauce filled crevices, I ended up with a gorgeous plate of food. It was mainly complimented by the wonderful quality of light on my mom’s porch as dusk hits.

Szechuan Roasted Eggplant

While this may seem like a lowly side dish, it’s far from a throwaway recipe, if for no other reason than its versatility. Use this sauce on beef, poultry or a firm white fish. Pretty much any vegetable with sturdy flesh could be substituted as well. Think about all the times you’ve thought to yourself, ” we have no food”, but you did. Don’t say that, because you did. You failed to notice the brown paper bag filled with zucchini and squash in the back of the crisper.

Beef & Broccoli

I made this along with a hunk of organic, grass-fed top sirloin cut into narrow strips and seared in a cast iron pan with a lot of brown butter. With that I scorched a half head of broccoli cut into florets and then sliced in half to create a flat surface needed for proper coloration. Make sure not to waste the stalks. If you cut them thin they will be tender and will look like miniature green versions of that 70’s style clock cut from a Cypress tree stump, your weird uncle has mounted in his house boats sleeping quarters. Be careful never to overcook broccoli. Use a very hot pan and flash sauté those guys with a big nob of butter at the beginning and end! The marriage of these two items resulted in a southerners rendition of Beef & Broccoli.

Szechuan Roasted Eggplant

  • About 1 1/2 lbs eggplant (Japanese preferably)
  • 1/2 cup prepared Hoisin sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. Tamari (or soy sauce)
  • 1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tsp. sesame oil
  • A couple shakes of Five Spice Powder
  • Canola Oil
  • Salt

Pre-Heat Oven to 400.

With a paring knife, slice the eggplant lengthwise into 1/3-1/2″ thick planks and score them on the flesh side to make a diamond pattern. Coat with a thin layer of canola oil, then lightly sprinkle with salt. Lay slices skin side down on a baking sheet. Combine Hoisin, Tamari, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil and five spice in a small bowl, then brush it evenly over the eggplant.

Roast for 15- 20 minutes, or until they have caramelized, building a dark Mahogany color around the edges.

Maple Custard Pie

“Ok, well…
This is the city of Lakeland,
And it always sleeps,
It may look like it doesn’t
But it does.
It doesn’t live and breathe nocturnally.
So when you’ve got no place to go find a pastry at night,
And you’re alone all huddled up by the oven,
Cause you’re cold,
Well, this recipe goes out to the bakers that’s forgotten.
Hey pie, take us home.”

This is the story of a pie for one. Triple the ingredients in a normal pie plate if you have friends. If there were stores open I would’ve added some pecans, if I had organic corn syrup I would’ve made a pecan pie. Sadly I found myself without both items, so I made a maple pie with some optional pretzel stick border. Do whatever you feel, the beauty of being alone is that no one will judge you when you fail, but you won’t fail, I’m here for you.

Crust
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp cold butter (cut into small cubes)
2 tbsp coconut oil (the kind that you can scoop out that’s not see through)
1/4 tsp sugar
Pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 350º
In a small bowl, incorporate salt and sugar with flour
Fold in coconut and butter until a rough crumbly dough forms
Throw it on a square of Saran then wrap up in a ball and chill in fridge for a while. Once it’s chilled roll out the dough until it’s about 1/8″ thick, lay another sheet of Saran wrap on top. Place in a small baking dish or mini pie plate roughly 3″-4″ square. I used my La Creuset 4×4 dish. Poke the dough all over with a fork.
Bake for 18-20 minutes. Remove and let cool for about 15 minutes.

In the meantime make the filling, or watch one episode of Comedy Bang Bang and then make the filling.

Maple Syrup Custard
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. melted butter
1 Tbsp. coconut oil
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg

Whip egg and sugar until creamed
Add the remaining ingredients
Add nuts into pie crust if desired
Pour custard into pie crust. If you want to do the pretzels, which really worked well, just line them around the edges. Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. It will puff up high but once you remove the pie, the filling will fall like the walls of Jericho. Let it set and cool for 30 minutes.

Pie for one

This is a great pie to eat alone while bingeing on Netflix. You might cry tears of a pie.

Thank you Rancid for inspiring my pie-oem.

This is how we roll: Nouveau Stuffed Cabbage

Ever heard a serious intellectual utter the saying “This is how I roll?”

The term can not be found dating back nearly a millennium, originally written as a grand piece of poetry categorizing the “great men of yore” and their subsequent indulgences. The Kaiserchronik is a 12th-century chronicle of emperors. Though much of the material is legendary and fantastical, suggesting that large sections were compiled from earlier works, most of it is made up of short biographies, full of striking truths and even more striking similarities. For example the succession of the Romans from Julius Caesar (possibly the inventor of the 44 B.C Salad) all the way through Conrad III, the first king of Germany of the Hohenstaufen Dynasty all had an affinity for meat and grain, encased in leafy green biennials. On his deathbed, King Conrad might have used his last breath of sweet, sweet air to make a declaration of complete cabbage dependence as the last crop had finally been bitten by frost. He would have said something slong the lines of ” Countryman…if it is so that my meals have ceased from being presented in a totally tubular manner, then let me die. This world has nothing left for me. This is how I roll”.

I would have to say about 50% of my meals are not planned. They are wonderful accidents made up from scraps and remnants of other groceries, searching for purpose.

For example, on one late afternoon, we started getting hungry and did the old rapidly open and close the fridge trick. Hoping that every time we took a peek, something worth eating would magically appear, such as a pair two-inch thick ribeye’s and a 1905 Salad. Then maybe we might mosey up next to the oven to find a batch of buttery Potatoes Anna, blissfully bubbling while browning under a white-hot broiler. It wasn’t going to be that easy. What we did find was a perfectly suitable dinner for any man-child or world ruler. I give you a gift, in the form of an updated version of every child’s nightmare, the cabbage roll. No longer will you be subjected to grainy ground beef, mixed with maggot-like, gloopy rice, let alone the actual cabbage part of a cabbage roll. Usually when I have eaten this dish, the cabbage turns out to feel more like fresh skin peeled off a leprosy victim. Hungry yet?

Cabbage Rolls

To make this more appealing, we made a sort of mousse with chicken thighs, brown rice, and a ton of spices. And we didn’t pre-cook the cabbage leaves like some Bulgarians I know. If you roll your filling with raw cabbage, you might actually end up with a palatable texture. Lastly, we made a light tomato sauce to cover the rolls, using organic tomato bisque, lemon, and some heavy cream and butter from grass-fed cows. It makes a difference! This is really easy as you only have two stages of throwing stuff together and then some rolling. That’s it.

Try it tonight. While you’re at it, why don’t you challenge me to update one of your least favorite dishes from the olde country.

Preheat Oven to 375º F

Chicken Mousse (to be made ahead of time):

1-1/2 cups cooked brown rice

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

3 green onions, quartered

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sweet paprika

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. ground sage

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

1/2 tsp. dried parsley

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend on high for about one minute or until everything has been pulverized! Cover with plastic and set aside.

Cabbage Roll Process

Peel off 10-12 whole cabbage leaves from a good-sized head. Cut out the thick part of the rib and discard. Set aside leaves.

Tomato Sauce:

1 17.5 oz container of tomato bisque or a can of high quality tomato soup

1 stick of salted grass-fed butter

The juice of one lemon, plus zest

2 small tomatoes, finely diced

1 small onion, finely diced

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan on medium heat, put everything in and cook until well incorporated. Set aside.

To roll the Cabbage, take a nice scoop full of the Chicken mousse (about 1/2 cup worth) and put on one side of the cabbage leaf. Roll once, then tuck the sides in and finish rolling up. Place seam side down on a 9×13 baking dish, no need for toothpicks youngster. Repeat process. Pour the tomato sauce over rolls and cover with foil. Bake covered for 30 Minutes, then uncover for a last 15.

They will be as hot as magma so give it a couple of minutes to pull itself together before noshing. If you have leftovers, it’s pretty amazing to eat one heated up on a buttery toasted sub roll with a little homemade garlic aioli. Just sayin’.

Oh and for an added bonus if meat wrapped in moist cabbage isn’t your thing, Cabbageman himself Mr. Crumpton whipped together some chicken and rice patties which were then pan-fried until golden! You can thank him later.

Chicken & Rice Patties

Lock, Pops and Two Frozen Barrels

Summertime in Florida is nearly a year-long event. It’s May, but the temperatures are creeping up higher and faster than Macklemore’s rap “career”. We’ve been flirting with nearly 100° afternoons lately, so there’s only one solution to combat the threat of flesh-melting heat. Popsicles!

Lock, Pops & Two Frozen Barrels

I had an assignment recently for the Lakelander magazine that, among other things, involved creating a couple of options for flavored patriot missiles. There was a Mexican theme, so I came up with a horchata based pop with some golden raisins, as well as a play on a Paloma, which is a grapefruit-centric cocktail though I nixed the alcohol since there were children partaking. To combat the often harsh, sour notes of grapefruit, I macerated some strawberries in sugar to make a sweet red mash of red bliss. They were a hit. The only thing left was a pool of pink on a serving platter, that lay dormant waiting for a certain adult-sized kid to pick it up and give it a shameful licking. That didn’t happen, but I saw a guy contemplating the consequences of such an action.

There’s no real recipe here, just an easy set of guidelines. Such as, the thinner the liquid, the quicker those suckers are going to melt. So, try not to use straight juice unless you mix it with some solid fruits or a purée of your liking. A general rule, use 2 cups of liquid for 1 cup of purée or thickener (i.e. condensed milk in the horchata pop). Below is my latest concoction, a peach-lemonade pop with fresh minced apricots.

Makes 8-10 Popsicles

2 cups lemonade
1 cup peach purée
3 peeled, then minced apricots

That’s it.

Popsicles in the raw

Popsicle Potential Popsicles in the makingLemonade, Peach & Apricot Pop

Mix the liquids. Spoon equal parts of the fruit into the bottom of the Popsicle molds, then pour the liquid over the fruit. Everything will swirl around and mix in a NATO way. Yeah in a North Atlantic Trade Organization kind of way. Thanks Siri! Enjoy if you dare to defy the United Nations!

Pad Thai

People are always asking me to list my go-to recipes, the dishes I might whip up to appease a hungry multitude without the luxury of a days notice. I usually tell them, “you name it and I’ll give it a shot”. My methods for menu creation are largely driven by the scraps I discover in the bowels of my cupboard or fridge. My grocery-buying habits play a large role as well, since my cravings for various cultural sundries span the globe more thoroughly than even Tiki Gelana could imagine.

So if I were to compose some dishes based on what I had in stock, it might go something like this…

A salad.
Arugula, tomato, red onion, avocado, cucumber and radish with an Italian inspired herbed mustard vinaigrette. Buttered crouton and toasted almonds as an accompaniment. My wife and myself have spent many nights creating dressings to compliment the produce we’ve got on hand. It’s true what they say about salad dressing creation being the key to a happy family life.

A main course you can either:

a. Eat out of a bowl or

b. Eat out of a really big bowl enough to feed four or more

Pad Thai fits that description nicely. Ask me for the ingredients for an authentic version and I could make a semi-educated guess. I think I make really good Pad Thai. Let me rephrase that. Whatever it is that I call Pad Thai is really really good. There’s a sauce that you use in the Pad Thai. I know not of its name. I call it Pad Thai sauce.

Pad Thai

A dessert.
I’ll make a dessert as long as the dishes aren’t already overflowing out of the sink. If they are and I’m too tired, ice cream is always a 5 minute drive down the street. But the two desserts I can easily compose with ingredients which I always have on hand and I bet you do too, is creme brûlée and chocolate ganache cake. Seriously, for the cake you need like 3 ingredients. Chocolate, butter, sugar, flour, eggs, salt and a muffin pan. That’s 3 ingredients right? Oh, and an oven. (Editors note. Pretty much the same things you would need to make a chocolate soufflé, just using a different method. Sometimes you accidentally mix up the two and you make a delicious monstrous concoction.)

As for my version of Pad Thai, here’s the instruction manual to guide you through the vermicelli jungle. Don’t be intimidated, they’re just noodles, it’s not like you’re facing the Khmer Rouge or anything.

Pad Thai

Ingredients: Serves 4-6

Pad Thai Sauce (it’s a little spicy)

  • 4 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp pickled chilies
  • 1 tbsp chili paste

Pad Thai Sauce Components

Heat small sauce to medium
Add oil. Add garlic and ginger and stir occasionally for two minutes. Add remaining ingredients and cook for five minutes. Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until sauce has reduced by half. Set aside. You don’t have to use all of these components if you wish not to search them out. If you don’t want it too hot, omit the pickled chilies…wuss.

For the Pad Thai itself.

Protein marinade:

  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 gloves of garlic roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • Juice of 1 lime.

Combine all together until sugar dissolves, then add 2 lbs of peeled and de-veined large/jumbo shrimp. Toss shrimp in marinade, then cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Chopping vegetables and assorted herbs:

  • 1/2 head of cabbage finely chopped lengthwise
  • 1 red onion halved and chopped lengthwise
  • 2 carrots julienned
  • 1 red pepper julienned

Garnishes:

  • 1 large cucumber julienned
  • 1 small daikon radish julienned
  • 1 container of bean sprouts
  • Bunch of Thai basil
  • Bunch of mint
  • Bunch of culantro or cilantro
  • 2 limes cut into wedges
  • 1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts.
  • Fried shallot

Place each individually in its own serving bowl and set aside until serving time.

Assorted Veg.

Take one package of small rice vermicelli noodles and place them in a large bowl of warm water for 10-12 minutes until softened. It might not seem like this amount will serve a good number of people but once the noodles are submerged in the warm water, they will multiply more so than Michael Keaton characters from the mid 90’s.

Heat large sauté pan or wok on med-high heat. Add sesame oil. Place cabbage, onion, carrot and pepper and cook until they begin to soften but are still crunchy. About 3-4 minutes.
Remove from heat. Turn heat to high. Remove shrimp from refrigerator and place in pan about 10 at a time. Don’t put too many in at once since they will give off a little liquid. If you overcrowd the pan they won’t get a good color. Cook for about 1-1 1/2 minutes per side. Once they are all cooked, set aside in a bowl. Lower heat to medium.

Strain noodles from water and place in pan along with the cooked vegetables and half of the Pad Thai sauce. Toss for about two minutes. Place into large serving vessel and add cooked shrimp. Add more sauce if desired. Serve alongside garnishes of raw vegetables, herbs, fried shallots and peanuts.

That’s about four steps to make this great meal. I love this recipe most because of the bold flavors of course, but also because of how wonderful it looks once you have put it all together. It’s a very visually appealing dish because of all the vibrant and contrasting colors. For a split second you might not want to ruin this masterpiece due to it’s shear beauty. Then reality kicks in and you will destroy everything in your path to get just one taste.

I’m not saying you need everything listed here to make this great. Believe me, I’ve made an amazing version of this with just a handful of items. This is however the culmination of what I consider to be the best of what a great Pad Thai may or may not entirely be. Hope you guys have fun creating this as well your own go-to dishes.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

For all the recipes we Americans steal from the Europeans, the one that hasn’t stuck is a good Sticky Toffee Pudding. Why, I mean, what’s not to like? Date cake, good, toffee, good, Devonshire Cream, good, meat, good! When called upon to provide a fabulous dessert for a small catering job, a few things came to mind. The dessert needed to hold up after being out all afternoon in the elements without a way to reheat it. It also needed to be easy to serve and translate to a proper fall/winter dish. After giving it some thought, I was struck with the idea of doing a sticky toffee pudding.

I was watching one of those, “best things I ever ate” type shows a long while back and recalled a chef doing a sticky toffee pudding. They used three different methods for soaking sponge cake in that salty, buttery, sweet toffee sauce. It seemed like a grand idea, one that fit my needs perfectly.

The day before the gig, it was requested that I make the cake in a cast iron skillet to add some whimsy to the presentation. Although the recipes that I had researched to make one of my own only used baking dishes, I obliged because I thought that if I buttered the pan real good and then coated the pan with sugar, it would make a nice crisp edge for the moist dessert. It worked very well indeed I must say. It was pretty nerve-wracking to prepare this thing. It was like walking a tightrope without a net, or even an umbrella for that matter. To cook something you’ve never made before, and to have to do it perfectly the first and only time without reference is ridiculous. Through it all though, it turned out as the Brits say “Advantage-Agassi”.

Fans of clotted cream or Devonshire cream will appreciate this easy interpretation I made to the dollop on the side. Usually making the stuff is an all day process. But I’ve extracted the spirit of what a good cream is, while only taking 10 minutes of your time.

To complete this dessert properly might take a little time. However, the results are grand and it’s really not hard.  Just crank up some good Brit rock and go to town. Enjoy your bloody pudding mate.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

 Cake:

1 c pitted dates
1/3 c golden raisins
12 oz brewed hot tea
1 1/3 c butter
1 1/2 cups self rising flour. (To make self rising out of AP, sift in 2 tsp of baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt)
4 eggs
1 1/2 c sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla
 
Sauce:
 
12 oz heavy cream
2/3 c dark brown sugar
1/4 c butter
2 tbsp Karo syrup
pinch of salt
 
Cream:
 
1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
4 oz room temp cream cheese
1/8 cup sugar
dash of salt
 
 
Brew Tea
Pour over dates and raisins while tea is hot and let steep for at least 2 hours
Heat Oven to 325
Make toffee sauce by combining all ingredients in the sauce list into a medium saucepan on low temp until everything has melted. Then turn up heat to medium until the liquid begins to begins to bubble. Then let cool.
Grease and coat 10 inch cast iron skillet with sugar
Cream butter and sugar for about 3 minutes
Add eggs 1 at a time mixing well after each egg
Slowly add flour a little at a time, then set batter aside
Puree dates, raisins and tea in blender
Add baking soda and vanilla to dates and let sit 5 minutes, then fold gently into batter. Set aside.
Add half of batter to skillet, then add a quarter of toffee sauce on top. Add the remainder of batter, then place in oven for about 45 minutes or until the top has browned and a toothpick comes out clean from the middle.
Make “Devonshire”  by creaming room temp  cream cheese with sugar and salt. Whip heavy cream to stiff peaks and then fold cream cheese mixture very gently so as to not deflate cream.
After cake has cooled a bit, (15 minutes) poke holes all over with a knife and add a quarter more toffee sauce to let it all soak in.
When you’re ready to serve, pour more toffee sauce atop individual servings of the cake. and dollop cream on the side. Eat.

Brown Butter Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

If there’s one piece of wisdom I can impart to you for a full and happy life, it is this: Do not skimp on the butter. That is my gift to you. You’re welcome.

Say you’re making a batch of Brown Butter Oatmeal Raisin Cookies for the second time in a week because your family devoured them like Shai Hulud seeking to eat an Ornithopter. You attempt to recreate the magic that was your first experiment, only to find yourself without butter, catastrophe! The options are, drive 0.3 miles to the nearest grocery, call it a day and chalk this one up to laziness, or push through with the remaining ingredients, thus creating a “healthier” option. For me it’s a no-brainer but I’ll say it anyway, don’t skimp on that fat! Put on your flip-flops and get in the car. Use whatever animal fat you can find, whether it be butter, lard, tallow, ghee or an amalgamation of them all…do not do without.

If life is a song, butter is the melody. It adds flavor, richness, color and texture to our pathetic existence. Butter is the new bacon. We have to give it the proper respect for being everything to everyone.

Therefore these cookies are the perfect vehicle for such an illustrious ingredient. Without the correct amount of butter you won’t get the perfect cookie, believe me. Batches one and two were worlds apart. There was only one slight difference between the two, and not coincidentally, it was butter or lack thereof. Go figure. When you make the brown butter for this recipe, don’t be ashamed to make just a bit more than the recipe allows. Once you complete the browning process, take a spoon and dip it in. Get a nice taste of the transformation that butter has made. It’s about as drastic as when Soundwave transforms from a Decepticon into a boom box!

This should make about a dozen cookies depending on your personal size preference. I didn’t want to make a ton at a time because I believe they should be eaten within a day or two. Oh and I like extra raisins! And guess what? There’s a cheat. See if you can figure it out. You’ll need:

Brown Butter Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1/2 Cup Butter or more

1/3 Cup Dark Brown Muscavado Sugar

1/3 Cup Cane Sugar

1 egg

1 tsp Vanilla extract

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 Packet instant organic oatmeal. (I used one with flax seeds, but be creative and use what you like or happen to have on hand. It will more than likely change the flavor if you go with something like maple or apple cinnamon)

A lot of Golden Raisins. I’ve never measured them, you’ll know when you have enough.

To make the cookie, turn your oven to 350°. In a saucepan, heat the butter over a medium flame. After a few minutes the butter will start to bubble and probably pop at you. It’s ok. No big deal. Then it’ll begin to change to a caramel hue. Get on top of it and stir until you see it actually turn brown. There will be little bits on the bottom of the pan. That’s ok. Let the pan cool until it’s safe to put in the fridge for a complete cooling. Then put in fridge. Duh. Let it set about 15 minutes. I usually will take this time to get the rest of my mise prepared.

Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a separate bowl.

When the butter has cooled, add the sugars, egg and vanilla and combine with a hand mixer for about 2 minutes until it looks kind of like frosting.

Then take the flour mixture and fold into the butter mixture. After everything is evenly incorporated mix in the packet of oats (the cheat) and then the raisins.

Roll into little 2 inch balls and then flatten them on an ungreased cookie sheet. You want those bottoms crispy. Smash them real good. You’re looking for a thinner cookie, not puffy. Don’t overcrowd them. Just make 6 at a time.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the look is golden brown enough for you.

In conclusion, let me reiterate that I believe butter to be the most important ingredient for a happy life. Too little, and your life will be flavorless, lacking texture and slightly cake-like. Too much…? Well I don’t think that’s possible.

Dutchish Blueberry Pie Thing

Pie or Cake? What’s your take? Saying you like them equally is not an option. If you say that to my face, I don’t think I can trust you around my child anymore you sick freak. Seriously though, show some fortitude and make a decision for once in your pathetic life.

My position swayed dramatically this morning because of a snippet from an interview with comedian/podcaster Adam Corolla. When asked about his stance on pie and cake, he answered with this brilliant rant, “I submit this simple challenge to all you idiots, you’re not allowed to say you’re going to the bakery and spend $86 on a super high-end cake. That’s not the challenge. There are great cakes out there don’t get me wrong. The challenge is, I will give you $8. You go find me a cake, then I’ll go down to Marie Calender’s and for $7.99 buy any pie they have in the display case, and it will whip your $8 cake. There’s no such thing as a bad pumpkin pie. (I have to disagree here. All pumpkin pies suck) There’s great pumpkin pie and O.K. pumpkin pie, but there isn’t  BAD pumpkin pie. It doesn’t matter what pie place you go to or what town you live in. Even the store-bought is going to be edible. But cake…you can get some really…really, really bad cake.”

After much meditation on the matter, I agree about 90%  with Mr. Corolla. If you were to pit the best piece of cake against the best piece of pie, cake wins best against best. However, the law of averages states that I will consume many more bad pieces of cake than bad pieces of pie, because there is no such thing as a bad piece of pie. So pie wins.

This new found awakening comes in the heat of pie season. Pies rule the roost in summer, and I want to show you how easy they are to make, from start to finish to make a crust directly in the pie pan, a versatile fruit (I’m using blueberries this time) filling and a buttery scrumptious crumbly topping. Let’s do this!

Dutchish Blueberry Pie Thing

First set your oven to 375°

For the crust:

1 10′ Pie pan

1 1/2 cups  Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup organic oil (I’ve used Vegetable, Canola and Sunflower. They all turn out great)
3 to 4 tablespoons water

To make clean up really easy you can mix all the dry ingredients and then whisk straight in the pie pan. Next, Whisk the Oil and water together in a separate container. Make a well in your dry ingredients for the liquid to go into then pour said wet ingredients in pan. You can use a fork to mix everything together or just use your fingers, cause you’ll need those shortly anyway. Once the dough starts to make a crumbly biscuit-like texture, form it into a ball and place in the center of the pan. Start squashing the dough down with your fingers all the way til it goes up the sides of the pan and the entire surface is evenly covered. Don’t make little frumpy creases or flutes into the pie dough side walls. Who are you trying to fool? You’re not Ina Garten. You are a human being. Set crust aside. You do not need to pre-bake.

Fruit filling: (Every fruit works… I think.)

4 cups of fresh Blueberries. (If you can’t find fresh, move on to another fruit that is actually available. Such as 7 apples or 8 peaches.) 

1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, strained

3⁄4 cup sugar

3 Tbs. cornstarch

1⁄2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest

1⁄4 tsp. salt

1⁄4 tsp. ground cinnamon (If you use apple, double up on the cinnamon)

Place Fruit in a medium-sized bowl and toss with lemon juice.  Stir sugar, corn starch, zest, salt and cinnamon in a small bowl until evenly mixed. Sprinkle sugar mixture over fruit and toss with hands until all the fruit is coated. Set aside.

Crumbly Streusel Topper:

1 Stick Unsalted Butter (Room Temp)

1/2  C All Purpose Flour

1/4 C Cane Sugar

½ Tsp Salt

Place Flour, sugar, and salt in a small mixing bowl and stir until blended well. Take the butter in your hand and separate with your fingers in small clumps into the Flour mix. Then with your fingers toss the butter and flour lightly to form little crumbly buttery balls of streusel. Don’t be rough or else you will end up with cookie dough. Now it’s time to assemble Team P.I.E.

Take Fruit mixture and dump into pie pan. Take Crumbly streusel mixture and sprinkle it over the fruit evenly and graciously. Put in oven. Watch 2 episodes of Storage Wars or about 1 hour until the Dutch part of the pie begins to show signs of browning. Take hot pie out and place on cooling rack. Do not set out on an open window sill. That is lame. Let cool for 30 minutes until pie is still warm but not hot enough to cause oral fissures.

This pie is slowly becoming the death of me. It’s so amazing that I’ve been ordered to make it 4 times in the last 2 weeks. I have a standing order for a blackberry/raspberry hybrid in the next few weeks. Hopefully you too will be struck by the curse of my Dutchish Blueberry Pie Thing.

Spaghetti and Meatball…Balls

Leftovers are the worst. There’s nothing more upsetting to me than the thought of having to eat the same meal for two consecutive days. With the exceptions of cassoulet, veal rib chops and cold Chinese food. I’ve found myself at times with my back against the wall and nowhere to run. Staring down what seemed to be a never-ending pot of chili. No matter how many spoonfuls you choke down on day two, three and four, it never lives up to the luster of that first bowl. That half eaten carcass of whole roasted lemon chicken and potatoes never looked more appalling than 24 hours after its first performance on the dinner table. Act 2 is always lacking panache and flair. A bit like seeing the touring version of Dame Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Starlight Express. There’s nothing like seeing a roller skating rock opera on or in the vicinity of Broadway. Anything else is a deflated Yorkshire pudding.

This scenario played out for me not too long ago. I found myself without transportation as my wife had driven away for a day of shopping and such. I had no clue that she left me in near dungeon-like conditions. My stomach was clueless as well, since it had enjoyed a heaping pile of ricotta pancakes earlier in the day and was quite full. Fast forward 5 hours and I was still abandoned.

When I opened the fridge that afternoon it was like the scene in Pulp Fiction where that guy opens the briefcase and an ultra bright glowing light shines back at him. Like that but not in a good way. T’was none other than a frustratingly enormous, and quite frankly revolting pot of spaghetti and meatballs (duh, see title).

I pulled out the pot of pasta and just kind of stood there for a minute staring at it with my hands on my hips. Having to deal with such a vulgar subject takes a lot of meditation. What to do?

Spaghetti and Meatball…BALLS!

Trust me, you will forever have the chance to make this. There’s no such thing as a single serving of homemade spaghetti and meatballs (unless you live in Jimmy’s house, in which case no pasta survives to see another day).

Begin by taking 3 minutes to reflect on the amazing things you’re about to do with leftovers.

Spaghetti & Meatball Balls

• Heat your oven to 375°
• Throw the pasta on a cutting board and finely mince it. I made a batch of 3 balls, which requires about a cup and a half of chopped pasta (if your pasta was already sauced, then spread it out on the board. If not, then add about a 1/2 cup of sauce and mix it around)

Multiply if you want to make more than 3 balls. Place a meatball on the board and form a layer of chopped pasta around it until it’s completely surrounded. Now that you have the base formed, it’s time for some breading.

I used sea salt rice chips and grated Parm for mine but you can used anything really. Just regular bread crumbs or panko and the cheese would work, because honestly I didn’t really get much from the breading except a nice textural coating. Roll the spheres in the crumbs and place in the oven for about 30 minutes or until they start getting some color and have set up a crust.

In the meantime you really should make this thin aioli I thought up as an accompaniment.

Logan’s Thinkin’ Time Pink Aioli

• 1/4 cup olive oil
• The juice from a lemon
• 3 cloves of garlic
• 6 grape tomatoes
• A few shakes of smoked Paprika
• Sea salt to taste

Dump everything in a processor and pulverize for a few minutes. You will end up with a thin pinkish sauce for your lovely golden globes of goodness. I used the excess rice crumbs as a bed for my playful take on Arancini.

 

If you use breadcrumbs, I wouldn’t bother. Have you ever had success taking unappealing leftovers and ending up with a masterpiece? We’d love to hear about it!