SALMON A LA WELLINGTON, REVISITED


You know you’ve been blogging for a while when you got more than one recipe for Salmon Wellington… My previous take is pretty much our default method, because using phyllo dough considerably reduces the richness of the dish.  We make it regularly. It is interesting how once you keep making a recipe that seems quite involved at first, it becomes so easy to prepare you act as if it’s just like grilling a steak. First weekend of the year (with Salmon Wellington in my mind), I asked Phil if he had any particular recipe he’d been craving. I could not believe my ears when he picked it, almost instantaneously.  That’s when fate worked against us. We could no find phyllo dough at our store. Only phyllo cups. Drove to store number 2. No luck. Plenty of boxes of phyllo cups, empty shelf where the sheets would be. In despair, drove to Wal-Mart, a place I almost never visit. No cigar. Once you have a craving, you have a craving. Puff pastry it would be.  And since we started messing up with our classic, I changed a few more things and here I am to share this new version with you. It turned out excellent, and it might take the default spot for a while… An extra session of aerobics and we’ll be fine.

SALMON WELLINGTON
(from The Bewitching Kitchen)

3 pieces of salmon filet, about 6 ounces each)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon grapeseed or olive oil
1 large stalk celery, minced
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup cooked crab meat, shredded (from 2 small crab legs)
Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste
1/2 block cream cheese, at room temperature
minced fresh cilantro, to taste
1 sheet of puff pastry, defrosted in the fridge for several hours
flour to roll out the pastry
egg wash made with 1 egg, 1 tsp water and a pinch of salt

Heat oven to 375 F (see notes).

Prepare the topping by sauteing the celery and shallot pieces in olive oil over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper. When all soft and translucent, transfer to a small bowl to cool down slightly. Add the cream cheese, lemon juice, shredded crab meat and fresh cilantro, mix all gently but well and reserve.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Roll out the puff pastry over a counter top lightly dusted with flour. Try to get it really thin, ideally one sheet should be enough to wrap three small salmon filets. Place the salmon filet over it, make sure it is dry, blot it with paper towels if necessary.  Season with salt and pepper. Place a good portion of cream cheese mixture on top. Wrap the filets with the dough. I actually found it easier to flip the pieces after the photo was taken, so that the filling is on top, and the edges of the pastry meet at the bottom of the parcel.

Cut a slit in the center of the packages. Brush with egg wash. Bake for about 22 minutes, until the pastry is golden. Let it cool slightly and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: A few pointers for success. First, if your pieces of salmon are not uniform in thickness, simply fold the thinner part underneath the piece, to prevent it from getting over-cooked and dry.  Second, roll the puff pastry as thin as you can without tearing it or making it too hard to wrap around the filets. One sheet of puff pastry (Pepperidge Farm in the brand I got) will be enough to wrap three small filets of fish.  Third, do not bake for more than 25 minutes, so that your salmon will still be moist and flavorful. With the pastry rolled thin, it will be long enough to fully bake it. The fish will be perfect inside, protected by the nice layer of crab and cream cheese mixture.

We enjoyed two of these babies at dinner, and next day shared the third one for lunch. I am very picky about eating leftover salmon, rarely find it tasty. This time was an exception, we placed it in the microwave for 2 minutes, to jump-start heating from the center, then immediately transferred it to our small oven at 400F. Worked great, the meat was still perfectly cooked and moist.

This would be a perfect dish for entertaining, as you can assemble it all in advance. When it’s time to eat, place in the oven and get the side dishes ready. Your guests will be impressed, I am sure… And let’s not even forget that Valentine’s Day is coming up fast… Salmon Wellington followed by a little chocolate lava cake sounds like a dream come true. Although we all know that real dreams are made of macarons…

NOTE ADDED AFTER PUBLICATION: A reader made this recipe and found that cooking at 400F works better because the puff pastry will benefit from it. If you shorten the time to 21 minutes in the oven, you won’t have over-cooked salmon and the puff pastry will be gorgeous.  So consider that change.  Thanks blackbird for the feedback…

Dinner is served!
Salmon Wellington, buttered asparagus, fresh oysters, a little Caesar salad…

ONE YEAR AGO: The Unbearable Unfairness of Cake Baking

TWO YEARS AGO: Hermit Cookies

THREE YEARS AGO: Cremini Mushroom Meatloaf

FOUR YEARS AGO: Ottolenghi & Tamimi’s Roast Chicken with Clementines

FIVE YEARS AGO: Eight-Ball Zucchini: The Missing Files

SIX YEARS AGO: Grilling Ribbons

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Peppery Cashew Crunch

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Ossobuco Milanese: an Italian Classic

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SEAFOOD GRATIN FOR A SPECIAL DINNER

Phil’s brother spent last weekend with us to play some golf and relax (forgive the oxymoron). I did not join them because I am a woman of principle and will not set foot on a golf course until the temperature reaches a comfortable level. For the record, that means above 80 F.  With no excessive wind because that messes my  accuracy with the driver, some irons, and the putter. What can I say? My game is one of exquisite precision. Instead of shivering and getting drenched on the course, I stayed in our kitchen preparing a special dinner for the gentlemen.  I chose a recipe from Ina Garten, which is a bit of an unusual move for me, I find most of her recipes overly rich.  This was no exception, but once in a blue moon it’s ok to indulge. Especially when  we have a wonderful guest to share it with!

Seafood Gratin

SEAFOOD GRATIN
(slightly modified from Ina Garten)

1 cup clam juice (I used homemade shrimp stock)
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup plus 3 tbsp. white wine divided (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
3 tbsp. tomato puree
1 lb. jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
8-ounces raw cod, cut into 1-inch chunks
16 oz. cooked lobster meat, cut into 1-inch chunks
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 cup thinly sliced leeks, white and green parts
1 cup peeled, shredded carrots
½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp. minced fresh parsley

Combine the shrimp stock (or clam juice), cream, white wine and tomato puree in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and add the shrimp.  Let cook 1-2 minutes, until pink and opaque.  Remove to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon.  Add the pieces of cod to the stock mixture until just cooked through, about 3-4 minutes.  Remove to the same plate with the shrimp using a slotted spoon. Add the cooked lobster to the bowl.

Continue to cook the sauce until reduced by half, about 12 minutes.  Combine 1 tablespoon of the butter in a small bowl with the flour and mash together with a fork.  Whisk the butter-flour mixture with the salt and pepper into the sauce and continue to simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Set aside.

In a medium sauté pan melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat.  Add the leeks and carrots and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened.  Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of wine and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Cook for 5 minutes more.

Add the cream sauce and cooked vegetables to the bowl with the seafood and toss to blend well.  Divide the mixture between individual gratin dishes.  If not baking right away, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

When you are ready to bake the gratins, heat the oven to 375˚ F.  Place the filled gratin dishes on a baking sheet.  Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in a small bowl.  Add the Panko, parmesan, parsley and garlic to the bowl and toss with a fork to combine.  Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the prepared gratins.  Bake 20 minutes, until the top is browned and bubbling.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

mixture

Several pointers for success in this recipe: use jumbo or very large shrimp, and cook them briefly in the mixture of heavy cream and white wine.  They will bake later and you don’t want your seafood overcooked. Same is true for the fish, choose a fish with firm white flash, cod or halibut will both word well. If you can splurge, sea bass would be amazing, but when I saw the price of those, I could not bring myself to grab some.  Use any method you like for the lobster tails. I almost went with sous-vide, but in the end simmered them in a little lemony water.  The secret of cooking seafood is to never boil the liquid too hard. They are delicate creatures that will tighten on you and turn rubbery very easily.

I had home-made shrimp stock frozen, and in my opinion that worked much better than bottled clam juice. Great that I remembered having that liquid gold in the freezer. And, what’s even better, it was properly labeled! HA!

This is a perfect dish to entertain, because you can assemble the whole thing in advance and do the final baking while you prepare any side dishes of your choice.  I served it with a bucatini in olive oil with lemon zest, very simple. And roasted asparagus. Dessert was a duo of sorbets, chocolate and raspberry, both recipes should be on the blog in the near future. Ok, near future is a relative term when it comes to my posts. But hang in there, patience will pay off.

😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Cooking Sous-Vide: Sweet and Spicy Asian Pork Loin

TWO YEARS AGO:  Farewell to a Bewitching Kitchen

THREE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen. June 2012

FOUR YEARS AGO: Goodbye L.A.

FIVE YEARS AGO: 7-6-5 Pork Tenderloin

PRIME RIB ROAST, MEXICAN STYLE

A prime rib is not cheap. Actually, I should be glad that we live in Kansas, where meat is of excellent quality and, compared to other places in the country, quite affordable. Still, it would be terrible to mess it up, something easy to do if you over-cook it.  I normally keep seasoning to a minimum, but for our dinner last Christmas we went with a recipe from Marcela Valladolid, that gave the roast her unique Mexican twist.  Yes, it is March.  Yes, it took me three months to blog about it.  Better late…. than never!  😉

Prime Rib Roast

PRIME RIB ROAST, MEXICAN STYLE
(from Marcela Valladolid)

1 (4 rib) prime rib roast with ribs  (9-10 pounds)
Salt as needed
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup assortment of ground peppercorns
1 tablespoon ground chile de arbol
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoon ground rosemary
Beef broth as needed

Heat oven to 400°F. Let roast stand for 1 hour at room temperature.  Season the roast heavily with salt.

In a separate bowl, mix the rest of ingredients (up to rosemary)  to form a paste. Rub all over prime rib roast.

Place prime rib roast on a roasting rack, add 2 cups beef broth to the roasting pan. Roast for about 30 minutes, until it is browned. Remove from oven, and reduce heat to 350°F. With aluminum foil, form a tent over the prime rib roast to cover it. Make sure the aluminum foil does not touch the prime rib, since it can damage it crust that it is forming. Return to oven and roast for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until thermometer registers 110°F. Add broth to the pan while roasting if liquid begins to evaporate.

Remove from oven and let rest, uncovered, for a least 20 minutes before carving and pour pan drippings into a separate bowl, reserve and set aside for gravy. Internal temperature of meat should rise to 130°F for medium rare.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

What to serve with it?  You can go simple with a humble veggie like green beans decorated with toasted almonds, or you can tell  yourself what I did: there’s only one month of December in the year, and December means festive…  Therefore, green beans were out, cheese souffle was in.  However, there is also a single month of April in the year. May? Another only child.  Those are important things to consider when planning a side dish. In case I convinced you to indulge, follow this link for my default cheese souffle recipe.   😉

IMG_3564
This was a wonderful meal, the prime rib was perfectly cooked, with a delicious spicy coating, not so strong as to mask the flavor of the meat.  I strongly advise using a meat thermometer because just like Beef Wellington, a prime rib must be cooked medium rare and a few minutes longer in the oven can pretty much ruin it.  Marcela Valladolid did it again, another winner recipe at our table!

plated

 Dinner is served! 

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Sourdough Bread with Walnuts and Dates

TWO YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Apricot Glaze

THREE YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin and Blue Cheese

 

OUR MEXICAN HOLIDAY DINNER

As I mentioned in a previous post, we had an early Christmas celebration with one of my stepsons.  This year all our holiday meals were decided on a whim, serendipity playing a pretty big role. I happened to catch Marcela’s episode “My Favorite Holiday Dishes“, and while watching it with Phil he suggested we make that full menu for our Christmas dinner. Avocado-Cilantro Mousse, Pork Tenderloin, and Mexican Chocolate Souffle.   You know how we felt about the mousse, so now it’s time to share the recipe for the second course, a pork that ended up moist and tender, surrounded by the sweetness of prunes and pearl onions.

served

ROASTED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH PINEAPPLE GLAZE
(from Marcela Valladolid)

for the brine:
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 cups warm water
6 cups cold water
2 pork tenderloins
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for the herb rub:
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
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for the final roasting:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup dried prunes, halved
1 pound pearl onions, peeled
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup pineapple juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

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For the brine: Combine the salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, coriander seeds, and 2 cups warm water in a large bowl. Stir until the salt dissolves. Add 6 cups cold water. Add the pork, cover, and refrigerate overnight (the pork should be submerged in the liquid).
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Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.For the herb rub: Mix the garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary in a small bowl. Remove the pork from the brine and pat it dry (discard the brine). Spread the herb mixture over the pork loin, making sure you coat all sides of the loin.
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For the pork: Heat the olive oil in a medium, heavy saute pan over high heat. Add the pork and sear until browned, 4 minutes. Carefully turn the pork over and sear until browned, another 4 minutes. Meanwhile, add the prunes and pearl onions to a baking dish, creating a bed for the loin. Transfer the seared pork loin to the baking dish (making sure the loin fits in the baking dish, leaving a 1-inch border on every side). Add the wine to the same saute pan used to sear the pork and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove the browned bits, until almost evaporated, about 1 minute. Stir in the pineapple juice and remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the pork. Season the prunes and onions with salt and pepper.
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Place the pork in the oven and roast until a thermometer inserted into the center registers 160 degrees F, or to your desired level of roasting. Baste with the pan juices every 20 minutes. Transfer the pork to a cutting board, tent with foil, and let it stand for 10 minutes. Slice the pork into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices and arrange on a platter. Top the pork slices with the pearl onions, prunes, and sauce.
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ENJOY!
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to print the recipe, click here
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herbs
Comments:  I loved making this dish, it is perfect for a day spent at home, relaxing, enjoying the aromas and the anticipation of a more elaborate meal to come.  Brining the meat is the way to go when roasting pork loin (or tenderloin), as the delicate meat, so low in fat these days, can dry out in the oven.  I left the tenderloins in the brine from 8am until around 5pm.
composite

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Pork and prunes are a classic combination for good reason! This recipe is not too different from a typical meal served in my family in Brazil during the holidays, except that they like to roast a pork shoulder or butt. We call it “pernil assado“, and prunes or pineapple slices are often part of the sauce.

Leftovers were awesome on day 2 and amazing on day 4, the sauce intensified in flavor, the meat retained its moisture and tenderness. I can tell this recipe will become a regular appearance at our table.  Next time I’ll add some fennel to the bed of prunes and onions, I think its flavor would be great here.

Pork with Prunes in Pineapple Glaze

ONE YEAR AGO: The Ultimate Cranberry Sauce

TWO YEARS AGO: Edamame Dip

THREE YEARS AGO: Gougeres

FOUR YEARS AGO: Beef Wellington on a Special Night

FESENJAN & THE NEW PERSIAN KITCHEN

newpekMany, many years ago, when I lived in California with my first husband, we would often go to a Persian restaurant located in Palo Alto. The food was simply outstanding, and the atmosphere perfect.  A quiet place, beautifully decorated, and with a menu full of dishes that sounded magical to us, two Brazilians with no experience in that type of food.   We would usually ask the waiter to pick something for us. One day he served us a braised lamb over rice with fava beans that completely awed our taste buds.  I remember the fresh dill sprinkled all over it. And I also remember that I hated fava beans, but would gladly spend each day of my life enjoying that rice.  Persian cooking can perform miracles.  In those days, I had no way of knowing that the man I would marry many years later was also under the spell of Persian food.  Phil had a friend from Iran who often invited him for dinner and prepared tahdig, best described as “rice with a crust”.  Like my lamb dish with fava beans, that rice stayed forever in Phil’s memory as one of the best things he’s ever had!  With all that in mind, when I read this review on Louisa Shafia’s book it took me 95 seconds to order it.

plated

FESENJAN (WALNUT POMEGRANATE STEW)
(reprinted with permission from Louisa Shafia – The New Persian Kitchen)

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
2 pounds skinless chicken legs or breasts
2 teaspoons salt, plus more, to taste
2 yellow onions, finely diced
1 cup walnuts, coarsely ground
½ cup pomegranate molasses
2 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
1 cup peeled and grated red beets
Pomegranate seeds and fresh mint leaves for garnish

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Heat a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. Lightly season chicken with salt and sear until well browned, 6-7 minutes per side, then transfer to a plate.

In the same skillet, sauté onions over medium heat for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Add walnuts, pomegranate molasses and 2 teaspoons salt. Stir to coat the onions. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and return chicken to stew. Cover and cook 25 minutes.

Stir in beets and cook, uncovered, until stew is thick and beets are tender, 15-20 minutes. Adjust salt to taste.  Pull out chicken pieces with tongs and cut into halves or thirds, if you like. Put a few pieces of chicken on each plate, along with plenty of sauce. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and mint.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

composite-001It was not easy to choose a recipe to highlight this great cookbook. You’d think I would pick either that magical lamb or a tahdig from our past, but I could not find fava beans, and tahdig is a bit intimidating for a first timer.  Indeed, according to Louisa herself, tahdig is the type of dish that requires practice. Your first won’t be your best. So, I opted for this amazing chicken concoction. Once you make it, you’ll realize why it is usually reserved for special occasions.  The intensity of flavors is hard to describe – it is sweet, sour, the walnuts give it body and texture, and the beets offer the most gorgeous color ever!   Don’t even think about omitting the beets, by the way. First, you won’t detect their taste. Second, remember that Persian cooking perform miracles…  😉  I could not find fresh pomegranate seeds to sprinkle on top, but the dish was festive enough without it.

bookcoverTo order, click here

A little review of Louisa Shafia’s book.  Some cookbooks capture you from the moment you open the first page.  I started reading it late at night, and could not put it down for a couple of hours.  Louisa starts the book answering the simple question “What exactly is Persian food?” – and from there she takes the readers through a beautiful journey that covers not only its exotic flavors (sour cherries, rose petals, pomegranate molasses, dried limes, sumac, tamarind) but also the history of a fascinating region of the world and how it influenced the gastronomy of other places.  You will learn a lot more than cooking through Louisa’s words. Even Persian poetry will be there for you…

Reading her book, I learned the correct way to deal with saffron (so now I am on a quest to find a small mortar made of brass ;-)), and also opened my horizons to using dried mint. Louisa states that dried mint in many instances is better than the fresh herb, and recommends searching for Egyptian mint. I followed her advice, and she is right, it delivers great flavor.

The book has 80 recipes, divided in courses.  I will list a couple of recipes I found particularly tempting from each course just to give you an idea of what to expect.

Starters and Snacks:  Winter Squash Fritters with Rose Petals & Turkish Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Dip

Soups: Saffron Corn Soup & Oat and Mushroom Soup (her description of this soup made me dream…)

Salads: Shaved Celery Root and Pomegranate Salad & Vinegar Carrots with Toasted Sesame Seeds

Vegetable and Egg Entrees:  Herb Frittata with Walnuts and Rose Petals  & Sweet and Smoky Beet Burgers (click here for Louisa’s own blog post about it)

Meat and Fish Entrees: Grilled Shrimp with Lime Powder and Parsley-Olive Oil Sauce & Turmeric Chicken with Sumac and Lime (both of these dishes plus Fesenjan were my final contenders to cook for this post)

Main Dish Stews and Casseroles:  Fesenjan (the featured recipe) & Persian Gulf-Style Spicy Tamarind Fish Stew

Rice and Grains:  Jeweled Brown Basmati Rice and Quinoa (hard to resist this one…) & Rice with Favas and Dill (the rice of my past…)  Several of her rice recipes can be turned into tahdig, and she does a great job advertising this spectacular take on rice.

Sweets: Rhubarb and Rose Water Sorbet with Rice Noodles (I simply HAVE to try this at some point) & Nutty Chocolate Bark with Cardamon and Coffee.

Beverages: Salty Mint Yogurt Soda & Watermelon, Mint, and Cider Vinegar Tonic

Pickles and Preserves: Fig Mustard (wow!) & Sour Cherry and Rose Preserves

You probably noticed that Louisa is one of those chefs who is in top shape, and that definitely influences her cooking style.  She always offers variations that make a classic dish lighter and better for you. If you are particularly interested in cooking with whole grains and healthy oils and sweeteners, this book covers it all. Her chapter on ingredients closes with a wonderful list of grains and gluten-free flours and tips on how to cook with them.  Can you tell I love her book?

Louisa, thank you for allowing me to publish a recipe from “The New Persian Kitchen”. I intend to cook a lot from it, and that includes tahdig…  😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Quinoa Salad with Roasted Beets

TWO YEARS AGO: Pasta Puttanesca

THREE YEARS AGO: Miche Point-a-Calliere

SHOW-STOPPING SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS

If you’re tempted to skip  this post because spaghetti and meatballs are too pedestrian, don’t do it!   This was the best dinner I’ve cooked in weeks!   The first bite took me back to a small Italian trattoria where I had this dish years ago.  These meatballs are tender, moist, flavorful, and the tomato sauce (note: contains neither onion nor garlic) gets a lift from the addition of capers. It’s so simple  that you’ll be shocked at how flavorful it is! The recipe comes from the latest issue of Food and Wine, with small modifications that,  modesty aside,  worked quite well.  It was a perfect dinner-date recipe for Saturday night.  Uncork the chianti and let the music play

SPAGHETTI AND ITALIAN MEATBALLS IN TOMATO CAPER SAUCE
(adapted from Food and Wine, original recipe from Massimiliano Alajmo)

for the sauce:
1 can of whole, peeled tomatoes (28 oz)
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs capers, drained and chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper

for the meatballs:
1/2 cup white bread, crust removed, roughly diced
3-5 Tbs milk
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground beef
1 egg, beaten
8 pitted kalamata olives, diced
1/8 cup freshly grated Parmiggiano cheese
2 Tbs fresh parsley leaves, minced
1 tsp salt

Puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, add the capers and oregano.  Simmer for a couple more minutes, season with salt and pepper and keep warm while you prepare the meatballs.

Cover the bread with milk: soak it well.  Drain any excess and reserve the bread.  In a large bowl, mix both types of meat, add the softened bread, egg, olives, cheese, parsley, and salt.  Wet your hands with cold water and very gently form the mixture into 1.5 inch diameter meatballs.  You can prepare the meatballs  hours in advance.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or aluminum foil) and bake the meatballs in a 400F oven for 20 minutes, turning them once during baking.  Remove them from the oven, and transfer to the skillet with the tomato sauce.  Gently simmer the meatballs and sauce together for 10 to 15 minutes over gentle heat.

Meanwhile, boil some spaghetti, drain, place back in the pan and add some of the tomato sauce. Place back on top of the stove to heat pasta and sauce together for a couple of minutes. Transfer to a serving dish, add the meatballs, and serve with fresh Parmiggiano cheese.

(makes 15 meatballs, 3-4 servings, depending on who is eating…  😉

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: My modifications involved baking, instead of frying the meatballs, and simmering them in tomato sauce afterward.   This is my secret to great meatballs, without the harsh outer surface often associated with the fried version.   I’ve seen (and tried) recipes in which the meatballs are cooked in the sauce from beginning to end, but the   oven-roasting in my version intensifies their flavor and color.

I also increased the amount of black olives in the meatball mixture.  The original recipe called for two olives (!!!!).   Sorry, but two diced olives in a pound of meat doesn’t do it for us, Kalamata-lovers that we are.  Feel free to adapt to your own tastes.

Chef Alajmo has two other recipes that made my mouth water in this issue of Food and Wine: Risotto with Capers and Espresso, and Pappardelle with Smoked Butter and Herbs.  Makes me want to catch a plane to Italy and reserve a table for two at his restaurant, Le Calandre.

ONE YEAR AGO:  Korean-Style Pork with Cabbage Slaw

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BEEF WELLINGTON ON A SPECIAL NIGHT

Most couples have a song, we have a dish, … Beef Wellington.    It was the first special meal that we cooked together, and it’s the recipe that we remember when a festive mood strikes.   For something that’s surprisingly simple to put together (if you use commercial puff pastry), Beef Wellington is an elegant gastronomic statement.   The  rich combination of  mushroom duxelles and foie gras raises the most delicate cut of beef to culinary heaven.  Here’s a crucial piece of advice: use a meat thermometer to determine the cooking time, because overcooking will ruin this dish.

This year we  chose Beef Wellington for our family’s Christmas Eve dinner, served as Evelyn George used to do it in my husband’s favorite restaurant,  “The Carriage House” of South Bend, Indiana: with duchess potatoes and a wine reduction sauce.  Fresh asparagus completed the meal.

BEEF WELLINGTON
(adapted from many different sources)

4 beef tenderloin filets,  1.5 inch-thick
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper

for the mushroom duxelles
4 ounces mushrooms
1 shallot, finely diced
1/2 T olive oil
1 T butter
salt and pepper
dash of nutmeg
1 T Madeira wine (or Sherry)

puff pastry (home-made or good quality store-bought)
slices of foie gras
egg wash (1 egg beaten slightly with 1 tsp water)

Heat oil on a large skillet until it starts to smoke, season the meat with salt and pepper, and sear the filets on both sides over high heat; 2 minutes per side. Reserve.

Prepare the duxelles: finely dice the mushrooms (preferably by hand)  and squeeze 1/4 cup portions at a time in a fine cloth (twist the cloth to tighten the squeeze) to release their bitter juices. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet, add the shallots and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the squeezed mushrooms, saute until fully cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes.  Season lightly with salt and pepper, add the nutmeg,  Madeira wine,  and cook for a couple of minutes. Reserve.

Assemble the Wellingtons: roll out the puff pastry to enclose each individual piece of meat.  On the center of the pastry, add a slice of foie gras,  2 tablespoons of duxelles, and set the seared filet mignon on top. Enclose it in the pastry, with the seam facing up, then invert the whole package, so that the duxelle layer is on top.  Brush the surface of the wellingtons with egg wash, placing small cutouts of pastry as a decoration, if you wish. (Wellingtons can be assembled 6 hours in advance, keep refrigerated).

Cut some slits through the pastry, and place the packages in a 400F oven until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 125-130F for medium-rare – about twenty minutes (it will continue cooking a little more while it rests).  Remove from the oven and allow it to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

(to print the recipe, click here)

receita em portugues na pagina seguinte

RED WINE REDUCTION SAUCE

1/2 shallot, finely diced
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup veal stock
salt and pepper to taste
2 T butter, cold, in small pieces

Remove most of the fat in the pan that you used to sear the filets, leaving about 1/2 tablespoon.  Sautee the shallots for a couple of minutes, then add the red wine and deglaze the pan well.   Add the veal stock and boil gently until the sauce is reduced by half and slightly thickens.  Season with salt and pepper. Add the butter in pieces, a few at a time, swirling the pan over low heat.   The sauce will get a smooth shine from the emulsion with butter.  Remove from heat and serve alongside the Beef Wellingtons.   If necessary to re-heat, do it over very low flame.

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ENJOY!
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