A few days ago, after re-subscribing to the New York Times Cooking Section, I saw an attractive recipe for Mushroom Bourguignon by Melissa Clark. If you’ve read this blog over time, you may have noticed that three of my favorite things are wild mushrooms, pasta, and Burgundy wine. This recipe was a brilliant opportunity to enjoy all three together, so last night I made the dish, and I served it on freshly-homemade Black Pepper Fettuccine.
The meal was fabulous. I can add just a few notes here. The recipe was easy to follow. A fringe benefit was learning how to peel those pesky Pearl Onions with ease. I used two large pots to brown all the mushrooms and onions at the same time. One was my large Bourgeat sautéuse, and the other was the Le Creuset Bouillabaisse enameled cast iron pot. They both worked well, but — to my surprise — the Le Creuset did it better. It’s a monster pot — 7.25 qt. capacity and it weighs 8.5 lbs. without the lid, 14 lbs. with it.
Then, of course, were the wines. Oh, the wines…. I pulled out of the cellar a 1995 Nuits-St.-Georges by Robert Chevillon, to be used as the wine for braising the mushrooms. Authentic and extremely good. Even better, was the 1994 St. Joseph, by Pierre Gaillard, pictured above. I believe I bought this over 20 years ago from Cynthia and Bob Hurley, the importers and superb French wine aficionados.
The pasta was simple. Plenty of crushed black pepper, mixed with 104 g. of ’00’ Italian flour, 1 extra large egg, and 1 Tbs. of top quality extra virgin olive oil. Spun in the small Cuisinart until it forms the dough, it was kneaded, rolled out, and cut into noodles in about 25 minutes. It made just enough for the two of us, with nothing leftover.
Credits to those who helped make this so good:
Melissa Clark, Cynthia Hurley, Pierre Gaillard, Idylwilde Farms (mushroom selection)
I don’t eat a lot of salads, but last week I had four different (and quite delicious) ones. It started late in the week, when I was cleaning out a closet holding my dried beans stash, along with packs of Polaroid film that went out-of-date 20 years ago. (It’s an eclectic collection.)
I try to keep my beans fresher than THAT, but sometimes they get away from me. While I was reviewing what was on the shelves, I came across three 1 lb. packages of dried Italian Royal Corona beans. I figured I should cook one of them, so I went through the usual ritual:
soak beans overnight in cold water with some Kosher salt
cook beans the next day in a bean pot, with a small onion and bay leaf
when beans are tender, let them cool in their broth
save the beans and broth in separate containers
use beans as desired
Here are some of the beans selected:
The following day I decided to make some bean salads — two salads with Corona beans, and since Barbara prefers other beans, I made one for her with black beans plus an heirloom Rancho Gordo beans from Mexico. Since this appeared to be salad day, I discovered that she had made a salad, too. This was the famous Claremont Salad, a signature dish in the high-end Claremont Diner in Verona, NJ, in the 1950’s. Her version consisted of cucumber, cabbage, carrots, and onion, pickled in a slightly-sweet vinegar dressing. (She eschews pepper, and forgot the celery vs. the original recipe.)
Barbara’s Claremont Salad
Salad: Black Bean, King City Pinks, and Ayocote Morado with onions, celery, carrot, and parsley
Salad: Royal Corona beans, with onion, celery, daikon radish, oil and vinegar
Salad: Corona beans, with chopped radicchio Treviso, radicchio Castelfranco, grated Calabrian Pecorino, and plenty of top quality olive oil and red wine vinegar
Calabrian Pecorino from Eataly Boston
When we were all done, here is what three of the four salads looked like in my lunch plate.
This has been a good month for cooking, and it’s my last chance this year to post, so here are the food and wine highlights. Of course, with this title, I am showing my age. I imagine any reader under the age of 60 has not encountered the term, so here is the explanation of where the word “doozy” originated.
In reverse chronological order (in keeping with blog sequence), I will start with tonight’s New Year’s Eve dinner, a quiet, homemade affair for the two of us. It featured a simple ravioli recipe, produced with the help of a ravioli rolling pin, designed and made by a great craftsman and entrepreneur (Mike Finizio), who also happens to be a former student of mine in the graduate program at Tufts Gordon Institute.
Barbara and I decided on a filling for the ravioli, made with Kite Hill Almond Milk Ricotta and an Israeli Feta cheese from Trader Joe’s, enhanced with dried porcini powder and lemon zest. I made a two-egg pasta, and we followed the method from Mike’s video.
A simple butter and olive oil sauce with basil and parsley was sufficient, although I embellished mine with chopped, peeled, seeded plum tomato with a touch of balsamic vinegar.
Less attractive, but equally tasty was the vegetable course — Baked graffiti eggplant halves, topped with garlic slices, tomato sauce and bread crumbs.
Mixed Short Pasta with Cavolo Nero
In case you hadn’t noticed before, I adore pasta. Never more than twice a day, though. We all have our limits.
This meal was made from two different shapes of short pasta, crisped-up bits of pancetta, and tender cavolo nero. It’s a pretty typical dish in Puglia, so my wine choice was Polvanera‘s Aglianico. It’s one of Jan D’Amore’s imports, and I had visited the winery with Aaron on our trip in 2012. Excellent match.
For more vegetables I blanched and then sautéed carrots, zucchini and artichoke, spruced up with herbes de Provence.
Black Pepper Pasta and Black Trumpet Mushrooms
Black is also beautiful in food. Barbara had used our spice grinder to grind a lot of black peppercorns for something she made, and we had a good bit left over. It was a great opportunity to make black pepper fettucine, with my usual recipe of “00” flour, salt, egg and a little olive oil — plus lots of ground pepper for zestiness. I was excited to find fresh Black Trumpet Mushrooms while shopping at Idylwilde Farms, which were sautéed briefly with some chopped scallions and paired with a Grechetto from Umbria.
Sometimes I actually make a meal without pasta. One recent example brought together a collection of vegetables, leftovers, and two thin slices of prosciutto to create a dinner that paired beautifully with another of Jan’s wines, the Bonavita Faro from Sicily.
Lunch that day was marvelous. I had made my favorite Caponata (Romagnoli’s version) the day before, so it was easy to pan-fry a slice of my sourdough, sautée a mixture of wild mushrooms, add a little leftover cooked spinach, and top it all with slices of Manchego cheese. A few minutes under the broiler and lunch was ready.
As a start I took leftover Leek and Kale soup, poured it into a coffee cup, heated in the microwave, and served it as a first course. These paired nicely with Kent Callaghan’s 2016 Claire’s Arizona red wine, enhancing the rich, earthy flavors of it all.
Vegetables for Dinner
Here’s one that started with the creation of the Leek and Kale (Cavolo Nero) soup, featured roasted Provencal tomatoes, a delicious mushroom and potato sauté, and then finished with a superb Sticky Oat Cake for dessert.
Love Tartine-Style County Loaf
I continued to bake sourdough breads every two or three weeks. These two loaves were beauties.
Baked pasta, Spanish wine, and Portuguese canned Ventresca Tuna by Lucas — made into a tuna salad on top of toasted bread were other highlights that week.
I hope you all have had a good holiday season, in spite of the constraints we wrestle with during these times. Let the warmth of our Hanukkah candles glowing on the last night be a beacon toward a happier, healthier new year ahead.
This bread is light and crisp, very flavorful. My regular breads have plenty of whole wheat, whereas this one has only Spelt and Rye in a 2:1 ratio for whole grains (36%), and is a very wet dough, which can be difficult to handle. Fortunately, Trevor’s videos make it manageable.
Grilled Baby Octopus, Grilled Sourdough, and Portuguese Chickpeas
Pan-Fried Sourdough, Lucas Canned Tuna, Red Onion, Scallions, and Plum Tomato
Sunday Night — Fried Crispy Baby Octopus with Chickpeas, Lentil Stew, Fumin wine and Quinta Luna Olive Oil from Italy
Altogether, it was a fine, but unusual, Thanksgiving. Food and wine very much to my liking, with major contributions from France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy — most of my favorite parts of the Mediterranean.
I’m willing to bet that none of you woke up this morning with the question in this title on your mind. Nonetheless, I am about to answer it, and I have some exciting food moments to share, in case you have any interest. If not, please move on to another post.
Due to COVID, my wife and I decided to have a private holiday with just the two of us. In yet another break with tradition, we decided — since neither of us is a fan of roast turkey — that we would start a new tradition: Thanksgiving dinner featuring a special Lobster and Pasta main course.
Naturally, this move required significant planning. The dish I had in mind takes at least two days to prepare, and obtaining great lobsters this week can be a challenge. A week in advance I contacted my best fish man, Chris, and arranged to meet him on that Monday, during one of his commercial deliveries, with a package of three pound-and-a-quarter each of the best vigorous lobsters. I brought the box home, repacked it with damp cotton towels and freezer packs, replacing the wet newspapers and melting ice cubes in the package. I made room in the refrigerator to store them overnight, and the live lobsters were quietly resting there at 41° F. until Tuesday.
My game plan was based on a recipe I created 20 years ago, Lobster – Shrimp Pasta Special. I had not made this dish in probably 15 years, but I knew the technique and wanted to do a simplified version anyway (skip the shrimp and most garnishes) — especially avoiding trips to the store for obscure items during this hectic and dangerous week.
Filling a 12-quart stock pot with water and a lot of Sicilian sea salt, I boiled the lobsters for 7 or 8 minutes (depending on when one starts counting). That was long enough to firm up the lobster meat but not finish its cooking yet. It also allowed me to remove all the lobster meat and to free up the empty shells to make the stock.
With the lobster meat securely in a bowl back in the refrigerator, I chopped the shells coarsely, along with the tiny legs and other edible but less-accessible parts of the body. and I sautéed them, (plus chopped celery, onion, garlic, leek, scallions, and a little bit of carrot) in two very large, wide pots. After these were sautéed for about 15-20 minutes, I added tomatoes, fresh herbs, salt and pepper, and soon after, some cognac and then white wine. As the vegetables cooked down in volume, I combined it all in the larger pot — my Le Creuset 7.5 quart Bouillabaisse pot, and continued to cook it a bit longer.
When it appeared that we had extracted most of the desired flavor from the carcasses, The stock was strained, first in a coarse strainer to remove the shells, and then through a chinois, to remove finer pieces of matter. The strained broth was then boiled until the volume was reduced by 50%, concentrating the flavor. I decided to add the cream the when assembling the final dish on the holiday.
Thanksgiving Day arrived soon enough. Step 1 was to boil the pasta, in this case 250 g. of linguine. The lobster meat had already been warmed in the strained broth and cut into bite-sized pieces and then separated into two groups: tail meat and claw meat, so I could distribute them evenly.
Our largest pasta bowls accommodated a full portion of lobster, sauce, and pasta, This we sprinkled with chopped fresh parsley and basil from our greenhouse and then accompanied with Barbara’s excellent cole slaw. I tried two white wines, settling on a French Basque wine, Domaine Ilarria from Irouleguy.
Barbara’s straw rodents completed the holiday table, until her Sweet Potato Pie was presented for dessert. Altogether, a happy new tradition, in my view.
The other piece of fish from the market on Saturday was a small piece of Yellowfin Tuna. Yesterday, I poached that in olive oil with herbs and garlic for only five minutes, then removed the fish to another bowl and let it marinate with the oil and herbs in the refrigerator overnight. Presto! We have Tuna Conserva or Tuna Confit. I trimmed a few pieces off onto a plate for lunch today, combined them with Yellow Eye peas from Ranch Gordo, Trapani sea salt, thinly sliced red onion, Tuscan pane, and more of the marinating olive oil, for a small, quick, and savory lunch today. A few Kalamata olives added excitement, too.
I recently received a shipment from my specialty supplier, Gustiamo, in NY, and it contained two different fine flours from Sicily. One was Maiorca, a soft wheat that I had used once or twice in my sourdough breads. The other was Rimacinata Cuore, a very fine hard durum wheat Semola, which I was eager to try for making pasta.
I decided to use 100 grams of each flour, plus 2 extra large eggs, and fine sea salt from Trapani (Sicily), to make enough pasta for one dinner and a couple of small lunches.
The other major component for my pasta that night was the sauce. I had some roasted, peeled sweet red peppers leftover in the refrigerator, plus the remaining tomato sauce from pizza-making a week earlier, so I decided to blend them together. Good choice! The depth of flavor from the peppers, the acidity of the tomatoes, and the verve from the sea salt combined to make a rich and satisfying sauce for me. I made Barbara’s pasta with Lucini tomato sauce from a jar, since she can’t eat peppers.
I rolled the pasta slightly thicker than normal and cut it into tagliolini or tagliatelle shape (not sure which). To accompany the pasta, I decided to broil rather than sautée the vegetables (yellow squash and radishes), and I was happy I did.
Once again, Jan D’Amore provided the perfect vino for the occasion, a 2015 Flavio Roddolo Dolcetto d’Alba Superiore.
A bit later in the evening I decided to have a little dessert. A disk of Taza Chocolate Mexican-Style, Stone Ground Salted Almond, paired with a glass of Cappellano Barolo Chinato, completed it all.
It’s rare for us to get snow in October, but last Friday (the 30th) we had almost 5″ of heavy wet snow. It was a nasty enough day that I postponed my food shopping trip to the city until Saturday. The photos, both here and in town, featured the snow and were punctuated visually by the bright leaves still on (or recently fallen off) the trees.
My last stop in the city was the fish store, for some delicious halibut, which Barbara poached for dinner, accompanied by baked eggplant with tomato sauce and mashed potatoes. It was a superb meal.
…are necessary for a complete picture of my October food and wine.
For many years, I have favored Burgundies for my higher-end, longer-term wine purchases. Fortunately, we’ve now reached an age (both mine and the Burgundies) when it’s time to enjoy those investments. One of the high points this Fall was a 1992 bottle of Robert Chevillon’s Nuits-St.-Georges. I also have some of his 1995’s from this vineyard, but the 1992 was so much richer and smoother than the last ’95 I tasted. My only regret is that I did not have any friends available in person with whom I could share this old Burgundy.
While I am filling in the details of recent meals, I realized I left out a surprise plate that I enjoyed for lunch to go along with the Chilean Cinsault in a recent post. The dish was just a plate of Nachos — but with a few flourishes. Blue corn chips and salsa, of course, but these were enhanced by vegan queso (made from cashews), Ranch Gordo heirloom Moro beans, finely-chopped Padron peppers from our deck railing garden, fresh chunks of ripe avocado, and a pretty serving plate.
And, most recently, I can add yesterday’s lunch — another superb bruschetta with leftovers, accompanied by a well-aged wine.