Friday, December 2, 2011

Giving it a try....

I make my own pasta. I try to make my own pizza dough whenever possible. Generally, I try to make everything I can from scratch. Especially when it comes to Italian. Italian food is something I am overly comfortable with. It's my wheelhouse, my comfort zone, my go to. When in doubt, I can always count on Italian food to make it through a meal for people.

My father is Italian. My grandfather was a butcher. The man knows food. He also knows, well, I think he knows everything. He also get's that everyone has their own taste. We do not share a pallet. He cannot partake in heat like I can, he dosen't overindulge in cheese like I do, and he ENJOYS bitter food. While I would say he enjoys food, he could just as easily make a sandwich and not be bothered.

My mother is not Italian. My grandmother was a casserole slinging, Mac and cheese making, here have a sandwich kind of lady. In spite of this, my mother has an exquisite pallet. Whether she likes a taste or not, she gets it. She is aware of it. It effects the way the other food will taste. She is terrifying to cook for. She ENJOYS food the way I do. It is more than just nourishment, it is a moment in time you will never experience the EXACT same way you are experiencing it at that very moment.

I digress. I have been dying to try to make my own ravioli. I don't own a pasta maker. I don't own a lot of things I really feel I should own for my kitchen. The main culprit currently is this little guy
Is it weird that I hear "Isn't she lovely" by Stevie Wonder in my head every time I see this. 

So when I make pasta, it's the old fashion way. Flour, eggs, water, olive oil on a counter-top. Doughy handed I mush and mush until I feel like it's right. The reason I have yet to make ravioli is because, well, because it's really hard. You have to make it so thin. So perfect. Otherwise it's so damn heavy. And you have to cut it just right. And I don't have a ravioli cutter. Or ravioli pan thingys. The potential for disaster has just been too damn high for me to take the risk. Until now....

So in case I screwed up the main course I decided to make an easy appetizer that I knew would please everyone. Sweet yellow baby tomato's, a basil leaf and fresh mozzarella rolled in a piece of prosciutto, served on a thin cut toasted piece of Italian bread and lightly dusted with a raspberry balsamic. Fun little finger sandwiches based loosely on  Mozzarella Caprese. 

I had been dying to make a basil-tarragon pesto. Normal pesto sauce except I use peanuts instead of pine nuts (still toasted) and the addition of tarragon adds a bright note I have grown to love.Cooking for my parents and Kay I knew seafood was the right way to in lieu of stuffing. Ricotta, shrimp, arugula, mozzarella and some grated pecorino romano cheese.

So all that was left was the construction. This part was the nerve racking part. This was not a disaster, per se, but it was NOT one of the best dishes I have put together. The dough was too damn think. It was tasty, but it was really really thick. I couldn't get it thin enough to hold the filling. It was depressing. I was sad. I still am sad.

The filling was a disappointment as well. The shrimp just didn't hold up to the other flavors. It faded away. The cheese was a perfect mixture and made the ravioli at the very least decent enough to eat. The only bright spot was the pesto. Pesto is delicious. I would put pesto on ice cream if given the opportunity. It's that good. I really enjoy it with peanuts too. It's a simple switch but it really elevates the flavor

As I said, overall it was not a disaster, but not a raving success. My parents were kind as always and Kay likes anything I cook. It was a great night regardless of the food faux pas. I plan on trying to make them again soon. Not sure what the hell to do differently other than roll and roll and roll and roll. We'll see. Tonight I brine a Turkey (hard cider, all spice, peppercorns, cinnamon, salt, sugar). Tomorrow, Friendsgiving (Thanksgiving all over again for my closest group of friends). Pictures to follow. 

Off to look for something else to eat....

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Follow up to Breakfast Sausages

The Spices

The Patties

The Product.

My buddy at work Anne has asked me about these. It really is the easiest damn thing to make and super inexpensive. I have the spices in my house all the time anyway and pay practically nothing for the turkey ($3.49 for 1.2 lbs, all natural from Shady Farms). Other than the fact that you have to touch the raw meat (thats Anne's hold back) it really is delicious and easy. A small dinner role (I buy Mastrianni's. They are surprisingly good for you in comparison to a lot of other breads), a half a slice of Munster cheese, and one sausage patty. It's quick, portable, home made, and really pretty good for you. 

It's not as good as Grandpa Jack's, but it's damn good and nice and healthy. 

When you leave me alone....

So, as I stated in a post earlier today, I wanted to attempt to make Snow Chicken, a dish which I love from the bottom of my stomach, however I have never been able to figure out what the hell it truly is.

This is an order of snow chicken from Sake Cafe in Price Chopper plaza in Slingerlands. I am not usually one for sweet tastes, I generally prefer spicy/hot/fire/magma, but for some reason this dish sings to me. The soft tempora batter mixed with a sweet, semi-thick glaze is one of my favorite dishes period. I can't get enough of it.

So in my pursuit to find this mystery meal, I went to one of my favorite blogs, Table Hopping. Steve Barnes, being the gentlemen he is, posted an email I had sent to him to asking what the hell Snow Chicken was. Although not met with overwhelming response, one reader DID post something I could use. Honey Walnut Shrimp.

I know, I said Chicken. But judging from the ingredients it SOUNDS just like the Snow Chicken I have come to love so deeply. And better yet, it all seems easy enough. A quick Tempura batter, a super easy to make sauce, minimal ingredients, and done.

Tempora Batter - the equivalent of 5 or 6 egg whites. The recipe called for 4, but I like super fluffy tempora. Then simply added some corn starch, whisked, and it was ready for the chicken to be dipped in. 

The sauce is literally as easy as it looks above. Mayo, sweetened condensed milk, honey. I went with light Mayo and fat free sweetened condensed milk. I actually added some water to thin the sauce out a bit after originally mixing everything. It thinned it out the perfect amount.  

Tempora battered chicken. Cannola and peanut oil mixture (by choice believe it or not). 3 to 5 on either side depending on the size of the piece of chicken. To be totally honest, this would have been more than enough for me. I LOVE tempora anything.

The finished product. It was very very good. I learned a few things.
1. Fat Free Sweetened condensed milk does in fact taste different (not surprised)
2, The light Mayo was actually fine. Didn't taste any different given the addition of the honey. 
3. It needed something to cut the sweetness. I have not yet figured out what I think would do the trick, however I will most definitely be experimenting with this to figure it out. 

Best part of this whole experience, only $14 at the store to but everything, and I have more than enough of everything left over (sans the chicken, of course) to do it all over again. 

Off to look for something else to eat...

And now for something completely different...


I am going to attempt to make Snow chicken tonight, which I believe to be a mutant offspring of Honey walnut chicken, It is a Chinese dish with condensed milk, honey, and tasty little bits of lightly battered and fried chicken. The opportunity for me to screw it up is high.