Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Appreciating old favorites: linguine vongole

I've been revisiting an old favorite lately: Martha's linguine with clams. It's an old stand-by, and one that I posted about when I first started blogging. I'm still making it, but I've adjusted it with little tweaks that I've come to prefer along the way. I thought I'd share my adapted version, and the updated photos I've shot of the dish that are much more consistent with my current photography style.

I'm elbow deep in Thanksgiving preparations - I'm sure you are too. I have a wonderful flourless chocolate cake recipe from a fellow blogger to share and perhaps a couple other goodies from the feast. Would love to hear about what you are cooking!

Linguine vongole (adapted from Martha Stewart Living)
Serves 4 to 6

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound linguine
1/4 pound slab bacon, cut 3/8 inch thick
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
1/8 - 1/4 cup dry white wine
3 pounds Manila clams or cockles, scrubbed and rinsed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place bacon on a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for ~20 minutes until fat renders. Remove from oven and drain on paper towels. Cut into 1/8 inch strips or small cubes.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and pasta, and cook until just shy of al dente (note: it is important to not fully cook the pasta as it will continue to cook in later steps). Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds; do not let garlic brown. Stir in 1/8 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of black pepper; cook for 30 seconds. Add wine, and simmer for 1 minute. Add clams and bacon; increase heat to medium-high, and cook, covered, until clams begin to open, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in butter until incorporated. Stir in parsley. Add pasta to skillet, and toss to coat, adding reserved cooking water a tablespoon at a time to loosen, if desired. Transfer to a large serving bowl, and serve immediately.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Chicken soup reimagined

Chicken soup is not my favorite. It always reminds me of being, well, sick. It’s often a little too chicken-y and uni-dimensional for my taste. There’s not typically a lot of imagination that goes into it. The way I see it, either you love the familiar, comforting taste of the typical chicken soup, or you are like me, and are a little tired of it.

That’s until my aunt introduced me to an amazing stock that comes from an old Italian cookbook. It’s made with brisket, veal and chicken and has a deep, hearty, sophisticated flavor that is intensely satisfying and anything but boring. The downside is it requires a large quantity of different meat - the upside is the leftovers provide a sandwich feast for some time.

My aunt usually makes it for Passover and adds some wonderful chicken dumplings from the same cookbook. I made a big batch recently and experimented with the add-ins, making an Asian-inspired chicken, pork and rice ball in one version and chicken and pork dumplings in wonton wrappers in the other. Both were hits. I had planned to freeze the remaining broth in muffin tins (a great way to freeze individual portions), but we ate our way through the entire batch of stock before I had time to even consider freezing it for a later use!

Brodo delle Feste (holiday broth) (from The Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews, I: Traditional Recipes and Menus and a Memoir of a Vanished Way of Life by Edda Servi Machlin) (serves 12)

1 small fowl (about 3 pounds, or 2 pounds turkey legs and wings
1 pound brisket of beef
1 pound breast of veal
1 pound spongy beef bones
1/2 medium onion
1 small carrot, peeled
1 small stalk celery
3 or 4 stalks Italian parsley
4 quarts cold water
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
3 whole peppercorns

Carefully remove all the breast from fowl and save for another use. Place the remainder of the chicken or turkey legs and wings in a large stockpot with the other meats, the bones, and all the vegetables. Add 4 quarts of cold water and bring to a boil. Remove the scum and add salt and pepper. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 2 to 3 hours. Strain and refrigerate several hours. Remove and discard all coagulated fat before using.

Chicken and pork rice balls or wontons

For the filling:

½ pound ground chicken
½ pound ground pork
1/4-1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4-1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
One egg, lightly beaten
Generous sprinkling sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Generous sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese

For the exterior:

Wonton wrappers (for the wontons. Available in Whole Foods or your Asian grocery)
1 cup rice (for the rice balls)

For the garnish:

Chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
One carrot, peeled and steamed per bowl, if desired
Grated parmesan cheese, if desired


Combine all filling ingredients. Adjust seasonings if desired. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. One by one, carefully place 1 scant teaspoon of filling on top of wonton wrapper. Brush sides of wrapper lightly with water. Place another wrapper on top and gently press along sides to seal. Place in a single layer on top of parchment paper until you are done filling the rest of the wrappers. Boil a large pot of salted water. Cook wontons for ~4 minutes and gently remove with a slotted spoon (note: cook only enough for what you need. Freeze the rest in a Ziplock bag). Place 3 or 4 in a bowl of hot broth. Garnish with a sprinkling of flat leaf parsley, one carrot, and grated parmesan if desired. Serve immediately.

Rice balls:

Soak one cup of rice for two hours. Drain. Combine all filling ingredients. Adjust seasonings if desired. Line a bamboo steamer and a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a small ice cream scoop or melon baller to form tablespoon-sized balls of the mixture. Store in one layer on baking sheet. Pour rice onto a large plate or other flat surface. Roll balls in rice so that rice covers all sides. Place balls in one layer in bamboo steamer and steam for 15 minutes. Rice will fluff up and balls will cook through. Place ~3 balls in each bowl of hot broth, garnish with a sprinkling of flat leaf parsley, one carrot, and grated parmesan if desired. Serve immediately.