Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pezzetti di Cavalfiore (batter-fried cauliflower)

A friend of mine recently posted online that she's discovering the joys of cooking cauliflower so I thought I would add this wonderful Roman recipe for her to check out. I found this in one of the used Italian cookbooks I purchased in Powell's up in Portland last month (Julia Della Croce's book Roma - Authentic Recipes From In And Around The Eternal City) and was excited to try it as apparently it is a very typical Roman dish. 

Spoiler alert - it came out beautifully with an amazingly addictive flavor.

egg whites

egg yolks

water added to the yolks

first phase of the batter after the water was added

whipped egg whites

whites folded into the batter

heating the fry oil

battered cauliflower


2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 large head cauliflower (about 6 cups of florets)
olive (or other vegetable) oil for frying - to about 2 inches deep in a heavy-bottom skillet or Dutch oven
sea salt for seasoning

Separate the whites and yolks of the eggs into separate bowls. 

(Jacques Pépin recommends separating eggs with your hands as it tends to save most of the whites for a dish. Otherwise, a fair amount of the whites get left behind. It may take a bit to learn how to handle the yolks carefully enough in order to not break them but once you get a feel for it, it's worth the effort).

Add the water to the bowl with the yolks and mix just enough to combine without beating. Add the flour and again mix enough to just combine without beating. Cover each of the bowls with plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator for 2-8 hours.

One hour before serving, remove the bowl with the whites and use a mixer to whip until the whites form stiff, glossy peaks. Remove the bowl with water-yolk-flour batter and fold the whites into it. 

While the batter rests, prepare the cauliflower by cutting it into separate florets as evenly-sized as possible. Boil or steam the florets for 4 minutes then remove and dry them in its own bowl.

Prepare a heavy-duty pot for frying by adding the oil and bringing up to a temperature of 375F or until it is hot enough so that a drop of the batter immediately sizzles when added.

Pour the batter into the bowl with the prepared cauliflower then mix to completely coat it. Bring an oven to a warming temperature, about 170F.

Add the battered cauliflower into the hot oil in batches so that the pieces can fry evenly. For each batch cook until they are evenly well-browned, about 5-8 minutes, turning them over once. Remove to a platter lined with paper towels to soak up the grease then keep in the warmed oven while you finish the remaining batches.

Once all of the cauliflower has been fried, sprinkle the sea salt on it, and serve.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Peas with Prosciutto and Mint

Another delicious recipe from Julia Della Croce's book Roma - Authentic Recipes From In And Around The Eternal City, this is very easy to prepare and made for a great side dish for the Chicken Cooked with Vinegar recipe I posted earlier. Thin sliced proscuitto won't work as well as a chunk that you can dice yourself. And although fresh English peas would be great too, frozen peas work just as well.

proscuitto, thick sliced and diced

frozen peas thawing in a bowl of cold water

sautéing the diced onion

adding the proscuitto

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 ounces proscuitto in 1 thick slice, finely diced
4 pounds shelled English peas (or 2 10oz packages frozen peas)
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
1/2 cup water or homemade chicken broth
kosher salt
white or black pepper, freshly cracked

In a medium saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and increase the heat to medium. Sauté until the onion is soft but not colored, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the prosciutto and sauté for a couple of minutes. 
Add the peas and mint. Stir in the water. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the peas are tender and most of the liquid is evaporated, about 15 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper, serve.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Chicken Cooked with Vinegar

We were back up in Portland again a couple of weeks ago to celebrate our usual belated Christmas with my sister's family so of course we had to spend at least one afternoon at Powell's Book Store. I spent an hour rifling through the multitude of used Italian cooking books and found some real keepers at a great bargain. Since we're taking our first trip to Rome this coming spring I thought it'd be a good idea to specialize on trying some Roman cuisine beforehand to get some idea of what could be in store for us there. I've already been through Patricia Wells' fantastic book Trattoria which has a fair amount of Roman dishes represented but found Julia Della Croce's book Roma - Authentic Recipes From In And Around The Eternal City on the shelves for a good price. Browsing the various recipes it definitely looked like something I could have a lot of fun with. 
This recipe and the following one, Peas with Proscuitto, were the first ones I've tried and together made for a fantastic weeknight dinner. Note that I tweaked them a bit so these may not be completely faithful to the versions in the book.

As the recipe specifically suggests cutting a chicken into smaller pieces this was a great opportunity to put my new boning knife to the test - I don't know how I went so long without having such a helpful tool!

Seared chicken parts

Softening the onion

Adding the spices

whole chicken, cut into small parts*
chicken giblets, cleaned **
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 large onions, peeled and chopped
6 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoons fresh grated nutmeg
1/3 teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
healthy pinch of kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper
1 cup water

In a large skillet over medium heat, add the oil. Once it is hot, add the chicken parts in batches to brown well, about 5 minutes a side. As each batch is cooked, set it aside on a plate.
Add the minced giblets to the pan to color well then set aside with the chicken parts.
To the hot pan with the oil left in, add the chopped garlic and onions. Reduce the heat to medium-low and sauté the vegetables until softened, about 5-6 minutes. Add the vinegar and stir to scrape up any browned bits at the bottom of the skillet. 
Mix the spices together in a small bowl then add to the pan with the vegetables and stir to completely combine everything. Add in the chicken parts and cooked giblets, combine everything, then add the cup of water. 
Bring it all to a light simmer then cover partially, allowing to cook the chicken through, about 15-20 minutes. Remove the chicken to a serving platter to rest a bit, bring the heat back up to medium in order to reduce the liquid some, then pour it over the chicken.
Season to taste with salt, pepper, oil as you like then serve.

* - Separate the chicken into its parts - legs, thighs, wings, breasts - then cut each part again into half
** - Remove the membrane from the liver, heart, and lungs - I find using a paper towel to rub them off to be the best method