Thursday, July 30, 2015

Pollo alla Diavola

I'd never made a chicken under brick on the grill before when I came across a great looking recipe in one of my new go-to cookbooks yesterday, specifically the The Country Cooking of Italy by Coleman Andrews. Although the Pollo alla Diavola recipe in his books uses neither the brick nor the herbs I use here, it was a nice starting point to riff from.

Foil-wrapped brick holding down the split chicken

the skin is well-cooked but not burnt

1 whole organic, free-range chicken
foil-wrapped brick

Marinade-brush sauce
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
juice from 2 lemons
2 branches fresh rosemary
4 cloves garlic, peeled
Kosher salt
fresh-cracked black pepper

With the chicken breast side down, use shears or a knife to cut and remove the backbone. Turn the chicken over and press down to flatten it as much as possible. Rub half of the marinade (below) over the entire chicken, then season liberally with salt and pepper. Allow it to marinate at room temperature for at least an hour.

Fire up a grill to about 450°F-500°F. Place the chicken skin-side down on the hot grill, brush some of the remaining marinade on it, then place the brick on top. Turn the chicken over every 10 minutes, brushing on more of the marinade each time before putting the brick back on top. Keep any flame down while the chicken cooks. You want to color and crisp the skin but not burn it.

I use a covered Big Green Egg but on a Weber you'll want to make sure the coals are ash before putting the chicken on the grill. If using a gas grill, keep the temperature to 450°F-500°F.

It should take about 45 minutes to bring the chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F.

Remove from heat, cover with foil to sit for at least 15 minutes before carving and serving.

Strip the rosemary leaves from the branches. Mince together with the garlic cloves or pound it all in a mortar with about a tablespoon of olive oil into a paste. Put into a bowl and add the remaining olive oil and the lemon juice. Use half of this as a marinade and the remaining half to brush the chicken periodically as it cooks

Thursday, July 23, 2015

New Orleans Pecan Pie

Over the past Fourth of July weekend, we hosted a BBQ featuring smoked brisket and various side dishes like cole slaw, corn on the cob, among others. The feast also presented me with the opportunity to make something I'd been thinking about for a while now - pecan pie.
Among the multitude of pecan pie recipes, I decided to go with one from John Besh, a well-known chef from New Orleans whose tv shows had always impressed me. I figured anything he published was likely to get me into the right direction and the results proved me right.

3/4 cup blackstrap molasses
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup Bourbon
1 1/2  cup pecan halves
1 recipe Basic Pie Dough (below), fitted into a 9-inch pie pan

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°. 

Put the molasses, brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and salt into a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.

Increase the heat to high and let the mixture boil for one minute.  Remove from heat, then pour into a mixing bowl and set aside to let cool to room temperature. 

Whisk the eggs, vanilla, and bourbon into the molasses. Stir in the pecans, then pour into the prepared pie crust. Bake until the pie is set around the sides and nearly set in the middle (it shouldn't wobble when you give it a nudge), about 1 hour. The color should be mahogany and the crust golden. Allow to cool completely before serving.

Basic Pie Dough:
Makes one 9-inch crust

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold butter, diced
3 tablespoons cold leaf lard, diced (substitute an additional 3 tbs butter if you can't get any)
softened butter for greasing the pan 
4 tablespoons ice water (or only whatever is needed)

Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter or 2 knives, cut the butter and lard into the flour until it resembles cornmeal. Sprinkle in ice water, only as needed, mixing it into the dough until it comes together into a ball. Press the dough into a round, flat disk, then wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling it out. 

Liberally coat a 9–10 inch pie pan with softened butter, then dust with flour. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a thickness of 1/4 inch.

Wrap the dough around the rolling pin, then gently fit the dough into the pan. Trim off overhanging dough and crimp the edges.

  • For the flaky crust, I use a mix of leaf lard and butter as the combination imparts a texture that butter alone can't really do. I've only learned about it recently but since I have a reliable local source and it adds so much to crusts, I'm completely hooked on it. It's not shortening and it's not regular lard. It comes from the kidneys of the pig and doesn't have a 'porky' flavor.
  • Make sure not to handle the dough too much, you want to avoid building up the gluten which can make it something close to cement. Once you've added the ice water, stop.
  • You can roll it out in advance, then wrap it and store it in the freezer for a couple of days, if you wish. Or make the dough ahead, shape it into a disk, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for a few hours before you need it.

Couldn't get to snap this photo quickly enough

Monday, July 20, 2015

Lemon Buttermilk Cake

I made this back in the Spring for a neighbor's open house. As it was a big hit and so easy to make, I'll be adding this to a future class. I made it again last week and it was even better this time. The original recipe is posted on the Epicurious site but this version is my slightly different take on it. It's a Bundt cake so requires a Bundt pan but the original recipe also has an alternate version as cupcakes.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon lemon zest
5 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
4 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more as needed

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease and flour a (9-inch) Bundt pan.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the warmed butter at low-medium speed for about a minute to get it somewhat creamy. Keep the mixer running and slowly add the sugar continuing to mix until smooth and light in texture, about 5 minutes.

While the butter and sugar are beating, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt, and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk, lemon zest, and 4 tablespoons of the lemon juice and set aside.

Add the eggs to the butter-sugar mixture, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. In 3 additions, alternate adding the sifted dry ingredients and the wet ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture, stirring on low until just incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan. Bake until the center of cake springs back when touched and a skewer inserted near the center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Release the sides and bottom of the cake from the pan with a narrow metal spatula or knife. Invert the pan and turn out the cake. Place a wire rack in a baking pan and set the cake, right side up, on the rack.

In a small bowl, combine the confectioner's sugar, the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon cold water and stir until very smooth. Add a little more confectioners' sugar or water as necessary to achieve a glaze consistency (similar to that of honey). Spoon the glaze evenly over the cake. When the glaze has firmed, transfer the cake to a plate. Slice and serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Chicken Livers with Onion and Sage

I grew up hating liver when I was a kid. My mom would occasionally make beef liver for my dad while the rest of us ate something else. However, the fact that I liked liverwurst gave me an opening to develop a liking at least for chicken livers. Over the past few years, thanks to a trip to Rome and working through various recipes that feature them, I've been adding dishes with them into our regular rotation.
This recipe is based on a dish from The Country Cooking of Italy by Coleman Andrews, a very intriguing cookbook I came across on a recent visit to Powell's Books in Portland, OR that I am slowly but surely working through. The original recipe uses the dish as a topping for bruschetta but this take uses it as a sauce for spaghetti. 

This dish seems to be much more along the lines of what I would see in Italy, not so much what I've seen in most Italian-American restaurants here in the US. And it's really very good.

1/2 pound spaghetti
1 pound chicken livers, trimmed and halved (see below)
salt and pepper
1/3 cup flour
1 small onion, peeled and sliced very thinly
3 tablespoons butter, divided
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
10-12 leaves fresh sage, chopped coarsely
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

The 'trimming' of the livers above refers to 'peeling' off the thin membrane (I use paper towels to rub them off) and cutting off any connective tissues, the little stringy bits that hold the larger sections together. Be sure to wash and clean your hands thoroughly after trimming.

Timing is a little tricky on this dish. You want to have the cooking of the pasta coordinated with that of the livers so that the pasta can finish in the skillet without either it or the sauce sitting around waiting too long for the other. Figure roughly that the pasta will take about 8 minutes from when it is added, the livers will take about 10-12 minutes in all once you first start cooking them.

Put the trimmed livers into a bowl and season liberally with the salt and pepper. Add the flour, stirring to completely coat the pieces, then put aside.
Heat a large saucepan with plenty of water and salt in which to cook the pasta.
In a large skillet over medium-low heat, add half of the butter - when it has melted and the foam has subsided, add the onion slices. Cook the onion slowly over 10 minutes to soften but don't allow to brown yet. 
Remove the onion from the pan and set aside. Increase the heat in the skillet to medium-high, add half the olive oil then half of the livers. Cook to sear and brown them thoroughly, about 5 minutes in all. Remove this first batch of livers into their own bowl, add the remaining oil then the remaining livers and cook likewise. Remove the livers then kill the heat under the skillet while you start the pasta.
Once the water in the saucepan is boiling add the pasta and cook about 1 minute short of the recommended time on the box. 
Meanwhile, bring the skillet for the livers back up to a medium-high heat, add the remaining butter to melt, add all of the livers with the onions and the sage and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in the red wine vinegar and the parsley, stirring to combine. Cook until the pasta is finished.
Drain the pasta, reserving about a cup of the cooking water. Add the drained pasta to the skillet with the livers, moisten with a little of the cooking water (about 2 tablespoons, more if needed), and finish cooking the pasta until the water is reduced, about 1-2 minutes.

Remove from heat and serve.

Any comments greatly appreciated!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Sicilian Tuna in Onion Sauce

We got a good drop of albacore tuna from SirenSeaSA this past week. This gave me a chance to base a main course on a nice recipe from FlemishMinx on who in turn found it as a classic dish from the islands off the west coast of Sicily. 
The fish we received was a long piece of tuna which I sliced into 'steaks' to make this dish. The simplicity of the recipe appealed to me as well as the fact that it incorporated cooked onions, always a favorite of mine.


1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
pinch of Kosher salt
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
dash of hot sauce

4 small albacore tuna steaks
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup dry white wine


Heat a large skillet over a medium flame then add the olive oil and butter. Once the butter has melted, add the sliced onions and the pinch of salt, cooking until the onion slices are limp, about 5 minutes.
Mix the vinegar and sugar in a small bowl then carefully add to the skillet watching out for the fumes. Cook until the vinegar has been reduced. Add the dash of hot sauce, stir, then move to a bowl covering it to keep the sauce warm. 
You want limp onions but still enough liquid so that you can spoon it over the cooked fish.

Wipe the skillet clean, return to a medium heat, add the olive oil and bay leaves when hot. Season the steaks with salt and pepper and lay them into the skillet. Cook the tuna about 2-3 minutes per side so that the surface browns a bit but the inside remains rare. 
Raise the heat a tad then add the wine, covering the skillet for about 15 seconds so that the wine can stop steaming.  
Uncover the skillet, cook for another 30 seconds to reduce the wine a little and letting the flavors coalesce.
Remove the tuna to a serving plate and pour the onion sauce over it to serve while still warm.