Monday, October 25, 2010

Going Dutch, on the Oven

We have the best Dutch Oven at the family cottage in Quebec, where it belongs.  Smooth from use and very well seasoned cast iron, the pot and lid must weigh about 8 kilos when empty!  I am half convinced that it must have made the journey to Nouvelle France on one of Champlain's many trips - as it is that old (looking).
My sister busied herself last summer by making multiple loaves of Jim Lahey's no-kneed 24 hour bread. In a nutshell, the dough requires a scant 1/4 teaspoon of yeast, rises for 20+ hours and is baked off in a Dutch Oven which has been super-heated to 500 F.  The result is a fantastic artisanal style bread with a fabulous crust and a moist and chewy interior.  It is the super-heating aspect that made our propane budget skyrocket, the little-kitchen-oven-that-could went into overdrive and became perilously hot itself.  The results were well worth all the effort.

I recently purchased a KitchenAid Dutch Oven, on sale at Canadian Tire; regular price was $ 150, down to $ 50. It is enamel-covered cast iron and, though will never have the same feel as the one at the cottage, I am enjoying using it now that Fall is upon us.  

Since procuring the said pot, I have made a baked penne with cheese & chorizo dish, followed by an impromtu cassoulet made with red kidney beans which I soaked and par-boiled, onion confit, thick cut bacon, merguez sausages, San Marzano tomatoes, seasoning and bread crumbs on the top.  Thrown into the Dutch Oven and baked off for two hours at 400 F, the results were enjoyed by the whole family.  (I should remember to take more photos along the way, it was actually quite photogenic for a real meal.) 

While writing this blog, I was soaking chicken in seasoned red wine in preparation for a coq-au-vin.  The recipe that I more or less followed is from Bon Appetit, Oct. '02.  Classic-Coq-au-Vin recipe  My sister had made it, told me how much she and her guests had enjoyed it and I was sold.  I have made it and the results are well worth it.  She skinned her chicken prior to soaking it in the wine, as do I.  Once the prepared dish is chilling in the fridge, the fat that rises to the surface of the delectable sauce and solidifies can easily be removed. Remember, a little less fat there means a little more dessert later on! 

Coq au Vin really is one of those dishes that tastes better the next day.  I made enough to feed an army, so I hope to enjoy it tonight and throw the rest of it in the freezer for another memorable meal.  The large, visible chunks of bacon were intended to make the meal more enticing to my son who was not sold on the idea of chicken soaked in wine... that is until he tasted it.

PS: Predictive text changed the Coq au Vin to "Cow au Vin" at one point.  Divine intervention?  Maybe I will be making a boeuf bourgignon sometime in the near future.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

PUMPKIN GNOCCHI - by request...

Canadian Thanksgiving just happened and we had a glorious weekend to celebrate it.  The weather was warm, the sky was perfectly blue and the Fall leaves were down right spectacular.  Add all of these facts together and the result is, as always, a great reason to enjoy food.
I came across a Lidia Bastianich recipe for squash gnocchi, and seeing how the directions were long enough already I tweaked it and used (canned!) pumpkin instead.  The result was great, in fact we five had them for a main course one night and for an appetizer for 8 two nights later for the big dinner.  (The potato ricer is a must for this recipe.)  

1 12 to 14 ounce russet potato, peeled, cut into 8 pieces
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour, (or more)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2 tablespoons fresh sage, small leaves or chopped larger ones
1/2 sliced almonds

Boil potato in a saucepan until tender, maybe 15 mins.
Drain, while warm press through potato ricer in to a medium bowl and let cool completely.  Measure out 2 cups, loosely packed, riced potato.
Mix together pumpkin, potato, 1/2 cup Parmesan, egg, nutmeg and salt.  Gradually add in the flour until dough holds together and is almost smooth.  Turn out onto a floured surface and knead gently until smooth.  Divide dough into 8 equal parts.
Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper sprinkled with flour.  Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, roll it out onto a floured surface until it is 1/2" thick rope.  Cut the rope crosswise into 3/4" pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time, roll gnocchi along bak of fork tines dipped in flour, making ridges on one side.  Transfer gnocchi to baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining dough.  Cover loosely and chill for at least one hour.  In a large skillet, heat almonds until toasted, set aside.
Working in two batches, cook gnocchi in boiling salted water until very tender, 15 - 17 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer them back to the same parchment paper.  Cool (up to 8 hours) and until ready to use.
Melt butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring often, 3-4 minutes.  Add sage, cook for 1 minute. Add gnocchi, cook until heated through and coated with butter, 5 - 7 minutes.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.  Transfer to individual plates, sprinkle with toasted almonds and reserved Parmesan.  Serve and enjoy!

One last thing on the pumpkin topic, beer!  Yes, different kinds of beer brewed only in the fall and using our all-round favorite squash.  These four are available now at the LCBO:
Brooklyn Brewery Post Rd Pumpkin Ale, Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale, (the name makes me think of Charlie Brown's Great Pumpkin episode.....), St. Ambroise Citrouille, and Southern Tier Pumpking Ale.