Sunday, January 30, 2011

Success and Failure

For me, the only thing better than eating really good food is making really good food. I have a whole handful of recipes that are my go-tos that I totally NAIL and feel proud of but naturally I like a challenge.

As do my fellow- female- family- food people (aunt Julie, Grandma, Mom and aunt Jill)...

One Christmas Jill and Mom attempted to make Timpano, a super crazy Italian casserole type dish seen in the movie Big Night that involves: hand made meatballs, hand made pasta, sauce, hard boiled egg, a pasta CRUST and so much more. They failed. Twice. and after days of eating it we begged them to stop. It was the 'crust' that took them down- they tried to use pie dough instead so even though we made them promise to never do it again, now that I'm a pasta pro I want to do it soooooooo badly. Next time Jill comes home for Xmas from silly Texas we're gonna do it!!

So, sometimes you fail. But when you totally nail that recipe that you shopped all day for AND it looks just like the picture...ahhhhh it's so worth the risk!

FAIL: Croquembouche

Christmas is like the Superbowl for my family. we train all year and test things out to get ready for the big game and end up trying some outrageous or just never been done recipe. (see: Timpano) This year it was Salty Caramel Croquembouche with Ricotta Cream.

I came home early from SF after my homecoming, bar-hoping, friend reunion extravaganza the night before so I'll admit, I was not on my A-game. My hangover was not to blame, however. It was the recipe.

I know, I know- it seems like a cop out to blame the recipe when traditionally these types of failures are entirely user-errors. NOT in this case. First of all, we're seasoned cooks! But most importantly, the problem was the Pate a Choux dough (Pate a Choux is what the cream puffs are). It was tooooooooooooo runny! The recipe calls for 10 EGGS!! Other recipes I read online were about half that. Because the dough was too soupy the puffs wouldn't keep shape and ended up running all over the pan so when they baked, they were flat and stupid.

I tried adding more and more sifted flour but to no avail. We had to throw away a bunch and the ones that remained were pale and sad.

The second problem we had was the salted caramel. We burned the first batch, the second batch got too cold too quickly and I think we had to make 2 more batches to have enough to 1. dip each puff and 2. swirl it around the lop-sided tower of sad, flat, filled puffs. PLUS it burned the shit out of your fingers trying to dip our puffs into the scalding hot sugar.

The end result was a lop-sided tower of pale, pathetic puffs and a caramel that was so hard on each puff that it hurt to eat them! You risked major mouth gashes from the super hard, sharp candy.

With that being said, the entire thing was GONE at the end of my parents annual Christmas party so it wasn't completely inedible. (It was a riot watching people from afar trying to eat them though!)

For the record, we were not the only ones who had this problem. Below is a letter to the editor that my mom found in her next issue of Fine Cooking:

I tried to make the Salty Carmel Croquembouche with Ricotta Cream on the cover of the December-January issue but the Pate a choux dough turned to soup - it was more like a batter than dough that could be piped. What did I do wrong?

Temperature is the key here. Pate a choux becomes soup if the flour mixture isn't cool enough before adding the eggs. If the bottom of the mixing bowl feels even the slightest bit warm to the touch, the dough needs to cool more.

Bullshit. It's a bad recipe.

WIN: Ragu alla Bolognese

I first made this recipe last year for my friends. Not only was it my first time making the ragu itself it was also my first time making pasta. AND I TOTALLY NAILED IT.

I hadn't made a 'family dinner' for me and the boys in awhile and I really wanted to try it again since it totally blew everyone away the first time. The recipe I use is from La Cucina Italiana and it's a totally traditional, classic Ragu alla Bolognese.

While it takes about 4 hours (about 1 hour of prep and 3 for cook time) it's a really easy recipe all in all. The man power is really in the fresh pasta butttttt it ain't no thang for me anymore since I'm such a pro...

battuto (carrots, celery and onion finely chopped together) + Italian sausage and pancetta. Ground pork, veal and beef- that picture is so obscene but kind of awesome.

Red wine, San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes, beef base and tomato paste...

PERFECT tagliatelle...

three hours later...


I topped it off with cracked black pepper and a mix of Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano (I like the salty, sheep-y quality of Pecorino with that classic, nutty, sweetness of parm)

So. Good. plus we had some crusty Italian bread and $7 Isigny Ste Mere, buerre demi sel butter (I go a little nuts with my luxury dairy products sometimes) and a cheap Tempranillo.

The bonus is that I have about 3 cups in the freezer for later! If you're really nice to me I'll re-create it for YOU!

Alright that's it. Until next time...


Wednesday, January 5, 2011



this is like that dream i have all the time where i have missed class for 3 weeks and there is a paper due in the next day. clearly i have some avoidance anxiety issues...

the thing is though, i didn't even eat anything good at all in the last 5 months! lieslieslieslies

the other thing is though, it turns out its really hard to work 40 hours a week, try to have a social life and blog. i just want to live my life!

ok! now that i have given my 3 excuses lets just dive on in, shall we? im back on it and i wanna do this!!

since i wouldn't dream of putting any of my zillions upon zillions of readers through 5 months of stories and food photos im going to sum it up in 2 quick chapters. ready?

To make a long story short...

Chapter 1.) FALLish/Visitors

back in late August Bobby came to visit and we finally went to Katz!

i know, i know its touristy, but so fun and literally across the street.

fer reals kids, the pastrami is serious business and amazzzzzing! Garret and i shared a Pastrami Rueben with Pastrami, Russian Dressing, Saurkraut and Swiss cheese on rye.

behold! perfection!

i tried to capture the shiny, smoky meatiness of it the best i could. but truth? the best part was all them PICKLES! (nikkid i'm talkin' to you girl...) so plentiful! so many varieties!

worth $15? psssshh gimme a break. pretty damn good but no sandwich, unless it's foie gras stuffed with truffles smeared with caviar and dipped in gold is worth $15, inmyhumbleopinion...

we had the charming and talented James Kaelan on our couch for about a month which was a long, long time but honestly quite lovely! he was on our couch so much, in fact that he did an interview ON our couch (and around our neighborhood)! so cool!

yay Kaelan!

my parents came in September and we did lots of things. we ate more lardo than any person should, we went to Zabars, of course and it was still warm enough to leave the house in just a light shirt so we just did a lot of walking and seeing and EATING! other things we did included wandering into some street festival in Little Italy.
so many (mediocre) cannolis!

lets see... oh!

thennnnn my friend Sarah came to visit and it was also when my Grandma was here too so we went to Lombardi's which is the FIRST pizza place in America (so they say) and is also supposed to be the best pizza in New York. another touristy place but it was pretty good and very fun (as it should be, but not the best pizza in New York) Grandma doesn't even like pizza and she was into it so that should say something.

and thennnnnn stephanie AND lily came to visit on the same weekend! and i dont have any pictures of us eating things but i dooo have this picture of us doing this weird thing!

ok so we're at October, not bad... oh! it was Halloween and my work had a HUGE awesome, amazing party of which i have many photos but none that would truly capture the evening. i was a gypsy, and it was weird.

Chapter 2) Hey, Thanks!

first Thanksgiving without my real family although at this point i feel like Nate and Garret are as much as my 'family' as the blood kind. so we all gathered to give Thanks at Rob and Andrew's house.

Garret and i got up early and watched the Thanksgiving Day parade while i cooked. this is what we had!

whipped sweet potatoes with chives... mac n cheese....

brioche stuffing with apples and sausage.... haricots verts with chorizo and shallots....

mashed potatoes (riced with my potato ricer!)... cider gravy....

sage roasted turkey... brioche!...

not too shabby eh?!

well folks thats what i have today. its not my best work but im slowly getting back into the groove. i leave you with this:

stay up, Ramen!