The L Word: Lobster-Andouille Stuffies

Lobster Stuffy-62-16194

A “stuffy,” just in case you don’t know, is the Rhode Island term of art for a baked stuffed clam, although I can vouch for its use as far north as southern Massachusetts.  Typically, buttered and seasoned breadcrumbs do-si-do with chopped clam, usually but not always) atop a quahog on the half-shell and baked.  It’s a filling, poor man’s seafood treat, which is not to denigrate it, just to note that it may not be the place to go if you’re looking to sate your bivalve love.  Jody’s stuffy climbs up a notch on the menu, subbing lobster for clams, and adding andouille sausage and green pepper for a Cajun twist.  Lobster-Andouille Stuffy – the stuffy for our times.

Braised Leeks with Meyer Lemon, Pancetta and Parmigiano Reggiano

Braised Leeks with Meyer Lemon, Pancetta and Parmigiano Reggiano -1

I met my first leek in high school.  I was a senior and the leek was in Julia Child’s Vichyssoise.  I wanted to be an instant convert, but it just wasn’t happening for me.  Potatoes, these funny sci-fi onions, cream, the cold temperature–it was just too far off the map.  Three years later I gave leeks another try.  This time I was a student in Switzerland and the leeks were baked in a gratin with cream and Gruyère.  Whammo!  Direct hit.  The Swiss also love potato-leek soup, hot and cold, so I got plenty of opportunity to endear myself to this long allium.   As a young householder I braised them with chicken stock and cream, while Jody has always been a bit more restrained, using evoo.  As I get older I’ve found myself increasingly drawn to Jody’s side of the fence, ergo this week’s post, Braised Leeks with Meyer Lemon, Pancetta and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Panelle

Panelle TGF-1

Last month I attended a special dinner at Rialto featuring dishes from Fabrizia Lanza’s wonderful 2012 COMING HOME TO SICILY.   Everything was cooked by the Rialto Team, under Fabrizia’s direction, whom Jody had met years ago on a biking adventure in Italy.  You may know Fabrizia as the daughter of Anna Tasca Lanza, founder of the famed Sicilian cooking school Case Vecchie.  Art historian turned passionate cook and cultural advocate for her native land, Fabrizia now leads Case Vecchie, writes about Sicilian food and is building a video archive of Sicilians engaged in culinary traditions increasingly imperiled as the outside world seeps into island life.  

As usual, I got held up, arrived late for the dinner, and slid into my chair with a longing glance toward everyone else’s empty appetizer plates.  At that moment Fabrizia, a slender patrician woman who looked as though she might have as easily discussed the subtleties of Botticelli’s brush technique as she did the culinary pleasures of wild fennel, was  giving the room a brief introduction to Sicilian cuisine and I didn’t want to cause a stir by asking anyone to explain what I’d missed.  The menu card next to my plate simply identified the course as Panelle.  A waiter took pity on me and few moments later set a saucer with two triangles of something in front of me.  Without my glasses I might have mistaken them for shortbread.  I took a bite.  A rich toasty flavor at once comforting and tantalizing elusive filled my mouth.  The triangles had thin crispy edges and a bit of creaminess in their thickest part, the center. “What are these?” I asked Jody, who said hi on her way back into the kitchen with Fabrizia.  “Chickpea flour,” she said.  “And water and salt.”  “That’s it?”  “That’s it,” she said, “Amazing, aren’t they?”  And that is how I had my first taste of the subject of this week’s post, Panelle.

You say Tagliatelle, I say Fettucine…

Tagliatelle - How to -276-15077

Stand aside, from-scratch croissants.  Out out, damn osso bucco!  For all of the satisfactions of spatula-and-tongs-ing your way up culinary K2’s  nothing produces quite the same glow as transforming 3 eggs, 2 cups of flour and bit of semolina into a pound of Fresh Tagliatelle.   Making your own pasta is akin to making your own pie crust, one of those notches on the wooden spoon that certifies you as a cook.  Contrary to reputation, it is neither difficult nor arduous, and only mildly time-consuming (30 – 40 minutes, start to finish).  We’ve wanted to do this post for awhile, if only to give everyone who makes one of our pasta dishes a place to go for instructions on making their own.  After you taste your first batch of homemade, you’ll marvel at your abilities, those you feed will sing your hosannas (or you’ll kill them) and while you may not entirely give up buying commercial noodles, you’ll know that your own taste better.

Back to meat – Rialto Bolognese

Rialto Bolognese-181-14664

The good news is you get a great pasta sauce this week.  The bad news is you get the pasta part of the post next week.  We thought asking you to make both the sauce and the fresh pasta would be asking too much, so this week we’re doing Rialto Bolognese, enough sauce for three meals.  Next week we’ll be posting Fresh Tagliatelle.  You can wait until then to bring them together, or simply use a pound of your favorite fresh wide noodle pasta and jump the gun.  In fact, the great thing about a sauce like this is having it on hand, ready to go, for a meal when all you have to do make the pasta.

Tomato and Farro Soup

 

Tomato-Farro Soup-282-14242

 

Back in 2001, when we were working on our cookbook, farro was still rare.  If you went to the right restaurants, if you frequented the vortices of culinary hipness.  Italian delis, in New York or San Francisco maybe.  Specialty food stores, the occasional sighting.  How the world has turned in a dozen years!  Now you can often buy farro in grocery stores, which is a good thing if you want to make this week’s Tomato – Farro Soup.

Sweet Potato and Gruyère Pie with Pecans

Sweet Potato and Gruyère Pie with Pecans-13163

Who doesn’t love sweet potatoes?  Culinary gravity inexorably pulls them toward brown sugar or molasses or something candied, even with bacon (candied bacon).  But don’t do it, at least not this time.  I never encountered a sweet potato during my year abroad in the Swiss canton of Fribourg, a stone’s throw from the town of Gruyères (town, plural: cheese, singular), but I can guarantee that that if there were ever a culinary match made in heaven it’s sweet potato and that most hazelnut and butter flavored of all cheeses, aged Gruyère.  Some cheeses should never be melted (sorry, brie en croute is ghastly) but Gruyère is just the opposite.  Quiche, the poster child of boring French food from the ’70’s, is redeemed by the addition of aged Gruyère.  Fondue without Gruyère is but a pale revenant of the real deal.  Gruyère is expensive (around $20/lb.) but the recipe only calls for a cup and half of the stuff, grated, about 3 ounces.  Unfortunately, I only found out about the Gruyère after the ingredients photograph had been taken.  Jody announced that she’d added Gruyère–I couldn’t even photograph it being stirred into the bowl.  I growled and stomped around.  I should have waited until I tasted the finished pie.  Gruyère and sweet potatoes rule.

Something Wicked This Way Comes – Fried Stuffed Olives

Fried Olives-1

 

Two kinds of cooks entertain at home: those who want guests in their kitchen, and those who don’t.  Fried Stuffed Olives are definitely for the former.  Filled with pork, salami, mortadella and cheese, these little bits of indulgence are best while still warm.  Out of the pan and into the mouth, with only a minute or two in between.  That means people nearby, glass of wine in hand, paper towel at the ready.  Cook, drain, eat.  Fun all round.

Eggs Baked in Avocado

Eggs Baked in Avocado-1

Eggs Baked in Avocado is as easy and foolproof a brunch as you’re likely to find, unless your local patissière delivers bags of warm fresh-baked croissants.  If you happen to come into some warm croissants or decent bread to serve with the eggs and avocados, all the better.  Baked avocadoes are delicious, but it’s hardly surprising most people have never eaten one, not when a ripe avocado is so good with just a squeeze of lime and a bit of salt.  A baked avocado has a rich, deep flavor that loves complimentary fat, like an egg yolk or cream, or the acidic contrast of a salad.  As we were pulling the elements of this post together I suggested topping the eggs with a spoonful of crème fraîche and calling it a day.  Not Jody.  The rule in our house is, once you open an avocado, you eat it–or you make sure someone else does–that same day, so just setting aside the cup of avocado flesh leftover from making a bit of room for the eggs was completely unacceptable.  You’re the lucky beneficiaries – you get eggs baked in avocados, served with a spicy avocado salad and crème fraîche.

Stuffed Cabbage with Farro, Mushrooms and Chicken Livers

Stuffed Cabbage with Farro, Mushrooms and Chicken Livers-2-10930

For once I’m going to disagree with my wife (really, this is a first).  Stuffed Cabbage with Farro, Mushrooms and Chicken Livers may not be quick, but it is easy.  One foot in front of the other, that’s it, then before you know it, you’re done.  Hey, if you were part of the road-happy hoards who made the Bicycle Spring Rolls this past summer then stuffing your own cabbage leaves will be a snap.  Crowds will acclaim you umami king–or queen,your choice–because of the amazing thing that happens when tomato and liver and dried mushrooms meet, especially in a beautiful package.  There’s an olfactory tug of war in your brain as it tries to discern whether what you’re tasting is sweet or savory.  It doesn’t matter.  Trust me on this, it tastes good.