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Rice Entrees

Wild Ramp Risotto with Spring Asparagus

May 13, 2022

Last year, we planted our first crop of asparagus and were delighted to see the spears shoot up from the earth at the same time the woods filled with ramps—those mild and garlicky wild onions that gave Chicago its name. I just had to pair the asparagus and ramps together in a recipe. Having done a book, Risotto & Beyond (Rizzoli), featuring 100 Italian rice recipes that I tested and wrote about for Chef John Coletta, risotto seemed the perfect transport. Note: For a little added earthiness, you can add a handful of sauteed mushrooms to the mix when you stir in the ramps and asparagus.

Irish

Ballymaloe Irish Lamb Stew

March 10, 2022

Cherished recipes are like ripples, each one an echo of the wave-maker that first broke the surface. This Ballymaloe House lamb stew is the 1940s original that started ripples of stews to follow. A version of it was later published in Gourmet magazine (1960s) and then again in Ruth Reichl’s 2004-published volume featuring six-decades of Gourmet recipe bests. Rather than look to the later versions, when a woman wrote me in search of the recipe, I reached out to Darina Allen, head of the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland, and a member of the family running Ballymaloe House Hotel and Restaurant.

According to Darina, the simple, hearty recipe was given to her mother-in-law Myrtle Allen by neighbor Madge Dolan in the 1940s. It became a staple at both Ballymaloe House and at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. While lamb stew is extremely common in Ireland with regional variations from county to county, (no carrots in Northern Ireland; barley added for extra sustenance in other places,) this version differed from others of the period because the meat and vegetables are browned in hot fat before stewing, making the finished dish more flavorful. It’s a very simple and straightforward recipe—the love you add comes with peeling all those tiny potatoes and pearl onions (!) The stew is delicious served up right after you make it and is also good warmed up the next day.

 

Cake Walk

Carrot Layer Cake with Cheesecake Topper

March 10, 2022

I’m a carrot top who loves carrot cake! I’ve made many over the years, never quite as unusual as this one which has a cheesecake top baked right with the batter. I got the idea from the NYTimes, although they did theirs as a sheet cake. My version uses a favorite batter recipe–not too sweet, with pineapple and carrot in the mix, and has toasted pecans on the sides of the cake. Continue Reading…

Soup Kitchen

Egg Lemon Soup with Spinach and Meatballs

March 8, 2022

With my husband’s maternal grandparents Greek and Armenian, one or another deliciously lemony chicken soup was often on the table.  In our own home, we’ve kept that going with this fortified version of avgolemono (Greek chicken, egg and lemon soup) that has tiny meatballs and baby spinach stirred in, Italian Wedding Soup style. Continue Reading…

Fat Tuesday

Spudnut Donut Holes

March 1, 2022

Just in time for Fat Tuesday, Say, “hello,” to our spudnuts!  These little potato-donut morsels are descendants of the German fastnacht fritter, traditionally enjoyed today.  Putting mashed potatoes in doughnut batter may sound weird, but potatoes add moisture to the dough, yielding a soft and tender donut that doesn’t taste potato-ey at all. Continue Reading…

Italian

Classic Bolognese Ragu

February 22, 2022

Known in Italy as “ragù alla Bolognese” this rich meat sauce actually has very little tomato in the sauce–a surprise to many American home cooks. The deeply satisfying flavors come from long, slow cooking of the vegetables and meats. First referenced in a cookbook by Pellegrino Artusi in 1891, the original recipe called for lean veal, pancetta, onion and carrot cooked in butter, plus mushrooms, broth and a ½ glass of cream which was added at the end. Evolved over the decades to include a few other ingredients—most notably tomato paste, the sauce has become a favorite world-wide.

We hewed pretty closely to the original with our Bolognese. To make it, you’ll begin with soffritto (from the Italian soffrigere, “to sauté”) a trio of very finely chopped carrot, onion and celery. Once the vegetables are cooked tender, you’ll add ground beef, finely minced (or ground) veal and pancetta, plus stock, red wine, soaked-mushroom liquid and tomato paste and let the whole mixture simmer over very low heat for a good two hours. Once the sauce has reduced down, you’ll scald the milk and stir in with the cream and simmer again for another hour.

Although traditionally served over tagliatelle, we like Bolognese spooned over our fresh-made gnocchi, with finely grated Parmesan cheese over all.

 

Italian

Homemade Gnocchi

February 22, 2022

If you’ve considered, but not yet tried making fresh pasta at home, pillowy little gnocchi are a great place to start! These tender little nubbins are easy to make and taste good simply buttered and tossed with a bit of grated parmesan, or, paired with your favorite spaghetti sauce. Try them with our classic bolognese ragu! Continue Reading…

Melton Mowbray Style

British Pork Pie

February 18, 2022

Americans love their apple pie, but in Britain, pork pies rule the pastry roost. Brits spend more than £165 million on pork pies every year, according to statistics from the Kantar Worldpanel–more than they shell out for any other pie variety there. And among pork pies, the Melton Mowbray variety is king.

Melton Mowbray, a town in rural Leicestershire, England calls itself Britain’s “Rural Capital of Food” for the pork pies, and, Stilton cheese, both having been granted protected designation of origin (PDO) status by the European Commission. That distinction means anyone outside the 10-mile radius surrounding the town, and anyone using cured meat in the recipe, can’t officially call their pork pie a Melton Mowbray.

With that in mind, our Melton Mowbray-style pie uses hand-minced, uncured pork like the original, mixed with salt, pepper, sage, and a squirt of anchovy paste. Tucked into a traditional hot water crust with rich stock poured in through the vent hole to seal the meat, it’s a filling, portable feast. That portability made the pie a favorite bring-along on foxhunts as far back as the late 1700s. But the flavor of the pie took it nationwide. Continue Reading…

Vegetarian

Sherried Mushroom + Walnut Loaf

January 14, 2022

I once lived in a big, pale-green commune of sorts, where vegetarian was how you cooked, if you cooked at all. (Raw food was the other way most people ate.) The best meals were communal, and one recipe I loved for its fabulous flavor was this sherried mushroom-walnut loaf—delicious hot with gravy and veg, and just as good cold, sliced like an elegant pate. Several moves later, I missed the recipe enough to recreate it for my family. During these close-quarter months, this is a great healthy option for you to make: A mix of sherry-steeped baby bella (crimini) mushrooms, onions, brown rice and walnuts baked into a loaf with sage and parsley, this is a moist and meaty meal. Top it with mushroom gravy made with more criminis, onion, sherry and stock, and serve it with some mashed potatoes and garlic spinach on the side. Continue Reading…

Less Faltty Version

40 Cloves of Garlic Chicken

January 5, 2022

When James Beard first whipped this up for Julia Child, he included matchstick-sliced carrot + celery plus slivered onion in the dish as we’ve done here—so very tasty. But for a less fatty version, we took out half of the olive oil and all of the chicken skin. You won’t miss it! We’ve also browned the chicken to add color before the long oven roast. The result is wonderfully rich and deeply flavorful.  Serve the finished dish straight out of the Dutch oven, or, spoon all onto a platter. To save guests the trouble of plucking out the roast garlic cloves to squeeze and spread on crusty bread, we pull out about half of the cloves after baking, remove the skins and put the soft little dollops in a little crock to serve alongside the bread and chicken. Continue Reading…