Monday, September 29, 2008

Last Supper #1: Suzanne Goin

Project Last Supper kicked off on Saturday night and it was certainly memorable. We chose Suzanne Goin's menu. Her last meal request was fresh tomatoes with basil, Prosciutto, Coppa ham, Suckling pig and Italian Broccoli with shallots, chili and garlic. Instead of suckling pig, I made pork stuffed with breadcrumbs and parmesan wrapped in pancetta. The book features her Italian broccoli recipe. I made an antipasto plate with the prosciutto, Coppa, tomato and basil and I added some homemade mozzarella from the Florence Ravioli Company.

This was perhaps the most flavorful pork recipe I have ever had. The stuffing was easy to make and the sauce was just as simple. I left out the fennel seeds simply because I didn't have any on hand and I also forgot to cut the tomatoes in half which I think improved the sauce as only a few burst and released their juice into the sauce so it didn't have a very tomato taste. Instead it carried the flavor from the pork and pancetta as well as onion and white wine. Jeff counted it among the top 5 dinners I've ever made. I definitely recommend trying this. It'd be an elegant dinner for company and the rolls can be prepared ahead and refrigerated.

Here's the recipe how I made it, or find the original on Epicurious.
Pancetta wrapped Pork with Breadcrumb Filling and Tomato

Makes 4 servings.
10 ounces boneless pork loin, cut into 1/4-inch-thick cutlets
16 thin pancetta slices
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 1-pint basket cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine

Pound cutlets between sheets of waxed paper to 1/8-inch thickness. Overlap 2 pancetta slices on work surface to form oval of same size as pork. Place 1 pork cutlet atop pancetta. Repeat with remaining pancetta and pork. Mix Parmesan, breadcrumbs, parsley and garlic in small bowl. Mix in 2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper. Divide mixture among cutlets. Fold in short ends and roll up pork and pancetta, enclosing filling completely. Use toothpicks to secure rolls.

Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add rolls and cook until pancetta is crisp, turning frequently, about 2 minutes. Transfer rolls to plate. Remove toothpicks. Add onion to drippings in skillet; sauté until soft, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes; sauté 5 minutes. Add wine and simmer 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Return rolls to skillet. Cover skillet and cook over low heat until pork is just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Taste of Morocco

Last night I made a new recipe from Fresh Moroccan, a new book I found on sale at Barnes and Noble. The flavor was very good and the lamb was extremely tender, but I'd make a few changes next time around. Here's the recipe the way the book had it and then my notes at the end. Oh and I know this sounds time consuming, but most of the time is hands off while it simmers...

Tagine of Lamb & Artichokes with Rice

1 lb. boneless lamb (leg or shoulder), cut into bite sized pieces
4 1/2 cups water, divided
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1 medium onion, sliced
3 large garlic cloves, crushed
good pinch of saffron threads
3/4 tablespoon olive oil
1 can of artichoke hearts (in water), quartered and drained
1/4 tsp. black pepper
good pinch freshly ground ginger
1 oz. finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 cup basmati rice

Put the lamb and 2 1/2 cups water in a medium pan and bring slowly to a boil, skimming as foam forms. Add the salt, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, onion, garlic, saffron, and olive oil. Return to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 40 minutes.

After the 40 minutes is up, add the artichoke hearts, return to a boil. Again, reduce heat and simmer another 20 minutes, or until meat is tender. About 5 minutes before cooking time is up, add the ginger, cilantro, pepper and parsley.

While this is cooking, make the rice. The time you have to start will depend on the type of rice. I used brown basmati which takes 50 minutes, but white basmati takes less. Bring the remaining 2 cups water and about 3/4 tsp. salt to a boil. Stir in the rice and turmeric. Reduce heat to low and simmer according to package directions.

To serve, scoop some rice into a shallow bowl and then top with the lamb and artichokes.

Now for my notes: I found it a bit water and a little blah. The saffron tasted great as did the cinnamon, but the flavors would be better if the sauce were more concentrated. I cooked it with the top off for the last 20 minutes, but would cook with the top off even longer next time. I might also try to use some lamb broth or even beef or chicken to add more flavor. I also added about a tablespoon of lemon juice which gave it a little freshness, as well as more than a pinch of ginger. I'd add more next time or even throw a couple slices of lemon in to the pot as it cooked. If you have the time, you might consider browning the meat first. Then add the water - this will keep all the little bits of flavor in. Oh and more garlic goes without saying, but that's the case with most things I make!

All in all, a delicious and healthy dinner. Very low in fat and artichokes are packed with healthy stuff!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Introducing Project Last Supper

Most home cooks have a plethora of cookbooks. While some may be dog-eared and worn, sadly most go unused. I am horribly guilty of this. My cookbook collection now numbers more than 70 and I'm already eying up new additions. I've noticed other foodie blogs where cooks challenge themselves to cook a whole book or one recipe from each. I've come up with a plan to accomplish both (sort of).

Last Christmas, my boss gave me a cool gift: a copy of Melanie Dunea's My Last Supper. The coffee table-type book features 50 of the world's top chefs and what they want for their last meal on earth. In a moment I may come to regret over the next year, I have decided to cook at least 40 of the 50 between now and next September.

Why? Perhpas I'm a glutton for punishment - these are not easy meals for the most part. More likely I thought it'd be a fun way to make some new meals for me and my husband. I'll also get to know some of my favorite chefs better and even learn about some new ones.

There are some rules to this little game of mine: I've got to try to use recipes by that chef whenever possible. I've got to stay as true to their wishes as possible without breaking the bank (there is a LOT of caviar, truffles and foie gras in their menus). At least once during the project, I'll use foie gras, caviar and real truffles. And, most importantly, I'll post all of my experiences here.
The payoff - yes, there's a payoff - if I complete this by September 2009, my husband and I will go into NYC to the restaurant of one of the chefs! So this weekend, I'm going to start with Suzanna Goin's last supper. Check back early next week to see how it went.

Back into the swing of things

Back from vacation and finally over the jetlag! The weather's turning a bit cooler so I'll be trying out more indoor recipes this week...
  • Sunday
    Grilled chicken served with Zucchini, Basil and Chilli Risotto (from Neil Perry's Good Food)
  • Monday
    Angel hair pasta with shrimp and feta
  • Tuesday
    Moroccan lamb with artichoke hearts and aromatic rice
  • Wednesday
    We have a dinner date with friends!
  • Thursday
    Homemade tacos

The lamb dish is from a new cookbook I found on sale at Barnes and Noble. It's called Fresh Moroccan and has lots of good and healthy moroccan dishes. This is the first one I'm trying...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rockpool and Rockpool Revisited

For you foodies who follow famous chefs, I've got a new one that many of us from the US haven't heard of: Neil Perry. I think he's my new hero. While in Sydney, we had the pleasure of dining at the Oyster Bar at Rockpool. The restaurant is elegant with an amazing menu and at the Oyster Bar, you can get anything off the regular menu as well as a smaller, less expensive menu just for that area. We opted for the latter.

For dinner, we decided to share three dishes. We got the Moroccan Fish burger, a white fish patty with a deliciously spicy chutney on a toasted bun; the crispy fish with an amazing ginger chile sauce and white rice, and finally the Braised Tuna Spaghetti. We almost skipped the last one and are we glad we didn't! This is one of the best pasta dishes I've ever had! Perfectly cooked homemade spaghetti topped with a sizeable slice of tune smothered in a tomato-caper-black olive sauce. Similar to a Puttanesca but with something extra. (I've already tried contacting Chef Perry for the recipe.) And we paired it all with a delectable bottle of Aussie Red Wine!

So why is this post called Rockpool and Rockpool Revisited? Well, we liked it so much we went back for lunch the next day! Jeff again got the Spaghetti and liked just as much. I opted for the Green Curry Fish and it outdid any green curry I've ever had.

Not only was the food outstanding, but the service was memorable as well. The restaurant has an open kitchen and the Oyster Bar even has a screen that lets you view the back part of the kitchen as well. I purchased a signed copy of Perry's new book: Good Food. Our server saw how interested we were in the food and the chef and when we were leaving he gave me a copy of the restaurant menu as a souvenir.

If ever you find yourself in Sydney, go to Rockpool. Don't even question the decision. Hands down one of the best restaurants I've ever eaten in! Thanks Chef Perry! Please open a restaurant in NYC!
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