Saturday, January 12, 2019

PASTA PARTY!

We spent New Year's Eve this year with our good friends Steve and Debby Vis. Deb, a fantastic cook herself, had never made pasta or ice cream so we decided to add both to our New Year's Eve dinner. There are endless variations of pasta recipes using anywhere from 1 egg to 6 eggs; different amounts of flour; oil or not to add oil; salt or no salt. I really like this very basic, simple recipe, but next time I think I'd like to try adding some flavoring to the pasta. I'm thinking finely diced basil and red pepper flakes.
SIMPLE 4-EGG PASTA
Deb, excited to begin, mounds her pasta on the counter.
Ingredients:
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
4 eggs
1/2 cup (more or less) water-You most likely will not use it all, but keep it handy.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
 
Preparation:
Mound 3 cups of flour on a clean surface. Add 1 tsp. of salt to the flour evenly. Make a large well and drop eggs into the well. With your hands start to slowly incorporate the flour into the eggs.
Add 1 Tbsp. of water at a time to help bring dough together until it starts to form a ball. The dough should be stiffer than bread dough, but still pliable. Continue adding water 1 Tbsp. at a time until you have the desired consistency. If the dough is too loose, add more flour. If it is too stiff, add more water. This is not an exact science. Drizzle 2 Tbsp. of olive oil over the dough and mix that into the dough continuing to bring it all together.
Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. If you think you have kneaded enough, press your finger into the dough. If the indentation comes back quickly you have kneaded enough. Form the dough into a ball and let it rest on the counter for about 30 minutes.
After the dough has rested, cut into 4 sections. This allows it to fit into the pasta roller and makes it easier to roll.
Start rolling out the pasta on your widest setting. When you have rolled through once, fold pasta in half and roll again at that setting, then lower to the next setting. Once rolled, fold pasta in thirds the long way and roll twice at that setting. Continue in this fashion switching back and forth between folding in half and folding in thirds until you are at either the lowest setting or the pasta is very thin.

I use a Roma. Deb has a Marcato. My Mom used Weston Brand.
All excellent machines and cutters are interchangeable.

I love the simplicity of this machine.
And here it is with cutter attached.
Once you have reached the desired thickness cut the pasta either by hand with a knife or run through the pasta cutter at desired style: spaghetti, fettucine, tagliatelle or whatever you choose. We chose fettucine and because the cutting got a little hectic neglected to get any photos, but this process is very simple. Feed your thinly rolled pasta into the pasta cutter and crank it through catching on a large tray as it is cut. Sprinkle liberally with flour once it is cut. You cannot add too much flour as any excess will fall off in the boiling process. If you don't add enough flour the newly cut pasta sticks very quickly and you will have a tangled mess.
Drop pasta into boiling salted water. Fresh pasta cooks very quickly so check for doneness after 3-4 minutes. Drain and serve. We topped our pasta with a rich seafood bisque that I had made the previous day. The bisque was made by starting with a shrimp and lobster shell broth, cooked down for hours. I added cod, shrimp, scallops, lobster, mussels and clams, a little cream, white wine, seasoning. It was good, but what made this meal really good was the fresh pasta. Deb did a beautiful job. You would not have known it was her first time making it.

Before the main feast Steve made
one of my favorites: Steak Tartare!
And I made the same Shrimp Louis we had at Christmas.

It was a fabulous night filled with lots of
laughs, love, feasting and good cheer!

HAPPY 2019!

Next time I will share the Butter Pecan Ice Cream we made
along with some of my other favorite ice cream recipes.

6 inches of snow greeted us right after New Years!
Very unusual for the sunny, southwestern desert!











Sunday, January 6, 2019

HAPPY EPIPHANY!

Epiphany, also known as Three Kings Day, occurs every year on January 6. Epiphany means "manifestation" as it commemorates the first time Jesus' divinity manifested itself through the visit of the Three Kings. I thought in honor of the first day of Epiphany, which is the beginning of Epiphanytide, a period lasting until Lent, I would talk about our Christmas dinner. My dear mother-in-law, Helen, always considered Epiphany the last day of Christmas and that is when she would take down her tree. Christmastide ends and Epiphanytide begins!

For now...back to Christmas dinner!
Mediterranean Stuffed Leg of Lamb,
Butternut Squash with pecans,
Creamed Spinach and Hasselback Potatoes.

But first, our favorite appetizer...

We celebrated this year with our friend Leslie Jackson and her two pups, Gracie and Ruby.

Gracie on the left and Ruby on the right.
We started with an array of appetizers, but my favorite was a recipe from my friend, golf buddy, and neighbor Bonnie Ungerecht. Unfortunately it is not shown on the tray as the shrimp was just coming out of the oven. A perfect hors d'oeuvres for a party as you can make the sauce several days in advance, clean the shrimp in the morning so within 10 minutes your fancy hors d'oeuvres is served!

SHRIMP LOUIS
Ingredients:
2 lbs. peeled large or extra-large shrimp, peeled, deveined*
Good quality olive oil
Kosher salt/freshly ground pepper

For the sauce:
1 1/4 cups mayonnaise**
1/2 cup Heinz chili sauce
1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp. bottled horseradish, drained
2 tsp. Sriracha (I used 1/2 tsp. as my husband does not like hot spice.)
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup minced scallions; about 2 scallions
2 Tbsp. capers, drained

*Of course, use less shrimp if your party does not require 2 full lbs. and you will have Louis Sauce leftover, which is not a bad thing!

**Hellman's is my favorite, but west of the Rocky Mountains it is packaged and sold as Best Buy--exact same thing.

Preparation:
Make the sauce:
In a medium bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, chili sauce, lemon zest, lemon juice, horseradish, Sriracha, Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper. Stir in the scallions and capers. Cover and place in the fridge (up to a week) to meld flavors.
When ready to serve, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Dry the shrimp well with paper towels. Place them on a foil-lined sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil, add salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast for 10 minutes until firm and just cooked through.
To serve:
Put the amount of Louis Sauce appropriate for the number of shrimp you are serving in a serving bowl on top of a tray. Spread the hot shrimp and oil on the tray around the bowl of Louis and serve with crackers, crostini, or any small breads. It is also delicious on its own.
MEDITERRANEAN STUFFED LEG OF LAMB
This recipe is from several I found online and then adapted. I often do a stuffed leg of lamb at Easter, but this is the first time we've had it for Christmas.

Ingredients:
1 (5 lb.) boneless leg of lamb*
Salt/Pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped, plus a few sprigs for roasting
10 oz. bag fresh spinach
6 oz. (or more) soft goat cheese
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
2 tsp. pine nuts
4 Tbsp. Olive oil

1 cup flour
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. fennel seeds, slightly crushed in mortar/pestle
2 Tbsp. sesame oil plus 2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 bottle good red wine for deglazing

Preparation:
Remove plastic netting or twine form around the leg of lamb, if any, and open up the roast on a cutting board. Remove the bone if necessary. Place the boned side of the roast up. With a very sharp paring knife, cut away any excess fat, sinew or silver skin. This takes time, but is well worth it as your lamb will be much more tender as a result. Using a sharp knife cut 1/2 inch deep slits where necessary to help the roast lie flat. Cover the meat with plastic wrap and pound with a mallet (I use my Mom's very heavy marble rolling pin!) until lamb is uniformally about 3/4 inch thick. This can also be done ahead of time. Wrap the lamb in plastic and put in the fridge until ready to continue, or even do the night before.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Liberally salt/pepper the lamb on all sides. Spread the garlic and rosemary evenly over the lamb. Spread the spinach leaves to within 1/2 inch of the edges. Break up the soft goat cheese and drop evenly over the spinach. Then add the crumbled goat cheese. Finally top with the pine nuts.
Roll the roast into a tight cylinder starting from the wide end. The stuffing will keep popping out, but just push it back in and keep rolling. Tie with kitchen twine at 2 inch intervals. Carefully rub 4 Tbsp. olive oil over the tied roast.
In a flat dish mix together the flour, 1 Tbsp. salt, 1 Tbsp. pepper, thyme, and fennel seeds and press the tied roast firmly into the flour mixture to coat all sides.
Heat 2 Tbsp. sesame and 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a heavy oven-proof pan over medium-high heat until oil is shimmering. Sear all sides of the roast, including the ends, to a golden brown. Add 1/2 bottle of red wine over top of roast. Top with 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary. Place in oven and roast to your desired doneness. Baste every 15 minutes with pan drippings. 145 degrees is rare; about 1 hour. Remove from oven. Tent with foil and let rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

*I could not get a boneless leg so got a semi-boned leg and boned it myself. This was a large lamb; my guess bordering on a year old.

I'm going to conclude with my favorite recipe for Key Lime Pie. I've had this recipe so long that I don't know where it came from, but it is a classic Key Lime Pie recipe.

CLASSIC KEY LIME PIE
For the Graham crack crust:
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups Graham cracker crumbs, 12 full sheets of Graham crackers
1/3 cup sugar
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

Crush the crumbs in a food processor or place them in a strong plastic bag and smash them until they are fine crumbs. Combine Graham cracker crumbs and sugar in a mixing bowl and mix until well combined. Add the melted butter and stir until fully combined and all of the crumbs are moist. Scoop the mixture into a 9 1/2 - 10 inch pie plate. (I should've used a 10 inch plate as I had extra filling, but simply put it in a custard cup and baked alongside the pie.) Firmly press it down into an even layer on bottom and up around the sides of the dish. Use your fingers to do this. You do not want the bottom crust to be too thick or it will be difficult to cut through once cooked. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool while you make the filling.

To make the Key Lime filling:
Ingredients:
1 cup key lime juice (I use Nellie and Joe's Famous Key West Key Lime Juice.)
2 14 oz. cans sweetened condensed milk
5 large egg yolks

Combine the key lime juice, sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks in a large mixing bowl and whisk until fully combined. Pour the filling into the Graham cracker crust and spread it around into one even layer. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-22 minutes or until the top of the pie is set, the pie will still be jiggly.
Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool for 2 hours. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 6 hours or overnight. Once chilled, top with whipped cream and lime zest.

I guess this means Christmastide is over and we're on to a new year. I hate to see this season end, but greatly look forward to more adventures in the kitchen in 2019!
 
Until next time...