Archive for the ‘Meat’Category

Italy #6 – Grilled Montasio, prosciutto, and fig

Grilled legends 2 All good things must come to an end, and so too our cache of world-class cheese and ham from the Legends from Europe consortium. We had one 4-ounce piece of Montasio cheese remaining, along with four slices of prosciutto di Parma. And it was time for lunch.

Grilled legends 4 We found a jar of fig jam and some slices of whole wheat sandwich bread in the pantry. Drawing on inspiration closer to home (the fig, prosciutto, and Gorgonzola pizza from Todd English’s original Olives, now Figs), we had the makings of a terrific grilled sandwich. If it were Italy and we had a panini press, it would have been a prosciutto and cheese panino and we might have skipped the fig jam.

Whatever you want to call it, it’s easy and delicious.

04

01 2013

Remembering Italy #2 with pear and prosciutto salad

The Legends from Europe folks passed along a packet of prosciutto di Parma, the most familiar of the Italian raw hams seen in the U.S. and the one most imitated by American and South American producers. To qualify for the PDO label as prosciutto di Parma, the ham must come from pigs fed a special diet and raised in a defined north-central region of Italy. Additionally, the ham must be cured in the countryside near Parma in Emilia-Romagna. Much of the intense flavor comes from applying just enough salt to keep the ham “sweet” and then aging it at least 400 days. (The photo above shows whole hams hanging in a chilled aging room in Italy.)

Parma prosciutto is the most intense of the Italian raw hams and stands up well to other strong flavors. It is often paired with melon and even combined with Gorgonzola cheese on pizzas. But melon is out of season, so I decided to try the prosciutto di Parma with some gorgeous but firm Anjou pears. I peeled the pears, cut them in eighths, wrapped prosciutto around each wedge, and roasted them for four minutes under a broiler.

Once they cooled, I arranged them on some local red-leaf lettuce tossed with a light vinaigrette and sprinkled on some toasted walnuts and a few crumbles of mountain Gorgonzola. The saltiness of the ham was a perfect foil to the Gorgonzola, and the slight crunch of the lettuce highlighted the crisp edges of the warm prosciutto. In fact, lightly roasting the prosciutto retains the flavor of the raw ham but adds a bacon overtone.

It made a great lunch.

06

12 2012

Six things to bring home from New Hampshire

In our last post, we mentioned six items we like to bring home from trips to Vermont. Since Food Lovers’ Guide to Vermont & New Hampshire has about the same number of entries from each state, it seems only fair to mention some of our favorite foods to bring back from the Granite State.

Flag Hill Winery & Distillery (297 North River Rd., Lee, N.H.; 603-659-2949; flaghill.com) doesn’t need our imprimatur to sell their immensely popular, often sweet wines made from berries and apples as well as first-generation French-American hybrid grapes. Our preference goes to products from the artisanal distillery. The barrel-aged apple brandy is a classic American applejack, and the neutral spirit, a vodka triple-distilled from apples, is smooth and sultry. It’s named for Revolutionary War hero General John Stark. Deeply chilled, it is excellent to sip neat.

Doug Erb’s family has operated Springvale Farm since the mid-20th century, but the dairy herd really rose to greatness in 2009 when Erb launched Landaff Creamery (546 Mill Brook Rd., Landaff, N.H.; 603-838-5560; landaffcreamery.com). We’re fond of his original Caerphilly style cheese, but the French-style, washed-rind tomme is even more evocative for its taste of terroir. Many stores sell the original Landaff, but we’ve only found the tomme at the farm.

The Littleton Grist Mill (18 Mill St., Littleton, N.H.; 603-259-3205; littletongristmillonline.com) started grinding flour and meal in 1798 and continued into the 1930s. Restored in the 1990s, it produces a prodigious variety of stone-ground flours from organic grains. We’re partial to the buckwheat flour to use in making pancakes and crepes.

We like bacon with our pancakes, and some of the most subtle New Hampshire bacon comes from the chambers of Fox Country Smoke House (164 Brier Bush Rd., Canterbury, N.H.; 603- 339-4409; foxcountrysmokehouse.com). Located on a backwoods road, the facility looks like something from the opening minutes of the Loretta Lynn biopic Coal Miner’s Daughter. Many stores sell Fox Country bacon in sliced form, but we like to pick out our own packages of unsliced bacon, opting for smoky pieces with good streaking for the breakfast table, more lightly smoked extra-lean chunks for dicing into seasoning for risottos.

Even with the great salumerias of Boston’s North End, we finding ourselves stopping in Manchester, N.H., so we can shop at Angela’s Pasta and Cheese Shop (815 Chestnut St., Manchester, N.H.; 603-625-9544; angelaspastaandcheese.com). The homemade sauces are Italian-American heaven, but what suckers us in every time are the handmade gnocchi that we buy from the freezer case. These are the best frozen gnocchi we have ever found.

If we’re anywhere in the upper Connecticut River Valley, we make sure we visit the Robie Farm & Store (25 Rte. 10, Piermont, N.H.; 603-272-4872; www.robiefarm.com). The honor-system store has organic beef and sausages from the family’s own cattle and pigs. They also sell raw milk, cream, and a couple of farmhouse cheeses. The Italian-style alpine Toma (also available smoked) has a rich creaminess that conjures up the valley’s green pastures when you bite into a piece and close your eyes.

29

06 2012

Montreal bargain lunches

Of all the guidebook series we work on, the research for the Food Lovers’ series may be the most fun. Our most recent published volume was on Montreal, but we didn’t spend all our time eating foie gras or dining at innovative contemporary restaurants.

We’re always on the lookout for good values, and we found 10 great lunches for about $10 where we could tap into various strains of Montreal culture. We recently published that roundup in the Boston Globe. You’ll find the results as a pair of PDFs on our Sample Articles page.

We are just about finished writing our next volume, Food Lovers’ Guide to Vermont & New Hampshire, and have a refrigerator full of artisanal cheese, cured pork products, and storage vegetables that we brought back to Cambridge from our research forays. Inspired by the great grilled cheese sandwich we had at Maison Cheddar in Montreal’s Outremont neighborhood (it’s in the Boston Globe article), we took some of that provender to improvise a New England locavore grilled cheese lunch.

The sharp cheddar cheese came from Vermont, a fig-walnut jam spread came from Stonewall Kitchen in Maine, and a few slices of Fox Smoke House bacon hailed from the woods of New Hampshire. We put those ingredients between a couple of slices of Nashoba Brook Bakery’s ”Harvest” bread, a sourdough studded with nuts, fruits, and candied ginger. (Nashoba Brook is in West Concord, Massachusetts.) As a counterpoint, we grated some Vermont carrots, added some golden raisins, and tossed them with a little cider vinegar, salt, a pinch of sugar, and a few drops of milk to make a Montreal-style carrot salad. Not bad. It succeeded in bring a taste of travel back home.

11

12 2011

And then there was amatriciana

While Tsatsu Nicholas Awuku was teaching us to make bucatini cacio e pepe (see below), Alessandro Sillani, the chef of Ristorante-Caffe di Rienzo (Piazza del Pantheon 8/9, 06-686-9097, www.ristorantedirienzo.it), demonstrated the equally popular and almost as simple sauce for bucatini all’amatriciana. Tradition holds that this sugo (sauce) originated in Amatrice, a town in the mountains of Lazio on the border with Abruzzo. Many families from the region settled in Rome, adding this dish to the capital’s own cuisine.

Sillani heated olive oil in a large frying pan, sautéed sliced onion until it was soft, and then added a thick pinch of hot pepper flakes and a handful of diced guanciale — cured pork cheek that is similar to pancetta but typically leaner. He kept cooking until the onion was golden and the guanciale well cooked. At this stage, Sillani tossed a serving of bucatini into the fryer converted to pressure cooker, then returned to making the sauce.

The rest of the sauce went swiftly: He ladled in pureed tomatoes and kept stirring the sauce over high heat until the bucatini was cooked (about 9 minutes), then added the drained pasta to the sauce.

It could not have been simpler or more delicious — and it’s just as easy to make at home.

BUCATINI ALL’AMATRICIANA


We have adjusted this recipe to serve four as a pasta course or two as a main course.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
3 oz. guanciale (or pancetta), cut in 1/4” dice
1 lb. bucatini
3 cups pureed (”ground”) tomatoes
freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Saute onion in olive oil in large frying pan. When onion is soft, add pepper flakes and guanciale and saute over high heat until onions are golden and guanciale begins to brown.

Add pasta to boiling water.

Add tomatoes to frying pan and continue heating over high flame.

When pasta is cooked firm (about 9 minutes), drain and add to sauce in frying pan. Toss to coat.

Twist mixture tightly with a large fork and transfer to serving plates. Serve with Pecorino Romano cheese.

11

05 2011

Why we are not foodies after all

Ever since the Atlantic Monthly published contributing editor B.R. Myers’ screed ”The Moral Crusade Against Foodies” in the March issue, insults and calumnies have been flying back and forth on the Web like mashed potatoes in a cafeteria food fight.

The gist of Myers’ argument is that to be a foodie is to be a glutton. When he insists that foodies have ”a littleness of soul,” he reminds us of the New Yorker who went deer hunting in Maine, shot a farmer’s cow, and pronounced that he preferred beef anyway. Myers picked some easy targets (Anthony Bourdain’s ”oafishness,” Michael Pollan’s ”sanctimony”) and knocked them over—but so what? Even Bourdain, Pollan, et al. should be pleased. Myers’ excoriation might even sell a few more books.

We actually feel a twinge of sorrow for Myers, a professor of international studies at Donseo University in Busan, South Korea, who has not a word of pleasure or joy to say about eating. Yet we would like to take his ”foodie” target off our backs, lest we too wind up like the farmer’s cow. (We like this metaphor precisely because Myers is a hardcore vegan who finds meat an abomination.)

A few years ago we collaborated on the book version of The Meaning of Food, the amazing PBS television series produced by Sue McLaughlin. We were attracted to the project because we shared her vision of what food means in human culture and relations. In the preface she wrote, ”Like all animals, we eat to survive. But as humans, we transform simple feeding into the ritual art of dining, creating customs and rites that turn out to be as crucial to our well-being as are proteins and carbohydrates.”

Food is culture, and that’s why we like to eat local as we travel. When we try to recreate some of those flavors at home, we’re honoring the people we met and the cultures we visited. It’s all about the experience. Being fluent in food matters doesn’t make us gluttons any more than being fluent in Korean makes Myers Korean, even if he does teach there. So if Myers gets to define ”foodie,” then we’ll happily go without the label.

And we guess we won’t ask him where to go for bulgoki in Busan.

03

03 2011

Poutine, pâté chinois, and Quebecois comfort food

In the three decades that we have been visiting Montreal, the dining scene has never been in so much flux—and we mean that in a good way. One development is a resurgent pride in old-fashioned Quebecois cooking. Dishes that many Montreal foodies had considered guilty pleasures are now celebrated in fine restaurants.

Back in 2007, Montreal’s leading French-language newspaper Le Devoir even surveyed 500 people to determine the ”national plate of Quebec.” (In Quebec, one always describes a province-wide phenomenon as ”national.”) We were surprised to learn that it was not poutine (French fries, cheese curds, and brown gravy), but rather pâté chinois, sometimes inelegantly translated on English menus as ”Quebec shepherd’s pie.” Keep watching this spot because we will publish an updated recipe for this small casserole of layered ground meat, corn, and mashed potatoes in our next post.

We were most recently in Montreal working on a new book. A labor of love, it will be called Food Lovers’ Guide to Montreal and should be available in June from the Globe Pequot Press. As part of our research, we had to seek out the best places to eat some of these classic dishes. For our money, the best place to order pâté chinois is La Binerie Mont-Royal (367 avenue Mont-Royal est, 514-285-9078, www.labineriemontroyal.com), an iconic luncheonette with 11 stools at a long maple counter and a couple of tiny booths. The place has changed hands a few times since it opened in 1938, but the menu is unreconstructed Quebecois. We advise making a veritable voyageur meal of it by starting with a bowl of thick yellow split-pea soup and concluding with a dish of pouding chômeur, a white cake baked with a syrup of maple and cream. (More to come on that as well.)

Don’t look here for a poutine recipe, as that’s one salty, fat-laden guilty pleasure that we do not make at home, eating it only when we’re in Quebec province where fresh cheddar cheese curds are plentiful. The classic poutine and most of its usual variants are the house specialties of La Banquise (994 rue Rachel est, 514-525-2415, www.restolabanquise.com), a place that opened in 1968 as a hot dog and fries bar but went into poutine in a big way in the 1980s. It now offers more than two dozen versions, including the classic, the Ty-Rex (ground beef, pepperoni, bacon, smoked sausage), the Matty (bacon, green pepper, mushrooms, onions), and the Taquise (guacamole, sour cream, tomatoes). Poutine is both a cure for a hangover, and a prevention if eaten at the end of a night of imbibing. La Banquise is conveniently open 24/7.

The fanciest poutine in town is chef Martin Picard’s poutine with foie gras at Au Pied de Cochon (536 rue Duluth est, 514-281-1114, www.restaurantaupieddecochon.ca). He doesn’t even consider it his signature dish (that would be a pig’s foot stuffed with foie gras), but it’s been a sensation since he introduced it when the restaurant opened in 2001.

Our top choice lies somewhere between the working-class plates of La Banquise and the luxury treatment of Au Pied de Cochon. And it’s available at the tiny lunch counter of the food shop Le Canard libéré, espace gourmand (4396 boulevard Saint-Laurent, 514-286-1286, www.bromelakeducks.com). This is the Plateau’s outlet for the duck meat, duck fat, duck livers, and more from Canards du Lac Brome in the Eastern Townships. In the shop’s snug kitchen, chef Patrice Gosselin makes our favorite poutine, frying the potatoes in duck fat (addictive, we assure you) and topping the dish with duck confit. It really doesn’t get any more Quebecois than that.

22

01 2011

Super Bowl arroz con pollo

We were surprised to read recently that Super Bowl Sunday is the second biggest eating holiday in the U.S., close on the heels of Thanksgiving. Since our own team, the New England Patriots, is not part of the action this year, it’s a diminished holiday for us. But we thought we could console ourselves with a good meal, and realized that the one dish we’ve probably eaten most often while watching football is arroz con pollo.

Of course, the football in question is what we Americans call soccer, but the Spaniards are every bit as obsessive about it. As in the U.S., tickets to the games are expensive, and the matches are typically broadcast on premium cable. If you want to see a match in Spain, you go to a bar.

According to Madrileños, Real Madrid is the best known team in the world, and we’ve watched them play in smoky flamenco bars, in Moroccan couscous joints, in burger palaces, and in “bars deportivos,” or sports bars. We drink beer and eat bar food, which as often as not includes arroz con pollo, a sort of poor man’s paella of saffron-paprika rice studded with pieces of chicken and sausage. This is our stand-by recipe the way we learned to make it on our first long trip to Spain in 1983.

We have tweaked it over the years, using all sweet red peppers instead of the standard mix of red and green, and going with boneless chicken. (Spaniards take a whole frying chicken and cut it into 16 or more pieces, often cutting right through the bones. Boneless chicken is splinter-free.) Spanish recipes also call for chorizo, which we usually use. This year we decided we would root for the New Orleans Saints, so we are substituting a smoked Louisiana andouille sausage. The Spanish version is more rice than meat. Feel free to add more protein.

Serves 4 hungry eaters or 8-10 if used as one of several game time snacks.


Ingredients

4 tablespoons fruity olive oil
2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into 16 pieces and sprinkled with sea salt
6 oz smoked andouille or chorizo sausage, cut in 1/4 inch slices
3 red sweet peppers, roasted, peeled and cut into 1-inch squares
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes (drained-use the juices as part of the stock)
2 teaspoons sweet Spanish paprika (pimentón a la vera dulce)
2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón a la vera ahumado)
big pinch of saffron
2 cups Valencian rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 1/2 cups strong homemade chicken stock

Directions

Heat olive oil in paella pan with 15-inch base or in 17-18-inch shallow, ovenproof skillet. Sauté chicken and sausage until lightly browned. Remove meat from pan and reserve.

Add red peppers, onion, and garlic to pan and cook until onion softens (about five minutes.) Stir in tomato and cook until juices reduce (5-7 minutes). Stir in both kinds of paprika and the saffron, then the rice, turning well to coat rice with oil. Pour in wine and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook on stove-top until rice is no longer soupy (about 7 minutes). Do not stir.

Remove from heat and stir in sausage and chicken. Pat down until even, then place uncovered in 325F oven and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from oven, cover with foil, and let sit 10 minutes before serving.

06

02 2010

Meeting the master of meat

BrunoBassettoBruno Bassetto of Treviso, Italy, knows meat. The 61-year-old butcher set a Guinness World Record in October by crafting a salamella—a kind of fresh pork sausage—more than 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) long. I had the good fortune to watch him trim a piece of round and make steak tartare in seconds with a pair of huge knives. But beyond his obvious showmanship, Bassetto is also a master of charcuterie. In addition to fresh meat, his butcher shop (via Mantiero 22, Treviso; 011-39-0422-231-945, www.brunobassettocarni.it) also carries fresh and cured sausages, which range from slender little pepperoni to a great expression of the local Veneto sopressa (a soft, cured sausage about 3 inches in diameter). carne crudaIn late fall and winter, he also makes a cooked pork sausage that incorporates the surprisingly sweet Treviso radicchio. It’s worth a stop to pick up a sausage for a picnic in the surrounding countryside (he makes plenty that are short enough to carry) and to shake the big, strong hand of the master of meat.

14

12 2009