Monday, 11 November 2013

Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Basil

Gnocchi

Special Tools:

Potato Ricer if you got it!

Ingredients:

2-3 Russet potatoes, cooked and finely mashed/ put through a potato ricer
1 egg, lightly beaten
1-2 Cups Flour
Salt
Water

Olive Oil as needed
About 1-2 Tablespoons butter
About 1/3 Cup fresh chopped Basil leaves
About 1/3 Cup shredded Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper

Instructions:

Get the potatoes ready by cooking, peeling and mashing them. Spread the mashed potatoes out on a large cutting board or on a large platter. Pour the beaten egg over the entire top and sprinkle about 1/2-3/4 of the flour over the top as well. Gently begin to fold the flour and egg into the potato, using your hands and a spatula to evenly blend. Fold in more flour until the potato dough is easy to handle and not too sticky anymore. Roll the dough together into one ball and divide into about 6 portions.

Working with one portion at a time, roll out the dough into a rope about 1/2 inch in diameter. Cut the rope into 1 inch sections.  Take each cut piece of dough and using the tines of a fork and firm but gentle touch roll the dough along the tines to leave grooves along the sides. Set prepared Gnocchi aside on a lightly floured surface. Get a large pot of salted water on the stove and bring it to a boil. Finish preparing all the Gnocchi.

Once the pot of water has come to a boil, drop the Gnocchi in about 10-15 at a time and once the gnocchi float back to the top they are cooked. Cook all the gnocchi, removing from the pot of water with a slotted spoon and transferring to a bowl with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss to coat in olive oil.

Prepare the sauce:

In a small sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted stir the butter constantly until it just begins to turn a golden brown but is not burned. Remove from heat and add the chopped basil leaves and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the gnocchi and toss to coat.

Place the Gnocchi in a large roasting pan, using a spatula to get the sauce out of the bowl and onto the gnocchi. Top with shredded Parmesan cheese and bake at 350°F for about 15 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Notes:

Let's make some Gnocchi! Which in case you didn't know are small "potato pillows" served like pasta in a light sauce as a side at an Italian dinner. They are not exactly easy to pull off but not too complicated either. Just require a special touch to get the texture right.

So some hints, use a drier potato like russet, and have extra flour on hand. Be prepared to get your hands pretty messy. If there is a way to do this without your hands I don't know it and I don't think I would like it as much. Just make sure your hands are real clean and your have short nails. Be food safe friends. Plus we all know flour is a finicky ingredient and it sometimes takes more and sometimes takes less. Depends on humidity and the day and the flour itself. I usually just use all purpose flour because that is about all I ever have on hand.

The texture of Gnocchi has to be just right, and deconstructing the potatoes is key to this process, I bought myself a potato ricer for about 20 dollars at the mall, and it works awesome. But finely mashing the potatoes so there are no lumps at all but the potatoes haven't been whipped either. Smooth and finely mashed is the goal.

Oh right I nearly forgot you can either boil or bake the potatoes to cook them, but I do suggest leaving the skin on to keep more flavor in the potato. Plus if you bake the potatoes you can cut the skins off afterwards and make potato skins with cheese and bacon and green onion. Yummy. . . .

So boil or bake the potatoes in their skin until soft throughout. Remove from oven or pot, and let cool for about 15 minutes or until you don't burn yourself when trying to handle them. Then cut away or peel the potatoes and keep all the cooked potato to either finely mash or put through a potato ricer. Let the potatoes cool again for about 5 minutes and then follow the rest of the recipe.

Maple Brine

Maple Brine

Ingredients:

2-3 Liters of water
1 Cup brown sugar
1/2 Cup Maple syrup
1/2-3/4 Cup Sea salt
4-6 Cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
6-8 Bay leaves
3 Sprigs of thyme leaves, or 2 Tablespoons dried
1/2 Tablespoon whole pepper corns

Instructions:

In a large stainless steel bowl, whisk together the water, brown sugar, maple syrup and sea salt until pretty much all the salt has dissolved. Stir in the cloves of garlic, bay leaves, thyme leaves and pepper corns. Add the pork or chicken to the brine.

Let sit at least 1 hour in the fridge, or over night.

Remove pork or chicken from the brine before starting to cook it, pat dry with paper towels and then cook as desired.

Enjoy!

Notes:

This is another quick to overnight brine for either chicken or pork. I really love it, it has more herbs and flavors on the go and really adds a great flavor to pork or chicken, and helps make everything really tender and juicy.

Basically just soak the chicken or pork in this brine mixture for about an hour, or over night. Remove the chicken or pork from the brine, pat dry and then cook however you like. It's really awesome to use if you are having a dinner party because it helps prevent chicken and pork form drying out if you need to wait for guests to arrive or something else to finish cooking.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Spicy Orange Stir- Fry

Spicy Orange Stir-Fry


Ingredients: 

For about 3-4 hungry people

About 1 pound pork tenderloin/boneless chop or boneless chicken breast/thigh
About 2-3 Tablespoons corn starch

1 Tablespoon Olive oil
1 Tablespoon Sesame oil

1 Inch fresh ginger root, finely minced
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1 Shallot or 1 small onion, finely minced

Pepper to Season

1/2 Cup matchstick carrots
1/2 Cup diced pepper
3 Chopped Celery stalks
4-6 White Mushrooms, diced
1 Tablespoon Sesame oil

1 Tablespoon Corn starch
1/2 Cup Chicken stock
2 Oranges*
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Teaspoon-1 Tablespoon Chili-Garlic paste/sauce
1 Teaspoon ground ginger
1 Teaspoon Garlic powder

3-4 Green Onion stalks, Chopped
Sesame Seeds

*If you want a really really strong orange flavor go back up and read what I had to say about that.

Instructions:

Slice the pork or chicken into thin slices that are about 2-3 inches long. Thin and fine slices are much better than thick chunks I think for stir-fry.

Prepare your ginger-root, 2 cloves of minced garlic, and either the shallot or the onion. Set aside

Heat up your skillet over medium-lowish heat, and if you are using cast iron season with oil once heated. 

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of sesame oil to the pan. And allow it to heat for about 5 minutes. 

While you are letting the oil heat up in the pan, Dredge the sliced pork or chicken in 3-4 Tablespoons of corn starch. I did this by spreading the sliced pork over my large cutting board, sprinkling the cornstarch over all of it and then pouring all the pieces and cornstarch back into a large mixing bowl and then shaking it all around a bit until each piece was finely coated in just a little bit of corn starch. I also suggest giving it a bit of seasoning with pepper right now.

Add the prepared ginger-root, garlic and onion to the pan. Season with pepper. Stir-fry for about 10 minutes.

Add the sliced pork to the pan. Stir-fry cook for about 10 minutes or until just cooked. Begin careful at the beginning to separate each piece from each other, and trying to cook the pieces as evenly as possible. 

While the pork is cooking, Prepare the vegetables to go in the sauce, matchstick carrots, diced pepper, Chopped Celery stalks , and diced mushrooms, or vegetables of your choice.

Once the pork is cooked, remove it from the pan and set aside on a plate. Add another tablespoon of sesame oil to the pan. Add the vegetables to the pan, and add about 1/4 cup of water. Place a lid or cover over the vegetables and steam cook for about 5-7 minutes.

While the vegetables steam cook, prepare the sauce, in a medium bowl combine the tablespoon of corn starch, chicken stock, soy sauce, chili-garlic sauce/paste, ground ginger, and garlic powder. Zest both oranges and add the zest to the sauce. Squeeze the juice from both oranges into the sauce. Whisk everything together so it's well blended. Remember that the chili-garlic sauce really does pack a punch so if you don't like a strong spice flavor use only about 1 teaspoon, and I wouldn't suggest more than 1 Tablespoon. It would be overpowering.

After the vegetables have steamed. Stir fry them for about 1 minute more.

Add the cooked pork back to the pan. Heat and stir in with the vegetables for about 1 minute. 

Add the sauce to the pan, reduce heat to low. And simmer for about 10 minutes. Being sure to stir from the bottom to the top so all the brown bits of flavor join with the sauce.

Garnish with sesame seeds and fresh sliced green onion. Serve over steamed rice, or rice noodles.

Enjoy!

Notes:

I still don't feel like I am a natural when It comes to making stir-fry but future husband man has been reasonably encouraging while I keep on trying.

When we go out to Asian-menu based restaurants he always wants to get some kind of orange tasting something, usually chicken or pork. He loves it, I usually like to have a little taste of it at least. I am also still not very adventurous when it comes to new foods either. I'm trying to try more is all I can say.

So after a couple of tries at making orange sauce that doesn't suck when it's done I have selected and fine tuned this one. It doesn't have a particularly strong orange flavor to it because I decided to just use the fresh oranges that I had in my fridge after a very happy grocery shopping trip.

*If you wanted to really increase the orange flavor I would suggest substituting about 4-6 tablespoons of natural orange juice concentrate, like a frozen juice. Look for one without any added sugar, or one with a really low sugar/serving. I would also add an extra table spoon of the soy sauce, as well as one table spoon of lemon juice (to lessen the sweetness), and err on the heavy side of the chili-garlic paste amount I use. That orange flavor from the frozen juice concentrates are pretty darn strong.

Personally I really preferred the light orange taste of the fresh squeezed and zest, but I am well aware that I am not a very good representation for what the world wants.

Also I used pork tonight and it was awesome! (Look I remembered to even take a picture before we completely made it disappear!)

Alright so final words of wisdom, I like to use cast iron when I do actually make a stir-fry, the heavy bottom cooks more evenly, and I like how things develop with cast iron. But any skillet will work. I also didn't quite have all the vegetables that I wanted, which is why there isn't that much color in mine tonight, but you get the idea. But feel free to use whatever vegetables you actually like in it, or none at all. I would totally eat a stir-fry with almost no vegetables in it if I was alone. . .

Serve this with steamed rice, or rice noodles. Or a seasoned rice noodle.