Archive for the ‘directions for cooking’ Category

calamari

This last week was real hell.  After my last post, I spent another 3 days flat on my back on pain meds.  Unreal. I finally began to emerge on sunday, and yesterday, just in time for my top up appointment, I was feeling pretty well.  Well enough that I decided to shoot a little video last night while I cooked.

When I walked into the office yesterday my doc said “I have news for you,” ominously as he passed to go see another patient.  When it was my turn he announced that over the weekend he had done some research on the pain.  That it was NOT the oxaliplatin on its own.  BUT that oxaliplatin in conjunction with 5FU and luekovorin DID cause pain in a certain percentage of patients.  What sort of pain was not made clear in the study.  I feel I should point out to you here that this particular drug cocktail is very common.  Common enough to have a name.  It’s called Folfox, and almost all colon cancer cases are treated with it.   The notion that you have to look for some obscure study to find a list of the synergistic side effects of the cocktail as a whole seems crazy.  Anyway.  The pain is there.  It’s been getting worse each round for the last 4.  We’re going to try to treat it with extra strength Motrin instead of oxycodone (I have my doubts).  We’re also going cross our fingers/pray/wish/hope etc.. that it just goes away.

Last night I made a little calamari as an appetizer for dinner and thought I should throw up a video and some instructions.

Calamari is cheap and easy.  Usually there won’t be any leftover.

It’s an ultimate salt and pepper don’t fuck it up type dish.

Rinse and strain the calamari.

Cut up the tubes into 3/8″ or so rings.  I prefer the tentacles, myself, and so I often send Hillary to the fish counter, since she’s far better looking than me and twice as charming.  She usually manages to come away with about 80% tentacle.  Nice. The tentacles, you can leave whole.  Press them to the bottom of the colander to get as much moisture out of them as possible.

Dredge all the bits in a mix of all purpose flour, salt, pepper, and some dried parsley..  I don’t typically keep dried herbs around.  They all taste the same to me (maybe with the exception of dried mexican oregano, which I usually do have on hand).  Fresh parsley will work fine..  Just dice it up fine and dry it out in the oven for a while so that it doesn’t gum up the dredging mix.

Toss the dredged bits into some nice hot oil, stir occaisionally, and remove when they’re a satisfying brown.  Drain on brown paper.

I like to serve them with a little aioli, or I guess to be accurate, flavored mayonnaise.  In this case I did one with mashed garlic and pepper (oh oh..   learn to mash garlic.  It’s in the video.  First slice it as thin as you are able.  Then put some salt on it.  The salt acts as an abrasive.  Using the side of the knife edge, mash it into the counter top.  This takes just a little practice, but once you’ve got it down, you can reduce a clove of garlic into super nice oily garlic paste in about 30 seconds flat).  The other was mixed with a little Patak’s garlic pickle.  Outstanding stuff.  Great on sandwiches.

That’s it.  You’re done.  Serve it on a bed of salad to make it look cute.  And maybe have it with some soup that you made for lunch the day before. This is the sort of thing that people often get at restaurants.. don’t bother.  It’s easy to do at home, and is almost free (I believe this was about $4 of squid, maybe less).

ATTENTION!!  My brother is playing at poisson rouge tonight.  It’s a new series he’s doing where he invites friends who happen to be in town to join him on stage and play some of his music, some of theirs.  The first one, last month, was great.  This one promises to be as well.  The official guests are Justin Bond (who if you don’t know, is the grande damme of NYC cabaret, and a beautiful soul), and the Poison Tree (Steve Salett’s new band..  formerly head man of King of France, and one of the truly great song writers out there).  Though it’s not published, I happen to know that our pals Glen Hansard and Samamidon will also be playing.  So if you’re not busy tonight, come join us! Get tickets. It will sell out.

Ok. Thank you all for your words of encouragement this last bunch of days. I was stuck in a pretty bleak place, but am really feeling much better now. Can’t promise I won’t spend a little time horizontal this afternoon in order to make it to the show tonight.

calamari

This last week was real hell.  After my last post, I spent another 3 days flat on my back on pain meds.  Unreal. I finally began to emerge on sunday, and yesterday, just in time for my top up appointment, I was feeling pretty well.  Well enough that I decided to shoot a little video last night while I cooked.

When I walked into the office yesterday my doc said “I have news for you,” ominously as he passed to go see another patient.  When it was my turn he announced that over the weekend he had done some research on the pain.  That it was NOT the oxaliplatin on its own.  BUT that oxaliplatin in conjunction with 5FU and luekovorin DID cause pain in a certain percentage of patients.  What sort of pain was not made clear in the study.  I feel I should point out to you here that this particular drug cocktail is very common.  Common enough to have a name.  It’s called Folfox, and almost all colon cancer cases are treated with it.   The notion that you have to look for some obscure study to find a list of the synergistic side effects of the cocktail as a whole seems crazy.  Anyway.  The pain is there.  It’s been getting worse each round for the last 4.  We’re going to try to treat it with extra strength Motrin instead of oxycodone (I have my doubts).  We’re also going cross our fingers/pray/wish/hope etc.. that it just goes away.

Last night I made a little calamari as an appetizer for dinner and thought I should throw up a video and some instructions.

Calamari is cheap and easy.  Usually there won’t be any leftover.

It’s an ultimate salt and pepper don’t fuck it up type dish.

Rinse and strain the calamari.

Cut up the tubes into 3/8″ or so rings.  I prefer the tentacles, myself, and so I often send Hillary to the fish counter, since she’s far better looking than me and twice as charming.  She usually manages to come away with about 80% tentacle.  Nice. The tentacles, you can leave whole.  Press them to the bottom of the colander to get as much moisture out of them as possible.

Dredge all the bits in a mix of all purpose flour, salt, pepper, and some dried parsley..  I don’t typically keep dried herbs around.  They all taste the same to me (maybe with the exception of dried mexican oregano, which I usually do have on hand).  Fresh parsley will work fine..  Just dice it up fine and dry it out in the oven for a while so that it doesn’t gum up the dredging mix.

Toss the dredged bits into some nice hot oil, stir occaisionally, and remove when they’re a satisfying brown.  Drain on brown paper.

I like to serve them with a little aioli, or I guess to be accurate, flavored mayonnaise.  In this case I did one with mashed garlic and pepper (oh oh..   learn to mash garlic.  It’s in the video.  First slice it as thin as you are able.  Then put some salt on it.  The salt acts as an abrasive.  Using the side of the knife edge, mash it into the counter top.  This takes just a little practice, but once you’ve got it down, you can reduce a clove of garlic into super nice oily garlic paste in about 30 seconds flat).  The other was mixed with a little Patak’s garlic pickle.  Outstanding stuff.  Great on sandwiches.

That’s it.  You’re done.  Serve it on a bed of salad to make it look cute.  And maybe have it with some soup that you made for lunch the day before. This is the sort of thing that people often get at restaurants.. don’t bother.  It’s easy to do at home, and is almost free (I believe this was about $4 of squid, maybe less).

ATTENTION!!  My brother is playing at poisson rouge tonight.  It’s a new series he’s doing where he invites friends who happen to be in town to join him on stage and play some of his music, some of theirs.  The first one, last month, was great.  This one promises to be as well.  The official guests are Justin Bond (who if you don’t know, is the grande damme of NYC cabaret, and a beautiful soul), and the Poison Tree (Steve Salett’s new band..  formerly head man of King of France, and one of the truly great song writers out there).  Though it’s not published, I happen to know that our pals Glen Hansard and Samamidon will also be playing.  So if you’re not busy tonight, come join us! Get tickets. It will sell out.

Ok. Thank you all for your words of encouragement this last bunch of days. I was stuck in a pretty bleak place, but am really feeling much better now. Can’t promise I won’t spend a little time horizontal this afternoon in order to make it to the show tonight.

SHANKS!

Ok.  Here it is.  I’ve been promising this one for a long time, and have finally gotten around to it.

Braising is a great thing to know how to do, and once you get a feel for the general technique you can apply it to all sorts of meats and even veg.  There are lots of different attitudes about braising.  Michael Psilakis has a recipe for braising goat that involves LOTS of liquid.  To me, braising is a pretty dry affair though.  Quite distinct from stewing, which is another way to slowly slowly make tougher meats fall apart and be delicious!

That is the crux of the thing.  Braising allows you to render otherwise tough meats completely tender.  Lamb shanks are the perfect first thing to try, because there’s really very little else you can do with them!!  They are simply some of the nicest meat on the lamb, and yet are super cheap here in the U.S., because no one seems to know how to cook them!  We WIN!

So here’s how it goes.  Don’t blink, it’s pretty simple.

Liberally salt and pepper the lamb.  In a nice heavy pan, brown the meat in some oil.  Pull it out and reserve.  Immediately, toss garlic and mirepoix (that’s french for celery, carrots, and onion) into the oil.  Saute the veg until it gets a little tender.  You’ll notice that JUST the liquid from the veg goes a long way to deglazing much of the meaty bits that are browned onto the pan.  Deglaze the pan properly by adding some red wine.  Arrange the meat in the pan.  Salt and pepper.  Add herbs (in this case I used thyme and rosemary).  Cover it up and put it in a nice slow oven.  275 or so.  300 maybe.  I don’t know, my oven dial isn’t accurate.

That’s it.  You’re done.  Now you just wait.  I suggest napping with your dog..  or perhaps taking a nice bath with a glass of bourbon.  Doesn’t matter.  You’ll find something good to do.  One of the great things about braising is that it really does the work on its own.  You can get it going, and then have plenty of time to clean up the kitchen, and do prep work for whatever else you’re eating, without having to worry too much about the last minute timing of the meat.

How long it takes will depend on the size of the piece of meat, and the actual temperature that you landed on!  But count on three hours or so.  Nice and slow.

Once you’ve got a handle on this technique, you can start inventing..  Sometimes for a nice mexican braised pork, I’ll brown a shoulder rubbed with cumin, and braise it over celery and onions, using Lime and Tequila as the liquid.  Same technique, totally different outcome.

Short ribs love to be braised.  Brisket! DUCK LEGS!!!

So, the fundamentals are..  browned meat, some sort of veg content (usually some variation on mirepoix), and a little liquid (it helps if the liquid has some acid content), heavy dutch oven type pot with a tight fitting lid.  Low low temperature, for a long time.  That’s it.

I won’t go into the potatoes and chard here.  Pretty self explanatory.  But I will just mention the mint pesto.  Last night was the first time I did it this way, and it was really pretty wonderful.  Mint, fresh lemon zest, garlic, olive oil, some sherry vinegar, and *gasp* a little sugar.  Zizz it up in a food processor and eat.  Do this right before you serve so that the pesto doesn’t go all dark and unappealing.

OK.  Enjoy.

Let me know if I left anything out.

OH, as a side note:  Sam Amidon stopped by while I was editing this, to talk about some music videos that I’m going to make for him.  We decided to throw “Way go Lily” on the top to see how it felt.  He loved it..  thought it had the vibe of a Kanye remix.  Sam is a tremendous artist, and you can listen to that track and others on his website.  (Once you’re there, if you follow the videos link, you’ll find a video that I made for him YEARS ago).

UPDATE! Holly asked if there was anything worthwhile to do with the leftover mirepoix/brazing liquid. There is, for SURE. If you skim off some of the fat (no all), and then toss the whole mess into a food processor, you can zizz it into a really tasty sauce. Return it to the pan after processing, pour in a bit of cream, put a little heat under it, and let it reduce just a little. Refresh it with a little fresh thyme. It’s not the prettiest stuff in the world.. Sort of an orange brown gook. But SUPER tasty.

Aztec Soup

Ok so. I waffled a little about posting this video, because I wasn’t entirely happy with it, but decided in the end that it was perfectly suitable as an instructional and that it needn’t be much more than that!*** The soup, at any rate, is delicious.

Of all the things that I’ve made repeatedly over the years, this may go the farthest back and is the one that the most people have asked me to show them how to make. I’ve been making this soup since I was in high school, 20 years ago. It has changed little over the years. It may have as little to do with the Aztecs as I do, but that’s what I’ve always called it anyway.

There’s a quick way and a protracted way to go about it. I’ll describe the longer version first.

  • A whole chicken
  • Onions
  • Poblano peppers
  • Ancho chiles
  • Cumin
  • Garlic
  • Limes
  • Fresh tortillas
  • Cilantro
  • Mix of Cheddar and Jack cheese

Make chicken stock. I’ve discussed this in another post, so I won’t go on about it here (except maybe to remind you again to put a bowl under the colander when you strain it so you don’t pour what you’re trying to keep down the drain!!). For this particular soup, you can rehydrate some ancho chiles in the stock as it simmers. This allows you to capture all that nice chile tea!  Anchos are great, and with the lime are really the core flavor of this soup.  “Ancho” means wide, and is the name they give the dried version of poblano chiles.  AHA!  Usually in the supermarket poblanos are dark green, but as they mature, they turn red (like bell peppers) and get sweeter.  The dried version is not a particularly spicy chile, but is super fruity and flavorful.  It sort of tastes like apricots.

Roast poblano peppers over open flame, turning them now and then.  The goal is to char/blister the skin.  Do this HOT.  The cooler you do it, the more you cook the chile pepper before blistering the skin, and I happen to like my roasted chiles to still have a little resistance to them, especially if they’re going into a soup.  Once they’re charred, place them in a plastic bag and let them rest.  They’ll sweat in there like a little chile sauna, and by the time they’ve cooled, the skins will come off easily.  Peel them, core them, remove the seeds, cut them into ribbons and reserve.

Juice some limes.  Lots!

Make some tortilla chips.  Hot oil.  A wok works well to give you a little depth without having to use TOO much oil.  Work in batches, and if you have a weak stove, allow the oil to get back up to temp between those batches.  Making your own is SO much better than buying the bagged kind.  Homemade ones are thicker and have a completely different texture.  They hold up MUCH better in soup, too.  When you pull them out of the oil, let them drain on some brown paper, and immediately salt them!!

Slice onions.  Slice the hydrated ancho chiles.  Dice some garlic.

Put a nice big heavy soup pot on the stove, and warm it up over medium heat.  Coat the bottom with oil.  Drop in the garlic and the chiles.  Let these simmer and infuse the oil for a moment, then add a good amount of ground cumin.  The cumin is super absorbent, and may gum up the works if you haven’t got enough oil in the pot..  no problem!  Add a little more.  Eventually add the onions, and saute the whole mix.  Once the onions are starting to go a little translucent and have taken on the red of the chiles, add the chicken, and stir to coat.  Add chicken stock to cover.  Allow this to sit over very low heat for half an hour or so.  Just let it steep.  When you’re ready to eat, add the roasted poblanos and lime juice.

Serve it however you like!  I like to fill a bowl with torilla chips and cheese, and just ladle the soup over the top.  A little cilantro and, TA DA!

  • If they’re in season, it is delicious to add slices of avocado at the last moment.  Use one on the slightly firm side of ripe and it’ll hold up in there beautifully.
  • As described here, this isn’t a super spicy soup!  Anchos and poblanos are both very mild.  Feel free to spice it up with the addition of some hotter chiles, fresh or dried.
  • The quick version mentioned above is to skip the process of making stock.  If you use decent store bought stock, and the meat from a rotisserie chicken, you can make this soup in about 20 minutes flat, and it’s still awfully good!

***Those of you still reading are total champs.  I’m experimenting with this whole directions for cooking thing.  Soon I will be writing a proper diatribe against the “recipe.”  I hate the word, and I’ll try to convince you to hate it too.  In the mean time, I’m liking this idea of a visual aid..  Not a proper instructional video with spoken directions and etc, but instead something that captures the spirit of the thing a little.  I feel that a supa fast video (could also be a bunch of stills, but they’d take up too much room!), along with some written instructions could be a working combination.  Please let me know if it works for you..  or, at the very least is entertaining!

sardine pasta

Here’s my take on a Sicilian classic. Made it last night.
Using fresh sardines is a serious bonus, but not strictly necessary. Canned sardines are GREAT, and a really easy thing to have around.

You’ll need:
Sardines
Onion
Garlic
Red pepper flakes
Pine nuts*
Golden raisins*
parsley
bread crumbs
grape tomatoes*

*really all quite optional! This CAN be a very simple pasta, made from things that are easy to keep in the pantry, and still taste great.

Get a big pot of pasta water going. Lots of salt.

If using fresh sardines, liberally salt them and coat with olive oil. In a grill pan or cast iron or whatever you’ve got around, grill them up! A grill pan with a panini press works beautifully. Pretty high heat.. first side for a couple of minutes.. second side a little less. You’ll be able to tell.
Once they’ve cooled a little, flake the meat of the bones and reserve.. Don’t worry too much about the really fine bones.. you won’t choke on them. If you’re using canned sardines, just pull them out of the can and chop them coarsely.

Dice onions. Dice garlic. Pan roast grape tomatoes. Soak golden raisins in warm water. Toast pine nuts.

You’re ready to go!

Start the pasta. Everything remaining will take about the same amount of time as the past will to cook.

Saute the garlic, red pepper flakes, and onions in a nice flashy pan.
Once the onions are looking translucent, add the pine nuts and raisins and sardines.
Keep the mixture moving, but delicately. Sardines are pretty delicate little fishies, and it’s easy to make them totally disintegrate at this stage (which some people like in this pasta.. I prefer a chunkier more rustic feeling version).

Once the past is finished and drained, add the parsley to the pan, followed by the pasta.. Make sure that there’s plenty of olive oil in the pan to keep the pasta from sticking. Toss delicately but well. Add the tomatoes and incorporate.

Divide onto plates, and top with pan toasted bread crumbs and good Parmesan. (now before you purists jump down my throat about mixing cheese and fish, I’m happy to say that while I know it’s sacrilege, I happen to like it in this case! um. so there.)

Enjoy.

One of the really nice things about this little pasta dish is that sardines are one of the fishies we’re really supposed to be eating. They reproduce fast, reach maturity fast, are at the bottom of the food chain, so they don’t accumulate tons of heavy metals, and they are NOT over fished. They are also chock full of all those amazingly good for you fish oils. And on top of it all, they’re CHEAP! The six you saw in the video cost us just over $5 (a NICE can of them can cost as much and only yield about a third the meat. Mind you, fresh ones aren’t easy to find. We’re lucky to have two supermarkets nearby that have them a couple of days a week).

This week has been ok. Night 1 was brutal. Aches and pains, nausea, etc. Didn’t eat much dinner.
Morning of day two I was still feeling pretty crappy, but put on full rain gear and strolled across the park in the sleet/rain. It was simply beautiful. Hardly a soul in the park. beautiful white and grey day. I felt better leaving chemo than I had felt when I walked in. The oxaliplatin from the day before seemed to have worked it’s way out of my system. I came home, napped, and cooked some dinner.

Feeling fine today. I’ll head in at around 11 to get this bloody pump unplugged and then go down town to play a little pool with Jeremiah. It’s a rough life!

EDIT: obviously this post didn’t go up quite when I expected it to. Video still needed a little work. It’s evening now. Feeling a little beat up from this round, but DID manage to play pool all afternoon with my good friend J. Came home. Finished up the video. For those of you who actually try some of these directions for cooking, let me know if the video helps.. It seems to me that with my stubborn unwillingness to give amounts, or even terribly clear directions, that seeing it unfold, even at warp speed, might elucidate things a little. If so, I will endeavor to keep them coming.

Big love.

last night’s dinner

Seth and Eunice recently sent me some really nice polenta after Eunice posted some particularly nice looking cornbread on flickr and I said “nom nom.”  It inspired this meal last night.  We’ve been buying some beautiful duck from the farmer’s market recently.  Really hard to beat.  There is SO much amazing fat on the breasts, that if you render it out you can use it for all sorts of things..  In this case, for frying up the parsnips!  wow.

I cooked up the polenta with some chicken stock, then poured it out onto the counter, and spread it nice and thin.  Once it cooled, I cut it into fingers, lightly coated it with oil, and put it in a hot oven (450 or so) until the fingers were nicely browned.  So good.  This polenta they sent was just amazing.  Dried corn that still tastes like CORN!

But here’s the thing I want to talk about:  Escarole.  When I eat escarole, I’m with the one I love.

For a while now I’ve been wandering around in the produce section just knowing that there’s some vegetable that’s been missing.  It’s escarole!  It’s not that I hadn’t had the stuff before..  but I have recently fallen in love.  We have it about every other night lately, and I’ve come up with a great simple way to make it.

Thinly slice some garlic and slowly brown it in plenty of olive oil.  Empty out the pan through a strainer into a bowl or something and set aside the garlic.  Now you’ve got beautiful garlic oil AND nice garlic chips to garnish.

Get a flashy pan nice and hot, add the garlic oil, and just before it starts smoking like mad, throw in the escarole (washed and chopped with the wash water still clinging to it..).  Keep the escarole moving until the pan cools down a little, then cover it for 30 seconds or so to steam.  Check on it.  Don’t over cook it.  Salt and pepper..  don’t fuck it up.  Turn the pan out into a bowl and top with the garlic chips.  Too many beautiful.  (oh oh!!  and lately it’s been $0.49 per lb at our local super market!!).

Ok.

chicken soup with rice

This is one that I make whenever Hill or I are feeling under the weather or generally in need of some clean simple food.  (served here with some spinach salad and some bok choy with black bean sauce)

Our local super market has packages of murray’s free range chicken soup bones.  It’s just all the stuff that’s left when they butcher up the whole chickens to turn them into boneless/skinless breasts and etc..  49 cents a pound or something, and perfect for making stock.  You can also do it with a quartered up whole chicken, but you’ll end up with quite a lot more meat than you need (no problem!  Save it to make some flautas or something!)

  • Chicken
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Onions
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Thai Chile
  • Scallions
  • Jasmine Rice

Put a little oil in the bottom of a nice big dutch oven and heat over medium high heat.  Toss in your bits of chicken and lightly pan roast them for a few minutes.  Add a couple of onions cut into sixths, two or three large carrots peeled and cut into inch long pieces, 3 or 4 big stalks of celery also cut into inches.  Add a few whole garlic cloves and a couple of big chunks of peeled ginger, and one or two thai chiles cut in half lengthwise.  Keep everything moving until it starts to release a nice smell.  Add water to cover.  If you have water heating in a kettle in the meantime, it’ll save you a lot of time bringing everything up to a boil.  Once the whole mess is boiling, reduce the heat to a low low simmer..   practically just a steep!  It may take a while to get the heat just right, but it’s my feeling that the stock ends up much better if you never boil it HARD.  Just hot enough that the surface ripples a little.  Skim the scum off the top (once usually does it!  but you may have to skim again later).

Leave it!  Let it sit for an hour and a half or so. Use this method to make chicken stock anytime you need it.  If you leave out the ginger and thai chile, you’ll have a very neutral and versatile stock.

In the mean time, make a pot of jasmine, or other long grain white rice (not basmati!  that’ll just taste weird).

Peel and thinly slice an onion.

Peel and thinly slice some garlic cloves (nice thin discs).

Peel and julienne some ginger.

Coarsely chop scallions.

When the stock is done, strain it into a big bowl using a colander (don’t make the mistake of straining it through the colander and straight down the drain!!!   This is easier to do than you think!  Usually you keep what goes in the colander instead of what goes through it, and force of habit is strong!!!).  When the chicken bones have cooled enough, pick off the meat and reserve.  Toss everything else!  The good stuff is all in the stock

You’re ready to assemble!

Back in the Dutch oven, heat a little oil (vegetable oil, and a little splash of toasted sesame).  Toss in garlic and ginger followed quickly by the sliced onion.  Sweat these for just a few moments and then add the chicken.  Add the stock and soy sauce to taste, bring it all up to heat, and then just let it sit for 15 minutes or so.

Prepare bowls with rice and chopped scallion.  Ladle soup over the top and eat!

gnocchi

Last night we had gnocchi for dinner.  I make them frequently, but last night’s were particularly good and I decided that I should probably put up some directions!

I should start by saying that my approach to gnocchi isn’t really the classic one, but what I’ve landed on is pretty devine.  I always pan fry them on the way to the plate.  The truth is that standard gnocchi are a sort of gummy affair that I don’t really care for (this goes triply for the store bought variety that are made to put up with rough handling and REALLY suffer for it).  Pan fried, however, they become an absolute delicacy, and a tremendous way to eat up potatoes!  I also don’t roll mine off the back of a fork to give them the shape they’re named for (gnocchi=knuckles).

The technique seems daunting and a little messy, and I think most people assume it’s too much work.  Not at all.  After a few times, you’ll find that you can do it quickly and efficiently while you’re doing the prep work for whatever else you’re making.

Like this!

You’ll need:

Russet potatoes

All purpose flour

Egg

Cover the potatoes (whole) with water in a big pot, and bring the water to a boil.  Lower the temperature a little and let them boil until fork tender, about 45 minutes.

Remove from the water and using a potato ricer, or a sieve and the back of a spoon, rice the potatoes onto a clean dry work surface.  Cover the riced potato with a thin layer of flour.  (“EzRA!!!   how much!!”  “don’t panic.. we will discuss”)

Once the potato has cooled just a little, fold the flour and potato together and make a mound with a well in the center.  Crack the egg into the well, and whisk it with a fork, slowly incorporating dry ingredients until the fork stops being useful.  Switch to your hands, and GENTLY knead the mixture until all the ingredients are evenly mixed.  IMPORTANT!  You are not making bread here.  You are kneading simply to mix the ingredients, not to develop the gluten content!!  That’s it!  Done.

Now.  Let’s discuss amounts.  The job of the flour in gnocchi is to hold the little buggers together.  Too little flour, and they’ll fall apart when you boil them and you’ll be left with VERY thin potato soup.  Too much flour, however, and they’ll be gummy and gross, and tast like..  well.. flour.  I am going to refuse in this case to give you amounts, because it’s much better just to develop an intuitive sense for it, and it’s way sexier to cook without a bunch of measuring cups and scales on your counter.  Further more, potatoes come in all sorts of sizes, and it’s my guess that the moisture content from one to another will vary etc..  so to say x amount of flour per potato wouldn’t really get to the heart of it.

So here’s how you should do it.  Have a big pot of boiling water water ready and waiting for you.  Follow the instructions above using as little flour as you think you’ll be able to get away with.  Once you’ve got your big ball of gnocchi dough, pinch off a piece, shape it into a little pillow, and toss it into the boiling water.  If it disappears in the boiling water, you used too little flour.  If it’s good, it’ll stay whole and rise to the top when it’s done.  Pull it out and taste it.  Easy!  If you had too little flour, knead in a little more and try again.  Using this method, you can avoid loosing an entire batch!  Test first!

Once you’ve established that your dough is good, prepare a BIG ice bath (as discussed here).  Divide your ball of dough into 4 manageable pieces.  Working in batches on a lightly floured surface, roll a ball out into a long snake, about a half inch in diameter and then cut/pinch off individual gnocchi using the edge of a wooden spatula.  Immediately toss the batch into boiling water.  When the gnocchi rise to the top, pull them out with a sieve and deposit them in the ice bath.  Repeat until all the gnocchi are done.  When you’re quite sure that they’ve all cooled, strain them in a colander, and toss with a splash of oil.

The wonderful thing about this ice bath technique for making gnocchi is that you have them now in a suspended state.  They’re ready to go the moment you want to fire them, but won’t suffer by sitting around.  You can, in fact, put them in the fridge and use them tomorrow!  If you decide that you want to eat them the classic way, simply boiled, all you need to do is return them to boiling water moments before you want to serve them.  This makes the timing a very relaxed business.

We eat them in a number of different ways.  Often with a nice braised lamb ragu and fresh mint!  My favorite way lately, however is just pan fried in butter and tossed with a little bit of sage.  Perfect.

Over medium/high heat, cover the bottom of a nonstick, or well seasoned cast iron pan with a 50/50 mix of olive oil and good butter.  When the butter begins to froth, slide in your gnocchi.  DON’T CROWD THE PAN.  Work in batches, or multiple pans if you need to.  Let them just sit, shaking the pan now and then to make sure they’re not sticking.  When you’re pretty sure that you’ve got a satisfying brown on the first side, wrist flip the pan a few times to re-arrange and keep browning.  Repeat until you’re satisfied.  Right at the end, toss in some julienned sage and serve.  You won’t be disappointed!  A little Parmesan on top doesn’t hurt anything at all, but you may find you don’t even need it.

Advanced version:   Here’s a nice little twist that you can do.  It’s what I did last night.  While the potatoes are boiling, pour a quarter cup or so of olive oil in a small skillet.  Put some garlic and fresh herbs in the oil..  sage, thyme, rosemary.  Put a little heat under the oil, but only for a moment..  then just let it steep.  When you’re making the gnocchi, add some of this oil (discard the herbs) to the well with the egg.  Use the rest of it when you fry them up! Your gnocchi will end up with a beautiful subtle herb-y aftertaste.

UPDATE!

On the subject of egg: Mario Batali uses a little when he makes gnocchi.  So while it is certainly not traditional, I can live with myself!!

Salt!  Yes.  In short.  Though I don’t actually put any in the dough.  I liberally salt the boiling water, and I use salted butter when I pan fry them.

It’s been hot hot in NYC

This July only missed being the hottest on record here in NYC by a few tenths of a degree.  So far August hasn’t shown much change.  It makes the “what do you want for dinner?” question a little harder to answer!

Last night it was a cold pasta with seafood.

You’ll need

Baby octopus

Squid (tentacles only if you can convince the person at the seafood counter.  Hill had no trouble).

Bay scallops

Shallots

Lemon

Basil

Parsley

and some other really obvious stuff.

Start by making a cold seafood salad.

Sear the scallops in olive oil with some yellow mustard seed. Please don’t over cook.  With little bay scallops this will only take a minute.  Boil the octopus in well salted water (and a splash of vinegar).  They’ll need 8-10 minutes.  When you have just a couple of minutes to go, add the squid tentacles and finish them off together.  Drain and rinse with cold water until they’re cool.  Cut all of this up into bite sized bits (feeding whatever you think is unsightly to your appreciative dog).

Combine the seafood in a bowl with olive oil, mashed garlic, thinly sliced shallot, sherry vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and let it sit and marinate for half an hour or so.  If you start the pasta water AFTER you’ve done all this, the timing will work out pretty well!

When the pasta is done, either ice bath it or rinse it with cold water until cool.  Toss with the seafood salad, adding torn up basil, parsley, and some coarsely chopped grape or cherry tomato.  You’ll probably have to add a little olive oil.. maybe another squeeze of lemon.  Salt.  Pepper.  You know.  We had it with a green salad.

Enjoy.

In other news:  It’s summer streets time again in NYC.  For three Saturdays in August, the DOT shuts down car traffic on Lafayette and Park Avenue so that people can run walk and ride bikes unmolested by honking horns.  It’s gotten a little bigger and better each year.  This year there are dumpster pools along the route, which is pretty wild.  You can find info including the hours and the route here.  The DOT has been kind enough to ask me to show bikes again.  I’ll be at Spring and Lafayette from around 7am until the street sweepers come by and the cars come back at 1pm.  Please come out and visit!  You may even see Spidey!

orange fish

Salt and pepper..   don’t fuck it up.  Best recipe ever!  It’s a little like the instruction to photographers (attributed to various people) “f8 and be there.”  In both cases, the second half of the instruction is the important part.

This, to me, is one of the ultimate salt and pepper recipes.

Hill often requests orange fish.  We buy whatever looks good.  Most often arctic char (pictured above), but also steelhead trout, king salmon, or even rainbow trout.  The method works the same for all of them. It’s tremendously simple, and may not sound like anything special, but try it and it will become your default way for cooking orange fish.

Liberally salt and pepper the skin side.  Also generously sprinkle with mustard seed.

Preheat the oven to..  HOT.

Get an oven safe heavy bottomed pan nice and hot, just cover the bottom with oil, and slide the fish in skin side down.  Shake the pan a little to make sure it doesn’t stick.  When the meat at the sides of the fillet starts to get cloudy, transfer the whole operation into the oven.  DON’T FLIP THE FISH!  and here’s the don’t fuck it up part: DON’T OVERCOOK* Pull the fish out a little before it’s done and transfer it to a cutting board to rest for a moment.  Divide and serve.

You can serve it with either side up.  The skin becomes a delicious crispy chip that pulls away from the meat very easily.  We often eat it covered in pan roasted brussel sprout leaves.  Also great with a dill buerre blanc.  Pretty soon ramps will start showing up at farmers markets..  This fish with sauteed ramps on top is too many beautiful!

Please try it!

* “don’t overcook!?  but how will I know??”  I’m not sure that I can give a very satisfying answer here.  I generally just push on it gently with a finger, and when it gives just the right amount of resistance (or lack of it) I know it’s done.  You’ll figure it out.  The first couple of times, you can stick a knife in and see what the color is like in the fattest part of the fillet.  Orange fish goes opaque when fully cooked.  You want the very center to NOT be fully cooked..  still a little darker orange and translucent.  Whether you want it to or not, it will continue to cook on its way to the plate, so you need to pull it a little early.  Overcooking the stuff is definitely the easiest way to fuck it up.  And if you bought a decent piece of fish, undercooked isn’t so bad at all!