Saturday, September 24, 2005

Gnocchi Roll with Ragu Bolognese

Originally uploaded by
Food Fanatic.

I see no particular reason why I should only document the SUCCESSFUL dishes I pull off. Actually, this dish was successful in that it was simply delicious, both last night and this afternoon for lunch. It was just ugly. It was supposed to look like a jelly roll, but of potato gnocchi dough and spinach filling. Instead, I got a mess. But I've angled the picture here to minimize the visual disaster that it was.

I had a half day off from school yesterday so I decided to spend the afternoon cooking. I chose this because I knew the men in my life would like it. What's not to like about lots of potatoes and MEAT?

The first thing I assembled was the

Ragu Bolognese

6 Tablespoons butter
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
1/2 cup coarsely chopped celery
1/4 cup coarsely chopped carrot
1/2 lb lean ground chuck
3/4 lb lean ground pork
1/2 cup dry white whine
1 cup milk
1 lb ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped (1 1/2 cups), or 1 1/2 cups drained and finely chopped canned Italian plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated nutmeg

Melt the butter in a 2 quart heavy, non-reactive saucepan. Add the vegetables (italians called it the soffrito) and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are lightly brown.

The ground meats are supposed to be ground very finely. The recipe suggests grinding them together twice, using the finest blade of a meat grinder. I don't have a meat grinder, so I put them in the food processor for a bit.

Add the ground meats, mashing them into the soffrito with a large spoon. Continue this until there are no large lumps and the meat is all broken up. Raise the heat and cook for about 3 minutes, until the meat is no longer pink.

Add the wine, bring it to a boil and stir constantly. Cook until the wine is almost completely evaporated.

Add the milk, cooking and stirring until it is almost completely evaporated.

Add the chopped tomatoes, bring the sauce to a boil again, and then reduce the heat to its lowest point. Half-cover the pan and simmer the sauce for 3 hours. I put mine on my "simmer burner" on about half-way. Stir every now and then. By the end of 3 hours, most of the liquid will be cooked away and the sauce will be very thick and intensely flavored.

Add the parsley. Taste for seasoning and add as much salt, pepper and nutmeg as desired.

While that was simmering, I prepared the

Gnocchi Roll

3 large Russet potatoes, baked, peeled and pureed
2 tablespoons butter
3 eggs, 2 lightly beaten together
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly cooked spinach, drained, squeezed dry, and minced; or 1 (10-oz) package frozen chopped spinach, cooked, drained, and squeezed dry
1 1/3 cups ricotta
1/4 cup freshly ground romano cheese

Place pureed potatoes in a medium bowl and add half the butter; mix until melted. Add the whole egg, 1 cup flour, nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper; mix well and form into a ball. Wrap and chill for about 1/2 hour.

In a bowl, mix spinach, ricotta, remaining butter, beaten eggs, cheese, remaining flour, and salt and pepper to taste.

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons flour on a piece of wax paper that is about 12x14 inches in size. Roll out the dough into a 9x12 rectangle (Use more flour, if necessary). Spread filling over dough, leaving a 1-inch border all around the outside. It was at this point that I had an inkling that things were going to be horribly wrong. I had twice, maybe three times, too much filling for this little roll. But did I stop and cut back? Of course not! I went ahead and spread all of it on there, knowing full well I would have trouble rolling it.

Fold over the bare edges on 2 long sides and 1 short side.
Roll up the dough from the open short end as you would a jelly roll, using the wax paper to help you. Press edges in to seal. Yup. Terrible, terrible mess. Would not roll. Spinach everywhere. But I soldiered on. I got it all stuck together and quickly went to the wrapping step. I knew it would still taste good, just not LOOK good!

Very carefully wrap the roll in a clean white cloth. Tie ends tightly with kitchen string. Secure the middle of the wrap with a large safety pin. Wrap again in cheesecloth. Secure ends with 2 more safety pins. You'll need the double wrapping to prevent the roll from opening.

Place the wrapped roll into a large heavy pan, approximately 13x14 inches (but since it was only about 9 inches long, I was able to put mine in my large, 5 quart dutch oven). Add enough water to completely cover the roll. Place over on the stove and cover. Bring to a boil and then cut back the heat to a simmer.

Simmer for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Remove the roll from the pan very gently (I used the lid of the pan to drain the water and then simply tipped the pan upside-down so the roll was resting on the inside of the lid. Then I was able to just roll it off onto a platter. Wouldn't work if you had a lipped lid, though).

Remove the cloth and cheesecloth and slice. Serve with Ragu Bolognese.

Will I do this dish again? Well, it did take pretty much of 3 hours to do it. But it was excellent! Too ugly for company, though. I might do it at least one more time with half the filling and I might roll the dough out a bit thinner so I'll have a bigger surface. I think I'll also use parchment paper instead of was paper. I think it will hold up better. Or better yet, I'll use my Silpat to roll it up.

This recipe is from "The Joy of Pasta" by Joe Famularo & Louise Imperiale. Copyright 1983 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Pan-Roasted Potatoes

Pan-Roasted Potatoes
Originally uploaded by
Food Fanatic.
Have I mentioned before how much we love these things? And we get a lot of fingerling potatoes from our farmer, so we are able to have them quite often.
I see no reason why one couldn't use ordinary russets, cut into bite-sized pieces, for this.

Clean your fingerling potatoes and cut them into fairly uniform pieces. Don't stress out about it. You'll just end up with some of the smaller ones getting more "roasty" than the big ones.

Par-boil them in a large pot of very, very salty water. "Salty like the sea" pretty much. I use kosher salt.

Once they are starting to get soft, drain them and put them into a skillet with some butter and a little olive oil. The olive oil will keep the butter from burning. You could go with all oil if you want.

Toss in some garlic and maybe a little onion. Start cooking them on medium heat, stirring/tossing them every once is while, until they are as browned as you want them to be.

Toss in fresh herbs, like rosemary or thyme, if you want. If you use fresh, put them in a little early, so they will roast with the potatoes. If dried, put them in near the end.

Generously salt and pepper and serve.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Vegetable Paella

Vegetable Paella
Originally uploaded by
Food Fanatic.

I liked this dish, but it didn't go very far with the family. Later my husband admitted that they all opened the crockpot, said "Ooooh! Vegetable Paella!" and then "argh! Artichokes!"

2 cups converted rice
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
1/4 cup chopped, drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (reserve the oil)
1 1/2 Tablespoons sun-dried tomato oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes, undrained and chopped
1 (7.25-ounce) jar roasted red bell peppers, drained and chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans vegetable broth
1 (1/2 gram) package saffron threads (1 teaspoon)
1 (16-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 (14-ounce can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1 cup frozen green peas

Place first 9 ingredients in a crockpot (3 1/2-qt to 4-qt) set on low.
Combine broth and saffron. Add to crockpot, mixing well. Cover. Cook for 4 hours or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.
Stir in chickpeas, artichoke hearts and green peas. Cover and cook another 15 minutes.

Yields 7 2-cup servings

From the "Southern Living Slow Cooker Cookbook"

More notes: I could not find sun-dried tomatoes in oil that weren't pureed. They seemed to all be sold as "sun-dried tomato pesto". So I bought dried ones, reconstituted them, and then used olive oil instead of tomato oil. I probably could have simmer the tomatoes in oil to infuse it, but I didn't have time.

I also was not able to buy "mexican-style stewed tomatoes." So I used Rotelle tomatoes. And lastly, I really think canned vegetable broth is terrible. So I make homemade stock periodically from veggies that are going soft in the fridge, freezing them in 2-cup containers. I used 29 ounces of that instead of canned.