Friday, March 30, 2012

Gnocchi di Patate

One random Thursday evening in Rome, Justin and I meandered into a little restaurant down the street called Lo Spuntino. We waited until we couldn't wait any more to eat dinner, and got our table at 8:30pm. The restaurant was totally empty, making us think maybe it wasn't any good, but at that point we just wanted a plate of pasta.

Only one little old man worked in the restaurant. He waited tables, bussed, and cooked all with some sort of supersonic energy. While we perused the menu, we struggled over what to order. It all looked amazing, as usual. When the little old man made it our way, Justin asked him in Italian what he recommended. The man looked amused, and replied:

"E giovedi. Gnocchi di patate!" As if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

Thursday is gnocchi day in Italy, and I suspect it has something to do with why all of Rome takes a half day on Thursdays. Try to go anywhere on Thursday afternoon in Rome — it's a ghost town.

They're all home, rolling little potato dumplings. What else?

I tried making gnocchi once before to an enormous failure (think gloppy, sticky mess). Now, with a little time and a little more experience, I tried it again. This time, it worked.

It may not be Thursday, but in my opinion, every day should be gnocchi day.

Ingredients (adapted from Mario Batali's Molto Italiano cookbook)
{Printable recipe}
1 lb russet potatoes
2/3 cup flour + extra for dusting
1 tsp salt
1 egg

Peel, cube, and boil your potatoes until they are fork-tender. Drain them, let them dry off, then pass them through a potato ricer or a food mill that feeds into a large bowl:

Mash up the potatoes.

Fluffy stuff. This is a good way to start creamy mashed potatoes, too.

Kind of like homemade pasta, make a well in the middle of the potatoes.

Dust with the flour, and add the egg into the well.

Mix with a fork, slowly incorporating the potato and flour into the egg.

Take a handful of dough, roll into a ball, and dust with some flour. Place on a lightly floured surface.

Channeling your inner four-year-old, roll the ball out into a long snake 
about the thickness of your thumb.

Apparently my inner child is alive and well.
Cut the length of dough into 1/2 - inch pieces. You can stop here and boil them off, 
or you can continue on to the next step.

You can roll the gnocchi dough across the back of a fork to make little ridges on them. This helps any sauce cling to the dumpling later on.

Or you can lightly press the dough with the fork like this:

Look at all my beautiful little gnocchi! 

Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Salt generously. Blanch the gnocchi for a minute, then toss in sauce.

I tossed the gnocchi in a mixture of homemade chicken broth (see below), lemon juice, and butter.

Top with Parmesan cheese. These things melt in your mouth, they are so tender.

Happy Thursday. Um, Friday.

Now, if only I could master gelato.


Homemade Stock
{Printable Recipe}
3 chicken carcasses (no chicken carcasses? Roast a few chickens), salted and roasted at 425 degrees for 45 min-1 hour.
1 lb carrots
1 lb celery
1 lb turnip
1 lb large onion
1 1/2 heads of garlic, split crosswise
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
4 bay leaves

Salt and roast the chicken carcasses at 425 for 45 minutes to an hour. Roast vegetables at 425 degrees for an hour as well (you can do all this at the same time if your oven is big enough). Combine in a large stock pot. Add garlic, tomato paste, peppercorns, bay leaves, and salt. Fill the pot with water. Simmer for several hours or until the stock is reduced by half. Refill with more water, and reduce again by half.

Strain. Makes about a half gallon of stock.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spanish Patatas Bravas

While honeymooning in Spain, Justin and I got hooked on patatas bravas, or spicy potatoes — a popular tapas treat in Barcelona specifically. When we got back to St. Louis, we thought we'd try to recreate some of our favorite dinners we had abroad. We nailed tintos de verano ("summer red") or a lemon-and-red-wine concoction, fried artichokes, and the next easiest thing to master were these potatoes.

We just so happen to keep a supply of frying olive oil on hand, but you don't need to deep fry the potatoes by any means. A light pan fry works just as well.

{Printable Recipe}
1 large russet potato, peeled and chopped
3 tbsp mayo
1 tsp Sriracha sauce
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Salt & Pepper
Olive oil


Fry the potatoes in some olive oil for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown and fork-tender. 

Drain on a paper towel.

To make the sauce, combine the mayo, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Sriracha

Toss the potatoes into the sauce.

 Buen provecho, amigos.


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Monday, March 26, 2012

A Recipe to Make You Like Octopus

Ever try octopus? No? 

It's delicious. No, really, it is! Kind of like a mix between chicken and fish — hearty and mild. If you cook it the right way, it will be fork-tender and sweet. No rubbery goop, I promise.

The secret is … and this is true … a wine cork. Something about the enzymes in the cork offer a natural tenderizer that makes this tough little critter smooth as buttah.

Justin and I collected a lot of wine corks over the … ahem … weeks.

These babies might look scary, but they're really nothing to sweat over.

Beautiful in a creepy kind of way.

The Only Octopus Recipe You'll Ever Need
{Printable Recipe}
1 lb of large or small baby octopus, beaks removed (ask your fishmonger)
1 wine cork
1-2 bay leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
2-3 tsp green onions, chopped


Fill a pot with water. Add bay leaves, wine cork, and octopus. Simmer on low for 1.5 hours.

The water turns purple! Weird, I know.
 When the octopus is fork-tender, pull it out and let it drain.

Salt the octopus. 

Heat up the olive oil and saute the garlic. Toss in the octopus to warm through and get a little crispy on the edges. Salt and pepper to taste.

Give it a try. You won't be disappointed. Trust me.


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Friday, March 23, 2012

Perfect Roasted Chicken

Roasting a chicken is a basic skill that everyone should master in their culinary skills. This recipe came from one of Anthony Bourdain's specials on his favorite foods. The key to a perfect roasted chicken is high heat and dry — no oil, no butter, no basting. It sounds like that would make a terrible dry, rubbery chicken, but what it really does is make the skin super crispy and the meat unbelievably moist.

Plus, it's a no-brainer to make. Two ingredients: Chicken and salt. Then you just let the oven do the work for you.

Perfect Roast Chicken
{Printable Recipe}
1 4-5 pound whole chicken
2 tbsp salt

Special Equipment
kitchen twine


Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Tie your chicken. You want to make sure the legs are tied tightly and that it's all one snug little package — this ensures even cooking. Here's a tutorial from Justin:

Once it's all trussed, you can stick on either flat on an oven-proof pan, or make this little contraption (below): it ensures the heat reaches all areas of the chicken. And we don't have a fancy roasting pan. Roast at 450 degrees for 1 hour (and change, if you need it).

Here's the final product:



We had ours with a simple aioli: 
a couple tablespoons of mayo, a splash of lemon, salt, pepper, and lemon zest. 


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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thai Chicken Pizza

Sometimes it's fun to try something totally out of your cooking repertoire. Lately I was surfing through the interwebs, looking for something tasty to try, and I came across the Iowa Girl Eats blog. This girl makes some good food, and it all looks really healthy. She made a thai peanut sauce for noodles and I think a turkey burger, and I thought we might as well switch things up and make a pizza out of it.

Chicken and peanut butter might not sound like a natural pairing, but man is it good. But if you imagine all those salty/meaty things together, you might think — hey, let's put something sweet in there.

No? Well, that's what went through my brain, anyway.

Something sweet and crunchy, to be exact. So I thought a mango-coleslaw type of thing would work.

{Printable Recipe}

Ingredients for Peanut Sauce
3 tbsp smooth peanut butter
1.5 tbsp soy sauce
1.5 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1.5 tbsp water
1.5 tsp Srirachia sauce
1.5 tsp sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ginger, minced

Mix everything together until smooth.

Give it a try. Add more ingredients if you like it spicier, saltier, or peanuty-er.

Ingredients for Mango Slaw
1 cup cabbage coleslaw mix
1 mango, cubed
1/2 tsp ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 jalapeno, minced (seeds removed)
1/2 cup chopped green onion
Juice of 2 limes
Salt & Pepper
1 tsp olive oil


Again, just mix up. Pretty easy, huh?

Thai Chicken Pizza
2 chicken breasts
Pizza dough from Whole Foods (we use half of the dough provided for a thin crust)
Thai peanut sauce
Mango slaw


Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. 

Smear a little peanut sauce on your chicken

Grill it up until done (6-7 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of your chicken)

Let the chicken cool for 10 minutes before you go slicing it, or the juices will drain out and you'll get dry chicken. Nobody likes a dry chicken - just saying.

Roll out the dough, spread on the sauce. Slice the chicken breasts. Top the pizza with it.

Bake at 450 for 12 minutes - halfway through, turn your pizza 180 degrees so it cooks evenly. 

Top with slaw.

The peanut sauce is also amazing on pasta …


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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sips on Saturday: Tinto de Verano

Tinto de verano is a summery delight wildly popular in Spain. Simple and refreshing, tinto de verano is half red wine, half lemony soda. To jazz it up, add some frozen grapes to your glass or a slice of lemon.

{Printable Recipe}

Red wine (we get the $4 bottles at Trader Joe's)
Lemon soda from Whole Foods
Lemon slices (optional)

Mix together in a cold glass and enjoy.

Before …


Friday, March 16, 2012

Oh My Guinness: Stout brownies

It wouldn't be St. Patrick's Day without a tall glass of Guinness stout. When Justin and I went to Dublin for Spring Break while studying abroad in Rome, we went to the Guinness factory.


I've alway loved the coffee-chocolate undertones of the beer, so it seemed like a good idea to put it in some brownies. I did a little research, and found a recipe from I tweaked it a little, and came up with these.

1 12-oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 cup Guinness stout
6 tbsp butter


Whip together the sugar and eggs until light and fluffy.

Set up a double boiler. This basically means a pot of simmering water with a large bowl on top.

Put the chocolate and butter in the double boiler and stir occasionally until melty and delicious.

I have to admit, I nibbled on this a bit. So good. Seriously, I wish I had a kiddie pool full of this stuff. It tastes like fudge.

 Dollop the mixture into the eggs and sugar. Whip it up until smooth.

Sift together the flour and cocoa powder; mix into the batter.

Soooo gooood.

Pour in the beer. Mix.

Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes or until you can stick a toothpick through it and it comes out clean.

This is my kind of St. Patty's Day treat.

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