Thursday, February 26, 2009


Friends, things have been quiet here and for that we are sorry, but as many of you know we have been too busy making Ribollita Soup for the FEAST to write. By now most readers have eaten the final results but what was served at Feast went through several batches and lots of fine tuning.

Molly and I originally tried the classic Tuscan soup at Marlow & Sons in December and were blown away by this perfectly balanced, perfectly seasoned, and perfectly simple soup. Luckily Caroline Fidanza provided the laborious recipe in the more recent Diner Journal. I was pretty thrilled to make it. Cooking Pork Belly in its own rendered fat is obviously delicious but taking water, vegetables, and beans and making it complex and rich is cooking at its best. Of course this is also immensely challenging as simplicity necessitates perfection.

It breaks my heart to say it but for the first time ever, Caroline Fidanza let me down somewhat. Making the first batch it seemed strange to add 2 28oz cans of tomatoes to the mix but I trusted her vision. However, when the soup was done it was far too tomatoe-y and all the rich subtleties of the beans were lost. More than that, it was nothing like the brothy, complex soup we had in the restaurant. In the next batch I added more water and a quarter of the tomatoes originally called for. Alas, this was, more or less, what was served at Feast. Perhaps it was a typo but either way my faith in Chef Fidanza is still strong.
The recipe was there, now there was only the small matter of making 120 servings. I've had some dinner parties in my day but feeding a small army is a totally different matter, even if that army is considerably educated, good looking, liberal urbanites. 2 days of cooking and 50+ quarts of soup later I am quite proud. - dmp

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sunday / Raspberry Orange Muffins

Recently, we bartered a couple of hours of babysitting for a huge bag of almond flour and several of our friend Maggie's favorite recipes. It was a solid trade! In the last couple of weeks I've made two successful batches of muffins, and am hoping to move on soon to scones, cake, and dough.

On Sunday, I went to a lovely brunch hosted by my favorite ladies on Wilson St., and brought along these raspberry and orange zest muffins frosted with honey-sweetened Mascarpone cheese:

These muffins are delicious, not too sweet, and couldn't be easier to make! If you can get your hands on some almond flour, you should definitely give this recipe a try. Thanks, Maggie!

Almond Flour Muffins

2 1/2 cups almond flour

3 eggs

1/2 stick butter

1/2 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

plus the fruit of your choice, the zest of lemon or orange, and/or nuts
, seeds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together the honey and butter. Stir in the eggs. Add the almond flour and baking soda, and stir until combined. Fold in the fruit (I used one container of raspberries), zest (orange in my case), a little squeeze of the citrus juice, and any nuts or seeds you like.

Fill muffin tins nearly to the top (these muffins will not rise as much as those made with all-purpose flour) and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until golden.

Makes roughly 12 muffins.

Mascarpone Cheese Icing

1 tub Mascarpone cheese

2 capfuls vanilla

honey to taste

a dash of cinnamon

Combine the ingredients and spread over cooled muffins.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wednesday / Pork Belly Rillons with Salsa Verde

Sunday we took the night off for an extraordinary date/dinner at Marlow & Sons, complete with oysters, semolina porridge, creamed kohlirabi with guanciale, risotto, sea bass, fried apple pie for desert, and an especially memorable appetizer of Pork Belly Rillons with Salsa Verde. As some readers will know, I've braised Pork Belly many times to varying degrees of success and after the jowl it is my favorite piece of pork. Still, discovering Rillons is similar to only knowing Surfer Girl and then having someone play you Pet Sounds; I had no idea something already so delicious could be that much better.

Tuesday night I nabbed a piece of Belly from a beautiful Ossabaw courtesy of
Flying Pigs Farm, and making Rillons only made sense. Searching for recipes, sure enough the amazing folks of Last Nights Dinner had already made Caroline Fidanza's recipe; an amazing but perhaps not too coincidental discovery. I was quite happy with the results and our house still has the faint smell of sweet pork.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Time Life Books / Headcheese

In the 1970's Time Life printed a 28 volume set of cookbooks entitled, Foods of the World; each volume dedicated to the culinary heritage of a country or geographical region. There are amazing recipes in each but also historical and cultural explanations of the the given culinary landscape (M.F.K. Fisher wrote the Cooking of Provincial France volume). Some are better than others but each is a gem in its own right. Ultimately it is the incredible images that make them invaluable. We'll be posting our favorite images sporadically until we run out, but that probably won't be for anytime soon. Given my recent Headcheese adventure I thought I'd start with this image from American Cooking: Creole and Acadian of a butcher holding Headcheese as well as some piggies from The Cooking of the British Isles.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Thursday / Butternut Squash & Golden Beet Soup with Truffle Oil

Il Passatore, one of our favorite restaurants, makes an incredible butternut squash ravioli with truffle oil. Ever since I ate it that first time, I've been obsessed with trying to recreate a similar dish at home. This time I wasn't really in the mood for pasta, but I finally shelled out $9 for that teeny tiny bottle of truffle oil, and thought it would be delicious atop a creamy, pureed squash soup with parmesan cheese.
The result? Pretty good, but not quite good enough. Next time I think I'll add some garlic to the soup base and will stick to straight-up squash, instead of adding the beets. Maybe a little more maple syrup as well? I'll keep working on it!

p.s. the other day, I received an incredible package from my Grammy with 16 hand-sewn cloth napkins inside. The napkins, which can be seen in this photo, are just perfect and made my dinner feel all the more special. Thanks, Gram!

Tuesday / Lobster Sunchoke Risotto

Inspired by a lovely post on Last Night's Dinner the other day, I decided to forgo the usual lobster treatment (boiled, dipped in butter) and use our two 1-1/4 pound fresh Maine lobsters in a creamy risotto.
After steaming up the lobsters, I broke them down, picked all the meat, and tossed the shells in a large stockpot with a bunch of veggie ends to make a stock. I reserved the meat on the side, and went about chopping up a handful of sunchokes (a vegetable I've been curious about for ages, but have never actually used!), several shallots, and a bit of fennel to add to the rice. After an hour or so of stirring and gradually adding the lobster stock, the rice was perfectly tender and the sauce silky. I stirred in the lobster meat, a bit of creme fraiche, more salt and pepper, and garnished with fennel fronds.

The result was pretty wonderful, if I do say so myself. The flavors were delicate, but distinct, and the dollop of creme fraiche gave the whole dish a delicious creaminess. I also tossed together a quick salad of spicy arugula dressed in lemon juice and olive oil, which was the perfect companion to to the rich risotto.

Even though Maine lobsters only set you back $6.99 per pound in the off-season (the same as hamburger meat, here in NYC!), they have the ability to make any meal feel pretty darn fancy. We all felt like we were living large on Tuesday night. -mro

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Monday / Oysters

Molly and I made a trip up to the great state of Maine over the weekend for some QT with family and spectacular times were had all around. Before departing for the long drive back to New York on Monday, we visited a great little fish market in Portland, and grabbed up some Shellfish; Oysters, Mussels, and Lobsters. Said Oysters were Winterpoints from West Bath, ME and came highly recommended from the kindly gentleman helping us.

Shucking them, a first for both Molly and I, was quite an adventure (thanks again Jeff) but deeply satisfying. Molly whipped up an excellent minionette to accompany these incredibly delicious creatures; briny, salty, fresh, and sweet. If only we could eat them at every meal. - dmp

Friday / Lunch

After the impeccable feast that was the homemade pasta and pork cheek ragu from the night before, I was not necessarily looking to make a masterpiece for lunch on Friday. But when I realized we had a good deal of fat from the jowl, an apple, and kale; I had a vision.

First I made cracklings, and with the rendered fat I sauteed up some Kale with chili peppers and a touch of maple syrup. While all this was happening, I cut up some apple and put together a salad that made me positively euphoric.

I dare say that between these two meals, things are really coming together here on Withers street. - dmp

Thursday / Pasta with Pork Cheek Ragu

Last week, the kind folks over at BK sent us home with their new Norpro pasta machine to try out. Neither David nor I had ever made pasta from scratch, but we had been talking about it forever, and decided this would be the perfect opportunity. David was also lucky enough to bring home a sweet little pig cheek from the weekly butchering class, which was just the right cut for a delicious ragu.

These days, with work and busy schedules and the general goings on, it has been hard for David and I to carve out good chunks of time to cook together. Unlike some, we're a surprisingly compatible pair in the kitchen, and always look forward to spending extended periods of time together chopping, stirring, tasting, and creating piles of dishes. It just happened that the stars aligned on Thursday and we cooked and ate and drank wine late into the evening. This meal was a D&M collaboration at its best!
Pig cheek, with scored skin, braising in red wine, tomato, and rosemary
Flour volcano with eggs
David kneading the pasta dough
Pasta sheets, post-machine, laying out to dry
After 3 hours of braising, the fat from the pig cheek had rendered and created an incredibly rich sauce. At that point we pulled out the cheek, sliced off the fat, cubed up the meat, and tossed the meat back into the dutch oven to reduce some more. Once the pasta had finished cooking (in salty water, like the sea), we added it and a cup or so of starchy pasta water to the dutch oven to thicken and round out the dish. Hands down, this was the best pasta we've ever made and a pretty seminal culinary moment in our household.