Fresh Rigatoni with Ragu Bolognese

Dining date: 2/5/12

rigatoni3

I recently purchased a KitchenAid stand mixer (due to a deal I could not refuse) and immediately had dreams of freshly baked breads, cookies and pastries. However, while researching optional attachments, I came across the pasta extruder, a play-doh like attachment that basically pushes dough into various shapes to be cut. I had to have one.

I’ve made fresh pasta once before a couple of years ago with a manual pasta roller…it’s been sitting in the cabinet ever since. I found it to be pretty difficult and time consuming, and my result wasn’t even up to par with dried pasta. However, the extrusion method is much easier. Basically, a dough is made and pushed through various dies to create different shapes, then are cut manually. No need to roll pasta over and over.

Inspired by this post on food, je t’aime I set out to make fresh rigatoni with a ragu bolognese from the Mozza cookbook. The ragu was fairly easy – it took a lot of time (most of it idle), but had a lot of room for error. The pasta, on the other hand, had to have a dough that was just right. One thing’s for sure; every chef and cookbook has their own pasta recipe. I tried a number of them, but so far have found this one to work best for me. Interestingly, it requires no eggs, no kneading and no resting.

Pasta dough (food, je t’aime)

5 oz all purpose flour
5 oz semolina flour
4 fluid ounces warm water

1. Weigh flour and place in bowl of stand mixer.
2. With the paddle attachment, mix on low slowly dribbling in water to produce a wet and crumbly dough.

The dough is cut into walnut-sized pieces and fed into the extruder. It’s pretty fun to do (as long as it turns out well) and makes fresh pasta pretty quickly. The dough is the tricky part; if it’s too sticky/wet, the pasta won’t hold its shape and will get stuck together. If it’s too dry, extrusion becomes noticeably more difficult and the resulting pasta becomes too dense.

extrusion

fresh rigatoni

To pair with the rigatoni, I went with Mozza’s ragu bolognese.

Ragu bolognese (The Mozza Cookbook)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves
2.5 ounces pancetta, roughly chopped or ground
1 cup soffritto
1/2 of a 4.5 ounce tube double-concentrated tomato paste
1 pound ground veal
1 pound ground pork
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup dry white wine
3 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup whole milk

1. Combine oil and garlic in bowl of a food processor. Add pancetta and puree until ingredients form a homogenous paste.
2. Cook mixture over medium heat until the fat from the pancetta is rendered, about 5 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent the garlic from browning.
3. Stir in the soffritto and cook for about 1 minute.
4. Move the vegetables to create a bare spot in the pan, add the tomato paste to that spot and cook for 1 minute.
5. Add veal and pork, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and cook, stirring occasionally, until all of the juices released from the meat have cooked off and the pan is almost dry, about 10 minutes.
6. Add the wine, increase heat to medium high and cook until the wine has evaporated and the pan is almost dry, about 10 minutes.
7. Add the chicken stock, bring it to a simmer, reduce heat and simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the stock has almost all cooked off but the pan is not completely dry.
8. Add the milk and simmer until the ragu returns to a thick, saucy consistency, 30-40 minutes.
9. Use the ragu, or allow it to cool to room temperature and refrigerate in an airtight container.

Finishing the pasta

Kosher salt
3/4 cup chicken stock or pasta water
3 teaspoons unsalted butter
12 ounces pasta
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
3 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino romano

1. Combine 1.5 cups of the ragu, the chicken stock and butter in a large saute pan over medium heat.
2. Stir ingredients to combine and heat until the butter is melted and sauce is warmed through, adding more chicken stock if necessary to obtain a loose sauce consistency.
3. Turn off the heat while the pasta is cooking.
4. Cook pasta until 1 minute from being done.
5. Place sauce over high heat. Lift pasta out of cooking water, drain and immediately add to the pan with the sauce.
6. Cook the pasta with the sauce for 2 minutes, stirring gently with a rubber spatula so you don’t tear the pasta. Add pasta water if the pasta is dry and sticky instead of slippery and glistening.
7. Turn off the heat and add the finishing quality olive oil, stirring vigorously and shaking the pan to emulsify the sauce.
8. Add the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and pecorino romano and stir to combine.
9. Plate pasta and use a microplane or fine grater to grate a light layer of Parmigiano-Reggiano over plate and serve.

aromatics

cooking meats

braising

ragu bolognese

Expectantly, the ragu was the easy part (technically) though there were a lot of steps. As expected, it exhibited a rather rich (there’s a lot of fat) and luscious sauce, definitely meaty. Simple and delicious. I added a little bit of chopped parsley on top.

rigatoni4

Over the course of a few days, I prepared various batches of pasta and came up with some I thought were pretty good and some that were just bad. While I liked the taste and texture of my “pretty good” pasta, they didn’t hold their shape very well, falling in on themselves.

These held their shape perfectly, but were way too dense.

rigatoni2

My understanding is that the ideal dough for extrusion is different from one that goes through a pasta roller (particularly with the kneading and resting period), though I’m not entirely sure. For some reason, pastas in which I added egg, kneaded, and rested turned out way too sticky. If anyone has a pasta extruder and tips to share, I’d love to hear them!

Pappardelle with Oxtail Ragu

Dining date: 1/2/11

pappardelle with oxtail

A meaty ragu (with pasta) is one of my favorite foods. If there’s one on the menu, there’s a pretty good chance I’m ordering it. One of my favorites is an oxtail ragu commonly served with a wide, flat pappardelle pasta. There’s just something about the beefy, meaty oxtails imparting their flavor into a rich and hearty sauce with pasta. It’s a dish I’ve wanted to make for some time but was never quite confident enough in my ability to do it. Turns out, it was actually fairly easy. Just takes a little time, but it was well worth it.

As with any dish, there are tons of different recipes out there but I found one from Mario Batali out of the Babbo Cookbook. With the Batali name attached to it, I chose this one to follow…well, mostly. Technically it’s for gnocchi with oxtail ragu, but I figured I could follow the recipe and just substitute the gnocchi for pasta. The recipe is as follows:

Recipe (adapted from Mario Batali, Babbo Cookbook)
2.5 lbs oxtail
Kosher salt and ground pepper
Flour, for dredging
1 onion, diced
2 cups red wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup tomato sauce
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Pecorino romano, for grating
Pasta/gnocchi

Salt and pepper the oxtails and dredge oxtails in flour. Sear until well-browned on all sides. Remove oxtails.

Add onion and cook until lightly browned, a few minutes. Add red wine, scraping up the browned bits, followed by the chicken stock, tomato sauce and fresh thyme. Bring to a boil.

Add back the oxtails and their juices to the pot and put into a 375 degree oven for 3 hours.

Once oxtails are tender and falling off the bone, remove from sauce and let cool. Strain the sauce or blend all ingredients to achieve a smooth consistency.

Once the meat has cooled, pull meat apart from bones and shred into small pieces. Add back into sauce.

Cook pasta according to directions. In a saucepan, add meat and sauce to warm. Once pasta is a couple of minutes away from being done, drain and place pasta in saucepan with enough pasta water to maintain desired sauce consistency. Cook sauce and pasta together until well-incorporated and pasta is done. Plate and grate cheese over the top.

I followed the recipe fairly closely, carefully browning the meat and braising them until tender. Once the braise was done, I let the oxtails sit for a few hours to cool and for the fat (and there was a lot of it) in the sauce to settle at the top, where I tried to skim as much as I could. As much as I love oxtails, they’re not the healthiest cut of meat – there’s a ton of fat (flavor!). I tried to minimize that as much as possible in this step. I then blended the sauce up in its entirety to create a smooth consistency.

raw oxtails

browned oxtails

cooking oxtails

cooked oxtails

Once the meat was pulled apart and put back into the sauce, I was ready to assemble the pasta. I experimented with two different dried pappardelle pastas (as much as I would’ve loved to use fresh pasta with this, it’s a lot of work and I’m not very good at it) – a thicker, wider Delverde variety and a thinner, eggier Rustichella pappardelle. Basically, those were the two varieties my local Bristol Farms carried.

Taste-wise, I preferred the thicker and wider Delverde pasta but found it to break apart while cooking far too easily. I could understand it breaking apart if overcooked, but these guys starting falling apart after a few minutes of cooking. The Rustichella variety held up together perfectly during the cooking process, but it didn’t have the same mouth feel as the thicker Delverde.

warming sauce

tossing pasta

Fully assembled and plated pasta with the Delverde.

oxtail pappardelle

And the Rustichella.

pappardelle5

I also experimented with a couple of added touches. I liked adding some bitter greens (I had some Chinese broccoli on hand, of which I used just the leaves – they worked very similar to rapini); I thought it added a whole new dimension, and its fresh, slightly bitter flavor helped to offset the richness of the dish. Plus, it made me feel less guilty about eating this in large quantities. I also did one with some clementine zest (’tis the season!) which added some bright citrus to help cut through the richness, though I preferred just the greens.

pappardelle with greens

pappardelle4

I was pretty happy with the way this turned out. I’m still searching for the perfect pasta (it may have to be made fresh…sigh) but I thought the ragu was exactly what I was looking for. Rich and tremendously flavorful, it would’ve worked well on any pasta. Or even mashed potatoes. Or spread on some toasted bread. Probably with any starch. I’ll definitely be making this again.

Christmas 2011

Dining date: 12/25/11

The Christmas setup has been the same as long as I’ve known, however the food has remained relatively consistent. Lunch is a buffet at my mom’s sister’s house, where they fully decorate the house in a warm Christmas decor.

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Technically it’s a potluck, though my aunt makes the majority of items. My contribution were a few choice brews, fit for the season!

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Lasagna

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Shrimp

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Breakfast Sliders

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Salad Strawberry Vinaigrette

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Chow Mein

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Green Beans

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Fried Wontons

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Pork Ribs

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Tamarind Fried Rice

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Chicken Pot Pie Pockets

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Shrimp Toasts

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BBQ Pork Pockets

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Potstickers

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Crab & Artichoke Dip

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Taro Crisp

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My cousin, who is quite the baker, usually bakes some sweets to take home. Check out this boba milk tea cake she made for a separate occasion.

Salted Caramel & Chocolate Malt Balls

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Gingerbread & Assorted Cookies

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Ice Cream Cake

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Sweet Stop Dream Cake

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Dinner at my grandmother’s (dad’s side) isn’t quite as festive decor-wise, but the food is a little more serious with everyone sitting down around a long table with a large slab of red meat. My grandmother takes the lead on the food almost everything; my aunt made the turkey this year.

Turkey

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Roast New York Strip

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Stir-Fried Lobster

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Mixed Vegetables

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Chinese Sticky Rice

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Stuffing

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Yams

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Mashed Potatoes

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Gravy

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Chocolate Fudge Pie

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Sweet Stop Dream Cake

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That wraps up another Christmas. As always, it’s an overload on good food and drink with family. I look forward to what another year will bring!

Thanksgiving 2011

Dining date: 11/24/11

I’m not sure how long we’ve been doing it, but Thanksgiving has traditionally been spent with a lunch on my mom’s side and a dinner on my dad’s side. That way, no one has to pick-and-choose/rotate where Thanksgiving is spent. With two large meals, I’ve learned pacing becomes key.

Lunch is in Alameda at my aunt & uncle’s. The food has a base in traditional Thanksgiving fare, but essentially everyone cooks what they want to eat. Technically it’s a potluck, though the majority is prepared by the host family. This leads to a pretty wide variety of dishes with a definite Asian slant. Because I fly in the morning of, I don’t actually contribute any food (my family brings a cake).

Dinner, at my grandmother’s in San Francisco, also has a traditional turkey but that’s not really the focus. My grandmother tends to cook what the family likes to eat, and that’s a lot of meat. Red meat.

Lunch is served buffet style.

buffet1

buffet2

Country fried potatoes bacon, cheese

country potatoes

Green beans sliced almonds

green beans

Turkey

turkey

Pork ribs

pork ribs

Sweet potatoes and yams marshmallows

sweet potatoes

Vermicelli barbecued pork, mushrooms, egg

vermicelli

Farfalle pasta

farfalle

Salad

salad

Chow mein

chow mein

Chinese sticky rice

rice

Chicken pot pie

pot pie

Fried wonton chili sauce

wontons

Egg rolls

egg roll

Sauteed shrimp

shrimp

Coconut and pandan waffle

coconut pandan waffle

Shrimp toast

shrimp toast

An assortment of desserts are usually served up around the 2:00 hour.

Homemade pumpkin pie

pumpkin pie

pumpkin pie2

Homemade pumpkin cheesecake

pumpkin cheesecake

pumpkin cheesecake2

Homemade cranberry pumpkin bread

pumpkin bread

Ice cream cake rocky road, pecan, red velvet

ice cream cake

ice cream cake2

Chocolate mousse cake

choc cake

choc cake2

We cross the Bay Bridge into San Francisco for dinner. Lots of meat on the menu.

dinner table

New York strip roast

beef

beef2

Turkey

turkey2

turkey3

turkey4

Lobster tails

lobster

lobster2

Mashed potatoes

potatoes

Gravy

gravy

Stuffing

stuffing

Chinese sticky rice

rice2

Mixed Vegetables

veggies

Dream cake

dream cake

dream cake2

Homemade apple pie

apple pie

apple pie2

Just like that, another Thanksgiving is over. As usual, it was a ton of food but I was able to fit in everything I wanted to eat!

Oxtail Pho

Dining date: 10/23/11

oxtail pho2

I love a bowl of soup noodles. Whether a wonton noodle soup, ramen, or pho, its one of my favorite things to eat any time of the year. I will admit, I hadn’t had a “real” bowl of pho until I was in my late teens. Not sure why, but I just never came across it in San Francisco. Now, it’s a go-to whenever something warm and comforting is needed, especially on a cold day.

I recently had oxtail pho for the first time, at Pho Lu in Garden Grove. It was delicious; both the meat and broth offered a depth of flavor I didn’t get in a more typical raw beef pho (pho tai). I was inspired to make something similar at home.

I loosely followed a recipe from Serious Eats (here). I have no idea as to how authentic it is, but it looked legitimate enough. The recipe calls for oxtails to simmer for 8 hours (from start-to-finish, the preparation would be over 24 hours)…seriously, this had better be good.

I started with about 5 pounds of oxtails from my local 99 Ranch market. They weren’t as cheap as I thought they’d be at $5 per pound. Not sure how this dish is so reasonably priced at restaurants.

I began by soaking these tails overnight, changing the water often, to remove any blood and impurities. Further, I blanched them quickly before starting my simmer.

I didn’t really measure much of anything, but I dropped in toasted spices (cinnamon and star anise), roasted onion and ginger, as well as carrots, daikon and lemon peel. Combined with the blanched oxtails, water, fish sauce and sugar, I was ready to let my broth simmer for a good 8 hours.

oxtails cooking

I’ll admit I tried the broth after the 8 hours and felt skeptical. It tasted off, really unbalanced with a strong anise flavor. Dammit. I drained the soup and let it sit in the refrigerator to cool so that I could scoop out the globs of fat settling at the top. Hopefully the flavors would mix together better after they cooled.

The next day I was ready to assemble the final product. I started by reheating some of the oxtails in the soup. While doing that, I cooked some dried pho noodle (I prefer the thicker one) and dropped them into a bowl with some thinly-sliced raw onion, scallions, cilantro and thai basil.

plating1

Finally, I placed the oxtails on top and poured in the broth.

plating2

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All stirred up.

oxtail pho

How was it? It was good. Not great, but good. I thought the soup needed better balance (thankfully, the flavors mellowed out and it wasn’t as bad as my first taste) – maybe I should’ve measured a few things out. Too much star anise. Shouldn’t have substituted lemon peel for lime. However, the oxtails were delicious, just as I expected them to be. Tender and just about falling off the bone, they had just the right amount of meat, connective tissue and fat. Overall, I was proud of this bowl, especially for a first time.

Will I make it again? Maybe, but it will be a while. I think the cost of my raw ingredients were higher than if I just ordered it at a restaurant, not even including the significant labor. Still, there was something comforting and satisfying about making something like this at home, so I suspect I will do it at some point.

Pan-Roasted Halibut, Chanterelles with Pea Shoots

Dining date: 8/28/11

halibut1

I don’t cook with mushrooms a whole lot. In fact, I grew up not liking them, always pushing them aside on my plate. Now, I’m far from a lover of mushrooms (unless they’re truffles?), but I’ll usually eat them if put in front of me.

I stumbled upon some chanterelles at the Hollywood Farmers Market a couple weeks ago and just had to have them. I had no idea what I was gonna cook with them, but I was inspired to do something with them.

Taking my chanterelles home, I browsed through some of my cookbooks to figure out the rest of the dish. Immediately catching my eye was a recipe in Ad Hoc at Home for sauteed chanterelle mushrooms with pea shoots. It was relatively easy to do and I had most of the ingredients on hand. A recommended protein pairing was another recipe in the cookbook: pan-roasted halibut. My planning was done.

The two recipes, from Ad Hoc at Home:

Pan-roasted halibut

2 pounds halibut fillet, cut into 12 rectangular pieces
Kosher salt
Canola oil
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fleur de sel

Remove the fish from the refrigerator and let stand for 15 minutes.

Position oven racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Check the halibut to be sure all bones were removed. Season on both sides with salt. Add some canola oil to two large ovenproof frying pans and heat over high heat until it shimmers. (If you don’t have two pans, cook the fish in batches and transfer to a rack set over a baking sheet, then finish in the oven.) Add 6 pieces of halibut to each pan, presentation (nicer) side down, lower the heat to medium-high, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the bottom of the fish is golden. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 2 more minutes. Transfer the pans to the oven and cook for about 2 minutes, until just cooked through.

Remove the pans from the oven, flip the fish over, and “kiss” the second side for about 30 seconds. Transfer to a platter, and serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of fleur de sel.

Chanterelle mushrooms with pea shoots

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons of finely chopped shallots
3 thyme sprigs
8 ounces small chanterelles or other mushrooms in season, trimmed and washed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4-1/2 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 cups pea shoots
Extra virgin olive oil
Fleur de sel

Melt the butter in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook the shallots for 2 to 3 minuntes, until tender. Add the thyme and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are almost tender (if the pan becomes too dry, add a little of the chicken stock).

Add 1/4 cup chicken stock and cook, adding more stock as needed, about 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mushrooms are tender. Continue to cook until the stock is reduced to a glaze. Discard the thyme.

Add the pea shoots and stir just to wilt and incorporate, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with fleur de sel.

I began with the chanterelles, cooking them according to the recipe. I wasn’t too worried about this part of the dish; it was pretty straightforward.

chanterelles

pea shoots

chanterelles pea shoots

I was more concerned about the fish. I wanted to ensure I got a crispy, golden crust while not overcooking. The recipe called for the halibut to be cooked almost entirely on one side, carefully controlling the heat. It would only be flipped over at the end to finish the other side for 30 seconds.

halibut

halibut2

I was pretty happy with the way it turned out. My fish broke apart a little bit as I was flipping it and I wanted a little more browning, but temperature-wise I think I had it down. While a meaty fish, it stayed pretty moist. The chanterelles were delicious, and I really liked the bright crispness that the pea shoots brought to the plate. It was relatively quick to make too, always a plus. However, it was on the expensive side – the raw ingredients cost about $30 for the one plate.