Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Central Italy

This week we made dishes from Central Italy; which also includes Rome. The dishes from the region are very simplistic and easy to make. The ingredients are very fresh and homemade pasta is the norm for this area.
The dishes we prepared included: Homemade Tagliatelle Red Pepper pasta with a roasted garlic/olive oil sauce; eggplant rollatini; bruschetta, chicken sauteed with mushrooms and polenta; asparagus with Parmesan cheese and tiramisu.

The fresh pasta was made with 3 cups of flour, 3 eggs, 1 tsp of powdered (crushed) red pepper flakes, 1 tsp of salt, 2 tbsp of olive oil, and 1/2 tbsp tomato paste. I started by by pouring the flour onto a clean surface and making a well in the middle of the flour; then crack the eggs into the well, add the olive oil, salt, paste and pepper flakes. Beat the mixture well with a fork in the well; then start incorporating some of the flour along the edges of the well with the fork. After a while you will begin to work it together with your clean hands and a dough scraper. Knead the dough using the heel of your hand until all of the ingredients are incorporated and smooth. If the dough is too wet slowly add some flour to get the smooth, silky feel. Form the dough into a round and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to sit out while you prepare the rest of your meal. Once the dough has rested for at least an hour uncover and cut into 4 equal pieces. With your pasta roller feed it through; constantly dusting it with flour to keep it dry. Be careful not to roll it out too thin, square off the flattened dough, and slowly roll the two sides into the middle. Slice the dough across both rolled in sides about 3/4 inches wide; slide your knife under the slices and lift. The dough should hang off of your chef knife and you can then separate the strips. Lay the strips of pasta out on a lined cookie sheet and dust with flour to dry. I have actually seen some homes where they line the pasta on a clothing line in order to dry it out. Be careful to not over cook the pasta (only to al dente) and make sure there is enough water to allow room for cooking. If you need to cook in batches, it is ok to do so...I roasted some garlic pressed out the finished product; mashed up the garlic with some salt and added it to 2 tbsp of olive oil and white wine in a pan. Brought this just up to a boil while constantly whisking; then tossed the pasta in the sauce and served with shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano.

Maria made the Eggplant Rollatini; which was dredged on paper towels after lightly dusting with salt; then pan fried to soften the eggplant; and stuffed with ham, asiago cheese. Finally they are rolled up and placed on a baking dish; topped with sauce and more asiago/mozzarella cheese. They are baked for a short period of time to heat and melt all of the ingredients.

The bruchetta was wonderful and made by Mike; he diced and concassed some yellow and red tomatoes into a bowl with minced garlic, shallots and chopped basil. The mixture is then tossed with olive oil, red wine and balsamic vinegars. Seasoned the mix with salt and pepper; then add thin slices of red onion which have sat in ice water to make crisp. The mix is served in a small bowl or plate accompanied with slices of country bread which is topped with a garlic aioli. The garlic aioli (garlic mayonnaise) gives taste and keeps the wet ingredients of the bruschetta from making the bread soggy.

The asparagus is made by snapping off the ends gently where it naturally breaks; then sliced at the bottoms to even them out. Then you place them in a pan and cover with slightly salted water; place it on the heat and bring to a boil. At the boil shut off the heat and remove from the pan from the coils/fire. Pull the asparagus out of the water immediately and place on paper towels to dry. Top them dry asparagus with grated Parmesan cheese and melt in the broiler.

Pollo alla Toscana; chicken with mushrooms is a dish which I think resembles chicken cacciatore. The dish consists of lightly flour chicken which is pan fried then removed from the pan to be put back in later. You then add sage leaves and wine, reduce to almost dry; add mushrooms and chicken stock and reduce by half. You add tomatoes, simmer for about 10 minutes and then correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Place the chicken back into the sauce and let stew until chicken is done. The chicken is then served with slices of polenta; which Peggy made with mushrooms so it complimented the chicken well.

The tiramisu was a tricky dessert because it needs time to set up in the fridge and we did not have a lot of time that evening. The custard is a mixture of whipped egg yolks which have hot sugar (candy state) poured in while still being mixed. Marscapone cheese is then incorporated into the mixture and spread over layed out lady fingers. More lady fingers and then more cheese/cream; espresso, amaretto, or brandy is added to the cream as well. The idea is to allow the dessert to set up in the fridge overnight...overall the week was awesome and we made some pretty tasty dishes.

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