Looking north from Fire Island

Looking north from Fire Island
Continuing the cooking articles I write every summer

Monday, September 15, 2008

Gia Russa Pumpkin Gnocchi

Thanks to my friend Chef David Ledu, I tried a pound of Gia Russa whole wheat Gnocchi made with pumpkin flour. Damn, it was good.
In a wide pan 2Tb EVOO, saute around a quarter cup of shallots, a few flakes of red chili pepper, and a whisper of fresh grated nutmeg. Then add half cup of white wine, half a chicken bouillon cube, a teaspoon of chopped fresh tarragon, a glug of balsamic vinegar, a grind of black pepper, and some heavy cream. Taste all the while. You do NOT want the vinegar to dominate. It should be mild, with the pumpkin, the excellent pasta, and the cream being the taste you are more aware of. Too much vinegar and you overwhelm everything else, as I did once when I drank too much wine and got cocky.

By now you should have a pot of boiling salted water going. Add the gnocchi, stir well, and when they rise to the top and remain there for half a minute, lift them out and drop them directly onto the prepared sauce. Toss, remove from the fire, and sprinkle with grated Romano cheese. If you only have Parmesan, that's fine. A few more sprinkles of fresh tarragon please.

This is one pasta your taste buds tell you to wolf down, but you shouldn't. Force yourself to eat this slowly, allow yourself to savor the layers of flavor flowing across your palate. The pasta should be chewy, but soft as well. Great pasta has this quality. The beauty of this gnocchi is the way it satisfies, yet leaves you hungry at the same time. I'd drink a fruity red with this.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Better Chicken Than The Kernel's

Most cooks like to put flavor on their chicken, but this technique puts it in the meat where it belongs. Throw out those injector syringes; they’re useless. I made some beautiful grilled chicken last night. It was juicy, tender, and flavorful throughout, not just the outside. Read on.

Since the chicken parts were large, I cut them in half. The thighs across the bone, which needed a cleaver and a mallet. Skinned them too. The breasts were cut in half but skin left on, bones on. Don’t ever bother with skinned and boned chicken. Always cook the meat on the bone for real chicken taste.

The small pieces gave better, faster, more even cooking, more grill flavor on the outside, and were easy to eat with the hands. Careful watching, rotation, and cooking only to the point of just done. Remember meat continues to cook after you take it off the fire.

Then I did two things. I salted the meat using kosher salt, letting it sit for a few hours in the fridge. Sprinkled generously but not buried in salt. Then I marinated it with crushed garlic, oil, and ground black pepper.

Brought up to room temperature, and ready for the grill, it got more oil, and a shower of ground black pepper, and allspice 4:1 . Also a shake of Adobo seasoning. The grill was on low instead of high, letting the meat take its time. Nasty flare ups were at a minimum thanks to the lower fire.

My crappy grill has cool and hot spots. The meat had to be moved around almost constantly. When I saw April grill like that and taste the results, I was sold.

The salt marinade gave the inside of the meat a wonderful, rich flavor. PS, it’s how kosher chicken tastes.

Forgot to mention this is much better the next day, perfect for picnics, etc; don’t try to eat it with utensils. Hands rule here.