Today's hearty recipe for Italian Sausage and Mushroom Breakfast Casserole comes from The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook by Alexe van Beuren and Dixie Grimes. Van Beuren's story of unexpected Main Street revival in her town of Water Valley, Mississippi, is captivating, and our cooking columnist calls Grimes' collection of Southern recipes, "Creative comfort at its best."
Italian Sausage and Mushroom Breakfast Casserole
Reasons to make a breakfast casserole: Your in-laws are in town, and you need to spend the early morning vacuuming. High school boys are spending the night, and it’s better to serve them something contained rather than getting roped into standing next to the stove for a solid hour making pancakes to order. Someone needs sustenance in the way of food and the whole neighborhood knows it, which means the recipients of largesse might have 18 lasagnas and nothing for breakfast.
This particular casserole is savory enough for dinner, but the eggs make it breakfasty. Teenage boy approved.
Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 × 13-inch baking dish with butter. In a skillet set over medium heat, cook the sausage, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon, until browned throughout—10 to 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Discard all but 1½ tablespoons of the grease in the pan. Add the fennel and mushrooms and cook, stirring, until the fennel is soft, 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, vermouth, oregano, nutmeg, salt and pepper. In the bottom of the prepared baking dish, spread half of the bread, and top with half of the cooked sausage, half of the fennel mixture, and half of the grated cheese; repeat the layers with the remaining ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the plastic from the dish and bake until the casserole is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Excerpted from The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook by Alexe van Beuren and Dixie Grimes. Copyright © 2014 by Alexe van Beuren. Photographs by Ed Anderson. Excerpted by permission of Clarkson Potter Publishers, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Read our review of this book.
Chocolate enthusiasts take note: Our cooking columnist describes Alice Medrich's cookbook, Seriously Bitter Sweet: The Ultimate Dessert Maker’s Guide to Chocolate, as "the perfect love letter to this dark, dense, divinely delicious delicacy." This recipe for Bittersweet Decadence Cookies yields soft, ultra-rich cookies and can be modified to use up to 72% chocolate.
Bittersweet Decadence Cookies
Makes 36 cookies
Ultra-chocolatey and richer than sin, slightly crunchy on the outside with a divinely soft center, these are not delicate or subtle, but the jolt of bittersweet is irresistible. I reorganized and revised the original recipe from one in a newspaper—to make the cookies more chocolatey and intense—by reducing the sugar and butter. Now I’ve revised it again so that I can make it with higher-percentage chocolates without compromising that perfect contrast of textures. For the best cookies of all, chop your own chocolate for the chunks, or use a premium brand of chocolate chunks rather than ordinary chocolate chips. You can choose a chocolate for the chunks that contrasts in sweetness with the chocolate in the cookie batter.
Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets (see Note) with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt together thoroughly; set aside.
Place the 8 ounces (225 grams) of chocolate and the butter in a large stainless steel bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water and stir frequently just until melted and smooth. Remove the chocolate from the skillet and set it aside. Leave the heat on under the skillet.
In a large heatproof bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla together thoroughly. Set the bowl in the skillet and stir until the mixture is lukewarm to the touch. Stir the egg mixture into the warm (not hot) chocolate. Stir in the flour mixture, then the nuts and chocolate chunks.
Drop slightly rounded tablespoons of batter 1½ inches apart onto the lined cookie sheets. Bake until the surface of the cookies looks dry and set but the center is still gooey, 12 to 14 minutes. Slide the cookies, still on the parchment, onto racks, or set the pans on the racks. Let cool completely. Store in a tightly sealed container.
Note: I am fussy about cookie sheets. These cookies will have the best flavor and texture if they are baked on sheets lined with parchment paper, which insulates them just enough but still allows the cookies to be a little crusty on the outside and soft within. Cushioned pans and silicone liners make the texture of the cookies too uniform for my taste. Pans with dark surfaces (even if they are nonstick) tend to scorch rich chocolate cookie bottoms before the centers are cooked.
To use higher-percentage chocolate to make cookies that are increasingly bittersweet, without sacrificing the texture or the pretty gloss on the surface of the cookies, adjust the recipe as follows.
To use 61% to 64% chocolate:
Use 7 ounces (200 grams) chocolate. Increase the sugar to ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (110 grams).
To use 66% chocolate:
Use 6½ ounces (185 grams) chocolate. Increase the butter to 3 tablespoons (45 grams) and the sugar to ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (125 grams).
To use 70% to 72% chocolate:
Use 5½ ounces (155 grams) chocolate. Increase the butter to 3 tablespoons (45 grams) and the sugar to ¾ cup (150 grams).
For the chunks, use any chocolate you like, the same as or different from the batter. No alterations are necessary.
Popular nutritionist and Food Network host Ellie Krieger's latest cookbook, Weeknight Wonders, is perfect for health-conscious foodies with little free time to spend in the kitchen. This quick and easy shrimp recipe is packed with smoky Spanish flavor, and unlike most take-out, it's guilt-free!
Shrimp with Spinach, Garlic and Smoked Paprika
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
If you have yet to discover the glory of smoked paprika, this is your official invitation. Made from smoked red peppers, it is a key ingredient in Spanish cooking (where it is called pimentón). It imparts a deep ruby color and distinctive smoky flavor and aroma, instantly giving the simplest foods, like eggs, potatoes or grilled chicken, a huge wow factor. In this dish, it teams up with golden toasted garlic for doubly exciting seasoning for sautéed shrimp and spinach. You can buy smoked paprika in sweet or hot varieties, but I buy the sweet because I figure you can always add some heat if you want it—and I do add a touch here.
Rinse the shrimp and pat dry with a paper towel. Thinly slice the garlic. Coarsely chop the spinach.
Place the oil in a large nonstick skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium-low, add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is golden, about 5 minutes. Watch closely so the garlic does not burn. Transfer the garlic to a small dish using a slotted spoon, leaving the oil in the skillet.
Raise the heat to medium-high, add the shrimp, paprika, salt and cayenne to the skillet and cook until the shrimp turns pink and is nearly cooked through, about 3 minutes. Stir in the spinach, return the garlic to the pan, and cook until the shrimp is opaque throughout and the spinach is wilted, 1 to 2 minutes more.
SERVING SIZE 1 ¼ cups (6 or 7 shrimp)
CALORIES 260; Total Fat 13g (Sat Fat 2g, Mono Fat 7.8g, Poly Fat 2.1g); Protein 30g; Carb 6g; Fiber 2g; Cholesterol 215mg; Sodium 410mg
EXCELLENT SOURCE OF Iron, Phosphorus, Protein, Selenium, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12
GOOD SOURCE OF Calcium, Copper, Magnesium, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Zinc
In the spirit of Valentine's Day, we're sharing a recipe for a beautiful, rich and chocolately dessert that is so good, you won't even mind that it's not heart-shaped. This Warm Mocha Tart comes from Alice Medrich's swoon-worthy cookbook, Seriously Bitter Sweet: The Ultimate Dessert Maker's Guide to Chocolate, which has more than 150 decadent recipes. Who needs flowers?
Warm Mocha Tart
Serves 8 to 10
Two weeks of nonstop shortbread testing produced an unorthodox surprise: perfect shortbread made with melted butter. That shortbread became an exquisitely crunchy and flavorful base for lemon bars, a crust for cheesecake and, ultimately, my favorite sweet tart crust. I even bake brownie batter on top of it. This remarkable crust barely shrinks in the pan, so there is no need to weight or even prick it before baking. To ensure that the bottom remains crunchy, bake the crust fully, to a deep golden brown, before pouring in the filling.
At the same time I was playing with the new tart crust, I was experimenting with different cocoas, tasting and comparing natural and Dutch-process in all kinds of recipes. Voilà, rich warm cocoa custard in the simplest crust.
9½-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom
For the Crust
For the Filling
1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. To make the tart crust: Mix the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add the flour and mix just until well blended. Don’t worry if the dough seems too soft. Press all of the dough very thinly and evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan.
3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crust is a deep golden brown.
4. Meanwhile, make the filling: Place the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and cream in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the mixture is blended and smooth and begins to simmer around the edges. Remove from the heat and stir in the espresso powder and vanilla.
5. Just before the crust is ready, whisk the egg thoroughly into the hot chocolate mixture.
6. Pour the filling into the hot crust and turn off the oven. Leave the tart in the oven until it quivers like tender Jell-O in the center when the pan is nudged, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on a rack.
7. Serve the tart warm or at room temperature.
Espresso Walnut Tart: The same tart in a walnut cookie crust produces a subtler but still delicious effect. You could also make it with toasted skinned hazelnuts—then I would omit the espresso powder.
Reduce the butter to 6 tablespoons (85 grams) and add 2 teaspoons brandy and 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (or a heaping teaspoon instant coffee powder or crystals) with the sugar, salt, and vanilla. In a food processor, pulverize ⅓ cup (35 grams) walnut pieces with ¾ cup (105 grams) flour until fine. Substitute this mixture for the flour. Proceed as directed.
Either natural or Dutch-process cocoa works well here. The former has a livelier, more complex, fruity flavor, while the latter has a cozy old-fashioned flavor reminiscent of chocolate pudding. You choose.
You may recognize Ellie Krieger from her popular Food Network show, Healthy Appetite. She's back with her fifth cookbook, Weeknight Wonders, and she's ready to further prove that quick and healthy aren't necessarily mutually exclusive terms in the world of food. A registered dietitian with an impressive Ivy-League education in nutrition, Krieger's collection includes 150 recipes that focus on "fresh, minimally processed, additive-free [and] low-fat" ingredients, and each can be prepared in 30 minutes or less. If you love the combination of sweet and savory as much as I do, then this chicken is a must-try.
Peach Chicken with Crispy Bread Crumbs
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
This dish has the savory, crispy-coated appeal of breaded chicken cutlets, minus the messy, unhealthy frying and with the added bonus of a sweet peach topping. The chicken is dipped in a homemade Italian dressing, then coated in freshly toasted seasoned bread crumbs, topped with the peaches and baked until delightfully browned and crisp but still lusciously moist from the fruit. Toss some asparagus with a little olive oil and salt and pop it in the oven for a few minutes before you put the chicken in for a roasted asparagus side, or try it with Asparagus “Pasta” (page 246) or Pan-Steamed Broccoli with Lemon, Garlic, and Parsley Gremolata (page 253).
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
If using fresh peaches, pit them and slice each one into 8 slices. Otherwise, thaw frozen peaches in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stove.
Place the bread in the bowl of a food processor and process until fine crumbs form. Place them in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until they are crisp and toasted, 3 to 4 minutes.
Combine the bread crumbs, sesame seeds, ½ teaspoon of the paprika, and ¼ teaspoon each of the salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Mince the garlic and place it in a small bowl along with the oil, vinegar, oregano, sugar, onion powder, and remaining ¼ teaspoon each paprika, salt, and pepper. Whisk well to combine.
Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Dip the chicken in the vinaigrette, then press it into the bread crumb mixture and place it in the baking dish. Sprinkle any remaining bread crumbs into the pan, on and around the chicken, then drizzle the remaining vinaigrette on top to moisten the crumbs.
Distribute the peaches evenly across the top of the chicken and drizzle with any accumulated peach juices. Bake until the chicken is cooked through and begins to brown, 12 to 13 minutes.
SERVING SIZE: 1 chicken breast, ½ cup peaches, and ¼ cup additional crumb mixture
CALORIES: 480; Total Fat 20g (Sat Fat 3g, Mono Fat 12.2g, Poly Fat 3.0g); Protein 42g; Carb 32g; Fiber 5g; Cholesterol 110mg; Sodium 620mg
EXCELLENT SOURCE OF: Fiber, Magnesium, Manganese, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Phosphorus, Potassium, Protein, Selenium, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin K
GOOD SOURCE OF: Copper, Iron, Riboflavin, Thiamin, Vitamin A, Zinc
This week's recipe is from our January Top Pick in cookbooks, Bold: A Cookbook of Big Flavors by Susanna Hoffman and Victoria Wise. Their "Napa Valley Pot Roast with Leeks and Chardonnay" is just the kind of hearty, simple dish that can be added to your weekly repertoire. But be warned: this recipe may lead to some California dreamin' at the dinner table.
Napa Valley Post Roast with Leeks and Chardonnay
Serves 4 or 5
A journey through California's Napa Valley is a trek both sensory and surprising. A unique combination of earth movements, volcanoes and erosion led to a hill-surrounded vale that is alternately rain-catching and sun-hot, ideal for gardens, orchards and, most of all, grapes. Everywhere there are vineyards. As you wend up the roads, your eyes take in rows of staked vines stretching to the hilltops, reaching into gullies, lining river plains. More than 250 wineries and their tracts of vines divide the valley floor into a patchwork quilt of geographic beauty. At each tasting room stop, your palate meets wine from the valley’s two ruling grape varietals: red cabernet sauvignon, the queen of hearts and white chardonnay, the queen of diamonds. Customarily, the queen of hearts would assert her command over a beef pot roast, but the cuisine of Napa Valley is as strikingly distinct as its landscape. A Napa Valley pot roast simmered in chardonnay gives the diamond queen her due as she lends a crisp and sultry dash to the simmering sauce that sparkles around the meat and vegetables.
1. Generously salt and pepper the meat on both sides. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven or stew pot over medium-high heat. Add the meat and brown lightly on both sides, 5 to 6 minutes altogether. Add the wine to the pot, then the onion, chopped carrot and tomatoes, along with the thyme, parsley and celery leaves, and stir to mix. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, cover the pot and cook until the meat is fork-tender, about 2 ½ hours.
2. Transfer the meat to a plate and set aside in a warm place. Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and discard the solids. Let the liquid rest for a few minutes for the fat to rise to the top.
3. Skim and discard the fat from the liquid, return the liquid to the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the celery ribs, leeks, sliced carrots and mustard seeds and cook until the vegetables are just tender, about 20 minutes.
4.To serve, carve the meat into ¼ to ½-inch-thick slices and arrange them on a serving platter. Pour the juices from the meat plate into the pot with the vegetables and stir gently to mix. Spoon the vegetables and liquid around the meat and serve right away.
Tip: Flat-Iron Pot Roast, A Cut Above. Flat-iron roast used to be readily available in American markets. Every Yankee grandmother and every Jewish mother knew how to get one, namely, from the local butcher. The flat-iron cut, aka blade chuck, top blade, and top chuck, is taken from the top blade (bone) side of a thickly cut beef chuck shoulder roast. It’s prized for pot roasting because when simmered in a casserole it cooks up as tender as a tenderloin steak. There are still butchers who can cut a flat-iron for that special pot-roast occasion if you call ahead. Without such a possibility, substitute a cross rib roast (English roll).
Take advantage of the hearty vegetables available all winter with this week's recipe from Sarah Copeland's Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite. Don't fret, meat-eaters, Copeland assures us that "this book is here to exalt vegetarianism in pursuit of the delicious, not the dogmatic," and her flavor combinations are top-notch, making these veggie-centric meals you can truly look forward to.
This is one of my absolute favorite salads in this book. Warm root vegetables, nutty farro, creamy yogurt, and toasty nuts flatter each other in this filling winter meal. Farro cooked like rice tastes almost buttery; toss with warm vegetables and it will satisfy to the very last grain.
Serves 2 to 4.
8 red or yellow baby beets, scrubbed and trimmed
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp/90 ml extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
6 young heirloom carrots or baby turnips, scrubbed, trimmed and halved lengthwise
1 tbsp honey
1 sprig fresh thyme
8 oz/225 g farro
¼ cup/60 ml full-fat plain yogurt
Juice of ½ lime, plus more as needed
2 tbsp finely chopped assorted fresh herbs
1 tbsp hazelnut oil
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 heaping handfuls arugula or baby leaf lettuce
Small handful toasted hazelnuts
Flaked sea salt such as Maldon
3 oz/85 g aged Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino cheese
Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/gas 6. Drizzle the beets with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Wrap them tightly in aluminum foil and roast until they can easily be pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in the foil.
Combine the carrots, honey, thyme and 1 cup/240 ml water in a medium skillet over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are fork-tender and the broth has reduced to a glaze, about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
Meanwhile, put the farro in a medium pot and add enough water to cover by about 2 in/5 cm. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce to low heat and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.
When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel the skins with a paring knife and quarter. Slice the radishes as thinly as possible with a mandoline or a very sharp knife.
To make the dressing: Whisk together the yogurt, lime juice, herbs, hazelnut oil, olive oil, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper in a medium bowl. Taste with a leaf of arugula; adjust the salt, pepper or lime juice as needed.
Divide the farro among shallow bowls. Drain the carrots. Combine the beets, carrots and arugula in a large bowl; toss together; and arrange over the farro. Top with the radishes, drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle with hazelnuts and flaky salt. Generously grate or shave Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top with a vegetable peeler. Serve warm.
The holidays may be over, but the cold weather is sticking around, so calories still aren't counting, right? In Wintersweet, Tammy Donroe Inman offers a collection of sweet treats focused on seasonal ingredients and rich flavors. Perfect for those "not into fussy holiday baking and elaborate concoctions," this book relies on simplicity, and the recipes are neatly arranged by ingredients so you can easily whip up something after a quick peek into your cabinets.
Inman's recipe for rice pudding adds some bright, fruity notes to a simple, yet always satisfying classic and can be tweaked to fit your mood.
Persimmon, Pistachio and Coconut Rice Pudding Parfaits
Back in culinary school, I had to submit an original dish to be critiqued by my instructors on originality, flavor and presentation. Here’s what I came up with: coconut rice pudding served in a papaya “boat” fitted with a triangular “sail” made from pistachio-coconut meringue. It tasted great—but it looked like something a preschooler might have made. In this new-and-improved version, I use raw persimmons instead of papayas, and no silly sails. Parfait glasses or jelly jars allow you to see the pretty layers. The result is whimsical and comforting. This rice pudding recipe makes double what you’ll need for the parfaits, but then you’ll have plenty left over.
Makes 6 Parfaits
5 cups (1.25 L) whole milk
13½ ounces (400 ml) coconut milk
1 cup (185 g) long-grain white rice (like basmati or jasmine)
1 cinnamon stick
2⁄3 cup (135 g) granulated sugar
6 ripe Fuyu persimmons or 3 very ripe Hachiyas or wild persimmons (about 1½ pounds, 680 g)
¼ cup (30 g) chopped, shelled, salted pistachios
In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, coconut milk, rice and cinnamon stick over medium-high heat, stirring every few minutes to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Bring the liquid to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sugar and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 to 20 minutes more, or until the pudding is thickened but still creamy and pourable (think risotto). Remove the cinnamon stick. Let the pudding cool to room temperature.
When ready to serve, slice the Fuyu persimmons in half along their equators. With a paring knife, score the flesh on the cut-side all the way down to the skin in parallel lines about 1/2-inch (1-cm) apart. Do the same in the other direction, so you get perpendicular lines. Now you have little cubes you can spoon out of the skins when assembling the parfaits. (If using Hachiyas or wild persimmons, you can simply scoop out the soft, jelly-like flesh, removing any seeds.)
In small parfait glasses or jelly jars, alternate layers of rice pudding and persimmon, ending with a layer of rice pudding. Sprinkle the chopped pistachios on top. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled. Any leftover rice pudding can be eaten plain straight from the fridge.
Variation: Try this with pomegranate seeds or cubed kiwi, papaya or mango substituted for the persimmons.
"Southern hometown food is extraordinary,” says Kelly Alexander, writer of the Southern Living No Taste Like Home cookbook; and the BookPage staff here in Nashville definitely know how right she is. Well-written instructions combined with recipes and local lore from six different Southern regions make this collection a winner, regardless of what state you call home. During these winter months, comfort food is key, and Birmingham chef Shannon Gober's Not Yo' Mama's Mac 'N' Cheese recipe has a decadent, grown-up twist. Not Yo’ Mama’s Mac ’N’ Cheese
Makes 8 to 10 servings. Hands-On Time 1 hour. Total Time 1 hour, 20 min.
1. Preheat oven to 400°. Bake breadcrumbs in a single layer on a baking sheet 5 to 7 minutes or until golden, stirring once after 21?2 minutes.
2. Cook prosciutto, in batches, in a lightly greased large skillet over medium heat 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until crisp. Drain on paper towels; crumble.
3. Prepare pasta according to package directions.
4. Meanwhile, melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat; add shallot, and sauté 3 minutes or until tender. Add wine, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of Dutch oven, and cook 1 minute.
5. Gradually whisk in flour until smooth; cook, whisking constantly, 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk and next 4 ingredients; cook, whisking constantly, 12 to 14 minutes or until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Remove and discard bay leaf.
6. Place 4 cups (16 oz.) Cheddar cheese in a large heatproof bowl; reserve remaining Cheddar cheese for another use. Add Gouda and Parmesan cheeses to bowl.
7. Gradually pour white sauce over cheeses, whisking until cheeses melt and sauce is smooth.
8. Stir in pasta and prosciutto until blended. Pour into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish; sprinkle with breadcrumbs. 9. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until bubbly. Serve immediately.
Note: Don’t use preshredded cheese; it doesn’t melt as smoothly. You can shred the cheese and crisp the prosciutto up to 1 day ahead and chill. You can also toast the breadcrumbs ahead and store them in a zip-top plastic bag.
For No-Bake Mac ’N’ Cheese: Omit breadcrumbs. Prepare recipe as directed in Steps 2 through 6. Stir pasta, prosciutto, and cheeses into white sauce. Serve immediately. — Executive Chef Shannon Gober, John’s City Diner, Birmingham, Alabama.
Celebrity chef Scott Conant, creator of the critically acclaimed New York restaurant Scarpetta, has released The Scarpetta Cookbook. His dishes range from simple to quite complex, and many require some planning, but each one is worth the work for the end result. Conant calls the following recipe "a quintessential Scarpetta dish that has not lost its popularity over the years."
This is a quintessential Scarpetta dish that has not lost its popularity over the years. At the restaurant, waiters bring these mushrooms to the table in tiny saucepans. The lid to the pan is ceremoniously lifted, and you first experience the dish with what I call “the breathe,” that initial aromatic hit that puts the dish right in your head. The mushrooms and their cooking juices are then spooned over a waiting bowl of our creamy polenta.
Which wine? This rich dish needs a wine with intensity and weight to match the richness of the polenta and the woody nature of the mushrooms. A red from Umbria, like Caprai Montefalco Riserva or Sagrantino from Fattoria Scacciadiavoli, would fit the bill.
In a medium saucepan, heat the 6 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots, season lightly with salt, and cook, stirring, until the shallots just begin to color, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms, thyme, and the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms release their liquid, about 2 minutes. Add the Chicken Reduction, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced by half and has a saucy consistency, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the preserved truffles. If the mixture thickens too much—you want the mushrooms to be swimming in the sauce but there should be a mushroom in every bite—add 2 tablespoons of the Chicken Reduction to thin it out a bit. Stir in the chives and crushed red pepper.
Divide the Creamy Polenta among serving bowls. Top with the mushrooms and their cooking liquid and serve immediately.
Serves 8 to 10
In a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the cream and milk until warm, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the salt and keep whisking until the liquid is very frothy (like a cappuccino) and hot. While still whisking, slowly rain the polenta into the pot. Continue to whisk until the granules swell, about 8 minutes. At this point, switch to a wooden spoon to stir the polenta. (It will get too thick for the whisk.) Keep stirring until the polenta has begun to thicken, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and cook until it evenly begins to bubble. Reduce the heat to low, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and cook, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes, until cooked through and the liquid has reduced, about 1½ hours. The polenta might look “done” sooner, but it does continue to soften, so be patient. During this time, a skin might form on the bottom of the pan, which is fine.
Just before serving, raise the heat to medium-high, stir in the butter and the cheese, and cook, stirring, until the butter is melted, then take the pot off the heat. If the polenta looks thin, don’t worry, as it will thicken as it cools.
Makes about 4 cups
Heat a convection oven to 425°F or a conventional oven to 450°F.
Rinse the chicken bones and pat them dry. Spread them out on two rimmed baking sheets in a single layer with a little room between the bones. Roast until golden brown, about 1 hour, flipping and turning the bones every 15 minutes or so.
In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the rosemary and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the celery, onion, and carrot, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are well browned, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, and cook, stirring, until some of the juices evaporate, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook until almost all of it has evaporated. Add the chicken bones (with juices and drippings) to the stockpot, then add enough water to cover everything by about 2 inches (about 6 quarts). Increase the heat to medium-high, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium to cook at a gentle simmer, stirring often to break up the bones and emulsify the fat, until the chicken is falling off the bones and the stock has a full flavor, 2 to 2½ hours.
Remove the chicken bones and strain the broth several times through a chinois or other fine-mesh strainer. If you want to make and use the reduction right away, spoon off any visible fat floating on top of the stock. Otherwise, chill the stock until the fat solidifies on top, and then scrape off and discard most of it.
Pour the defatted stock into a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat slightly so the stock is not boiling so furiously. As the stock simmers, some of it will remain on the sides of the saucepan; use a spoon or ladle to pour some of the stock over this to deglaze it. (This will further increase the intensity of the flavor.) Continue simmering until the stock has darkened, thickened, and reduced to about 4 cups, about 30 minutes. The reduction can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.
Note: If you don’t want to make, or don’t have the time to make, this chicken reduction but want to prepare one of the dishes calling for it, experiment with some of the commercial chicken reductions out there. One that I have tried with success is called Glace de Poulet Gold, by More Than Gourmet brand. A classic reduced chicken stock, it can be reconstituted to get a flavorful chicken reduction that, while not exactly what I make, is exceedingly convenient. You can find it at most supermarkets as well as at specialty food markets.