Archive for January 31, 2013

Spicy Ragu Pasta

I was browsing thru the February issue of Bon Appetit magazine and came across a recipe for Rigatoni with Spicy Calabrese-Style Pork Ragu that looked really tasty. I decided to mix it up a bit and use up some leftover pork roast from dinner the other night and make it into my own Spicy Pork Ragu. Hubby never even realized he was eating leftovers! Served with a salad and garlic bread it made a great winter meal.

Here is what I ended up doing:

1 large onion, quartered
2 carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, then chunked
6 garlic cloves
1 tbsp fresh oregano leaves
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup red wine (I had merlot)
1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1 pound sweet turkey Italian sausage, casings removed
1 pound leftover cooked pork roast, pulsed in the processor
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 pound rigatoni or penne
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan


Heat oil a large, deep skillet (I have a 5 qt chicken fryer) over medium heat. Pulse onion, carrot, celery, red bell pepper, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and parsley in a food processor until VERY finely chopped. Add to pan with a good sprinkle of salt and pepper and saute until veggies start to get soft.
Add sausage and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until browned, about 10 minutes. Add wine and cook until about half of the wine has cooked off. Add pork and tomato sauce. Simmer mostly covered (I use a splatter screen and put the lid on top of that) until it tastes really freaking good, about 2 to 3 hours.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 2 cups pasta cooking liquid. Add 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid to sauce; stir in 1/4 cup Parmesan and increase heat to medium and continue stirring, adding more pasta cooking liquid if needed. Serve top with additional Parmesan.

Note: You could toss the pasta and sauce together and serve that way. I prefer not to because hubby likes his pasta well sauced and I prefer mine lightly sauced.

Cuban Rolls or “How a Sponge Becomes a Roll”

The roll!

I love to make bread and, over the years, have developed a few shortcuts to some great slow rise methods. This Cuban Roll is a very simple dough, flour, water, yeast, sugar and salt. I’ll start with a sponge and then, since it only has a 1-loaf or 12-roll yield, so I can utilize the food processor for the mixing. I am shortcutting some of the labor but lengthening the time to allow full flavor development.

I start with a large measuring cup that will allow me to proof and sponge in the same vessel. After proofing the yeast in 1 cup of room temp water with a tablespoon of flour (never sugar…sugar can over-excite the yeast and I like to keep it mellow). To make the sponge I simply add 1 cup of flour and then, with a wooden spoon, stir 100 times in the same direction. This helps to form the fragile gluten strands and prevent breaking them. Cover it with plastic and set it in an out of the way spot for 8 hours or over night. (I usually do this before bed so that I can do the next steps before leaving for a busy day.)

Into the processor I put 2 cups of flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 tablespoon of salt. Give it a couple of quick pulses, then add the sponge and 1/4 cup of tepid water. Pulse until it comes together in a loose dough ball, then process for 20 seconds. This dough is shaped into a ball and then it goes into a lightly oiled, gallon-sized ziploc bag. Press out any air and place in the fridge for 2 to 24 hours. It won’t rise double high so don’t be too concerned. The yeast is being allowed to do its thing slowly so that you get great texture and flavor without the “shazam” effect of fast rising. You won’t be sorry.

A couple of hours before you are ready to bake it set the bag on the counter and deflate. Let it sit about an hour (it will do a small rise). Then remove from the bag and knead several times before shaping into a loaf or rolls. I then cut the bag so it lies flat open and cover the dough, oiled side of bag down. Then a dish cloth on to keep it in place. This keeps the dough from sticking to the fabric.

When it has risen nicely take the cover and bag off and place in a 400 degree oven. Dump a large bowl of ice in the bottom of your oven or in an old pie pan on the lowest rack to create a steamy environment and let it bake. Do not peak during the first 10 minutes or so or the steam will escape and you’ll lose that crispy crust it creates.

The recipe…….

Cuban Bread

1 cup Water (room temp)
1 tsp active-dry yeast
1 tbsp flour (all purpose, unbleached)
1 cup flour (all purpose, unbleached)
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
2 cups
1/4 cup water (room temp)

For the sponge:
In a large measuring cup (8 cups) add 1 cup water and stir in yeast and 1 tbsp flour. Let sit for a few minutes until yeast dissolves and a little foaminess starts. Stir in the cup of flour. Stir 100 times with a wooden spoon in one direction. Scrape down sides and cover lightly with plastic wrap. Set aside for 8 hours or overnight.

You can mix the next part by hand or in a large mixer but I like to utilize my food processor for this part. In the bowl put the 2 cups of flour, sugar and salt. Pulse just to mix. Pour in sponge and 1/4 cup of water. Pulse until it comes together loosely then process for 20 seconds. Be careful not to over mix!

Shape into a ball and place in an oiled gallon ziploc bag. Let rise or place in the fridge for 2 to 24 hours. Let sit on counter for about an hour to warm up if it’s been in the fridge. Deflate. Using a parchment lined cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal, shape the dough into a loaf or 12 rolls. Cover lightly and let rise until double. Bake at 400 for 20 to 25 minutes, until internal temp is 190.

Taco Empanadas

These are absolutely not authentic. The filling is a simple taco filling stuffed into a simple biscuit and baked. The result is heavenly :) And this recipe just screams to be played with, modified, changed in any way that your heart (and taste buds) might desire.

Taco Empanadas

2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper
1 onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, diced (or other pepper as desired for heat levels)
1 lb ground beef
2 tbsp chili powder (I prefer ancho)
1 tsp oregano
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 4oz can diced chilis
1 can black beans, drained
1 cup frozen corn
1 recipe for 16 biscuts, prepared (or 16 canned)
8 oz grated cheddar cheese
Sour cream and salsa for serving

In a large skillet over medium heat, saute onions with crushed red pepper and salt and pepper until the onion starts to get color. Add the peppers and continue to cook until onion is cooked thru. Add the ground beef, chili powder, oregano, Worcestershire sauce and canned chilis. Brown meat thoroughly. Stir in the black beans and corn and let simmer 10 minutes or so.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and sprinkle lightly with cornmeal.
Roll out each biscuit to about 5” round. Mound taco filling into the center, top with a small amount of grated cheese. Fold in half, pressing edges firmly to seal. Place another small amount of grated cheese on top. Place on prepared baking sheet, leaving a 2” gap or so.

Bake 15 minutes, until golden brown. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

Dulce De Leche Frosting

This is by far my new, all time favorite frosting. The chocolate cupcake could be any chocolate cupcake. In this case it is simply a vessel for the frosting. I will admit a deep, dark secret. I LOVE frosting. I spent my youth licking the frosting off of cake, drooling for the corner piece of those fancy, supermarket already decorated birthday cakes. Blue, not red. Red was always bitter. Bit I digress. This frosting is nothing like that. It is not a buttercream, which used to be my favorite. It is 100% caramelly goodness.

Dulce De Leche Frosting

1 13-oz can dulce de leche
1 8-oz pkg cream cheese, room temp
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of kosher salt

On high speed whip the dulce de leche and cream cheese. Beat in the vanilla and salt. FROST.

Generously frosts a 9×13 or 24 cupcakes.

Refrigerate if not serving right away. Let sit at room temp for one hour before serving.