Thursday, January 7, 2010

Lou's Most Excellent ItalAsia Pasta

What to say about this? All I know is that it's a) good and b) good for you. I was going to make just a basic pasta and shrimp but the better got a hold of me. The flavor combo is great - how can it not be? And it's quite satisfying.

You gotta boil a lot of water for this - about 4 quarts each - twice. Sorry. It should go without saying that if you have two pots of good size you can boil two pots at the same time....

[Recipe is for two persons]

12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Sesame oil
Chili oil
1 head escarole
4 oz whole wheat fettucini
3 cloves garlic, minced
Red pepper flakes
2 TBS finely minced yellow onion
Extra virgin olive oil
Parmesan cheese block
Sea salt & pepper

Bring 4 quarts of cold, salted water to a boil. While doing that.....

Clean and rinse the shrimp, pat dry. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with about ½ TSP sea salt, toss, then add about 2 TSP of chili oil, 1 TSP sesame oil and 1 TBS of brandy. Toss together and set aside.

Cut the bottom off the escarole and discard; proceed to cut the escarole head into thirds. Clean the leaves in a colander under cold water. You have to clean escarole - it's always full of dirt.

When the water is boiling, add the escarole all at once, pushing it down with something other than your hand. [wooden spoon, perhaps?] Let it return to boil then quickly drain in the colander and rinse under cold water. Leave be for now.

Bring another 4 quarts of salted water to a boil, unless the second one already is.

In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, add about 1 TBS of olive oil along with the garlic, onion, and red pepper flakes to desire and cook until the garlic becomes aromatic - about 1 minute. Squeeze the escarole dry and sprinkle it into the pan, tossing to keep it mixed. Push the escarole to the outter rim of the pan and add the shrimp to the middle, saving the residual juices in the bowl, and cook until tender. Pour the residual shrimp juice over the escarole and toss all together. Tip: you just want to warm the escarole up - not cook it anymore. Also, for faster cooking shrimp, move them to the outside as well.

Add the pasta and begin cooking. If fresh pasta, only cook for 1.5 minutes.

Before draining the pasta, add two laddles of pasta water to the shrimp-escarole mix and toss together. Drain the pasta and mix together with the shrimp-escarole. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with shaved Parmesan.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Lou's Most Excellent Wayne's Lasagna

Who doesn't like a steaming pile of lasagna when it's 19 degree's outside?

(Who thought I was gonna say steaming pile of shit?)

My buddy Wayne made the best lasagna [WMK - and that's all you get]. His trick is to think of it like layers of pizza rather than layers of noodles with sauce and cheese. The addition of spicy sausage also helps. He and his wife then abandoned me here in Washington and I now have to fend for myself.

Too runny lasagna results for many factors. First and foremost is the use of excessive amounts of tomato sauce in the lasagna itself. Another are the noodles being overcooked and unable to absorb additional liquid during the cooking process; worse are your noodles putting back their excess moisture into the lasagna because of that. You can have too much cheese - particularly ricotta - too. I never thought I'd say such a thing but there ya' have it.

Here's my take on it. Make the sauce the day before and let it mellow in the fridge overnight. It makes the sauce not as sharp in the dish itself. The use of hearty amounts of mozzarella in the lasagna, not too much sauce, and "chunks" of ricotta help keep it intact and provide nice little pockets of surprises in each bite.

For the sauce:

2 boxes Pomi crushed tomatoes (26 ounces)
1 box Pomi strained tomatoes (26 ounces)
3 medium yellow onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, sliced thin or minced
10 sprigs fresh parsley, minced
2 TBS kosher salt
1 TBS ground black pepper
1 TBS sugar
8 - 10 store (local Italian deli preferred) bought meatballs
Extra virgin olive oil

In a 4 quart sauce pot, saute the onion + 1 TBS of salt over medium heat in about 3 TBS of olive oil until near translucent...about 12 minutes. Add the garlic and saute an additional minute, then dump in the tomatoes. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer over low heat for about 2 hours. Remove from heat, cool to room temp, and cool in the fridge overnight.

For the lasagna:

Sauce from above
Five 18 x 8 inch long pasta sheets*
6 spicy Italian sausages, cooked and sliced into ½ inch pieces
6 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
30 oz whole milk mozzarella cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
1 egg
6 sprigs fresh parsley
1 TBS ground black pepper
2 TSP red pepper flakes

*If you can't find large sheets like this, smaller ones are OK - you just need enough sheets to make seven layers of lasagna.

Bring 7 quarts of salted cold water to a boil in an 8 quart pot. In another equal sized pot fill with cold water and set aside.

Boil the noodles, one at a time, for 2 minutes and immediately dunk into the cold water. Take care not to rip the noodles but if you do, no biggie. Dry the noodles on long pieces of wax paper.

in a large bowl add the ricotta, Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses, egg, parsley, black and red pepper and mix together to form a thick paste.

In a glass 13 x 9 pan, add about 1 cup of sauce to the bottom to lightly cover.

Add a noodle sheet and then about a half cup of sauce. Measure out about 1 cup of ricotta mix and dollop in heaping tablespoon amounts over the sheet. Take about 4oz of mozzarella and tear into chunks with your hands like string cheese and loosely dollop too. Sprinkle the equivalent of one sausage link over as well.

Repeat this six more times.

On the last layer just top with tomato sauce - about a cup. Remove the meatballs from the tomato sauce, halve, and then quarter each half. Spread the meatballs over the top of the lasagna, cover with foil, and bake at 350 for 50 minutes.

Reheat the sauce on the stove.

At T=50 check the lasagna - it should be bubbling along the sides. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella over the top and cook for 10 more minutes.

Remove from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes, and serve with additional sauce on the table for those who want it.