Saturday, December 10, 2016

Spaghetti wilth clam and Mussel Sauce (al Sugo di Vongole e Cozze).

The wonderful thing about the Italian kitchen is its versatility.  Fresh clams and Mussels are incredibly easy to use.  Just takes a little time to clean and prepare.  Many come already cleaned by your fish Monger.  For those of you of course, who just can't stand the thought.  All they really need is a gentle rinse.  Have your Fish store Advise you on proper care.  
  This is yet another tasty dish I love to make, especially in Summer, as it cooks up fast and will delight the most discriminating pallet.  Enjoy!
Ingredients for 4-6 people
One pound little neck clams or any small clam
One pound black mussels
Handful of fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic diced
4 tablespoons olive oil
One teaspoons salt
One teaspoon pepper
2 cups of fresh tomatoes and their juice (store bought canned is fine if fresh is not on hand)
1/2 cup white wine
One pound Di Cecco Spaghetti (or any good quality pasta)
Large pasta pot with 8 quarts water
One tablespoon plus 1/2 tablespoon salt

Method: If you are using fresh clams and mussels, make sure your shellfish is clean and ready. Gently remove any grit with a brush from the shells and place them in a chilled bowl.
In a large skillet, heat your oil.  Add your garlic and saute until fragrant.  Add your mussels and clams at the same time.  Quickly add your lid.  Wait 5 minutes and lift your lid from the pan.  You will begin to notice that most of your shellfish has opened.  Add your wine and place your lid back on the pan for 5 more minutes.  Remove your lid, turn your heat down and remove all your mussels and clams from the pan.  Do not worry if some of the liquid is going in the bowl too.  You will have about a half a cup. 
At this point add another tablespoon of oil to the same pan and heat.  Add your tomatoes (I like to puree mine in the blender), continue to cook until your tomatoes are fragrant and reduced (about 7-8 minutes on medium).
When you see a ring of oil iss formed around the pan, its time to add your shellfish back to the pan.  Give it a mix and let reduce 5 more minutes.

I like to remove some of my empty shells.   I leave about half intact for presentation and flavor.
Cook you pasta until just al dente, toss with your sauce add your parsley and serve. Buon Appetito

*Special Note:  If you are using frozen clams and mussels, the method is quite the same.  Your cooking time will reduce by about 5 minutes.  Give them a quick rinse and discard any shells you see cracked.  They will be surprisingly delicious. *

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Baba Al Rum

Setting out to make this Baba al Rum recipe was no easy task.  It took 3 separate test recipes to get an accurate resemblence to a classic Neapolitan, spongy cake.  Then the fun really begins.  Which Rum to use?  I took the advice of my Pastry chef uncle, who advised me to always use a good quality liquor.  A little for the recipe, a little for the cook.  All kidding aside, it is the most logical.  I have never understood people who want to buy the least expensive wine or liquor to add to your recipe.  Just remember, if you would not buy it to stock your bar at home, why would you put it in a recipe?  Enough about that, let's get cooking.

For this recipe, you will need to either use 8 non stick cups about 2 1/2 inches tall/ about 1-1/2 round.  Any size will do. You can re-use your pans almost immediately.  Don't fill them up to much and you will get 12.  Be sure and watch that cooking time.  Nonstick is ideal.  Just be sure and watch your cooking time and check your oven.  
 Be sure to line the cups with butter.  I used a non-stick popover pan.  This works well too.
Food processor Method
Baba al Rum
2-1/2 cups of all purpose flour plus extra in case it looks to wet when mixed (You may not need it)
4 large eggs
1 tsp salt
3 tablespoons sugar
9 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup whole milk
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
one cup Dark Rum
1/2 cup Apricot Jam (Optional, however traditional)

Begin by adding your yeast to your mixing bowl of your food processor.  Add your milk and one tablespoon of sugar and pulse.  Let stand about 5 minutes until bubbles form on the outside rim.
Add your flour and pulse.  Turn your mixer on and add your eggs, salt.  Stop the mixer and scrape the sides.  Turn it back on again and mix for a few minutes, until your flour is incorporated.  In a separate bowl, beat the remaining sugar (2 tablespoons), with your butter.  Scrape the butter into the bowl and mix.  Yes, the butter needs to be added last. This will ensure a pretty, shiny coat on the outside of your Baba. 
 Here is a review:

Gather your ingredients
Add your yeast, milk and tablespoon of sugar to the bowl. Add your flour.    Follow directions above.
Add you eggs and salt, when all incorporated, add your butter mixture last.  Just mix for a few minutes until incorporated.

Remove your mixture from your mixer and cover with plastic wrap.  Place in a warm place (inside of a kitchen cabinet), for up to 2 hours.   Your mixture should almost double in bulk.   Butter your pan or cups.  After this time, unwrap and scoop your mixture into your cups. 
Preheat your oven to 400 bake.

Once in their cups, cover again with plastic wrap for 30 minutes.  They will be spongy. Your mixture will bounce back.  This is what your looking for.  Do not be concerned.  If you have gotten this far, they will be good. 
After this time,  place in a hot oven for 10 minutes.  Turn your oven down to 350 and cook for 5 minutes more.
(Don't worry if they look a little uneven, just shake the pan and let rest.  They will continue to rise).
Special Note:  Oven times will vary.  Keep a watchful eye.  They might be ready ahead.  Cup sizes vary too.  These were quite large and required longer cooking time.   Check if they are done by inserting a toothpick.  If it comes out clean, they are done.
Melt your sugar and water, until clear and dissolved.  Add your apricot Jam and continue stirring until dissolved.  Add your rum and turn off your heat.  Let both your Baba's and syrup cool for 30 minutes.  

Place your Baba's on their side and begin poking holes all over your Baba's.  They will not cause your Baba's to break, so don't worry.  You want to enable the syrup to sneak into your cakes while soaking.
Then, into their rum bath.  You can either place them for a few minutes 2 at a time.  Or place them all into a container over night, covered in Syrup.  Remember, the longer you let the sit, the better they are.  So they will  keep well in a tight container for several days.

Don't be afraid to let them soak.
Before serving, try splitting them open and add some Whipped cream or serve them with some additional Rum on Top.

Which ever way you like, it's all delicious and hard to resist just one. 

Buon Appetito!
Thank you to my sweet, Uncle Johnny at The Swiss Bake Shop in Scotch Plains New Jersey, for convincing me,  you can make them at home and sharing this recipe with you!