Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pasta with Onions, Bacon & Cream

I received complaints from my daughters and son-in-law who use the website to find my recipes, that this one was not posted…so apologies to my readers who prefer a true “gourmet” approach. I have avoided using the Italian name for a dish of this type because it is NOT a traditional “Pasta alla Carbonara.”  It does not use any eggs—not even the raw egg yolk that characterizes the famous dish. No, it is something simple I cooked up one Sunday night for the family with what I had on hand, and they liked it so much that it became a staple for us. I make it when I want something fast and easy. Serves four.

1 pound pasta (tagliatelle, fettuccini, spaghetti or rigatoni)
1 tablespoon olive oil or unsalted butter
½ pound pancetta or thick-cut bacon (or a half pound of each), diced
1 large or 2 small onions, peeled and sliced
1 cup cremè fraîche (or cream)
1 cup grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese
1 tablespoon Fresh parsley, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until tender yet firm (as they say in Italian, al dente.)  Drain the pasta well, reserving ½ cup of the starchy cooking water to use in the sauce. While the water is coming to a boil, heat the olive oil in a very large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the bacon or pancetta and cook slowly for two- to three minutes. Add the onion slices and cook another couple of minutes. Then add the ½ cup of the starchy pasta water. Mix and add the cream. Mix and set aside. Add the drained pasta and mix well. Plate and sprinkle with cheese and chopped parsley. Serve at once with the rest of the Parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Braised Veal with Carrots

My favorite meat is veal, and this is one of my favorite veal recipes. Gerard and I often have friends over for bridge, and I like to prepare meals that I can cook in advance and just heat up before serving. This is one of them.  I make it earlier in the day, keep it at room temperature and warm it up just 5- to 10 minutes before serving.  It is easy to make and always good if you get a good piece of meat.

Serves four


2-pound boneless veal roast

salt and pepper

¼ cup margarine or a mixture of butter and oil
½ sliced onion
4 strips of bacon, trimmed and chopped
6 carrots, peeled and sliced lengthwise
½ cup dry white wine
2 cups veal stock (or chicken stock)
12 Baby Yukon Gold potatoes, washed but not peeled



Preheat oven to 350º F.
Season meat with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven, sear meat on all sides in margarine (or a mixture of butter and oil) until lightly browned. Remove meat from skillet. Lightly brown onion. Add bacon bits. Add carrots on top of onions so that they become a bed upon which you will place the seared meat. Add the wine and stock to cover the carrots but not touch the meat. Place in the oven with lid on for about one hour, or until internal temperature reaches about 160°.
Boil potatoes in their skins at any time during the day.  When almost done, remove from water. Peel off the skins and save at room temperature.

Fifteen minutes prior to serving, reheat oven to 200º F. Remove the meat and place the potatoes in the liquid under the carrots. Replace the meat on top and bring to a simmer to heat everything.  When the meat and vegetables have been warmed on the stove, place in a Pyrex dish and put in the oven to keep warm. Reduce (boil down) the liquid to a nice sauce.  Scatter the potatoes and carrots around the meat and spoon half of the sauce over the meat. Serve the rest in a gravy boat.


Last year we invited some friends for a spring asparagus party, for which we ordered a case of white asparagus from France and I made some Hollandaise sauce for a spring feast. Our guests brought us some wild ramps, which had been growing on their property here in Millbrook. I am ashamed to admit I had never seen ramps, which I later learned are a delicacy native to the Eastern seaboard, growing wild from South Carolina to Canada in April and May. They resemble leeks with stringy roots, thin stems, flat green leaves and a purple streak running up the side of the stem. Part of the onion family, they have a pungent flavor somewhere between that of a leek and garlic. They mellow with cooking. Ramps can be used raw or cooked in any recipe calling for scallions or leeks, but they go particularly well with eggs and potatoes and are often featured with potatoes in omelets and frittatas. They may be grilled, brushed with olive oil, along with asparagus or stir-fried, with sesame oil, ginger, and soy sauce; sprinkle toasted sesame seeds over them.  Before cooking, slip off the thin outer layer of skin from the stem, cut off the roots, rinse thoroughly, and scrub off any excess dirt on the bulbs. To store, wrap the root ends in moist paper towels, seal tightly in plastic and refrigerate for three to four days.

Scandinavian Cucumber Salad

I lived in Scandinavia for two years when I was in my mid twenties. I ate lots of herring, ptarmigan (pigeon) and was always happy when I found this traditional cucumber salad on the buffet table. It is sweet yet vinegary-an unusual combination. These marinated cucumbers retain a summer crispness and serve as a light, fresh complement to meat or fish.
1 cucumber
1/4 cup vinegar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. celery seed
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley


Wash and peel cucumber. Cut into paper-thin slices.  Mix all of the rest of the ingredients until sugar has dissolved. Place into a container with the cucumber slices.  Marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving. If you have any left over, the marinated cucumbers will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Secrets to Making Vinaigrettes

There must be thousands of recipes for oil-and-vinegar dressings, or vinaigrettes. But all of them are asked to defy the laws of nature, because oil and vinegar don't mix.  Just shake up a bottle of store-bought salad dressing and the two parts come together. But set the bottle down, and in seconds they start to separate again, until all the oil is at the top and all the vinegar is at the bottom. Bringing them together temporarily is called creating an “emulsion.” One can make an emulsion that will stay together and serve as the basis for a good salad dressing by following some simple procedures.

The right ratio is three parts oil to one part vinegar (for almost all oils and vinegars).
Seasoning: Add seasonings to the vinegar before adding the oil, because most of them will not mix well with the oil.
Whisking: It is important to whisk the dressing after the addition of each part of oil … this will keep the emulsion together. And if not, a simple turn or two of the whisk will bring it back together.
Tasting: The best way to test the flavor of your vinaigrette is to dip a piece of lettuce in, shake off the excess and then take a bite. This will give you a good sense of how your salad will taste.
Juices: If your taste buds tell you the three-to-one proportions are still too “vinegary” for you, add a few drops of lemon juice, which will balance out that flavor. This can also be done with lime or even orange. 

My Mustard Vinaigrette:
In the bottom of the empty salad bowl, place a teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Add ½ tablespoon of red
wine vinegar and ½ tablespoon of balsamic red wine vinegar and whisk together. Add salt and coarse pepper. Add 1 tablespoon of peanut oil and whisk. Add a second tablespoon of peanut oil and whisk; add a third tablespoon of peanut oil and whisk again. Chop 1 shallot and add to the sauce. Allow to macerate together for at least 30 minutes, or for as much as eight hours. Just before serving add the salad greens (any combination of greens, such as escarole, Boston, mixed spring greens, spinach, endive, or romaine). I tend to use this salad dressing in the winter months.

My Garlic Vinaigrette:
In the bottom of the empty salad bowl, place ½ tablespoon of red wine vinegar and ½ tablespoon of balsamic red wine vinegar and whisk together. Add salt and coarse pepper and two pieces of minced garlic (be sure to take out the green germ inside if there is one). Add 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO—always use “first cold press” for salads) and whisk. Add a second tablespoon of EVOO and whisk; add the third tablespoon of EVOO and whisk again. Chop ½ Vidalia onion and add to the sauce. Allow to macerate together for at least 30 minutes, or for as much as eight hours. Just before serving add the salad components (romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.) I tend to use this salad dressing in the summer months, when the tomatoes are good.

Eric Ripert’s Salad Dressing
I use this when I have seafood (lobster or shrimp) in the salad.
In the bottom of the empty salad bowl, mix 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, and 3 tablespoons of sherry vinegar. Drizzle in, while constantly whisking, ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon of olive oil (first-cold-press EVOO), and finally ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon of corn oil.

Gerard’s Raw Carrot Salad

Gerard has decided to start cooking. We have had many an argument as I see him trying to steel my thunder and overtake what was my supreme domain, especially since he is much less critical of the dishes he prepares than he is of mine or anyone else’s for that matter. It is frustrating when he tries three different recipes to make chicken soup and is finally content and proud of making a really good one, when all he did was finally follow my advice. But, when it comes to his raw carrot salad, I have to admit he surpassed any of the results I ever achieved. So now once a week he goes into the kitchen and prepares his raw carrot salad for us and sometimes our guests to enjoy as a first course before my main dish is served.  I must give credit where credit is due, no matter how damaging to my ego. And I must share it with you, because it is healthy, and good tasting and really easy to do.

1¼ lbs of carrots (best with baby carrots)
1½ shallots (finely chopped)
1½ tablespoons of red wine vinegar
1½ tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
4 tablespoons of peanut oil
2 tablespoons chopped chives
Salt and pepper

Mix the vinegars in a large bowl with salt and pepper. Add each tablespoon of oil whisking after each addition so as to form an emulsion (a thicker liquid that stays together). Scrape and rinse the carrots with cold water, pat dry. Grate the cleaned carrots (using the side of the grater that has holes not slices) and placing the grated carrots into the bowl with the sauce. Mix well. Cover with cellophane and refrigerate until meal time. Before serving sprinkle the chopped chives over the top.

Rack of Lamb, Roasted Rosemary Potatoes, and Zucchini au Gratin

There are many recipes for rack of lamb that include marinating, making mustard crusts, or spearing the meat to insert garlic and herbs—and if you do not have good lamb, I would suggest following one of them. My preference, however, is to buy great meat and allow it to be the star. Rack of lamb is simply the ribs— chops that are not cut apart but roasted together and then separated before serving. Roasting in a rack tends to make for juicier and more tender chops than broiling or pan-sautéing them individually. In the case of lamb, “less is more.”  Large racks mean that the lamb is larger and older and closer to the strong-tasting mutton than the mild-flavored baby lamb.
Each rack is made up of eight lamb chops and serves three people. (Serve two chops per person, and when you pass the plate around for seconds, many people will take a third). Ask the butcher for racks that weigh less than a pound and a half each. Have them “Frenched” so that the meat at the tips is cut away to expose the bones and the backbone is cracked between the ribs to make it easy to carve before serving.  Lean two Frenched racks standing up against each other, with the bones’ tips on top and interlaced.  
Rack of lamb should be cooked rare or, at most, medium- rare.  
Serves six
2 tablespoons olive oil (not extra-virgin)                                                                                                           2 racks of lamb, each less than 1½ pounds
Salt and pepper

Fresh Rosemary


Preheat oven to 400° F.  Arrange the oven rack so that the lamb will be in the middle of the oven.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and sear the racks on all sides in a hot pan so that the outer layer of the meat gets a crisp, cooked look to it.  Place the seared racks in a roasting pan with fresh rosemary in between them. Place the pan in the middle of the preheated oven for 12 minutes, and insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. Cook until the thermometer reads 125° F for rare or 130° F for medium-rare. Remove from oven, cover with foil and let rest for five to ten minutes.

If you have only one oven, prepare the following side dishes an hour before roasting the meat. Cover with aluminum foil to keep warm and return to the oven to reheat while the lamb is resting.

Zucchini au Gratin

3 lbs. Zucchini
3 eggs, beaten
8 oz crème fraiche (Marona’s has Ronnybrook, Adam’s has Vermont or mix heavy cream with sour cream) 
5 ounces grated Swiss cheese
Salt and pepper


Rinse and dry zucchini (do not peal). Cut into large cubes. Cook in salted boiling water for 15–20 minutes. Drain and squeeze in a colander to remove excess water. Place zucchini in a buttered oven dish and mash with a fork. In a separate bowl, mix beaten eggs, crème fraiche, three-quarters of the cheese, and some salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add mixture to zucchini and mix with a fork. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top. Place in preheated oven (350º F) until golden brown (30- to 40 minutes). 

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes
9 pearl onions, unpeeled

18–24 baby potatoes, unpeeled (all the same, or a combination of Yukon Gold, white creamers, small reds,
or fingerlings—but try to get them all the same size)
Olive oil
Salt and coarse pepper
Fresh rosemary

Place the onions in water and bring to a boil. Remove immediately and peel off their skins. Wash the potatoes, scrubbing off any dirt, but leave the skins on. Coat a roasting pan with the olive oil and salt and coarse pepper. Dry potatoes with a paper towel. Roll the potatoes and onions in the seasoned olive oil. Sprinkle with fresh rosemary and place in the preheated oven (350º F) to roast until golden brown (about 45 minutes). 

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Contrary to what we have been led to believe, Corned Beef and Cabbage is not a traditional Irish dish. Although Ireland has corned, or cured, beef for centuries, it has almost all been for international commerce. Historically very little actually stayed in Ireland. The Irish traditional cabbage dish is with bacon. But Irish American immigrants living in close quarters with Eastern European Jewish immigrants on the Lower East Side of New York City took a liking to their corned beef, and they began to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with this wonderful dish, which most of us seem to eat sometime in March each year.

For years I have purchased one of those “corned beef brisket” packages and followed the directions to produce a meal with which I was never satisfied. This year I was more ambitious, and, after scouring the Internet for recipes and tips, I produced a far superior Corned Beef and Cabbage dish. It is not difficult, but it takes longer and involves more steps and more pots than the package suggests. I guess they do not want to discourage anyone. You can, however, buy the meat in those packages and follow my recipe. 

(Serves eight)
1 corned beef brisket (5- to 6 pounds)
4 leeks, carefully washed and with all of the green trimmed off
3 large onions, cut in half
3 celery stalks
2 parsnips, peeled and cut in half
12 large carrots, scraped and cut in 2- or 3-inch pieces
Pickling spice (The packet that comes with the brisket is not enough. Get a 1.5 oz bottle of pickling spice from the spice counter.)
Coarse salt
1 head of cabbage, cut into eight wedges, each wedge retaining part of the core so it does not fall apart, outer leaves removed
12 turnips, peeled and cut into quarters
12 medium or 16 small Yukon Gold potatoes, washed but not peeled

One of the secrets to a flavorful corned beef is cooking it first with some vegetables for extra flavor and replacing those for the last hour with vegetables to be served as part of the dish.

Choose a stock pot (or Dutch oven) large enough to hold the corned beef brisket without crowding or touching the sides. Add the leeks, onions, celery, parsnips and two of the carrots, with enough water to cover everything by a few inches. Add the entire contents of the bottle of pickling spice. Add a tablespoon of coarse salt. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam. Allow to simmer for two and a half to three hours, or until the corned beef can be pierced easily with a fork.

Remove the corned beef to a platter. Strain and reserve the liquid; discard the cooked vegetables and spices. Take half of the liquid and place in a separate pot for the cabbage wedges and as much additional water as required to cover the cabbage with liquid. Put the meat back into the rinsed Dutch oven and add the rest of the cooking liquid. Add the remaining carrots and turnips. Add water if required to cover the meat and vegetables. Add 1 tablespoon of coarse salt. Cover with a lid and simmer the meat and vegetables for 45 minutes. During that time, bring the cabbage to a boil and cook for 20 minutes and then add it to the corned beef for the last 20 minutes of its braising or until cabbage is tender.  Boil the potatoes in their washed skins in a third pot until a knife goes through them easily. When potatoes are cooked, remove them from their water (discard this liquid). Peel the potatoes and place them on top of the meat covered to keep warm until time to serve.

Before serving the meat, slice across the grain and place on a warm platter with the cabbage, potatoes, turnips and carrots. Serve with mustard on the side.