Spoonin' some slurpy stuff about the world's drippiest drool

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Stuffed Cannelloni

Homemade Stuffed Cannelloni

My latest obsession - the pasta making process. It is long, arduous and messy, but there is also a great sense of accomplishment and almost zen when you are done. It is not difficult - with a little practice a basic level of competence can be reached.

Last night, I found myself with an empty house and 2 1/2 hours of downtime. My relaxation of choice? The adult version of PlayDoh!

I decided on a simple pasta - cannelloni - rolled 3"x5" squares stuffed with whatever. First step - make the pasta.

Egg Bowl

Give yourself a lot of room to work. Most basic dough recipes are some combination of flour, eggs, maybe oil and salt. I used one without oil, but with lots of eggs (2 1/3 C flour, 4 egg yolks, 2 whole eggs, 1/2 tspn salt). Use the fluor to make a bowl to hold the eggs, and salt. mix the eggs and salt together encorporating the flour slowly to make a paste.

Flour and Egg Mixture

Keep mixing in the flour and then start the kneading process with your hands. If the dough is too hard to work with, add a tablespoon of water, working it into the dough with your thumbs. Be patient. Be kind. The dough is your friend. Keep kneading the dough until it is somewhat elastic, but doesn't significantly change shape when you take your hands away. This process usually takes me 10-20 minutes by hand.

Now let the poor dough rest. Wrap it in plastic and let it sit for an hour. Go pour yourself a nice glass of Chianti - you've earned it - kneading is hard work.

Now get back to work. You have sauce and stuffing to make. For my stuffing, I diced onion, celery and carrot and sauteed it with garlic (I put the garlic in at the end of the saute so it wouldn't burn and taste bitter). I then browned bison meat with the veggies, added tomato paste, diced mushrooms, paprika, salt (taste to make sure you use enough)and pepper. A little reduced stock, parsley and a couple more eggs, a few pulses in the food processor, and voila!

Beef and Mushroom Stuffing

The last component is the sauce. I sauteed diced onions, added diced tomatoes, fresh basil, salt and pepper and let it cook down a bit. Meanwhile, I rolled out the pasta to make the squares (I went to setting 5 for thickness).

Roll Out the Pasta!

The pasta squares, once cut, need to boil for a minute or two. The sauce goes in the baking pan, the stuffed squares go on top of the sauce, a mix of 1/2C of cream, 1/2C parmesan goes on top, as well as a few pieces of butter. Bake at 400 deg for 20 minutes till brown on top. Maybe do some situps and pushups while you are waiting - have you seen what's in this recipe?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Festival of Light

The Corcoran College of Art + Design Advanced Lighting class brings you the 2011 Festival of Lights in Rockville Town Square. Students and lighting industry professionals will be working together in teams all day to create temporary themed lighting installations in the Square!

While you are waiting for the sun to set, come up to the Rooftop for lighting talks and activities and great local music. There is a minimal admission charge, and food and drink will be available for sale.

Once it gets dark, walk through the Square with the student led teams, hearing about the installations and seeing Rockville Town Square in a whole new "light"!

See you there!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Corn and Lobster Chowder

Corn and Lobster Chowder

Soup is one of those dishes that can be made quickly in a pinch - store bought broth and precut or frozen vegetables definitely speed up the process. Last night I had the luxury of breaking a soup into its individual parts, and pulling as much flavor as possible out of each of those components. Was the difference noticeable? Who knows. I can tell you the personal satisfaction was significant.

This is a simple recipe. Start with a fat, add onions, add stock and aromatics, add more vegetables, top with lobster. Season to taste. Done.

Or not. Start by thinking about the stock. The recipe calls for chicken broth - but this is corn and lobster soup - no chicken in the name. It makes sense to use chicken broth - it adds some richness without overpowering the other flavors, but its the other flavors that are so important to the soup. So - to increase the corn flavor, I cooked the corn on the cob, cut off the kernals and tossed the cobs in the broth. All of that milky corn sweetness was transferred to the broth.

As for the lobster, I am a chicken. I hate it that I don't have the guts to throw the lobster in the pot myself, and have to ask the fish monger at the store to be my lobster hit man, but there it is. I had two lobsters steamed and brought them home. As delicious as the meat is, the shells and juices are equally valuable. I opend up the lobsters over the broth, draining all the delicious juices into the pot, salvaged the sweet meat and threw the shells in the stock to add as much briny seafood flavor as possible. The chicken broth is now but a memory - adding lovely color and richness, but truly overshadowed by lobster and corn.

And the rest goes back to being simple. The fresher and sweeter the corn, the better. Fresh off the cob can't be beat - every bite ends in sweetness. I used red bell pepper instead of yellow to add a bit of color - since the soup isn't pureed color consistency is not a major issue. I also used very thinly sliced leek instead of scallions - just what was on hand. I didn't add any heat, but next time I think I will throw in a bit of cayenne - if the corn is sweet enough, it really can stand up to it, and the half and half will help with the balance. Too hot and the corn will be lost though, so it will be important to taste as I add. A handful of chopped parsley (added after I pulled the shells and cobs out)added more color, flavors and a bit of thickening to the soup. The flat leaf was the right choice for this soup - curly would have been too peppery.

Finally, season to taste. Possibly the least helphul phrase known to man. I added smoked salt and pepper. Tasted, added a bit more smoked salt, until I was at about two teaspoons. Probably could have added a bit more, but the smokiness was tastable, and I hadn't overtaken the sweetness of the stock, so I quit while I was ahead.

Start to finish, this version took about two hours (and one glass of wine). I would say, with store stock, lobster tales and frozen corn, probably you could cut it to an hour and the results will be fine. As for the satisfaction...