Thursday, June 26, 2014

Fresh tomato sauce

This is a dish to be made in the summer with super fresh sun ripened tomatoes bursting with flavor. The fresher the better so get picking or get to a farmers market. I went to Gilcrease Orchard to pick my tomatoes, most people in Las Vegas don't even know about it which is a shame but hey more tomatoes for me.

 These are about half of their tomato plants.

You need 3 - 3 1/2 pounds of tomatoes, people usually use romas but I used these and they were great.

I got my onion and garlic from there too:

Fill a large pot with water, I used a 4 quart size, then put it on the stove set to high and bring it to a boil. Cut an X in to the bottoms of all of the tomatoes ( I somehow always manage to forget one so double check ) while the water is still waiting to boil get an ice bath for the tomatoes together.

 Shoo Beans, shoo.

 After the water is at a rolling boil you can start putting your tomatoes in. I did mine in two parts for 30 seconds each.  Once they've been in the ice bath they should be very easy to peel, peel all of your tomatoes.

Get a bowl with a strainer over it. Cut your tomatoes in half for romas or quarters for round tomatoes and and seed them over the bowl so the bowl catches all the juice but the strainer keeps the seeds out. 

Cut a medium onion in half and then dice one half, dump the tomato water and cook the onions in that pot on medium/high with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Cook until translucent, it's against my religion to have a tomato sauce with no onions. Add the tomatoes, put in 1 teaspoon kosher salt.

As soon as they get a bit bubbly around the edges mush them with a potato masher. I like my sauce pretty smooth so I mashed away. Once it has started boiling turn it down to low and simmer for 45 minutes. If the tomatoes still aren't at your desired texture for the sauce feel free to keep on mashing.

About 25 minutes in to the 45 minute simmer period for the sauce get a small pot, 1/4 cup of olive oil, a thinly sliced clove of garlic, a small handful of basil leaves and a pinch of red pepper flakes combine and put on stove on very, very low. We want this to cook very slowly so the flavors seep in to the olive oil. Once it comes to a simmer take it off the heat.

You want to start your pasta water about now unless you have one of those amazing instant boil things on your stove, I feel like I wait around half my life waiting for pasta water to boil. We're going to want to reserve the pasta water for the sauce. How much pasta you want to cook is up to you, do you like your pasta swimming in sauce or do you like it to be just coated?

When the timer for the sauce goes off strain the olive oil mixture and put the olive oil in to the sauce, stir until it's completely combined. Taste your sauce, to me it needed a little something so I added in a few twists of a black pepper grinder on fine.

You should cook your pasta to almost al dente.  Get a large skillet out and ladle how much sauce you want in to the pan, a small ladle full of the reserved pasta water  and finally your spaghetti. Use tongs to stir and and cook it on medium until the pasta water and sauce have combined, the pasta water will help the sauce stick to your pasta better. Add in your tablespoon of SALTED, yes salted butter now. Cook until the butter has melted completely.

                                                 Now you can plate and garnish with fresh basil.

I was worried that adding that much olive oil that late in the game would make it oily, but no it made it glossy and velvety to the tongue. I tasted it and my immediate thought was "this is special" It's so complex but so very simple at the same time. It tastes fresh but there are layers of flavor there that are mind blowing in their simplicity.

                                     Fresh, simple, perfect. Now for some glamor shots.

                                        Happy cooking, hope you all are having a great summer!

Inspired by Scott Conant ( aka the cute Italian guy from Chopped ) Scarpetta's Tomato and Basil

Monday, June 9, 2014

Winner winner chicken dinner!

Okay, I apologize for the title, I couldn't resist. I love roasted chickens, it doesn't matter the time of year, or how wildly inappropriately hot it is outside ( 106F today ) or the crazy looks I get from people.

They bring with them the sense of family gathered around a big table, with gravy being poured over buttery mashed potatoes, steaming fluffy rolls in their basket. They give you so much beyond one dinner as well. Left overs for tacos,  chicken salad and delicious flavorful stock. Or giving your kitty a special treat.

I used a 3.8 pound chicken, remember to check the temperature after cooking, if your bird is bigger you'll want to extend cooking times. White meat should be 160F and the dark meat should be 180F. Preheat your oven to 425, make sure your racks in your oven are in the right place, you want one in the middle and enough room above for the chicken.

Rinse and pat your chicken dry, check for feathers and trim any extra fat.

Gather your flavor helpers! Here we have some rosemary, thyme, 2 tablespoons of salted butter, half a medium yellow onion, a clove of garlic and two bay leaves.

Ooooh naughty!

Get 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and grind 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Salt and pepper the inside of the bird and stuff the herbs, onion, garlic clove, and bay leaves in to the bird. Tie the legs and then melt the two tablespoons of butter and cover the chicken. Also don't get salt everywhere like I did.

Get a little bowl ( I used a teacup ) and put 1 and a half teaspoons of kosher salt, half a teaspoon of paprika and then grind 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Mix it all up and then rub your chicken down with it.

Place chicken in ( 425F ) preheated oven  and set the timer for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes drop the temperature down to 350F and set the timer for an hour.

My little kitchen buddy kept me company while the chicken was cooking.

Bast your bird every 20 minutes and if you find that the skin is getting too dark make an aluminum foil tent to put over it. 

After the hour and a half is up check the temperature of the bird, if the numbers are right pull it out and cover with aluminum foil for 20 minutes. An easy way to tell if it's done is if the leg comes away from the bird easily. When the 20 minutes are up it's time to carve the bird.

The rosemary and thyme penetrate the meat enduing it with a rustic but full flavor. The onions and garlic give it an earthy taste, the salt and pepper bring out and compliment the natural flavors of the chicken perfectly. Don't forget about the oysters! In my opinion they're the best part and they never make it to the table. In France they're called "sot-l'y-laisse" which means "the fool leaves it there." They're located on the birds lower back near the thighs.

The dish I used to roast the chicken in is a Heinz promotional dish made in 1953, it was the first promotional Pyrex ever did. 

Don't worry, I'll post some weather appropriate recipes next week, let me just have this moment of insanity before it gets above 110. Happy cooking!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Contest winner


Please comment on this post so I can contact you and get your information so I can mail off your new casserole. :)