Monday, August 3, 2015

Dunderi with Lemon and Butter


I'm absolutely obsessed with Jenn Louis's cookbook Pasta by Hand. I reviewed it a few months ago, sharing a fantastic recipe for Gnocchi al Sagrantino, and have also made the Chickpea Gnocchetti and the Ricotta Gnocchetti since then (you can find those recipes in her book!). My most recent exploration was the Dunderi, hailing from the Amalfi Coast in the Campania region of Italy.

Everything but the flour...

Finished dough

Dunderi are delicate ricotta dumplings enriched with egg yolks and held together with just a bit of flour. Be careful when you roll them out to keep the excess flour to a minimum--just enough on the dough to keep it from sticking to the board, and then scrape away extra flour with your bench scraper.

These are incredibly easy to make. My one pound package of ricotta cheese (supposedly weighing 452 grams) actually contained exactly 480 grams, which is perfect for this recipe. Many brands of ricotta come in either 15 ounce or 32 ounce containers, but if you can find one that's exactly 1 pound, you may luck out and have just a teeny bit extra in there like I did! Or just make it yourself. It's actually quite easy :)

The Dunderi recipe in the book suggests pairing these light ricotta dumplings with melted butter or tomato sauce, as it's most traditional. It also points out that these are sometimes made with lemon zest from the amazing Amalfi citrus, so why not include the citrus in the butter? Tasting Table offered a version of this recipe doing just that, so I've utilized that sauce adaptation in the recipe I'm sharing today.

Dunderi B.C. (before cheese)

For ease of preparation alone, I definitely think these Dunderi are worth making. You can have a homemade gnocchi dinner in less than 30 minutes. No need to cook, peel, and process potatoes through a food mill or ricer. No need to make a special, time-consuming sauce. No need to even shape them on a gnocchi board or fork. These are as simple as gnocchi gets! They're also less carbs than the potato variety.

They are a bit less melt-in-your-mouth tender than the Ricotta Gnocchetti in the book, or even the Spinach and Ricotta Gnudi I've previously shared from another source, but from my experience the dough is easier to work with and shape. They do contain more flour and eggs (yolks in this case) than the Ricotta Gnocchetti, which can lead to it being a bit denser, but also richer in flavor from the surplus of yolks. In any case, they are definitely worth trying!

And P.S. Definitely freeze those whites! I like to freeze them individually in the cups of a silicone muffin pan so I can pop them out easily and transfer them to a freezer bag to thaw and use later. This is a great way to "collect" egg whites (which freeze beautifully) to use them later. Egg yolks do not freeze well, so make Dunderi first and then stockpile your whites for making meringue, angel food cake, marshmallows, and more!

Dunderi with Lemon and Butter
Serves 4 to 6
(Adapted from Pasta by Hand & Tasting Table)

480 grams (2 cups) whole-milk ricotta cheese, homemade or store-bought
6 egg yolks
45 grams (1/2 cup) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (I used Pecorino Romano)
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
160 grams (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
Semolina flour, for dusting

113 grams (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
Kosher salt
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving (I used Pecorino Romano)

In a large bowl, mix the ricotta and egg yolks until smooth. Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano, nutmeg, salt and flour until the dough just comes together.

Dust a work surface with a 30 grams (1/4 cup) all-purpose flour. Scrape the dough onto the work surface and sprinkle with an additional 30 grams (1/4 cup) flour to prevent the dough from being too sticky to roll.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and dust with semolina flour.

Using a pastry cutter or bench scraper, divide the dough into 6 equal portions. On an unfloured surface (or one with minimum flour), roll each piece into a log about a 1/2 inch in diameter. Cut the log into 1/2-to-1-inch-long pieces. Place the dunderi on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining dough. Make sure the dunderi pieces are not touching, so they don't stick together.

The dunderi can be made, covered and chilled in the fridge for up to 2 days or frozen on the baking sheet and transferred to a resealable plastic bag. Use within 1 month. Do not thaw before cooking.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the dunderi and simmer until they begin to float to the surface, 1 to 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter until the butter becomes golden brown and turns toasty, 6 to 8 minutes. Be careful so it does not burn! Add the lemon juice and zest (it will splatter--be careful), and season with salt. Add the dumplings and toss to coat. Top with Parmesan and serve immediately.

*Variation* Dunderi may also be served simply with melted butter or a basic tomato sauce.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa


Summer has been flying by this year. I can't believe July is already almost over! Towards the latter part of summer, a surplus of fresh corn simply begs to be grilled, roasted, and boiled. It's a wonderful ingredient to add a taste of summer to nearly any dish.

I love using fresh corn, whether I'm making creamy and luscious corn soup or a truly unique pasta sauce featuring corn crema, pizza topped with cherry tomatoes and corn or a corn risotto.

Corn is a great ingredient for delicious snacks as well. This roasted corn and black bean salsa is an incredibly easy and delicious way to feature corn in a flavorful salsa that can be used to top meats, stuffed into quesadillas, or simply served with tortilla chips. I recommend using tortilla chip scoops since they can comfortably hold a big spoonful of this chunky salsa along with some of the juicy lime-based sauce that holds it all together.

Canned black beans create a nice base for this salsa, although if you're able to cook your beans from scratch they will obviously have more flavor. In either case, the remaining ingredients in this salsa certainly add tons of wonderful summery flavor, from the fresh tomato to the crunchy onion and smoky chipotles in adobo.

This is an excellent late summer snack and accompaniment for a variety of grilled proteins. Definitely try it out before summer comes to an end!

Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa
Makes about 1 3/4 cups
(Adapted from Salsas and Moles)

1 ear fresh sweet corn
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
1 roma tomato, cored, seeded, and diced into 1/4-inch pieces
1/4 cup diced red onion, in 1/4-inch pieces (white or yellow onion will work too)
1 or 2 chipotle chiles in adobo, finely chopped
10 sprigs cilantro, stemmed and chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon crumbled Cotija cheese (optional)

Lightly coat the corn with oil. Heat a heavy skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. When hot, place the corn in the pan. Rotate it every few minutes until it is well browned on all sides. Remove from the skillet and allow to cool. Cut the corn from the cob and place the kernels in a bowl.

Stir in the beans, tomato, onion, chipotles, cilantro, lime juice, and salt, and sprinkle with cotija cheese on top, if desired.

*Serving Ideas* This salsa is colorful and delicious on tostadas or tostones (fried plantain slices) as a botana (snack), tossed in a salad, served alongside grilled meats, or added to a gooey quesadilla. Substitute 3/4 cup of cooked diced orange sweet potato for the corn for an equally delicious seasonal variation.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Dorrance


Within a restored bank building in downtown Providence, is a fine dining spot that boasts some of the best craft cocktails in the area. The Dorrance is named after the street upon which it stands, and features vaulted ceilings and large windows which provide an open and airy vibe throughout the vast, elegant space. Private events, such as wedding receptions, are held here on Sundays and Mondays when the restaurant is otherwise closed.

A gorgeous bar stretches across the center of the cavernous dining room, with a lounge area adjacent to it. Towards the back of one of the dining spaces is an old bank vault which is dressed as a sitting room, although on a previous visit during the wintertime it was used as the coat check room. It's actually quite fascinating checking out the giant and complex doors to the former vault.

The vault/sitting room/coat check

Inside the "vault"

Vault gears with a reflection of one of the picture windows

My two favorite things about The Dorrance include the incredible ambiance and the outstanding craft cocktails. These drinks change seasonally, and are not your average mixed drinks. There's probably a dozen different bitters used throughout the varied cocktails at any one time, and each recipe is beautifully crafted and executed.

I've visited The Dorrance thrice, once for cocktails at the bar, once for Restaurant Week this past winter, and once for Restaurant Week earlier this month. I love that The Dorrance includes their regular menu items as RW options. There's nothing worse than when a restaurant creates a completely unique menu for RW which showcases much cheaper and inferior dishes to what they normally create. A few new dishes are fine, but I like to see and taste a true example of what the restaurant offers.

I've had my share of cocktails at The Dorrance over the past visits, usually drinking a couple myself, and even tasting others my dining companions order, and I can honestly say they have all been fantastic. My photographs from my previous visits are dark and grainy cell phone pictures, so I won't be sharing those. Today, I'll only share the photos from my most recent meal.

Let's begin with cocktails. It's the best way to start! On our most recent trip to The Dorrance, my sister elected the Blackberry Beret, featuring Pisco, Lime, Jalapeno Kumquat Syrup, Blackberries, and Angostura. We loved the slight warmth from the jalapeno kumquat syrup that reminds me of the affect ginger has on one's throat.

Blackberry Beret $10

My first cocktail choice was Send a Boat, containing Don Q Rum, Aperol, Cherry Herring, Lime, Rhubarb, Tiki and Angostura Bitters. It tastes like liquid alcoholic cherry candy... in a good way! This is my favorite drink of the night, and my sister loved it so much she ordered it as her followup after she finished her Blackberry Beret.

Send a Boat $10

My second drink of the event was the Bello Desmadre (Beautiful Disaster), containing Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Amiaro Montenegro, Blueberry Syrup, Lime, Allspice Dram, and Angostura. If you're not familiar with Mezcal, it's basically a smoky tequila. This cocktail is an absolutely stunning color and almost tastes like a barbecue cocktail. The smoky flavor and the sweetness of the drink itself reminds me of a sweet barbecue sauce. It's a little odd if you're not used to it, but honestly, I did really enjoy this drink, just not as much as Send a Boat.

Bello Desmadre (Beautiful Disaster) $12

For my appetizer both last winter and this summer, I ordered the same dish. I absolutely fell in love with the Mussels Normandy (featuring Apples, Forest Mushrooms, House Made Bacon, Brandy, Shallots, and Cream) last winter, and couldn't resist getting it again. I'm not gonna lie. I was a little let down. I remember absolutely swooning over the flavors the first time I tried it, but on a repeat visit it didn't taste the same. The flavors were a bit more muted, and a couple of my mussels contained some grit. The dish was subpar compared to the original I had tried. Not sure if it was an off night, the mussels were decent, but after loving it previously it just felt like a bit of a letdown. I have a feeling that my second, so-so experience is the exception to the rule.

Mussels Normandy

My sister had the Curried Cauliflower dish. It contains Crispy Cauliflower Florets, Toasted Cashews, Tamarind Yogurt, Chili Threads, Pickled Radish, Lime Jam, and Mint. I had a small taste and thought it was well done. I like the curry flavor a lot, and yet find it balanced and not overdone.

Curried Cauliflower $10

The Roasted Chicken entree features Murray's Chicken Breast, Pea Tendrils, Marble Potatoes, Petite Carrots, and Preserved Lemon Jus. This was my sister's pick and she really liked it. I took a bite and thought it screamed comfort. It's really beautiful and rustic too. We'd happily recommend it.

Roasted Chicken $26

My entree was the New York Sirloin with Celery Root Puree, Local Cauliflower, Cippolini Onions, Porcini Dust, French Breakfast Radish. I ordered medium-rare, but found it to be more on the medium side (I do find that when steak is pre-sliced it can dry out/appear or taste overcooked, so that could be the culprit). The celery root puree was one of my favorite components. It was silky smooth, a great contrast to the crisp texture of the onions and cauliflower. I liked this dish overall, though I wish the meat was a bit bloodier.

New York Sirloin $29

Dessert at The Dorrance is also quite lovely. The Tropical Panna Cotta is incredibly refreshing, with mango, coconut, and pineapple flavors galore. Two thumbs up for this fruity dessert option that takes my mind and tastebuds to a tropical island.

Tropical Panna Cotta $9

I also love the Give Me S'more!, which is a play on s'mores, featuring Flourless Chocolate Cake, Toasted Marshmallow, Graham Cracker Crumble, and Cinnamon Creme Anglaise. The cinnamon flavor really packs a punch, both from the sauce and the actual graham cracker crumble. It's a great foil to the intense chocolate. A really nice decadent dessert option.

Give Me S'more! $9

All in all, I've had three memorable visits to The Dorrance thus far. I can't say enough about the beautiful space and the stellar cocktails. The food is great overall, but there are a few dishes that fall a little flat for me in terms of execution, at least on my most recent visit. Previously, I had loved all the dishes I tried (a wonderful short rib dish in the middle of winter was perfection), so I still think the problem was just a slightly off-night, and even that's very slightly, as the majority of the food was excellent.

P.S. I saw a girl eating a ridiculously awesome looking burger at the bar, and upon research I see it on the Bar and Lounge menu entitled Po' Burger and Fries. Apparently it's topped with fried oysters, among other things. I'm pretty sure this burger and I are about to become best friends. I'll update this review at some point once I get a chance to try it out :) Stay tuned!

The Dorrance
60 Dorrance St
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 521-6000

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Fettuccine with Corn Crema and Charred Green Onions


I first explored Marc Vetri's newest cookbook Mastering Pasta back in April when I tested out the delectable Eggplant and Parmesan Rotolo. I was very impressed not only by this recipe, but by this incredibly detailed book about making homemade pasta. I had made just over 1 pound of pasta, but only used half of it for that recipe, freezing the rest for another occasion.

That occasion came recently, with the arrival of fresh corn at the market. I decided to halve the recipe for Fettuccine with Corn Crema and Charred Green Onions to use my remaining half pound of dough (but the recipe below uses the original measurements). I love finding nontraditional ways to sauce my pasta, and featuring sweet and creamy corn crema is a great alternative to the expected.

Corn has a natural silkiness when pureed, even without using rich cream or butter. This particular recipe simply uses water, and if you make eggless dough and omit the cheese garnish, the recipe is completely vegan.

As summer progresses, and corn season comes into full swing, I plan to definitely make this delicious pasta dish again. It's surprisingly light yet has an air of decadence in its slightly sweet sauce. Add a little character from the charred green onions, and this is a vibrant and bright dish fitting of the season.

Photo from Mastering Pasta

Fettuccine with Corn Crema and Charred Green Onions
Serves 4 to 6
(Adapted from Mastering Pasta)

1 pound fresh pasta dough, rolled into sheets about 1/8-inch thick (I actually rolled mine a bit thinner, using #4 on my Kitchenaid pasta roller attachment, although 1/8-inch would be #2 or #3)*
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons (21 g) finely chopped yellow onion
2 large ears corn, shucked and kernels cut from cobs
1/4 cup water, or more as needed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 small green onions, trimmed
1 chunk ricotta salata cheese, for grating (optional)

Cut each pasta sheet into 3-inch lengths and trim the edges square, if desired for neater looking fettuccine. Feed 1 length of dough at a time through the fettuccine cutter, dusting the dough lightly with flour as it is cut into strands (I find that if you slightly dry out the pasta sheets before cutting them, the strands separate more easily). Alternatively, you may hand-cut the pasta sheets into pappardelle (nearly 1-inch wide strips) or tagliatelle (about 1/4-inch wide strips). Coil the fettuccine into nests and set them on a floured baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining sheets. Use the fettuccine immediately or freeze in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Take the pasta right from the freezer to the boiling water.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the yellow onion and sweat it until it is soft but not browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add all but 1/4 cup of the corn kernels and the water. Simmer the corn gently until it is heated through and almost tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste the mixture, adding salt and pepper as needed. Transfer mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. You may need to add a few more tablespoons of water, a little at a time as needed, to yield a smooth puree.

Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat until it is smoking hot. Add the green onions and cook, turning once, until charred on two sides, about 1 minute per side. Remove the skillet from the heat, transfer the onions to a cutting board, and chop finely. Heat a large, deep skillet over medium heat and pour in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. When the oil is hot, add the reserved 1/4 cup corn kernels and the chopped green onions and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then stir in the corn crema. Keep warm over very low heat.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the fettuccine, stir, and cover the pot to quickly return the water to a boil. Cook the pasta until tender but still a little chewy, 4 to 5 minutes. Using a spider strainer or tongs, drain the pasta by transferring it to the pan of sauce. Reserve the pasta water.

Add about 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the sauce and pasta mixture and cook over medium-high heat, tossing and stirring  vigorously until the sauce reduces slightly, becomes very creamy, and coats the pasta, about 2 minutes. Add more water as necessary to yield a creamy sauce that clings to the noodles. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Serve the pasta on warmed plates and grate ricotta salata over the top, if desired.

*Note* I used a recipe similar to this basic dough, but with bread flour, an extra egg, and a tablespoon of olive oil and added a bit extra flour as needed to get the right texture. It yielded about 1 1/8 pounds dough.


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