Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Hollywood Brown Derby's Famous Grapefruit Cake


Happy 3rd birthday to my beautiful blog!! Time sure flies when you're having fun. I wanted to bake something special in honor of this occasion. Something old school and maybe even glamorous. Something that reminds me of classic Hollywood (the Oscars were just a couple days ago, though they paled in comparison to past years). There's nothing more "classic Hollywood" than the Brown Derby. When I think of the Brown Derby, I think of Lucy... Lucille Ball, the queen of comedy. I recall the hilarious episode of "I Love Lucy" where Lucy, Ethel, and Fred head to lunch at the famous Hollywood hangout of the stars. She basically stalks William Holden, who sits at the adjacent booth and orders a Cobb Salad, an original invention of the Brown Derby. She later accidentally causes a waiter to hit him in the face with a pie, in true Lucy fashion.

Although for many years the Hollywood Brown Derby was known as a celebrity mecca, featured so prominently in this classic episode of one of my favorite shows ever, it burned down in the late 80's. I never had the privilege of dining there, but there's still hope. At Disney World's Hollywood Studios, you can actually dine at a replica of the Brown Derby. I haven't been to Disney World since I was very young, but I hope to return one day soon! And maybe while I'm there I will stop by the Hollywood Brown Derby and feel like a star.

Until then, I can live vicariously through a couple recipes I have from the Hollywood Brown Derby in a Disney cookbook I own. The book contains a recipe for the original Cobb salad, supposedly invented by the owner Bob Cobb while throwing together a midnight snack, as well as a recipe for the famous grapefruit cake. For over 5 years I've had this cookbook and have been eyeing the grapefruit cake recipe. I can't understand why it's taken me so long to make it, but alas, the day finally came.

I made some adjustments, replacing the one pound can of grapefruit segments for a couple of fresh pink grapefruits. I also replaced the lemon zest in the cake, and the lemon zest and juice in the frosting with fresh grapefruit zest and juice. Now THAT's a grapefruit cake.

It's quite delicate and lightly sweet, with just a touch of grapefruit in the actual cake, it's not overwhelming. The frosting is a fairly thin layer (which is fine by me, as I don't care for overly frosted cakes) of tangy cream cheese laced with even more grapefruit juice and zest. On it's own, it's pretty luscious, but paired with the fluffy cake and some juicy pink segments of grapefruit, it's a perfect balance. I love the tart juiciness of the grapefruit paired with the simple sponge cake and cream cheese frosting. I also perpetually use the reduced fat cream cheese also known as Neufchatel for pretty much all of my cream cheese baking needs, and I find it to be a solid replacement with reduced guilt.

The Hollywood Brown Derby's Grapefruit Cake
Serves 8
(Adapted from Cooking with Mickey and the Disney Chefs)

2 large grapefruits

1 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
3 eggs, separated (at room temperature)
3 tablespoons grapefruit juice
1/2 teaspoon grapefruit zest
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon grapefruit juice
1 teaspoon grapefruit zest
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
6 drops yellow food coloring (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9-by-2-inch round cake pan and line with a parchment circle. Lightly grease the parchment and set the pan aside.

Start by zesting and then segmenting the grapefruits. Reserve the zest for later in a small bowl covered with a damp piece of paper towel to keep it from drying out. Cut off the top of bottom of a grapefruit and stand it up on one of the cut edges on a cutting board. Use your knife to carefully cut off all of the rind moving from top to bottom in strips, keeping with the natural curve of the fruit. Carefully cut in between each membrane to remove grapefruit segments. Put removed segments in a strainer set over a bowl to collect juices. When all segments are removed, and only a juicy mass of membrane is left, squeeze the remaining juice from the membranes into the same bowl over which the grapefruit is draining. This fresh juice will be strained and used in the cake and frosting later. Repeat with the remaining grapefruit.

To make the cake, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into mixing bowl. Make a well in center of dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl add the water, oil, egg yolks, grapefruit juice, and zest. Beat until smooth. Then add the wet ingredients to the well in the center of the dry ingredients and beat until just mixed. Do not over beat.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until whites are stiff but not dry.

Gradually fold the egg whites into the cake batter, folding gently with a rubber spatula until just blended, but do no over mix.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly touched with a finger. Invert pan on a wire rack until cool (If the pan slides off by itself, that's fine, but if not, just leave the pan on until the cake is cool). If still in the pan, run a spatula around the edge of cake. Carefully remove from pan and carefully peel off the parchment paper circle from the bottom of the cake. With a serrated knife, gently cut the cake in half to form two layers.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on high speed until smooth and fluffy. Add the grapefruit juice and zest. Gradually blend in confectioners' sugar and beat until well blended. Add food coloring, if desired.

Invert the cake so the top of the cake is on the bottom and the smoother bottom is now the top. Spread cream cheese frosting on top of the first half of the cake to make the filling. Top with the grapefruit sections, saving the 8 prettiest pieces for the top. Cover with the second layer of the cake (with the flat bottom facing up) and frost the top and sides. Garnish with the remaining grapefruit sections and serve.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Grilled Pork Tenderloin and Fingerling Potato Salad


Ah pork. The other white meat. Last fall I reviewed an amazing cookbook written by my friend Libbie Summers called The Whole Hog Cookbook. The entire book is a love story dedicated to each and every part of a hog, from the loin to the ham and beyond. When I was faced with a pork tenderloin and needed a fun and creative way of preparing it, I of course turned to her book. This grilled tenderloin and fingerling potato salad was just the ticket. It includes notes of a vinaigrette-based potato salad as well as a classic meat and potatoes combo. The brightness of the greens and the occasional briny bite of the capers are an excellent finishing touch. My arugula appeared to be on steroids (I actually had to tear it into small pieces, eek!), but normal sized arugula or watercress would be a more delicate addition. This salad is great served at room temperature, and therefore would be really nice served on a hot summer day. If only it were summer now, *sigh*...

Grilled Pork Tenderloin and Fingerling Potato Salad
Serves 4
(Adapted from The Whole Hog Cookbook)

1 lb. pork tenderloin
7 T. olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. fingerling potatoes
1 T. Dijon mustard
2 T. rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. honey
2 T. capers, drained
1 cups watercress or arugula, stemmed

If the tenderloin is very thick, butterfly it or cut it in half lengthwise to allow it to cook through more easily and yield more bite-size slices. Rub it with 1 tablespoon of the oil and liberally season with salt and pepper. Let rest at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, put the potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Drain and set aside.

Heat an outdoor grill or grill pan to high. Grill the seasoned tenderloin for about 8 minutes per side, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. Remove the tenderloin from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice the meat and place the slices in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, garlic, and honey. While whisking, gradually add the remaining 6 tablespoons oil in a slow, steady stream, until the oil is emulsified and the vinaigrette is thickened. Salt and pepper to taste.

Halve the potatoes lengthwise and add them to the pork tenderloin slices. Pour the vinaigrette over, add the capers and watercress/arugula, toss to coat and serve immediately.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cantonese Char Siu Pork and Vegetable Spring Rolls (aka Egg Rolls)


Really good. REALLY good. Egg rolls from your neighborhood Chinese restaurant have got nothing on these babies! They have so much going on. Whereas the cheapo egg rolls we're all sadly used to are stuffed with bland cabbage and questionable crumbles of pork, the filling for these rolls is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Although they contain the obligatory shredded Napa (or Chinese) cabbage, they're also filled with bright orange shreds of carrot, and small chunks of crisp celery, along with delicious Char Siu (Chinese BBQ) pork matchsticks (homemade in my case... booyah!).

A delicious flavoring sauce enhanced with soy and oyster sauces brings everything together. Not only is the filling more colorful than most, but it tastes out of this world. A homemade sweet and sour sauce is the perfect dipping sauce for these crunchy morsels. I guarantee that once you make these egg rolls from scratch you will never want to go back to eating the bland and greasy ones prevalent throughout neighborhoods far and wide. They have the Mission: Food stamp of approval, and that's money in the bank, y'all...

Cantonese Char Siu Pork and Vegetable Spring Rolls (aka Egg Rolls) with Homemade Sweet and Sour Sauce
12 to 14 rolls
(Adapted from Asian Dumplings)

1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 tsp. soy sauce (preferably low-sodium)
2 T. oyster sauce
3 T. water
3 T. canola oil
3 scallions (white and green parts), sliced
3 cups lightly packed finely shredded/sliced Napa/Chinese cabbage (omit thick center spines)
1 1/2 cups finely chopped celery
1 1/2 cups shredded carrot (about 1 to 2 carrots depending on size)
3/4 lb. Char Siu (Chinese BBQ) pork, homemade or store-bought, cut into 1 1/2-inch-long thin matchsticks
1 1/2 T. cornstarch dissolved in 2 T. water

Sweet and Sour Sauce:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 T. ketchup
1 T. soy sauce (preferably low-sodium)
3 T. unseasoned rice vinegar or cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tsp. cornstarch dissolved in 2 T. water

12 to 14 egg roll wrappers
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Canola or peanut oil, for deep-frying

To make the filling, combine the sugar, salt, pepper, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and water in a small bowl. Stir this flavoring sauce well and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the scallions and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds until soft and aromatic. Add the cabbage, celery, and carrot, stirring well to combine. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 1 minute until the vegetables have collapsed slightly. Add the flavoring sauce and continue cooking for about 2 minutes, until most of the liquid has disappeared and the vegetables have just cooked through. Add the pork and continue cooking, stirring to combine the flavors and heat through, about 1 minute. Give the cornstarch a final stir, and pour over the filling. Cook for about 30 seconds to bind the mixture nicely. Transfer to a platter and spread out to cool completely. Feel free to prepare the filling up to 2 days in advance.

Make the sweet and sour sauce by combining the sugar, salt, ketchup, soy sauce, vinegar, and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a near boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Give the cornstarch a final stir and then add it to the pan. Continue cooking for about 15 seconds, or until the sauce comes to a full boil and thickens.

Remove from the heat, transfer to a serving bowl and set aside for 10 minutes to cool and concentrate in flavor. Taste and add extra salt, if needed. Serve warm or at room temperature. Feel free to prepare the sauce a day in advance.

Before assembling the rolls, lightly dust a small baking sheet with cornstarch. Place an egg roll wrapper on a work surface with the points facing 12, 3, 6, and 9 o'clock. Place a scant 1/2 cup of filling just below the center of the wrapper in a horizontal log shape going from 9 o'clock to 3 o'clock, but leaving about 1 1/2 inches on either side for folding over. Fold in the sides of the wrapper, brush the upper edges with egg wash, and then roll tightly from the bottom up to seal and finish, forming a cigar shape. Set the finished rolls, seam side up, on the prepared baking sheet and cover with a kitchen towel or lightly damp paper towel to prevent drying.

Heat 1 inch of oil in a wok, saucepan, or deep skillet over medium-high heat to about 350 degrees F on a deep-fry thermometer. Slide in a few rolls and fry, turning as needed, until golden brown and crisp. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the other rolls. Be sure not to add too many rolls at once since it will lower the oil temperature suddenly. Try to keep it at or around 350 degrees F throughout the cooking process by adjusting the heat as necessary.

Serve hot, whole or cut in half diagonally with the sweet and sour sauce.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mama Mia, That's a Spicy Meatball: Part 2


In my last post, I discussed the amazing meatball extravaganza at the Meatball Shop in NYC that I recently discovered. Lucky girl that I am, I also recently received a copy of their cookbook, The Meatball Shop Cookbook, to review. It was released this past November, and still pretty new to bookshelves. Especially after dining at the Meatball Shop on all the yummy balls they have there, I couldn't wait to crack open their cookbook and try some of the recipes myself. I take my job pretty seriously. I actually tried four separate recipes in the span of a week. Two recipes were for balls, one was a sauce, and one was a salad dressing. Yup, I did that. All of that. And it wasn't even enough, because I still wanted to make more! See, the thing about meatballs, and this cookbook especially, is that they are so easy to make and convenient to freeze! So you can make several different batches during a period of time, and then freeze some of them for later! It's a working person's dream!

First of all, I love the language of the cookbook. Yes, it's English, but that's not what I'm talking about. The Meatball Shop's co-owners Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow are responsible for writing this book, and their voices really shine. Although serious meatball-lovers will love this book, the writing is more playful than serious at times, and it really highlights the laid-back quality of the entire concept of meatballs as a meal. Meatballs don't take themselves that seriously, and neither should you :)

In addition to a brief history of the Meatball Shop, the book also contains lots of tips such as the 10 Commandments of a Great Sandwich, and Meeting Your Butcher, simple suggestions that will improve your ball quality. I also love that all the balls in this book are roasted as opposed to frying or braising. They do suggest that readers try different techniques, but point out that this method results in the most consistent ball cookery for their purposes, and probably yours. I also prefer this method as you don't add more fat by pan-frying. The meat has plenty of fat as it is. And although there isn't a photograph for each and every recipe, there are plenty... all mouthwatering.

My first foray into the Meatball Shop Cookbook was with their classic beef meatballs. I accompanied the balls with spicy meat sauce, also from the book, and assembled them into hero sandwiches, or "grinders" as us New Englanders would say (I'm a New England girl through and through, regardless of my chosen residence). Topped with provolone cheese (or "circle cheese" as my nephew would call it), these grinders were the best meatball grinders any of us had ever had! Let's start from the beginning. The classic beef meatballs are a standby recipe. Instead of the typical Parmesan cheese, ricotta gives these a great, moist texture. The only change I made was to omit the ground fennel, because quite frankly I couldn't find any at the supermarket and didn't have a spice grinder handy to make it myself. It wasn't missed.

For the sauce, I went all out and bought the fancy Pomi chopped tomatoes that come in a box and are imported from Italy. Although the recipe offers a canned tomato suggestion, when I saw these pricey boxes at the supermarket I decided to splurge. It was totally worth it. You can really taste the difference in quality, and there's no metallic aftertaste that can sometimes come from cheaper canned tomatoes (and all of the tomatoes were ripe red, unlike some canned tomatoes that you just KNOW were barely ripe when picked and canned). Ground pork was the meat component to the sauce, and a generous hit of crushed red pepper flakes offered a nice warmth to the sauce that wasn't too overpowering. The marriage of the meatballs, spicy meat sauce, and cheese made these grinders delightful. We slightly hollowed out the bread to make it less bready and give the balls somewhere safe to sit. Just be careful not to hollow too much, because even after you toast the bread, if what's left is too thin, it will get soggy really fast.

Although not included in the book, I believe tater tots are a PERFECT accompaniment to meatballs :-D

I also made the Greek balls, which are lamb-based (although I think beef would work great) and contain Kalamata olives, feta cheese, and some quick preserved lemon (recipe included in the book). I made tzatziki as the accompanying sauce and served these guys "naked." On the side, we had a simple romaine salad with cucumber and a yogurt vinaigrette. The vinaigrette recipe was from the book, and honestly a great go-to salad dressing. The yogurt makes it very easy to emulsify the oil, as opposed to a traditional vinaigrette which must be whisked very slowly as the oil is added in a thin, tiring stream. Overall, these balls were full of flavor and certainly highlighted the Greek flavor profile. Once again they were easy to make and very straightforward.

So far so good! I've loved every recipe I've tried from this book. I can thus HIGHLY recommend it to meatball lovers across the universe. Some other recipes I really look forward to trying are their famous veggie balls, Buffalo chicken balls, spicy pork balls, billy goat balls (made with goat meat and goat cheese... though I'd easily substitute the goat meat for something else), Swedish meatballs, gobble gobble balls (Thanksgiving in a meatball), and so much more. And that's only chapter one! The book contains so many amazing sauces, sides, veggies, and salads too. How does roasted cauliflower with hot cherry peppers and bread crumbs sound? It's on my list too!

**Just a quick note... if you decide to try their veggie balls (recipe is linked above), it states that the mushrooms should be sliced, but I've asked them at the restaurant if they slice or chop their mushrooms. They said they chop them, which makes a lot more sense since there aren't huge chunks of mushroom in their veggie balls. Please keep this is mind if you attempt that recipe :)

Finally, a chapter of sweets offers cookie and ice cream recipes from the shop. Their chocolate ice cream was so unforgettable, that I will definitely be trying the version in the cookbook to attempt to recreate the euphoria I experienced at the restaurant. My only wish is that in addition to the sweets they had included a few recipes for their amazing homemade seasonal lemonades. Ah well, I guess I can't have all of their secrets, right? If you'd like to try their classic beef meatballs, the recipe is all over the internet, but I'd try this one as it's an exact replica of what is written in the book. I'm happy to share the spicy meat sauce recipe (which would also be awesome over pasta) as well as my own tzatziki which I paired with the Greek balls. I hope you enjoy!

Spicy Meat Sauce
Makes 8 cups
(From The Meatball Shop Cookbook)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 pound ground pork, preferably shoulder
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 (26-ounce) boxes Pomi chopped tomatoes or 2 (28-ounce) cans whole plum tomatoes, roughly chopped with their liquid

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, ground pork, red pepper flakes, and salt and cook, stirring constantly, until the meat is thoroughly cooked and the onions are soft and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and continue cooking for 5 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and stir constantly until sauce begins to boil. Continue cooking for 35 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so to prevent burning. Taste and season with additional salt, if desired.

Makes about 3 cups

2 cups Greek-style yogurt (17.6 oz / 500 g container)
1 cup shredded cucumber (1/2 an unpeeled English cucumber)
4 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 T.)
1 T. lemon juice
1 tsp. kosher salt

Mix together all of the ingredients in a bowl and serve.

*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than a free copy of the book. My opinions are always my own.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mama Mia, That's a Spicy Meatball: Part 1


I recently had dinner with fellow blogger Dana of Food For Thought, and at her suggestion we decided to try the Meatball Shop in New York City. Its three locations offer daily specials for everything from balls, sauce, and salad, to cookies, ice cream, and homemade lemonade.

Meat grinder wall art

You also get to enjoy your balls however you'd like, "naked," which means served alone with just sauce, with sides either on the side or underneath, as sliders, a hero, a smash sandwich (smushed between a brioche bun), or on a salad. You get a laminated menu and a marker to check off your selections. I love the whole do-it-yourself / any-way-you-want-it style of the menu here. It really helps you think outside of the box as well, since normally I would eat my meatballs either with pasta or as a sandwich, but there are really so many alternatives that don't involve starch if you choose to go that route.

Starting off, I couldn't resist the lemonade of the day, which was apple cinnamon. It tasted like the lemonade was splashed with apple cider, such a great idea that I'll have to steal one of these days. I think every restaurant should offer fresh, homemade lemonades in fun and flavorful varieties. Just a thought.

Apple-Cinnamon Lemonade $3

I decided to go for naked classic beef balls served with the special sauce of the day, which was a Spanish-style tomato sauce with Picada-toasted almonds, Anaheim chiles and honey. It had a lot of flavor! The meatballs were lusciously tender, a result of the ricotta cheese used in making them. The meatballs were everything I expected them to be from a place that makes its name for making MEATBALLS. If they failed at that I'd be worried :)

Prosciutto and Chive Risotto $4, Naked Beef Balls with Spanish Tomato Sauce $7

I ordered a side of risotto. The special flavor that day was prosciutto and chive. I'm not gonna lie. They made it perfectly. It had a great al dente bite, delicious bites of chewy prosciutto throughout. I was a very happy girl with these plates of food in front of me.

Everything But the Kitchen Sink Salad with Veggie Balls and Classic Tomato Sauce $9

Dana got the veggie balls with classic tomato sauce atop the Everything But the Kitchen Sink Salad, which is a bright and fresh display of many many veggies, and a chickpea salad. The components of this salad can change depending on what's fresh, but this day her plate includes cucumbers, beets, and broccoli among others. I have to say, the veggie balls themselves are pretty mind-blowing. As a serious meat-lover, I wouldn't normally consider ordering this option, but the hype behind them is warranted because they are really so damn good! They crumble a bit more easily than an actual meatball, but the flavor is the bee's knees. Hearty lentils are the backbone here, and they sure make a great vegetarian option!

We absolutely had to have dessert as a finish to our meal. The only options they have are homemade ice cream sandwiches and ice cream floats. Who needs other options when you've got ones as good as these? For the ice cream sandwiches, you get to pick your cookie flavor or flavors (you can easily get 2 different flavors as we did) and an ice cream flavor and they will make it fresh just for you. They were even nice enough to cut ours in half for convenient sharing. We got a peanut butter cookie and a chocolate chip cookie (both were flawless) paired with some of the best chocolate ice cream I've ever had. Legit. Best. Such rich chocolate flavor. Would eat this over and over again (which could lead to a serious weight problem...).

Ice Cream Sandwich with Peanut Butter Cookie, Chocolate Chip Cookie, and Chocolate Ice Cream $5

Perhaps the greatest treat of all, was the price tag of our meal. All this amazing food cost the two of us just over 30 bucks with tax and tip! And that includes our drinks (non-alcoholic) and dessert. I returned a couple weeks later for lunch and elected to try some of the sliders. You can match up each ball with whatever sauce you'd like, so it gives you a great opportunity to try many flavor combinations. I tried the chicken meatball with Parmesan cream sauce (their take on chicken Parmesan: really juicy and the cheese sauce was the perfect touch), the veggie ball with pesto sauce (the really bright flavors in the pesto were a great addition to the heartiness of the veggie ball), and that day's special ball and sauce... the Buffalo chicken ball with Frank's red hot and blue cheese dressing (also super juicy with just a bit of heat without being overly spicy... a really fun meatball selection).

Meatball Sliders (left to right): Chicken Meatball with Parmesan Cream Sauce, Veggie Ball with Pesto, Buffalo Chicken Meatball with Frank's Red Hot and Blue Cheese Dressing $3 each

I couldn't resist another ice cream sandwich either, although I really wish I had someone to share with because those sliders were surprisingly filling! This time I got 2 brownie cookies (studded with walnuts) filled with a very mild but tasty mint ice cream. A pretty winning combination, but I preferred our original selection more.

Ice Cream Sandwich with Brownie Cookies and Mint Ice Cream $5

Keep in mind that they don't take reservations, and they definitely get packed during peak hours (and even late-night hours) so expect to wait. If you don't live in New York, or absolutely positively refuse to wait for your balls, you can buy their cookbook, which I will be reviewing in my next post! Stay tuned, I'll be sharing a highly coveted recipe as well!

The Meatball Shop
Lower East Side Location
84 Stanton St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 982-8895

West Village Location
64 Greenwich Ave
New York, NY 10011
(212) 982-7815

Williamsburg Location
170 Bedford Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 551-0520

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage


Simply a classic. I believe that when most people think of orecchiette pasta ("little ears" in Italian), visions of vibrant broccoli rabe and hearty sausage dance in their heads. It is a trifecta that is unparalleled, and so straight-forward and easy to put together. A few simple ingredients result in a balanced meal, both in flavor and color.

Slightly bitter broccoli rabe is enhanced by juicy and slightly spiced sausage, traditionally pork although I used chicken with excellent (and less guilty) results. The chewy orecchiette and salty cheese round out this dish perfectly. I only had a non-stick pan handy, so my sausage did not brown as much as I would have liked. Definitely attempt this dish with a stainless steel skillet if you have one. Your sausage will crust up nicely allowing the scant amount of chicken broth to collect every last bit of flavor from the pan, fortifying the "sauce" for this dish even more.

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage
Serves 4 to 6

Kosher salt
1 bunch (1 lb) broccoli rabe, trimmed and roughly chopped
1 lb dried orecchiette pasta
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb fresh sweet Italian sausage (pork, chicken, or turkey), removed from casings
4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup grated Pecorino-Romano or Parmigianno-Reggiano cheese

Blanch the broccoli rabe in boiling salted water for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until the stem portions are tender but still firm (not mushy). Immediately strain the broccoli rabe from the boiling water (you will be reusing the water for the pasta) and rinse with cold water. Squeeze the rabe dry and set aside. Bring the water back to a boil and add the orecchiette. Cook until al dente, reserving some of the pasta water, drain and then return to the pot.

Meanwhile, add the olive oil to a skillet (preferably not non-stick to allow for better browning) over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and break it up with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic, red chili flakes, and season with salt. Keep stirring and breaking up the sausage until it is cooked through. Deglaze the pan with the chicken broth and cook for a couple minutes. Add the blanched broccoli rabe to the skillet and stir until the rabe is heated through.

Add the broccoli rabe and sausage mixture to the cooked pasta along with the cheese. Stir to combine and allow the cheese to melt, adding splashes of pasta water as needed to loosen up the pasta. Serve immediately.


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