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Tag Archives: butter

T.J.’s Artichoke Ravioli in a Toasted Bread Crumb and Butter Sauce

15 Sep

T.J.'s Artichoke Ravioli in Toasted Crumb Butter Sauce 10

In his book Heat, Bill Buford chronicles his adventures as an amateur slave cook for Mario Batali, and his immersion into the professional cooking world. Amongst the people he mentions in the novel is Lidia Bastianich. If you’ve never seen her show, try to find it. She is about as close to one of my Italian aunts in the kitchen as one could get. Her recipes will make your legs shake and you’ll get that squishy feeling like you did when your crush passed you in 2nd grade or when you straddled a swing too long.

I mention Lidia because one of my favorite pieces of wisdom comes from her in Buford’s book. He talks about the link between food and sex, and he refers to a conversation he had with Lidia on this very subject. When pressed to explain further, Lidia states that, of course food is like sex, and then throws him a rhetorical question, “‘What else do you put in someone’s body?'” I never thought of it that way, but it’s dead on when you think about it, and it’s why good food and wine can lead to a euphoric, erotic level of being.

And the connections can be drawn from there. Perhaps the encounter is a fifteen-minute exercise in lust on the kitchen counter, or a quickie in the front seat of your car as you take a break from a long road trip, or the clumsy first time when all the ingredients are there, but you’re unfamiliar with timing and how everything works together. Or maybe it’s a languid evening that requires four hours of musical ambiance, punctuated by the brief recognitions of humanity’s inherent beauty and the privilege you feel in recognizing it, or maybe you’re just starving and you tear open everything and scarf it all down while closing the front door with your back left heel. This could be food. This could be sex.

This recipe effuses sexuality in that it’s indulgent, but also smooth and simple. Most importantly, it’s easy. When I first read it over, I was uneasy about using a whole stick o’ butter, but it was the perfect complement to these ravioli. Serve this with some greens in a light vinaigrette, and you’re getting lucky on two levels.

I mentioned Lidia because it so happens that this sauce is from her book, Lidia’s Family Table. Also, I use Trader Joe’s Artichoke Ravioli for this, but I think any good filled pasta would work famously with it. The recipe below serves 4, but I usually halve it since there are only two of us.

T. J.’s Artichoke Ravioli in a Toasted Bread Crumb and Butter Sauce

Serves 4 or so

Ingredients:

2 packages Trader Joe’s Artichoke Ravioli, or a filled pasta of your liking

2 tbsp. dry bread crumbs

8 tbsp. butter (1 stick)

Lots of freshly ground black pepper

1 cup of the pasta-cooking water

2 tbsp. chopped parsley, Italian would be optimal

1 cup Parmesan or Grana Padano

Makin’ It:

Get a big ol’ pot of salted water boiling for the pasta.

In a small skillet, toast the bread crumbs over medium to medium-high heat, tossing them often so that they get browned evenly. When they are almost all brown, drop in 2 tablespoons of the butter. Remove the pan from the heat and swirl the pan around to melt the butter and stop the crumbs from getting too brown. Set this aside.

In a big skillet, melt the rest of the butter over medium heat. Grind in the black pepper generously. Ladle in 1 cup of the hot pasta water and get it simmering. Keep stirring and simmering it as it reduces a bit while you wait for the pasta to finish.

Remove the cooked pasta from the big pot o’ water and add it to the skillet. Toss it with the sauce. Off the heat, toss in the Parmesan and parsley. Plate your pasta portions (dividing the sauce among the four plates, obviously) and sprinkle the toasted bread crumbs on top of each right before serving, like this:

T.J.'s Artichoke Ravioli in Toasted Crumb Butter Sauce 2

Make and serve this, and it will be one of those encounters you remember in the wee hours of an insomniac night.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

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Chicken Marsala

11 May

Chicken Marsala 2

One of the best family stories I have (and it will somehow segue into a Chicken Marsala recipe) involves my dad emigrating to the U.S. from Naples, Italy. I called him to verify this, but he told me it was too far back to remember.  Still, whether it’s true or not, it’s a classic story.

Rumor has it that before my pop came here on the boat, he was told how to order apple pie and coffee in English.  It was pretty much all he knew how to say in English when he took the train to Gardena, California, where the family was waiting for him. Now this was in the 1950’s, so we’re talking about a long train ride from New York to LA.

Every time he ordered, it’d be, “Whaddaya want, Mack?”

“Apple-a pie-a and-a coffee.”

“Again? Jeez.”

After a week of apple pie for every meal, he never wanted to see or eat it again. It’s like a story in the “Welcome to America” mythology:  “As a new American, you should know that nothing’s as American as apple pie. So welcome to America, and here’s as much fucking apple pie as you can handle, rookie.” Whether it was my pop or a relative, it still must have happened to someone.

As I have written numerous times, I am lucky to be first generation when it comes to Italian food. I embrace it now, but I don’t think I understood it’s depth until I got into my twenties.  We never went to Italian restaurants when I was growing up.  Why would we?  Even now, if I find a good one, I will go there only to order something that I simply would never make at home because it’s a pain in the ass. Moreover, no Italian restaurant can hold a candle to what anyone in my family makes. So, the first few times I went to an Italian restaurant, I vaguely remember looking at some of the dishes (i.e. Chicken Marsala) and wondering what the hell they were.

I have found Chicken Marsala on almost every Italian restaurant’s menu, yet I never had it growing up. And in my experience, chicks dig this recipe. Before I had ever tried it, it would come up in casual conversation, usually on a first or second date, as we chatted about the Italian food with which I grew up.

“So your dad’s, like, from Italy? Like, from there? I love Italian food. You should, like, make me some one night.”

“I know.  It’s a trip that my dad’s from there. He’s got an accent and everything.”

Really? Oh my god, I love Chicken Marsala. I bet your family, like, makes the most rad Chicken Marsala, right? Oh my god, I’m, like, making myself soooo hungry.”

“Right on. What are you going to order?”

“Like, a California roll. And those edie-mommy beans. They’re, like, totally good for you.” I dated a lot of girls who spoke in italics when talking to an Italian, obviously.

In any case, the first time I tried it, I loved it. It’s relatively easy to make and, truth be told, it’s not that fattening, either. On the old Weight Watchers, half a chicken breast is a 7 (Points Plus and 360° can both fuck off wantonly). You could probably save a few points by subbing non-fat cooking spray for the butter, but you would sacrifice flavor, I’m afraid.

This recipe is straight from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook with few modifications.

One note: use Marsala wine.  It’s cheap, and substituting a dry sherry or Madeira just doesn’t work out as well. I’ve tried. I know.

Chicken Marsala

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp. dried marjoram

1/8 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. black pepper

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 cups sliced mushrooms

4 green onions, sliced into 1/4″ pieces

3 tbsp. butter or margarine

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup Marsala wine

Sliced green onions for garnish

Hot cooked pasta, like angel hair or linguine

Makin’ It:

Place each chicken breast between two pieces of plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a mallet or a small skillet, pound them into 1/4″  thickness and discard the plastic. On a flat plate or in a wide shallow bowl, combine the flour, marjoram, salt, and pepper. Coat each breast on both sides and shake off the excess. Set it aside for a bit.

In a large skillet, melt ONE tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat. Add in the mushrooms and green onions and cook them until they’re tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove them from the skillet and set them aside for a bit.

In the same skillet, melt the two remaining tablespoons o’ butter. Add in the chicken breasts and brown them evenly, turning once, about 6 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the heat and put the mushrooms and green onions back in it. Add the broth and Marsala to the skillet, return it to the heat, and get it boiling. Reduce the heat and simmer it, uncovered, for about 3 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Taste for salt and pepper.

Place a 1/2 cup hot pasta on a plate and place a chicken breast on it. Spoon the mushroom sauce over it all and serve. If you’re sexy, you’ll garnish it with a few more sliced green onions. Bob’s your uncle, and my uncle, come to think of it.

Chicken Marsala 5

You’ll agree that it’s, like, totally bitchin’.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Sauteed Mushrooms a la Jonny

13 Nov

I used to be scared of mushrooms.  There are so many of them, and a lot of the varieties are friggin expensive, and there is a sort of aura (even a corona, I dare say) around them.  I keep learning about them as the years pass.  Morels, the $19 a pound scrotum-looking variety, are good, no doubt.  But the crimini and white button mushrooms are ubiquitous to normal prols like me, so it has paid off that I learned how to use them.

Sauteed mushrooms is one of the easiest appetizers or side dishes for which one could hope.  It’s basic and good.

Sauteed Mushrooms

Ingredients:

1 carton of mushrooms (the square box of them in the supermarket…it’s like 4 oz. or something), quartered

1 tablespoon or so of butter

2 tablespoons of olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup white wine, madeira, marsala, port, champagne or sparkling wine…whatever is open and goes with your main course

1/2 tsp. thyme

1/2 to 1 tsp salt

fresh cracked pepper

Makin’ It

In a large skillet, heat the butter and the olive oil:

Add the garlic and saute it for 2 minutes or so, but don’t let it get brown or black (bitter).

Add the mushroom and get them going.  Toss them with everything and let them meet, greet, and hook up with the garlic, oil, and butter.

Add the wine at this point (tonight, I made a marinated steak, so the madeira wine in my cabinet bridged that gap quite well, but most often I use sparkling wine).  It will steam and make fun, exciting sounds.  Scrape up the bits on the bottom of the skillet as you do this.  Add the thyme, salt, and pepper.  Get it simmering and turn the heat down a bit.  Let it go for about 5 minutes, stirring every so often.

Now here’s the key.  TASTE IT!  If you need salt, add a little at a time.  After about five minutes, they should be softish and savory and slick. When you bite into it, it should be tender but firm.

From here, I transfer them into a serving dish with a slotted spoon and then top with the sauce because I don’t want to to drown them with liquid.

They don’t scare me anymore.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

“Like” it if you like it.