Friday, March 6, 2009

Homemade Orecchiette with an Onion Sherry Sauce & Herbs

*So I saved this image 4 times with 4 different rotations. No matter how I saved the file, it would not upload the photo properly. It always put the rosemary sprig to the right. Never facing up. Very odd. So that's why the pic is a little cockamamie.**

This dish is my paean to the Onion. Onions are one of the most obvious and available vegetables around. Cheap too. Usually they are used as the starting point for sauces or an addition to a marinade or the supporting role in a mirepoix. I discovered the magic of slow-cooked onions one Christmas when I decided I was going to make French Onion Soup. I dug through a slew of recipes and decided to meld 2 of them. One recipe called for cooking just the onions and butter for an hour. It was an old cookbook and had never thought to cook an onion for that long but I gave it a try. After 45 minutes of watching these onions go from eye-tearing white to a luscious caramel color I was hooked. They become so sweet and that raw intense onion flavor becomes nuanced. Cook onions this way and you will never forget the taste.

Orecchiette was the first pasta I ever made by hand. It was pretty rustic looking but fun to make and the name always struck me: “little ears”. Bill Buford writes about this pasta in “Heat” when he was chronicling the adventures at Mario Batali’s Babbo and I know it has a much more storied past than that. Mixing the dough, rolling it into ‘ropes’ and making the orecchiette only took about 45 minutes and I made this work with the recipe because the onions take a long low and slow cooking.
You don’t need any fancy machines or tools for this pasta which is another reason I like it so much. Plus, the ‘little ears’ cradle the perfect amount of sauce.


½ Cup warm water
¾ Teaspoon Sea Salt
1 ¼ Cups Semolina Flour
1. Stir together water and sea salt in a bowl until salt has dissolved. 2. Form a well with the semolina and slowly add the water. Incorporate the water with the flour using a fork. Add more water as needed. Once all the water is included you should have an elastic dough ready to knead. 3. Cut half the dough and roll it into 2 ropes. Slice these into quarter-inch thick pieces. 4. Flour your hands and press your thumb down into the center of the pasta. Make one circular rotation pressing lightly on the pasta. That should be enough to form a ‘little ear.’ If you are difficulty on a counter top, place the pasta in the palm of your hand and use your other hand to shape. Continue until all your pasta is made.

Onion Sherry Sauce

2 Onions
3 Tbls Butter
½ Cup Sherry
¼ Cup Chx Broth
1 Tspn chopped, fresh Thyme
1 Small Sprig of Rosemary, chopped fine
Salt & White pepper*

1. Halve the onion then slice it in long, thin strands.
2. Add to a large skillet with the butter. Put the flame on low. Cover for fifteen minutes. Uncover and continue to cook for 25 minutes on low heat. The onions should be soft and browning.
3. While the onions are cooking, in a separate pot pour in all the liquid and reduce by half. Add a bay leaf if you like.
4. Add the thyme and rosemary to the onions along with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Add half the sherry/broth mixture. Stir. Let the liquid reduce slightly and add the rest of the mixture.

1. Bring salted water to a boil. Add orecchiette. Cook until al dente. This usually takes about 4-5 minutes because of the hard semolina flour. Taste one before you strain.
2. Once strained add the orecchiette to the Onion Sherry sauce. Coat well and serve. Sprinkle with some extra diced herbs

Salamagundi or Pirate Stew

I have an obsession with pirates. So when I was down in Key West recently, and had the chance to visit Pat Croce’s Pirate Museum, I jumped all over it. For anyone remotely interested in pirates this is the spot. They house the only pirate treasure chest that was filled with treasure in salvaged existence. They also have one of two pirate flags known to exist in the world.

The Museum also has a recipe for ‘Salamagundi’; the last meal ‘Black Bart’ Roberts ate the day he was fatally shot in battle against the British Royal Navy and a common dish aboard a pirate ship.

As you may have guessed “cuisine” on any sea faring ship was not gourmet. However, this dish is similar to Beef Burgundy in the sense that it’s a long braise with a wine-centric marinade and vegetables. Its also a perfect winter stew.
The original recipe I found calls for turtle, fish, chicken, pig, cow, duck and pigeon. The marinade consists of spiced wine, herbs, palm hearts, garlic and oil and is to be accompanied with hard-boiled eggs, anchovies, pickled onions, cabbage, grapes and olives.
Unless your on Grand Cayman, you cannot eat turtle meat. Everything else is pretty easy to find, for “pigeon” use squab. I didn’t but you can.
Just a heads up, this dish from start to finish takes 4 hours.

1lbs “Beef for Stew” aka brisket or rump
2 Duck Legs (Save the breast meat for another use)
3 Chicken Thighs
¼ Lbs Codfish Cheeks*
Vegetable oil
1 Onion, chopped
1 Cup each of chopped Carrots & Celery
6 Radishes, cubed in half or quarters
5 Cloves of Garlic, minced
1 Tbls Clove
5 Sprigs of Thyme
1 Sprig Rosemary
1 Tbls Peppercorns
1 Bottle of Red cooking wine
1 Quart Beef Stock
1 Cup Chx Broth
½ Can of Hearts of Palm
1 Tspn Cinnamon

Accompaniments: Crusty bread for soaking up the stew

That’s a laundary list of ingredients. Ready, set, GO:
1. In a 4-5 gallon pot brown all the meat (chicken and duck first then the beef). If you start to notice the bottom getting dark brown lower the heat.
2. Take out all the meat and reserve. Throw in all the chopped fresh veggies; onion, celerey, carrots, diced radishes. Brown in the same oil that you just browned all the meat in. Add more oil if needed. Cook the veggies for 5 minutes on med-low heat. Deglaze the bottom of the pot with 1 cup of beef stock. Scrape up all that browned goodness on the bottom of the pan with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
3. Add all the meat back into the pan except for the chicken. Add the chicken in the last hour of cooking. I will remind you again.
4. Make a boquet garni with cheese cloth: add the clove, thyme, rosemary, peppercorn. Drop it into the pan. Also, add the 1 tspn of cinnamon
5. Pour in all the remaining broth, stock and wine. Make sure all the meat is covered by the liquid. If it’s not add more wine or stock to cover.
6. Braise for 2 hours on low heat. There should be the slightest of simmers going on in that pot. After the 2 hours add the chicken and hearts of palm. Cook for 45 more minutes then add the cheeks/fish. Cook for 15 more minutes and serve with a crusty piece of bread for soaking up all that good stew.

This should yield about 3 quarts of stew. Freeze some and eat the rest.

*Codfish cheeks are hard to find. I had frozen them from a time when I was going to make a bouilliabase. I ended up not making that when I was supposed to and had these leftover codfish cheeks. The cheeks cook in less than 2 minutes and are very mild. If you can’t find the cheeks use a very mild-tasting fish; halibut, mahi-mahi