Using the diverse cultures and foods of Astoria, NY to feed one man's imagination in the kitchen.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Tuscan meat ragu and Pasta al forno

After another meal of this maddeningly delicious dish and the constant requests for the recipe, I give you the "Tuscan meat ragu" that makes the above pasta al forno... Shhhh, don't tell anyone.

Inspired by Trattoria Mario, Florence Italy. Original recipe to remain secret out of loyalty and respect to Chef Romeo.

This version: Jonathan Forgash

Tuscan meat ragu:
1 lg or 2 med. red onions peeled
1lg carrot peeled
3 stalks celery
1 bunch parsley
6 basil leaves or 1 tablespoon dry.
2 cloves garlic chopped
2 tablespoon fresh rosemary chopped
1 sm lemon zested
2lbs ground brisket (including all the fat, it's the secret ingredient.)
2 cups chianti or similar
16oz crushed tomatoes.
Salt and red pepper flakes.

Tuscan spice blend (makes enough for more dishes)
1 tablespoon each: (Ground) corriander, cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg, anise, cumin.

Grind first 5 ingredients in food processor and into pot with plenty of olive oil.
Saute till soft and browned (do not burn), About 20 minutes at medium heat.

Add the garlic, rosemary and lemon zest. Stir till fragrant.

Add ground brisket, mix in well. Turn up heat to saute. When meat is browned, lower heat and simmer uncovered 45 minutes. You want it all to be a nice dark mixture.

Add wine and simmer another 20 minutes.

Add crushed tomato and some water from rinsing out the can, 2 tablespoons Tuscan spice blend, salt and red pepper flakes (just enough to feel a bit of heat later). Stir and low simmer partially covered 1hr.

Your kitchen should have a rich meaty aroma with background hints of Cinnamon and nutmeg. Taste and adjust for salt, heat, Tuscan spice. Do what you will to make it your own. It will not be a very wet sauce nor should it have much of a tomato flavor. This is all about the hearty meat flavor with some unusual yet wonderful flavors.

Dish #1 Cheese tortolini with Tuscan ragu.
Use some of this ragu to sauce cheese tortolini and add some grated aged Parmesan to complete the dish.

Dish #2 Pasta al forno
Prepare 2 cups bechamel sauce.
4 tablespoon butter, 4 tablespoon flour. Mix in pan till combined and blond.
Add 2 cups milk. Stir till just thickened.

Mix in 2 cups Tuscan meat sauce and simmer 30 minutes.

Mix sauce into cooked rigatoni, add a handful of grated aged Parmesan. Pour into casserole and bake in oven at 325 till cooked through and top is slightly browned. Basically you are just cooking through the dish as all the ingredients are all ready cooked.

Serve with grated Parmesan and a good Northern Italian red wine.

Salame dolce

Salame dolce recipe without raw eggs
Recipe: Jonathan Forgash
Based on recipe by Divina Cucina

1/2 cup sugar
5 ounces melted butter
2 bars (7oz. total) Lindt chocolate 85% coco.
2oz Amaretto di Saronno®
6 ounces cookie crumbs (Petite Beurre in the U.S.)
1/2 cup hazeluts

In small pot over low heat, melt chocolate, sugar, Amaretto and butter to combine. Let cool a bit on counter while preparing rest of the recipe.

In food processor crush the cookies leaving some pieces a little larger than others so they resemble the fat in a salame. Remove cookies to lg bowl.
Rough chop the hazelnuts in food processor. Add to crushed cookies.

Add melted chocolate mix to cookies and hazelnuts. Mix well with hands.

On a large sheet of aluminum foil sprayed with bit of pam spray, form a salame-like shape and roll it up. Mold the wrapped shape into a nice long uniform log.

Place in the freezer for 60 minutes or until firm. Unwrap, roll in powdered sugar and slice.

Monday, April 7, 2008

A taste of Italy

During a walk through the farmers market at Union Square one beautiful day and seeing all the goodies available... Time to cook. I busied myself in the kitchen while my wife graded papers at the dining room table. These dishes are a mix of my recent Florence trip and local Astoria influences.

Made Jen crazy. Kept interrupting her with little dishes strewn across her papers but she forgave me in the end.

The tasting menu

Crisp Empire apple (farmers market) with aged Parmesan (Dave and Tony Salumeria, Astoria) and 15yr balsamic vinegar (Conti Products, Florence)

Crab & scrod cake with Lemon & fennel pollen Aioli.
(Fish from Marino and Sons Fish, Astoria)

Truffled egg salad with greens.
Organic corn bread, micro greens, Empire apples all from farmers market
Maple cured bacon by Eric Miller, Astoria
Truffled egg salad Vinaigrette inspired by Chef Darren @ Il Bambino, Astoria

Pasta al forno
Recipe from Tratorria Mario, Florence.
Meat sauce made with cinnamon, nutmeg and anise. Mix some of the sauce with bechamel and the fold into pasta with grated Parmesan.

Chocolate salami (no, there is no meat in it)
Recipe courtesy of Diva Cucina, Florence.
I used Nutella instead of coco powder and some of the sugar.
Served with Amaretto.
This recipe makes enough to last a long time, even for the worst chocolate freak.

A delicious dinner. I think next up is homemade sausages...