Oxtail Bourguinonne

 

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Bourguignonne refers to any dish cooked in the style of Burgundy, France. This dish is similar to classic boeuf bourguignonne (French beef stew), which is beef braised with red wine and mushrooms. Although oxtail was once the tail of an ox, these days the bony cut can be beef or veal origin. Also note that mashed potatoes would make the perfect side dish. And if you desire a gluten free side dish, mashed cauliflower works just as well.

Serves 6

Ingredients:
8 slices fatty bacon, chopped
Olive oil
3 large fresh Italian parsley sprigs
3 large fresh thyme sprigs
2 large fresh bay leaves, bruised
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 to 4 1/4 pounds meaty oxtail pieces, trimmed of excess fat
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup diced carrot plus 6 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch chunks
4 large garlic cloves, peeled; 1 minced, 3 left whole
1 3/4 cups beef broth
1 1/2 cups red Burgundy wine (such as Beaujolais)
1 pound crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
12 small shallots, blanched 1 minute, peeled

Directions:
Cook bacon in heavy large pot over medium-high heat until brown and crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to plate. Pour drippings into small bowl. Return 6 tablespoons drippings to pot (add olive oil, if necessary, to measure 6 tablespoons total; reserve bacon for another use). Tie parsley, thyme, and bay leaves together for bouquet garni. Stir 1 tablespoon flour and butter in small bowl to smooth paste.

Whisk 1 1/2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and nutmeg in medium bowl. Add oxtails, a few pieces at a time, to seasoned flour and toss to coat.

Heat bacon drippings in pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add oxtails and brown on all sides, about 6 minutes per batch. Transfer oxtails to bowl after each batch.
Reduce heat to medium-low. Add chopped onions, diced carrot, and minced garlic to pot. Sauté until onions soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Return oxtails and any accumulated juices to pot. Add bouquet garni, then broth and wine. Bring to boil. Cover and simmer until meat is almost tender, adjusting heat occasionally to maintain gentle simmer, about 3 hours. Mix in mushrooms, shallots, carrot chunks, and whole garlic cloves. Increase heat and return to boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover pot and simmer gently until meat and vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes longer.

Tilt pot and spoon off any fat that rises to surface. Stir flour paste into stew. Simmer uncovered until sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, 6 to 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cook’s Notes:
This dish can be made 1 day ahead. Allow it to cool  for 1 hour, then refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated. To serve, rewarm over low heat before ladling into serving bowls.

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Jerk Chicken with Coconut Saffron Rice and Black Beans

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The best jerk recipe I have ever tasted, delighted the senses, as it was fragrant, fiery hot and smoky all at once.The original recipe was developed by Paul Chung, an adventurous self-taught cook who grew up in Jamaica and has sampled jerk from just about every corner of the island. Making a few adjustments, I added  fresh ginger, dark brown sugar and apple cider vinegar to the marinade. For best results and maximum flavor, let the chicken marinate overnight, covered, in the refrigerator.

As side dishes goes, this saffron rice recipe cooks up pretty quickly, making it a great dish if you are in a hurry. Another added bonus is that is one of those rare dishes that gluten free and vegan. However, if you are allergic to coconut milk, soy milk is a suitable substitute.

Serves 8

Ingredients:
For the Chicken:
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3 medium scallions, chopped
2-3 Scotch bonnet chili peppers, stems removed, chopped (or Habaneros)
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon five-spice powder
1 tablespoon allspice berries, coarsely ground
1 tablespoon coarsely ground pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon white or apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Two 3 1/2- to 4-pound chickens, quartered

For the Saffron Coconut Rice and Beans:
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1 tablespoon plain water,at room temperature
2 cups uncooked white basmati rice (or any long grain rice)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 3/4 cup coconut milk
2 cups water
1 teaspoon agave nectar, (or 1/2 teaspoon of sugar)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
a pinch of ground nutmeg
One 15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained
Lime wedges, for garnish

Special Equipment:
Latex gloves for handling the chilis and massaging the marinade under the chicken skin.

Directions:
For the chicken start preparing it a day or two ahead of actual cooking.

Pat chicken dry with paper towels.In a food processor, combine the onion, scallions, chiles, ginger, garlic, five-spice powder, allspice, black pepper, thyme, nutmeg, salt and brown sugar; process to a coarse paste. With the machine on, add the the soy sauce and oil in a steady stream. Put on latex gloves and pour the marinade into a large, shallow dish. Slather the marinade all over chicken, including under skin, and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring the chicken to room temperature before cooking and lightly sprinkle with more salt and ground allspice, before proceeding.

Prepare a charcoal grill: Clean and oil grates.Light a grill and preheat to medium heat using one chimney of charcoal. The temperature can start as high as 300°F. For best results, coals should be at least 12 inches away from chicken. If necessary, push coals to one side of grill to create indirect heat. Add two large handfuls of soaked pimento (allspice) wood sticks and chips (See Cook’s Notes) or other aromatic wood chips to coals, then close grill. When thick white smoke billows from grill, place chicken on grate, skin side up, and cover. Let cook undisturbed for 35 to 45 minutes.

Uncover the grill. The chicken will be golden and mahogany in some spots. Chicken thighs may already be cooked through. For other cuts, turn chicken over and add more wood chips, and charcoal as needed. Cover and continue cooking, checking and turning every 10 minutes. Jerk chicken is done when skin is burnished brown and chicken juices are completely clear, with no pink near the bone. For large pieces, this can take up to an hour.

While chicken is cooking, begin to prepare the rice.

In a small bowl, soak saffron threads in the water, at room temperature, for 5 minutes and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat peanut oil over a medium heat until it begins to shimmer, about 2 minutes. Stir in chopped shallot and garlic, and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in rice, mixing with a wooden spoon until all of the grains are coated with peanut oil. Fry for 1 minute, stirring constantly.Gently stir in the coconut milk, water, saffron mixture, agave or sugar, turmeric, cumin taking care as the oil will splatter. Season with salt, and gently stir, making sure that nothing sticks to the bottom while everything comes to a boil.

Once liquid achieves a boil, reduce heat to low. Place lid on pot, slightly askew to allow some steam to escape. Stir occasionally to make sure rice does not stick to bottom of pan and the sugar in the coconut milk does not burn. Allow to simmer *very* gently for 15-20 minutes, or until rice is tender.

Stir in the black beans and cook for a few minutes more until hot. Remove from heat and cover the saucepan. Allow to stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork when you are ready to serve.

When the chicken is done, transfer to a platter.Garnish with lime wedges and serve with the rice.

Cook’s Notes:
Pimento wood sticks and chips are available at www.pimentowood.com.

Alternatively you bake the chicken in the oven if a grill is not readily available.After marinating and you are ready to cook the chicken, heat oven to 350°F and bake chicken for 45-55 minutes, until done.

Also, if time is of the essence, you can first bake the chicken at 300°F in the oven then finished off on the grill. This will result in crispy skin, with perfect texture and flavor.

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Crespelle alla Fiorintina

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catherine_de_medicisThe culinary historical trail leads to Catherine de’ Medici, the Florentine Queen of France, for introducing these savory crepes to French cuisine with the help of her Tuscan chefs.

In 1533, at age fourteen, she was married to Henry of Orléans, the future king of France.
When she moved to France, an entourage of friends, servants, and waiters accompanied her. The Florentine cooks who went with her brought with them the secrets of Italian cooking to France, introducing peas, beans, artichokes, canard a l’orange, (duck a la orange) and carabaccia (onion soup). The pastry makers also demonstrated their innovative genius with sorbets and ice creams, marmalades, fruits in syrup, pastry making, and pasta. A certain Sir Frangipani gave his name to the custard and the tart known in France as Frangipane. Is is not ironic that all these dishes that are considered so quintessentially French, are actually Italian in origin.

Catherine also brought with her to the French table a new protocol, such as the separation of salty and sweet dishes, at a time when sweets were still consumed together with meat and fish in the medieval style all over Europe. Everyone in France was amazed by the Florentine elegance she  introduced, including gracious table settings and dining, fine linen with elegant embroidery, as well as luxurious silverware and crystal stemware.

At the time, French cooking was already a rich, evolving discipline, and the presence of the new style profoundly influenced French cuisine over the next few centuries. Catherine and her army of Florentine chefs reformed the antique French cooking of a medieval tradition and transformed the food we know as today as the modern French cooking. As time went on, French cooks improved and magnified the Florentine contributions. While many dishes and techniques were being forgotten in Italy, the French made them into international cuisine.

And based on the  various  evidence in the culinary literature, it suggests that crepes were also Florentine in origin and the French adapted them into what we now enjoy  today, in both sweet and savory forms. Crespelle  appears to be like Cannelloni, which are pasta tubes filled with spinach and ricotta, but the crespelle is actually a very thin pancake crepe made of flour and eggs instead of a thick sheet of pasta.

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Photo Credit: Josephine Guerriero, Pezzole delle nonna, Posta La Ricetta

In the Tuscan countryside, this dish was formerly  called “pezzole delle nonna.” Pezzole is the Tuscan way of saying “fazzoletto” which means “handkerchief”  and so pezzole delle Nonna  can be translated as  “Grandma’s Handkerchiefs“. Pezzoles can be described as omelets or crepes stuffed with ricotta cheese and vegetables covered with a Béchamel sauce. They are neatly folded into quarters and served family style in a dish, looking very much like handkerchiefs in a stacked in a drawer.  Given its past, and its modern incarnations, this  dish is definitely a home-style comfort food and is  found in extremely traditional Tuscan trattorias.

Serves 8

Ingredients:
For the Crespelle batter:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk

For the filling:
1 pound fresh spinach, washed, stems removed
1/2 pound ricotta
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

For the Béchamel:
4 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
1 3/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

To Finish:
About 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 cup tomato passata or  prepared tomato sauce (See Cook’s Notes)

Directions:
For the crepes: In a bowl whisk together all the ingredients to form a smooth, thin batter. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before proceeding. Heat a small skillet or crepe pan and when hot, brush lightly with butter. Ladle about 1/4 cup of crepe batter into the pan, tilting the skillet to evenly coat the pan. Cook until golden brown on the bottom and the top begins to look dry, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a spatula, carefully turn the crepe and cook the second side until the bottom colors slightly, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter to yield 8 crepes

For the filling:  Bring water to a boil in a saucepan and blanch spinach for a few minutes. Drain and dry  the spinach with a kitchen towel by squeezing the spinach to extract any remaining moisture, then coarsely chop to yield about 1 cup. In a bowl, combine the spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and stir to thoroughly combine. Set aside.

 Preheat the oven to 375 ° F.

Lightly butter a 1  1/2 quart casserole dish.

Divide the spinach filling evenly among the crepes, using about 1/3 cup filling for each. Roll the crepes, like enchiladas, up around the filling and place in the buttered dish. Set aside while preparing the sauce.

For the Béchamel sauce: In a saucepan,  melt the butter. Whisk in the flour until smooth and continue to cook for 3 minutes, being careful not to brown. Slowly whisk in the cold milk, and cook, stirring, until the sauce comes to a boil and thickens, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking until the floury taste is gone, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

To finish: Pour the béchamel over the crepes, drizzle with butter, and bake for 20 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Serve hot, with a little tomato passata spooned over the top of each serving.

Cook’s Notes:
You are probably asking yourself, “What is passata?”  Well, passata is basically just an uncooked sauce made with crushed and sieved tomatoes. What makes it so special? Usually, high quality ripe tomatoes are used for passata, resulting in a well flavored tomato base that is generally superior to standard canned tomatoes. Passata is an excellent base for sauces and perfect as a pizza sauce.

Passata is available in Italian delis and specialty gourmet markets. In Europe, passata is widely available in supermarkets. You will find it near the pasta sauces and canned tomatoes. Usually it is sold in a tall jar or a carton. But for some reason, although it is found all over Italy and Europe in general, passata does not seem to be sold widely in the United States. That’s a pity because it’s a great store-cupboard ingredient to have on hand. If you are having trouble getting your hands on passata, you can purchase it online. Amazon stocks good quality Cento Tomato Passata made from Italian San Marzano tomatoes.

How To Make Passata: If you do not have the real thing, you can make a reasonable substitute at home. Use the best quality tomatoes you can find, drain them and sieve or purée in a food processor. But do not use tomato paste, because it is thick, concentrated and highly processed. You can also add salt and other seasonings to taste, like basil or oregano.

Sources:
Orieux, Jean. Catherine de Médicis, ou, La reine noire. Paris: Flammarion, 1986.

Volpe, Anna Maria. “Caterina de Medici: A Tuscan Queen In France.” Caterina de medici, http://www.annamariavolpi.com/caterina_de_medici.html. Date Accessed: 16 December 2016.

All photographs and content are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

Thank you so much!

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