Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Extra Virgin: A Tuscan Cookbook

Extra Virgin cookbook

White Bean and Pancetta Bruschetta, Tuscan Bread and Tomato Soup, Chestnut Flour Cake...my mouth is watering just thinking of them all!

Extra Virgin is a cookbook by Debi Mazar of Goodfellas fame and her Italian husband Gabriele Corcos.  The two are also hosts of the Cooking Channel's show Extra Virgin, a show that I confess I've never seen.  But my curiosity is definitely peaked after reading through this book and catching glimpses of this charismaticly quirky couple through their anecdotes and recipe introductions.  The title, an obvious play on words, is an insight into their playfulness and the book's flirtatious winks to the reader.

Disclosure:  Lavende and Lemonade was not compensated for this post.  I did however receive free product to review on this blog.  All opinions are 100% my own.

This book is a tour through traditional Tuscan cooking, with an American twist.  Italian classics like fresh pasta, rich red sauce, and hearty soups abound, and are intermingled with a Tuscan interpretation of American comfort foods like Guac & Tortilla Chips (reincarnated here as Olive Oil Guacamole with Beet Chips...mmmmm!)

I'm a sucker for cookbooks with drool-worthy photos, and this book delivers.  Nearly every recipe comes with a full-page photo that makes me want to jump into the kitchen and start cooking!  I also like the balance of recipes, from starters to vegetables to meat dishes - a great variety for all the seasons.

To see if the recipes in this book match the drool-worthiness of the photos, I made Fresh Cheese Curd Crostini.  Admittedly Cheese Curd sounded entirely unappealing until I figured out that this is actually a recipe for homemade Ricotta!  Fantastic.  The recipe and results are posted here...enjoy!

Disclaimer:  I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

My Paris Kitchen: Poulet a la Moutarde

This recipe is directly from My Paris Kitchen, a book by David Lebovitz that delves into his experiences as an American chef living and eating in Paris.  For a full review of the book, read more here.

I've made here the recipe on the cover of the book, which, surprisingly could be done entirely with ingredients I already had in the kitchen.  Score!

The photos are mine, as I follow the recipe here.  From My Paris Kitchen I quote...

Chicken with Mustard / Poulet a la moutarde

Serves 4 to 6 

1/2 cup (135g), plus 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon sweet or smiked paprika
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
4 chicken thighs and 4 legs (8 pieces total)
1 cup (100g) diced smoked thick-cut bacon
1 small onion, peeled and finely diced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 cup (250 ml) white wine
1 tablespoon whole mustard seeds or grainy mustard
2 to 3 tablespoons creme fraiche (page 327) or heavy cream
Warm water (optional)
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or chives, for garnish

1) Mix 1/2 cup (135g) of the Dijon mustard in a bowl with the paprika, a few generous grinds of the peppermill, and the salt.  Toss the chicken pieces in the mustard mixture, lifting the skin and rubbing some of it underneath.

2) Heat a wide skillet with a cover or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the bacon.  Cook the bacon, stirring frequently, until it's cooked through and just starting to brown.  Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towels.  Leave about 1 tablespoon of bacon fat in the pan, discarding the rest.  Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until soft and translucent.  Stir in the thyme, and let cook for another few minutes, and then scrape the cooked onion into a bowl.

3) Add a little bit of olive oil to the pan, if necessary, and place the chicken pieces in the pan in a single layer.  (If the don't all fit, cook them in two batches.)  Cook over medium-high heat, browning them on the other side.  It's important to get the chicken nicely colored as the coloring- as well as the darkened bits on the bottom of the pan, called the fond - will give the finished sauce its delicious flavor.

4) Remove the chicken pieces and put them in the bowl with the onions.  Add the wine to the hot pan, scraping the darkened bits off the bottom with a sturdy flat utensil.  Return the chicken pieces to the pan along with the bacon and onions.  Cover and cook over low to medium heat, turning the chicken in the sauce a few times during the cooking, until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes.  Check doneness by sticking a knife into the meat next to the thigh bone; if it's red, continue cooking for a few more minutes.

5) Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard, the mustard seeds, and the creme fraiche.  If the sauce has reduced and is quite thick, you can thin it with a little warm water.  Sprinkle chopped parsley over the top and serve.

I will definitely be making this recipe again. My neighbors, who happened to stop in for dinner are still talking about how great it was!  

We served it over leftover rice...that I reawakened with some chicken broth, butter, and parsley.  It was a good balance to the chicken, but I'll be trying it with some herbed wide noodles instead next time which should help keep things a little more moist.  


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