Monday, December 29, 2008
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
Like many foodies, I love to collect cookbooks. When I'm not actually cooking or eating some wonderful dish, I can spend hours flipping through the pages of a beautifully illustrated cookbook and dream of when I can make this dish or that and for whom. If there at least 3 recipes that I want to try immediately, I consider the money well-spent on my new volume. For the past several years, I have been buying used cookbooks online to add to my collection. I don't understand how someone doesn't put her name in a new book. The very minute I get a new book, either a bookplate or a scrawled name and date are added to the inside front cover. I also rate each recipe I try and make notes about any detours I may take (and I must confess to taking many). Finally, many of my cookbooks would qualify as "scratch and sniff" books since despite having a collection of cookbook stands, I seldom dig through the cabinets to find them. You're apt to find color washes left by sauces, the odd piece of dried dough, or fleck of spice. Personally, I think it adds to their authenticity.
A few weeks ago, one of my foodie friends mentioned a cookbook in a comment she left. I've searched through my deleted posts, but couldn't verify who it was. I'm fairly certain it was Gloria C.--I wanted to thank her--who mentioned the book Urban Italian by Andrew Carmellini. Since I was ordering The Language of Baklava, our next read for Cook the Books, I went ahead and ordered Carmellini's book as well. I was not disappointed. I love the premise of his book. A professional chef for many years, Carmellini was awaiting the completion of his new restaurant and found himself, as the book jacket describes, "up against the harsh reality of life as a civilian cook: no prep cooks, no saucier, no daily deliveries--just him and his wife in their tiny Manhattan apartment kitchen."
Yes, I crowed, now let's see what he produces when he's stripped down to the bare bones as most of us foodies bloggers are! If there were a fat, juicy crow, I'd be digging in right now based on just the first recipe I've recreated. In addition to a wonderful Sunday dinner, I've enjoyed reading of his many cooking and eating experiences, one of them being his service as weekend executive chef to the Cuomo family in Albany.
The recipe I tried last night was for short ribs braciole. As Carmellini reveals upfront, the name of this dish makes no sense at all. Braciole in Italy are really slices of beef, pounded thin, and fried quickly. Italian Americans call involitini (beef rolls) by the name braciole. This dish was basically slow-cooked short ribs, but, what's in a name? The result was pure heaven. From the minute I began browning the short rib slices in a mixture of pancetta, onion, and garlic, to the time I opened the oven after a 2 1/4 hour slow cooking, the scent was incredible. The dish came together quickly and just needed to be checked every 20 minutes or so to make certain they weren't cooking too fast. I served them with some cavatappi pasta, a last minute decision when I tasted the rich, smoky sauce. I can hardly wait to eat the leftovers tonight! As usual, I've taken a few liberties with the original recipe--not too many--but below is exactly how I made the dish.
For the short ribs:
1/4 lb pancetta, roughly diced
2 1/2 lbs boneless beef short ribs, each rib sliced in thirds
1 tsp Kosher salt
freshly grated pepper
1 cup diced onion
3 cloves garlic, sliced Goodfellas thin
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
2 28 oz cans whole, peeled SAN MARZANO tomatoes, with their juice
1 tbs sugar
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
Cook the pancetta in a large, dry ovenproof pot over medium high heat until the fat renders (about 2 minutes)
Season the short ribs on both sides with salt and pepper; add them to the pot and brown the meat (about 5 minutes)
Add the onion and cook until it softens (about 2 minutes)
Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, mix well
Crush the tomatoes with your hands and add to the pot along with their juices
Bring the mixture to a low boil
Remove the pot from the stove and place it in the oven, checking every 20 minutes or so to make certain it's not boiling too hard
Cook for 2 1/4 hours
For the topping:
1/4 cup pine nuts, roughly chopped
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
dried oregano and parsley
salt and pepper
2 tbs freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese
Toast the pine nuts in a dry saute pan over low heat (about 8 minutes)
Add the olive oil, mix well, continue cooking
Add the panko breadcrumbs; cook about 2 minutes, until toasty brown
Add the salt, pepper, oregano, and parsley
Remove from heat and stir in the cheese; set aside
To finish the dish:
Remove the pot from the oven and immediately remove the short ribs
Use a ladle to remove excess fat (by pressing chunky sauce away as you tip the pot so ladle fills with fat only)
Place a few slices of meat on each plate, spoon sauce over, sprinkle with nut-crumb mixture
Prepare for lots of yummy noises as you eat this dish!