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Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Delicious! A nice Italian pan stew of fresh turkey sausage, sweet peppers, fine mirepoix vegetables and tomato with rigatoni pasta!
A ragu is really a stew or a stew that becomes a sauce. The French word ragout was derived from the Italian word ragu. Modern French cooking has its roots in Italian fine cuisine and many cooking terms are shared by both schools of cooking.
Italian ragu can be a creative recipe based on traditional cooking methods or a ragu can be a very strict regional Italian recipe. Strict regional Italian recipes are made the same way every time with no alterations in the list of ingredients or cooking methods.
You may hear the term bastardized when French food is described quite often. In Italian cooking, the term bastardized is never applied. When a recipe reaches perfection in Italy, chefs have the respect to only cook the recipe the way that it was originally intended to be. Those chefs who do not respect original Italian recipes usually are not well respected. This is one of the first lessons of apprenticing in an Italian kitchen. This rule applies to both pre-colombian fine Italian cuisine and post colombian cuisine where the use of tomatoes became more frequent.
A salsa pomodoro or sugo di carne can have slight variations from region to region or from family to family in Italy. The same goes for Italian cooking worldwide. A chef has to be aware of the styles and variations of Italian cuisine.
I have not posted many ragu recipes in my blog, but the ones that I have posted are traditional and unique. For traditional Italian entrees that require a pasta, often the recipe is pasta specific. Many ragu entrees use pastas like mostaccioli, rigatoni, penne, ziti, zitoni or several other varieties of tube pasta. Some chefs like to use an Italian artisan pasta. Rigatoni and mostaccioli are used for many regional Italian ragu recipes. Some recipes require very large rigatoni, while others require a smaller rigatoni. The size of the pasta is something to consider, when cooking traditional Italian cuisine.
My Rigatoni a Ragù di Salsiccia Tacchino e Peperoni recipe is made with traditional Italian techniques and ingredients. I created this recipe for fresh turkey sausage. Pork sausage is a traditional Italian item. In the last 20 years, turkey has become very popular in Italy. Previously, turkey was featured in some great Italian holiday recipes and healthy Italian mediterranean style recipes. Nowadays, turkey is giving pork a run for the money.
I tailored this basic Italian ragu recipe for the flavor of turkey sausage, instead of searching for a traditional recipe. There really are no traditional Italian turkey sausage ragu recipes to be found. An Italian ragu of turkey sausage is still in the realm of chef's creations. Believe me, there are some fine turkey sausage ragu recipes that were written by Italian chefs on the internet.
My Rigatoni a Ragù di Salsiccia Tacchino e Peperoni is just one of many chef's creations. I did chose to use olive oil instead of lard for this ragu recipe, just because most people think of turkey as being healthy to eat.
Later in the recipe, cook a portion of rigatoni pasta in boiling water, while the ragu simmers and stews. Be sure to cook the rigatoni so it is al dente. Use a wooden spoon or a pasta stick to stir the rigatoni, so that it does not stick to the pot or break. A metal spoon, metal fork or tongs have sharp edges and those utensils should never be used to stir a pasta as it cooks!
Cool the rigatoni under cold running water.
Drain the water off of the pasta.
Toss the pasta with a tiny splash of olive oil, so the pasta does not stick together.
Set the pasta aside.
Rigatoni a Ragù di Salsiccia Tacchino e Peperoni Recipe:
Heat a large saute pan over medium heat.
Add 1 tiny splash of blended olive oil.
Add 2 fresh sweet Italian turkey sausages. (The sausages should weigh about 5 or 6 ounces apiece. The term "sweet" means sweet mild peppers were used to flavor the sausage instead of hot spicy peppers.)
Saute the sausages on bot sides, till they are about halfway cooked.
Add 5 or 6 wide strips of sweet yellow or orange bell pepper. (I used orange bell pepper for the entree in the pictures.)
Saute till the sausages are lightly browned and fully cooked and till the peppers become al dente.
Remove the peppers and sausages from the pan and set them aside.
Add 1 generous splash of olive oil.
Add 1 small handful of small diced carrot.
Add 1 small handful of small diced celery.
Add 1 small handful of small diced onion.
Saute till the mirepoix vegetables just start to cook.
Add 3 minced garlic cloves.
Saute till the vegetables become al dente and the garlic become aromatic.
Add 2 tablespoons of good tomato paste.
Stir the tomato paste in with the vegetables.
When the tomato paste reaches the point of just starting to darken in color, add 2 finely minced seeded fresh Roma tomatoes.
Saute till the tomatoes start to become tender.
Add 1/2 cup of dry red wine.
Scrape the pan to deglaze the brown bits that are stuck on the pan into the sauce.
Add about 2 cups of beef stock. (Add enough beef stock to create a very thin brothy sauce. The sauce will slowly stew and reduce to a rich ragu sauce thickness.)
Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
Reduce the temperature to medium low/low heat.
Cut the reserved cooked turkey sausages into large bite size slices and return them to the pan.
Add 1 pinch of rosemary.
Add 2 pinches of oregano.
Add 1 small pinch of rubbed sage.
Add 3 pinches of minced Italian parsley.
Add 6 or 7 chopped fresh basil leaves.
Add sea salt and black pepper.
Gently simmer and reduce the ragu. If the vegetables are not very tender after reducing, add a splash of water and reduce again. It should take 25 to 30 minutes of slow simmering for the ragu to become fully cooked.
Just before the ragu is reduced to a medium thin tomato sauce consistency, return the sauteed sweet bell pepper strips to the pan.
Reduce the ragu, till it becomes a rich tomato vegetable sauce that is thick enough to coat the rigatoni pasta with flavor and till the sauce is not runny.
Add the al dente cooked rigatoni to the sauce.
Gently toss the rigatoni and ragu together.
Gently spoon the rigatoni and ragu into a large pasta bowl.
Try to expose a few pieces of sausage and peppers on the surface of the pasta.
Sprinkle a pinch of finely chopped Italian parsley over the pasta.
Garnish with an Italian parsley sprig.
Finely grated parmesan cheese is not really necessary for this ragu. If parmesan is requested, then it may be better to offer the cheese on the side. Many ragu entrees are eaten as is and not served with cheese.
This is a very nice tasting fresh sweet Italian turkey sausage and sweet pepper ragu! The vegetables are diced small enough to become part of the sauce that clings to the pasta. The herbs are suited for the flavor of turkey sausage. The sweet peppers add a comfortable flavor. The red wine and beef stock add a rich flavor to the sauce. The combination of fresh tomato and tomato paste adds a nice range of tomato flavor. This turned out to be a very nice ragu! Yum! Ciao Baby! ... Shawna
Monday, January 30, 2012
A very rich tasting omelette that is nice for brunch or dinner! Portabella omelette on haricot beans with French Fourme d'Ambert cheese and a black truffle glace!
I ordered some winter black truffles a few days ago at a fair price. I just needed a few small black truffles for a Valentines Day filet mignon recipe and a quail recipe. I don't particularly care for Australian winter truffles, because the flavor is much weaker than good French or Italian truffles. Sometimes a chef has to make do with what is available.
A good stainless steel truffle shaver is a necessity for truffles. A truffle shaver with an adjustable blade makes it easy to cut paper thin slices. Just a few thin slices of black truffle are enough to flavor an entree. The stainless steel Italian truffle shaver in the picture above runs for about $20 and it is a good investment. Garnishing seared foie gras or a sauce with shaved black truffle is easy with a truffle shaver.
The idea for this omelette was inspired by one of those open the refrigerator door at midnight and take a look at what was on hand kind of moments. I rarely see chefs use any of the French bleu types of cheese for eggs, yet many people like that flavor combination. I decided to make a thin glace viande and truffle sauce for the omelette, so it would be considered a dinner entree omelette. The combination of portabella mushrooms and winter black truffle makes this omelette a mushroom lover's dream come true!
Haricot et Omelette aux Champignons à la Fourme d'Ambert et Truffe Noire Glace Recipe:
Heat a small sauce pot over medium heat.
Add 2 cups of rich meat, beef or veal stock.
Add 1 small pinch of thyme.
Add sea salt and white pepper.
Reduce the stock, till a small amount of a thin meat glace is formed. The meat glaze should be slightly thicker than an a jus.
Add about 6 to 10 paper thin shaved black truffle slices.
Keep the truffle glace warm over very low heat.
Cut 15 to 20 haricot beans, so they are about the same length.
Blanch the haricot in boiling water, till they become al dente.
Drain the water off of the haricot.
Place the haricot back in the pot.
Add 2 pats of unsalted butter.
Add sea salt and white pepper.
Place the pot with the haricot over very low heat and allow the butter to melt and flavor the haricot.
Heat a non-stick saute pan over medium heat.
Add 5 pats of unsalted butter.
Add 1 small handful of thin sliced small portabella mushroom.
Add sea salt and white pepper.
Saute till the mushrooms become fully cooked.
Add 2 whisked eggs.
Even the edges of the omelette with a rubber spatula.
After the bottom half of the omelette is cooked firm, flip the omelette.
Cook the omelette, till it is firm, but not browned.
Remove the pan from the heat.
Tripple fold the omelette in the pan.
Place a few thin slices of Fourme d'Amert cheese across the top of the omelette.
Place the omelette in a 350 degree oven and allow the cheese to soften and partially melt. (Do not brown the cheese at all!)
Place a row of the buttered haricot across the middle of a plate.
Slide the omelette on top of the haricot beans.
Spoon the truffle glace over the top of the omelette.
No garnish is necessary.
This is a nice elegant omelette that has some rich classic flavors! The black truffle glace really tastes nice with the Fourme d'Ambert cheese. The topping adds a very sophisticated flavor to the portabella omelette! Yum! ... Shawna
Las Vegas Gourmet Cupcakes!
Gourmet cupcakes have been a trendy item for several years. It seems as though the most discerning gourmet clientele base of the entire food and restaurant industry is cupcake lovers! Hard core cupcake fans really know their icings, toppings and cakes very well. Cupcake experts do have true knowledge of good cupcakes and their prowess can be mistaken for snobbery. Gourmet cupcake fans really know their cupcakes!
Las Vegas is home to several great gourmet cupcake shops. Each shop offers a distinct style of cupcake. Some are very French and some are old fashioned American. Some Las Vegas shops market porno cupcakes and others offer liquor drenched adult cupcakes.
I decided to try a cupcake shop in my Las Vegas neighborhood that is called the Cupcakery. The Cupcakery that I visited is located at 7175 West Lake Mead Boulevard. The Cupcakery has a few locations in the Las Vegas valley and in Texas. One location is in the Monte Carlo Casino on the Strip.
I purchased a variety of Cupcakery offerings. I tried the coconut, strawberry shortcake, carrot cake and chocolate ganache cupcakes. I also tried an inside out chocolate strawberry cupcake that had the frosting in the middle.
What impressed me the most, was that each cupcake was made with a cake batter that was specifically designed for each style of cupcake. These cupcakes were not made with one standard batter recipe and then topped with different flavored toppings, like el cheapo cupcake shops make. At the Cupcakery, each cupcake is a gourmet creation of the highest quality!
The effect of a designer cake batter cupcake that has a tailor made topping to match is such a divine tasting experience. The Cupcakery cupcakes were skillfully designed gourmet items that were sinfully delicious to eat!
I have tried cupcake creations that were made by some of the greatest pastry chefs in the world and their cupcakes could not match the cupcakes at the Cupcakery. Many pastry chefs lose sight of what a cupcake is supposed to be all about. Cupcakes are meant to be light and delightful. Many european pastry chefs create gourmet cupcakes that are far too heavy in texture and taste. On the other hand, many second rate pastry chefs try to compensate for a poorly designed cake batter by piling on the toppings, till there is more icing than cake!
The Cupcakery cupcakes are aligned with the goal of a perfect cupcake. Their cupcakes have the perfect amount of toppings. Light delightful specific cake and topping flavor combinations at the Cupcakery do create a one of a kind cupcake tasting experience.
There are cupcake fans that actually fly to Las Vegas, just to do a gourmet cupcake tour of the city. A friend of mine is a professional wrestler in Sweden and he is truly a cupcake fanatic. I always post Las Vegas gourmet cupcake pictures for him to see. This pro wrestler has told me more than once, that the only reason that he wants to fly from Sweden to Las Vegas is so that he can try the cupcakes at every gourmet cupcake store in the valley! That is a true gourmet cupcake fanatic!
Of course I highly recommend the Cupcakery in Las Vegas for visiting guests and locals alike!
The Cupcakery! Yum! ... Shawna
Sunday, January 29, 2012
|Jean Philippe's Chocolate Chinese New Years Dragon!|
|Jean Philippe's Chocolate Chinese New Years Dragon!|
My favorite place to go for a scoop in Las Vegas!
The first time that I saw Sweet Chill, I thought that one of my dreams came true. I was at Aria for the opening week. A girl friend of mine and I partied all night Vegas style and I let her crash on my extra bed. I woke early to go for a picture taking stroll around the Aria and City Center grounds. As I was exploring the second floor of shops and restaurants, I turned the corner and saw Sweet Chill. My jaw dropped with astonishment!
As a chef, I do give thought to restaurant themes and menu planning. Some time ago, I pictured a refined modern style ice cream parlor that would be decorated with late fifties contemporary style and bubblegum pastel colors. It was just an idea that passed by. When I first saw Sweet Chill, that deja vu feeling was overwhelming. Sweet Chill was a dream come true!
After getting back to the room, I dragged my sleepy and reluctant friend down to see Sweet Chill. She said "Whatever it is, it better be good, because i just want to go back to sleep!" As we turned the corner, she stopped dead in her tracks! Her jaw dropped and she started stuttering, while looking at Sweet Chill in disbelief. My sleepy friend said "This is awesome! I love it! It is just like a dream that I had about a bubblegum pastel colored ice cream shop!" I just started laughing, because we both just experienced a double dip of deja vu!
Comfortable and modern is a good way to describe Sweet Chill. The bubblegum pastel colors are so very attractive. It is like the look of Sweet Chill says "Step inside and indulge in ice cream!"
Sweet Chill is run by the same crew that runs Jean Philippe Patisserie. Jean Philippe Maury is the #1 pastry chef in the world and he is the resident pastry chef at Aria. Jean Philippe Patisserie makes the sorbet, sherbet, gelato and ice cream for Sweet Chill. The ice cream at sweet chill is of the highest quality! Jean Philippe pastries and gourmet cupcakes are also offered at Sweet Chill.
There is a menu board that offers many ice cream sundae, milkshake and smoothie creations. There are some very exotic flavors of gelato and sorbet on display behind the glass of the display case. Every item is garnished and presented nicely.
I like sorbet, because it is so refreshing. I had just finished dining at Jean Georges Steak House at Aria and I really was craving a nice sorbet to top my evening off. Sweet Chill! I luckily got to Sweet Chill minutes before their closing time. I got the last scoop of he day!
I like Jean Philippe's mango sorbet and I usually have it as a dessert when dining at the Aria buffet, where it is also offered. The Jean Philippe mango sorbet has the richest, bright, clean, fresh tasting mango flavor of any mango sorbet that I have ever tasted. Mango sorbet was my choice at Sweet Chill. I really did not even bother to look at any other flavors that were offered. That is how much I like mangos and mango sorbet!
The service was fast, polite and professional. The feeling was like being a kid in a candy store! The neon bubblegum pastel colors of Sweet Chill is what keeps me coming back for more. I like this dreamy ice cream shop!
I highly recommend Sweet Chill for visitors of Las Vegas and locals alike! The quality and atmosphere is like a dream come true!
I posted the 2012 Chinese New Years decorations that Aria had on display. Most notable are the pictures of the giant Chinese New Years dragon that is made out of chocolate. The chocolate dragon was marvelously crafted by the Jean Philippe crew. If you like fine chocolatier displays, then the chocolate dragon is a must to see. The Chocolate New Years Dragon is located beside the Jean Philippe Patisserie on the casino level.
Bon appetite and Sweet Chill deja vu! ... Shawna