Friday, December 30, 2011

Cooking Vacations Test Kitchen: Anatra & Pappardelle

Patience! A little patience is the key ingredient in making this delicate Tuscan recipe.  Ingredients are simple, but you will need time to let it slow cook, stirring gently and every now and then over the two days. Taste as you go, you may want to add a little extra red wine in to the pan as it reduces. The best part of this recipe, besides wrapping the big fat noodles around your fork with succulent sweet duck, is the sweet smell it brings to your kitchen for the two days while slow cooking. There will be plenty of sugo for at least two dinners down the road, so make sure you have glass containers with seal tops for storing.  

Buon appetito!

Anatra & Pappardelle
Makes a big pan of sugo (about a gallon or more)
Three servings of 450 grams of pasta each time

1 6-pound farm raised wild range duck (cut in pieces with most of the duck fat cut off)
4 carrots washed, peeled and sliced into small pieces
4 small inner hearts of the celery stalk, washed and sliced into small pieces
1 medium size onion, peeled and slicked into thin small pieces - chopped
2 pinches of sea salt
1 and a half handful of fresh parsley
2 large bottles of homemade sauce (San Marzano tomatoes)
1 cup of red wine

Wash the duck well, and remove all fat.

Start by warming extra virgin, first-cold pressed olive oil in the pan. Add the onions, celery, carrots and pinch of salt.

Cover and slow cook until the mixture becomes soft. Add the two bottles of tomatoes, and slowly add the one cup of wine, stirring slowly and often. Remove the sauce from heat for 3 minutes or so and blend everything with a hand-held mixer. Add the parsley and return the pan and sauce to slow cooking. When the sauce starts to warm, add the duck. Dunk under the tomato sauce and let slow cook on low, low, low...for 8 hours.

You can turn off and go to sleep and start the process again in the morning. As the slow-cooked sauce and duck start to blend, the duck will break down. I chose to leave all the bones in the sauce until serving, they add taste.

After nearly one day and a half of slow cooking, fill a full pot of water with sea salt and bring it to a boil. Boil Pappardelle pasta (450grams) until al dente. Add some sauce in a saute pan, add the duck sauce and then the pasta - flip the sauce into the pasta until well mixed. Serve in a big ceramic pasta bowl, sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.

And for a little dessert, a chocolate and a limone caprese!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cooking Vacations Test Kitchen Cooks Up Hanukkah Treats

While the rest of Italy is frying up Zeppole and Struffoli, we set our task to recreating a Hanukkah favorite, Sufganiyot in our test kitchen in Positano. Traditionally, Hanukkah recipes are fried in remembrance of the oil in the Temple of Jerusalem that lasted eight days when there was only enough for one.

This recipe is courtesy of Mauro & Tze'ela from our Lucca’s Ancient Flavors & Traditions™ programs, whose specialty in addition to classic Tuscan is Tuscan Kosher cooking.

Makes about 32

1 kg Flour (2.2 lbs)
1/2 cup Sugar
40-50g Fresh Yeast (2 yeast cakes)
1 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
2 Eggs
2 cups Hot Water
Strawberry Jam or Marmalade
Vegetable Oil, for frying
Powdered sugar or granulated sugar, to garnish

Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, adding the yeast as the last ingredient. Knead to mix well and let rise for 20 minutes. Cut off pieces of dough about the size of a mandarin orange and roll each one into a ball. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside to rise until doubled in volume (about 1 hour).

In a deep pot, preheat oil to a very high temperature and fry the sufganiyot until golden - turning halfway to cook evenly on both sides.

Remove and drain excess oil on paper towel. Use an injector or teaspoon to fill the fried sufganiyot with jam or marmalade. Dust with powdered sugar or granulated sugar to garnish and serve warm. Be careful - the warm marmalade can burn your tongue.

Happy Hanukkah and Buon Appetito!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cooking Vacations Tastes Campania's Top Wines For Telethon Weekend

 “I Napoletani hanno un grande cuore-Neapolitans have a grande heart,” said Gianni Maione of BNL, the sponsor bank of Telethon in Italy in the fight against Muscular Distrophy. Over a weekend of Telethon Marathon, the top winemakers of Campania donated their top-prized vintages for an evening of tasting for a cause in Naples at the Grand Vesuvio Hotel.

While upstairs soccer President De Laurentiis prepared for Naples' big game and legendary Italian singer Lucio Dalla prepared for an evening out on the town, expert Sommeliers served up Campania's 21 top-rated wines in the Vesuvio's Sala Scarlatti. Mastroberardino faced off with both the Taurasi Naturalis Historia 2006 boasting old vines that make sure an interestingly complex yet fresh taste, and the Taurasi Radici Riserva 2005, though younger vines, the 30 months in Barrique give this a mature fruit and wonderfully spiced finish. But not only the big guys made it to the table. Also top-rated is Nanni-Cope's Sabbie Di Sopra Il Bosco 2009 with just two and a half hectares of vines and a production about 7,500 bottles, and Montevetrano 2009 with just five hectares and a production of about 30,000 bottles.

Sommeliers, wine-lovers and Telethon-supporters lined up to taste each of the 21 wines, including top Greco di Tufo, known for their mineral-salty finish, rich golden colored Fiano Di Avellino and Marisa Cuomo's best-loved Fiorduva, ranked the number two white wine in Italy. Reds ranged from the interesting Campania IGT, to spiced Aglianico and robust Taurasi.

All the best of Campania's wines and all for a great cause. Salute!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cooking Vacations Plays Tombola In Positano

With my heart pounding I stare at the number 45 willing it forward. “Chiamalo!” I yell as tradition requires – Call it! 68. The excitement swells in the pit of my stomach as I fear someone else might hear their last missing number, before Peppino calls the only number missing on my lilac-colored Tombola card. 45.

“TOMBOLAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” I yell, as I feel my whole face out to the tips of my ears turning red with exhilaration.

Maurizio takes my card and calls out the numbers one by one to make sure it is 'a true Tombola.'

E' vera,” confirms Peppino over the microphone. As I bubble over with excitement, sighs of disappointment circle the room as hopefuls count how many numbers they were missing- only one? So close. Two? Almost there. Three? Not even a hopeful, bring on the next round!

Every year, December 8 marks the beginning of the Christmas season in Italy and in Positano that means Tombola at the central Bar Mulino Verde. Tombola is Italian BINGO – with winnings starting at Ambo (2 in a row), Terno (3 in a row), Quaterna (4 in a row), Quintina (5 in a row) up to the coveted Tombola (all 15 numbers on the card). Everyone from town, young and old, piles in to play for 1Euro a card and have a chance at winning gift certificates to spend at the bar. Though winnings can get high as the year ends and every usable inch of table, counter, bar, or pastry case is filled with someone keeping track of their numbers, the possibility of winnings is not what brings the whole town out on rainy evenings in December.

I squeeze in next to friends, acquaintances, neighbors, kids that are much bigger (and feistier) than I remember, not to mention a tourist here or there that needs the numbers repeated in English, French, or German and some kind tomboliere is always happy to oblige. All together, all counting and hoping Peppino will call out our lucky numbers.

As Maurizio begins passing out the next round of cards, we demand the cartelle fortunate, lucky cards. Maurizio has the same reply every time : “I always give lucky cards.”

For the full holiday event schedule in Positano including concerts, art & photography exhibits, Open Doors sagras in Positano's neighboorhoods and more, click here.

Or, click here for Cooking Vacations Culinary Tours In Positano.