Sunday, April 20, 2014

Date Night : Squid Ink Pasta with Calamari, Mussels, + Scallops braised in a Herbed, Spicy Heirloom Tomato Sauce and Brown Butter Panko

Squid Ink Pasta with Calamari, Mussels, + Scallops braised in a Herbed, Spicy Heirloom Tomato Sauce
Happy Easter everyone! I hope that everyone is surrounded by family, devouring honey baked hams, and stuffing your faces with carrot cake. Or, well, that's what we tend to do around this joint. But unfortunately, I do not have an Easter themed recipe for y'all today, but instead a Date Night entree. This dish is truly stunning... in person... in photographs... in general. I love the pop of black given from the squid ink pasta and the contrast of color the seafood + tomatoes provide. It looks extremely gourmet, but it was actually quite easy to throw together. We purchased the squid ink pasta a while ago, but we were waiting for the right inspiration to hit us. Usually everyone serves it with seafood because it obviously compliments the flavoring of the pasta. Well, we chose not one, but three types: calamari, mussels, + scallops. You honestly could just leave everything out and just use the calamari... just make sure you double or triple the amount of it. The pasta dish doesn't have a heavy sauce, which I love because it allows the remaining minor components to sing-- quite loudly. The sauce is super simple, in that it takes some sauteed onions, garlic, serrano, seafood stock, white wine, and a whole bunch of heirloom cherry tomatoes. Between the brine-y flavor from the squid ink pasta + seafood, the sweet + spicy tomato sauce, and crunchy brown butter panko, every flavor note is easily achieved. Not only is this delicious for two people, but it can't most certainly feed a big group. And lemme tell you, it's a crowd pleaser. I mean, they always say that you eat with your eyes first... and well, this dish is as colorful as you can get!! Enjoy :)

For the Brown Butter Panko:
4T Salted Butter, Melted & Browned
1C Panko Breadcrumbs

For the Pasta:
2T Unsalted Butter + 2T EVOO
1 Small Red Onion, Thinly Sliced
5 Cloves of Garlic, Thinly Sliced
1-2 Serranos, Thinly Sliced
2C Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes, Sliced in Half
2C Seafood Stock + 2C White Wine
2T Sugar (or to your desired sweetness)
1T AP Flour
1-2t Red Pepper Flakes (or to your desired spiciness)
Sea Salt & Fresh Cracked Pepper, To Taste
½C Mixed Herbs (we recommend minced chives, Chiffonade basil, & tarragon)
½lb Calamari, Cut into Rings
1lb Mussels, Cleaned + Beard Removed
8-10 Seared Scallops
8oz Squid Ink Pasta

1. For the Brown Butter Panko: In a small sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter until it has begun to toast and lightly brown. After it is has browned, pour the butter over the panko and quickly toss to coat the breadcrumbs until they are saturated. Return the buttered breadcrumbs to the pan and continue to brown them until they reach a lightly golden brown color. This should only take a few minutes (make sure to move them constantly, so they don’t burn). Remove them from the pan and place into a bowl, so that they can be used as a garnish later.
2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add in the squid ink pasta. Cook them according to the package; however, ours only took about 3-5 minutes (just make sure it’s al dente). Drain the pasta and set aside.
3. For the Spicy Heirloom Tomato Sauce: Bring a large sauté pan to medium-high heat and add in the butter and olive oil. Once they have melted, add in the red onion slices, garlic slivers, sliced Serranos, and calamari rings. Cook them until they begin to caramelize slightly and become fragrant, about 2-3 minutes (don’t let the garlic burn). Throw in the tomato halves and continue to sauté until they begin to break down and release their juices, about another 3-5 minutes. Stir in the seafood stock, white wine, and mussels. Cover and let this mixture cook on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes in order for the flavors to meld and allowing the mussels to open up. Afterwards, sift the 1T of AP Flour over the sauce and stir to combine (this will help the sauce thicken a bit and hold onto the pasta better). Now, it’s time to season the sauce with red pepper flakes, sea salt, & fresh cracked peppers. Once it has been seasoned to your liking, add in ¼C of the fresh mixed herbs (saving the other portion for garnishing).  Add the drained squid ink pasta into the spicy heirloom tomato sauce and toss to cover the noodles completely.
4. Serving the Pasta: Dump the squid ink pasta onto a serving platter and place the seared scallops all over the dish. Garnish with the remaining ¼C of fresh mixed herbs and sprinkle the brown butter panko all over the dish.
5. Enjoy with some toasted bread and a glass of red wine!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Burnt Caramel Custard Puddings with Bittersweet Ganache + Fleur de Sel

Burnt Caramel Custard Puddings with Bittersweet Ganache + Fleur de Sel
It's been about a month since I made these burnt caramel custard puddings, but it doesn't make them any less delicious! This was an automatic hit and the perfect ending to any dinner party. Overall, they weren't all that hard to make AND you can whip them up ahead of time, and avoid all that dirty work when you should be having fun, entertaining your guests. The ingredients are simple ones, but don't worry, it all turns out luxurious... I mean, when you have heavy cream, eggs, sugar, vanilla beans, bourbon, chocolate, & fleur de sel, nothing can go wrong! You start off by making a caramel-- deep in rich sugary goodness, meanwhile you steep vanilla beans in heavy cream. Once the golden color  of the caramel has been reached, you add it to the cream mixture and listen to it scorch while you quickly whisk it in. It's so soothing to hear that noise. It's like the sound of sizzling bacon, nothing can beat it. I wish I could wake up to it in the morning as opposed to my over-played ringtone that I hate so much that I end up throwing my cellphone out the window. Temper in the egg yolks into the caramel-cream mixture, almost like you're making an ice cream, and throw in a dash of bourbon and salt for taste. Extra taste :) After everything is seasoned and creamy, strain the custard mixture through a fine mesh sieve (just in case there is anything that you don't want in there... it'll be super smooth that way too)! Ladle the liquid into prepared ramekins and bake them in a water bath until they have just set, but still have a wiggle-jiggle to them. After they cook and chill for a little while, it's time to stir up the ever-so-luscious bittersweet ganache that will completely cover + top the burnt caramel custards. I like this "shell" that hides the pudding beneath, it's like the extra oh-la-la surprise factor for your guests as they go at their little dishes with gusto. With a finish of fancy fleur de sel or finishing salt, the dish is taken to a'whole'notha level and every flavor profile has been topped. I especially love when you dig into them and get layers of caramel custard, ganache, and whipped cream all in one bite. And hey, the little flecks of vanilla bean doesn't look too shabby either :) Trust me, this dessert has earned its' spot in my recipe repertoire, and I'm sure it will do the same for you. It does NOT disappoint!! Enjoy :)

For the Burnt Caramel Custard Pudding:
1Q Heavy Cream
2 Vanilla Beans, Split & Scraped for Seeds
¾C + 4T Sugar
6 Large Egg Yolks, Room Temperature
¼t Fleur de Sel
1t Vanilla
1T Bourbon
Homemade Whipped Cream, For Topping
Maldon Flake Salt, For Garnishing

For the Bittersweet Ganache Topping:
1C Dark Chocolate Chunks
½C Heavy Cream

1. Prepping the Custards: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place 8 small ramekins into a baking dish and set aside. Pour the cream into a medium saucepan; scrape in seeds from vanilla beans and add pods. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. For the Caramel: Bring ¾C + 2T sugar and 2T water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil, swirling pan occasionally and brushing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush, until mixture turns a deep amber color, about 4-5 minutes and remove caramel from heat.
3. Remove vanilla pod from cream and slowly add cream to caramel (mixture will bubble vigorously), stirring constantly, until smooth.
4. Whisk egg yolks, salt, vanilla, bourbon, and remaining 2T sugar in a large bowl. Slowly stream in caramel, whisking constantly. Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve to make sure that the custard is extremely smooth.
5. Divide custard among ramekins and fill the pan with water to come halfway up sides of ramekins. Bake until custard is just set but still jiggly in the center, about 60–70 minutes. Remove ramekins from baking dish and place on a wire rack and to let cool. Chill puddings, uncovered, at least 3 hours.
6. For the Bittersweet Ganache: In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream just to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until smooth. Spoon the ganache over the top of the cooled custard, smoothing with a spoon and finishing the top with some flakes of salt. Return to the fridge to chill until the ganache is shiny and set.
7. Garnish with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and enjoy!