sharing (Italian) food to enjoy life

Archive for January, 2010

Cooking with Prosciutto

Posted by Jim Carfrae on January 21, 2010

As most people know prosciutto is a ham that has been dried and aged for 10 months, longer larger hams. The ham is never cooked which gives the delicate texture and taste. Cooking prosciutto can taste good, but does take away that texture and taste. Adding the prosciutto to a recipe at the very end lets it keep its true nature and add to many recipes.

Sunday morning I sliced up some prosciutto and added it to my omelet just before the fold-over. I left it on the pan for about 30 seconds more and then served it.  The prosciutto was warm, not cooked and made for an amazing taste. You can do the same thing for pasta with a white or oil based sauce; stir the prosciutto into the pasta and sauce just before serving for the same great taste.


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Little addition – Big change

Posted by Jim Carfrae on January 14, 2010

My daughter is neutral to negative on green peas. I am told that peas are not the favorite green vegetable. My family was exposed to mixing in some cacciatore to the peas, (and onions, but we’ll get to that), now they are a solid positive for both my kids.

It is said there are four tastes: sweet, salty, sour and bitterness. There is also a fifth taste first recognized in Japan called umami, which could be described as meatiness or perhaps savoriness. Feel free to wiki for a whole lot more technical description. 

Umami is the answer here, adding some chopped cacciatore to the peas in a sauté pan for a couple minutes completely changes the flavour profile, even for a negative taste preference. My nephew is quite negative on most green vegetables, with peas at the bottom of their list. I persuaded him to try the peas with cacciatore during our Christmas meal and he quite liked them. I will admit he then asked if there was some extra cacciatore he could take home.

Chop the cacciatore and onion about the same size as the peas, (I make a bit smaller since the flavours are stronger), sauté for a couple minutes, add frozen peas until warm – serve. Here is a link to see the pro version: http://www.grangustoitaliano.com/en/recipes.asp?recipe=1&video=4 and click the play icon. (My kids always ask for the onion to be left out, tragically we usually do.)

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Better than the originals

Posted by Jim Carfrae on January 13, 2010

Went over to Darcy’s house last friday, she took two of the ideas here and made them into one awesome presentation, well done!

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A rare mistake from my favourite cooking magazine

Posted by Jim Carfrae on January 12, 2010

Fine Cooking is the single magazine I get the most inspiration from, with ideas from Canadian Living and the odd Bon Appetite or Gourmet. I find they teach things and ideas where you can taste and share the difference. Usually they do a great job, but when explaining the difference between pancetta and bacon I think they failed to capture how great the difference really is.

In their Special Entertaining Issue: “… the difference between them lies in how they’re prepared and cured. To make bacon, pork belly sides are brined and then smoked. Pancetta … is made by seasoning a pork belly side with salt and pepper, curling it into a tight roll, and wrapping it in a casing to hold the shape. It’s cured, but it isn’t smoked.”

To call bacon cured is to consider only the salting of the belly.  Bacon is pumped full of brine, cold smoked  and put through a continuous oven to an internal temperature of around 140 Fahrenheit, uncooked for most of us.  When the bacon leaves the oven and reaches the package it weighs even more than the meat started at. This is why you see steam for the first couple minutes you cook bacon, as the water that was pumped in gets boiled off.

Contrast with pancetta and it is clear why the difference is so pronounced when you taste it. 

Pancetta is salted and put in a temperature and humidity controlled room for two to three months.  During this time the meat cures and loses much of its moisture.  The final pancetta weighs a third less than the meat weighed before curing. As the meat ages it develops the true cured pork taste.

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Why always the kitchen party?

Posted by Jim Carfrae on January 7, 2010

A few of us were in a kitchen on New Year’s Eve when someone asked why we always seem to end up there.  Trust Duncan and Natasha, the Maritimers, to have some great insight.  It has long been said that the kitchen party was invented in the Maritimes invented, but the truth is it was the only room in the house other than the bedroom.  Their thoughts:

  • The kitchen is often the biggest room in the house, it certainly was in past days
  • It was the warmest room in the house, sometimes the only warm room in the freezing winter.
  • It is closest to the food
  • It is closest to the drinks
  • And even when there are other large, warm and well stocked rooms; the kitchen has an informality that makes sharing more fun.

I have no idea whether the kitchen party is the norm around the world, but think it is likely the place where friends everywhere are most comfortable.

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