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Posts Tagged ‘Narragansett Creamery’

You should know that I am an unabashed homer. Give me the Jerry Remys, the Andy Brickleys of the world — I am not looking for fair and balanced reporting. I want reporting with passion, and I want folks on my side. (My former journalism professors are no doubt developing an odd twitch somewhere off in academia right now).

With that preface, I must confess a somewhat irrational love for the eateries in my office building and the vendors at the farmer’s market on the square. There are notable exceptions, of course, and my equally irrational disdain is felt with similar passion. For what is food without passion (says the good little Italian)?

Please understand that this means I will make brazen claims that Narragansett Creamery makes the best mozzarella you can buy stateside (they do), that tasting Burdick’s hot chocolate will change your definition of cocoa (it will), and that Iggy’s sliced Francese makes the world go round (it does…or at the very least makes my midsection round).

These small businesses sustain me — both literally and figuratively — throughout the workday and beyond. Who’s to say what is more warming: the hot cup of coffee in my hand from Croissant du Jour, or the familiar wave and smile of the gal who, with a nod, has already filled my cup with my usual order before I get to the register?

All of which is to say that I have a massive crush on Bacco’s Wine & Cheese. At the risk of sounding like a complete wino, let’s just say that I was singlehandedly able to wrap all of my wedding centerpieces in recycled Bacco’s bags to ensure safe transport to and from the venue. So I may or may not frequent this particular shop regularly. They may or may not know me on a first name basis. Sigh.

Aside from the well-curated, rotating selection of wines, Bacco’s boasts an above-average selection of domestic and imported cheeses, with a modest accompaniment of charcuterie, condiments, and chocolates. (Not to mention the rather addictive and hard-to-find blood orange San Pellegrino.) If that weren’t enough, they carry daily special entrees from Pigalle, and a “bento box” lunch of two daily cheese selections, salami, bread and condiments. And the bread is, yes, from Iggy’s.

The best part about Bacco’s is hands down the staff, however. As an explorer in the world of food (read: painfully indecisive, but adventurous), there’s nothing I enjoy more than recommendations. I carry a notebook with me wherever I go to jot down foods I’d like to try, wines I’ve enjoyed, and favorite cheeses (see the To Eat section of this blog, for example). In addition to daily — yes, daily! — wine and cheese tastings, the staff at Bacco’s never fail to offer suggestions, and are happy to share their food knowledge with you.

Which brings me to today’s recipe. I had the idea kicking around in my head that I’d like to try making a riff on a saltimbocca using Spanish ingredients. The idea started with the rather mundane thought to make saltimbocca using Serrano ham in place of the prosciutto. Then an amontillado in place of the madeira, perhaps? But what of the Fontina? Enter the advice of Em, Bacco’s resident “cheese wiz,” who pointed me towards their Drunken Goat cheese. No amontillado on hand, so with the help of the wine guy, we settled on a Pedro Ximenez dessert sherry, with the understanding that I would cut it with chicken stock. (As an aside — oh, wine guy with the dark hair and proclivity to wear sunglasses on top of your head — I’m sorry! Why don’t I know your name? You know mine! You were the first employee I met there! Bad customer…)

Drunken Goat, unsurprisingly, is a goat’s milk cheese that has been soaked in wine. Unlike the wine-imbued Umbriaco del Piave we served at my sister’s elopement, the wine doesn’t seep into the cheese itself, but instead colors the rind and adds a lovely depth of taste that is quite unlike wine itself. In other words, this isn’t a supermarket port wine cheese spread… More importantly, it was FANTASTIC with the saltimbocca. It kept its own unique, mild but tangy flavor while standing up to the other strong tastes quite handily.

I also enjoyed how the Serrano ham contributed a meatier, less salty flavor than the usual prosciutto. And the sherry? I had my doubts about the sweetness, but it ended up being brilliant. I didn’t have any fresh sage on hand, so, with a guilty conscience, I grabbed my dried sage and added that to the pan sauce instead. In the end, the savory sage helped further counter the sweetness of the sherry, and made for a beautiful and tasty sauce.

Spanish-inspired Chicken Saltimbocca
original recipe by The Hungry Crafter

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1/4 lb. drunken goat cheese, sliced
  • 6 slices Serrano ham
  • 1/2 c. Pedro Ximenez sherry
  • 1/2 c. chicken broth
  • butter
  • dried sage

Pound chicken breasts to 1/4″ thickness; season lightly with salt and pepper. Layer 3 slices of Serrano ham on each breast.

In large frying pan, heat 2 T. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts, ham side up, and cook until bottom is golden brown, about 3 minutes, then flip and cook another 2-3 minutes.
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Flip again, so that the ham is facing up again, and layer slices of cheese on top. Cover the pan with a lid to trap the steam and melt the cheese; remove chicken to serving dish as soon as cheese has melted sufficiently and chicken has cooked through (just a few minutes).

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Deglaze the pan with sherry, then add chicken broth and a few pats of butter. Measurements for the pan sauce are all approximate — taste, taste, taste! Add sage to taste (I used about 1 t.), adding more sherry or broth to increase or decrease the sweetness to your preference. Let sauce reduce by half, and spoon generously over the chicken.

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Quick, easy, but by no means mundane — dinner for two is served!

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This post is part of an ongoing series on Italian cookery, affectionately known as “The Spaghetti Capers.”

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You may remember that I previously professed my love for Barbara Lynch, with promises of more posts to come. I don’t remember when I first took a special interest in her career — I want to say it was after Sportello was featured in Saveur magazine, and I learned of her Italian venture? I was already an avid fan by the time she was featured on the cover of the Boston Globe magazine (great article — I encourage you to read it!); and was therefore thrilled when I stumbled across her segment on the Cooking Channel where she walks the viewer through the recipe for Ricotta Gnudi.

Ricotta Gnudi! What, you may ask, is ricotta gnudi, anyway? From what I’ve read, gnudi is, much like it sounds, the Italian word for nude. Can’t wait to see what kind of readers are going to stumble across my blog now that the words “nude Italian” are on here… Essentially, gnudi are akin to ravioli filling…with nothing enclosing them; instead, you roll them out like gnocchi. However, unlike gnocchi–or “little sinkers” as my grandfather always calls them–gnudi are absolutely pillow soft and light. It’s like eating happy little Italian clouds (channeling my inner Bob Ross).

The best way to make ricotta gnudi, of course, would be to make your own ricotta. My cheesemaking party plans have been stymied for the past year, however, so I was more than happy to use the fresh ricotta from Narragansett Creamery instead (see prior raves here and here).

Shall we kick off this gnudi party, then? Start by mixing together your ricotta with some flour, an egg, parmesan, salt and white pepper.
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Your dough will be super sticky and a little tricky to work with. This is a good thing — this is why the gnudi will be light and airy.
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Next, gently roll out your dough by hand into a log and cut into bite size pieces. Hard to work with = messy. This is OK. Embrace the mess. (That’s actually one of my mantras for the year…but that’s another story).
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Roll the pieces into balls and use a gnocchi board or back of a fork to make ridges on each piece. Note: I tried the fork method, and was highly unimpressed. I have since bought a gnocchi board and look forward to using that for future batches.

Once all your gnudi have been formed, place them on a tray and freeze them.
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In the meantime, start your sauce. I must say, like most Italians, I’m partial to my grandmother’s sauce. Disregard the fact that it’s actually my grandfather, not my grandmother, who is of Italian descent. Doesn’t matter. It’s my Noni’s sauce we’re talking about! That said, Barbara Lynch’s sauce is so easy and most excellent. And since the recipe is, well, a recipe and not a splish-splash of this, that, and the other, I expect I can make it with more consistent results. This may be my new go-to sauce.

Start by sautéing your veggies in olive oil. Note that it’s killing me a little inside not to add carrots, because I always add carrots to my sauce.
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Next, add your tomatoes and wine and simmer.
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Time to cook the gnudi! Carefully lower the gnudi into a pot of boiling water; I used a slotted spoon to avoid splashing. They don’t take long to cook at all, and the cool part is that they float to the surface when they’re done — it’s like nature’s turkey timer: POP! Done!

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I had to cook them in batches, so I just transferred the cooked gnudi to the pan of sauce to stay warm while I cooked the rest of the batches. Nothing left to do after that but spoon into bowls, top with some fresh basil and parmesan, and enjoy. It’s so good and well worth the mess. I’ve actually got a smile on my face just thinking about them.
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Ricotta Gnudi
from Stir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition, by Barbara Lynch

  • 1 lb. fresh ricotta
  • 1 c. flour + additional
  • 1 lg. egg
  • 1/3 c. finely grated Parm-Reggiano
  • 1 T. kosher salt
  • 1/2 t. freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 c. Odd Fellow Marinara Sauce

In a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, 3/4 cup of the flour, the egg, cheese, salt, and pepper. Use a wooden spoon to mix ingredients together well. Lightly flour your work surface and a baking sheet for holding the shaped gnocchi. With floured hands knead the ricotta mixture briefly; it will be quite wet and sticky at this point. Dump the mixture out onto your work surface.

Cut off a piece of the gnocchi dough and try rolling it into a 3/4-inch thick log. If you can’t get it to roll, add a little more flour to the dough and try again. You want as little flour as possible to keep these together so the resulting gnocchi will be light and ethereal. Cut the log into 1-inch pieces and then into little balls. If you have a gnocchi board, hold it at a 45-degree angle over your floured baking sheet and roll each ball down the length of it to give the gnocchi grooves. As the gnocchi nears the end of the board, let it drop onto the baking sheet. If you don’t have a gnocchi board, hold a fork, tines facing down, and roll the ball down the length of the tines. Repeat until all of the dough is rolled and cut. Freeze the gnudi, about 1 hour. (Because they are so soft, they are much easier to handle so do this even if you plan to use them soon.)

To serve, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a gentle boil. In batches, drop the gnocchi into the water and cook until they float, about 1 to 2 minutes. As each batch cooks, remove them with a slotted spoon and keep them warm or transfer them directly to the sauce they are being served with.

Odd Fellow Marinara Sauce
also from Stir

  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ t. crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 1 (28-oz.) can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
  • ½ c. dry white wine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2-3 basil leaves

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and crushed red pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is just tender but not browned, about 8 minutes.

Add the wine, increase the heat to moderately high and cook for a few minutes longer, until reduced by half. Add the tomatoes with their juice and ½ teaspoon salt. Simmer for 5 minutes, stir in the basil and season with pepper and additional salt, if needed. The sauce can be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days.

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OK, so everyone make their own batch of pesto? No? Just jump down to the previous post for the recipe. Don’t feel like it? That’s OK too. You can go ahead and just look at the pictures. I won’t judge.

As a back story to this, you should first know that I have been completely and totally OBSESSED with tomato, basil, mozzarella sandwiches this summer. It’s one of the only recipes of which I will confidently stand up and say that you will find no version better than mine. I’ve tried caprese sandwiches in restaurants and margarita versions in sandwich shops…nope. Mine’s better. It’s better than the version they sell at the Iggy’s stand, even.

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Now, it’s a sandwich, so I can’t take credit for it based on my culinary prowess or anything like that. It’s all about the ingredients. For the best sandwich ever, follow these steps exactly. You’ll notice that you’re at a distinct disadvantage if you don’t happen to live in the Boston area.

1). Bread: Must be Iggy’s Francese. No other bread will do. I’ve tried it. The ONLY acceptable substitute I’ve found is the Concord loaf from Hi-Rise Bakery in Cambridge.

2). Tomatoes: Fresh farmer’s market tomatoes. In August. The sandwich just doesn’t taste the same in September, and certainly not October. Sigh. I like it equally well with a standard tomato or an heirloom variety. The heirloom will be a little sweeter, the red will impart more traditional Italian flavors. Place two thick slices (about a quarter inch) on your bread.

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3). Fresh mozzarella: I strongly recommend Narragansett Creamery for your mozzarella. Don’t get me wrong, I love Fiore di Nonno just as much as everyone else, but Narragansett’s mozzarella is just in a category of it’s own. Get the balls in water if you can — they will be the softest, creamiest mozzarella you’ve ever had. And with that, I just started salivating. Put 2-3 quarter inch slices on top of the tomatoes.

4). Fresh basil: top your mozzarella with 4-6 leaves basil.

5). Dressing: another key. First, drizzle liberally with extra virgin olive oil. I tend to use a basic Filippo Berio — but I’m sure it would be even better if you had a nice expensive gourmet olive oil. Christmas is coming if anyone wants to buy me some 😉 Next, drizzle balsamic glaze over the sandwich. I use Blaze and I swear by this stuff. Need to order more as I’m running low after this summer. It’s fantastic on roasted zucchini as well.

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6). Sea salt: also key! Any brand will do I suppose, so long as it comes in a grinder. You want the big chunks you get that way. Sometimes I’ll also do a little bit of fresh ground white pepper as well, but that’s completely optional.

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If you’re feeling kindly towards your meat-loving significant other, you can also make it with bacon, but that’s really just gilding the lily. Either way, serve with plenty of napkins.

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Um. Hungry Crafter? That’s wonderful, and it looks delicious, but… I thought you were going to talk about what I should do with this pesto I just made? Ah yes. I get a little excited when I talk tomato, basil, mozzarella. I needed to do it justice. This is going somewhere, I promise.

Now that you understand the depth of my sandwich obsession, you can understand what it means for me to fiddle with perfection. But fiddle I did! As soon as I made the pesto, I knew there was one thing I had to try right away. Tomato, pesto, mozzarella sandwich. Grilled.

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For this sandwich, I simply slathered some pesto on one of the slices of bread, layered on the mozzarella and tomato, and got ready to grill. No need to drizzle with oil, as there’s oil in the pesto; no need for salt, as the parmesan in the pesto provides enough of a bite. No Blaze, either — I wanted to let the pesto flavor shine. I did, however, use a pastry brush to dab some olive oil on the outside of the bread prior to grilling, to ensure a nice golden brown crunch.

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The verdict? Sometimes perfection is worth messing with.

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OK, so we’ve put pesto on a sandwich, we’ve eaten it on bread for snacks… How about a meal? Simplest thing ever: Boil water. Cook some pasta. Stir in pesto. Send your tastebuds on a trip to heaven.

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My only recommendation is to use a pasta shape that will hold the sauce well — think ridges and cupped shapes. See how you get little pockets of pesto with the Farfalle Rotonde? Be sure to pass some grated parmesan at the table as well. There’s no such thing as too much cheese.

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