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Archive for the ‘Comfort Food’ Category

My favorite fondue is the classic Swiss variety with Gruyére, Emmenthaler and Appenzeller.  My brother, though, is a rather fussy eater and finds it too sharp.  Since he was here for dinner tonight, we opted for this English variant instead.  With apple cider (some hard, some sweet) as it’s liquid base and cheddar cheese, my brother thought it sounded ok.  It was ok – but I still prefer Swiss.  I also remembered (but only after it was too late) that every fondue I’ve made from the book I got this recipe from came out too thin.  Got to remember to cut the liquid in half next time!

Recipe

Source: The Book of Fondues by Lorna Rhodes

1 small onion
1 c. hard apple cider (but I’d use considerably less – 1/2-3/4 c.)
1 tsp. lemon juice
3/4 lb. shredded Cheddar cheese (if you can get it, use a really good one, not your typical supermarket vareity – I used Cabot Clothbound this time)
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1 tbs. cornstarch
3 tbs. sweet apple cider/juice
A little white pepper

If you bought your Cheddar whole (which is best) grate it using the grating blade of your food processor if you have one, or the course holes on a hand grater.  Cut the onion in half and rub it all over the inside of the pot in which you’re going to cook your fondue (I do it right in the fondue pot, but not all fondue pots can go directly on the stove).  Put the hard cider and lemon juice in the pot and start it heating over medium heat.  While the liquid is heating, mix together the sweet cider, cornstarch and mustard in a small bowl.  Once the liquid is hot, add the cheese a handful at a time, stirring each new addition until it melts.  At first you will see distinct bits of cheese in the liquid, but as you add more cheese it will start to smooth out.  If it starts to boil you can turn the heat down a bit.  Once all the cheese is incorporated, add the sweet cider/cornstarch/mustard mixture (give a good stir first) and a sprinkling of finely ground white pepper.  Stir the cheese until it starts to thicken.  If you used the full amount of hard cider, then this is going to end up pretty thin no matter what you do.  Serve it with apples and a good, crusty, solid bread cut into bite-sized pieces.

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It’s snowy and cold outside and I’m getting over a couple of days not feeling so good.  It’s a perfect day for easy comfort food and pasta is my favorite.  I always have at least a couple of kinds of homemade sauce in the freezer, but tonight I’m in the mood for something quasi-fresh.  This super-easy tomato sauce is quick, tasty and I always have the ingredients on hand.  I originally found the recipe in Naples at Table by Arthur Schwarz.  Here’s how I make it:

Recipe

3 large cloves garlic
1/4 c. olive oil
1 large can tomatoes (I like to use strained for a smooth sauce, but if you prefer your sauce chunkier use chopped or whole)
2-3 tbs. coarsely chopped fresh basil or parsley or 1-2 tsp. dried basil (don’t use dried parsley – it has no flavor)
salt and crushed red pepper to taste
1 1/2 lb. spaghetti or other long pasta
freshly grated Parmesan to taste

Start plenty of water heating to cook the pasta (I use an 8 qt. stock pot to cook 1 lb. of pasta).  Use the flat of a knife to lightly crush the garlic.  Remove the peel and place cloves in a large skillet with the olive oil.  Heat over medium-low.  Turn the garlic cloves occasionally.  When the start to color remove them.  Add the tomatoes and turn the heat up to somewhere between medium and medium-high.  If you are using whole tomatoes crush them some with the back of a spoon or a potato masher.  Add some salt (start with about 1/2 tsp.) and crushed red pepper.  If you’re using dried basil add it now, too.  Let the tomatoes simmer uncovered while you finish cooking the pasta.  You’ll need to stir the tomatoes now and then to prevent burning.  Also, be aware that they may splatter.  I like to use a mesh splatter screen to help reduce clean up problems.  Don’t cover them with a solid lid, though, or they won’t concentrate enough.  Once the sauce has started thickening taste it and add additional seasonings as you wish.  Add fresh basil in the last minute or so of cooking.  When the pasta water is hot add plenty of salt (I usually use about 3 tbs. if I’m cooking in an 8 qt. pot).  Don’t skimp on the salt because this is the only way you get seasoning in the pasta itself.  If you have a big enough skillet to toss the sauce and pasta together in the skillet, then remove the pasta 1-2 minutes before it is done, drain it and add it to the sauce in the skillet.  If your skillet isn’t big enough, cook the pasta until it is just done, then add the sauce to the pasta in the serving bowl.  Never, never run your pasta under cold water after straining it.  You won’t have any trouble with it sticking together if you add the sauce promptly.  If you think the sauce isn’t quite ready when the pasta is done, add a little olive oil or butter to your pasta to help prevent sticking while you finish up the sauce.  If you want to, you can garnish the pasta with a little more chopped fresh herbs.  Allow diners to add their own freshly grated Parmesan to taste (I like to just put a block of Parmesan and a grater on the table and let everyone grate their own).

Notes

Total time: 3o minutes
Active time: 15 minutes
Special equipment: mesh splatter-screen (optional)
Shopping/ingredient tips:

  • Use good quality Italian boxed pasta (DeCecco is fine and widely available although I like Del Verde and some of the smaller brands a little better), preferably a long, round shape (spaghetti, spaghettini or buccatini).
  • Use a good brand of tomatoes.  I like the Parmalat ones that come in the box or the San Marzano ones that have the old-fashioned white labels.
  • There is no need to use expensive olive oil here.  The cooking will break down a lot of the flavor elements anyway.  Do use extra virgin, but a regular grocery store variety will be fine.

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