Monday: Potato Gnocchi with Corn Salad
Tuesday: Green Beans and Pork with Black Bean Sauce and Geungjang
Wed – Sun: Bermuda –
Wednesday: Beef Carpaccio Rock Fish and Mahi-Mahi – Risotto
Thursday: Cheese-Cake App (horrible name – wonderful construction of whipped goat cheese on a disk of crushed walnuts pistachios, topped with a diced cherry tomato and red onion salsa, Asparagus wrapped with Smoked Salmon, Sautéed Sea Bass
Friday: Soft-Shelled Crab App, Baked Atlantic Salmon
Saturday: Beats me – I had finally achieved vacation mode
Sunday: Apps of Escargots in Cream Sauce and Tuna Tartare, Osso Bucco, Cowboy Steak
This is more of a travelogue than a cenalogue,* since we spent most of last week in a place worth talking about – Bermuda. Before leaving on our travels, however, we began a major, new project. New, as in, we’ve never done this before. Major as in, we will probably not complete and may never actually begin this thing.
“This thing” is making pasta. If you’ve ever had fresh pasta at, say, Vetri, in Philadelphia, you know that nothing quite compares. And it’s kind of funny you should mention Vetri because that’s the name of the author of a cookbook I bought two Saturdays ago when Beez was having a bridal shower for Kathleen Slavish and it seemed best to make myself scarce. After a long lunch with Billy, I was still worried about barging in on a gaggle of shower attendees,** so I was browsing around the B&N at the Waterworks when I came across a beautiful book, Mastering Pasta: The Art and Practice of Hand-Made Pasta, Gnocchi, and Risotto , by Mark Vetri.*** I own too many cookbooks, but I could not help myself. I bought this one, even after a preliminary scanning indicated that I was getting into some serious work (and some serious equipment – please don’t mention this to She Who Must Be Obeyed, if you run into her).
So what pasta did you make, already, you are asking? Well, I didn’t really make pasta per se because of the time, the effort and the equipment. But I did make a gnocchi that was pretty much as meltingly good as anything I’ve had at Vetri’s. SWMBO and Billy agreed and I’m convinced that if I keep up the effort, SWMBO will agree to build an extra wing to house the equipment I’m going to need.
*Idiosyncratic coinage of an imagined Latin-Greek portmanteau word meaning ‘ narrative of dining,’ as travelogue means ‘narrative of travel’.
**I’m thinking of coining another word – colloquiafeminaephobia – fear of a gathering of women. There are few men who do not experience this – it usually begins at high-school dances.
***I have eaten at Vetri – where it usually takes weeks to get a reservation – by simply showing up and asking if they had any cancellations. I would recommend it highly (you may wish to pawn some of the family silver beforehand).
(View of Sunset from our room in Bermuda)
But back to Bermuda – there are three things you need to know:
- Where is Bermuda and how beautiful is it? It is off the coast of North Carolina, in the Atlantic. No Zika. But it also exists in the imagination as a kind of paradise. Some scholars think that Shakespeare based the island in The Tempest on Bermuda. I think it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth: Pastel houses and churches with their corrugated-looking roofs spill down lush hillsides to clear green and blue water in the bay or on the ocean. (I have Beez to thank for the “corrugation” description – the roofs are built to capture rainwater which is scarce during the summer months). The water is a thousand shades of green and blue.**** And the horizons are infinite and filled with cloud and that wonderful line where ocean and sky meet.
2. What should you eat and drink in Bermuda? You should eat fish, obviously, but more specifically, Bermudan Fish Chowder, the deeply satisfying national dish – a peppery stew of onions, fish, shrimp and crab and whatever else the chef decides to throw in. You should drink Keith’s excellent martinis, if you are staying at the Pompano Beach Club. Otherwise, why not pick up a new vice? Gosling’s makes Bermuda’s excellent rum and their black rum with ginger beer (a “Dark and Stormy” – the national drink) or with tonic (I am indebted to Tim Slavish for bringing this concoction to my attention and want him to know that I shared this with so many bartenders on the island that it may become the new national drink.) is just what you need to accompany a nice bowl of fish chowder for lunch. Plan for a nap afterwards.
3. How long should I stay there? You should never return from Bermuda. It will always seem too soon. You will regret it immediately. All of the reasons why you needed to get away will come back to you with redoubled force. To avoid being crushed by your responsibilities and duties you will rapidly work your way through that bottle of Gosling’s you bought at the duty-free.
A couple of other notes – there is excellent golf, including a world-class Par 3 course – “Turtle Hill” on the property of the Fairmont Southampton.
(Beez at Turtle Hill)
You have a choice of large resort – like the Fairmont – impeccable, pampering and top-shelf, but overpopulated (lines for taxis and shuttles and dinner) – or family-run smaller places – not quite impeccable but with staff that will remember your name and people who will become friends, perhaps vacation comrades is more accurate, and you will feel that you are a member of a select community. As, indeed, you are.
Snorkeling – I have done this before, but not on this trip. It is a spectacular way to see an enormous number of colorful – some quite sizeable – fish, including a gang of little yellow ones that will follow you around closely. When you turn right, they will turn right. When you turn left, they will turn left. They think you are a killer fish and that they can dine off the fragments as you gnash your prey into a pulp.
****How to describe the quality of the water on the shores of Bermuda? Bathing in the sea off the little private beach of the Pompano Club you can see your hand perfectly in the just green, clear water. You can see your foot and the ripples in the sand on the bottom when standing in water up to your neck. When you float and look at the water itself, it is as if underlit by a translucence emanating from the sand. It is just colder than you and the ambient temperature, about 74 I’d guess. It is so unlike the near opaque Atlantic off the New Jersey shore that the first time you get a mouthful, you’re surprised at the salty taste. It looks like green tea. The green deepens and then turns to blue at some boundary farther out in the ocean.
Okay – time to come back to planet earth. But to cushion the descent, here is a dish to remind you of what paradise would taste like:
(Picture of Gnocchi unpublishable – here is an app of mozzarella, firebread, pickled grapes and cheery tomatoes – when they finish this, it’s time to serve dinner)
Potato Gnocchi with Corn Salad and Crema
(adapted from Mastering Pasta by Mark Vetri)
Did I mention that Vetri’s recipes take work? Well, this is one of the simplest, but I would allow 2 hours to prepare everything and ten minutes for the final reheating and serving. Once you get the hang of it, you can probably do the whole think in 1 and 1/2 hours with about 40 minutes of actual cooking. This is work – but the result is really spectacular. You’ll be proud of yourself and you will stop cursing me once you bite into this dish.
There are four parts to this recipe – making the gnocchi, making the corn crema and salad, boiling the gnocchi, reheating the gnocchi and dressing it.
Supplies (for 6 – I would not alter these quantities until you understand how all the ingredients come together. You can refrigerate or even freeze gnocchi for future meals.)
1.5 lbs. russet (Idaho) potatoes (about 2)
¼ Cup of grated parmigiano
½ Teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ Egg, beaten (beat the whole egg, then pour out half)
1 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon All-Purpose Flour (and some for dusting)
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Corn Crema and Corn Salad
6 ears of corn
2 Tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil
½ Cup finely chopped yellow onion
3 green onions finely chopped
Garlic – 1 small clove, smashed
1 Bay leaf
1 and 2/3 Cups Heavy Cream
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Kosher Salt and fresh ground pepper
Final Cooking and Serving
4 Tablespoons Butter
¼ Cup olive oil
Chunk of Ricotta Salata cheese, for grating
Make the Gnocchi
Put the potatoes (unpeeled) in pan of salted water to cover by 1 inch. Cover the pan, bring to a boil over high and boil until a knife slides easily in and out of the potatoes. About 30 minutes – check at 25.
Transfer potatoes to a cutting board and immediately peel off and discard the skins. (I wore rubber gloves for this – those potatoes will be hot.)
Lightly flour another cutting board or smooth work surface. Coarsely chop the potatoes and pass them through a ricer or a food mill fitted with a fine die onto the cutting board and spread out to help evaporate excess moisture for about 5 minutes.
Sprinkle the parmigiana and the nutmeg evenly over the potatoes and season with salt and pepper and use a bench scraper or what-have-you to cut all of the seasonings into the potatoes until well blended. You’ll be doing some more scraping and re-cutting here. The mixture should taste good – add more salt and pepper until it does.
Now use the bench scraper to stir in the beaten egg. Now gently stir in the flour until the dough just comes together.
Gently knead until the dough has a uniform consistency – about 1 minute. Do not overwork or it will develop excess gluten and the gnocchi will be tough.
Cut the dough into 4 pieces and roll each piece on the floured surface into a long rope about ½ inch in diameter. Now cut each rope crosswise into ½ inch pieces. (If you want to make the traditional dimpled, gnurled gnocchi shape, do so now – I was happy just to get this far). You can cook the gnocchi at this point – I did – or cover loosely and refrigerate for up to 8 hours – or freeze.
Cook the gnocchi
Prepare a bowl of ice water
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and drop in the gnocchi (do this in batches to avoid overcrowding). Cover the pan to bring the water back to a boil quickly, then lower to a simmer and stir gently for 3-5 minutes until the gnocchi are springy to the touch. (They should bounce back if squeezed lightly – if they flatten, they’re not done.)
Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon to the ice water for about 30 seconds to stop the cooking, then remove to a dish towel and pat dry.
Make the Corn Crema
Cut the kernels from the cobs and scrape over a bowl to get as much juice as possible from the cobs.
Heat 1 Tablespoon of the grapeseed or canola oil over medium and add the onion and garlic and sweat until soft, but not browned – 2-3 minutes. Add half of the corn kernels and all of the corn juice (I did not have much juice at all) and the bay leaf. Season generously with salt and turn heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn is tender – 10-15 minutes. Add the cream and cook 3to 5 minutes more.
Remove the bay leaf and garlic and transfer the corn mixture to a blender. Puree for 2-3 minutes, until very smooth. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper (taste it, Alfredo). At this point Vetri strains the mixture, I did not. You should use this in the next hour or refrigerate it.
Make the Corn Salad
Heat the remaining Tablespoon of grapeseed or canola oil in a large sauté pan over high (or medium-high, if you have a high BTU burner). When smoking hot, add remaining corn kernels and cook, shaking until kernels are charred in spots – 2 or 3 minutes. Off the heat add the green onions and red pepper flakes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper (taste it, Rocco)
Finish and Serve
Heat the butter and the olive oil (that’s 4 Tablespoons of butter and ¼ Cup of oil, in case you’ve forgotten – for which no one would blame you – hell, I’ve forgotten what we’re cooking at this point) in a large non-stick sauté pan over high or medium-high, depending on the strength of your burners. Add the gnocchi, in batches if necessary to prevent crowding, and sauté until golden brown on both sides (about 5 to 8 minutes). Distribute onto warmed plates.
In the meantime, reheat the crema in a saucepan and the corn salad in a sauté pan. Spoon crema (maybe ¼ Cup or so) over each plate and top with the corn salad. Finely grate some ricotta salata over each serving. (We had none and the gnocchi tasted splendid without it.)
Extra CRISPY PROSCIUTTO WRAPPED ASPARAGUS
I am violating a rule and giving you a recipe for something we cooked just last night, not last week. We had had perfectly cooked asparagus wrapped with smoked salmon as an appetizer in Bermuda. Billy, our house-guest, having eaten the smoked salmon, we decided to go for the traditional prosciutto-wrapped asparagus. But, as you may recall, I think all of the prosciutto we get in this country is too wet and stringy. So . . . all you do here is take under-cooked asparagus (1 minute in boiling water, then into an ice bath to stop the cooking – it’s going to cook some more in the oven), wrap prosciutto around it and place it in on a foil-lined tray in a 400 F oven for about 5 minutes. This is simple,beautiful and delicious. My new, go-to appetizer.