Monday, November 28, 2011

A Very Voltaggio (and Korean-Brazilian-American) Thanksgiving

I hope everyone's Thanksgiving was bomb-diggity, because my family's was. I enjoyed Thanksgiving with a large group of extended family that probably hasn't gotten together for at least ten years. Despite the time lapse, we all spent some quality time catching up, sharing laughs, and eating food. A lot of food.

If you're interested in the prep at all, there it is. Unlike last year, I got through the day without any mishaps. But also unlike last year, once family started arriving, I had to make some last minute adjustments to several of the recipes in the interest of time and having good conversations.

The eventual menu of the night. The hyperlinked recipes are the ones I made for this twenty-two person gathering and next to those are the numbers I multiplied the recipes by. And one more thing before we get started: Thanks, Bryan & Michael Voltaggio, for helping to make my Thanksgiving all the more memorable.

Biscuits (by Alton Brown)
Pork & Turkey Stuffing (by Alton Brown)
Homemade Kimchi
Brazilian Pork
Brazilian Salsa
Feijoada (did I mention a good chunk of my relatives are Brazilian-Korean?)
Corn Casserole
Pine Nut Salad
Asparagus and Mushroom Salad
Assorted Fruits and Veggies
Homemade Sweet Potato Pie
Homemade Pumpkin Pie
Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie
Liquid Cheesecake x4 (by Christina Tosi)
Assorted Wine
Crown Royal
Chivas Regal
Johnnie Walker Blue Label (I guess it's not a Korean gathering without some super light beer and fancy pants whiskey/scotch)
Juices and Sodas
Shik-Hae (Korean sweet rice drink)

I've always wondered what it would be like to have an international buffet at home. This is just one of four tables that were filled with food. So um, yes. We feasted.

The Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Spicy Seeds is the only dish I had made before Thanksgiving. The picture here is actually from when I made the soup about a month ago. That time I used honey crisp apples instead of green apples, and this time, I actually had to pass on the apple altogether. I have to say, the apple brings in a ton of flavor, so if you do this recipe, do it with the apple matchsticks, but if you don't get around to it, don't fret. The soup is awesome on its own: hearty, creamy, and a little tangy from the apple cider. The cayenne-and-cinnamon-dusted butternut squash seeds add just the right amount of kick and festive flavor to the dish and the cilantro adds an unexpected breath of fresh air. If you're looking for a squash soup this holiday season, definitely give this one a shot.

The Caramelized Brussel Sprouts with Sherry-Dijon Vinaigrette were delicious. I didn't have as much time to prepare this one because people started arriving to the house, but the end result was still good. I had to forego the more desirable browning of the brussel sprouts, and I had to pass on the use of apples. I know they would have added a ton of flavor to this dish, but the brussel sprouts, bacon, and onion combination with the sharp flavors of the sherry-dijon vinaigrette really held their own. I'm definitely going to retry this one soon.

The Traditional Roasted Turkeys came out looking awesome. Slightly charred in all the right places, and beautifully browned. The pan was flooded with delicious drippings and the aromatic brine filled the house with thanks (Note on the brine: Because the market didn't have chicken wings, I used turkey wings instead).

The dark meat gushed with flavor and juices. The leg was perfectly tender and well-cooked after spending three hours in the oven.

As I carved out the rest of the turkey, I smiled at the fact that, less than a year ago, I knew nothing about roasting and carving poultry. Thank you, chickens #1 through #19 (I know I haven't posted them all just yet, but only five more to go).

The breast meat, like most large turkeys, was a little bit dry, but that's nothing a good dunk in cranberry sauce, pan drippings, or gravy can't fix. Most importantly, the classic flavor of a roast turkey shone through each bite.

The Cranberry-Orange Compote was insanely delicious. Rich, sweet, and just warm enough to complement the turkey and the stuffing. The bits of orange rinds added tons of flavor, and each spoonful was infused with strong aromatics like cinnamon, star anise, and allspice berries. Even though this was really good, I probably could have made about half the batch I did.

No worries, though. The rest is going to make a perfect mixer for a cool glass of club soda or tonic water. Maybe a cocktail in the works?

There was no false advertisement with the Classic Gravy. I used guar gum instead of cornstarch for this recipe, only because I wanted to cut out carbs where I could, and I had to use turkey wings instead of chicken wings because there weren't any at the market. Despite the changes, the hearty, rich flavor of turkey giblets and turkey stock made for a great accompaniment to every starch on my plate. The minced chives added a nice amount of brightness to the gravy. The gravy probably could have been a little bit thicker, but I think the flavor made any lack of thickness negligible.

Like the gravy, the Traditional Mashed Potatoes were flawless in flavor. Rich, buttery, creamy, and starchy. Just what the holidays call for. The chives had a similar effect of slightly lightening up the dish, and like the gravy, the mashed potatoes were a little thin. I added in a little bit of guar gum to thicken it up a little. The olive oil drizzle was an excellent way to bring a familiar flavor to an extremely traditional dish. So, so good.

The Vanilla Scented Sweet Potato Puree was exactly that, and resultantly, incredibly addictive. The silky, creamy sweet potato puree melted in my mouth with each bite, and the replacement of marshmallows with scraped vanilla beans was genius. The sweetness was balanced out with salt and pepper, even though I only used about half the salt called for in the recipe.

The Liquid Cheesecake was everything it promised to be: Cheesecake in liquid form. Sweet, cheesy, and creamy with a texture akin to a delicious cheesecake after it's been in your mouth for a minute. The sweetness of this dessert went really well with the salty savoriness of the sweet potato pie and flavorful and spicy pumpkin pie my relative baked.

Everyone, spanning four generations, looked like they were enjoying all the food. I mean, really, with that much food out, how could you not enjoy at least a plateful. Of course my dad threw up a peace sign.

And of course, a Korean night of heavy eating and mixing alcohol inevitably ends with karaoke. Plenty of karaoke.

As everyone left completely full and happy, I realized I hadn't taken out the cheesecake, mainly because everyone had already had a ton of other delicious desserts. So when it got down to just my parents, my brother, his three friends, and I, we cracked open the Caramelized White Chocolate and Pumpkin Cheesecake. We forewent the caramelized oranges in the recipe and just threw on a dollop of the cinnamon creme fraiche and caramelized white chocolate on the side. I passed the plates to everyone during a casual conversation and


went through my head at first bite. My second thought was, "Oh my eff, the second bite is even better." My third thought was, "Dang, I don't want to sound cocky, but that's pretty freaking fantastic for something that came from someone who's never made a cheesecake before." My fourth thought was, "Relax, you idiot. It's because it's a Voltaggio recipe. You were just following directions." My fifth thought was, "Where did my piece of cheesecake go? Oh, I ate it all already."

Though I didn't get to share this awesome cheesecake with my extended family, I did get to share it with many more friends in the days after Thanksgiving, and I have to say that this cheesecake has gotten tons of compliments. If you have a pressure cooker and a good chunk of time, please, please, please make this recipe. This needs to be experienced by more people: A wonderfully creamy consistency; a beautiful, buttery, graham cracker crust; a creamy, salted-caramel-like flavor that transforms into the classic flavor of white chocolate; the hearty, autumnal flavors of butternut squash, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves; a savory kick of irresistible Indian spices; and a necessary, tempered tang from the cinnamon creme fraiche.

As the clock hit midnight, the last of us retired and went to bed with pregnant stomachs. And even though I was dead tired, all I could do was excitedly think about what to cook next year.

For now, however, more leftovers. Yes, I know it's four days after Thanksgiving. And yes, my mom is currently chopping up the brussel sprouts dish to put into a kimchi fried rice.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is a big deal for my family. Or at least my brother and I. It's the one day of the year where you get to sit down with family and stuff your face to oblivion with zero regrets. Well, not until the next day, at least. Whether you're catering Thanksgiving dinner, ordering a couple buckets of KFC or Popeye's, or trying out your latest experimental turkey tonight, it's all legit on Thanksgiving as long as you're eating a ton of it.

My brother and I love Thanksgiving because we both love to cook. Last year, I took on the bulk of all the responsibilities, only because he was flying into Seattle the night before Thanksgiving. But this year he's going to get back to playing a more active role and take care of the bread-related dishes. I've decided to take on the "Volataggio's Take On: Thanksgiving." At least a majority of it. And this Thanksgiving we're inviting eighteen other people, making our mouth count this year a whopping twenty-two. Yikes. Help me brothers Voltaggio.

I've never made anything by the Voltaggios, but it's no secret that I'm a huge fan of their approaches to food. And for some insane reason, when these recipes came out, I thought, why not? They seem mostly manageable, right? My food's going to turn out like that picture up there, right? We'll see how it all goes down.

Here's the skinny on what I'm making:

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Spicy Seeds (by Derek Clayton; gotta have some butternut squash soup)
Liquid Cheesecake (by Christina Tosi; I thought this might be a good backup to dollop onto any pumpkin pies that people decide to bring)

I don't know exactly what recipes my brother's using, but here's the gist of what my brother's making:

Delicious Biscuits
Awesome Stuffing

And this is what other people are bringing.

Three Unknown Vegetable Sides (maybe some banchan?)
Some Other Stuff?

Oh, Korean Thanksgiving...Gotta love it.

An update on how everything turned out, next. In the meantime, have a safe, awesome, and coma-inducing Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Meals with Marcella [three]: TBTL

Sauteéd Broccoli
Butter and Sage [with Homemade Fettuccine]
Mussel Soup
Pork Braised with Milk

Tee-bee-tee-elle~! Doom--ch---doom-ch! Doom--ch---doom-ch! Do-do-do-do-do-do-do-doo~.

Welcome to a TBTL-inspired edition of Meals with Marcella. My name is Michael and I'll be your chef for today's menu. Ohhhhh yea.

If none of that made any sense to you, I'm sorry, but not really. Well, just a little. Just kidding. But not really. TBTL, or Too Beautiful to Live, is a podcast based in Seattle, WA that just might be too beautiful to live. It's hilarious, has a mission to end world loneliness, puts a smile on my face every day, and is always doing something with its menu. I can't recommend this podcast enough. So if you ever find yourself feeling down or tired, take a deep breath and massage your mind with an episode of TBTL. It'll make you feel happy of yourself.

If you're still not convinced to check out this podcast, but want to have some inkling of an idea of what the heck I'm referring to in the first paragraph of this post, download any podcast of theirs and listen to the first thirty seconds.

That said, if you do somehow take my word and listen to an episode of TBTL and completely hate it, no hard feelings. But I'd like to make one last suggestion regarding your relationship with TBTL and say that any healthy development of a TBTL addiction requires at least a week's worth of episodes. It's like when you show Arrested Development to someone else for the first time. First episode by itself? Not so great. After you force your friend to sit through five episodes, every episode of Arrested Development is hilarious. Just like TBTL. But that's just my take on it. The force may be unnecessary though. Unless you're fighting stormtroopers.

Okay, okay. In the interest of completely losing your interest in checking out the rest of this post, however, I'll restrain myself from begging you to listen to TBLT and from dropping TBTL references in every sentence. Just assume that if you read something that makes zero sense, it's probably TBTL-related.

Today we're going to take a look at my third Meal with Marcella, which just happened to coincide with a TBTL-instigated national blind taste test of three of its sponsor's (Chateau Ste. Michelle) wines: the 2009 Indian Wells Merlot, 2008 Syrah, and 2008 Cabarnet Sauvignon. To ensure we would all be able to participate, we labeled each bottle with a random number.

To accompany this blind taste test, I prepared my third Meal with Marcella. To accompany the selection of red wines, I decided to do a pork dish, a neutral pasta dish, a neutral vegetable dish, and a mussel dish for the hell of it. Plenty of bread and butter with some Maldon salt doesn't hurt either.

To start things off, I got the pork braise going.

Throw in some butter and wait for it to melt.

Brown all sides of the pork loin with the ribs removed.

When all sides are browned, add the first batch of milk.

Let the pork braise for a couple hours on low, turning the pork every so often. I went with every fifteen minutes.

Don't forget to throw in the pork ribs at some point to really get that pork flavor in that braise.

The pasta sauce recipe recommends a homemade noodle, preferably a fettuccine. While the pork was braising, I worked on making some fresh pasta. This was my first attempt at fresh pasta, and thankfully, Marcella Hazan's recipe is simple and delicious. No surprise there.

First, combine two eggs for every one cup of flour. She recommends the old school method of creating a ring of flour around the eggs and combining the flour slowly. I tried to do this, but I just found the stand mixer method easier. The stand mixer's dough hook doesn't work the dough completely, but it definitely helped to speed up the process a little.

If you handle the dough and there's still noticeable residue that clings to your skin, add flour a little bit at a time until you get a consistency that leaves very little or no residue on your skin.

My first pre-kneaded ball of dough, ever, literally looked like this.

Next I worked on kneading the dough as directed in Marcella Hazan's book. She suggests a stretch and fold method.

After firmly folding the dough onto itself with the palms of your hands, rotate the dough clockwise 45 degrees and repeat.

After about eight to nine minutes of kneading, the dough looked like this. She says that the texture should feel like a baby's skin.

Next, divide each 2:1 (egg:dough) ratio ball into six pieces, flatten each piece, and run each sixth through the pasta roller. Start with the widest setting and run the dough through several times. Each time you roll the dough through on the widest setting, you're supposed to fold the dough on itself like a tri-fold brochure. I ran it through like a brochure three times and then ran the dough through two times without folding.

Keep narrowing the width setting.

Eventually, you'll end up with beautiful, flattened pieces of dough. If you're curious, I stopped at setting "5" on the pasta roller attachment. Leave these out to dry on kitchen towels for at least ten minutes before sending them through a pasta cutter. I dusted a little flour onto each side to ensure that the eventual strands of pasta wouldn't stick to each other.

While I was waiting for the pasta to dry, I quickly boiled some salted water and threw in the broccoli for the vegetable sautée. What I love about this recipe is that it requires very little deconstruction of the broccoli.

Before heading back to my pasta, I checked in on my pork again. Looking good, home slice.

Speaking of slicing, time to cut the pasta. This has to the be the easiest and most satisfying part of making pasta. As I was cutting the pasta, I took a second to reflect on the fact that making homemade pasta really isn't all that hard when you have the equipment to do so. It's super cheap to make and takes about forty-five minutes. And it only gets faster with more experience. Most importantly, fresh pasta, especially when the sauce in question benefits from fresh pasta, takes any pasta dish to another level of deliciousness.

After a restrained dusting of flour on the cut noodles, I set them aside in an airtight bag until I was ready to cook them.

Next, the mussels. Allocate plenty of time to scrub the mussels and rip out the barnacles and hairs attached to the mussels. Also allocate a good amount of time to let the mussels sit in water three separate times, each time for at least fifteen minutes. This ensures that all the sand gets out of the mussels. While you handle the mussels, keep an eye out for any mussels that don't clamp shut. Toss those, because they're dead and no good.

Get a pot going with garlic, olive oil, parsley, chili pepper, and canned tomatoes. All you've got to do with the mussels at this point is throw them in the pot and let them cook. You'll know they're cooked when they've all pretty much opened up to revel their mussely goodness.

After sufficient braising, add a second batch of milk. Once you've allowed the milk to reduce a little, you should pretty much be ready to serve.

Cook the homemade fettuccine, which should only take a minute or so to get al dente, melt some butter in a saucepan, briefly cook several sage leaves in the butter, and strain the pasta. Toss them all together or simply pour the sauce onto the pasta when you're ready to serve.

While the butter is melting and the sage is cooking, sautée the broccoli in garlic, parsley, and olive oil.

The Sauteéd Broccoli is definitely one of the best preparations of broccoli I've ever had, right next to oven-roasted broccoli. The sautéed exterior opens up to a tender interior, and the classic mix of parsley, olive oil, and garlic makes each bite hearty and comforting. I also love how the recipe utilizes the broccoli stem in its entirety. Some people hate broccoli. Other people only like the heads. And still others only like the stems. This recipe is the great equalizer of all broccoli-related preferences.

The Butter and Sage [with Homemade Fettuccine] was unstoppable. Actually, we, the eaters, were unstoppable. This pasta was turbo delicious. Especially with some parmagiano-reggiano in the mix. The cheese and butter were thoroughly infused with intense notes of sage, and the sage itself took on a great, almost crispy texture from its brief, solo dip in the butter. The sauce all clung to the pasta really well and the pasta was satisfyingly toothsome.

My favorite of the night, however, was the Mussel Soup, which really turned into steamed mussels. The local Penn Cove mussels were very meaty and the accompanying parsley, garlic, and parsley made for a surprisingly delicious broth. I say surprising only because mussel broths tend to be prepared with white wine. This recipe proves that white wine is absolutely unnecessary, especially when you've got some great canned tomato juices. Parsley, garlic, olive oil, and tomatoes: another classic combination that wrapped itself around every mussel morsel. Because the chili peppers weren't really coming through, I added in some red chili flakes for good measure. Needless to say, lots of bread dipping into this hearty broth.

Finally, the Pork Braised with Milk. I was afraid this one would be overcooked, and I have to say, it was just barely overcooked, but only at certain parts. The remnants of the braising sauce helped a ton, though, to compensate for any dry parts. The perfectly cooked parts of the pork were priceless. They melted in my mouth like a pork-infused creamsicle. Minus the orange. The sweet savoriness of this dish was addictive. And even with the drier portions of the loin, the flavors came through. As much as I loved this dish that night, I might have to try this one again in the future to get it just right.

For our small, five-person wine tasting, the 2009 Indian Wells Merlot took first (label #3), the 2008 Cabarnet Sauvignon took second (label #2), and the 2008 Syrah took last (label #1). Those chunks bitten off the slip of paper there were courtesy of my dog, Remy. The overall winner of the nationwide wine tasting phenomenon was the 2008 Cabarnet Sauvignon.

So if you find your eyes rolling over in a glaze as you stare at that huge wall of wine at the market tomorrow for Thanksgiving, have no doubt and look for the Chateau Ste. Michelle label, especially if it's the 2008 Cabarnet Sauvignon. Or if you're like me, the 2009 Indian Wells Merlot. They were definitely a great addition to this third meal in a collector's series of Meals with Marcella.

A huge thanks to TBTL for inspiring a great night with great friends. Expect a short post tomorrow previewing my Thanksgiving menu, but until then, please remember, no mountain too tall, and good luck to all.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Meals with Marcella [two]: Law Review Catering Service

Chick Pea Soup
Shredded Carrot Salad Variation with [Mixed Greens]
[Rigatoni with] Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter
Ciambella--Grandmother's Pastry Ring

Imagine Padma, from Top Chef, saying: "Chefs, you must each prepare breakfast and lunch for fifty esteemed diners. You must organize your own transportation for yourself and your food and there will only be three crockpots available at the event space. And one more thing (there's always a twist!). You must accommodate for nine vegetarians and a select group of people who have allergies to bell peppers, grapefruit, all nuts except peanuts, sesame seeds, blood sausage, and alcohol."

Welcome to the my school's law review's misnomer of a tradition: "Snack." Every quarter, each member has to provide a full breakfast and lunch for, ideally, fifty people. Because everyone doesn't really eat the breakfast, you can usually get away with providing enough fruits, yogurt, and bagels/donuts/muffins for maybe two dozen people. But for lunch, if you run out, you are immediately shamed and looked at with disappointment for...two minutes? In any case, running out of food is my ultimate fear when I cook, and a very close second is serving subpar food. Luckily for me, I had Marcella Hazan at my side. She made sure that I kept things simple, manageable in large quantities, and, of course, delicious.

Snack? More like catering service. Not like I mind either way. Bring it. "Your time starts now."

The first thing I did was get a ton of dried chickpeas soaking in some water. I could have splurged with a bunch of canned chickpeas, but the dried ones were so much cheaper, especially in this quantity.

Next, I figured the most time-consuming portion of this meal would be the beef stock. I was a little intimidated at first because I had never taken the time to make my own beef stock, but I was excited to see the results.

Armed with onions, potatoes, celery, carrots, bell peppers, tomatoes, veal bones, oxtail, and veal chunks, I got the stock on its way.

I ended up having to make two batches because my stock pot wasn't big enough to accommodate all the stock I would need to make the chickpea soup.

After straining the stock through a paper towel and a mesh strainer two times, I let the stock rest in the fridge to release the fat. I'll spare you all the picture of the fat.

While the chickpeas were soaking and the stock was boiling, simmering, and cooling, I got started on the tomato sauce and ciambella. I was most excited to make this tomato sauce because of its fame as the insanely delicious four-ingredient tomato sauce. This recipe is reproduced pretty widely online.

The tomato sauce started with ten boxes of rigatoni and fourteen cans of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes. Four of the cans were for the soup, though. I decided to go with the canned San Marzano tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes because the market didn't have enough fully-ripened tomatoes. Next time, when tomatoes are well in season, I'll make it fresh.

With two saucepans that could each only fit two batches' worth at a time, I had to run through this recipe five times.

Two cans of tomatoes, ten tablespoons of unsalted butter, four onion halves, and salt in each saucepan.

Heat it up.

Simmer down, now.

And enjoy. So simple, so silky, and so, so good. This versatile sauce could probably go on anything from pasta to quinoa and chicken to beef. But a nice spoonful by itself doesn't hurt either.

In between batches of tomato sauce, I loaded up the oven with ciambella. More on what ciambella is below. This recipe was also surprisingly simple, with great results.

Get some warmed butter, sugar, flour, milk, eggs, baking powder, and lemon zest in a mixing bowl.

Naturally, mix it all up.

If your dough looks a little on the flaky side, add ever so slight bits of whole milk until you get the right consistency.

Form the dough into a ring, make some slits, and brush on some egg yolk combined with water.

Off to the oven. Because of my lame oven capacity, I went through this recipe five times.

By this time, the chickpeas were all done soaking up, so I ran them in some boiling water.

Strain and rinse. Time-consuming, but not attention-demanding. Money saved.

Since the chickpeas were all done, I went ahead and started the soup. I made ten batches total. Eight batches using beef stock (four batches at a time), and two batches using store-bought vegetable stock. The recipe starts off with a ton of delicious olive oil and garlic cloves.

Sometimes I think I could just live off of the sound and smell of garlic crackling and browning in olive oil.

After adding some of those San Marzano tomatoes and sprigs of rosemary, let it simmer until the oil floats free from the tomatoes.

Stir in the chickpeas and cook for another five minutes, and then cook for another fifteen minutes with the beef broth. Done and done. Right before serving, taste and correct with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

The last piece to this large puzzle was the carrot salad.

Which required plenty of peeling.

Plenty of trimming.

And plenty of shredding. Wait until serving to season with salt, lemon juice, and olive oil.

With tons upon tons of food in hand, I made my way to the law school building with the help of a great friend and her great car. You can only see two of the three crockpots here because there wasn't enough space or outlets for the smaller crockpot with the vegetarian, bell pepper-free version of the chickpea soup. From left to right, beef broth chickpea soup, parmagiano-reggiano for the pasta, the pasta with tomato sauce, more back up pasta, mixed greens, the carrot salad, and bread. There were plenty of tubs of reinforcements for the tomato sauce and the chickpea soup in the fridge.

First up, the Chick Pea Soup. Hearty with chickpeas and packed with flavors of tomatoes and rosemary, this soup is perfect for a gloomy, Seattle afternoon. The flavors of the beef stock add extra depth and girth to the soup, while the bright notes of sweet tomato and olive oil-infused rosemary wrap themselves around each chickpea. If you feel like making this recipe even easier, use some pre-made beef stock and canned chickpeas to get a similar effect in even less time. The vegetarian counterpart was just as filling, so don't hesitate to get a few health points with the veggie stock alternative.

The Shredded Carrot Salad Variation with [Mixed Greens] is originally supposed to either go by itself or with some arugula. Because arugula can get expensive, I got a couple containers of mixed greens to give people the option of eating this salad orange, or sprinkled with greens. By itself, the salad had great crunch, a good punch of acidity, and a more subtle presence of rich olive oil. The salt helped to bring everything together. Mixed with greens, the carrots acted as a solid base to the mix, making additional balsamic or olive oil pretty much unnecessary.

For me, the clear winner, if I had to choose, was the [Rigatoni with] Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter. The silky, smooth, yet chunky tomato sauce was beautifully infused with butter and the remnants of onion, and clung to the rigatoni like a long-awaited hug. The rigatoni was as close to al dente as I could've hoped for after cooking the pasta to near al dente status at home and warming up and mixing the rigatoni with the sauce at the lunch location. The sauce was sweet, but not too sweet, a little creamy, and insanely addictive. Add a hearty spoonful of parmagiano-reggiano and you've got yourself a crazy delicious pasta. I made this sauce three more times that week. No shame.

Finally, the Ciambella--Grandmother's Pastry Ring. Ciambella is a home-baked pastry that survives through family tradition. As Marcella Hazan notes, each family has its own recipe, each as authentic as the next. This one is her grandmother's recipe, if that wasn't obvious from the recipe's title, and I have to say, it's pretty darn authentic. This is of course coming from someone who's never had ciambella before. Who cares. It was delicious.

She also explains that people enjoy this with a latte, and the old farmers' way to enjoy this is with some sweet wine. Naturally, I chose sweet wine (don't worry, there was coffee and whole milk available for those allergic to alcohol). A nice, full-bodied port.

The density of the pastry was incredibly satisfying and the invisible bits of lemon zest really packed a punch. That combined with the sweetness and light acidity of the wine got me going back for more slices. And more alcohol. At 1:00pm.

I'd like to think that the menu was a success. The whole menu was vegetarian and avoided all the allergies, except for the beef stock and port wine, and the classic combination of soup, salad, pasta, and dessert made for a satisfying lunch. I'd also like to think that I wouldn't end up in the bottom two.

But at the end of the day, I collected my tupperware and leftovers, packed up my knives, and left.
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