Buona Pasqua et Vin Aigre

| April 29, 2006 | 0 Comments
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What does an award-winning Italian chef make for family and friends at Easter? We know what he makes for Christmas, but Easter? Why lamb chops stuffed with prosciutto, fontina and wild mushrooms in a red wine sauce of course! Not to mention 3 types of pasta and one enormous chocolate easter egg.

I spent Easter with M & B who for the past 3 years (well 13 really) have opened their home to me, fed me, and helped me pack at 1am when I was in a complete melt-down. M, comme d’habitude (as usual), created the menus, delightful and dazzling wrapped in an Easter bow. The night before we filled plastic eggs with a few coins, some chocolate eggs and reese’s peanut butter cups and hid them throughout the house for the kid’s (not mine!) easter egg hunt.

When the kids arrived they immediately started casing the joint, knowing full well that little round treasures were hidden right in front of them. When they got the go ahead, J immediately headed for the stuffed dog under which I thought I had so cleverly hid an egg. A, his older sister, just looked at me and rolled her eyes. Scary how a 5 year old can outsmart you and an 8 year old can find you to be so uncool.

Once the kids separated out and counted their stash and the adults had consumed copious amounts of Prosecco, it was time to feast. L had a wardrobe malfunction and came running in straight from Nordy’s out of breath but looking fabulous. So to answer my rhetorical question above, this is what an award winning chef has for easter. I was just grateful to be there to share in the food, friendship, convivialite.

asparagi bianchi alla veneta
steamed white & green asparagus drizzled with egg vinaigrette

pappardelle al tartufl nero e funghi
wide ribbons of pasta tossed with black truffle and wild mushrooms

tortelloni pasqualina
homemade tortelloni filled with cheese and prosciutto in a green pea & creme sauce

risotto all’aragosta e asparagi
creamy aborio rice with maine lobster, asparagus, cherry tomates and white wine

costelette di agnello repiene
lamb chops stuffed with prosciutto, fontina and wild mushrooms in a red wine sauce

and grilled salmon for the lone vegetarian….

torta di choccolato e lamponi
chocolate torte layered with fresh raspberries

and we can’t forget the wine…. a fabulous ’97 Brunello de Montalcino! actually a few ’97 Brunello di Montalcinos….. which is why the picture of the dessert is so blurry! ;-)

Some tips on vinaigrettes….

Vinegar come from the french words vin (wine) and aigre (sour) and is the result of fermentation in wines and other alcohol. When making a vinaigrette, consider what you are dressing before selecting your oil and vinegar. If you want a light dressing for a more delicate salad such as mache, grab for the bottle of vegetable oil. if you want a strong more robust dressing, consider a strong extra virgin olive oil.

The same is true for the vinegars. If you are making a salad with fruit or it’s a hot summer day, consider a champagne vinegar. You can also use lemon juice, orange juice, or blood oranges! One of my favorites when making my green bean and red baby potato salad is a deep aged balsamic with dijon mustard and a friend’s home made olive oil.

Getting the ratio of oil to vinegar is key so start with 1 part vinegar to 2 parts oil. Then add the oil slowly whisking constantly until you have the desired taste and consistency. Taste it with what ever you will be dressing as it will be less strong when tossed on mache or potatoes.

Also, if you are adding herbs, shallots, or garlic to your vinagrette, add them to the vinegar first and let them infuse. Add the salt and pepper then as well because once the oil is incorporated, the infusion slows down.

Experiment with different oils and vinegars such as sherry vinegar, champagne vinegar or fruit juices. With oils, try sesame oil or hazelnut oil and if they are too strong alone cut it with a light flavored vegetable oil. And with the summer right around the corner, this is a perfect time to start.

Buona Pasqua d’Italia et Bon Appetit de Paris!

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About the Author ()

After a decade in Silicon Valley, Laura traded her keyboard for a cutting board and moved to New York City to immerse herself in food and wine studies and restaurant operations. She graduated from the French Culinary Institute where she studied under Master Chefs Jacques Pépin, André Soltner, Alain Sailhac, and Master Sommelier Andrea Immer. While in New York, Laura cooked with some of the world's most highly acclaimed chefs including Mario Lohninger (Danube), Morimoto, Mark Franz & Emily Luchetti (Farallon), Michael Romano (Union Square Café), Mario Batali, Marcella Hazan, Jonathan Cartwright (White Barn Inn), Martin Heierling (Bellagio), Dave Pasternack (Esca), Richard Reddington (Redd, Auberge du Soleil), and the legendary Alice Waters (Chez Panisse). After working as the Back Kitchen Chef of Jacques Pépin's PBS cooking show, "Fast Food, My Way", Laura moved to France to cook her way around the country. She cooked at the Cannes Film Festival, then to the northwest corner of France, to Britanny, to cook on a lobster boat, then east to Paris to the world famous Pierre Hermé Patisserie where she made thousands of his macarons every day! Laura cooked for the fabulous Olivia de Havilland and interned at 3 Michelin Star Le Cinq under Chef Philippe Legendre and Pastry Chef Fabrice Lecleir. Laura was the executive chef and cooking instructor at the DaVinci Code chateau outside of Paris where she was on set during the filming of the movie. In Fall 2007, Laura worked on Jacques Pepin’s most recent PBS television series as prop and food stylist. "More Fast Food, My Way" should air in the Spring of 2008. “My Keyboard for a Cutting Board ~ Adventures in a French kitchen v1.0”, Laura’s first book highlights her first three months cooking in France, was published in Summer 2006. Convivialité is her second book and will hopefully be published in the fall. Laura now splits her time between Paris and the San Francisco Bay Area doing private chefing, teaching cooking classes and leading market tours when in Paris. Bon Appetit!