03/11/12 7:00am

COURTESY PHOTO | North Fork chef John Ross shows how you can have fun cooking with beans.

Once upon a time there lived a poor widow who had an only son named Jack …
One sad day Milky White (their cow) gave no milk, and then things looked bad indeed.
“Never mind, Mother,” said Jack. “We must sell Milky White” …
Jack went whistling along until he met a butcher. “Good morning,” said the butcher.
“I am going to market to sell the cow,” said Jack.
With this the butcher put his hand in his pocket and pulled out five curious looking beans.
“What do you call these?” he said. “Beans,” said Jack.
“Yes,” he said. “Beans, but they’re the most wonderful beans that ever were known.”
excerpt from
‘Jack in the Beanstalk,’
English folk tale, author unknown

Legumes harvested solely for their dry seeds are called pulses. They include cannellini beans, great northern beans, black beans, red kidney beans, lima beans, chick peas and split peas, to name a few. They are wonderful, perhaps magical, but not because they will take you to the land of the giant and his goose that laid the golden egg. They are wonderful because of what they do for your body.

These beans and peas are readily available, virtually nonperishable and cheap. They provide you with dietary fiber, especially the insoluble kind, that supports the digestive tract; they are a great source of antioxidants that support the heart, the lungs and the nervous system; and they provide protein without saturated fat and cholesterol. When combined with grains such as rice, barley, quinoa and cous-cous the proteins become complete, containing all the essential amino acids.

Finally, as many Americans reduce their consumption of meat, chefs are turning more often to the dried legumes, not only because they are good for you, but because they provide tasty meals when creatively prepared.

I was curious as to whether the canned versions of these beans differ from the dried form. What I learned was that the nutritional value is about the same except that the canned version contains sodium. From a culinary standpoint the dried peas and beans have a much better texture and flavor when soaked and cooked properly. Soaking in cold water for at least four hours and not more than overnight is the best method, but bringing the beans to a boil and letting them sit, covered, for one hour is almost as good.

Most beans become tender without falling apart when gently simmered for about an hour. Split peas and lentils do not require any soaking at all.

Minestrone Soup

Rinse 1 pound dried cannellini beans and 1 pound dried chickpeas under cold water and place them in a soup pot. Add water to cover by 2 inches and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and let sit for 1 hour. Return the beans to the heat (with the same liquid) and add some rind from parmesan cheese (if available). Simmer until tender, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, dice 1/4 pound pancetta (or bacon) and brown in 1 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy saucepan. Remove the pancetta and reserve. Add to the drippings the following coarsely diced vegetables: 1 onion, 2 stalks of celery, 2 carrots, 1 zucchini and 3 cloves of garlic. Cook the vegetables at low heat for 10 minutes and add them to the bean pot. Add 6 cups chicken broth, 1 small (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, 2 cups fresh cut green beans and 2 cups diced savoy cabbage (or green cabbage). Simmer until the vegetables are tender and add 4 cups chopped kale and the reserved pancetta. Simmer another 10 minutes, remove the parmesan cheese rind and season to taste with coarse salt and pepper.

Serve with grated parmigiano reggiano cheese.

Serves 12; this recipe makes a large batch and may be cut in half if desired.

Chicken and Chorizo ‘Cassoulet’

Rinse 2 cups great northern or navy beans, place in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cover and let rest for 1 hour. Place on the stove again and add water to cover by 2 inches. Make a bouquet garni by tying together 1 leafy stalk of celery, 3 sprigs of thyme, 2 bay leaves and 6 parsley stems. Add this to the beans along with 4 whole crushed cloves of garlic. Let the bean mixture simmer until tender, about 45 minutes.

In a separate heavy pan, add 1 tablespoon canola oil and place on high heat. Add to this 6 chicken thighs, browning them on all sides. Remove the chicken and add 4 fresh chorizo sausages, cooking until brown on all sides. Remove the sausage and add 2 cups chopped onion, 1 cup diced carrot and 1 cup diced celery. Lower the heat and season with 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme and 1 teaspoon each of coarse salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes and add 1 cup white wine and a small can of diced tomatoes. Cook until the wine is reduced by half and remove from the heat.

In a large casserole, place a layer of beans on the bottom and cover it with a layer of chicken. Repeat with a layer of beans and a layer of sliced sausage. Finish with a layer of beans.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a sauté pan and add 1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs (or panko crumbs). Place the crumbs on top of the beans in the casserole and put it in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes, or until the chicken and sausage are completely cooked.

Serves 4-6.
Black Bean, Quinoa, Corn and Shrimp Ragout

Place 1 pound of rinsed black beans in a soup pot and add 2 quarts water. Bring to a boil, cover and remove from the heat. Let sit 1 hour. Drain and rinse the beans and place back in the soup pot with 6 cups water. Simmer until just tender, about 1 hour.

Peel and devein 1 pound of jumbo shrimp, removing the tails. Place a large, shallow saucepan on low heat and add 2 tablespoons unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon canola oil. Add to this 2 tablespoons minced garlic, 2 tablespoons minced shallots and the shrimp. Cook slowly until the shrimp turn opaque, about 10 minutes. Remove the shrimp and set aside.

Add to the pan 1 cup uncooked white quinoa and 1 cup chopped onion. Add 2 cups chicken broth and season with 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Add the quinoa mixture to the cooked black beans along with 2 cups frozen corn. Simmer for 15 minutes and add the cooked shrimp, the zest and juice of 1 lemon and 1/2 cup chopped cilantro. Check for seasoning and serve.

Serves 4-6.

Red Kidney Beans with Rice (Rajmah)

Rinse 1 pound of red kidney beans and place in a soup pot with 2 quarts water. Bring to a boil, cover and remove from the heat. Let sit 1 hour.

Make a small spice bag by placing 6 cloves, 6 peppercorns, 12 cardamom seeds, 2 bay leaves and 1/2 stick of cinnamon in a cheesecloth bag tied off at the top with string. Add this to the beans and simmer until tender, about 1 hour.

In a shallow saucepan, heat 1/4 cup olive oil and add 2 cups chopped onion. Cook briefly and add 2 tablespoons minced ginger, 2 tablespoons minced garlic and 1 minced jalapeno pepper (seeds removed). Continue to cook for 5 minutes and add 1 small can of tomato sauce and 3 diced fresh plum tomatoes. Season with 1 tablespoon coarse salt, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon coriander, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Add this mixture to the kidney beans and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove the spice bag and stir in 1/2 cup chopped cilantro. Adjust seasoning and serve over rice.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: [email protected]

03/09/12 12:01pm

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging. …

He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
to scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

excerpt from ‘Digging’  by Seamus Heaney

On the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, we seek out the corned beef and cabbage dinners at home and around town. But in Ireland, this dish was rarely served until it was popularized in America, especially in New York. Back home, shepherd’s pie and Irish lamb stew more accurately reflect the traditions of the Irish.

The potato has played an enormous cultural role in Ireland, in both good and bad ways. In the late 18th century, Ireland adopted the potato (which originated in Peru) for its nutritional value and its ability to feed many people cheaply. But when the great famine struck Ireland in 1845, it was largely due to potato blight and the dependence of the population on the potato. The result was starvation for some and emigration for others.

The original meat pie with a potato crust was called “cottage pie” and was made with any leftover meat. The term “shepherd’s pie” came to mean a meat pie made with mutton or lamb. In modern Ireland, shepherd’s pie is commonly made with ground beef, vegetables and potatoes. Here are some examples of this delicious Irish dish:

Shepherd’s Pie with Lamb
Remove the meat from the bones of 4 shoulder lamb chops (about 2 1/2 pounds) and cut away most of the fat and gristle. Cut the remaining meat into half-inch pieces. Combine 1/4 cup flour with 1 teaspoon allspice, 1 teaspoon coarse salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss this mixture in a bowl with the meat until it is evenly coated.

Heat a Dutch oven and add 2 tablespoons canola oil. Add the lamb pieces, making sure they are separated and not too crowded. Brown the lamb at high heat and remove.

Lower the heat and add 1/2 cup chopped shallots and 2 tablespoons minced garlic to the pan. Quarter 1 package of cremini mushrooms and add them to the pan, adding a little more oil if necessary. When the mushrooms are brown and have released their liquid, stir in 1 cup diced carrots and 1/2 cup diced parsnip. Add the meat back to the pan along with 1 tablespoon tomato paste and 1 1/2 cups beef broth. Season with 2 bay leaves and 2 sprigs of thyme and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, or until lamb is tender.

While the lamb is cooking, peel 1 1/2 pounds of Yukon gold potatoes and cut into large chunks. Peel 1 small celery root and cut into small chunks. Combine the potato and celery root in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and mash, adding 1 tablespoon butter and 1/4 cup milk. Season with 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Finely mince 3 scallions and add them to the potato mixture.

Check the lamb mixture for seasoning and place it in a casserole. Spoon the mashed potato mixture over the top and place in a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes.
Serves 4.
Note: This recipe was adapted from a recipe in the Williams-Sonoma book “Potato.”

Shepherd’s Pie with Ground Beef
Heat a Dutch oven on the stove and add 1 tablespoon canola oil. Add 2 cups diced onion, 2 cups diced carrots and 1 cup diced parsnip. Cook at medium heat for 5 minutes and add 1 pound lean ground sirloin. Season with 1 teaspoon coarse salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme.

Raise the heat and cook the ground beef until brown, breaking up chunks of meat with a wooden spoon. Add 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons flour, stirring to incorporate the flour. Add 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce and 1 cup red wine. Continue to cook, stirring, until sauce becomes thick and add 1 cup chicken stock. Cook for another 15 minutes and add 1 small package of frozen peas. When the peas are soft and tender, check for seasoning and transfer to a casserole.

Prepare mashed potatoes by placing 6 unpeeled Yukon gold potatoes in a saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer about 25 minutes, or until completely cooked. Remove, drain and cool slightly. Peel the potatoes and squeeze them through a potato ricer. Stir in 2 tablespoons butter, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg and 1 teaspoon pepper. Moisten with 1/4 cup warm milk (or heavy cream) and check for seasoning.

Spoon the potatoes onto the shepherd’s pie in the casserole and brush with 1 beaten egg. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese if desired and place in a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes.
Serves 4.
Note: This recipe was adapted from a recipe on Food.com.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
Simmer 1 cup black beluga lentils in 4 cups water until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside. Blanch 12 white onions in boiling water for 2 minutes and drain. Cut off the stem ends and slip the skins off the onions and set aside.

Heat a Dutch oven and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Stir in 2 cups chopped leeks (white part only) and 2 tablespoons minced garlic. Quarter 12 ounces of cremini mushrooms and remove the stems from 6 ounces of shiitake mushrooms. Add the mushrooms to the leek mixture and cook at medium heat until lightly browned. Add 2 cups diced carrots and 1 cup each diced parsnips and turnips. Add the blanched white onions and season with 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary and 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves.

Cover the pot and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the cooked lentils along with 2 tablespoons butter. When the butter is melted in the stew, add 2 tablespoons flour and stir. Add 2 cups red wine and bring to a boil. When thickened, stir in 2 cups vegetable broth and 1/2 cup chopped parsley. Season with 1 tablespoon coarse salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Continue to simmer, uncovered, for another 15 minutes and transfer to a casserole.

Peel and cut into large chunks 1 1/2 pounds of Yukon gold potatoes and 1 small celery root. Place these in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and mash, adding 1 tablespoon butter and 1/4 cup milk. Season with 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Spoon the mashed potato mixture over the shepherd’s pie and place in a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes.
Serves 4.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: [email protected]

01/29/12 12:00pm

Give me my scallop shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immoral diet,
My bottle of salvation,
My gown of glory, hope’s true gage,
And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage.
—Sir Walter Raleigh

The harvesting of wild sea scallops is a huge industry in the United States. In fact, they are the most important shellfish fishery in the U.S., with 53.5 million pounds of sea scallop meats harvested in 2008. The capital of this harvest is New Bedford, Mass., but Atlantic sea scallops are found from Newfoundland to North Carolina.

The only part of the scallop marketed in the U.S. is the adductor muscle, so scallop fishermen clean them at sea, placing 40 pounds of the meats in muslin bags and throwing the remainder overboard. In Europe and Asia the entire scallop is eaten, including the coral and roe. The adductor muscle of the sea scallop becomes large and strong because, unlike clams or mussels, the sea scallop is an active swimmer, clapping its shell to move through the water.

Sea scallops are found in deepwater habitats along the continental shelf of the Atlantic Ocean, especially on Georges Bank, the Gulf of Maine and the mid-Atlantic area. They can live as long as 20 years, while the bay scallop has a maximum life of two to three years. Although previously on the endangered list, sea scallops have made a remarkable recovery due to proper regulation and management techniques.

Consumers are often confused about the terminology relating to sea scallops. Gourmet restaurants describe “diver” scallops or “day-boat scallops” while chefs order “dry seas” or “wet sea scallops.” Finally, “processed” or “previously frozen” scallops appear in some markets.

Dry sea scallops are harvested close to shore, cleaned, placed in bags on ice and marketed the same day. Sometimes they are picked off the bottom by divers and sometimes dragged off the bottom by a small boat — thus the terms diver and day-boat. These scallops have a briny taste of the sea, a sticky texture and a translucent appearance. Chefs love them because of their flavor and the fact that when sautéed in butter or olive oil, they caramelize on the outside and remain moist on the inside. Wet sea scallops are treated, after shucking, in sodium tripolyphosphate (STP), which inhibits the loss of natural fluids and creates a longer shelf life. STP is a safe additive, producing a whiter scallop with a firmer texture, but when cooked it throws off moisture, preventing that delicious caramelized exterior.
Frozen sea scallops are usually blast-frozen in large chunks when received, then thawed in water with STP and refrozen individually so that they can be marketed as “IQF” (individually quick frozen) scallops. We are lucky on the North Fork to be close enough to the scallop grounds to have a wide availability of dry seas year-round.

Chefs love to cook scallops because they can be grilled, broiled, roasted, poached, sautéed and fried — and because they are very flavorful by themselves, but also absorb many flavors from herbs, spices and seasonings. Just sautéing scallops in butter with a little lemon is perhaps most popular, but here are a few more simple recipes:

Sea Scallop Skewers with Rosemary
Purchase 24 large dry sea scallops (about 2 pounds) and a large bunch of rosemary. Strip half the leaves off of each rosemary sprig and soak them in water. Place the scallops in a bowl along with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary, 1 tablespoon minced garlic and the zest and juice of 1 lemon. Season with 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and refrigerate.

Trim 4 small red-skinned potatoes of any blemishes and boil them until just tender. Remove, cool and slice into quarter-inch rounds. Hold a rosemary sprig along the length of a metal skewer and alternate potatoes and scallops on the skewer until all are used. At service time spray a grill pan (or an outdoor charcoal grill) with no-stick and grill the scallops about 3 minutes per side. Place on a bed of wilted spinach and serve.

Serves 4.

Sea Scallops and Shrimp au Gratin
In a small bowl, soften 8 tablespoons unsalted butter. Stir into it the juice and zest from 1 lemon. Add 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 2 tablespoons minced shallots and 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Season with 1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt. Fold in 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs. Peel and devein 16 shrimp, cutting them almost in half butterfly style. Place the shrimp and 16 scallops in ramekins, divided equally. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of white vermouth over each ramekin and divide the butter mixture between them, spreading it evenly over the surface of each. Cook in a 425-degree oven for about 15 minutes and serve garnished with chopped parsley and accompanied by brown rice.

Sea Scallops and Bacon Appetizer
Combine 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1/4 cup lemon juice. Marinate 1 pound of dry sea scallops in this mixture for 30 minutes. Cut 8 slices of applewood-smoked bacon in half and place them on a paper towel-lined dinner plate. Microwave the bacon for 3 minutes.

Remove the scallops from the marinade and dry with paper towels. Wrap each scallop in bacon and skewer with a long toothpick. Place a grape tomato on the end of the skewer. Repeat with all the scallops and bacon. Cook the skewers in a 425-degree oven for about 5 minutes and serve as a passed appetizer.

The information and recipes above were adapted from an excellent new cookbook called “Scallops” by Elaine and Karin Tammi.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: [email protected]

12/21/11 7:00am

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Columnist John Ross removes traditional Swedish meatballs from the oven.

“Christmas is the Scandinavians’ antidote to darkness, their way of breaking winter’s hold. Nowhere is it celebrated quite so warmly — or with so much light and food — as in this northern corner of Europe.”
Dale Brown,
“The Cooking of Scandinavia,” 1968

My daughter, Sarah, lives with her husband and children in Bockenheim, Germany. Her Swedish friend Linda Palm lives in Lidkoping, Sweden, with her husband and daughters. She helped inspire this article and her husband contributed his recipe for Swedish meatballs. The food for this celebration contains lots of “pickled” flavors, seasoning from dill and cardamom and a healthy profile. I purchased some of the prepared items — crackers, marinated herring, sprats, nonalcoholic gloegg — from the Swedish IKEA store in Hicksville.

The Swedish smorgasbord served on Christmas Eve is called the “Julbord,” meaning literally “Christmas table.” As guests arrive they are given a glass of warm gloegg. Gloegg is a version of mulled wine consisting of red wine, vodka and spices that are slowly simmered and garnished with orange slices and raisins. You may also clink glasses with a toast of ice cold Aquavit.

The food is served on sideboards, kitchen counters or a long table. We begin the cold foods with a house-made gravlax (cured salmon) as the centerpiece, accompanied by dense rye bread and crackers. This is surrounded by sliced headcheese and assorted marinated herring (in sour cream, in dill marinade, in mustard sauce, in garlic sauce). Pickled beets with horseradish and red onion, pickled vegetables with gherkins, deviled eggs with salmon caviar, some blue cheese and a creamy goat cheese round out the cold table.

After conversation and a sparkling wine to wash everything down, we proceed to the hot table. The centerpiece is a mustard-crusted smoked ham with applesauce and lingonberry jam. This is surrounded by little Swedish meatballs and a scalloped potato/anchovy dish called “Jansson’s Temptation.” A dry riesling is the wine of choice for the hot food.

After a little time for digestion, the dessert is a rice porridge with a whole almond in each portion for good luck.

Here are some recipes to prepare this festive meal:

Holiday Gloegg

On the day before the meal, combine 1 cup vodka with 2 cinnamon sticks, 10 whole cloves, 1 piece of peeled fresh ginger and 1 teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds. Before serving, heat one bottle of merlot and stir in 1/2 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. When the sugar dissolves, strain the vodka into the wine mixture. Serve in small cups, each with a slice of orange and a few golden raisins.


Begin the gravlax by purchasing a boneless, skinless side of salmon three days before the meal. It should weigh between 2 and 3 pounds. For the cure, crush 1 tablespoon peppercorns and 1 tablespoon coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle (or with the blade of your chef’s knife on a cutting board). Combine this with 1/2 cup coarse salt and 3/4 cup sugar. Line a shallow pan with plastic film and place one-third of the salt mixture on the bottom. Place the salmon on the salt mixture and sprinkle the rest on the top. Place 2 bunches of fresh dill on the salmon and moisten it with 1/4 cup vodka. Cover with plastic film and weigh it down with a heavy pan or full cans of food. Refrigerate 48 hours, turning the salmon over once and draining off any excess liquid.
At serving time, scrape the seasoning off the salmon and slice thinly on the bias. Serve with honey mustard and capers if desired.

Serves 8.

Pickled vegetables add color.

Pickled Vegetables

Heat 3 cups cider vinegar with 3 cups water, 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup coarse salt, 1 teaspoon crushed mustard seeds and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Simmer 15 minutes and set aside.
Separately, cut fresh cauliflower, carrots, red and yellow bell peppers, celery and broccoli into bite-sized pieces (not too small). Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook each vegetable separately, removing it with a slotted spoon when it is just barely cooked. Finish by cooking 12 small beets with their skins on in the same water. Place all the vegetables except the beets into the pickling liquid in a large stainless steel or glass pan. Peel and cut the beets into bite-sized pieces and place them in a small container with pickling liquid, a sliced red onion and a tablespoon of horseradish. Let all of the vegetables marinate overnight.

Deviled Eggs

Boil 1 dozen eggs for 15 minutes and plunge into ice water. Peel the eggs and cut them in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks with a small knife and place into a bowl. Mash them with a fork and stir in 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce and 2 tablespoons mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stuff them back into the cooked egg whites. Place a small spoonful of salmon caviar on each portion and garnish with a piece of fresh dill.
Serves 8.

Smoked Ham
Start with a fully cooked, bone-in, pre-sliced ham of good quality, sized according to the number of people being served. Unwrap it and place it in a small, shallow roasting pan on a rack. (Do not use the glaze that may be included.) Cover the ham with aluminum foil and roast at 275 degrees until the internal temperature is 140 degrees (2 to 3 hours, depending on size). When ham is fully heated, remove it and mix together 1 beaten egg with 1/4 cup grainy mustard. Spread this mixture over the ham and sprinkle 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs over all. Place back in a 400-degree oven just before serving. Serve with a bowl of applesauce and a bowl of lingonberry jam.

Swedish Meatballs
Grate 1 large onion with a box grater (large holes). Strain any accumulated onion juice and sauté the onion in 1 tablespoon butter until soft. Remove and cool. Remove the crusts from 6 slices of country white bread and cut into small dice. Place the bread cubes in a bowl with 1/2 cup milk. Combine 1 pound ground beef with 1 pound ground pork. Add the onions and the soaked bread to the meat along with 2 beaten eggs, 1 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and 1 tablespoon honey. Season with 1 tablespoon coarse salt and 1 teaspoon ground white pepper. Mash this mixture thoroughly with your hands until well combined.

Spray a sheet pan with no-stick and roll the meat mixture into balls a little smaller than a golf ball. Place each meatball on the sheet pan and roast at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until fully cooked in the center. Remove to a clean pan with a slotted spoon.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan and stir in 1/4 cup flour. Cook for 3 minutes to make a roux. Whisk in 3 cups beef broth and bring to a boil. Fold in 1 cup sour cream and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve alongside meatballs or pour it over them. Garnish with chopped dill.

Serves 8.

Jansson’s Temptation

Peel and quarter one large onion and cut it into thin slices. Sauté in 1 tablespoon butter until just soft. Set aside. Peel and cut about 3 pounds of Long Island potatoes into thin slices. Place half of the onions in the bottom of a shallow casserole. Cover the onions with six coarsely chopped anchovies. Cover this with sliced potatoes. Make another layer of onions, anchovies and potatoes. Sprinkle each layer with 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg. End with a layer of potatoes. Pour 1 1/2 cups heavy cream over all.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a sauté pan and stir in 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs. Spread the bread crumbs over the top layer of potatoes and place in a 350-degree oven for 1 hour. If it begins to brown too much, cover with foil.

Serves 8.

Rice Porridge

Place 1 cup white long-grain rice in a strainer and pour 3 cups boiling water over it. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan and stir the rice into it. Stir in 1 cup water and bring to a boil, stirring, until water is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Add 5 cups milk and simmer slowly until rice is very tender, about 45 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon butter. Stir in 2 beaten eggs, the zest of 1 lemon, and 1/2 cup golden raisins.

Place this mixture in a casserole and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon cinnamon mixed with 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve in small dishes or crocks, each with a whole almond in the bottom.
Serves 8.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: [email protected]

11/27/11 9:00am


“It was always linguine between us … it was never spaghetti between us, not cappellini, nor farfalle, vermicelli, pappardelle, fettuccine, perciatelli, or even tagliarini. Linguine was stabbed, pitched, and twirled on forks, spun round and round on silver spoons. Long, smooth, and always al dente. In dark trattorias, we broke crusty panera, toasted each other — La Dolce Vita! — and sipped amarone, wrapped ourselves in linguini, briskly boiled, lightly oiled, salted, and lavished with sauce … ”
— excerpt from “Linguine”
by Diane Lockward

On a recent visit to New York City, I had dinner at Alfredo of Rome restaurant on 49th Street near Fifth Avenue. The signature dish of fettuccine alfredo was a replica of the original invented by Alfredo Di Lelio in Rome in 1914. The owner of the New York Alfredo’s, Guido Bellanca, has carried on the tradition of this great dish in New York. I enjoyed the simplicity of the recipe and the quality of the ingredients in this original version. It contained only house-made fettuccine, butter and cheese — no cream or other sauce. It inspired me to go home and make my own version of this famous dish. In doing so I found great satisfaction in recreating such a delicious recipe that required almost no equipment and really not all that much time. Gently stirring the eggs into the flour on the wooden cutting board was an exercise in patience. Then, as it formed into a resilient dough, the physical exercise of kneading for 10 full minutes made me feel as if I had just finished an exercise class.

As the dough rested and I cleaned up the mess, I thought about how the ingredients and method for making pasta haven’t changed in a thousand years. We are surrounded by every high-tech piece of kitchen equipment imaginable and here I was mixing the dough with a dinner fork and kneading it by hand.

Here are some recipes for you to try, and even though there are many ready-made pasta choices at the supermarket, the pasta you make from scratch will taste unlike anything you have ever had, besides making you feel better about life.

Fresh Pasta
Place 3 cups all-purpose flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board. Add a pinch of sea salt and create a large well in the middle of the flour. Crack 4 large eggs into a bowl and pour them into the well, making sure the well is large enough to prevent the eggs from leaking out. Using a dinner fork, break the egg yolks and begin gently stirring the eggs, gradually incorporating the flour around the edges. Keep pushing the flour up to prevent leakage as you continue to stir. After about 5 minutes you will have incorporated all of the flour and formed a coarse dough. Set this ball of dough aside and scrape the board clean.

Wash your hands and sprinkle a little flour on the clean board. Set a kitchen timer to 10 minutes and begin kneading the dough with the palm of your hand. If the dough sticks to your hand, sprinkle a little more flour on it and continue kneading. It is important to knead for the whole 10 minutes in order to develop the gluten and make a smooth, elastic dough. When finished, wrap the dough in plastic film and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. (If leaving it for a longer time, it is best to refrigerate it.)

If you want whole-grain pasta, substitute whole wheat flour for half of the all-purpose flour and add a teaspoon of olive oil to the dough.

Fettuccine Alfredo
Take the ball of dough from above and slice it into four pieces. Dust each piece with flour and flatten it out on the wooden cutting board with a rolling pin. Continue to roll out the pasta into a thin sheet using a back-and-forth motion, making sure to dust the board to prevent sticking. Set each thin piece aside for a few minutes to dry before folding it into a loose roll and cutting into quarter-inch-wide strips. Wrap the strips into a ball around your wrist and place on a sheet pan lined with a towel. Do not cover or refrigerate and it will dry before cooking. Or if desired, cook it right away.

Place the pasta in 4 quarts of lightly salted boiling water and cook at high heat until al dente, about 5 minutes or less for fresh pasta. Save 3/4 cup of pasta water before draining the fettuccine. Cut 2 sticks unsalted butter into small pieces and set aside. Grate 2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and set aside. Place a large sauté pan on high heat and add the pasta water along with the cold butter. When the water comes to a boil and the butter melts, shut off the heat and add the drained pasta. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the pasta along with 1 teaspoon sea salt. Toss together and serve.

Serves up to 4.

Note: If you have a hand-crank pasta machine, use it to roll out the pasta after cutting the dough into 4 pieces, and use the fettuccine cutter to make the fettuccine. Just remember to dry the pasta sheets for a few minutes before cutting.

Spinach and Mushroom Ravioli
Make the ball of pasta dough as in the above recipe. To make the filling, heat a large sauté pan and add a rinsed bag of baby spinach. Cover and cook until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Drain the spinach, cool, squeeze out all the water that you can, and chop. Place the same pan back on the heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Slice an 8-ounce package of cremini mushrooms and add to the hot oil. Season the mushrooms with 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary and 1 teaspoon each coarse salt and pepper. When the mushroom liquid has evaporated, add the spinach to the pan and cook briefly.

Place the mixture in a food processor and pulse until you get a coarse texture. Place in a bowl and stir in 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese and 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Taste for seasoning and refrigerate.
Make a tomato sauce by heating 2 tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan and adding 1 cup chopped onion. Cook for 2 minutes and add 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup chopped carrot and 2 tablespoons minced garlic. When soft, add 1 large can crushed tomatoes, 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer 30 minutes and stir in 1 cup coarsely chopped basil.

Cut the ball of pasta dough into 4 pieces as above. Roll each piece into long strips about 3 inches wide (use the pasta machine if possible). Lay the strips on a cutting board and place tablespoon-size dollops of filling along the dough spaced 1 inch apart. Whisk an egg and a little water together and brush this egg wash on the pasta around and between the dollops of filling. Place another sheet on top and, using a fork, press the dough together, making sure the parts between the filling are firmly stuck together. Cut the ravioli into squares and place on a plastic film-lined sheet pan. If not cooking right away, put these ravioli into the freezer; they will be easy to separate and cook.

At service time, heat 4 quarts water to a boil and add the ravioli, being careful not to crowd them. When they rise to the surface, remove them with a slotted spoon. Check for tenderness and set aside in a warm place. Serve with the hot tomato sauce and grated cheese.

Serves 4.

Linguine with Clam Sauce
Using a pasta machine, cut linguine from the pasta dough above and roll it into loose balls to dry.
Heat a shallow saucepan and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add to this 1 cup chopped scallion and 2 tablespoons minced garlic. When those are soft, add 1/2 cup white wine and bring to a boil. Add 2 dozen scrubbed littleneck clams and cover. As the clams open, remove them with tongs and set aside. Add to the broth 2 cups diced fresh plum tomatoes and 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Dissolve 2 tablespoons cornstarch in 1/4 cup cold water and stir into boiling sauce. When lightly thickened, stir in 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil and check for seasoning.
Cook the linguine, drain and stir the sauce into the pasta. Serve in shallow bowls and garnish with the littleneck clams.
Serves 4.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: [email protected]

11/16/11 4:30am

JOHN ROSS PHOTO | Ingredients for a classic Thanksgiving dinner.

A fresh capon weighs about 8 pounds and produces an abundance of tender white meat and flavorful dark meat. A naturally raised capon can be purchased locally at Miloski’s Farm in Riverhead. The capon provides a good alternative to turkey for a smaller family gathering of 4 to 6 people. Caponization is the process of turning a young rooster into a capon by surgically desexing it, much like turning a bull into a steer in beef. The result is meat that is more moist, tender and flavorful than that of a hen or rooster. The locally raised capon grows slowly to about 8 pounds, taking 16 weeks to reach processing age rather than the five or six weeks for an industrially raised broiler/fryer.

It continues to amaze me that we have such a bounty of fresh ingredients on the North Fork. Late November sort of signals the end of the growing season, but we are still able to assemble turnips, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, potatoes, leeks, onions, cabbage, kohlrabi and many more vegetables. We can also purchase clams, oysters and Peconic Bay scallops in addition to our local capon. The whole meal ends with Mutsu, Braeburn and Ida Red apples — some of the best in the country. Here are some simple recipes for enjoying the treasures in our backyard.

Bay Scallop, Oyster and Clam Soup
Purchase 1 dozen littleneck clams, 1 dozen oysters and 1/2 pound of Peconic Bay scallops. Scrub the clams and oysters with a brush and set aside. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a saucepan and add 1 cup chopped leeks, 1/2 cup chopped shallots and 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Cook at low heat for 5 minutes and add 1 cup chardonnay and 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley. Bring to a boil and add the clams. Cover and cook at high heat until clams open. Remove the clams with tongs and set aside. Add the oysters (in their shells) and continue cooking until they just begin to open. Remove and set aside.

Lower the heat and add 2 cups heavy cream along with the scallops. Simmer until scallops are just cooked, about 3 minutes. Remove the clams and oysters from their shells and add to the soup. Season with 1 teaspoon ground pepper and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Stir in 1/4 cup chopped parsley and serve with oyster crackers.

Roast Capon
Remove the giblets and extra fat from a fresh capon of about 8 pounds. Prepare a brine solution by combining 1 gallon cold water with 1 cup salt and 1 cup sugar. Place the capon in this solution and refrigerate for 1 hour. Remove the capon, drain and dry with paper towels. Place the capon on a V rack in a shallow roasting pan.
Soften 1 stick of unsalted butter and fold in the zest and juice of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. With your fingers, carefully loosen the skin of the capon starting at the neck end. With a teaspoon, slip as much of the butter mixture as possible under the skin. Rub the outside of the capon to distribute the butter.

Place in the cavity 6 sprigs of thyme, 2 sprigs of rosemary and 2 lemon halves. Tie the legs together with string and melt the remaining butter mixture so that you can brush it over the outside of the bird. Place the capon in a 425-degree oven and roast for 30 minutes, basting once with the juices.

Remove the pan from the oven and reduce the heat to 325 degrees. Peel and cut into large pieces 4 carrots and place them in the pan. Peel 6 large shallots (or cippolini onions) and add to pan. Coarsely chop 2 stalks of celery and add them to the pan. Toss the vegetables in the pan drippings and place the pan back in the oven. Continue cooking about 2 hours or until internal temperature in the thigh area reaches 170 degrees. Remove the bird from the pan and set aside to rest with a foil covering for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the vegetables from the pan and keep warm. Pour the drippings into a saucepan and deglaze the roasting pan with 1 cup water on the stove. Pour these drippings into the saucepan along with 2 cups chicken broth. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small sauté pan and add 1/4 cup flour. Cook for 3 minutes and add to the simmering broth to make a gravy. Check for seasoning and serve.

Carve the capon at the table or bone it in the kitchen. It will serve up to 8 people. (In addition to the above roasted vegetables, the meal should include some local potatoes, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and turnips.)

Bread Stuffing
Make small cubes from 1 loaf of country white and 1 loaf of whole wheat sandwich bread. Cut half of each loaf into 1/2-inch pieces to equal about 1 1/2 pounds. Place the cubes of bread on a sheet pan and cook in a 325-degree oven for 30 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

Melt 6 tablespoons butter in a sauté pan and add 1 cup chopped celery and 2 cups chopped onion. Cook until onion is soft and add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, beat 2 eggs and add 3 cups chicken broth. Add the vegetables and the egg mixture to the toasted bread cubes and combine.

Place in a roasting pan, cover with foil, and put into the oven with the capon. Cook for 30 minutes, remove the foil and cook another 30 minutes.

Apple Brown Betty
Cut 2 slices of country white bread and 2 slices of whole wheat sandwich bread into cubes. Place them into a food processor along with 1 cup walnuts, 3 tablespoons cold butter and 3 tablespoons brown sugar. Pulse this mixture until coarsely ground.

Spray a sauté pan with no-stick and place it on medium heat. Add the bread crumb mixture and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

Dice 3 pounds of peeled and cored apples into 1/2-inch cubes. (I used a mixture of Mutsu, Braeburn and Ida Red, but any cooking apples will do.) Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large sauté pan and add the apples. Add 1 cup dried cranberries and sprinkle them with 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger. Cook 3 minutes and add 1 cup fresh apple cider. Bring to a boil and cook until apples are tender, but not mushy. Add the crumb mixture and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Place in individual crocks or in a casserole and serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: [email protected]

11/02/11 1:30am

JOHN ROSS PHOTO Russell McCall and several of his Charolais beef cattle at McCall Ranch in Cutchogue.

Most every kind and role of modern victuals have I tried,
Including roasted, fricasseed, broiled, toasted, stewed, and fried,
Your canvasbacks and papa-bottes and mutton-chops subese,
Your patties à la Turkey and your doughnuts à la grease;
I’ve whiled away dyspeptic hours with crabs in marble halls,
And in the lowly cottage I’ve experienced codfish balls;
But I’ve never found a viand that could so allay all grief
And soothe the cockles of the heart as rare roast beef.
excerpt from “Rare Roast Beef”
by Eugene Field (1850-1895)

The McCall Ranch in Cutchogue brings a new dimension in local food to the North Fork. Russell McCall and his family own 108 acres of vineyard and farmland on Main Road. Twenty-one acres are planted in pinot noir and merlot grapes and much of the rest is devoted to pasture, alfalfa fields, woods and a small barn/tasting room. Currently there are 26 Charolais beef cattle grazing on this land.

The Charolais breed originated in France, where Russ McCall visited many times when he was an importer of French wines. He noticed that when he dined at famous Guide Michelin restaurants, they always seemed to feature Charolais beef on the menu. This inspired Russ to consider raising these big, white-haired cattle. His herd of Charolais is grass fed, free range and has never been given antibiotics, steroids or hormones. Because the cows are grass fed, the meat is lean with a richer flavor than most beef. It is also higher in Omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid, and it has more vitamin E, vitamin A and beta-carotene than commercial beef.

Perhaps most importantly, Russell McCall is raising his cattle in a truly organic cycle, with the cattle feeding on pasture grass that is naturally fertilized and hay that is grown for the winter. The production is very small right now, but that will change as calves are born from the existing cattle.

Recently, I had the opportunity to cook a rib-eye roast from one of his steers. The result was a delicious meal full of flavor, with lean meat and an excellent natural sauce. I purchased a five-pound boneless rib-eye that was rolled and tied with butcher twine. I decided to coat it in a salt crust to preserve as much juice as possible in this extra-lean meat. Here is the recipe:

Salt Encrusted Rib-eye of Beef
Bring a rib-eye roast to room temperature and season it with 1 tablespoon butcher grind cracked black pepper. Pour one 3-pound box of kosher salt into a bowl and stir in 1 1/4 cups cold water. Stir the salt solution to form a thick paste. Line a sheet pan with foil and spread about one quarter of the salt solution in a rectangle the same size as the roast and 1/2 inch thick. Place the roast on this rectangle of salt and coat the entire roast with a 1/2-inch layer of salt. It will stick like cement.

Put the roast in a 300-degree oven and cook until the internal temperature reaches 115 degrees on an instant read thermometer (about 1 1/2 hours). Remove and let the roast sit at room temperature for a few minutes. Crack the salt crust with the back of a knife and it will break loose. Brush off all excess salt and throw it away. Turn the oven up to 425 degrees and brush 1 tablespoon butter over the roast. Place the roast back in the oven and let it brown for 15 minutes. It will develop a rich, dark color and the temperature will rise a little to about 125 degrees, or medium rare.
Cover the meat with foil and let it rest before serving. When the roast is very lean, cut thin slices with a sharp knife.

This same method of using coarse salt to hold in the juices can be applied to other cuts. I did a test using a 2 1/2-pound piece of eye of round, a very lean but not very tender cut. I placed 2 pounds of kosher salt in a bowl with 3/4 cup water. I mixed this slurry with a fork and spread a 1/4-inch-thick layer on a foil-lined sheet pan. After placing the beef on the salt, I coated the whole piece with the salt mixture. I then roasted it at 250 degrees for 2 hours. When sliced thin, it came out pretty tender and juicy.

To make it more palatable I sautéed 12 ounces of mushrooms in 2 tablespoons canola oil and added half of a sweet onion, sliced. When the onion became soft, I folded in 1 cup sour cream and 2 tablespoons fresh horseradish. I then sliced the eye of round and cut the slices into thin strips, folding them into the mushroom mixture. The result was a Russian style stroganoff dish that was delicious.
Serves 6.

Sauces and Relishes for Rib-eye

Sauce Espagnole: Chop 1 cup onion, 1/2 cup celery and 1/2 cup carrots to make a mirepoix. Sweat the mirepoix in 3 tablespoons butter until soft. Stir in 1/4 cup flour and raise the heat. Cook until flour begins to brown and stir in 1 tablespoon tomato paste. Continue to cook and whisk in 1/2 cup red wine and 4 cups good quality beef broth. Add 1 bay leaf and 2 sprigs of thyme along with six cracked peppercorns and simmer for 1 hour. Strain through a mesh sieve and check for seasoning. (A homemade beef stock is far superior to the commercial broth because of its gelatin content and subtle flavor.)

Creamy Horseradish Sauce with Watercress: Purchase a root of horseradish and cut off a 3-inch piece. Peel and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Place the diced horseradish in a food processor along with 1 tablespoon vinegar. Process until smooth and add 1 bunch of watercress with the stems removed. Add 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt and process until smooth. Remove to a bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon mayonnaise and 1/2 cup sour cream. Taste for seasoning. Makes 1 cup.

Beet Relish with Horseradish: Trim and peel 2 medium beets. Grate using the large holes of a box grater into a bowl. Trim and grate 3 radishes into the bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup horseradish (as in previous recipe) or use prepared horseradish. Stir in 1 tablespoon red vinegar and 2 tablespoons canola oil. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Serve as is or purée in food processor if desired. Makes 1 cup.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: [email protected]

10/14/11 5:00pm
John Ross Chef Column

JOHN ROSS PHOTO | Duck Breast Roulades with Wild Rice Stuffing.

I seek a canoe
birch bark
still on the silk shore
of some broad Minnesota lake
in autumn
spice on the air
red-gold bittersweet twining
high among lakeside pines
water more green than blue
stiff/supple grasses parting
as we nose our silent way
to that center to which ancestors were led…

My paddle enters the lake
noiseless as sharpest knife
as my partner thrashes grasses
they bend to right/to left
filling his sweet lap
then our entire canoe
with brown black heads of rices
that have never been anything
but wild.
“But Wild”
by Carolyn Foote Edelmann

Wild rice is not rice but the grain of a reed-like aquatic plant of the grass family. Northern wild rice grows in shallow water in small lakes and streams surrounding the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada. In northern Minnesota the Chippewa call it “manomin” (the good berry) and have been harvesting it for centuries. The Chippewa and other tribes consider it a “gift from the great spirit.”

To harvest wild rice, a canoe is pushed through rice beds with a pole while a “knocker” sits in the rear bending the stalks over the boat and tapping off the rice kernels. Later, the kernels are roasted in a cast-iron kettle to dry them out. The hulls are then tread on with the feet to loosen the kernels. Finally, they are tossed in the air to let the chaff blow away from the kernels.

Today, this kind of wild rice is called “organic” while other wild rice is cultivated in paddies and sometimes genetically modified to create uniform kernels. All wild rice is pretty expensive but very nutritious. It is high in protein, amino acid and dietary fiber. It is low in fat and contains no gluten. It also has a hearty, nutty flavor that seems the very essence of fall. Here are some recipes:

Duck Breast Roulades
with Wild Rice Stuffing

Remove the skin from a duck breast (2 pieces, about 1 pound total). Separate the halves and cut each half into two pieces horizontally. Place each piece between plastic wrap and pound them out with a cast iron skillet or meat mallet. You will end up with 4 thin cutlets of duck breast. Set aside and refrigerate.

Cook 1/4 cup wild rice in 2 cups boiling water for about 45 minutes. Drain and return to pan, cover and let stand. Chop 1/2 cup shallots and cut 2 carrots into 3-inch sticks. Add 2 tablespoons butter to a sauté pan and heat until the butter foams. Add the shallots and carrots and sauté until soft, about 4 minutes. Cut 6 sweet gherkin pickles into thin strips. Combine the cooked wild rice and the sautéed shallots.

Place the duck breast cutlets on a cutting board and spread 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard on each one. Sprinkle each with sea salt and pepper and place 1 tablespoon of the wild rice mixture in the middle. Place the carrot strips and gherkin strips on top of the wild rice. Roll up the duck breast into a cylinder and wrap in 2 thin pieces of bacon. Skewer with 2 toothpicks for each roulade.

Heat a sauté pan and add 1 tablespoon canola oil. Brown the bacon-wrapped roulades on each side and remove. Pour off excess fat, leaving a coating in the pan. Add 1 cup chopped onion, 1/2 cup chopped celery and 1/2 cup chopped carrot to the drippings and cook until soft. Stir in 1 tablespoon tomato paste and raise the heat. Add 2 cups red wine and bring to a boil. Season with 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves and 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme.

Place the roulades in a small casserole and pour the sauce over them. Cover and place in a 350-degree oven. Cook for 30 minutes and remove. Remove the toothpicks and place the roulades on a small bed of wild rice (there should be some left). Strain the sauce and check for seasoning before pouring it over the roulades.
Serves 4.

Wild Rice Pancakes
with Mushrooms

Boil 1 1/2 cups water and add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 cup wild rice. Simmer, covered, until tender, about 45 minutes. Drain and cool.

Sauté 1/2 cup onion and 1/2 cup celery in 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in 1/2 cup sliced scallions and season with 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, 1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary and 3 chopped sage leaves. Combine the rice with the vegetables and set aside. In a small bowl, beat 1 egg with 1/2 cup milk and stir into rice mixture. In another bowl whisk 1/2 cup flour and 1 teaspoon baking powder and fold into rice mixture.

In a large sauté pan heat 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon canola oil and drop in pancakes with a 1/4-cup measure. Brown on both sides and remove to a warm oven. Add to the pan 2 more tablespoons butter and 1 cup each of sliced shiitake, cremini and oyster mushrooms. Sauté until brown and they have released their liquid, then add 1/4 cup Madeira wine.

Place the pancakes on a serving plate and pour the mushrooms over them. Season with ground pepper and coarse sea salt.
Serves 4.

Russian Golubtsy
(stuffed cabbage)
with Wild Rice Stuffing

With a sharp knife, remove the core of a head of cabbage. Boil 2 quarts water in a large soup pot and add the whole cabbage. Cover and let it cook for 3 minutes and remove to a colander in a sink. Carefully remove the loose outer leaves and set aside to drain. Place the remaining cabbage back in the boiling water and cook another 2 minutes. Remove and repeat the above process until most of the large leaves are removed intact. Chop the remaining core of cabbage and place in a casserole.

In separate saucepans, cook 1/2 cup wild rice and 1/2 cup brown rice until tender. (When cooking rice it is better to use lots of water, as with pasta, and cook until tender, then drain, than to measure exact amounts of water.)

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large sauté pan and add 1 cup chopped shallots. Sauté until soft and add 1 cup dried cranberries and 1 cup chopped prunes. Mix the wild and brown rice into this mixture and season with 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.

Stuff the cooked cabbage leaves by laying them flat on a cutting board and placing 1/2 cup of rice mixture on each leaf. Fold in the edges and roll as tightly as possible. Place the cabbage rolls in the casserole on top of the chopped cabbage. It is OK to place cabbage rolls on top of each other.

Meanwhile, make a sauce by sautéing 1 cup chopped onion in 2 tablespoons butter until soft. Stir in 6 chopped fresh plum tomatoes and season with 2 teaspoons sea salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Separately, beat 2 tablespoons flour into 1 cup sour cream and stir into the sauce.

Pour the sauce over the cabbage in the casserole, cover and bake in a 325-degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove, sprinkle with chopped fresh dill and serve.
Makes 4-6 portions.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: [email protected]

10/03/11 4:00pm

JAY WEBSTER PHOTO Winner of this years Chowder contest Cliff's Elbow Room Chef Mark Gray being congratulated by head judge Chef John Ross.

Nothing is more notorious than that various sections of Eastern America come to blows over chowder. Tomatoes or milk is the crucial question, also caraway seeds and salt pork. New England is rent and torn over these dissenting practices, but Boston, Maine, and Connecticut are allied against Manhattan or Long Island chowders, while Rhode Island teeters in between.

“Long Island Seafood Cookbook” by George Frederick (1939)

The story of chowder begins in the ancient fishing villages of Brittany, where “faire la chaudiere” meant to supply the cauldron. Salt pork was browned and covered with layers of fish, potatoes and hard tack. Water was added and the pot simmered all day. It was a communal effort by the local fishermen. As these Breton fishermen migrated to Newfoundland, then Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and finally New England, chaudiere became chowder. Clams often replaced fish because they were plentiful and easy to harvest. Milk and onions were added along the way.

The North Fork, caught between New England and New York, has been consuming chowder for a long time. While we don’t have a distinctive chowder that is universally considered “North Fork chowder,” we have a tradition of making thick, rich soups containing chunks of readily available local food. Bacon (or salt pork) and potatoes seem to always be present and we seem to lean a little more toward Manhattan than New England chowder, but the delicious hard shell clams, fish, corn and other vegetables and shellfish always seem to find their way into the local concoctions. Chowder is one of those dishes that can define a region and the personality of its people.

The chowder contest at the Greenport Maritime Festival is a stage for local chefs to present their interpretations of North Fork chowder. This year, the 10 chefs and their supporting restaurants all made excellent chowders that contained a whole catalog of local ingredients for the public to enjoy. Their efforts help define a tradition that may take another 25 years to solidify.

Here are some recipes from those chefs that I have adapted to smaller quantities for home use:

Long Island Chowder
Chef Mark Gray
First place
Cliff’s Elbow Room, Jamesport
Shuck 1 dozen fresh chowder clams, reserving the juice and separating the meats. Let the sand settle out of the juice and chop the clams, setting them aside.

Coarsely chop 1 Spanish onion, 2 stalks of celery, 3 carrots, 1 green pepper and 4 medium-size potatoes. Run these vegetables through the coarse blade of a meat grinder and set aside. (You can substitute a food processor and carefully pulse to avoid over-chopping.)

Pour the clam juice (it should be about 2 cups) and 2 cups water into a soup pot along with the ground vegetables. Bring to a boil and season with 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 2 bay leaves and 1 teaspoon thyme. After simmering for 30 minutes, add 1 can chopped tomatoes (15 ounces) and a teaspoon of sugar. Add the chopped clams and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes.

Cut 4 strips of bacon into squares and place them in a shallow pan with 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil and cook until water is evaporated. Run the poached bacon through the meat grinder and add to the chowder along with 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Check for seasoning and serve with oyster crackers.

Late Summer Corn and
Butternut Squash Chowder
with Smoked Bluefish
Chef Tom Schaudel
Second place
A Lure, Southold
Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a soup pot. Add 2 strips of diced bacon and cook until browned. Add 1/4 cup diced onion, 1/4 cup diced celery, 1/2 cup diced butternut squash, 1/4 cup each of red and yellow pepper, and the kernels from 2 ears of fresh corn. Cook until vegetables are soft and add 1/4 cup of flour to form a roux. Cook for 5 minutes and add 2 quarts chicken broth (or corn stock). Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Add 1/2 cup diced purple potatoes (or fingerlings), 1/4 cup basil chiffonade (finely sliced), 2 tablespoons fresh thyme and 1 cup diced smoked bluefish. Simmer until potatoes are tender and add 1 cup heavy cream.
Season to taste with coarse salt and pepper and garnish with chopped cilantro (or micro cilantro).

Provencal Chowder
Chef Guy Peuch
Third place
Stonewalls, Riverhead
Heat a soup pot and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add 1 chopped Spanish onion and 1 chopped leek (white part). Sauté until soft and add 4 fresh plum tomatoes, quartered; 2 cloves garlic, crushed; half of an orange peel; and half a head of sliced fennel. Add to this 1 pint fish stock (available at local fish markets) and 1 cup water. Season with 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain into a bowl, pressing all of the juices from the vegetables. Add a pinch of saffron and set aside.

Purchase 1 dozen littleneck clams, 1/2 pound each of monkfish and striped bass, and 1/2 pound of sea scallops. Slice the scallops in half and cut the fish into bite-sized pieces.

Meanwhile, dice half a head of fennel, 1 zucchini, 1 yellow squash and 2 medium potatoes. Strip the kernels from 3 ears of corn.

Before serving, place the rinsed clams in the broth and cook, covered, until they open. Remove and set aside. Add the potatoes and fennel and cook until just tender before adding the zucchini, squash and corn. Finally, add the fish and scallops and simmer until just cooked, about 5 minutes.

Garnish with the steamed clams and chopped parsley. Serve with toasted croutons.

09/19/11 8:35am

JOHN ROSSS PHOTO | Roasted corn-pumpkin chowder by John Ross

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin’s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too!
I don’t know how to tell it — but if sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin’ boardin’, and they’d call around on me —
I’d want to ’commodate ’em — all the whole-indurin’ flock —
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!
From “When the Frost is on the Punkin” by James Whitcomb Riley

We know that the pumpkin was one of the first foods cultivated by Native Americans. It became known as one of the “three sisters,” which included maize, beans and squash. And even though the apple came much later to America (it was introduced by colonists), we are now the world’s second biggest producer. We also have much folklore associated with the apple, from Johnny Appleseed to apple pie.

Autumn begins today and the pumpkin and apple play a huge part on the North Fork in the fall. Not only do we see the beautiful colors of pumpkins along the roadside, we smell the delicious aroma of apples.
The apple tree is perhaps the earliest tree to be cultivated by man. The wild apple originated in Asia, where Alexander the Great is said to have found them in 328 BCE. The nutritive value of eating apples is legendary. Low in calories, high in dietary fiber, they contain no saturated fat or cholesterol. They are rich in vitamin C, antioxidants and tartaric acid. While they’re best for you when eaten raw with the skin on, we also know that cooked apples are delicious and form an important part of our cuisine. Here are some examples.

Roasted Corn-Pumpkin Chowder

Cut one half of a cheese pumpkin into large chunks. After removing the seeds, take a sharp paring knife and peel off the skin, leaving about 1 pound of 2-inch squares of pumpkin. Toss them in 1 tablespoon of canola oil and place them on a sheet pan. Place 6 shucked ears of corn on the same pan and brush them lightly with oil. Roast at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool slightly and cut the pumpkin into half-inch cubes. Cut the corn kernels off the cob and set aside.

Cook 5 strips of bacon in a heavy soup pot and remove. Chop the bacon and set aside. Dice one Spanish onion and one red pepper and sauté until soft in the bacon fat. Dice 6 or 8 fingerling potatoes (about 3/4 pound), leaving the skin on. Add to the soup pot along with 5 cups chicken broth. Season with 2 teaspoons sea salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1 bay leaf and 3 sprigs of fresh thyme. Simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes, and add the diced pumpkin and cut corn. Continue cooking another 15 minutes and add 1 cup heavy cream. Check for seasoning and serve.

Garnish with the chopped bacon and grated sharp cheddar cheese.
Serves 4-6.

Baked Apple Dumplings

Begin by making a sauce. Place 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan with 1 cinnamon stick and 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg. Bring to a boil and stir in 2 tablespoons cold butter. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Whisk together 2 cups flour with 2 teaspoons baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt. Cut in 2/3 cup shortening with a pastry blender or fork until it looks like coarse meal. Sprinkle 1/2 cup ice water over the mixture and work it in gently with a fork. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead into a smooth dough. Press this into a flat cylinder and wrap in plastic film. Refrigerate while preparing the apples.

Peel 6 small apples (such as Jonagolds), cut them in half through the stems and remove the cores. Put the apple halves in ice water.

Combine 6 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon nutmeg in a small bowl. On a floured surface, roll out the refrigerated dough into a 12- by 18-inch rectangle. Cut the dough into 6 equal squares. Hold two apple halves together and place them in the center of one of the squares. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the sugar mixture over the top of the apple and place a small slice of butter on top. Moisten the edges of the dough with water and fold the corners to the center, pinching the seams together. Repeat for each apple and place the dumplings in a shallow roasting pan. Pour the sauce over them and bake in a 375-degree oven for 35 minutes.Remove, let cool slightly, and serve with vanilla ice cream.
Serves 6.

Apple Caramel Rum Cake

Spread 1 tablespoon soft butter in a 10-inch Bundt pan. Dust with flour and set aside.
Whisk together 3 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons cinnamon. With an electric mixer, beat 3 large eggs with 2 cups sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract until pale yellow in color, about 3 minutes. Slowly beat in 1 1/2 cups canola oil and 2 tablespoons Myers’s rum. Incorporate the dry ingredients at slow speed.

Peel, core and grate 4 Jonamac apples and fold into the cake batter. Chop 1 cup pecans and fold into the batter. Pour the batter into the Bundt pan and bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 20 minutes. (A skewer should come out clean and the cake should be receding from the sides of the pan.) Remove and cool for about 15 minutes before cutting around the edge and inverting the cake onto a cake rack.

While the cake cools, place 1/4 pound butter into a saucepan with 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, 1 tablespoon milk and 1 tablespoon Myers’s rum. Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes. The sauce will get thick as it cooks. Spoon the sauce over the warm cake while still on the rack. Place the cake on a plate and spoon any extra sauce over all.
Serves 8.

Buttermilk Apple Rings

Whisk together 1 egg and 1/2 cup buttermilk. Fold in 1 cup flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Peel, core and cut into quarter-inch rings three Jonagold apples. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons canola oil in a heavy sauté pan. Dip the apple rings in the batter and fry in the hot butter until puffy and golden.

Turn and cook briefly on the other side and remove to a plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and serve with ice cream or serve as a garnish for pork chops without the sugar.
Serves 4.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. 

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