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Soft potato gnocchis laying on a tomato sauce, topped with crispy cured ham, shaved parmesan and crunchy arugula to spice things up. A mouthful of flavours and textures!Soft potato gnocchis laying on a tomato sauce, topped with crispy cured ham, shaved parmesan and crunchy arugula to spice things up. A mouthful of flavours and textures!

Gnocchi a la Maria Pia

This recipe is so easy, fast and frankly too good tasting for the time and preparation it needs. It’s a bit like a cheating dish, too easy to be this good. It’s not a traditional “Italian” dish, it’s a personal experiment that turned out to be one of my favorite way to enjoy those little potato dumplings. It’s a dish filled with flavours and textures, in one bite you’ll get a smooth gnocchi and it’s coating of tomato sauce and a crunchy factor whether it’s the salty crispy ham or the fresh arugula. A dream dish, plus with all those textures and colors going, a perfect romantic dish for Valentines.

Gnocchis

gnocchi di patateLet’s talk gnocchis for a sec… They look like pasta and come with a sauce like pasta but they are not pasta, they are potato dumplings. First of all, I chose premade gnocchis from the market, if you want to make your own check this recipe from an Italian guy (here) which explain from a to z about the gnocchis world. Another big difference is the way you cook the gnocchis, you should not add any salt to the water like with pasta, because the starch from the potato would come out and make them sticky, we don’t want that we want our gnocchis fluffy not sticky. Gnocchis should be dropped in the boiling water and than as soon as they come up, pick them up with a slotted spoon. There is no “al dente” rule when we talk gnocchis, just a drop and pick up rule.

Some extra textures to a smooth dish

Crispy cured ham; I’ve learned this trick in culinary school and no it’s not destroying the delicious ham already processed, it just enhancing it and changing its texture, that’s all. It somehow forces the residual water out, some extra fat out and make the ham ultra salty and crisp. It’s not cooking long enough to deteriorate anything. It’s mainly a texture thing, I love a meal to have many textures to contrast a little. For example this smooth gnocchi on a smooth tomato sauce need a touch of crunch to make it exciting, don’t you think? The arugula has a fresh crunch and the crispy cured ham brings the extra salt and crips. A perfect mix of textures and flavours!

 


Cupid’s Gnocchis

Makes 2 portions | Difficulty: Easy | Preparation: 10 minutes

Gnocchi a la Maria PiaIngredients
  • 500g gnocchi di patate
  • 400g tomato sauce 
  • 70g of cured ham (serrano, prosciutto)
  • arugula
  • parmesan (Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano)
Directions
  1. Start by making the crisp cured ham; add them on a baking sheet at 180°C (350F) for about 3-4 minutes or until crisp.
  2. Warm up the sauce, add to plates
  3. Add the gnocchi in a big pot of boiling water (unsalted) and pick them up with a slotted spoon once they surface
  4. Add the gnocchis over the tomato sauce, break a few crisp cured ham on top, arugula and shave a few parmesan pieces with the peeler.

Enjoy!

Gnocchi a la Maria Pia

Avocado Club Sandwich.jpg

A twist on the classic Club sandwich, the famous deli favorite from north America. The traditional Club Sandwich it made of 3 levels of toasted white bread, chicken slices, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. This version is made by replacing the bacon with a leaner cured ham slightly cook, just enough to make it crispy. The slices of chicken are replaced by a creamy chicken salad mix which is Avocado Club Sandwichblended with a touch of mayonnaise, sweet mustard and pickle juice (brine) until smooth and an extra layer of the beloved avocado for a touch of color. The bread is an whole grain square bread, toasted and served with the usual crunchy lettuce and juicy tomato, nothing new there…clubpin

This way the Club Sandwich gets a creamier and tastier chicken and smooth avocado contrasted with a crunchy cured ham and lettuce. This sandwich is a nice ensemble of textures, color and taste, hard not to fall for it.

So let’s make this creamy yet crunchy sandwich for lunch!


Avocado Club Sandwich

Makes about 3-4 sandwich

Ingredients
  • square whole grain bread
  • crunchy lettuce of your choice
  • tomato slices
  • cured ham slices
Avocado Club SandwichThe chicken salad
  • chicken leftovers or 2 chicken breast precooked
  • 1 big pickle
  • 5 tbsp of pickle brine
  • 2 tbsp of mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp of sweet mustard (honey or else)
  • salt and pepper
Directions
  1. In the blender, add all the pre cooked chicken salad ingredients and blend until smooth, add more pickle juice if too dry
  2. In a pan add the cured ham slices (prosciutto, serrano, etc.) to a non stick pan and let it cook until crunchy, about 2 minutes
  3. Toast the whole grain bread
  4. Assemble the sandwich with 3 layers of toasted bread, avocado slices, tomato slices, cured ham, chicken salad mix and the crunchy salad

Cut into triangles like a typical Club Sandwich. Enjoy!
Avocado Club Sandwich

Crispy sage-cured ham Vodka sauce pastaAfter a week of german recipes… it’s time to go back to an old good friend called Pasta. This pasta is ridiculously addictive, be aware. I have no idea if it’s the mix of texture or the mix of flavors that makes it so irresistible. It’s a terribly simple recipe too, also done under 20 minutes. If you already know vodka sauce you know it’s a pinky cream sauce colored by some tomatoes, usually a tomato paste, but this version I’ve simply used a few fresh cherry tomatoes. It’s called vodka sauce but really there isn’t much vodka in it and obviously it doesn’t really taste like it at all. The vodka here is used mainly as a stabilizer to the acidity of the tomato and the cream which would be impossible to mix without some type of alcohol in the sauce. The vodka could also be substitute by a white wine.vodkapastapin

Crispy sage-cured ham Vodka sauce pastaThis recipe has some extra crunch on top, a nice slightly warmed up in the oven pieces of cured ham and sage leaves. Believe me, this mix is just a foretaste to heaven, any type of cream sauce gain so much from a crunchy cured ham. As for the sage, it’s such a great, strong and unique taste we see just too little of. It goes also to perfection with any cream sauces, and in this case… it’s no exception. The thick leaves of sage make it a bit chewy and unpleasant if eaten raw, so I always cook it a 3 minutes, in the pan or oven, with the cured ham to make it crispy. Then the magic happens and the leaves become like this extra tasty chips, that give a whole new dimension to the plate. If you are not used to sage flavor, I suggest you start with just a little, because it’s a quite powerful aromatic. I’m not kidding the taste gets exponentially stronger once cooked and the texture becomes a great crunchy one. A great complementary combination that is the sage and cured ham, especially on those creamy, smooth pasta.

Let’s make this aromatic pasta!


Crispy Sage and Cured ham Vodka sauce Pasta

Makes 4-5 portions

Ingredients
  • Crispy sage-cured ham Vodka sauce pasta500g pasta of your choice
  • 300ml of cream
  • 15g of butter or olive oil
  • 5 french shallots finely chopped
  • 15 cherry tomatoes
  • 50ml of vodka
  • nutmeg, salt and pepper
Toppings
  • about 10 leaves of sage
  • 5 cured ham slices
Directions
  1. Add the cured ham and sage to a baking paper on a oven sheet and cook at 200°c (400f) for 3-4 minutes until crisp, reserve
  2. In a pan, soften the shallots in butter, medium-low heat, until translucent about 4-5 minutes
  3. Add the vodka and the cherry tomatoes and let the alcohol evaporate for about 2-3 minutes
  4. Add the cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper and let simmer at low heat for 3 more minutes
  5. Mix the vodka sauce on freshly cooked, al dente, pasta and crunch as much cured ham as you’d like on the plate and a few sage leaves

Enjoy!

Crispy sage-cured ham Vodka sauce pasta

Spanish Club Sandwich

This sandwich is an imitation of the North American lunch dish; Club Sandwich. Just a few things changed, for example, the bread turned into a baguette, the bacon got replaced by a slightly cooked Serrano (Prosciutto)  cured ham and the mayonnaise switched for an aïoli sauce. I did a side of healthy oven baked thyme potato slices and a few pickles… No better lunch than a club sandwich, and the size of this version is to your taste, just have to cut the size of sandwich you’d like. I often think a traditional 3 layers Club Sandwich is way too big… With this one you choose, it’s a different format but the taste is all there!

Spanish Club SandwichThis version is healthier, since you cut the middle layer of bread, cut on the bacon and mayonnaise. For 100g of bacon, there is about 42g of fat in it, while the serrano ham 9g only. You can easily reproduce the crunchy texture of the bacon by slightly cooking your cured ham (Serrano, Prosciutto), a 5 minute, just so it loses its water and become extra tasty and crisp. Cooked cured ham is a good alternative to bacon, you’ll see, and it’s healthier.

As for the side potato slices… they are my favorite way of eating potatoes. It’s, simply, small potatoes with skin cut into quarters, add just 1 tbsp of olive oil to it with the spices of your choice. I like to mix it up with; spicy paprika (pimentón picante), thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. It’s a bold, tasty and practically contains no fat, way to eat healthy crispy “french fries”. Just have to cook in the oven for about 45 minute at 200°C (400F) and voilà!

The aïoli instead of mayonnaise is a Catalan touch, it is basically a garlic mayonnaise. It is not as strong garlic taste as you’d think, it’s really mild, so don’t believe you’ll bite into pure garlic here… In Catalonia, they manage to make aïoli without any eggs, just need a fresh garlic clove, some olive oil and a mortar. It’s a technique that not many can achieve, I’ve heard for example that if you want the emulsion to work, you’ll need an extremely fresh garlic glove, otherwise it will never emulsify. So here, I’ll make mine the mayonnaise way with some eggs, maybe one day, I’ll figure out the secret of that pure aïoli without eggs, but for now; let’s make it the easy way. You’ll be able to keep your aïoli in the fridge up to about 5 days. (Check the recipe here)

So let’s get lunch ready!


Spanish Club Sandwich

Makes 2-3 portions

Ingredients
  • Baguette bread
  • 2 chicken breast finely sliced
  • a few slices of Cured ham of your choice (Serrano, Prosciutto, etc)
  • Lettuce of your choice
  • Tomato in slices
  • Aïoli *optional, or mayonnaise (see recipe soon here)
  • Salt, pepper
Directions
  1. Cook your chicken breast, if not already done, 30 minutes at 180°C (350F) with salt and pepper
  2. Add in the last 5 minutes of coccion the serrano ham in the oven, to make it crunchier.
  3. Cut the bread size you’ll need (toast with the serrano 5 minutes)
  4. Add the aïoli sauce, lettuce, tomato, chicken slices, cured ham in between those two slices of baguette and voilà

A side of baked potatoes slices, pickles and a good lemonade. Enjoy your lunch!