Each month I block out a couple days to do a cooking class at Fresina's Pasta Company at the Drusilla Shopping Center in Baton Rouge. Since they are an Italian specialty shop with homemade pastas, I make an Italian inspired menu for a group of up to eight people. Over wine or local beers, I teach some tricks and show off some recipes. It is always a good time and everybody leaves full from a homemade lunch.
Course 1: Bruschetta with Fresina’s Italian Sausage, Creamy Mozzarella, Spicy Tomato Sauce, Fresh Basil, and a reduction of Fresina's Balsamic Vinegar
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 lbs Fresina’s Italian Sausage
2 cups white wine of drinkable quality to cook with
10 cloves of garlic, peeled and divided, mince half the cloves
1 leek, diced
1/2 jar of red pepper chunky tomato sauce from Fresina’s
10 leaves fresh basil
1 baguette of Italian or French bread
1 block of fresh or aged Mozzarella from Fresina’s
Makes 8-10 servings
1/3 Cup Fresina’s Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 Cup Sugar
1 Tsp Cayenne Pepper
Place balsamic, sugar, and cayenne in small sauce pan over medium heat. Allow to simmer and reduce by half until it coats the back of a spoon.
Preheat the oven to 350F
Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom to a large saute pan or high-walled skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the sausage in its casings on all sides as much as possible for 5 minutes or so. In a second skillet, or in this case Anolon's Everyday Pan, heat enough olive oil to over the bottom of the pan over medium heat, then add the diced leak and the five minced cloves of garlic and sauté until soft, 2-3 minutes.
When the sausage has browned, add one cup of the wine and simmer the sausage uncovered in the wine. If you need to speed up the cooking process at any time, cover the pan. When the leaks and garlic are ready, add the tomato sauce and stir. Reduce heat to simmer.
Slice the baguette on a bias (diagonally) into oval pieces that are approximately a quarter inch thick. In a food processor, add the five whole garlic cloves and approximately a 1/3 cup of olive oil. Blend until the garlic is fully incorporated into the olive oil. Brush the garlic oil onto the bread slices that are arranged on baking sheet. Place the bread in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes. During the 10 minutes, stir the simmering tomato sauce, balsamic that is reducing, and flip over the sausage. If the pan has run out of wine to simmer in, add the other cup of wine in with the sausage, or add a cup of water. Also, slice the mozzarella into pieces that will fit nicely on the bread slices. When the 10 minutes is up, remove the bread from the oven. While it cools slightly, slice the sausage on the bias into pieces that will fit on the bread and are about the same thickness as the bread. Start building the bruschetta by placing a slice of sausage followed by a slice of cheese onto each of the pieces of bread. Place them back in the oven for another 5-6 minutes to melt the cheese.
When the bruschetta comes out of the oven, spoon the tomato sauce over each piece, followed by a drizzle of the balsamic reduction. Top them with the basil chiffonade to garnish. Eat immediately.
Course 2: Chicken Canzanese - White Wine Braised Chicken Thighs with Crispy Skin
served over Creamy Polenta
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
4 medium garlic cloves , sliced thin lengthwise
8-10 skin-on chicken thighs (about 3 pounds)
2 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups white wine of drinkable quality to cook with
1 cup chicken stock
4 whole cloves
6-8 whole fresh basil leaves
12 whole fresh sage leaves
2 bay leaves
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.
Heat 1 teaspoon oil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed oven safe saute pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until just starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add garlic slices and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is golden brown, about 1½ minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer garlic and pancetta to small bowl and set aside. Do not rinse pan.
Increase heat to medium-high; add remaining 2 teaspoons oil and heat until just smoking. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with ground black pepper and kosher salt. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving until well browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken and brown on second side, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to large plate.
Remove all but 2 tablespoons fat from pan. Sprinkle flour over fat and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Slowly add wine followed by the stock; bring to simmer, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Cook until liquid is slightly reduced, 3 minutes. Stir in cloves, sage leaves, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and reserved prosciutto and garlic. Nestle chicken into liquid, skin side up (skin should be above surface of liquid), and bake, uncovered, until meat offers no resistance when poked with fork but is not falling off bones, about 1 hour. (Check chicken after 15 minutes; broth should be barely bubbling. If bubbling vigorously, reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.)
Using tongs, transfer chicken to serving platter and tent with foil. Remove and discard sage leaves, cloves, and bay leaves. Place skillet over high heat and bring sauce to boil. Cook until sauce is reduced to 1¼ cups, 2 to 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in lemon juice, and butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Plate chicken over the polenta and pour sauce around chicken. Garnish with chiffonade of basil and serve.
4 cups water, plus more as needed
4 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups polenta
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan
In a large saucepan, bring the water, milk and butter to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons of salt to the water and whisk in the polenta. Whisk constantly for 3 to 4 minutes to prevent lumps. Simmer for 45 minutes, partially covered and stirring every 10 minutes, until the polenta is thick, smooth, and creamy. Remove from heat. Add the sour cream and Parmesan. Check for seasoning and adjust consistency by adding milk or water to the polenta.
Course 3: Double Chocolate Fennel Biscotti
2 Cups Unbleached AP Flour
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Ground Fennel
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
3/4 Stick (6 Tablespoons) Butter, Softened
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Large Eggs
1 Cup Semisweet Chocolate Chips
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a large baking sheet.
In a bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, ground fennel seeds, and salt. In another bowl with an electric mixer beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat until combined. Add vanilla. Mix in flour mixture a little at a time. Stir in chocolate chips.
On the prepared baking sheet with floured hands, form the dough into two slightly flattened logs, approximately 2 inches wide. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until slightly firm to the touch. Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes. Cut logs diagonally into slices. Arrange cut sides down on baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack.