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Pasta all'Amatrice

This was a specialty of the original Florence’s in the North End of Boston. Sadly Florence has passed away and the original restaurant closed in 2015, but I like the idea of keeping this dish alive. I've heard they've reopened as the Florentine Cafe.
The North End has traditionally been a home for Italian immigrants and is packed with great restaurants and bakeries. In addition, it is also the home of Paul Revere's house and the Old North Church. If you visit Boston, it's  well worth a visit.

After I moved away from Boston, I tried to recreate Florence's recipe, and I think this is very close to the original. This sauce can be made thicker and more concentrated by just using one can of tomatoes. It’s your choice.
For the purists, they would likely disagree that this is the famous pasta from the town of Amatrice. However I like both. If you want to sample the "real" dish from Amatrice, here is a link. https://www.ciaoitalia.com/seasons/season-2300/episode-231…

Beef Bourguignon- Country French at it's best.

So rainy and cold here today, it just begs for some French bistro comfort food. So, time to crack open a nice bottle of wine and make a hearty beef stew. I just braved the weather to pull together the basics for preparing my beef bourguignon.




Ingredients


2 Tbsp. Butter 3 cloves of Garlic, chopped 1 Shallot, chopped  1/4 lb. lightly smoked, unsmoked Bacon or salt pork 1 lb pearl Onions, blanched in boiling water for 5 minutes and then peeled. Frozen pearl onions are a good time saver.  ½ lb of whole Mushrooms 4 lbs. of boneless Beef Short Ribs, or Beef Chuck, cut into 2 to 3inch pieces 3 large Carrots, peeled and chopped into 2 to 3 inch pieces, or a 1 lb bag of baby Carrots 1 bottle of Red Wine (Pinot Noir is perfect) ½ cup Cognac ½ tsp. dried Thyme, or 6 stalks of fresh thyme 2 Bay Leaf 3 tsp. of Salt  Fresh ground Black Pepper
Cut the meat and put into a large bowl or plastic freezer bag with 4 springs of the fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf and two cloves of garlic, crushed with the side of your knife. 
Now…

Risotto alla Parmigiano Reggiano, the perfect rice dish?

Risotto is one of the most amazing dishes known to man. It is a simple combination of butter, stock and rice, which when properly prepared rises to an art form.
Many people do not know this, but in Italy rice is raised in the north in two main areas, the Piemonte (think Milan and Turin) and the Veneto, which is the area of Venice. 




The north of Italy has always been more of a rice centric region while the south was more of a pasta centric region.
While not complicated to make, for an authentic risotto, the ingredients and cooking process must be followed carefully. I have seen many variations on this theme, but a basic recipe is a good place to start.
There are a few things you must remember to make a good risotto:
Only use true Italian Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice, other rice just doesn’t give equal results. If you’re in a pinch, medium grain rice will give you vastly superior results to long grain rice, but it's not quite the same. These rices can be purchased in most grocery store…

Sichuan Chicken

I used to make this recipe regularly many years ago. It was a recipe I adapted from The Frugal Gourmet. 
I’m not sure why I stopped making it, but decided to give it another go and I’d forgotten how good it was. It’s a bit of a fusion dish, but I enjoy the over the top flavor.

It also uses a technique that I really like called, “velveting”. This is a Chinese technique to keep chicken very juicy. It works particularly well with low fat pieces like boneless breasts.
Basically you coat the chicken pieces in rice wine, egg white and cornstarch and then par cook it in hot oil or poach in boiling water in the wok and then remove it to be added back later. Personally I find using oil works well, but if it was a delicately flavored dish, the water makes sense. 
There are many variations on this method, with some adding rice vinegar, soy sauce and some omitting the rice wine etc, but the cornstarch is essential. 
Ingredients 
1 lb Chicken Breast, sliced into 1/2 - 3/4 inch cubes. 
Velveting Marinade 1…

Tofu with Black Bean

I really enjoy making this dish because it’s easy to prepare, vegetarian/vegan and packed with flavor. 


The time required to make this dish is really just in the initial prepping of the ingredients. Once you start, the cooking time is barely 5 minutes.
It uses a unique ingredient which is the Lao Gan Ma Chili Oil With Black Bean. This legendary sauce is just one of many made by Lao Gan Ma. She is probably most known for the Spicy Chili Crisp, which has a cult following amongst professional and home chefs. 


The story of the lady who founded it is well worth a read. Needless to say, she is now a very wealthy woman. Some people jokingly call it the “smiling lady sauce” due to her serious expression in the jar. 

Ingredients
2 Tbsp Oil 14 Oz extra firm Tofu cut in small, 1/2-inch cubes 1 Tbsp Lao Gan Ma Chili Oil With Black Bean 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry Sherry 3 Garlic cloves, minced Ginger Root, 2 inch piece minced 6-8 Tien Tsin dried Chilis 1 Red Pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces 3 green…

Thai “Beef” with Basil (Pad Gra Prow)

This is a very traditional Thai street food. Great for breakfast, lunch or a snack. The Thai name above is a bit generic, as it doesn't mention beef as pad refers to stir frying and gra prow or kaphrao refers to basil. I was craving this dish, as I used to  eat it frequently in Thailand. It’s commonly made with minced pork, beef or chicken.

It’s a bit of Thai/Chinese fusion dish, which is quite popular in Thailand, due to strong Chinese community. I like to make a big batch and then eat the leftovers for breakfast with a fried egg on top.


I wanted to create a non meat version so I used the Boca Crumbles from the frozen food section. If you have another favorite non meat product, feel free to use it, but I do think the minced texture works well. If you want to use meat, then pork, beef or chicken work as well.

Should you want a completely vegetarian version, just omit the fish sauce and add a bit of lime juice and some extra soy sauce.


Ingredients

2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
4 cloves Garlic, sl…