Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Warming up for Sunday Suppers

Figs wrapped in prosciutto and broiled
Sunday Supper
October 6, 2008


Fresh Local Figs, Wrapped in Prosciutto and Broiled
with Spring Hill Goat Sage Cheddar

Zuni's Asparagus and Rice Soup with Pancetta and Black Pepper

Paula Deen's Chocolate Bread Pudding
with Vanilla Ice Cream

This fall, some friends of ours have suggested reviving the tradition of late afternoon/early evening Sunday Suppers as a gentle way to wind down the weekends. James and I did something similar years ago, when we had friends over almost every Sunday night for Italian food and the Sopranos, but since then there's been a bit of a void in the weekend planning. We're both so excited to get this off the ground that even though our dining companions couldn't join us this past weekend, we decided to kick things off with a three course Sunday Supper of our own, featuring a soup from the Zuni Cafe cookbook with asparagus and rice as the main ingredients.
Zuni Asparagus and Rice Soup with Pancetta and Black Pepper
We had actually made this dish a few years ago from a newspaper clipping that James snipped, and remembered it as startlingly delicious given it's simplicity. To make it, you simply saute some chopped onion, stir in some rice and broth - simmer until cooked, then add the sauteed asparagus and pancetta. With a startling amount of black pepper ground over the top, the flavor really comes alive.

I made the chicken stock fresh on the same day from a whole chicken - which sounded like a great idea in theory, but in practice it meant I didn't have the chance to chill the broth and separate out the fat. Next time I make this (and there will be a next time) I will use broth that I've made at least a day in advance.
Asparagus for Zuni soup
Trader Joes was also out of their cubed pancetta and I didn't have time to make a special trip to buy some elsewhere, so I used regular bacon. It added good flavor but after it was fried and then simmered in the broth, it became a little soggy and chewy - I'll hold out for the pancetta next time, or at least make sure to leave the fat behind and chop up only the meaty parts of the bacon. I can also see skipping the bacon and frying up tiny stale bread cubes with a little garlic instead, like croutons.

Another hint - I'd cut the asparagus in larger pieces than the 1/8 inch the recipe calls for - they cooked so quickly in the broth that they lost their texture - a little bit bigger pieces would add a little more variety. Overall though, given the high "bang for the buck" vs. effort ratio, this is a great recipe when Asparagus is in season. It's come back around here, and I was able to buy some nice skinny stalks at the Little Italy Mercato on Saturday.
Paula Deen's Chocolate Bread Pudding
Dessert was Paula Deen's Chocolate Bread Pudding, a recipe Jora recommended. I had so many beautiful buns and rolls from Bread and Cie left over from the bbq last week that I just had to figure out something to do with them. I settled on bread pudding, some breadcrumbs and a panade.
Chocolate Bread Pudding
The important thing to know about this recipe is that there are two of them. One calls for grating the chocolate and the other calls for chocolate chips. Personally now that I've tried it, I think a little of both would probably be good - that way you'd get the gooey chocolate throughout the dish, and little pockets of melted chocolate here and there. Either way, I can vouch for the fact that this is a great way to use up some leftover bread and a hunk of chocolate sitting in your cupboard, should you happey to be looking for one. The recipe recommends unsweetened whipped cream as an accompaniment - but we went with vanilla ice cream, which worked quite well.

For some reason, Fall seems like the right time to us to start Sunday Suppers, but I suppose there's no reason it shouldn't be a year-round thing. After all, Suzanne Goin provides plenty of recipes for delicious sounding Winter, Spring and Summer meals in Sunday Suppers at Lucques, and there are plenty of recipes in the Zuni Cafe Cookbook that we have yet to try!

Here are the recipes from this one:

Prosciutto Wrapped Figs with Cheese

Four smallish, firm but ripe figs, quartered (hurry, it's the end of the season!)
4-5 slices of Paper thin sliced prosciutto, cut into strips 1"wide
2-3 ounces of soft, sweet or sharply flavored cheese, such as goat, bleu or reggiano parmesan, crumbled into 1/2 inch nuggets (I used a delicious goat sage cheddar from Spring Hill Cheese that I picked up at the Little Italy Mercato on Saturday, along with some fresh Jersey butter.)

Preheat the broiler
Wrap the prosciutto around each piece of fig, and place in a shallow non-stick baking pan.
Place under the broiler for about 2 minutes, until the prosciutto crisps and becomes brown where it meets the pan.
Serve with the cheese in a dish alongside.
(You could also try halving the figs and stuffing them with the cheese before wrapping - especially if the cheese is firm.)

Zuni Asparagus and Rice Soup with Pancetta and Black Pepper
Adapted from the Zuni Cookbook by Judy Rodgers

4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium sweet yellow onion, diced (about 8 ounces)
3 1/2 cups of chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon of salt (unless broth is already sufficiently salted)
1/3 cup Arborio or other white rice
8 ounces of asparagus - cut into one inch slivers (about 2 cups
4 ounces of Pancetta - finely diced
freshly ground black pepper
Reggiano Parmesan, for shaving

Heat two Tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saucepan (preferably with sloping sides) and saute the onion until it sweats its moisture - don't let it brown or allow the liquid to evaporate. (If it gets too dry, add a little broth.)

Stir in the rice and saute 1 minute. Add the salt, water and broth and cover - bring to a boil and allow to simmer for about ten minutes, until the rice is nutty tender.

Meanwhile, heat the other two Tablespoons of olive oil in a saute pan and add the pancetta - cook until it starts to brown, then add the asparagus. Spread the asparagus and pancetta out in the pan and allow to cook, undisturbed, until caramelized. Toss and caramelize one more time, then add to the soup when the rice is ready. Add several grinds of black pepper and simmer for about one minute. Ladle into bowls. Shave some Reggiano Parmesan and grind more black pepper over the top and serve - or pass the pepper grinder and cheese at the table.

Paula Deen's Chocolate Bread Pudding
Adapted from recipes on the Food Network website

15 cups of cubed stale bread - preferably brioche, French or Italian bread
6 large eggs
3 cups of milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup coffee flavored liqueur
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (I used 1/2 teaspoon)
8 oz semisweet chocolate, grated, chopped or any combination of the two

Preheat the oven to 325.

Lightly grease a 13x9 inch baking dish and place the bread in the dish.

Whisk together the sugars and cocoa powder in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, mix the milk, cream and coffee flavored liqueur, and add the sugar mixture.

In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then whisk in the the cinnamon, almond extract and vanilla. Add the eggs into the milk and sugar and whisk to combine. Add the grated chocolate and pour the mixture over the bread in the pan. Let the mixture stand, stirring occasionally - for about twenty minutes, until the bread has absorbed most of the liquid. Bake pudding for one hour, or until set - a knife inserted in the center should come out clean.

Serve warm or chilled with lightly sweetened whipped cream - or hot with vanilla ice cream.

1 comment:

  1. I love all three of these recipes!! And I can personally confirm that bread pudding was delicious.