Monday, August 23, 2010

Osteria Mozza Inspired Crostini with Leeks Vinaigrette & Buratta Cheese

Crostini with Leeks Vinaigrette, Prosciutto, Buratta and Mustard Breadcrumbs
A couple of weeks ago, I told you about a great meal we had at Osteria Mozza. So last week, I recreated part of that meal for my monthly supper club - a crostini topped with braised leeks in a mustard vinaigrette, crisp prosciutto, buratta (extra creamy fresh mozzarella) cheese and mustard bread crumbs. I found Nancy Silverton's recipe for the leeks, buratta and breadcrumbs online, and modified it to simplify it a bit and recreate more faithfully what we'd had in the restaurant.

It was still a pretty involved dish, and as I went through all the steps (in my friend Lisa's fabulous newly remodeled kitchen) I wondered if it would really be worth the effort, or if this was one of those restaurant dishes that exists because it can - because there are multiple chefs on hand to make all of the different components. When the guests arrived and it was time to dig in, the answer was clear.

The only thing I'd do differently next time is make twice as many.
Crostini with Leeks Vinaigrette, Prosciutto, Buratta and Mustard Breadcrumbs
Crostini with Leeks Vinaigrette, Burrata, Prosciutto and Mustard Bread Crumbs
adapted from Nancy Silverton and Osteria Mozza
- serves 8

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. finely chopped shallot (or 1/2 a garlic clove, in a pinch)
1/4 tsp. salt
few grinds of pepper
3 tsp. whole-grain Dijon mustard ( or 2 tsp regular)
1/4-1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Mustard Bread Crumbs
2 tsp. whole-grain Dijon mustard
1 tsp. dry white wine
2 tsp. canola or olive oil
1 cup dry bread crumbs
1 Tbsp finely chopped parsley

Braised Leeks
4 large leeks (at least 1 inch thick)
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
¾ cup low-sodium chicken stock
½ lemon, cut into ⅛-inch-thick slices
6 thyme branches
Coarse salt

4 balls of fresh burrata or mozzarella in whey, cut into 16 1/2 inch thick slices.
3 thin slices of prosciutto or speck

1 baguette, thinly sliced on the diagonal.

Prepare the leeks:
Preheat the oven to 375. Wash the leeks well, trim the dark green and root portions, and cut each one into pieces about 2 1/2 inches long, then split in half lengthwise to form four pieces. Remove the tough outermost layers and place the pieces flat side down in a 9 inch square baking dish, crowded together (it's important that they're crowded.) Drizzle the olive oil and chicken broth over the top, lay the thyme branches and lemon slices over the leeks and season with a little sea salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cover the pan tightly with foil and roast for 25 minutes. Remove the cover and roast for 15-20 mins more, until the leeks are tender and just a little juice remains in the pan. If the outer layer is still tough after baking, remove it. (If you do this, drizzle with a little lemon juice and add a couple grinds of pepper and a sprinkle of salt.) Set aside to cool.

while the leeks are in the oven...

make the vinaigrette:
Whisk together all ingredients except the olive oil. Slowly drizzle the oil in, whisking continuously. (Taste after 1/4 cup and add more as needed.)

when the leeks come out of the oven...

make the breadcrumbs:
heat the oven to 300. In a small bowl, stir together all ingredients except the parsley. Spread on a sheet of aluminum foil and bake until dry and crisp but not browned - about 10-15 minutes. Using the foil, pick up the crumbs and pour back into a bowl. Stir to crush any lumps with a fork or your fingers and when cool, stir in the finely chopped parsley.

then toast the bread:
heat the oven to 400. Arrange baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast lightly for about 5 minutes.

and the prosciutto:
turn the oven up to broil and place the prosciutto or speck slices on a sheet of foil
Watching carefully, bake about 2-3 minutes, just until dry and slightly crisp. Tear into pieces about 3 inches long and 1 inch wide.

When the leeks are still slightly warm, spoon the mustard vinaigrette liberally over them in the pan. (You may have some left over. In fact, it's not a bad idea to multiply the recipe and have a lot left over - it comes in pretty handy!)

To assemble the crostini:
Place the toasted baguette slices on a serving platter. Place one leek slice on each piece, flat side down, and top with a piece of prosciutto. Lay the buratta slices on top of the prosciutto. Sprinkle the cheese liberally with the mustard breadcrumbs and top each one with a couple of drops of aged balsamic vinegar.

e Mangia!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Portland Part III - Beast and Pearl Bakery

Beast in Portland

Though we had moved to the Ace downtown, come dinnertime on our second day in town, we headed back to Concordia for some cocktails at the Kennedy School and our dinner reservation at Beast. Some friends of ours had arrived that day, and we wanted to show them what we'd enjoyed the night before. We had cocktails in the courtyard before dinner made with fresh citrus juice and McMenamin's house-distilled Penney's Gin, and went back after dinner for a few games of tabletop shuffleboard and pool in the Boiler Room.
Beast in Portland

Dinner at Beast was interesting. It's a set meal - no choices and no substitutions - served in a small dining room that feels like an eat-in kitchen. The two tables are communal, but they weren't full on the evening we were there, so the room never really developed that nice convivial buzz you might expect. We chatted politely with another couple seated near us, but many of the seats around us were empty. I'm also not sure that an expensive meal should be eaten at a communal table, but that's a different discussion for another day...

Menu at Beast
The food at Beast is a bit more rustic than true fine dining, but the flavors and whimsy make up for whatever refinement might be missing. We couldn't help comparing it to DOC, and while I do think the food was a touch better at Beast overall, we enjoyed our experience at DOC more. The service at Beast was perfunctory, since there were no recommendations or choices to be made. Prescribed wine pairings were read off without much passion or interest, and plates were dropped off full and collected empty like they would be at a catered banquet. We enjoyed the interaction with our server at DOC - having each dish explained, each wine described.

The gazpacho-like cold tomato soup was exquisite though, and the charcuterie plate, with it's beautiful, elaborate circular plating, (I wish I'd managed to take a good photo) was worth the trip in and of itself. Each item is prepared as a composed bite, and they tell you how to eat your way around the plate, finishing with the "foie gras bon bon" which melts in your mouth like a mini dessert course. My lamb was perfectly medium rare, and was served with very complimentary mediterranean side dishes. The palate cleanser was a nice touch, and the caesar style salad had a well-balanced dressing on it. Things start to get a little hazy around dessert (even though I couldn't keep up with the wine pairings) but it wasn't memorable in a bad way - I can say that at least.
Pearl Bakery in Portland

The next morning, we decided to stop at Pearl Bakery for a breakfast pastry road picnic, which we ate in the car on our way out to Multnomah Falls. I've been hearing about this place for quite a while, and being a big fan of breakfast pastries in general, I was eager to give it a try.
Pearl Bakery in Portland

We bought a few things, including a giant square cinnamon roll, the beautiful fruit danish pictured above, scones, etc. They were all excellent, if a little messy (good thing it was a rental) and fortified us well for our trip to Multnomah Falls - about thirty minutes outside of Portland on the Columbia River Gorge scenic highway.

Multnomah Falls
It might not look like much, but that little hike to the top is a killer, with 11 switchbacks you can count on numbered signs. The falls themselves are spectacular though, and the viewing platform from the top offers an incomparable view, right down over the edge of the roaring water and across the Columbia River Gorge.

On the way back from the falls, we stopped at McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale. On the site of an early 1900's "Poor Farm," it's one of their flagship properties - a 74 acre resort spread out over several buildings - with a spa, golf course, restaurants and multiple bars, including the Little Red Shed. They do concerts and outdoor movies in the summer, and have beautiful gardens for exploring. It would be a great place for a wedding, family reunion or get together with friends, since you'd never have to leave the place. They also have their distillery on site there. We picked up a few bottles of their Penney's Gin and Alembic Brandy to take home. It's the only place you can buy it because they're not a licensed distributor.

5425 NE 30th Ave
Portland, Oregon 97211
(503) 841-6968

Pearl Bakery
102 NW 9th Ave
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 827-0910

McMenamins Edgefield
2126 SW Halsey St
Troutdale, OR 97060
(503) 669-8610

Monday, August 16, 2010

Osteria Mozza - Los Angeles

The Mozzarella Bar at Osteria Mozza - LA
Have you ever heard of anything so wondrous as a mozzarella bar? At Osteria Mozza, the more expensive and slightly more formal big sister to Pizzeria Mozza, the long marble counter wraps around a corner in the center of the room, giving patrons a birds eye view of their mozzarella-based crostini and small plates being prepared. Before visiting the Osteria, I thought the pizza bar at Pizzeria Mozza was fabulous, but truly, it's got nothing on this.
Osteria Mozza
We were a party of five, and thus unable to sit at the bar, but we made sure to order a few things off the mozzarella bar section of the menu. This was the amuse bouche that arrived first. Crostini with fresh, creamy ricotta cheese and tapenade with basil chiffonade. When I tasted it I knew we were in for a treat.
Amuse Bouche of Mozzarella and tapenade at Osteria Mozza
Most of the mozzarella bar menu items are composed crostini, with layers of savory and sweet ingredients and some form of fresh cheese, such as burrata, burricota, fior di latte, bufala mozzarella or sweet fresh ricotta.
Mozzarella with Pickled Ramps at Osteria Mozza
I have a feeling it's difficult to go wrong, but the two we ordered to share were amazing. We had the burrata with leeks vinaigrette & bacon, pictured above, and...
Mozzarella with Artichokes, Pine Nuts and Breadcrumbs at Osteria Mozza
The burricotta with braised artichokes, pine nuts, currants & mint pesto. Each one was meticulously designed so that each ingredient complimented the others. I couldn't begin to tell you which one was my favorite, but I do know I want to go back and try everything on that menu, pronto.
Spot Prawns at Osteria Mozza
For my next course I chose the Santa Barbara Spot Prawns. These are a local, seasonal specialty, with a sweet flesh reminiscent of lobster. I may or may not have moaned when I tasted the meat, after pulling it out of the tail and swiping it through the mint pesto butter on the plate.
Octopus at Osteria Mozza
James chose the roasted octopus on our server's recommendation. So often this type of octopus preparation is rubbery and tough or overly charred, but this was delightfully tender and flavorful.
Sweetbreads at Osteria Mozza
The best dish of the evening though (and it had some competition, let me tell you) was James' Sweetbreads Picatta. This dish was a stunner. Everything on the plate was perfectly harmonious, from the slightly crisp but tender sweetbreads to the tangy and rich (but not too much so) lemon butter sauce.
Gnocchi with Duck Ragu at Osteria Mozza
My gnocchi with duck ragu standing alone would have been wonderful - but it paled by comparison with the other dishes on the table. One friend had the grilled beef Tagliata with rucola - sliced flank steak with arugula salad - which featured a tender and flavorful piece of meat, and another ordered the Orecchiette with Sausage and Swiss Chard, which our server said was one of their most popular dishes. It was simple - just the orecchiette and a sausage ragu with chard chopped up in the sauce - but so delicious I couldn't stop eating it.
Scuola di Pizza and Mozza to Go
We shared these dishes so everyone could try everything, and by the end of the meal we were far too stuffed for dessert. Our server let us in on a little secret though - we could buy the butterscotch budino (aka pudding) in little pre-packed to-go cups at their Mozza 2 Go shop to eat later. I was curious to see the place, so we walked around the corner. There was a class in session at the Scuola di Pizza, where they teach pizza classes (for a cool $150. per person) on Monday nights, and offer dinners and Sunday lunches for $75.00 per person.
Mozza to Go
The tiny little shop next door is outfitted with a few Italian specialty items, a bakery counter and a refrigerated case for the salads and budino cups, pictured below.
Mozza to Go
We walked out with two budinos and a bag of bakery items, and loved each one more than the last. The mini Torta della Nonna was my favorite (eaten out of hand after coming home from a concert at 2 AM.) I found the recipe online and I'm looking forward to trying it out. The budino is also every bit as swoonworthy out of a plastic cup as it is in the restaurant - they even include thecaramel sauce and  little dollop of sweetened creme fraiche on the top.  It gets a little smashed by the lid, but it doesn't matter - since you're not sitting in the middle of a restaurant, you can just lick it right off! 

6602 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA

recommendations: Anything from the Mozzarella bar, the Sweetbreads Piccatta, Orecchiete with Sausage and Swiss Chard, Torta della Nonna, butterscotch budino and pastries from the Mozza to Go shop.

A few more photos can be viewed here.

Read my recent post about Pizzeria Mozza here.