Monday, January 17, 2011

Eggplant Rolletini

  • 2 large eggplants
  • 2 cups mozzarella
  • Italian bread crumbs
  • All Purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 64oz Crushed Tomatoes (2 32oz cans)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped basil 
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Italian herb blend
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 cups Ricotta Cheese
  • 2 Cups Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1 Cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 Cup fresh chopped basil
  • 4 cups of spinach
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup scallions

  1. Slice the eggplants length wise about 1/4" thick and lay each large piece (about 4 or 5 per eggplant long enough to roll - Save the other pieces for an eggplant bake) on paper towel
  2. Sprinkle some salt over each eggplant slice and let them sit until a dark juice is released on top.  This is to remove any bitter taste in the eggplant. About 20 minutes
  3. Combine the onion and the garlic in a food processor and finely chop them together
  4. Lightly cover a medium sauce pan with some extra virgin olive oil
  5. On medium heat insert the onion and garlic mix into the pan and let it sweat for a few minutes
  6. Chop all of the parsley and basil. Set about 1/4 of a cup of the basil aside for the filling
  7. Add 64oz of crushed tomato to the onion and garlic along with the chopped parsley, basil,  nutmeg, and Italian herbs. Mix all the ingredients, lower the heat, and let simmer for at least 30 minutes covered checking and stirring periodically
  8. Meanwhile, prepare a plate or bowl with all purpose flour (use plenty so you don't run out), a plate or bowl with 4 beaten eggs, and a plate or bowl with Italian bread crumbs
  9. In a different pan wilt down the spinach with some olive oil (about 2 minutes).  Chop the spinach when you remove it from the pan
  10. In a different bowl combine with your hands ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, 2 eggs, basil, scallions, and chopped wilted spinach. Set aside
  11. Take each eggplant slice and run it through tap water to remove the salt and the dark bitter liquid that was released.  Pat dry each slice with paper towel and set them by your breading station
  12. Heat a large frying pan with vegetable or peanut oil while you are breading the eggplant slices
  13. Follow the Dry Wet Dry rule.  Cover the eggplant slices with the all purpose flour.  Dip the floured slices into the beaten eggs and then cover it with the Italian herbs in the other bowl. Set each slice aside for frying
  14. Fry the breaded eggplant slices about 2 minutes on each side.  Make sure it's golden brown and not burned on either side.  Set the fried slices aside over a paper towel
  15. Grab 2 Tbls of the cheese filling and gently spread it over the slices being careful not to break the eggplant
  16. Roll each slice from one long end to the other and place the rolled slices in a casserole
  17. Preheat the oven to 400
  18. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper accordingly. Chances are the bread crumbs will have salt already and the Parmesan cheese is already salty so be careful not to over salt
  19. With a ladle pour some of the sauce over each stuffed rolled eggplant. I was generous! 
  20. Spread the remaining mozzarella cheese over the top and place it in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted
  21. Serve over pasta using more of the sauce you prepared or by itself
  22. I still had half of my sauce left over for other dishes so save it in the refrigerator.

This was my wife's favorite thing I have cooked so far!  It's also one of her favorite dishes.  We were the only ones eating so I was able to make 6 servings out of 2 large eggplants.  I froze another tray and we ate it two days later!  Perfect!  If you are not into cooking this can seem like it's too much work but I enjoy spending time in the kitchen being creative.  Especially on a Friday night we decided to stay in instead of going out.  It keeps me busy and we still get to enjoy a top quality meal!  Serve it with a chardonnay and your family
and guests will love you forever!  lol Sometimes we go all out for guests and visitors but we do the ordinary for our family.  I say, every now and then, spend the time preparing a special meal because your family deserves it!
Thank you for sharing :)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Coxinha (chicken and cheese Brazilian hors d'oeuvres

Ingredients (FILLING)
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 large onion (finely chopped)
  • 4 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp pepper paste (optional)
  • 1 tsp fresh saffron (optional)
  • 4 oz of corn
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Garlic Powder
  • Cream Cheese (optional)

Preparation (FILLING)
  1. Season the chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and cook them in chicken stock along with the potatoes as mentioned in the dough preparation below
  2. Remove the chicken breasts and set aside
  3. In a hot pan add the onions, garlic, and the olive oil and cook for about 4 minutes or until they begin to caramelize
  4. Add the chicken, corn, pepper paste, tomato paste, more oil if necessary, and the saffron.  Mix it all together and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes or until it's all blended in well
  5. Set the filling aside to cool before assembly
  6. Make sure to dry the filling before inserting it in the dough.  You can press it in a cheese cloth or paper towel to remove any liquid or moisture.  The dough may open up while frying if the filling is too wet
  7. Insert half a tsp of cream cheese in the dough before inserting the chicken filling
Experience (FILLING)
I wanted to make my filling a little different from what I had seen others do.  Many people in Brazil love to use bullion cubes in their everyday cooking.  I refuse to use MSG in my food and I find it to be a cop out for taste.  I rather use fresh ingredients and diverse seasonings to accomplish the taste I'm looking for.  That is the reason I used the fresh saffron!  It added color and an amazing taste to the chicken.  I also used turmeric in the dough to give it more of a color instead of using basic food coloring.  I made the mistake of making some of my "coxinhas" with the filling still wet.  This was not a good idea because they opened up when frying.  Definitely make sure you have nice dry chicken to fill your "coxinhas"! 

Ingredients (DOUGH) yield 30 large "coxinhas"

  • 2 lbs golden potato
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric 
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 4 cups plain bread crumbs

Preparation (DOUGH and ASSEMBLY)
  1. Peel the potatoes and cut into small cubes
  2. Place the potatoes in a pan and cover with the chicken stock. (Chicken breasts also get cooked in the stock at this point)
  3. Cook on high heat for about 25 minutes or until the potatoes are soft enough to mash
  4. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pan keeping the hot chicken stock on the side
  5. Add the turmeric to the chicken stock and mix
  6. Cut the stick of butter in 8 and place the pieces on top of the potatoes, add salt, and mash it all together
  7. Add 2 cups of the hot chicken stock along with 2 cups of flour mixing thoroughly and strongly with a wooden spoon over medium high heat
  8. Keep mixing and adding stock and flour until the dough reaches the right consistency.  You want it to reach the point that it releases from the bottom of the pan.  Use 3-4 cups of stock and 3-4 cups of flour.  It is really up to you how much more you want to use.  As long as the consistency is right it really doesn't matter. 
  9. Remove from the pan and let it rest and cool a bit before shaping the "coxinhas"
  10. Prepare a bowl with the remaining flour, a bowl with the beaten eggs, and a bowl with the plain bread crumbs
  11. Form a thick circle of dough on your hand about the size of the palm of your hand.  
  12. Fill it in the middle and slowly close the filling with the dough while leaving a tip on the top.  It'll look like a water drop! 
  13. Make sure the dough is thick enough around the filling so the filling doesn't come out when frying.  Also make sure the filling is pretty dry.
  14. Dredge the "coxinha"in the flour bowl
  15. Drop it and roll it in the egg bowl
  16. Bread it all around in the plain bread crumbs bowl
  17. Set aside for frying in hot oil (375) preferably in a deep fryer
  18. Fry for about 3 to 4 minutes or until brown and set aside over some paper towel
  19. Let rest a few minutes before serving with some hot sauce on the side
Experience (DOUGH and ASSEMBLY)

This is the hardest part of making "coxinhas"!  My first batch came out too soupy so I added more and more flour which made it too hard when I fried them.  My second batch came out perfect but then I had some issues during the frying process.  My arms and wrists are hurting from so much stirring of the dough on the first batch but since I slowly added flour and stock to my second batch I was able to reach the right consistency much quicker.  In Portuguese we say "dar o ponto".  Putting the coxinhas together was also a lot of work! I got the hang of it after a while but I noticed my rookie mistakes once I fried them.  Some of them came out great and some came out not so great.  Definitely try to remove the air out of the "coxinhas" and keep the filling dry! I will also focus on making the "wall" a little thicker next time.  All in all this has been a very exciting experience because this was literally my favorite thing to eat growing up in Brazil. 

Thank you for sharing :)