Italian Piadina with Ricotta, Prosciutto & Arugula Topping

According to the original recipe, in Romagna, in Northern Italy, piadine are often served with cured meats, greens and fresh cheeses that soften in the warmth of the freshly cooked bread. They are folded in half and eaten like a sandwich. This version is based on the classic presentation. Yum.

The recipe was adapted from MilkStreetTV.com, contributed by Erica Bruce. I bought lard for the first time in my life to make this flatbread! Christopher Kimball convinced me that lard was the secret to both the optimal texture and flavor in this wonderful bread. In the article, they found that when using lard “the piadine were tender with just the right chew and (had) a deeper, richer background flavor. (They) also tested vegetable shortening, which gave the same supple dough but lacked a bit of flavor. Lard was the clear winner.” The flatbread was perfect.

This special sandwich was a fabulous and fast summer dinner. We hope to try piadine with all sorts of other toppings in the near future. It was dangerously easy to make. 🙂

Yield: 4 flatbread sandwiches (4 servings)

For the Piadina:

  • 1/2 cup water, divided
  • 1/4 cup (4 T) plain whole-milk yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
  • 311 grams (2 cups) bread flour
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt or table salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 63 grams (5 T or 1/3 cup) lard, at room temperature
  1. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together 1/4 cup of the water and the yogurt.
  2. In a food processor, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Process 5 seconds.
  3. Add the lard and process until combined, about 10 seconds.
  4. With the processor running, add the yogurt mixture.
  5. With the processor still running, add the remaining water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough forms a smooth ball, about 1 minute. If the dough doesn’t ball up in the processor, gather it together and briefly knead it by hand.
  6. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. (I used a kitchen scale.)
  7. Roll each into a ball, then cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the topping.
  8. Using a rolling pin, form each dough ball into a 10-inch round. (The round will be approximately 1/16-inch thick.) Poke the surfaces all over with a fork.
  9. Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium until a drop of water sizzles immediately, 4 to 6 minutes.
  10. One at a time, place a dough round in the skillet and cook until the bottom is charred in spots, 1 to 2 minutes. (I cooked mine for a little less than 1 minute.)
  11. Using tongs, flip and cook for about 30 to 40 seconds. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil. Repeat.

For the Topping:

  • 3/4 to 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • finely grated lemon zest from 1/2 a lemon (about 1/2 tsp), or more, to taste
  • 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1/2 a lemon)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 slices prosciutto, at room temperature
  • baby arugula (about 1 cup per person) (we also used baby spinach)
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling, optional
  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta and lemon zest. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice to the ricotta, or reserve to toss with the arugula (or spinach).
  2. Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over half of each piadina, then top with 2 slices of prosciutto.
  3. In a medium bowl, toss the arugula with the lemon juice (if not in the ricotta mixture) and a pinch of salt. Mound on top of the prosciutto.
  4. Drizzle with oil, if desired, and fold. (I omitted the oil.)

Crusty Parmesan Roast Chicken with Lemon & Rosemary

I have made this wonderful roasted chicken twice recently. The grated Parmesan forms a crispy and delicious topping on the skin and the meat is very nicely seasoned with fresh rosemary and lemon zest. I served it with roasted potatoes and vegetables on both occasions.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. If roasting vegetables with a short cooking time, such as asparagus, it would be amazing to roast them in some of the pan juices while the chicken is resting. I drizzled my roasted potatoes and other vegetables with the lemony pan juices after they were cooked. Great.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • zest and juice from 1 lemon, divided
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary, plus 3 to 4 sprigs
  • large pinch of red-pepper flakes, plus more for serving, optional
  • 1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) whole chicken, patted dry
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • parsley, for garnish, optional
  1. Finely grate the zest from the lemon and place it in a small bowl. (Save the zested lemon for the drippings.)
  2. Stir in 2 teaspoons salt, pepper, chopped rosemary and red-pepper flakes, if using.
  3. Season the chicken inside and out with salt mixture. Let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes or refrigerate uncovered for up to overnight.
  4. Heat oven to 425 degrees. I set my oven to convection roast.
  5. Place chicken, breast-side up, in a large skillet, sheet pan or roasting pan. (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet.)
  6. Stuff cavity of chicken with rosemary sprigs. Drizzle breast with a little olive oil.
  7. Roast chicken for 30 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven and sprinkle chicken all over with Parmesan.
  9. Return pan to the oven and continue roasting until bird’s juices run clear when skin is pierced with a knife and the skin is golden, 25 to 30 minutes longer. (I used an oven probe and cooked the chicken until the breast reached 165 degrees.)
  10. Let chicken rest for 10 minutes. (I tented it with aluminum foil.)
  11. Squeeze juice from the zested lemon, to taste, into the pan drippings and season with more salt and red-pepper flakes if you like.
  12. Carve and serve with drippings spooned over the meat. Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired. (I also had extra drippings available at the table.)

Slow-Roasted Carrots with Browned-Butter Vinaigrette

These caramelized carrots were part of our Thanksgiving feast. Initially, I thought that the proportions were really off in this dish- only a drizzle of the amazing browned butter vinaigrette is used and I had a tremendous amount leftover. The proportions could be reduced, of course, but I have used the leftover vinaigrette with roasted Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, CSA rutabaga, and more rainbow carrots. It is absolutely wonderful.

This recipe was adapted from chef Neil Borthwick’s “forgotten carrots” at Merchants Tavern in London via The New York Times, contributed by Mark Bittman. I modified the proportions and cooked the carrots in a cast iron skillet. I would roast four pounds of rainbow carrots next time.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish

  • 2 pounds large carrots (I used rainbow carrots)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus 3 extra tablespoons for roasting the carrots
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1-2 star anise
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3-4 tablespoons sherry vinegar, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons chervil leaves or chopped fresh parsley
  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Scrub the carrots, and peel them if you like (it really doesn’t matter but I peeled them).
  3. Set a 12-inch cast iron skillet or a roasting pan over two burners on medium heat; put the olive oil in the pan.
  4. When the oil is hot, add the carrots and cook, turning as they brown, until lightly caramelized all over, 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Add 3 tablespoons butter, spices, salt and pepper.
  6. Transfer the roasting pan to the oven, and cook, shaking the pan once or twice, until the carrots are crinkly on the outside and you can pierce them easily with the tip of a sharp knife, 45 to 60 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, put 1 stick butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until the butter foam subsides and the butter turns nut brown, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  8. Put brown butter, vinegar, Dijon, salt and pepper in a blender or mini food processor. Blend until a creamy emulsion forms, about 30 seconds; taste, and adjust the seasoning.
  9. Put the carrots on a platter, drizzle the vinaigrette over the top and garnish with the chervil or parsley, and serve.

Note: Leftover vinaigrette can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator to toss with other roasted vegetables.

Herb-Scented Mashed Potatoes

These wonderful, creamy and fluffy mashed potatoes had a subtle flavor from cream steeped with rosemary, sage, and garlic. My son made them as part of our Thanksgiving feast this year. I loved the contrasting texture of the crispy top layer.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Justin Chapple. I modified the proportions and broiled the potatoes in a 9-inch cast iron skillet.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 T heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 T whole milk
  • 4 ounces (8 T, one stick) unsalted butter, plus 1 T melted butter for brushing
  • one 4 to 6-inch rosemary sprig
  • 1 4 to 6-inch sage sprig
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 1/2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces (I used Maine Cold River Gold potatoes)
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, milk and one stick of butter with the rosemary, sage and garlic and bring just to a simmer.
  2. Remove from the heat and let steep for 15 minutes, then discard the rosemary, sage and garlic.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large pot, cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt and simmer over moderate heat until tender, about 20 minutes.
  4. Drain well, then pass the potatoes through a ricer into the pot.
  5. Fold in the cream mixture and season generously with salt and pepper.
  6. Light the broiler and position the rack 8 inches from the heat.
  7. Scrape the potatoes into a 9-inch round flameproof pan or baking dish (2 inches deep) and, using a spoon, decoratively swirl the top. (I used a cast iron skillet.)
  8. Gently brush with melted butter.
  9. Broil for about 8 minutes, until the top is browned in spots. Serve hot.

Note: If doubling the recipe, place the riced potatoes into a 12-inch round flameproof pan such as a cast iron skillet.

Skillet Caesar Salad Roast Chicken

Oops… I posted the skillet dessert before the skillet dinner. Now you know that I always plan dessert first. 😉

I loved the way this dish was originally described: “The only thing better than a roast chicken and a Caesar salad is a Caesar salad served with a chicken smothered in Caesar dressing and roasted until the garlic, anchovies, and mustard become deeply caramelized and flavorful.” Wow.

This fabulous, full-flavored roast chicken is from Bon Appétit magazine’s “Healthyish” column- one of my favorites. The recipe is by Molly Baz. Plating the carved chicken in the warm skillet kept the meal at a perfect temperature for serving.

For our family, the croutons were the absolute highlight. They brought a “grilled chicken Caesar salad” to the next level. 🙂 I made them using a pain au levain boule from a local bakery. I also incorporated additional romaine in the salad and garnished it with grated Parmesan. We ate the dish with roasted potatoes on the side.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 8 anchovies, mashed to a paste
  • 8 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 6 T mayonnaise, divided
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more
  • 1 3 ½–4-lb. whole chicken or 4 chicken legs (thigh and drumstick; about 3 lb.)
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 medium shallots, unpeeled, halved lengthwise
  • 1 to 2 lemons, divided
  • 1 oz Parmesan, finely grated, plus more for garnish
  • 4 oz country-style bread, torn into 1 ½” pieces (I used 1/4-loaf Pain au Levain boule)
  • 2 to 3 romaine hearts, leaves separated, torn or sliced (I used 3 Artisan hearts)
  1. Place a rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 450°, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Whisk anchovies, garlic, 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon mustard, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1 ½ teaspoons pepper in a small bowl.
  3. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the anchovy mayo in another small bowl.
  4. Pat chicken dry; season outside and inside all over with salt.
  5. Arrange breast side up in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet and tuck wings underneath.
  6. Arrange shallots around (if using legs, nestle under and around); season with salt and pepper.
  7. Brush remaining anchovy mayo all over chicken, making sure to get it into the nooks and crannies, then brush shallots with any leftover anchovy mayo.
  8. Place chicken in oven so legs are facing toward the back (this is the hottest part of the oven and will help the legs cook before the breast dries out) and roast until some anchovy mayo and fat begin to drip onto shallots, about 15 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and, using tongs, turn shallots to coat in drippings. Return skillet to oven and continue to roast chicken, stirring shallots once or twice, until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of breast registers 155°, about 35–55 minutes. (I used an oven probe.) If skin starts to get too dark on the top before chicken is done, tent area with foil, leaving the rest of the bird exposed. If using chicken legs, start checking at 30 minutes (a thermometer inserted right at the joint should register 160°).
  10. Transfer chicken and shallots to a cutting board, leaving behind any juices and fat in skillet. If shallots need more time to soften and darken, roast a bit longer without chicken before proceeding. (I did not continue to cook the shallots.) Remove the shallot peels. Reserve skillet.
  11. Reduce oven temperature to 400°.
  12. Finely grate half of zest of 1 lemon into a large bowl; cut lemon in half and squeeze in juice.
  13. Add reserved 1 tablespoon anchovy mayo, remaining 3 tablespoons mayo, and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and whisk to combine, then stir in Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Set dressing aside.
  14. Add bread to reserved skillet with fat and turn to coat. Return skillet to oven and toast bread, tossing halfway through, until golden brown and crisp, 12–15 minutes.
  15. Transfer croutons to bowl with reserved dressing. Add romaine and gently toss until lettuce is well coated. Season salad with salt and pepper.
  16. Slice remaining lemon into wedges.
  17. Carve chicken and nestle back into skillet or transfer to a platter; arrange shallots and lemon wedges around. Serve the chicken with the salad. Garnish with grated Parmesan, if desired.

Caramel Apple Skillet Cake with Browned Butter Glaze

I have made this sweet treat on a couple of occasions. I love skillet desserts! This one is perfect for fall or even in the winter. It has an amazing texture.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Erin Jeanne McDowell. I used a browned butter glaze from our favorite apple pie bars instead of the salted caramel frosting suggested in the original recipe. I also modified the method. Yum.

Yield: One 10-inch round cake, about 10 to 12 servings

For the Caramel Apples:

  • 4 tablespoons/55 grams unsalted butter
  • 2 large baking apples (about 12 to 16 ounces/340 to 454 grams), such as Honeycrisp, Gala, Granny Smith or Braeburn, peeled, cored and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup/110 grams dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

For the Cake:

  • 1/2 cup/115 grams unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cup/290 grams dark brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 2/3 cup/215 grams all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

For the Browned Butter Glaze:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • milk or heavy cream, as necessary, to achieve desired consistency
  • pinch of coarse salt or fine sea salt
  1. Make the Caramel Apples: In a 10-inch cast iron skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.
  2. Add the apples, brown sugar and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the apples soften slightly, 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.
  3. Heat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  4. Make the Cake: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, and mix to combine.
  6. Scrape the bowl well, then beat in the vanilla.
  7. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg to combine.
  8. Add the flour mixture to the mixer and mix just until incorporated. Scrape the bowl well.
  9. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the apple mixture (including all of the caramel-like liquid in the pan) into the batter. Mix just until incorporated.
  10. Pour the batter into the prepared skillet and spread into an even layer. Bake until the surface is evenly golden brown and appears set – a toothpick inserted into the center should have a few moist crumbs clinging to it, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely. (I baked it on convection for 30 minutes but may add a couple of minutes onto the baking time next time.)
  11. Make the Glaze: In a small pot or pan, melt the butter. Continue to cook until browned and fragrant.
  12. In a small bowl, whisk together browned butter, powdered sugar, a splash of milk, and a pinch of salt. Whisk until smooth. Add milk as needed until drizzling consistency is achieved.
  13. Spoon into a ziplock bag and cut a tiny tip off one corner of the bag.
  14. Drizzle glaze over cooled cake before slicing.

Fried Chicken with Biscuits & Tomato Gravy

Like my last post, this special and indulgent feast was also included in Food and Wine Magazine’s “40 Best-Ever Recipes” issue celebrating the 40th anniversary of their publication. I made it for the second year in a row to celebrate my husband’s birthday! 🙂

The recipes were adapted from The Gift of Southern Cooking by Scott Peacock, the then chef at Watershed in Decatur, Georgia, and co-author Edna Lewis, the legendary Southern cook, his mentor and close friend. I modified the cooking techniques and substituted sunflower oil for lard. Last year, I made Lewis’ wonderful biscuits from this full menu, but, this year I served the chicken and gravy with sourdough biscuits.

The chicken is double-brined, first in salt water and then in buttermilk, and then fried in a cast iron skillet filled with oil (or lard), butter, and bacon fat. It was very tender and juicy. The creamy and rich gravy is reminiscent of Italian vodka sauce. Pretty delicious. 😉

We ate the chicken, gravy, and biscuits with macaroni and cheese (my favorite version), and iceberg wedge salad on the side. My husband’s birthday meal is not complete without his favorite Vanilla Bean Birthday Cheesecake for dessert. ❤

For the Fried Chicken & Tomato Gravy:

  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • One 3 1/2 to 5 pound chicken, cut into 8 to 10 pieces (I cut each chicken breast in half)
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 3/8 oz, 180.7g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons potato starch (optional) (I included it)
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound lard or solid vegetable shortening, for frying (I substituted 2 cups of sunflower oil)
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 pound sliced bacon (I used 4 thick slices)
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups drained canned diced tomatoes (from three 14-ounce cans)
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used whole milk)

To Make the Fried Chicken:

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve the kosher salt in the cold water. Add the chicken pieces; cover and refrigerate for 4 hours. Drain.
  2. Put the chicken in a large bowl, add the buttermilk and turn the pieces to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours. (The chicken can be refrigerated overnight at this point, if desired.)
  3. In a gallon-size zip-lock bag, combine the flour, cornstarch, potato starch, 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and shake.
  4. Set aside 1/2 cup of the flour mixture for the gravy.
  5. Lift the chicken out of the buttermilk, wipe off any excess and set the pieces on a wire rack; let dry for 5 minutes.
  6. Add the chicken, a few pieces at a time, to the flour mixture in the bag; shake to coat.
  7. Dry the rack. Shake off any excess flour and return the chicken to the rack.
  8. Meanwhile, in a large cast-iron skillet, melt the lard (I used sunflower oil) and butter over medium heat. (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet.)
  9. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat until crisp, about 5 minutes; reserve the bacon for another use. (I crumbled the bacon over our wedge salads.)
  10. Add the chicken, in batches, and cook over moderate heat, basting and turning, until golden, crisp and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Lower the heat if necessary. (I kept the cooking oil temperature between 300 and 340 degrees. I also completed cooking the larger pieces (especially the breast pieces) in the oven at 300 degrees, until they reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees.)
  11. Set the chicken on a clean wire rack to drain.

To Make the Gravy:

  1. Transfer 1/4 cup of the chicken cooking fat to a large saucepan.
  2. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden, about 5 minutes. (I chopped the onion and garlic in a food processor.)
  3. Add the reserved 1/2 cup of seasoned flour and cook, whisking, for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the drained tomatoes and thyme and stir constantly until blended.
  5. Whisk in the cream and milk until the sauce is smooth.
  6. Season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and no floury taste remains, about 10 minutes.
To Serve:
  1. Transfer the fried chicken to a platter.
  2. Pour the tomato gravy into a gravy boat and serve with the chicken.

For the Biscuits:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons single-acting baking powder or double-acting baking powder (see Note)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cold lard or vegetable shortening, cut into pieces (I used bacon fat)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

To Make the Biscuits:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°.
  2. In a bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, work in the lard just until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  4. Stir in the buttermilk just until moistened.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead 2 or 3 times.
  6. Roll out or pat the dough 1/2 inch thick.
  7. Using a 2-inch round cutter, stamp out biscuits as close together as possible. Transfer the biscuits to a baking sheet.
  8. Pat the dough scraps together, reroll and cut out the remaining biscuits; do not overwork the dough.
  9. Pierce the top of each biscuit 3 times with a fork and brush with the butter.
  10. Bake the biscuits for 12 to 14 minutes, or until risen and golden. Serve at once.

Note: The unbaked biscuits can be frozen in a single layer, then kept frozen in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Thaw before baking.

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