Saturday, April 12, 2008

Cooking with Oat Meal & Wine Cork

One of my favorite restaurants in NY is Babbo. The food & service is always consistently good & has, in my opinion, one of the best sommeliers in town. Their signature dish, beef cheek ravioli is to die for.

The company I had worked for used to organise forums for their staff inviting celebrities & guests speakers. On one occasion, it was Mario Batali. He came across as being personable and I was fortunate enough to meet him, chatted a little & even got a signed copy of his cookbook, simply titled Babbo.

I've had the cookbook a while now but never had a chance to try any of the recipes although out of nostalgia, I would flip to the page for beef cheek ravioli & just ravished at the sight of that dish. For FND this week, I wanted to cook 2 dishes from there & since I'm tired of duck or any sort of meat, it's going to be all seafood.

So what has that got to do with oat meal & wine cork, you ask. Well I will be using cockles & the internet says that I need to scrub them thoroughly then place them in salted water with a little oat meal for half an hour - they will feed on the oatmeal & excrete any dirt & sand. So I obediently fed my cockles oat meal.

Next on the menu is baby octopus. I didn't manage to find any so I bought 2 medium octopuses instead. Mario says I need to boil them for an hour with red wine vinegar & a wine cork. Apparently there is some chemical reaction from the wine cork that will make the octopus tender. So I boiled my octupuses with wine cork.

The starter is Steamed Shrimp & Cockles in a green chilli-basil brodetto. The verdict is unananimous. We both loved it & gulped down whatever broth there was. The original recipe calls for Mahogany clams but I used cockles instead.

Next linguine with baby octopus, green chillis & mint. The photo doesn't do it justice. I'm still having difficulty photographing food at nights. The sauce is delicious. X didn't like the mint in the sauce but I loved it. I, on the other hand, wasn't too keen on the octopus. I think I'm going to hunt me down some baby octopuses to do this again.

For dessert, home made strawberry swirl ice cream.

Steamed Shrimp and Mahogany Clams in a green chili-basil brodetto
taken from Babbo
serves 4

9 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 green chili, seeded & finely chopped
20 mahogany clams or cockles
12 shrimps, peeled & deveined (keeping the head & tail)
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
10 basil leaves, finely shredded

To prepare the cockles : Scrub them thoroughly to remove any grit. Then leave them in a sink / pail of salted water with a handful of oatmeal for at least half an hour.

1. Heat 3 tbsp of olive oil until almost smoking. Add garlic & saute over high heat until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the green chillis, clams, shrimp & white wine & cover. Lower the heat to medium & cook for 3 mins. The clams should open & the shrimps should be pink. Discard any unopened clams.

2. Add the parsley, toss gently over low heat for 1 minute, and remove from the heat. Add he remaining 6 tbsp of olive oil & stir through. Divide evenly among 4 warmed dinner bowls, sprinkle with the basil & serve immediately.

Note : Although you can't see from the picture, I'd kept the prawn heads intact. It gives more flavor to the broth. Just remove the shell & devein keeping the head & tail.

Linguine with Baby Octopus, Green Chili & Mint
taken from Babbo
serves 4

1 kg baby octopus
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 wine cork
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Jalapeno pesto (green chilli pesto)
1 cup basic tomato sauce (I used home made tomato coulis)
12 fresh mint leaves
black pepper, to taste

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the baby octopuses, vinegar, cork & water to cover. Bring to a boil & cook uncovered for 15 mins. Drain & allow to cool (If using one large octopus, cook it whole for up to an hour or until it's tender & then cut into pieces before tossing into the pan).

2. Boil a pot of salted water

3. Heat the olive oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the garlic cloves & cook until light golden brown, about 3 mins. Add the jalapeno pesto, tomato sauce & octopuses and cook over high heat for 5 mins.

4. Meanwhile cook the linguine in the boiling water as per instructions al dente. Drain the pasta and add to the panwith the sauce. Add the mint leaves and toss over high heat for 1 minutes, season with salt & pepper and serve immediately.

Jalapeno pesto
makes 1 cup
I really like this. This can be kept up to 1 week, refrigerated, in an airtight container.

6 jalapeno peppers (green chillis) stems removed, seeds intact
1/4 cup blanched and sliced almonds
1/2 red onion, diced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine the peppers, almonds & onion in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until pureed, then slowly drizzle in the oil until emulsified.

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