Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
In a large skillet, heat 4 tbsp (60 ml) of the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add sausage and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, breaking up meat with a fork. Add fennel and mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until sausage and mushrooms are browned and fennel is tender, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a mortar and pestle, grind fennel seeds with black pepper. Add garlic and salt and continue mixing until a smooth paste forms. Mix in remaining 2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil. Add the fennel paste to the sausage mixture along with the broth and cook, uncovered, for another 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in spinach and heat through, 1 to 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
To prepare cheese béchamel sauce: Measure milk and cream into a large measuring cup. Melt butter in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir with a whisk until lump-free. In a thin stream, add some of the milk-cream mixture, stirring with a whisk until well absorbed. Repeat, making sure each addition has been well absorbed before adding more liquid. When all the liquid has been added, cook 5 minutes more, until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. Whisk in egg yolks and season with salt and pepper. Transfer béchamel to a large bowl, add sausage mixture and stir to combine.
Meanwhile, cook tortellini in a large pot of boiling salted water until just al dente. (Do not cook more than this, as they will bake further in the oven.) Drain tortellini and add to the bowl with sausage mixture and béchamel. Toss until well combined. Lightly oil a 14-inch (35 cm) round earthenware tiella or baking dish. Add tortellini mixture to tiella, top with Parmigiano and season with piment d’Espelette, if using. Cover and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until tortellini are heated through and Parmigiano has melted. Remove cover and broil for 1 to 2 minutes, until golden brown. Let rest 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with reserved fennel fronds and extra Parmigiano, then drizzle with olive oil.
This great dish can be assembled up to two days ahead and baked just before serving. Perfect when entertaining as it frees up time to prepare the other dishes.<< Back
To prepare filling: Heat butter and oil in a large skillet and sauté shallots until soft, 1 to 2 minutes, and remove from heat. Stir in walnuts, grapes, chives and bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool slightly. Leave goat cheese aside for now.
To prepare chicken: Oil a 14-inch (35 cm) round earthenware tiella or roasting pan with 2 tbsp (30 ml) of the olive oil and set aside. On a baking sheet, season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Make a lengthwise slit in each chicken breast, being careful not to cut all the way through. (This will form the pocket for the stuffing.) Rub remaining 4 tbsp (60 ml) olive oil into the chicken (including in the pockets). Divide stuffing equally among chicken breasts, stuffing it into the slit in each breast, and top with a slice of goat cheese. Pull the chicken skin over the filling and secure with toothpicks. Smear butter over the skin and season again to taste with salt and pepper.
Gently transfer chicken to prepared tiella. Scatter orange wedges, rosemary and bay leaves around chicken. Roast 35 to 40 minutes, or until juices run clear when the thickest part of the breast is pierced. Then broil 2 to 3 minutes, or until skin is crisp and golden. Drizzle with orange juice and serve warm with pan juices.
The chicken breasts can be assembled the day before, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated. When ready to serve, bring chicken to room temperature and cook as instructed. Doing it this way allows the flavours time to meld together beautifully.
I’m convinced food tastes better when cooked in a shallow, glazed earthenware dish known in Italian as a tiella. I find earthenware dishes distribute heat slowly and evenly as the food cooks. Aromas and flavours are intensified and casseroles never stick or dry out.
To season a tiella: Before using your tiella the first time, immerse the dish in cold water to soak overnight. The next day, empty the tiella and wipe it dry. Rub the inside with olive oil and place in a preheated 300°F (150°C) oven for 1½ hours. Remove seasoned tiella from oven and place on a wooden board or thick tablecloth to cool. (If placed on a surface like granite or a cold stovetop, it will crack.) To clean a tiella, soak it in warm, soapy water, then scrub with a soft sponge.<< Back
Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
Generously butter a 10-inch (25 cm) round cake pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Lightly dust sides of pan with flour and set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift together cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand-up mixer fitted with a flat paddle attachment, beat butter on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 1 minute. In a small bowl, combine the two sugars.
Gradually add sugar mixture to butter, beating on medium speed until well combined, about 2 minutes, scraping the sides down with a spatula. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in vanilla. Add mascarpone and beat to incorporate. Add flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beating on medium-low speed until each addition is combined, ending with flour. Spread batter evenly into prepared baking pan. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Cool cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Peel off parchment paper. Cool thoroughly, then slice horizontally into two layers.
To assemble: In the bowl of a stand-up mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk mascarpone, whipping cream and vanilla sugar until smooth. On the cut side of the bottom cake layer, spread the jam, followed by the mascarpone cream. Cover with the top cake layer, dust with icing sugar and serve.
Serves 10 to 12
There is no substitute for high-quality cocoa powder. Hand-picked, premium cocoa beans, roasted to perfection, are the basis of the rich taste of cocoa powder from respected manufacturers like Valrhona and Callebaut. These cocoa powders are Dutch-processed, meaning they have been treated with an alkali to neutralize the beans’ natural acidity.
European bakers swear by those little sachets of vanilla sugar. Tearing one open releases the aromas of an Italian pasticceria. In this recipe, you could substitute 1 tbsp (15 ml) granulated sugar and 1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract. You can also prepare vanilla sugar in a large batch at home by combining 2 cups (500 ml) granulated sugar with the scraped seeds of one vanilla bean. Let it infuse for about a week before using.<< Back
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add kale, potatoes, crushed garlic and 1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook until greens are wilted and potatoes are cooked through, about 20 to 25 minutes. Drain and let cool, then chop coarsely. In a large skillet, add the remaining oil, the thinly sliced garlic and the chili pepper and sauté until golden. Add the chopped vegetables, season with salt and pepper and sauté a minute or two longer.
Meanwhile, brush bread slices on both sides with olive oil and spread on a baking sheet. Bake 8 to10 minutes, until golden and crisp (or grill on a stovetop griddle pan). Rub one side of each slice with garlic and set aside.
To serve, arrange toasted bread slices on a large platter and divide vegetables among them. Top with pecorino and drizzle generously with olive oil.
Serves 8<< Back
Soak fruit, except figs, in ice water for 20 minutes and drain. Place fruit on a large platter, garnish with bay leaves and serve immediately.
Assemble this fruit platter at the very last minute. Soaking the fruits in ice water makes them crisp and fresh.
Sweet, juicy summer peaches are real treasures. My all-time favourite is the Saturn. It is a most unusual-looking heirloom peach, short and squat, almost flattened, with whitish-yellow skin tinged with red highlights. The juicy white flesh is silky and deliciously sweet.<< Back
To prepare chicken ragu: Heat butter and oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot and the leaves from half the thyme sprigs. Sauté until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add chicken and sauté until golden brown. Stir in tomato paste and wine, raise heat and cook until wine has evaporated. Lower heat to medium-low and stir in chili pepper, bay leaves, roasted red pepper, remaining thyme leaves and puréed tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, prepare mushrooms: In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms and garlic and sauté until mushrooms are golden. Raise heat to high, add wine and cook until evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and stir in parsley.
Add mushrooms to chicken ragu, along with ½ cup (125 ml) broth. Simmer, uncovered, for 1½ to 2 hours, adding more broth as needed.
To prepare polenta: Bring 16 cups (4 l) water to a boil in a large stockpot over high heat. Add salt and 1 tbsp (15 ml) of the oil. As soon as water begins to boil, turn heat down to medium-low and slowly add cornmeal in a very thin stream, stirring constantly with a whisk so lumps don’t form. Continue stirring until well blended. When polenta starts to boil, reduce heat to lowest setting and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for about 30 minutes. (The polenta is ready when it comes away from the pot.) Stir in butter and remaining 2 tbsp (30 ml) oil and transfer to a large wooden board, spreading well.
Top with chicken ragu and sprinkle with Parmigiano.
Serves 8 to 10
Polenta is a northern Italian staple. I like the smooth, velvety texture achieved by combining coarse and fine cornmeal.
If your polenta seems too firm, add some extra water, chicken broth, cream or milk just before stirring in the butter and oil.<< Back