Italian

Eggplant Timbale

When you are little, Mother's Day is always spent making your mom something nice.  It always seemed to be a hand drawn card, or an attempt at breakfast in bed.  Then you get a bit older and have some money to spend and you try to find that perfect gift.  After a few years of that you start to realize your mother has most of the things she wants, so what do you do then?  Yup, things come full circle and you revert back to making things.  For our mother we decided to do what we do best and make a nice meal.  It is still hard however to choose the right menu.  You want to cook something that is a bit more intricate to make than normal, something that takes some time and effort to complete.  It also needs to taste good, so choosing a new recipe is always a risk because you are never quite sure how it will turn out.  Forgoing our better judgment we decided to go with a new recipe. 

The recipe we found was for a Eggplant Timbale.  This recipe comes from the cookbook Giada's Kitchen by Food Network star Giada de Laurentiis.  Giada is famous for making tons of classic Italian dishes as well as creating new inventive ones.  We have made some of her recipes in the past so we were confident that it would turn out well, but we kept asking outselves what a Timbale was.  It turns out Timbale refers to the type of pan used to cook the dish.  The eggplant is layered in the bottom of the pan, then filled with pasta and meat and covered with eggplant to create this stuffed eggplant pie of Italian goodness.  We figured this would be challenging and interesting to make, so we went for it.

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or pre-heat a gas or charcoal grill. 
  2. Brush the eggplant slices with 1/3 cup olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. 
  3. Grill the eggplant until tender and colored with grill marks, about 4 minutes per side. Set aside.
  4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta.
  5. Meanwhile, warm the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. 
  6. Add the onion and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. 
  7. Add the beef and pork, and brown the meat, breaking it into bite-sized pieces with a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes. 
  8. Add the Marsala and cook until the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. 
  9. Turn off the heat. Add the peas and marinara sauce and stir to combine. Add the cheeses, basil, and cooked pasta. Set aside.
  10. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the springform pan with the grilled eggplant. Be sure that the slices overlap and hang over the edge of the pan. 
  11. Fill the pan with the pasta mixture, pressing down to make sure the pan is filling up evenly. 
  12. Fold the eggplant slices up over the top of the pasta and add a few more slices on top to completely enclose the timbale. 
  13. Bake the timbale until warmed through and the cheese has melted, about 30 minutes. Let rest on the counter for 10 minutes to set.
  14. To serve, invert the timbale onto a serving plate and remove the springform pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese over the top. Slice and serve.

Results:

We were a bit intimidated at first when we saw this recipe in the book.  Turns out it is actually very simple, there are a bunch of components and steps but it all comes together to form an amazing meal.  The grilled eggplant helps to entomb all of the meat, pasta, cheese and sauce in this beautiful pie shape..  The eggplant was fresh and after being grilled it helped add a smoky flavor to the dish.  Once you cut into the timbale you are introduced to the gooey, pasta with meat sauce center.  The sauce of course can come from a jar, but any self respecting Italian knows it is just as easy to whip some up from scratch.  We always make our own, you can see our recipe here (Sauce Recipe).  The sauce is mixed together with the onion, beef and sausage mixture which has been cooked down in Marsala wine.  The meat and onions really soaked up the Marsala imparting this rich flavor.  When mixed together with the sauce, peas and cheese you end up with this extremely flavorful filling.  There are just layers upon layer of flavors hidden throughout this dish.  Everything works so well together and provides a unique eating experience.  

Should Or Should Not Eat:

This recipes is both a unique dish which will really surprise all of your guests.  It is not often you serve what appears to be eggplant pie.  It sounds much classier as an Eggplant Timbale and is a Should Eat.  This dish offers up huge flavors combined with classic Italian ingredients.  If you love  Eggplant and pasta, this dish is for you.

Porchetta

We were first introduced to porchetta last year by our friend Erich.  Every weekend in the summer there is an outdoor flea market/food vendor event known as Smorgasboard.  At this event you will find numerous restaurants schilling their signature dishes right on the shores of the East River.  One of the attending restaurants is in fact named Porchetta, and their signature dish is a Porchetta Sandwich.  Normally located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan they make the trek each weekend to Williamsburg to feed the masses these delicious sandwiches.  Porchetta is a traditional Italian dish which consists of layering a pork belly with herbs spices and pork loin which is then rolled up and roasted in the oven.  Everyone makes theirs a bit differently but in the end you always end up with succulent pork.  Porchetta takes their meat and places it on a small Italian roll with a piece of the crackling (crispy skin) on top.  It is very simple but that its all that is needed.  After our first bite we were in heaven.  After our second bite we knew we had to make this.  A few days went by and we never researched any recipes.  

Then one day we stumbled onto what we consider one of the best food blogs around, www.iamafoodblog.com.  On this site you can see awesome recipes with amazing photos laid out in a unique style.  We have to admit we have a bit of food blog envy, but after we composed ourselves we noticed a Porchetta recipe.  Not only that but it was also linked to a Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives episode where Guy visited a place called Bread & Meat.  In this restaurant they only have 4 items on the menu  with one of them being a Porchetta Sandwich.  From this video ad one other recipe iamafoodblog, was able to recreate this amazing dish.   Thank to them we now had an amazing porchetta recipe and their pictures ensured that we had to give it a try.

Ingredients:

Salt Rub

  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 teaspoons whole rosemary toasted
  • 2 teaspoons toasted fennel seed crushed
  • 2 teaspoons chili flakes
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • zest of 1 lemon

Herb Rub

  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary

Salsa Verde  

  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 teaspoons toasted fennel seeds ground
  • 2 teaspoons toasted coriander ground
  • 2 teaspoons chili flakes
  • salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • lemon juice from 2 lemons

Porchetta

pork tenderloin, around 3 inches in diameter, 1-2 pounds
12 inch slab of pork belly, skin lightly scored
oil
string

Porchetta Sandwhiches

2 ciabatta rolls
2 cups porchetta, still warm, thinly sliced and chopped
bit of crackling, roughly chopped
dijon mustard

Directions:

Porchetta

Combine the ingredients for the salt rub in a small bowl. Lightly sprinkle the inside of the pork belly with the salt rub (you won’t need to use all of it). Sprinkle the herb rub and place the tenderloin in the centre of the belly. Tightly roll up the belly around the tenderloin and tie together with kitchen twine. Rub the skin generously with oil and a bit more of the salt rub. Place your porchetta in a dish, cover and place in the fridge for at least 12 hours.

Heat the oven to 275F. Place the porchetta on a rack in a deep roasting pan. Lots of fat will be rendered out of the porchetta, so make sure your roasting pan is deep enough.  Roast on the centre rack of the oven for 4 hours. Use a meat thermometer to check that the internal temperature is 160F. Blast the heat up to 450 and continue to roast for 35 minutes, keeping an eye on the skin. You want the crackling golden brown and crispy, not burnt.

Remove from the oven, let rest for 15-20 minutes, slice and enjoy!

Salsa Verde

Puree the salsa verde ingredients until smooth. Assemble the sandwiches by slicing the rolls lengthwise and topping with porchetta. Add a bit of crackling and a drizzle of salsa verde. Serve with dijon mustard and enjoy.

Results:

When you try a new recipe there is always the concern that it could turn out bad.  Other times you worry if the recipe will taste as good as you are hyping it up to be in your own mind.  Then to make things worse if you have already eaten an amazing version of the dish previously will inevitably compare your meal to the original.  We had all of these thoughts racing through our mind when we were making this recipe.  Fortunately all of are worries were for naught, as the Porcetta was amazing.  This roast was so juicy and flavorful thanks to all of the fat from the pork belly.  The pork belly in essence basted the pork loin as it cooked.  The fresh herbs added a great aroma to kitchen as they cooked and imparted the perfect flavor profile into the meat.  The herbs and spices that were used were perfectly paired with natural flavor of the pork. 

The outside of the porchetta was roasted pork skin which turned into a crisp crackling.  Basically a fresh pork rind that just melts in your mouth.  It added an needed amount of crunch to this dish.  As we mentioned the pork belly added a ton of fat and natural juices to this dish.  For those of you not aware pork belly is what bacon is made out of.  Once a pork belly has been cured it is then considered bacon.  Basically this porchetta was a pork loin wrapped up in bacon.  Obviously there was a ton of flavor from that alone, but the spice rub and herbs all add to the insanely good flavor of the entire dish.  Then the fresh salsa verde was the perfect compliment to finish off the dish. 

The pork was a tad bit salty by itself, but the salsa is helped to cut the flavor of the salt. The salsa was e super fresh combination of parsley and lemon juice along with the same spice in the the rub.  By using the same spices from the rub in the salsa it helps keep the same flavor profile throughout the entire dish.  All of the ingredients piled high on the fresh roll was just picture perfect.  Our first bite was filled with intense flavors and pure joy.  We had managed to make the perfect dish, it tasted better than we imagined.  We knew instantly that this dish will be a hit any where we make it or wherever we bring it.  Summer BBQs, Jets Tailgates and impromptu gatherings beware the Porchetta is now lurking.

Should or Should Not Eat:

If you gotten this far then you have seen all of the pictures and read everything we had to say about the dish.  You must then have already figured out that it is a Should Eat.  If there was anything more like a Must Should Eat than this recipe would be it.  We promise this recipe will be the hit everywhere, people will beg you for the recipe.  Tell them We Ate That.com sent you. 

Porchetta

Chicken Marsala

We were craving a nice home cooked Italian meal.  We have eaten all kinds of pasta and chicken parm lately, but we were in the mood for something a little bit different.  Then we remembered we had an old recipe hidden some where in our files.  The recipe is actually just notes that were taken while watching our grandmother cook.  Unfortunately the notes were taken by another member of the family and were written in what could only be considered free form, so they took a bit of decoding and guessing to understand.  After a bit of studying we were able to figure out the recipe and our meal set.  We decide to plate the chicken marsala over pasta. 

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken breasts about an inch thick (will be cut in half to create 8 pieces) add more if needed
  • 1/4 cup of flour for gravy (extra for dredging)
  • 1/4 cup Marsala Wine
  • 3 cubes of chicken bullion
  • 3 tbsp Butter
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • Parsley 
  • Water
  • Oil

Directions:

Chicken

  1. Cut chicken breasts in half creating pieces that are about 1/4 inch thick
  2. Pound chicken breasts lightly to make them uniform in size
  3. Pre-heat a pan with olive oil over medium heat, oil should be 1/8 inch deep 
  4. Create a dredge for the chicken by adding flour to a bowl. Season with salt and pepper
  5. Evenly coat chicken in flour and shake off the excess
  6. Add chicken to the pan and turn the heat up so that the chicken is frying
  7. Cook for about 5 minutes till golden brown, flip over and brown the other side
  8. Place cooked chicken on a plate with a paper towel to drain and cool
  9. Reserve cooking oil for gravy

Gravy

  1. Take 1/4 cup of flour and add into a 1/2 cup of water
  2. Mix thoroughly until it resembles milk
  3. Add in 1/4 cup of Marsala wine
  4. Pour mixture into the leftover cooking oil used to cook the chicken
  5. Turn the heat on the pan to medium
  6. Mix together and add 1/2 cup of water, mix until there are no lumps
  7. Add 3 cubes of chicken bullion, mix until dissolved
  8. If mixture is too thick add water until you reach desired consistency
  9. Cook on low heat for 15 minutes, whisking once or twice
  10. On the side heat up 3 tablespoons of butter
  11. Add 1/2 tsp of onion powder to the hot butter then add butter into the gravy
  12. In a new pan, heat  a bit of butter on medium heat
  13. Fill pan with chicken and add enough gravy to cover chicken
  14. Add a splash of Marsala wine & parsley
  15. Cook until chicken is warm and then serve either as is or over a side of pasta

Results:

No need to order out anymore for good chicken marsala with this recipe in hand.  If you are looking for home cooked chicken marsala like your grandmother used to make, look no further.  The chicken was lightly breaded and had a perfect crispy outside.  Pounding out the chicken allowed us to get cutlets that cooked quickly and evenly. The chicken was moist and retained all of its juices.  The sauce was exactly what you would get at a good Italian restaurant.  We were split on if the sauce was too think our not, but it is all personal preference and can be adjusted according.  If you prefer a thicker sauce this recipe should work just fine for you.  If you want a thinner sauce just add small amounts of water to the sauce until you get the consistency you desire.  That is the beauty of this recipe, there is so much flavor in the sauce that even when you add water it does not dilute any of the flavor.  

This was the perfect dish served over a bed of pasta.  We used some penne and topped it off with a bit of pecorino romano cheese.  This was the read deal dish and was very good.  In the future we may consider adding in mushroom to the sauce to give it some additional flavor.  This chicken could also be served sandwich style.  Get a nice fresh roll top it with the chicken cutlets and marsala sauce and finish it off with a slice of fresh mozzarella.  

Should Or Should Not Eat:

If you are craving homemade chicken marsala then you should try this recipe because it is a Should Eat.  This recipe comes from our grandmothers secret stash and you know those recipes are always good.  It even seems to retain some of the love she puts into it as well.  This has become one of our new favorite recipes and it may just become one of yours.