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Mulled Wine

Mulled Wine

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • One bottle (750 mL) of red wine (suggestions: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot)

  • One peeled and sliced orange (keep peel to add zest to taste into cooking pot)

  • 1/4 cup of brandy

  • 8-10 cloves

  • 1/3 cup honey or sugar*

  • 3 cinnamon sticks

  • 1 tsp fresh or 2 tsp ground ginger (allspice can be substituted)

  • Serves 4-6

Preparation:

To make the perfect cup of mulled wine, combine all ingredients in either a large pot or a slow cooker. Gently warm the ingredients on low to medium heat (avoid boiling), for 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure that the honey or sugar has completely dissolved. When the wine is steaming and the ingredients have been well blended it is ready to serve. Ladle the mulled wine into mugs (leave seasonings behind) and enjoy! * The 1/3 cup of honey or sugar does make a sweeter-styled mulled wine, feel free to cut honey/sugar down to taste.

Pear Tarte Tatin

Pear Tarte Tatin

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon honey

  • 2 pounds (about 6 medium) firm-ripe pears, cored and peeled

  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon zest

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Preparation:

Working on a clean surface, roll the pastry dough into an 11-inch circle and chill.

Melt the butter in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet. Add the sugar and cook it for 4 to 5 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to evenly caramelize the sugar. The sugar is done when it has turned a medium golden brown hue. Remove the skillet from the heat, stir in the honey, and set it aside.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the pears lengthwise into 1/3-inch slices. Toss the pear slices gently, but thoroughly, with the lemon zest and nutmeg. Arrange the pears in a single layer in the hot caramel and honey in the skillet.

Return the skillet to the stovetop and cook the pears over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the pears start to turn tender. Remove the skillet from the heat and drape the pastry over the spiced pears, fitting the overhang down between the fruit and the sides of the skillet. Bake in the preheated oven 25 to 30 minutes, until the pastry turns golden brown. Cool the tarte Tatin in the skillet for 30 minutes before inverting it onto a serving platter.

This pear tarte Tatin recipe makes 8 servings.

CHEESY PASTA CASSEROLE

CHEESY PASTA CASSEROLE

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours

Total Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/8 pounds (500 g) sun-ripened cherry tomatoes, ideally from Montecalvo Irpino

  • 1/2 pound (220 g) mixed pasta from Flumari (in the Province of Avellino)

  • A rib of Gesualdo (Province of Avellino) celery, finely chopped

  • 1/2 pound (220 g) potatoes, ideally from Montoro Superiore (Frazione di Banzano, Irpinia), peeled and cubed

  • A Cipolla Ramata (coppery onion) from Montoro, peeled and chopped, and Lello insists it be ramata, not white or purple

  • 8 basil leaves from san Michele di Serino — the basil, he says, that Irpinians “exported” to Liguria

  • A half cup of extravirgin olive oil, ideally from the Ravece cultivar

  • A dusting of Carmasciano Pecorino (One could use quality Romano if one had to)

  • 10 bits of Quanciale from Sturno (Guanciale is cured pork jowl, one could also use flat pancetta, and dice a single 3mm (1/8 inch) slice

  • A half pound to a pound (2-400 g) smoked Caciocavallo Podolico, cubed — the amount depends upon your appetite and how cold it is outside

  • 2 quarts (2 l) vegetable broth, made as you prefer, simmering

Preparation:

Before the procedure, a note: Caciocavallo Podolico is a cow’s milk craft cheese from the Irpinia region; it is firm, and fairly elastic when young, becoming sharper and more crumbly with age, and will soften when heated. Tradition dictates the forms, which are shaped like gourds, be made in pairs that are tied together with a string and slung over a pole to age, hence the name — Cacio (cheese) (a) Cavallo, astride, in this case astride a pole. If you cannot find smoked Caciocavallo Podolico use either regular Caciocavallo or if need beProvolone from a small form (provolone forms vary tremendously in size, from small to enormous).

Returning to the procedure, heat the olive oil in a broad fairly deep earthenware pot. Saute the guanciale, and when it has begun to brown add the onion and the tomatoes, and after a few minutes the diced potatoes, celery and basil. Simmer the mixture as if you were making an “easy” sauce, and after about 15 minutes add the vegetable broth.

Bring the mixture almost to a boil and add the pasta.

Cook the pasta over a gentle flame, adding only a little more broth if necessary; you will end up with a very thick mixture of pasta and potatoes. I would add that you should occasionally give the pot a brisk shake, or even gently stir the contents, lest the mixture stick and burn.

To bring it to perfection, let it rest for 2 hours, then stir in the cubes of smoked Caciocavallo Podolico, and dust all with the Pecorino. Heat through for 15 minutes in a preheated 300 F (150 C) oven, and you’ll enjoy the world’s best pasta and potato casserole!

Food – Wine paring: The structure, complexity, and perfect balance reached by the Cantine Contrada’s 2003 Fiano Di Avellino make it perfect for this dish, though one could also opt for a Fiano Minutolo.

STRAWBERRY RHUBARB CRISP

STRAWBERRY RHUBARB CRISP

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chopped fresh rhubarb

  • 5 cups strawberries, hulled, rinsed, sliced

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon grated orange rind

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 1/3 cup Grand Marnier liqueur, or use Cointreau or Orange Juice

  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans, slivered almonds, or other chopped nuts

  • Pinch salt

  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream

  • 1 to 2 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar

  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon almond extract

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly butter the bottom of a large (4-quart) baking dish. A 15x10x2-inch pan will hold 4 quarts, or use two smaller pans, such as 11x7x2-inch or 9-inch square.

In a large bowl, toss the rhubarb and strawberries with the granulated sugar and orange zest. In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the Grand Marnier or Cointreau or Orange Juice and toss with he rhubarb mixture until well coated. Spoon the mixture into the prepared dish and set aside.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the butter, flour, oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon with a pastry blender until crumbly. Stir in the almonds or pecans and salt, then stir in the egg with a fork until well blended. Spread the mixture evenly over the rhubarb mixture and bake for 45 minutes, or until nicely browned and bubbly. Remove from oven and keep warm while making whipped cream. If desired, serve this crisp with ice cream or whipped topping instead of fresh whipped cream.

In a medium size bowl, whip the cream with the confectioners sugar until soft peaks form. Beat in the almond extract. Cut the warm crisps into squares and serve topped with generous dollops of the whipped cream. 

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