Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello
Mom's Stuffed Eggplant
Schiacciata with Caramelized Onions
"Super-Tuscan" White Bean Soup
Now, we're getting down to business with a real chef and a real hottie - Michael Chiarello.
White Bean Soup sounds robust and yummy. Don’t be tempted to use canned beans in this particular recipe, because Michael's cooking the beans with such wonderful flavorings. Oh, who am I kidding? Who has time to deal with raw beans? IF you use canned, (don’t tell MC) drain and rinse them really well. All the stuff that would have been cooked with the beans, just cook it by itself for about 40 minutes to make a richly flavored broth. Then add the canned beans and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
Oh my gosh, he’s putting a truly innovative (well, maybe not if you live in Tuscany) basil olive oil mixture on top of the soup. I LOVE THIS! Let’s face it, Michael Chiarello is HOT with a capital HOT!!! And look at the commanding way he drizzles olive oil over the bruschetta. And, WOW, what a man-sized food processor!!! Do it, brother! Now, he's pureeing the soup with a bit of olive oil. Boy, that looks tasty.
Ok, here we go with the garnish: Garlic, which he chops with his “Choppie” as an homage to his mother. He gets cuter with every ingredient. Garlic in the oil, basil thrown in – STAND BACK! Sizzle my fo shizzle, Michael. Salt, pepper and shake it!! Oh – I LOVE the way MC shakes a sauté pan. That is seriously great stuff. Puts a bit of crispy basil “condimento” on the soup and serves it with a crusty bruschetta. Go, Michael, Go! SCORE!!!
Stuffed eggplant looks good. It’s Mom’s recipe. He halves and hollows out the center, leaving a thick shell. I often find eggplant bitter. The old wisdom says you salt or degorge the eggplant to rid it of the bitter taste. Lately, I’ve been peeling it, instead of salting it and IT’S FINE. Obviously, in this case, we can’t peel it, but keep it in mind for other uses. Now, here’s something I’ve never seen before (teach me, Michael, teach me). He BOILS the innards of the eggplant in salted water and adds it to the sautéed meat, peppers and onions. All those ingreds are sautéed separately, by the way.
OOOOH, there he goes – flipping his meat (don’t be rude), and then flipping the peppers. Really and truly, his technique is flawless. It’s HARD to toss the ingredients in a heavy hot sauté pan as expertly as he does it. He moves on to chop FRESH basil and parsley. I’m talking FRESH. Please may I move to your gardens and vineyard….More choppy chop with the garlic. Wow, that pan must weigh 10 pounds with all those ingredients. He lifts it and tosses all the stuff effortlessly. Pecorino and breadcrumbs complete the filling. And the stuffing goes into the eggplant shells and is topped by chopped toms and cheese. This is no little vegetable side dish. This is for hungry folks who have been working up an appetite hankering after their favorite Food Network chef.
Schiacciata Bread uses FIVE cups of onions. It’s A LOT, but they cook down. He adds water to them and covers with foil – a variation on a French technique that I’ll tell you about one day. Smart guy, he uses pizza parlor pizza dough, and forms it into a disk, which he liberally olive oils up. Ladies, stay calm…He lets it rise and then adds even more olive oil. Tops each disk with the cooked onions, olives and fontina. “Cook in a smokin’ hot 500 degree oven” - just like you, Michael. He finishes the assembled schiacciata with a garnish of parsley, which he doesn’t appear to have chopped at all. The recipe says a handful of parsley leaves. AND THEN he does a neat trick. He spritzes red wine vinegar over the parsley as a finishing touch. Cute touch. Cute chef.
Satisfying episode…and the dishes looked good too.