As I mentioned yesterday, I had the good fortune to have two very satisfying dinners over the weekend. On Saturday night our food friend and frequent Infinite Table subject Jyoti invited us over to her apartment for a three cheese fondue with tomato onion chutney. We wandered out through the light snow flurries and arrived to the wonderful smell of onions cooking on the stove. This is one of my favorite smells in the world, especially on a cold winter night. After a round of cocktails and several pilfered chunks of cheese (Becca was grating; I was eating), we were ready to melt the cheese. Jyoti dumped our piles of gruyere, Emmenthal, and vacherin (a gooey, soft, totally to-die-for cheese) into a big pot and melted away. Then she folded in the tomato onion chutney and served it in her perfect heart-shaped fondue pot.

Even though I had been eating stolen bits of cheese and pouring a bag of pita chips into my face the whole evening, I saved enough room to be starving by the time dinner was served. Instead of the traditional pieces of meat and vegetables, we decided to load up on carbs. Nick boiled and then quickly sauted some tortellini and I brought along a few loaves of Jim Lahey’s stecchia (long, Italian loaves from my bread hero) that I had made the night before. We swarmed the fondue pot and proceeded to stuff our faces. The chutney was a delicious addition to the melted cheese and I really loved the flavor of the melted vacherin. Nick and I were a little skeptical about the idea of using tortellini, but it turned out to be delicious. We opted for a chicken-filled tortellini since we thought a three-cheese tortellini dipped in three-cheese fondue might be too much, even for professional eaters such as ourselves. My bread also turned out reasonably well. It tasted delicious, but looked pretty ugly and definitely nothing like Jim’s perfect loaves in his cookbook (hence the lack of pictures). I’ll definitely be trying the bread again because I loved the taste, but I promise I’ll work on making prettier loaves so I can photograph them for you.

If you’re on the East Coast, I hope you are staying warm and dry. In New York we’re expecting another snow storm tonight, which seems like the perfect moment to make some beef stock and guzzle a bottle of red wine. As always, recipes after the jump!

Tomato Onion Chutney

  • 2 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • a 14-ounce can tomatoes, drained well in a colander
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

In a heavy skillet cook the onion and the mustard seeds in the butter over moderate heat until the onion begins to turn golden. Add the tomatoes, the vinegar, the sugar, and the allspice, cook the mixture, stirring and breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon, until the chutney is very thick, and add the parsley and salt and pepper to taste. The chutney may be made 3 days in advance and kept covered and chilled.

 

Three-Cheese Fondue

yield: Serves 6

ingredients

  • 1/2 pound Gruyère, grated coarse (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 pound Emmenthal, grated coarse (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 pound Doux de Montagne, Havarti, or Vacherin Fribourgeois, grated coarse (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons Calvados
  • 1/3 cup tomato onion chutney
  • Accompaniments: soft breadsticks with fennel seed
  • assorted cooked vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and pearl onions
  • cooked tortellini or tortelloni

In a large bowl toss together well the cheese and the cornstarch. Rub the inside of a heavy saucepan with the garlic, leaving it in the pan, add the wine, 3/4 cup water, and the lemon juice, and boil the mixture for 1 minute. Stir in the cheese mixture gradually and bring the mixture to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring. Stir in the Calvados and simmer the mixture, stirring, for 2 minutes. Transfer the fondue to a fondue pot, swirl in the chutney, and set the fondue pot on its stand over a low flame. Serve the breadsticks, the potatoes, the vegetables, and the tortellini for dipping into the fondue. Stir the fondue often to keep it combined.

Jim Lahey’s Stecca

3 cups (400 grams) bread flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon instant or other active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups (350 grams) cool 55-65F water
additional flour for dusting
20 pieces of the any combination of following: whole garlic cloves, whole olives, halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt

1. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, table salt, sugar and yeast. Add the water and, using a wooden spoon, mix until you have a wet, sticky dough, about 30 seconds. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough is more than doubled in size, 10 to 18 hours (24 hours if you have a cold cold home.)

2.  When the first rise is complete, generously dust a work surface with flour. Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough out of the bowl in one piece. Fold the dough over itself to her three times and gently shape it into a somewhat flattened ball. Brush the surface of the dough with some of the olive oil and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the coarse salt (which will gradually dissolve on the surface).

3.  Grab a large bowl (large enough to hold the dough when it doubles in size. you could also use a large pot) and brush the insides of the bowl with olive oil. Gently place the dough, seam side down into the bowl. Cover bowl with a towel. Place in a warm draft free spot to rise for 1 to 2 hours. The dough is ready when it is almost doubled. If you gently poke it with your finger, it should hold the impression. If it springs back, let it rise for another 15 minutes.

4. Half an hour before the end of the second rise, pre-heat the oven to 500F, with a rack in the center. Oil a 13″ x 18″ x 1″ baking sheet.

5.  Cut the dough into quarters. Gently stretch each piece evenly into a long, thin, baguette shape approximately the length of the pan. Place on the pan, leaving about 1 inch between the loaves. Embed the garlic cloves, olives or cherry tomatoes into the loaves, about five pieces per loaf. Drizzle, tab or brush olive oil on each loaf. Sprinkle sea salt or kosher salt over each loaf, remember to go light on the olive loaf since the olives are salty.

6. Bake For 15 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Cool on a pan for five minutes, then use a spatula to transfer the baguette to a rack to cool thoroughly.

Note: The baguette may become a bit soggy in just a few hours because of the salt on the surface. If that happens, reheat the loaves in a hot oven until crisp.


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