Chef Scott Conant, restaurateur and author of "The Scarpetta Cookbook," returned to THE TALK for "Home Cooked for the Holidays" and shared some of his Italian inspired holiday dishes.
Molasses and Balsamic-Glazed Slow-Roasted Pork
Serves 6 to 8
Extra-virgin olive oil
½ small onion, quartered
5 sprigs fresh thyme
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup chicken reduction (recipe attached)
1 cup unsulfured molasses
2 tablespoons dry mustard
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 (5-bone) pork loin roast, about 4 pounds, preferably
Berkshire pork, chine bones removed
2 small sprigs fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
Heat just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and 1 sprig of the thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes to develop the flavors.
Add the vinegar, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook until reduced to about ¹⁄³ cup, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the Chicken Reduction and continue to cook until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Stir in the molasses, mustard, and crushed red pepper.
Heat a convection oven to 500°F or a conventional oven to 525°F. (If you have a second oven, heat it to 250°F for convection and 275°F for conventional.)
Set the pork on a rack over a rimmed baking sheet. If the pork has its fat cap on, lightly score the fat using just the weight (no additional pressure) of a very sharp knife. Season the pork lightly all over with salt. Reserve about ½ cup of the molasses mixture for serving and coat the roast with the rest. Let stand for 30 minutes, occasionally brushing the molasses that runs off the meat back over it.
Roast the pork in the 500°F oven (525°F conventional oven) for 10 minutes.
If you do not have a second oven heating, reduce the oven temperature to 250°F (275°F for a conventional oven). Take the pork out of the oven and carefully add water to the bottom of the pan to keep the meat moist as it continues to cook. Top the roast with the remaining 4 sprigs of thyme, the rosemary, and the garlic slices, and season again lightly with salt. If you have a second oven already heated, put the pork in there. If not, allow the oven temperature to reduce for 10 minutes before returning the roasts to the oven.
Continue cooking, basting the meat occasionally and adding a little more water as needed, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast registers 145°F, about 2 hours. Remove the pork from the oven and allow it to rest for 20 minutes before serving.
Serve the pork as either bone-in chops or boneless slices. For the latter, cut the entire loin away from the bones in one piece, and then slice across the grain. Brush the chops or slices with the additional reserved molasses mixture and serve.
Spinach and Ricotta Gnudi with Concentrated Tomato Sauce
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
5 ounces baby spinach, tough stems removed
1 pound ricotta cheese, preferably sheep's milk, drained if very wet
2 large egg yolks
1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated
¼ cup "00" flour, plus more as needed
3 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
Pinch of nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Concentrated Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving
In a sauté pan large enough to hold the spinach, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the spinach and cook, turning occasionally with tongs, until completely wilted. Let cool, and then use your hands to squeeze the spinach very dry. Chop the spinach very, very finely.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the ricotta, egg yolks, and spinach. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano, flour, panko, nutmeg, salt, and about 15 grinds of pepper, and combine until just incorporated. The dough should feel moist but should not stick to your hands; if it does, add a little more flour. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
While the dough rests, bring a small saucepan of salted water to a boil. Roll a piece of the dough into a ball about the size of a golf ball, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes to test for texture. If the gnudi is too soft to hold its shape, add more flour to the dough. Refrigerate the dough for about 1 hour; this allows it to hydrate and will make shaping the dough easier.
Shape the spinach-ricotta mixture into golf ball–size balls (about 28 total). Refrigerate if not using right away. Otherwise, bring a large saucepan of well-salted water to a gentle boil.
In a large sauté pan, reheat the Concentrated Tomato Sauce. Boil the gnudi for 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnudi to the pan with the sauce and roll around in the sauce to coat; you may need to add up to ¹⁄³ cup additional pasta cooking water to the pan to loosen the sauce. Divide among serving plates and finish with a sprinkling of the chopped basil and the shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Note: You can shape the gnudi and keep them refrigerated for a few hours before boiling and serving.
Concentrated Tomato Sauce
Makes about 1 cup
1 cup Scarpetta Tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons stratto or high-quality tomato paste
Pinch of crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
In a large sauté pan, warm the Scarpetta Tomato Sauce over medium-low heat. Whisk in the stratto, chopping up the dense paste with your whisk as you go, and the crushed red pepper. The sauce will thicken considerably. Continue cooking, whisking occasionally, until the sauce is a uniform color and texture, about 5 minutes. If necessary, thin out with a little water, preferably pasta cooking water, 1 tablespoon or so at a time; you want a thick sauce that is silky, with a nice flow. Whisk in the olive oil. Reserve the sauce off the heat until ready to serve.
Sauteed Broccoli Rabe
1 Bunch broccoli rabe (about one pound), trimmed of tough stems and rinsed well
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 shallots, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise
Cook the broccoli Rabe: Bring a medium saucepan of well-salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli rabe and cook until just tender. (About five minutes). Drain well.
Caramelize the shallots: Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pa over medium heat. Add the shallots, season with a little salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and well browned, 10 to 12 minutes.
To finish: Add the rabe to the pan with the shallots, stir to combine and keep warm until ready to serve.
Scott's Spiced Gianduja Hot Chocolate
Serves 6 to 8
For the spices:
1 tablespoon whole Szechuan peppercorns
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1½ teaspoons whole cloves
1 teaspoon crumbled whole cinnamon stick
½ teaspoon whole white peppercorns
5 whole star anise
1 teaspoon flaked sea salt
For the hot chocolate:
6 cups heavy cream
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons lightly packed light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ounces dark chocolate, preferably Valrhona 70%, chopped
½ cup gianduja paste (see Note)
⅔ cup Frangelico
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated Sugar
For the spices: Combine all but the salt in a medium sauté pan and toast over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool, then grind with the salt in a spice grinder. (The spices will keep, tightly covered, for several weeks.)
For the hot chocolate: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the cream, cocoa powder, brown sugar, and vanilla extract, and bring to just under a boil, stirring occasionally to help dissolve the sugar.
Meanwhile, put the chocolate, gianduja paste, Frangelico, and 1½ teaspoons of the spices in a medium heatproof bowl. Pour the hot cream over and let sit for 3 minutes to melt the chocolate, then whisk everything together until silky smooth. Transfer the hot chocolate to a clean saucepan and heat gently over low heat.
To serve: Whisk the heavy cream and sugar together until medium-soft peaks form. Using an immersion blender, froth the hot chocolate. Ladle it into mugs and serve topped with the whipped cream.
Note: Gianduja paste is a delicious mix of chocolate and hazelnuts. Look for it where you buy baking supplies.