♪♪ -"Cook's Country" is about more than just getting dinner on the table.
We're also fascinated by the people and stories behind the dishes.
We go inside kitchens in every corner of the country to learn how real people cook, and we look back through time to see how history influences the way we eat today.
We bring that inspiration back to our test kitchen so we can share it with you.
This is "Cook's Country."
♪♪ Today on "Cook's Country," Ashley makes spaghetti carbonara, Jack shares his tips for buying eggs, I talk about ancient potato preserving techniques, and Julia and Bridget make instant mashed potato gnocchi al forno.
That's all right here on "Cook's Country."
♪♪ -Pasta carbonara is an iconic Roman dish loved the world over because it's delicious and easy.
But it's also been interpreted the world over, and every cook has put their spin on the dish.
So today, Ashley's going to show us a more authentic version of pasta carbonara.
And it's super balanced in flavors, and it's a really straightforward technique.
-And we came up with an ideal ratio of eggs and cheese that's going to make the creamiest rich sauce.
-Because there aren't a lot of ingredients in this dish.
-So each ingredient really has to hold its own weight.
So, before we go any further, first, I need to cook the spaghetti.
So, I have 1 pound here, and I have 4 quarts of boiling water.
-The sauce is so fast, you can make it while the pasta cooks.
Now, for this recipe, you want everything to be ready to be assembled, 'cause it does move pretty quickly at the end.
-So, I just added 1 tablespoon of salt.
-And that's our standard ratio -- 4 quarts of water, 1 tablespoon of salt.
Alright, and I'm going to cook that until the spaghetti is al dente.
So, let's move on down here.
Now, we have, probably, I'd say, one of my favorite ingredients to work with.
This is guanciale.
It's Italian pork jowls.
And they cure and season it over time, and it is just so delicious.
I want to cut this into 1/2-inch pieces just like so.
-Now, as you mentioned, there's not a lot of ingredients in this dish, and guanciale obviously is a key ingredient.
What if you can't find it?
Is there anything you can substitute?
Try and seek out the pancetta.
-So, they do sell pancetta in thin slices.
Try to find the 4-ounce block, and then you can prepare it just like I'm doing with the guanciale.
-And if you have extra, if it's sold in a bigger chunk, you can just refrigerate or freeze the rest.
-So, as you can see, I'm now cutting these into 1/2-inch pieces.
-Really big chunks, Ashley.
Well, you're going to thank me.
What I'm going to do now is add the guanciale to our cool skillet, not heated yet, and I'm going to cook over medium heat.
I'm going to add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil with the guanciale to the 12-inch nonstick skillet.
And I'm going to cook this until the fat from the guanciale is rendering and the pork is just shy of crisp.
-It'll take about 6 minutes.
Now onto the sauce.
We have three whole eggs in this bowl.
And now I need to separate these eggs, 'cause I'm looking for two more yolks.
-Okay, so that's the magic ratio, three eggs and two yolks.
-'Cause I've seen a lot of conversations about how many eggs you use in a proper carbonara.
We needed to find the proper ratio of the eggs with the cheese to get that right texture.
I mean, you want it to be nice and glossy, but you don't want it to be too stodgy.
Now I'm going to add some Pecorino Romano cheese.
-Now, this is 100% sheep's milk.
You can use Parmesan here, but if you can find the Pecorino, definitely use it, because it's tangy, so it's going to cut through the richness of the carbonara.
-Yeah, it has a sharper flavor than Parmesan.
Alright, so, this is 2 1/2 ounces here.
-I love how finely grated that is.
You used a rasp-style grater, I can tell.
And that's because the fine shreds, I'm imagining, will melt more easily.
-Just totally melt.
Okay, now I have 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
-And then 1 whole teaspoon of fresh cracked black pepper.
As you can see, that cheese, it's already doing its thing in there.
It's melting right into the eggs.
-And that's it for ingredients.
-We just have to wait for the guanciale and pasta to finish cooking.
-This is looking great, as you can see.
The fat is nice and rendered.
It's just shy of crisp.
Okay, as well as the pasta.
That is done cooking, too.
Now, before I drain it, I'm going to reserve some pasta cooking water, because as you can imagine, we're going to use some of that starchy liquid in our sauce to help thicken and combine everything together.
-So I'm gonna just grab 1/2 cup.
Now I'm going to go drain the pasta, and we'll finish our sauce.
-Okay, the pasta is done cooking.
I returned it to the pot.
-And it's still steaming.
-And it is still steaming.
So now I'm going to add the rendered fat from the guanciale, as well as the guanciale, and get everybody in there, 'cause it's got a ton of that rich pork flavor.
Give this a good toss.
Make sure that guanciale fat is coating the pasta nicely.
Now move on down to our eggs from earlier.
Now, I did pour off 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
I'm going to use 1/4 cup of it right now.
And essentially, it's going to be tempering the eggs.
And you want to work quickly at this stage, as you can imagine.
-So now I'm going to pour all of the egg mixture into the pot.
Get all that cheese in there.
So now I'm going to stir this with the tongs for about 1 to 2 minutes until the sauce is good and creamy.
And there is a little bit more of the pasta cooking water just to go in there and adjust the consistency as needed.
-That looks delicious.
-Oh, thank you.
Okay, so, I have been heating up some bowls in a low oven, 200 degrees or so.
Do you mind grabbing them for me?
Any kind of eggy sauce or some kind of a sauce that has cheese in it, it's always a great idea, because you've gone through all the work to make that sauce as smooth as possible.
And with a cold bowl, it could seize up.
It could congeal, so -- -Ah.
Well, I like that it lengthens the serving time of the pasta, too.
-Like you said, it won't cool down the sauce too much.
-Get some of that guanciale up on top there.
-Oh, don't you worry.
-Those looked delicious.
Alright, I'm going to add a little bit more pepper, 'cause as I mentioned earlier, it's an important flavor in this recipe.
-Now, I like these portion sizes, too.
Not too big, because I have a feeling it's going to be on the rich side.
-Just a little bit.
I'm going to go in for a guanciale first.
I'm going to go for the whole thing.
Oh, this is delicious.
-Oh, thank you.
-Little bit saltiness.
-Good amount of meat on there, too.
It's not too fatty.
-You can taste the pork and the cured pork, but it's not smoky at all.
It's just nice cured pork.
You can taste the cheese and then the black pepper.
-And it's just that trio on this perfectly cooked pasta.
Ashley, this carbonara is superb.
-The best I've ever had.
-To make the perfect pasta carbonara, start with guanciale, use the right ratio of eggs to Pecorino, and finally, work quickly at the end so that the heat from the cooked pasta thickens the sauce.
From "Cook's Country," the ultimate recipe for spaghetti carbonara.
Oh, those little pieces of guanciale are everything.
I feel like I'm in Italy right now.
[ Both chuckle ] ♪♪ -There is nothing simpler than an egg, and there's nothing more complicated than trying to figure out what the words on an egg carton mean.
So I'm here to explain it all for you.
Every egg in the supermarket is a grade-A egg.
All farm-fresh, and they're all hormone-free.
Now, color, we all love pretty things, these seafoam eggs in particular.
But nutritionally and flavor-wise, all of these eggs are the same.
And so color is not an indication of anything important other than what's pretty.
So let's talk about the things that are important.
Now, pasteurized eggs are great if you want to use them in raw applications like a Caesar salad dressing.
I will tell you, if you want to use them in a souffle, the whites don't whip as well, so you may not want pasteurized eggs for that application.
Next up, organic.
Now, this is regulated by the USDA and means that the birds are eating an organic diet and have access to the outdoors.
Certified Humane is regulated by a third-party organization, and it will mean that they're in warehouses with regulations about the number of birds that are inside, and no practices like de-beaking are used on the farm.
Next up, there's some terms about location.
First one is cage free, which you see on this label here.
And this does mean that the birds are not raised inside of cages, but they're probably still inside in a warehouse.
Free range, which is a term the USDA regulates, does mean the birds have access, continuous access, usually through a little door in the warehouse, to go outside.
Doesn't mean they're actually outside all that much.
But if they want to go get some worms or some ants, they can go do that.
So that was a long lesson about label reading.
Now I've got time to answer some questions that you always send me.
First off, should eggs be refrigerated?
And the answer is, in the United States, yes.
That's because supermarket eggs in the US are washed, and that removes the protective cuticle on the shell, and bacteria can, therefore, get inside the egg.
Now, you may notice if you've ever been in Europe in friends' or family's home, that the eggs are on the counter.
That's because supermarket eggs in Europe aren't washed.
It matters where they go in the fridge.
I know you're thinking, oh, that cute little egg tray that comes in some refrigerators with the indentations.
You want to come home, take them out of the carton and put them on the door of the refrigerator.
That's a mistake.
It's too warm.
Also, this carton is protective.
There's a lot of stinky stuff in your refrigerator.
And those odors can actually penetrate the eggshell.
It's going to take a lot longer if the eggs are kept inside of that cardboard or plastic container.
Last up, how long will my eggs keep?
The USDA is going to say three to five weeks.
In the test kitchen, we've tasted eggs at two months, three months, and even four months, and they're fine, although I will tell you that the whites in the four-month eggs didn't really whip well, and so you can't make a souffle with those.
So that's everything you ever wanted to know about the wonderful world of eggs.
♪♪ -Today, we're going to make fried artichokes.
Let's start with the sauce.
Heat some oil and garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat.
Stir frequently until fragrant but not browned.
Add tomatoes and salt and let simmer until slightly thickened.
Next, stir in a little Parmesan and sugar.
Remove the pan from the heat and cover to keep warm.
For the artichokes, add flour, cornstarch, granulated garlic, salt, baking powder, and pepper in a large bowl and whisk.
Add thawed, quartered artichoke hearts to the flour mixture and toss with your hands to coat evenly.
Gently remove any excess flour from half the artichokes and add them to the hot oil.
Immediately break up any clumps by stirring with a spider skimmer.
Fry until the artichokes are golden brown.
Transfer fried artichokes to a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet and lined with a triple layer of paper towels.
Repeat with the second batch.
Transfer the fried artichokes to a platter and serve immediately with the marinara.
♪♪ -High in the Andes Mountains, the Incas took advantage of the harsh climate to preserve potatoes.
They would leave potatoes out overnight to freeze, then dry them under the sun.
Later, the potatoes were squashed by foot to remove their skins and any remaining moisture.
These freeze-dried potatoes are called chuño and are still a popular traditional food.
In the early 1950s, the R.T. French Company introduced instant mashed potatoes with the promise that it would save time and effort.
Today, instant mashed potato flakes are a pantry secret weapon.
By simply adding liquid, you create a paste that can be used to thicken soups and stews, coat fried chicken, or bind meatballs.
At "Cook's Country," we put instant mashed potatoes to use in our clever recipe for gnocchi.
♪♪ -Think of all those convenience food items that you have in your kitchen, like chicken stock or dried pasta.
These are all things that help us get dinner to the table faster.
Well, one of my favorite meals is gnocchi.
And Julia's here.
She's got a secret ingredient for faster gnocchi.
-You know it, because traditional recipes for gnocchi are notoriously long and finicky.
You start with a whole potato, and you boil it whole, and then you peel it while it's hot.
You rice it, you mix it with flour, and then you add a variable amount of water, depending on the day and the potato.
-Yes, and the mood.
-Yes, to get the perfect dough, because if it's a little wet the potato gnocchi are mushy.
If it's a little dry, they're lead sinkers.
-So the answer is potato flakes.
Now, they taste like potatoes.
They're dehydrated potatoes.
You can add the same amount of water every time, and you will always get the perfect dough.
-What a great thing.
I actually keep these on hand for bread baking.
-Yeah, and they're great for thickening up stews.
-It's a good product to have in your pantry.
So, we're going to start with 2 cups of potato flakes.
And you want to make sure you buy potato flakes that don't have any flavorings in them, because they're out there.
There's a whole aisle of potato flakes.
You want the plain ones.
-So to that, we're going to add 1 cup of all-purpose flour and 2 teaspoons of table salt.
Just going to whisk this together.
Alright, for the liquid, we're going to have 1 1/2 cup of water and one egg.
Gonna whisk this together, just break up that egg.
Alright, there we go.
We're going to add this liquid mixture right to the potato mixture.
Mix it together to make a dough.
-You shaved an hour off of this recipe, easy.
-If not more.
And a lot of the guesswork.
And the crying.
-[ Laughs ] We're going to let it hang out here for about three minutes, really let those potato flakes and the flour absorb the moisture before we knead the dough.
-Alright, you can see the dough has really absorbed that liquid.
-Yeah, and that was just a few minutes.
So now the next trick is we're going to knead the dough for just a few minutes, help build up some of that gluten development.
That'll just help give the dough some structure.
-Right, because potatoes don't have gluten.
-And a lot of this dough is potato.
-So the flour that's in there, you want to activate that gluten.
-Alright, this dough, it's turned the corner.
I can feel it.
It's giving me just a little resistance.
So we're going to sprinkle this just with a little flour, let it rest for five minutes, and then we're going to roll out the gnocchi.
-This dough is rested, and we're ready to shape the gnocchi.
So, I'm going to cut this dough into six equal pieces.
Cut it in half, then cut each half into thirds.
-I like that you're kind of scoring it first.
Doesn't have to be perfect.
Set those pieces aside, and we're just going to work with this one.
Going to roll this out into a rope.
Rope's going to be about 3/4 inch in diameter.
-It's almost like working with clay.
It is just so perfectly malleable.
Want to feel it?
You got to feel that.
It's just -- It's a pleasure to work with this dough.
so, again, you're looking for about 3/4 inch in diameter.
On the money.
Now I'm going to use a bench scraper and just make 3/4-inch pieces.
First one I like to measure, get a sense of things.
I'll just do one as my -- Alright, now I got it.
-Yeah, we were going to have words if you were going to measure each one.
[ Both laugh ] -Now's the fun part.
-Well, they're raw.
I don't want to eat them now.
-Well, there's different ways that you can shape the gnocchi.
You can just cook them like this nice and fast.
You can just put a dimple in the center.
That's super cute.
I'm a real fan of the traditional look, which has the ridges on it.
So here, you're gonna take your fork, take the cut side, put it on the fork, and then use your thumb.
Just make those ridges.
We're doing it right onto this baking sheet that's well dusted with flour so they can just sit there until we cook them.
Oh, these are easy.
Alright, so that first one's done.
Now we're just going to repeat it with the rest of the dough.
-Our gnocchi look fabulous, and they're waiting for some sauce and to be cooked, which is what we're going to do.
-Now we're going to make a quick sauce made with tomato and garlic and some fresh basil.
This is my personal favorite way to eat gnocchi.
Here we have 2 tablespoons of olive oil in this broiler-safe skillet.
Going to add two cloves of garlic using the press right into the pan.
Going to put this over medium heat, let it cook for about two minutes until that garlic just starts to turn golden.
-Oh, that garlic, you can smell it.
It's just starting to turn golden, which is perfect.
-A little toasty.
-So now I'm going to add a 15-ounce can of tomato sauce.
Nice and easy.
Now we're going to add 1 teaspoon of sugar, just a little bit.
1/4 teaspoon of dried oregano and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper.
We just want to heat this through, really bring it to a nice simmer.
Alright, I love this sauce, 'cause you're just taking canned tomato sauce and flavoring it with a few things to bring it up a notch.
-Julia told me that we have other sauces available on our website.
We've got a brown butter and caper -- Sounds delicious -- and also a Fontina cheese sauce.
Those are all available, as I said, on the website.
-Alright, that's come up to a good simmer.
Now time to turn the heat off and have some fun.
We're going to add basil, and we're just going to rip it with our hands.
-Nice and rustic.
-[ Laughs ] Rustic.
-I like the big pieces of basil in here.
I like how they taste with the gnocchi, 'cause the gnocchi, you know, It's quite a mouthful.
-So, this is 1/2 cup of basil leaves.
-Alright, just going to stir this basil in.
Oh, that sauce is nice and warm.
Just going to put the lid on, set this off heat, let it stay nice and warm waiting for the gnocchi.
-So slide on down.
Here we have our gnocchi that is ready to cook.
Now, you can cook these right away, but they also freeze like a dream.
What you would do is you'd put this whole tray right in the freezer, and then when they're firm, put them in a plastic bag for up to a month.
So, here we have 4 quarts of boiling water, to which I'm going to add 1 tablespoon of table salt, and now we're going to add half the gnocchi.
I found it's really easy to transfer the gnocchi around using a bench scraper, 'cause it's pretty delicate dough.
So, we're just going to add half of it right to the water.
-Easy to portion out half that way, too.
That looks like about half.
We're just going to cook these, boil them for about 1 1/2 minutes.
They have the telltale sign that they're done because they float.
So we'll just stir it really gently.
You don't want to beat them up too much until they've cooked.
Oh, there's the gnocchi starting to float.
That means it's cooked through.
So now what we're going to do is go right into the sauce.
Using a wire skimmer, I'm just going to skim the gnocchi out, let them drain, add them right to the sauce.
And if a little pasta water gets in that sauce, it's okay.
It loosens up the sauce a bit.
No harm, no foul.
I think that's all of them.
So, the water is back to a boil, which is great.
Now time to add the rest of the gnocchi.
Alright, that second batch of gnocchi is done.
Time to pull it out of my foamy pot.
-The second batch does get a little foamy, 'cause there's a lot of extra starch in that water.
It's like a treasure hunt.
-[ Chuckling ] It is.
It makes it fun.
Right into the sauce.
So, you could just serve this gnocchi as-is with the fresh basil sauce.
-Okay, let's do it.
But I want to just make it special for you.
I'm going to make it al forno, which means we're going to put a little cheese on it and put it in the oven.
And this is my favorite way to eat gnocchi.
When I was first dating my husband, Ian, who you know, he would take me to this little place in Brighton.
He taught me how to order the gnocchi al forno, 'cause it's not on the menu, and, man, is it good.
So, we're just going to top this with a little ricotta and mozzarella.
So that's 1/2 cup of ricotta.
Just going to dollop it here and there over the top.
It's nice 'cause you don't -- It's not with every bite, but every few bites, you just get this nice, creamy ricotta, mmm, that mixes with the sauce.
Now we're going to add 1 1/2 cups of mozzarella.
And this is that whole milk mozzarella that I shredded myself so you know it's going to melt really well.
Some of the part-skim mozzarellas, yeah, you can put them in the oven for years, and they keep their shape.
-Especially if they're pre-shredded and they're tossed with that anti-caking agent.
So we're going to put this in the oven just for a little bit, right under the broiler, about 8 inches from the broiler.
Let it get nice and brown, let that cheese melt.
Takes about three minutes.
-Ooh, it's pretty.
-Oh, I'll get the door again.
I love it when the cheese just gets a little browned and the mozzarella's all melted.
We're going to let it rest for just five minutes, because it is pretty hot.
Alright, this has cooled nicely for five minutes.
-Oh, look at that.
I'm going to -- I got you the perfect, little round of ricotta there.
-I'm going to make you a big, old bowl.
I hope that's okay.
Ricotta on top.
There you are.
Now, hmm, a little Parmesan on top?
-Just 'cause you can.
-There's not enough cheese in there, Julia.
The proof of the gnocchi in the tasting.
That's a really good texture.
-Really good texture!
-Yeah, it's the perfect pillowy texture.
-It's -- It has enough structure to actually chew a little bit, so it's not super fluffy, which I don't like, but it's not a lead sinker.
This is, like, perfect gnocchi.
-And the sauce -- very quick to put together.
Little bit of tomato sauce, little bit of garlic.
Just kept it nice and simple.
-Yep, and those big pieces of basil.
-And the big chunks of cheese, too.
-[ Chuckles, sighs ] -There's a danger in this bowl.
-I might overindulge in it.
-I'm with you.
-This might be some of the best gnocchi I've ever had.
-Instant mashed potato flakes?
-You're a genius.
Well, if you'd love to make this gnocchi at home, use instant potato flakes to make a quick dough, knead the dough until it springs back just a little bit, and boil the gnocchi in salted water until they float.
So from "Cook's Country," a genius recipe for instant mashed potato gnocchi al forno.
And you can get this great recipe and all the recipes from this season, along with product reviews and select episodes, and they're all on our website.
Oh, I'm getting a pocket of cheese.
Look at that.
Look at that.
-I love running it under the broiler before serving.