Last night was a long night. First, I stayed at school for a while later than I had originally intended (there was snafu in the going out with colleagues after work; i.e. it just didn't happen), and then arrived far too early to the bar where I was supposed to meet Jeff and some friends, only to have them run late. We then proceeded to watch cricket (Sally, Jeff's Australian friend, explained some of the major concepts of the game) and devour the best fish and chips that I have ever eaten. The batter was crunchy and spicy and light and just plain good--it was a huge relief, too, as the last time I ate fish and chips, I was sick with grease overkill indigestion for a week. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that fried foods aren't as well coddled in Wisconsin. Maybe it had something to do with me not easily tolerating greasy food terribly well. But, there was wicked good beer to go with it all. Wicked. Good. Beer.
Unfortunately, though, I fizzled out earlier than I had intended. This, of course, is one of those obvious consequences of getting up early and then working a full day and not going home. So I got cranky. And bowed out all the way back to my bed. (And, of course, it being late, the train(s) did not come for a long, long time, only adding to my general grumpiness.)
Tonight, though, I'm hoping to keep the Crankenstein at home where she belongs--we're headed to a friend's party/soirée for wine and... probably more wine. (However, knowing our hostess, there will probably be cheese, too, but I'm not going to promise myself anything.) And to avoid being that guest who shows up without any libations or nibbles to offer (i.e the mooch that no one invited but always shows), I decided to revisit the Parmesan Black-Pepper Biscotti that I made the last time I had this sort of evening. They are delicious: pungent and tangy and sharp without being overpowering. They're also nice and small so that napkins or plates are a moot point, and the hand that's not holding your drink can very easily take care of it. Everyone likes them.
I made a few adjustments to the recipe this time over; I used pecorino romano instead of parmesan, which makes the biscotti lose some of it's bite, but it's just as good. Also, I went easier on the salt, as cheese is nice and salty to begin with. The recipe below reflects the version I made.
Should you need something to take to the next party that you've been invited too, this may be it.
Parmesan Black-Pepper Biscotti
-adapted from Gourmet, December 2006
1 1/4 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 oz Parmesan-Reggiano (or another cheese of its ilk), finely grated (2 1/4 cups)
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into smallish cubes
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1. Preheat oven to 350F, and put rack in upper and lower thirds of oven.
2. Pulse peppercorns in grinder until coarsely ground, or crush them in a mortar and pestle.
3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, 2 cups cheese, and 1 tablespoon ground black pepper in a large bowl. Blend in butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Whisk 3 eggs with milk and add to flour mixture, stirring with a fork until a soft dough forms. (It will be very sticky.)
4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and quarter the dough. Have flour at the ready, and flour your hands. Form each piece into a slightly flattened 12-inch long log (approximately 2 inches wide and 3/4 inch high). Transfer logs to 2 ungreased large baking sheets, arranging logs 3 inches apart (two logs will fit onto a pan).
5. Whisk remaining egg and brush some over logs, then sprinkle tops of logs evenly with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese and 1/2 tablespoon ground pepper. Bake, rotating sheets 180 degrees and switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until logs are pale golden and firm, about 30 minutes total. Cool logs to warm on sheets on a rack, about 10 minutes.
6. Reduce oven temperature to 300F.
7. Carefully transfer 1 warm log onto a cutting board and cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices with a serrated knife. Arrange slices, cut sides down, in 1 layer on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining logs, transferring slices to sheets. Bake, turning over once, until golden and crisp, 35-45 minutes total. Cool biscotti on baking sheets on rack, about 15 minutes.
Makes 5-6 dozen.