Archive for October, 2010

Linguine alla Carbonara

Quick, simple, inexpensive, and delicious!  Or put another way:  Bacon, eggs, cheese and pasta!  In either case, you can’t go wrong.

I have been wanting to make this for quite awhile, but for some reason, just never got around to it.  Anthony Bourdain’s episode of “No Reservations” from Rome rekindled the idea, but it dimmed after weeks went by.  FINALLY, I got around to making this for lunch today.

I’m not sure why I waited so long.  It wasn’t at all difficult, nor was it complicated.  There weren’t any exotic or expensive ingredients, and in fact, most of us probably have all of the ingredients (or reasonable substitutes) on-hand.  So, really, I have no excuse, other than the fact that the few times I did think about making it for dinner, the idea was nixed by Bikenut.

There are a lot of recipes for carbonara online, but in the end, I kind of did a mash-up of the ideas I liked the best.  Some recipes called for raw yolks to top the finished pasta, others crowned it with a poached egg.  Some added herbs, some didn’t.  Regular bacon, pancetta, guanciale.  Spaghetti, linguine, fusilli, rotini… like I said, lots of different recipes out there.   I went with very simple to start, figuring I could add extras the next time if I thought it needed anything else.

Simple is good!  I think I might add a little fresh herbs to the dish next time, just to give it a little, well, freshness, but this was pretty good as-is.  This dish would be a great meal for a quick weeknight dinner when you want something warm and rich and comforting.

Linguine alla Carbonara

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz linguine (or pasta of your choice)
  • 4 oz diced pancetta (or a couple of slices of regular bacon, diced)
  • 1 whole egg plus 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (or a mix of Parm and Pecorino)
  • Cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup of pasta water (don’t pour it out!)

Directions:

  1. Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling.  Add pasta and cook according to package directions.
  2. While pasta is cooking, in a large skillet or fry pan over medium-high heat, add 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and pancetta.  Cook until pancetta has rendered its fat, but not quite crispy.  Set aside.
  3. Whisk egg and egg yolks together with 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese in a small bowl.  Set aside.
  4. When pasta is ready, use tongs to remove from the water and place into the pan with the pancetta over low heat.  Add 1/2 cup of pasta water to pan.
  5. Whisk 1-2 Tablespoons of hot pasta water to the eggs to temper, then pour over the pasta and quickly toss, keeping the pasta and egg moving until the sauce becomes creamy.  Remove from heat.  If needed, add additional pasta water to thin, or Parmesan cheese to thicken the sauce to the desired consistency.
  6. Add fresh cracked black pepper to taste.  Top with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.
Advertisements

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies

It’s a rare day when Bikenut actually asks for sweets, so when he said, “How about some rainy day cookies?” I jumped on the chance!  I made two different batches of oatmeal cookies;  For Bikenut, I made blueberry oatmeal cookies, and for myself, I made these.

If you’ve ever had Mexican hot chocolate, these are very reminiscent of that — the richness of the chocolate with a bit of spice from the cinnamon and clove.   I figured that I would enjoy these, but I didn’t realize just how much!  The oatmeal gives these cookies something to sink your teeth into and chew on for a bit, so they go a long way.  I’m usually a 2-3 cookie gal, but just one of these satisfied my after-dinner sweet tooth.

By the way, if you’re interested in the blueberry version I made for Bikenut, just make it a level 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, and instead of the chocolate chips, add dried and sweetened wild blueberries.  (If he liked white chocolate, I would have added white chocolate chips to his batch.)  I’m so sated from my one cookie that I can’t bring myself to try the blueberry version, but Bikenut gobbled his up and said they were pretty darn good, so I think I did okay!

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup of softened butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
  • Dash of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1-3/4 cups flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 16 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter with hand mixer until creamed and fluffy.  (About 30 seconds)
  3. Add brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon, and salt.  Beat until well mixed.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla, beat until well mixed.
  5. Blend in flour 1/2 cup at a time to mixture, using mixer or spoon.
  6. Stir in oats and chocolate chips.
  7. Drop Tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, then bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown.
  8. Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Herb & Rice Stuffed Pepper

Cooking for other people can be tricky.  Especially if it’s Bikenut!  He’s so picky, but I guess the challenge keeps things interesting.

Bikenut has expressed before that he doesn’t care for stuffed peppers.  So, when I had the idea to make some stuffed tomatoes, with herbs and fresh bread crumbs, I thought, “Hey, he likes tomatoes, so he might like those.”  But Bikenut informed me he doesn’t like stuffed tomatoes.  Rather, he doesn’t like stuffed vegetables of any sort.  So, I decided that I would just chuck the idea altogether.

That obviously didn’t last long, and I decided that I would make myself a stuffed pepper to go with the kebabs I was attempting that night for dinner.  (Separate post for that one coming later.)  I prefer any other color bell pepper than the green ones.  They just have some overly pungent flavor to them.  Not to say they aren’t good in some dishes… but to me, they’re best reserved for pizza toppings.  Although, I have to say, they are good with the ground beef and rice version of stuffed peppers.  Maybe it’s the combination of tomato and green bell pepper that appeals to me, but otherwise, forget it.  Anyway…

I had some leftover jasmine rice from dinner the night before, and I decided that I would use that to stuff my pepper.  If I had to start from scratch, I’d have used basmati for this recipe.  I was, afterall, going for a Middle Eastern flavor.  As it turned out though, this wasn’t too bad!  It’s filling though, so I’m really glad I forgot to make it when I threw all of the veggies in to roast for the kebab meal last night.  I only had about half of this pepper for lunch and I’m, well, stuffed!  So, perhaps if you’re making it as a side or for light eaters, half a pepper per person might be about right for a dinner portion.

Herb & Rice Stuffed Pepper

Ingredients:

  • 1  medium bell pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups of cooked rice (leftovers work great!)
  • 2 Tablespoons red onion or shallot, finely diced
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
  • 1/2 Tablespoon cold butter, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon each: turmeric, paprika, coriander, garlic powder, onion powder
  • Dash each: cumin, cardamom, garam masala, salt and pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Rinse and dry pepper.  For one single serving pepper, cut off top of pepper at the stem end.  For two half-pepper servings, cut out stem, then halve the pepper from stem to bottom.  Remove seeds and ribs.  Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, combine all remaining ingredients, reserving one tablespoon of Parmesan cheese.  Stir all ingredients together until well mixed.
  4. Firmly pack stuffing mixture into the pepper.
  5. Place stuffed pepper in a baking dish and rub outside of pepper with oil to coat.
  6. Bake pepper in oven for 25-30 minutes, or until pepper is tender.
  7. Top pepper with remaining Parmesan cheese and broil until golden brown.

Peep’s Not-So-Traditional Chicken & Dumplings

My grandma would probably lecture me for this recipe.  It’s not “traditional”, which I guess goes right along with the bulk of my personality!  Traditionally you’re supposed to boil the chicken in the pot.  I just have a thing against stewed or boiled chicken.  I have to admit, this is the first time I’ve made this dish myself and it originally wasn’t meant to be chicken and dumplings.  I was aiming for a pot pie, but didn’t want to mess with making a pie dough after Bikenut’s comment that he wasn’t thrilled with the pre-made crust the last time we used it.

Regardless of the original intent, the process was going to be the same, just with a little less thickening at the end.  So, I went off to Whole Foods and bought what I needed, came home and got started.  I think most people wouldn’t go through all the same trouble I did for this dish, and that’s fine.  Not everyone is insane like me, thankfully.  But I’m telling you, there’s a world of difference when you do it all yourself.  Sort of like that summer when I grew tomatoes in the backyard and thought they were the best tomatoes in the world, which is something coming from someone that still doesn’t like tomatoes to this day.

But I digress… where this recipe takes a turn from the traditional chicken & dumplings is right out of the gate.  Rather than boiling or stewing the chicken, I roasted it in the oven.  I like the flavor and juiciness of roasted chicken, so it seemed the natural way to go about starting things off.  It’s a little more work, but I really think it’s worth it for the flavor and texture.  Because I didn’t boil the chicken, I needed chicken broth.  I didn’t want to use store-bought broth and opted to roast the chicken bones after pulling the meat off, then boiling the bones with the same spices I used to season the chicken (along with a couple bay leaves and some parsley) in order to make a broth.  After that, we rejoin the chicken & dumplings highway that most people travel.

It is definitely an investment in terms of time, but I thought it turned out amazingly well and totally worth the time spent.   Sorry, Grandma!

(If you’re in a bit more of a rush, there’s a shortcut at the end of the recipe below.)

Peep’s Not-So-Traditional Chicken & Dumplings

Ingredients:

  • 6 whole chicken legs (thigh and drumstick, skin on)
  • Spice mix #1: Garlic powder, onion powder, dried thyme, dried sage, sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 4 cups of water
  • Spice mix #2: Dried parsley, 2 bay leaves, plus Spice mix #1
  • 3 large carrots, chopped
  • 4 ribs of celery, chopped (with leaves)
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into large dice
  • 2-3 Tbsp flour
  • 2-3 Tbsp butter
  • 3/4 cup of all-purpose baking mix (I used Trader Joe’s Pancake and All-Purpose Baking Mix)
  • 1/3 cup of half & half (or milk)
  • 1 tsp dried parsley flakes

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Season chicken legs with spice mix #1, roughly 1 teaspoon of each to cover all six legs.
  2. Roast legs in oven for about 1 hour, until juices run clear.  Remove from oven and allow to cool enough to handle.
  3. Remove skin and discard (or enjoy a little treat.)  Remove meat from bones, cover with foil and set aside along with drippings.  Place bones in a large cast iron dutch oven and return to oven to roast at 350°F for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. Remove cast iron pot from oven and place directly on the stovetop over medium heat.  Add four cups of water, or enough to just cover the bones.  Add spice mix #2, roughly 1 teaspoon each of sage and thyme, 2 teaspoons each of remaining spices.  Cover and simmer over medium heat for at least 1 hour.  Taste for flavoring and adjust spices to taste.  Remove bones from pot and discard.
  5. Add chicken meat, drippings, carrots, celery, onion, and potato to the broth.  Simmer 15-20 minutes over medium/medium-low heat, or until vegetables are tender.
  6. In a small pot, melt butter.  Add flour and a dash each of spice mix #1.  Stir together and allow flour to cook, about 1-2 minutes.  Add to stew, stir,  cover and simmer over medium-low heat while preparing the dumpling batter.  (You could also use potato flakes to thicken instead, or in addition if you want to thicken it further.)
  7. For dumplings, combine baking mix, half & half, and parsley flakes in a small bowl.  When stew is simmering, add dumpling batter, one tablespoon at a time to the stew.  Once all dumplings (about 8 of them) have been dropped, cover and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes.  Do not uncover for at least 10 minutes!
  8. Check doneness of dumplings by inserting a toothpick into the center.  Toothpick should come out clean.  (My dumplings were still really wet on top, so I ended up gently flipping them after 12 minutes and cooking for another 5 minutes or so.)
  9. Serve stew in a bowl with 2 dumplings per serving.

SHORTCUT:  If you’re looking for a quicker version for a weeknight, you could use a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken at the market, or leftover cooked chicken, and store-bought chicken broth then skip ahead to Step 5 in the instructions above.