Sunday, May 30, 2010

The List, week of May 31st

Possible new posts (if the recipes turn out just right): Lasagna, Beans and Rice, Paella.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


I love Carbonara. First of all, what's not to like? It's a simple pasta made of eggs, cured pork (guanciale, pancetta, or bacon), Parmesan or Romano cheese, and black pepper. Second, I have a double dose of nostalgia for this dish. When I was growing up one of my most favorite dinners was one Mom called Bacon Spaghetti. She laughed to hear that is was my favorite because it was something she made when she was feeling broke and the cupboards were a little lean. It wasn't until I went to Rome in college that I realized that Bacon Spaghetti was really Spaghetti alla Carbonara. As I continued to travel in Europe I had Carbonara almost every time I saw it on a menu. In Italy, it is often came as a swirl of creamy, salty, perfect spaghetti with a raw egg yolk floating in the center. The second it arrives at the table you stir in the yolk.
The night we made this we splurged and bought guanciale (cured pork jowl) from Sea Breeze Farms and, though not necessary, it made it extra good.

Pasta alla Carbonara
serves 4

1 poound spaghetti or bucatini
8 oz. cured pork (guanciale, pancetta, or bacon)
1 egg and 3 yolks
1 cup finely grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, plus extra for garnish
black pepper and/or red chili flakes
  • Put your pasta water on to boil. This dinner comes together very quickly.
  • Cut the bacon into cubes and cook in a pan until just starting to brown. Sprinkle generously with fresh cracked pepper and a pinch of red chili flakes. Continue to cook until the pork is light brown (about 2 or 3 minutes more).  If you're using pancetta or guanciale, add a little olive oil and be careful not to over-brown - they have less fat and are a little more sensitive to temperature than bacon
  • Remove the pan from the heat and let cool while you wait for the pasta.
  • When the pasta has about 5 minutes left, put the eggs, 1 cup of the cheese, and everything from the bacon pan, including the fat and the pepper, in a largish bowl. Using a fork, beat the heck of this mixture. It should be really well combined and maybe a little like a paste.
  • When the pasta is done, scoop out about a half cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta, and quickly add it to the bowl. Use your fork to mix everything together. Add a little pasta water bit by bit until the sauce is silky. Using very hot pasta and hot pasta water, is important so that the eggs are tempered.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Stacked Tomatillo Enchiladas

My favorite recipes are ones that end up feeling almost like formulas (for every one person you'd like to serve use 1 part this and 2 parts that) rather than the usual recipes we're all used to. This enchilada recipe is one of those easily adapted formulas that works with any type of protein from chicken to pork to a vegetarian substitute, just about any flavor/type of beans, any flavor of salsa, and a couple different kinds of cheese. It's an excellent way to use up leftover meat or even take advantage of the convenience of a ready-to-go rotisserie chicken. The "formula" below is for my favorite version - an imitation of the green enchiladas they used to serve at Barbacoa on Queen Anne (I miss their cocktails too, and the Mexican Hot Chocolate Flan).

Stacked Tomatillo Enchiladas
serves 2

6 small* corn tortillas
1 to 2 cups grated jack cheese (depending on how cheesy you like it!)
2 cups Tomatillo Salsa
2 cups Easy Pinto Beans
2 cups shredded chicken
garnish with sour cream and cilantro

  • Start with hot ingredients. Heat the salsa in a small pot and grill your chicken just before assembling (or heat up your leftovers), etc...
  • To heat up the tortillas, brush a sheet pan with oil and lay out the tortillas on it. Rub the tortillas in the oil, then flip so that both sides are coated. Heat them under a broiler until they are soft - just a minute or two on each side.
  • Build the enchiladas in 2 wide, shallow, oven-proof bowls or (if you're like me and you don't own anything like that) in any small oven-proof container that can go under the broiler. I've made boats out of aluminum foil in a pinch.
  • Start with a generous cup of beans in the bottom of each bowl, then top with a tortilla.
  • Sprinkle 1/2 a cup of chicken on top, drizzle with salsa, and top with cheese and another tortilla.
  • Do one more layer of chicken, salsa, cheese and tortilla. Then top the whole pile with a little more salsa and cheese.
  • Place under the broiler on high for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese has started to brown. Don't walk away - the last minutes under a broiler the cheese changes quickly.
  • Serve with sour cream and salsa. Watch out for the hot plate!
* I like more layers so I trim regular corn tortillas when I can't find the really small ones. If you're feeling like these are going to be too big, just do one layer!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Clay Pot Chicken (Pot not required)

I remember a couple of food trends from when I was growing up. There was the year of the fondue party (in my memory it was instead of a normal Thanksgiving, but that can't be right); the everything-gets-sundried-tomatoes year; the Microwaved Food Revolution year; and there was the year everyone got a Romertopf Clay Pot for Christmas. Except in my family that last one stayed around for a while because of one dish in particular - Clay Pot Chicken. Mom also called it Beggar's Chicken, but I recently discovered that that would normally be a whole chicken covered in clay and roasted. What it has in common with that traditional Chinese dish is the simplicity. This is just marinated chicken served with rice and vegetables, but that marinade - I love it so much I always sneak some spoonfuls before dinner. It's a perfect combination of soy sauce and sherry and sesame oil and spices. I wasn't thinking I'd ever post this recipe, but now I know that you don't even need the clay pot. John prefers the chicken grilled and I'm slowly coming around to agree with him. You can also just skip the chicken and cook the sauce down for a different sort of "teriyaki" sauce to use on everything.

Clay Pot Chicken (pot not required)
serves 4

1 c low sodium soy sauce
1/4 c sherry (in the stores near us you can find this with the vinegar and cooking wine, but don't get sherry vinegar)
1 T sesame oil
1 t Chinese 5 Spice (or substitute a pinch of anise, cloves, cinnamon, and fennel)
1 t white pepper
1 t ground ginger
1 T minced garlic

1 pound chicken - we use boneless thighs, but anything will work
1 t cornstarch
1 t cold water
rice and vegetables of your choice
  • Combine all the ingredients for the marinade together in a ziplock bag or bowl and whisk well to incorporate the powdered spices. 
  • Add the chicken and mix it around so that it is coated in the marinade.
  • Let it sit for at least 30 minutes, but not all day or the chicken may become a little too salty.
  • Meanwhile, start your rice and prep your veggies.
  • Remove the chicken from the marinade, reserving the marinade, and grill it however you'd like.
  • While the chicken is cooking, put the marinade in a small sauce pan on medium heat. Bring it to a boil for about 3 to 5 minutes to be sure you've killed any bacteria that may be in there from the raw chicken. If this feels too sketchy (but I promise we do this every time and we don't get sick), make a double batch of the marinade and save half for the sauce. If it seems to have cooked down too much in this step, add a little water.
Optional: Mix the cornstarch and water together in a tiny bowl. Remove from the sauce from the heat and whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Put the sauce back on the heat at low and just let it bubble for a minute or two to activate the cornstarch, stirring often.
  • You can simply steam the veggies in a pan or microwave, but we like to cook them in a little canola oil in a wide, hot frying pan.
  • When the chicken is done, cut it into strips and toss it with the vegetables and a tablespoon or two of sauce.
  • Serve it with rice and more sauce, then add a little more sauce to the sauce - get it?

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