Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Linguine with Clams, Leeks, & Bacon

This is a nice twist to wake up the same old linguine and clams.

Yes. There are two leeks shown there.
Just use one to feed two people.
Live and learn.
Remove the root end and the darkest green part, split in half and rinse the dirt from between the layers of the leek. If your leek appears REALLY dirty as you are prepping it, slice it into half-moons and soak it in a cold water bath so the dirt falls to the bottom of the bowl.

Yes please.
That's about 2 slices split, but figure one to two slices per person.
(More if you know you're going to snack on it while cooking...)
Once the bacon has rendered its fat and become crispy, place it on a paper towel to drain and keep the fat in the pan.

Add the washed (and dried) chopped leeks to the bacon fat and allow to soften over medium heat, 5-7 minutes. Use only a pinch of salt to season as the bacon fat is salty.
Half way thru cooking, grate (or mince) two cloves of garlic into the mix.

If you want to let the leeks go a little farther into caramelizing, that would also be delicious with this combination of flavors. 
I was just in a hurry to eat, so mine only got to wilt.

After scrubbing your clams and letting them sit in cold salted water for 30 minutes to discharge their grit:
Cook the clams in a covered sauce pan with white wine and one bay leaf over medium-high heat 6-8 minutes, or until all the clams opened.
Give the pan a shake to make sure they have room to open.
Discard any unopened clams, as well as the bay leaf.

I remove the shells when I make this so eating it is easier, but if you want to keep them for presentation's sake, go for it.
Put your linguine, cooked 1 minute shy of the directions on the box, into the remaining white wine and clams and add in the cooked leeks and garlic mixture. Add a bit of chopped parsley or basil and a tablespoon of butter (or 2) and stir to combine.
Check your seasoning after a minute and then plate.

I top the dish with the cooked bacon as I hate soggy bacon, but really the bacon drippings make this dish as they impart all their smokey, porky goodness into the cooking leeks.
Without it you'd just be eating very onion-y pasta.
But I'd call this one a hit!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mojito Chicken

Make way for the boozy chicken!
(Not to be confused with this boozy but brilliant Best Roast Chicken.)

In a large bowl combine:
1/2 cup light rum
1/2 cup mint
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 TBSP lime zest
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 jalapeño, seeded
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 TBSP cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Blend all of the ingredients in a food processor, pour back into the bowl and add chicken, breasts or thighs as you prefer, and allow to marinate in the refrigerator 2-4 hrs.

When ready to cook, remove the chicken and discard the marinade.
Season both sides with salt before cooking, and throw on either a hot pan or a hot grill, tho a grill is preferred. 
(You know you're eking out those last few warm nights before putting the grill away for the winter!)
don't forget to take pictures of the finished product 
or you will have no final "wow that looks tasty" moment for your blog post.
Still, this was pretty tasty and made a lovely change for  a light dinner. Try serving it with some quinoa with fresh mint and cilantro mixed in, and maybe some queso fresco.
Dinner. Done.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Broccoli Bow-tie Carbonara

Carbonara is such a decadent and satisfying meal. I mean, it's pasta with bacon.
What's not to like?

There are arguments as to whether or not carbonara has cream in the sauce or if it's just egg yolks.
I fall in the middle and occasionally use 1/4 cup or less of cream for a little added richness but not a huge shift in the sauce's texture.
But traditionally it's just egg yolks and grated parmigiano.

Traditionally there are no vegetables in carbonara either, but I'm a vegetable nut, and I can also tell myself this dish is not as evil of a diet-killer if I throw a bunch of green things in it as well.
This time I had broccoli on hand, so that's what went in.
Chop up one large broccoli stem and steam them with a pinch of salt so they are still slightly firm, only about 4-5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Technically you only need 1 egg yolk per person, but as I was using quite a bit of broccoli, which does not coat with sauce as easily as say, peas or zucchini when mixed in with pasta, I used 4.
Also, I wanted a LOT of sauce.

Make sure your eggs are fresh!
And save the whites for an egg-white omelette the next morning.
(Tho it's smart to label the clear white goo...)

Beat the egg yolks together with about 1/2 cup of grated parmigiano (pecorino can make it too salty once combined with the bacon) and set aside.

Mmmm... bacon.
I used two slices per person, but you can make as much as you like of course.
Just make sure you do not have too much rendered fat in the pan when you add the pasta and vegetables. Maybe 1-2 TBSP tops.

Crumble the bacon and add the broccoli into the pan with the drippings.
Stir to combine a bit.

Add the cooked pasta to the pan with the broccoli and drippings and remove it from the heat source.
Take a medium ladle-full of the hot and starchy RESERVED pasta water and, while stirring, add it to the egg and cheese mixture. This is "tempering" your egg.
If you add the yolks directly to a hot pan, you will just get scrambled eggs.

Toss everything well to combine, adding more pasta water if the sauce seems too tight.
Garnish with crumbled bacon and black pepper (unless you are like me and hate black pepper) and Get It While It's HOT!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Quick Veal Stew

Leftover roast veal, leftover cioppino base, a few veggies and some pantry items came together recently to make an unfairly delicious stew.
Unfair to the Hubs as I made it when he was out of town.

So it was all mine.

It appears that Mother Nature was checking her watch very closely this year, and the instant Labor Day was over she sent a serious bout of rain and chilly Autumn weather to douse NYC.
Frankly I'm FINE with that because I'd rather wear fuzzy sweaters and socks over sweating in spaghetti-strap sundresses any day. (Could a throw a few more S's in there?) 
Even more so, it made a great excuse to make warm and savory food!

For this stew I used 2 peeled and sliced carrots, 1 minced shallot, 2 cloves of garlic, about 1/2 cup of chopped reconstituted porcini mushrooms, 1 tsp dried rosemary, leftover cioppino for the tomato aspect, and some concentrated veal glacé.
Add hot water to your dried porcinis before you start peeling and chopping so they have 20 minutes or so to get plump again.

There was also the glorious roast veal. It was super flavorful and tender, leftover from a huge meal at Betto in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
This baby cow did not die in vain.

Start with the obvious, sautéing the shallot, garlic, and carrot in some olive oil with a pinch of salt.
When that begins to soften add the porcini mushrooms (squeezed dry) and cook another 2-3 minutes.
Next I added the strained water that I rehydrated the porcinis in, as it was now mushroom stock, as well as the glacé and dried rosemary.

I was really happy that the leftover cioppino base worked in this. Not that I'm surprised as it's really just tomato, fennel, white wine and chicken stock, (I use chicken instead of fish stock so the Hubs will eat it.) but I was worried for a moment that the fennel flavor would throw off the final product of the stew.
It did not.
The real element that brought this stew together tho was removing the skin and a section of fat from the roast veal and letting it simmer in the stew for almost an hour. I left it whole so I could remove it before serving, but it imparted a huge amount of flavor. Without it this would have been edible, but nothing special.

For a base I had some polenta squares in my freezer from a while back, and since polenta freezes beautifully, it came back to life with a few minutes on the counter and only a little help from the microwave.

As I do with leftover pork tenderloin in my soups, I added the chopped veal to the bowl first and then ladled the hot stew over top to heat it thru. I wanted the veal to retain its original flavor rather than just absorb the flavors of the stew.
I encourage anyone to get creative with the bits and pieces in their fridge.
You just might end up with something wonderful.

Monday, September 5, 2011

London, Returned

Well, yes, we made it, but Hurricane Irene denied us 2 days of our vacation, so there were no romantic trips to outlying villages or day trips to Oxford or Canterbury.
But if you ignore the horrid head cold I had for the entire trip, it was still a lovely time.
Some highlights:

Accidentally caught the end of the guards' march.
They do pomp right in England.

Look! I found the corner that I stole borrowed the other pic from!

This is me and the hubs sitting in the back of a double-decker bus. It's quite bouncy on the top, hence the fuzzy photo. I have to hand it to London tho, as their buses are much more frequent and convenient than NYC buses. (Tho they have no express subways, so it can take an hour to get from one end of London to the other.)

And now, to Nerd Out.

We went to "The Doctor Who Experience" and were just about the only adult couple there without children. (Some kids came dressed as the Doctor. Kinda cute.)
It makes sense that British children would like the show as it's about time travel and has monsters and aliens and yet no blood, gore, or cursing (so, happy parents) but as far as I know, "Doctor Who" is only a hit with the 20-40 group in America.
I'll totally introduce my nephew to it once the Hubs is done showing him every comic book he deems important.
So, maybe when he's 9?


Well, a model anyway.

I remember seeing The Silence.

There were costumes from most of the main characters as well as the monsters, but I particularly liked seeing the bit from "The Doctor's Wife." Neil Gaiman did really well writing that one.

The Hubs was classy when we had lunch at the Tate Modern.

Walking the Millenium Bridge toward St. Paul's Cathedral.

The Tower of London (facing Tower Bridge)

Tower Bridge (made miniature by me, that is the real bridge)

Inside the walls of The Tower

Useful notices (note the rat attacking the achilles tendon)

It was interesting to see the various parts added and rebuilt over time and after fires and wear and tear.

The Rosetta Stone at the British Museum

Not what I think of when I think Ferrari...

Sherlock Holmes address
Interestingly this is next to the Sherlock Holmes "museum" and not along Abbey Road

This was our local pub in Dalston, East London

And the obligatory wasting of the last of the £ on English chocolate.
I should have bought more!

I didn't actually like this candy bar, but I had to giggle like an immature child at the description.

It took 3 trains, 2 planes, a bus and a subway over 17 hrs (almost to the minute) for us to get home, but it was still a good trip. Next time however I will be healthy if I have to inject myself with experimental drugs.

Back to recipes and real life now.
Hope everyone had a lovely Labor Day Weekend!