Grits Carbonara

Hankerings publishes its fair share of butter-, cheese-, and animal fat- laden dishes. No surprise then that we’ve shared an inordinately high number of wow-factor, carbonara-inspired dishes.

If the general concept of carbonara tickles your fancy, I urge you to check out our Red Hot Pasta Carbonara Nests, Pizza Carbonara or Linguini with Clams Carbonara.

There’s a reason for this.  I’ve been known to crave some combination of cheese, egg yolks, garlic and meat when my hungry monster rears its head. All in one dish.

In theory, you could “carbonara-ize” any starchy comfort food – and you’ll end up with something salty, porky, cheesy, eggy, and garlicky.  Check, check, check… & check.

grits_carbonara_closeup

Garlic delivers the heat, pungency and baseline flavor for the dish. Parm reg, the king of cheese, brings the dairy fat. Then you have the egg yolk, which is a nature-made sauce in and of itself – a miracle bestowed on us from the food gods and goddesses.

And then there’s bacon. One of the most readily available, scrumptious hunks animal fat you can get your hands on. Speaking of, if you want to give a killer gift, Zingerman’s offers the best bacon of the month club you will find online.

Because let’s face it, grits could use a pick me up.

I’ve never gone wrong with buttered grits. I’ll typically reserved my grits consumption for my rare trips to the Waffle House, usually while I’m on the road to southern Virginia. They’re incredibly good cooked simply, but as with most ubiquitously-loved and adaptable foods, I can’t help myself. I add all sorts of stuff to grits when I make them at home. Whatever I have in the fridge on any given day – herbs, tomato sauce, blue cheese, you name it – is likely to end up there.

There are two kinds of grits – instant grits and real-deal, stone-ground grits. I used instant grits here for hunger-pang related reasons, however, you’re going to have a much more toothsome outcome with the low and slow stone-ground variety. If you are lucky enough to have the time to go that route. Just substitute the same volume of grits, substituting the recommended liquid with milk, and cook according to package instructions.

What are some of your favorite grits additions? And more importantly, what dish should I carbonara-ize next!? 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 4 oz. bacon, of your choosing, medium diced
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 / 3 cup instant grits
  • 1 / 3 cup parm reg, plus additional for garnish
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 / 4 cup scallions, for garnish
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper, plus additional for garnish

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Brown the bacon in a medium-sized saucepan. When the bacon is almost done cooking, add the garlic. Cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  2. Add the grits, stirring for a minute or two. Add the milk, pinch of salt, pinch of pepper, cover, and simmer on low heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until the grits are al dente.
  3. Add 3 of the egg yolks off the heat to the grits, and stir vigorously to cool. Add the parm reg and stir until melted. Plate the grits. Top each plate with one egg yolk, sprinkling with pepper, parm reg, and chopped scallions for garnish, if desired. Serve immediately.

 

 

Linguini with Clams Carbonara

The story behind this recipe can be found in Hankerings’ latest post, Bonita Springs, Florida. I hope you enjoy!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 1 / 2 lb. linguini
  • 1 / 3 lb. bacon, small diced
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 dozen clams, washed and rinsed
  • 1 / 3 stick butter, salted or unsalted
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • Fresh parsley, for garnish
  • 2 eggs, whisked, plus 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup parm reg, shredded

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Boil a pot of water, and cook the linguini according to package instructions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
  2. In the meantime, brown the bacon in a large sauté pan. Once browned, add the garlic, and sauté on low heat for 2 to 3 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the clams, the cup of reserved cooking liquid from the pasta, butter, lemon juice, and cover. Steam the clams on medium heat for 10 minutes or so, until the clams have opened. Remove any clams that didn’t open from the pot.
  3. Off the heat, add the pasta, parm reg, and 2 whisked eggs. Using tongs, stir the pasta until the sauce is thickened and the cheese has begun to melt.
  4. Plate the pasta, topping each with an egg yolk, garnish with lemon wedges, and sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

 

Cobb Salad Steak Sandwich

Cobb salads – where would we be without them? Besides Caesar salads, they are probably the salad I order most often if I’m in a green-eating mood at a restaurant.

Cobb salads are an inherently American dish. They are known to have originated in the 1920s when a restaurant owner, Robert Howard Cobb, waited until the end of a shift to pull together whatever leftover toppings he had on hand to make a filling salad. I can only imagine how good this must have tasted in a late night, post-booze binge.

You have your bacon and eggs – almost a nod to breakfast. Blue cheese, avocado and chicken are all protein-heavy and wholesome. And I believe there’s some magical flavor combination that’s achieved when you have the red onion, blue cheese, bacon and egg flavor all in one bite. These flavors go so well together – super harmonious.

I couldn’t remember ever having eaten these Cobb salad elements in anything other than a salad format. I’ve repeatedly fantasized about bringing Cobb salad deviled eggs to life, knowing that post is an imminent Hankerings recipe. And I love a good steak sandwich, so I knew I was headed in the right direction with this one.

I will always order extra dressing with any salad, and Cobb salads are no exception. It’s always blue cheese dressing on my salads. But here I went with a Dijon mayo. It goes great with the rare steak, and you’re getting the blue cheese crumbles on top, so we’re still checking the blue cheese box.

Speaking of salads-turned-sandwiches, if you haven’t tried it already, Ina Garten makes a mind-blowing Caesar Club Sandwich that not only tastes just like a really good Caesar salad enclosed in a giant crouton – it also comes with pancetta – which adds some serious crisp and melty, greasy pork flavor. I cannot emphasize enough how good that sandwich tastes, and I encourage you to try it when the mood hits you.

Here’s to reinventing our favorite salads – the only limit is our imagination! 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 1 filet mignon
  • 6 strips bacon, cooked until crispy
  • 1 / 4 small red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 cup romaine lettuce, cut to a chiffonade
  • 1 / 2 cup blue cheese crumbles, of your choosing
  • 1 small red heirloom tomato, sliced thin
  • 1 / 2 avocado, pit removed, sliced thin lengthwise
  • 2 airy rolls, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 / 4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 / 4 cup Dijon mustard
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 400*.
  2. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Dry the filet with a paper towel, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper on all sides.
  3. Put the filet in the pan, and sear on medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes on all sides, until the meat is seared and crispy.
  4. Put the filet in the oven, roasting for 6 to 8 minutes, depending on size, until the meat thermometer reads 145* for rare.
  5. Remove the steak, and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Once slightly cooled, slice the filet against the grain.
  6. Combine the mayonnaise and Dijon mustard, and set aside.
  7. To prepare the sandwiches, spread 2 tablespoons of the Dijon mayo mixture on both sides of the roll. Layer half the steak, romaine, tomato, red onion, avocado, blue cheese crumbles, and bacon. Layer the second sandwich. Cut sandwiches in half, and serve.

Brown Butter Bacon & Shrimp Risotto

My job requires travel to Louisiana. Due to lingering hours waiting for connecting flights at airports, I’ve had ample time to hone in on where to eat the minute I land.

I was interested to hear from a Lafayette native that northern Louisiana – specifically north of Alexandria if you drew a line across – embodies an entirely different culture than the southern half, which she claims has a more Cajun attitude toward food and life.

Louisiana natives, what is a Cajun attitude toward life? Because whatever that is, I’m pretty sure I want it.

I had flown into Shreveport and noticed there were a lot of Mexican restaurants. All makes sense, as someone described the Shreveport area as “Eastern Texas.” But I was set on Cajun food this trip.

Some research into the best restaurants in the Shreveport area yielded Crawdaddy’s Kitchen and Marilynn’s Place – and Marilynn’s Place ended up being the place to go, because it was the closest stop from the airport and I was I’m About To Pass Out-level hungry.

Side question for local Louisianans – what other standbys do folks recommend in the Shreveport area?

I love southern flavors, I think. But one thing I have quickly assumed to be true – is that there’s probably no such thing. I’m no expert in southern food, and I wish I was. I’ve just noticed that there’s an added emphasis on seafood, spices, and deep smoky flavors, compared to other American cuisines. All things I’m a loud fan of.

Back home and inspired to cook something southern-tasting, this recipe came to mind.

The roux which serves as the foundation for many southern meals, most notably Jambalaya, was the inspiration for the brown butter used start to this risotto off.

The rest of the cooking is relatively predictable – it’s a risotto after all!

I think a bold, homemade seafood stock made from prawn carcasses would be an amazing cooking liquid for this instead, but here I just used store-bought chicken stock.

The other reason to love risotto? It’s therapy. A slow, mindless process that quells the busy thoughts – at least for me. Maybe this is the Cajun way to eat – take-your-time kind of food. I hope you enjoy. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2 to 4, depending on appetites.

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 liter chicken stock (I like College Inn)
  • 2 / 3 cup parm reg
  • 6 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper
  • 10 slices hardwood smoked bacon, small diced
  • 1 / 2 white onion, small diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 dozen shrimp, almost cooked through and cut in\ bite sized pieces, plus additional whole shrimp for garnish, if desired
  • Louisiana Hot Sauce, if desired
  • Hot peppers of your choosing, if desired

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Heat the stock until it’s simmering – you will be ladling heated stock into the risotto throughout the cooking process.
  2. In a large pot, brown the bacon until it’s crispy. Remove from the pot. Add the onions, sprinkling with a dash of salt. Saute the onions for 3 to 4 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Be sure to scrape up any brown drippings from the bacon on the bottom of the pan.
  3. In the meantime, in a small saucepan, heat the butter. Cook on medium-low heat for 7 to 8 minutes, until the milk solids begin to brown. Remove from the heat as soon as you see the liquid turn golden.
  4. Add the butter to the onions, garlic, and add the bacon back into the pot.
  5. Stir in the arborio rice, and allow to absorb some of the liquid from the pot and toast lightly, about 3 minutes.
  6. Add a ladle of stock and stir. Keeping the heat on medium-low, gently stir the rice intermittently, and when the rice appears to get a bit dry, add more stock. After about 20 minutes, test the doneness of the rice. The rice should be al-dente, and the consistency of the risotto should be creamy.
  7. At this point, add the parm reg, and stir until incorporated. Then add the shrimp, and stir until heated through, cooking for an additional 2 minutes or so.
  8. Serve hot, topped with Louisiana Hot Sauce, sliced hot peppers, and extra shrimp, if desired.

Bacon Grease Chip Dip

In a past life I regularly indulged in a bacon blue cheese dip I discovered at a New-Orleans themed bakery called Bayou Bakery in Arlington, Virginia. I learned this neighborhood eatery had earned its chops in the national culinary scene led at the helm by an amazing and inspired executive chef, David Guas.

But back to the dip. It was borderline illegal.

I haven’t been back there in years, and looking at their menu online it looks like they are no longer serving it. Even more reason for me to try to recreate something similar.

One feature that made this bacon dip stand out from the rest had a lot to do with the unabashedly high level of sodium in it – you couldn’t eat too much of it at once. But I love that salt overload. It was right up my alley.

The base of the dip had to have been sour cream – probably some cream cheese too. And it was served ice cold, with kettle cooked Zapp’s Voodoo Potato Chips.

Mixed with hearty, thickly sliced scallions stalks, the chunkiness of the blue cheese complemented the overwhelming bacon flavor. I mean, it was overpowering.

This dip is going to make you question the extent of your love for bacon. I think this is a frontier we should all allow ourselves to explore.

Although I can’t go back for this beloved dip, I need to get my butt over there for their Muff-A-Lotta sandwich, which won a spot in Food & Wine’s nationwide search for the “20 Best Sandwiches,” and their pimento cheese dip, because I have a strong suspicion they do that r-e-a-l right.

There’s so many bacon dips out there, but this one shot to the top of my list and is likely there to stay  – what’s your favorite go-to or passed down recipe for bacon dip?

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves approximately 4 as an appetizer. This is heavy stuff!

  • 10 slices center cut bacon, small diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 block cream cheese
  • 2 / 3 cup crème fraiche
  • 4 stalks scallions, sliced thickly, dark green stems excluded
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Hankerings’ Salt & Vinegar Potato Chips are a great accompaniment to this dip.

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Cook the bacon on medium heat until the fat is rendered, browning the bacon until it is crispy. Remove 2 to 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat and some of the bacon for garnish.
  2. In the same skillet, add the garlic, sautéing for 2 to 3 minutes. Be sure to scrape up the brown bits off the bottom of the pan throughout this entire process.
  3. Add the cream cheese, crème fraiche, salt and pepper to the skillet. Stir until uniform throughout. The bacon fat will need to be stirred in slowly. It will appear separated from the cream cheese, but eventually it will incorporate into the mixture. Remove from the heat, place dip into a separate bowl, and allow to chill in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours.
  4. Once chilled through, stir in the chopped scallions. Briefly heat the bacon fat, if hardened, in the microwave until it is pourable, and pour over the dip. Garnish with bacon as well, if desired.
  5. Serve cold with kettle-cooked potato chips.