Red Hot Pasta Carbonara Nests

Real Italian pasta aficionados would shudder at what I’m about to do – add buffalo-style hot sauce to pasta. It’s sacrilege. But I’m doing it anyway.

I pour the stuff on 99.98% of my food. Sriracha, a close cousin, claims to be a good accompaniment to salads, pizza, eggs and pasta among other things, according to the label on the bottle. But I would hedge bets they’re referring to soba noodles, or ramen.

Caution to the wind, I gave this a whirl, and it knocked my socks off.

So what elements are a must for a buffalo-style wing experience? In my mind, there’s the obligatory Frank’s Hot Buffalo Wings Sauce or Tabasco Buffalo Style Hot Sauce (pro-tip – always mix 2 parts hot sauce to 1 part melted butter), blue cheese crumbles, ranch or blue cheese dressing, and celery or carrots.

Not all of these ingredients are going to make the cut into this dish. Carrots in a Pasta Carbonara? No thanks.

But the uber-American buffalo-style flavor will shine through.

To that end, here is an Italian-American Frankenstein of a dish I concocted to share with you all. Cheese. Spice. Butter. Carbs. Garlic. Rendered pork fat. All topped with a runny egg yolk. What else could you ever want in a meal?

I genuinely hope you spice lovers like myself give this a try when the mood hits you just right.

And a quick disclaimer to add here – you may not be able to button your pants the next day.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 3 to 4, depending on appetites.

  • 1 lb. bucatini, or another long pasta
  • 1 / 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 4 oz. pancetta, diced
  • 3 large eggs, whisked, plus additional egg yolks for each nest
  • 8 tablespoons Frank’s Hot Buffalo Wings Sauce or Tabasco Buffalo Style Hot Sauce
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 5 oz. Gorgonzola, crumbled
  • 4 oz. Parmigiana-Reggiano, shredded
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons celery leaves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed*
  • 2 tablespoons spiced chili oil**
  • 2 / 3 cup reserved cooking liquid from the pasta
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

*The easiest way to crush peppercorns if you don’t have a mortar & pestle is to put the peppercorns in a sealed Ziploc bag and smash with a meat mallet or rolling pin.

**I made my own chili oil in a cinch. Just heat 1 / 2 cup olive oil with 3 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes and 1 habanero pepper, minced. Let the spices simmer in the olive oil over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes,  let cool, and place in a glass mason jar. Will last for several weeks at room temperature and can be used in any dish in place of olive oil to add a spicy kick.

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. Slice the whole chicken breast in half lengthwise. Brush with 1 tablespoon of the chili oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken in the oven for 30 minutes and set aside, covering with foil to retain juices while you prepare the rest of the dish. After 10 minutes or so, when it’s cool enough to handle, shred the chicken by hand (or 2 forks) into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Whisk the 3 eggs in a bowl. Set aside.
  4. Carefully separate as many eggs as needed so that each pasta nest has a yolk. Set the yolks aside.
  5. Melt the butter in the microwave for 20 seconds or so, and mix with the hot sauce. Set aside.
  6. Heavily salt a pot of boiling water and cook the pasta al dente. Be sure to reserve cooking liquid before straining.
  7. In the meantime, while the pasta is cooking, brown the pancetta in a large shallow pan in 1 tablespoon of chili oil. Once crispy, add the garlic, and cook for an additional 2 minutes, stirring often to make sure the garlic does not burn.
  8. On very low heat, add the chicken, hot sauce, the two cheeses and crushed black peppercorns.
  9. Ideally, you will now pour the pasta right from the colander into the pan with the chicken, cheeses, peppercorns, pancetta and garlic. Toss to combine.
  10. Once the chicken is heated through, off the heat, add the whisked eggs. Add some of the reserved cooking liquid to achieve a saucier consistency.
  11. With tongs, shape the pasta into a nest shape in large shallow bowls. Place an egg yolk in the center of each nest, and garnish with a sprinkling of minced fresh celery leaves and crumbled Gorgonzola.

Petaled Red & Yellow Potato Gratin

I’m half Irish – on my dad’s side. And I think there may be some residual potato famine related hoarding issues I need to work through, because I always have potatoes lying around. In all colors and sizes.

gratin_6

Yukon Gold potatoes, in my opinion, are the vegetable equivalent to butter.

Mashed, fried, baked, even grated and fried. You name it. And the best part is depending on how you prepare them, you can eat them for breakfast, lunch & dinner.

Have you seen those gorgeous ratatouille presentations where the zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes & whatever else are layered so prettily? I get off on stuff like that.

Like this one from The Petite Cook.

gratin_5

I attempted to go for a similar look here. Using a mandolin I sliced equal parts Yukon Gold and Red Bliss potatoes and let them marinate in the fridge a while before arranging. The marinade consists of the usual suspects you’ll find in most gratins – half & half, garlic, nutmeg, herbs, cheese and salt & pepper.

There’s a lot of room for variation. A lot. Share some of your favorite gratin recipes here if you’d like. I’m very, very open-minded about these things.

It took every ounce of strength not to layer a half pound of shredded gruyere on top of this. But I really wanted to be able to see the crispy bits of the potato rounds when I pulled it out of the oven.

gratin_2

 

It’s all good, though, because the outrageous amount of half & half & cheese layered into this dish made it fattening enough to meet my high dairy-based calorie needs. I didn’t even put that much butter in it. Crazy, right?

I hope you enjoy. And get yourself seconds, and then thirds, and then fourths.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 2 medium-sized Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 2 medium-sized Red Bliss potatoes
  • 1 stick butter, salted or unsalted, cubed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 / 3 cup gruyere, shredded
  • 2 cups half & half
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to *375.
  2. Slice the potatoes with a mandolin, or carefully as thin as possible with a sharp knife. Soak the potatoes in cold water for 30 minutes to remove the bulk of the starch. After 30 minutes, strain the potatoes and pat them very, very dry with paper towels.
  3. Place the potatoes in a large bowl with the half & half, gruyere, garlic, nutmeg, thyme and salt and pepper. Let marinate in the fridge for at least a half hour.
  4. Remove the potatoes from the fridge. In an oven-proof dish, layer the potatoes in alternating colors, starting on the outer edges of the dish. Toward the end when you’re running out of potato slices, start sticking them in the gaps so they’re all packed tightly.
  5. Pour the remaining liquid, including the cheese and flavorings, over the top of the gratin. Sprinkle with additional fresh thyme, and pepper, if desired. Dot with the cubed butter.
  6. Bake, covered, for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, remove the lid and bake for an additional 15 minutes, sprinkling additional cheese at this point if desired 😉.
  7. Enjoy bubbling hot.

 

 

 

 

Crostini with Whipped Goat Cheese & Summer Herbs

Unlike cow’s milk, which much of the commercialized world is accustomed to for its milder taste, goat milk and cheese products have more of a musty and acidic flavor.  I’m talking about the French-imported, preferably unpasteurized chèvre.

Anyone else obsessed with Bucheron?

With goat cheese, the flavor can be very intense. Tasting it, you can just imagine some dairy farmer drawing milk from the goat’s teat that transformed into the cheese you’re eating at that moment.

It’s the same thing I’ve noticed with people who prefer dark meat and lamb meat – it tastes gamey and a bit funky. That’s why I like it.

For those on the fence about goat cheese, I discovered Ina Garten’s Salad with Warm Goat Cheese. I’ve been cooking that recipe for years now for any picky eaters who claim to hate the stuff.

No matter the vehicle it’s served on, you can’t go wrong with a slathering of whipped, soft cheese infused with flavored oils, spices, herbs and whatever else feels right. Ina Garten published a Tomato Crostini with Whipped Feta recipe that is out-of-this-world. I fully disclose I drew inspiration from her with this recipe here.

The lighter texture achieved by the whirring in a food processor makes it more spreadable, and gives it a lighter consistency more appropriate as an hors d’oeuvre for outdoor eating in the summer.

Just like vegetables and fruits can be in-season, herbs can be categorized the same way, to some extent.

The heartier herbs, which you can probably already guess, like rosemary, thyme and sage tend to thrive in cooler and drier climates and temperatures. Herbs like basil, tarragon, chives and the those with more delicate leaves are typically unable to survive once temperatures plummet.

Basil is a universal go-to summer herb. Tarragon and chives and dill taste like summer to me, too, because I plant them every late spring.

Let me know if you have a different recipe for a cheese-topped crostini on-hand. I’d love to hear about it.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 4 to 6 as an hors d’oeuvre.

F o r  t h e  C r o s t i n i

  • 1 crusty French baguette, sliced thinly on the diagonal
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • Olive oil, for toasting
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

F o r  t h e  W h i p p e d  G o a t  C h e e s e

  • 12 oz. high-quality goat cheese*
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons dill, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tarragon, chopped
  • 1 lemon, zested & juiced
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

*Montrachet is a great French-imported brand to use, and can be found in most grocery stores. But if you can find a more uncommon variety of soft goat cheese at a specialty food store, it will be that much yummier. Humboldt Fog, Bucheron, Bonne Buche from Vermont Creamery (with rinds removed) would all be great as well. Appreciative of Serious Eats for their listing of goat cheese varieties beyond chèvre.

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat your oven to *425.
  2. Cut the baguette on the diagonal, about 1 / 4 to 1 / 2 inch thin.
  3. Rub each piece with the garlic clove, and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle the baguette slices with salt and pepper.
  4. Toast the crostini for 7 to 8 minutes in the oven.
  5. In the meantime, place the goat cheese, herbs, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, half the lemon zest and salt and pepper in a food processor. While pulsing, pour in the olive oil.
  6. Pulse continuously for 30 seconds or so, until the mixture is combined and has emulsified & has thickened.
  7. If serving family style from a bowl, top with additional minced herbs of your choice, lemon zest and a drizzle of olive oil. To make it easier for folks to grab-and-eat, smother each crostini with 2 tablespoons of the spread and place on a large platter, sprinkling with lemon zest and minced garnishing herbs of your choosing. This tastes best served room temperature.

La Tur-rific Macaroni & Cheese

There’s a cheese called La Tur that you should know about. Full disclosure – it is one of those smelly and bloomy kinds.

The small, circular crottin is derived from sheep’s, cow’s and goat’s milk and has a semi-soft center, oozing outer rim that’s enclosed in a wrinkled rind.

At room temperature, you slice into it and the cheese comes pouring out of its mold. Like slightly thickened cream.

If this appeals to you, keep reading.

Luckily you can almost always find it at Whole Foods, and more often than not I have luck at specialty cheese shops or gourmet markets.

Because I want to give you a reason to go out and buy this cheese, I combined two of my favorite foods, one of which is ubiquitously loved, probably by you too. So you have no excuse. Let me just acknowledge out of the gate – saying macaroni and cheese is your favorite food doesn’t make you unique.

It’s like, no shit, we all do.

I just winged it with this dish, and it turned out great. How couldn’t it though? To amplify the funkier flavor I replaced cow’s milk for goat’s milk, and it took it to another level.

We should rethink macaroni and cheese entirely, because there is so much you can do with it– why don’t we try swapping out American or cheddar for the good stuff we like to eat on its own? Not to say American processed cheese product does not have its own home in my heart. Sometimes, only good old Velveeta will do.

Meltability and retaining moisture in the oven have something to do with why some cheeses are better than others, but try this dish with La Tur (or something you’re partial toward that’s a little out of left field), mix it with some melty cheese go-to’s, and you’ll regret not doing it earlier.

Carbs and cheese, people. Divinity in food form. Hallelujah.

I N G R E D I E N T S

This makes enough for several people, probably 4 to 6 – but again, how bad could leftovers be? Or just cut the recipe in half. Instead of reheating leftovers in the microwave, try reheating in a toaster oven. It’ll revive more of that crispy on the top / bubbly on the inside texture.

  • 1 lb dried short pasta of your choosing
  • 1  La Tur crotin, crumbled
  • 4 cups high-quality aged cheddar or another high-quality cheese, or a combination of cheeses, grated (I used 2 cups aged Cabot cheddar I had in my fridge and 2 cups good-quality Gruyere)
  • 1 quart goat’s milk
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons salt, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon pepper
  • 6 tablespoons butter (salted or unsalted), plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 / 4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and finely minced
  • 1 / 2 cup panko breadcrumbs

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*. Butter a 12 in. by 9 in. casserole dish, although a smaller casserole dish will work as well (i.e. a 9 in. circular casserole dish). You could even split it evenly amongst smaller gratin dishes for a fancier presentation, if you wanted.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, adding 2 to 3 tablespoons of salt to flavor the water.
  3. Melt the 6 tablespoons of butter and add the 1 /4 cup of flour in a separate heavy-bottomed large pot, stirring constantly with a whisk on medium heat until lightly browned to remove some of the raw flour taste.
  4. In the meantime, in a small pan, warm the goat’s milk on medium-high heat until just before simmering, when there are small bubbles on the sides of the pot. Do not boil.
  5. Cook the pasta until al dente or slightly before al dente if you prefer your pasta to have even more of a bite. That’s how I like it. It will cook more in the oven.
  6. Once the roux has been whisked for a few minutes, add the quart of the warmed goat’s milk, stirring constantly until no lumps of flour remain. If you’ve warmed the goat’s milk enough, the mixture should start to thicken relatively quickly. Keep stirring and turn the heat up to medium high if need be to speed up the thickening process. You’ll want to get to a consistency where the mixture lightly coats a spoon.
  7. Off the heat, add the grated cheeses, the nutmeg, the minced thyme, the 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 / 2 teaspoon of pepper.
  8. Add the cooked pasta to the cheese mixture. If you can time the pasta so that it goes straight from the cooking water into the cheese mixture, it will be that much better. Taste for seasonings once combined, making sure it has enough salt.
  9. Combine the 2 tablespoons of melted butter and 1 / 2 cup panko breadcrumbs. Evenly top the dish with the buttered panko crumbs.
  10. Place the casserole dish on a larger baking sheet, covered with foil to eliminate the need for clean-up. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until the edges of the casserole are browned and the dish is bubbling hot.

Jägermeister & Guinness-Poached Blood Bangers & Mash

I’ve been working on-site for a client in downtown Manhattan. We have an apartment through Airb&b overlooking Times Square that they’re paying for. It’s really, really cool.

Except for the work part.

Work culminates each day with a zombie walk to the nearest Irish pub like a moth to a lightbulb, where I will always order a Guinness.

I didn’t realize how many Irish pubs were in Manhattan – they’re on every block.

Whenever I’m at one of these places, my mind goes to Archer.  When he chugs directly from the Jägermeister shot dispenser machine slurring one liner insults at Pam or Cheryl / Carol, when they get hammered at happy hour a dinky Irish pub near the ISIS office, all following a funeral of one of their brutally-murdered colleagues.

You’ll always see the go-to Irish pub grub when you walk into these places – Boiled Corned Beef and Cabbage with Potatoes, Shepherd’s Pie, Fish and Chips. And I smother on that Colman’s Mustard like there is no tomorrow.

This recipe is a twist on Bangers and Mash. The blood sausage, replacing more traditional pork or beef sausage gives it a heartier (read: bloodier) edge that makes this a good cold-weather dish.

Look no further than Lucky Peach’s “A Guide to Blood Sausages of the World,” to understand why blood sausage is such a ubiquitous dish outside the U.S. – hint, it’s generally categorized as a poor-man’s food, like so many of the delicious foods of the world.

In terms of the type of blood sausage you can or should use for this recipe, I can only say, treat yourself. As in, get the best quality available to you. Which, by the way, will not be an expensive product if you go to a good butcher. Realistically, I’d recommend calling your butcher to see 1) if they have blood sausage available 2) if not, whether they can place an order for you ahead of time, and if all else fails 3) order the blood sausage online. If you have a choice, French Boudin Noir has particularly good flavor.

The only real prerequisite for this recipe is that the sausage has a substantive casing so it survives the poaching process, and is shaped into a sausage form to retain that good old “bangers and mash” presentation. This recipe calls for an entirely optional sauce derived from a reduction of the poaching liquid, because I can’t leave well enough alone.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2 – 4, depending on appetites. But really, I have to ask. If you had left over mash, would that be the worst thing in the world?

  • 4 – 6 blood sausages of your choosing, in their casings

F o r  t h e  P o a c h i n g  L i q u i d  &  S a u c e

  • 4 12 oz bottles Guinness Extra Stout
  • 1 / 3 cup Jägermeister liquor
  • 1 / 4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 10 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 / 2 medium white onion, skin removed
  • 10 clove buds
  • 5 star anise

F o r  t h e  M a s h

  • 2 1 / 2 lb medium Yukon gold potatoes, or 2 1 / 2 lb equivalent of another potato, peeled and large-diced
  • 1 – 2 cups of the cooking liquid from the boiled potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons course ground mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 cups Dubliner Cheese by Kerrygold, shredded
  • 6 tablespoons Kerrygold butter, melted
  • 1 / 2 cup sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

O p t i o n a l

  • Serve with Colman’s Mustard and / or the reduced sauce from the poaching liquid, instructions below

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Put 2 tablespoons of salt in a large pot of boiling water. Throw in the large-diced potatoes. Cook until a knife slides easily into the center of the vegetable, approximately 15 – 20 minutes. Be sure to reserve two cups of the cooking liquid before draining. Once the potatoes are tender, drain in a colander and cover with a clean dish towel to allow them to steam for an additional 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cut an onion in half, removing all the onion skins, and stud the onion with the clove buds.
  3. Put the onion half and all the poaching ingredients into a heavy-bottomed pot. Bring the liquid to a temperature just under a simmer, about 180* F. Drop in the blood sausages, making sure to keep the liquid at a stable temperature. You do not want to boil the sausages.
  4. Allow the sausages to poach for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Skim off any fat or impurities that rise to the surface. The sausage is done when it reaches 160* F internally.
  5. After 45 minutes and when the sausages reach an internal temperature of 160* F, remove them to a clean plate and cover with foil.
  6. To finish the mash, throw the potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Add all the mash ingredients, the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt, reserving 1 tablespoon of the chives for garnish. Mix with a hand mixer or potato masher.*

*One note on mixing – a hand mixer will give you a smoother consistency that gives the mash a more elegant mouth-feel. If the mixture is too dry or thick, continue to add the cooking liquid to thin it out, until you reach desired consistency.

  1. Heap as much mash as you want on serving plates. Cut each banger in half diagonally, if only plating one. If plating two bangers per plate, lay one on top of the other cross-wise. Sprinkle the dishes with the remaining chives. Serve with Colman’s Mustard, if desired.

O p t i o n a l

  1. Once sausages are done, drain poaching liquid through a colander or sieve into a glass bowl.
  2. Take 2 cups of the poaching liquid and pour into a sauté pan heated on medium-high. Reduce the liquid down for 10 to 15 minutes, until approximately half of the liquid remains. The sauce should be thick, but still pour-able.
  3. This step is important – taste the sauce for seasonings. It should be highly flavorful and will likely need to be heavily salted. Add as must salt as needed to taste.
  4. Pour as much sauce as you’d like on top of the bangers and mash, and sprinkle with chives.