Saturday, February 26, 2011

Valuable lessons: Don't nuke the carbonara

So B made carbonara tonight... I've never attempted it myself, but he saw it on a cooking show recently and wanted to try it. So he did, and it looked quite tasty. That is until we got busy tidying up a bit before sitting down to eat. Then he sprinkled some extra cheese on top which didn't melt, so as a reflex it went in the microwave to reheat for a few seconds.

Considering that carbonara is made using a raw egg mixture stirred into hot pasta to make the sauce, nuking it basically turned the two dishes of creamy pasta into bacon-flecked bricks. It was... not good. The bit left in the pan that hadn't been microwaved was absolutely delicious though!

Lesson learned... don't nuke the carbonara.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Raspberry Pie... like a mouthful of summer

One more from the Green Door cookbook... this one really surprised me. I'm not generally a fan of jelly-like desserts, especially not in pie form. But I tried this a while back when I found a bag of frozen raspberries hiding in the back of the freezer and needed to use them. I didn't expect great things from this one, but I think it has been my favorite of the recipes in that book so far. It is both sweet and tart, and even though was made from frozen berries, came out tasting like summer in a pie crust. I was also quite pleased with the crust itself, it was crisp and crumbly and the nuts gave a nice flavor to the overall dessert.

Just writing about it now makes me want to make it again, though sadly I'm all out of frozen berries. Rest assured I'll be making one of these puppies as soon as summer berry season rolls around again!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Classics: Ragout de Pattes (avec des boulettes)

In keeping with the "you ate _what_?!?!" theme started with the lard post, I figured I'd add this one to the pot, figuratively speaking.

A few Christmases ago, B's mom made a traditional Quebecois dish for dinner. I'd learned just enough French by then to pick up on the important word in the name... "pattes". If you don't know it already, let me give you a hint. Your pet cat has pattes... your pet dog has pattes. Your pet hamster has pattes. Your pet snake does not. "Pattes" generally refers to paws or feet of animals. In the case of this dish, the pattes of pigs, or ham hocks. So Ragout de Pattes avec boulettes is quite simply Feet Stew. With meatballs. And it's really good. Though I must admit it sounds much more elegant in French.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Improvised White Bean, Sausage and Spinach soup

I'm a big believer in improvisation in the kitchen (with the possible exception of baking, I've still yet to get the hang of that), and I do it often. During the colder winter months, we will often have what I refer to as Cream of Refrigerator soup. I know that doesn't sound appealing, but it's basically my way of using up the leftover bit of veg and such kicking around the fridge before it goes feral.

This one was the result of miscalculating the amount of cooked beans I would get from the dried amount I had. I needed some beans for last week's minestrone, so threw the remainder of a bag in the oven and ended up with just shy of a metric ton of cooked beans. I didn't want to throw them out, and we couldn't possibly eat our way through them quickly enough.... what to do?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Caramelized onions

First off, if you have not stumbled upon the website for The Kitchn yet, go do so right this minute! I'll wait.

I love, love, love them. Seriously. I've learned more from their tips, recipes and reviews than any other site on the web.

One of the tips I especially like is their "Quick Tip: Freeze Caramelized Onions". Most of us probably prepare dinner in a bit of a rush, just having rolled in the door from work, tired, hungry and not wanting to fuss with complicated steps. I generally don't want to have to wait for things in the evening, so I take short cuts or skip steps which means dinner isn't always a blow-your-socks-off gourmet treat.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The 'To Do' List

My mom has built me a small cookbook library over the years. Most recently she got me the Pioneer Woman Cookbook (currently B's favorite), a Williams-Sonoma cookbook, and a huge Bon Appetit cookbook. Plus a number of others. And in each one I have dozens of little sticky notes peeking out, marking the recipes that I want to try. Sometimes it's something I already love, but more often it's a recipe that I want to try simply for the challenge in it. I often try recipes simply to say I've made it from scratch, like butter... fresh butter is very tasty, but not drastically different (nor cheaper) than store bought stuff. But I enjoy the fact that I've made butter from scratch. Marshmallows, as well... though homemade are infinitely tastier than the jet-puffed stuff, but are rather labor intensive, so unless I've got a good reason to make them, I just like knowing that I *can*.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Spinach Bechamel

Another gem from the Green Door cookbook is Spinach Bechamel. Now, the original of this recipe is decidedly *not* lactose free, and you can totally go that route, but I managed to make a version that B could have without taking Lactaid, and I gotta say, it curled even my toes it was so good.

I'm always trying to work leafy greens into our meals. Unfortunately neither of us are big salad eaters (though I do enjoy them in the summer after going to the farmer's market). So I keep an eye out for spinach and kale dishes to add to the rotation, and was tickled this one came out so well. Granted all the butter and cheese sort of lessen the healthy aspects of the greens.... but oh well, so I won't eat it every night ;) This would be an amazing fall dish, with a pork roast and some root veggies.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Basics: 'Fool-proof' pie dough

I'd love to be able to make pastries. I really would. My waistline wouldn't, but I would. I'm sure B would too. I just can't get the hang of it... there's some aspect that I just haven't been able to master yet, much like my woes involving yeast. But if it's one thing any self-respecting cook should have in their arsenal, it's a pie dough recipe. I finally faced my fears a few months back and decided to find my go-to recipe. I started as basic as possible and tried the recipe on the box that proclaimed it was fool proof! I don't generally put much faith in recipes advertised on the box, but figured I'd give it a shot. The box I found the recipe on was.... a box of lard. Now before I lose you! Don't be too quick to judge... I know lard is generally frowned upon in this day and age, but really is no worse than any other fat we put in our foods. Well, ok, maybe a bit worse, but still! The brand I used was Tenderflake and the box was plastered with reassurance that their product is non-hydrogenated and so on and so forth. So basically it's not as awful for you as it used to be, but it's still fat, so use wisely. You can, of course, use shortening instead, but that's just as bad nutritionally speaking, it just comes from plants instead of animals ;)

So, all that being said... I tried the recipe, and I loved it. You heard me... I LOVE LARD!