Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pasta alla Norcina

Baby Girl loves to watch cooking shows on TV. I'll admit, the first time she told me she wanted to watch Lidia I shed a tear. When we aren't crazy busy with other activities we'll spend some quiet time Saturday afternoon watching cooking on PBS. That's pretty much how I developed my love of cooking so she's in good company.

One afternoon recently we were watching America's Test Kitchen and they made this recipe for Pasta alla Norcina. It had everything we love in one dish - pasta, mushrooms and sausage, with a touch of heavy cream thrown in to gild the lily. I immediately found the recipe online and printed it off.

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This was my first time making orecchiette for Baby Girl and she couldn't get enough. She was eating the plain pasta right out of the colander after I drained it. SP told me I could make this once a week and he'd be happy. It may seem a little time consuming with all the steps (it wouldn't be an ATK recipe without all those steps) but the result is well worth it. And it really doesn't take that long to put together.

I doubled the recipe (printed below) so we'd have enough for leftovers the next day. This makes a lot - I'd say 6-8 servings if you have a veggie on the side - so the original recipe would probably work fine for a family of 4 without leftovers.

Pasta alla Norcina
From America's Test Kitchen

Kosher salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces ground pork
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
Pinch ground nutmeg
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed
10 teaspoons vegetable oil
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 lb orecchiette
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
3 teaspoons lemon juice

Grease a small dinner plate with vegetable oil spray. Dissolve 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and the baking soda in 4 teaspoons water in a medium bowl. Add the pork and fold gently to combine; let stand for 10 minutes.

Add 1 teaspoon garlic, 1/2 teaspoon rosemary, nutmeg, and 1 teaspoon pepper to pork and stir and smear with a rubber spatula until well combined and tacky, 10 to 15 seconds. Transfer pork mixture to the greased plate and form into a 6-inch patty.

Pulse the mushrooms in a food processor until finely chopped, 10 to 12 pulses.

Heat 4 teaspoons oil in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add the sausage patty and cook without moving it until the bottom is browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until the second side is well browned, 1 to 2 minutes longer (very center of patty will be raw). Remove pan from heat, transfer sausage to cutting board, and roughly chop. Transfer sausage to bowl and add cream; set aside.

Cook pasta, drain and reserve 1 1/2 cups cooking water.

While pasta cooks, return now-empty skillet to medium heat. Add 4 teaspoons oil, mushrooms, and pinch salt; cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 2 teaspoon oils, remaining garlic, remaining 1/2 teaspoon rosemary, and ½ teaspoon pepper; cook until fragrant. Stir in wine, scraping up any browned bits, and cook until completely evaporated. Stir in sausage and 1/3 cup reserved cooking water and simmer until meat is no longer pink, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in Pecorino until smooth.

Add sauce, parsley, and lemon juice to pasta and toss well to coat. Before serving, adjust consistency with remaining reserved cooking water as needed and season with salt and pepper to taste.
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Monday, April 21, 2014

Goat Cheese and Apple Chicken

Recently I had half a log of goat cheese leftover and I knew exactly what I wanted to make with it. I'd had Nicole's Goat Cheese and Apple Chicken saved for awhile and couldn't wait to try it.



We all enjoyed this a lot, although I found myself wishing for a bit more of the goat cheese. The apple flavor was less pronounced than I thought it would be but I loved the crunch mixed with the creaminess of the cheese. I'll definitely make this one again.

Goat Cheese and Apple Chicken
As seen on Prevention RD

non-stick cooking spray
3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise
salt and pepper
20 saltine crackers
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 oz goat cheese, at room temperature
1 apple, peeled, cored, and diced

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking dish with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick spray. Season chicken with salt and pepper.

Add the saltines to a food processor and pulse to make crumbs. You could also add the crackers to a bag and smash them into crumbs. Place the crumbs in a shallow bowl or pie plate and add the garlic salt. In another shallow bowl or pie plate, whisk the egg with a fork, then add the water. Dip the seasoned chicken into the egg and then the cracker mixture.

Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and add the oil. Cook the chicken on both sides until brown and crispy, about 5 minutes per side. Place the chicken in the baking dish.

In another small bowl combine the goat cheese and the apple. Spread the mixture evenly over the chicken breasts.

Bake the chicken for about 10-15 minutes or until cheese is warm and browned. Remove from oven and serve hot.
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Friday, April 18, 2014

Pork Carnitas

Another pork taco recipe? Yes, I know on Monday I shared a recipe for Cuban Street Tacos. SP actually made these Pork Carnitas back in early March and I'm just getting around to blogging them now. So I hope you guys like pork tacos!

As you may have realized, we've started doing Sunday dinners with my parents again. It started back in September after my stepgrandmother had a stroke and was subsequently moved to a long-term care facility. Things were very rough in the beginning, especially for my parents since my stepdad is the only one local and a lot of the burden of his mother's care fell to him. SP thought it would be a good idea to take food over to their house on Sundays so they could relax, spend time with Baby Girl and not have to worry about dinner for one night. SP and I recently started alternating the cooking so he could try out some new recipes and get back into the kitchen.

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SP actually prepared this whole meal himself while me, Baby Girl and my mom were at the Philadelphia Flower Show for the day. The flavor was outstanding. I was expecting a citrus flavor from the orange juice but all it did was add to the overall depth of flavor. These tacos were meaty and delicious.

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Pork Carnitas
Williams-Sonoma Mexican cookbook

3 lbs boneless pork shoulder or 3 lbs country-style pork ribs
6 garlic cloves, halved
1 orange, zest of (cut into wide strips using a vegetable peeler)
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
sea salt
1 tablespoon canola oil (if necessary)
12 corn or flour tortillas, warmed
guacamole
salsa fresca
refried beans

Cut off any big pieces of fat from the pork and put the fat into a wide, heavy saucepan or frying pan. Cut the pork into strips about 1 1/2 inches long and 3/4 inch wide. Add the pork to the pan with the garlic, orange zest, orange juice, and 2 teaspoons sea salt. The meat should be in a single layer, if possible. Add water to barely cover the meat and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover partially, and cook, stirring occasionally, until all of the liquid has evaporated, about 1 hour. If the meat is not yet fork tender, add a bit more water, cover and continue cooking.

Uncover the pan and continue cooking the pork until all the fat is rendered and the meat is browning in the melted fat, 10-15 minutes longer. There is usually enough melted fat in the pan, but if necessary, add the 1 tablespoon oil. When the meat is brown and crisp, using a slotted spoon, transfer it to a colander and let any excess fat drain away.

Immediately transfer the pork to a warmed serving bowl. Serve with the warm tortillas, guacamole and salsa to make tacos.
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Garlic Bread Carbonara

Another carbonara recipe to add to my collection. Ashley mentioned this Garlic Bread Carbonara awhile back and I was immediately intrigued. When she finally posted the recipe I couldn't wait to make it.

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We all enjoyed this - hey, it's carbonara, what's not to like - but I realized that carbonara without fresh vegetables mixed in can be rather heavy. Just another reminder that my tastes have changed as we've modified the way we eat. I was glad I paired this with a light salad to cut some of that richness.

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Garlic Bread Carbonara
From Cheesecurd in Paradise and Nigella Lawson

1 pound spaghetti
8 slices bacon, chopped
1 large onion, sliced
1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly ground nutmeg

Breadcrumbs:
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs (about 2 slices of bread)
1 tablespoon garlic powder

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.

In another large pan that will fit the pasta later, cook the bacon until crispy but not crunchy. Add the onions and cook until softened and starting to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Pour over the white wine or vermouth and let it bubble away so that, after a few minutes, you have a small amount of salty winey syrup left. Take the pan off the heat.

In a bowl, beat together the eggs, Parmesan, cream, and pepper.

When the pasta is done, remove approximately 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining. Put the pan with the bacon back on the heat and add the drained pasta, tossing well to coat with the syrupy sauce. Take the pan off the heat again and add the eggs and cheese mixture, swiftly tossing everything to mix. Thin with pasta water, if needed. Grind over some more pepper and grate over the nutmeg to serve.

Toss breadcrumbs with melted butter and garlic powder. Spread evenly on a lined baking sheet. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until crispy.

Plate pasta and top with crispy garlic bred crumbs.
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Monday, April 14, 2014

Cuban Street Tacos

For our Mexican feast last month T made these Cuban Street Tacos. She prepped and cooked it before we got there, so the only thing we had to do was pull the pork and broil it.

pork tacos
Photo credit: T. Casey

This had such great flavor. And I loved the crispy bits so don't skip that step! I definitely ate way too many of these (we all did).

street tacos
Photo credit: T. Casey

Cuban Street Tacos
As seen on Sweet Peas Kitchen, adapted from What's Cookin' Chicago, originally adapted from Cook's Illustrated, June 2008

1 (4-pound) boneless pork butt, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup water
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 to 2 jalapeƱos, minced
1 onion, peeled and halved
juice of 1 lime
1 medium orange, halved and juice, rinds reserved
8 corn tortillas
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese
2 limes, cut into wedges

Rub the pieces of pork shoulder all over with salt. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pork and sear pieces on all sides. Once all the pork is seared and lightly browned, remove from the pot and place in a large bowl. Pour in water and chicken stock, scraping the bottom of the pan with a flat-edged spatula to release all the tasty brown bits. Add pepper, cumin, chili powder, oregano, bay leaves, garlic, jalapenos, onion, lime juice, orange juice and orange rinds and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Add pork pieces and cover the pot and place it in the preheated oven. Bake for 1 hour, take a peek and give the pot a stir to turn the meat. Put the lid back on and let it continue to bake in the oven for another hour.

After 2 hours of baking time, remove the pot from oven. Remove the bay leaves, onion and orange rinds from the pot and discard. Remove the pork and place in a large bowl; set aside. Place the pot on the stove top and let the remaining liquid come to a boil over high heat. Let it boil until it thickens up and is reduced to about 1 cup, about 10 -15 minutes.

Lower racks to near the bottom of the oven and turn oven to broil. In the bowl, pull each piece of pork in half using two forks. Pour the reduced liquid over the pork and add salt and pepper to taste; stir to combine. Place the coated pieces of pork on a wire cooling rack set on a baking sheet. Broil the meat for 5 to 8 minutes on each side until well browned. Serve immediately in warm tortillas. Garnish with red onion slices, cilantro, Monterey Jack cheese, and lime wedges.
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Friday, April 11, 2014

Linguine with Crispy Chicken, Roasted Tomatoes, and Caramelized Onion Cream Sauce

When Cassie first posted a photo of this Linguine with Crispy Chicken, Roasted Tomatoes, and Caramelized Onion Cream Sauce on Facebook I was hooked. And then she posted the recipe on her blog and I knew I had to make it. It's got everything I love in one dish - pasta, crispy chicken, tomatoes and caramelized onions. Yum!!


I was able to prep some of the components during the day, which made it easier to throw together at the end of the day. Baby Girl is an excellent eater (and very polite - she always tells me she loves my cooking) but she doesn't usually proclaim anything as her favorite. After her first bite of this dish she told me she loved it and it was her favorite meal. After every bite she told me I had to make this again and again and again.

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We all enjoyed this and it reheated well, which is pretty impressive for a cream-based pasta dish. Everything comes together so well. I particularly liked the apple juice in the onions - it added just a hint of sweetness. I was worried this would be heavy but it was actually pretty light. I can't wait to honor Baby Girl's request and make this again.

Linguine with Crispy Chicken, Roasted Tomatoes, and Caramelized Onion Cream Sauce
As seen on Cassie Craves

8 ounces linguine, cooked according to package directions
Parmesan cheese

For the roasted tomatoes:
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the chicken:
1 large chicken breast, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 egg, beaten
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying

For the sauce:
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup apple juice
1 cup heavy cream (I used 1/2 and 1/2)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange tomatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Cook for 20 minutes or until browned and bursting.

Meanwhile, add the beaten egg to a large bowl. Mix together the panko, Italian breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and salt and pepper in a separate bowl. Heat vegetable oil in a medium saucepan (enough to shallow-fry the chicken). Dip the chicken pieces in the egg, then in the breadcrumb mixture. Fry in batches until golden and crispy; remove to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Melt the butter and olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until onions are fragrant and caramelized. Add the garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Raise heat to medium-high and stir in the apple juice, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to pick up any browned bits. Let the apple juice reduce slightly, then stir in the cream. Reduce heat back to medium-low and heat gently until thickened; taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

Gently stir together the reserved tomatoes, crispy chicken, and pasta. Add the sauce and toss gently to combine. Serve with parmesan cheese.
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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Salsa Fresca

This is the other salsa recipe I made for the Mexican-themed dinner we had with friends last month. I've been making this one for ages but never thought to take a picture to share with you guys.

salsa fresca
Photo credit - T. Casey

Obviously this one is very different from the grilled salsa. This one is much lighter and chunkier. They're both delicious, just different. I think it was great to have both versions at the dinner. We had no problem inhaling both salsas and the guacamole.

guacamole and two salsas
Photo credit - T. Casey

Salsa Fresca
As seen in the Williams-Sonoma Mexican cookbook

1 lb. ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/3 cup finely chopped white onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalapeno chiles, finely chopped (ribs and seeds removed if you want it less spicy)
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
Sea salt to taste

In a bowl, toss together the tomatoes, onion, cilantro, chiles, and lime juice. Sprinkle with salt and toss again. Cover and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle, then serve with your favorite chips.

Makes 2 cups.
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