Monday, June 8, 2015

Espresso Infused Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Whipped Sea Salt Buttercream, Honey Caramel Sauce, Smoked Fleur de Sel, + Crispy Cake Crumbs

Y'ALL. I am a self-proclaimed cupcake hater. Feel free to glitter bomb if you please, but it's just not my thang. Buttttttttt, these cupcakes have changed my tune. They are by far the best cupcakes I have ever made. The base is a luxurious espresso infused dark chocolate cupcake that has a deep complex flavor, yet manages to stay utterly moist during the baking process. My secret for that texture... a little bit of mayo. I know some of you will squirm, maybe throw your hands up in the air, or scoff at the idea of putting in a condiment that normally belongs on a hamburger into cake batter. But hear me out, okay? My great grandmother, Mama Jones, always added some creamy mayo into her recipes for cake. This is especially important in red velvet cake + any kind of chocolate cake. Listen though, it isn't too weird if you really think about it... mayo is simply eggs + oil whipped together. And well, we already put that in a lot of our cakes from the get=go, so why not give it the little push it needs to make an extra moist cake. Now that you've gotten over the initial shock factor of the mayo, the res of the batter has dark cocoa powder, freshly brewed espresso, buttermilk, and other classic baking ingredients. The star of this show, however, is by far the whipped sea salt buttercream. Why, oh why, I had I never thought of the concept. I never really like buttercream... it was always far too sweet, to the point where I almost just drop dead on the spot. But with the sea salt whipped in, it makes it not too sweet, not too salty... just rightttttt. While living in Savannah, a little gourmet chocolate shop was down the street from our apartment. We went nearly every week, if not twice, just so I could get my favorite truffle that had dark chocolate and a gooey local honey center. It was the most mind-blowing combination that I have ever come across. So a light bulb went off in my head and I just had an itch to top the cupcakes with a homemade honey caramel sauce. It was the perfect. And all those cupcakes needed was a sprinkle of smoked fleur de sel and a crispy dark chocolate cake crumbs. Voila! The best cupcakes y'all will ever eat, and I mean it!! Enjoy :)






For the Espresso Infused Dark Chocolate Cupcakes:
1 ¾C AP Flour
2C Sugar
1C Dark Cocoa Powder (high quality)
2t Baking Soda
1t Baking Powder
1t Kosher Salt
1C Buttermilk, Well-Shaken
½C Mayo
½C Vegetable Oil
2 Extra Large Eggs, Beaten
1t Vanilla Extract
1C Freshly Brewed Espresso

For the Whipped Sea Salt Buttercream:
2 Sticks of Salted Butter, Room Temperature (very soft)
½t Kosher Salt (add a little at a time until you have reached your desired saltiness)
2t Vanilla Extract
4C Confectioners’ Sugar, Sifted
¼C Chilled Heavy Cream

For the Honey Caramel Sauce:
½C Honey
1 Stick of Unsalted Butter
¾C Light Brown Sugar, Packed
1 Can of Sweetened, Condensed Milk
¼t Kosher Salt   
Smoked Fleur de Sel, For Garnishing

Directions:
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake pan with liners. Set this aside while you make the batter.
2. For the Espresso Infused Dark Chocolate Cake: Sift together the AP flour, sugar, dark cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a standing mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment). In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, mayo, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract until completely combined. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. With the mixer still on low, pour in the coffee and stir to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the finished batter into the cupcake liners and bake for 10-15 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool completely before topping them with frosting.
3. For the Whipped Sea Salt Buttercream: In the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, add the softened, salted butter and beat until creamy. Throw in the salt and vanilla, and beat again. Start by adding one cup of confectioners’ sugar at a time, whipping it until it is smooth and incorporate before the next addition. Repeat until all of the confectioners’ sugar has been used. Finally, whip in the heavy cream to loosen the texture (you can use a little more if you need to).
4. For the Honey Caramel Sauce: In a medium saucepan, melt the honey, butter, and brown sugar on medium heat. Once melted, let the mixture come to a rolling boil for 2 minutes while stirring continuously. Add in the sweetened, condensed milk and stir to combine. Allow it to cook for another minutes or two so that it will thicken slightly. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt. Let this mixture cool slightly before topping the Buttercream with it.
5. Finishing the Cupcakes: Using a large ice cream scoop, gather the whipped sea salt Buttercream and plop it on top of the cooled chocolate cupcakes. Using a knife or a spoon, smooth out the sides and create a hollowed out center. Pour a little bit of the honey caramel sauce into the center and garnish with a sprinkle of smoked fleur de sel. If you want to decorate them, you can sprinkle on some chocolate sprinkles or toasted cake crumbs.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Summer Strawberry Pizza with Sauteed Ramps, Crumbled Gorgonzola, Shaved Speck, Baby Arugula, + a Balsamic Reduction Drizzle on Multigrain Pizza Dough

Every time Summer starts to creep around, I begin to crave a rustic pizza with fruit as the star ingredient. It might sound delicious to some of y'all... and it might sound absolutely-down-right-disgusting to the rest. But bless your heart, you couldn't be more wrong. Just take my word for it. This pizza came about on a Saturday at our local farmer's market. Don't you love when dishes just come together so spontaneously? We saw  lusciously ripe, ruby red strawberries and some perfectly pungent (yet still mild) wild ramps and I thought, well heck, let's marry those two flavors. I am on a real ramp kick lately. I can't find them at grocery stores in our hood, but at the edge of Spring, you can find them by the barrel, freshly pulled out of the ground by your friendly local farmer. They are the loveliest combination of a leek, green onion, shallot, and garlic. And when they are sauteed, they just mellow out a bit and give any extremely rich recipe a itty bitty kick. So, I spread a thin pesto-like sauteed ramp base on the pizza dough before I loaded it up with a bunch of different cheeses. I crumbled the ever-so-sticky gorgonzola cheese on top for an extra pop of flavor. It perfectly paired with the sweet strawberries. UM YUM. The pizza is finished with shaved Speck, which we prefer to Prosciutto, if you get in a pickle, just use that instead... no biggie. Baby arugula is scattered across the top for its' peppery bite, and anyway, it goes amazingly with strawberries and gorgonzola. And no fruity pizza would be complete without a drizzle of syrupy balsamic reduction. It just wouldn't. So take our word for it, this is something that can't be missed during these hot summer months. I guarantee it!! Enjoy :)







For the Strawberry Pizza:
1 Ball of Multigrain Pizza Dough (regular or whole wheat dough can be substituted)
1 Small Bunch of Ramps, Chopped
2T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
8oz Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella (sliced, torn into small pieces, or shredded)
4-8oz of Ripe Strawberries, Thinly Sliced
¼C Crumbled Gorgonzola Cheese
¼t Dried Red Pepper Flakes
4oz Shaved Prosciutto (we actually used Speck just because we prefer it over prosciutto)
2T Fresh Basil, Minced
Homemade Balsamic Reduction, For Drizzling
1-2 Handfuls of Baby Arugula, For Garnishing
Kosher Salt + Fresh Cracked Pepper, To Taste

Directions:
1. Preheat your oven to its hottest setting, around 500-550 degrees, and arrange a rack in the middle of the oven. Let your pizza stone heat up in the oven for at least 30-45 minutes.
2. For the Sautéed Ramps: Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add in olive oil, red pepper flakes, and chopped ramps. Sauté until they become fragrant and translucent, but still slightly crunchy and sharp. This usually 5-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set them aside to cool before you spread them on the pizza dough.
3. For the Strawberry Pizza: Create a 12inch round of dough on a semolina dusted pizza peel and spread the sautéed ramps over the top. Place the torn fresh mozzarella evenly across the dough, and then add on the sliced strawberries, crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, some red pepper flakes, kosher salt, and fresh cracked pepper. Slide the pizza onto the heated pizza stone and bake for 12-15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese has melted and begun to caramelize. Remove it from the oven and immediately lay small piles of the thin slices of speck (or prosciutto) over the hot pizza. Just before serving, scatter the baby arugula on top, followed by a drizzle of balsamic reduction.
4. Cut into slices and serve immediately!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Gourmet S'more Pie with Chunky 'Nilla Wafer-Graham Cracker Crust, Espresso Infused Brownie Truffle Filling, + a Toasted Homemade Vanilla Bean Marshmallow Topping

Look at me, being all crazy-like by talking about how spring is already here and what a glorious season it is... and then one week later, I'm on the summer bandwagon. But when a recipe, like this one, turns out so good that you can't stop eating it, well you just have to post it! S'mores are the absolute... the essential... the ultimate representation of what truly makes summer the best time season of the year. We have made a bunch of s'more inspired desserts, like this over-the-top s'mores layer cake or these gourmet s'more brownie bars, just to name a few. But this version easily takes the cake (or pie) for this summer sweet treat. There are are a few upgrades (because, well, I always like to put my own spin on every dish I make) and I think you'll love 'em just as much as we did! Now when talkin' s'mores, everybody and their grandma know the three necessary components... graham crackers, toasted marshmallows, + chocolate. Let's talk about the crust, baby. Don't get me wrong, I love a graham cracker crust just as much as the next guy, but I wanted a more toothsome + crunchy base to our filling. I know you're asking yourself, "How on earth is this crazy food blogger going to one of the best, classic pie crusts even better"? Well all the magic happens by simply adding in Vanilla Wafer Cookies. I have to insist that you don't pulverize the 'nilla cookies; you want them chunky and almost pebble-like in size. Add the cookie pebbles into a mixing bowl along with graham cracker crumbs (very fine, not chunky at all), a stick of melted browned butter, and a pinch of salt. So for all you naysayers out there upset about my minimal use of graham crackers... just chill a little bit, you will still get that iconic flavor + perfect texture in your crust. Press this mixture into a 9inch spring-form pan (like the one you use to make cheesecake) and work some of the crumbs up the sides until the whole-damn-thang is compacted in there. Okay it's onto the good stuff here, people. It's what y'all have all been waiting on... the espresso-infused brownie truffle filling. Yeah I know, I used so many delicious words to describe the chocolate middle layer. But it's all true, I found the so called "unicorn" of the culinary world. You can thank me later. Back to this crazy brownie filling, it has bittersweet chocolate, butter, dark cocoa powder, espresso powder, heavy cream, and Kahlua liqueur. Once your brownie filling is done + lusciously smooth, you're going to follow my lead and add in about a cup (or more if you're so inclined to do so) of some of those crunchy 'nilla wafer cookie pebbles right into the batter. This gives it a bit of crunch here + there, which I love because it's just like a little present every time you take a bite! After baking it just enough until it perfectly cooked with a semi-crackly top and a chocolate-like truffle filling, let it cool completely. Now, here on H+H, making homemade marshmallows is a top priority and one of my favorite things to whip up. So why not do it for the top of a gourmet s'more pie? This recipe makes a semi-thin layer to completely cover the brownie truffle filling, and that might be just enough for you, but it isn't for us. In the end, I decided to add a rim of good 'ole mini marshmallows (straight from the store). Not only did it give the pie a retro feel to it, but it doubled the ratio of amazing marshmallow goodness, and we all love the sound (and taste) of that. Before you get to toasting the top, you need to let the layer of marshmallow chill and firm up in the fridge. Guess what, you're essentially done, all you have to is melt, toast, or char (or all three) dem 'mallows until you've reached your favorite doneness. But unfortunately, this is start of that dreadful waiting game. As someone who has taken part of this mind game, you'll make it. I mean I did, long enough to tell the tale. All you gotta do next is slice up this masterpiece of a pie and completely inhale, all done respectfully of course. And just a quick trick for those who will be enjoying this gourmet s'more pie for a few days, you can make it taste exactly like the day you made it by heating it in the microwave until the marshmallow begins to melt and gets all-gooey-like. Don't forget because you will regret it!! Enjoy :)



For the Chunky ‘Nilla Cracker Crust:
4C Crushed ‘Nilla Water Cookies (make it a rough texture, for that perfect crisp crust)
10T Unsalted butter, Melted
½C Sugar
½t Kosher Salt

For the Chunk ‘Nilla Wafer-Graham Cracker Crust)
2C of the Chunky ‘Nilla Crust (already prepared above)
1C Graham Cracker Crumbs (pulverized into fine crumbs in a food processor)
1 Stick of Unsalted Butter, Melted
Generous Pinch of Kosher Salt
 
For the Espresso Infused Brownie Truffle Filling:
2 eggs
¾C Granulated Sugar
½t-1t Kosher Salt
4.5oz of 72% Chocolate, Roughly Chopped
6T Unsalted Butter, Cut into Tabs
¼C Cake Flour
3T Dark Cocoa Powder
1T Espresso Powder
½C Heavy Cream + 2T Kahlua Liquor
1C of the Chunky ‘Nilla Wafer

For the Homemade Vanilla Bean Marshmallow:
1t Unflavored Gelatin
½C Cold Water (separated into two ¼C)
¾C Sugar
¼C Light Corn Syrup
¼t Vanilla Extract
1 Vanilla Bean Pod, Sliced & Scraped For Seeds 
1 Bag of Mini Marshmallows (optional)

Directions:
1. Beginning of the Crust: Preheat your to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine the crushed/chunky ‘Nilla wafer cookies, butter, sugar, and salt. Toss until everything is well incorporated. Set this aside until you are done with the graham cracker crumbs (and if you can wait, preferably 8-12 hours, so the cookies soak up all the butter). This batch of crunchy cookie piecrust yields enough for two pies; so you can save them for a rainy day baking project, press them into muffin tins for mini pies, or just some casual nibbling on the side. Also, make sure to save 1-2C of these vanilla wafer cookie crumbs to add into the brownie filling later on in the recipe.
2. Prepping of the Crust: While you wait for your ‘Nilla wafer crust cookies to soak up the butter and the granulated sugar has each piece nicely coated, place a sleeve of graham cracker cookies into a food processor and have become finely ground (almost like a thick sand). Keep doing this until you have reached 1C of graham cracker crumbs. If you don’t want to go through this process, no problem! Just go buy a box of store-bought graham cracker crumbs.
3. Finishing the Crust: Get out a 9-inch spring form pan (one that you use for a cheesecake) and spray heavily with Baking Pam Spray all around the edges. Combine the 2C crunchy ‘Nilla wafer cookies + 1C of the graham cookie sand together in a bowl. Now, like the crust couldn’t get any better, it’s time to add more butter (YESSSSSS, but shhh, don’t tell anyone). It’s totally worth every calorie. Press the ‘Nilla wafer + graham cracker cookie crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the pan, packing it tightly, evenly, and firmly into the prepared spring form pan. Set this crust aside while you make the Espresso Infused Brownie Truffle Filling.
4. For the Espresso Infused Brownie Truffle Filling: Combine the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl, and gently melt them together on low for 30-50 second. Use a heatproof spatula to stir them together, working until the mixture is glossy and smooth. Combine the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip together 3-5 minutes or until the mixture is fluffy and pale yellow and has reached the ribbon state. Replace the whisk with the paddle attachment. Dump the chocolate mixture into the eggs and briefly mix together on low speed. Increase the speed to medium and paddle the mixture for 1 minute or until it is brown and completely homogenous. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and sift in the cake flour, dark cocoa powder, espresso powder, and a pinch of salt. Paddle this mixture on low speed for 45-60 seconds. There should not be any clumps, if there is, paddle it again for another 30 seconds. Stream in heavy cream + Kahlua on low speed for 30-45 seconds, just until the batter has loosened and the white streaks from the cream have fully mixed in. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Gently fold in the 1-2C of the chunky cookie crust (these crumbs add a little burst of flavor and texture into the pie filling).
5. Assembling the Pie: Pour the Espresso Infused Brownie Truffle Filling into the base of the chunky ‘Nilla wafer-graham cracker crust. Smooth out the top of the brownies. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until the edges begin to puff slightly, yet still remain jiggly in the center. Cool the pie completely before finishing it.
6. For the Homemade Vanilla Bean Marshmallows: Make the marshmallow topping by adding ¼C to the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment.  Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let it stand firm, for about 1 minute or so. Stir together the sugar, corn syrup, a pinch of salt, remaining ¼C cold water, and 1 vanilla bean pod (sliced and scraped for seeds) in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring until the dissolved. Keep boiling this mixture until a candy thermometer registers at 260 degrees, roughly 6-8 minutes. Begin beating the gelatin mixture on medium speed, and then carefully pour the syrup in (make sure to keep pouring in a slow steady stream, while trying to avoid the paddle and sides of the bowl). Once all he syrup has been added, continue beating it on medium speed until the marshmallow fluff has tripled in volume. Add in the vanilla and beat it until it has just combined, and then immediately pour the marshmallow on top of the brownie filling. It should be loose enough to evenly spread itself, but if not, use a well-greased rubber spatula or spoon to help aide in the process.
7. Finishing the S’more Pie: Refrigerate the pie for 1 hour, uncovered, and then cover it with plastic wrap that has been lightly coated in Pam Spray. And again, return the pie to the refrigerator and let it chill for 3 more hours. After the long chilling process, preheat the broiler to its highest heat setting. Once the oven is extremely hot, remove the plastic wrap, place the pie onto a cookie sheet, and distribute small mini marshmallows in a circle around the outside edge of the pie. We really love marshmallows, so we wanted to add more and I also love the retro vibe it gives off. Carefully rotate the pie/sheet pan about 3-4inches from the flame until the top is perfectly golden brown and melty underneath. This can take about 3-5 minutes to reach that toasted-charred-marshmallow-goodness.
8. Serving the S’more Pie: Allow the pie to cool for about 10-15 minutes before slicing it. In order to get a good, clean slice, dip your knife into hot water and spray it with Baking Pam Spray. This helps to avoid making a mess and getting all sticky from the marshmallows. Enjoy while it is still warm!  Keep in mind that after you have had some of the pie and have a few slices left, it is still just a delicious a couple days later. Cut a slice, plop it into a microwave (about 30 seconds or so), and your pie will be a dense like a fudge brownie + on top you will have an extra ooey-gooey marshmallow waterfall flowing down the slice. UM YUM!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Spiced Tahini Roasted Rainbow Carrot Salad with Whipped Roasted Garlic Goat Cheese, Baby Arugula, Shaved Shallots, Toasted Walnuts, Fresh Cilantro, + a Spicy Blood Orange Gastrique

Spring has sprung, y'all! Let's all join in for a collective rejoice because that officially mean Farmer's Market season is back in full swing, and with that, it means fresh produce is at its' peak! My Mountain Man and I recently went to one of our favorite restaurants and we ordered a roasted carrot salad with goat cheese, arugula, + a citrus vinaigrette. We loved the combination of flavors, so I took the idea and ran with it. It just so happens that I spotted some baby heirloom rainbow carrots (try and say that whole spiel five times fast) and I instantly connected them with the inspiration burning in my belly to recreate this salad. It happens to still be citrus season down south, so I knew that I wanted to make a blood orange gastrique to drizzle over the top. Not only does this add a beautiful, deep scarlet color, but a beautiful acidic note to the entire dish. Oh, and it's got a nice spicy kick that will leave your mouth with slight tingling. After looking through my go-to cookbook, The Flavor Bible, and it suggests to pair carrots with cumin, other earthy spices, nuts, and citrus. I first made a "marinade" of tahini, olive oil, maple syrup, cumin, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, + turmeric. The baby carrots are tossed + coated in this marinade mixture before being roasted in the over until they are golden brown and just slightly charred. And make sure to allow them to cool to room temperature before you begin assembling the salad, so the whipped goat cheese doesn't melt + the baby arugula doesn't wilt due to the heat. Now I want to make sure that you guys use baby arugula because the peppery note from these greens is so perfect, it doesn't miss a beat. I also added in some shaved shallots for a bit of a bite and some toasted walnuts for some texture. Obviously, I am a complete lush when it comes to goat cheese, especially when it is whipped and flavored with roasted garlic + honey, but you could easily make whipped feta as the base of your salad if you prefer that instead. After the salad is tediously layered and beautified, I sprinkle some fresh minced cilantro to round out all of the flavors. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and in this case, it is completely and utterly true. I cannot think of another dish that would be more enjoyable on a gorgeous springtime afternoon than this salad. So that only means that... you just gotta make it!! Enjoy :)

For the Spicy Blood Orange Gastrique:
1C Freshly Squeezed Blood Orange Juice
1 Blood Orange, Zested
3T Sugar
3T Red Wine Vinegar
2 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme
1T Light Corn Syrup
1t Dried Red Pepper Flakes
Pinch of Salt

For the Whipped Roasted Garlic Goat Cheese:
A Head of Roasted Garlic Cloves, Cooled
4oz Softened Cream Cheese
½C Heavy Cream
10z Honey Goat Cheese
Salt & Pepper, To Taste

For the Spiced Tahini Roasted Rainbow Carrots:
1 ½-2lbs Baby Rainbow Carrots (keep the stems on, but trimmed short)
4T Roasted Tahini
2T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3T Maple Syrup
2t Cumin
½t Cardamom, Coriander, Cinnamon, + Turmeric
Kosher Salt + Fresh Cracked Pepper (we used a good pinch of salt to balance the sweetness)

For the Roasted Rainbow Carrot Salad:
Prepared Whipped Roasted Garlic Goat Cheese, Chilled
Baby Arugula (do not substitute any other greens, you need the peppery notes)
Spiced Tahini Roasted Rainbow Carrots, Room Temperature
1 Small Shallot, Thinly Shaved
1 Big Handful of Walnuts, Toasted + Roughly Chopped
Prepared Spicy Blood Orange Gastrique, Chilled
Fresh Cilantro, Minced (for garnishing)
Fleur de Sel + Fresh Cracked Pepper, For Sprinkling

Directions:
1. For the Spicy Blood Orange Gastrique: In a small pot, pour in the blood orange juice and add in the blood orange zest, sugar, red wine vinegar, a generous pinch of salt, and sprigs of fresh thyme. Bring this liquid to a hard boil, and then reduce it to a simmer. Allow this mixture to reduce in half, about 5-10 minutes. Once it has reduced down, remove the sprigs of thyme and whisk in the light corn syrup. Bring to a boil once more and allow it to thicken to a nice, smooth syrup. We reduced ours to about a little more than ¼C. Whisk in the dried red pepper flakes and chill the gastrique in the refrigerator until it has completely cooled.
2. For the Whipped Roasted Garlic Goat Cheese: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together the softened cream cheese, roasted garlic cloves, and salt until thoroughly mixed. Scrape down the sides and turn the mixer to medium-high speed and add in ¼C heavy cream. Continue whipping, while continuously adding a little bit of crumbled honey goat cheese at a time, until the goat cheese is combined throughout. Add in the remaining ¼C heavy cream and beat on high until it is light & fluffy. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Place in the refrigerator to chill slightly.
3. For the Spiced Tahini Roasted Rainbow Carrots: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it with some Pam. Set it aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the roasted tahini, olive oil, maple syrup, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, Turmeric, kosher salt, and fresh cracked pepper. The mixture will be pretty thick, but that’s okay, it will help to thickly coat the baby carrots. Toss the carrots in the tahini using your hands until they are completely covered. Lay them out in a single layer on the prepared pan and roast for 25 minutes. Boost your oven up to broil and allow them to reach a gorgeous golden brown color with a slight char (just keep an eye on them, you don’t want them to burn). Remove the roasted carrots from the oven and allow them to cool to room temperature before assembling the salad.
4. For the Roasted Carrot Salad: On a pretty dinner plate, spoon a blanket of the whipped roasted garlic goat cheese on the bottom, and then mound a handful of baby arugula on top of the cheese. Now stack the spiced tahini roasted carrots on top of the greens (almost log cabin style), followed by some of the shaved shallots, and a scattering of the toasted walnuts. Drizzle the entire dish with some of the spicy blood orange gastrique, as well as a sprinkle of minced cilantro, fleur de sel and fresh cracked pepper. Serve immediately! 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Spicy Barbecue Bucatini with Caramelized Red Onions, Pulled Pork, + Smoked Cheddar Cheese

I realize that the recipe I am posting today sounds a little bit off and a little bit crazy, but doesn't some things that are called crazy, some of the best stuff? A lot of you pasta fanatics/lovers of food will turn your nose up or scoff at me for mixing Southern BBQ or Italian, but y'all, it totally works. Better yet, it is easy-peasy and the perfect meal to use leftover pork or any kind of BBQ meat (smoked chicken, brisket, etc). I started off by using some Bucatini Pasta, it's like spaghetti, but like on steroids. It is a little bit thicker, but the glorious part, by far, is that it has a hole through the middle. This is beneficial for many, many reasons, but mainly it rocks because the pasta sauce goes into the center and with every bite, you get the perfect ratio of pasta to sauce. Um, yum. But it's not just like you are going to throw in a pound of pasta, a shit ton of pork, and a bottle of BBQ sauce, it's more complex than that. I started off by caramelizing sliced red onions, which gives the pasta a nice, unctuous bite to the entire dish. The flavor is then boosted with other aromatics like fresh garlic and green onions before it is mellowed out with some crushed San Marzano tomatoes + tomato paste. After that mixture cooks down, it is then when you stir in your favorite BBQ sauce and some seasonings, to finish it off. I wouldn't recommend using any vinegar based sauces (like a North Carolina style) because the flavor might be slightly astringent and sinus-burning, so go with a sauce that is on the sweeter side because with the addition of the tomatoes, it will be much yummier. Now my Mountain Man + I obviously like to bring the heat when it comes to any recipe we make, so I added in one of my favorite condiments, Candied Jalapenos. These are literally the best little morsels you will ever put in your mouth... I know I've said that time + time again, but it is oh-so-true. Not only is this an easy leftover meal, but you can really make it all in just ONE pot, which doesn't happen around this joint often. SO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT :) Once you've finished the Barbecue Bucatini, place it into a serving bowl, drizzle it with some extra BBQ sauce, top it with a blanket of smoked cheddar cheese, fresh cilantro, and a few extra candied jalapeno rounds... and dinner is served!! I hope y'all enjoy it as much as our whole family did :)
For the Barbecue Bucatini:
1lb Bucatini Noodles (or spaghetti noodles if you can’t find those)
4T Unsalted Butter
2 Red Onions, Thinly Sliced
1lb Pulled Pork
6 Cloves of Garlic, Finely Diced
1 Bunch of Green Onions, Sliced
8oz Whole, Peeled San Marzano Tomatoes (crushed into smaller pieces by hand or diced)
3T Tomato Paste
¼C Candied Jalapenos, Finely Diced in a Food Processor (almost to a puree)
2-3C Homemade BBQ Sauce (or you can substitute in your favorite store-bought sauce)
½t Red Pepper Flakes
¼C Minced Fresh Cilantro, Divided (half will be put into the pasta, half will be used to garnished)
Smoked Cheddar Cheese, For Garnishing
Whole Candied Jalapenos, For Garnishing
BBQ Sauce, For Drizzling
Kosher Salt + Fresh Cracked Pepper, To Taste

Directions:
1. For the Pasta: In a large stockpot, bring water to a boil, making sure to add a good bit of salt to the water and a touch of olive oil. Cook the noodles according the package until they reach al dente. Strain the pasta and let them sit while you make the remainder of the dish.
2. Beginning the Dish: In the same stockpot that used to cook the pasta, add the 4T of butter and melt over medium heat. Add in the sliced red onions and a heavy sprinkling of kosher salt, and caramelize them for about 15-20 minutes, stirring constantly, so that they do not burn. Once they have caramelized, add in the garlic and cook for just a minute or two, and then toss in the pulled pork and green onions. Sautee these ingredients for about 5 minutes before adding in the crushed San Marzano tomatoes, tomato paste, candied jalapenos, BBQ sauce, and red pepper flakes. Let these flavors meld by simmering them on low-medium heat for about 10-15 minutes.
3. Finishing the Dish: After everything has cooked down, it’s time to add in the cooked Bucatini noodles into the pork + onions mixture, and toss to combine everything together. Add in the fresh cilantro and any salt & pepper to taste if it is needed.
4. Serving the Dish: Place the finished pasta dish into a bowl and garnish with a drizzle of a extra BBQ sauce, a mound of shredded smoked cheddar cheese, and a sprinkling of cilantro. If you want to make it extra spicy, you can top it with extra candied jalapenos. Eat it while it’s still hot!