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

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

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! 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Herbed, Roasted Chicken Salad Fresh Raspberries, Crumbled Gorgonzola, Praline Pecans, Chopped Fuji Apple, Shaved Red Onion, Spring Lettuce Mix, + Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing

Springtime is quickly approaching the South, y'all. This can only mean that I can enjoy the weather outside on our porch for hours on end, go to the local farmer's market, and make yummy meals that are so fresh that they don't weigh you down. It's truly a gorgeous sight to see when all of Buckhead's flowers begin to bloom and I can actually enjoy it with the top down of my convertible. So when we went to the grocery store yesterday, we were craving something light and refreshing, and ultimately a salad is what we decided on. It begins with herbed, roasted chicken that is unbelievably moist. The rest of the recipe is easy-peasy. You just add all of the ingredients into a large salad bowl and toss it together. I love the balance of flavor that you get when adding fruit and cheese... one is slightly acidic + sweet while the other is creamy + salty. Raspberries and Gorgonzola just seems to be a match made in heaven, quite honestly. And hey, all cheese pairs beautifully with apples as well. But the other ingredients play their part as well, the thinly shaved red onion gives the dish a pop, the praline pecans give it some crunch, and the spring lettuce mix just soaks all of that goodness up. I love to pair creamy poppy seed dressing with any kind of fruit salad, so I made a classic recipe that is boosted up with some garlic, lemon zest, and white balsamic reduction. Really all you have to do is toss the salad together and enjoy :)

For the Herbed, Roasted Chicken:
2 Skin-On, Bone-In Chicken Breasts
2T Dried Herbs (we used a mixture of basil, thyme, oregano, & cilantro)
2T Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper, To Taste
2-3T White Balsamic Reduction
¼C Fresh Herbs (we used a mixture of basil, thyme, parsley, & oregano
¼t Dried Red Pepper Flakes

For the Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing:
¾C Mayo
¼C Buttermilk or Heavy Cream (you can add a little more or a little less if you want it thicker)
3T White Balsamic Reduction
6T Sugar
8t Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Lemon, Zested
1 Garlic Clove, Finely Grated using a Microplane
4t Poppy Seeds
Kosher Salt + Fresh Cracked Pepper, To Taste

For the Salad:
Prepared Herbed Roasted Chicken, Pulled into Pieces
6oz Spring Lettuce Mix
8oz Fresh Raspberries
1C Praline Pecans (roughly chopped)
½C Crumbled Gorgonzola
½ of a Red Onion, Thinly Shaved or Sliced
1 Fuji Apple, Diced
Prepared Poppy Seed Dressing

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with tinfoil and spray with Pam.
2. For the Herbed, Roasted Chicken: Start off by washing and drying the chicken breasts and then toss them in the mixed dried herbs, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast the chicken breasts in the prepared pan in the oven at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes. Once they have cooled, discard the skin, remove the meat from the bones, and pull the chicken into bite size pieces by hand. Place the pulled chicken into a small mixing bowl and toss it with the white balsamic reduction, fresh herbs, and dried red pepper flakes. Season it to taste with more salt and pepper if needed. Set the chicken aside while you assemble the salad.
3. For the Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing: Put the mayo into a mixing bowl and whisk until it is smooth with no lumps remaining. Slowly drizzle in the milk, whisking to combine; until you have reached you desired thickness. Finely grate a lemon for its’ zest and a large clove of garlic using a Microplane, and add it into the mayo mixture. Stir in the remaining ingredients and season to your liking. Set aside while you make the salad.
4. For the Salad: In a large salad bowl, add in the spring mix, fresh raspberries, chopped praline pecans, crumbled Gorgonzola, shaved red onion, diced Fuji apple, and herbed roasted chicken. Toss those ingredients together until they are evenly distributed throughout the spring lettuce mix. Lastly you can either add the dressing, and then coat the entire salad with the dressing or you can serve the salads individually and drizzle the dressing over the top of each portion. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

“French Onion Soup” Tarte Flambée Pizza with Homemade “French Onion Soup” Onion Marmalade, Roasted Garlic Crème Fraiche, + Bacon

We have been on a French Onion Soup kick lately... we recently made a bacon infused recipe and also a casserole... and now a PIZZA! The idea quite frankly translates perfectly. The pizza dough mimics the crusty bread plopped on top of the soup, then there's that melt-y cheese you can't get enough of, and ohhhhh those caramelized onions. It all works, y'all. But my delicious twist on this dish is the "French Onion Soup" Onion Marmalade. This stuff is so gosh-damn-amazing, you'll be sneaking spoonfuls into your mouth as it is cooling (take my word for it). Not only is it caramelized onions, but it is reduced down with beef stock, red wine, cognac, sugar, white balsamic reduction, herbs, and butter. This marmalade is sticky, gooey, and utterly concentrated with French Onion Soup flavor! Another different direction I went in was making a "Tarte Flambée" style pizza. This uses a key ingredient of creme fraiche as the base of the pizza. I boosted the flavor with roasted garlic, minced garlic, and freshly grated nutmeg. It gives this pie a luscious cream that oozes out with each bite into that chewy crust and it cannot be beat! On top goes a whole mound of mozzarella, gruyere, and parmesan cheese and slices of extra crispy pieces of bacon. What gets better than that? All you have to do is finish it with some fleur de sel, fresh cracked pepper, red pepper flakes, and minced fresh herbs. This pizza is addictive, I kept wanting more + more every bite I took. It was astounding to me, how could something taste this good. Every culinary level is reached, hell, pizza greatness was reached. I can't say it more, but I'd take this pizza over French Onion Soup any day!! Enjoy :)

For the “French Onion Soup” Onion Marmalade:
3 Yellow Onions, Thinly Sliced
Kosher Salt
¼C Unsalted Butter
¾C Beef Stock + Splash of Red Wine
2-3T White Balsamic Reduction
1C Sugar
1T Cognac
2 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme + 2 Dried Bay Leaves
Kosher Salt + Fresh Cracked Pepper, To Taste 

For the Roasted Garlic Crème Fraiche:
8oz Crème Fraiche
1 Head of Roasted Garlic
¼t Freshly Grated Nutmeg
Kosher Salt + Fresh Cracked Pepper, To Taste
1 Garlic Clove, Minced

For the “French Onion Soup” Tarte Flambé Pizza:
1 Batch of Pizza Dough
Prepared Roasted Garlic Crème Fraiche
Prepared “French Onion Soup” Onion Marmalade, Cooled
8-10 Slices of Applewood Smoked Bacon, Cooked until Crispy + Cut into 1-2inch Pieces
½C Shredded Mozzarella + ½C Shredded Gruyere
Freshly Grated Parmesan
½t Fresh Thyme + Dried Red Pepper Flakes
Fleur de Sel + Fresh Cracked Pepper, For Sprinkling

1. For the “French Onion Soup” Onion Marmalade: In a large pot, heat the butter until shimmering. Add the onions (and a heavy pinch of a salt) and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Add in the herbs and cook over low heat, stirring a few times until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle the sugar over the onions and cook, without stirring, until the sugar melts, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to high and cook until an amber brown caramel forms, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in the beef stock, red wine, cognac, and white balsamic vinegar reduction. Cook and stir until the jam is thick about 10-15 minutes. Discard the herbs and season the jam with salt and pepper until you have reached your desired taste. Let it cool completely.
2. For the Roasted Garlic Crème Fraiche: Combine the Crème Fraiche, mashed roasted garlic, grated nutmeg, minced garlic, salt and pepper. Set it aside.
3. Preheat your oven to 550 degrees and place your pizza stone inside and allow it to heat in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour.
4. For the French Onion Soup Pizza: Create a 12inch round of dough on a semolina dusted pizza peel and spread the roasted garlic crème fraiche over the top. Lay a thick layer of the onion marmalade on top, followed by scattering the mozzarella and Gruyere cheeses. Put a little more marmalade and then place the pieces of bacon next. Grate the Parmesan all over the surface of the pizza and garnish the top with fresh thyme and a sprinkle of salt & pepper. Slide the pizza onto the 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 from the oven and cut into slices, and serve immediately! 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Spicy Mexican Chocolate Silk Pie with Vanilla Bean Pâte Brisée , Salty Cajeta + Cajeta Infused Whipped Cream

Although it’s St. Patrick’s Day… I’m going way out-of-bounds and heading to a completely different area of the world… Mexico. Well, and America, too. Who doesn’t love chocolate? Everyone does. And chocolate pie, well it takes the cake (or pie) for me. This is a traditional recipe turned up a notch by taking Chocolate Silk Pie and making it spicy. It might sound crazy and a little insane, but bare with me a little bit as I explain it. I don’t know if y’all have been to (or heard of) Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, but we sure have. She recently opened up a shop in Atlanta and we nearly go every week. Our favorite flavors are her salty caramel, queen city cayenne, and the buckeye state. So, I took inspiration from two of those to make a pie. Chocolate Silk Pie is great on its’ own, don’t get me wrong. It’s luscious, smooth, and so-wrong-its-right in every kinda way. But why not make it spicy? You truly haven’t lived if you haven’t experienced Mexican chocolate or any spiced chocolate for that matter. So instead of using unsweetened chocolate, I bought some Taza Spicy Mexican Chocolate Discs and added some spices into the pie filling. It warms you deep into your bones and your soul, and well heats your mouth up a bit, but we like that, a lot. The whole thing is put into a pre-baked pie crust, I use my own recipe, but you could easily just do a store-bought crust to save time and effort. But the secret ingredient to this blissful pie is the Cajeta component. Cajeta is a thick Mexican caramel made with goat’s milk, very similar to a can of caramelized, sweetened condensed milk. But wayyyyyy better. We found our Cajeta at Whole Foods; however, you surely can make your own at home. We spread the Cajeta into the bottom of the pre-baked pie crust, so that there was a luscious layer of caramel with every bite. And shhh, we sprinkled a tad bit of sea salt on top to make it a salty Cajeta (and it was so yummy). Then we took it another step forward and infused our whipped cream topping with more Cajeta because, well, why the hell not? It’s practically a Cajeta party, YAY. The pie is finished with just some more of that fabulous spicy chocolate grated over the top. And you, my friend, will be in paradise along with us. You won’t regret making this pie, y’all, you just won’t!! Enjoy :)

For the Vanilla Bean Pâte Brisée:
3 ¾C AP Flour (plus extra for rolling)
3 Sticks of butter, Cut into ½inch Cubes & Chilled
1 ½t Salt
1T + 1 ½t Sugar
12-18T Ice Water, Very Cold
3 Vanilla Beans, Sliced & Scraped for Beans
For the Cajeta-Infused Whipped Cream:
2C Heavy Cream
¼C Sugar
½C Cajeta (we purchased some at whole foods)
Pinch of Salt (or to taste)
1t Vanilla

For the Mexican Chocolate Silk Pie:
4oz Spicy Mexican Chocolate, Chopped (we used Taza Chocolate Discs)
1C Salted Butter, Softened
1 ½C Sugar
½t Chili Powder, Cinnamon & Paprika (and a pinch of a cayenne)
4 Whole Eggs
½C Cajeta (to spread in the base of the pie shell)
Pre-Baked Vanilla Bean Pâte Brisée, Cooled

1. For the Vanilla Bean Pâte Brisée: Start by cutting the sticks of butter into ½inch cubes and placing in the freezer bag, along with the flour, salt, and sugar. Place the bag of flour into the freezer and chill for at least 1-2 hours. In a food processor, pour the frozen flour bag in, as well as the scraped vanilla beans, and pulse 6-8 times until the mixture resembles a course meal, with pea size pieces of butter. Add water 1T at a time, pulsing until the mixture just begins to clump together. If you pinch of some of the crumbly dough and it holds together then it’s ready. Remove the dough from the machine and place on a clean surface. Carefully split the dough into three equal pieces and shape into discs (save the other two rounds of pie dough in plastic wrap and freeze them for a rainy day). Do not over knead the dough. You should still be able to see little bits of butter in the dough. Sprinkle the discs with a little flour on all sides and wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour. Remove one of the discs from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle some flour on top of the disk. Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a 12inch circle (1/8inch thick). Place the rolled out disc on to a pie dish, lining up the fold with the center of the pan, trimming the excess. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes.
2. For the Cajeta-Infused Whipped Cream: The night before you make the pie, heat a small pot over medium-low heat. Add in the heavy cream, sugar, cajeta, & a pinch of salt to taste and whisk constantly until the cajeta has dissolved into the cream and has become smooth (it should be a light khaki color). Remove the heat from the pan and add vanilla extract. Pour cajeta-infused cream into and container and let it chill overnight. Firstly, make sure the cream is thoroughly chilled. Add it into the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip on high-speed until a fluffy, yet thick whipped cream. Season it with some sugar, vanilla extract, and salt if needed (really it’s up to your tastes).
3.  For the Mexican Chocolate Silk Pie: In small microwave safe bowl melt 4 ounces of the Mexican spicy chocolate until you can stir it (about 45 seconds on high). Set aside to cool. In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat 1 cup (2 sticks) of regular (salted) butter, spices, and 1½C of white sugar until fluffy (about 1 to 2 minutes). When melted chocolate is cooled, drizzle it over the butter/sugar mixture. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Beat the mixture thoroughly until combined (on a Kitchen Aid mixer, you will be using the whisk attachment). Turn your mixer to a medium speed and over a period of 15 to 20 minutes add in the four eggs, one at a time, leaving about 5 minutes between each egg addition. Prepare your pie by spreading some of the Cajeta into the base of the pie shell, so that you will have a nice, thick layer of Cajeta when you slice & bite into a slice (and sprinkle a little fleur de sel on top). Once the pie filling is well mixed, pour it into the baked & Cajeta-filled pie shell, scraping every last speck of it out of the bowl. Smooth out the pie filling and place pie in the refrigerator to chill for at least two hours (preferably longer). Plop a heaping mound of Cajeta-infused whipped cream on top of the pie, smoothing it out so it completely covers the chocolate.
4.  Serving the Pie: Cut a slice of the pie and grate some more Mexican spicy chocolate on top and enjoy! 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

#instagrub: Springtime Carbonara with Asparagus, Sweet Peas, Brown Buttered Leeks, + Goat Cheese

As far as I can remember, I have never been a "pasta person". I truly realize that anything of that sort is blasphemy, but it's just not my jam. However, I do tend to make a few exceptions and our tried + true favorite pasta dish is by far, Carbonara. I love it's luxurious parmesan-egg creamy sauce that perfectly coats every little individual pasta piece. Every time I eat this for dinner, it's almost like the pasta is giving me a big ole bear hug that warms me deep into my soul. We don't just make one version of Carbonara, but many... breakfast inspired, autumn flavored with sage, sausage, and roasted butternut squash, and this new edition using springtime ingredients. Not only is it packed with bacon, bacon fat, and heavy cream, but it also has gorgeous asparagus, delightful sweet peas, leeks sauteed in brown butter, and fresh herbs. All of these components truly liven up the somewhat-heavyhearted Carbonara, especially with the addition of lemon zest, lemon juice, and a glug of white wine. To make the pasta, I get out two large stockpots... one to begin boiling to pasta and one to start sauteing the leeks in brown butter. We buy the best frozen sweet peas we can find and toss them in at the last few minutes to partially cook them (along with the pasta), so that they can finish completely while we're assembling the dish. After the leeks have caramelized slightly and become translucent, add in the asparagus, some garlic, and that glug of white wine. After you have drained the pasta and peas into a colander to cool, it's now time to start cooking the bacon lardons. Once you have achieved crispy bacon lardon goodness, strain out the lardons onto a paper towel-lined plate, leaving the rendered bacon fat behind. With the heat on medium, return the pasta and peas, brown buttered leeks, asparagus, and minced garlic to the large pot with the bacon fat. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients to make the creamy egg-parmesan-heavy cream sauce until a cohesive mixture has formed. Turn off the heat (but the pasta ingredients are still hot) and slowly drizzle in the seasoned heavy cream-parmesan-egg mixture, stirring continuously, so that the eggs do not cook and curdle. You want to achieve a smooth, creamy sauce, that perfectly coats the pasta, and in order to reach those results… you have to keep stirring. If the sauce is too thick you can add in a small ladle of that starchy pasta-cooking water until your have reached your desired consistency. Finally add in a little freshly grated nutmeg, fresh parsley, and fresh basil. Take a taste test, and if needed, season it with some more salt, pepper, and/or any other spices. Return the pasta to low-medium heat for just about a minute or two to thicken the sauce and bring it all together. At the very last minute, toss in the crispy bacon lardons, so they maintain their texture, even when coated in such a thick sauce! Now all you have to do is spoon the pasta into serving bowls and garnish them with fresh basil, fresh parsley, and crumbled goat cheese, and you're done!! Enjoy :)

For the Springtime Carbonara:

1lb Orecchiette Pasta (or any short pasta you like)

1 Bag of Frozen Sweet Peas

1 Stick of Unsalted Butter

4 Leeks, Halved Lengthwise + Thinly sliced (white & green parts only and thoroughly washed)

1lb Asparagus, Trimmed & Cut into 2inch Pieces

6 Cloves of Garlic, Finely Minced (split into two equal groups)

¼C White Wine

1lb Thick Cut Applewood Smoked Bacon, Cut into Lardons

Generous Sprinkling of Cinnamon

4 Large Eggs

8oz Grated Parmesan (we used one container of finely grated cheese)

½C Heavy Cream

1-2T Lemon Zest, Finely Grated with a Microplane

Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice, To Taste

¼-½t Dried Red Pepper Flakes 

Freshly Grated Nutmeg (just a pinch or to your liking)

¼C Fresh Parsley + ¼C Fresh Basil, Finely Chopped 

Fleur de Sel + Fresh Cracked Pepper, To Taste

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1. Prepping the Pasta: Fill a large stockpot with water, and then heavily salt it (almost to the point that it is like ocean water) and add a glug of extra virgin olive oil. Bring the water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions. With about 2-3 minutes of boiling left to go, add in the frozen peas, so that they can partially cook (they will finish completely throughout the Carbonara pasta process). When the pasta is done, reserve 2-3 ladles of the starchy water to help create a better sauce. Strain the pasta and peas and keep them in the strainer until you are ready to make the Carbonara. Return the large stockpot to the stove to be used again
2. Brown Buttering the Leeks: Start a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the stick of butter and allow it to melt completely until it is just beginning to brown. Throw in the prepared leeks, as well as some fleur de sel and fresh cracked pepper, and cook for about 10 minutes, making sure to stir often. Boost the heat up to high and add in the cut asparagus and half of the minced garlic, and sauté for another 3-5 minutes, until they are tender, but not overcooked. Pour in the wine and allow it to reduce down, about 1-2 minutes. After this mixture has cooked, let it sit in the pan while you start cooking the bacon lardons.
3. Preparing the Creamy “Sauce”: In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, finely grated Parmesan, heavy cream, fleur de sel, fresh cracked pepper, lemon zest, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes until a smooth custard has formed. Set it aside.
4. For the Carbonara: In the same large stockpot used above, crisp up the bacon lardons over medium-high heat with a sprinkling of cinnamon. Once the bacon is completely cooked+ crispy, using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Reduce the heat to low and leave the remaining bacon fat in the pot and throw in the cooked pasta and peas, brown buttered leeks, sautéed asparagus, and remaining minced garlic. Toss all of these components in the bacon fat until a cohesive pasta mixture has formed. Turn off the heat (but the pasta ingredients are still hot) and slowly drizzle in the seasoned heavy cream-parmesan-egg mixture, stirring continuously, so that the eggs do not cook and curdle. You want to achieve a smooth, creamy sauce, that perfectly coats the pasta, and in order to reach those results… you have to keep stirring. If the sauce is too thick you can add in a small ladle of that starchy pasta-cooking water until your have reached your desired consistency. Finally add in a little freshly grated nutmeg, fresh parsley, and fresh basil. Take a taste test, and if needed, season it with some more salt, pepper, and/or any other spices. Return the pasta to low-medium heat for just about a minute or two to thicken the sauce and bring it all together. At the very last minute, toss in the crispy bacon lardons, so they maintain their texture, even when coated in such a thick sauce.
5. Serving the Carbonara: Spoon the Springtime Carbonara into serving bowls and garnish with some fresh parsley, fresh basil, and a handful of crumbled goat cheese. Enjoy it while it’s still hot and oh-so-creamy!