Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Tagliatelle with Truffled Mushrooms

I was shopping one day and came across a bag of Porcini Mushroom Tagliatelle (which is very, very similar to Fettuccine).  I immediately thought that it would go really well with a simple Truffle sauce with mushrooms.  I'd wanted to use baby portobello mushrooms (aka cremini mushrooms) but forgot to grab them at the grocery store so I ended up just using regular ole white, button mushrooms.

For the Truffle portion of the recipe, I used a truffle infused olive oil and a jar of chopped black truffles mixed with mushrooms.  I found both of these at a specialty food shop.  One thing to note is that the flavor of truffle is quite strong so don't think that you have to go hog wild and spend a paycheck to purchase an actual raw or 100% jarred truffle product.  A little goes a long way and a hint of truffle is very detectable in a dish.

If you're unfamiliar with truffles, they're very earthy tasting, similar to mushrooms which is why they're often paired with them.  If you like mushrooms, you'll probably also like truffles so give them a try.  I love mushrooms which is why I purchased the porcini mushroom pasta.  If you're unable to find mushroom infused pasta, any pasta will do.  Use your favorite or try something new.

OK, with all of the disclaimers settled, let's move on to the recipe.  I started by putting four medium sized garlic cloves into a pouch I made out of tin foil.  I drizzled in about a teaspoon of the truffled olive oil, a pinch of salt and a crank of pepper.  I put this into a preheated, 400 degree oven to roast.

Then I got started on the sauce, if you can call it that.  It was more of a coating than a sauce.  I finely grated about a cup of parmigiano reggiano cheese.  To that, I added about a tablespoon of the truffle infused olive oil, a pat of butter and a teaspoon of the truffle and mushroom mixture.  I added a few cranks of the pepper mill (refrain from adding salt at this point because the cheese is salty).  I mashed it all together to make a paste.  Once it was mixed, I realized that it probably wouldn't be enough for the amount of pasta I was cooking (the whole bag or enough for four).  So I repeated the process, doubling my amount of paste.

Pull out the garlic cloves and let them cool.  While they're cooling, get a pot of water on the stove with a hefty amount of salt in it and bring it to a boil.  While waiting on the water to boil, clean and dice the mushrooms.  I used about 10 which was almost the entire container.  I could've used them all so if you're a mushroom lover, feel free to add as many as you like.

Once the mushrooms are sliced, the water should be about ready.  Heat a skillet with a teaspoon of the truffle oil, salt and pepper.  When it's heated, add the mushrooms to the skillet and add the dry pasta to the boiling water.  Grab a pasta spoon or tongs and a ladle to have on hand.  The moisture will start to come out of the mushrooms so don't worry if they look soggy, just leave them and let them cook.  Once they're all heated through, give the pan a toss to flip them around or take your tongs and give them a toss.

When the pasta is almost done, take your pasta spoon or tongs and pull one bunch of the pasta from the pot to the skillet, add a third of the cheese paste to the pasta and put a dent in the top with the ladle.  Put a small bit (half a cup or so) of the pasta water in the dent.  Take the tongs and stir the paste and pasta water into the pasta to combine.  Pull the pasta up out of the pan.  This causes the starches to loosen and creates a velvety effect on the noodles.  Then repeat - another scoop of pasta, another third of the past and small scoop of the pasta water.  Stir and pull to combine.  Put the remaining pasta and paste into the skillet and stir and pull.  The sauce should be well incorporated, smooth and creamy - not stringy or gloppy.  If it's not almost creamy and velvety, add more pasta water and pull, repeating until creamy and smooth.

Serve immediately, topped with a small sprinkle of parmigiano reggiano cheese and serve with bread.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ranch Potato Wedges

I'm addicted to the potato wedges at Buffalo Wild Wings so for the Super Bowl this year, I made my own version at home, along with chicken wings of course.

I pulled out my old Grand Pappy deep fat fryer and got the oil heating while I took about a cup of flower and a packet of dry ranch salad dressing mix and added it to the flour.  I washed and sliced 15 small red potatoes into bite sized wedges.  I placed the wedges into water while prepping so that they didn't turn colors.  I removed a handful of wedges at a time and placed them on a towel to get any larger amounts of water off of them and then dropped them a few at a time into the flour / ranch mixture and then into the hot oil.  Fry until golden brown, sprinkle with salt while blotting on paper towels and eat immediately.

Minty Limeade

Fill a two quart pot with water and set on the stove on high.  As the water heats, wash and half two limes.  Juice the limes and add to the water.  Toss in a sprig of mint.  Bring to a boil and turn off the heat, allowing the pot to remain on the burner.  If you'd like the beverage sweetened, add 1/2 cup of raw sugar and stir to dissolve.  Once cool, strain into a pitcher.

This is like a virgin Mojito and so refreshing!

Strawberry Lemonade

Fill a two quart pot with water and set on the stove on high.  As the water begins to boil, wash, cap and dice a half pint of fresh strawberries.  Add to the heating water.  Wash and half one lemon.  Juice the whole lemon and add to the water.  Bring to a boil and turn off the heat, allowing the pot to remain on the burner.  If you'd like the beverage sweetened, add 1/2 cup of raw sugar and stir to dissolve.  Once cool, strain into a pitcher, pressing out any liquid from the strawberries.

What's neat with this drink is that all of the color comes out of the strawberries and into the drink.  The berries lose their color which is why I don't leave them in.  They get creepy looking.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Pumpkin Stuffed Shells with Sage Butter and Mushrooms

I slaughtered the first of two of our Halloween pumpkins this weekend and wanted to try something other than pumpkin bready things (pumpkin bread, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin waffles, etc.)  So, I cooked it, scooped it, strained it and pureed it.  I'll break that down a bit.  I let the oven heat up to 350 degrees while I cut the pumpkin into quarters or 4 large pieces by cutting the pumpkin in half tall ways and then cutting the halves in half again lengthwise.  I covered three deep pans in tin foil and then placed cooling racks over them.  After scooping out the guts from pumpkins, I placed them on the racks.  I had two square pans and one long pan (that's why there's three but use whatever pans you have that will hold the sized pumpkin you have).  The reason why I use deep dish pans is because pumpkins have a lot of water in them.  Once they start cooking, they'll drip.  Put them in the oven and let them cook until they deflate.  Once they've deflated, let them cool enough to be able to scoop out the pumpkin with a spoon.  It will come off of the skin easily.  Press each quarter through a sieve or a very fine, mesh strainer using the back of a spoon.  More water will drain out of the pumpkin.  Once it's thick and dense, place the pumpkin meat into a food processor and process until it is smooth and no longer stringy.

While the pumpkin is cooking, put one and a half sticks of butter into a pan along with a handful of fresh sage a split garlic clove, a dash of fresh lemon or lime juice and about a 1/4 cup of olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  When the pumpkin is ready to be removed from the oven, turn it off and place the butter mixer in the oven to melt.  Once melted, remove.

Boil some water and add a fair amount of salt to it for cooking the pasta shells.  You can use any type of pasta that you stuff (tubes, layered lasagna, etc.)  Mix equal amounts of pumpkin meat with ricotta cheese, a few handfuls of shredded mozzarella cheese, a handful of roasted pumpkin seeds (mine were bought roasted and salted - I didn't toast them and wished I had for more crunch (next time) but they were still good) and few dashes of nutmeg.  I used one container of ricotta and was able to fill 18 shells.  Four to five shells usually feeds one person along with some bread.  

Clean and slice mushrooms.  You could use any vegetable you like.  I just really love mushrooms and found that the earthiness of the mushrooms went really well with the pumpkin and butter and cheese.  I used about a half of a container of whole, white mushrooms but wish I'd added more.  I'll use a whole container next time.

Once the shells become soft, remove them from the water and place them on a plate or other surface.  They should not be completely cooked because they'll cook more while in the oven baking.  They cool pretty quickly so you'll be able to fill them with the mixture right after removing them from the water.

Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray and then line the bottom with the sliced mushrooms.  Rest the filled shells on top of the mushrooms.  Once all of the shells are in the baking dish, top with more mozzarella cheese and then pour strained butter mixture on top of shells.  I topped with what little mozzarella I had left in the bag because you can't have too much cheese and then I even topped that with some grated parmigiano region.

Bake, covered for 35-40 minutes or until all of the cheese is melted and the butter sauce is bubbling in the baking dish.  Uncover and let the top brown which is 10-15 minutes.  Place the bread in the oven at this time.  Serve, topped with chives and alongside bread.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Banana Nut Pancakes with Orange Ginger Syrup

This sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is but tastes so high end that you'll think you went out to a fancy brunch.  To start, gently slice the peel off of an orange.  Try not to get too much of the white part (because it's bitter).  Put the peel into a microwaveable (like glass) container.  Add a couple scrapes of fresh ginger - about the amount of a pinch.  Cover the ginger and orange peel with real maple syrup and set aside.

Get a griddle pan heating.  Squeeze the orange into a bowl and add pancake mix.  Make the pancake mix as you normally do (or according to the box directions).  Add a quarter sized dot of oil to the griddle.  Chop a palm sized amount of nuts (walnuts or pecans will work best).

Peel a banana and slice into equal sized slices.  Pour the pancake batter onto the hot griddle in the hot oil.  Top the batter with bananas and then pour more batter on top of the bananas.  For best results, pour a little batter and spread it so that it's not too thick.  If it's too thick, you run the risk of the center not cooking all the way.  Top with nuts.  Lift an edge of the pancake.  When it's brown, flip it.

Microwave the syrup for 1 minute.  Stir and if needed, microwave for another minute.  Be careful because will easily bubble over.  Remove the orange peels and serve alongside the pancakes.


Pho is a very popular Vietnamese dish.  I was a little bit afraid of it the first time I had it because it's usually served with raw beef that's so thinly sliced that when it's put into the broth, it's cooked immediately.  I've also tried seafood pho which has cooked seafood in it.  After that first time, I've been addicted to it.  Now that fall is upon us, I had some leftover chicken stock from making Chicken and Dumplings (another "Something Different" dish that could be considered.  I'll post that recipe next time) so I decided to give Pho a shot.  I put a palm sized toss of coriander into a warm pan along with 4 whole cloves and two star anise.  After just a couple minutes, I added the spices to the chicken stock.  I also added a finger long piece of ginger that I roughly chopped up.  I made the chicken stock by boiling a chicken carcass along with onions, carrots and celery.  I'd roasted the chicken the night before so I had the meat set aside while I boiled the bones to give the best flavor.  I strained the stock to remove the bones, veggies and spices and returned the broth back to the stove.  I added in shredded chicken and let it sit on the hot burner but had it turned off.  I sliced a single mushroom and put one each into the two bowls.  I diced a spring onion and split it between the bowls.  I brought a pot of water to a boil and added half of a package of thin, rice noodles.  While the water was coming to a boil, I chopped some cilantro and a green chili.  I placed them in tiny serving bowls.  I removed the pot from the burner and stirred the noodles.  The water turned milky colored and I knew that since they were so thin, it wouldn't take long to cook them.  I strained them and then divided them among the two bowls.  I topped the noodles, mushrooms and onions with the chicken and pho stock.  I served with the chopped cilantro and peppers on the side.  It was awesome.  Now I've had beef, seafood and chicken pho.  If I had to change one thing, I'd serve with Thai basil rather than the cilantro.  I like the anise (licoricey) taste of the basil over the cilantro.  The cilantro was good but I think the basil would've been better.

It's really a simple dish to make but so elegantly different.  It's so filling and I think the spices make me feel great - almost energized.  Give it a try.  It's really bold and will give your house such a nice, fragrant smell.