Monday, April 25, 2016

Shrimp Carbonara

We love a good carbonara around here. It's been a while since I made a new variation, so when I was reading a book that mentioned pasta carbonara I knew it was a sign. And thus, Shrimp Carbonara was born.

Shrimp carbonara

I'm not sure why it never occurred to me to make this before but now that I have, it will definitely become a regular thing. All I did was add shrimp to my standard carbonara recipe. I mean, what's not to love about shrimp cooked in bacon fat? Positively delicious.

Shrimp Carbonara
Based on Nigella Lawson's carbonara recipe

1 pound spaghetti
6 slices bacon, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 pound shrimp, any size you like, peeled and deveined
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry vermouth (or white wine)
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup half and half cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly ground nutmeg

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet that will fit the pasta later, cook the bacon until crispy but not crunchy. Remove with a slotted spoon, leaving the bacon grease in the pan.

While the bacon is cooking, pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. After you've removed the bacon from the pan, add the shrimp in an even layer. Cook the shrimp until they're pink on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove to the plate with the bacon.

Add the sliced onions to the pan and cook until softened and starting to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Add the vermouth and let it bubble so that, after a few minutes, you have a small amount of thick syrup left.

While the vermouth is reducing, beat together the eggs, Parmesan, cream, pepper and nutmeg in a bowl.

Once you have a nice syrup, add the pasta to the pan, tossing well to coat with the sauce. Take the pan off the heat (remove from the stove completely, don't just turn off the burner) and add the egg and cheese mixture, swiftly tossing everything with tongs to mix well. Add the bacon and shrimp and toss again. Taste and season with some more pepper and grated cheese, if desired.
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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Lemon Chicken Risotto

Last night was one of those nights where I felt frazzled by the thought of making dinner. I was making this recipe for Lemon Chicken Risotto, so I should have been walkin' on easy street. I love risotto and don't know why it has a reputation for being complicated. Maybe it's because a lot of recipes claim you have to stand at the stove, constantly stirring the rice, for upwards of 20 minutes. Let me tell you this - I've been making risotto for years and I never babysit it like that. True, I don't leave the kitchen so I can keep an eye on it, but I just make sure the pan never gets too dry and give everything a quick stir every few minutes.

Lemon chicken risotto

Anyway. I was frazzled, which meant by the time dinner was done I forgot all about photographing the gorgeous skillet full of deliciousness. As Steve and Katie made oohing and ahhing noises over the bright, lemony flavors and the perfectly cooked chicken, I realized my mistake. I quickly gathered the leftover risotto to one side of the pan and tried to strategically photograph it so it didn't look like 3/4 of the pan was missing. Ha!

Guys. This is some seriously good risotto. We all love risotto, but this was a real showstopper. The fresh herbs and the punch from the lemon were utter perfection. I don't have lemon pepper seasoning, but I did have some free samples of Mrs. Dash, so I used that last night. I should probably put lemon pepper seasoning on the shopping list, though, since I plan to make this one often.

Lemon Chicken Risotto
Slightly modified from How Sweet It Is

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 to 6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 scallions, minced
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
salt and pepper for seasoning
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
lemon wedges for serving

Season the chicken with the salt, garlic powder and lemon pepper seasoning on both sides. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the chicken. Cook on both sides until golden brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the chicken to a plate. Once cool, cut into bite-size pieces.

Heat the stock over medium heat.

If the pan looks dry, add a little more oil, then add the onion. Cook until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes, then add the rice. Stir to toast the rice until it's somewhat translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the white wine and wait until the rice absorbs it before starting to add the stock, stirring until the rice absorbs the liquid like it did with the wine. Repeat this until all stock has been added and the rice is al dente. This process should take about 20 minutes.

Stir in the scallions, lemon zest, parmesan, basil and parsley. Taste and season with more salt or pepper, if needed. Add the tablespoon of butter along with the chicken, and toss to melt the butter. Serve immediately with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice on top of each serving.
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Tuesday, April 05, 2016

One Pan Orecchiette with Sausage and Kale

I've been on a serious kale kick lately. If I see it on a restaurant menu, there's a good chance I'll order it. But I very rarely (read: never) cook with it at home. I think I've purchased kale only once for this Italian Sausage, Potato and Kale Soup. I'm also really into one-pot meals, specifically when they involve cooking pasta in a flavorful broth. This One Pan Orecchiette with Sausage and Kale combines my two latest obsessions into one delicious meal.

Orrecchiette with sausage and kale

Looking at the pictures of this meal made my mouth water and the end result did not disappoint. I made a few minor adjustments to the cooking method but otherwise I followed the recipe. Katie and I both cleaned our plates in record time. I had the leftovers for lunch today and they were sensational, dare I say better than the first day. I needed to add a smidge of water just to loosen the sauce a bit, but this reheated beautifully.

Not that I have any nutrition background whatsoever, but as far as our personal eating habits, this is a pretty awesome meal. You've got grains, protein and veggies covered. The pasta is minimal (less than half a pound, thankyouverymuch) and plenty of healthy kale. And a bonus - the Italian sausage we buy is actually made from turkey instead of pork. The best part is, you can't taste the difference. We've served this sausage to countless people who had no clue they were eating turkey instead of pork.

One Pan Orecchiette with Sausage and Kale
As seen on For the Love of Cooking

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
1 lb mild ground Italian sausage (if you buy links, remove casings)
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed well
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart chicken broth
6oz (weight) orecchiette pasta
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
4oz (weight) kale, chopped
Parmesan, shaved or grated

Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until soft and golden, about 5-6 minutes. Stir sausage into the onions along with the Italian seasoning, oregano, crushed fennel seed, red pepper flakes and garlic. Cook and stir until sausage is broken up and just browned, about 3-4 minutes.

Pour the chicken broth into the sausage mixture and bring to a boil. Be sure to scrape up the browned bits off of the bottom of the pan. Once the broth is boiling, add the orecchiette pasta. Cook, stirring every so often to prevent the pasta from sticking together or to the bottom of the pan, about 15 minutes. Taste and season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, if needed. Be sure to taste before adding any salt since the chicken broth will be salty.

Stir the kale into sausage mixture until it wilts, about 1-2 minutes. Ladle pasta into bowls and top with Parmesan.
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