Monday, December 27, 2010

Risotto Carbonara

You likely still have enough spiral ham, turkey, or roast beef to last you through a nuclear winter. But there will come a day when your stomach is rumbling and your fridge is depressingly empty. When that day comes, why not try out this warm and filling risotto? A carbonara is usually a pasta dish that combines parmesan cheese, egg, and some sort of fatty pork product (panchetta or bacon). I took the best elements of a classic carbonara and incorporated them into this risotto. This isn't exactly a light dish, but I figure you burn more calories to stay warm during the winter months. Enjoy!

Risotto Carbonara
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 6 oz. pancetta (or bacon)
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ¾ cup frozen peas (just eyeball it)
  • 1 oz. (or more) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Bring chicken stock to a simmer over medium low heat in a small saucepan.

Meanwhile, cook pancetta in a large skillet over medium high heat until most of the fat has rendered. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon and let drain on a plate lined with some paper towels.

Pour most of the rendered fat into a mug or bowl for later disposal, but reserve about 1 tablespoon in the pan.

Cook the onion in the rendered fat until translucent. Add garlic.

Add rice and cook for about 1 minute.

Stir in wine and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Ladle in approximately ½ cup of the chicken stock and stir until absorbed. Repeat this step until you've used up all of the chicken stock.

After you've added the final stock to the risotto (it can still look a little loose), return the pancetta to the pan. Add the frozen peas to the risotto and stir until cooked and bright green (this won't take very long at all). Stir in the cheese until it melts. Finally, add the lemon juice (watch the seeds!), salt and pepper.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Glazed Ginger Pumpkin Muffins

I have a thing for muffins. To me, they're the perfect morning (or evening) indulgence with just the right level of sweet. The pumpkin makes them incredibly moist, and the molasses makes them taste a lot like gingerbread. I even used white whole-wheat flour to make them more nutritious. Enjoy!

Glazed Ginger Pumpkin Muffins

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
3 large eggs
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon molasses
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger, divided

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons (or more) water

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 6 giant (1 1/4-cup) muffin cups or 18 standard (1/3-cup) muffin cups with nonstick spray. Sift flour, ginger, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat 1 cup sugar and oil in large bowl to blend. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, blending well after each addition. Beat in pumpkin, 1/2 cup molasses, buttermilk, and 1/4 cup crystallized ginger. Stir in flour mixture until just blended.

Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes for giant muffins and 30 minutes for standard muffins. Transfer muffins to rack; cool completely.

Whisk powdered sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons water, and 1 tablespoon molasses in medium bowl, adding more water as needed to form thick glaze.

Dip muffin tops in glaze; transfer to rack, allowing glaze to drip down sides. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup crystallized ginger. Let stand until glaze is set, about 1 hour.

Makes 18 standard muffins or 6 giant muffins.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

Ok, so that's a pretty extreme claim. Cookie-lovers generally fall into two categories: those who love crispy cookies and those who love cookies of the chewy variety. These cookies are more crispy than chewy, but I think what I love most from them is that they are the cookies my mom made for me while I was growing up.

This recipe comes from an old Pillsbury cookbook from 1979, but most of the recipes have stood up amazingly well (the baked tuna balls might be an exception). Anwyay, less biased sources than I have affirmed the deliciousness of these cookies in recent days. I hope you'll enjoy them as much as I have!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg

1 3/4 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375. In large bowl, combine first 6 ingredients; blend well. Stir in flour, soda and salt; blend well. Stir in chocolate chips; mix well. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls, 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

WFT Chicken Sandwhich

There comes a time in a man's life when he is trying to use up what food he has left in his fridge. This can lead to many a dreadful concoction, but maybe, just maybe if the conditions are right, a truly inspired dish may emerge.

I would like to think of last Tuesday night as one of these fated occurrences. With some chicken breasts, a little spinach, and a few strips of bacon. I had made the best sandwich I've had all year.

So first I started with the chicken breasts, a little salt and pepper, and decided to stuff them with some spinach. I heated my oven to about 400 degrees and cooked the spinach in a pan over medium heat. To the spinach I added some Parmesan cheese, olive oil, black pepper and garlic powder to add a lil' bit of tasty. Once to almost the consistency of creamed spinach I slid the spinach into the chicken breasts which already met with the business end of my chefs knife.

Now I know the saying that anything is better if wrapped in bacon is a bit silly. But man, do I love some bacon. Soooo, I wrapped the chicken in a few strips of bacon that I had left over in the fridge. Then I threw those babies and the dish on whence they sat into the oven for maybe 25 minutes. Once they came out I drained off most of the juices that came off, slide one between two pieces of bread and went to town.

And that's all he cooked.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Choc Pud Cake

Dear Friends,

I have a confession to make. I committed the cardinal sin of baking on Friday: I started dumping ingredients in a bowl without reading through the recipe first. My attempt to double the recipe exacerbated this error. The goal was to make a chocolate pudding cake to bring to my friend Dean's "Champagne and Chocolate" cocktail party. As the picture below suggests, this is the kind of dessert that hits the sweet spot when still warm and smothered in melting vanilla ice cream. It's a classic American dessert that I believe has been around since the 1950s - think an old fashioned molten chocolate cake.

I think the critical error I made was to sift all of the cocoa powder (4/3 cups as I was making a double recipe) with the flour. In my defense, the 1/3 cup the recipe says to sift with the flour is 2/3 cup when doubled, which is the amount in the ingredients list. I swear it made sense to me at the time. :) I realized the error I had made before I put the cake in the oven, but I had only given myself enough time to make the recipe once so that the cake would be warm when I brought it to the party. I decided to plunge ahead, hoping for the best. The resulting "mud," as one guest called it was not quite what I had in mind. The goal is to have a brownie-like top layer floating on a thick pudding. The mess I created didn't have these distinct layers. Judging from the pictures on the website where I found the recipe, however, a perfect execution of the recipe might not have a distinct demarcation. I'll provide the recipe I attempted, which was featured on the Martha Stewart Show at one point, as well as the Pillsbury recipe my brother and I grew up making (which does have more distinct layers if memory serves). Hopefully you all will have more luck if you take on this treacherous treat.

Martha Stewart Recipe

1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
1 1/2 cups boiling water
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into small chunks

1) Preheat oven to 350° F. In a large bowl, sift together flour, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt, set aside.

2) In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, granulated sugar, milk, butter, and vanilla; add to flour mixture. Stir batter until just combined. Spread batter evenly into an 8 cup shallow baking dish. Set aside.

3) In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining 1/3 cup cocoa powder, brown sugar, and boiling water. Pour liquid evenly over batter, do not mix. Distribute chocolate chunks into batter. Bake until a tooth pick or skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out with crumbs adhering to it, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.


Pillsbury Recipe

1 cup flour
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup milk
2 tablespoons melted shortening or oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
1¾ cups hot water

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, combine first 9 ingredients. Mix at medium speed until well blended. Spread in ungreased 8 or 9-inch square pan. In small bowl, combine brown sugar, ¼ cup cocoa and hot water; pour over batter. Bake at 350°F for 40-45 minutes or until cake is set. Serve warm or cool, topped with cream or whipped cream.

Happy cooking!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cheddar Bay Biscuits

Not I'm not insinuating that my friends are a bunch of delinquents, rouges, and villains, but every time we go to Red Lobster the basket of biscuits would mysteriously disappear into purses and bags. Our waiter probably thought we all were binge eaters the 6th time he brought us a new basket. Now I don't quite share their addiction but they are very tasty. They are usually soggy and stale when you dig them out of the bags at home.

Well I decided to take on the Franchise Restaurant and make my own. No longer do I have to eat these tasty biscuits in an annoyingly Cape Code themed decor. Its actually very surprising how easy they are to make.

Step 1: Stuff ya need
-2 cups Bisquick
-half a cup milk
-half a cup shredded cheddar cheese
-quarter teaspoon of garlic powder
-quarter teaspoon of dried parsley flakes
-a couple tablespoons of melted butter

Step2: Get the oven hot
About 400 degree F, or 477 degrees Kelvin if your scientifically inclined, will do.

Step 3: Making Dough
Mix the Bisquick, milk, and cheddar to combine. Don't worry about all the lumps, diffusion will take care of the final mixing in the oven. Drop the dough on a cookie sheet in about tablespoon sized lumps (extra points for cool shapes).

Step 4: Into the Inferno
Bake the biscuits for 8-12 minutes in the oven. Take them out when the rough edges of the biscuits begin to brown.

Step 4.5: Butter...YAY
While the biscuits are baking, mix the butter, garlic powder, and parsley flake in a pot on the stove and mix until the butter is melted.

Step 5: The Powers Combined
Right after you take the biscuits out of the oven brush the melted butter combo over the piping hot biscuits.

Step 6: The Kill
Ravenously devour about one and a half batches until you don't feeling like moving any more. Well, I guess this parts optional, but I highly endorse it.

Happy Cooking,
-Travis Cochran

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mom's Potato Soup

There's nothing quite like a cold winter day to send me scurrying inside in search of comfort food. I like to make a lot of hearty stews and soups this time of year to warm my belly and heart. The following recipe is something my mom used to make for us growing up. It's a perfect quick-fix meal for any day of the week. As my mom would say, it "sticks to your ribs."

Potato Soup

Baking potatoes, peeled (I used about 4)
Summer Sausage ("Johnsonville" original recipe preferred)
Cheddar Cheese (the sharper the better as far as I'm concerned)

Dice potatoes and onion. Cook in just enough water to cover. When very tender, remove from heat and mash potatoes in the cooking water. Add finely diced summer sausage, about half of a small block of cheddar cheese (diced so it melts better) and 2 tablespoons butter. Season to taste with salt, pepper (lots), and thyme. Be careful too lower heat and stir often once potatoes are mashed so it doesn’t burn on the bottom.

I think it might be tasty to replace some of the cooking liquid with a bottle of good German beer.

Happy cooking!