guinness mac

May 22, 2013 Comments Off on guinness mac


“You know what I don’t understand?” O said over dinner tonight.  “I don’t understand how the Bearenstain Bears could have named their son ‘Brother.'”

“I know,” said C, “what a stupid name.”

“No,” O shot back, “I mean, they didn’t know they were going to have Sister yet.  So why didn’t they just name him ‘Son?'”

I had a confession to make.  “I hated those books.  It’s the same freaking story in all of them–something new happens, the father bear screws it up, and everything gets solved by the mother bear and the kids.  I found them personally offensive.”

“That’s funny,” said C.  “The reason we loved them was that it was the same story every time–something new happens, the father bear screws it up, and everything gets solved by the mother bear and the kids.  We found them pretty accurate.”

“No dessert for you.”

Actually, he’ll get dessert.  His ITBS test scores came back today, and as usual, I want to make sure he uses his enormous mind powers for the forces of good, not evil.

That up there is definitely a force of good.  Guinness Mac, from (believe it or not), this month’s Cooking Light.  Not their lightest recipe, but one of their best in recent memory.  I had my first Guinness in college, and it was a revelation.  After years (sorry, Mom) of drinking cheap swill, my photography class went out and our instructor ordered us a round.  I had never tasted anything like it, and I was hooked.  My beer-drinking days have largely been replaced by a lower-carb glass of red wine per night (OK, usually two), but Guinness has 125 calories per can and only 10g of carbs–less on both counts than an equal amount of Budweiser.  So if beer is on the menu, this is a win/win situation.

The children have, to the best of my knowledge, still not had their first Guinness.  So this seemed like a bit of culinary education for them.  The recipe calls for turkey sausage, fried up with some onion, and then floured and doused with a cup of the black, foamy awesomesauce.  4 ounces of cheese, throw in the pasta, and bake at 450° for ten minutes.  Did I use Graziano Brothers instead of turkey sausage?  I did.

And, not surprisingly with all that good stuff in it, the result was pretty tasty.  “Kind of beery,” said C, “but good.”  He says we can add it to the pantheon.

So, let’s see…a 16 oz. bottle of Guinness, minus an 8 oz. cup for the mac, leaves 8 more ounces for Dad.  Oh, and what do you know…I accidentally bought two bottles, just in case one dropped out of the shopping bag….




gnocchi gnight

February 28, 2012 Comments Off on gnocchi gnight

There’s a happy spud.  With a bowl full of happy spuds.  Sorta.

I don’t know why, but I bought a five-pound bag of russet potatoes last week.  And having just finished Blood, Bones, and Butter, I’m determined to follow through on the idea that you use everything.  So that’s meant a lot of spuds.  French fried spuds.  Mashed spuds.  Baked spuds.

Gnocchi were a little daunting, but sort of inevitable.  I did my research and figured I had something like half a dozen reasonable looking recipes.  Cook’s Illustrated’s version, btw, is word-for-word Marcella Hazan’s recipe, so I figured that was the likely method.  Hazan says to throw in eggs if you get insecure about the gnocchi holding together, and I was even before I started.  Eggs it was.

In principle, nothing could be simpler.  Boil and rice the potatoes, mix them with flour (OK, and egg), a little chive or scallion, and form the dough into one-inch thick ropes.  Then cut the ropes into one-inch pieces, press them into the tines of a fork, and flip them onto a baking tray.  Hazan goes to great lengths to describe this flip, which leaves you with a pillow-shaped dumpling with ridges on one side and a big dent in the other.  If you do it right.

I’ve done enough bread to know that getting the texture right is everything, so I was diligent about adding flour slowly and working the dough carefully.  The new food mill was outstanding at making fluffy potatoes, and I didn’t want to screw them up.  They came out a little sticky, but tossing them in flour seemed to make them flippable, and they puffed up nicely in boiling water and rose up to the surface as advertised.

So, uh, yeah, the flip needs some work.  These worked nicely with L’s tomato sauce from this weekend, which C loves, with some walnut pesto that I whipped together for myself, and with the more traditional sage and butter, which O cleaned up.  And there’s leftover, which may be lunch tomorrow.  All in all, the kids were big fans, which was a welcome sight–we’ve had a kind of mixed bag the last week or so, and we were all glad to get a successful experiment in.  Cheeseburgers tomorrow at their request, which I think they’ve earned.

Big day tomorrow, as the grandparents get in to town to finish up the paperwork on the new family homestead.  And right on schedule?  We’ve got a massive windstorm heading this way, though the weather gods have at least sent the 14″ of snow further north…

kale and sausage pasta

November 14, 2011 Comments Off on kale and sausage pasta

It’s the week before thanksgiving, so we’re raiding the fridge.  The kids and I will head to Virginia on Sunday to spend the week with my folks, and in the meantime I figure we might as well use up whatever we’ve got lying around.

Which includes a bunch of whole wheat pasta and sausage.  I ran through Art of Simple Food and found a recipe that added kale–now a total obsession–to this pair.  The trick?  Boil the kale and then use the water to boil the pasta.  Saves time, adds flavor to the spaghetti (and yes, Alice says to use fusili.  We didn’t have any).  Meanwhile, fry the sausage and onions.  Then toss everything together in the pan–this is where the giant non-stick wok comes in handy.

The result was, according to O, the third-best pasta dish I’d made (behind pasta Salerno and carbonara–the girl does like her protein).  And according to C, it would have been better without the kale–not unpredictable.  But given the enormous vitamin and fiber hit that comes with kale, and his willingness to at least nibble at the leaves while thoroughly nomming the vitamin-infused pasta, I think we’ll do this one again soon.

Late afternoon in studio today, so instead of movie night we’re watching Monday Night Football.  O has declared herself a Packers fan.  Sorry, Chicago family members.

I have no real football allegiances, and C says he’s rooting for whoever’s going to win.

pasta salerno

October 22, 2011 Comments Off on pasta salerno

Most.  Decadent.  Pasta.  Dish.  Ever.

Friday was “Pasta as you like it” night.  C chose simple tomato sauce (bless him).  O wanted carbonara.  Sure, I said, but we’d done carbonara a couple of weeks ago.  What if we find something else with eggs?  She was game.

Cook’s, of course, had something that went even beyond that in terms of protein and fatty goodness.  Pasta with eggs, Salerno style.  I don’t know anyone from the city of Salerno, but I think they’ve got it right.  The dish is mostly an assembly process.  Toast some bread crumbs.  Boil some pasta.  Saute some garlic to flavor some oil.  Add the pasta to the oil and garlic, throw in some pasta water, top it with bread crumbs, then quickly fry an egg in the saute pan and drop it on top.  Holy crap.

Done right, the yolk ends up saucing the pasta, not quite drenching it, but combining with the breadcrumbs to make a ridiculously satisfying combination of salty and sweet.  And it’s ridiculously filling–like having breakfast and dinner in one bowl.  I’d run ten miles that morning in anticipation, so I had completely earned one bowl of the stuff, and to make it sound healthy I made it with whole wheat pasta.  O saw that and raised me a crumbled slice of bacon in hers.  We both woke up this morning ready to take on the world…

cacio e pepe

June 30, 2011 Comments Off on cacio e pepe

Simple to the point of being almost ridiculous, this is another recipe from the Bon Appetit Italy issue from a couple of months ago.  Cheese and pepper.  That’s almost it (except, of course, for a criminal amount of butter).

The article used this dish to make the point that pasta water is a key ingredient in a lot of sauces–it has enough starch in it that it actually absorbs moisture from the sauce and helps bind it to the pasta–in this case, spaghetti, which has a huge amount of surface area per volume.

I made this a couple of times and it got mixed reviews–too peppery for some tastes.  But I liked the combination of fire and smooth cheesiness–the pepper gets cut by Gran Padano and Pecorino, and I actually thought it could use more heat.  So I upped the pepper tonight, and it was pretty amazing.  Loud, fiery, but also velvety smooth, sort of like mac’n’cheese but with some spice and without the creamy sauce.  The kids opted for regular tomato sauce, and I put that together the same way with a splash of pasta water and some tossing.

new york times kale salad

June 22, 2011 Comments Off on new york times kale salad

So my extensive nutritional research (uh…reading Men’s Health every month?) has pretty much told me that all I should eat–ever–is kale.  Superfood.  Huge nutritional value, virtually no calories.  Nothing but fiber and vitamins.  Great–problem solved.  Except that I, like everyone else on the planet, do not like kale.  It feels like plastic, and tastes like angry.

But this week, the Times Magazine had a whole page of salad recipes from Mark Bittman, who’s rarely steered me wrong.  And in all of this was a recipe for kale that seemed to follow the “anything’s delicious if you pair it with a lot of delicious things:”

…chop and drizzle kale with 1 teaspoon each olive oil and sherry vinegar; knead until tender. Toss with 2 grated carrots, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup blue cheese and honey-garlic vinaigrette: 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, 1 garlic clove and 2 teaspoons honey.

So that’s it up there.  As it happens, I realized at the last minute that I’d bought sherry, not sherry vinegar–probably a good thing to catch before serving it to children–so I just used white wine vinegar, which was fine.  The result?  The kids were totally unimpressed–they settled for iceberg lettuce, and I understood.  But I was converted.  Kneading the kale took away some of the plastic-ness (though next time I’ll go a bit longer), and the blue cheese and raisins added salt and sweet that filled out the bitter and sour of the kale and vinegar nicely.  This morning’s strength workout seemed to go well, and I’ll convince myself that the kale played a role….

…although yeah, C’s choice of mac’n’cheese for the main course probably didn’t hurt.  This is that unbelievable recipe with a pound of cheese and three cans of evaporated milk.  About one cup of this provides enough protein, fat and carbs to absolutely swamp that kale in pure energy.  Broiled it this time to get a nice crispy bread crumb crust.  Worked a treat.

pasta pomodoro

April 19, 2011 Comments Off on pasta pomodoro

And yeah, there it is.  Not the food-porn shot on the cover of the magazine, but still pretty good lookin’, if you ask me.

Bon Appetit published this as part of a “pasta manifesto” that basically said put the pasta in the sauce at the end, loosen things up with a bit of pasta water, and throw in a considerable amount of butter before serving.  All common sense stuff, but I have to say this was pretty incredible given how simple a recipe it was.  Saute some onions and garlic, dump a big can of peeled tomatoes in (we found Pomi boxes at Wheatsfield–real Italian), let that simmer for twenty minutes, then put the pasta together, follow the manifesto, and hey, presto–a silky smooth, clingy tomato sauce.

The article made a big deal out of the classic Italian restaurant experience–simple ingredients, thoughtfully prepared.  You ask for a lamb chop at a trattoria?  That’s what you get.  Maybe a bit of garnish, but probably not.  This recipe was exactly that.  Want a tomato sauce?  Fine.  28 ounces of tomatoes and a little prep, finished off with just a bit of trickery and, um, yeah, butter.

One thing we did that paid off was to use a wok to cook the sauce and then to immerse the pasta.  Lots of room to get all stirry and to throw the linguini around a bunch.  Have to remember that…

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