Wednesday, December 28, 2011

rockstar pasta

Bacon and Mushroom Pasta with Rosemary Cream Sauce

Tonight's dinner is brought to you by the happy marriage of mushrooms, bacon and pasta.  This ain't your normal spaghetti.  It's probably a bazillion Weight Watchers points, but is just delicious and fabulous.  Elegant, even.  And easy peasy, y'all.
Chop two slices of bacon into small pieces and saute until crisp.

Get rid of some of the extra bacon grease (leaving just a tiny bit in the pan) using the above pictured high-tech kitchen gadget.

 Thinly slice four or five mushrooms.

 You'll also need one sprig of earthy rosemary.

 Also chop 1/4 of a large onion (or half of a teeny one) and two cloves of garlic.

 You're also going to want a healthy pinch of crushed red pepper flake.  This stuff is gold in pasta: it adds a spicy kick and depth without adding strong flavor (like, say, a jalapeno would).

 Saute the onions with the bacon until tender, then add the mushrooms, garlic and rosemary and cook for about five minutes on medium heat.  This is a good time to cook your pasta (I just used spaghetti).  You want to cook it very al dente (because you're going to cook it a couple more minutes in the sauce at the end).

 Add about 1/2 cup of heavy cream.  I know, you're thinking that after all the sweets of Christmas, heavy cream is the enemy.  If you prefer using milk, go for it.  I'm just going to go for a little jog tomorrow night after work (and eat all of this creamy, fabulous pasta I want!).

Add about 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the sauce and simmer a few minutes, until thickened.  Then add 1/3 cup of parmesan (yum yum yum).  Remove the rosemary sprig.  Drain the pasta and cook it a few minutes in that glorious sauce.  Adjust salt and pepper as needed.

 "Please, just a wee taste??"

This is one amazing pasta, y'all.  Creamy, with a kick from the crushed red pepper, a saltiness from the bacon and a deep rosemary undertone.  You'll love it.

Bon appetit,

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bubble & Squeak

I realize I sorta plopped my dinner on a plate, but it tastes divine, I promise.
I'm back!  I know it's been a long while, but life's been blissfully busy these days and I've cooked plenty of yummy things, and I want to share one of my favorites:  Bubble and squeak!  Funny name, delicious food.  I learned how to make it in Belfast, from the wonderful Mo Blake.  The name comes from the delightful melted cheese on top (the bubble) and a bit of bacon in it (the squeak).  Consider it a shepherd's pie taken to a whole new level.  It's the perfect thing to warm you up on a chilly night.  Let's get started...

Take 4 small russet potatoes (or Irish ones for you people in that land of spectacular spuds).  Chop them into about inch-sized pieces.

(Hayden gets spooked when I chop things — gallant little guy, I know.  He goes in the other room and only comes back once I'm done.  Funny fellow.)

Fill a pan with water and add the potatoes and bring to a boil.  I also threw in a couple whole cloves of garlic.  Apparently all of the potatoes pieces cook evenly when brought to a boil together (as opposed to just adding them to already boiling water).  If you can understand why that is, I'll give you a golden potato, 'cause this gal has no idea why.

Chop some carrots into small pieces.  It's easiest to do this by chopping a carrot in half, then in half lengthwise and it's easy to cut into little squares.

Chop up three slices of bacon and saute in a dutch oven or large saucepan in a tablespoon of olive oil, until crisp.  Add in one small onion, chopped, and cook until tender.

Grab a few mushrooms and clean them with a damp paper towel.  It's not a good idea to rinse them off, because they're little sponges ("Hey, I'm a funghi!").  Wouldn't you rather they soak up yummy bacon-y, winey (coming later) flavor than just tap water?  Thought so.  Roughly chop those funghis.

Thinly chop half a head of cabbage (I know, lots of chopping, but it just shows how fresh it all is!).  Savoy is the best to use, with it's yummy crinkly texture, but in a pinch you can just use regular cabbage like I did.

Add the cabbage to the bacon amazingness and cook on medium-high heat, stirring often to get a bit of caramelization on it and soften it.  Then add the mushrooms lower the heat to medium and cook for a few minutes.

Then add a splash of dry red wine.  I realize that this picture looks like I took it after having drank a bottle of wine, but I hadn't!  It was just hard to take a pic and pour in vino at the same time.  Scrape up all the bits from the bottom of the pan.  They add depth to the flavor.

By now your spuds are most certainly tender.  Drain them and return 'em to the hot pot so all the liquid can evaporate.

Add about 4 tablespoons of butter and mash them up.

Add a couple of splashes of milk and plenty of salt and pepper and stir together.

Here's what your veggie-bacon layer will look like.  Mmm.

Top with the mashed potatoes.

And top that with some cheese (gotta get that bubble going).  I used havarti because it's what I had.  Would you believe that folks from my lovely church have not only given me all sorts of home staples and a real Christmas tree, but they've given me cheese, y'all!  I usually use white cheddar, but that nutty havarti was perfection.  Broil in the oven for a few minutes (keep an eye on it, goes fast!) until brown and bubbly on top.

Top with a little parsley for freshness and color and enjoy!

Hope this brings you some warmth this winter, y'all!  What are you eating to keep cozy these days?

Bon appetit!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Home is...

your new neighbor (and member of your church) bringing you homemade sausage spinach soup.  It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks with Thanksgiving and then a move to Cameron, North Carolina, where I've accepted a call with a lovely church. In the middle of unpacking, trying to get all those necessary things for setting up house and getting ready for upcoming services, cooking has kind of (pardon the pun) been put on the back burner.  

I did manage a quick cauliflower parmesan pasta the other night, but this gift of soup in a large mason jar was just the height of hospitality.  And, y'all, that soup was good.  I found a little loaf of honey brown bread at my grocery store and together, they were comforting, filling, perfection.  I promise I'll put this adorable kitchen of mine to good use soon!  You really don't want to see the mushroom risotto I made last night: it tasted divine, but having used red wine in it, it turned out to be a mauve color.  And the words "mauve" and "food" just don't get along very well!  

Here's a sneak-peak tour of my kitchen.  I'm renting a house from a lovely couple in the church and I adore it.  It was built in the 50's and so still has some of those same appliances (which are really better made than ours are now!).

 I LOVE this range.  It has an oven on the bottom, and those cook panels on top can all be changed.  When I got here it had two coiled burners on the left, but Doris Jean (the darling lady who owns the house with her husband and raised her children here) came over last night and showed me all these amazing attachments for my cooktop.  I love the flat surface burners.  I'm not sure what it's made of, perhaps porcelain.  The grill on the right also has other attachments, too.  I've got to get some pancakes on that baby, quick!  When a man came to install my new(ish) fridge, he said how popular ranges like mine are.  Apparently they're hard to find and everyone wants one!  But my kitchen toys don't end there...
 a second oven!  In the brick of the fireplace.  So handy and it retains heat beautifully.  I love that it lights up on the top if you push a little button.  I suppose that could be called vanity lighting. :) 

 A man in my church sold appliances for 25 years and was able to track down this gently-used wonderful fridge for me.  I love it!  It has wooden paneling on the doors.  I'm resisting the urge to paint it some bright color...for now.

I've been wanting a large natural wood cutting board and found this beauty at the place where all the wonderful things live TJ Maxx.  

And, of course, we have the perfect percolator the 'rents gave me.  It brews coffee in about 3 minutes and makes strong (but not bitter), really hot coffee.  (Ignore the crazy lady in her bathrobe.)

I promise I'll get really cookin' soon, y'all.  I'm so delighted to be here: such generous, compassionate people, pine trees surrounding me, reclaimed barn pine wood floors...and TWO ovens!

What'cha cookin' these days to stay warm?  Do share!

Bon appetit,