Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bacon Roasted Butternut Squash Soup



This recipe jumped off the pages of a cookbook that my mom gave me. The cookbook basically takes some of the best recipes out there from lots of different chefs, and compiles them into one. So, when I saw this one, which gave me yet ANOTHER way to work bacon into my food, I had to try it. 

This was very good. The bacon gave the squash just a little smokiness, and was a nice tasty thing to crumble over the top before eating. It had just a little bit of sweetness, and creamy richness. Make sure you give yourself enough time to thoroughly roast your squash...mine took about 50 minutes to get to a stage where I'd be able to easily scoop it out and actually want to eat it. 

After that part, the soup comes together very quickly. It makes awesome leftovers and can be stored in the freezer for about a month.

Here's the recipe, from the Cookbook "The 150 Best American Recipes" - recipe from Tom Valenti's Soups, Stews, and One-Pot Meals

Ingredients (serves 8): 
  • 6 pounds butternut squash
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 slices smoked bacon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion, cut into small dice
  • 3 thyme sprigs, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream (optional)
  • Sugar, if needed
  • Cinnamon, if needed


Directions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds, place the squash halves cut sides up on a rimmed baking sheet. Divide the butter among the hollowed-out seed cavities and generously season the squash with salt and pepper. Lay 1 or 2 slices of bacon lengthwise along the surface of each half. Roast, basting a few times by scoping the butter out of the cavity and spooning it over the bacon and squash until the squash is tender and easily pierced by a sharp knife, 35 to 40 minutes. 
  2. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Once cool, mince or crumble into small bits and set aside. Once the squash halves have cooled slightly, scoop out the flesh. Discard the skins. 
  3. Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and coo until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the thyme sprigs, bay leaf, and then add the squash. Cook, stirring to integrate the flavors and keep the squash from scorching, for 1 to 2 minutes. 
  4. Add the broth to the pot, stirring to incorporate. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. 
  5. Using tongs, fish out and discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Transfer the soup to a food processor (you can also use a regular blender, working in batches.) Add the cream, if using, and process for several minutes until uniformly thick and creamy. Be careful not to overblend, which will turn the soup thin. If not serving immediately, let cool, cover and refrigerate for a few days or freeze for up to a month. Return the soup to the pot and gently reheat, taste and adjust the seasonings with salt, pepper sugar, and cinnamon, if necessary. 
  6. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and scatter some of the bacon bits over the surface. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Serve at once.
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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pasta alla Carbonara



I am surprised that I haven't yet blogged pasta carbonara. Maybe because it's really easy. And usually I make it when I don't want to actually cook something. Or, I make it because I have some bacon and eggs I need to use up. But, despite how easy it comes together, it's delicious, and is the epitome of comfort food.

There are a couple of recipes I've tried over time. I've used one from Williams-Sonoma and one from Tyler Florence. Honestly, the only way they differ is in measurements of ingredients.
The basic premise is to cook your pasta to al dente, in a separate skillet brown some bacon, toss the pasta into the skillet and add your egg & parm and thin it with a little pasta water. Boom, you're done.

One tip I have - after you toss your pasta in, remove it from the heat before adding in your egg, otherwise you'll just end up with a spaghetti frittata.

The recipe below is the one I used most recently from Tyler Florence. Don't let the wordy directions deter you from making this...once you read through them you'll see that this is insanely simple and quick to make...you can have it on the table in about 20 minutes. It serves about 6.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dry spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta or slab bacon, cubed or sliced into small strips
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Directions:

  1. Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking to ensure that the spaghetti will be hot and ready when the sauce is finished; it is very important that the pasta is hot when adding the egg mixture, so that the heat of the pasta cooks the raw eggs in the sauce.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender yet firm (as they say in Italian "al dente.") Drain the pasta well, reserving 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water to use in the sauce if you wish.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium flame. Add the pancetta and saute for about 3 minutes, until the bacon is crisp and the fat is rendered. Toss the garlic into the fat and saute for less than 1 minute to soften.
  4. Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss for 2 minutes to coat the strands in the bacon fat. Beat the eggs and Parmesan together in a mixing bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the egg/cheese mixture into the pasta, whisking quickly until the eggs thicken, but do not scramble (this is done off the heat to ensure this does not happen.) Thin out the sauce with a bit of the reserved pasta water, until it reaches desired consistency. Season the carbonara with several turns of freshly ground black pepper and taste for salt. Mound the spaghetti carbonara into warm serving bowls and garnish with chopped parsley. Pass more cheese around the table.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Caramelized Mushroom & Onion Tart Pizza


Last fall my friend hosted book club, and whipped up a delicious butternut squash soup and served it with a sausage pizza cooked on puff pastry. This tart pizza was inspired by my friend's recipe and pairs just as well with butternut squash soup. I think that this pastry really gets you a lot of bang for your buck. Not a ton of prep work goes into it, yet the tart itself is very yummy and company-worthy. And, because of the caramelized onions, mushrooms and delicious gruyere, goat cheese and baconis also very rich. With a combo like that, you know it's gonna be good. Because of the richness, I could easily eat this pizza paired with a green salad too, instead of the soup.

This makes about 12 pizza squares.

Ingredients:

  • 1 puff pastry sheet, thawed
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/8 tsp garlic salt
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, room temp
  • 1/2 cup grated gruyere


Directions:

  1. Thaw puff pastry sheet on the counter - about 40 minutes. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Meanwhile, cook bacon on medium heat in a large skillet. When crispy, remove from pan to paper towels to drain and crumble. Empty the pan, leaving about 1-2 tsp of bacon grease. Add mushrooms and onions to pan, stirring frequently on medium heat to caramelize. 
  3. After 10 minutes, add in butter and melt. Turn up the heat for the last 5 minutes to med-high. Add in chicken broth, thyme leaves, garlic salt and cook the rest of the way until broth is evaporated and incorporated into the mushrooms/onion mix.
  4. While onions and mushrooms cook, spread goat cheese in a thin layer on the puff pastry. Sprinkle half the gruyere cheese on the pastry. Top the pastry with mushroom mixture, and sprinkle with crumbled bacon and remaining cheeses.Cook for about 25 minutes, until pastry edges are puffed and golden brown.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mexican Egg Scramble

An egg scramble is a nice way to use up some stuff laying around in your fridge. And, it doesn't require the finesse of flipping an omelet. If you can make scrambled eggs, you can make this. It comes as no surprise to lots of you here that Chris and I like spicy food. This Mexican Egg Scramble is just another way to get some spicy food. It's also a nice meatless alternative.

Ingredients (for 2 generous servings, or 3 good-sized servings):

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • .5 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded & minced
  • 1 Tbsp shallot, or onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup black beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • 2 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 avocado, diced


Directions:

  1. Whisk eggs and milk together in a large bowl.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add olive oil, jalapeno, shallot/onion, and black beans and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add eggs to skillet and scramble the eggs. When eggs are 90% cooked, stir in cheese, tomato and avocado. Kill the heat and serve!

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