Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

A quick and easy but still fairly impressive pasta dish.  This recipe is written for small individual portions and can be easily scaled up.

For each person:
1-2 oz guanciale, pancetta, or good bacon, chopped into medium cubes
generous 1/4 C freshly grated parmesan
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg, separated
3-4 oz dry spaghetti
generous amount of freshly ground pepper
2 t extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oil and the guanciale over medium heat to render the fat and crisp the meat (without getting
it too crunchy); don't drain the fat.  Add the garlic right before you finish cooking the guanciale and cook slightly to flavor the fat and slightly cook the garlic.

Cook the spaghetti until al dente in boiling salted water; the goal here is to finish the pasta just as the guanciale is ready, but err on the side of the guanciale being done first.  You can always kill the heat then turn it back on when the pasta is ready. 

Drain the pasta (reserving a generous 1 T of the cooking liquid per person) and add it to guanciale with the pasta water.  Stir it for a minute or so to combine, then kill the heat.  Add the cheese and the egg whites and quickly toss so that the hot pasta cooks the whites without scrambling them into chunks.

Liberally season with pepper, then remove to a serving plate, making a well in the center that you place the egg yolk in.  Top with a little additional grated parmesan.

Ideally you serve this while still quite warm and the diner cuts in to the yolk and stirs to distribute the creamy egg among the pasta right before eating.

Monday, February 11, 2013


Thinly sliced raw (or almost raw) tenderloin, traditionally this would be beef tenderloin, but I'm more likely to use venison tenderloin as long as the deer we cleanly killed (you'd never want to make this with a tenderloin from a gut-shot deer).  The amounts are very approximate, but in general remember that you should be highlighting the meet, not covering it up, and you may not even want to use all of the dressing elements; the only real must haves are the olive oil (and use the good stuff), the parmesan, and some sort of acid.

1 venison tenderloin
oil if you're going to sear the outside

extra virgin olive oil
lemon juice
balsamic vinegar (reduced until syrupy)

I typically heat some oil in a skillet until very hot, then quickly roll the meat across the skillet; this serves to kill any bacteria on the outside of the meat, and impart a very slight seared flavor, but you can skip this if you really trust the meat quality.  Next, very thinly slice the meat across the grain; if you can't slice it very thinly you can slice it then gently pound it out.
Place the meat on a plate or on a thin bed of arugula and lightly sprinkle with salt, then drizzle with olive oil and shave thin strips of parmesan on top.  Other ingredients, if use, should be lightly sprinkled on top.

Crispy Sauteed Potatoes

These were enough of a hit that I'm writing them up, but this isn't really a recipe as much a general outline.

Some sort of oil or fat, enough to form a thin coating on the bottom of a large non-stick skillet.  This could be just about anything from vegetable or olive oil on the plain side to butter, bacon fat, or duck fat if you want something special.
Thinly sliced yukon gold potatoes
A couple of cloves of garlic, minced
Salt to taste
2-3 T grated gruyere

Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet, when it gets hot enough that a slice of potato sizzles add the potatoes to the skillet in a single layer with no more than a little overlapping.  Let it cook until it starts to turn golden brown, then flip.  Sprinkle on the salt, keeping in mind that potatoes generally need more than you would think.  About 30 seconds before the second side is done add the garlic to the pan and move it around to saute the garlic.  Right before removing the potatoes from the pan add the gruyere.

Fennel and Radicchio Salad with Cranberries and Walnuts

A boldly flavored salad that goes well as a start to a rich meal.  I dress the salad with this orange gastrique, though I tend to add a little extra vinegar as the radicchio can stand up to it.  The amounts of the ingredients are approximate, and you can play with the ratios.

1 C dried cranberries
1 C walnuts, toasted
1 bunch of watercress, de-stemmed
1 bulb of fennel, thinly shaved
1 head of radicchio, torn

Mix everything, then dress with the gastrique right before serving.

Nuoc Cham Sauce

A simple Vietnamese dipping sauce for things like spring rolls.  I've written this to be fairly spicy, but you could cut back on the chiles.

5 1/2 T sugar
1/2 C warm water
5 T fish sauce
2 T rice vinegar
2 t lime juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 Thai chiles, or to taste, thinly sliced

Combine ingredients and let it sit for a couple of hours to blend the flavors.