Pasta with chipotle cream sauce, caramelized onions, roasted red pepper, corn and goat cheese

I’m back! No, it’s not a joke that the first entry I decided to add in years happens to be on April Fool’s Day. With a bit of extra time on my hands these days, I figured I could put some effort into adding a few new recipes.

Yesterday was Terry’s birthday, so I made this for her dinner. I recently had this at The Westin Tampa’s restaurant and was blown away with the first bite. The ingredients were so intriguing and nothing I have ever thought to put together. And yes, a pink sauce?! Trust me, it works.

Westin-version
The original, from The Westin

Since I didn’t have a recipe, I had to recreate it on my own so the portions are mostly guesses but it seemed to work well. You can scale up or down on any ingredient according to your taste.

 

The dish I had was served with shrimp, so you could amp this up a bit by adding that, but honestly, it doesn’t need it. The dish is good without it!

Since I’m out of practice on building a narrative, I’ll get right to the good stuff – ingredients and instructions!

1c vermouth
2 1/2 c heavy cream
4-5 garlic cloves, smashed
Chipotles in adobo sauce
1 tbsp cumin
1 whole red pepper, roasted
Olive oil
1 large white onion, sliced thinly and caramelized
2 tbs butter
1 c charred corn (all I had was frozen regular corn, but this will be better once corn is in season and we can char it on the grill)
2 oz goat cheese crumbles
Salt
White pepper (black pepper is good if that’s all you have)
1 lb penne or bow tie pasta
1 cup reserved pasta water
Cilantro for garnish

Start with the onions and pepper – those can be done well ahead of time – even the day before!

To caramelize the onion:

  • Slice it thinly. Heat a 12” or larger skillet over medium heat and add butter to the pan.
  • Coat the pan with butter and drop 1/3 of onions into the pan. You want to add the onions in batches otherwise it will be tricky to stir them until they’re cooked down a bit.
  • Continue adding onions 1-2 minutes apart until all onions are in the pan.
  • Add a generous pinch of salt to the pan
  • Stir the onions every few minutes until they start to brown.
  • This process can take as much as 45 minutes, so be patient
  • Onions are done when they are deep golden and have browned edges

To roast the pepper:

  • Heat oven to 450
  • Slice off the top and cut the pepper in half lengthwise, remove seeds and white membrane
  • Place halves face down on a baking sheet and coat lightly with olive oil
  • Roast for 25-30 minutes until skin is blistered and peeling back from the pepper
  • Place the peppers in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let stand 10-12 minutes until cool enough to handle
  • Remove the skin from the peppers and cut into pieces roughly 1/2 inch wide x 1 inch in length

For the sauce:

  • Heat the vermouth in a large skillet until reduced by half (use a skillet large enough to hold the pasta once it’s been added)
  • Add the smashed garlic and stir until fragrant
  • Add the cream to the pan
  • Once the cream has started to bubble lightly, add the cumin, onions, corn and peppers
  • Continue to stir the sauce until it thickens slightly
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Taste, taste, taste! Always taste as you go when you’re building up flavors in a sauce
  • Add the adobo sauce from the chipotles a little at a time until you get to the desired heat level
  • When pasta is done, add it to the pan (add a little at time – you may not need the whole pound. I had about a cup leftover.)
  • Stir until pasta is well coated, add reserved pasta water a little at a time until sauce is slightly loose – you don’t want it to be too watery.
  • Add goat cheese to sauce
  • Continue to stir until pasta and goat cheese are well combined

While the sauce is reducing, drop the pasta and cook 1-2 minutes LESS than according to package instructions. It will finish cooking in the sauce. Don’t forget to extract 1 cup pasta water – you will need it to finish the sauce.

Serve in a bowl, garnish with cilantro.

IMG_3181
Getting the sauce going with the spices, onions, corn and peppers
IMG_3185
After adding the adobo sauce – yes, it’s pink, and it’s delicious!

Strawberries with sabayon

If you’re tired of the same old accompaniments for your summer berries, try this sabayon. It is an Italian dessert that slightly custardy and very light. It goes well with a variety of fresh fruits or can be served on the side of cake.

Makes 2 cups

1 pt strawberries
3 large egg yolks
1/3 c sugar
½ c sweet white wine such as moscato or prosecco
Fresh Vanilla, optional

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl with a whisk
Heat over a double boiler and whip until tripled in volume – do not let it boil and do not let the water hit the bottom of the bowl if you are using stainless steel, you don’t want to cook the egg yolks
If using vanilla, once the mixture has fully developed, scrape in the seeds from the pod and incorporate
Chill and serve cold with fresh strawberries

Asparagus Risotto

asparagus-risottoOne of my favorite things to make is risotto. I love it for its versatility and simple preparation. The basic formula for risotto is pretty simple, all you need rice, an onion, white wine, cooking stock and Parmesan cheese. This creates a nice and agreeable canvas to put any imaginable combination of ingredients into.

Risotto may seem intimidating if you’ve never made it before, but once you resolve to be invested in the constant stirring that is required, you will see how nicely the effort pays off. Well-cooked risotto should be slightly creamy, and slightly al dente. The constant stirring allows the starch in the rice to be released, and that is what contributes to the creamy texture of the finished dish, so do not underestimate the importance of this part of the process. Now when I talk about stirring, I don’t mean just standing there and swirling the contents of the pot around – I mean aggressive, arm-toning stirring.

With an abundance of asparagus this time of year, using it in risotto is a great way to enhance this basic recipe!

Ingredients

  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 6 cups unsalted stock (vegetable or chicken), lightly simmered and kept warm
  • 1-2 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb asparagus, cut into 1 inch slices on the bias, tips kept separately
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

Instructions

  • Heat a sauce pan on medium and warm the olive oil. Add the onion and let sauté until translucent and soft, but do not let it brown
  • Add the risotto and cook 1-2 minutes until it’s well incorporated into the onion mixture and starts to turn translucent
  • Deglaze the pan with the wine, and continue to stir until the wine is fully absorbed
  • Add 1 cup of stock to the pan, and continuously stir until fully absorbed
  • Continue adding stock 1 cup at a time until the rice is almost al dente, about 14- 15 minutes
  • Add the asparagus to the risotto and continue to add stock and stir for another 2-3 minutes
  • While the asparagus is cooking in the risotto, heat a small sauté pan and add ½ tbs butter or olive oil. Lightly sauté the asparagus tips, 2-3 minutes
  • Add the salt and pepper, and stir and taste for flavor
  • Add the lemon juice and parmesan and continue stirring until it’s well incorporated
  • Taste again and adjust for seasoning
  • Once the risotto is done, plate and garnish with the asparagus tips

Scallops with ricotta-spring pea mash and chive oil

scallop-pea-mash1Welp, in typical Chicago fashion, Mother Nature has dumped a few more inches of snow across the city even though it’s technically Spring. Never fails, there’s always one last wintry slap in the face, and today is as good a day as any. While Mother Nature is dealing with her personality disorder, you can bring a little Spring into your kitchen with this dish.

I wasn’t totally sure how I’d make this vegetarian friendly without just serving up a plate of the mash and saying “bon appetit”. Looking around the kitchen, I spotted some potatoes on the counter and decided I would make “scalloped” potatoes for Terry. I cut them down to what a decent sized scallop would be, parboiled, then pan seared them to get the browned edges and finished them off in the oven. They actually looked better than my real scallops and I was proud of myself for being so clever. I had to use bay scallops because nobody had anything bigger, and they don’t sear up as good as larger ones, so I wasn’t able to get the browned caramelized color on them. But they tasted just fine.

Continue reading Scallops with ricotta-spring pea mash and chive oil

Methods of cooking weeks 5 – 8

Where the heck have you guys been? I’ve been waiting to tell you all about the last few weeks of class but…oh….wait, it’s me that’s been absent, not you. Woops!

Well, it’s been a heck of a few weeks, where do I start? We finally moved into some more “normal” types of food in this second half of the quarter. We covered risotto and making fresh pasta, both of which I love and am convinced that I will one day be a total expert on.

Sad little mussels mariniere.
Sad little mussels mariniere.

We revisited our friends of the sea and worked with some flounder, clams and mussels. I had a difficult time with the mussels. As you can imagine, they’re still alive when they come in to the kitchen. You have to wash them off and clean up any beards and the fresh water from the sink basically suffocates them so their shells open up a little bit in an effort to breathe. I found this pretty hard to do. I have been dealing with chicken and beef and whole fish, but none of them were alive when they came into the kitchen. So needless to say, I did not enjoy making the mussels mariniere.

The following week I made the most delicious beef stroganoff I can remember eating. I am enjoying my temporary hiatus from vegetarianism, but I don’t plan to be an omnivore full time once I’m done with this class. I am taking advantage of the situation because the likelihood of me recreating some of these meaty dishes for myself is quite low.

Fresh ricotta - worth every minute (literally) that it takes to make!
Fresh ricotta – worth every minute (literally) that it takes to make!

We also made ricotta and mozzarella cheese – easily two of my favorite things we’ve done so far this quarter. Ricotta is the easiest thing in the world to make and as my chef said, “learn how to make it and you’ll never buy it from the store again”. Truer words have never been spoken. I already made a second giant batch that I used in a pasta dish a couple weeks ago. It was heavenly!

I also had my first total failure. I completely scorched my beef bourguignon – a dish that I had been looking forward to making and using my omnivore grace period to eat. I totally decimated it. I didn’t have enough liquid in my pan when I put it into the oven and I never checked up on in until an hour in, and by then the devastation was complete. Lesson learned: always check your oven and check your food 5-10 minutes in to make sure it’s not overcooking. It was a sad loss.

I have only three more classes left this quarter, so there is still a bit of ground to cover, but I am looking forward to a break in the latter half of this month. This schedule combined with the awful winter is wearing on me and I am ready to kick back and relax a bit!

Methods of cooking weeks 2- 4

The last couple of weeks of class have been the least exciting of the whole program so far. I’ve seen them as sort of the necessary evil one must go through in order to get to the more exciting part in the upcoming weeks. We’ve covered a lot of different topics, but nothing has really captured a ton of my interest.

We spent one night on sandwiches and made a Rueben, Monte Cristo, club sandwich and a veggie wrap. It was an insane amount of food to make in one night. For just a bunch of sandwiches, there’s an incredible amount of work to do. I ate none of them save for one small piece of the Monte Cristo. I had never had one and at that moment, it just looked really good and I knew I’d never order something like that at a restaurant so I gave it a try. To my surprise (or, why should I be surprised that something deep fried wouldn’t be good), I found it to be pretty divine. An excellent choice for hangover food if one is in search of something of that ilk.

Continue reading Methods of cooking weeks 2- 4

Risotto with scallops, lemon buerre blanc and pomegranate reduction

risotto-scallop-buerre-blanc2Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my newest favorite dish! I knew I wanted to make risotto this weekend and I have been thinking about a dish I had at a restaurant recently that had a really good pomegranate sauce, so I built this dish based off those two components. I also did an Instagram search for #risotto to look for plating inspiration.

Since I’ve acquired all these new handy dandy skills from class, I figured I’d put them to work and make my own veggie stock to use. One of my issues with using store-bought stock is that some of them are too dark, and it turns the rice dark, which I don’t like and definitely didn’t want for this particular dish. So, since there was no suitable excuse not to, I started the day slicing, chopping and boiling down my own vegetable stock. I got exactly the color I wanted.

Continue reading Risotto with scallops, lemon buerre blanc and pomegranate reduction

New year, new class: Methods of cooking

fruit-plate-individualSchool is back in session and this quarter covers hot and cold methods of cooking. The first 5 weeks will be spent on cold food preparation, otherwise known as garde manger, and the last 5 weeks will cover hot food preparation. A sampling of the items we’ll work on includes sandwiches, canapes, pates, terrines, seafood platters, and salads; and methods such as stewing, braising, grilling, sautéing and pan searing. The menu of foods we’ll prepare is wide and varied, and a few of them, I’m not sure how I’ll get through. Terrine? Pate? Chicken liver parfait? Eeeeck! None of the above sound appealing whatsoever, but I’ve been surprised by things before, perhaps I’ll be surprised again.

Continue reading New year, new class: Methods of cooking

2014 year in review

2014 is coming to a close and I have a lot of work under my belt to be proud of. From getting this blog going to starting culinary school, I’ve learned and experienced a ton of new things.

There were plenty of successes but also some funny failures, all of which can be found right here on carrotstickstoyourribs.com.

Rather than waxing nostalgic and reliving all the fun memories, I’ll keep it short and sweet. Here’s a quick glance at the CSTYR year:

Most popular Instagram photo.
Most popular Instagram photo.

I thank everyone for your readership and I look forward to sharing and learning more with you in 2015! Here’s wishing you and yours a happy and healthy new year!