Spring Pea Risotto with Garlic Scapes and Pancetta

When I want to enjoy the produce of spring-time, whether its beets or asparagus, I’ve found I follow something of a trend: I make risotto. So with the arrival of fresh English peas and garlic scapes, well, what other options did I have?

Risotto is like my snooty version of comfort food. Rich, just slightly al dente grains of rice swimming in a creamy, luxurious sauce never fails to provide a canvas upon which to brush some incredible flavors. In this case, the focus was delicious, fresh peas–puréed into the sauce and bedecked whole throughout the rice leaving a tinge of varying shades of green throughout. These are countered with equally distinct but gentle flavors such as leeks and garlic scapes, all elevated with a touch of lemon for brightness. In more stark contrast for an unctuous bit of crunch is some pan-fried pancetta.

Words wouldn’t effectively capture this dish. For all the richess, this… click to read more…

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Fancy Schmancy Frank and Beans

I’m not sure what the weather has been like by you, but this winter has been so ridiculously mild. I’m someone who loves winter for the cold and the snow. Being able to go for a run in my shorts and to relax at home with the screen-door open, well, it throws me off. Despite this, I still crave the big, bold, hearty flavors you would find in winter food; something to warm your insides…even if they’re already pretty warm.

When I was young, on a rare occasion, my mom would put together a quick and simple treat for dinner: frank and beans. No its not fancy and yes, many people will lift up their nose at the thought. I loved it. Not really sure why–maybe it was just how infrequently it was a dinner option, but it was just one of those dinners that hit the spot. So I thought I would totally miss the point and make… click to read more…

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Penne with Squash Blossoms, Asparagus, and Sausage in a Light Parmesan Cream Sauce

As spring transitions to summer, a lot of fun, promising produce is available with the best of spring and the best of summer both still available to work with. This dish tends a bit more towards spring-time (especially since the weather is pretty steadily at 100°F+ everyday here lately), but you get the idea. This pasta dish has sautéed Italian sausage, a light, creamy sauce flavored with Parmesan and a fistful of basil but the stars are asparagus and squash blossoms.

As summer squash starts to take off, they put off a ton of blossoms (and baby squash), which, if you’ve never had them, are well worth a try. They’re a bit milder and delicate in both texture and flavor compared to their fully matured siblings, but they are still distinct and quite pretty. The easiest way to get a hold of squash blossoms if they’re not at your farmer’s market: plant summer squash/zucchini in your backyard (they simply… click to read more…

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Fried Chicken and Andouille Gumbo

When Mardi Gras rolls around, I think of three dishes: King Cake, Jambalaya, and today’s meal: gumbo. If you’ve never had a good gumbo, you’re missing out–it is one of those quintessential Cajun/Creole stews that every chef can put their own personal touch on. The one commonality across them all is that it will keep you going during the winter months being so rich and hearty.

Chicken and Andouille Gumbo

In this particular rendition, I chose a classic combo: chicken and andouille sausage (compared to a lighter, butternut squash-centric version I did in the past).

A whole chicken is poached to make a fresh batch of stock, then shredded, strongly spiced, fried, and combined with fried, smoky andouille sausage. The stew is thickened with both okra and a nutty, smoky, milk chocolate colored roux. Simmered with a mix of some classic Creole vegetables and spices yields an incredibly intense stew that tastes incredible. The gumbo takes… click to read more…

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Bucatini all’Amatriciana

Bucatini all’Amatriciana is one of those pasta dishes with an enticing name that doesn’t get enough attention. A quick glance at the ingredients tends to paint it as a simple, almost ordinary pasta dish…and don’t get me started on the many “alternative” versions of this dish out there that include things like bacon or prosciutto (a dead giveaway that you should be looking for a different recipe). The humble appearance of this dish aside though, it is really incredibly flavorful and one of the most uniquely flavored pasta dishes I’ve had the pleasure of eating. The success of this dish is pretty much entirely dependent on one magical ingredient: guanciale.

Bucatini all'Amatriciana

As I’ve discussed before, guanciale is a dry-aged, cured pork jowl that is mind-blowingly simple to do at home (and probably easier to do yourself compared to finding it stocked in any grocery stores). The stuff packs a punch and delivers a concentrated, rich, porky flavor that… click to read more…

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Roast Pork Belly with Garlicky Thyme Gravy

Have you ever had pork belly before? If you’re not sure, perhaps a simpler question will answer it: have you ever had bacon before? Bacon is a cured, (often) smoked, and then thinly sliced pork belly…so that should give you a vague sense of what this cut of meat is about. It can be a tough cut so it requires a bit of time to cook properly (low and slow is the way to go…I could keep rhyming), but when done right, it is incredibly rich and flavorful–oh and the roughly 50% fat striated throughout the meat also doesn’t hurt. This is the cut of meat for pork lovers who aren’t afraid of a succulent meal (if you’re strictly a chicken breast and/or pork tenderloin type, this might be a stretch).

Roast Pork Belly with Garlicky Thyme Gravy

For this particular preparation, rather than braising the belly (commonly done in an Asian style), I chose to roast mine. I started with a strong spice… click to read more…

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