Corn Cacio e Pepe

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Happy Mac n Cheese Day! When we realized that was today, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity! We love mac n cheese around here – from the classic Kraft blue box to the most upscale restaurant variation. The dish we made tonight falls somewhere in the middle. The pasta did come from a box – sorry, way too hot and pregnant to make my own pasta tonight – but cacio e pepe always seems a little fancier than American mac n cheese, just by virtue of its non-English name! In reality, Cacio e pepe is just as simple and homey to Italians as our American mac n cheese is to us, but we can always pretend to be fancy! (PS: you can check out our other mac n cheese creations too on this important day of celebration – Summer Mac n Cheese and Goat Mac). This recipe is courtesy of Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, one of Selim’s favorite blogs, who now has a column in our favorite magazine, Bon Appetit! This variation adds corn for a sweet, summery update. If you check out our previous attempt at a classic Cacio e Pepe, we followed some very specific instructions to make our cacio e pepe not fall victim to clumpiness, which worked beautifully. Deb’s recipe is simpler, without additional fat of butter and/or oil, so we decided to try her way this time. It’s not quite as silky as our other recipe, but definitely wouldn’t call it clumpy! Happy with the result and the saving of a few calories. Our only change from her recipe was to add a little Aleppo pepper, which I really enjoyed.

 

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Corn Cacio e Pepe

(Adapted from Bon Appetit)
Ingredients: 
  • 16oz medium sized pasta
  • 3 ears corn
  • 8oz Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, grated
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
  • 2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • Salt
  • [Reserved pasta water]
Instructions: 
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the ears of corn for ~5 minutes and then remove to the side. Once cool enough to handle, slice the kernels off of the cob.
  2. Return the water to a boil and add salt liberally. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.
  3. Drain and set the pasta aside in a large bowl. Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid.
  4. While the pasta and corn are cooking, combine the cheese and peppers in a medium bowl. Mash together with the 1/3 cup cold water until a thick paste forms.
  5. Combine pasta, corn kernels, and cheese paste. Toss together. Slowly add pasta water, stirring continuously until you reach your preferred sauce-like coating consistency.
  6. Serve topped with additional cheese and pepper as desired.
Serves ~4

Goat Mac

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My sister and I share a love of all things carbs, with a special place in our hearts for mac and cheese of any variety. Awhile back, I found a cookbook solely devoted to mac and cheese and gave it to her for her birthday or Christmas or something. (Which is not as good as a present she once gave me – it was an orange t-shirt with two cartoon cows dancing on it, with the words “I LOVE CARBS!”)

The recipe we’re sharing today originated with that mac & cheese cookbook. I made my sister send me screenshots from several options in the cookbook and settled on this one. We were very happy with our selection. Despite retaining the cheesiness of a standard mac & cheese, this feels slightly lighter. I mean, it’s certainly not low calorie, but the tanginess of the goat cheese just gives you a different sensation. I love goat cheese in any form, so definitely enjoyed this! I went light on the panko crust which worked for us. My only complaint at the end was that the finished product looked a little monotone in my pictures – so not really an actual problem!

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We had this dish this weekend when our favorite Georgians came to visit us in Virginia! We had a great weekend, with some delicious food, a few roaring fires, some trap shooting, some wandering in the woods, and a fun day of Virginia wine/beer/cider tasting with stops at King Family Vineyards, Blue Mountain Brewery, Bold Rock Cider, and Devil’s Backbone Brewing! And, of course, we enjoyed visiting with our friends! They all approved of this recipe, so hopefully you will too!


Goat Mac

(Adapted from The Mac + Cheese Cookbook)
Ingredients:
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 5 cups small pasta (penne, farfalle, elbows, whatever)
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 12 oz goat cheese
  • 4 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup + Panko bread crumbs
Instructions: 
  1. Pre-heat the oven 400 degrees.
  2. Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat until very lightly simmering. Meanwhile, bring a large pot over water to a boil.
  3. Once the large pot of water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente.
  4. In another saucepan, melt the butter over low-medium heat. When the butter has melted, begin to slowly whisk in the flour. When the flour is absorbed, remove the pan from the heat.
  5. Slowly whisk all of the milk into the mixture. (It will initially get incredibly thick, then begin to thin out.)
  6. When all of the milk has been added, return the pot to medium heat and whisk continuously for ~3 minutes.
  7. Now add the garlic, shallots, both cheeses, and salt to the pan and lower the heat to low-medium. Stir frequently until the cheeses are well-incorporated.
  8. Finally, add the pasta to the sauce and stir until all of the noodles are coated and distributed equally.
  9. Pour all of this into a rectangular glass baking dish. Top with panko crumbs. We only used a light coating, ~1/4 cup, but feel free to make a thicker layer if desired.
  10. Bake for ~10 minutes. Serve when hot and bubbly, and when the panko is lightly toasted.
Serves 6-8

French Onion Meatballs

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Ever eat a delicious bowl of french onion soup and think, ‘wow, this is really good, but I wish I had some meat!’ Yea, me neither, because a bowl of french onion soup is a treasure just how it is. BUT, if you were thinking that, you could turn to this handy recipe for French Onion Meatballs, that combine the flavors of french onion soup with some juicy meatballs. These meatballs are smothered in a savory gravy – the definition of comfort food!

I came across the inspiration for this recipe on Pinterest a few weeks back (see: Cupcakes & Kale Chips) and have been thinking about it ever since! An NFL Sunday afternoon, with weather that finally feels like fall, turned out to be the perfect day to try it. It does take a fair amount of active time to make this, which is why I did it on a weekend afternoon, where I could half watch/listen to the football games (and chat with Selim!) at the same time.

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We ate our meatballs on top of some toasted baguette slices, smothered in the gravy, which I cannot recommend more highly. I also ate some plain in a bowl – that’s excellent too. I’m thinking it would be amazing over top of rice or some egg noodles, OR as a seriously messy appetizer with some toothpicks. The onion flavor is the star here, as in traditional french onion soup. But I think the thyme comes through really nicely, giving it an herbaceous quality as well. Simmering your meatballs in the gravy keeps them nice and juicy. And speaking of the gravy… I was eating it with a spoon. Caramelized onions, beef broth, red wine… if you’re not licking the spoon, then I’m worried about your taste buds.

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French Onion Meatballs

(Adapted from this blog post, via Pinterest)
Ingredients: 
  • 1+ tbsp neutral oil
  • 2 medium onions, halved & sliced
  • 1 lb ground beef (85/15)
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 1/8 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1 heaping tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp plain bread crumbs
  • ~4 oz Gruyere cheese
    • ~2oz , cut into small bite-sized cubes
    • ~2oz, shredded (or more! 🙂 )
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup unsalted beef broth
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Salt & pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Begin by caramelizing the onions. Heat the oil in a medium pan over just under medium heat. Once the oil is hot, toss in the onions and stir to coat in the oil. Season with 1/2 tsp salt and lots of fresh ground black pepper.
  2. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are caramelized, at least 30-40 minutes, perhaps as long as an hour!
  3. While the onions are cooking, prepare the meatballs. In a large bowl, combine the beef, eggs, fresh herbs, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, bread crumbs, 1/2 tsp salt, and 10 more turns of fresh black pepper.
  4. Form the meatballs by wrapping meat mixture around the small cubes of cheese and forming medium-sized meatballs.
  5. Once the onions are done, deglaze the pan with the red wine, making sure to scrape up all the delicious, browned, stuck-on bits.
  6. Bring the wine to a simmer and add in the meatballs. Continue simmering, with the lid off, for 5-6 minutes, browning the meatballs on both sides.
  7. Now add the beef broth and bay leaf to the pan. Cover and lower heat slightly if needed, so liquid is still simmering. Cook another 15 minutes.
  8. While that is cooking, prepare a beurre manié by kneading together the butter and flour and forming a little ball. (I do this in a ramekin with my fingers.)
  9. Remove the lid from the pan and add the beurre manié. Adjust the heat so the liquid is still simmering (if need be) and stir occasionally until the sauce has thickened. This may take another 10+ more minutes.
  10. Discard the bay leaf and serve topped with the additional shredded cheese. Spoon over a crusty baguette or on top of any type of starch. Garnish with additional parsley if desired.
Serves 4 as an entree; more as an appetizer

Southern Pimento Cheese

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A ways back, in our first year of the blog, we made pimento cheese as Christmas gifts in honor of our new home in South Carolina. We made two varieties – Selim created Garlic & Truffle Pimento Cheese, and Ally made a more traditional version. For some reason, we didn’t share the traditional recipe at the time, probably because we were so wowed by the dressed up variety. We’ll remedy that here today!

Some of our very favorite Clevelanders are passing through town today ❤ When we were trying to pick a restaurant for dinner, Sarah wanted to “go back to that place we went last time” they were in Columbia, “the one with the pimento cheese.” [Shout out to DiPrato’s – their pimento cheese really is legendary, as are their inexplicable warm and fluffy pita chips!] So we thought today would be the perfect day to whip up another homemade batch – some for them and some for us! Ally could live off of pimento cheese and crackers, probably for the rest of her life, so it’s really a win-win!

We stuck with the basics for this pimento cheese recipe – cheddar, pimentos, and mayo… well, homemade mayonnaise for us! Selim is the king of whipping up aioli or mayo by hand. We added a pinch of extras, just because we can’t help ourselves, but there’s not too much to distract from the cheese. We prefer our pimento cheese to be lighter on the mayonnaise, attempting not to over-blend the shredded cheese. Our ratio of cheese to pimentos definitely favors the cheese. Hand-shredded cheese is preferable to pre-shredded. And heaven forbid – we do not add cream cheese to ours!

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Southern Pimento Cheese

Ingredients: 
  • 1 cup neutral oil
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 16oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 heaping tbsp chopped pimentos
  • 1 tsp worcestershire
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • Salt to taste
Instructions:
  1. Prepare the mayo. (You can do this by hand or with a stand mixer. The process is essentially the same.)
    • By hand: Separate out the egg yolk from the whites and discard the whites. Whisk the yolk. Add minced garlic and then slowly drizzle in the oil. Whisk vigorously and continuously. Once the mixture has combined well, add the lemon juice and whisk until that has been absorbed.
    • With the mixer: Separate out the egg yolk from the whites. Place in stand mixer and turn on medium. Add minced garlic and then slowly drizzle in the oil, while the mixer remains on. Again, once the mixture is well-combined, then add the lemon juice.
  2. By hand, mix together the aioli with the rest of the ingredients except for salt. Once combined, add salt to taste at the end.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.
Makes a little more than 2 cups

Our Dublin Coddle

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While the rest of you are celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day, I’m vacillating between the five stages of grief over UVA’s loss last night. I guess this post is helping me move past the denial stage, given that I just wrote the words “UVA’s loss.” My very caring and loving husband, is being even nicer to me than usual, which is actually relevant to this dinner. Selim is basically the opposite of a simple meat and potatoes kind of guy, whatever that is. This dinner, which not only checks the box of timely blog post, but also caters to my wanting to wallow in comfort food self, is definitely not what he wants to have for dinner tonight. Yet, here we are.

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I love this team and all of these guys! Proud of them & their season! We’ll choose to remember this moment instead ❤ [Photo by Matt Riley, primary photographer for UVa Athletics]
I, however, love a simple carb-filled dinner of sausages and potatoes. Dublin coddle is basically just that. Recipes for Dublin coddle should include pork sausages, potatoes, and onions. Many don’t include much more than that and water. Parsley is a common garnish. We’ve added a few more ingredients for a little more flavor, as you can see. We also didn’t cook the dish the way the Irish mothers back in the day would have. This hearty winter dish dates back to the 1700s and many believe started out as a way for Catholic mothers to use up meat before Fridays during Lent. I think we turned our version into a flavorful dish that still pays significant homage to the original. And honestly, since the “original” was basically a vehicle to use up leftovers, variations from household to household are basically a given. So, I give you our personal version! I’m not going to lie, though the sausage and potatoes are delicious, I think my favorite part is all the onions! They absorb all the delicious flavor from the broth and are just perfect! This dish may not look like much (the stews and braises that we tend to favor never do), get past our humble photos and give it a whirl the next time you’re feeling Irish.

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And, from an approximately 18.9462874% Irish person on the day when everyone claims to have Irish ancestors:

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! 🍀☘️🍀☘️🍀

 

Our Dublin Coddle

(Adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients:
  • 5 slices of thick-cut bacon
  • 1 lb pork sausages (traditional Irish bangers would be the most legit option)
  • 2 large onions, sliced into rings
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups broth (vegetable, chicken, etc)
  • 3/4 cup stout beer
  • 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp brown mustard
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 lb potatoes, cut into large chunks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Fresh ground black pepper
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Chop the bacon roughly and cook in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Stir occasionally until they are brown, but not yet crispy. Then remove to the side.
  3. Place the sausage whole into the dish with the bacon grease, still over medium heat, and brown on all side. (You do not have to cook them all the way through at this point.) Once browned, remove these to the side as well.
  4. Now add the onions and garlic to the dish, stirring to coat in the remaining bacon grease. Top with 10+ turns of fresh black pepper. Partially cover and cook, until softened and browning, roughly 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, whisk together the broth, beer, worcestershire, mustard, and thyme.
  6. Remove the onions/garlic when they’re done and again set to the side.
  7. Add the potatoes and a splash of liquid stock mixture to the dish. Stir to coat and turn the heat up to medium high. Cook potatoes for ~5 minutes.
  8. Slice the sausages into large chunks and then return all of the removed ingredients to the dish. Remove from stove heat and stir everything together.
  9. Top with the stock mixture and add the bay leaves.
  10. Place in the oven, covered, for at least an hour. Keep cooking up to an hour and a half if the potatoes aren’t cooked to your liking at the hour mark.
  11. Serve in bowls with a good amount of broth. Add a dash of salt if you think it needs (save this for the end, given that your bacon, sausages, and even broth may have a fair amount of salt in them).
Serves 4-6

Pretzel Bun Stuffing

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Have you ever been in a restaurant and decided on a nice, big, juicy burger for dinner? You’re super-excited and think nothing can be better than your highly anticipated burger? So you place your order with the server, and then s/he asks you, “Do you want that on a regular bun or a pretzel bun?” Literally NO ONE EVER has responded with, “Ehh, just give me the regular bun.” Why? Because even though you were excited about that highly anticipated, big, juicy burger in and of itself… a pretzel bun just makes everything better!

Ok now, translate that sentiment to Thanksgiving stuffing. We made this stuffing entirely from pretzels buns. When we made stuffing last year for Friendsgiving, we added a few pretzel buns for a little surprise, and it worked well. So this year, we decided to up the ante and go with 100% pretzel bun! The idea of pretzel bun stuffing inspired me to add a few non-traditional touches to this recipe, but it’s not so non-traditional that people will turn their noses up at it. Honestly, given the overwhelming herbaciousness of the stuffing (with very traditional herbs!), you’d never notice the extra ingredients. But you will know just how delicious it tastes as you inhale it!

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Pretzel Bun Stuffing

Ingredients: 
  • 8 pretzel rolls, torn
  • 1 high quality beef hot dog, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, divided (1/2 cup + 1/4 cup + more)
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Fresh black pepper
  • 1 tbsp brown mustard
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3+ cups beef stock, divided (2 cups + more)
  • 2 large eggs
Instructions: 
  1. Tear the bread & rolls into bite-sized pieces at least 24 hours prior to making the stuffing. Let sit out to dry.
  2. On the day you’re preparing the stuffing, place the bread into a large bowl.
  3. Toss your finely chopped hot dog into a pan over medium heat with just a splash of broth. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the hot dog has released a little fat.
  4. Add the 1/2 cup of butter to the pan, followed by the onions and garlic. Top with fresh ground black pepper. Saute for ~5 minutes as the onions soften.
  5. Now add herbs, salt, and 10 turns of pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally for another 5 minutes.
  6. Pour this mixture over the bread in the bowl and toss well.
  7. Melt another 1/4 cup of butter. Whisk together with 2 eggs and 2 cups of beef stock.
  8. Pour that mixture over bread. Stir until liquid is absorbed by the bread.
  9. Add additional stock by the 1/4 cup until the bread is saturated. Wait a few minutes between adding stock to ensure it all gets absorbed. (You want the bread to be very wet, but without pools of liquid in the bowl. I used just an additional 1/4 cup this time.)
  10. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  11. Butter a large glass baking dish. Place the bread mixture into the dish.
  12. Butter a large piece of foil and cover the dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
  13. Increase oven heat to 450 degrees. Uncover and bake for a few additional minutes for a crispy top.
Serves 8-12.

How To Make Basic Pasta

We’re doing our best to keep up with one of our goals on our Culinary Bucket List, to never use store-bought pasta again. Obviously, this is a slightly tongue-in-cheek goal; sometimes you just don’t have the time to whip up homemade pasta. But, not going to lie, every time we make our own pasta, it just reconfirms how much we love it and moves us slightly closer to keeping up with that goal! We’ve shared a few recipes with homemade pasta so far – see, Pappardelle with Braised RaguCacio e Pepe, & Homemade Pasta Carbonara. With all of these, we’ve developed our standard recipe for pasta dough. We thought we’d share that here as it’s own recipe for ease of browsing! Over time and trial & error, we think this is the best way to create your basic pasta blank canvas. {This recipe makes between 2 and 4 servings – let me explain. We have a bad habit of making pasta and then inhaling it, leaving us over-full. So – 2 portions. If you have more restraint and/or do not wish to need to unbutton your pants after dinner – 4 portions. We’ve easily doubled this recipe in the past with the same results.}

Basic Pasta Recipe

(Our recipe is adapted & combined from several sources: The Cook’s Book400 Sauces, & KitchenAid’s insert that accompanied our pasta attachments.)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 1/3 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
Instructions:
  1. In a large bowl, stir the salt into the flour. Create a well or crater in the center.
  2. Crack two eggs into that center well/crater.
  3. Using a fork, slowly mix the egg into the flour. Try to keep the eggs within the crater, pulling in more and more flour. (If you fail, don’t worry, life will go on.)
  4. Once the egg is mixed into the flour and is beginning to resemble a cohesive dough, turn out onto a clean counter-top, and switch to using your hands. Fold together until well combined. [You made need an extra dusting of flour if the dough is wet and sticky, or to wet your hands if it’s a bit dry.]
  5. Continue kneading the dough, stretching and folding, for at least 5 and up to 10 minutes. By this point, the dough should be smoother and elastic, so that you can form into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes, and up to two hours.
  6. The type of pasta you want to make will dictate your next steps. Generally, you will likely cut the dough into smaller portions, flatten with a rolling pin or pasta roller, and then cut as desired.