Tag Archives: main dish

lazy pasta with onion, bacon and goat cheese

24 Jan

It was my turn to cook dinner for the weekly girls’ Bachelor viewing party at C’s place. All I had in the fridge was a handful of vegetables, goat cheese, plus a few strips of really amazing brown sugar apple wood bacon from the Fatted Calf.

Like the lazy cook I am, I typed in “bacon goat cheese pasta recipe” into Google and voila! Martha Stewart to the rescue. I modified the recipe to make use of some brussel sprouts and tomatoes, but otherwise stuck to Martha’s instructions.

It looked a bit of a mess, but the flavor combination was surprisingly delicious — so much so that I just had to take a photo (the day after, hence the wilted mess). You could mix this up with other vegetables like zucchini or mushrooms — the bacon, goat cheese and onions are the bare essentials. Possibly the best lazy recipe I’ve ever made!

pasta with onion, bacon, and goat cheese
a lazy clean-out-the-fridge kinda dish

* 1 pound campanelle (I used rigatoni)
* 6 slices bacon, sliced crosswise 1-inch thick
* 10 brussel sprouts, leaves peeled apart
* 1 small tomato, diced
* 4 medium red onions, thinly sliced
* 2 garlic cloves, chopped
* 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus more for serving
* Coarse salt and ground pepper
* 4 ounces soft goat cheese

Cook pasta. Drain, reserving 2 cups pasta water; return pasta to pot.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in large skillet over medium, turning, until browned, 5 to 7 minutes; remove to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Reserve half of the bacon fat to use later. Add brussel sprout leaves and tomatoes to remaining fat in skillet. Saute 5 minutes to soften. Remove from pan.

Pour reserved fat into skillet and add onions, garlic, and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Cover; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Uncover; cook until golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes more.

Crumble goat cheese over pasta; add onion mixture, zucchini and 1 cup reserved pasta water. Season with salt and pepper. Toss, adding more pasta water as desired. Serve immediately, sprinkled with bacon and more thyme. Serves 6.

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roku. chow. pork.

15 Nov

In an effort to quit evil Comcast cable, I recently acquired Roku. For $80 (less than I would pay for a month of cable), I snapped up a lower-end HD hardware box about the size of 3 stacked CD jewel cases. What sold me on Roku? Well, it’s cheaper than Apple TV, Boxee, Google TV or a dedicated PC, plus they seem to have solid content partnerships.

Honestly, I had higher hopes for the level of free content available, which currently consists of old b&w movies, bad internet programming, a zillion Pandora-esque stations, and porn (if you are so inclined). I’ve resigned to using it purely as a Netflix-streaming watching box (and Hulu Plus, whenever that gets released). The Vimeo and YouTube channels could be good diversions, but are inconvenient to search and navigate.

I do appreciate that Chow has a free channel on Roku. Sure, it’s no replacement for the Food Network, but it does have fun videos including a Celebrity Go-To Dish section with a Steamed Ground Pork with Salted Fish recipe by Charles Phan of Slanted Door fame.

In the video segment, Phan improvises his favorite family comfort meal — a rustic pork patty studded with dried Chinese salted fish (haam yee) and steamed to juicy perfection. Most Chinese folks (myself included) grew up eating this simple to prepare home-style dish served over rice. Unlike Phan, we never “ground” our own pork with dual cleavers, nor spiked the pork with Vietnamese fish sauce.

Inspired by Phan’s fancification, I set out to recreate the dish one Sunday evening. Instead of fresh mushrooms, I rehydrated a fistful of dried shiitakes and opted for a 50/50 mix of fatty and lean ground pork from the local butcher. At the Chinese market, I grabbed a nice and stinky dried mackerel sold in hanging plastic bags with the tail exposed.

I’m not old school Chinese, so I don’t own a wok or bamboo basket steamers. Phan describes how to fashion a steamer from foil and a skillet, but I prefer to use a heatproof footed ceramic bowl carefully set it into a large lidded pot with half-inch of simmering water. My grandparents always used this bowl-steaming trick to maximize surface area — simply push the ground pork up the sides of the bowl with uniform thickness to form a cup-like patty.

steamed ground pork with salted fish
umami in a bowl

* 1 pound ground pork
* handful of dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and finely chopped
* 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
* 1 tablespoon fish sauce, plus more as needed
* 2 teaspoons cornstarch
* Salt
* Freshly ground black pepper
* 2 (2-by-1-inch-long and 1/2-inch-thick) pieces salted mackerel
* 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled, thinly sliced, then cut into very thin matchsticks

Fill a large wok with 1 inch of water and place a large bamboo steamer inside. (The water should not touch the bottom of the steamer.) If you don’t have a wok and a bamboo steamer, try my bowl-steaming method. Bring the water to a simmer over medium heat.

Place pork in a medium bowl. Add mushrooms, shallot, fish sauce, cornstarch, oil, and a large pinch each of salt and pepper and stir to combine. Check mixture for proper seasoning by forming a small, thin patty. Pan-fry it until the center is no longer pink. Taste, adding additional fish sauce, salt, or pepper as needed, keeping in mind that there will be additional salt in the dish from the salted fish.

Place pork mixture in a slightly rimmed (to contain the juices) heatproof dish about 8 inches in diameter. Press the pork across the dish to form a large 1/2-inch-thick patty. If using salted mackerel, place it in the center of the pork patty. If using anchovies, scatter them in a single layer on top of the pork patty. Evenly sprinkle with ginger. Carefully place the dish in the bamboo steamer or into pot. Cover the wok or pot with a tightfitting lid or a sheet of aluminum foil and steam until the mixture is just cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with rice and vegetables.

Serves 4. Adapted from Charles Phan recipe.

kabocha, gobo and pork stew

25 Oct


Food and weather. Any mathematically inclined cook will tell you the two are inversely proportional: Heat wave, ice cream. Chilly rain, stew.

After a handful of Indian summer days in October, blustery weather and frigid rain has finally set in. Not wanting to stray far from home, I headed to the Chinese grocery store for kabocha (pumpkin), gobo (burdock root) and pork shoulder.

I love kabocha pumpkin for its creamy texture, petite size (easy to handle), and quick-cooking (when compared with the other squashes of the season). There’s a heartiness and sweetness to its yellow flesh, plus you can eat the nutritious green skin. Kabocha is a favorite of the Japanese, who serve it simply boiled, hot or cold as a vegetable side dish.

To make it a complete one-pot meal, I decided to braise some pork shoulder with the kabocha and an earthy Japanese root vegetable called gobo. Served over steaming hot white rice, this Japanese stew becomes the highlight of any rainy evening.

kabocha, gobo and pork stew
a culinary haiku about sunshine on a rainy day

* 1 lb pork shoulder
* 2 lbs kabocha pumpkin
* 2 foot-long pieces of gobo (burdock root), peeled and sliced diagonally into 1/4″-thick pieces
* 2 tablespoons flour
* 5 cups dashi
* 1/4 cup mirin
* 1/3 cup soy sauce
* 1/2 cup sugar

Cut meat into 2-inch pieces and pat dry with paper towels (do not rinse). Spread meat on a large piece of waxed paper or the butcher paper it came in. Sprinkle flour over meat, toss to coat, then shake meat in a colander to rid it of excess flour; do in batches if the colander is small.

Coat bottom of a 5- to 7-quart Dutch oven with a thin film of oil and set pot over medium-high heat. When oil shimmers, add enough meat to cover bottom in 1 layer. Cook, without stirring, until meat lifts easily from pot with tongs and is well browned on bottom, about 5 minutes. Turn and brown on the other side, about 5 minutes more. Transfer meat to a plate and continue with remaining meat, adding more oil to pot in between batches as needed.

When last batch of meat has been removed, add some of the dashi to pot, stirring to released browned bits. Return meat and any accumulated juices to pot. Add gobo and all of the remaining ingredients except for the kabocha to pot. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 60 minutes or until meat is tender.

Meanwhile, with a large, heavy knife, cut the kabocha in half through stem end. Scoop out and discard seeds and strings. Cut kabocha into 1-inch chunks.

After meat has cooked 1 hour add kabocha to the pot. Let liquid come to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer 30 minutes more. Serve over white rice.

Serves 6.

walnut pesto, riviera dreams

16 Jul

A couple summers ago, I took a trip to the Cinque Terra in Liguria, Italy. I snapped this photo of Vernazza from the hiking trail that connects these five picturesque coastal towns. The castle tower in the distance was built to watch out for pirates (yaaaargh!). Just below the tower, I enjoyed a fantastic meal of frutti di mare and pesto lasagna at the restaurant with orange awnings.

Memories of that heavenly, melt-in-your-mouth pesto lasagna — infinite layers of handmade pasta, white sauce, cheeses, no tomatoes or meat — came rushing back after reading a recent Bittman article about Pra, Liguria’s famous basil-growing town.

Pesto is pesto, and it’s pretty difficult to botch up a handful of nuts, cheese, basil and oil. On the other hand, if you’ve had truly great pesto made with the best Italian-grown ingredients, you know it can be an utterly transcendent experience in shades of green.

Here in San Francisco, Farina is the hands-down pesto champ, but they don’t do a lasagna! Until my next trip to the Italian Rivera, I will continue to dream of pressing my fork greedily through a piece of fantastic pesto lasagna. In the meantime, I will take the basil California gives me.

walnut pesto
tasty but not like in Liguria… walnuts are a fine alternative to pine nuts when that’s what you’ve got

* 1/2 cup walnut halves
* 2 cups lightly packed basil leaves
* 1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
* 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
*1 /2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
* Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 8 to 10 minutes, until they are fragrant and lightly browned. Let cool completely.

In a food processor, pulse the walnuts with the basil and garlic until the walnuts are finely chopped. With the machine on, add the olive oil in a thin stream and process until the pesto is almost smooth. Add the cheese and pulse until just incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.