I’ve made cacio e pepe before, I’ve even written about it here. And it’s been great, a basic Roman pasta with very few ingredients, easy to make and easier to eat. Then I read Mark Bittman’s piece on how to REALLY make this dish, and my whole world of pasta changed.
In his recipe, important components are a paste, made from the cheese and water, as well as the addition of the pasta water. But the real crux is the method – stirring the pasta vigorously to activate the starch. In all the years I’ve been making pasta, I’ve never heard of this process (perhaps it is a well kept secret), but now that I know, I will use it whenever appropriate. Once you try it, you’ll never look back.
In case the link doesn’t work, here’s the recipe, courtesy of Mr. Bittman and the NYT.
- 1 ½ cups finely grated pecorino Romano, plus more for dusting completed dish
- 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper, plus more for finishing the dish
- ¾ pound tonnarelli or other long pasta like linguine or spaghetti
- Good olive oil
- Put a pot of salted water on to boil. In a large bowl, combine the cheeses and black pepper; mash with just enough cold water to make a thick paste. Spread the paste evenly in the bowl.
- Once the water is boiling, add the pasta. The second before it is perfectly cooked (taste it frequently once it begins to soften), use tongs to quickly transfer it to the bowl, reserving a cup or so of the cooking water. Stir vigorously to coat the pasta, adding a teaspoon or two of olive oil and a bit of the pasta cooking water to thin the sauce if necessary. The sauce should cling to the pasta and be creamy but not watery.
- Plate and dust each dish with additional pecorino and pepper. Serve immediately.
I have tried for years to find at least one Asian-inspired dish that I can cook well, and when I stumbled across this recipe for Curry and Yogurt Braised Chicken yesterday, I finally found it. Things I love about this recipe:
1. Easy to make, and quick.
2. Ingredients are easy to find, but the dish still tastes like something you could get at your favorite neighborhood restaurant.
4. Healthy and filling. I used non-fat greek yogurt and served it over brown rice and spinach. (I also omitted the corn because I didn’t really understand why it was there in the first place.)
I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs because they have more flavor and become so tender (I simmered this for an extra 45 minutes), but you could substitute chicken breasts if you’d prefer. Either way, this is making its way into my regular rotation.
In case the link stops working, here is the recipe, courtesy of Food and Wine:
- 1/4 cup grapeseed or canola oil
- 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- All-purpose flour, for dusting
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 serrano chile, thinly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper—cored, seeded and cut into thin strips
- 1 tablespoon Madras curry powder
- 1 pound tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh corn kernels (from 1 ear)
- 1/4 cup Greek-style plain low-fat yogurt
- 1/2 cup water
- Cilantro leaves, for garnish
- In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and lightly dust with flour, tapping off the excess. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook over high heat, turning once, until lightly browned, 6 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
- Add the ginger, garlic, chile and bell pepper to the skillet and cook over high heat until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the curry powder and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, corn, yogurt and water; stir until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
- Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over very low heat until the chicken is tender and the juices are slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle the chicken with cilantro and serve.
This winter is challenging every ounce of hope New Englanders can muster. Here is an easy pasta that can provide at least a little comfort amidst the snow, ice dams, and general crankiness.
Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
1 lb orecchiette pasta (or other small pasta), cooked and drained with 1 cup cooking water reserved
1 lemon, cut in half
1 package fully cooked Italian sausage (sweet or spicy), casings removed and insides chopped
1 bunch broccoli rabe, blanched and chopped
1 cup breadcrumbs, panko or Italian
1 cup grated Parmesan
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Boil water and drop pasta into a large pot, to cook while you heat the other ingredients. In a large sauté pan, sauté garlic with the sausage (the oil from the sausage will cook the garlic). Once sausage is warm and garlic is cooked, add the chopped broccoli rabe and sauté until hot. Squeeze 1 half of lemon on top, stir, cover, remove from heat and set aside.
Reserving 1 cup of cooking water, drain pasta and return to its pot on medium heat. Add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, stir. Add 1/2 cup of cooking liquid, juice from the other half of the lemon, and 1/2 cup of grated cheese, stir until you have a sauce coating the pasta. Add more of the cooking liquid if necessary, or discard the rest. Add sausage and broccoli mixture, stir to combine. Serve topped with breadcrumbs and more parmesan cheese. Voila.
I’m something of a corned beef hash connoisseur. Don’t tell my doctor. But if you’re going to Christopher’s Restaurant in Reading, MA (and why wouldn’t you be?), pass on the corned beef and go directly to the pot roast. It’s not greasy, it’s not crusty, and it’s just the right amount of salty. A perfect compliment to their light omelets, sweet hot chocolate, and potato pancakes that taste just like the hash browns at McDonalds (in the best possible way).
I always forget how easy pork tenderloin is, and with these quick cooking greens the whole meal is no trouble at all. This is warm and hearty for the winter without being particularly bad for you.
Unstuffed Pork Tenderloin (serves 2 very hungry people, 4 less hungry people if you also serve some bread)
1 lb pork tenderloin
spice rub of your choice OR salt and pepper
1 lb bag spinach
1 lb bag kale greens OR 2-3 cups of trimmed kale leaves (any type of kale)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1-2 cups mixed mushrooms (whichever you like)
Juice from 1 lemon
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rub entire tenderloin with whatever spice rub you prefer, or just some salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and put in oven for 30-40 minutes. In the meantime, sauté mushrooms in half of the lemon juice and a little olive oil until tender, set aside. Saute kale and spinach and the rest of the lemon juice and a little olive oil. Add back the mushrooms and the feta cheese, stirring gently to combine. Remove tenderloin from oven, tent with foil an rest for 5 minutes. Top greens with sliced tenderloin. Voila.
Legal Seafood is a New England institution at this point, but their new addition in Charlestown, Legal Oysteria, is a different concept. Hipper, with a smaller, more current menu, and a bar area that caters to those interested in excellent dirty martinis, kusshi oysters, and lobster risotto teeming with tail meat. As it was also the location for my surprise 35th birthday dinner – a truly fantastic night – I can only give it rave reviews. Great service, cute back room for small parties so you don’t have to scream over the din in the very popular main area, and excellent food. Thank you LO, and thank you to all who celebrated with me!