Weeknight Cooking: Down-and-Dirty Chicken Stir Fry and (Leftover) Fried Rice

A few weeks ago, my parents went on a weekend jaunt to Pennsylvania.  They had a grand time and brought back some neat swag, while my sister and I minded the house and the animals like the good offspring we are.

Or something similar.

When they got back, as is tradition, we got the rundown of the trip’s events.  Last year, when they went to Chicago, my mom opened up the map of the L and pointed out all the stations they’d stopped at; no luck this time, since PA’s not so big into mass transit.

(Damn.)

It’s all really interesting, really.  Case in point, I learned that the Yuengling brewery has always been family-run, and rather than just passing the company from generation to generation, anyone who wants to take over has to buy it at full market value.

Also that their current brewmaster is a lady; props to ladybrewers.  (Soon, I will join your ranks.  Soon.)

Also that during Prohibition, they kind of just said “fuck it” and made ice cream.

(See!  You just learned three things about Yuengling that you didn’t know when you started reading this post.  How do you feel?)

But for all that their stories are interesting, and that I like hearing about the things they ate and the places they went and the things they did, every time they get home I’m just sitting there, trying to be excited about all of these things, and thinking “goddamn it, why don’t I get to go anywhere fun?”  They’ve been taking these little weekend trips since like my sophomore year of college, with increasing frequency in the past few years, and goddamn it I’m jealous.  I want to take time off and go do fun things just because I can.

My dad said “so…do it?  Just go somewhere for the day.  Nobody’s saying you can’t.”

Fine.  Touché, papabear.

There’s an interesting downturn to the trip; when my mom got back to work on Monday, she learned that Stephen King had flown out of the airport on one of the days she took off.  And she tried the leftovers of this stir fry; taste-bud-lust ensued.

Down-and-Dirty Stir Fry and (Leftover) Fried Rice

Ooh! A recipe two-fer!

Quick Chicken Stir Fry

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 pound thawed frozen vegetables (plus whatever you have leftover in the crisper)

Cooking Directions

  1. Thaw your chicken and cut it into 3/4″ chunks. Toss it in a large bowl with the flour, ginger, garlic, salt, and sesame seeds.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the soy sauce, sriracha, hoisin, sesame and chili oils, lemon juice, and remaining salt and ginger.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken for just under thirty seconds, then add about two tablespoons of the sauce mixture. Toss to coat, then cook two to three minutes more.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and add the vegetables plus another tablespoon of the sauce. Let cook until the vegetables have heated through and gotten a good sauce coating. The remaining sauce can be served on the side for anyone who wants a little extra.

Fried Rice

Ingredients

  • 2 cups leftover cooked white rice
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • cooking oil

Cooking Directions

  1. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion, celery, and carrots; cook until just softened, about four minutes.
  2. Push the vegetables to the side and add another teaspoon of oil to the center of the pan, then add the rice and ginger. Stir to combine.
  3. As the rice browns, keep stirring and adding oil as necessary to keep it from sticking or going soft. When the rice has just started to brown, kick the heat up to high and add the soy sauce; stir, and once the sizzling has gone down reduce the heat to medium. Cook until crisp.  (Note: you’ll need way more oil than you ever thought you would, so be prepared.)


Eating around the Web This Week:

What’s cookin’ in all y’all’s kitchens this week?

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Cook the Book: Terry’s Jailhouse Chili

There’s a funny thing about True Blood: sometimes I actually care more about the characters in the background than the ones you’re supposed to be tuning in every week for.  Sookie’s latest dramas aren’t ever interesting unless they involve shirtless Eric and/or Alcide; Billith….not even going to go there.  But stick in a little bit of Terry action and I am there.  Terry is never not entertaining.  Even when he’s fighting his PTSD and going crazy over an Ifrit, I still always want to see his face.

(Though he will always hold a place in my heart as Zach.  Gilmores for lyfe.)

It probably has a lot to do with the fact that the rest of the show is so out there and the list of relatable main characters has gotten so short (um.  Sometimes Jessica and Jason, and that’s about it for me) but it’s the guys on the sidelines that make the show seem more down to earth.  Yeah, in the last two seasons Terry and Arlene have dealt with 1) the potential demonic possession of their child, 2) the actual haunting of their child by the tormented ghost of a murdered woman, and 3) that whole business with the Ifrit, but they’ve handled it all like people.  Arlene freaked out, Terry told her to calm down (and then freaked out later), and we all watched and thought that might actually be a reaction to the above situations that a normal person might have had.

And Terry, rest assured that out of all the characters on TB, you’re high on the list of people I would let handle my kids.  Good job, man.

Terry Bellefleur's Jailhouse Chili

Chili, Fritos, and a hairy-armed dude in the background. Sounds about right.

On today’s edition of Cook the Book: True Blood: Terry Bellefleur’s jailhouse chili.  Apparently he made this for the men in his unit overseas, and apparently it’s not the same without the Fritos.  I’ll be taking the intro’s word for it, since Terry’s not really around for me to ask.

Half of this book is pictures and I don't even mind.

Half of this book is pictures and I don’t even mind.

I promise you one of these days I’ll be cooking complicated things again.  One day real soon, honest.  But this is weeknight food, man.  And if Terry wants to help me make food real easy on a Wednesday, I’m going to let him.

Recipe didn't call for peppers.  I didn't listen.

Recipe didn’t call for peppers. I didn’t listen.

Chili is definitely on the perfect weeknight food list: just throw it in a pot and call it a day.

Chili is definitely on the perfect weeknight food list: just throw it in a pot and call it a day.

Salting of the chili was minimal, and with very, very good reason.  See, also, the serving suggestion of this chili:

Salt situation: covered.  Delicious situation: also covered.

Salt situation: covered. Delicious situation: also covered.

Terry’s Jailhouse Chili

Adapted from the True Blood Cookbook

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 2 chopped bell peppers
  • 2 chilis, diced
  • 2 15oz cans kidney or cannelini beans
  • 2 cups canned diced tomatoes, with their juices
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • cayenne pepper
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • corn chips

Cooking Directions

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the meat, crumbling with a wooden spoon until you can’t see any more pink.
  2. Add the onions, chilis, and peppers; cook until softened, about eight or ten minutes.
  3. Add the beans, tomatoes, and tomato paste; stir to combine. Season with chili (2 tablespoons for milder, 3 for hotter) and cayenne.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer, uncovered, for an hour and a half. Keep an eye on it and add more liquid if it appears too dry.
  5. Serve hot in bowls with shredded cheddar and crumbled corn chips.

 

Linked up at A Glimpse Inside, 36th Avenue, and the Mandatory Mooch!

Cook the Book: LaLa’s Gumbo

True story, it’s weirdly hard to find gifs of Lafayette.

Me neither, LaLa.

You have to be weirdly specific, apparently.  For instance, searching “Lafayette tip yo’ waitress gif” gets you this:

Mm. AIDS.

Okay, anyway.  My struggles finding gifs are not the point of this post.  This post is about food, right?  And not at all about how excited I am for the next season of True Blood.  Because that…well.  That’s just kind of a constant.

To kick off my season of Cooking the Books (see also: all the cookbooks I got for my birthday) I cracked the spine on True Blood: Eats, Drinks, and Bites from Bon Temps with Lafayette’s “Gumbo Ya Ya”.

Aka, I made gumbo.  Aw heck yeah.

Lafayette's Louisiana Gumbo

New favorite font? Yes.

I have this idea and granted it may be a very incorrect idea but in my head gumbo is like Louisiana’s answer to chicken soup.  And by “answer”, I really mean something more along the lines of someone in Louisiana once took all the things that are great about chicken soup and decided to make it sassy.  And then added shrimp.

(In my head, this was probably the fault of some long-lost Lafayette ancestor.  Doesn’t even matter that Lafayette is a fictional character.  Don’t crush my dreams.)

A good gumbo has a thick sauce with enough oil to coat your throat and more than enough spice to clear you out.  That sauce should be vegetable-laden, and the whole thing should be something you want to stick your face over for long enough to steam every ounce of bad juju out of you.

That’s what I think, anyway.  And I mean, what do I know?

But whatever.  My gumbo fit all of the above criteria.  It’s a little off from LaLa’s recipe (mostly because we couldn’t find a piece of chicken small enough to thaw in the time we had because we are sometimes airheads) but it was still mighty delicious.

The great part about gumbo (other than the “eating it” part, which I think is pretty inarguably the best) is that all the hard work happens right off the bat.  Yeah, you have to make a roux, and yeah, you have to babysit the shit out of that sucker to make sure it gets dark enough but doesn’t burn.  But after that, gumbo is smoooth sailing.

Making a roux will make you feel a little disgusting at first with the amount of oil you're unabashedly pouring into the pan.  Embrace it.  It gets better.

Making a roux will make you feel a little disgusting at first with the amount of oil you’re unabashedly pouring into the pan. Embrace it. It gets better.

(Roux: pronounced like “rue”.  The basis of many great things, used in French and by default Cajun cooking.  Made from cooking together fat and flour.  Varies in color depending on what you’re making; for a béchamel, you’re going to want a very light roux, but for a gumbo you want that sucker browned.)

Casper, the friendly roux

Pale chocolate milk..

Liquid gold chocolate

Liquid gold chocolate

Once you’ve got your roux situation under control, it’s all easy.  You’ve already got enough oil to cook any/all veg your little heart could desire, so go ahead and dump all that in.

Stir to coat.

Stir to coat.

Except the okra.  The okra has to wait.

Sad okra is sad.

Sad okra is sad.

(Also; yes, I cheated and used frozen okra.  I say again, don’t judge me.)

There’s a few more things that go in here– chicken broth, spices, some sausage, and, if you’re using it, the chicken itself; with about ten minutes to go, add the okra and shrimp if you’re using either of them.

Okay, so LaLa didn't say to use either.  But a, okra, and b, there wasn't really a good deal of protein otherwise unless we DID put the shrimp.

Okay, so LaLa didn’t say to use either. But a, okra, and b, there wasn’t really a good deal of protein otherwise unless we DID put the shrimp.

Again, planning ahead helps so you don’t wind up using still mostly-frozen shrimp and having to pull the tails off while you try and eat it.  Live and learn.

Mmmm-mm.  Tastes like summer.

Mmmm-mm. Tastes like summer.

Lafayette’s (modified) Gumbo

Generously adapted from the True Blood Cookbook.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs thyme, leaves removed
  • 3/4 pound andouille or hot sausage, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cayenne
  • 1 pound shrimp, veined
  • 1 pound okra

Cooking Directions

    1. In a large Dutch oven, combine the vegetable oil and flour over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the roux is dark brown– this will take about 30 minutes.
    2. Add the onion, bell pepper, and celery, and cook until the vegetables have softened (about 10-12 minutes).
    3. Add the broth and stir to combine. Add the bay leaves, cayenne, and thyme; bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and let cook for about ten minutes.
    4. Add the sausage and let cook for 10 minutes more. Pull the bay leaves out and adjust the seasonings as you wish; add in the shrimp and the okra and let cook 10 more minutes.
    5. Serve over white rice.

Weeknight Dinner: Parmesan Chicken and Mad Sprouts, Y’all

Mama and I were working on the shopping list for this week and she jotted tonight’s dinner down as “chicken Parmesan .  I had to make her cross it out; don’t want anyone getting the wrong idea about what it is we’re having for dinner.

(I can’t explain how much my sister/papabear love chicken parm.  Every time someone suggests it they both ask what it actually entails to clarify, too, which– it just doesn’t compute to me.  But they’re both huge fans.)

Nope.  Parm chicken =/= chicken parm.

See?

See?

I guess the concept’s pretty much the same, though.  They’re like..dish cousins.  Like Who, What, When, Where, Why, and their cousin How.

(That was totally a thing when I was in first grade.  Thanks for the memories and the excellent fun playing with words, Mrs Shyer.)

The recipe itself is actually pretty straightforward; I’m sharing more for the breading tips, which are numerous per usual.

Y’all should know how I feel about breading by now.  If you missed it, I’ll catch you up: breading is one of my favorite things.

There is no such thing as loving mise en place too much, honest

There is no such thing as loving mise en place too much, honest

Just a quick rundown of everything you see here, and then we’ll get started: chicken (probably a given), flour, panko (or the breadcrumbs of your choice), Parmesan cheese and/or whatever it is you’d like to mix in with the breading.

Also eggs.  Eggs are pretty important.

1. Prep your Breading

This is easy.  Dump out about 2 cups of breadcrumbs into a bowl and wait for me to blow your mind with the next instruction:

mix it with your flavoring.

Crazy.

Crazy.

I’m using Parmesan cheese and some various green spices (oregano and parsley, plus a little salt and pepper).  Shake the bowl around a little bit; it’s a proven fact that shaking a bowl is the most effective AND the most fun way to mix dry ingredients.  Whisking be damned.

2. Make an Assembly Line

My mom asked if I really needed to use this many pie plates.  ALWAYS, mama.

My mom asked if I really needed to use this many pie plates. ALWAYS, mama.

And be fussy about how you do it; I can’t sell that point enough.  I used to look at this whole setup and think “yeah, that makes sense, but who wants to put that much effort into their breading?”

The answer is you.  You do.

And you do want to use pie plates; the high sides keep things from sloshing over, and the wide surface area lets you make sure everything gets covered.

3. Bread

Just to head y’all off with another tip: you do want to use tongs for every step after flour.  Otherwise your hands will be a disgusting mess and you will hate everything and/or get lots of egg in your breading and vice versa.

First, drop your chicken in the flour and flip to coat.

Parm Chicken - floured

This gives the chicken a protective crust to keep the moisture in, and also gives the egg and breading something to stick to that isn’t slippery bird goo.

Next, into the egg.

Parm Chicken - egged

..so that the breading will have something to stick to that isn’t dry floury bird.

And finally, into the breading.

..because it’s delicious.  Did you need an explanation?

Parm Chicken - broiled

And from there you just cook as planned.  These puppies got baked and finished with a broil for crust color, but do what you like.  It probably wouldn’t hold up to a deep fry so well, but a pan fry would hold it nicely.  And like my frying steps, it’s easily adapted to other meat products and/or foodstuffs.  Eggplant is the one that comes to mind, but I’m sure you could use it on a whole host of things.

This special weekday edition of how-to brought to you by the fact that dinner was otherwise too basic to post a recipe!  I’ll make up for it over the weekend, I promise.

Everything Meatloaf

Ever wonder what a Scotch egg would taste like if you deconstructed it and made it in a loaf pan?

I didn’t. But I imagine it would be something like this.

Meatloaf - full

Glamorous?  No.  Delicious?  Yes. Exactly the thing to do to get my crappo day out of my head?  Also yes.  Any dish where you have to squish meat around will instantly make you feel better, I guarantee it.  It’s like playing with meaty, delicious Play Dough, but riskier to eat off your fingers when you’re done.

(Not that that stops me.)

Bottom line is: this meatloaf has too much protein, and I am totally fine with it.  Because it’s also delicious.  And I sort of want to eat it for breakfast, actually.  Is that weird?

In my defense...it looks completely like breakfast.

In my defense…it looks completely like breakfast.

This is the result of three-person collaboration, which is sort of unheard of in my house these days.  I suggested meatloaf; my dad suggested we add sausage (because he always suggests we add sausage); my mom suggested we add hard boiled eggs.  I was skeptical, but she assured me that it was a Thing and we should give it a shot. So we did.

Meatloaf - veg

Things started off pretty normal; veg got chopped and lightly sauted with some spice.  From there it met the meat and got another good spicing, plus some breadcrumbs to bind it.  And then the mixing happened.

Meatloaf - premix

Hands down, this is my favorite part, probably for the same sort of reasons I like kneading bread so much.  It’s just– things gooshing through your hands, I don’t know.  It’s a stress reliever.

Anyway, moving right along: into the pan we go, with a decent glob of meat pressed down into the sides.

Technical term.

Technical term.

Then a layer of hot Italian sausage; pre-cooked, squeezed for grease, and sliced lengthwise.  Another glob of meat goes down on top of this, and you might want to press it out in your hands before you slap it down– pressing it out directly in the pan works, but you risk pushing the sausage out to the edges of the pan as opposed to the center area (which is where you want it).

Meatloaf - snausages

Repeat sausage step with eggs.  It helps to make a little well for the eggs in the layer of meat underneath them.

Meatloaf - eggiwegs

Top with the last of your meat and you’re good to go.

I got you craving meatloaf, didn’t I?  Here, have a recipe.

Everything Meatloaf

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 hot Italian sausage links
  • 2 hard boiled eggs
  • 1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper
  • 1 tablespoon (divided) ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon (divided) kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon parsley

Cooking Directions

  1. Start your preliminary prep: boil the eggs and cut each in half; cook the sausage links and slice, lengthwise.
  2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the mushrooms, celery, onion, and garlic with half the black pepper and half the salt.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef with the vegetables, remaining spices, Worcestershire sauce, and breadcrumbs.
  4. Press a little more than a third of the beef mixture into a lightly greased loaf pan. Add the sausage, then press half of the remaining beef on top.
  5. Repeat with the egg halves.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour. Remove from oven and drain out any accumulated grease; serve immediately after.

How To: Make the best fried chicken. Ever.

I don’t know if I ever mentioned this here, but: true story, deep frying is my super power.

Most niche super power ever, I know.

Here’s an example of a scenario that actually happened, in case you don’t believe me: my mom begged me for the looongest time to tell her what I put in my onion ring batter to get them super fluffy and wonderful, and after an age I caved and told her.  But using the same batter, under the same conditions, with the same tools, mine still had more puff and crunch to the batter coating.  And no one can explain why.

I should get a cape, or something.

But with great power comes great responsibility (I was visited by the cliche fairy this morning) and I’ve decided that it’s my responsibility to try and share my skills with the world.  And so I present to you, Bee’s guide to the Best Fried Chicken.  Ever.

STEP ONE: Brine.

Salty chicken water, my favorite.

Salty chicken water, my favorite.

Want to know how to keep chicken moist?  You brine.  Mix up a quarter cup of table salt and two cups of water until the one dissolves into the other, and then sit your chicken pieces down in it and let them take a nice, long, salty bath.

I like to let mine sit for abooout a day; this round they sat in the fridge from about 5 AM to 5 PM, but I have done more and I have done less and my chicken still stays moist.  Tip for if you’re crunched for time: poke holes in your chicken with a fork.  (You don’t need to go more than a quarter inch deep.)

Before you fry, make sure you rinse the chicken and drain it.  Well.  Patting it dry may also be something you consider.

STEP TWO: Batter.

This batter works for everything, fyi.  You name it, this batter makes the perfect coating for when you inevitably decide to fry it.

The beer is not optional.

The beer is not optional.

It’s also really, really easy.  1 cup flour, 1 cup cornstarch, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and whatever spices you want on your chicken/fryable foodstuffs (I went simple today; paprika, black pepper, and salt).  Whisk it up a little, and then dump in some of that beer we talked about (you need it for the fluff and the body; club soda just doesn’t cut it).

Those bubbles are a very good thing.

Those bubbles are a very good thing.

I never, ever measure on this part.  You want to wind up with something the approximate consistency of pancake batter, so just kind of…pour and mix until you get that.  I don’t know how else to explain it.  This time I used the entire can of Yuengling; I usually use bottled Sam’s, though, and wind up with a quarter left to drink.  Who knows?

STEP THREE: Pre-Fry and Fry

Start with a biiig Dutch oven (if you haven’t noticed by now, I really really love cooking in Dutch ovens; they’re maybe the most useful things, ever.  And cast iron cooks better than anything else).  Fill it about two inches deep with the oil you’ve chosen to fry with (canola, vegetable, peanut, whatever you’re using) and crank your burner to heat it up.

You’ll hear it when it’s ready.  But if you’re keen on having a specific temperature guideline, shoot for the territory around 350.

Whoops!  I forgot the flour on this batch.

Whoops! I forgot the flour on this batch.

Now move to that that nice, dry chicken of yours.  Coat it very lightly in flour, and get ready for the messy part: battering.

(Using tongs will help, a little.  But after a few dips the batter on the tongs will cook, so you have to keep cleaning them in between dips.)

Dunk your chicken/fryables into the batter, turn to coat, and then plunk ’em right down in the oil that you were heating this whole time.   (Make sure they’re in a single layer and not touching each other, that’s pretty important.)  Turn the heat down to medium and let those babies sizzle.

Cooking time will obviously vary depending on the size of your pieces.  Onion rings take about three minutes, total.  Whole breasts will take about six or seven a side.  I cut these breast pieces into thirds, and wound up with about five for the first side and four for the reverse.  This is another one of those experience-tells-me-when-its-done-and-therefore-times-are-for-lesser-fryers situations, but I tried to keep an estimate in my head for y’all.

When everything looks nice and crispy, yank ’em, let ’em drip, and set them on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet to let any extra oil drip off.  You’ll want to keep them in the oven if you’re doing a second batch (300 will be good to keep ’em warm).

PART FOUR: Filling Your Stomach

How's that for a slice of fried gold?

How’s that for a slice of fried gold?

I don’t think I need to tell you how to do this part.  My only tip is to try not to cram it all down your throat at once; choking is something that no-one likes.

Mostly: enjoy your moist, better-than-sin fried chicken!  The beer is optional this time around, but really, what is fried chicken without it.

Question Time: any cooking super-powers in the house?

Weeknight Dinners: Pasta Carbonara

WARNING: this post contains both food AND a recipe!

Pasta alla Carbonara

Mom’s dinner, again. Sigh.

After a brush with what I’m now terming the three headed monster of my life (insomnia, stress, and grrr which I’m also terming as an actual emotion now) I’ve decided to plan ahead a little and write this blog post in the predawn hours and add pictures later.

Which is, surprise, what was working out so well for me last week.  Why I didn’t just keep on that track, I may never know.

Today was another looong day; work, gym, back home to die on my bed for forty minutes and then work calls.

(Aside: I never thought I’d say this but I have so much empathy for those people who call your house asking if you want to buy new windows and crap.  It sucks.  It is the worst of jobs and trust me, these people want nothing less than to interrupt your dinner.  Be polite when you usher them off the phone, because they’re just doing what they’re getting paid a crappy hourly wage to do.)

The dinner slated for tonight was easy enough, though: nice gooey pasta carbonara (starring the half pound– half pound!– of prosciutto everyone’s been drooling over for the past three days).

Fact: I didn't use two eggs.  I changed my mind at the last minute, as I am prone to do.

Fact: I didn’t use two eggs. I changed my mind at the last minute, as I am prone to do.

Super easy.  As long as you have a hand to whisk with, there is nothing at all difficult about this pasta.

(Sorry, amputees.)

It’s also super gooey and makes you feel cozier.  Perfect for this stupid snow?  Yes.

Tired of me talking about the snow?  Good, so am I.  I’ll try to curb it.

Bonus, it’s super quick.  So the fact that I kind of lost track of time for a little while was totally okay!

Chefs who kind of scare me: this man.  Also Julia Child.

Chefs who kind of scare me: this man. Also Julia Child.

Pasta carbonara (or as Nick Stellino was kind enough to inform me in the info blurb in his cookbook, coal miner’s pasta) starts the same way most pastas do: you start boiling water for pasta, and then you fry stuff.

In my case a small mountain of prosciutto, bacon's super classy cousin.

In my case a small mountain of prosciutto, bacon’s super classy Italian cousin.

Then when you’re done, you put it all together.  But carbonara has to be a little bit of a snob (because why not) and give you an extra step.

That’s the one with the whisking.

Egg, cheese, pepper, and parsley get whisked together with a quarter cup of pasta water so that you’re coating the pasta with something thick instead of something watery and sad; constant whisking is required so that you get something tasty instead of scrambled eggs.

Which are also good, but not on spaghetti.  Probably.

Which are also good, but not on spaghetti. Probably.

And that’s pasta carbonara!  Dinner in a snap (for those of us with hands with which to whisk, for which I am eternally grateful).

Pasta alla Carbonara
adapted from Nick Stellino’s Glorious Italian Cooking

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti, cooked al dente
  • 1/4 cup pasta water, reserved
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 5-6 slices Italian prosciutto, chopped (swappable with pancetta or just plain old bacon)
  • 4 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • 3/4 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 egg
  • 5 tablespoons grated parmesan
  • 1/2 tablespoon black pepper
  • olive oil

Cooking Directions

  1. Set your pasta a-cookin’.
  2. In a medium skillet over medium-high, heat a little olive oil and saute the mushrooms for about 3-4 minutes. Add the prosciutto and garlic and saute two minutes more before adding in the red pepper and about half of the parsley. Saute until fragrant.
  3. Add the chicken broth and let the mixture reduce.
  4. Strain your pasta and get ready for the crazy part.
  5. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg, parmesan, black pepper, and remaining parsley. Slowly add the water, whisking constantly, until combined.
  6. Keeping the pasta over low heat, toss with the mushrooms and prosciutto. Remove from heat and stir in the egg and cheese mixture, adding a little olive oil as necessary to keep the pasta from seizing too much.

Ready to be done with this weather yet?  What’s your favorite weather-blues-fighting food?