Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lasagna The Labor of Love

Hungry? You will be by the time you're done cooking.
Did I mention this recipe takes about 4 hours?
It does. It's worth it.

If you're going to make lasagna from scratch it better be for a damn good cause, because lasagna is terribly time consuming. I make lasagna to say, "All snark aside, I kinda like you." Which is why, every so often, I make it for the boy. I like to remind him that my whole purpose in his life is not just to amaze him with the destruction I can wreak on the kitchen or to frustrate him with my life philosophy of "Fuck it. I'm just going to wing it." No, some time I feed him and sometimes that food is lasagna.

To make this, you're going to need about 4 hours. A lot of that time you'll be able to spend doing something else (for instance, I use it to drink wine and read- all while pretending to be slaving away in a hot kitchen- I find that the apparent amount of suffering I put into a meal seems to really up everyone's enjoyment of it). Bolonase sauce needs time, but not a whole lot of attention.

Some thoughts on lasagna noodles: Lasagna noodles come in three kinds: dried that you have to boil, no cook dried and fresh. The no cook dried are tempting, but avoid them like you would avoid Paris Hilton's vagina. No cook noodles taste like shit and they just ruined the 4 hours of love and devotion that you just spent making a lasagna. You're about to spend 4 fucking hours making something you could by frozen, throw in the over and forget about- don't suddenly act like boiling noodles is over the inconvenience line for you. I prefer to use the fresh- if you live near a Whole Foods they almost always carry fresh lasagna sheets. Fresh noodles are usually large rectangles (about 2 to a layer in a 9x13 pan) and need about 1 min of boiling time. If you can't find fresh, go with the traditional long rectangular noodles and cook them 1-2 minutes less than the recommended al dente time on the package. The noodles will continue to cook once the whole thing goes in the over. Having your noodles a little underdone ensures that they don't get soggy and the whole infrastructure of your lasagna is not compromised.

For the Bolonase sauce:

1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 leek, thinly sliced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1/4 lb bacon
6 oz ground pork
6 oz ground veal
6 oz ground lean beef (often these three can be found together in a "meatball" mixture in the ground meats section)
1 cup white wine
1 cup beef stock (not broth)
1 28 oz can San Marzano diced tomatoes (the purple label) + 1 12 oz can of the same
1 cup heavy cream
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the ricotta:

3 15 oz tubs of ricotta cheese (2 full-fat and 1 part-skim)
1/2 cup of the Bolonase sauce taken at the 1 hour mark
2 tbs of a dried Mediterranean herb blend (cheating? Kind of . . . )

To assemble:

Cooked and drained lasagna noodles
16 oz shredded mozzarella
8 oz shredded Parmesan, Romano, or asiago cheese

To make the Bolonase sauce:

Put a large pot (and I mean really big, probably the biggest pot you own would not be too large for this) over medium heat. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to the bottom and let it heat. Once the oil is hot add the onion, leek, carrot and celery. Stir until the onion starts to soften (about 3-5 minutes). Then add the bacon. You want the raw bacon cut into small pieces. Raw bacon is a terribly inconvenient bitch of a food to slice, so I recommend using scissors to snip it into little pieces.  The bacon is not going to get crispy. Its there to add a velvety pork-ness to the veggies.  Continue to stir until the bacon is pink and the carrots have started to soften.  Now add the ground meat. Crumble a little bit in a time and then mix well with the vegetables.  Continue until all the meat has been added.  Stir regularly to ensure that all the meat clumps are broken up. Once the pink is gone from the meat add 1/2 of a cup of the white wine and the smaller can of diced tomatoes. Raise the heat and cook for an additional 5 minutes- the liquid should start to reduce a bit. Turn the heat down to low- just enough so that your mixture is simmering. Add the stock and the large can of tomatoes and simmer for an hour, occasionally stirring. After the first hour is up remove around 1/2 of the liquid from the sauce and set aside for the ricotta mixture. Now add the send 1/2 of the wine and salt and pepper to taste. Allow to simmer for another hour, stirring occasionally. At the end of the second hour of simmering add the heavy cream and cook for another 15-30 minutes depending on the thickness of the sauce. You want something in the neighborhood of chili in terms of consistency.

For the ricotta:

Start the ricotta mixture about the time you add the cream to the Bolonase sauce. This is also a good time to start boiling a pot of salted water for the noodles (your pasta water should be about as salty as the ocean- without salt your noodles will be bland). Add a little olive oil to the pasta water to keep it from boiling over.

In a large mixing bowl, add the three packages of ricotta and mix well. Then add the BolonaseBolonase sauce to thin it out.

More notes on the noodles:

Lasagna noodles are large and a pain in the ass to cook. Only cook a few at a time (3-4 at max). Have a tray with a damp paper towel beside your pasta water. As soon as a noodle is done, fish it out and place it on the paper towel, If the tray becomes full, lay down another damp paper towel on top of the cooked pasta and repeat. If you're using fresh pasta, each noodle only needs about 45-60 seconds of cooking time and I usually cook them while I'm assembling the lasagna. If you're using dried, start cooking your noodles during the final 30 minutes of your sauce.


Pre-heat your oven to 350.

Take a 9x13 in pan and spray the bottom with cooking spray. Put down a layer of noodles. Put down a layer of the ricotta mixture (about 1/3 of the mixture). Spread the ricotta evenly over the noodles (kind of frustrating to do, actually). Put down a layer of the meat sauce (about a cup to a cup and a half ). Top the meat sauce with about a cup of mozzarella cheese. Top that with 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese. Add another layer of noodles. Repeat. On the final layer (and how many layers you can make depends on how deep you pan in and how much filling you have left- usually 2-3 complete layers is what this recipe will make), omit the ricotta and top the noodles directly with meat sauce. Top the meat sauce with the mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake uncovered for 20-30 minutes, until the whole thing is bubbly. Allow to cool at least 15 minutes. If you don't let it cool long enough, you will have total structural breakdown. It will still be delicious, but it'll look like seven kinds of hell (and its tricky to plate like that).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie

           Life is full of disappointments. This isn't one of them.


This is one of those dinners that is ludicrously easy to make, but looks very impressive and June Cleaver-ish. The boy has been known to treat this as a single serving and retire to a dark corner with the pie plate and a fork, prepared to defend it from other diners if required.

I'm not a huge fan of using frozen veggies; however, they work a lot better in this recipe than their fresh counterparts and all your veggies will come out cooked to the same degree. You can substitute really anything in the place of the peas and carrots, this is just my very traditional take.

Pre-made pie crust (get the dough sheet kind, not the already formed to the pie plate kind. That kind sucks).
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 leeks, thinly sliced
1 package frozen peas with pearl onions
1 package frozen sliced carrots.
2 tbs flour (you might need more, but start with two tablespoons)
Butter/Olive Oil for sauteing
1/2 light cream (like the flour, you might wind up needing more. This is just a starting point.)
1/2 Chicken stock (stock, not broth)
Salt and Pepper
1 beaten egg

Pre-heat your oven to 350 F

Season and cook the chicken breasts. I brown them in a saute pan and then add chicken stock and cook with a lid on to keep moisture in. However, grilled would work, as would using left over chicken breasts or a rotisserie chicken. Once the chicken is cooked let it cool and then shred it and set it aside.

In a big frying pan, (seriously, use the biggest fucker you have- you are going to be cramming all kinds of crap in there by the end of the recipe) bring your butter or oil up to a medium sizzle. Add the chopped leeks and saute until they start to turn translucent. Once the leeks are soft and translucent, add the frozen peas and carrots. Continue cooking until thawed. You might need to add a little bit more butter at this point. Now sprinkle the flour over the vegetable mixture and stir in until the vegetables are coated with the butter-flour mixture. Add the cream and the chicken stock. Stir so that everything is well incorporated. Continue to stir until is comes to a slow boil. Don't let the boil get out of hand, just an occasional bubble is hot enough. The cream and the stock should start to thicken at this point. If your mixture is too thin add more flour, a teaspoon at a time. If its too thick and appears pasty, add more cream. Take your shredded chicken and add it to the vegetables and cream mixture. Again, you may need to add more cream at this point. It should look like a very thick stew at this point.

There are two way to use the pie crust. You can make a pot pie with a top and bottom crust or just a top crust, totally a matter of personal preference. I make a two-crust pie because I like crust. So there.

For a two crust pie- line a deep pie plate with one sheet of pie dough. Pour the chicken and vegetable mixture into the pie dish. Make sure that the chicken and the veggies are fairly evenly distributed in the mixture. No one wants a serving of chicken pot pie that is all veg and no meat.  Drape the second sheet of pie dough over the mixture and crimp the crust edges together. Cut four vents in the top crust and brush it with the beaten egg.

For a one crust pie- Pour the chicken and vegetable mixture directly into a deep pie plate. Drape a sheet of pie dough over the top of the mixture. Crimp the pie dough to the pie plate. Cut four vents in the top of the crust. Brush with beaten egg.

Place the pie on a center rack in your pre-heated over. You might want to put a baking sheet or tinfoil under it because it tends to bubble out the side a little and no one likes burned pie drippings fouling up your oven. Bake until the crust is golden. Everything inside the pie was cooked before it ever went into the oven, so this is strictly a crust issue. It will probably take 40-50 minutes, but start checking on it at around 30 min into baking.

Monday, September 27, 2010

If Puttanesca is Whore's Sauce, then I guess this is . . . Slut's Sauce? Yeah, let's go with Slut's Sauce

This will all make sense. I promise. 

Us sluts get hungry. Romping burns calories and those calories need to be replaced by something other than alcohol calories (which are totally cool, by the way, let no one say I don't support a healthy alcohol intake) if one is to continue romping. Carbs are a good place to start. You could order a pizza, but then someone is going to have to put their pants on to answer the door for the delivery guy. Unless you are in a porn, then, by all means, feel free to answer pantless. Sans pantaloons, if you're fancy. So pasta it is then, because everyone has dried pasta in some form in the cupboard. However, red sauce from a jar screams one of two things, "I am still in college and we are fucking in my dorm/on-campus apartment" or "payday is Friday and I'm broke, bitch." But homemade red sauce is an entirely different beast. Homemade red sauce indicates that you are a multi-talented slut, one with hidden depths, a slut who makes mutherfuckin' red sauce from scratch. As an added bonus, you can make this sauce in the time it takes the water to boil and the noodles to cook and it will be better than any damn store sauce out there. It might even be better than yo' momma's red sauce. Just sayin'

Slut's Sauce

1 small yellow onion
2 table spoons minced garlic (buy pre-minced stuff in a jar, no one wants a garlic-scented hand job later).
1 can San Marzano crushed tomatoes (Stick with this brand- it's easy to find and tastes the best of widely available canned tomatoes).
6-8 large fresh Basil leaves (dried leaves are for losers).
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Heat olive oil in a heavy bottom skillet over medium heat. Dice the onion and saute the onion in the olive oil until it becomes translucent. Add the garlic. Once the garlic starts to brown (about a minute to a minute and a half), add the crushed tomatoes. Stir to incorporate the tomatoes, onion and garlic. Chiffonade the basil leaves. (To chiffonade the basil leaves stack the leaves on top of each other and roll them tightly- should look like a basil joint. Make narrow horizontal cuts. You'll wind up with what looks like narrow ribbons of basil). Stir the basil leaves into the tomato mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.  Mix with the pasta and top with Parm or Asiago cheese. Congrats you are now full of delicious energy-providing carbs. Fuck away.

                                                                                       Hopefully your partner feels this way.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My Current Food Obsession: Roasted Corn and Avocado Salsa

So I do a lot of cooking for the boy, mainly because it makes him think I am some sort of amazing super woman who manages to find time to work, sex him up and cook, but also because it allows me to cater to whatever food whim I am currently enslaved to.  The avocado is probably my favorite single food item (I would eat the shit out of them every single day if I could have a consistently ripe supply- hard avocados ruin everything.) My love for avocados means I am pretty easily enslaved by avocado recipes, but this one in particular also seems to work its magic on non-avocado fanatics just as acutely. I have seen the boy scrape the leftovers out of the bowl and stuff it into a pita and eat it like a sandwich. He does this before I even have a chance to do the dishes. This shit is powerful.  The key is the roasted corn- its sweet and crunchy and blends so nicely with the creaminess of avocado. 

Roasted Corn and Avocado Salsa

For the roasted corn:

2 cups corn kernels (you can use frozen or cut them off fresh cobs- it'll take about 4 cobs)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt 
Fresh ground pepper

Pre-heat your oven to 400 F. Put the corn in a bowl, add the olive oil and toss with your hands until the kernels feel well coated. Put more salt that you think you'll need and add pepper to taste. Re-toss to ensure the salt and pepper are well distributed. 

Take a baking sheet (you might want to cover it in tinfoil first- easier clean-up) and dump the corn out on  it. Make sure you spread the corn out in a flat layer. Pop in the over for at least 20 minutes. As it bakes, some of the kernels are going to turn black and burned looking- you want this. These kernels are indescribably delicious. Do not deprive yourself of delicious, crunchy burned corn because you think 20 minutes is an awfully long time to bake corn kernels. 

For the avocado salsa:

2 ripe (slightly soft under pressure) avocados
1/2 red onion- diced
1/2 jalapeno pepper- seeded and diced very very small
1/2 red bell pepper- diced
Limes or lime juice

Cut the avocados into 1/2 inch chunks. Combine the avocados with the diced onion and peppers. Gently stir the ingredients together. Add the juice of 1/2 of a lime. Don't salt or pepper the avocado mixture yet- the corn is going to be salty and it usually adds all you need (this was learned through trial and error). Let the avocado mixture sit at room temperature while the corn roasts. This gives the flavors a chance to mellow and come together a bit. 

When the corn is done (most kernels should be browned and crunchy). You may need more than 20 minutes, depending on your oven. You want brown and crunchy with some blackened kernels in the mix and some yellow still showing through. Add the hot corn to the avocado mixture and stir gently to mix everything together. Let it sit for about 5-10 minutes and then sample the mixture. This is the point where you may want to add a little more salt, but if you used enough when you made the corn you should be good.

You now have a huge bowl of deliciousness. What you can do with this stuff is pretty endless. It goes great as a topping on any kind meat (its awesome over Thai peanut chicken, grilled steaks, BBQ pork or grilled tuna). Its also awesome with wild rice. Or you can be like the boy and just stuff it into a pita and enjoy as a sandwich. 

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Winter Warmers: Snowpocolypse Edition

The great 2010 Snowpocolypse has hit Philadelphia, dumping almost 30 inches of snow on the city and generally making it difficult to get a cab. Many bars, with little consideration to the well-being of local alcoholics, are closed and the specter of the delirium tremens is breathing down our necks (or at least boredom is). As service to my fellow man, here are some of my favorite cold weather drinks:

Foggy Bottom

2 parts spiced rum
2 parts ginger beer
3 parts apple cider

Pour everything in a doubles glass and drink. Feel your soul thaw.

Manzana Cider

1 oz reposado tequila
1/4 oz creme de cassis
1 oz  apple cider
1/4 oz lemon juice

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, strain into a collins glass and garnish with an apple slice.

The Tom Bomb 

This drink was made up by Tom (also known as "The Bartender"). If drinking this floods you with joy or helps you get laid, thank Tom. He can be found being surly to customers at Philly's Moriarty's Bar most nights.

3/4 full pint glass of Guinness 250 year edition
1 shot Patron coffee-flavored tequila with a Bailey's floater

Drop the shot in the Guinness and quaff.  Give it a minute to catch up with you.

Alexander the Great

1 oz creme de cacao
1 oz coffee liquor
1 oz heavy cream
3 oz vodka

Shake everything with ice and strain into a highball glass.  This is a one and done drink. (Theoretically. I mean,  if you're really a proper drunk, it might be a three and done drink). Its potent. It goes down easy. Really easy. Good luck finding your panties in the morning.

WTF Australia?

Ladies, you if have small bosoms put them away. Australia does not want to see them. The Australian Censor Board (ACB) has banned the depiction of women with A-cup breasts in porn because it promotes child pornography. That's right ladies, if you have small tits you are not a proper woman. And if you like small tits you are apparently a closeted kiddy-toucher. Thank you Australia from protecting us all from the scourge of itty bitty titties. No word yet on the ACB's feeling about about shaved snatch, because there is absolutely nothing pre-pubescent about that at all.

Australian Censor Board Demands Large-Breasted Porn Stars (BoingBoing)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Saturday Night Quickies

See kids, this is what the deprivations of living in Canada (aka America's Hat) can lead you to do (Porn Star in the Kitchen. Um, yeah its NSFW).

Not a new posting by any means, but just one example of what makes this site so fucking fantastic. Here are "Five Movies That Might Encourage Narrow-Minded Assholes to Vote For Same-Sex Marriage" (Pajiba).

Not exactly what I plan to do with my Saturday evening, but I guess some people get off on this sort of thing. I'm looking at you Emo kid, you with the artfully applied liner and the skinny jeans. This is onion abuse! (Bizarre News).

I used to date this guy from Jersey who was absolutely fantastic in the sack. He was also crazy about anything spicy. There was nothing so hot that he would not eat it. He said his goal was to one day eat pepper spray. A guy's gotta dream. Anyway, this has nothing to do with his horizontal skills, but it is about  the amazing things peppers can do. (Mental Floss).

Sorry For the Toothy Blow Job Bacon and Goat Cheese Pasta

It happens. You don't want it too (alright sometimes you do, but that is for a completely different post). You take every precaution you learned in college, but there are times when you still wind up giving toothy head. I'm not talking a little scrape on the molars, I am talking cheese-grater here. I am talking penile abrasion. Granted this usually happens early in one's dick-sucking life (or when really drunk, I'll give you that); however, if you take his dick skin off with your teeth its only polite to make him a nice meal afterward. Consider this a "Gee, I'm really sorry about that- I'm sure it will grow back in no time, honey" recipe. Of course, you don't have to take his dick skin off to cook this, its just that its so fucking good that he'll have no choice but to forgive you.

I tend to be pretty lax about ingredient quantities. Its cooking, its not rocket science. If you like something add more, you don't like it take it out or substitute. Make a recipe your own. That way you can whip it up all spur-of-the-moment-like and really impress people.

Bacon, Goat-Cheese and Spinach Pasta

*this will actually make enough for four people- so either you gave a lot of bad head at an orgy or you want something to eat in bed later. Or your could cut the recipe in half.

1lb thick-cut bacon
1 medium sized sweet onion
1 16oz package of fresh baby spinach (go organic if you took the skin off the dick of an NPR listener)
8oz herbed goat cheese (the semi-soft kind)
3/4lbs campanile-shaped pasta (looks like a frilly trumpet- this shape seems to hold the flavors of the           sauce best and it looks classy)

Bring a large pot of salted water (it should taste like seawater, well, you know, minus the seaweed and diftwood elements).  Cook the pasta to al dente (about 12 minutes).

In the meantime, cut the bacon into 1 inch strips (I use kitchen shears- room temperature bacon is a bitch to try to cut with a knife). Fry the bacon until very crispy (not blackened- unless you like that, then by all means, burn those little mofos until your heart's content). You want to do this in a big, deep fry pan. We are going to put all kinds of shit into this pan later. Set the bacon aside to drain on a paper towel-covered plate.  Use a slotted spoon to take the bacon out because you need to save the bacon grease.

Slice the onion into approximately 2 inch by 1/4 inch pieces. Turn the heat on the bacon grease down to low-medium. Cook the onions in the bacon grease until translucent. You kitchen will now be enveloped in the kind of smell that will trigger a Pavlovian response in everyone within 50 feet- this is the first step toward forgiveness.

Once the onions are soft and translucent, add the spinach. You want to cook the spinach until it just starts to wilt. This is only going to take a couple of seconds. Once the spinach is wilted, add half of the goat cheese and stir until melted (again, this isn't going to take long). Add the drained pasta and stir until well-coated. Now you want to add the bacon and the the remaining goat-cheese. You can add the goat-cheese in smaller pieces to adjust for taste.

Voila (that's French for "forget your bleeding dick I have made you a scrumptious meal") your dinner is now ready to serve.