Sunday, October 28, 2012

Spaghetti Carbonara

If you know me, you know besides baking and cooking another passion of mine is space and NASA and the privatization of the space industry.  That being said, while I am writing this post, I have NASATV on so I can watch the release of the Dragon capsule from the International Space Station. I provided you with a link so I can spend my time on this blog talking about food, and you can read about the Dragon when you have time.

The other night I was in a rush to get home, make dinner and get back out.  I also wanted to make something different for dinner.  Typically I would turn to my shrimp and pasta recipe for a night like this, but I was not in the mood for that.  I had read the recipe for spaghetti carbonara in my latest issue of Savuer and decided this recipe would be really easy to make on a night like it was set up to be.  And I was right.  It only took me a half hour from the time I got home to the time we had food on the table.  A quick, easy and gourmet-type of recipe.  These are the kinds of recipes I like.

I must also thank TS for making this recipe happen.  He had to go to three different grocery stores to find pancetta.  He found it at Kowalski's.  He could not find it at Cub or Rainbow.  You could also probably find it at Lunds or Byerly's. 

The recipe, as I said, came from Saveur.  I basically followed the recipe in Saveur.  I did not have parsley, so I could not add that to the recipe.  I also cut the recipe in half because it was for just the two of us, and the recipe makes enough for four.  I will provide the recipe as I made it. If you are making it for 4, 6, 8 people just adjust the ingredients accordingly.

(for 2 people)
1.5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
5 oz. pancetta, cut into ½″-long x ¼″-square strips
1/3 cup white wine
1/2 lb. dried spaghetti
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp finely grated Parmesan & Romano mix
1 egg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat AND start a pot of water for spaghetti to boil.
1a. When water has begun to boil, add pasta and cook for 7 mins.
2. Add garlic, and cook until golden, about 1 minute.
3. Remove and discard majority of  garlic.
4. Add pancetta, and cook until edges are crisp, about 6 minutes.
5. While pancetta is cooking, in a large bowl, whisk together Parmesan/Romano mix and egg.
6. Add wine, and cook until thickened, about 3 minutes.
7. Remove pan from heat. 
8. When pasta is completed cooking, drain, and reserve ¼ cup pasta water.
9. Slowly drizzle in reserved pasta water into the egg/cheese mixture and whisk until smooth.
10. Add pancetta/wine mixture to egg/cheese mixture and stir together.
11. Add spaghetti and season with fresh ground black pepper and a pinch of salt.
12. Toss to combine, and serve immediately.  

Well, the Dragon was successfully released from the ISS and is on its way back to Earth.  It should arrive off the coast of the Baja peninsula this afternoon.  

Enjoy this recipe!  It is a good one to make.  


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Mexican Cooking Challenge Part #4

TS said "That dinner was awesome!"  That is what I needed to hear after I spent from 430p to 730p on my feet in the kitchen, then from 8p to 845p in the kitchen.  Now, not all of that was spent making Mexican food, but I just sat down and I'm exhausted.  There is something about cold weather that makes me want to live in the kitchen.  In the last 24 hours I have baked chocolate & peanut butter chip cookies and banana muffins.  Then I made Mexican food from Saveur for dinner.  Then I put together an egg bake for brunch tomorrow morning.  I really need to buy a cushioned mat for my kitchen floor.  (Or if someone wants to buy one for me for Chanukkah/Christmas I would gladly accept that gift). 

This blog post is about the Mexican meal I prepared tonight, not my cookies or muffins or egg bake.  I figured it was a cold Saturday, TS and I had nothing going on, so why not make a three part meal?  The meal we ate tonight included pickled jalapeno peppers and Huarache con Carne Asada (homemade corn tortillas with red salsa and steak).  The huarache required me to make a red salsa.  I now have a little bit of salsa verde, a lot of enchilada sauce and a lot of salsa roja in my fridge.  I think I may need to stop trying new foods until we eat all this salsa. 

Like the past meals, the thing that took the longest to make was the salsa.  Otherwise the meal was really easy.  I started off by making the pickled jalapeno peppers earlier in the afternoon.  That was SUPER easy.  The best part about pickling is you make it and let it sit for a while.  Which means that after I made it I took a nap, watched TV, played on the computer then baked and made dinner.  If you like spicy foods, then these pickled jalapenos are for you.  TS even said they were so spicy he could only eat one.  I thought they were spicy, but then again I'm that person that puts a slice of jalapeno on each of my nachos when I go to a baseball game. 

Here is the recipe for pickle jalapenos:  I did not change the Saveur recipe at all. 

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small white onion, thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, thinly sliced crosswise
1 clove garlic, minced
10 green jalapeños, pricked with a paring knife
1 cup distilled white vinegar
2 cups water
1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 dried bay leaf


1. Heat olive oil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat.
2. Add onion, carrot, and garlic, and cook, stirring, until barely tender, about 3 minutes.
3. Add jalapeños to onion mixture, and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes.
4. Add vinegar, salt, oregano, bay leaf, and 2 cups water, and bring to a boil.
5. Once boiling turn off heat and let peppers sit on stove until they reach room temperature (about 1 hour)
6. Either each once cooled, or put into a container and store in refrigerator until you are ready to eat them. 

Part two of this meal was the salsa.  Like I said, this took the most time only because stuff had to sit, but I was able to do multiple things at the same time.

Similar to the pickled peppers, I followed the Saveur recipe exactly. 


10 dried guajillo chiles
6 dried árbol chiles
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 plum tomatoes, cored
1 small white onion, halved
Kosher salt, to taste  


1. Heat a 12" skillet over medium-high heat.
2. Add guajillo and árbol chiles, and cook, turning as needed, until lightly toasted all over, about 1 minute.
3 Transfer peppers to a bowl, and cover with boiling water.
4. Cover the bowl and let the peppers sit until chiles are soft, about 20 minutes.
5. While chiles are sitting,  return skillet to high heat.
6. Add tomatoes to skillet, cook for 3 mins. (turning every so often throughout the process)
7. Add onions to tomatoes and cook for 6 mins. (turning when you turn the tomatoes throughout the process)
8. Add garlic to skillet with tomatoes and onions and cook for 6 mins.  (turning when you turn the tomatoes and onions)
9.  Once the tomatoes, onions and garlic are blackened in some spots on each side, remove skillet from heat.
10. When chiles are done, drain chiles, reserving 1 cup soaking liquid.
11. Remove stems and seeds from both the guajillo and arbol chiles (yes the arbol chiles have a lot of seeds)
12. Put chiles and reserved soaking liquid to a blender.
13. Add tomatoes, onions and garlic to peppers in the blender.
14. Blend until smooth, about 2 mins.
15. Set salsa aside and let cool to room temperature.

This may seem like a lot of steps, but really it is fairly simple to make.  The whole salsa took me about 30 mins to make.  Part of the problem I had was added the chiles to the blender then read that I needed to de-seed them.  So, I had to get them all out of the blender and remove the seeds.  It does take some time to remove the seeds.  Just be REALLY careful when you are removing the seeds.  If you have a cut on your hand or you touch your eyes/face/etc. it will burn really badly.  Make sure you wash your hands very well when you are done removing the seeds from the chiles before you move on.

Now on to the main part of the meal.  I did change this recipe up a bit, but only by decreasing the amount of oil I used.  Also, this recipe serves 4 people and it was only TS and I eating, so I halved the ingredients to serve 2 people.  I will give you the recipe for 2 people.  That way if you want to make it for 4, 6 or 8 people just multiple the amounts by the appropriate factor.

The Saveur recipe can be found here.


3/4 cups masa harina
3/4. kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 cup warm water
1.5 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup salsa roja
1 oz. queso Cotija
2 (3-oz.) sirloin steaks, pounded to 1/8" thickness
1/2 medium white onion, cut into ¼"-thick slices
1/2 Large can sliced nopales (sliced cactus), drained and rinsed
1 avocado, halved, pitted, and peeled, for serving


1. Make the tortillas: Combine masa harina, salt, and 1 cup warm water in a large bowl
2. Stir until a smooth dough forms.
3. Knead dough in bowl until very smooth but not sticky, about 2 minutes.
4. Divide dough into half and shape each into a 7"-long, ¼"-thick oval.
5. Heat 1/2 tbsp. oil in a 12" cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.
6. Add 1 tortilla to skillet, and cook until blackened in spots on bottom, about 3 minutes.
7. Flip and immediately spread with ¼ cup salsa and ½ oz. cheese; continue cooking until blackened in spots on bottom and cooked through, about 2 minutes more.
8. Transfer to a serving plate.
9. Repeat with other tortilla.
10. Return skillet to high heat, and add 1/2 tbsp. oil.
11. Season steaks with salt, and add 2 steaks to skillet
12. Cook, turning once, until browned on both sides and cooked through, about 3 minutes.
13. Place one steak over each tortilla.
14. Return skillet to high heat.
15. Add onion, and cook, stirring often, until just tender, about 5 minutes.
16. Add cactus, and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.
17. Divide cactus and onions among steaks
18. Serve immediately with an avocado half on each plate.

A lot of steps, but the whole process took me 15 minutes.  Things move really quickly with this one.  TS said this one was one of his favorite dishes I have made so far.  I am batting 100 with this cooking challenge.  We'll see how it goes as we move further into the fall and winter.

I hope you are enjoying these posts.  I must say I am loving learning how to make Mexican food!  This food is so different from what we get when we go out for Mexican food.  It actually is fairly healthy too.  There is virtually no fat in anything besides the oil that I used to cook the tortillas and meat.  And in the end, I even reduced that.  So, here's to good, reasonably healthy eating!