Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mac and Cheese with Pancetta

Mac and cheese -- one of my absolute favorite things to eat as a kid. You know, the stuff from the blue box? Yes, I was definitely a Kraft Mac n' Cheese kid, not Velveeta. Velveeta is just way too thick and sticky for me.

I always made my sister make it too. For some reason, most likely unfounded, it always tasted better when she made it. I never could seem to perfect the creamy cheese art from the blue box the way she did.

Well, years later, I still love me some Mac and Cheese, but I wanted to search for something a little outside the "box". Preferrably something with meat -- for Adam, of course. While flipping through last month's Bon Appetit, I came across this scrumptious sounding dish. Which, of course, included meat.

Mac and Cheese with Pancetta
From: Bon Appetit, September 2008

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, divided
4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped (I used proscuitto)
1 cup finely chopped onion
3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 1/2 cups (or more) whole milk (I used 2%)
2 1/2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 8- to 8.8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
1 1/2 cups panko
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 pound orecchiette or large elbow macaroni

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; saute until crisp, about 6 minutes. Add onion; saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add crushed red pepper and garlic; stir 1 minute. Stir in 3 tablespoons butter; allow to melt, then add flour and stir 1 minute. Gradually whisk in 3 1/2 cups milk; simmer until thick enough to coat spoon thickly, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in cheeses. Whisk in more milk by 1/4 cupfuls until sauce is thick but pourable. Season with salt and pepper. Do ahead: Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill uncovered until cool; cover and chill. Rewarm, stirring over medium heat.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add panko and stir until very light golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley. Do ahead: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Preheat over to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain well. Return pasta to pot. Add warm cheese sauce; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over. Bake mac and cheese until heated through and topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Serves: 8

This dish was definitely tasty. The proscuitto definitely added the right bit of flavor to all the cheesey goodness. Both Adam and I were very happy with this dish, however my sister made it as well, and gave it a "just okay..."
I would for sure make this again, and give it an:

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 534Calories from fat 251
% Daily Value
Total Fat 27.9g43%
Saturated Fat 15.7g79%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 80mg27%
Sodium 694mg29%
Total Carbs 45.7g15%
Dietary Fiber 2.2g9%
Sugars 6.3g
Protein 24.3g
Vitamin A 19%Vitamin C 7%
Calcium 42%Iron 15%

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Gruyere Fondue with Caramelized Shallots

Right about a year before I made this dish, Adam whisked me away to an overlook of Pittsburgh and proposed to me. After I finished crying, and saying yes (of course), he then proceeded to treat me to my first trip to the Melting Pot. Mmm mmm. So delicious.

Since we were celebrating, we went for the whole kit and caboodle. We did the appetizer cheese dip, then the entree with the cooking broth, following it up with the wonderful chocolate fondue. And, we discovered an excellent sparkling beverage -- "Rosa Regale", which we loved so much, Adam and I toasted with it for our wedding. :)

However, such extravagant meals come with the corresponding price tag -- not one of which is in our day-to-day budget. Oddly enough, I decided to somewhat replicate a fondue dinner almost a year to the date after his proposal. As much as I wanted to enjoy gooey cheese slathered on top of an assortment of different foods, I really couldn't get into this dish.

Not only did my cheese fondue fall flat, but we also discovered that our fondue pot (which we were so graciously given as a wedding present) did not work. And of course, we had already threw away the box and all packaging items... so no returning said pot. Sucky way to learn that lesson...

Gruyere Fondue with Caramelized Shallots
From: Bon Appetit, March 2000
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/4 cups thinly sliced shallots (about 6 ounces)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups (or more) dry white wine
14 ounces grated Gruyere cheese (about 3 1/2 cups packed)
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
Generous pinch of ground nutmeg

1 sourdough baguette, cut into 1-inch cubes

Melt butter in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add thinly sliced shallots and sauté 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low; sprinkle shallots with sugar, salt and pepper. Sauté until shallots are caramelized, about 15 minutes. Transfer shallots to small bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups wine to skillet; boil 1 minute.

Pour wine into heavy medium saucepan; set over medium-low heat. Toss cheese with flour in medium bowl to coat. Add half of caramelized shallots to wine; add cheese mixture by handfuls, stirring until cheese melts and is smooth before adding more. Thin with more wine if mixture is too thick. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Transfer cheese mixture to fondue pot. Set pot over candle or canned heat burner. Top fondue with remaining caramelized shallots. Serve with bread cubes.

Well, I will admit that I did not have all the shallots that the recipe called for, or the nutmeg. This dish definitely needed a little kick in it -- I was tired of the taste after about half way through. It wasn't begging me to keep going until I was way past full. Thus, I rate it:

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 686Calories from fat 323
% Daily Value
Total Fat 35.9g55%
Saturated Fat 20.8g104%
Cholesterol 117mg39%
Sodium 641mg27%
Total Carbs 39.2g13%
Dietary Fiber 1.1g5%
Sugars 3.2g
Protein 36.3g
Vitamin A 32%Vitamin C 7%
Calcium 105%Iron 16%

Monday, September 22, 2008

Roast Chicken Breasts with Garbanzo Beans, Tomatoes, and Paprika

I have to admit, a year ago, I was pretty much in the stone age when it came to new and different food. I thought the Food Network was full of boring straight-forward cooking shows, and my cooking experiences were severely limited to very basic recipes with very average ingredients. Or frozen dinners.

Now, I will watch the Food Network with interest, and actually have gone outside my comfort zone with recipes. And I'm pretty sure my spice collection is several times bigger than I ever thought I needed.

I must admit, prior to moving in with my sister last year, I didn't really know what a chickpea was, much less what to do with it. However, good ol' sis introduced wonderful hummus to me, and I have garbanzo beans in a few recipes, and am always looking for more. Adam has yet to get used to their texture, but this recipe is winning him over. :)

Roast Chicken Breasts with Garbanzo Beans, Tomatoes, and Paprika
From: Bon Appetit, May 2008

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon smoked paprika*
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1/2 cup plain yogurt or Greek yogurt
4 chicken breast halves with bones
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
1 12-ounce container cherry tomatoes
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided

Preheat oven to 450°. Mix first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Pour 1 teaspoon spiced oil mixture into small bowl; whisk in yogurt and set aside for sauce. Place chicken on large rimmed baking sheet. Rub 2 tablespoons spiced oil mixture over chicken. Add beans, tomatoes, and 1/2 cup cilantro to remaining spiced oil mixture; toss to coat. Pour bean mixture around chicken. Sprinkle everything generously with salt and pepper.

Roast until chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cilantro. Transfer chicken to plates. Spoon bean mixture over. Serve with yogurt sauce.

*Sometimes labeled Pimentón Dulce or Pimentón de La Vera Dulce; available at some supermarkets, at specialty foods stores, and from tienda.com.

I did make a couple adjustments to the recipe -- I used diced tomatoes rather than the cherry tomatoes (I'm not a fan), and I used just regular yogurt, as I have yet to run across the Greek version.

I would definitely recommend using the smoked paprika rather than adding more of regular paprika since the dish's whole flavor is based around this spice. (Check the fancy McCormick spices in the glass bottles at your supermarket.)

This dish is really easy to put together and doesn't take that long to make, which just an added bonus to it's deliciousness. However, much like the chicken and grapes, this dish has a very unique flavor, so it's one of those dishes I have to be in the mood for. Thus, I rate it:

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 769Calories from fat 264
% Daily Value
Total Fat 29.4g45%
Saturated Fat 5.2g26%
Cholesterol 103mg34%
Sodium 153mg6%
Total Carbs 72.4g24%
Dietary Fiber 20.5g82%
Sugars 16.1g
Protein 56.4g
Vitamin A 43%Vitamin C 31%
Calcium 21%Iron 51%

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pollo a la Uva Blanco con Cilantro

I know it looks like a fancy-schmantsy title to this dish, but translated, it's roughly "Chicken with White Wine, Grape Juice, and Cilantro." Or at least according to Cooking Light. Either way, I stumbled across this dish back in July (before I started working, when I had lots of time to peruse the internet...). I had some white wine I wanted to use up, and this looked like an interesting dish to me.

Grapes and chicken... not exactly the first combination that pops into my head, but I decided to try it out. And I am very glad I did. Adam really enjoyed this dish, and it's fairly easy to make. It definitely has a taste that is out of the ordinary (or at least for me), so it's something I feel like I need to crave in order to make it. Hence the "monthly rotation" rather than the "weekly."

Chicken with White Wine, Grape Juice, and Cilantro
(Pollo a la Uva Blanco con Cilantro)
From: Cooking Light, July 2005

6 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup vertically sliced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup dry white wine
6 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro, divided
1/3 cup unsweetened white grape juice
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 1/2 cups seedless green grapes, halved

Sprinkle chicken with salt and black pepper. Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 2 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Add onion and garlic; sauté 2 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in wine, 3 tablespoons cilantro, and next 4 ingredients (through red pepper); bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until chicken is done.

Transfer chicken to a serving platter, and keep warm. Increase heat to medium-high; cook until sauce is reduced to 1 cup (about 5 minutes). Stir in grapes. Spoon sauce over chicken; sprinkle with remaining 3 tablespoons cilantro.

Serves: 6

As I said, this dish is fairly easy to make. I used only 2 chicken breasts, rather than 6 (as there are only 2 of us), but kept all the proportions the same. It worked out really well and still tasted great.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 282Calories from fat 96
% Daily Value
Total Fat 10.7g16%
Saturated Fat 1.7g9%
Cholesterol 99mg33%
Sodium 568mg24%
Total Carbs 8.3g3%
Dietary Fiber 0.6g3%
Sugars 6.1g
Protein 35.5g
Vitamin A 3%Vitamin C 14%
Calcium 2%Iron 2%

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tuscan Pasta with Tomato-Basil Cream Sauce

Wow. So life has been pretty hectic as of late, and to be quite honest, I haven't quite been in the blogging mood. However, this recipe I just have to post. I have made it multiple times since discovering it, and have passed it on to my family, which in turn has made it and passed it on to friends. It's that good.

Oh, and did I mention it's super easy? I rate this:

Tuscan Pasta with Tomato-Basil Cream
From: Southern Living, July 2007
1 (20-oz.) package refrigerated four-cheese ravioli*
1 (16-oz.) jar sun-dried tomato Alfredo sauce
2 tablespoons white wine
2 medium-size fresh tomatoes, chopped**
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Garnish: fresh basil strips

Prepare pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile, pour Alfredo sauce into a medium saucepan. Pour wine into sauce jar; cover tightly, and shake well. Stir wine mixture into saucepan. Stir in chopped tomatoes and 1/2 cup chopped basil, and cook over medium-low heat 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Toss with pasta, and top evenly with 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Garnish, if desired.

*1 (13-oz.) package three-cheese tortellini may be substituted.

**1 (14.5-oz.) can petite diced tomatoes, fully drained, may be substituted.

Serves: 6

I definitely took the short cut with the canned diced tomatoes, and I also used tortellini instead of ravioli as well. I have yet to run across alfredo sauce with sun-dried tomatoes, so I've been using Classico's Roasted Red Pepper Alfredo and it is just delicious!

And it pretty much only takes as long to make as it takes to cook the pasta!

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 640Calories from fat 189
% Daily Value
Total Fat 21.0g32%
Saturated Fat 9.3g47%
Cholesterol 51mg17%
Sodium 4061mg169%
Total Carbs 87.1g29%
Dietary Fiber 0.5g2%
Sugars 1.2g
Protein 25.1g
Vitamin A 9%Vitamin C 9%
Calcium 7%Iron 1%


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