Spaghetti Carbonara.

A friend studied abroad in Rome. She came back with tales of Italian adventures, a pair of gorgeous leather boots, and a love of pasta carbonara. But woe is her! She couldn’t find a decent carbonara in any stateside restaurant. One day I was watching the Cooking Channel and I saw one of my food idols, Nigella Lawson, whip up a gorgeous carbonara. I decided then that I would do my best to recreate my friend’s long lost Italian love, and this is that recipe. Simple but powerful, it’s a pasta experience good enough to satisfy a traveler’s nostalgia (hers) and even win over the pasta-ambivalent (yours truly).

INGREDIENTS

12 oz. whole wheat spaghetti or other pasta
7 strips of bacon, cut into lardons
splash of stock or white wine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
3 eggs
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup half and half
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup English peas, cooked

DIRECTIONS

Cook pasta until al dente. While the pasta cooks, brown bacon in a large pan. When browned but not crispy, remove bacon from pan and place on a paper towel to wick away fat.

Pour off some of the bacon grease, reserving about a teaspoon in the pan. Add garlic and shallot and cook until golden. Remove from pan and set aside.

Stir in wine or stock to deglaze.

In a bowl, whisk together eggs, Parmesan, half and half, salt and pepper, and nutmeg.

Drain the al dente pasta, reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking water. Over medium heat, add hot pasta to the deglazed pan, and pour in half of the egg mixture to create a sauce. Stir constantly. Sauce will become thick as you stir.

Add the bacon, garlic, shallots, and peas, and then pour in the rest of the egg mixture and continue to stir.

Add a splash or two of the pasta liquid to reach desired sauce consistency. Remove from heat. Season with more pepper, garnish with chopped parsley, and serve. Prego!

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Watercress and Radish Salad with Mustard Jalapeño Vinaigrette.

The farmers market had some beautiful watercress and radishes on Saturday, so I picked up a few bunches of each, content in the knowledge that a yummy salad was in my future. Most of the time, I’m not a salad fan–or more accurately, not a lettuce fan. I’ve found that the salads in my life fall into two categories: boring or bad for you. That’s why, when I think of a salad like this one, which is neither boring nor bad for you, I get really excited and have to share it!

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp mustard
1/4 tsp orange marmalade
1/2 shallot, minced
1/2 tsp jalapeño, minced
1/2 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch watercress, rinsed
1 bunch radishes, rinsed and sliced
1/2 tomato, diced

DIRECTIONS

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, mustard, marmalade, shallot, jalapeño, parsley, and salt and pepper.

In another bowl, combine watercress, radishes, and tomato. Toss all ingredients together.

Pile onto a plate and  sprinkle with more pepper. Enjoy!

Coq au Vin.

Coq au vin, unlike revenge, is a dish best served hot. It’s a classic in French cuisine, with tender, fall-off-the-bone chicken in a rich, savory wine sauce with a hint of tomato, speckled with mushrooms and shallots and bacon. These flavors are just amazing! It’s a perfect dish for dinner parties, but this time, I’ve made it to have for lunch at work during the week. Lucky me. Totally impressive but actually very simple to execute, this recipe is definitely one worth mastering.

INGREDIENTS

3 lb chicken (I used 4 legs and 2 breasts)
salt and pepper to taste
1 pad butter
olive oil
4 strips bacon, cut into small strips or lardons
3 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
8 oz. mushrooms, rough chop
1 cup stock, plush a splash (I used homemade chicken stock)
1 cup white wine (I used Chardonnay)
1/2 cup canned crushed tomato
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp flour (thicken with potato flour for a gluten-free sauce)
chopped parsley for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Rinse and pat dry chicken, then season with salt and pepper.

Heat butter and olive oil in Dutch oven or other large soup pot. Working in batches, brown chicken on all sides and then transfer to a plate.

In the same pot, cook the bacon. When the bacon is crisp, add shallots and garlic and cook until soft.

In a separate pan, saute mushrooms in olive oil until soft. Set aside.

Deglaze the chicken pot with a splash or two of stock and stir.

Then place chicken back in the pot. Pour wine and the rest of the stock over the chicken and add mushrooms, crushed tomato, and bay leaves. Cover pot with lid and simmer for half an hour.

When chicken is fork-tender, remove from pot. Remove the bay leaves at this point, too. Place half a cup of the sauce into a small bowl and stir flour into it with a fork. Bring the pot of sauce/gravy to a low boil and whisk the flour-thickened portion into it. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Spoon sauce over chicken and serve with rice or potatoes, and garnish with parsley. Makes for luscious leftovers too!

Upside-Down French Onion Soup.

Named for its backwards assembly, this dreamy dish is similar to your standard French onion soup, except you serve it upside-down! The “croutons” go on the bottom, the soup sits on top, and the cheese goes everywhere. Drool. And if you hate wasting things as much as I do, this is the perfect way to use up the stale leftovers of easy French bread or any other baguette-type bread. With butter, cheese, chicken broth, garlic, and fresh herbs, it’s is the ultimate comfort food. A word of warning, though: while the onion-shallot-garlic trio makes for awesome rich flavor, I discourage anyone from eating this potent soup prior to a date or a job interview, unless the date (or the job) is a garlic farmer. If your date is a garlic farmer, you’re in luck! Because this recipe serves 2.

INGREDIENTS

1 pad butter
olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
1/2 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 tbsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
3 cups stock (I used homemade chicken stock)
salt and pepper to taste
2 slices stale French bread (I used easy French bread), cut in halves
chopped parsley and grated gruyere cheese for serving

DIRECTIONS

Over medium flame, heat butter and olive oil in a pot and add onion.

Cook until softened and add garlic and shallot. Cook 2 minutes.

Add thyme and bay leaf and pour in chicken stock. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After 30 minutes, season with salt and pepper. To serve, place bread in a bowl, spoon soup over it, then garnish with parsley and gruyere. Best served piping hot!

Butter and Herb New Potatoes.

New potatoes are those little guys you see in spring and summer. They’re not fully grown when they’re harvested, hence the “new.” At a farmer’s market on Saturday morning, I found a whole big basket full of baby marbled potatoes, so I took a few home to cook for dinner. A word to the wise about this recipe: the whole time the potatoes and shallots were browning, I was cursing myself for having no bacon in the house. If you’re lucky enough to have it on hand, USE IT! And don’t you dare feel any food guilt afterward: potatoes, shallots, bacon, butter–that’s the price you pay for authentic French flavor. Just enjoy it.

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups new potatoes
garlic thyme olive oil
small shallot, diced
thyme
parsley
salt
pepper
pad of cold butter

DIRECTIONS

Wash potatoes thoroughly. Place in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, let boil for  2 minutes, then drain.

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add potatoes and shallot and cook until browned.

When browned to your liking, remove from heat. Sprinkle lightly with parsley and thyme, and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in butter until melted. Serve plain, or with sour cream.