Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Stracotto (Italian Pot Roast) over Pappardelle. (June)

It evens gets cold in Florida and when the temperature dropped the other day, I was thinking of "comfort food".  One of our favorite restaurants, Brio Tuscan Grill, had sent an e-mail with this recipe and it sounded perfect for a chilly Sunday dinner.


3 tbsp Olive Oil
2 Lbs Chuck Roast
1 Cup Chopped Onion
1 Cup Chopped Celery
1 Cup Chopped Carrots
4 Cloves Garlic, Sliced
1 Cup Beef Broth
1 Can (16 oz) Tomatoes, Diced
3 tbsp Tomato Paste
1 tsp Chopped Garlic
1 tsp Pepper
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Dried Thyme
1 Bay Leaf
1/2 Cup Red Wine
1/4 Cup Chopped Parsley
1 Lb Pappardelle (recipe below for homemade or use store bought)

Heat oil in a Dutch oven.  Add chuck roast, sear on all sides, remove & set aside.

Add onions, celery, carrots & slivered garlic to the pot.  Cook until soft - about 10 minutes.  Remove from pot and set aside.

Place rack in bottom of the pot. (I didn't have one so I used a small, disposable aluminum pan)  Place roast on rack & add beef broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350.  Remove roast and cut into 1/2" slices.  Remove rack and return sliced meat to the pot.  Add tomatoes, tomato paste, chopped garlic, pepper, salt, thyme, bay leaf, red wine and cooked vegetables to pot. 

Bake covered for 1 1/2 hours or until meat is falling apart. Discard bay leaf.  Add parsley, heat through.  Cook pappardelle according to recipe or package directions.  Serve the meat and sauce over the pappardelle.

Homemade Pappardelle
1 3/4 Cups All-purpose Flour
1 Cup Semolina Flour
6 Large Eggs
4 tsps Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sift both flours together on a large work surface & make a well in the center.  Place the eggs, olive oil and a pinch of salt in a bowl and break up with a fork.  Gradually add the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Using your hands works best!

Knead the dough until smooth and elastic.  Divide dough in half and pat into balls, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.  (you can freeze one ball for later, or roll both and freeze cut pasta)

Place one ball of dough on lightly floured surface and dust with flour and roll dough into a sheet.  Continue to roll the dough until you can see your fingers through it.  We used our pasta maker to roll out ours.  Let dry about 10 minutes.
Dust the top of the sheet with flour and loosely roll into a cylinder.  Using a sharp knife, cut into 3/4 inch wide slices.  Unroll, dust with semolina and lay on a sheet pan until ready to cook. 
Not the perfect, even length pasta you might buy, but it was more fun to make it!


Confession!  We didn't get ours thin enough and it took forever to cook.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Easy Simple Fast Savory Pie Crust [Zack]

I’m a big fan of keeping a pack of puff pastry sheets in my freezer because I’m normally too lazy to make crust the traditional way.  We were in the mood to make a breakfast quiche and I realized we didn’t have any of the puff pastry sheets.  We found a 4-ingredient recipe online that took about 5 minutes to make.  It cuts out the fuss of using a food processor or letting it rest in the fridge.  As a bonus, it ended up having a better flavor and texture than the puff pastry sheets!  It was more firm and crumbly. 


Mix the flour and salt together.  Add a few ice cubes to a glass of water, and stir vigorously with your finger.  Loosely mix the oil and water together in another bowl.

Gradually stir the liquid into the dry ingredients.  Use a fork to mix together.  Once it's all combined, if it's still sticky, add a touch more flour until it becomes solid.  Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface into the shape that you need.

Add quiche ingredients (I used roasted pumpkin, crispy bacon, shiitake mushrooms, feta cheese, and rosemary).  Bake for 35-40 minutes at 375F/185C.

Ingredients (recipe from Food.com)
1 cup flour
1/4 cup ice cold water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

Song: Mathieu Boogaerts - Ondule 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Black Truffle and Shiitake Mushroom Fettuccine [Zack]

It happened folks.  Lauren and I bought a truffle slicer.  There’s a great mushroom stand at the Antwerp Saturday market and they had some “early season” truffles that were surprisingly not expensive.  The best truffles cost more than cocaine by weight, but we paid a total of around $7 for the amount we used to top our pasta (still was great).  And of course, we needed a truffle slicer to shave the truffle.

Truffles are a weird ingredient.  The biggest impact to your final dish is the funky aroma that they add when the plate is placed in front of you. In terms of value add:  the order is smell > texture > flavor.  Freshly shaved truffles are nice, but if you are in the mood for a mushroom extravaganza, you’ll have to add something else to further boost the mushroom flavors.

Hence, we made a pasta with sautéed shiitake mushrooms, pecorino cheese, parmesan cheese, and some freshly shaved truffle on top.  It was heaven.


Start by slicing your shiitake mushrooms and mincing your garlic.  Also, grate both cheeses.  Get a pot of salted water boiling.

Start up a sautee pan over medium heat, large enough to hold both the mushrooms and the pasta (later on).  Add the 3T of butter and 2T of olive oil when the pan is hot.  Toss in the mushrooms and sautee until they are browned.  Add the garlic to the pan and immediately take off the heat so the garlic doesn't brown.

Boil your pasta per the instructions for al dente on the package.  Grab a coffee mug and reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.

Add the pan with the mushrooms back to the stove over medium heat.  Strain the pasta and add it in with the mushrooms and garlic. Toss the cheese, cream, and pasta water in with the pasta.  The liquids will combine with the cheese to make an awesome sauce.  Crack lots of black pepper on top.

To serve, go crazy with the truffle!  

½ pound fettuccini pasta
~15 medium shiitake mushrooms, sliced
3T butter
2T olive oil (or you can get crazy and use half truffle oil!)
2 fat cloves garlic, minced
2T cream (to taste)
1/2 cup pasta water
1/3 cup finely grated pecorino romano cheese
1/3 cup finely grated parm reggiano
freshly cracked black pepper
freshly-shaved truffle

Song:  ZHU - Faded

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pork Belly Confit with Truffle Honey [Zack]

Confit pork belly is one of the best things you can make in your kitchen.  The belly of a pig is what is commonly used to make bacon.  Instead of the usual curing and smoking process to make bacon, you should try confit. 

When you look at the cross-section of pork belly, you’ll see alternating layers of meat and fat.  The confit process transforms the meat part into a delicate pulled pork-type texture and the fat becomes soft and creamy.  When you want to serve the belly, cut it into cubes, sprinkle with a bit of sea salt, and crisp the outside.  You can choose to top it with a sauce or glaze, or just eat it right out of the pan.  I chose to drizzle the crispy belly with truffle honey.  That was a good decision.

This is a 5-ingredient recipe: pork belly, some type of cooking fat, salt, pepper, and truffle honey.  It takes a bit of time to make, but it’s all idle time, not hard work.


Ask your butcher for as much pork belly as you’d like to cook (a.k.a. how big is your pot?)  Make sure they take the bones out of the underside so you don’t have to deal with those later.  The more square the cut is from the butcher, the better your outcome will be in the end.  But I never bother with a square cut – I consider the extra scraps I cut off bonus nibbles.

Take the belly home and cure it.  I covered it with a generous amount of sea salt and black pepper and put it in a covered container in my fridge.

After about 2 days, take the belly out and wipe off the excess salt.  Place the belly in an oven-proof pot and submerge it completely in fat.  I used a combination of pork fat and canola oil, but any non-flavored oil will suit.  Bring the pot to a gentle simmer.

Cover the pot and place it in an oven at 300F/150C.  The cooking time will vary depending on how thick the belly is.  Mine took around 5.5 hours.  You know it’s finished when a knife slides into the meat side easily (similar to ribs). 

Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool off.  Place the belly in the fridge – it will keep for a week or so.  Theoretically it should not spoil as long as it’s submerged in fat and you discard the meat juice. 

The belly is easier to slice if it’s straight out of the fridge.  Remove the skin.

Cut the pork belly into cubes or strips.

Place it into a cold frying pan with a little bit of the confit fat and crisp all of the sides over medium heat.

If you’re using a glaze, pour off the excess fat and gently coat all sides of the belly.  If you can find some truffle honey, use that.

Drizzle the honey over the pork belly when it's still hot.


Pork belly (skin on or off, up to you)
Sea salt
Black pepper
Pork fat or other type of non-flavored oil
Truffle honey

Glaze ideas:
A sticky hoisin sauce glaze (from this recipe)
Roasted red pepper puree and honey
Honey with rosemary and garlic

Song: Paolo Nutini - Let Me Down Easy 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Panko Crusted Shrimp with Honey Garlic Szechuan Glaze [Zack]

You can’t beat bang bang shrimp, but this recipe is close!  If you’re not in the mood for the savory/spicy mayonnaise flavor of bang bang, this sweet alternative is akin to the sauce for General Tso’s Chicken.  You’ll crisp up some shrimp with a combination of corn starch and panko.  Then you lightly toss the shrimp in a honey szechuan sauce.  Coat with sesame seeds and some cilantro, and wow your guests!  These would be a welcome addition to a salad, on top of rice, or on a party platter with tooth pics in them. 


Defrost your shrimp – I am lazy and buy the de-veined and de-shelled shrimp.  Pour the water off of them and place them on a towel.

Crush your szechuan peppers.  

Mince the garlic.  Add 1T of sesame oil to a sauce pot over medium heat.  Saute the minced garlic in the oil and then add the ground szechuan pepper for 1 minute.  

Spoon honey into the pot, and add the fish sauce and soy sauce.  It should bubble as the water cooks out. 

In a bowl, combine about 50% corn starch and 50% panko.  The corn starch will create a crust and the panko will give the shrimp more texture.

Heat up a frying pan over medium heat and coat the bottom in a light layer of non-flavored oil.  Toss the shrimp in the corn starch and panko mixture.  The crusting will stick to the shrimp because they are a little bit damp.  Cook in the frying pan on both sides until light golden-brown and cooked through.

Check on your honey szechuan sauce.  After 10 minutes, it should stop bubbling so much and the viscosity should return back to the original honey thickness.  

Be careful not to cook the sauce too long, or else you’ll be left with a hard caramel.  If this happens, add a touch of water to return it back to the honey consistency.  Also note, as the sauce cools off, it will noticeably thicken.

Toss the shrimp lightly in the honey sauce.

Top with sesame seeds and cilantro and serve hot.

Ingredients (for about 30 medium shrimp):
4 heaping T of honey
2 cloves garlic
3 dried Szechuan peppers
1T sesame oil
1/4 tsp fish sauce
1T soy sauce

30 medium shrimp
panko and corn starch in equal quantities to coat the shrimp
vegetable or canola oil
sesame seeds

Song:  Mar - Man x Woman

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cafe Bonbon - Espresso with Sweetened Condensed Milk [Zack]

That cheesy Folgers commercial is right.  Whenever I smell coffee in the morning, I am transported back to breakfast/brunch with my parents.  I loved the smell/taste of coffee so much, I remember sitting on the kitchen counter as a child, eating the spent grounds out of the filter. 

I don’t drink coffee regularly, but I sometimes treat myself to a cup on the weekends.  Since it’s a special occasion, I’m forever on the quest to find my favorite cup of coffee.  Lauren and I were visiting Berlin and we stopped in the Impala Café.  Their self-named “Impala Coffee” happened to be my favorite I’ve ever had (I later found out this is called a Cafe Bonbon).  The preparation was simple:  super-strong espresso poured over sweetened condensed milk in a shot glass.  As you sip and stir the coffee, the condensed milk adds a creamy sweet flavor, which perfectly balances the bitter and rich coffee flavors.  I had to remind myself that I couldn’t drink 8 of them, or else I wouldn’t be able to walk out of the shop.


Brew your favorite brand of super strong coffee/espresso.  If you have an espresso machine, use it.  I just packed a French press with a larger-than-recommended dose of grounds.  Add a small pinch of salt to the coffee grounds to bring out the depth of flavors.

Get a shot glass or other glass vessel and add the sweetened condensed milk to taste.  A large part of the experience is visual, so make sure they can see through the glass to see the beautiful contrast of the deep brown coffee and the white espresso.  My personal ratio is about 2/3 coffee, 1/3 sweetened condensed milk.

Pour your espresso into the glass, and serve with a spoon alongside so you can stir the drink.

espresso or very strong coffee – brewed with whatever contraption you have
a small pinch of salt
sweetened condensed milk
a clear glass
a spoon

Song:  D’angelo: Spanish Joint  (I can’t get enough of this song)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Coconut Curry Chicken (Tom)

What you will need for dinner for 4 peeps:

- 1 Chicken breast, boneless and skinned cut into 1" x 1/2" cubes
- 1 Red bell pepper, 1" pieces
- 1 Onion, small, diced
- 2 Carrots, 1" pieces
- 1 Tomato, small, diced
- 2 Celery stalks, 1/4" pieces
- 1 Garlic clove, large, chopped in small pieces
- 1 tablespoon of curry powder
- 8 oz. can of Cream of Coconut
- 1 cup of cooked rice, we like Jasmine Rice
- 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil

Time to cook.

The flavors of the curry and the sweetness from the coconut cream really make your taste buds jump up and down.
We like to cut our veggies and chicken and set them on the side or put back in refrigerator until we're ready to go.

Have an additional clean plate on the side for the chicken.

Start your rice if you have not.
Rice is great because it will stay warm for 20 minutes.

Have your wok or large pan ready.
Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil to your pan. Heat medium to high depending how fast you work.
Stir in the chicken cubes and cook for about 3 minutes until all sides are no longer pink. Take out put in a clean plate. Add the remaining vegetable oil to the wok or pan, heat for one minute.
Add the peppers, onions, celery and carrots. Stir fry for 5 minutes. add the garlic and diced tomatoes.

Add the chicken.

Stir in the curry powder followed by the cream of coconut. Cook for one to minutes, stirring the mixture to create a sauce. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Argentine Steak with Chimichurri Sauce [Zack]

From an omniscient octopus to picking who has cuter jerseys, people have been trying their own ways of predicting the winner of the World Cup.  In my mind, the only fair way to decide the victor is to cook a famous food item from each country.  The more delicious of the two will decide the outcome of the 2014 World Cup.

I have chosen the ubiquitous Berliner snack food currywurst from Germany to go up against the Argentinean steak with a zippy chimichurri sauce.  Both are simple preparations of a basic nationally-loved food.  The Germans are known for their sausages and snack food culture, and the Argentinians are known for sitting around a campfire roasting huge hunks of meat on swords.  Seems like a fair fight.

In the end we decided that the Argentine steak with chimichurri sauce slightly edged out the currywurst.  It's therefore expected to be a close match on Saturday.

Here is the recipe for the steak with chimichurri sauce.


Here are the ingredients:

Mince the shallot and garlic.  If you have a mortar and pestle, grind up the peppers.  Add the shallot and garlic, and smash them a few times.

Strip the leaves off of the oregano, and then roll all of the herbs together and mince.  Add the herbs to the mortar and pestle.  Then stir in the liquids.

Heat up a pan, and salt and pepper your steak.  Cook the steak over medium-high heat until you reach desired doneness.

Let the steak rest for 5 minutes on a cutting board before slicing thinly and layering a generous portion of chimichurri sauce on top.

1/2 shallot
1 clove garlic
2 pinches of salt
freshly ground black pepper
1T red pepper flakes, or 6 dried peppers
6 sprigs fresh oregano
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch parsley
1/2 lime
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup olive oil
2 thick and nicely marbled steaks

Song:  Atella - The Monster

German Currywurst with Homemade Curry Ketchup [Zack]

From an omniscient octopus to picking who has cuter jerseys, people have been trying their own ways of predicting the winner of the World Cup.  In my mind, the only fair way to decide the victor is to cook a famous food item from each country.  The more delicious of the two will decide the outcome of the 2014 World Cup.

I have chosen the ubiquitous Berliner snack food currywurst from Germany to go up against the Argentinean steak with a zippy chimichurri sauce.  Both are simple preparations of a basic nationally-loved food.  The Germans are known for their sausages and snack food culture, and the Argentinians are known for sitting around a campfire roasting huge hunks of meat on swords.  Seems like a fair fight.

In the end we decided that the Argentine steak with chimichurri sauce slightly edged out the currywurst.  It's therefore expected to be a close match on Saturday.

Here is the recipe for the currywurst.


Here are the ingredients:

Mince the shallot and garlic.  Add them to a sauce pot over medium heat with 1T of cooking oil.  Cook until fragrant and it starts to turn light brown.  Add the clove and the garlic and onion powder.  Cook 1 more minute.

Dump in the tomato sauce and all of the other liquids.  Stir to combine and add salt to taste.  You can reserve the curry powder to sprinkle on top if you don't want your whole batch of ketchup to be curry ketchup.  Cook the ketchup for 20 minutes.

Grill or saute the sausages until they are cooked through and golden brown.  I did this over low heat in a pan to make sure they cooked all the way through.

Slice the sausage into rounds, cover in your ketchup, and sprinkle curry powder on top.  Serve with toothpicks if it's for a crowd.  For a really authentic presentation, you can stop by your local friteur and beg for a plastic serving container.

1T canola oil or olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 whole clove
1T onion powder
1tsp garlic powder
3 cups tomato puree
2T molasses
1/2tsp salt
1tsp worcestershire sauce
1/2tsp fish sauce
2T sriracha
Curry powder for sprinkling on top
Currywurst sausages

Song:  Max Duke & Mat Vega - Meet You

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Spaghetti Carbonara [Zack]

Carbonara is a pasta dish originating from Rome and is my favorite thing to eat. When we visited Rome, I was on a mission to find the best rendition so I could try to recreate it at home. This is pretty darn close. The ingredient list is extremely short and therefore relies on the quality of the inputs. If you can’t find guanciale (bacon made from pig’s jaw), use pancetta or lightly smoked bacon. If you can’t find a good pecorino romano, use parmesan reggiano.

The recipe has 3 steps: 1. Slowly render the bacon until it becomes crispy 2. Cook the pasta 3. Remove the bacon pan from the heat, add the noodles, and toss the pasta in the rest of the ingredients. The sauce becomes surprisingly creamy due to a combination of eggs, bacon fat, reserved pasta cooking water, and pecorino romano cheese. It’s bliss.


Slice the guancaile into match sticks and place into a cold frying pan. Turn the heat on medium, and let the fat render out of the bacon until it’s crispy and brown. Pour off the fat until about 1T remains and set the pan aside.

Prep your ingredients in advance because the last steps happen quickly. Crack the eggs into a bowl and lightly scramble them. Grate the cheese.

Salt a big pot of water until it tastes like the sea and bring to a boil. Cook your spaghetti until al dente. A few minutes before the pasta is finished, return your frying pan with the bacon to medium heat. Grab a coffee mug and scoop out a cup of the boiling pasta water to use for the sauce later. Strain the noodles.

Take the bacon pan off the heat. Bacon pan, I like the sound of that! Add the spaghetti, pasta water, and cheese, tossing vigorously with tongs to mix. You don’t want the eggs to curdle, which is why you remove the pan from the heat and mix quickly. Crack black pepper until your arm hurts, and serve immediately with a glass of nice Italian wine.

Makes 2 big bowls -
½ lb spaghetti noodles
2 whole eggs, beaten
2T-3T of pasta water
¾ cup Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated
100 grams guanciale chooped in matchsticks (this was about 3 thick slices for me)
freshly ground black pepper
optional:  chopped spring onions or 1 large clove of garlic

Song:  Missy Elliott - Hot Boyz

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tom's Classic Caesar Salad [Zack]

I have very fond memories of learning to make a true caesar salad from my uncle Tom.  I went over to his apartment for one of our cooking sessions and was surprised that our grand adventure was making a lowly salad.  Surprisingly, crafting a classic caesar salad with Tom taught me a lot of useful tips!

We uncorked a bottle of white wine, turned up the music, and had an amazing meal.  I had never realized that the original Caesar salad didn’t contain cream, but did contain anchovies!  I learned a lot of through the process:
  • Adding the correct amount of anchovies to a recipe does not mean that you can necessarily distinguish their flavor, but they can quietly enhance the taste of the dressing
  • What a “coddled egg” is and how to soft boil an egg
  • That I should actually use an egg timer for its intended purpose instead of guessing – there are certain things in the kitchen that you can’t do by feel
  • It’s way more fun to learn how to make a classic recipe from scratch versus glopping it out of a squeeze bottle


Get a small pot of water boiling for your eggs.  Reduce the water to a simmer and place your eggs gently into the pot and start the timer.  Take 1 egg out after 4 minutes (coddled egg for the dressing), and leave the rest in until your timer has reached between 5 and 7 minutes.  Five minutes will give you a runny yolk, 7 will be “just set”.  Take the pot off the heat, gently pour out the hot water, and fill the pot with cold water to stop the eggs from cooking.  Peel the eggs after they have cooled off for 5 minutes.

Slice your day-old bread into cubes. Place them into a frying pan with a generous amount of butter + olive oil.  Keep an eye on the bread and make sure to mix it around frequently.   It’s up to you how you would like to flavor the croutons – my favorite is garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and some type of dried herb.

Now, on to the dressing.  If you have whole anchovy filets, you’ll need to add them to a bowl and mash them up with a fork.  This will take a bit of muscle/patience.  Once you have a paste, add the minced garlic and peeled coddled egg.  Mash these up with a fork a bit to combine.  Then, whisk in the liquids - mustard, red wine vinegar, and olive oil.  Crack a ton of black pepper into the bowl, and add the grated parmesan cheese.

In a bowl, toss the lettuce with the dressing and add any other toppings that you’d like.  I usually add sliced red onion, a soft-boiled egg, croutons, and sometimes sliced avocado.  You can get as creative as you’d like: shrimp, chicken, sliced leftover steak, etc.

Makes 2 dinner-sized salads or 4 side salads

4 anchovy fillets or 1T anchovy paste
1 medium garlic clove
1/2T mustard
2T apple cider vinegar
4T olive oil
1 coddled egg (soft-boiled for 4 minutes)
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

Salad ingredients:
a head of lettuce
a few eggs
sliced parmesan cheese
day-old bread
herbs and spices for the croutons
olive oil

Song:  Zusammenklang - Morgenblaue