Carbonara

*Spoilers ahead for Netflix’s “Master of None” so if you’re not caught up on that show or haven’t watched it (in which case, what’s wrong with you?!), skip this post until you have*

At the end of Netflix’s “Master of None” Aziz Ansari’s character, Dev, makes fresh carbonara and this leads to the discovery that he’s really good at it so he moves to Italy to learn how to make pasta. Ever since I saw that episode, the show premiered in November of 2015, I’d been craving homemade carbonara. I’d never even eaten carbonara but Aziz/Dev made it look delicious so I was like “I gotta get on that!” When we decided to embark on this project, one of the things I was certain about was I was going to make carbonara during Italian week. I had originally hoped to make the pasta myself, just like Dev (!), but after the ramen disaster, I decided to buy my spaghetti pasta and then just focus on getting the best ingredients.

Carbonara is considered a peasant’s dish and due to that, it’s very simple. It consists of pasta, eggs, cheese, and bacon. That’s it. I guess some people add cream to it but from what I’ve read, that’s a big no-no. Also, some people add peas? Gross. Peas are delicious but I don’t think they would work with this dish unless you get fresh peas and who has fresh peas?! Anyway, I couldn’t get fresh eggs because our farmer’s market is only open on Saturdays and I planned on making this meal later in the week so the eggs would lose their freshness; same thing with the cheese. With all that, I made it my mission to get the best bacon possible! Most of the recipes I saw suggested using guanciale bacon and I was going to drive into central Austin and buy some but then I remembered my HEB sells pancetta, which is a decent alternative, and my HEB is only two miles away. Central Austin, with traffic, is a half hour away. I think you know where I ended up…Well I should have made the damn trek because my HEB didn’t have pancetta, for TWO DAYS IN A ROW. I was very frustrated but not so frustrated as to actually drive into town so I ended up buying regular bacon.

The biggest obstacle in making carbonara is making sure the eggs don’t scramble when you add the egg/cheese mixture to the pasta. The way to avoid this is to stir very quickly and add water when needed. I followed the recipe exactly and I did not end up with scrambled eggs. Look at that! I’m a mini-Dev!

It was so good, so, so good! It was saltier than I expected and even though I didn’t used to be a fan of salty food, that changed over the course of the year. Because of that, I loved this dish, salt and all! It wasn’t overpowering but just more than I expected. It was creamy and I loved the crunchiness of the bacon here and there. The girls gobbled it up but I knew they would because it was pasta. Those girls love their carbs!

Definitely check out Master of None and then celebrate your binge-watching by making this dish. It will make all that time sitting on the sofa worth it!

Recipe

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Manicotti

Seeing as how we had eaten so much Italian influenced food during Argentina week, it only made sense to follow it up with Italian week. We’ve had our fair share of Italian food so it was difficult to find things we hadn’t eaten. When I’ve had difficulty finding recipes in the past, I’ve turned to friends who have first hand knowledge of the cuisine so this go around, I contacted my friend Kym for some help.

I actually “met” Kym through her husband, Tim, and I “met” Tim through our blogs over ten years ago. Yep, we’re cyber friends! If memory serves me well, Tim and Kym weren’t even engaged when I met him but I think they got engaged shortly after. Regardless, it’s been awesome to see their journey and it’s probably been the same for them watching mine and James’. Now that I think about it, I’ve turned to Kym numerous times for advice on things like planning our wedding, getting things ready for the birth of the girls, and how to survive parenthood. Kym, you have been a fountain of knowledge and I appreciate you so much! Thank you!!!

This manicotti recipe is one Kym uses with a few changes.  For the filling she uses two pounds full fat ricotta, half pound shredded mozarella, a half pound pecorino-romano, and two eggs. She also adds oregano and basil to her mixture but did mention that’s not necessary if you’re using a flavored sauce. You can use pre-made tomato sauce but it’s really easy to make your own so I highly recommend it. I always make my own sauce from a can of San Marzano tomatoes (pricier but worth it for the flavor), garlic, S&P, and oregano and basil. If I’m feeling frisky, I add in shredded parmesan. Oh, and she also doesn’t use oil in the crepe batter. She said the key is to make the batter thin enough to where you can put a spoon in it and the batter pours out.

I’d never made crepes before but I made masala dosa (I will never stop bragging about that) and they’re basically one and the same so I wasn’t worried. My batter came out thin just from following the recipe and Kym’s note to not add oil so I was grateful for that. It took a few crepes before I got good at making them a decent round shape but once I did, I was on a roll. The recipe said it makes 24 crepes and it was not wrong, I got exactly 24. Then it was just a matter of filling them and baking them. I will note that the recipe says this will feed eight to ten people but there were only four of us so I halved the recipe for the filling.

So my manicotti didn’t come out looking like the pictures on the recipe but they were still delicious. When I posted on Instagram and FB, I mentioned they looked like enchiladas and Kym said they’re basically Italian enchiladas so yay, I got it right! The girls love tortillas, like LOOOOVE tortillas, so the way I got them to eat the manicotti was by telling them they were stuffed tortillas. I think they each ate half a manicotti and then asked if they could just eat the tortillas; they each ate about three.

These things were filling but they were so good! I thought they would be harder to make but it was actually pretty easy. Yeah making the crepes took some time but whatever, it wasn’t terrible. I had about twelve crepes leftover and I refrigerated them in the hopes of using them for breakfast crepes a couple of days later but that didn’t happen. But just so you know, you can refrigerate them for up to a week and freeze them for up to six months so it’s not a complete waste of food.

Thanks to Kym, the first night of Italian week was amazing! I’m definitely saving this recipe because it’s so easy and it’s way better than using the pre-made shells. Also, I learned how to make crepes.

Recipe

Milanesa

Happy New Year!!

Sorry for the very long break. The girls’ Christmas vacation started on the 16th and they just went back to school today. It was iiiiiimpossible to get online and post during those two weeks because my days were filled with training for the half, visits to my Mom, laundry (so.much.laundry), and trying to stay sane. Oh, and of course spending time with family and friends and celebrating blah blah blah. Mostly it was the other stuff.

But I’m back and ready to get tell you all about the last three weeks of my year long food project! The fifth will be my one year anniversary so I’m pushing to be caught up by then. I have nine posts and two days, it will be done.

This milanesa was the start of Argentinian week. Argentinian? Argentine? It occurs to me that I never took the time to find out which is correct and what is the difference. Well, too late now! James actually chose Argentina because he’d read about how great the food was and that it was similar to Peru in its variety. To be honest, I didn’t really care either way, but looking back, I’m very happy we chose to eat Argentinian/Argentine food! I don’t want to spoil it for you though so now you must come back to find out why. Muahaha.

That was a pitiful “Muahaha”

Prior to this, I’d had milanesa but it was made with chicken; this version was made with beef. It was brought to South America by the, you guessed it, Italians during the first Italian diaspora of the 1860s. Based on the name, one can infer that it originated in Milan. It was also originally made with chicken but when the Italians got to Argentina, they quickly learned that chicken was viewed as an inferior meat so they altered the recipe to make it a beef dish. The milanesa I’d eaten before was eaten in a torta, a sandwich, and because I love it so much, I decided to go the same route with the Argentinian version.

At first glance it looks like a sandwich of fried meat but it is so much more than that! In between the fried meat and bread is a layer of super thin, delicious, amazing proscuitto. And on top of that? Cheese (I used Munster). And on top of that? Marinara sauce. AND ON TOP OF THAT?! Pickled peppers. The Mexican version do NOT have all that goodness, it just has fried meat, lettuce, and tomato. In the words of my four year old “That bored” She means “That’s boring” but she hasn’t figured out the whole conjugation thing yet.

I ended up making enough cutlets for about six sandwiches. I ate two that night. And another the next day for lunch. And I didn’t regret it for one minute! To be honest, I didn’t regret it because I had the foresight to take an Alka Seltzer immediately after dinner but still, no RAGRATS. The meat was probably the least interesting part of the whole meal but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t delicious. For as thin and as fried as it was, it was still very succulent, but I think the most flavor came from the saltiness of the proscuitto, the creaminess of the cheese, and the acidity of the sauce and peppers. It was an amalgamation of awesome!

So yes, we were very pleased with the first night of Argentina week. Even the kiddos ate it and it was not bored.

Recipe

Black Bean and Sausage Soup and Ham and Cheese Puff Pastry

I am still a week behind, yay! Luckily I’m taking this week off from cooking so I can catch up. I’m still cooking, but not specifically for the blog. I am toying with the idea of creating a separate page for my off week meals because 1. they’re easier and 2. I get to experiment. I will probably only post one or two meals because the point of having an off week is to give myself a break from posting and planning but some meals are meant to be shared. I’m just not 100% sure I want to do it because off weeks are when I catch up and do admin work and adding new posts kinda defeats the purpose. Also, is there even a desire for it? Would the five people that read this blog really enjoy it? Five people, feel free to leave input.

Last week we ate Brazilian food, specifically food from Rio de Janeiro. I found a couple of Brazilian cookbooks I liked but My Rio de Janeiro: A Cookbook stood out. It’s very colorful (I most definitely judge a book by its cover) and I really liked Leticia Moreinos Schwartz’s personal anecdotes that accompanied most recipes. The stories weren’t long or complex but I did feel like I was transported and was able to clearly visualize the story being told.

The soup was incredible! The recipe called for linguica sausage or chorizo but I used kielbasa. Being in Texas, I have access to Mexican chorizo but Mexican chorizo is very different from Spanish chorizo, which is what I assumed was closer to what she used than Mexican. Mexican chorizo is spicy, greasy, and crumbly; Spanish chorizo is cured so it’s closer to salami than Mexican chorizo. I love Mexican chorizo and if I could, I would eat it more often but it’s messy and not the healthiest food. The best foods are hardly ever the healthiest. I did a bit of research and saw that kielbasa was pretty close to linguica and it was right there in front of me at HEB so I went with it. The recipe said to crumble it up but I just sliced it. Easy peasy.

I also used dried beans instead of canned because canned beans don’t do well in soups. They get mushy and it really messes up the composition. If time allows, I always prefer to soak my dried beans for a few hours and then boil them. They get soft but very rarely break up the way canned beans do.

The baby loved the soup. Here’s proof. And yes, she’s shirtless. When we have particularly messy meals, I strip her down to nothing but a diaper. I am not about the laundry life!

The puff pastries were really good too! Baby was not a fan of those but the oldest one did enjoy peeling away the sheets of pastry. I would add more cheese next time because I felt they weren’t oozy enough but other than that, I loved them. They weren’t too heavy and I felt they went very well with the soup. The soup was just a little salty, probably because of the sausage, but the pastries helped calm it down. I actually ate one for breakfast the next day, heated it up in the oven for about five minutes at 350, and it was heavenly.

The meal was great and made us very anxious for the rest of the week. I’m just going to leave it at that.

Recipe, Recipe