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

Choripan

So, I don’t have a picture for this meal. I apparently only took a pic for my Instagram account and for some reason my phone didn’t save the original picture. It’s not even in my Google Photos so either there was a interwebs fail or a phone fail. Clearly there was not a fail on my part because I’m perfect. If you want to see what I’m talking about, you can visit the Eat 52 Weeks Instagram account.

This was by far the easiest meal I’d made all year. At least I think it was, I made a lot of food and my memory is not good. But really, this could not have been easier. I’m still going to link the recipe but I’m also going to post it here because it will take me a minute:

– Heat buns

– Slice sausage

– Carmelize onions

– Put sausage and onions in buns

– Add chimichurri sauce

– Eat

To be honest, the chimichurri sauce took a bit of time but not that much. So if you want a quick, awesome, delicious meal, make choripan.

It gets its name from two of its ingredients: chorizo (sausage) and pan (bread). It’s one of the most popular meals eaten in Argentina and is considered a street food. Sidenote: I made a lot of street food last year and my question is, why doesn’t the US have all this awesome street food? You know what we have in Austin? Hot dogs. You can argue we have a lot more due to the ridiculous amounts of food trucks we have but no, you would be wrong. Street food is served from a cart, not a truck, and is not gentrified.

We loved it! Yeah I forgot to make sides so all we had that night was the choripan but we were okay with it. The girls didn’t like the chimichurri sauce but the baby kept asking for more sausage. And the four year old kept asking for more bread. Of course. I will make this during the summer and probably pair it with the Korean potato salad because awesome deserves to be surrounded by awesome.

Recipe

Fugazzeta

Day two of Argentina week and I think James was really excited about this meal because it involved a pizza. We love pizza (who doesn’t????) so when we’ve had opportunities to eat different versions of pizza, like during Turkish week with the pide, we jump at it. This meal involved me coming into contact with my frenemy, yeast, so I not super excited it about it. I was looking forward to trying something new but knowing my frenemy would be there did dampen my enthusiasm. I did some yoga that day and tried to get centered and peaceful before dealing with it. It was like drinking a beer before going to happy hour with your frenemy because you know you’re going to need some additional help in getting through it but you don’t want them to see you need the help.

This was another Italian inspired dish. It’s a stuffed pizza that is most popular in Buenos Aires. Quick little history lesson: the word fugazzeta is derived from “fugassa” which means “focaccia” in the Genoese dialect. An immigrant baker by the name of Agustin Banchero created a fugazza, a onion focaccia with grated cheese on top, and then his son, Juan, created the fugazzeta by stuffing it with mozarella cheese.

I will admit, I did fail in my first attempt to get my yeast bubbly. The recipe said to warm up the milk to 100-105 degrees but it was only a fourth of a cup so mine got very hot, very quick. Very hot liquid kills yeast so I chunked that mess and started over. The second time worked and I’m glad it did because I could already feel the yoga wearing off. After that it was just a matter of waiting an hour or so for the dough to rise and I think I spent that time doingmore yoga.

Yoga saves, y’all.

I thought I would have a harder time with rolling out the dough because I had to wait ten minutes in between each roll for it to relax but it went by pretty quickly. I did pour a little too much olive oil in my skillet so the dough got a little slick after a bit but I was still able to work with it. The hardest part was laying the top over the bottom because dough moves. Yeah, don’t know if you knew that but it’s not a solid object.

Aside from those minor irritations, the result was still fantastic. We were both surprised by how light the pizza was because, hello, it’s a stuffed pizza. Stuffed pizza is never light! But I guess most stuffed pizzas are, you know, stuffed with all sorts of meats and cheeses so that probably contributes to the lead like feeling after eating them. This fugazzeta didn’t have that because it was just stuffed with mozarella and provolone and the topping was very thinly sliced onions. Even with it being baked with lots of olive oil and being topped with onions, there was no heartburn afterwards so that was an added bonus.

We all ate multiple slices and I think there was maybe only one slice leftover. The girls even liked the onions and didn’t pick them off like I expected them. That was a win!

Recipe

Tonkatsu

This was the start of Japanese week! I only made two meals during Japanese week because the second meal I made was ramen, which took three days to make. That difficult meal was offset by this really easy one!

Tonkatsu is breaded and fried pork chop. That’s it, pretty easy. It’s one of the most beloved meals in Japan and there are different ways to eat it other than the way I prepared it. You can also eat it as a sandwich or atop rice and curry but I wanted something easy so I went with this. It’s a little odd that this dish is so popular that there are restaurants devoted to making it but then I read this and I understood it a little more.

I chose a cucumber salad to go with the tonkatsu instead of the traditional cabbage because cabbage gives me gas. Sorry if that’s gross but it’s life. I had a little situation with the cucumber because the recipe said to break it up by banging it against the counter top. I guess I had some aggression I needed to get out because I hit the bag so hard against the counter, it busted open. Thankfully most of cucumber stayed in the bag and I didn’t have a huge clean up.

It was a nice meal, nothing too exciting. I forgot to make the sauce that accompanies it but I used some hoisin instead. The meat was a little dry but the sauce helped. The cucumber salad was fantastic and I’ll make that over and over again next summer. Everyone liked dinner that night and I think the four year old even ate some cucumber.

Two days later, I took on ramen making. Fyi, it’s going to be a long post. Be prepared.

Recipe, Recipe

Chicken in Orange Sauce and Poached Apple

This will be a short post because I currently have a four year old standing next to me and crying because I won’t give her a chocolate chip granola bar. She was originally crying because I put her in her room after we got back from the doctor’s office, where she decided to start screaming in the waiting room because I made her put a coat on for the whole 100 foot walk back to the car because it’s a wonderful 40 degrees outside. I know, I know, I’m the worst mother ever. I make her wear a coat so she won’t freeze and then I won’t give her a sweet whenever she wants one.

Oh, now she’s crying because I made her walk back to her room. The room that is filled with about 100 books and 1,000 toys. The least fun room in the entire house.

Just call CPS on me now.

This was our second Dutch meal. I had originally planned on making poffertjes, Dutch mini pancakes, but I didn’t have time to let the batter sit for an hour before cooking for I made this instead. This was so much better than we both expected! We didn’t have high expectations of it because it’s such a simple meal, literally chicken in orange sauce. Granted the sauce was a little fancier than something I would normally make since it consisted of orange peel, Cointreau, and orange juice but I didn’t think it would be all that special. And I know that sauce doesn’t sound exotic or anything but it’s fancy for me because anything with more than two ingredients is ooh la la territory for me.

I used chicken thighs instead of the breasts like the recipe called for and I think that contributed to the flavor. The extra fat along with all the butter in the sauce made this a lot richer than I think it would have been with just breasts. Even with all the orange ingredients, it didn’t have a strong citrus flavor. I mean, you could taste it but it was subtle and I loved that. I think the brown rice also helped mellow out the entire meal. The poached apple was super sweet but eaten alongside the rice, it wasn’t crazy.

Both girls also ate this meal so big win there! The baby ate the chicken by the fist full but, surprisingly, neither was fond of the apple. I think it was the texture because they’re both used to crunchy apples.

Speaking of, the four year old passed out in her room. And I’m now eating her granola bar. I won this round!

Recipe

Stamppot

Two weeks behind; I’m getting there!

This was the beginning of Dutch week. To be honest, I’ve never had an interest in the food from the Netherlands but we do have a friend who is Dutch and I did this for him. Hi Bob! Bob and his wife, Nicole, currently live in South Carolina but we met them a few years ago through mutual friends when they lived here in Austin. Through the years they have become some of our favorite people and I always look forward to seeing them when they come down to Texas. They usually make a couple of trips a year, one earlier in the year and then another later in the year. They came down during the summer but I had already booked the Netherlands for the winter so I told them I’d cook for them when they came back down. And that was the plan.

Well, then Nicole went and got herself a lucrative contract with a gallery in New Orleans and now they can’t travel as much. Way to go, Nicole! Of course I’m kidding, it was/is an amazing opportunity for Nicole and we are so very proud and happy for her! My friend is famous! If you’d like to check her out (and you really should!) please visit her website or The French Art Network, with whom she works. Saying Nicole is talented is an understatement and I’m constantly in awe of her work. I bow down at her abilities. I am not worthy!

But I am worthy of this meal! Stamppot was a suggestion made by Bob, who said that unfortunately the Dutch aren’t known for their food. We had other friends live in Amsterdam for a bit and they agreed, their favorite food to eat while living there was actually Indonesian. Well I had already done Indonesia so “boring” Dutch food it was.

This was far from boring! It’s really easy to make because all you do is boil and them mash veggies. A child could make this. Well, a child with a good handle of cutlery because you do have to chop up a lot of veggies beforehand. The cool thing about stamppot is that it’s very versatile. From what I gather, you just need to have a couple of root vegetables and a green and you’re good to go. I used potato, sweet potato, turnip, carrot, leek, and cabbage. Bob made a kale stamppot a few days later that look amazing so I will definitely try it kale next time. The recipe called for rookworst, which is a Dutch sausage, but I couldn’t find it so I used kielbasa. Bob suggested smoking it next time to get a richer flavor and to also use a sausage made by Salt Lick, a local barbecue place.

I ate multiple servings of this and I was stuffed afterwards. The girls did eat this as well. The four year old picked at the stamppot but really enjoyed the sausage; the baby stuffed her mouth with both. James also liked it but said it was heavy. It was but that didn’t stop me! I ate it for lunch the next day, and the day after that, and was sad when it was gone. I had planned on incorporating it into our Thanksgiving dinner but I forgot about it until later. Whoops! This would be perfect for the cold weather weare (finally!) experiencing here in Austin so I’ll probably be making this again soon. I’ll just have to make sure I go for an extended run beforehand so I don’t go into a carb coma.

Recipe

Doro Wot, Azifa, and Ye’Abesha Gomen

This was our last Ethiopian meal and the one I was most looking forward to because I love me a wot! Wots (or wats, I’ve seen it spelled both ways) are basically stews but what makes them different from others is a very long sweating of large amounts of onions in nit’r qibe, a spiced butter. I didn’t have nit’r qibe and I didn’t want to go through the effort of making it so I just used ghee and added some extra spices. I don’t think it affected the taste though because it came out ah-mah-zing! I don’t remember my exact feelings but I do remember that we didn’t have any leftovers because we ate everything.

Everything.

The girls even ate the collard greens in the ye’abesha gome and the lentils in the azifa. The baby especially couldn’t get enough of the lentils and I believe she had multiple bowls. Huzzah!

The only downside to this meal was that we didn’t have any injera to go with it. I didn’t use it for two days and I didn’t think it would affect it much because by then it would have been fermenting for four days. On the fourth day I unwrapped my bowl of batter and found that a tiny bit of mold had grown on top of it. I didn’t bother looking up if this was normal because typically mold growing on things is not a good sign. Also, I’d had a run-in with mold and an attempted sourdough starter in the not too distant past so I was still recovering from that episode. Mold in a sourdough starter is not good and you have to throw out the entire starter if it grows on it so with that in mind, I threw away about two cups of injera batter. I later learned that a bit of mold on injera batter is not the end of the world and it can be removed and you can continue on your merry way. The more you know.

So while our week in Ethiopia didn’t start off so well, it ended on a pretty high note. I mean, the four year old ate greens! Voluntarily! That’s a pretty big deal! We had Chinese food for lunch today and as she was eating her eggroll, I saw her pull out of every piece of green onion she could find. I didn’t mention the fact that she was still eating a good amount of cabbage because, why kill the dream? She clearly hates anything green but in that one moment during Ethiopia week, she ate it and it was wonderful. I will forever hold that moment in my heart.

Recipe, Recipe, Recipe

Posole

I had posole for the first time about eight years ago. We went to a Mexican restaurant on Burnet (I, cannot for the life of me, remember the name!) in December to have dinner with some friends. Nothing on the menu really stuck out until I got to the posole. So up until then, when I saw “posole,” I thought of the hominy in menudo. Menudo, which is a Mexican soup made with beef stomach and hominy, is one of my favorite things to eat.

It takes forever to make and not Melissa forever, like, actual forever. I want to say it takes something like twelve hours to make because it takes THAT long for the stomach to turn chewy. And it’s also very easy to make crappy menudo. I stopped eating other people’s menudo when I moved to Austin and made the mistake of ordering some at a restaurant and it was basically chili flavored water. That is not proper menudo. Proper menudo has a very distinct flavor and it’s hard to describe it. My cousin said it’s briny and I feel like that’s a good starting place but it’s much more complex than that. There’s the chili powder, that is very present without becoming unbearably spicy; oregano that is all over it and makes it smell heavenly; and the lime juice that brings it all together. Just try it and forget about the stomach.

Which is what I did up until this past January. When my Mom would make it, she would literally add an additional six pound can of hominy to the menudo just for me because I hated the meat. She would then pick out all the meat for me and just serve me the hominy. I remember my family members scolding her for spoiling me but she would always ignore them and say I was her daughter, she could spoil me if she wanted. By the way, who started chopping onions in here? My eyes are so watery!

I’m gonna wrap this up before I become a sobbing mess. I’ve been watching a lot of Jane the Virgin and seeing her relationship with her mom has really made me miss mine. I still have mine, thank goodness, but since the stroke has left her speechless, it doesn’t always feel like it.

Moving on.

Posole. When I finally had posole, I wondered why my Mom didn’t just make it instead of the very laborious menudo the whole time! It has hominy, it has pork (which menudo does as well, in the form of pig feet (I promise! It’s a good soup, it’s not disgusting!)), and it doesn’t take five hundred hours to make. Everybody wins in that situation!

And we all won when I made it! It was really easy to make, took me a little over an hour because I halved the recipe. The recipe called for pork shoulder but I used ribs because I couldn’t anything less than three pounds of shoulder and there’s no way I needed that much. Knowing my love for hominy and the four year old’s hatred of everything, I almost doubled the hominy. And when I was preparing her bowl, I stood there and pulled out every piece of meat for her. Because I can spoil her if I want to. *

*I didn’t have to do that for the baby because she loves everything. That’s her hand in the picture, grabbing more avocado and radishes. She stuffed her face and asked for seconds. I got thirds. She might not have my temperament but she has my big panza and love of food!

Recipe

Arroz con Pollo

This is the third time I’ve made arroz con pollo. The first was during Costa Rican week and then during Cuban week. This is also the second time I’ve used those sentences. I am anything if not original.

This week’s arroz con pollo recipe is Colombian. I chose Colombia because one of my favorite people on the entire planet is Colombian. Hola Caro! I’ve known Caro for eight years and we met when we were both working at a property in south Austin. I was pretty sure she hated me when we first started working together but then I learned that unlike me, she takes a while to warm up to people. I’m one of those annoying people who thinks every person they meet is going to be their new best friend because who wouldn’t want to be best friends? Best friends are great! Caro, like normal humans, gets to know people to feel them out and figure out if they’re worth being let in. I will literally tell you my whole life story within ten minutes of meeting you if you ask. Sometimes I do it without even being asked.

Once she warmed up to me, which took all of a month because I’m persistent in my friend making, we became very close friends. Since then we have spent many nights drinking wine and scotch (cause we’re fancy), having M.I.A dance parties, been in each other’s weddings, and have watched each other grow into women (which is probably the best part). Our oldest daughters are three weeks apart and this November she’ll have another daughter, whom I’m still hoping she’ll name after me. The currently named Baby Eelan will be a Scorpio, just like me, and will also be born in the year of the Monkey, just like me. She’s due at the end of November and I’m not typically keen about sharing a birthday with other people but I’m making an exception for Eelan and am hoping she will come early and be born on the the second.

Even though I’ve never been to Colombia, I feel a connection to it through Caro. I had hoped to do Colombian week when she and her family were visiting a few weeks ago but they were so busy doing so much in their short time here that I didn’t bother. Up until then, Caro and her family were living in Vietnam, where she and husband were teaching ESL. They came back to the States for a month before moving to Qatar, where they will be for the next two years while her husband teaches. I was really hoping they would stay this time but the world calls and they must answer. Until then, we’ll just have to survive through FB and WhatsApp phone calls, one of which we have today. I’ve been looking forward to it all week!

So this week is dedicated to you, my CaroLINDA.

And because this week’s decision comes from a place full of love and respect, it hurts me to say this recipe did not do it for me. It wasn’t that it was bad but the meat was kinda dry. Okay, the meat was very dry. I had to boil chicken breast and make a stock, which I was hoping would help make the breast juicy, but it did not. The rice part was great and I liked the addition of the green beans but that meat was so dry! I will try to make this again though because I think I can trick the girls into eating veggies this way. The four year old did pull out every single piece of green, including peas, beans, bell pepper, and cilantro, but she did eat the rest. The baby gobbled it up but that wasn’t a surprise. Maybe next time I’ll add more broth to the mixture when mixing the chicken in with the rice and there will be a next time.

Even though this didn’t work out, I’m hopeful for the rest of the week. And maybe Caro will give me some insight into what I did wrong but I have a feeling she’ll say what I did wrong was cook with chicken. She doesn’t eat anything with feathers because, actually I don’t know why she doesn’t eat birds. I’ll have to ask today.

Recipe