Spaghetti alla Carbonara + Asparagus Casserole

Spaghetti alla Carbonara and Asparagus with Cheese Casserole
Dave’s first attempt at Spaghetti alla Carbonara plus a side of Asparagus with Cheese Casserole
Unrelated note: We got a new tile background at Home Depot and were super excited to it try out for the picture.

Sunday November 20th, 2016

Dear Blag,

On a weekend much like this one, except with a different date… Since it was last weekend… Dave (!) got around to finally trying a recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara[1].

“The tricky aspect about making carbonara,” he said, “is that the sauce is primarily made of egg, which is dropped raw into the pasta—after drained—and mixed vigorously. If you drop it in too early, when the pasta is still too hot, your risk getting scrambled eggs. If you drop it in too late, with the pasta cooled past a certain point, you risk having raw egg in your pasta. You want to mix it in just at the right moment so that the heat of the pasta combined with the stirring turns the eggs into a nice, creamy sauce.”*

Thursday November 24th, 2016

Dear Blag,

Sorry I didn’t finish my thoughts the other day. Right now we’re super full from my in-laws’ awesomely** delicious Thanksgiving lunch (linner? Since we’re too full for dinner?) to think of much more to add to the carbonara story. Althoooough, long story short, we re-added the pasta to the pan because it seemed like the egg was still a bit raw. Dave thinks it was due to the recipe asking for eggs at room temperature, and ours were still cold from the fridge… The re-throwing in the pan is typically a big no-no, but fortunately the pasta was still pretty creamy afterwards, even though the picture makes it look drier than it was.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara is essentially eggs, cheese (some variation of parmesan and/or pecorino), bacon (we used pancetta), and black pepper. There’s different stories behind the origin of pasta carbonara, with perhaps the word “carbonara” implying it was eaten by coal workers or maybe that the black pepper resembled coal flakes.[2][3] Overall, the general consensus seems to be that the dish originated around the mid-20th century in the Lazio region of Italy, which is where my dad’s family is from! And which is where Rome is too. So there you go.

Here’s the recipe for the Spaghetti Carbonara, from the NY Times Cooking section. Below is the recipe for a super quick side dish of Asparagus with Cheese Casserole, which I’m not entirely sure it can be considered a casserole since it’s not cooked slowly, but let’s call it a casserole. It’s one of my favorite side dishes to make to add some greens to the plate.

Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving,
Kika & Dave.

* I used quotations, though I might’ve embellished his words a bit since it’s been a week already… Still has the “Dave Seal of Approval,” though.
** This is an actual word?? Adverb. Sweet.

Cheesy Asparagus Casserole

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Super Easy
  • Print

One of my favorite side dishes to make. Please do not be intimidated by the complexity of this recipe.

Equipment

  • Oven Broiler
  • 9×9 Metal Cake Pan or Casserole Dish (if you have a larger size, just push the asparagus to one side)

Ingredients

  • Asparagus (2 cans, 15 oz.)
  • Sliced Cheese (my preference is ‘Murican Cheese, Dave likes Asiago)
  • Butter (regular, salted)

Directions

  1. Open Asparagus cans.
  2. Drain liquid from Asparagus cans.
  3. Place asparagus in pan/dish; stack in layers of 2-3 asparagus.
  4. Throw in specs/dollops of butter (evenly spaced) over the asparagus.
  5. Place slices of American Cheese over the butter/asparagus stack; (enough so to cover them, layers of 1-2 slices).
  6. Place in the oven. Set to broil high.
  7. Watch until the cheese is browned. (Only a couple of minutes).

fin


References

[1] “Spaghetti Carbonara” by Ian Fisher from New York Times Cooking http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/12965-spaghetti-carbonara
[2] “Carbonara” Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbonara
[3] “History of Spaghetti Carbonara” by Clifford Wright at CliffordAWright.com http://www.cliffordawright.com/caw/food/entries/display.php/topic_id/4/id/117/

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TIL: Korean Crushed Red Pepper ≠ US Crushed Red Pepper

Spicy Pork Bulgogi
Our first attempt at Spicy Pork Bulgogi! Ok so, not quite like at my favorite Korean places, but still purty good first attempt, with a donkey’s kick worth of heat.

Gochugaru (고추가루)

Monday November 7th, 2016

This past weekend we had some friends over for an evening of at-home cooking. Jeremiah made yet another awesome apple strudel and Dave made some Moscow mules, a tortilla soup, and our first attempt at spicy pork bulgogi. Unfortunately, there was no belly space left for Alex’s eggies in a basket to commemorate the 5th of November.

The reason why we’re sharing this post today, though, is because of the spicy pork bulgogi. We followed a pretty good recipe from Food.com that is also absurdly/amazingly simple to follow—literally mix the ingredients, let marinade for a while, then dump it in the pan and cook at medium high heat, serve (preferably with white rice).

ERROR #1: The recipe says to use “2 tablespoons of Korean red pepper flakes.” Dave says, “Hm, we don’t have Korean red pepper flakes… Should we just use regular flakes?” I say, “YEEaaaahhh, use regular.” David hesitates. I insist, “Just use regular! It’s fiiiineee…”

ERROR #2: David suggests using just one tablespoon of pepper flakes—this coming from a guy that doesn’t consider heat to be heat unless it’s “hotter than an Indian summer on Alderaan”… (I give up, this is the pun you get). But then again, his suggestion was also in consideration of our friends. AND STILL, I say, “No Dave, one must follow a recipe and then modify accordingly.” Haha, foolish Kika *says mildly-wiser Kika to less knowledgeable Kika from the past through psychic exchanges*

You might be able to conclude from this that the dish packed more heat than needed—or less!?!? No, it was more… Oh sorry, you were trying to guess.. Well, forget what I said and guess again. *Reader makes a guess out loud* You’re correct! It probably packed more heat than needed. But then again, there’s still more that’s solely wild estimation. You see, not only is there a difference in heat between Korean pepper flakes and typical pepper flakes, they also contribute very different flavors.*

For any redditors out there, here’s some key takeaways from a Reddit thread on the topic of Korean Red Pepper Flakes, or, Gochugaru:

  • Gochugaru is made from a different kind of pepper than typical crushed red pepper**: It is made from “Chungyang” red pepper, which is about 12,000 to about 23,000 Scoville units, making it milder than your typical red pepper flakes which place in the 30,000 to about 50,000 Scoville units range.***
  • You can find different levels of coarseness for gochugaru. Fine gochugaru, which seems to resemble cayenne powder in texture and color—using Google and Amazon as my friends here—is usually used for making gochujang (sometimes written as kochujang) sauce. The vast majority of recipes will request (or assume) you use the coarse kind, though, kimchi included.
  • There is a big difference in aromatics between gochugaru and typical crushed red pepper, with gochugaru being described as smoky, sweet, even earthy, and some users even attributing an almost fruity and/or floral taste to it. The phrase “a cross between an ancho and Hungarian paprika” appears in the thread.
  • Gochugaru are sun-dried, which gives them a different flavor than regular-dried chili flakes.****

With my head emotionally (and spiritually because I’m not literally doing this right now) tilted against the window deep in sad thought, wondering why we couldn’t be blessed with proximity to an H Mart, I comfort myself with the idea that I can actually order gochugaru through Amazon and get it in just two days. Without leaving the house. But then again, I have to work tomorrow. And it’s election day too. Sooo, before I make further judgments like, “maybe we can use a bit less soy sauce?” or, “hm, this is good, but it’s not quite like the recipes from my favorite Korean restaurants,” I’ll have to:

  1. Vote.
  2. Order the coarse gochugaru.
  3. Not ignore the recipe’s only two warnings of not substituting the gochugaru or the gochujang sauce.
  4. Maybe marinating the beef longer by leaving it overnight?
  5. Actually follow the measurements on the reci—what, really, Dave? You tweaked all over? You’re telling me this now? After I’m almost done writing this whole post—it’s ok, babe, it came out awesome… No, I know now that you had to adjust for more pork… We’ll just try it again with gochugaru too.

And yes, voting comes first, because without democracy, capitalism, and ‘Murican Freedom *insert ‘Murican flag waving elegantly in the wind in front of fireworks and a passing eagle* I couldn’t order foreign items at will from the comfort of my couch. It’s like witchcraft, really. The awesome kind.

So once you’re done voting or not voting because you can’t vote, are too disturbed to vote this year, or can’t vote in the US and your country’s voting is not tomorrow or anytime soon, also make sure to go over “15 Essential Tools & Ingredients for Korean Cooking” if you want to one-up your Korean food cooking skills. I sure do.

From cold Massachusetts, wishing you a warm week,
Kika & Dave.

* A claim we’ll need to scientifically test ourselves.
** “Crushed red pepper flakes are generally made up of different types of chili peppers, including cayenne, ancho and bell.”[3]
*** You can still purchase them in different levels of heat, though, with “maewoon” (매운) meaning spicy and “deol maewoon” (덜매운) meaning mild (literally, less spicy).[4]
**** We’ll need to look into the typical industrial methods for drying red pepper flakes. Please remind me to look into this. If you forget, no worries, I’ll randomly remember at a family gathering in ~20 years.

References

[1] Spicy Pork Bulgogi Recipe by Jelisa, at Food.com http://www.food.com/recipe/spicy-pork-bulgogi-29690
[2] “Korean red pepper flakes – how different are they from typical pepper flakes?” Question made by user themadnun on r/AskCulinary on Reddit.com, https://m.reddit.com/r/AskCulinary/comments/4jkx2f/korean_red_pepper_flakes_how_different_are_they/?utm_source=amp&utm_medium=comment_list&compact=true
[3] “How to Make Crushed Red Pepper Flakes” by Christine Wheatley of LEAFtv, https://www.leaf.tv/articles/how-to-make-crushed-red-pepper-flakes/
[4] “Hot pepper flakes – Gochugaru 고추가루” at Maangchi.com, http://www.maangchi.com/ingredient/hot-pepper-flakes
[5] “Beyond Kimchi: 15 Essential Tools & Ingredients for Korean Cooking” by Matt Rodbard of Food52 — Culinary Arts, February 26, 2016, on Curious, Presented by Startford University http://curious.stratford.edu/2016/02/26/beyond-kimchi-15-essential-tools-ingredients-for-korean-cooking/

Venezuelan Arepas with Shredded Beef

venezuelan arepas with carne mechada
(Top left) Carne Mechada in the Pressure Cooker (Top right) Arepas on the Pan (Bottom) Arepa with Carne Mechada

Saturday September 10th, 2016

On this day, it was Dia Mundial de la Arepa! (World Arepa Day!). Even amidst the bizarre food shortening situation in oil-rich Venezuela, let us have them in our thoughts—and wish a cascade of good fortune to people like my cousin who opened up his first food business in Caracas!—hoping they can have full pantry shelves again.

Alas! Let us return to the marvelous topic of arepas. Arepas are a form of flatbread made with corn flour which you can stuff with whatever [edible item] your heart desires. It is the breakfast hamburger of sorts, though Venezuelans also have them for dinner, often going to the “areperas” in the wee hours of the night after partying. If you’ve ever had pupusas, yes, they’re similar to them, though each country will swear by their own recipe**, and you can also find Colombian arepas[2], and other recipes, some which are made with the yellow corn flour instead of the white one and make me go, “That’s not an arepa, that’s a cachapa, but I’ll eat it anyway ’cause it’s good,” etc., etc.

So to celebrate World Arepa Day, we made Arepas with Carne Mechada (Venezuelan Shredded Beef) and White Cheese, which ideally would be a semi-firm, slightly salted cheese such as the so-labeled “Queso Para Freir“, but our grocery store had none so we used mozzarella cheese. Worked WONDERS. And for the steak we used skirt steak as one of his suggestions, (the other being soup/stew shank, which I realized just now after translating it with mighty Google, since I didn’t know before how to translate “lagarto”).

Amongst our wondrous wedding gifts, we got the Armando Scannone cookbook, “Mi Cocina II: A la manera de Caracas” from our beautiful friends the Ferreiras. Here, Scannone provides a superb recipe for carne mechada—which made me all the more excited since it was our first time making it!—with the title “Carne Mechada Frita con Cebolla y Tomate.” In the recipe, though, he cooks the meat a bit in the oven and then pan-fries it, whereas we used one of our other awesome wedding gifts: the mighty pressure cooker (courtesy of my aunt and nonnos in Italy) which turns any hard meat into a juicy soft-skinned delicacy. Now, the recipe does call for a bit of ketchup, which some of you (including Dave) might find preposterous, but believe us when we say that both Dave and I loved it, and the flavors blend amazingly together.

micocinaii
Venezuelan Cookbook: “Mi Cocina II: A la manera de Caracas” by Armando Scannone

Sunday September 20th, 2016

We’re still extending the celebration and making it for our friends this week, so we hope you get to make them too and share in on the awesomeness! Recipes for the Carne Mechada (Shredded Beef) and the Arepas near the bottom.

We extended the arepa celebration by sharing it with our non-Hispanic friends during game night. Always a big success! *Thumbs up*

Thursday November 3rd, 2016

Hm, took me almost 2 months to post this post… (And now I’m posting about posting a post**).

A few notes to the video at the top:

  • For the arepas: Add the water and milk as well as the salt and sugar before the corn flour, that way you can the latter combo into the former one to make it more uniform before you start to solidify it with the corn flour.
  • Slowly whisk in the corn flour so as to get a uniform mix (instead of a lumpy mix).
  • We realized we should use the brush to butter the arepas, not the pan.

* VENEZUELAN AREPAS ALL THE WAY! YEAH!! *CHEST BUMP*
** WE MUST GO DEEPER. (Hm, lots of yelling in the footnotes)

Carne Mechada (Venezuelan Shredded Beef)

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

An iconic Venezuelan item. Great for arepa filling or as part of a larger dish, often accompanied by rice, beans, and plantains.

Carne Mechada Recipe (as modified for pressure cooker) from: “Carne Mechada Frita con Cebolla y Tomate” by Armando Scannone in his book “Mi Cocina II: A la Manera de Caracas”.

Equipment

  • Pressure Cooker
  • Medium Sauce Pan

Preparing-the-Beef Ingredients

  • Skirt Steak (1 lb)
  • Onion (3/8 cup [grated])
  • Garlic (1 Clove)
  • Oil (1 Tbsp)
  • Worcestershire Sauce (1/2 Tbsp)
  • Ground Cumin (1/8 Tsp)
  • Ground Black Pepper (1/4 Tsp)
  • Salt (1 1/2 Tsp)
  • Red Bell Pepper (OPTIONAL; 1 small Pepper [sliced])

Beef-Sauce Ingredients

  • Tomato (1 Cup [optionally skinless; deseeded; finely diced])
  • Red Bell Pepper (1/4 Cup [deseeded; deveined; finely diced])
  • Onion (1 Cup [finely diced])
  • Oil (1/4 Cup)
  • Worcestershire Sauce (1/8 Tsp)
  • Ketchup (1 Tbsp)
  • Salt (1/2 Tsp)
  • Ground Black Pepper (1/8 Tsp)

Directions

  1. Preparing-the-Beef Steps

    1.  For marinade, add to a bowl and whisk together:
      • Onion (3/8 cup [grated])
      • Garlic (1 Clove)
      • Oil (1 Tbsp)
      • Worcestershire Sauce (1/2 Tablespoon)
      • Ground Cumin (1/8 Teaspoon)
      • Ground Black Pepper (1/4 Teaspoon)
      • Salt (1 1/2 Teaspoon)
    2. Rub skirt steak all over with all of the marinade.
    3. Let marinate for 1/2 hour.
    4. After done marinating, sear the steak on both sides (you can do it directly on the pressure cooker if it gives you that option).
    5. Add steak with marinade into pressure cooker (or leave it in pressure cooker if that’s where you seared it).
    6. **Optional** Add the red bell peppers (a small handful [sliced]).
    7. Add water to the minimum fill line of the pressure cooker.
    8. Lock pressure cooker and cook according to its “meat” settings. (In our case, our pressure cooker‘s default “meat” setting was 12 psi for 40min).
    9. [If making arepas, you can begin making them before proceeding to making the Beef-Sauce]
  2. Beef-Sauce Steps

    1. Add oil (1/4 Cup) in a medium sauce pan.
    2. Heat on stovetop at medium high.
    3. Add the onion (1 Cup [finely diced]), and cook until softened/translucent, typically 3-4 minutes.
    4. Add the following and cook for about 5 minutes:
      • Red Bell Peppers (1/4 Cup [deseeded; deveined; finely diced])
      • Tomato (1 Cup [optionally skinless; deseeded; finely diced])
    5. Add the following and cook for 4-5 minutes:
      • Worcestershire Sauce (1/8 Teaspoon)
      • Ketchup (1 Tablespoon)
      • Salt (1/2 Teaspoon)
      • Ground Black Pepper (1/8 Teaspoon)
    6. [You can then begin shredding the beef and set to low heat once the timer goes off]
  3. Shredding Beef and Mixing with Sauce

    1. Once the beef is done cooking and the pressure cooker is done depressurizing—if it has a release pressure button, you can use that to accelerate the depressurizing process—open the pressure cooker.
    2. Pick up the beef with a set of tongs (or fork or whatever your preference. (Forget the sliced bell peppers or eat them as a side or reuse in another recipe).
    3. Keep the beef broth from the pressure cooker (you might need to add some to the beef sauce).
    4. Set the beef on plate or kitchen board.
    5. Pull apart the beef with the tongs/fork(s) until you have a good set of beef strands.
    6. Add beef to beef sauce currently in sauce pan.
    7. Mix beef and beef sauce at medium heat for about 2 minutes (add beef broth as needed if it seems a bir dry).
    8. Remove from heat.
    9. Stuff and arepa or eat on its own.

fin

Arepas

  • Servings: 4.5
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Equipment

  • Frying Pan
  • Oven

Arepa Ingredients

  • Corn Flour Goya or Harina Pan (2 Cups)
  • Water (1.5 cups)
  • Milk (1.5 cups)
  • Salt (1 Tsp)
  • Sugar (3/4 Tsp)
  • Butter (about 1/4 Cup [melted])

Directions

  1. Making the Dough

    1. Add the water (1.5 Cups) and milk (1.5 Cups) in a medium bowl.
    2. Add salt (1 Teaspoon) and sugar (3/4 Teaspoon).
    3. Mix.
    4. Slowly add and whisk in the corn flour.
    5. Let settle for a couple of minutes (until flour thickens).
  2. Cooking the Arepas

    1. Heat a frying pan to medium heat.
    2. Grab about a fistful of dough.
    3. Shape dough into a round flatbread (about 1/2-inch thick, 4 inches in diameter)
    4. Butter each side of the uncooked arepa.
    5. Place on the pan and add as many arepas fit on the pan.
    6. Flip arepas once browned.
    7. [Arepas may be done once both sides brown, or for better results proceed to step 8]
    8. Turn on oven on low broil setting.
    9. Place arepas (with both sides browned) inside oven, (place them on a baking tray or directly on the oven racks).
    10. Cook in oven until arepa shell is slightly hardened (knock on them to test, they should sound hollow).
    11. Once done, take out of the oven.
  3. Preparing the Arepas
    1. Cut arepa through the side to make a pocket, or so as to open the two circles in half with a joined side.
    2. You can remove a bit more dough or leave it all, butter the inside and fill with beef, cheese, scrambled eggs, beans, or whatever your heart desires.

fin

References

[1] “Mi Cocina II: A la manera de Caracas” by Armando Scannone, 2012. (Earlier versions available from some resellers on Amazon.)
[2] “Latin American Cuisine: Colombian Arepas” by Serious Eats’ J. Kenji López-Alt http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/04/latin-american-cuisine-colombian-arepas.html