Tag Archives: Comfort Food

Penne with Mushrooms and Pancetta

I know, this is not the most appetizing picture ever. But it’s better then nothing!

It’s a blessing and a curse, guys. I am phenomenal at making basic comfort foods. I know, I know. Humble, too.

You might be thinking, “How in the world is this a curse?” Because in my house, that’s all I ever get asked to make. The below dish is a perfect example. It’s not groundbreaking cuisine here, folks. It’s just a different sauce. But after I made it The BF said, “You gotta make more stuff like THIS!” Ah… more cheesy pasta. Noted.

On the menu:
Penne with mushrooms and pancetta

1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 cup dry red wine (I used Malbec… because I.Love.Malbec.)
8 oz pancetta, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
12 ounces of assorted mushrooms, cut into large pieces (I used baby bellas and crimini but you can use anything fresh)
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 Tbsp fresh sage (OR 1 Tbsp dried sage), chopped
1/2 Tbsp fresh rosemary (OR 1/2 tsp dried rosemary), chopped
1 lb penne
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

In a large sauce pan, combine the beef broth and the wine over medium/high heat. Let cook for 18 – 20 minutes until the liquid is reduced to one cup.

In the meantime, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a LARGE pot (the entire pound of pasta will eventually go into this pot so keep that in mind when choosing a size). Add mushrooms and season with a bit of salt and pepper. Cook until softened, around 6 – 8 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to a plate.

[AT THIS TIME: start cooking your penne! Just remember to cook until JUST al dente, and reserve half a cup of the pasta water for later in the recipe]

Add pancetta to the large pot that your mushrooms were in and saute until the pancetta is crispy and brown, around 10 – 12 minutes. Drain off excess fat. Add wine reduction, butter, and herbs to the pot. Simmer until liquid thickens slightly, around 5 minutes. Stir in mushrooms.

Add cooked pasta and 1/2 cup of the parmesan cheese to the mushroom mixture. Cook over medium/high heat until the sauce really thickens and coats the pasta, about 7 – 9 minutes, adding a bit of pasta water little by little if the sauce is dry. Plate pasta and top with remaining cheese.

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Carrot Pineapple Cake with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

When trying to come up with a dessert for last weekend’s dinner, I kept thinking that by the time the meat was gone I hoped everyone would be full. But I also wanted to cap off the evening with something really special… and frankly, kids, I don’t know how to not do comfort food. So while my guests may or may not have dozed off in their chairs after the meal was over (is there a greater compliment?) and their pants may have been a little tight, I think this cake was the right decision.

On the menu:
Pineapple carrot cake with whipped cream cheese frosting

Cake:
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs. room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 salt
1 pound carrots, grated
3/4 cup fresh pineapple, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 8-inch round cake pans.

Beat together sugar, oil, and eggs until the mixture is a light yellow color. Beat in the vanilla. In another bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until incorporated. Fold in the carrots and the pineapple and mix well. Divide the batter up equally into the 2 pans. Bake for 55 – 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack.

Frosting:
1 8-oz. package of cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp corn starch
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Place a metal bowl and beaters from an electric mixer into the freezer for 30 minutes. In the pre-frozen bowl with pre-frozen beaters, beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form.

In a separate bowl, beat together cream cheese, sugar, corn starch, salt, and vanilla extract. Fold in the whipped cream.

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City Grit

I’ve found lately that I haven’t really been eating out at many fantastic restaurants. I’m not sure if it’s the cold weather or the lack of funds, but I don’t really have a ton to tell you about by way of must-visit-spots. Until… last night.

CityGrit Presents Jim ‘N Nick’s: City Grit is a “culinary salon”, part supper club part experimental pop-up restaurant. Chef Sarah Simmons and Jeremie Kittredge, the brains behind the brilliance, wanted to provide a unique culinary experience for discerning New York diners by hosting weekly dinners at an old school in Nolita, occasionally catered by chefs and cookbook authors from all over the country. The menu and wine list are always changing, and for a reasonable ticket price, anyone can attend. It’s haute cuisine with a Southern flair, served to the masses with a warm and welcoming hug-from-your-mama vibe about it. Who could ask for anything more?

Barbequed shoulders and roast loin with stone ground grits, braised greens, cracklins, and smoked onion and tomato relish

From Jim ‘N Nick’s, and preparing the meal for the Thursday, January 19th dinner was Chef Drew Robinson. Chef Robinson opened the evening by addresses the 82-person dining room with a quick speech about the importance of pig (you don’t have to tell me, Chef) and the Southern mentality behind preparing it. One of the things that struck me most about this dining experience is the intense passion and love of food that the people involved put into their meals. You may as well be at your grandmother’s kitchen table for all the love that goes into these dishes.

Company salad

On the menu:
Hickory roasted pork belly with tomato chutney aioli
Homemade Berkshire ham and sausage with pickled okra, pimento cheese, and Saltines
Company salad: romaine with pickled vegetables, parmesan cheese, and homemade buttermilk dressing
Barbequed shoulders and roast loin with stone ground grits, braised greens, cracklins, and smoked onion and tomato relish
Bourbon pecan pie
Corn bread mini-muffins

Hickory roasted pork belly with tomato chutney aioli

Verdict: Do I really even have to say it? This meal was incredible. I was literally spreading pimento cheese on pickled okra, coating my corn muffins in pecan pie filling, closing my eyes to savor the deliciously sweet and tender pork… this is BBQ done right, my friends. It’s not haughty or pretentious, just freaking delicious.

PS… can someone please buy me a camera? Kthxbye.

Bourbon pecan pie

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Cacio e Pepe

Someone recently asked for more commentary in my posts. This person may or may not The BF. No matter. A reader’s wish is my command!

One Saturday night I met my friend Celeste for dinner and we had no reservations. I don’t know if people outside of New York City realize what this means, but here in the Big Apple, that is dinner suicide. So we popped from restaurant to restaurant, hoping for an opening somewhere and finding nothing, except for Matthew Broderick at Morandi in the West Village. I bet Ferris Bueller doesn’t need a rez.

So finally, both of us having later plans, we found a little Italian spot and sat at the bar with glasses of wine and bowls of pasta and I tasted, for the first time ever, cacio e pepe. Let me break it down for ya: it’s noodles with butter, cheese, and pepper. It’s not rocket science. But holy… holy mackerel. I became obsessed.

So tonight I needed a little bit of my favorite. That… and I’m poor and had all the ingredients in my fridge. Hey rustic Italian!

On the menu:
Cacio e pepe
Serves 2 (…or 1)

6 oz. thin spaghetti
3 Tbsp butter, divided
2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated (WARNING: do not use the already-grated cheese you buy in a green shaker – that’s gross)

Boil salted water for pasta. In a non-stick pan, melt 2 Tbsp of butter. Add pepper and stir constantly for one minute. Add half a cup of pasta water to the pan and bring heat to a simmer. Once at a simmer, reduce heat to low and add cooked pasta. Add remaining tablespoon of butter and cheese and toss together with tongs until a thick sauce is formed, about 7 minutes.

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Comfort Food

I know everyone has their own version of comfort food, and that there are also standards in this food genre: PB&J, mac and cheese, hot chocolate. All the warm fuzzies you cave to when your day isn’t going quite as planned.

I am the proud owner of a beautiful new tart pan (thanks, Aunt Cheryl!!) and was planning on making some sort of apple tart with a thin layer of cheesecake-y goodness as the crust (bear with me, it’s still in the brain-stages). But last night was colder and darker than I thought it would be, and when I got home I found out an apartment in my building had been broken into (don’t worry, Mom, I’m fine). I needed my own version of comfort food and a snuggle in my bed with an old movie. Good thing I just got back from Rochester and the fridge was stocked with it.

I took this opportunity to plug one of my favorite cold-weather spots in Rochester. If you’re ever in town you have to stop by this place cause it’s the freaking best.

Schutt’s Apple Mill 1063 Plank Road, Webster, NY. This is the kind of small-town spot that hasn’t changed in the twenty-five years I’ve called Webster “home.” They may have added a few new products and removed the rabbits (why, Schutt’s, why?!) but the bins of apples, gallons of cider, and oh-my-god-good donuts are exactly the same. I’ve tried dozens of different ciders in New York City and none of them holds a candle to Schutt’s cider.

Also, it’s worth noting that you should pick up some cheese curds while you’re here. Cheese curds are the solid parts of sour milk, and they’re totally edible and insanely delicious. When I said to my friends, “I love their donuts! And cider. And the cheese curds!”, everyone made a face. I thought I’d explain.

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Mid-Week Comfort Food

Sometimes when things are stressful in life, in work, whatever, I come home and I want to cook but then I see the loaf of potato bread, the jar of peanut butter, and the ripe banana and I think, “Mom would totally let me have this for dinner right now.” This sandwich is a glorified and indulgent take on your standard PB&B (that’s peanut butter and banana for those of you not so quick on the uptake) and is more dessert than dinner but why the heck not?

The recipe is simple and the results are faaaantastic. Just make your standard peanut butter and banana sandwich to start.
Next, melt 2 Tbsp of butter in a frying pan and fry the sandwich on both sides for around 4 minutes, or until the bread browns.
In a shallow plate, mix together 2 Tbsp of sugar and 1 tsp of ground cinnamon. Once your sandwich is fried, dip it in the cinnamon sugar so both sides are coated.

And voila. Now… isn’t that better?

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Lucky Gnocchi Day

The remnants of a pesto/ham and tomato/marinara bowl of love

One of my favorite New York Deals comes in the form of pasta. All you can eat pasta, to be exact. On the 29th of every month, Piola in the East Village offers an all-you-can-eat special in which they walk around serving from giant bowls of their handmade gnocchi with different sauces that include traditional marinara, chicken and broccoli alfredo, four cheese, pesto, and a magical ham-tomato red sauce that I believe also includes unicorn tears and fairy dust. Yes, it’s that good.

Tell the waiter you want the gnocchi special and let the games begin. If you want more pasta, you leave your little card on green. If your pants are about to split, maybe consider turning the card over to red and the pasta man will stay away from your table. I know gnocchi seems like a heavy dish to offer endless bowls of, but there is a little story behind this. From Piola’s website:

“The story begins with a missionary arriving in a small village in Italy on the 29th of an unknown month. He arrived upon a very poor house asking for food. He was welcomed to their house and was offered the only thing they had on the table, ‘Gnocchi’. The missionary was very thankful for their warm reception and wonderful food. Soon after the missionary left the house, the poor family found some gold coins right under their Gnocchi plate… 
Since then the ‘Lucky Gnocchi Legend’ has gained recognition all over the world. Families gather together every 29th of the month and enjoy Gnocchi in order to have luck and prosperity in their lives. PIOLA has adopted this beautiful legend, ‘Lucky Gnocchi Day’.”

Piola also offers a plethora of other deals, and the food is incredible. Let me tell you, dear readers, February is a sad, sad month.

Unless it’s a Leap Year. Then we’re cool.

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