Recipes


Pasta is the best. It cooks quickly and simply, doesn’t need much to make it great, and is the medium for any number of wonderful sauces. I had a request from my most important taste-tester for a basic pasta sauce post, with one tomato and one oil-based recipe, so here goes. Both recipes have very few ingredients, so the quality of them is really important, particularly the tomatoes, olive oil, and most importantly the pasta. If you’re going simple, you might as well spend a little extra to make sure the dish is as good as it can be. And it can be really, really good. Also both sauces come together in the time it takes to cook the pasta and can be adapted to any situation or ingredient you might encounter.

Easy Pasta Sauce v.1: Olive Oil
Serves 1 hungry person, 20 minutes

1/2 pound pasta (preferably something a little interesting in shape)
2 Tbsp. of your best olive oil, extra virgin if you have it
2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
Salt and pepper, freshly ground if possible
Parmesan cheese

1. Start your water boiling, salt it well (1 Tablespoon at least). When it’s boiling and the pasta’s in, pour the olive oil into a small sauce or frying pan and turn the heat to low. Add the sliced garlic. It should NOT FRY, seriously don’t let it start frying, you just want it to cook lightly.

2. When the pasta’s ready (keep it al dente), drain it and pour the drained pasta back into the pot you cooked it in. Pour the olive oil and garlic onto it while still hot and stir the whole mix. Plate it, add salt, pepper, parmesan to taste. That’s it.

•••

Easy Pasta Sauce v.2: Tomato
Serves 1 hungry person, 20 minutes

1/2 pound pasta (preferably something a little interesting in shape)
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes (with basil is good)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, freshly ground if possible
Parmesan cheese

1. Once the pasta’s in, put the tomatoes in a saucepan over medium heat. When it starts to simmer/boil put the garlic and seasonings in. Simmer for a few minutes to cook the garlic.

2. Drain the pasta, add the sauce, plate, top with parmesan. Not so bad, huh?

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It’s the ultimate comfort food. Butter, carbs, cheese, it’s sort of hard to go wrong with such a fantastic combination, but there’s a science to making a successful mac and cheese. I’ve only just begun a long and exciting journey towards perfection of this pillar of homestyle American cooking, but, I must confess, I cheated.

My grandfather has been a mac and cheese enthusiast for lifetimes longer than I have. “Papa’s making mac and cheese!” was an often repeated exclamation in my house and remains a cause for celebration. His recipe toes the line between gourmet and homey in just the way you hope it will, and for me sets the bar by which all others are judged.

When I first called him for the recipe he gave me amounts like “a little flour” and “a bunch of cheese.” Maybe the fact that I’m his descendent allows us to communicate in this way. Now these approximations are, in all fairness, the way he (and I in his footsteps) cooks, but a recipe they do not make. So I’ll try to quantify these measurements while still preserving the freeform spirit of the recipe, forgive me Papa.

Papa’s Mac and Cheese
1 hour, serves ~6

1. Cook 1.5 pounds penne, rigatoni, or other smallish tubular pasta until fully cooked but firm. Before draining reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water.

2. Melt 2T butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, when fully melted add 1T flour and stir until the flour is incorporated and the texture is smooth. You now have a roux.

3. Gradually add 3/4 cup heavy cream, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until the mixture is smooth and even.

4. Add, a handful at a time, 1 pound of shredded sharp cheddar (or more if you want it really cheesy), again stirring after each addition. While you’re waiting for the cheese to melt add some seasonings (mustard, salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg are pretty standard).

5. Once fully melted, combine the sauce with the pasta and mix until each piece is coated. Butter a large (13”x9” or so) baking dish and pour the pasta/cheese picture into the pan, spread it out to fill. Pour 1/2 cup or more of the reserved pasta water over the entire operation, depending on how moist it looks.

6. Top with breadcrumbs and/or more shredded cheese, bake at 400 for about 20 minutes or until the top is golden and crunchy. Let it sit for at least 10-15 minutes before serving.

For the past semester and a half I’ve been a part of what is rapidly becoming one of the great Cornell traditions. Akin to streaking the Arts quad or gorge-jumping, Calzone Club is an institution. Until recently it was institution dependent on a local Italian-Greek restaurant that was the original genesis for the club, but we’ve had a breakthrough…

Homemade calzones. Not only are they easy and inexpensive, they are arguably better. Having complete control over dough and fillings is thrilling, almost terrifying at times, and completely awesome. Also cases of beer are much more economical than buying it in a restaurant (always something to keep in mind).

Basic Calzone Dough (makes 2 large calzones, probably enough for 4 people)

5 cups AP or bread flour
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 tbsp. olive oil
2.5 cups lukewarm water mixed ahead of time with
1 tsp. dry yeast

Combine water and yeast, allow to sit for ~10 mins. Mix together all the remaining dry ingredients, then add yeast mix. Stir until shaggy and sort of combined, mix in olive oil. When the dough is sort of cohesive, turn it onto a counter and knead for ~5 minutes until smooth. Allow to rise in an oiled bowl with saran wrap, 1.5-2 hours until doubled in size.

To make calzones:

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and cut it in half. Stretch one of the halves into a roughly rectangular shape, keeping it thick enough to hold the toppings. Then, go crazy. Mozzarella and ricotta are de rigueur, but all sorts of vegetables and meats (cook them first) will be amazing. Save the sauce until after it’s cooked (at 400 for about 20 mins or until golden). You’re going to like it.

Ever seen a piquet? You have now.

Some older recipe books will call for an “onion stuck with cloves” and, until recently, this made absolutely no sense to me and I basically ignored it. In a recent attempt to make a gigantic pot roast the recipe I was using not only called for this onion contraption, but explained it. You see the result above. It’s an aromatic intended to flavor a stock, soup, or long-cooked meat dish by the clever combination of onion and clove, here with the added bonus of a bay leaf.

Of course you can accomplish the same thing with any number of aromatics, in all sorts of arrangements, but why not embrace a technique that’s been part of cooking for hundreds of years (probably, it didn’t have a wikipedia article). I first saw it in James Beard’s fantastic Beard on Food, and that alone should be good enough reason to trust the charming piquet, as if you even needed one.

And we’re back! After an extended vacation (I’m terribly sorry) I return from all sorts of food adventures revived and ready for some serious blogging.
Coming soon: new breakfast posts, CGC events, food porn, site updates, foodgawker and tastespotting integration, and more!

A huge pat on the back to the marketing and research teams at Benihana, whoever and wherever they are. It seems they’ve managed to exactly model the American consumer market and create a product, a restaurant concept, perfectly designed to hit all the pleasure centers that we Americans are preprogrammed to desire, even lust after. What’s the secret? Theater in droves, even if it’s terribly corny and borderline offensive to anyone with half a brain. A vaguely Asian ethnicity helps to take the idea even further out of the realm of reality, though I dare you to try to find a Benihana in Japan. And of course scoops and lumps and plops of butter (they painfully refer to it as “Japanese Ice Cream”) center the entire production directly within our fat-loving American tastes.
Salt, fat, and a circus, what’s not to love? This is a legitimate question and one that I struggle to answer despite my gut feeling that I should have a deep and primal urge to hate the place. In all honesty, it tastes good. Really good in fact. Is it really gourmet? Not at all. Is it kind of sort of a little bit awesome? Begrudgingly, yes.
“I can make this food just as well if not better at home.” I should have kept this thought to myself because just a day later I was picking ingredients for what would later be deemed Benihana steak and vegetables. One of my more discerning customers was to be the judge, herself a Benihana veteran and member of the illustrious Chef’s Table birthday club. How did it turn out? Fortunately the fact that the chefs at Benihana cook on your table means it’s stupidly easy to copy their recipes and follow them at home. You’ll only need a few ingredients, and after you practice your knife spinning and sign a form releasing this website and its authors from all legal responsibility you’ll be well on your way to Benihana certification.
Benihana Steak and Vegetables
Takes about 30 minutes, unless you want to marinate. Should serve 2.

About 1-1.5 pounds of nice fatty steak (NY strip or the like, trimmed and marinated in soy sauce and rice vinegar if you have the time.)
3 medium zucchinis or yellow squash, each cut in half once the long way
1/2 yellow onion, cut in wide strips
Lemon juice
Butter
Soy Sauce
Pepper
1. Allow the steak to come to room temperature.
2. Heat a cast iron or other NON non-stick pan as hot as you feel comfortable, at least 1 minute on high heat, with nothing in it. A spritz of water should dance around in little beads on the surface of the pan. While you’re doing this pat the steak dry with a paper towel, the drier the better. Place it in the pan and DON’T TOUCH IT DAMNIT until it releases from the pan with a gentle nudge, about 3 minutes for a 1.5″ thick steak, flip the steak to the other side. After another 3 minutes the steak should be browned on both sides. Remove it from the pan to a cutting board and cut the steak into fairly large cubes, the cubes should be very pink or red in the middle, that’s ok.
3. Return the cubes to the hot pan and add at least 1.5-2 tablespoons of butter, about the same of soy sauce, and the juice of half a lemon. Stir or flip this until the butter is melted and bubbling and the sauce ingredients are combined and slightly thickened on the surfaces of the steak. After a minute or two, depending on your doneness preference, take the pan off the heat, pepper to taste, and serve with rice.
4. The zucchini and onions are almost exactly the same. Brown them in a dry or lightly oiled pan, cut into pieces, return to the pan with the rest of the ingredients and reduce slightly.
Surprisingly good.

Occasionally (for me at least) I’ll accidentally come across something so delicious when I’m cooking that I surprise myself and generally consider it some sort of act of god, rather than my own doing. As you cook more and more you’ll have these Eureka moments when you think “holy shit. this rocks.” Or something like that, I don’t know exactly what kind of cook you are, but I like to think that I can occasionally elicit a profound, profane reaction
Squid is a strange culinary protein. First of all it’s downright weird in its gelatinous tubularity. Squid tubes don’t seem to come from an animal, but rather they remind me of something you might use as a prop in an alien horror movie. Delicious. Seriously though, they are sort of magical in their willingness to accept whatever flavoring you might impose upon the little mollusks (yes, the same phylum as snails and clams). In this case is was a rich and enriched tomato sauce with garlic, bacon, and fennel. In all seriousness, make something with these three ingredients and you’ll almost certainly have a hit. I’m not joking at all, the combination hits all the big flavour bases (sweet, salty, umami, herby) and includes flavouring wunderkind bacon. I can’t speak highly enough about it.

On to the main event. I can’t really take full credit for this recipe, I found it in a Tuscan cookbook that basically described a squid and tomato stew with peas and mint. Apparently the original dish, if you happen to be fortunately enough to live in Tuscany, also features garlic and does away with the peas and mint. Why mess with tradition, right? Of course I did anyway because bacon seemed prudent and the fennel from our farmer’s market is the bomb. If you want to try to recreate this little gem there are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Squid needs to be cooked either extremely quickly (fried calimari) or for a long time, like in this stew. Basically you want to braise it for at least 45 minutes, or until tender.

2. Cook your aromatics first. The onions, fennel, and bacon should all be cooked before the squid goes in so the fennel is soft enough to match the texture of the squid and the bacon is suitably crispy and the fat can be rendered out (and into the sauce itself).

3. Tomatoes: you could certainly use fresh or a premade tomato puree sort of deal, I chopped up sow canned plum tomato (I like whichever package looks the most Italian).

If you can handle these basics, and you should be able to, then you’ll have a seriously epic, well-constructed, suitably strange meal for you and anyone you love enough to invite over for dinner.

I try to wake up early on days when I don’t have class until later in the day so that I can prepare myself disgustingly indulgent breakfasts. Why not? My go-to for most of this year has been hashbrowns, in various forms and incorporating whatever I have around in the kitchen. I think zucchini would be good, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Anyway, let’s get to it. You’ll need:

Potatoes: you can shred or slice them, I like these little matchsticks because they’re fun to cut and eat, but ultimately are more work.
Fat: at least a tablespoon per 2 potatoes. Try a combination of butter and olive oil. Bacon fat is, of course, awesome as well.
Seasonings: salt and pepper of course. Some thinly sliced onions work well too.

Technique:
Once all your mise en place is ready (look it up, you’ll seem like a culinary bigshot and people will start calling you a “chef”) put your sauté pan on your stove and heat it on medium-high heat for at least a minute, if not two. Don’t do this with a nonstick pan. Once the pan is hot, add your fat and allow it to melt and coat the pan. Before it starts smoking, add your potatoes (and whatever else you want). Leave this for a few minutes to get a little crusty and delicious. After a couple minutes use your best wrist flick or spatula to move the potatoes around the pan for maximum goldenness.

That’s really it. Keep flipping and waiting until the potatoes are cooked. If they cut easily with your spatula they’re ready to go, or taste them. Once you’ve got the basic technique down you can apply this to almost anything and make some damn fine hashbrowns. They totally worked on my girlfriend when I made them this morning.

With Feta, which seems like overkill until you try it and realize that it IS overkill and that overkill is a beautiful and nearly pornographically delicious thing.

Enjoy it, maybe I’ll do an accompanying egg post soon, for the full morning feasting experience…

French pressed coffee. This photo honestly makes me tear when I look at it. Holy shit.

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