Southern Pimento Cheese

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A ways back, in our first year of the blog, we made pimento cheese as Christmas gifts in honor of our new home in South Carolina. We made two varieties – Selim created Garlic & Truffle Pimento Cheese, and Ally made a more traditional version. For some reason, we didn’t share the traditional recipe at the time, probably because we were so wowed by the dressed up variety. We’ll remedy that here today!

Some of our very favorite Clevelanders are passing through town today ❤ When we were trying to pick a restaurant for dinner, Sarah wanted to “go back to that place we went last time” they were in Columbia, “the one with the pimento cheese.” [Shout out to DiPrato’s – their pimento cheese really is legendary, as are their inexplicable warm and fluffy pita chips!] So we thought today would be the perfect day to whip up another homemade batch – some for them and some for us! Ally could live off of pimento cheese and crackers, probably for the rest of her life, so it’s really a win-win!

We stuck with the basics for this pimento cheese recipe – cheddar, pimentos, and mayo… well, homemade mayonnaise for us! Selim is the king of whipping up aioli or mayo by hand. We added a pinch of extras, just because we can’t help ourselves, but there’s not too much to distract from the cheese. We prefer our pimento cheese to be lighter on the mayonnaise, attempting not to over-blend the shredded cheese. Our ratio of cheese to pimentos definitely favors the cheese. Hand-shredded cheese is preferable to pre-shredded. And heaven forbid – we do not add cream cheese to ours!

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Southern Pimento Cheese

Ingredients: 
  • 1 cup neutral oil
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 16oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 heaping tbsp chopped pimentos
  • 1 tsp worcestershire
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • Salt to taste
Instructions:
  1. Prepare the mayo. (You can do this by hand or with a stand mixer. The process is essentially the same.)
    • By hand: Separate out the egg yolk from the whites and discard the whites. Whisk the yolk. Add minced garlic and then slowly drizzle in the oil. Whisk vigorously and continuously. Once the mixture has combined well, add the lemon juice and whisk until that has been absorbed.
    • With the mixer: Separate out the egg yolk from the whites. Place in stand mixer and turn on medium. Add minced garlic and then slowly drizzle in the oil, while the mixer remains on. Again, once the mixture is well-combined, then add the lemon juice.
  2. By hand, mix together the aioli with the rest of the ingredients except for salt. Once combined, add salt to taste at the end.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.
Makes a little more than 2 cups
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Our Dublin Coddle

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While the rest of you are celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day, I’m vacillating between the five stages of grief over UVA’s loss last night. I guess this post is helping me move past the denial stage, given that I just wrote the words “UVA’s loss.” My very caring and loving husband, is being even nicer to me than usual, which is actually relevant to this dinner. Selim is basically the opposite of a simple meat and potatoes kind of guy, whatever that is. This dinner, which not only checks the box of timely blog post, but also caters to my wanting to wallow in comfort food self, is definitely not what he wants to have for dinner tonight. Yet, here we are.

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I love this team and all of these guys! Proud of them & their season! We’ll choose to remember this moment instead ❤ [Photo by Matt Riley, primary photographer for UVa Athletics]
I, however, love a simple carb-filled dinner of sausages and potatoes. Dublin coddle is basically just that. Recipes for Dublin coddle should include pork sausages, potatoes, and onions. Many don’t include much more than that and water. Parsley is a common garnish. We’ve added a few more ingredients for a little more flavor, as you can see. We also didn’t cook the dish the way the Irish mothers back in the day would have. This hearty winter dish dates back to the 1700s and many believe started out as a way for Catholic mothers to use up meat before Fridays during Lent. I think we turned our version into a flavorful dish that still pays significant homage to the original. And honestly, since the “original” was basically a vehicle to use up leftovers, variations from household to household are basically a given. So, I give you our personal version! I’m not going to lie, though the sausage and potatoes are delicious, I think my favorite part is all the onions! They absorb all the delicious flavor from the broth and are just perfect! This dish may not look like much (the stews and braises that we tend to favor never do), get past our humble photos and give it a whirl the next time you’re feeling Irish.

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And, from an approximately 18.9462874% Irish person on the day when everyone claims to have Irish ancestors:

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! 🍀☘️🍀☘️🍀

 

Our Dublin Coddle

(Adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients:
  • 5 slices of thick-cut bacon
  • 1 lb pork sausages (traditional Irish bangers would be the most legit option)
  • 2 large onions, sliced into rings
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups broth (vegetable, chicken, etc)
  • 3/4 cup stout beer
  • 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp brown mustard
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 lb potatoes, cut into large chunks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Fresh ground black pepper
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Chop the bacon roughly and cook in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Stir occasionally until they are brown, but not yet crispy. Then remove to the side.
  3. Place the sausage whole into the dish with the bacon grease, still over medium heat, and brown on all side. (You do not have to cook them all the way through at this point.) Once browned, remove these to the side as well.
  4. Now add the onions and garlic to the dish, stirring to coat in the remaining bacon grease. Top with 10+ turns of fresh black pepper. Partially cover and cook, until softened and browning, roughly 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, whisk together the broth, beer, worcestershire, mustard, and thyme.
  6. Remove the onions/garlic when they’re done and again set to the side.
  7. Add the potatoes and a splash of liquid stock mixture to the dish. Stir to coat and turn the heat up to medium high. Cook potatoes for ~5 minutes.
  8. Slice the sausages into large chunks and then return all of the removed ingredients to the dish. Remove from stove heat and stir everything together.
  9. Top with the stock mixture and add the bay leaves.
  10. Place in the oven, covered, for at least an hour. Keep cooking up to an hour and a half if the potatoes aren’t cooked to your liking at the hour mark.
  11. Serve in bowls with a good amount of broth. Add a dash of salt if you think it needs (save this for the end, given that your bacon, sausages, and even broth may have a fair amount of salt in them).
Serves 4-6

Pretzel Bun Stuffing

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Have you ever been in a restaurant and decided on a nice, big, juicy burger for dinner? You’re super-excited and think nothing can be better than your highly anticipated burger? So you place your order with the server, and then s/he asks you, “Do you want that on a regular bun or a pretzel bun?” Literally NO ONE EVER has responded with, “Ehh, just give me the regular bun.” Why? Because even though you were excited about that highly anticipated, big, juicy burger in and of itself… a pretzel bun just makes everything better!

Ok now, translate that sentiment to Thanksgiving stuffing. We made this stuffing entirely from pretzels buns. When we made stuffing last year for Friendsgiving, we added a few pretzel buns for a little surprise, and it worked well. So this year, we decided to up the ante and go with 100% pretzel bun! The idea of pretzel bun stuffing inspired me to add a few non-traditional touches to this recipe, but it’s not so non-traditional that people will turn their noses up at it. Honestly, given the overwhelming herbaciousness of the stuffing (with very traditional herbs!), you’d never notice the extra ingredients. But you will know just how delicious it tastes as you inhale it!

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Pretzel Bun Stuffing

Ingredients: 
  • 8 pretzel rolls, torn
  • 1 high quality beef hot dog, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, divided (1/2 cup + 1/4 cup + more)
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Fresh black pepper
  • 1 tbsp brown mustard
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3+ cups beef stock, divided (2 cups + more)
  • 2 large eggs
Instructions: 
  1. Tear the bread & rolls into bite-sized pieces at least 24 hours prior to making the stuffing. Let sit out to dry.
  2. On the day you’re preparing the stuffing, place the bread into a large bowl.
  3. Toss your finely chopped hot dog into a pan over medium heat with just a splash of broth. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the hot dog has released a little fat.
  4. Add the 1/2 cup of butter to the pan, followed by the onions and garlic. Top with fresh ground black pepper. Saute for ~5 minutes as the onions soften.
  5. Now add herbs, salt, and 10 turns of pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally for another 5 minutes.
  6. Pour this mixture over the bread in the bowl and toss well.
  7. Melt another 1/4 cup of butter. Whisk together with 2 eggs and 2 cups of beef stock.
  8. Pour that mixture over bread. Stir until liquid is absorbed by the bread.
  9. Add additional stock by the 1/4 cup until the bread is saturated. Wait a few minutes between adding stock to ensure it all gets absorbed. (You want the bread to be very wet, but without pools of liquid in the bowl. I used just an additional 1/4 cup this time.)
  10. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  11. Butter a large glass baking dish. Place the bread mixture into the dish.
  12. Butter a large piece of foil and cover the dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
  13. Increase oven heat to 450 degrees. Uncover and bake for a few additional minutes for a crispy top.
Serves 8-12.

How To Make Basic Pasta

We’re doing our best to keep up with one of our goals on our Culinary Bucket List, to never use store-bought pasta again. Obviously, this is a slightly tongue-in-cheek goal; sometimes you just don’t have the time to whip up homemade pasta. But, not going to lie, every time we make our own pasta, it just reconfirms how much we love it and moves us slightly closer to keeping up with that goal! We’ve shared a few recipes with homemade pasta so far – see, Pappardelle with Braised RaguCacio e Pepe, & Homemade Pasta Carbonara. With all of these, we’ve developed our standard recipe for pasta dough. We thought we’d share that here as it’s own recipe for ease of browsing! Over time and trial & error, we think this is the best way to create your basic pasta blank canvas. {This recipe makes between 2 and 4 servings – let me explain. We have a bad habit of making pasta and then inhaling it, leaving us over-full. So – 2 portions. If you have more restraint and/or do not wish to need to unbutton your pants after dinner – 4 portions. We’ve easily doubled this recipe in the past with the same results.}

Basic Pasta Recipe

(Our recipe is adapted & combined from several sources: The Cook’s Book400 Sauces, & KitchenAid’s insert that accompanied our pasta attachments.)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 1/3 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
Instructions:
  1. In a large bowl, stir the salt into the flour. Create a well or crater in the center.
  2. Crack two eggs into that center well/crater.
  3. Using a fork, slowly mix the egg into the flour. Try to keep the eggs within the crater, pulling in more and more flour. (If you fail, don’t worry, life will go on.)
  4. Once the egg is mixed into the flour and is beginning to resemble a cohesive dough, turn out onto a clean counter-top, and switch to using your hands. Fold together until well combined. [You made need an extra dusting of flour if the dough is wet and sticky, or to wet your hands if it’s a bit dry.]
  5. Continue kneading the dough, stretching and folding, for at least 5 and up to 10 minutes. By this point, the dough should be smoother and elastic, so that you can form into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes, and up to two hours.
  6. The type of pasta you want to make will dictate your next steps. Generally, you will likely cut the dough into smaller portions, flatten with a rolling pin or pasta roller, and then cut as desired.

 

Coq au Vin

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At our house, we do a lot of adapted recipes, even the most traditional ones. We substitute a little of this, add a little of that, combine these two ideas, or even entirely make stuff up. (See the entire tag on our blog – Twisted Traditions). But sometimes you just can’t do that. Coq au vin literally just means “cock {rooster ⇒ chicken} of wine,” which, if you were speaking French, you’d understand to mean chicken cooked in wine. So you’d think this would be wide open for interpretation. But hearing the phrase ‘coq au vin,’ doesn’t just make most people think vague thoughts of wine + chicken; it makes most minds immediately jump to this specific dish, Julia Child, and her famous cookbook. So for this, we went to the penultimate source: Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The recipe we’re sharing is 99% true to hers – with two differences. One, we skipped the cognac and lighting it on fire, solely because I didn’t feel like going out and buying some. We’ll definitely do it next time, because I really want to light cognac on fire. And two, instead of portioning the mushrooms like Julia instructs, I chopped them fairly finely, because I don’t really like the texture of mushrooms, although I do love their flavor.

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Coq au Vin

(Recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
Ingredients: 
  • Chicken
    • 3-4oz bacon, sliced into lardons
    • 2 + 2 tbsp butter
    • 2 1/2 – 3 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken
    • Salt & pepper
    • 3 cups dry, full-bodied red wine
    • 1-2 cups beef stock
    • 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
    • 2 cloves minced garlic
    • 1/4 tsp thyme
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 3 tbsp flour
  • Mushrooms
    • 2 tbsp butter
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 1/2 lb mushrooms
  • Onions
    • 20-25 pearl onions, peeled
    • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
    • 1 1/2 tbsp oil
    • 1/2 cup beef stock
    • 1/4 tsp thyme
    • 1/2 bay leaf
Instructions: 
  1. Bring 2 quarts of water to a simmer and submerge the lardons of bacon. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. In a large dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp butter until melted.
  3. Once bacon has simmered, transfer it to the dutch oven. Saute for a few minutes over medium heat until lightly browned, then remove to the side.
  4. Pat chicken pieces dry. Top with 1/2 tsp salt and a few turns of pepper. Brown each piece on all sides in the hot butter/bacon fat.
  5. Return the bacon to the dutch oven and cook over low-medium for 10 minutes, flipping the chicken once.
  6. Pour wine into the dutch oven. Scrape the bottom of the dish to remove any stuck brown bits.
  7. Add additional stock until the chicken is just covered. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, and herbs.
  8. Cover and simmer for ~30 minutes.
  9. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.
  10. For the onions: In a skillet, heat butter and oil together over medium heat. Once warm, add the onions. Saute for 10 minutes, rolling the onions around frequently. Pour in the stock and add herbs. Braise, covered, simmering lightly for ~40 minutes.
  11. For the mushrooms: In a skillet, heat butter and oil together over medium heat. Once the butter has foamed and subsided, add the mushrooms. Saute for 6-8 minutes, shaking the pan frequently. Once lightly browned, remove to the side.
  12. After 30 minutes, remove the chicken from the dish.
  13. Increase heat and boil the braising liquid until it has reduced to ~ 2 1/4 cups. [Julia’s very specific suggestion, not mine.] Discard the bay leaf and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Remove from heat.
  14. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tbsp butter and flour. Once combined, whisk into the braising liquid.
  15. Return liquid to a slow simmer. Return the chicken to the dish, along with the mushrooms and onions.
  16. Simmer for just a few additional minutes, basting the chicken.
  17. Julia would serve with potatoes, but you can do whatever you want 🙂

Cacio e Pepe

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Number 10 on our Culinary Bucket List states, “Figure out how the Italians’ make pasta cacio e pepe a million times better than we can. Also, master that twirling the pasta at the table trick.” If you’ve ever been to Rome, you know what I’m talking about. Literally ever Roman restaurant we set foot in served some type of cacio e pepe. It draws in tourists’ attention for its theatrical table-side preparation, but turns out it’s also delicious! Not lying, I think my cousin Scottie ate cacio e pepe for almost every meal when we were in Rome after the first time she tried it.

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All of us in St. Peter’s Square! From L to R: Selim, family friend Henry, Ally, Ally’s brother Jeffrey, and cousins Scottie, Jayme, & Luke

How is it that good though? ‘Cacio e pepe’ literally means pepper and cheese. It’s that simple – pasta + pepper + cheese. But somehow, when we came home and tried to recreate it, it never turned out the same. It was mind-boggling – how are we screwing up something that seems so simple?? The cheese would get all clumpy, and we wouldn’t really get a “sauce” per se.

Well, apparently we’re not the only ones. I found this article from Serious Eats that addressed our dilemma, from the point of view of someone who knows way more about cooking and testing recipes that we do. Thank goodness for smart people! Read it and learn like we did. We followed all of the tips and tricks in the article and were rewarded with a much better result. While it’s still not as good as what we had in Italy, and we still don’t know how to do the twirl the pasta at the table trick, it’s good enough to share!

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Cacio e Pepe

(Recipe adapted from this Serious Eats article & recipe)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 1/3 cup AP flour (plus slightly more for dusting your counter, hands, etc)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 40 turns fresh ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 cups finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2-3 tbsp pasta water
Instructions: 
  1. Start by making the pasta dough. On a clean, dry counter-top, mix together the flour and salt and form it into a volcano (a mound with a crater scooped out in the middle). Crack two eggs into that center well/crater.
  2. Using a fork, slowly mix the egg into the flour. Try to keep the eggs within the crater, pulling in more and more flour. (If you fail, don’t worry, life will go on.) Once the egg is mixed into the flour enough that it’s not trying to run away anymore, switch to use your hands. Fold together until well combined. [You made need an extra dusting of flour if the dough is wet and sticky, or to wet your hands if it’s a bit dry.]
  3. Continue kneading the dough, stretching and folding, for at least 5 and up to 10 minutes. By this point, the dough should be smoother and elastic, so that you can form into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes, and up to two hours.
  4. Once the dough has set, roll out and divide into quarters. Using the pasta roller attachment on the stand mixer, flatten out (to #4 if using KitchenAid’s model). Let the flattened dough rest on a floured surface. Then cut into spaghetti noodles using that attachment. [Follow your particular pasta roller/cutter’s instructions for doing these things.] Tip: keep your hands and the surface of the dough lightly floured during this process.
  5. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil with a dash of salt. Use less water than you typically would – just enough to cover the pasta.
  6. Add fresh pasta and cook until al dente. This only takes a few minutes with fresh pasta – it will take more like 6-7 minutes with store-bought pasta.
  7. In a second pan, heat 3 tbsp of olive oil and the first 20 turns of black pepper over medium-low heat.
  8. Add 2-3 tbsp of starchy pasta water and the melted butter to the pan. Stir to combine with the olive oil.
  9. Using tongs, lift noodles out of their pot and place into the pan as well.
  10. Slowly add the cheese and the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil. Stir vigorously while adding the cheese so it doesn’t get clumped up.
  11. Add more pasta water as needed to ensure all noodles get coated with the sauce.
  12. Top with 20 more turns of black pepper and salt if you think it needs.
Makes 2 large individual servings, or 4 non-fat-American-sized servings.

Hamburger Helper, Minus the Box

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I may have mentioned it once or twice, but I have an embarrassing love of most things that come in a box, especially with powdered cheese. Kraft mac & cheese? Clearly. Those Knorr rice or noodle sides in a bag? So good and only $1! Hamburger Helper? Be still my heart 🖤🖤🖤 Are any of these things actually good or good for me? No and no, but my taste buds are confused. Someone mentioned Hamburger Helper the other day, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. (Don’t judge me!)

I knew the chance of convincing Selim that Hamburger Helper was a decent meal choice was slim to none, so I went for a slightly less processed version. Maybe not exactly low calorie or low fat, but hey – I added vegetables and cut out the processed/powdered cheese. Wins all the way around. And it’s delicious! Take that dinner in a box! I guess I should also mentioned that this is based on Cheeseburger Macaroni – which to me is THE Hamburger Helper, but that might not be true for everyone.

I looked to Pinterest for a little guidance in getting started with this recipe. I checked out these lovely blogs, but didn’t follow one in particular – onetwo, & three.

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Hamburger Helper, Minus the Box

(Inspired by a few different blogs – see above)
Ingredients: 
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1/2 of a large onion, diced
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1lb ground beef
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups dry macaroni
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
Instructions: 
  1. In a large pan with tall edges, heat the oil.
  2. Over medium heat, cook the onions and the carrots for just 2-3 minutes. Top the onions with a few turns of black pepper and a pinch of salt.
  3. Increase heat to medium-high and add the beef and worchestershire sauce to the pan. Break up the beef with your cooking spoon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef has browned.
  4. If you have any excess grease, drain it off before adding the next ingredients.
  5. Now add the rest of the ingredients, except for the cheese. Stir together.
  6. Bring liquid to a boil. Then turn the heat back down to medium-low, cover the pan, and simmer for ~10 minutes. Stir once or twice.
  7. Remove lid. Stir in the cheese. Once it’s well-combined, serve!
Makes ~8 servings.