Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fettucine with Peas, Asparagus and Pancetta

The minute the May issue of Bon Appetit hit my front door step, I had a hankering for the cover recipe for Fettucine with Peas, Asparagus and Pancetta. Mind you mine wasn't nearly as beautifully plated or photographed, but it certainly was delicious.

Recipe from Bon Appetit magazine, also found on Epicurious.com: •12 ounces fettuccine or penne •3 ounces pancetta or bacon, chopped •1 1/4 pounds asparagus, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 1-inch pieces •2 cups shelled fresh green peas, blanched 1 minute in boiling water, drained, or frozen peas (do not thaw) •1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced, white and pale green parts separated from dark green parts •2 garlic cloves, pressed •1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving •1/3 cup heavy whipping cream •3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil •3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice •1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel •1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided •1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil, divided *I also added two or three large handfuls of fresh baby spinach as well. Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot. Meanwhile, cook pancetta in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 teaspoon drippings from skillet. Add asparagus to drippings in skillet; sauté 3 minutes. Add peas, green onions, and garlic; sauté until vegetables are just tender, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vegetable mixture, 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid, baby spinach, 1/2 cup Parmesan, cream, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon peel, half of parsley, and half of basil to pasta. Toss, adding more cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls if needed. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer to large bowl. Sprinkle pancetta, remaining parsley, and basil over. Serve, passing additional Parmesan cheese. Though the sauce had some heavy cream it in, the acidity of the lemon and the freshness of the herbs really lightened up the flavors. Using the pasta cooking water is a great way to avoid using much cream to get a silky sauce.

I had thin pancetta slices from the deli counter. It still crisped up nicely however I would have preferred to have heartier pieces. If you can get a solid chunk that can be diced into cubes, you'd probably get more flavor and better texture.

Note: New Posts Added Below

I lost a battle to blogger.com today and though I have two new posts this week, they are posted below the recent Derby Day and Grilled Pork entries. Scroll down to read more about my latest creations.... Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble and Grilled Lamb Chops with Grilled Vegetable Quinoa!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Derby Day! The Perfect Mint Julep and Derby Pie Squares

Its DERBY DAY!!!!!! As a new/soon to be Kentuckian, I'm particularly excited about this year's running of the roses. The weather forecast in Louisville is looking rather grim with thunderstorm and flash flood watch warnings last I checked- so I'm not particularly bummed about watching/celebrating from afar here in sunny Charleston. Our friend Leslie is having a Derby party and I'm in charge of two CRITICAL items... the mint simple syrup for juleps and the derby pie.
As I was working on these items this morning, John suggested I get on the A.S. immediately to share the recipes with all of you in case you're looking for last minute ideas. After all, what good is a stellar julep and Derby Pie Square recipe the day AFTER the derby?? (or knowing me, a week after).
I remember my mom making juleps for her HUGE derby parties over in Saudi Arabia when I was a kid. Mom made the syrup, polished the silver julep glasses, and dad crushed loads and loads of ice in a little ice crushing machine. I remember wanting so badly to have one of my own... I'm fairly confident mine was some concoction of mint and ginger ale or something of the sort- but holding that frosty silver glass overflowing with crushed ice and sipping through that little straw felt festive and glamorous even then...
(Had to borrow a picture from the web as I haven't assembled one yet today...)
The Perfect Mint Julep:
Combine equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Meanwhile clean half a bunch of mint and remove all of the leaves. I put the leaves into a Tupperware container (you want something with a lid) and bruise the leaves with a muddle or the back of a spoon to release all of the oils. You don't want to make them black or anything, but just barely start to bruise them. Let the syrup cool 10 minutes in the pan and then pour it over the mint leaves in the container and stir together. Cover the syrup and refrigerate until you're ready to use. Its best if you give it a few hours though it will keep in the fridge for up to a week.
When you get ready to make your julep- use the real cups if you've got'em, if not, a rocks glass will do. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of syrup into the bottom of the glass and add 3-4 additional mint leaves. Muddle or crush it up together, then fill the glass to the brim with crushed ice. Pour over a generous shot of HIGH QUALITY bourbon (my favorite is Maker's Mark but Woodford Reserve, Knob Creek, Blantons, any top shelf brand will do), garnish with a sprig of mint and a straw cut to just peak out of the ice.
Derby Pie is also a festive Kentucky classic- its similar to a pecan pie, spiked with semi-sweet chocolate and bourbon... a HEAVENLY combination if you ask me. (Refer back to my post from last year for a pie recipe.) I decided to try a square/bar version for today. I figured it would be finger-friendly for a casual gathering and one recipe would serve more people than a single pie.
Derby Pie Squares (adapted from Epicurious.com)
The shortbread crust:
1 1/2 sticks of butter, cold and cut into cubes 1 1/2 cups of flour
2/3 cups of sugar
pinch of kosher salt
1 egg- slightly beaten
Combine butter through salt in a food processor and pulse until mixture resembles wet sand. Then add the egg and pulse until mixture forms a dough. Press into the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan sprayed with non-stick spray and bake at 350 for 2-25 minutes until JUST starting to turn golden.
Chocolate-Pecan Filling:
1 stick of butter- softened
1 cup of light brown sugar- packed
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon (quality not as important here)
pinch of kosher salt
1/4 cup flour
3 cups pecan pieces
1.5 cups good quality semi sweet chocolate
Cream the butter and sugar in the electric mixer until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well each time. Add the vanilla through flour and mix until combined. Lastly stir in the pecans and chocolate with a spatula at the end. Mixture will be very very thick.
As soon as the crust is done, spread the filling over top and place back in the 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown on top.
The result is a butter crumbly base with a decadent chewy top layer. The bourbon gives it that little extra something to make it the perfect festive treat. Get your hats and have yourself a great Derby Day!
HINT: My pick for the race today is Paddy O'Prado. He had a very solid showing in the Blue Grass Stakes race at Keeneland in April (one of the Derby qualifier races) and has an affinity for racing in the mud.
Happy Birthday Granny! Thinking of you while celebrating today!