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Posts Tagged ‘pancetta’

eggwichBoy howdy, I’ve been eating some good lunches this week!  I mean, they must be good to make me say things like, “boy howdy.”  Hot damn, even!  My knack for saving things in the freezer in the manner of eighty year old grannies combined with my need to use up any leftover ingredients manifested themselves today into the best eggwich that I’ve ever eaten.  Ever.  An absolute work of impromptu eggwich art.  A sandwich so good as to inspire a spontaneous and uncharacteristic “boy howdy” must be shared. 

I didn’t ever eat eggwiches before Jon turned me on to them.  In fact, does anyone else use the term “eggwich” or did we just make that up?  Either way, I love them now and today’s eggwich is going on the menu of my imaginary cafe.  We had some left over fresh mozarella and pancetta from a pizza earlier in the week; these precious ingredients cannot go to waste.  Those plus some french hamburger rolls from the freezer, some thin slices from a red onion, a few frozen artichoke hearts, and a little schmear of mayonnaise spiked with dried basil amounted to rich, creamy, delectable, gooey eggwich heaven. 

These are some of the best flavors in the world – salty bacon, runny yolk, basil, mayonnaise (or just fat in general), artichoke hearts, fresh mozarella cheese – all on a chewy, soft french roll.  Hallelujah!  I love this eggwich.  I wanted to make out with this eggwich.  I know it’s weird, but I don’t care.  Are you ever this in love with your food?!  We ended our lunch with some fresh green grapes – it was a perfect finish to the richness of the sandwich.

I hope you are inspired by this kitchen sink eggwich.  You should make it exactly as is and discover what kind of random, joyful expletives burst out as you devour every perfect bite.  OR – you should make your own kitchen sink eggwich with your left over ingredients and tell me all about it.  Either way – bon appetito!

best ever impromptu kitchen sink italian eggwich

  • two eggs
  • a few slices of pancetta, quartered
  • a tbsp or so of mayonnaise
  • one tsp or so of dried basil
  • three artichoke hearts, chopped
  • a few thin, half moon slices of red onion or shallot
  • one garlic clove
  • two balls of fresh mozarella cheese, torn into smaller pieces
  • two french hamburger buns
  1. warm whole hamburger buns in a 400 degree oven for five minutes; remove them, cut them in half, rub a little garlic on each cut side and add the torn mozarella cheese; cook for five to seven minutes more or until bread is soft and cheese is gently melted but not brown
  2. meanwhile, mix chopped artichoke hearts, dried basil and mayonnaise together; season with a pinch of salt and ground pepper
  3. heat a skillet over medium heat and crisp up the pancetta with a small drizzle of olive oil; remove and drain on a paper towel
  4. add eggs, one at a time, to warm skillet and cook them over medium; the yolk should be a little runny (cook for a minute and a half and then gently flip over and cook for about one more minute on the other side)
  5. assemble the sandwiches with the mayonnaise, egg, pancetta and red onions – glory!
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So I realize that brussel sprouts are at the very tail end of their season (and I may be really stretching it), but I still see them bright and peppy on their stalks at the market so I feel justified in this post. 

my favorite cafe in the namesake city of the brussel sprout

my favorite cafe in the namesake city of the brussel sprout

Like the city of their namesake, brussel sprouts are terribly underrated; they have such an unfortunate reputation of being stinky and plain.  In fact, these little runts of the cabbage family may be the mascot for the rejected vegetable team, elevated by veggie haters as the chief offender and reason to shun vegetables.  Maybe this is true if you boil all of the flavor out of them and dump them on a plate with a little table salt (a tragedy); however, a properly cooked brussel sprout paired with some punchy ingredients and a little bit of love can yield something very, very tasty. 

Brussel sprouts are sweet, earthy, maybe even a little floral – pancetta and garlic beautifully complement these aspects of their flavor.  They are great vehicles of flavor – crispy edges with soft centers – pungent sauce or olive oil hidden in the leaves – their own essence assertive enough to not be lost in the mix.  These tiny crucifers are not only too delicious to be avoided, but they are packed with vitamins and phytonutrients that provide all sorts of lovely benefits to your body (cancer prevention, clear skin, boosted immune function, etc.). 

My husband and I most often enjoy them prepared in the fashion I’ll outline below; you could serve them alongside a simple chicken or pork, or you can eat them as the main with some crusty bread, as we often do.  I have

brussel sprouts with pancetta

brussel sprouts with pancetta

experimented with this classic pairing multiple times with many variations; I like them best in the way that I’m sharing.  The pancetta is very toothsome; crispy but also pleasantly chewy.  The saltiness of the pancetta combined with the garlic and caramelization of the brussel sprouts, the small amount of wine or broth that deglazes the pan, a tiny squeeze of lemon – all of this combines in glorious goodness.  You could also cut some sprouts in half and roast them in the oven.  Toss them with some olive oil, salt and pepper and they will brown very nicely.  A simple, warm sauce of mustard, white wine or white wine vinegar, thyme and a generous sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan cheese makes an elegant and versatile side. 

Perhaps you have written off the brussel sprout; if so, I ask you to give the humble veggie another chance.  If I haven’t done enough to convince you, maybe my husband’s unabashed passion will: “They’re my absolute favorite vegetable,” he says, “and they’re named after my favorite city.”  That’s a one-two punch for the brussel sprout.

brussel sprouts with pancetta

serves 2 generously

  • 20 or so small brussel sprouts, trimmed of bottom “stem” and outer leaves plucked
  • quarter inch slab of pancetta, diced into small cubes
  • a few cloves of garlic, very coarsely chopped
  • generous splash of chicken broth, white wine or vermouth
  • little squeeze of lemon (optional and a little something extra)
  • little bit of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. trim the brussel sprouts and blanch them for about three minutes in boiling water, draining and transferring to an ice bath
  2. cut the blanched brussel sprouts in half – meanwhile, crisp the pancetta in a skillet over medium high heat
  3. when pancetta begins to crisp, add the brussel sprouts cut side down and cook for 3 to 4 minutes (turn the heat down if they are browning too much or too fast)
  4. check to make sure that brussel sprouts are browning nicely, then turn over to brown on the other side, maybe 2 minutes more
  5. deglaze the pan with a little white wine, vermouth or chicken broth, then add the garlic to the pan
  6. toss and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes more, stirring gently to combine flavors and prevent garlic from burning
  7. squeeze with a bit of lemon, serve, and repent of your aversion to brussel sprouts

Look for brussel sprouts of a similar size, with crisp compact heads and intact leaves.  Some of the leaves will come off during cooking; don’t worry – these will crisp up and become delicious.

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Cooking is an experience that I savor daily, no matter how busy I constantly seem to be.  It is one of the few times each day that I am actually living in the moment.  Instead of worrying, running through an endless task list, etc., I am simply thinking about what I am doing.  Actually, I am also greatly anticipating the meal that I will soon be eating, so I suppose I’m not totally in the moment… Cooking, EATING, preparing a meal for someone – this is truly a pleasure to me.  Pairing simple, whole ingredients together to make something gloriously delicious not only sustains my body, but it also sustains me in a holistic way that I can’t completely describe.  It just feels good.   

There is something very special about soup.  Why is cooking a giant pot of soup so satisfying?  Maybe for me it is because of the memories I have attached to the first bubbling batch of soup that I cooked soon after I got married.  The first cold weekend in Atlanta spurred a craving for minestrone.  After much slicing, dicing and patience, I tasted what would become my most favorite soup.  Ever since then, the first minestrone of the season has been a celebratory occasion.  It always takes me back to that lovely, chilly weekend.  Or perhaps it is because any good soup requires a very intentional process of pairing fresh and honest ingredients together to make something complex and lovely, yet simple in its ability to warm and comfort.  Ingredients that on their own are simple, overlooked even (um, celery), come together to make something fabulous.  A good soup takes a little bit of time; not only in the prep work, but also as you slowly add the various layers of flavor, as it simmers and comes together.  Soup is the ultimate slow food.  My need for instant gratification has me waiting anxiously until it is ready to be enjoyed; the anticipation and my impatience only adding to the gratification of that first, steaming bite.  Another point in favor of soup is that you usually have enough to enjoy it again later, discovering that it continues to improve in flavor as it waits for you in the fridge.  Warm it on the stove and your home is once again filled with the delicious fragrance of your efforts. 

This particular minestrone takes a little bit of time and effort, but I promise that it is worth it.  This recipe is the result of many additions, subtractions, and variations, and is the one I like best.  Prepare it exactly as written or make it your own, but please be sure and take time to enjoy the process – it is tremendously rewarding.  If you’re like me and you love on others with food, then consider this soup an extra portion of affection.  I lavish love on my husband by cooking a meal (or two, or three) for him everyday.  He almost always accepts my efforts and intentions with a passionate (albeit repetitive!) exclamation of, “this is the best thing I have ever put in my mouth!”  That alone will send me back to the kitchen, joyously, time and time again…       

minestrone

  • a generous glug of olive oil (maybe 2 tbsp)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled or scrubbed well, chopped
  • 2-3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4-5 oz thinly sliced pancetta, chopped
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large head of escarole (substitute chard if you can’t find), rinsed or soaked VERY well
  • 1 russet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes with juice
  • a sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1 can of cannelinni beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cans of low sodium beef broth
  • a chunk of a parmesan cheese rind (don’t leave this out!  this flavor is what makes this soup)
  • 1 tbsp of tomato paste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. heat the oil in a heavy, large pot over medium heat and add onions, garlic, carrots, celery, pancetta, and a pinch of salt and pepper, and sauté about 10 minutes until onions are translucent and veggies are just beginning to brown lightly
  2. add escarole and potato and sauté about 2 minutes, stirring well to combine and allow escarole to wilt
  3. add the can of tomatoes and the rosemary, and cook for about 10 more minutes, allowing tomatoes to break down some and release their juices
  4. meanwhile, blend about 3/4 cup of cannellini beans, tomato paste, and about 1/4 cup of beef broth in a blender or food processor
  5. add the puréed bean mixture, remaining broth and cheese rind to the pot and simmer, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes
  6. stir in the rest of the beans and cook about 2 minutes more
  7. serve with freshly grated parmesan and toasty, crusty garlic bread

garlic bread

  • 1 French or Italian baguette
  • 1 clove garlic
  • good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground sea salt and pepper
  1. slice your bread and place under a broiler (watch it closely! it can burn in a matter of seconds) or in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes
  2. remove bread from the oven, and rub each piece generously with the garlic clove
  3. drizzle with olive oil, and season with freshly ground sea salt and pepper

 

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