Pick-Your-Protein Carbonara

You may remember my post from a while back anticipating the arrival of some very fresh eggs.  I’m pleased to say that our hens have been very busy providing us with eggs for the past two months.  There are few things more rewarding than seeing the boys retrieve eggs from the coop every day.

IMG_20140512_145332       IMG_20140423_192314_800-1

 

We have been using them instead of store-bought eggs, but I felt like it was time to use them for something we all REALLY enjoy.  One of my personal favorite egg-containing dinners?  Carbonara.  This simple yet traditional pasta dish can be whipped up in no time at all.  Carbonara is delicious with any sort of protein on it… and it’s delicious all on its own.

While there isn’t any seafood in this dish, the possibilities are endless.  This would be great topped with shrimp, fish, scallops, or even a crab cake.  (Between hurricane season and our upcoming move, we are trying to scale back our freezer stock… so I used chicken breast.)  If you have made Carbonara before, you might notice that I use milk instead of cream and I didn’t include peas.  These modifications were simply based on the ingredients we had on-hand at the moment.  I assure you that, despite making Carbonara countless times, I couldn’t tell the difference between using milk and cream; it will save you a few calories and a trip to the store.

 

Carbonara

  • 6-8 slices of Bacon (diced)
  • 1 Shallot (diced)
  • 1 clove Garlic (smashed, but not chopped)
  • Scallions
  • 1 cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 3/4 pound uncooked Pasta
  • Cooked Protein of your choice (optional)

 

P1050924

 

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package while you are preparing the sauce.  Combine the milk, egg yolks, and 3/4 cup of the parmesan cheese in a small bowl.  Two of our hens have been laying double-yolk eggs (this is common during their first months of producing eggs), so I ended up with four small yolks instead of two large yolks.

P1050931     P1050932

P1050933     P1050934

 

Start by cooking the bacon until it is crisp.

P1050936

 

Add the shallots and continue to cook only until they are soft and clear (don’t burn them).  I did this over medium heat.  Add in the scallions and the garlic and continue to cook over low heat until the pasta has finished cooking and is drained.

P1050938     P1050940

 

Keep the heat low and add in the hot, drained pasta.  Toss to combine.

P1050947     P1050948

 

Next, add in your milk/cheese/egg mixture.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Work quickly to keep the pasta moving.  You aren’t scrambling eggs here.  The yolks will cook and create a thick, silky sauce that is so rich and delicious.  Continue tossing the pasta until it is all combined.  The eggs will cook and the cheese will melt into the sauce.

P1050949

 

Top with your cooked fish or chicken, parmesan cheese, and more scallions.  Delicious!!

P1050943     P1050953

 

Don’t forget dessert… if you’re going to have a pasta dinner with eggs and bacon, you might as well include dessert.

IMG_20140623_152717

 

Grilled Rosemary Salmon with Charred Corn, Bacon, and Feta over Quinoa

P1040301

Everyone has their own definition of “comfort food”.  For me, it is anything eaten out of ONE bowl.  Something about snuggling up with a bowl of warm food and a fork just makes me happy.  I think it stems from childhood memories of giant bowls of chicken & dumplings at my grandparents’ house.  In search of a little comfort, I raided the fridge and pantry for something that would turn my piece of salmon into a bowl of happiness and this is where I ended up.

I started with a piece of organically farmed salmon.  Eating farmed fish is very important.  You MUST find balance in your diet between wild and farmed or the wild stocks will eventually be depleted.  That being said, choose your farmed fish carefully.  Ask your fishmonger questions about the farms.  Make sure it comes from a reputable source.  You might be wondering why I called my salmon “organic”.  The United States does not yet have standards for labeling seafood as “organic”.  There are salmon farms in the UK area that produce salmon which is certified as organic by the European Union.  They do not use animal byproducts, hormones, or antibiotics.  The salmon is raised in ocean pens where the water is pristine.  While I enjoy wild salmon, traditionally farmed salmon, and the organic salmon… the organic salmon is my favorite.  It has great flavor, the quality is consistent, and it stays moist however I prepare it.  It’s a winner.

My salmon has the skin still on it because it is going to be grilled with the skin side down.  The skin is very easily removed after it is cooked.  I gave it a little bath with some freshly chopped rosemary, olive oil, and Italian seasoning and let it rest for a few minutes before my husband grilled it.  (If you are planning to top it the same way I did, shy away from salt.  Feta has tons of salt.)  He put it skin side down directly on the grill over medium heat.

P1040287     P1040288

P1040289

 

Ingredients:

  • Salmon
  • Olive oil, fresh rosemary, and Italian seasoning
  • 1 cobb of fresh corn, charred
  • 2 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled Feta cheese
  • Cooked brown rice or quinoa

While the salmon was cooking, I gathered everything else I wanted to use:  1 cobb of corn (charred by placing it directly on the grill for a few minutes before cooking the salmon), a little crumbled bacon, and crumbled feta.  I combined them all and set them aside while the salmon finished cooking.  Again, the rule of thumb for cooking fish is about ten minutes per inch of thickness  (measure it at its thickest point).

P1040293     P1040298

 

When the salmon came back inside, I nestled it on top of some Quinoa and brown rice.  I added some rosemary to it while it was cooking.

P1040299

 

This was the perfect base for my bowl of deliciousness.  Then, I topped it with the corn, bacon, and feta.

P1040300     P1040301

P1040302

 

The verdict:  it was everything I was looking for!  The rosemary in the quinoa AND on the salmon provided the continuity that I really hoped it would.  It really tied all these different flavors together.  A touch of smokiness from the bacon.  And I really didn’t feel bad about this at all.  Salmon and quinoa are amazingly healthy foods.  Corn… not bad.  Bacon and feta?  A big of an indulgence but in such a small quantity.  It was light, refreshing, and filling.

While the grill was still on, we put a few halved peaches on there to enjoy after dinner.  Just for a few minutes until they were warm, a little bit softened, and charred.  It happens quickly because they have so much natural sugar in them.  We topped them with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce  (a little splash of bourbon in the peach is a nice touch for the adults, too).

P1040291     P1040292

P1040303     P1040305

 

It may be fall, but this dinner really felt like summer.  This meal speaks to both seasons.  Feta and corn reminds me of summer, but rosemary always screams fall to me.  You can definitely enjoy this year-round.

Crab and Bacon Quiche

Quiche is an interesting food.  You can look at it two ways: it is either a food having an identity crisis (is it breakfast, brunch, or dinner?) or it is an extremely versatile food.  I prefer it for lunch or dinner.  A slice of quiche and a salad is the perfect summer meal to keep things on the light side.

IMG_20130714_192409

 

No matter when you eat it, one thing that is the base of almost every quiche is a pie crust.  Making a basic pie crust is scary to many people.  It doesn’t have to be.  If you don’t want to attempt it, buy a refrigerated one or a frozen one.  (The refrigerated ones even allow you use your own pie dish so no one has to know you didn’t make it!)  I find the refrigerated pie crusts to be a little thin.  I like a thicker crust, especially for a quiche.  For savory pies, I like to add a little yellow cornmeal to the crust dough.  It adds a crunch, some color, and flavor.  I did not do a step-by-step photo tutorial on the pie crust, but here is the recipe I use.  I prefer to do this by hand with a pastry blender, but I have watched my mom cut in her butter/shortening in the food processor for years.  It works!!

All pie crusts are basically 3 parts flour, 2 parts shortening, and 1 part water.  You can use all butter, all shortening, or a combination of the two.  I use a combination.  I am not really sure why, but this is how my Gramma has always done it and it’s her recipe.  Why mess with perfection?

NOTE:  For this and other savory pie recipes, I replace half of the flour in the following recipe with yellow cornmeal. 

Basic Pie Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1/2 stick), cut into small pieces
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons ice water

Put flour and salt into a medium size bowl.  Cut in the shortening/butter using a fork or a pastry blender until all the pieces are smaller than peas and it reminds you of a wet sandy mixture.  Add the ice water one tablespoon at a time until it comes together into a ball.  If you DO opt to add cornmeal, you might need a little more water to get it to form a ball.  Just add it a little bit at a time.  Shape it into a disc, cover it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  (You can do this a day ahead, too!)  Roll it out and place in your pie dish.

P1030321     P1030323

 

On to the quiche…

Crab and Bacon Quiche:

  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup half & half
  • 8 ounces lump crabmeat
  • 8 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 3 tablespoons white wine (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

 

P1030307     P1030315

 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and gather your ingredients.  I had some crumbled feta that needed to be eaten, so I used 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese and 1/4 cup feta.  You can really use any type of cheese you want for this.  I never add salt to the quiche because the cheese and bacon already have so much salt.

Open your crab meat, drain it, and check it thoroughly with your hands for shell fragments or cartilage.  Once you do this, you will be amazed how much crab meat they actually pack into those 8-ounce containers!

P1030308     P1030310

 

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and pour it into your pie shell.

P1030316     P1030327

P1030328

 

Bake at 350 degrees for around 45 minutes.  As soon as the center is set (not wiggly) and it’s brown and bubbly, it’s done.  I sprinkled a little extra bacon and shredded cheese on top halfway through cooking.  Let it sit for about 15 minutes before you slice it.  The possibilities are almost endless with this.  You can use cooked shrimp, cooked lobster, and any combination of cheeses!  Enjoy!!

P1030329     P1030333

P1030336     P1030338

P1030337     P1030340

P1030344     P1030345