Monthly Archives: April 2014

Smoked Cheddar Gougeres

gougere side view

We stood schmoozing around the kitchen island, savoring pillowy gougeres followed easily with sweet champagne, when it happened. Maybe the threat of the impending winter chill drew us closer together, or perhaps it was our need to tangibly express the deep connections we had formed, but suddenly, each person’s arms encircled the two waists of those standing closest, and we broke into singing the alma mater “Hark the Sound.”

When we completed the song, we were changed. What began as a class of strangers became a family. As I would later tell tour groups of potential students and their parents, that fleeting moment reaffirmed my love for the community I found at UNC.

gougere top view

I suppose that’s what I’ve sought to recreate since I’ve graduated. Wherever I go, I crave those arms around me, and I’ve been lucky enough to find them.

Tomorrow I go into surgery, and already I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of support I’ve received from people both near and far. I’ve realized how much I value community — sometimes one needs a reminder. It’s nice to have lots of arms to fall into.

Once again I find myself in a moment like the one that occurred around my professor’s kitchen island, where everything came together in a moment of delicious clarity. And I thank you, friends and family, for that.

Recipe based of off this one. The best smoked cheddar ever can be ordered online here.

Smoked Cheddar Gougeres
Makes about three dozen

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
Large pinch of coarse salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 cup shredded smoked cheddar, plus more for sprinkling
Freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg

1) Preheat the oven to 400°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats. In a medium saucepan, combine the water, milk, butter and salt and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the flour and stir it in with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms; stir over low heat until it dries out and pulls away from the pan, about 2 minutes.
2) Scrape the dough into a mixing bowl; let cool for 1 minute. (Waiting a bit ensures that the eggs won’t cook and scramble in the dough.) Beat the eggs into the dough, 1 at a time, beating thoroughly between each one. Add the cheese and a pinch each of pepper and nutmeg.
3) Transfer the dough to a large plastic bag and cut about 1/2 inch off the corner diagonally. Pipe tablespoon-size mounds onto the baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 22 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Serve hot, or let cool and refrigerate or freeze. Reheat in a 350° oven until piping hot.

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Sauteed Kale with Bacon & Onion

kale close-up

Like any good Millennial, I frequently hate-read trend pieces about Millennials. One of my favorite facts about our generation, besides the fact that we are all lazy and entitled, is that 21.6 million of us live at home. And while I understand the larger social implications of such a staggering statistic, I have a confession to make.

I love it.

My parents make great landlords. They mostly charge in homemade meals, which I am more than happy to provide. In exchange, I get a cozy bed, a live-in accountant (dad) and a conveniently-located business partner/fellow crafter (mom).

Home is all the more comfortable when you’ve experienced what it’s like out there. I will not pretend the decision to come back was an easy one — it felt like admitting defeat after living two years on my own in THE big city.

But the best thing I could’ve done for myself was pressing restart. Trying again. This time in a space that always smells faintly of chocolate chip cookies and offers frequent warm embraces.

With every passing day I feel more like myself, once again bursting with enthusiasm and optimism. I can’t say exactly why those qualities felt so suppressed by city life, but I know that soon they will be the very qualities that lead me, eagerly, back into the great unknown.

For now, I close my eyes and allow the familiarity of home to cover me like a blanket.

kale

Speaking of cooking for my parents, I made this meal as a delayed birthday present for my dad. I won’t reveal his age, but let’s just say that it now ends in 0.

I loathe raw kale, but we have an inordinate amount of fresh produce right now from our CSA; I had to do something with at least a few of our greens. Besides the dreadful, inedible texture of raw kale, it feels like the most self-righteous of vegetables, like it’s somehow my problem that I can’t eat it without a 30-minute lemon juice massage.

The best way to spite kale is to rob it of its healthy reputation, so I added bacon and butter and called it a day. The fact that I was serving the kale with buttermilk fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits probably contributed to my inspiration.

Sauteed Kale with Bacon & Onions
Serves 4

2 strips bacon, chopped (I cut them with kitchen shears)
2 tablespoons butter
1 sweet onion, diced
1 – 1.5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
6 cups kale
Pepper, to taste

1) Heat a high-sided pan to medium-high. Add the chopped bacon and cook for about one minute. Add the butter and cook until melted. Stir in the onion and cook until softened, about five minutes.
2) Pour in the stock to deglaze the pan and add the kale. If it doesn’t all fit, stir in a few cups at a time. It will cook down quickly. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook with the lid on for five minutes.
3) Remove the lid and raise the heat, adding the pepper and stirring constantly until all of the liquid has cooked off, which should only take another minute or two. Serve immediately.

One-Pot Pasta

pasta pot

Sometimes you need to be able to throw everything into a pot and call it a meal.

I had one of those days yesterday. April was taunting me with one of its proverbial showers when I’d already grown re-accustomed to the warm North Carolina spring and my sewing machine wasn’t cooperating and I was grumpy and the pimple on my chin was growing large enough to declare autonomy. Basically, in no mood for cooking. Or human interaction, for that matter.

The last time I had this dish it was made for me by a dear friend, and I find that when I need a lift, summoning up a fond food memory often does the trick. (With the proper meal accompaniment, of course.)

Now that I’ve made it myself, I am officially a convert. The pasta starch imparts a creamy texture to the sauce and the steps could not be easier. It’s a meal worth sharing, and I am grateful that I was able to share it with my friend — and now with you.

plated pasta

I adapted my recipe from this one.

One-Pot Pasta
Serves 4

12 ounces linguine
16-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups fresh spinach
1 onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups water
4 sprigs basil, divided
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Parmesan cheese

1) Combine first eight ingredients in a pot wide enough to allow the pasta to lie flat against the bottom. Add 2 sprigs of basil and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
2) Put the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Stir regularly for about 10 minutes.
3) Serve the pasta with the remaining 2 sprigs of basil, drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.