Sunday, August 1, 2010

Special Surprise Dinner

Have you ever loved someone so much that you will make your day painfully (almost) impossible just to make them a special surprise dinner? Well I have, and I did, and my feet hurt from standing all day.

I am totally one of those crazy list people. Grabbing scraps of paper here and there to write down random lists. Groceries, recipes I just need to make, things I have to do that day, things I have to do someday. sigh. Anyway, it even gets to the point where I make a schedule for myself, especially on crazy days. Here's an example of today:

9:15 Go to gym
10:30 shower
12pm laundry
1pm grocery shopping
1:30 set ingredients out to warm
2:00 pick up laundry
2:15 fold laundry and make bed
3pm make banana bread
4pm make cookies
6pm start dinner
8pm Tyrone home and eat

Yes, I am crazy. The funny part is, I never follow the schedule. Today Tyrone called me at 5 to let me know he'd be home in 45 minutes, and I swear I was electrocuted by my own wave of panic. As if he was gonna care, seriously. Gosh.

So, here is the special dinner I made. It was both very yummy and very appreciated (I'm so lucky). AND, Tyrone cleaned up my kitchen mess! YAY!

Pasta Carbonara
adapted from Pioneer Woman
serves 4-6, depending on how hungry you are :)

So this recipe ended up being a little bit more hectic than I anticipated. I would suggest prepping everything in advance, especially if you're lacking in great knife skills, like moi. Also, I used bacon mainly because I didn't want to buy pancetta, but I'm betting this is even more delicious with pancetta.

1 pound linguine pasta
4 eggs
1 pound bacon or pancetta (I used bacon)
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
8-12 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup white wine (or substitute another cup of stock)
1/2 stick of butter
1 handful of parsley
1-2 tablespoons black pepper

1. Fry bacon in large skillet (use the largest one you have), and set bacon aside to cool on paper towel to degrease a bit. Leave bacon grease in skillet.

2. Cook linguine in salted water. I would suggest cooking al dente, but I accidentally overcooked my pasta because I was frazzled and had too much to do. The egg addition later on ending up moistening it a bit, so don't freak if you leave it on too long.

3. Add your chopped onion to the bacon grease and let it cook down on medium high heat for a few minutes.

4. After a few minutes, throw in your garlic. Cooking the onions first prevents the garlic from burning.
Leave it for a few minutes, mixing everything together with a wooden spoon every now and then. Remove onions and garlic from skillet and place in small bowl with a slotted spoon. Discard excess bacon grease.

5. Replace skillet back on high heat until it starts to smoke slightly. Add wine (be careful!) and whisk around gently until all the brown bits from the bacon have come off the bottom of the pan. Add one cup of chicken stock and return onions and garlic to skillet. Let this simmer over medium heat.

6. While that's simmering, crack 4 large eggs into a large bowl. Add about 1 cup of the parmesan cheese, and the parsley roughly chopped (I actually used dried parsley because I live in NYC, and where the heck would I find fresh parsley. If someone knows this, please tell me). Mix well with a fork.

7. Add the hot cooked pasta to the egg mixture, then add all that to the onion mixture in the skillet. Cut up half stick of butter and stir in, as well as the cooked bacon (I tore it up into pieces with my bare hands). Mix it all together very well and add pepper to taste. Garnish with rest of parmesan and parsley. EAT.

I also added some last minute garlic bread. Take whatever sliced bread you have (I used whole wheat), slather with butter, sprinkle with garlic powder, and toast. It was a great addition to help scoop up the yummy liquidy sauce when all the pasta was gone.

We ate too much carbonara. It was so yummy it knocked him over backwards.

And that's not even the end. Not even the best part. You just wait.

Very Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from David Lebovitz

Makes about 25 little cookies

So, once again, something like this where chocolate is the highlight, it's pretty important to use a good chocolate. I used Valrhona cocoa powder, and Scharffen Berger semi-sweet chocolate. Chocolate extract is also another really nice incorporation which will help if you do not have access to good chocolate.

½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole-wheat flour
¼ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped in chip-sized chunks
¼ cup cocoa nibs
½ cup, plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla and/or chocolate extract
optional sea salt topping

1. In a double boiler (a heat proof bowl set over a pan of boiling water) melt half of the chocolate (2.5 oz). Cut up the rest to the size of chips and mix with cocoa nibs in small bowl. Put in fridge so it doesn't melt. Let melted chocolate cool to room temperature (about 20 minutes).

2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and and line baking sheet with parchment paper. I sprayed some Pam on the pan before laying down the parchment just to help it stay.

3. In a small bowl sift both flours, cocoa powder, and baking soda.

4. Beat the butter until creamy. This should happen almost immediately if you've brought the butter to room temperature beforehand. Beat in sugar, sea salt, vanilla, and/or chocolate extract (I used both).

5. By hand, stir in melted chocolate fully, cocoa-flour mixture, then cocoa nibs and chopped chocolate.

6. Scoop the dough using round teaspoons, and evenly space them on prepared pan. You can sprinkle with sea salt, which is very yummy. Bake them 10-12 minutes until there is a dry sheen on top of cookies. To the touch they will feel soft and airy, but don't fret, they harden a bit as they cool.

7. Let cool on sheet on rack for ten minutes, then remove to rack. Cool completely.

8. Enjoy with a cold glass of milk.

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