Travelogue: Carbone and their legendary Spicy Rigatoni

If you watch Chrissy Teigan’s Snapchat as religiously as I do, you know all about the year’s it-restaurant Carbone. Located in both NYC and Vegas, the restaurant feels straight out of the Sinatra and Godfather era, complete with red velvet draping, bourgie chandeliers, low lights, bow tied waiters, and damn good Italian food. Alex and I were in Vegas last December and obvi I had to check it out.

The maitre d’ seated us at a secluded booth, and we had barely put in our drink order before a guy came buy and sliced us a generous hunk of parmigiano-reggiano as an amuse bouche. Any opportunity to eat a hunk of the good stuff should NEVER be passed up. Next they brought our their complimentary antipasti spread. It included cauliflower giardiniera, salami, prosciutto, a couple different kind of cheese, and three kinds of bread. Everything was awesome and went great with the negroni I ordered, but oh man–the tomato bread was our FAVORITE. The waiter ended up bringing us 2 refills of just that. I mean we were probably starved after walking around Vegas all day and guzzling apertifs, but still it was crazy good.

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For the pasta course, we ordered pasta alle Vongole and Carbone’s signature spicy rigatoni alle vodka. The pasta with clams was good, but nothing to write home about…sorry not sorry, I dig my version with sourdough bread crumbs more. But the rigatoni, dayyyymn son!! Alex and I are every last bite and wiped up all the sauce with our bread. For such a humble concept, it was a perfectly executed exquisite dish. More on that in a bit.

As a main course, Alex and I shared the cherry pepper ribs. They were ENORMOUS–like, we both could only eat one rib kind of big–but the meat was fall off the bone tender and glazed in a spicy, sweet, and tangy sauce. It took every ounce of self control I had not to pick the rib up and bite into it like a cavewoman. It was served with a light and lemony side salad that balanced out the rich meat.

For dessert, they served us complimentary petit fours and an entire bottle of house-made limoncello that Alex and I were too full to even drink one glass of. I thought that was a really cool way to end the meal though, especially if you were on your way to XS or Hakkassan and needed to get a good buzz going. The meal was a splurge, but I felt like we really got our money’s worth with the appetizers, dessert, and last cocktail all baked in. Next time we go back to Vegas, you betcha we’re going back.

But back to dat magical spicy rigatoni. I went right to work replicating this dish, which turned out to be pretty simple. The heat in it is interesting–because of the rich butter and creamy half and half, the spice is a bit delayed and builds as you chow down. Let the simple flavors of tomatoes, crushed red pepper, and aromatics sing and you really can’t go wrong.

Spicy Rigatoni Alla Vodka (Carbone Copy Cat)

You’ll Need

  • 1 lb of rigatoni pasta. The dry stuff from the grocery store is cool, but I’m extra AF and used the freshly made kind I got last week at the Boston Public Market. SO good.
  • A 28 ounce can of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes. You there, yeah you, pony up for the good stuff.
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper. Yep, the kind you sprinkle over pizza. Use half a teaspoon if you’re a wimp.
  • 1 shot of vodka. Ehh, 2 shots so you can drink one while you work. Salud!
  • 3 tablespoons of half and half
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • Kosher salt
  • Olive oil
  • Parmigiano or pecorino cheese. Not the shaker. Grate it fresh like the big kid you are.

Method

  1. Peel and dice up your onion. Throw it in a large sauté or sauce pan with a few generous glugs of olive oil. Over medium heat, let the onion cook down for about 4-5 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and peeled whole garlic cloves, give it a good stir, then let the whole thing cook down for another 4-5 minutes. (So the real Carbone makes supposedly makes their sauce with an onion soubise base, but that requires several extra steps that I find unnecessary for a sauce where onions aren’t the star. Take this shortcut, feel good about it.)
  2. Add the entire can of tomatoes, the shot of vodka, and a couple generous dashes of salt. Vodka…weird right? So what the vodka does is lessen the acidic bite of the tomatoes, making their flavor cleaner, sweeter, and more mild. The butter and cream will have a similar effect to the tomatoes, coming together to make a luscious sexy sauce you’re going to love. (Again, supposedly Carbone doesn’t use vodka in their sauce, but this is a great substitute that mimics the mellow creamy onion soubise step we’re cutting out. Trust!)
  3. Let the sauce simmer on medium-low for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pasta pot of water to a rolling boil and add several generous dashes of salt. Cook your pasta to al dente, the shortest recommended time. This leaves a nice bite in your pasta, keeping it tasting fresh and pleasantly chewy. Seriously keep your soft noodles Olive Garden, get that ish away from me stat. Drain those bad boys, reserving a splash (1/4 cup ish) of the starchy pasta water it was cooked in.
  5. Once your sauce has simmered for a good 20-30 minutes, take it off the burner and let it cool for a few minutes. Transfer the sauce to a blender, and add the butter and half and half. Put the lid on the blender, then wrap your hand down with a towel and hold the lid down as you blend your sauce up til it’s smooth. (The hot sauce ups the chance of the lid flying off due to steam build up. Hot tomato sauce all over your kitchen and person = BAD). Taste and add more salt if needed. Splash in a bit of the pasta water if your sauce looks like it needs more liquid.
  6. Toss the pasta in a big bowl with plenty of sauce. Serve in shallow bowls with fresh grated parmigiano and a drizzle of expensive olive oil on top.

Remix The Dish: Add a sliced chicken breast and plop the pasta onto a bed of wilted spinach for a complete meal. The spicy sauce is a great base and would taste awesome on veggies or fish. I bet it’s divine on those fried chicken cutlets from Whole Foods too!

*Some of these pictures are taken from Google. My iPhone pics didn’t turn out awesome in the low lighting. Deal with it bruh.

The one where Chelsea teaches you about sunchokes

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Hi! It’s been a few, I know I know. 12 weeks of work travel, listing and selling, then moving only to move again in 6 weeks will do that to you. It’s been a complicated 2018.

So, sunchokes. “What, that creepy gnarled thing?! I thought that was just weird looking ginger” you may think to yourself. Next time you see a bin of sunchokes (also called Jerusalem artichokes) at Whole Foods or a farmer’s market, trust me and load up on a couple pounds. I know, they look like the things you plant to grow tulips and not remotely edible. But under the thin brown skin lies the sweet and starchy yet surprisingly vegetal meat of this weirdo tuber, and I’m going to teach you how to eat them. They’re easy to deal with, and will impress the heck out of all of your friends. Soigne hand strong.

Sunchokes can be manipulated into a variety of textures, and cooked in almost any way you can think of. A truly psycho like me might get super inspired and make an entire composed dish made up of different preparations of the vegetable, white cloth farm-to-table style. Here’s a quick list of things you can do with sunchokes:

  • Shave them raw into a salad for a clean and crunchy element
  • Boil them until they can be pierced with a knife, then puree them with some half and half, salt, and butter. Satisfying like mashed potatoes, but infinitely more complex.
  • Boil them until they can easily be pierced with a knife, cool slightly, then smash with the back of a pan. Pan fry in butter and olive oil until the skin is crispy.
  • Boil them until they can easily be pieced with a knife (do I sense a pattern here?) then blend in your Vitamix with chicken broth, roasted garlic and onions, and a splash of half and half. Garnish with chopped parsley and a drizzle of you most expensive olive oil.
  • Cut them into chips with a mandolin and deep fry or roast in the oven or air fryer until they’re crispy. They’d taste dope with creme fraiche and caviar…or canned french onion dip on top if that’s more your pace.
  • Chop about a pound in a food processor with the white part of a leek, an egg, some breadcrumbs, garlic, and parsley. Form into patties and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or so. Pan fry until crispy.
  • Make a hash by shredding sunchokes in a food processor then tossing it in a skillet with some chopped onions. Top with a runny egg and chopped herbs.
  • Cut into even chunks and roast in the oven or air fryer. This is my favorite preparation, since you get to experience both the creamy flesh and crispy skins that make the sunchoke such a treat. In fact, I’ve got a recipe all ready for you!

Roasted Sunchokes with Classic Gremolata

You’ll Need

  • 2 lbs of sunchokes (or however much you picked up)
  • 1 bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • 1/3 of a cup of grated parmigiana. Not the garbage in a green can.
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F (or if you’re living dat air fryer life, retrieve it out of your cabinet and plug that baby in).
  2. Rinse the sunchokes and cut off any dried patches on them. Don’t peel the sunchokes! The skin gives it all its texture. I’m fine with a good rinse under water, but scrub them down with a vegetable brush if that makes you feel better. Cut them in halves or quarters (or leave small ones whole), so they’re all pretty uniform in size–about 1 inch pieces is good.
  3. Toss them in olive oil and a healthy dash of salt. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes or so. When they’re finished, you should be able to pierce through them with a knife, but the texture should be a bit pliable and leathery, if that makes sense. Think of a great roasted carrot–no hard crunchy texture left, but it won’t fall apart the way say, a boiled potato would. Comprende? (Ps, if you’re using an air fryer, roast them at 350 for about 30 minutes, tossing halfway through).
  4. While your sunchokes are roasting, we’ll make the gremolata. Zest your lemon (I know you’re an adult and have a big kid microplane), peel your clove of garlic, grated your parmigiana, chop the bulk of the parsley stems off and discard. From here you can toss the garlic, lemon zest, cheese, and parsley into a food processor and pulse until its minced and all incorporated together. It should look like delicious green confetti, not saucy like a pesto. My food processor is packed up in storage for the next 6 weeks, so lucky me gets to mince everything with a knife.
  5. Serve your sunchokes with the gremolata sprinkled on top. I’m serving this on the side of some simple oven roasted halibut. Cheffy AF with minimal effort. You go Glen Coco!

Remix The Dish: You can follow this exact recipe with baby potatoes or fingerlings–just be sure to roast them long enough! The gremolata would taste delicious over steak, chicken, fish, or any other roasted vegetables. Another good play on this would be to toss the roasted sunchokes with olive tapenade, orange zest, and chopped parsley, or straight up jarred pesto if you don’t want to work that hard.

Why yes, I did have to make Alex an entirely different meal. He tasted a sunchoke though, I’ll give him that.

Mushroom Steel Cut Oat Risotto

This is a dish I’ve had in the back of my mind for years now. I’d read that you could treat some starches other than arborio rice just like you would a risotto–farro, barley, even brunoised (finely diced) potatoes. Alex and I were staying at a hotel in Cancun called Live Aqua, where Michelle Bernstein has a restaurant and featured a savory steel cut oat risotto. I tried it for the first time and loved it. It was rich and cheesy, perfectly paired with melt in your mouth osso bucco and bright pickled fennel.

Last month I went to Empire State South while in Atlanta on a business trip, and Hugh Acheson’s rendition of steel cut oat risotto was truly something special. The umami-rich mushrooms contrasted with bright green basil oil, and an acidic element added depth and tied the whole thing together. This is my attempt to recreate that magic.

You’ll Need

  • 1 container of mushrooms–baby bellas, shiitakes, or something fancier if you have access to them
  • 1 clamshell of dried porcini mushrooms–about 1/3 of a cup
  • 3/4 a cup of steel cut oats
  • 1/2 a cup of white wine
  • Granulated garlic
  • 1/2 a cup of fresh grated good parmiggiano, plus more for garnishing
  • A palmful of chopped tarragon
  • Tarragon, balsamic, or red wine vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Chives for garnish

Method

  1. Start by boiling 3 cups of water, then add the dried porcinis. This will steep and produce a very dark, umami-rich liquid. This will be the flavor base of the dish. Trust.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Rinse the mushrooms really well in a colander, toss with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil, then roast on a sheet pan for about 35-40 minutes, tossing halfway through and checking to make sure the mushrooms don’t dry up too much. The mushrooms should release a lot of their liquid and concentrate in flavor. They’ll taste awesome. Remove and let cool slightly. We’ll use these to top the risotto at the end, so if you want to do this a day in advance, that’s totally cool. I run a very laissez-faire kitchen up in here.
  3. While your mushrooms are roasting, do your prep work–chop your herbs, grate your parmiggiano, measure out your wine, get all of your ingredients out where you can easily access them. Once the cooking process starts, you won’t be able to leave your station for too long. Nuke the porcini mushroom liquid for 2 minutes so it’ll be warm and ready to go.
  4. To start the risotto, get a large flat-bottomed pan (a sauté pan or frying pan that’s a couple inches deep will work well). Drizzle in some olive oil, and heat over medium. Once warm, pour in the steel cut oats and let them toast. Stir the oats constantly and don’t let them burn–this step is over once you can smell their nuttiness, about 30 seconds later. Pour in the white wine and give it a good stir, then turn the heat down to medium low. Add a couple big pinches of salt and a generous pinch of granulated garlic. Stir with a wooden spoon every 15 seconds or so, and let the oats absorb the liquid.
  5. For the next 25 minutes or so, this is your job: splash in 1/4-1/2 a cup of porcini broth into the oats, and stir and stir until the oats absorb much of the liquid. Once the liquid mostly dries up, add some more. Your oats should always be veiled under a thin layer of liquid, and you should stir it constantly to make sure everything cooks evenly, doesn’t burn, and that the excess starches get creamy and delicious. It’s a labor of love, but you’ll be so glad you put in the hustle.
  6. Once all the broth is used up, taste the oats. They should be hearty and toothsome, but not unpleasantly hard. Add warm water and continue cooking if it needs more time. If not, cut the heat and stir in the parmiggiano, tarragon, and a splash of the vinegar. Taste, then add more salt if needed.
  7. To serve, spoon into a wide bowl. Top with the roasted mushrooms, the chives, fresh grated parmiggiano, and a drizzle of good olive oil. Try not to wolf it down too quickly.

Remix The Dish: You can use this same method with chicken, beef, or veggie broth if mushrooms aren’t your thing and still get a crazy delicious meal. Chicken broth topped with roasted asparagus and bright green basil oil with be a super sexy spring dish. Next time, I’m going to double this recipe and eat the leftovers for breakfast with a 7 minute egg.

Mushroom “Cappucino” Soup


Alex and I recently traveled to Playa and stayed at an awesome all inclusive resort called Unico. Guys. This place was clutch! Excursions and spa treatments were included, gorgeous grounds, amazing service, and some of the best resort food I’ve ever had. A stand-out favorite of the week was a delicious mushroom “cappucino,” served in a beautiful glass latte mug at the resort’s upscale Italian restaurant. I’m a sucker for good soup, and this presentation was something I had never seen before.

I’ve cooked my mushroom soup recipe for years now–it’s earthy, creamy, and has this amazing fluffy and velvety texture from it being thickened naturally, making it much lighter than a roux-based soup. The foamed milk adds a fun whimsical element, but if that’s not your scene, just skip it. It’s totally bourgie and over the top, but ya know, so am I.

You’ll Need

  • 5 styrofoam containers of baby bella mushrooms (white button mushrooms are fine too. Whatever is cheaper at your grocery store!)
  • 1/2 a cup of dried porcini mushrooms (This ingredient is actually super important, it’s where all the flavor comes from. At my grocery store, they’re in either the produce or bulk section in a little baggie, ask someone for help. If you can’t find them at the store, they are worth ordering on Amazon, as they impart a ton of flavor and have several other applications. The dried mushrooms in the Asian section of the grocery store would work too, or even a bag of Trader Joe’s frozen porcinis in a pinch)
  • A medium onion
  • 3 cups of chicken broth
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1/2 a cup of half and half
  • Truffle oil (optional. Truffle oil is tricky and can really easily ruin a good dish with its strong perfume-y quality. Only use the good stuff from William Sonoma or somewhere fancy like that–if all you have is the kind from Target, leave it out)
  • About 1/2 a cup of milk, for foaming (optional but necessary for a dramatic presentation)

Method

  1. Pour a cup of hot water in a bowl and add the dried porcinis. Let the mushrooms steep and soften in the water while you work on the next two steps.
  2. Peel and roughly chop the onion. Put the mushrooms in a colander (you’ll probably have to do this in batches) and spray them down with water, swishing them around until the dirt is cleaned off from the mushrooms. This is important, mushrooms alway have soil and grit on them and that is very unpleasant to eat. Rough chop all the mushrooms.
  3. In a large pot, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium heat and sweat the onions for 5-6 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook for 10-15 more minutes over medium heat. The mushrooms will expel a lot of liquid while they cook down.
  4. Add the dried porcinis and the liquid they steeped in, a couple dashes of salt, and half of the chicken broth to your soup pot. Bring the whole thing to a boil, then turn down to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes
  5. Cut the heat, stir in the tarragon, and let the soup cool down for about 10 minutes. Tarragon has a licorice-like flavor that I absolutely LOVE with tomatoes and mushrooms, but if you don’t like the smell, trade it or for mild parsley instead. Transfer half of the soup to a blender, and blend (use a towel to hold the lid down tight) for about a minute, until the soup is smooth. Pour soup into a clean pot, then repeat with the other half of the soup.
  6. Once all the soup is blended, stir in the half and half, and add your reserved chicken broth, a little at a time until the soup is the consistency that you like. Some days I don’t need any reserved broth, some days I need all of it. Mushrooms man, they have a mind of their own. You can always add broth but it’s much more difficult to fix a too-thin soup, so I always try to err on the side of starting with a conservative amount of liquid. Taste for seasoning, adding salt if you need it.
  7. Use a latte machine to foam your milk. If you don’t have one, warm up the milk for 30 seconds or so in the microwave, then put it in a clean blender and whip for about 30 seconds.
  8. To serve, pour soup in bowls and drizzle with a little bit of truffle oil, a couple tarragon leaves, and the foam spooned on top. Another dramatic presentation is to serve the soup in pretty mugs with a generous helping of foam on top, like they did at Unico. Just ya know, warn people of what they’re about to consume first 🙂

Remix The Dish: I always have dried porcinis on hand because they make a clutch steak rub–blend them in a spice grinder with peppercorns, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, kosher salt, and a dash of sugar. Instead of foamed milk, fresh whipped cream (no sugar, duh) would be fun too. Or you could just garnish with some creme fraiche….you basic bitch.

Aglio e Olio–Lightened Up!


If you haven’t seen the movie Chef, drop what you’re doing and catch it on Netflix STAT. It is definitely in my top 10 all time favorites films, Jon Favreau’s passion project which he wrote, directed, and starred in. Chef is a redemption tale of a man trying to reclaim his voice in the kitchen, and finds his way back to his family in the process.

It’s a road movie filled with plenty of funny and charming moments, but (as I’m sure you can guess) the food is just to die for. Jon Favreau manages to capture the heart behind food, whether it’s whipping up gourmet grilled cheese for a child you love, the creative process that happens in the kitchen, the sensuality of feeding your partner on a sexy date night, or going back to an old recipe from the happiest time in your life. One of the food-porniest moments of the film happens when Jon Favreau makes a skillet full of Aglio e Olio (pasta with olive oil and garlic) for Scarlett Johansson, and holy hell so they make it look delicious. (Trust me, this movie clip is everything).

Celeb chef (and you know, The Godfather of modern day food trucks) Roy Choi wrote all the recipes for this movie, and let’s just say the one for his Aglio e Olio is…indulgent. Like, an entire cup of olive oil kind of generous. Considering it’s a Tuesday night, that kind of richness just isn’t going to fly. My trick is to stretch the olive oil by incorporating the starchy water that the pasta boiled in–it thickens up into a light sauce that evenly coats every noodle. Have it ready on your kitchen table in 20 minutes flat.

You’ll Need

  • About 1/2 a package of pasta (any kind will do but there’s something extra satisfying about slurping angel hair or linguini. Today, I used orrichiette!)
  • 2 tablespoons of good olive oil
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, sliced as thin as you can. Like razor-blade-Goodfellas thin.
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon (be sure to zest it first, duh!!
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 fists full of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 4 cups of greens, rough chopped (optional, but a great way to  sneak some good nutrition and fiber into this indulgent dish. I used pea tendrils because that’s what I picked up at the farmer’s market, but spinach, arugula, or Swiss chard is good)
  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan or pecorino
  • A handful of breadcrumbs (optional, but adds a nice textural element. Don’t use the gross bread crumbs that come from the aisle in a grocery store either–toast up a couple slices of French bread or some rolls, or bust out some crostinis and crunch them up with your fingers)

Method

  1. Cook your pasta in salted water according to the instructions on the package, by subtract a minute from the shortest suggested cooking time. You want this pasta al dente…mushy noodles are gross. Plus, it’s going to cook again in a skillet later, and you don’t want them to overcook.
  2. While waiting on your pasta to cook, slice up your garlic, chop your parsley and greens, and zest your lemon.
  3. Before draining your pasta, pour 1/2-3/4s of a cup of the starchy pasta water into a heat-proof measuring cup or a bowl. Dump the pasta into a colander.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a skillet on medium heat, and add the garlic slices and red pepper flakes. Let cook until aromatic but not scorched, about 3 minutes. Keep an eye on it!! As soon as you see the edges of the garlic start to brown, add the pasta water. Let the sauce boil and thicken for about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the pasta, greens, parsley, and a dash of salt in the skillet, and toss until the greens have softened. Add the lemon juice and cheese, and toss again, tasting to see if it needs more salt or red pepper.
  6. Serve garnished with bread crumbs. Delish!!

Remix The Dish: this pasta is pretty much a blank canvas, so toss it with anything you have in your fridge. Leftover chicken, steak,  or shrimp, roasted veggies, or leftover diced crudité would all taste great.

Super Easy Fruit Galettes


I love a good dessert, but if I’m going to expend the calories it better be a DAMN good dessert. No donuts or office birthday cake for me. Gotta be something clutch. 

I made these galettes last week while my book club girlfrans drank wine and gathered around my kitchen island. A galette is basically a free form pie, which effectively solves the crust-to-filling ratio problem we all bemoan. It was an easy dessert that looks disproportionately gorgeous compared to how fast it comes together. Seriously, if you use fruits that don’t require prep (raspberries, blueberries, or blackberries) it’ll be ready to bake in 3 minutes. This is also one of those recipes that’s great if you have a bunch of fruit that’s passed its prime. The pie application will give them new life!

Borrow one from Sandra Lee’s book and pick up a pre-made pie crust from the refrigerator section of the grocery store. I’ve included a recipe for insanely delicious whipped goat cheese, but no shame in using a tub of Cool Whip or a scoop of Bluebell. This is about getting maximum impact while expending minimal energy. I have lots of gatherings the rest of this 4th of July weekend, so I plan on making about 8 more of these in the next few days.

(Recipe makes 2 galettes. Each galette serves 4 non-dieting people).

You’ll Need

  • 1 package of pre-made pie crusts (should include 2 crusts in the pack. Buy the kind in a flat box, not the ones in a pie crust). 
  • 4 heaping cups of fresh or thawed frozen fruit. Strawberries, blueberries, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, peaches, or a combo (highly recommended) will be good
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 egg
  • 4 oz of plain or honey goat cheese, set out for an hour or so, so it’s room temperature
  • 3/4 a cup of heavy cream
  • Fresh mint (optional)

Method

  1. Thaw pie crusts if they’re frozen. Unroll on a lightly floured surface.
  2. If your chosen fruit needs prep work, go ahead an hull strawberries and cut into fourths, rinse berries, sliced peaches into 1 inch pieces, or de-pit cherries. I didn’t have a cherry pitter so I did a whole pint by hand. It was super fun. Put the fruit in a mixing bowl and toss with the sugar, cornstarch, and a pinch of salt.
  3. Divide the fruit mixture in two and plop them in the middle of each of the pie crusts. Some of the powdery mixture will be leftover in the mixing bowl, which is totally fine. Take the edges of the pie crust and gently fold them over each other going in one direction, so it makes kinda a pinwheel with about half of the berries’ total surface area covered. This is supposed to look super rustic, so just go it! No need for do overs.
  4. Beat an egg with a splash of water and brush over the top surface of the pie dough with a brush. If you don’t have a brush, be ratchet and gently drizzle and rub it on with your fingers. You don’t want to skip this step, trust me, your pies will come out all pale and pasty looking. Not great. Bake at 425 degrees F for 25 minutes.
  5. While the pie bakes, whip the goat cheese, heavy cream, and a pinch of salt in your fancy pants Kitchen Aid mixer (or use a hand mixer. If all you have is a whisk I guess you’re fucked). It should be soft and luscious but not super airy, kinda like Cool Whip, and taste like the most delicious thing you’be ever tasted. You can use this goat cheese crema in a million different applications–its light tang tastes amazing with sweet berries, but it would taste amazing in savory dishes like beet salad, on a baked potato, dolloped over a soup, or with any roasted veggie you can think of.
  6. Cut the pies in quarters and serve with the crema and mint leaves for garnish.

*Note: when you bake, it’s almost guaranteed that some of the berry juice will overflow, jacking with the instagram-worthiness of your final product. This my friends is why mint sprigs are you BFFs. Artfully cover them up and you’re good to go.

Remix The Dish: this would be so clutch if you omit the sugar and use cherry tomatoes or carmelized onions as the filling instead. Garnish with basil!

Girl and the Goat Roasted Cauliflower, and a little chat about flavors

I had the pleasure of visiting Girl and The Goat one week after the chef/owner Stephanie Izard won Iron Chef Gauntlet. That’s right, the first person to win Top Chef and become an Iron Chef is a woman, and her food is just as stunning as you’d expect.

We went family style and tried everything from goat belly to escargot ravioli to “pig face” to the most delicious shishitos I’ve ever tasted, covered in a crunchy layer of sesame and parmesan cheese. Stephanie is ballsy AF and understands how flavors work together.

When it comes to cooking on the fly, the most valuable skill you can possess is understanding what each component brings to the party. Knowing what an ingredient is supposed to accomplish empowers you to substitute with what you have at hand. Here are the flavor profiles we’re looking at in this dish:

Roasted Cauliflower = earthy, vegetal, soft

Parmesean = salty, umami, rich

Mint = fresh

Roasted Nuts = crunch

Pepperocini = acid, brightness, heat

Next time you take a bite of a dish with several components, think about how they all play off each other–how the sweet meat of a burger plays against a soft and buttery bun, crunchy lettuce, and tangy pickles, or how funky blue cheese works with fresh iceberg, salty bacon, and sweet tomatoes. A great plate combines several different flavors and textures, and this week I challenge you to contemplate this as you eat.

You’ll Need

  • A head of cauliflower (or be lazy and buy one pre-cut from the salad section, no judgement here)
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • A handful of mint, chopped (can sub flat-leaf parsley or any leafy green herb)
  • 1/4 cup of roasted almonds (can sub whatever you have in the house–walnuts, pistachios, or even peanuts would accomplish the same thing. Stephanie used roasted pine nuts! Seeds or even crushed croutons work too)
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup of shredded or grated Parmesan cheese (pecorino, manchego, or and hard and flavorful cheese would work fine)
  • Pepperocini rings (banana peppers, peppadews, jalapenos, or any spicy pickled pepper would work great)

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees F. Break the cauliflower down into 1-2 inch chunks. If you’ve never cut up a cauliflower before, I promise it’s way less scary then you’d think. They’re significantly softer than a spaghetti squash or even a cabbage, so no need to say your hail marys or feel like your fingers are living on borrowed time. I like to slice the thing into 4 big pieces then gently separate the florets from the leaves and thick center, using my hands or a small knife. The leaves and stem are edible (and delicious), but that’s for another post.
  2. Toss the cauliflower with about a couple good glugs of olive oil and a few big pinches of salt. Place on a baking sheet (cut side down for maximum browning) and roast until tender, 20-25 minutes. TIP CITY: when roasting veggies, in addition to tossing in olive oil, I also like to hit the baking pan with some Pam spray, as well as spritz the tops of the veg with it before popping it in the oven. Oil promotes browning, and browning = flavortown.
  3. While the veg roasts, rough chop the nuts and the mint. Have some ziploc baggies handy for the leftovers–the nuts and mint would taste awesome tossed with berries, sprinkled over a salad, or mashed into some goat or cream cheese.
  4. Remove cauliflower and toss in a serving bowl with the parmesan. Taste for seasoning, and add more cheese or a little more salt if necessary. (If your nuts are salted, keep this in mind! Nothing shuts down a party like too much seasoning). Sprinkle the mint and nuts on top. Finish by garnishing with the pepperocini.

Remix The Dish: try this cauliflower with peppadews and manchego cheese for a Spanish take, or use basil or cilantro, peanuts, pickled jalapeño, and omit the cheese for a Thai spin.