Carbonara in the Clouds

On a recent vacation to Lake Tahoe with our friends the Heins and the Pfaffs, I planned a post-ski carbonara — a perfect simple pasta to feed a large group.

For some reason, the pasta never got made — perhaps it was the Flintstone-esque beef short ribs or the opening of Dungeness crab season that distracted us, or the mellow lull of the tequila that met us first.

Through the Mojave Desert on the road to Tahoe

Through the Mojave Desert on the road to Tahoe

So the eggs, guanciale, parmesan and spaghetti that made the 8-hour drive into the high Sierras turned around and came back home again. And made the perfect post-ski-trip dinner when we got back. Just as well, pasta is a little tricky to nail at 8,000 feet.

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Crispy Shrimp Risotto Fake Out

I’m a big believer in the ol’ saying, “If life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.” I often spring it on my children when something hasn’t gone the way they were hoping, and they roll their eyes at me.

One lemon that life keeps giving me over and over again is burnt rice. About one out of every three times I make sushi rice, I space out and forget to turn it off and it burns.

Crispy shrimp risotto fake out

Crispy shrimp risotto fake out

If it isn’t too burned, I’m able to salvage most of the rice and it has a nice woodsy nutty smoked taste that works well with sushi. Also if it’s not too burned, the “burnt” part comes off with a wrist twist of the spatula in crusty golden brown strips. If you put it in a 200 degree oven for 40 or so minutes, it dries out and becomes the hard stuff the Chinese fry to drop into sizzling rice. More

Who You Callin’ “Lardo”!??

In one of my fancy meat shipments several months back, I received three large packages of hazelnut-fed pork fatback from some folks called Tails & Trotters in the Northwest.

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I couldn’t remember if I actually ordered them or not, my purveyor friend sometimes throws in bonus items I didn’t order.

Fatback, for those not in the know, contains very little to no meat. It other words, it’s pure fat. Silky, white, glorious fat. More

The Beautiful Simplicity of Simplicity

I was making lunch for my wife and myself the other day, and had settled on a simple pasta. I had a nice heirloom pineapple tomato I needed to use, and would go from there.

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Ciriole di farro pasta with heirloom tomato

In the cupboard, I found an open box of ciriole di farro noodles (farro, for the uninitiated, is an ancient Roman grain related to barley) that would work beautifully as a canvas. More

The Rut

Even the best cooks get into ruts.

Tomato saffron scampi with polenta and sautéed Tuscan kale

Tomato saffron scampi with polenta and sautéed Tuscan kale

For all the diversity in my weekly menus, I often find myself bored with my cooking. What sounds like an unimaginably exciting and exotic week of dinners to most — for example:  Venetian cecchiti with hand-tossed pizza on Monday, sushi and tempura on Tuesday, Wednesday queso fundido and Mexico City-style tacos, Thursday tea-smoked duck and lo mien, and so on — can seem like “same old, same old” to me. More

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