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Patatas Carbonara

Last night I dined Grace, the most anticipated restaurant opening of the year in Chicago.  It was an incredible high-level meal of finesse and balance.  Chef Duffy prepares for guests clean flavors with minimal fats and dairy, just as he would for himself.  This dish is the antithesis of last night and Chef Duffy's ideals.  If you wake up feeling good in the morning, don't make this dish.  If you wake up with a hangover, e-mail this to a friend and have them make it for you.

The idea of making a potato carbonara came to me the first time I made spaghetti alla carbonara.  It's a soul satisfying combination of cheese, bacon, and egg -- all of which play wonderfully with the humble potato.  Unfortunately, there's a lot of awful carbonara out there, despite its simplicity.  

The trick to making a simple dish really good, is to use really good ingredients.  If you have the finest Idahoan, a wonderful slab of guanciale, the freshest of farm eggs, and then add pre-shredded parmesan cheese from a green cylinder, your dish can't do any better than 75%, a 'C.'  A 'C' as in, your guests will be left wondering what the dish Could have been.  Similarly, a poor substitution not only brings zero points, but can take away from the dish.  So if you have the finest Idahoan, the freshest of farm eggs, the most exquisitely aged, salty parmesan, and then substitute tofu or turkey bacon for the protein, the dish sinks to 50%, an 'F.'  An 'F' as in, you Fucked up.

The first step is to prepare the sauce.  Create lardons out of a couple ounces of bacon in a couple tablespoons of butter.  Remove the bacon from the pan, and leave on a paper towel to drain.  Use the pan drippings to make garlic chips, from 1 large or 2 small cloves.  I like to tilt the pan during this process, as a way to do a mock shallow fry of the chips.  Don't brown them too much, or you'll get a 'B.'  A 'B' as in, really Bitter.  Put the garlic chips aside on a paper towel.

Next, dice some fingerling potatoes into coins, and place as many as you can flat-side down in the pan, which is now home to some amazing garlicky butter-bacon drippings.  Put this in a 400 Dg oven, for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are properly browned.  Flip them over, and put in for another 20 minutes, or until you deem them done.

Toss the hot potatoes with pepper, the bacon, garlic chips, a beaten egg, and 1/4 cup [sum] of Parmesan and romano cheeses.  Mix in another 1/4 [sum] of the cheeses (mixing too much cheese at once can yield undesirable results).  If you're a lush for lactose, finish the dish with another snowfall of Parmesan.

Other Stash Notes:

The recommended beverage pairing is determined by when the dish is served.  If you're making this in the morning to aid a dehydrated loved one in bed, pair it with an extra pulpy screwdriver.  If it's really late at night, pair with a pickleback, since you'll probably already have one handy anyway.

If you're a vegetarian, omit the pork and garlic chips, and finish the dish with shaved truffle at the end.  Since the dish won't be a carbonara anymore, you'll have to rename it 'A Big Plate of Happiness.'



One of the easiest ways to tell that summer is leaving is to look around, and you'll probably see a bunch of sick people.  Or you could be like me, and look in the mirror to see a single sick person.  This weekend I devised the perfect cure-all to accompany your drug cocktail of choice.

When figuring out what to make, my first requirement was that I wouldn't have to leave the house, and that it wouldn't be labor intensive.  Rummaging through my freezer I found a huge smoked ham hock, and immediately knew that soup was going to be the main course.  Dried split peas in the pantry followed, and the last thing I had to make sure of was that the couch be ready for me.

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Smoked Baba Ganoush

A couple months ago I was fortunate enough to dine [again] at one of the top restaurants in the country, Townhouse, in Chilhowie, VA.  One of my favorite dishes of the night, aside from the incredulous turbot chicharrone, was a barbequed eggplant.  It was a very unassuming dish, but full of flavor, and put the idea in my head that smoke, and char, and barbeque, and all those good things belong with eggplant. 

Baba Ganoush is one of my favorite eggplant dishes, so it didn't take long for my mind to arrive at the idea of smoking it.  After all, the eggplant is supposed to be cooked over an open flame to get a smoky flavor, so why not just smoke it to begin with?

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Abandon Strudel

I had my choice of poison when asked to prepare a dish for a friend's annual Oktoberfest party.  Hand stuffing 30 lbs of sausage didn't sound like a great time, so I thought I'd take the easy way out by making a strudel from scratch.  The morning of the event I found out just how silly this notion was, and won't be posting the recipe as a result.  There has to be a better approach and recipe out there, but this is what I've learned so far.  

Strudel is an ancient Austrian pastry most commonly filled with apples, making Fall a great time to eat it.  The key is to make a very elastic dough that can be stretched so thin a love letter can be read through it (I must assume all Austrian love letters are written in a size 100 bold font).  Onto the process.

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Red Redemption

Last time, I made lamb neck rillettes that I tried to model after merguez sausage.  While the product was good, it wasn't as I intended it to be, oozing red goodness.  In hindsight, folding in harissa would have been a good idea, but I've been too eager to try my next idea, which is chorizo rillettes.  It sounds scary, but I really want to make a red, eye-catching product of infinite desirableness.

To achieve the color, I decided to develop the same kind of chile paste that is used for fresh, Mexican chorizo sausage.  Don't let the dried chiles be intimidating, they're already dead.

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