Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Recipe: Pasta Carbonara With Peas

Pasta Carbonara prepared over an open fire

For you purists out there, this recipe is NOT an official pasta carbonara dish. I didn't add egg yolks.

When writing up this recipe I looked up pasta carbonara for clarification... and according to my friends over at Wikipedia: "...all agree that cheese, egg yolks, cured fatty pork, and black pepper are basic."

Instead of egg yolks, I made a quick pan white sauce... and I wasn't sorry. This recipe turned out so utterly tasty, and was so easy (even over an open fire), that it's tough to justify changing it. You could easily substitute 3 egg yolks for the milk, flour, and butter if it's important to you.

To be clear: I have nothing against adding egg yolks. I even had eggs with me when I created this recipe. But I opted not to use them.

You see, we were camped in the Valley of Fire in Nevada, and true to form, I was cooking over an open fire. I decided that a variation of white sauce would be more stable than the whole partially-coagulated egg yolk trick.

Before we get started... if you happen to find yourself north of Las Vegas on Interstate 15, I highly recommend camping out in the Valley of Fire. It's a hidden gem that's only 20 minutes from I-15, but is a little slice of red rock heaven. It calls to mind what Ed Abbey's Arches National Park of the 1960's must have been like before Industrial Tourism got to it.

Here's a picture:

Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park

Now, back to the recipe.


  • 4 ounces chopped bacon
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour (I use Bob's Red Mill gluten free)
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup peas (frozen is fine)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
  • Salt to taste
  • 14 ounces fettuccine (I use Tinkyada gluten free)

Boil water for your pasta. The pasta water should be well-salted (it should taste like a too-salty soup).

Once you've added your pasta to the boiling water, begin making the sauce by heating a large cast iron skillet on medium heat (or over a really low fire if cooking over open flame).

Once the pan is hot (just beginning to smoke) Add the chopped bacon, and saute for 5 minutes stirring every minute or so.

After 5 minutes, add the sliced onion. Cook the onion for another 5-7 minutes until well-caramelized, again stirring often to avoid burning.

When the onions are golden brown, add the black pepper, and then add the butter.

Melt the butter, and then add the flour and stir things around to combine. Next, add the milk and again stir everything around to create a thick white sauce. Add the peas. Taste your sauce! You almost certainly need to add some salt.

Add the cooked pasta and stir everything around to coat the noodles.

Take a fork, twirl up some pasta with sauce and other goodies, and taste your pasta before serving it! You very likely need to add pepper and salt.

Once you've adjusted the seasonings, serve your pasta immediately. It goes great with a beautiful sunset served over red-rock desert, crisp sandstone arches, and a healthy serving of silence. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

May your mirepoix be festive, and whatever you make with it be tasty!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Recipe: Ranch-Style Cole Slaw

According to Wikipedia, ranch dressing was first served by Steve and Gayle Henson in 1954, at their newly opened dude ranch near Santa Barbara, CA. Amazingly, the place was actually called the Hidden Valley Ranch. Steve had apparently developed his ranch dressing recipe in Alaska.

Coincidentally, I learned to make cole slaw in Alaska. Despite popular perceptions, Alaska gets plenty warm in the summer (warmer every year, actually, but don't get me started). At the adventure lodge where I worked, we served a lunch of chili, corn bread, and cole slaw to several hundred people each week. The cole slaw we made was flavored with a touch of citrus, and some powdered ranch dressing mix. The ranch flavoring added something subtle and amazing to the cole slaw... and I don't think I ever served it without several people asking for the recipe (as well as the corn bread and chili recipes!).

But I never liked using the ranch dressing packets. It seemed kind of cheesy and unauthentic. Since I'm always on the lookout for ways to avoid processed foods and hidden gluten-filled ingredients, I began looking into what, exactly, made up the uniquely addicting flavor of ranch dressing.

While there are lots of opinions (and few authorities) on the matter, my research and tastebuds led me to three key seasonings that are essential to ranch flavor:

  • basil
  • garlic
  • black pepper

For ranch-style cole slaw, I find that a little citrus flavor makes for a wonderful tang, and including carrots along with your cabbage provides some sweetness to complement the requisite salt.

This recipe serves 6.


  • 1/2 red cabbage (or 1/4 green cabbage and 1/4 red cabbage)
  • 2 medium carrots, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon orange juice (or apple or cranberry)
  • 1/3 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 large basil leaves, sliced thin (chiffonade).
  • juice from a small lemon wedge

Slice up your cabbage. Peel the outside leaves off, and then cut the cabbage head in half from the top down. Cut each half into another half (making quarters), again by slicing from the top of the cabbage head down through the stem.

Once you have quarters, it's a simple matter to remove the stem from each section. Turn quarters so the rounded outside surface is facing you, and slice the cabbage thinly into 1/8 inch strips.

NOTE: If you're not multiplying this recipe, stick the unused cabbage quarters into a Ziploc, and store them in the fridge for up to two weeks. If you are multiplying this recipe and need at least two heads of cabbage to do so, I recommend using both red and green cabbage for more visual interest.

Peel and grate your carrots. You can use a regular old hand grater, or a food processor if you're making a bunch.

Toss your cabbage and carrots together, and add in the mayonnaise, pepper, garlic, orange juice, and salt. Mix thoroughly, and then chiffonade your basil and add it with a squirt of lemon juice. Mix things around.

Taste your cole slaw to make sure all is well. It should burst with flavor, and make your mouth water for more. If it doesn't, add small bits of lemon juice, salt, and orange juice until it does.

Serve immediately!