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I’ve had my share of cooking mishaps over the years, especially when I was first starting out in the kitchen. A certain “tutto mare” made with mostly bottled clam juice comes to mind (it did not taste pleasantly like the sea as I’d intended); as does the time the pork chops went from oven-fried to oven-dried when I forgot to hit the start button on the kitchen timer. But every once in a while, our kitchen mistakes become some of our tastiest, most treasured dishes; and this pasta might just be my favorite time I flopped myself into the winners circle.
I was just getting started in the kitchen and I already had a few Pinterest fails under my belt, I don’t mind telling you. I was, however, determined to get this creamy shrimp pasta I’d read about on the table successfully. That is, until I looked in my grocery bag and realized I’d managed to buy the spicy tomatoes with green chiles included instead of the plain ones called for in the recipe I’d set my heart on. There was no way I’d have time to make it back to the store. I thought the dish was ruined before I’d so much as boiled the water for the pasta.
But I tell you, it was delicious. Like, above average delicious. The heat from the green chiles made the sauce interesting, gave it an earthiness that you wouldn’t get from adding something more traditional, like red chili flakes. I could feel my Figurative Italian Nonna weeping in the corner, but as I ate I realized a couple of things: that I would be making this again and again, and that next time I would make sure not to forget the green chiles — Italian street cred be damned.
Capellini with Shrimp in Spicy Tomato Cream
1 lb dried capellini
1 lb frozen shrimp, medium sized (size 20-25 or 16-20), thawed and peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup white wine
2 10 oz cans diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
Place a large, high sided saute pan over medium high heat. Add the oil and heat another minute or so. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute, stirring constantly. Carefully add the white wine and reduce by half (it will spatter, so take care). Once it’s reduced, add the tomatoes and the cream. Season with salt and pepper and bring up to a simmer. Add the shrimp and poach in the sauce while the pasta cooks.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add a few tablespoons of salt. Add the capellini and cook 5 minutes, until just shy of al dente. Using tongs, transfer the pasta directly from the water to the saucepan, allowing some of the pasta water to transfer also (the starches in the pasta water will help tighten up our sauce). Once all the pasta is added, stir vigorously to combine. Finish with the parsley.
Serves 4-5 as a main course
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While I’m always fascinated by the culinary traditions that are specific to different regions of the U.S., I find that I don’t often revisit my own. I was raised in St. Louis, which has a great (and in my opinion, underrated) restaurant scene, and a rich history of culinary peccadillos. I think the most recognized of these would be toasted ravioli (meat-filled ravioli breaded and fried, served with marinara for dipping) and what we simply call “pork steaks” (a bone-in pork shoulder sliced into steaks, usually grilled and mopped with BBQ sauce). And while those are delicious to some and strange sounding to others; the real gem of the Gateway City seems to have originated when a well meaning St. Louis baker, while attempting to bake a coffee cake, mistakenly inverted the amounts of butter and flour in the recipe. The result is a quite a culinary (and coronary) experience, so plug in your pacemakers because here we go…
While I’ve had the original gooey butter cake many times (I’m telling you, even one slice and you feel in danger of slipping into a diabetic coma), I think the cookie version is superior. Less intense, more reasonably sized for a single serving of something so rich. I’ve divided the recipe in half and re-worked it to produce two flavors of the same cookie — classic original and a chocolate version. If one flavor isn’t your thing, the recipes fit back together easily.
Now, I’m not going to lie to you — this is not a one bowl affair. But I’ve worked the steps so that we’re using the least amount of dishes possible, I promise. To that end, don’t wash any bowls until you’ve got both doughs resting in the fridge. We’re recycling them through the recipe as much as possible, so you’ll probably need it again. Your dishwasher (whether that’s you or a machine) will thank me.
I know we’ve been talking cookies a lot this month, but it can’t be helped. ‘Tis the season and all. Feel free to fill those Christmas cookie tins with chocolate chip cookies with sea salt or dark chocolate crispy swirls, but I think these deserve a demo in your kitchen sometime. Because texturally, these cookies are just awesome. They seem barely held together by enough flour to be reasonably called a cookie, but hold they do. That is, until you bite into one and the gooey center takes over and you see the truth — that these things are impossibly delicious.
Gooey Butter Cake Cookies, 2 ways
Adapted from Dessert for Two and Taste of Home
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 ½ cups granulated sugar (294 g)
2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour (210 g)
¼ cup cocoa powder (28 g)
2 tablespoons nonfat milk powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup powdered sugar
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line 2 sheet trays with foil, parchment or a silpat. If using foil or parchment spray with a nonstick spray.
In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter and cream cheese and beat (with either electric beaters or the paddle attachment of your stand mixer) until well combined and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl, add the sugar, increase the speed and continue to beat for 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl again, add the eggs and egg yolks and beat on low until well combined.
This is the point where the recipes converge and we build the separate flavors:
With a rubber spatula, remove the wet mixture and place it in two separate containers of the same size. Try to be as exact as you can (this is much easier if the containers are identical. You could also weigh the batter for this step before you divide it). Do not wash the bowl, but set it aside.
In a smaller bowl, combine 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 cup of the flour (120 g), 1 tablespoon milk powder, and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Whisk to combine. Pull the large bowl back out and add one of the wet mix containers, making sure to scrape extra well. Set the mixer on low speed and add the dry mix in 3 additions, letting the previous addition fully incorporate before you add the next one. Once the dough comes together, add the dough back to the bowl you used to combine the dry ingredients for that batch (we’re using that large bowl one more time, don’t wash it!). Cover with plastic wrap and chill for no less than one hour.
In another smaller bowl, combine 1 teaspoon of the baking powder, ¾ cup of the flour (90 g), all of the cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon of the milk powder and ¼ teaspoon of the salt. Whisk to combine. Return the larger bowl to the mixer one more time. With the mixer still running on low, gradually add the dry ingredients in three additions as before. Beat until just combined and no streaks of dry ingredients remain. Add the finished dough to the bowl used for the chocolate dry ingredients and cover with plastic wrap. Place the dough in the fridge to chill for no less than 1 hour.
Place the powdered sugar in a shallow dish. Scoop the plain gooey butter mixture, using either a tablespoon measure or a size 40 scoop to measure out the dough, roll each into a ball with your hands (It helps to dust your hands with powdered sugar to prevent sticking). Place the ball of dough in the bowl of powdered sugar and roll it around gently until it’s completely covered in sugar before placing it on the baking sheet. Repeat until you’ve scooped all of the regular dough. Repeat the scooping process with the chocolate gooey butter dough, making sure it’s plenty cold from the fridge before you slide them into the oven. Chill further in the fridge on the sheet pans after you scoop if necessary. Bake for 5 minutes, then rotate the pans: front to back and side to side. Bake for an additional 6 minutes, then set aside to cool on the pans.
Makes about 24 cookies, a dozen of each flavor
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Is there anything more comforting than a homemade chocolate chip cookie? Every time I make them I can’t help but remember getting so excited for them to come out of the oven as a little kid — peering over at them while they cooled on the counter; knowing they were too soft to eat yet and would surely crumble in my hands and burn my little fingers.
But I’m a firm believer that it is totally appropriate to spin your childhood faves in order to suit your now more mature palate. Some may cry sacrilege, but I cry progress! I cry innovation! I cry milk powder and flaky sea salt!
Okay, I hear you — what the hell is milk powder and why do I have the sinking feeling you’re putting it in the cookies. I know, it sounds…strange. But milk powder is one of the secrets of professional bakers — it adds a wonderfully subtle toasty milk flavor to all sorts of baked goods, but it also provides chewiness when you add it to cookies. And what could be wrong with that when our mission is chocolate chip cookies? Absolutely nothing, says Christina Tosi. And I agree with her wholeheartedly.
You may know Tosi from TV these days, but she’s always been the bad-ass baker behind Milk Bar; and her second cookbook, Milk Bar Life, features her take on a more casual chocolate chip cookie. We’ll be taking the lead from this recipe for the base of our cookie, but incorporating a method for achieving a more complex flavor in the final result: drastically cutting down the amount of salt in the cookie dough (if not leaving it out entirely) in favor of hitting the top of the unbaked cookies with sea salt before sliding them into the oven. The result is not your grandmother’s chocolate chip cookie, but she seems like a cool lady and I think she’d approve all the same.
Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt
Adapted from Milk Bar Life
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 ¼ cups light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons nonfat milk powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 12 oz bag semisweet chocolate chips
Flaky sea salt, for topping the cookies
Preheat your oven to 375°F. In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl with electric beaters), cream together the butter and sugars for about 3 minutes, until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.
Add the flour, milk powder, salt, baking powder and baking soda and stir until just combined. Add the chocolate chips and stir until evenly combined.
Line 2 baking sheets with a sil-pat if you have one, or foil if you don’t. Scoop the cookies in 1.5 tablespoon amounts (or a size 40 scoop) a few inches apart on the baking sheet. Before placing the pans in the oven, place a few grains of sea salt on top of each cookie dough round. Bake for 5 minutes, then rotate the pans: up and down and side to side. Bake another 5-6 minutes, or until just golden brown on the edges. Place the pans on wire racks to cool completely.
Makes about 18 cookies
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