A Tale of Two Lasagnas

Hi, so we’re going to Provincetown next week and I’ll be off the grid and I wanted to leave you with one more post before I go. Here’s one about two lasagnas.

Our friend and neighbor Kyle had a birthday last week and I offered to cook him a dinner. I could tell he was excited about the idea of a meat lasagna, but one of the guests didn’t eat pork, so I had two options: 1. Disappoint Kyle and make a big vegetarian lasagna (no meat!); or 2. Make TWO lasagnas, one meat, one vegetarian. I’m thinking, by the title of this post, you’ve already figured out which path I chose…

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Pork Belly and Smoked Sausage Cassoulet

The last time (and only time) I’ve ever made cassoulet, it was a bit of a Noah’s Ark affair. There was duck, there was sausage, there was bacon. My cup, quite literally, was runneth over with meat and beans. Cassoulet is meant to be a hefty dish and, as a general rule, the bigger your cooking vessel, the better off you’ll be. This time around, I thought I was in good shape making Donald Link’s Pork Belly and Smoked Sausage Cassoulet from his Down South cookbook. There were only two meats to worry about, pork belly and smoked sausage, and only one pound of dried white beans. This time I’d have my cassoulet under control.

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Love Is Like A Frito Pie

I had some very special guests coming over this past Wednesday and so I spent the weekend before that trying to figure out what to make. My first destination was the top shelf of my cookbook collection, where, as you now know, I keep the books I’m most excited to cook from these days. The book that I reached for was Nancy Silverton’s Mozza at Home which, I’ve come to believe, is Nancy Silverton’s best cookbook.

I own all of Nancy’s books–from her iconic Breads from the La Brea Bakery to The Food of Campanile (which she wrote with her then-husband, Mark Peel)–but this one is really geared towards the home cook, much more so than the others. Sure, it’s nice to know how she makes her sourdough bread (and I made that recipe once from Breads from the La Brea Bakery, almost a decade ago, creating a wild yeast starter with grapes and flour and water in an open Tupperware container… my roommate Lauren wasn’t thrilled), but it’s even better to know how she feeds her actual friends who are coming over for dinner. And as I flipped through the pages, I suddenly found my answer in the least likely recipe you’d ever expect to find in a Nancy Silverton cookbook: her version of Dean Fearing’s Frito Pie.

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Mac and Cheese with Chorizo, Cotija and Aged English Cheddar

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Every time I make a mac and cheese I declare it the best I’ve ever made. There’s a reason for that. I grew up hating mac and cheese (also lasagna) because my dad hated cheese. So if a friend’s mom made it for dinner, I’d move it around on my plate and feign a sudden bout of appendicitis. It wasn’t until I got older and started eating cheese with my cheese-loving friends that I came back around to mac. As I started making it myself, and understood what it really was–a white sauce with lots of cheese melted into it, spread over noodles and baked–I could appreciate it as a way to put obscene amounts of cheese on a plate and call it dinner. I’ve made many an obscene mac and cheese since then (one with three cups of cream, one with blue cheese, Gruyere and cheddar) but the most obscene–and delicious–of all may be the one I just made from my friend Garrett McCord’s new cookbook Melt. It’s a mac and cheese for the ages.

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Baked Ziti

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We all need a good baked ziti recipe, don’t we? Well here it is. I was looking for something like this to serve up for Episode #3 of The Clean Plate Club. Pasta being my favorite food, I wanted to serve pasta without having to be in the kitchen the whole time, boiling, straining, stirring, etc. Baked ziti is the perfect solution. You make your pasta earlier in the day, cook it al dente, toss it with a flavorful sauce (more on that in a sec) then layer it in a baking dish with lots and lots of cheese. Boom: you’re done. All you have to do is pop it in the oven.

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Cheese Enchiladas with Chile Con Carne

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Enchiladas have come into my life in a big way. It started when Craig talked about his mom’s enchiladas in the first episode of The Clean Plate Club. That inspired his mom, a week later, to make her famous enchiladas for dinner when we were all up in Bellingham. Her recipe is hand-written on an old, barely intact index card; bacon drippings are involved (though, in a pinch, she uses butter). Here’s a picture of the card.

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Mac with Cheddar, Gruyere & Blue Cheese

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Funny, I was running on a treadmill when this wonderful gut-bomb of a recipe came into my life. Naturally, I was watching The Barefoot Contessa and she was planning a romantic weekend with Jeffrey, prepping the meal ahead so they could spend the day at Sag Harbor and have a montage of Ina laughing (what a laugh!) while Jeffery awkwardly asks, as if it’s spontaneous, “How are you going to make dinner tonight if we’ve been running around all day?” Ina winks at the camera because we know, like she knows, that the mac and cheese is already made. It’s in the refrigerator next to the lemon curd for the lemon tart. Jeffery has no idea what’s coming and the whole thing is so riveting, I’ve gone three miles and don’t want to stop. Such is the power of watching Ina at the gym.

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