Spicy Mango Sorbet

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4 very ripe mangoes

1 ounce lemon juice

couple of dashes of cayenne (do it!)

1 tbsp grated ginger

water, as needed

Remove the mango flesh from the peel and dice. Add it to a pot with the lemon juice, ginger, cayenne, and a splash of water. Cook it down until it’s syrupy and the mango has mostly collapsed. Be careful, because this will boil over and make a huge mess. Once the mix has cooled, puree in a blender and strain the liquid to remove the mango fibers. Taste it to make sure it’s sweet enough. It should taste just a little bit too sweet. This will keep it from turning to pure ice in the freezer, and the sugar won’t be as strong once it’s cold.

Freeze the mix halfway, then place it back in the blender and puree. If you notice lots of ice crystals form, add a pinch of salt to lower the freezing point. Once blended, refreeze. Within 6-8 hours, the mix will be frozen and so, so refreshing!

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Leek, Potato, and Salmon Chowder

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olive oil
2 leeks
2 cloves garlic
1 shot brandy
salt, pepper, and Cayenne to taste
2 potatoes, diced into 3/4 inch cubes
4-5 sprigs of thyme
1 rosemary leaf (trust me, 1 is perfect)
2 cups chicken stock
3/4 lb salmon
heavy cream (optional)

Chop off the dark green parts of the leeks and discard. Slice each leek in half longways, then slice each half in half. Dice finely and rinse very well in a bowl of cold water (as leeks are dirty). Make a leek-based pun that makes everyone gag. Saute the leeks in olive oil until translucent. Add the garlic and spices and cook for a minute or two to take the raw edge off. Add the brandy and cook until the liquid almost disappears. Add the potatoes and give them a quick toss in the leeky, spicy oil. Add the herbs and stock along with enough water to cover the top of the potatoes thoroughly. Simmer until the potatoes are soft but not falling apart. Make another leek pun.

Meanwhile, prep your salmon. Remove any skin and bones and dice into large bite-sized slices. I chopped a fillet into 4 pieces and then made maybe 1/2 inch cuts. For extra flavor, throw the salmon skin into the pot to cook while you dice the fish. Recall the first leek pun and laugh at yourself while everyone wishes you would just shut up. Turn the heat up just a hair to get an enthusiastic simmer, and place the fish slices into the broth. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the fish begins to crumble when you poke it with a spoon. Turn the heat off, remove the thyme branches (from which the leaves should have fallen) and ladle it up. An optional (read: 100% mandatory, you fool, you’d better do it) step is to add a tablespoon or two of heavy cream to your bowl of soup. I would say add it to the pot, but this way, everyone can adjust how they like it.

Wow. I haven’t been in the mood to cook anything new for a while, but wow, this was amazing. I sort of half used a Chef John sauce recipe and halfway remembered a bowl of leek and potato soup I had at a friend’s house years ago, and this happened. It’s hearty and stick-to-your-ribs-y, which is so perfect for one of the first freezing November nights, but it still feels light and luscious with the soft poached salmon. I hope you have a chance to try it out!

Mini Nutella Popovers

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2 c flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 c salted butter, melted
1/3 c sugar
2 eggs
1 c milk
1/2 c Nutella (or until you think you have enough. Are you really about to measure something as sticky as Nutella?)

Mix everything together. Sure, I guess you could cream the butter and sugar and add one egg at a time and sift the dry ingredients, but are you going to? No, and neither am I, because we bake smart, not fancy. Once everything’s combined, fill mini muffin tins barely halfway full. That’s what makes them puff up like a popover. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes or until puffed up and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. These were originally going to just be mini muffins, but then they had a funny shape, and they became popovers. Way fancier that way, doncha think?

Shrimp and Bacon Risotto

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2 shallots, diced

2 slices bacon, diced

1 clove garlic, diced

1-2 tbsp olive oil (enough to coat the rice)

1 to 1.5 c Arborio rice

2-3 c stock

1 c peas

1 lb medium shrimp

4 slices bacon, diced

zest of 1 lemon

Cook the bacon over medium-hi heatin a dry skillet until crispy. Add the shallots and garlic, and cook until translucent. Add the rice and enough olive oil. Turn the heat to medium and stir until the rice is coated and slightly toasted. Slowly add the stock, always making sure the rice doesn’t have too much liquid, or it’ll boil, and the texture won’t work. Keep adding a bit of stock until the rice is creamy and has a little al dente bite. 10 minutes out, cook the second batch of bacon over high heat. Throw in the shrimp and cook for about 4 minutes, until just cooked. Add The bacon shrimp to the rice, add the peas, and zest a lemon into the pot. Very tasty and impressive!

Baked Penne

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1 sweet onion, diced5 tbsp butter*
1 can peeled San Marzano tomatoes
1 lb ground beef
sprigs of basil (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
1 box penne pasta
8 oz ricotta cheese
1 c shredded cheddar
1 egg

Dice the onion finely. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot and saute the onion until translucent and lightly colored. Add the can of tomatoes (and basil, if you’re using it) and simmer over low heat for at least 45 minutes, if not longer. It gets sweeter and more delicious the longer you cook it.

Meanwhile, saute the beef until fully cooked and drain. Add to the sauce, mix well, and set aside. Boil the pasta a few minutes shorter than the cooking time (10 minutes for me, while the box called for 12-13 minutes) and drain. Mix with the sauce.

Also meanwhile, mix the cheeses and egg until combined. Grease a large** baking dish and pour the pasta and sauce in. Spoon the cheese mixture over the top and spread evenly. Bake for 45 minutes at 350, then let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving. I know you want to eat it now, but it’s very, very hot, so wait. This makes a truly obscene amount of food, so feel free to split it into two dishes and freeze one to bake later or halve the recipe.

*I know, you’re thinking that that’s a grotesque amount of butter, but it gives the sauce such a delicious richness that counterbalances the acidity of the tomatoes so nicely, and since you’re draining the beef, this is the only fat aside from the cheese. Besides, not everything I make has to be super, super healthy, right?
Fine, you can use a small amount of olive oil instead, but I cannot promise the delicious results.

**I used my 8×8 pan, and about 2/3 of the pasta and meat fit in, so the rest went in a small casserole dish for later. I think one of those 9×13 pans would fit it all, though.

Ginger Orange Chicken

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1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
zest and juice of 1 orange
1/2 c chicken stock
1 tbsp grated ginger
2-3 scallions

Pierce the chicken a few times with a fork so that it will soak up the sauce. Pan fry until golden brown, then set aside. Add the rest of the ingredients and scrape the bottom of the pan to get those tasty brown bits. Once it’s reduced, add the chicken back in and cook over medium heat for a few minutes.

Chocolate Pot de Creme

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1 c heavy cream
splash of vanilla
few grains of salt
3 tablespoons sugar
4 oz dark chocolate
1/8 tsp Cayenne pepper (Trust me.)

more heavy cream and sugar, to whip

Chop the chocolate into little slivers, to make it melt more easily. Place in a heat-safe bowl. Mix the rest of the ingredients (save for the extra cream) in a small saucepan and heat until almost boiling but not quite. Pour the mixture over the chocolate and let it sit for a few minutes, then whisk. Pour into ramekins, pudding cups, what have you, and chill for many hours, preferably overnight. Lightly whip some sweetened cream to pour over the top. Impress your boyfriend continually with your cooking skills when your diet usually just consists of potato chips and Starburst.

This is the exact same recipe as Chef John’s, but I added Cayenne instead of coffee because I like to live spicily.