"I'm not a chicken. I'm just really hesitant." -Frasier Crane
Question #89499 posted on 04/26/2017 8:16 p.m.
Q:

Dear friends,

I'm an aspiring amateur chef. Could you please share one or more recipes you like? Thanks!

-El-ahrairah

A:

Dear Trickster,

I'm trying to learn how to learn how to cook more things, too! Here's a family recipe for some really easy but really tasty pasta (which I call Pepper Spray pasta because the first time I tried to make it for myself I accidentally made homemade pepper spray and had all of my roommates coughing for half an hour):

Ingredients:

1 lb. Asparagus
1 lb. Penne Pasta
~5 Garlic Cloves
1 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
2-3 Dashes of the Hot Sauce of Your Choice (optional)
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1 tbsp. Butter
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper (or maybe it's just 1/4 tsp Salt and Pepper? I'm reading this off of one of Mère Rubik's recipe index cards and she's has her own sort of shorthand that's a bit hard to decipher)
Parmesan Cheese (the kind that's shredded and you get in a bag, not the powdery stuff that some people claim is 90% sawdust)

Instructions:

1. Mince the garlic and chop up the asparagus into sections about an inch to an inch and a half long. Also maybe rinse of the asparagus. Probably rinse off the asparagus? I definitely remember rinsing asparagus the last time I made this, but again, the recipe isn't super detailed. In any case it's very therapeutic so you should probably just do it.

(PROTIP: To get the garlic out of its outer skin, crush the cloves with the flat of your knife. Works like a charm.)

(Also you probably already knew this if you've cooked asparagus before but you'll need to chop off the bottoms of the asparagus and throw them out because they'll be too tough to eat. It's pretty easy to feel around with your knife to tell where it transitions from tough to normal. Other places say it's pretty easy to just break the tough part off with your bare hands. Either way, it's a sad indictment of our violent society, so do whatever feels most natural.)

2. Cook the pasta like normal. Like it says on the bag. It's not high-maintenance. It's not asking for anything special. Just nine minutes in boiling water (possibly with a bit of salt) until it gets tender.

3. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, olive oil, butter, salt, and pepper (and hot sauce, if you swing that way) to a pan and put it on medium-ish heat. Then add the asparagus and let it cook, stirring it around every once and a while to make sure it gets evenly cooked. You want to cook it all until the asparagus is "tender-crisp," which is a word Mère uses to mean "what you expect well-cooked asparagus to taste/feel like." If you've never eaten asparagus before, you're free from prejudice and therefore can decide for yourself when to stop cooking it.

(Side note: Mère Rubik doesn't use a separate pan to cook the sauce; once the pasta is done cooking, she throws it into a colander and then makes the sauce directly in the still-hot pasta pot. That's all fine and dandy, since she's an old pro and knows her oven/stove really well, but when I tried to do it, the garlic burned almost immediately, as did the red pepper flakes, which is what made the "pepper spray" I mentioned earlier. Do whatever feels most prudent.)

4. Once the sauce/asparagus is done, add it to the pasta (either by dumping it out of the pan into the pot or by scooping it up from the bottom of the pot over the noodles, depending on how you chose to make the sauce above). Stir things around to ensure even coating. While it's still hot/warm, dump about half of a bag of Parmesan cheese over it and stir that around as well.

That's it! It makes for a simple pasta with a little bit of kick, which is super tasty. We usually eat it with some nice baguettes/french bread and then have strawberries and ice cream for dessert.

Good luck!

-Frère Rubik

A:

Dear EA,

Avocado Mac and Cheese. It is so delicious. You are welcome.

Ingredients:

  • 10 ounces dry elbow macaroni
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 avocados, peeled and pitted
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups shredded Pepper Jack cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh avocado chunks, for garnish, if desired
Steps:
1. Cook the pasta al dente
2. While that's happening, make the avo sauce by blending the garlic, avocados, lime juice, and cilantro.
3. Make the cheese sauce by putting the butter in a small saucepan and heating it over medium heat. When butter is melted, whisk in flour to create a paste. Whisk in milk until smooth. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sauce starts to thicken. Add in Pepper Jack cheese and stir until cheese is melted and sauce is creamy.
4. Put the cooked macaroni into a bowl, and stir in the avocado sauce until it's completely coated. Then stir in the cheese sauce until that's coated. 
5. Serve hot
 
-Ace

 

A:

Dear Doctor,

Black Bean Burgers

These are something we have probably once a month or so. They're easy to make, you can freeze the extras, and they're delicious.

  • 2 cans seasoned black beans (unseasoned is fine, too)
  • 1 cup garlic and herb bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • seasonings to taste
Smash black beans relatively thoroughly (there can still be visible bean pieces) in a bowl. Mix in egg and bread crumbs. Add any other seasonings you'd like. Form into patty shapes and place on cooking-spray-sprayed cookie sheet. These won't shrink when cooked, so only make them as big as the buns you're using. Bake for about eight minutes at 350 degrees, then take them out and flip them and bake for another eight minutes or so.

Other recipes I like:

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

Cream Cheese and Herb Stuffed Chicken

One Minute Peanut Butter Cake

90 Second Nutella Cake

Pear and Cheddar Breakfast Quesadillas

Goat Cheese, Turkey, and Egg Cups (these are surprisingly good)

Ham and Swiss Sliders (great party food that we've had at multiple Board parties)

BBQ Ranch Chicken Sandwiches

Chicken Taco Salad

Pastasanga (Baked Ziti, but we prefer calling it this)

-Tally M.

A:

Dear El,

Ramen noodles:

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil

Carefully drop in Ramen noodles. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally (except you know that's not going to happen because you'll be back in your living room, watching netflix)

Take off heat and add in flavoring packet. 

Enjoy!

A:

Dear El-ahrairah,

Today's theme is, apparently, chicken. I've made all of these recipes multiple times and I love them all.

Enjoy!

--Maven

A:

Dear El,

My wife and I keep a list of our favorite recipes that we've tried. Here are the last five we've added.

Pork Chops with Roasted Pears and Butternut Squash with Honey-Vanilla Sauce

2 Bosc pears (peeled, seeded, and quartered)
2 cups butternut squash, cubed
1 medium onion, sliced
4 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup honey
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 tsp. sage
1 tsp. vanilla
4 pork chops
Bleu cheese crumbles

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.

Toss pears, squash, and onion with 2 Tbsp. of oil; season with salt and pepper. Transfer to baking sheet and roast until crisp-tender, about 15 minutes.

Whisk together honey, butter, sage, and vanilla. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat remaining oil in a saute pan. Season chops with salt and pepper, and brown both sides. Transfer them to the baking sheet.

Roast everything until pork is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Garnish chops with bleu cheese crumbles. Serve with rice.
 

Balsamic Butter Penne with Asparagus

Optional: Add cubed chicken cooked with garlic and salt

1 bunch asparagus
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 pound penne
4 Tbsp butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Snap the tough ends off the asparagus and discard them. Cut the spears into 1-inch pieces. Put the asparagus on a baking sheet and toss with the oil and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Roast until tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the vinegar in a small saucepan. Simmer until 3 tablespoons remain. Stir in the brown sugar. Remove from the heat.

Drain the pasta and toss with the butter, vinegar, asparagus, Parmesan, and the remaining salt. Serve with additional Parmesan.
 

Chicken Tikka Masala

2 Tbsp butter
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 (14 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tsp paprika
1 heaping Tbsp white sugar
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
Chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tsp curry powder

Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat and cook and stir onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic; cook and stir just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir cumin, salt, ginger, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and turmeric into the onion mixture; fry until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Stir tomato sauce into the onion and spice mixture, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to low. Simmer sauce for 10 minutes, then mix in cream, paprika, and sugar. Bring sauce back to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until sauce is thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.

Heat vegetable oil in a separate skillet over medium heat. Stir chicken into the hot oil, sprinkle with curry powder, and sear chicken until lightly browned but still pink inside, about 3 minutes; stir often.

Transfer chicken and any pan juices into the sauce. Simmer chicken in sauce until no longer pink, about 30 minutes; adjust salt and sugar to taste.
 

Spicy Shrimp Spaghetti

1 bunch fresh basil
Long pasta
1 lemon
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
3 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
10 ounces shrimp

Chop basil. Season shrimp with salt. Quarter and de-seed lemon.

Start cooking pasta.

In a large pan, heat 2 Tbps olive oil on medium-high heat. Add breadcrumbs and toast, stirring occasionally (2-4 minutes or until golden brown). Transfer to plate and season with salt immediately.

Add crushed garlic and a little olive oil to pan and cook for a few minutes. Add tomato paste and red pepper flakes (to taste), and cook 1-2 minutes or until paste is dark red.

Add seasoned shrimp, and cook until shrimp are opaque and cooked through.

Add cooked pasta, basil, juice from 2 lemon wedges, and 1/2 a cup of the pasta cooking water. Cook for 2-3 minutes, adding more pasta water to reach desired consistency.

Top with breadcrumbs and more basil. Garnish with remaining lemon wedges.
 

Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

1 butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
1/2 box elbow macaroni (about 2.5 cups dry)
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons evaporated milk
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 oz.  cream cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup onions, sliced thinly
1 apple, chopped or grated
4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.

Lightly coat squash halves with oil on both sides. Place squash, flesh side down, on prepared baking sheet. Add 1 cup water to baking sheet. Bake squash until tender, about 45 minutes. Scoop flesh from squash and puree until you have 1 cup.

Heat butter in a skillet over low heat. When melted, add onions and let caramelize for at least 30 minutes for the best flavor. Keep heat on low/low-medium.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to pan over low heat. Add butternut squash, chicken broth, evaporated milk, and cream cheese. When combined, add in salt.

Add onions and apples to the pasta. Stir to combine, and add a tablespoon more broth or milk if needed.

Just before serving, mix in cheese and stir until melted. Top each serving with bacon.

NOTE: Because there's very little butter, it can "dry out" quickly, especially once off the heat. Add a tablespoon of water, milk, or broth if you need to get it back to its original creaminess.
 
Best,
 
The Man with a Mustache
A:

Dear moi,

Jalapeno White Mac n Cheese

  1. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a pot. 
  2. Mix in 4 tablespoons flour. 
  3. Slowly mix in milk until it's as creamy as you want it. 
  4. Mix in 8 ounces of white cheddar. 
  5. Shred half or a whole jalapeno. If you're worried about this, know that half will just give it enough flavor to be interesting without making it spicy. If you have it, mix in some diced ham as well.
  6. OR mix in 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper and 1/4 tsp nutmeg. I tried this the first time and it was alright, but I liked step 5 better.
  7. Add to a whole box of cooked shell pasta. 
  8. Eat. Or be eaten. It's a cruel world.

Burger tip: If you want to make burgers without a grill, don't use the stove—use the broiler.

-El-ahrairah

A:

Dear El,

Here's the best recipe I've made lately.

  1. Take some frozen chicken.
  2. Stick it in a crock pot.
  3. Add a can of black and/or pinto beans.
  4. Pour in a ton of salsa.
  5. Season with garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper.
  6. Cook it for a few hours.
  7. Also cook some rice.
  8. Put it all on a tortilla.
  9. Be satisfied that you (yayfulness) have cooked something without destroying it.
  10. Eat!

-yayfulness

A:

Dear Rabbit Stew,

Four quick and easy ideas:

1) For the best, creamiest scrambled eggs take a pot (a POT not a frying man) and, before turning on any heat whatsoever, crack however many eggs into you would like into it. Add a hunk of butter, like a tablespoon for every two eggs or so, but really just a hunk of butter (it can be cold if you don't have it at room temperature). Now put it on a medium high heat and start stirring with a wooden spoon, spatula, whatever. And keep stirring. Don't stop stirring. When the eggs start to thicken (4-5 minutes), start taking the pot off the heat and stir some more, then put it back on for another 20 seconds. When it looks still slightly undercooked, take it off the heat. Stir a bit longer. The residual heat of the pot and the other eggs will cook everything. Add salt and pepper. That's it. No milk, no cheese. Just absurdly creamy eggs.

2) Homemade pita is ridiculously easy and fun to make. I've used the New York Times recipe four times now and it works every time to get good-tasting bread with nice big pockets. Far better than the dry, crumbly pita you get in stores. The best part is having a super hot cast iron skillet or just a cookie sheet in a blazing (475-500 degree) oven, tossing your rolled flatbread in and watching them puff up in the 2 minutes before you flip them. They also freeze well, so we have a couple bags in our freezer at any given time. 

3) Less a recipe and more like a suggestion to make your desserts fancier. Replace the vanilla in your cakes, frostings, etc. with the equivalent amount of almond extract (which you can get right next to the vanilla at the grocery store). You can also add additional almond extract to a vanilla containing recipe but be careful you don't throw off the liquid too much. That's it. You've just radically changed/improved your dessert effortlessly. This works really well with buttercream (i.e. normal) cake frosting. I've also had a lot of luck with artificial rum flavoring into buttercream frosting. Suddenly everything tastes different from the standard sugar-flour-egg cake combination in a very delicious way. Give it a shot.

4) Cook your bacon in the oven. More consistent and crispy every time. 

- Rating Pending (who is going to fit one more easy suggestion in at the end here: baked potato bar, but use cottage cheese and peas instead of, or along with, sour cream and shredded cheese. Use your oven-cooked crispy bacon to crumble on top too. Good stuff.)

A:

Dear,

Blue Apron's Shakshuka from a few months back was great. I've made it a few times, now. Don't worry about the pea shoots. They're not essential. 

Although it's not a fancy meal, this song here taught me to dramatically improve my breakfasts. (I have further improved on his recipe by adding a slice of muenster, and by using toasted English muffins instead of bread.) It's from 19:25 to 22:15. The rest may be worth watching too--I have enjoyed at least 3 of Alex Horne's songs--but I haven't watched the whole thing, and I won't swear there aren't swears.

And from a full decade ago (shock!) two that remain close to my heart. Happy cooking!

-Uffish Thought