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2-Minute Panna Cotta

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    Panna cotta is perhaps the simplest fancy dessert to make at home. This Italian "cooked cream" is just sweetened cream thickened with gelatin. Like sweet cream ( fior di latte ) gelato, it celebrates dairy in the purest form and involves very few ingredients.  No eggs, no whipping, no simmering until things coat the back of a spoon. This is as easy to make as boxed jello. With a few small hacks for quick cooling, you can spend 2 minutes making it before dinner and have dessert ready after dinner!  I really prefer panna cotta made with pure cream and not milk or half & half. I make mine in 4oz mason jars. In addition to being great for portion control & easy to store, they also chill faster and set more quickly. I fill each jar up most of the way, to about 3oz, and each recipe will make 3 little jars. You have room for topping them with fruits/jam after they set, and they're easier to unmold if you prefer serving them on a plate. You'd think the serving siz

No-Lump Cacio e Pepe - Explaining Common Failures and the Fix

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  If you've been to Rome, and came back and tried this out based on the instruction you've heard from Rome, odds are you've had a couple batches that looked nothing like the creamy, smooth, luscious goodness that allegedly was achievable with just cheese and pasta water, with no cream or butter.  Nothing says "simple does not equal easy" as loudly as Cacio e Pepe. Not even the infamously temperamental soft scrambled eggs, because honestly, slightly over cooked eggs are still pretty tasty if you're not being snooty, but lumpy, unemulsified Cacio e Pepe is genuinely not enjoyable, aside from being entirely not presentable.    To avoid wasting food, I've "cheated" with butter, oil, cream, even a b├ęchamel sauce to salvage the lumpy pasta. But a tasty mac and cheese is no Cacio e Pepe. The taste of Rome can only be achieved with the traditional simple ingredients the recipe calls for: pecorino, pepper, pasta, plus salt & water that the pasta is co

Sous Vide Duck Confit, in a Slow Cooker! No additional fat or special gadget needed!

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  As with many French classic dishes, duck confit ( confit de canard ) is an incredibly decadent treat that is unfortunately a huge hassle to make. Confit means to cure in salt & cook in its own fat (or in its literal definition, "to preserve"). Duck confit are traditionally made by curing duck legs in salt & spice and submerging them in large amount of duck fat, slow cook in fat & aromatics at below boiling temperature for extended period of time, for a soft, buttery texture. It's like oil poaching on steroid. The dish generally needs to be then chilled over night so that the falling-apart tender meat would firm up enough for that final sear, for that signature crispy skin that really makes the dish perfect.  Time consuming aside, what makes this dish borderline prohibitive for home cooking is that duck fat isn't easily accessible, and even when you can find them, they aren't cheap. Naturally this makes the sous vide method an appealing alternative. B

Make Pad Thai from Jarritos Tamarind Soda!

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  Two conundrums we've all come across at some point: missing essential ingredient for a dish that you love but don't make often enough, & trouble finishing a 2-liter soda before it goes flat. Here's to killing two birds with one stone! There is no real substitute for tamarind. Trying to make Pad Thai without tamarind is sorta like trying to make lemon tart without lemon. It's a fruit with a signature tang and its own special flavor. Tamarind pods are both tricky to find and tricky to handle. My local Whole Foods and Wegmans carry them - often sold in boxes much bigger than needed. They also can't be used straight out of the box. You'll need to soak the pods in hot water, dig your hand in and squeeze everything into a pulp, strain that through a mesh sieve, and cook it down into a paste. Worth the trouble if you make Thai food weekly, but not the easiest fix for sudden cravings.  Tamarind Soda, unlike the fruit that it's made from, is ubiquitous and inex

Fried Olives!

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    Fried. Olives. This dish requires no further selling than its name. I used to squander so much of my work-study paycheck at this snooty campus restaurant just for their fried olives. Zero regret to this day. And they didn't even use the good stuff! You can take a small jar of plain store brand pimento stuffed manzanilla olives, strain, coat in bread crumb and fry for half a minute. It'll cost you ~$2 in ingredients and maybe 5 minutes of time. Think of it, I really should regret those spending a little.  For an upgrade, I'm stuffing my favorite olive bar ingredients together: castelvetrano olives & peppadew peppers! Castelvetrano are my 'gateway' olives. As someone who took a long time to 'acquire' a taste for olives, castelvetrano was love at first try. They're mild, subtle, yet buttery & olive-y at the same time. The bright green color are just so pleasant to look at. In contrast with the green olives, in more than just the colors, peppadew

Amarena Cinnamon Black Forest Cake Roll

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Chocolate cake is a bit like pizza sauce, not hard to make tasty, but hard to make special. This is my take on black forest. This is a soft sponge that doesn't require whipping eggs. The chocolate isn't overpowering. The cake itself should have just a hint of tartness, and a hint of what's-that spice. Your friends won't quite know exactly what's in it, but they'll know it's good and it's not like the other chocolate cakes they've had. This recipe is inspired by the question - what can I do with yogurt flavors I don't love? We all know someone that doesn't love vanilla yogurt. I happen to have some cinnamon vanilla Chobani from my Costco variety pack when the question came up. I have since tested the same recipe on strawberry, raspberry, and cherry yogurt. All work very well in a chocolate cake! Just one more thing you can do with any 5oz cup of yogurt - make a healthy light dessert! Ingredients: dry ingredients: 1/2 cup all purpose flo

Tomato Tarte Tatin - Make an Already Simple Classic Even Faster!

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This is a faster way to make Tarte a la Moutarde (French Tomato and Mustard Pie). By using the tarte tatin method, you can reduce the cooking time by applying direct heat to the tomatoes, and skipping the par baking step altogether. Most importantly, it allows me to use extra tomatoes (my favorite part of the whole dish), without having to worry about soggy crust.  I'm making mine with Campari tomatoes. They are sweet and flavorful, but not sinfully expensive. I don't have the heart to cook those beautiful heirloom tomatoes. It feels like cooking sashimi cut fish. halved tomatoes retains juice well. Tomato juice will be mostly trapped between tomato skin and layer of melted Parmesan cheese. You'll have a wonderfully moist and flavorful tart that's still perfectly puffed. Ingredients: 6~8 campari tomatoes, halved 1/4 cup grated Parmesan 2 tbsp mustard 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 1 tsp herbs de province 1 tsp fresh basil 1 sheet puff pastry or pie doug