There’s a reason we make so many one-pan dinners: in a small kitchen, it keeps the oven clutter to a minimum, simplifies the cooking process, and makes clean-up straightforward. The aim, of course, is to get everything properly cooked at the same time: with meat, achieving both the desired Maillard sear (aka; that burnished, dark brown skin) and safe internal temperature; with pasta or grains, getting the texture perfect without overcooking it into a limp mess. Our crispy chicken and orzo dish takes advantage of the pre-oven searing of the chicken and handles the orzo like a risotto, resulting in success on all fronts. The addition of plenty of mushrooms, leeks and spinach turns it into a healthy, one-pot meal.
It’s been a while since we blogged about a recipe with family history. We’ve been doing quite a bit of commissioned work for Serious Eats, and they’re a professional outfit you know, and you can’t just submit any old tosh on their site (ahem). Their readers are a refined, questing bunch, wanting to get to the nitty gritty of a recipe without having to weed-whack through paragraphs of us arse-ing around talking about our chickens, or what kind of expression our dog is making (bored, if you must know), or that time we tried to juggle seven lemons. As you know, we leave all the old tosh for our own site, so it is with a familiar thud that I dust off the book of Nerds Family History and tell you all about gamush.
Ramps, a seasonal treat in the Northeast US, are in danger of being over-harvested. Since they are very slow to cultivate and difficult to farm, foraging is still the main way to find them. A wild ramp patch can be quickly overrun and destroyed. The most sustainable way to harvest ramps, if you find them yourself, is to cut only one leaf of each plant, leaving the bulb and second leaf to continue growing. This is least impactful on the soil, the plant, and the colony as a whole. You’ll find ramps in this form from sustainable vendors.
Every spring I’m reminded of how happy I am that we bought a house in the Hudson Valley. The sun is out and I’m sitting on our deck, watching the chickens romp around the ‘garden’. Yes, ‘garden’ is in quotes because it’s mostly weeds, rocks and buried concrete (why, previous owners? Why?). And yes, those pesky chickens are obsessed with destroying the few plants we’re actually trying to grow. But none of that matters! Gardens can be planted. Chickens can be
strangled penned. The important thing is that it’s ours and we love it (sometimes).
Another fantastic thing about spring is all the wonderful fresh green things that are just beginning to show up at the farmers’ market (or your own garden, if you’re lucky and/or talented). A simple pasta dish like this takes full advantage of these fresh flavors, pairing the tender vegetables with crispy pancetta* and a light, creamy sauce.
*You could absolutely leave the pancetta out for a vegetarian dish. You’ll probably want to add a bit more salt since the pancetta is salty.
With a crunchy top and a creamy center, Lasagna Bolognese is the king of baked pastas. Our version adds fontina cheese to the béchamel with adds to the earthy richness.
Greetings, rebel scum!
Before we get into this week’s recipe, I want to make a clarification about last week’s post: the chocolate babka. You might remember that one of us (okay, it was me) declared it to be an excellent treat for either Easter or Passover, whichever was your preference. We were inundated with literally several letters pointing out that the babka is yeasted, and a traditional Passover, one might say, tends to skew towards the unleavened. The Hebrews fleeing Egypt weren’t, after all, told “Take what you have and scarper, there’s no time to let your bread rise, oh, unless you’re making babka or something, that would be awesome, oh, good work on the pyramids btw”. So, my apologies for that slip, and please tell Uncle Mort it won’t happen again.
This week’s dish is so much recipe – very so much recipe, wow – we actually had to enlist the help of a third Nerd, our most excellent and game friend Heather, who stayed with us this weekend and whose initial idea it was to make lasagna. Now, I made lasagna at uni – I think we all did – and it’s the easiest thing imaginable, you buy your jar of Ragu and a good cheap packet of dried lasagna, bit of cheese of some kind, Double Gloucester probably, cheddar will do at a pinch, bit of milk, nutmeg, there you have it, one lasagna, lovely.
(That sound you hear is Emily retching and then fainting).
Looking for an easy, healthy, quick side dish? We here at Nerds with Knives central casting have just the guy for you. This orzo is so good that we’ve made it two nights in a row. And you know what? I’m probably going to make it again tonight and I’m not ashamed to say it! Well, slightly ashamed but that’s mostly because I’ve stripped our one sage plant bare solely due to my obsession with this dish. It has a very similar texture and flavor to risotto but only takes 15 minutes to make. How cool is that?