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This is one of my favorite pastas! I have been preparing it for soooo long, I think I can make it with my eyes closed by now.  Linguine alla Carbonara is easy to prepare but must be eaten immediately! Make sure you have all the side dishes ready and served when you prepare it so that you can eat it hot.  If you can, heat the serving plates a little before serving. Pancetta and pecorino cheese are very savory so no salt needs to be added. I use whole wheat pasta and organic eggs when possible.

Last week, while I was in Miami, I invited over for dinner my good friend from college, Axel, who lives there.  I made the Brown Sugar Pork Tenderloins with this pasta and the reviews were fabulous!  This recipe is the traditional way to make it (eggs, pancetta and cheese), but there are many variations. I never order this dish when dining out because you never know what you are going to get.  Some restaurants make it with cream sauce, I guess because 1. it is safer (it is risky eating raw eggs) 2.  appearance (cream sauce just looks nicer and more appetizing) and 3. it is just plain easier. You  may put the eggs in boiling water for a little less than a minute to reduce risk of bacteria. Immediately take them out and run them under cold water. Crack them and put them in a bowl and whisk together, then add cheese.  One last thing, if you want to give it some color and a nice twist add sweet green peas. Here is my version of Linguine alla Carbonara.

Linguine alla Carbonara

Ingredients

1/2 pound of pancetta thinly sliced and diced (use bacon if you can’t find pancetta)

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp butter

3 eggs (room temperature)

1 pound of linguine

3 hand fulls of grated pecorino romano (about 1/3 pound or 3/4 cup)

pepper to taste

fresh parmesan cheese for garnish

Procedure

1.  Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add salt and some olive oil.

2.  Add tbsp olive oil to skillet (medium-hi heat) and saute pancetta until golden brown (do not let it become too crispy).

3.  Add pasta to boiling water.  Meanwhile, beat eggs with a whisk and add cheese to create a lumpy mixture almost like yogurt. If it is too liquid, add more pecorino cheese.

4.  Drain pasta and toss with pancetta (including fat) and butter.

5.  Immediately, add pasta and pancetta to egg/cheese mixture and toss to coat evenly. The hot pasta and pancetta will melt cheese and cook eggs. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve at once.

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We inherited flans from many cultural influences.  Back in Roman times people would make savory flans from the surplus of eggs and other ingredients in their “pantry” (spices, spinach, honey, eel, etc.).  Centuries later in Spain and France, sweet flans started to flourish with caramel syrup as well as with other spices and nuts like almonds that the Moors (north africans, muslims and arabs) brought with them to the Iberian peninsula. Now flans are popular desserts in Latin American countries and are known worldwide.  I dare to say that some sort of flan is offered in the dessert menu of almost every restaurant in Puerto Rico!

Note:  The detachable baking dish used for making quiche is called a “flan tin” because in England open pastries filled with savory fillings are also called flans.

This recipe for simple Vanilla Flan is the basis for many variations. There is cheese flan, coconut flan, pumpkin flan, pear flan, guava flan, basil flan, strawberry flan and the list keeps going on and on like Bubba (inside joke for those of you who have seen the movie Forest Gump).  Anyway, it is a simple dessert to make and a crowd pleaser. Of course, flan is always made in bain-marie to successfully make the custard.  FYI, the bain-marie allows the flan to cook evenly in the center without creating a crust on the outside.  I use a 9 inch round metal mold with a hole in the middle, but you may also use an 8- 9 inch round crystal Pyrex or metal mold or double the recipe and make a large rectangular crystal mold.  Serve with mint, berries, ice cream, whipped cream or alone. Sometimes I over beat mixture and the vanilla flan has small holes inside, but it won’t alter the taste just the texture.  The flans I make that include mascarpone or cream cheese are always creamier (like cheesecake) and also delicious (will post recipes in the near future).

About 5 years ago, we rented a house in Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic for a summer vacation.  Our beautiful house had great accommodations, a beautiful view and a great cook.  One day Josefina made vanilla flan for our group and, you know me, always looking to learn new things in the kitchen, saw that she splashed dark rum and lemon zest in the vanilla flan mixture. That detail elevated the flan from good to outstanding giving it a lovely after taste!  She made it almost everyday after that.  We returned back to Puerto Rico rested, relaxed and with about 2-3 more pounds!

Here is my recipe for Vanilla Flan (Flan de Vainilla).  Enjoy!

Vanilla Flan (Flan de Vainilla)

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

5 eggs

1 14 oz. can condensed milk

1 12 fl. oz can evaporated milk

1/2 cup fresh milk

1 tsp dark rum

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

dash of salt

Procedure

1.  Preheat oven 350º F.

2.  To make caramel put sugar in a sauce pan (I melt it directly in my metal mold in the stove top) and heat (med) until sugar starts to melt and turns light-medium brown in color. About 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Then pour into baking mold immediately making sure the bottom and sides of the mold are covered with some caramel.  Let rest for a few minutes to harden a bit.  Note:  make sure you are not distracted or have children running around in the kitchen while you are making caramel, it is very hot and can cause serious burns on the skin.


3. In a bowl, beat eggs with a whisk or electric mixer with whisk attachment.  Add milks, vanilla, salt and rum and beat until fully incorporated.  (DO NOT OVER BEAT SO THAT  YOU DON’T GET AIR BUBBLES INSIDE THE FLAN). Pass mixture through a strainer.  Add lemon zest and lightly mix with a fork or spoon into mixture.

4.  Pour mixture over caramel in baking mold.  Place mold in lower portion of broiler pan or roast pan and fill with hot water that comes almost half way up the sides of the baking pan to create a bain-marie or “baño de maría”.

5.  Bake for 45-50 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a knife in the middle. It should come out clean.

6.  Let cool on your counter top a bit before you cover with foil paper and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

7.  To serve, take out of refrigerator and let rest for about 15 minutes. With a knife or spatula carefully separate flan from sides of the pan (inside as well if using pan with a hole in the middle). You will notice caramel will come up the sides once it is separated and ready to turn over.

8.  Place serving dish on top of baking pan and turn over quickly.  Scrape remaining caramel with a spatula and pour over flan. Serve chilled.  (If you are going to put it in the refrigerator, cover so that it doesn’t become dry or hard).

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The word quiche derives from the german word “kuchen” which means cake.  The french of the Lorraine region adapted the original german version “Lothringer Speckkuchen” of a bread pie with eggs, cream and bacon by later adding gruyere cheese and a pastry crust to make the modern Quiche Lorraine.

I was given an onion and cheese quiche recipe at a cheese tasting course Emilio and I attended las December and have been experimenting with it ever since.  It was much easier than I expected and my friends and family love it.  Actually, this version is really called Quiche Alsacienne from the Alsace region in France.  The main difference from the Quiche Lorraine is the addition of onions to the filling. This dish is mainly served for breakfast or brunch. Here is my version of Quiche Alsacienne.

Bon Appetit!

Quiche Alsacienne

Dough

1 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1/2 cup butter (cold)

3 tbsp water

Filling

2 tbsp butter

1 large thinly sliced onion

5 bacon strips (chopped)

3 eggs

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp kosher salt

pepper to taste

approximately 3 ounces of grated hard cheese (Comte, Gruyere, Cheddar or Manchego) note: depending on the grater (mine grates very thin) it is a little over 1 cup of grated cheese.

Procedure

1.  Sift flour and salt into a bowl.  Add cold butter cut into cubes and mix with the paddle attachment of an electric mixer ( you can also do it with your fingers or with a food processor) until the mixture resembles crumbs.  Add the water to make a firm dough. Knead the dough until smooth (add more water if you need to).  Wrap in clear film and chill in fridge for about 20 minutes.

2.  Roll out the dough (about 1/4 inch thick or less) on a lightly floured surface, big enough to line a 10 inch flan tin with a removable base .

fold pastry like this to safely place in middle of flan tin, then spread out to the sides


3.  Fold outer edges of dough in to be able to place the pastry in the middle of the flan tin without breaking or falling apart.  Press the pastry to the sides and let rise above the rim by about 1/2  an inch to allow for shrinkage.  Prick the pastry base with a fork a few times.

4.  Line pastry with foil paper and pie crust beads (or dried beans) and chill again for about 15 minutes.

5.  Preheat oven at 400º f.

6.  Place the flan tin on a baking sheet and bake “blind” or covered with the foil paper and beads for 15 minutes.  Remove the beads and foil and bake uncovered for 5 more minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350ºf.

7.  Meanwhile, make filling by melting butter in a large saute pan (medium heat).  Saute bacon for about 7-8 minutes until cooked  but not brown and crispy.  Add onion and  saute for about 8-10 minutes until cooked and caramelized.

8.  In a bowl, beat the egg with a whisk.  Add heavy cream and seasonings and continue to whisk until some bubbles form at the top.

9.  While still on the baking sheet, spoon onion mixture into cooked pastry and scatter.  Add grated cheese and pour egg-cream mixture slowly over the filling, making sure none spills over the edge of the pastry case.

10.  Cook for 35 minutes or until filling has just set.

11.  Remove from oven, let cool down and remove from flan tin.  Place on serving plate. Serve warm for breakfast or brunch.

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