Top Ten Recipes of 2012

Happy Holidays, imaginary internet friends! And congratulations on surviving the end of the world. Now I’m off to Barnes and Noble to demand a refund for my Mayan wall calendar. Wish me luck!

In the meantime, I hope you’ll take another look at the 10 most popular recipes I shared this year.

S’mores Fried Ice Cream with Chipotle Chocolate Sauce

 

Asparagus Lasagna Slice

Asparagus Lasagna with Pancetta, Goat Cheese, and Lemon

 

Baked Churros with Cinnamon Ice Cream and Dulce de Leche

 

Loaded Baked Potato Grilled Cheese Sandwich

 

Cinnamon Roll Grilled Cheese Sandwich

 

Oatmeal Cream Pies

Homemade Oatmeal Cream Pies

 

Cookies and Milk

Toffee Cashew Cookies

 

pie crust crackers

Chicken Pot Pie Soup with Pie Crust Crackers

 

Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese Sandwich

And the most popular recipe of 2012:

Pepperoni Stuffed Chicken

Pepperoni Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Here’s to a delicious (and gooey) new year!

Asparagus Lasagna with Pancetta, Goat Cheese, and Lemon

Asparagus Lasagna Slice

Lasagna terrifies me.

Asparagus Lasagna Slice2

For years, I dreamed of re-creating the Italian comfort classic in my kitchen, but I was always scared off by the many potential pitfalls. It’s too dry. It’s too soupy. The noodles are undercooked. The noodles are mush. The noodles are stuck together in a giant starch-bomb. Who are these kitchen acrobats willing to walk the cheesy Cirque du Soleil tight-rope of perfectly baked lasagna?

Asparagus Lasagna Baked

Well, I know of one lasagna superhero, and she’s been the greatest deterrent of all to my taking on lasagna. It’s my mom. She makes lasagna once a year for Christmas dinner, and it’s outstanding. Her take on the classic lasagna is hearty and packed with flavor, and it comes out perfectly every time.

Asparagus Lasagna Layers

I just can’t compete with that. It seemed pointless to attempt a classic lasagna knowing it would never measure up to Mom’s. So I decided the only way I could bake a lasagna that didn’t leave me feeling dead inside would be to take it in an entirely different direction.

Asparagus

I knew I wanted to nix the traditional red meat sauce and use a béchamel punched up with tangy goat cheese instead. Then I held a series of vigorous auditions in the produce department, and after much deliberation, ultimately cast asparagus, lemon, and thyme as the leads. Diced, sautéed pancetta plays a salty, supporting role. (Sorry, I’m watching the Oscars.)

Pancetta

The resulting lasagna is almost as delicious as Mom’s, but could not be more different. It’s really the perfect dinner for a late February evening, when I’m still craving winter’s creamy comfort foods, but I’m ready for bright, fresh flavors. The tender asparagus and sunshiny lemon zest reach out from under a velvet blanket of cheese and pasta to invite springtime to stay for dinner.

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Chicken Campanelle with Asparagus in Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

Hey, remember back when I had a job? No?

Well, once upon a time, I had a job. Every day at noon, I would walk down to the lunch room, heat up my leftovers, and tell the story of my lunch to my co-workers. And on days I brought in superstar leftovers like this velvety and rich, blue-cheesy casserole, my colleagues in the lunch room came down with a strong case of lunch envy.

I miss those days.

But good news, friends! After nearly three months of unemployment, I am thrilled to enter the field of catering. On a really, really, really small scale.

This is the dawning of the Age of Asparagus

Starting this week, I’ll be making lunches for Handsome Greg to take to work. See, Handsome Greg isn’t much of a cook, and he isn’t a planner, and he’s really not a morning person, so he buys his lunch out pretty much every day. The food isn’t particularly healthy and it costs a fortune.

So I spent yesterday afternoon preparing two different lunch menus and packing them up neat in plastic containers to send off with Greg after our date Saturday night. In the interest of Greg’s cholesterol level, the dishes I made this week are not quite as luxurious as the chicken campanelle with asparagus in gorgonzola cream sauce, but I think they may inspire lunch envy with the guys at the office nonetheless.

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gnocchi with roast chicken, asparagus, and sun-dried tomatoes in pesto cream sauce

It’s a little heartbreaking to me that many of my favorite dishes are ones that I’m too terrified to attempt to prepare at home: fish and seafood, baking from scratch, soufflés, most of the French mother sauces—and gnocchi.

Every time Greg and I go to Muffuletta, I order the gnocchi. And every time it’s perfect, and more delicious than I remember, with light pillows of potato, rich duck confit, and fresh tomatoes in a bright lemon-infused olive oil. It just seemed like an awful lot to live up to.

I’m not ready (or rich enough) to tackle duck confit. But when I picked up the monthly Fare for All groceries that Mom and I share, and I stared down a 5-pound bag of russet potatoes, I was emboldened. It was time to take a stand. It was time to make homemade gnocchi.

I used Anne Burrell’s recipe for Light as a Cloud Gnocchi, and sadly, my gnocchi turned out considerably heavier than clouds. Don’t get me wrong – they were a fine vehicle for the killer sauce I made. But they were heavier and doughier than I was hoping for. I’m guessing that the recipe is fine and the issue was USER ERROR. I think that I waited too long after baking the potatoes before passing them through the food mill. A mistake I don’t mean to duplicate. /Princess Bride

And I think I cut them too big.

But I conquered my fear of gnocchi (OOGITY! BOOGITY!). It was a long process, and it didn’t turn out exactly as I’d hoped, and I’m going to try it again. I feel a little less scared of seafood and those French mother sauces now.

The flavors in the sauce are some of my favorites – basil, sun-dried tomatoes, lemon, and asparagus. The only complaint I have about the basil cream sauce accompanying the daredevil gnocchi is the chicken. It was roasted just the way I like it, but it didn’t seem to belong in this dish. Next time I’ll skip the chicken, and keep the focus on the gnocchi, vegetables, and sauce.

Recipe below the fold

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