Cacio e Pepe

Have you ever had, or made Cacio e Pepe? If not, you are missing out. Not only is it super easy to make during the week, but it is divine. Creamy, and peppery, this Roman dish with cheese, pasta, and black pepper. Lots of cheese and pepper. I was thinking, in particular of my wife and kids as they are pasta lovers. Me? If I am eating some type of pasta, I like it in Asian cuisine. Don’t get me wrong, I will take down lots of Italian food, but I don’t crave it as much as my wife and kids do.

Cacio e Pepe Recipe
Cacio e Pepe Recipe

Let’s get started on this super simple recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of pasta (spaghetti, linguine, fettuncine), chose one and cook before al dente
  • 1/4 cup of salt, more to taste
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cups of finely grated parmesan cheese, or pecorino romano (preferred)
  • 1 cup reserved pasta water
  • 2 tbsp slightly course cracked black pepper
  • 2 tbsp good olive oil to finish, optional

Start by bringing a large pot of water to a boil. Add in the salt once boiling, then add in your pasta. Cook the pasta slightly before al dente, and then reserve a cup or so of the pasta water.

Next, have a skillet ready large enough to hold the pasta. Melt the butter, then add about a cup of the pasta water to the butter. Feel free to whisk this for a few seconds.

Cacio e Pepe Ingredients
Cacio e Pepe Ingredients

Add the cheese to the water and butter, and stir. Add a bit more water, maybe a quarter cup, and keep stirring. Add in the black pepper, and stir some more. Now add your pasta to the skillet.  Toss the pasta to evenly coat it with the cheese sauce.  If you see the pasta drying up a bit, add some more water. You want this pasta to be velvety, not lumpy.

Once you are satisfied, feel free to let it rain with more pepper and cheese and a good drizzle of olive oil.

This is one of those dishes my kids loved. It seemed like I blinked my eye and BOOM, gone. That’s always, always a great sign. Hope you enjoy!

Nueske’s DALT (Duck, Avocado, Lettuce, Tomato) Sandwich

One of my favorite things to do on any given weekend is cooking for my family. It is something I look forward to, and as soon as my kids wake up and say good morning, I immediately question them with ‘what can I make you for breakfast?’. I await a challenge, hoping that someone might say ‘how about eggs benedict?‘ or ‘toad in a hole?‘. Nope. I get things like scrambled or sunny side up eggs with toast, or pancakes. Heck, I will even get excited if someone says waffles! I then make another attempt at lunch time. That’s when I got a sell from my wife. After we tried the Nueskes’s smoked duck breast the other week, I knew it would be perfect on a sandwich, and as I had that to use up along with a tomato and an avocado, well I knew exactly what I was going to propose to my wife for lunch. A loaded Duck, Avocado, Lettuce, and Tomato sandwich!

Nueske's Smoked Duck Sandwich Recipe
Nueske’s Smoked Duck Sandwich Recipe

Let’s get started.

  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 6 slices of Nueske’s Smoked Duck Breast, thinly sliced
  • 3 leaves of green leaf lettuce
  • 1 roma tomato (or whatever you have handy), sliced
  • 1 small avocado, sliced or scooped out
  • 1 butter bun, lightly toasted
  • 1 slice of provolone cheese, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste

Start by having everything ready to layer in your sandwich. Heat a skillet on medium heat, and add in the canola oil.  Add the slices of smoked duck breast, moving them around the skillet, and sear for a couple of minutes on each side.

Take the bottom bun of your lightly toasted bun and layer on, or smear on the avocado. Season with a pinch of salt.

Nueske's Smoked Duck Sandwich Ingredients
Nueske’s Smoked Duck Sandwich Ingredients

Next layer on the slightly crispy Nueske’s smoked duck breast, provolone cheese, tomatoes (season with a bit of salt and pepper), then the stack of lettuce. Place on the top bun, and feel free to smash it slightly into shape.  You want mayo (I love it, my wife does not), feel free to slather it on the bun(s).

Now I knew this was going to be a phenomenal sandwich. How? Well in my book, nothing really beats a BLT, especially when you have great produce, but then I was introduced to the Nueske’s smoked duck breast and it was a total game changer. My wife who did not speak much during her lunch… well that is always a great indicator how awesome that sandwich was. Search for Nueske’s and stock up. I have never, ever been disappointed. Hope you enjoy!

Nueske's DALT (Duck, Avocado, Lettuce, Tomato) Sandwich
Author: 
Recipe type: Sandwich
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
 
Ingredients
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 6 slices of Nueske’s Smoked Duck Breast, thinly sliced
  • 3 leaves of green leaf lettuce
  • 1 roma tomato (or whatever you have handy), sliced
  • 1 small avocado, sliced or scooped out
  • 1 butter bun, lightly toasted
  • 1 slice of provolone cheese, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Start by having everything ready to layer in your sandwich. Heat a skillet on medium heat, and add in the canola oil. Add the slices of smoked duck breast, moving them around the skillet, and sear for a couple of minutes on each side.
  2. Take the bottom bun of your lightly toasted bun and layer on, or smear on the avocado. Season with a pinch of salt.
  3. Next layer on the slightly crispy Nueske’s smoked duck breast, provolone cheese, tomatoes (season with a bit of salt and pepper), then the stack of lettuce. Place on the top bun, and feel free to smash it slightly into shape. You want mayo (I love it, my wife does not), feel free to slather it on the bun(s).

 

Loaded Baked Potato Skin Nachos

The Super Bowl has passed, and to be honest I do not think that any one of us in my family actually cared. Sure, the boys said ‘I want the Patriots to go down!’ a few times that day, but the only thing I really cared about was what we were going to snack on. I am done asking, for the most part, what everyone would like to eat, and just lay things out. My menu was simple. Slow baked ribs that would be later fried and glazed, and loaded potato skins that would also be fried.

One of my top recipes is the loaded potato skins, and as I have made so many awesome variations of potato skins, there is one thing I have never done and that is to actually fry the skins. It’s a total game changer. Why? Well because you get a whole shell of that awesome crispy and crunchy texture, not just on the edges, but the entire shell. It’s almost chip like in texture, but with a bit, and just a bit of that creaminess from the potato.

Loaded Potato Skin Nachos
Loaded Potato Skin Nachos

As with any nacho, you load this as you darn well please, but for me, there was one ingredient that made this shine and that was crispy, Nueske’s smoked duck breast lardons.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs of russet potatos, cleaned
  • 4 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
  • Nueske’s smoked duck breast, cubed (or substitute bacon), and fried until slightly crisp
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 oz can of black olives, drained
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • sour cream, optional
  • avocado, sliced, optional
  • Your favorite hot sauce
  • cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 serrano chili, thinly sliced, optional
  • shredded lettuce, optional
  • salt, to taste
  • 3 cups of canola oil, 350 degrees

Again, you can build your nachos however you want. Add beans and tomatoes if you desire. Load these suckers up!

Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees. Add the whole potatoes to a baking sheet. Use a fork and poke a few holes into each potato to allow steam to release while baking. Bake the potatoes for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from the oven, and let them completely cool.

Once the potatoes have cooled, sliced them in half, lengthwise. Use a spoon and gently scoop out all of the potato into a bowl. I use all of the potato, add a bit of butter, salt, and milk and whip them up to mashed potatoes for another meal.

Once you have all of your skins ready, heat up a pot with the canola oil. Get the oil to 350 degrees on medium-high heat, and once you have your temperature, drop in about 7-8, or whatever can easily fit into the pot without crowding, and cook the skins for about 5-10 minutes or until you begin to see the interior of the skins get golden and nicely crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the potato skins and place them on a paper towel lined plate to release any excess oil. Immediately season by showering the skins with salt. Taters need salt.

Ingredients for making Loaded Potato Skin Nachos
Ingredients for making Loaded Potato Skin Nachos

Repeat with the potato skins.

Add the skins to a oven safe baking pan, and begin adding cheese into each skin.

When all of the skins have finished cooking and the excess oil is removed and they are nicely salted, layer the potato skins onto the baking pan and continue to add cheese into each shell.

Keep the oil on the stove, and take the cubed Nueske’s smoked duck breast and add them to the oil. Get them lightly crisp, then the same process with the slotted spoon and place onto the paper lined plate.

Take those Nueske duck lardons and place a couple into each shell. If you are using bacon, cook until slightly crisp, then crumble and add that into each shell. Add the shallots into each shell, then place back into a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is nicely melted.

Remove the potato skins from the oven (do not devour), then decorate them with green onions, avocado, cilantro, serrano chilies, olives, hot sauce, and sour cream (or whatever you desire).

Loaded Potato Skin Nachos Recipe
Loaded Potato Skin Nachos Recipe

Plate and serve. You want to talk about an ultimate game day snack, this is the one! As much as we all love nachos, this loaded potato skin nacho recipe is really, really hard to beat. It’s everything you love about a nacho but in a crispy potato skin boat! Hope you enjoy!

Cheese Fondue

I start by saying I feel blessed by knowing my wife. We met moons ago but to this day my feelings for her have never changed. On a recent anniversary, porcelain was the deal. I think I was laid up sick (not unusual nowadays), but she delivered a couple of things that she knew I would love. Porcelain.  There was a lasagna dish, and a fondue item. I LOVE FONDUE. Many years ago, probably on the start of our marriage, my wife’s friend brought over a fondue kit and that is when it started. Granted I had fondue in prior to that, but the communal experience is one that I totally love(d). So when my wife showed my that love and thought, I was all in and really excited.

Cheese Fondue Recipe
Cheese Fondue Recipe

My kids have never had fondue, or if they did it was at a very young age.

Fondue is special. It’s fun and it is simple once you have everything in place. I believe it is derived from the Swiss, but being in Wisconsin and having great cheese, wine, and everything else, well it does add up to a great cold winter appetizer or dinner.

There are different kinds of fondues. Cheese, chocolate, or oil based pots for communal dipping. This is a simple cheese fondue and I’m certain there are so many different takes on it. Mine was simple. Bread and cheese on a cold winter day.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb bag of fondue cheese, or grate your own Swiss and Gruyere cheese
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 cup of dry white wine
  • rustic bread, cubed or torn
  • Any vegetables you want (optional)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • pinch of cracked black pepper

I know there is probably a more traditional way to fondue using Kirsch, but to be honest who has Kirsch sitting around? I did once and it was consumed immediately. Wisconsin loves its brandy. This is stuff that is easy to get a hold of, and once you start mixing the cheese and keeping it warm, well it is so hard to not hit it every 10 minutes.

Cheese Fondue Ingredients
Cheese Fondue Ingredients

Start by rubbing your fondue pot with the clove of garlic. Don’t be shy. Rub that sucker. Then warm your fondue pot. You can buy the sternos at the store or online. Or if your fondue pot is electric, even better.

Once the pot is warmed, add in the cheese(s), wine, and lemon juice. Stir well. Toss in the pepper and stir some more. Once this begins to melt, keep stirring, and get ready to use your poker. The pokers are color coded. If you have a sicko around, no poker.

If your fondue starts to thicken, add a bit more wine, stir and loosen it up. Keep the heat on low and when eating, poke the break and stir that cheesey awesomeness up.

Dip and go. My wife and I love cheese fondue. The strength of the cheese kind of freaked out my kids, who love cheese, which was just fine because that meant more goodness for us. Go fondue! Hope you enjoy, and hope your new year is off to a great start.