OK, so I know I’ve been posting a lot of decadent stuff lately… what can I say? It’s just that time of year. Sorry I’m not sorry?…
Let’s talk about lamb today. Are you a fan? I know some people aren’t into the full-bodied, “gamey” flavor of it…but I ADORE it. I love its bold flavor – it can really hold its own in a dish packed with intensity.
This dish is one of those.
Not only are the meatballs themselves full of spice and richness, but the sauce is intensely rich and fabulously decadent. The peas and parsley do their part, too, by adding some freshness and balance. Everything is topped off with a fresh grating of Manchego cheese, one of my personal (yet underused) favs!
There is a lot going on here, and somehow, it all works. Cozy and bold. Seems like an odd pairing of characteristics…but this dish covers them both.
Now, if you AREN’T a fan of lamb, feel free to swap it for chicken or beef. The flavors should still shine through!
We received a BUNCH of snow yesterday (did anyone see that Eagles-Lions game? Ridiculously fun). This dish was absolutely perfect for curling up with in front of the fire as we admired our freshly decorated, ridiculously large Christmas tree (courtesy of my husband – he picked out the 12-footer all by himself. Hah. Lucky for him, it’s beautiful and squirrel-free). This dish was the perfect accompaniment!
Mmm, just looking at these pictures is making me want another bowl RIGHT NOW. Drool.
Fettuccine with Truffled Lamb Meatballs & Sherried Cream Sauce (makes 6 servings)
For the Meatballs:
1 large onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ketchup
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 tablespoons white truffle oil
½ cup Manchego cheese, grated
1 cup of fresh bread crumbs
½ cup milk
½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 lb ground lamb
Salt and pepper
For the Pasta:
1 lb fettuccine pasta
½ cup dry sherry (or vermouth)
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons caramelized onions (reserved from the meatballs)
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup frozen peas
Drizzle of white truffle oil (or to taste)
½ cup Manchego cheese, grated
Fresh parsley, chopped
1. For the Meatballs: heat a large skillet over medium heat and add one tablespoon of oil. Add the onions and cook for 20 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until lightly brown and caramelized. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the fresh breadcrumbs and milk and allow to sit for a few minutes or until the milk is mostly absorbed. Mix in the caramelized onions (reserve about 2 tablespoons of the onions for the sauce), garlic, ketchup, parsley, smoked paprika, white truffle oil, Manchego cheese, eggs, and finally the Panko breadcrumbs. Mix well and then gently fold in the lamb meat, mixing to combine but not overworking the mixture.
3. Heat the same pan used for the onions over medium heat and add a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Preheat the oven to 400°F and put a large pot of water on for the pasta.
4. Form the meat mixture into meatballs (I used a medium cookie scoop to help me get an even size) and pan sear, in batches, until golden brown on all sides. Move browned meatballs to a baking sheet lined with parchment or foil. Once all the meatballs are brown, place them in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Keep warm until ready to serve.
5. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until el dente. Drain off the oil used to sear the meatballs and then deglaze the pan with the dry sherry over medium heat. Add the red pepper flakes, caramelized onions, and heavy cream and bring mixture to a simmer, stirring frequently.
6. Add in the truffle oil and peas during the last few minutes of cooking. Toss the sauce with the pasta, top with the meatballs, and then garnish with fresh parsley and the grated cheese. Serve immediately.
Whew. That’s a mouthful. A DELICIOUS mouthful.
OK, confession time…
Number one. This is the first cheesecake I’ve ever made.
Number two. I’m not a huge fan of plain cheesecake. One or two bites and I’m good. It’s generally too rich for me. I do, however, love flavored cheesecakes! The addition of other flavors, whether it be fruit, chocolate, or whatever, always seems to cut down on the richness.
This cheesecake idea had been brewing in my head for months and months. I wanted to try my hand at homemade cheesecake, and I wanted to make it one that I would actually enjoy (read: flavor infused). Go figure. I knew that the classic combination of orange and chocolate was a safe bet…but I didn’t want to do just a regular ol’ orange cheesecake. It’s been done!
Enter the clementine. One of my most favorite things about this time of year: it’s clementine season. I LOVE these little citrus gems! They are sweet and tender and absolutely crazy delicious. I buy them by the crate weekly.
So, I decided that making a CLEMENTINE cheesecake was the answer. Add in a chocolate cookie crust and we’ve got that combo covered. Golden. However, I was still trying to figure out what else I could do to take it over the top. After all, this was my very first cheesecake. Then it hit me: CANDIED CLEMENTINE TOPPING! So I did just that. The whole process was a lot easier than I thought, just time consuming. Cheesecake is one of those desserts you sort of have to plan in advance. It takes a long time to bake and a long time to chill and set. In fact, cheesecake is BEST served after it’s been chilling for a day or two.
I was so pleased with the way this came out. I mean, not only did it look beautiful, but it tasted even better! The only person in my life who would probably NOT like this is my youngest sister. She has a strong aversion to clementines… and the scent of citrus in general. It’s so bad that she has to have OTHER people peel her oranges for her. She can’t handle the lingering scent on her hands…but she then EATS the orange with no problem! Weird, right? For whatever reason, clementines have not earned her stamp of approval. So, in this case, it’s her loss. (Love you, Boo!)
This is a very impressive dessert, in my humble opinion. I mean, I would be so excited to have something like this served to me! It’s perfect for this holiday season – not only is it fancy-schmancy, but it’s seasonally appropriate with all the citrus goin’ on!
If I can do it, you can do it. Just etch out enough time for yourself to make, bake, and chill this baby and you’ll be the talk of the town.
It’s amazeballs. Trust me.
Clementine-Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Chocolate Cooke Crust & Candied Clementines
(makes 10-12 servings)
For the Topping:
4 whole clementines
1 cup sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup of water
3 tablespoons fresh clementine juice
For the Cheesecake:
1¼ cups finely crushed chocolate wafers
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup sour cream
Zest of 4 clementines
Juice of 1 clementine
1 tablespoon orange-flavored liqueur
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or the caviar of 1 vanilla bean)
1. For the Topping: With a sharp knife, slice the clementines into thin rounds, discarding ends and seeds. In a large skillet, heat the sugar, water, and lemon juice until sugar is dissolved. Add the slices of clementine and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Uncover and simmer gently, keeping slices in a single layer and turning occasionally, until they’re slightly candied and translucent and liquid has the consistency of a thin syrup, about 20 minutes. You should have about a half cup of liquid in the pan at this point. Allow to cool in the pan and then cover and chill for at least 15 minutes (this can be done a couple days ahead).
2. For the Cheesecake: Preheat oven to 300°F. Combine the chocolate wafer crumbs and melted butter in a small bowl and then press the mixture evenly over bottom of a spring-form pan. Bake for 10 minutes and then remove from oven to cool slightly while you make the filling.
3. In a large bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese and sugar until fluffy and smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in flour, sour cream, clementine zest and juice, liqueur, and vanilla bean paste until well incorporated. Pour into crust-lined pan. Place the pan in a large roasting dish and pour hot water into the roasting dish until it is half-way up the sides of the spring-form pan (I also wrap my spring-form pan in a few layers of tin foil to prevent water from seeping in). Baking the cheesecake in a water bath helps prevent it from cracking and keeps it moist.
4. Bake until the center barely jiggles when cake is gently shaken, about 60 minutes. Run a thin-bladed knife between the cake and pan rim. Cool completely to room temperature, then cover and chill until cold, at least 3 hours (or for a couple days).
5. Remove pan rim. Gently lift candied clementine slices from syrup, reserving syrup, and blot dry with a paper towel. Arrange slices, slightly overlapping, on top of cheesecake.
6. Bring reserved syrup to a boil over high heat. Stir occasionally until syrup is thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully stir in fresh clementine juice (mixture will bubble up). Let cool to room temperature and generously brush over orange slices (you may have extra syrup). Slice the cheesecake and serve!
So, in my book, that means it’s cocktail time!
This cocktail is a symbol of growth for me. I know that sounds odd, but hear me out…
As I mentioned recently, my fondness of grapefruit is sort of a new thing. I was NOT a fan for many, many years. One of the main reasons I decided to give them another shot was that I started to see all sorts of interesting cocktails using grapefruit popping up on Pinterest. I thought to myself “Well, if I’m going to try it, I may as well do it when it’s drowning in booze. Duh.” Always a good route to take when in doubt, people. In addition to that, a friend gave us a bottle of premium grapefruit-flavored vodka around the same time. The stars were aligning, my friends.
So, I started playing around with the flavors of grapefruit. I was surprised when I found myself actually enjoying the tart-bitter thang it had going on. I started out slow, mixing obvious combinations, such as the aforementioned vodka with fresh grapefruit juice and some simple syrup. It was delish. Then I worked my way up to some more daring cocktails involving the still-semi-questionable citrus fruit.
This brings me to gin. Now, gin is also a more recent enjoyment for me. I, like many people, always thought it tasted like straight-up pine needles, and that was NOT appealing to me in the least. One of my best friends, though, always drank gin. In fact, when she was feelin’ saucy, she would declare certain nights out (in our early twenties, mind you) “A Tanqueray Kinda Night.” We all knew what that meant. We’d all laugh and sip on our much safer cocktails (or special-of-the-night light beers) as she barreled her way through a bottle of the pine juice. OK, maybe not a whole bottle…but enough of the bottle to make a dent.
It wasn’t until retro cocktails starting showing up EVERYWHERE that I decided I needed to give gin another shot (pun intended, har har). It seemed like all of a sudden there were all sorts of trendy “speakeasy”-style places serving these really cool, old-fashioned cocktails. So, with much hesitation, I decided to try an old-school gin fizz. The guy making it even threw some raw egg whites into the shaker! LEGIT. Much to my surprise (and glee!), I LOVED IT. My cocktail-lovin’ self was reborn.
From there, I started making all sorts of gin concoctions at home. This is one of my FAVORITES. The floral, herby notes of the gin pair SO perfectly with the grapefruit and thyme flavors. It’s perfection.
Plus, it represents some personal evolution for me. I now like two things that I deemed in my younger years to be “gross.” Doubly exciting.
If this drink sounds just a little too strange to you, you could certainly swap some of the ingredients for something else…or, challenge yourself to try something new and different! You might be surprised!
Personal growth and cocktails. Deep stuff on the blog today. Hah.
Grapefruit & Thyme Gin Spritzer (makes 2 drinks)
For the Thyme Simple Syrup:
1 bunch fresh thyme sprigs
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
For the Cocktail:
2 large grapefruit
½ cup grapefruit-flavored vodka (or plain)
¼ cup gin (I like Hendrick’s)
4 fresh thyme sprigs, for garnish
1. For the Simple Syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the thyme sprigs, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool completely. Can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the fridge.
2. Squeeze the juice of the grapefruit into a shaker filled with ice. Add the vodka, gin, and 1-2 tablespoons of the simple syrup (to taste – shake, taste, and add more if not sweet enough). Shake well and pour into chilled glasses. Top each off with a little club soda and garnish with fresh thyme sprigs.