One of the reasons most of us enjoy cooking for others is because it’s something that makes other people feel good. That’s one of the main reasons we like to cook for our friends and family. It is something that we can offer other people, and they appreciate it. If our only purpose in life was to do nice things for people that they would enjoy and appreciate, we would all be happy campers. Not too long ago, a friend of ours had an all-around bad day that seemed to pair nicely with a not so great week. From beginning to end, it was a mess. Bad days happen to everyone, and sometimes there isn’t much you can do to change the situation. As a friend, all you can do is lend an ear or a helping hand. Food never hurts either. How can you continue with a bad day when an evening’s meal shows up at your doorstep?
There are prime foods that we all associate with comfort–pasta and chocolate are two of them. Creamy pasta with cheese and deep, dark chocolate with liquor are even better. The pasta includes a couple of tablespoons of this earthy, smokey, spicy, crunchy Chile Crunch from Chile Colonial. We received the sample from our friends at Foodzie. The artisan maker resides in San Francisco, but the product is inspired by her time spent in Mexico. It’s dried chilies and crispy garlic and onion in canola oil. The flavor is intense, and the scent is one of the most intoxicating you’ll ever encounter. It smells like the kind of thing you want to eat all the time. To date, it has been a featured ingredient in eggs, quiche, stir fry, fried rice, seafood linguine, marinara sauce and so on. Anything that needs a big, spicy flavor has been hit with the Chile Crunch in the last few weeks!
These dishes were delivered at our friend’s doorstep by the end of the night. The dessert is based on Mark Bittman’s recipe for molten chocolate cake. These were baked at a lower temperature for a longer amount of time in flatter dishes, so they were soft and fluffy in the middle–not quite molten. You can follow his recipe should you want oozy chocolate with every bite. Never forget the whipped cream with any warm, chocolate cake! Just take a little heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until soft and thick. The whipped cream below has drops of vanilla and brandy inside to highlight the flavors of the chocolate.
Chicken Penne with Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes – Serves 8
1 pound penne, parboiled
3 pounds chicken breast, cut into 1″ pieces
1 tablespoons ground sage
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 pound asparagus, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 pint white mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons Chile Colonial Chile Crunch (or red pepper flakes, to taste)
1/2 cup pasta water
3/4 cup heavy cream
30 ounces pasta sauce
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
8 ounces goat cheese
1. Season the chicken liberally with sage and kosher salt. Set aside. Drizzle a bit of olive oil in a very deep, wide pan over medium high heat and, when hot, add the chicken. Cook until chicken is white on the outside but still a bit pink inside, approximately 3-5 minutes.
2. Add garlic, tomatoes, asparagus and mushrooms. Mix well to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the Chile Crunch, pasta water, pasta sauce and cream until smooth, then pour over the veggies. Fold in the pasta. Salt to taste.
3. Spoon the pasta mixture into a 9″x13″x3″ baking dish, sprinkle with basil and cover with bits of the goat cheese. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.
Mini Chocolate Cakes – Serves 4 (tweaked from Bitten Blog)
4 1/2 ounces 72% dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed, plus more for the ramekins
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, plus more for the ramekins
Zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon brandy
Pinch of kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon flour
1. Mix a bit of cocoa and sugar together in a small bowl. Grease four 4 ounce ramekins with butter, then dust with cocoa mixture. Cover all sides well, then tap out the excess. Set aside.
2. Place the butter and chocolate into a heat-resistant bowl over a pot of lightly simmering water, making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir every once in a while to incorporate both ingredients and ensure they do not burn. Once melted, set aside to cool slightly.
3. While chocolate cools, place eggs, egg yolks, brandy, orange zest, salt and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until thick and ribbony, approximately 3-5 minutes. Turn off the mixer speed and use a flat spoon to fold in the warm chocolate, followed by the flour and cinnamon.
4. Pour into the prepared ramekins and bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for approximately 15 minutes or until cake bounces back once touched in the middle.
Click HERE for the printable recipes.