About The Saturday Chef

Midwest, United States
I am NOT a professional chef. I am what I affectionately dub a Saturday Chef—a weekend warrior of the culinary variety, fortified by the education I have gleaned from two high school cooking classes, the Food Network and my own gastronomical experiments. While I’m not ashamed to spend all day making bagels by hand, and proudly call myself a foodie, I’m not a food snob. I enjoy an Extra Value Meal as much as the next girl. My culinary escapades are still relegated to the weekends, but my love for cooking is stronger than ever, galvanized by more successes than failures, and the beautiful fact that the more I cook, the more people there are to feed. So please stay tuned for fun recipes, inevitable disasters and hopefully, a lot of good food.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Quick and Delicious: Pasta with Pancetta

A few years ago, I marched into my kitchen, rolled up my sleeves and began making pasta by hand. Without a pasta marker. Bolstered by a few websites that said such a feat could be done, I forged ahead into the culinary unknown as I had done many times before with delectable outcomes.

This was not one of those times.

I rolled and I rolled until my hands hurt. I cooked it and stood over the bowl as I stared down at not an alluring plate of feathery light pasta, but something that resembled steaming slugs peppered with Italian herbs. And sadly, it didn’t taste much better.

I learned three things that day: the Internet lies; pasta making is a process and an art; and that you should always have the right tools to make food properly.

There is no better canvas to create an edible masterpiece than pasta. Smothered in a flavorful sauce or just served with butter, salt and pepper, it has always been a staple and a favorite in my kitchen. Therefore, I’ve collected a pretty extensive list of pasta recipes. I have a select few—my Holy Grail of Carbs—that I will return to again and again. Linguine with Pancetta and Parmesan has become one of them. I put leeks in everything, so I added them to this dish, too. You get the sweet tang of onions as well as the more subtle flavor of leeks. This is a perfect meal for a weekday dinner, because it can be made quickly with items most people have in the pantry or freezer. However, the pancetta, cheese and aromatics add a bit of indulgence to a Tuesday night.


Linguine with Pancetta and Parmesan
Adapted from recipe at Cooking.com


8 ounces of pancetta or bacon, chopped
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 leek, rinsed and sliced, optional
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
¾ pound of linguine
½ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Salt, black pepper to taste*


In a large skillet, cook the pancetta or bacon until slightly crisp. Remove the pork with a slotted spoon onto a plate lined with paper towels.

Reserve two tablespoons of the pork fat and drain off the rest.

Return the pan to medium heat. Add onions and leeks, thyme and red pepper and season very lightly with salt. Cook the onion mixture, stirring occasionally, until it is brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Cooking the linguine in boiling salted water per directions. Reserve about 1 cup of pasta water. Drain pasta. Add pancetta, onions, cheese, and ¾ of reserved pasta water, and black pepper. If sauce is too thick, add more pasta water.

Serve immediately with parmesan cheese.

*Note: Salt this dish very carefully and conservatively. It is very easy to over-salt this recipe as it contains pancetta and cheese.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Saturday Chef's Cure for the Winter Blues: Creamy Potato Soup

During my senior year of high school, after years of taking advanced classes and being admitted to college, I decided take a couple fun courses—one of them was a cooking class. While, I don’t use calculus or speak French in my daily life, I still make a lot the dishes I learned in that class, especially Creamy Potato Soup. It’s also where I learned the basics of cooking and how many things you can make with a roux.

Here in Wisconsin, this winter has been strangely snow-less (at one point, Georgia had more snow than we did.  GEORGIA!), but this week the Midwest was finally walloped with an honest-to-goodness snowicane that made up for the lack of the fluffy stuff. It involved thunder-snow, lightning, 60 mph winds and 14 inches of snow in less than 12 hours. It was AWESOME, and gave me a perfect reason to make this creamy, velvety, delicious, easy potato soup. It’s like a foodie equivalent of your favorite warm sweater. It can be made in less time it takes to dig your car out from a four-foot snowdrift. Even if you’re stuck in the house, you probably have everything you need to make it already in your cupboard. The luscious flavor makes it perfect for garnishing, too. My dad adds canned clams and some juice for a quick chowder—I just stick with bacon and cheese.


Easy Potato Soup

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups milk, warmed

1 to 1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth

3 cups russet potatoes, ½’’ dice



In a large stockpot over medium heat, melt butter. When butter is almost completely melted, but not foaming, add flour and whisk to combine. Cook for roux for 1 minute, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Slowly pour about 1 cup of warmed milk into roux and whisk to combine. Mixture should thicken and smooth out. Stir in the rest of the milk and the chicken broth. Season thoroughly with salt and pepper. Add diced potatoes. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 15-20 minutes, until soup has thickened and potatoes are fork tender, but not mushy. Season to taste. I prefer lots of black pepper. If soup gets too thick, add a bit more chicken broth to thin out.

Serve immediately with a sprinkling of your favorite cheese and chopped bacon.