Lizz Winstead: The Key 3

Lizz Winstead is the creator of The Daily Show and the author of Lizz Free or Die. In this installment of The Key 3, she shares with Lynne Rossetto Kasper the stories behind three of her favorite recipes: a fettuccine from Mario Batali, rosemary and garlic lamb chops, and spritz cookies from The American Swedish Institute.

Here are Lizz's keys, as told to Lynne:

1. Fettuccine with Lemon, Hot Peppers and Pecorino Romano

I usually chop my onions and my jalapenos first and do my lemons last. That way, the onion and jalapeno smell on my hands gets taken out by the lemon.

The only thing that's a bummer with this dish is you have to have a lot of patience. Because, with the jalapeno and with the red onion, what makes these flavors meld really well together is getting them really thin. It has to be sliver, sliver, sliver thin.

You can adjust it to your heat liking. If you're going to cut back on anything, have it be a little less jalapeno, but then throw a little bit more red pepper flake in. Because these can be really intense. It's never any fun to have a mouth full of hot.

When you're making a lot of this, you can double and triple the recipe. But don't double and triple the onions, and don't double and triple the jalapeno. If it calls for one onion and you're tripling the recipe, maybe just do one large and one small onion, and then maybe just throw one and a half more jalapenos in. Otherwise, it just gets way too crazy.

I always usually use a dry fettuccine. I am not somebody who makes pasta. If you do, I think you're a terrific person, but sometimes homemade isn't as good as boxed. It's best to not spend your time there.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 jalapenos, halved, seeded, and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • Zest and juice of 3 lemons
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/4 pounds Mario Batali's Fresh Fettuccine
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano

Directions

1. Bring 6 quarts water to a boil in a large pot; season with salt.

2. Meanwhile, in a 10- to 12-inch skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat until almost smoking. Add onion and red pepper flakes; saute until translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add jalapenos; saute for 1 minute. Add zest and juice; bring to a boil, and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in butter, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

3. Drop pasta into boiling water and cook until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain.

4. Toss hot pasta into pan with lemon mixture; return to medium heat. Stir together gently. Add pecorino; toss quickly. Transfer to a warmed serving platter. Serve immediately.

2. Rosemary and Garlic Lamb Chops

Growing up, I never had lamb, because it was expensive and we had five kids in the family.

It's 1 to 2 ounces of meat per rib, and you want to serve probably three ribs per person. It's really lean, and they're not cheap. This is for when you want to splurge -- maybe for your loved one or maybe if you want to have a couple people for dinner. To serve this up for eight would cost quite a bit.

Also, if my mom didn't like something, then we kids were just told that we didn't like it. A lot of my food choices came from me saying I didn't like something because my mother didn't. Duck, for instance.

Then, when I grew up, I realized my mom was missing out on so much good food.

I think people overuse rosemary and garlic. There are people who say, "You can't have too much garlic." My response is, "You can't ever cook for me." You can have too much garlic and it can be a disaster. And rosemary has become less and less one of my favorite things to cook with because I feel like people just overuse it.

A simple recipe for an impressive main course. Serve the lamb with Saffron Couscous and baby carrots. Pour a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ingredients

    • 5 garlic cloves
    • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
    • 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
    • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 12 meaty lamb rib chops (about 2 1/2 ounces each)

Instructions

Combine first 5 ingredients in processor; blend until garlic is finely chopped. Coat chops with garlic mixture. Arrange chops in single layer on baking sheet. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover; chill.)

Preheat broiler. Watching closely, broil lamb 4 to 5 inches from heat source until cooked to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer 3 chops to each plate and serve.

3. Spritz Cookies

Spritz, to me, is not only the most terrific cookie, it is so Christmas-y on every level.

Spritz is a butter cookie that you make in a press. You can buy them on eBay or Etsy, and I always advise people to find a vintage one because they're sturdier. The cookie needs to stick a bit as it comes through the press; if it doesn't, you have problems trying to keep the shape.

This is the cookie we made with my mom. We had a small but mighty prairie house in Southwest Minneapolis and the front porch was the freezer. She would bake all these cookies, which we would keep on the porch. It was a delight for us kids because we could sneak out there constantly.

The other thing out on that porch, however, were what my mom called death casseroles. We were not allowed to eat the death casseroles. We would hear that so-and-so's mother died, and when that happened, my mom always she had a casserole at the ready. We would take it out of the freezer and bring it down to their house. Our name was masking-taped to the bottom, of course, and it was all very giving until the people didn't return the casserole dish in time.

But the spritz cookies are the ones that we all remember, because it was a whole day set aside just for spritz. We'd play the Bing Crosby and Andrews Sisters records and sing Mele Kalikimaka and dance around. It is one of the great holiday memories that I have.

One thing I will say, above all else, is that you are not making an official spritz unless you use almond extract. Get the real almond extract. If you buy that imitation junk, I don't even know what to say to you. You've ruined the holidays for everyone.

Ingredients

    • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup softened butter
    • 2/3 cup sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tsp almond extract
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and vanilla (and almond extract, if desired). Gradually add in the flour, mixing until combined.

Fill a cookie press with the dough, and squeeze cookies out onto an ungreased baking sheet. Decorate cookies with colored sugar or sprinkles. Place baking sheet on middle rack in oven and bake 5 minutes. DO NOT OVERBAKE! The edges should have the barest whisper of brown. Remove sheet from oven. Remove cookies from baking sheet and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

You can also divide up the dough and color it to make wreaths, trees and poinsettias.

The Key 3 is a series of discussions with great cooks (not just professional chefs) about the three recipes or techniques they think everyone should know.

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