You know how it goes. You get this idea and it seems really great in your head but then somehow, it turns out oh so terribly wrong in real life. Like wearing toe socks. Or purchasing the slap chop.
I had this vision for a beautiful light cream sauce accented by golden cauliflower florets and crispy browned bits of bacon. It was going to be amazing. The inspiration came from a recipe out of the Company’s Coming Slow Cooker cookbook but I didn’t have any of the ingredients that that recipe called for, so I just made up my own.
That is where everything went wrong.
I rarely make cream sauces. In fact, I never make cream sauces. I can rock an oil based or tomato based pasta sauce like nobody’s business but milk and butter and flour is new territory. So why did I think that this would turn out amazing?
I roasted the cauliflower at 375F for an hour, turning them over after 30 minutes. Before putting them in the oven, I brushed the florets with olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and cracked fresh pepper. While the cauliflower was slowly caramelizing, I fried six slices of chopped bacon in a small frying pan and then placed them on a paper towel to soak up the excess fat. In a large non-stick frying pan, I melted 2 tbsp butter over medium heat and a tsp of the left over bacon fat. To this, I added two chopped leeks (thoroughly washed and rinsed) and 2 cloves of garlic diced.
At this point our house smelled divine. All was going well. I added 2 tbsp of all purpose flour and let it brown for a couple of minutes.
That is when I discovered that we had less than a 1/4 cup of milk left. Milk was supposed to be the main liquid in this sauce! The flour, leek and garlic mixture sucked every ounce of milk and left a gooey dough. In a panic I ransacked the pantry for chicken stock. Nothing. In desperation I found a jar of evaporated skim milk but it expired in 2009 (I was going to use it anyways, until I opened it up and realized that it had been rotten for a very long time. Oh my.). So I kept adding cup after cup of water. In response the flour mixture just kept expanding.
At this time the baby was bawling, my hair was frazzled, and my husband was confused. I shouted at him to make me some chicken oxo, thinking he knew how to do that. He didn’t. I added that cup of whatever it was into the mix anyways, along with the cauliflower and bacon.
The sauce never thinned out, it only expanded. Getting bigger and bigger and more gross looking.
It was like this sauce had a mind of its own and was going to reach up and slap me in the face. So I threw some shredded cheese at it and stabbed it with my wooden spoon.
Defeated, I took the sauce off the burner and added it to my pasta. I only had speghettini which was a terrible choice. The sauce was too heavy and thick for such a delicate noodle. It ended up looking like runny scrambled eggs.
Guys, this was the Jabba the Hut of pasta dishes. To dress it up, I garnished it with chopped fresh parlsey. But like putting a french beret on Jabba, no one was fooled. It was still a hot mess with a bit of parsley.
Thank goodness my husband will eat ANYTHING I place in front of him. He even took the left overs to work the next day. Next time, if there is a next time, I will follow a recipe when making a cream sauce.
And on that note, what’s your go-to cream sauce recipe?
This post should really be called: “How to Win Friends and Influence People Through Shrimp and Wine”. Because if you want to impress someone special, make this dish. It’s the kind of meal that takes minimal effort to prepare for maximum class and sophistication- it’s pasta’s little black dress. I would prepare this dish for my husband if he wasn’t severely allergic to shellfish. Instead, he gets the canned tuna version, still delicious and great for any occasion, but more like a tuxedo t-shirt than a cocktail dress 😉
But I digress.
Start by sauteing a couple of cloves of garlic and half a red onion in 2 tbsp of olive oil and tbsp of margarine or butter, for about two minutes or until onion becomes soft. Add salt and pepper to taste and 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes (optional). Add 1/2 cup of white wine and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes until wine reduces slightly. Add shrimp. I used uncooked, frozen tiger shrimp and half a bag of frozen seafood medley. Squeeze in a quarter of a lemon, 1 tsp of caper juice, 1 tbsp of capers and let simmer until shrimp is pink, about 5 minutes.
In the meantime, boil water and add a package of fresh linguine noodles (or any kind of fresh pasta you prefer. Fettucine would also be excellent). The pasta doesn’t take long to cook. If it is finished before your sauce is ready, drain and place in serving dish with a tbsp of olive oil so the noodles don’t stick together.
When the alcohol has been cooked out of the sauce, add it to your pasta, tossing to coat all the noodles. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley, chopped green onion, grated lemon zest, parmesan cheese, and fresh cracked pepper. Serve with crusty bread for dipping.
Note, I often will add a cup of chicken stock to the sauce at the same time I add my wine, if I’m wanting more liquid in my sauce. The chicken stock adds another layer of flavour and pairs well with the wine.
I am no longer intimidated by fennel!
Fennel used to intimidate me. It was one of those “exotic” vegetables that only the Food Network superstars Chef Michael Smith and Mario Batali cooked with. Fennel looked good on the television but was so far from entering my every day repertoire. I would pass the fennel in the grocery store, staring at it longingly, wanting to cook with it but at a loss of what I would do with it.
Well those days are over!
I’ve cooked with it several times in the past couple of months and love the subtle licorice flavour it adds to dishes. The other night, I was short on time and craving something hearty. I threw together this sausage and fennel pasta dish which was inspired by a Rachael Ray recipe. I substituted the pernod for red wine, the cream for tomatoes and the penne for spegghetini. So mine was pretty much a completely different dish.
I browned hot italian sausage and then sauteed fennel, red onion, and garlic. To that I generously poured a cup or so of red wine and let it reduce before adding a can of diced tomatoes. It simmered on the stove until Todd got home from work and took the baby from me, about 20 minutes or so. I then I added it all to spegghetini, topping it with parsley and fennel fronds. We served it with grated mozzerella and some box o’wine.