Pasta


Life lately has been hectic at best. I missed not only the beloved Robert, but the amazingly hilarious Duff? What? I did manage to pull off dinner last night, and while it wasn’t 100% perfect, no new recipe ever is. I’m trying again Saturday.

We made Asian meatballs, which actually were perfect. It was the noodles we had a problem with. I wanted to make a fried noodle cake, like a cracker, but then the meatballs were left feeling very lonely and without any kind of texture. Despite the fried crunch. I think next time, I’ll do something more akin to asian spaghetti: make the noodles (buckwheat soba noodles) but not fry them, and use my brown sauce recipe for a “spaghetti” sauce.

The recipe!

1 lb ground beef
1/4 cup+ breadcrumbs
1 egg
1.5 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar.

Stir everything but the meat and breadcrumbs together. Mix in meat, then crumbs, then egg. Pan fry for 3 minutes per side or until done.

They were so delicious, people. Oh my goodness! I loved the sesame oil, it really made the meatball. They were super-tender and incredibly flavorful. Tonight we’re eating subway (we’re going to a meeting and they’re buying) but I’m excited to try eating it on regular noodles with the delicious brown sauce. Despite the ethnic appeal, it’s definitely comfort food. If you’re looking for something classy, this isn’t it!

As you might have noticed (no review of the Food Network Challenge last night) I was definitely at work. So I made man-man food. I also wasn’t at home when it was consumed, so: well, we’ll see how that goes.

I started in the morning, I boiled up a box of macaroni noodles and sauted up a pound of hamburger (big, deep skillet, you’re making a sauce in here later) and put taco seasonings on it (chili, cumin, salt, garlic powder – or you can use a packet). I put this all on a plate to reserve it, but I didn’t wipe out the skillet.

Then I made the cheese sauce: start with about 4 tablespoons of roux in your skillet and make your bechamel. I made mine very, very loose, as you’re adding a LOT of cheese. I used oil instead of butter in the roux, used more oil than flour, and a LOT of milk. Then I shredded about a quarter of a pack of pepperjack into my bechamel, as well as nearly 2 cups of cheddar. Lots of cheese. Sauce should now be relatively thick again. However, your noodles should also be done. Drain them, but it’s okay if there’s water still in the bottom.

So you stir the hamburger, cheese, and noodles together (I recommend using the noodle pot unless your skillet is deeper than mine). Then, put the whole lot into a baking pan. Top with bread chunks (you could also use crumbs, but Josh and housemate prefer 1″ or so chunks that get super crisp and braised in the oven.)

Then? I stuck it in the fridge, and put a note on Housemate’s (he always gets home first)  computer to put the oven on 400 degrees and when it was preheated, put the macaroni in for 1/2 hour.

And that’s what I do when I’m feeling nice. Otherwise, I make them make hamburger helper.

Or at least to me! I love the lo mein from the cheapo little chinese places. This was last night’s attempt to recreate that experience, and holy cow was I ever successful. It’s a little complicated for your first go-round, but if you make twice as much sauce and refrigerate it, you’ll have something spectacular for later.

Grocery list:

lo mien noodles
bok choy (Chinese cabbage, check your produce section)
carrots (slice on the diagonal – I used my mandolin!)
cooking oil
hoisin sauce
sugar
vinegar
fresh ginger
soy sauce
garlic powder
ketchup. (yes, you read that right. Ketchup. like the heinz stuff. Tomato goop preserved in vinegar to make a sauce for putting on hot dogs. !)

So I had most of this in the house, so I decided to go for it.

So you heat 4 teaspoons oil in your pan while you get everything together, along with a small bowl. Put 2 tablespoons of hoisin, 1+ gloog tablespoon vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1tsp white pepper, 5.75 (okay it was totally 6) tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon ketchup, 2, okay maybe 2.5, tsp garlic powder, ONE teaspoon FRESH GRATED ginger (if you’re using the dried stuff go with their recommendation, but come on! Fresh ginger! YUM! Make ginger tea with the leftovers), and 3 tablespoons water into bowl. Stir well, then put into pan where your oil should be heated up by now. Cook until it’s simmering and has become a thick sauce and your housemate comes out of his room asking, when did heaven happen?

This was ganked from here. However, I cut the wine and added a bit more of things that I liked. And possibly added a little less than a tablespoon of ketchup because the last time I believed someone on the subject of, “You can’t taste it, I promise!” Josh and I found vomit in the pan that I’d willingly created. (It was crock-pot stroganoff, and someone, somewhere, thought 1 can of tomato paste was a good idea. I only put 1/2 in, and it still tasted like icky tomato concentrate. It was the only recipe I could find without onions or mushrooms! {yes, I know this means it wasn’t actually stroganoff. Yes, I know stroganoff is meat cooked in a mushroom brown sauce. Josh likes neither onions nor mushrooms. I deal.})

However, this was spectacular, and you actually can’t taste the ketchup. Really.  I would actually double the recipe next time and store half in a small jar. I’m guessing, especially with the vinegar, it’d keep for at least a week, if not two. And that’s assuming it lasts that long.

Anyway, so while that’s cooling, cut the leaves off the bok choy and prep like celery. It looks a whole lot more like celery than cabbage. No, really! So, peel off your stalks and slice THIN. Not like paper, but no more than 1/4 inch. Slice your carrots, and saute in a little more oil (not much, because I doubled the oil in my recipe. I felt it was necessary (2 teaspoons is a nonexistent amount, for oil!) but I also sauteed my veggies in less to make up for it. I felt this was a very good trade off. Anyway, so do that, and cook your lo mien on the side, and then, when the veggies are soft and noodles done, put all three things into the same pan (the one you cooked the veggies in will probably be best for this) and toss.

Josh and I are headed to my mother’s home for my birthday, wherein we will also celebrate the birthdays of Midget One and Midget Two (who, it should be noted, are neither midgets. Midget one is 5 feet tall at the tender age of 9, and midget two is flying to 4′, and she’s only 6.)

Either way. We’re on our way for a birthday extravaganza (sans birthday presents. We still have to get the buggers those, but we have presents from our trip to the Caribbean. So they can’t complain too much…I hope.) and I thought I would post a very fond birthday memory: My favorite Birthday Dinner, starting from the age of 8? 9? We’ll say 9, since we’ll be celebrating Midget One’s Ninth. (yes, I was a very sophisticated childhood eater. I was one of those kids that would eat ANYTHING UNDER THE SUN. This included things that were green.)

Spinach and Pine Nut Angel Hair

Kay so that’s the recipe. No, really! You use a pound of thawed spinach (or cook a big bag full) and you saute some pinenuts (one small pack), garlic(2 cloves) and red pepper flakes (yum! To your preference, I prefer 1.5 teaspoons) in, oh, 3/4 cup of olive oil, and put the spinach in that long enough to heat it, and then you toss in a box of cooked angel hair pasta. Which, due to being thin, takes I think 90 SECONDS to cook in water. So long and troublesome, neh?

This was my very favorite special meal. Oh, my lucky mother. Midget One and Two like something special too: it’s called fresh crab (“we wants crabs! We’re having crabs for our birfsdays party!” They sound like gollum) and it’s ABSURDLY EXPENSIVE as compared to pinenuts, and way more complicated to eat. Equally simple to make, I think, but who wants a meal that taks 3 hours to eat, and that’s just one course?

The pasta is also great to make whenever, minus the pinenuts (this is a sadness, but you can replace them with chopped walnuts for a autumnal flavor that’s a whole lot cheaper.)

Perhaps tomorrow I will post Josh’s favorite birthday meal in honor of the party. Or maybe I’ll post my favorite chocolate cake 😉

Workshop Cookery will be a series of methods and basics in a workshop format posted every week on Monday. It’s definitely aimed at the beginning cook and the recipe is walked-through as opposed to a written out recipe. Should I post the recipe as a supplement? The recipes are pretty basic (alfredo to make a roux, chicken noodle on making stock, chicken pot pie in making pie crust, etc.) Thoughts in the comments!

So you’ve never made a “Roux” No big deal, but you really don’t know what you’re missing. This is a no-miss start to a million meals! I use it all the time as a super-cheap, oh-no-what-do-I-make!!! backup in my emergency food toolkit. (Actually, you want to be totally honest? This recipe was *totally* a “Oh-no-what-do-I-make!” food emergency)So, a roux is fried flour with milk. Yep. Stupid french saying fancy things like “roux” when they mean FRIED FLOUR. So to start this recipe, and any roux:

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
Lots of milk (2-3 cups, depending on your roux)
(garlic, in the case of this recipe, 2 cloves. Not in all roux, though. Just this one. Also, 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning.)

Melt your butter in a non-stick pan over medium/medium high heat. High if you’re REALLY IMPATIENT and you happen to have a gas stove so you can turn the heat up and down however you feel. Lucky duck.

Anyway, so you have 3 tablespoons of melted butter over medium heat. Add your flour slowly. (In this case, also add your garlic and seasonings now.) Stir and stir and you’ll get a funny, pasty, weird looking substance that is COMPLETELY INEDIBLE AND NASTY. ew….

So! Now you’re going to cook it. Not long, though, you only want it to be a little dark yellow. (Here is where a camera would be SO helpful, but we’ll just say the color of alfredo sauce) So really, in the case of a “bechamel”, only make it all warm and let any seasonings get to smelling nice.

Now, add your milk slowly! Maybe a half a cup, stir that in, maybe a cup more, stir that in, and so on. You’re looking for something that’s relatively thin and creamy looking. If it’s very thick in the pan, when it’s really hot, it will taste like flour and everyone beg for water. This is generally considered a horrible thing. Look for just thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and drip, but not stream, off the bottom.

Congratulations. you just made a roux, and then you turned it into a “bechamel” sauce. Also, you finished dinner. Okay, okay, so only the first two-thirds of that is true. Two out of three ain’t bad! Plus, you’re REALLY close to being done with dinner.

1/2 c parmesan
salt
pepper

Add cheese (mozz is good here too, but don’t bother wasting your good, expensive fresh stuff. The cheap bag is fine) and salt and pepper to taste. Taste again. And again. Yummy, innit? Well, once you add the salt and pepper. There might be a bit much seasoning for you (my hubby is a seasoning nut) or too little (you’re more of a nut than he is. ^.^) but you’ll know that for next time. There might be too much cheese for you (okay you’re REALLY weird) or you may add more than a 1/2 c parmesan, and add as much mozzerella as you want! Roux, and bechamel (and veloute and espagnole, which I’ll cover someday) is a canvas. Add what you feel you want. It’s just a great creamy base for you to work with.

Serve over fetticine, and then EAT!

PS: If you want real mac and cheese, start with a roux+garlic, add 2 c cheddar cheese, and pour over macaroni. If you want EVEN MORE bonus points, put it in a cake pan and put breadcrumbs on top. Welcome to cheddary heaven.