Monday, May 17, 2010

Don't be Thick

Periodically I receive emails from my mom with recipes or recipe websites to check out.  On Friday, she sent a recipe for something called “Quick and Dreamy Pasta” (the original recipe can be found HERE).  First I thought, Hm.  I like pasta.  I like quick.  Sounds good to me!  Then I thought, Mom must be having a slow day at work.
So, I put this on the docket for tonight’s food fest, bumping ahead of a few other recipes on the “to try” list.  Of course, I didn’t read through it first (although even when I do, it doesn’t seem to help much), but I wasn’t worried.  I mean, "easy" is right there in the title.  So I got what I needed at the store, with a few alterations.
Then I went to make it this evening and realized two things.  a) The step by step directions are a bit confusing and b) I hadn’t picked anything for dessert.
If you are shocked right now, you are not alone.  No one could be more surprised than I was at my gigantic oversight.  I woke mr up from his nap and made him search through recipezaar by ingredient.
That’s one cool thing about recipezaar.  If you aren’t searching for something specific, but know you want to use a certain ingredient, you can use their ingredient search tool and find lots of options based on things you have on hand.  I had mr search for cocoa powder, because I figured there HAD to be some kind of chocolate cake or something I had all the ingredients to!  (I do like to bake, it’s true.)
Now.  This is why I was confused by the directions for dinner. Here is the recipe text:
  • 16 ounces sour cream
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill weed
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 (6 ounce) cans sliced mushrooms
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages angel hair pasta
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk sour cream, eggs, dill and cheese; add mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste. Mix and set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain and return to pot.
  3. Over medium heat, pour sour cream mixture into pot with pasta until sauce begins to boil; stir frequently. Be careful to not overcook this sauce or it will become sticky.
  4. Add the cream mixture to pasta and cook over medium heat; stir frequently for about 3 minutes or until sauce begins to bubble. Be careful not to overcook the sauce.
  5. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
Notice numbers 3 and 4.  There are similar, yet not the same.  I wondered if 1) perhaps 3 was supposed to state that I should heat the mixture FIRST, and then 4 was telling me to THEN add it to the pasta or 2) perhaps the author of the recipe simply didn’t realize they had listed the same direction twice in slightly different language.  A conundrum, I tell you.
So, I made it to the best of my ability, and I can attest that the special note at the end of step 3 is very, very true.  It does get really sticky if you cook it too much.  I discovered that the point of cooking the sauce isn’t to thicken it (as I originally assumed) but rather just to heat it.  SO, if you try this out, learn from my mistake.  The sauce just needs to HEAT up, not THICKEN up.  
My second mistake?  I timed things all wrong.  See, I changed the original recipe a little bit.  In my mind, cooking with canned mushrooms is just a tiny step above cooking with canned artichokes or canned asparagus.  I didn’t want the slime.  So I figured I should sauté my own fresh shrooms.  I also thought the pasta could use a little meat, since this is usually the only decent meal I cook all week.  So I got some chicken breast cutlets to add.  This meant that I added time to the original cooking time.  I had first pat the chicken dry and season it with salt and pepper, then cook it in olive oil on the stove - about 4-5 minutes a side.  Then I cut it up into little pieces and sauteed the mushrooms in olive oil.  Then, I followed the rest of the directions as stated and added the cooked chicken at the end.  I was done a full 1/2 an hour before dinner time.  So, that only added to the sticky, glumpiness.  When it says serve immediately, you really should serve immediately.
On to the dessert.  When mr searched for cocoa powder, he came up with this recipe for "Whatever floats your boat" Brownies.  I’m not usually a huge brownie fan (I know, I know, weird.  It’s just that I’d rather eat a nice, gooey, moist chocolate cake if I’m going to blow the diet, you know?)  But I’ve never made brownies from scratch before, so I figured it was worth a shot.  The recipe says you can mix in anything you want and it’ll turn out great (hence the name)... I wanted to add chocolate chips, but I didn’t have any.  Instead, I smashed up some white chocolate chunks into little pieces and added pecans, too.  Learning from my previous mistake of overcooking, I took the tip to “NOT OVER-MIX THE BATTER” and “NOT OVER-BAKE” very seriously.  The recipe said to cook the brownies for about 25 minutes, and I ended up needing to bake for 32... but it’s a good thing I stood at the oven door with a toothpick, even though mr teased me, because these babies turned out perfectly.  
I didn’t make a side dish tonight because we had a ton of fresh veggies and fruit left over from yesterday’s linner (lunch and dinner, of course).  
Our reviews (on a scale of 1-10):  mom and dad gave pasta an 8.  But they are too generous.  We learned this two weeks ago with the frittata incident, remember?  mr gave it a 4.  He’s honest, and I love him anyway.  I gave it a -2.  Not my worst, though, and that’s the saddest part about it.  IF I hadn’t had those snafus, it would have been better, I’m sure, so, it may still be worth a go...
mom and dad gave brownies a 10.  But can we trust them?  mr gives them a 10 too, so I guess so!  I’ve been craving chocolate lately, so I give them a 15.  

They were warm and gooey, moist and flakey on top, chocolatey and fudgey, and oh, so worth the calories.
If this is any indication: bug refused the pasta and gobbled the brownies.  (don’t worry, he didn’t just eat brownies for dinner.  I gave him an m&m too.)  The brownies are bug approved.
And mini?  She looked on enviously, once again, but don’t worry.  She loved her baby rice so much, she bathed in it.
Lesson learned?  It’s best to not be thick while cooking dinner.

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