Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pasta pet peeves

Been pondering that pasta article from the previous evening.  Yes, every pasta shape has its particular uses and some perform better with pancetta than with pesto and these precepts are all good to know, but the particular problem most people have with pasta pertains to preparation.

My pet particular pet peeves pertaining to pasta are plentiful- puny pan, parsimonious portions, and partially-heated pots of water.   

1) You a need a big-ass pot-  big enough to hold enough water for the amount of pasta you're going to cook.  "The bigger the better" is your rule of thumb here.

2) Fill that pot to the highest level possible while still permitting bubbling space for the water after the pasta has been presented.

3)  SALT the water.  Don't be parsimonious with your NaCL.  Your pasta water should approximate the waters of the Mediterranean.  Use good kosher salt, too.  Regular table salt contains chemicals that can lend an ICK  factor to your finished dishes.  Nobody wants an ICK factor in his/her finished dishes.

4)  Let your pasta water come to a full rolling boil before you add your noodles. (This goes for tea-making, too. There's a reason that the phrase "she can't boil water" is so derogatory to us cooking-type people.)  

5)  Once your water is BOILING, add the pasta and stir that stuff till the water is fully boiling again- this is how you keep it from sticking. (Don't put any damn oil in your cooking water. The only thing you'll accomplish doing that is pasta that glue won't stick to. Oil is a lubricant, folks- think about it.)  On a side note, one of my most-used kitchen tools is a plastic pasta measure/stirrer/server.  I don't use it to measure pasta now that I've discovered the scale, but it's the best tool I've found for stirring, separating, and serving pasta.  You don't want clumps, you gotta stir.

6)  When your pasta is cooked to your desired tenderness (I refrain from judgement here- I prefer mush to crunchy clumps of not-dente half-raw noodles), drain it in a large colander/strainer then add it directly to whatever warmed sauce you're serving it with.  If you're making a pasta salad, drain it and then rinse it in cold water to stop the cooking or follow the directions of whatever recipe you're following.  The  circa-1973 bowl of naked spag with a blob of Ragu on it ain't cuttin' it here,  buddy. 

7) Last but most important of all, if you LIKE half-raw pasta half-doused in cold sauce and no one is coming to dinner, by all means cook your pasta that way.  Cooking is personal, very personal.  Please yourself but please your friends, too.  Keep a can of that Kraft crap in the back of your fridge where no one can see it if that's what makes you happy. 


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

No time to post because I'm reading

Check this out:

"You know what happens when you add oil to pasta water? The pasta, regardless of the shape, will be so slippery that it will no longer absorb your sauce. After all of the work that those diligent pasta magicians went through, you ruin all of it by pouring oil all over your pasta, and it won't even keep the pasta from sticking together. Selfish. That's what you are."


Read more: 9 Ridiculous Cooking Myths You Probably Believe |

Monday, January 9, 2012

Two followers- whoo-hoo!

Hey, I have two followers already!  Nice!  And I'm only related to one of them.  :-)  Tonight I cooked Chicken and Noodles from your mom's copy of the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  It was delicious and Kevin and I scarfed it down, but the Mimi wouldn't touch it.  Live and learn, kid- more for us.  No pictures tonight- we were too tired and too freaking hungry.  I'll probably only manage real posts with pictures on weekends, but I'll try.

What did YOU make for supper tonight?  

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Schnitzelesque Pork Parmesan

An hour-long drive home and a three year-old who has mastered the phrase "I need you" and the puppy-dog eyes do not an early evening make, but I can pound this out pretty quickly after a cocktail and a round or three of Hungry Hungry Hippos.  

Assemble this stuff:

4 boneless pork loin chops, 3/4-inch thick
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
½ teaspoon ground oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
Dash of Tabasco
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup panko (or other bread crumbs)
¼ cup vegetable oil
parmesan cheese- REAL parm, not that crap in the can
marinara sauce
spaghetti, vermicelli or linguine

Set a heavy fry or saute pan over medium heat.  Add a couple tablespoons of vegetable or olive oil.

Get the water for your pasta going.  Please, please make sure the pot is big enough so that all your little noodles have their elbow room. Salt the water generously- it should taste like the sea.  And please, PLEASE make sure the water is BOILING before you put the pasta in- boiling as in big bubbles breaking the surface over and over again all fast-like. Stir the noodles till the water returns to the boil, then let it do its thing with the occasional stir till the pasta is to your liking. 

Set up your breading station. 
Season the flour with salt, add Tabasco, basil and oregano to the two beaten eggs and leave your breadcrumbs virginal.

Trim the excess fat and any tough tendony bits from your chops.
Save the bits for your sister's chickens.

Dredge each chop in the seasoned flour, shake off the excess, then dip into the egg mixture, let the excess drip off and then coat the chops with the panko.
My chef in cooking school said something about using one hand for the dry chops and one for the wet chops, but I could never figure out how to keep one hand dry...
                                         Pretty pretty pork chops.

Pop 'em in the pan.
                                         Watch for flying, spattering, boiling flecks of hell fat. 

Give 'em three or four minutes on each side. I usually put my chops on a rack over a baking sheet and put them into the warm oven while I drain the pasta and sauce it and stuff. 

Slice up one chop and tell your daughter it's chicken nuggets. 
                                         She'll love it.

Put something green on a plate, add chops and pasta.  Please sauce your pasta, don't put it naked on the plate.

Grate that parm over it all and enjoy! 

If you've done it right, you'll have chops that are crispy-crunchy on the outside and tender in the middle.   If not, you'll have slightly charred chops that are a little chewy on the inside. It happens to us all.