Sunday, July 15, 2007

Faux-sotto

This is so tritely named since the end product surprised me with a texture almost identical to risotto, and trite does not preclude apt.

It's a pretty simple pasta dish, good fridge velcro, and can really make you look like you know what you're doing, especially if you get to explain what a velouté is to whomever is eating (bonus points for a mother sauce that isn't tomato!)

Basically, make pasta, and put it in a velouté (light stock thickened with a blond roux). Less briefly put:

Make pasta: al dente is always good, but it's especially important for it to have a good bite in this application; this makes it risotto-y, and its going to be cooked a little more once it's out of the pot. Because it is going to be mated to a somewhat small amount of sauce with a creamy texture, use a tube- or shape-pasta rather than a string-style. Individual pieces will get impregnated with the yummy, and string-pastas will simply slide all over and leave half the sauce on the plate. Use something with a bizarrely hilarious name, like farfalle or rotelle (extra funny if you pronounce it like the Italian chef from the Simpsons).

Sauce: Here be veggies. I used a small red onion, some shallots, and some leftover scallions (at this point, I just added the tougher lower halves, and reserved the delicate green ends). Carrots would be good; whoever is wearing out its welcome in your pantry/vegetable drawer. Let your tongue be your compass; whatever it is, make it diced small or sliced thin, just like in a risotto. These I sweated in olive oil; light on the salt to guard against the reduced sauce being too salty. Make a roux (equal parts butter and flour) and get out some stock and white wine.

Sidenote: Technically, I used a beurre manié, where the butter and flour are merely kneaded (manier) together and added to the sauce as a paste, rather than being pre-cooked. This just ensures a light color, and reduces adulteration of the flavors you've got going on. Either way, you probably won't notice the final difference; I had just forgotten to make a roux ahead of time, and didn't want to dirty another pan.

Add stock, white wine, and roux to the pan, and turn up the heat a bit. For amounts, I pretty much eyeballed it based on the amount of pasta I was coating, etc. I used an entire 1 lb box, and probably ~1.5 cups of stock and .5 of wine, with 4 tbs of roux (2 tbs butter, 2 tbs flour). Let it all simmer together while whisking or otherwise encouraging the roux to propogate throughout, while cooking out the flour flavor (and cooking in the butter flavor, the best flavor of them all!).

While the sauce is hot and bubbly, I dropped in the pasta. Here, I added the more fragile ends of my veggie spectrum; the green tops from the scallions, some finely diced tomato, and some frozen peas. These things all would have fallen apart, lost flavor, and/or gotten mushy had they been included at the sweating stage. Also, herbs; I think I just used some chervil. I felt mine needed some punch, so I added a couple pinches of that weapons grade paprika they hawk at Penzey's, and then 2 lemons sacrificed their ichor to yield some high notes on top of the savory, lip coating sauce and fruitiness of the cheap ass white wine I cook with (as well as to use up all these damn lemons I have for no particular reason). Maybe some pepper too; this is all to taste. Here you can salt more if there wasn't enough in the sweat.

Bring it all together, let it cook in place for a bit. Done. As with all things, leftovers will probably be great with a fried egg on top. Seriously, I felt just like I was eating risotto from my first bite. Partially this is because the veggies (and wine) I used are the same as what I generally deploy for a basic risotto, but the texture was spot on as well. Even closer if I used that mini-shell pasta.

This would be killer with some seafood in the sauce, maybe canned clams. Since it's just basic pasta and basic sauce, two things that are the epitome of canvasses to paint meals upon, proffering recommendations would be futile. I only thought it warranted posting due to the interesting effect, and since arborio costs roughly 703.2x the price of pasta.

1 comment:

Marjorie Magidow Schalles said...

Loving the weapons-grade paprika! Can you come over and cook that for me?I'm totalled after that workshop!
Waaaaaaaaaaaaah!