Thursday, March 05, 2009

It came from the pantry

BWAHAHAHAHAHA, welcome children! Today, on It came…from the PANTRY! {duh-duh-duh-DUH!!!!}, we have…

PASTA! {shriek!!!!}

OK, OK, seriously. Last night I had these grandiose plans involving some rock-hard leftover thick-cut pork chops that involved simmering them gently for hours but then guess what? This ‘work’ thing happened? And I was all, like, still working at 6:15 and some junk? And then I was all, “D’oh!” because remembering about something with ‘hours of simmering’ involved at 6:15 in the evening?

Well, unless you’re talking about breakfast the next day, you’ve got yourself a problem.

So, I needed a Plan B and I needed it quick.

Now, in the not so distant past (like, uh, a couple weeks ago), this would have ended with a phone call to Pizza Guys. I’m already the kind of gal who will take you up on any excuse to have pizza (chewy cheesy goodness, mmmm), but yesterday was one of those killer days. Physically, mentally and otherwise exhausting thank you very much.

But I’d removed that option when I went to Stitches and burned through all the mad money I had until May, so I’m going to have to come up with something else.

So I hit the pantry and pulled out a big bag of radiatore pasta. OK, this has possibilities…

From the freezer, a bag of peas and carrots. Or, as we like to call them around here in the vain hope that perhaps a cooler name will make them more appealing to the Denizens, power for peace and x-ray vision tablets.

One smallish hunk of Parmesan from the fridge and we are in business.

While the radiatore is simmering, I made a cheesy white sauce.

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk, warmed to just below boiling
Touch of nutmeg (fresh grated is awesome)
Bit of salt
Smidge of pepper (fresh ground is best)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
2 tablespoons heavy cream (or butter, or milk, or, if you’re baking it, one egg yolk)

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan on medium-low heat, then add the flour while whisking. Keep on whisking on medium-low for about five minutes – this is cooking the ‘floury’ taste out of the flour and replacing it with a nutty richness, so don’t rush it.

Take it off the heat and let it cool off slightly, then slowly pour the hot milk into it while whisking like a crazy person. The whisking keeps it from forming nasty lumps, so don’t get distracted! Return it to the heat, raise it up a smidge and cook, whisking frequently, for another two to three minutes.

Add your salt, pepper and nutmeg – as much as makes you happy, but I’d recommend going easy on the salt until after you’ve got the Parmesan in there. It can be kind of salty on its own, and you don’t want to end up with a meal that tastes like a cow lick.

What you now have is a basic white sauce. Pretty bland and not generally used on its own, but the ‘mother sauce’ for a thousand child-sauces.

The pasta was about done at this point, so I dumped the bag of frozen peas and carrots into the water with them. Why use two pans, folks, when one will get the job done just fine?

Add the Parmesan and stir until thoroughly melted and blended. Now, if you were going to pour this over your noodles and bake it, putting an egg yolk in instead of the heavy cream (or butter, or even just milk) would help it turn a lovely brown in the oven.

But since I was in a hurry and everybody was hungry and can we eat now?!, I used heavy cream to add a little more richness and a little more pour-ability to the sauce.

Taste and adjust your seasonings if they please you not.

Drain the pasta and vegetables and return to the pan, add the sauce and mix gently but thoroughly.




Total time was right around fifteen minutes for dinner and plentiful leftovers for six, and it cost less than the delivery dude’s tip. Twenty if you count the time I spent cussing when I remembered far too late in the game that I’d meant to have the pork simmering in the crock pot by lunch time.

A mistake I shall not repeat today…and come to think of it, simmered in a nutmeg based broth, I’ll bet that pork would go really nicely over the leftovers from last night. Heh. Leftovers a-la leftovers. Brilliant!


Anonymous said...

A cow lick!! And Lefovers a-la leftovers!! I love it!! Thanks for my laugh of the day, something I get quite often when reading your blog.


Anonymous said...

Add a can of tuna some shredded chedde cheese and you've got Tuna Helper (my favorite childhood box dinner). Only it doesn't taste like the box it came in.

Michelle F said...

Well thanks to you I've been rescued from my hubby's sugestion of Fish Sticks to having home-made Baked Mac-n-Chees! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

By glorious coincidence we had tarted-up macaroni cheese for dinner too. I make the white sauce the lazy way though. Dump cold milk (I usually make it from powdered as it works out cheaper than using up the fresh stuff and no-one can tell the difference) plus butter/margarine and flour in a saucepan. Add salt and pepper. Whisk to mix in the flour as much as possible but don't stress about a few lumps. Then put over a medium heat and stir very frequently until thick and tastes yummy. Then add the contents of the fridge.

So easy my teenager can make it. Only he won't because that would be exploiting him as a source of cheap (!) labour. Apparently.

Kris said...

I have one word for your pork chops - crockpot!

BOSSY said...

Yum yum yum and yum.