Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Night

On Mondays, Brandon and the baby get home early. When I walk in, usually one or both of them is hungry, the dog is positively bouncing with joy, and last night's dessert plus this morning's breakfast dishes are stacked along the counter top. So after throwing a quick kiss to Bran, patting the dog, finding a snack for everyone, and scrubbing the cereal bowls, I start to cook. Life for us is a very frequent dance of homecomings, of settling ourselves into place. When I finally set the big steel pot steaming or sizzling on the stove-top, the quiet festivities of the evening can begin.

I try to find recipes that I can make in under an hour. It's essential for me to begin with a clean counter and sink--plenty of room to prep ingredients, work quickly, and keep tools organized. I feel much better when I know where my utensils are and when my mess is contained. A little ordered disorder is no problem at all.

Tonight, I tried a recipe from Cook's Illustrated: Lighter Fettuccine Alfredo. I just started using the Cooks Illustrated website and have found that their recipes offer lots of useful tips and new techniques that you can apply to other dishes as you tweak and refine them. I wouldn't have thought to add a little cornstarch to Alfredo, but my sauce was beautifully thick and smooth after I did. I wouldn't have thought to warm the serving bowls with some of the boiling pasta water to keep this very temperature sensitive dish at it's best on the table. I'm sure I'll use these tips again!

This recipe called for a little bit of grated whole nutmeg (see previous post) and a cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. It was worth every penny to get the real P-Regg. rather than the more affordable Americanized version--"parmesan." I don't always splurge on this, but for the Alfredo I did and would again. It adds the zing you need to balance out the cream.

I'll confess that Alfredo has not always been a favorite dish of mine, but I have been warming to it over the past two years. With some extra cheese grated on top, this recipe was delicious. Brandon wasn't sure about the nutmeg, which added some fullness to the flavor of the dish. "Woody" came to mind for me, but I suppose the obvious adjective is "nutty." Next time, I might substitute the nutmeg for a little garlic powder...

In the end, I'd say this Alfredo recipe is a good one to have in my pocket.

LIGHTER FETTUCCINE ALFREDO--Cooks Illustrated, March 22, 2007

This recipe was published in The Best Light Recipe.


cup half-and-half
teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
Table salt
teaspoon cornstarch
ounces fresh fettuccine
ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano , grated fine (about 1 cup)
Ground black pepper


1. Bring 6 quarts water to a boil in a large pot. Using a ladle or heatproof measuring cup, fill four individual serving bowls with about 1/2 cup of the boiling water each; set the bowls aside to warm.

2. Meanwhile, bring 1/2 cup of the half-and-half, the nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a simmer in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan. Whisk the cornstarch and remaining 1/4 cup half-and-half together, then whisk it into the simmering mixture. Continue to simmer the sauce, whisking constantly, until it has thickened, about 1 minute. Cover and set the pot off the heat.

3. Stir 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta into the boiling water and cook, stirring constantly, until al dente, 1 to 2 minutes. Reserving 3/4 cup of the pasta cooking water, drain the pasta.
4. Return the half-and-half mixture to medium-low heat and whisk in 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Slowly whisk in the Parmesan. Add the pasta and cook, coating the pasta evenly with the sauce, until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 1 minute. Season with pepper to taste. Working quickly, empty the serving bowls of water, divide the pasta among the bowls, and serve.

1 comment:

  1. You should blog about the old kind of fettuccine alfredo... it's a unique recipe that I haven't seen anywhere else. In fact, I'm not sure it can really be authentically considered fettuccine alfredo since it's not very creamy.

    But it tastes good, and would make a good post I think.