Not getting a tax refund this year? That’s okay, neither did we. This week, Chef Brendan McDermott shows us how to make everyone’s favorite empty-wallet dinner: pasta.
Share your favorite homemade pasta sauce recipe with us. Have you made your own homemade pasta before?
Dinner: linguine w/andouille & little necks; arugula w/rice vinegar-glazed radishes & browned pear
greenmarket dinner for two: $20.60
Dinner tonight was about as appetizing as it looks. That is to say, not good.
One of my favorite things to do, especially when cooking just for myself, is be inventive. Generally, I have to admit I have decent success with this, as in last week’s amazing roasted cauliflower with capers, kalamatas, and red onion. That dish is now in my permanent roster.
Tonight, I wanted to use up a bag of brussels sprouts that had been kicking around in the fridge for a few weeks. I envisioned them slivered, and a nearly-crunchy brown, with lots of lemon and hot pepper flakes. Since brussels sprouts, alone, do not make much of a meal, I thought I’d toss them with some pasta. I had a bag of farfalle that should pair, size-and-texture-wise, somewhat nicely.
Brussels sprouts. Lemon zest. Lemon juice. Plenty of crushed red pepper flakes. Salt. So far, dinner was working nicely. A little flat, perhaps, but I figured I could fix that once the pasta was tossed into the pan.
Rosemary. A tiny knob of butter. More salt. More lemon. Parmesan. A blink of heavy cream? What was going on?
The flavors basically worked; or, at least, they didn’t not work. It was slightly tart from lemon, slightly rich from butter and cream, slightly spicy from crushed pepper. But there was no depth; the dish was flat. Not inedible - I don’t believe in wasting food - but certainly not enjoyable.
Perhaps pairing it with a crisp Prosecco would provide the missing depth and contrast, but Kit’s not here, and I’m not about to pop a bubbly alone. Certainly some pancetta might do the trick, but a dish shouldn’t need meat to have body.
Normally, I’d toss a little of my favorite, expensive finishing salt or a drizzle of prized Frankie’s Olive Oil on top of a dish to liven it up a bit. Tonight was the first time I’ve ever thought, why bother?
So why am I blogging about a dish so lackluster? Because this happens to everyone. We’ve all made dishes that, though perfectly edible, were still total failures. I’m hoping to figure out where this dish went wrong - not so I can necessarily revisit it someday, but simply because I need to know, for myself, as a cook. Because that - experimenting, succeeding, failing, experimenting again - is what being a cook is, to me.