Monday, September 28, 2009
The little pasta that could
I've become rather adept at cooking while drunk. In fact, I'd say, it's actually making me a better chef.
This may sound disconcerting, I'm sure, especially to my mother, the only known reader of this blog -- but (but!) I promise, it's all in good fun. I've long been a fan of drinking, and eating, and eating after I've drunk. Usually, I'm simply game for a slice of greasy pizza, but if I'm a fan of cooking, as well, why pick up a phone when I could put a pot on the stove?
I think the thing about cooking when drunk is that the process becomes more casual. Sure, your spontaneous potato-bacon-egg-cheese-pasta-rice-more-cheese hash may not work, but you're drunk, so who cares? Put some hot sauce on, and it'll probably taste good. And sometimes, just sometimes, you stumble onto little miracles: take, for instance, the example of making Kraft Mac n Cheese, when already committed (the pasta has been dumped in boiling water) you realize you are out of milk, so what are you going to mix that powdered cheese with? You search through your fridge, and come up with some heavy cream -- so you throw in an extra knob or two of butter, and a few tablespoons of HC (called "crema de leche" here, though I've yet to find where else cream comes from), something you'd be too wimpy to do if you didn't have some whiskey in you. You mix up some of the brighest orange macaroni and cheese you've ever seen, which proves to be some of the richest you've ever eaten. (You think back to your youth, when the color of garishly neon orange never steered you wrong: Cheetos, Fanta, candy corn.)
This recipe comes from last Saturday night, when I admittedly did try to order a pizza, but the place had stopped delivering. I didn't want to go out, but I didn't want to go to bed hungry, either, so that meant I had to make something myself. Bennett was already in bed, so that meant I could experiment as I wanted -- there was a bag of peas in the freezer, for instance, and while the boy will eat, with gusto, anything I make, I'm still hesitant to force peas upon anyone who doesn't like them. There was a recipe, more a suggestion of ingredients, really, in Comer y Pasarla Bien (that shiny Narda Lepes cookbook), that I'd been eying for quite some time. It's simply a mixture of cooked municiones (munition pasta!), frozen peas, cheese, salt and pepper. The little pasta are the perfect backdrop, providing a comforting chew, and the peas give just the sweetest bite to each spoonful. The cheese (and what little there is of it, really) pulls everything together happily. The result is incredibly creamy, intensely satisfying -- one of those more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts dishes.
And please note: I made it the next day, completely sober, and enjoyed it just as much. I think it's going to be one of my faithful pantry staple plates.
Creamy peas and little tiny pasta
Two things: first, as made obvious, I'm sure, I'm not familiar with the English name of the pasta used -- it's municiones in Spanish, which translates to ammunitions. They are very, very tiny little bullets, these guys, smaller than ditalini.
Second, I give the ingredients and approximate measurements I used, but really, this is a very flexible recipe. For instance, you could make this dish more elegant by using creme fraiche, fresh buffalo mozzarella, fresh peas, and so on. I liked it very much with what I had, which was very basic. I suppose that's what makes it so lovely.
1 cup tiny little pasta
1 cup frozen peas
1 ounce mozzarella
2 tablespoons sour cream
salt and pepper, to taste
Bring a not-very-large pot of salted water to boil. While the water's heating up, cut up the mozerella. I cut mine (appropriately) into pea-sized pieces.
Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to package directions (mine needed five minutes). When three minutes of cooking time remain, add in the frozen peas. Drain, reserving just a little bit of the water.
Put the pot back on the still-warm burner. Add in the reserved cooking water and chopped mozzarella. The cheese will look like little bits of butter, at first, against the pasta and the peas, which is quite visually exciting. Then it begins to melt, and pull apart stringily, which is even more exciting. Stir vigorously, to make sure the cheese breaks up and sticks to the pasta and peas more or less evenly. Add sour cream, and salt and pepper to taste.