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Monday, December 13, 2010

Fettuccine with Mushroom Cream Sauce

Meatless Monday has rolled around again and this week I thought I'd do a simple pasta dish. I'm not the greatest fan of pasta though I'm not sure why where it's so versatile and quick. But to me it's also bland and chewy. (What was that noise you ask? Just the nation of Italy taking a collective shocked intake of breath.)

Now before you, too, go completely mental I'd like to explain myself. I know that good pasta, especially homemade pasta, tastes ten zillion times different and better than a box of the fifty cent supermarket brand dried stuff. And that the quality of the ingredients, even in homemade pasta, also lend to the taste. And that pasta isn't about the sauce, but that you need to know what sauce goes with what pasta.

Oh my gosh, that's a lot of work for a food that I can appreciate but still not call one of my favorites!

But being a good sport and a foodphile to boot, I was inspired by an article I unearthed while unpacking Christmas decorations these last couple of years. (Being a dabbling gourmand also means you collect and stash recipes like the weirdest hoarder on earth.) It was in an old issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray and was written by Guiliano Hazan, an Italian cookbook writer and educator. It included an interesting chart of which sauces go with which pastas, along with simple recipes for each: cream, tomato, browned butter, meat, and garlic-and-oil. So I bravely entered my kitchen with a new attitude. I even improvised a lot...daring for someone who doesn't consider pasta her forte.

Fettuccine with Mushroom Cream Sauce

1 box fettuccine
1 shallot, finely minced
1 10-oz container of sliced white mushrooms
3 tbsp butter, divided
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp tarragon
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

1. In a large nonstick skillet, heat one tablespoon of the butter with the olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the mushrooms and shallots until golden; add tarragon at the very end. Remove the mushroom mixture from the pan into a bowl and set aside. (You can leave brown bits in the pan.) Meanwhile, in a large dutch oven, heat salted water to a boil and cook pasta.

2. Turn heat down to medium and combine cream, remaining butter and salt, scraping browned bits with a wooden spoon, and bring to a simmer. Cook until thick enough to coat a spoon, about 4 minutes. Stir in parsley and remove from heat.

3. Add cheese and reserved mushroom mix. Serve immediately over pasta.

The Verdict: Um, yeah, oops. Pasta tastes pretty damn good when paired with the right sauce...and a ridiculously rich and delicious one to boot.
This cream sauce, while delicious, is probably not the most diet-friendly meal. It's prudent for me to not fall head-over-heels in love with this dish for that very reason. However, it's hard not to love it. It's simple yet the combination of parsley and tarragon bring out the sweetness of the cream and the earthiness of the mushrooms. And it was stunningly quick to make, another plus.

The shallots...don't get me started. I learned about shallots vs. onions from reading Anthony Bourdain. Whenever I think of Anthony Bourdain, I think of my dear friend Carolyn who despises the guy for being pompous, bombastic tool. But honestly, it's part of his charm for me. Regardless, the guy knows what he's talking about when he says that shallots and onions are not interchangeable. Yes, a shallot is onion-y. But it's also subtle and sweet, perfect for cream sauce. Try it and tell me if I'm wrong.

By the way, my son hates mushrooms, a sad fact since he loved them at one time. We tried to trick him into eating one this weekend, calling it meat. He bit into it and frowned. "Dis a mushroom," he informed us. Ah, so long days of pulling the wool over young eyes. Anyway, instead of an arduous battle of whining and picking mushrooms out of his food, I sauced his pasta before adding the mushroom mixture into the cream sauce.

So simply said, I love this recipe. And I might not dislike pasta as much as I thought I did.

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