Thursday, June 19, 2008

Roux the Day

So, Mr Sweetie has a new student worker who's vegetarian, and I wanted to cook something all vegetarian-y and impress her (because, you know, I'm a praise-based organism). She *does* eat milk and eggs, which gives me a little more wiggle room, though this recipe I made today doesn't use any milk.

I have said before, publicly, that I don't know how to cook. See the green onion incident.

I've been wanting to make pasta from scratch for a while - ever since the Library Overlord mentioned that yeah, it's just flour and eggs and a little bit of salt. Like, seriously. That's it.

So I gave basic pasta a go last weekend, and then I felt I was Truly! Ready! to cook something ovo-vegetarian.

Here is the basic recipe I use for pasta:

2 cups flour (more if you think you need it)
4 eggs (room temperature)
Pinch of salt

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. In a seperate bowl, whisk the eggs up good. Mix that shit together, until it sticks to itself enough that your hands are, you know, fairly clean. Like, you can move them independantly, bend them, see where the skin is, that kind of thing. Make it into a ball, then put that ball in the bowl, put some foil or damp cheesecloth or saran wrap on the top, then leave that shit alone for at least half an hour. It's done when it has a kind of glossy dampness all over. And is vaguely plump-looking, not that you really expect it to rise.

Flour the surface you're going to be rolling on really well, then roll it out (or, you know, buy a pasta machine). If you have limited space and/or are me, you can flour the top of the dough VERY well, the fold it, and the flour will keep it from becoming a big mass of dough again. You can make layers this way. Layers are nice. Roll it nice and thin, then cut it into strips, and cook them in boiling water with some salt. Use a LOT of water - and also? They cook FAST. Like, 2 minuntes fast. Don't leave thinking you have time to do other things. Drain the water out when they're done, and you have pasta. If you are me, you have ugly, uneven strips, but it's pasta and it's tasty.

The first time I made this, I forgot that I had thrown out the pesto I planned to have it with. They were good all by themselves. The second time, I had them with canned pasta sauce (spinach cheesy goodness). Even better.

So tonight, I Had A Plan, you see? I was going to make a meaty-tasting meat-free pasta sauce. It was going to rock. Here was The Plan:

1. Roux is thick. Make some roux. Medium to dark, but not too dark.
2. Walnuts are mellow. Toast some walnuts. Add them to the roux.
3. Portabella mushrooms are delicious and meaty. Sautee them bitches in butter.
4. Everyone loves green onions.
5. And salt.
6. And pepper.
7. Maybe you should add some water, so it actually forms some kind of sauce.

Somehow, I thought that roux was one of those things you could have a lot of, so I made a LOT of roux. I'm proud of myself that I didn't burn it, and I got it down to a nice dark peanut butter color (I have never made roux in my life), so I just dumped the entire goddamn cup of roux in with the walnuts, thinking thick = sauce.

So, at that point I had a giant pile of roux, and my precious walnuts. I tried adding water in a frantic attempt to less-roux-ify it. I actually ended up straining the walnuts out, so I had a pot of roux and a pot of walnuts. I added the mushrooms, onions, salt, and pepper to the walnuts pot, and it was good, but it sure was.... thin. Maybe I should add back a little of that roux.

So I didn't want to add too much, but I did want a creamy consistancy, so I busted out the coconut milk. As it turns out, coconut milk is actually pretty good in savory dishes! I was starting to have a passably okay mushroomy-walnutty-vaguely-creamy-sauce-thing. But it was still a little thin.

Instead of doing the sane thing and quitting while I was ahead, I added more roux. After pouring the thin stuff off the top, which was mostly water. So I was adding almost pure roux again. Then I went and cooked the pasta, and by the time the pasta was done, you know what I found out?

I had somehow invented the vegetarian recipe for brown gravy. And not the good stuff, either - the instant kind like you get a Luby's, three hours after the lunch rush. Oh yeah.

At that point I did what anyone would do in my situation. I fed the dog what she would eat and put the rest down the garbage disposal, then sat down with a bowl of ice cream for dinner.


Suz said...

I actually laughed out loud at that post (alerting the co-irkers that I must be happy, which we cannot have).

Great story, and you know what? You're still 1000x better cook than me, I promise, because I can't do anything beyond eating walnuts, never mind trying to guess what/how to cook.

Kit said...

Dude, awesome story. I trust I will have some to, if not rival, at least run-up with it when I tackle more advanced Feeding My Friends desserts than cookies.

Aaaaand you taught me something! Because when you mentioned roux I was all, "But doesn't roux primarily contain animal fat, and is therefore not veggie? Zari is smarter than this! To the Wikipedia!" and discovered that I was wrong! I like when that happens. Learning is fun.

HasturTorres said...

Try some cornstarch instead of roux next time.