Abject failure ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

16 May 2007

Abject failure

The major problem with cooking at our house is that we barely ever have any food to cook. First, it's hard to go shopping on bikes, especially if you want to buy more than a backpack's worth of stuff. We're also lazy and tend not to want to make more physical effort after already biking five miles home. The obvious solution there is to stop on the way; of course, the store on my way home is the schmancy upscale one. This brings us to the next problem: having available money. Even if I do stop, I barely ever have more than about twenty viable dollars at a time, so the shopping turns out to be a head of garlic, a loaf of bread, and a bottle of wine. It's going to be so unreal when money becomes viable and I finally get to blow half my paycheck on every single foodstuff I can possibly desire.

So this was my issue when trying to make dinner yesterday. I wanted pasta, preferably baked. That was not the problem; we always have pasta. The problem was the lack of sauceal availability. Tomato sauce? We had maybe a quarter of a can of puree. Oil and garlic? We had less than half an inch of oil in the bottle, and four cloves of garlic on the last head. Cream sauce? The butter and flour supplies were fine, but we had only half a cup of milk. There was no way I could make enough of any of these to serve two people. Right: multiple sauces.

Sauce 1: Red, for cream and mushroom-intolerant John.

tomato puree
3 out of 4 garlic cloves
half a yellow onion
a jalapeño
olive oil
salt, pepper, basil, oregano
wilting fresh parsley

Do the standard procedure for any pasta sauce, only skimp. Smash and chop your garlic, chop your onion, and dice your jalapeño, then sauté in a tiny smattering of olive oil. Whe things are soft, add the herbs and tomato puree. Stir everything together, noticing how little red there is actually clinging to the onion bits, and cook another five minutes or so. Salt and pepper.

Sauce 2: White, for Eileen.

the last garlic clove
grating cheese

Melt a chunk of butter in a small saucepan. Make sure it's not nonstick, so you can whisk without killing anything. Add a roughly equal amount of flour, stir, and cook together into a yellow, foamy roux. Let it cook for at least a couple minutes, then add the milk and crushed garlic clove. Whisk; heat the milk; let the sauce thicken. Then add some grated parmesan or romano and whisk some more. Cook everything to your desired thickness. Black pepper.

In the meantime, cook pasta, drain, and find some baking pans. When everything is done, assemble and bake.

If I had been thinking clearly, I would not have even tried to make this into baked pasta. The first sauce worked fine. The second sauce worked astonishingly badly.

Baked red pasta: toss pasta with red sauce and cubed mozzarella cheese. (We do always have a plethora of cheese.) Spread in shallow pan; top with grated parmesan/romano/more mozz and some chopped fresh parsley. Bake at 350F until delicious. Gracious! It was delicious!

Baked white pasta: toss pasta with whatever you think would be good in a white sauce. I chopped up some red pepper and mushrooms and crumbled some goat cheese. Then I thinned down the white sauce a little, poured it over the pasta, added some parsley, and baked it with the first pan.

OK, so baking this cream sauce is clearly a mistake. The pasta just absorbed all of it and got soggier and soggier the entire time. The end result was certainly edible, but not at all desirable. It also totally killed the goat cheese texture, making it gritty and wet. The bits of vegetable were fine, but that was all. It would have been a far, far better idea to just pour said sauce over the cooked pasta and eat the hell up. Perhaps I could even have sautéed the pepper and mushroom, then tossed it over the whole business! That would have been far more edible. BUT NO.

In contrast, John came home to red sauce and was all "this pasta is delicious!"

Fortunately, the plethora of cheese let me make as many rescue quesadillas as I could possibly desire.