Wednesday, February 18, 2015

From London, With Love

How do I begin a post from sunny London (no really, it's sunny)? Cheerio! Oy, you! Or plainly, I may never go home -- ever. Compared to the frozen tundra of Boston, London is in full blown spring mode. Apparently this is their winter but I'll take the occasional rain shower in exchange for the crisp air and sun.

When I told people I was excited for London and was taking a cooking class, most people wondered what good food there was in England since it's not exactly known for its culinary prowess. I will have you know that I have had quite the array of excellent food and wine whilst in London. Including, but not limited to, a variety of pie-like dishes, venison and general meat. And of course, a lot of dessert, wine and even, dessert wine!

The cooking class I took was specializing in fresh pasta. I've never made pasta and it worked well with our schedule to take this with L'Atelier des Chefs. I wish they had a location in Boston because this would be an amazing activity for girls night, team bonding, dates, cat lady night out, you name it! It only took an hour and although they pre-measured the ingredients, I have every faith that we can replicate this process in as little time as that.

Fresh pasta is not as difficult to make as I thought. Two simple ingredients, pasta flour and eggs, are combined and then you take out some serious frustrations on the dough. The chef made a lot of child disciplinary references when telling us to stretch our dough such as "it's like a child--you must be firm with it". Basically, you want to mix the dough together but then stretch and pound and stretch some more. You do this for about 10 minutes to activate the gluten in the dough and make it less sticky and more doughy.

The pasta dough is left to rest for 15 minutes or up to a day. This could save you some time if you're cooking for people, make the dough in the morning and then revisit later and closer to dinner. Meanwhile, you can prepare your sauce. In the class, we made a mushroom and truffle oil Alfredo sauce but really you can make any kind of sauce you want, perhaps even a Bolognese?

If you're making the mushroom sauce, chop up your garlic, shallots, mushrooms and thyme. I learned some pretty handy tricks for chopping/crushing garlic and chopping shallots. All the time saving! The sauce ingredients can be set aside while you cut up your pasta dough.

The dough we made was divided in half and still made a decent amount of pasta, probably enough for 4 people. The pasta noodles will expand when they cook so keep that in mind when dividing the proportions. You take half the dough and press it out into a rectangle. Then you feed it through the pasta machine. We were guided through this process but my guess would be you should follow the manufacturer's instructions. You're basically flattening and lengthening the dough, quite a bit, before cutting it into noodles.

Once you're ready with your noodles, you can move on over to the sauce pan. Butter is heated and melted over a medium-hot skillet before adding the thyme, garlic and shallots. Stir continuously to cook the garlic and shallots until they are slightly translucent. Next, you'll add a splash of white wine. Most of this cooks off but save the rest for pairing later! The mushrooms are also added and cooked until just the edges become translucent. Lastly, you'll add the cream to make it Alfredo. Allow it to cook on a lower heat while you make the pasta.

Fresh pasta cooks quickly so you make it last. Definitely salt the water since there's no salt in the pasta. The pasta is cooked for just about a minute to a slightly aldente (not fully cooked) texture. Then the past is added to the sauce and tossed to finish cooking and mix everything up.

We got all fancy with cleaning up our plating but this is best served in a slightly curved plate or bowl as the sauce could slide right off a flat plate.


Cheerio, then. Off to grab a pint or a gin beverage, whichever seems more British at the time.

Recipe courtesy of L'Atelier des Chefs for Fresh Pasta with Wild Mushroom Tagliatelli

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