I have always loved watching chefs on TV. I missed out on Julia Child and the Galloping Gourmet, but I thought Jeff Smith's The Frugal Gourmet was great. And of course, I've been watching all of my favorites on the Food Network (Rachel Ray, Ina Gartner, Giada DeLaurentis, Tyler Florence).
But I love Lidia's Family Table, which is on Public Broadcasting. A few things I've already learned:
- "Real Italians" would never use a collander to strain pasta. They just scoop it out of the boiling water and add it al dente to the sauce.
- "Pasta water" (the water used to boil the pasta) is an important ingredient all to itself, and can make or break a lot of past dishes.
- A "Hot Spot" is a part of the skillet where you push away any cooking ingredients, and where you can caramelize individual ingredients, usually a few tablespoons of tomato paste, or some garlic.
- When placing pasta on a serving bowl, it's best to make a tall pile rather than spread it out, it keeps the heat in better.
- Simmering pots can be kept partially open by putting a long wooden spoon across the top of the pot at an angle, so that when the top is applied, it is kept ajar. Lidia seems to like the 11 - 3 positions, or the 1 - 5 positions.
- Pasta should always finish cooking in the sauce.
- Adding sardines is a good idea, just don't tell your kids or your non-fish-eating room mates.
- My grocer didn't know how to ring up a fenyl bulb.
I've already tried her recipe for pork ribs (which were delicious even though we don't cook with wine). Tonight, we're trying her recipe for Pasta with Sausage and Fenyl. There are my usual problems:
- I find that the suggested cooking times for pasta are not long enough. I don't end up with al dente. I end up with HARD. And I don't live in Denver. And I do add salt to the water. It just seems for, say, 8 minute pastas take me about 10 minutes.
- This might be my pan, but when I try to saute, stuff burns and sticks to the bottom of the pan if I'm not really careful. I can not turn to the camera and chit chat. I can't go off and do some sou chef duties (not sure I spelled that right). I can't work on another dish. I have to concentrate all of my energy on making sure those "delightful brown bits on the bottom" don't become my usual "layer of darkly carbonized sticky goo with a low smoking point."
- The idea of boiling pasta in one pot and cooking the sauce in the other, and have the right amount of each at the end, makes me anxious. I am just totally fretting and freaking out about having too little pasta, or too little sauce. I am sure this anxiety is born from the same place in my brain that has a terrible time matching packs of hot dogs with packs of hot dog buns.
Oh well. We're off to Italy tonight for a try at Lidia's Pasta with Sausage and Fennel. For a backup, we have part of a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and a 4-day-old 7-layer burrito from Taco Bell.
Wish us luck.