I wrote "Daring Cooks" with a question mark in the title because I didn't really follow the instructions in this challenge (and I'm two days late!), but I was inspired by one of the dishes we were requested to make with one of the nut butters.
The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.
One of the dishes suggested was Chicken with Pecan Cream and Mushrooms from Cooking Light. Well, most of you know that I don't like any type of nut, so I decided to make a chicken and mushroom dish with homemade pasta to make this dish a bit more fussy so that it could still be sort of a challenge even though I've made pasta before. So, I'm aware that this dish doesn't count as a Daring Cooks' Challenge; however, I tried to make it work for what I like. Do I get half of a point for doing that? :D
I highly suggest clicking on this photo or opening it on another tab and doing a close-up of the cooked, fresh pasta. It is almost translucent and looks so different from the store-bought, dried pasta. I cooked this pasta for 3 minutes and regretted it because it wasn't al dente, but it was still fantastic. Cook fresh spaghetti for 2 minutes.
Anyway, I took some chicken out of the freezer to defrost for the next day and forgot to put it in this dish! I didn't realize I had forgotten to include the chicken until my mom and I had sat down to eat! After taking one bite of this dish, though, I forgot all about that missing ingredient. This sauce was AMAZING and so flavorful. I made adjustments to the recipe based on the highest rated comment on allrecipes.com and based on what I had in my kitchen and will never turn back. This sauce was so quick to make that I could eat it at least once a week every week for the rest of my life. I loved the addition of sage and the meatiness of the mushrooms. For any lovers of meat, this dish would be perfect as a Meatless Monday meal or any type of meal; you really won't miss the chicken. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE make this sauce. This sauce is so good and quick to make. I will be making this again very soon.
As far as the pasta is concerned, it came out perfectly. I usually make fettuccine with my pasta cutter, but my mom wanted spaghetti, so I made that. I don't know if my mom had fresh pasta in Italy, but she claimed that this time was her first known experience eating it fresh. While my mom and I were happily eating this pasta dish, we got into an interesting discussion about the role of homemade pasta versus store-bought pasta (and sandwich bread) when mixed with a good sauce or other ingredients.
HOMEMADE PASTA VS. DRIED, STORE-BOUGHT PASTA: We both agreed that many, not all, store-bought pasta and sandwich bread act more like mere vehicles for sauces, meats, and other ingredients. In other words, some store-bought items serve as a means to a end, i.e., transporting the the savory sauces, and what have you, into your mouth. Homemade pasta and bread, however, play a larger role in dishes and at times become the star in a dish even if the other ingredients are quite flavorful. In other words, the homemade pasta and bread themselves become refreshing and delectable edible "plates".
Now, the fresh pasta and this creamy mushroom sauce that my mom and I enjoyed were great complements to each other. Both the pasta and the sauce stood out so beautifully that I don't know if I could ever eat this sauce with the store-bought kind. Okay. . . okay. . .I'm sure that on my lazier days, I will try it out and will just think back to how amazing this dish tasted with the fresh pasta.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON HOMEMADE VS. DRIED, STORE-BOUGHT PASTA OR BREADS?
All of these spaghetti came from only half of the ball of dough you will see below.
For the pasta dough, I've learned that true Italian pasta dough does not call for any water at all despite the other recipes I've seen online. As I always do when I want an authentic, Italian meal, I turned to ItalianFood.Net for a recipe for my pasta dough. This is now my go-to recipe for pasta dough.
Reduced for 4 people; the source recipe would be more for 6, not 4, people.
100 grams 00 flour (You could sub AP flour. I bought my 00 flour from a local Italian market)
100 grams semolina/durum wheat flour (I used this flour and bought it from Central Market)
Pinch of salt (I used kosher)
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp - 1 Tbsp olive oil (you may need to add more oil if your ball of dough is dry like mine)
Mix the two flours and salt in a bowl and form a hole or well in the middle. Place the eggs and olive oil in the middle. Mix the mixture with a fork well. Form a ball in the bowl, and transfer the ball to a flat surface. Add flour if the ball of dough is too wet, and add more oil if it is too dry.
That little ball of dough is enough for 4 people's worth of pasta. That little cut piece on the bottom left created those two lonnnng layers of pasta in the lower right photo.
Knead the dough until the ball of dough becomes smooth and homogeneous. Cover the ball of dough completely, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes so that the gluten can relax. Work with 1/4th of the dough at a time to form the pasta. If you have a pasta roller/cutter, follow the instructions for your machine. If you do not have a pasta roller, roll out the pieces of dough as thin as you can with a rolling pin as instructed on the video on italianfoodnet.com.
Creamy Mushroom Pasta
adapted from allrecipes
8 oz of fresh or store-bought fettuccine (I used spaghetti)
1 1/2 Tbsps olive oil, separated (1/2 Tbsp for pasta water and 1 Tbsp for sauce)
1 shallot or small onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
4 oz of fresh mushrooms, chopped
1/2 Tbsp of unsalted butter
1 Tbsp of AP flour
1/4 - 1/2 of a chicken or vegetable bouillon cube or 1/4th cup of chicken/vegetable broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp sage (trust me!)
salt and pepper to taste (don't use too much salt b/c the bouillon is salty. I didn't need any at all.)
Prepare pasta water and pasta:
Bring a large pot of lightly-salted and oiled water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 minutes (2-3 minutes for homemade pasta!), or until al dente. Reserve some of the pasta water to thin out the mushroom sauce later.
While waiting for the pasta water to boil, make the sauce:
Heat olive oil in a medium skillet or saucepan over medium heat, and cook shallots and garlic until transparent. Stir in mushrooms, and cook until tender. Add the butter, and add the flour after the butter melts to form a roux to thicken the sauce. Stir the roux with the sautéed vegetables for 2-3 minutes to cook out the flour taste. (Don't forget about the boiling water for the pasta! It should be boiling by now!)
Mix in heavy cream and sage. Cook and stir until thickened. If too thick, use some pasta water (i.e., the leftover water from the cooked pasta) to thin out the sauce a bit. You can either toss the sauce with cooked pasta, and season with salt and pepper to serve, or add salt (I didn't add any salt) and pepper in the sauce, and serve it atop the pasta.