Monday, April 2, 2012
Penne a la Vodka
My photos are stored on the family room computer at home. That's typically where I sit to do my blogging. I love the sitting room where the other computer lives but it's upstairs so not terribly convenient when I'm running back and forth between the kitchen and the computer. Or, when I want to listen to The Cooking Channel while I work. It's also got a wireless keyboard that's kind of finicky. If it's not pointed in just the right direction you wind up typing a bunch of white space. So, the fact that the family room computer has been on the fritz for two plus weeks has made for some interesting times.
Our computer guru diagnosed a video card. Connie looked up the specs on the computer and took the info to Fry's hoping that they still stocked parts for antiques like ours. The salesclerk found what we needed. Connie took the antique apart and blasted it with compressed air. Did I tell you that the one room in my house that I've dusted in the last six weeks is the dining room? So, guess where he blasted the computer? Uh huh. My formerly clean dining room. Best of all, the new video card didn't fit. So, off he went, back to Fry's and see if by chance they actually had the right card. Nope. So it's time for a new computer. UGH! I guess I shouldn't gripe. This one is probably 8-10 years old so I've gotten some good mileage out of it.
Now, I do back up my photos on the server at the office. But, they're not neatly organized like those at home. At home I download photos to a general directory then make folders and put all of the photos for that dish or activity into the appropriate folder. Then, once I've blogged about it or shared photos with family or friends or decided I'm not going to do either, the folder gets cut and pasted into a final directory like Kate's Cooking or Doing Things Together or Family or Garden. The download program at the office lumps photos into a general directory in date folders. And, to rearrange, I've got to get to a different program then move the photos. It's a major hassle and since everything's already organized at home AND most importantly since I have plenty of REAL work to do at the office, photos and blogging don't normally happen there.
Whew! That all means that blogging has been a bit challenging lately. That doesn't mean we haven't been eating some fun new food. One of the cooking magazines we both enjoy thoroughly is Cooks Illustrated. It's a bit expensive but worth every penny in our book because they tell you why things work the way they work. Why you should use a water bath when cooking creme brulee. Why some sugar in a rub is a good thing. How changing a recipe might make a difference. The best recent example is the salad with bitter greens and figs. The article explained how the addition of a sweet fruit softened the bitterness of the greens. Usually their recipes are spot on. So, we had high hopes for the penne a la vodka. Alas, it was jsut a bit above average. Now, the next day it was much better. Which leads me to say next time I'll make the sauce the day before it is needed.
Penne a la Vodka
28 oz can whole tomatoes, drained with liquid reserved
2 T olive oil
1/2 small onion, minced
1 T tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 c vodka
1/2 c heavy cream
1 pound penne pasta
2 T finely chopped basil leaves
4 oz thinly sliced pancetta
freshly grated parmesan cheese for serving
Puree half the tomatoes and dice the other half. When you're dicing them, be sure to discard the cores. Put the tomatoes in a 2 cup measuring cup and add reserved liquid to total 2 cups. Saute the onions in olive oil until translucent. Add the tomato paste and cook until the onions are light golden. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Stir the mixture for about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and the vodka. Cook the sauce for about 10 minutes. You want the alcohol bomb flavor to cook off and end up with a nice, mellow alchohol note. About the time you add the vodka, cook your pasta. You'll be adding it to the sauce to finish cooking so do not overcook it. While you're doing that, saute the pancetta in a small skillet until it's nice and brown. Drain it well on paper towels. About a minute before the pasta is done, add the cream to the sauce. Drain the pasta, reserving the pasta water in the event you need it. Toss the pasta with the sauce. If it's too thick, add a bit of the pasta water. Serve topped with the pancetta and freshly grated parmesan cheese.