Feb 25, 2009

Unlikely Sources

Ultimately, a recipe’s value lies in its ability to translate to the plate and taste buds. But I also see value in the path a recipe travels: treasured family recipes that have traveled down a road of time and personal history, a recipe from a friend because (s)he thought “it had your name written all over it,” a recipe that you’ve proudly concocted in your own kitchen. After looking through my mom’s copy of Cooking Up a Storm, the importance of the way in which one obtains a recipe was never so clear to me.

Cooking Up a Storm, edited by Marcelle Bienvenu and Judy Walker, is a collection of both recipes and stories. It all started when people wrote to The Times-Picayune (the New Orleans newspaper) desperate to find recipes they lost during Katrina. The Times-Picayune was able meet some requests, finding recipes in the archives. But, much more interesting is the fact that people from across the country, and even world, stepped in and helped locate recipes that people were desperate to have back. Desperate to have something, anything, that brought them back to something resembling home. That’s a kind of re-building I bet not many people expected.

I knew I wanted to work this recipe for Creamy Boscaiola (pronunciation: bōs-kī-yōla) into a blog, but I couldn’t think of anything interesting to write about aside from the fact that the word “boscaiola” refers to a woodsman or woodcutter. Woodcutters also gathered mushrooms—in a recipe, boscaiola means “hey, there’s mushrooms in here.” Mildly interesting, if you like that sort of thing...and just because I do doesn’t mean everyone does.

After thinking about it for a while, I realized that the way in which I came by this recipe was...well, two odd and unlikely sources. I thought that idea was appealing...although I guess just because I do doesn’t mean everyone does. (Too bad, here it is!)

Before we moved back to Louisiana, we were only able to visit once or twice a year due to work schedules and distance. On one of those visits, we were staying with my in-laws. My in-laws went to bed early...sometimes before 8 PM. One evening, they were already in bed, there was nothing on TV, and I was bored. I started looking through my mother-in-law’s cookbooks. Most of her cookbooks are Cajun in nature. That’s what she cooks; that’s who she is. She even has a Cajun Microwave Cooking cookbook...and I don’t mean Al Simon’s
Cajun Microwave either.

[Side story: once I was at my in-law’s when my mother-in-law decided to pick up some Popeye’s for lunch. She asked me to go with her. I started to get ready to go when she said, “oh, we’re not gettin’ down.” I wondered why she thought that I thought we were going dancing...or worse. Later on my husband explained that “gettin’ down” is a Cajun expression—a throwback from when people rode horses instead of in cars. Gettin’ down refers to getting off the horse.]

Considering just how very Cajun my mother-in-law is, the British cookbook (who’s title and author I’ve since forgotten) sitting on her shelf caught my eye. I found an obscure Italian recipe in a British cookbook in the house of a Cajun woman who (literally) grew up in a swamp.

Creamy Boscaiola
from Ms. enPlace

3/4 lb pasta of your choice (penne, spaghetti, rotini, etc.)
6 slices bacon, chopped
1 (8 oz) package button mushrooms, sliced
1 ½ c cream
1 c half and half
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
3 scallions, chopped
1 tbsp chopped parsley or additional chopped green onion for garnish

In a large skillet, cook chopped bacon until crisped. While bacon cooks, clean and slice mushrooms. Set bacon aside to drain on a plate lined with paper towels.

If bacon has given off more than about 1 Tbsp of drippings, excess should be removed. Turn heat up to high and sear mushrooms in bacon drippings. It is important to sear rather than sauté your mushrooms, otherwise they will add too much liquid to the pan and the sauce will be runny.

Add bacon back to the skillet. Stir in about ¼ cup of the cream and scrape the bottom of the pan. Add the remaining cream, half and half, and black pepper, and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. While sauce thickens, cook pasta in a large saucepan until al dente. Drain pasta. Stir chopped scallions into the sauce. Add pasta to sauce and toss to combine. Sprinkle parsley or additional chopped scallions over the top and serve. Serves 4-6.

Note: the cream will expand when cooking; be sure your skillet can accommodate it to avoid boil-over.

This doesn't require much...but get it ready anyway!

First, crisp up the bacon, then set aside to drain.

Remove all but about 1 T of bacon grease...just guess. It'll be fine. Turn heat to high and sear the mushrooms. Don't saute them--sear. Get them brown with no juices in the pan. If you don't do this, you'll have a runny sauce. That would be bad.

Toss the bacon back in and add about 1/4 c cream. As the cream boils, scrape up any tasty bits from the bottom.

Add the remaining cream and half and half and black pepper. Bring to a boil and boil for about 10 minutes or until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Don't be shy about boiling this. If you don't, you'll end up with a runny sauce.

While the sauce cooks, cook the pasta...what ever kind you like. Oh, and a note about the sauce: cream "grows" when it boils. Make sure your pot can accommodate the expanding volume. Burnt cream is not a good air freshener.

Add the green onions to the sauce and stir. Add in the drained pasta. Sprinkle with parsley or more green onion (or both...hey, why not?).
Creamy Boscaiola

Serve tout sweet. Follow with a Lipitor chaser. (By the way, the green beans are just to ease the guilt).
Creamy Boscaiola

Linking with

Carole's Chatter: Food on Friday Pasta & Noodles theme

1 comment:

  1. Michelle - another fantastic link - thanks.


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