Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cooking with booze

I bet everyone is quite shocked and appalled that I would cook a meal using booze. It DOES go against everything I believe in!! :)
 In all seriousness this recipe for Penne alla Vodka  is very simple to make and is delicious.. Now before I give you the recipe I need to say where I get my recipes from: (I don't need someone yelling at me that I am stealing recipes) about 85% of the recipes that I use come from various Americas Test Kitchen books. I have a little obsession with these books, they make cooking a little less scary-

Now, this recipe says to try to avoid using cheaper vodka because the sauce will become to harsh. Also, to be careful when using it because it can get to "boozy" THOSE ARE NOT MY WORDS! Say first world problems about it calling for anything not in a plastic jug and I will throw my computer out the window!

Penne alla Vodka

Why this recipe works:
Splashes of vodka and cream can turn run-of-the-mill tomato sauce into luxurious restaurant fare—or a heavy, boozy mistake. Despite the limited number of ingredients—vodka, cream, red pepper flakes, and tomatoes—we found recipes for penne alla vodka with results that varied widely. Many were absurdly rich (with more cream than tomatoes) and others were too harsh from a heavy hand with the vodka. We wanted to fine-tune this modern classic to strike the right balance of sweet, tangy, spicy, and creamy. To achieve a sauce with the right consistency, we pureed half the tomatoes* (which helped the sauce cling nicely to the pasta) and cut the rest into chunks. For sweetness, we added sautéed minced onions; for depth of flavor, we used a bit of tomato paste. We found we needed a liberal amount of vodka to cut through the richness and add “zinginess” to the sauce, but we needed to add it to the tomatoes early on to allow the alcohol to mostly (but not completely) cook off and prevent a boozy flavor. Adding a little heavy cream to the sauce gave it a nice consistency, and we finished cooking the penne in the sauce to encourage cohesiveness.

Serves 4
So that the sauce and pasta finish cooking at the same time, drop the pasta into boiling water just after adding the vodka to the sauce. If possible, use premium vodka; inexpensive brands will taste harsh in this sauce. Pepper vodka imparts a pleasant flavor and can be substituted for plain.

1 pound penne pasta
1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and liquid reserved
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup minced onion
1 tablespoons tomato paste

3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and Pepper
1/3 cup vodka
2/3 cup heavy cream
3 Tablespoons minced fresh basil
Grated Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving

1. Start heating heavily salted water for pasta. Puree half of the tomatoes* in a food processor until smooth. Chop the remaining tomatoes into ½ inch pieces, discarding the cores. Combined the pureed and diced tomatoes in a 2 cup liquid measuring cup. Add reserved liquid to make 2 cups.

2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is light golden around the edges, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3. Stir in the tomatoes and ½ teaspoon salt. Remove pan from heat and add the vodka. Return the pan to medium high heat and simmer, stirring frequently for 10 minutes to cook off the vodka. (Lower heat to medium if simmering is too vigorous.) Stir in the cream and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until hot.

4. Right after you add the vodka cook the pasta according to package directions. Set aside ¼ cup of salted pasta water at the end of cooking time. (I save about a cup, often needing more than called for.) Drain the pasta, return it to the pot, add the sauce and cook over medium heat for 1 ½ minutes to make the sauce stick to the pasta a bit. Then turn off heat, add the pasta water, basil, a little salt and pepper and Pecorino Romano cheese as desired and serve.

*A little revision to the recipe (to make it faster) I am using crushed tomatoes and skipping the pureeing step it just cuts down on time
 Tonight I am adding chicken to it to add a little more protein for the hubs, and I will also post a picture of my dinner when it all done tonight...