Eating no meat, many miles of open water away from a health food store. Recipes and anecdotes galore!

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Crepes and whole wheat-pepper linguine

Yesterday was extraordinarily productive, given that it was a Saturday, a day on which I am generally given to throwing a pillow over my head and ignoring Bill's best efforts to remove me from the land of counterpane. Moved by dreams of enchiladas and watermelon margaritas, I decided the best thing to do was wake up and make France's answer to the enchilada - crepes.

Crepe Batter:

1 cup of flour (I use King Arthur brand whenever possible.)
1 egg, beaten
About a tablespoon of sugar
About a teaspoon of baking soda
Enough milk to make the batter runny (I don't think I added quite enough - the milk was bordering on scary.)
Salt (I used Italian sea salt, because I have a really cool gourmet salt sampler due to recent birthday.)

This made four big crepes. I very lightly buttered a big Calphalon pan, waited til the butter sizzled a bit, and poured in a scant ladleful of batter. When bubbles appeared around the edges, I flipped it and added the filling. I decided to do one sweet crepe and one savory crepe for each plate. The savory crepe had Appleton Farms goat cheese and a handful of baby spinach leaves. The sweet crepe had sliced bananas and strawberries with Death By Chocolate sauce (awesome and contains chestnut puree.)

The first crepe I made was way too thick, so I added more scary milk (it tasted fine in something cooked but I don't think I'd have had a glass of it. You know?) The last three turned out very well, though they still could have been thinner.

Lunch was just leftover avocado and cucumber maki, but for dinner I decided to get ambitious and break out the pasta extruder. The idea was to make whole-wheat linguine with the hand-crank extruder my grandfather gave me a few years ago. It's a nifty simple machine, and requires less cleaning than the electric one my family had when I was little.

Whole Wheat-Pepper Linguine Dough:

Two cups of whole wheat flour (again, King Arthur)
Two eggs
Salt (Italian sea salt again here)
A good amount of fresh-ground pepper. (I used White Muntock, because in addition to my gourmet salt collection, I now have gourmet pepper. I love birthdays. I did have to grind it in a mini-prep, though, because our pepper grind is pretty gimpy.)

Mound up the flour and make a dent in the flour mountain. Dump the two eggs into the dent. Add the salt. Stir everything together with a fork, adding water as you go to make a nice dough that holds together and feels springy, like a nice butt. Knead the dough for a while. I added the pepper at this point, though it would have worked just as well to add it with the eggs.

Extrude the pasta:

Split the dough into four balls. Knead each ball, incorporating as much extra flour as you need to make the dough un-sticky. Slightly flatten a ball and run it through the extruder on the widest setting (on mine, it's 1.) Fold the resultant sheet in half and run it through again, until it makes a uniform rectangle. When you fold, strategize so that any irregularities get incorporated into the sheet. Put the machine on the next thinnest setting and repeat the squishing and folding maneuver. I had to keep going until the 5th seting to get it thin enough to make noodles. After I had a thin sheet, I left it to rest for a while under a damp towel while I extruded the other three sheets. The sheets turn out pretty long! One was almost too long for the countertop.

Make the noodles:

Cut each long sheet in approximately half. A good length for noodles is 12", so do whatever you can to make sheets in about that length. (I suppose I could have made eight balls instead of four and eliminated this step, but this is much faster.) Dust each sheet with more flour so the noodles don't stick together. Run each sheet through the linguine setting on the pasta extruder. (My extruder has a linguine and a spaghetti setting, and they're actually separate parts of the machine.) This turned out to be a two-person job, so Bill came in and helped crank the machine while I fed the sheet through and we each tried to catch the noodles and prevent them from breaking under their own weight. It mostly worked.

We laid the noodles out to dry for a bit and started on the sauce:

Creamy mushroom "chicken" sauce:

About 1 cup of sliced champignon
Three Tbs butter
About 1/2 cup white wine
Three cups milk
1 bag of Morningstar Farms Chik'n strips (is soy controversial now? Please weigh in and let me know the downside - I know they're processed, so that's a downer, but they're tasty and seem pretty healthy...)
Two packages of Knorr cream sauce (haha! We're so lazy! But it's so tasty!)
About 1 cup of chiffonaded baby spinach leaves
Salt (Eurasian black salt, this time, for fun)
Pepper (Green Madagascar, again pulverized in the mini-prep)
Pecorino-Romano cheese - as much as you like, grated

Sautee mushrooms in 2 Tbs butter
Add white wine and salt
Add milk and Knorr packets
Add 1 Tbs butter
Stir until butter melts
Allow mixture to come to a boil
Add spinach leaves and cheese
Turn down to a simmer until everything thickens up, then turn off the heat so it doesn't scorch.

Dinner! Boil the pasta in lots of salted water, put the sauce on top, and enjoy. We had Matua Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand with the meal.


At 8:39 PM, Blogger Matt Lavallee said...

Hmmm, i thought crepe batter had mostly water for liquid, as a replacement for the original (medieval) recipe's white wine - which leads one to a natural curiosisty regarding the flavor of a crepe made with dry wine for water

At 8:42 PM, Blogger Matt Lavallee said...

Oh, and also, I learned this week that pepper in pasta tastes less strong than I thought it would, while nutmeg in ice cream tastes a lot stronger than I expected

At 5:56 AM, Blogger Court said...

Nutmeg is such a strong flavor...I usually only use it with a heavy cream sauce or with spinach. As far as water in crepe batter, I learned with milk but I'm sure water works. Liquids can be pretty easily substituted in and out (I read about a bechemel sauce made with chicken broth instead of cream!)

At 9:31 AM, Blogger Matt Lavallee said...

bechamel with chicken broth is clearly bullshit

At 9:58 AM, Blogger Court said...

And yet, a renowned food-writer attributes it to the success of an entire dish he ate...

(would that I could remember the exact reference and increase my credibility.)


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