Sunday, February 3, 2013

Fettuccine Alfredo (you gotta say it w/ a ridiculous accent and hand gestures)

This has been a rough week in the Sassahouse.  There's an evil stomach virus going around (Zack had it first, Madeleine second, and now my mom has it).  So far I have been spared (as I was w/ December's flu that everyone else got) but I am not so naive as to think this Nursing-Mom-Super-Immunities thing is going to last forever.  So tempers have been a little frayed (my NMSI definitely does not help me with THAT one!!) and we're about to have our first family meeting.  So for a little levity and distraction, allow me to write about the fettuccine alfredo that I made for Zack two weeks ago...

Zack made it clear that his birthday dinner of choice was FA.  Not only have I never made it before, but I really don't have much of a memory of ordering it before or even what it was -- aside from goey and pasta-y.  What does an academic do when presented with a subject she is unfamiliar with? (especially an unemployed academic who has to spend a couple hours each day lying down beside her baby so sed baby will take a nap?)  Why I did some research, obviously!

Did you know (totally hearing Josiah Bartlett now) that the dish was "invented" by Alfredo Di Lelio in 1914 for his pregnant wife?  All FA really is is fettuccine pasta w/ butter and Parmesan cheese.  This is a variation of an Italian dish called fettuccine al burro (which sadly means "butter" in Italian, and not "donkey" like the Spanish) which had been around for quite some time before that.  What Di Lelio did was change the amount of butter (tripled it, actually) and the time it was introduced in the recipe.  He did this b/c pregnant wifey was having trouble keeping food down (not sure how three times the normal amount of butter helps this, but having been pregnant I know that whatever works is what you go with!).  He then put the dish on his restaurant's menu and in 1920 Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford ate there on their honeymoon and loved it so much they started serving it here in the States.
And thus, culinary history was born!

I wish I could have a really booming voice font kick in here, but all I can really see in my mind is this:

I found a lot of different recipes online and took tips from many different chefs.  The one I used as a base was from Giada De Laurentiis's show -- though how you can trust a hot, skinny lady to be much of a chef I just don't know -- but it pretty much evolved into it's own dish, so this is my own recipe (about as much as Di Lelio's was his own recipe):

Sassaccine Chicken and Brussels Sprouts Alfredo (gotta work on the name)

18 ounces fresh fettuccine
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (plus extra to sautee chicken and brussels sprouts)
2 cups grated Parmesan -- do not get pre-grated Parm.  get a hard wedge of good cheese and grate it
                                     yourself.  I read of bad things happening w/                

                                      pre-grated parm.
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Salt (I hate HATE HATE pepper, but if you like it, use the white kind for this recipe)
1 lb.  boneless chicken
However many brussels sprouts you want to eat (I get a lot b/c ... damn.)
unspecified amounts of chicken stock (sorry. did not measure)
Chives (just grabbed a handful)
Parsley (same)(I cook pretty fast and loose)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

I started the brussels sprouts first-- cutting off the base and peeling away questionable leaves, then halving them (this always takes more time than I feel like it should, but cooking is zen me time so that's cool as long as the baby is happy and there's NPR in the background).  Once they were ready, I melted some butter in a pan, sauteed them for a couple of minutes, then covered them w/ chicken stock and simmered until all the liquid was absorbed into the sprouts (6-10 minutes...ish).

A note on the stock: I slow-roasted a small whole chicken few weeks ago (wait, where did the vegan in me go??!!) and aside from it being an INSANELY delicious dinner, I took the website I found it on's suggestion and stripped the bones down, threw some veggies in, and slow-cooked it all night to make chicken stock.  (ps. the vegan still lives in me b/c I felt like I was in a horror movie as I was dealing w/ all the carnage in cleaning out the crock pot in the morning)  "Broth" cannot describe what resulted.  Really, "Chicken Stock" is a little weak.  This stuff was so fatty and golden brown that I had to spoon it out of the container onto the Brussels Sprouts and, later, the chicken itself.
This stuff is AWESOME to cook with.
But you can just use regular broth or stock, I'm sure.

While the sprouts were plumping, I cut the chicken up and chopped the chives into teeny, tiny pieces (got the parsley out of the way too).  I put the cooked Brussels Sprouts aside (ps. I love that they are BrusselS sprouts, not brussel sprouts, and I always go way out of my way to enunciate the S at the end of the B word, just cuz).  Repeated the same technique in the same pan: browned w/ butter and chives, then simmered in the stock.  I just used one pan for all of this to keep the flavors building, but you want to use a REALLY big pan -- remember, you're eventually tossing 18 ounces of cooked fettuccine in there! (though I took each cooked element out and set it aside).

I started the big pot of salted water boiling, then zested the lemons, reamed the juice (he he, I said "reamed"), and grated the cheese.  I used the zester I have to grate the cheese.  I went slowly so as to keep the majority of my flesh on my hands where it was, but this got me some beautiful cheese.

Cooked the pasta until tender.  I am not a fan of chewy "firm" pasta so I cooked it a few minutes over the recommended 4 minutes. Drained.

Once the chicken was done (ie. the liquid cooked off) I put 2 cups of the cream and the lemon juice in the  large pan to blend (emulsify even). Added the butter and cooked over medium heat just until the butter melted (stirring occasionally) about 3 minutes. Then turned off the heat.

Added the pasta and tossed the whole she-bang. Then added the remaining 1/2 cup of cream, and Parmesan  (one handful at a time) to the cream sauce in the skillet. Added the lemon zest, nutmeg, salt. Tossed the pasta mixture until the sauce thickens slightly.  I was skeptical about this but it turns into this GLORIOUS thick sauce.  Added the chicken and Brussels sprouts now and tossed until coated w/ heaven-sauce.  Put into a huge serving dish and sprinkled w/ the parsley.

I highly recommend eating this immediately!!  I had to cover this dish and put it in a warm oven then go away for an hour to try to get baby to sleep (boy did THAT not happen!).  It was still a spectacular dish an hour later, but it wasn't the brilliance it was when first tossed.
Also, I thought this was going to yeild a metric ton of leftovers, but the five of us ate the WHOLE THING!! (and then had cake)(and then went to the hospital for a complete blood transfusion).
It's really quite simple, didn't take too long and was super good.
highly recommend.

and I promise you, my "Nutella and Ritz Crackers" recipe is a great deal simpler than these last two.

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