There Be Alligators In Your Alfredo!

COOKING ADVENTURE #25: Creamy Fettuccine Alfredo

Well, that settles it, I guess. I really am a moron when it comes to following directions. I always think I’m doing something the right way until I try to get creative (or I become bored) and I switch them up… and then everything goes to hell. Now, mind you, I have made Fettuccine Alfredo before. Technically, I cheated by using the little packets at the grocery store for the sauce but it was still edible. And I’ve made it numerous times with chicken and shrimp. But I failed here… badly. It pains me because this comes just after last week’s mega success of the bread pudding which I’ve pretty much adopted as the only dish that I can make well. I made it again for Father’s Day. And I had another victory there. My nephew and niece absolutely loved it! And both of them are picky eaters! Sadly, I know if they’d taken even one look at my fettuccine alfredo, they’d have run a city block to get away from it.

This recipe came from one of my good friends, Celena, with whom I did the crazy Cthulhu cookie adventure with in May. She said that she had made the recipe a few times and it turned out wonderful. Of course, she’s also a better cook than me. She understands how to follow directions. Based on my history with various cooking adventures, I should have known that in some way, I was going to mess it up. I had just prayed that I wouldn’t. The recipe calls for basic ingredients necessary in any alfredo: butter, fettuccine, light cream, and Parmesan cheese. The strange thing about this recipe is how, where, and when these ingredients are mixed together. And no, I don’t mean that they are mixed with a stick in the woods at night time (or with some other unorthodox combination).

The first thing the directions wanted me to do was to melt 1 cup of butter in a large bowl. Now… a cup of butter is two sticks. Two. Sticks. Of butter. Which means that in no way possible is this a healthy recipe. So anyone under the impression that it is, leave now. Just reading about butter melting makes me feel like I’m gaining weight. At this point, you are supposed to use either a wooden spoon or an electric beater to beat the butter until it’s smooth. Now, I don’t know about you but using an electric beater is less time consuming and seems like it would get the job done quicker, yes? So why in the heck did I choose to use the wooden spoon? Probably because I was lazy and I didn’t want to have to dig into the cabinet and pull the mixer out. I spent the next ten minutes, stirring that butter, hoping that it would be smooth. No such luck. Just a lumpy mess of butter that only seemed to get lumpier the more times I stirred it.

After I’d given up hope that it would ever be smooth, I added the remainder of the ingredients into it: 2 cups of light cream, and 2 cups of Parmesan cheese. I didn’t buy Parmesan at the grocery store (because I was an idiot and I couldn’t find it. Simple explanation.) I bought a mix of 4 different cheeses. I almost think that might have been another cause as to why I did so terribly with this recipe. I dumped everything in and then grabbed my spoon to stir everything together. Well blended? Heck no. I couldn’t blend solid and liquid together with a wooden spoon. I should have used the mixer!!!

Next comes the relatively easy part: boiling the pasta water. I took a saucepot, filled it with water, sprinkled some salt in and put it on the burner on high to boil it. When it was bubbling, I reached up into the cabinet to grab my linguine. Yes, that’s what I had. I figured that there can’t be too much of a difference between fettuccine and linguine pasta besides the fun-to-say Italian names. I discovered that I only had about half of a box up there. In the directions it calls for an entire box. I figured it would be okay though. (As you can see, I do a lot of figuring and none of it is ever right.)

After the pasta was drained, the directions tell you to put the pasta directly into the bowl with the cream/butter/cheese mixture. The idea is that the hot pasta actually cooks the alfredo sauce in the bowl with the pasta. Definitely a neat concept. Well, would have been neat if it had actually worked for me. No matter how much tossing and mixing I did with that pasta in the bowl, the alfredo sauce never really cooked. It just kind of sat there like a lumpy swamp, the noodles begging for mercy as they were drowned in it. As I looked at it, I could almost imagine alligators lurking in the opaque soup. I tossed those noodles in that sauce for a good ten minutes. But the sauce never worked itself up passed the luke warm stage. I think if I’d had an entire box of pasta… it might have turned out alright. But of course, it doesn’t end there.

As I was mixing the pasta, I decided that I could use some left over chicken from my The Chicken, the Whole Chicken, and Nothing But the Chicken adventure. I’d taken every single speck of meat off the bird and saved a lot of it in the freezer. It would have been a good idea, you understand… if I’d actually heated up the chicken first before adding it to the mixture. I know. You’re screaming at your screen, going “YOU IDIOT! YOU FREAKING IDIOT!” If your not, well, bless your heart. I took the frozen pieces of chicken and added them to the luke-warm pasta swamp and tried to mix them all so that everything would “cook”. Nothing cooked.

In the end, I had to put everything back into the saucepot and put it on the stove to heat up and mix together properly. This seemed to do the trick, although the alfredo was still pretty lumpy. Unfortunately when I ate the pasta, the sauce didn’t taste very strong to me and all I could think about was how it should have turned out.

The next day when I went to reheat the alfredo for lunch at work and ate it… I got sick. And don’t even get me started on what happens when you try to reheat it on the stove top… never before have I glimpsed such a horrible sight. The butter oil separated from the sauce and seeped out so that it formed a nice lake at the bottom of the pot. I couldn’t even eat it. I had to throw it away.

Why don’t I follow the directions, you ask? I keep thinking I can take short cuts or I simply think I have more ingredients than I do. I make mistakes and try to save time and of course it comes back and slaps me in the face. I’m still learning. And based on the fact that this whole idea for a weekly cooking adventure started with a New Years resolution… probably the only one that I’ve stuck to? I’m still kind of proud of myself for sticking with it and at least trying. And at some point, I know I’ll return to this and try it again with the proper ingredients.

Next week on Cooking Adventures, we’ll be attempting a Korean dish which has recently received quite a bit of popularity. Bulgogi is next week! Stay tuned!

~KSilva

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