Two Ivory Suppers

In my ongoing pursuit of finding the ultimate quick, yet homemade, supper (I'm aiming at speed of light cooking with zero preparation, as fast and nourishing as breathing), I have discovered two meals to add to my burgeoning repertoire of "to be repeated" recipes. This is in addition to my "For One Night Only" recipes, which is to say, recipes that were either completely disastrous, just plain horrible, or price prohibitive. Thankfully, there aren't too many of them although my mind is sent spinning back, Alice in Wonderland style, to that meal I cooked for my family, preparing a different meal for each person; starters, mains and desserts. What the hell was I thinking?
Actually, the food turned out just fine but it was just too stressful and highlighted the fact that whilst I love food, I am happiest writing about it, reading about it and cooking it on a small scale. Why I chose to put so much stress on myself, in an already stressful life, is beyond me.
Anyway, I proved I could do it, now I can move onto much simpler tasks in life, like getting a PhD in quantum physics or persuading my antiquated boss to get a website. But enough blood-pressure elevating ramblings.
The two dishes prepared onMonday and Tuesday night are called Ivory Suppers, not because I have a love of films with Helena Bonham Carter but for a far simpler reason. Aesthetics. Both meals were visions of pale perfection, rustically garnished, not by a gruesome bunch of red currants, but with a simple salad, made by husband. Both dishes were prepared, cooked and in our bellies by 6.30pm, no later. The first dish, Pasta con Quattro Formaggio, or Pasta with Four Cheeses, is a classic Italian dish, which can be tweaked to suit your own cheese dish. I mean, you could even have Pasta con Tre Formaggio if you are one short. What you basically need is a good melting cheese for texture (Tallegio is wonderful because of its creamy texture and unusual caramel flavour, but at a push you could use Mozzarella), a Blue Cheese (I used Gorgonzola because we had a nub of it rapidly drying out in the fridge), and some Parmesan for its irreplaceable whiff of the Italian. The pasta could be tubes, but shells would also be good. Any shape that works as a vessel for the creamy, cheesy sauce would be fine. There are many variants of this recipe. Some add chopped tomatoes, some add parsley, some have more cream than others, some dispense with the cream altogether, substituting ricotta instead. The recipe that I give below is merely a guideline. I wouldn't recommend using any less cream than I've stated though because the pasta really drinks it up and you want some sauce on your plate to mop up with bread.

PASTA WITH FOUR CHEESES, serves 2 (simply double the quantities to serve4)Ingredients:
300g Dried Pasta, tubes or shells
30g Gruyere, grated
30g Blue Cheese, diced
30g Tallegio, diced
30g Parmesan, grated
3-4 Tablespoons Double Cream (more if you like it really saucy and, if you're weight watching, I should think you can substitute Creme Fraiche for cream)
25g Butter

Preheat oven to 180°c. Cook the pasta as per the instructions on the packet. Drain well and toss with the butter until well coated. The butter stops the pasta from congealing into wallpaper paste, whilst you prepare the cheeses. Mix the cheeses gently into the pasta and butter, season well with black pepper but don't over salt as the cheeses will probably be quite salty anyway. Pour into a shallow baking dish and heat in the oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly and just starting to turn golden. This should take about 10 minutes, no longer, as the sauce will then start to dry out and become claggy. Serve with a fresh, green salad and some crusty bread.

The second dish is Parmesan Chicken, another pseudo-Italian dish, popular in America. This is a recipe I borrowed from the Barefoot Contessa and this is by far the best way (by which I mean cleanest and quickest) I have found to cook Parmesan Chicken.

2 Chicken Breasts, with the fillets
1/3 Cup Flour
½ Teaspoon Salt
¼ Teaspoon (or thereabouts) freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 Egg, beaten
2/3 Cup Dry Breadcrumbs
¼ Cup Finely grated fresh Parmesan
Butter and Oil for Frying
If the chicken breasts still have the fillets attached, remove these and put to one side.
Flatten the chicken breasts and fillets so that they are ¼ inch thick. It is easiest to lay them, a breast or fillet at a time, in either a strong plastic sandwich bag or between two layers of clingfilm and gently wack them with a rolling pin.
Get three plates or shallow bowls laid out on your workshop. Fill the first one with the seasoned flour, the second one with the beaten egg that has mixed with half a tablespoon water, the third bowl with the breadcrumbs mixed with the grated parmesan. This is your dipping and coating conveyer belt. You hands will get extremely sticky and parmesan encrusted, so you might want to have some kitchen roll to hand unless you enjoy looking like the Singing Detective.
Heat about 20g butter and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a deep frying pan (I use a saute pan) until melted and starting to sizzle gently.
Dip your flattened chicken pieces into the flour, making sure it is completely, but lightly covered on all sides and edges. Dip quickly into the egg, again ensuring that it gets a saffron coloured tan and then into the breadcrumbs/parmesan mixture.
Cook your dipped chicken in the sizzling butter/oil and cook over a medium high heat (if the oil is too high, it will get sullied with little burnt black bits and spoil the look of the chicken, not to mention it will cook the outside too quickly, leaving the middle raw) until a deep golden brown on each side (approximately 3-4 minutes per side, more if your chicken is a bit thicker than the ¼” specified and lets be honest, who bothers measuring with a ruler?).
Remove from the pan and place onto a plate lined with kitchen roll to blot up any excess oil, there shouldn’t be much.
Serve with a fresh green salad and some ranch dressing.


Saffron said...

Really good your Pasta ai Quattro Formaggi. I use just a tablespoon of double cream. Baci

Mag's Meaning said...

Hey! Thanks for looking at my blog :)-- it's not being nosy!!! :) I put it up so we could all stay in touch :)-- since there was that ban on for a while about talking about non-food related items. Can't wait to look over your blog some more--- after I go to exercise ;). I've got to work off the calories just from look at that Pasta with Four Cheeses!!!! :)

Saffron said...

Hi Freya!Don'tworry,initalian we have so many grammar rules! singular plural, double letters!!
your recipe are so good! I really like the following post of your husband!