Sunday, March 11, 2012

Menu Plan and Execution: Weekend of 3/10

I didn't get my menu posted ahead of time, so decided to simply incorporate it in the results post. The lineup was:

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara
Raspberry & Cottage Cheese Muffins - The Cupcake Calendar
Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

When I got back from my performance Saturday, I slowly wandered around to the ice cream - and was startled by two facts: one, that the base doesn't cook; and two, that you don't freeze the entire portion in the ice cream maker before introducing it to the freezer. (Freezer, meet ice cream. Ice cream, meet freezer. You two play nice.) So all the preparation work is in combining ingredients: cooking the blueberries, baking the graham crust, and finally mixing the copious base.

A 9x13 pan proved to be just barely big enough to contain all the ingredients. The instructions say to layer, but this is deceptive: there isn't enough of each component to create a full layer. The takeaway is that you end up dolloping it in batches on top of itself, then finally swirl together. Into the freezer ...

Final verdict (ice cream): I was worried this would freeze solid, but it maintains a nice, chunky consistency - maybe a bit more icy than standard ice cream, but broken up by the generous portions of blueberry and graham cracker. It is rich, creamy and addictive. Recommended.

Next, I started on the muffins. This is a very simple mix: wet ingredients beat with a mix, then dry added until not quite mixed, and finally raspberries folded in. This is the second time I've tried a raspberry-related recipe from this calendar and the first one was mediocre, so I was a bit gun-shy. This time, the quantity was better, but I still had a little left over after filling the pan almost to the brim.

One final mishap of note: I turned this muffin pan and smacked the back of it to get the muffins to come out. Having air-holes in them from the raspberries, they semi-collapsed, so I ended up with a batch of very lopsided muffins.

Final verdict (muffins): Cosmetic issues notwithstanding, the cottage cheese made these very moist, and there's just enough sugar to be sweet without reaching into cloying. Definitely will put this recipe aside to make again.

While the muffins baked, I started on the carbonara. I wasn't able to find pancetta, so I settled for - of all things - applewood smoked bacon. It cooked up swiftly, regardless, and it took me only a moment to shred the leftover pecorino cheese. At this point, I have so much cheese in my cheese-keeper, I swear I should start picking recipes with the express purpose of using it up. Anyhow ...

I had chosen to use my medium pasta pot, which turned out to be less than wise, as it was almost too small for the spaghetti. Regardless, it boiled up nicely as I whisked the eggs and cheese. I put a ton of black pepper in - but apparently not enough, to judge by the final product ...

I will admit that when I transferred the egg mixture to the skillet with the pasta, I underestimated how quickly it would start to cook. I stirred frantically, never quite ending up with a cream sauce, but getting close enough that I called it a meal.

Final verdict (carbonara): Even allowing for the foul-up with the eggs, I wasn't too wild about this. It's too mild and not particularly flavorful. I am interested in trying this sort of meal again, but not this particular recipe.

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