Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Mise en Casserole

Sometimes, a food blog really just speaks to where you're at, and this month that's Smitten Kitchen. Almost every recipe she's posted the month has had me at the grocery store within a day or two to make it. Yesterday's was no different. Mushroom Marsala Pasta Bake? Mushrooms? Yes. Marsala? Yes. Pasta bake? Yes and another very emphatic yes.

I'm trying to get better about my mise en place (Anthony Bourdain declares it his religion). A big part of that is reading the recipe carefully, from start to finish, so you can determine what needs to be prepped when. With this recipe, you can get the pasta going, and while the water is boiling and the pasta cooking, prep everything else. And for the reverse, it took me 5 minutes to hand wash all the pots and kitchen tools I used while the casserole cooked, leaving me 20 minutes to read my book.

My notes:
-Sadly, I do not own anything resembling a stovetop-to-oven dish of the required size, so there was no one-pot action going on here.
-Loblaw/No Frills sells a 254g package of sliced mushrooms (I paid $1.99). You'll need 340 grams here, so I bought two packets and used them all (to avoid the aforementioned rotting crisper drawer).
-The thing about mushrooms is they suck up any oil or butter you have in the pan the second they touch it. Don't be alarmed. Just keep an eye on them and after not too long they'll start to sweat their own liquid.
-Marsala is a must on my bar cart, because it's useful in so many recipes and brings so much flavour. The LCBO has three types shelved in the fortified wine section, all under $15. If you buy a bottle, it'll last, so don't be shy.
-I started buying bouillon cubes. Then I bought pre-made chicken broth. Then I discovered Better Than Bouillon. You can buy a large container of the chicken or beef at Costco for about $5. I've seen the other varietals in various grocery stores. My tip here is to pull 1 1/2 cups of the pasta water out before you drain it and add the bouillon to that, as the hot water will help it dissolve and the pasta water already has flavour.
-I actually think you could add spinach or kale to this, folding in shredded greens as you mix the pasta and sauce in the dish. 
-As I've mentioned previously, 3 tbsps is not enough parsley for me to pull the trigger. We didn't miss it.
-If you don't already, start building in cooling time to your cooking time. There's little less unpleasant, eating wise, than burning your mouth on the first bite.
-For D and I, this fed us dinner with enough for leftovers for lunch. If you want it to feed more than four people, I'd recommend cooking a protein like chicken or pork to go on the side, as well as the salad she mentions.

(A quick note on my food photography: I am no food stylist or photographer. That said, I am hoping to work on improving the photos you see here. As it gets lighter later that will be easier, as it's currently pitch dark when I make dinner.)

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