My favourite inauthentic pasta: Italo-Chinese cheat udon with fake beurre-blanc.
It’s time for your weekly-sunday-food-update. And surprise, surprise it’s going to be pasta again. In today’s recipe China meets Italy and then both of them meet France – I serve you nifty fake home-made Italian Udon with cheat beurre blanc. Now that sounds fancy. So it’s basically thick chewy pasta with a roasted onion-sauce. Which sounds a lot more do-able, I suppose. And really it is do-able and cheap and fast. While this post might seem like a lot of coherent information, making this shouldn’t take you longer than half an hour, and that is if you do everything by hand and for the first time. Oh, I almost forgot: You will be making your own pasta for this one and it will be incredibly easy. So brace yourself for some fun.
I sometimes like my pasta thick and chewy and with that I fancy some intense and aromatic sauce. To chase away the cold, my hunger or a hangover. When this craving gets really bad I usually can’t be bothered with complicated cooking requiring my undivided attention. It’s not that I can’t make neither proper pasta nor a proper beurre blanc, I just decide not to. Sometimes there is no time for fancy-schmancy. But there is always time for this easy-to-make dish. I want to be quiet honest with you,though, this is one of the times where owning a food-processor or a mixing-machine really does make your life a lot easier, or at least your cooking a bit faster.
There is three steps to this recipe:
1. making the dough
2. cooking the pasta
3. making the sauce
Cooking the pasta and making the sauce can be done simultaneously, so that’s some time saved. If you then also prepare the dough in advance, things will be a lot faster when you are on the job. Plus, having a friend who can knead the dough for you, or some machine doing the same job, will save some additional time.
What’s interesting to me about this dish is not just the fact that it’s freaking delicious (which it is), but also that it, apparently, is quite a bit of fusion-cooking. Which really it is not. When I made the pasta for the first time it was more of an accident than anything else and it was only today that I realized that they are basically udon. This insight changed quite a bit.
What was once a meal I just ate when I was drunk or sick, became fancy and also had a concept. It could be considered daring and even a bit extravagant. That’s what labelling can do to your food. The question remains though: if you just happen to do about the same thing you would do if you wanted to make udon, is what you are making udon, or do you need to want them to be udon, in order for your thick pasta to actually be udon?
Think about it for a second:
How does labelling affect your eating-behaviour? What would change if you were to change the labels? How would your pizza taste if it wasn’t called authentic? How would you experience a fish and meat-dish if it wasn’t classified “surf&turf”? How does your mental picture of a beef-stew change if it was either labelled “a French classic” or “a dish of French homecooking”? Does it change at all? And what about these thick strings of cooked dough: Would you rather eat some fast thick pasta or some cheat udon?
I could now say that I believe that classifications are only meaningful within their original reference frame and that thus udon are only udon if you want them to be, but then again this is a food-blog for crying out loud, so let’s get to the recipes straight away.
For me there is some resemblance between my sauce and a French classic (see) the beurre blanc: Proper beurre blanc, however, includes both white-wine and vinegar, charlotte and tons of butter. It also requires you to stir viscously, yet not too hard. It’s a delicate thing and quite delicious if done properly. However, it also lacks a bit of punch, because you are usually dissolving the charlottes in the wine without browning them. I didn’t do that when I first tried it, I actually browned my charlottes quite a bit and found that I really do like the unique aroma of roasted-charlottes or in this case onions. Beurre Blanc basically is an emulsion of liquid and fat, aided by binding-agents in both the charlotte as well as the butter. There is a catch though, heating up the binding-agents too much will cause them to denaturate and you are left with a pan filled with traces of liquid and swirls of fat. In order to avoid this, heat and stirring have to be applied gently and carefully.
1 part flour ¼ part water some salt some olive oil
- First mix the dry ingredients, then add the water (I have used milk and cream before, you can add a bit more and omit the oil entirely I wont tell you though,whether or not it made a difference, try that for yourself).
- Knead the dough for quite a while until it has a this special silky tenderness that I love about pasta-dough or until your hands hurt.
- Wrap in cling-foil and leave to rest for a bit. The dough will become all tender and well-adjusted after 15 minutes, but the longer you let it rest the smoother your dough will become.
- Roll your dough out until it’s about as thick as your favourite pencil. Use a knife to cut the dough into equally stick stripes and dust the individual strings with flour so that they won’t stick together while cooking.
A bit of butter One small onion Some garlic Some freshly grated nutmeg Cream or milk Some water Salt A bit of grated parmesan
- Add a bit of butter to the pan, just enough so that it will coat it .
- Add the chopped onion to the just melted butter.
- Let the onion brown a bit, over low heat.
- Add the smashed, squeezed, mushed or grated garlic to the pan once the onion has slightly browned.
- Add the cream or milk to the pan and turn off the heat and stir gently but well (this bit is crucial because we don’t want the sauce to disintegrate which it very well might if you stir or heat up the onion-infused liquid in the pan too much). What you ideally want is for the onion-butter-squish to dissolve in the added liquid, but only slightly – half a small tea-cup of milk or cream will usually do, remember you can always add more if you feel you need to. Conversely adding some more cold butter to the pan will help to thicken the sauce. But only if you do your share of stirring.
- Add a bit of parmesan to the pan, barely half a hand full, probably a whole hand if you are as small as one of my dwarfish friends.
- Add some salt to taste.
- Add as much nutmeg as you fancy.
- Your pasta-water should me boiling hot right now and it also should have some salt added to it. Let the sauce set a bit while you put in your dough-strings and boil them until they have your favoured consistency.
- Add the cooked pasta straight from pot to sauce. You will inevitably add some access water, that’s why your sauce usually can be a bit thicker before adding the water. Don’t forget though, that the water is rather rich in starch, so it will actually help to thicken the sauce in return, which leaves the responsibility for this dish’s success up to your adjustment. Also the pasta will absorb some extra-liquid if you use fresh pasta, this tends to happen less if you use dried pasta.
- Add to a plate and dig in.