For our anniversary this week, Tom and I decided to stay home and make a nice dinner together. We were both really looking forward to this – and we ended up saving quite a bit of money and got to eat in our sweats. J
We decided to make and appetizer of bruschetta and Fettuccini Alfredo with seafood for the main course. For dessert, instead of making something elaborate (read: I’ll be eating it for the next 5 days), Tom picked out some individual treats from the bakery counter of our local higher-end grocery store.
With most things Italian, if I don’t have a family recipe I turn to Giada DiLaurentes. I like her food, and I appreciate that her recipes are simple, don’t require too many exotic ingredients, and aren’t time-consuming. I got both recipes from her section of FoodTV. The bruschetta was awesome. The Fettuccini not so much. And honestly, I was very disappointed.
The Fettuccini recipe called for 2.5 cups of heavy cream and 12 TBS of butter – it’s not heart healthy. Also, it called for ½ cup of fresh lemon juice and 2 tsp. of lemon zest. I always read the comments, and overall, this was a highly rated recipe. The commenters seemed to be split over the use of the lemon juice. Some said that the lemon gave it a lighter feeling, not quite so heavy – which I thought was a plus. Some, obviously, commented negatively on the amount of lemon – there seemed to be a rebuttal that you had to use fresh lemon and not lemon concentrate or store juice. But since it was Giada’s recipe, I decided we should go for it.
Tom bought some lovely seafood – and I regret that it met it’s end in such a disappointing dish. In retrospect, I should have started with a much, much smaller amount of lemon juice and added more to taste. One thing I’m not good at is following a new recipe while carrying on a conversation. I get distracted from independent thinking – I follow the recipe to the exact letter without thinking about what I’m doing. I guess that’s better than leaving out a critical component. In the end, Tom said that the lemon actual grew on him, but I feel that your dinner should not have to grow on you. Andrea, with her love of lemon, might really like this. And indeed, the lemon did cut the heavy taste, but it was too overpowering for me. I think Tom will be eating whatever leftovers he wants and then I’ll toss the rest.
While the lemon was the obvious problem, one of almost equal importance was almost ignored. The sauce did not thicken. The recipe says the sauce will thicken when tossed and warmed, but it never happened. And to me, for Alfredo, that’s unacceptable. Even if the lemon flavor was appropriate, the lack of a thick, creamy sauce would have doomed the recipe anyway. This was soupy, didn’t stick to the pasta, and pooled at the bottom of the bowl. Giada’s recipe did call for FRESH pasta and I momentarily wondered if that would have helped thicken it, but I can’t imagine that the recipe would be limited by an ingredient that 80% of the population doesn’t have ready access to.
Now the bruschetta – that was very good. I have leftover mozzarella and may make a dinner of bruschetta this weekend. Extremely simple to prepare – we used a take and bake baguette, a can of whole tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic and olive oil. I used my mini-food processor and it all came together in about 8 minutes. If I was to do this again, I would first smash the whole tomatoes with the back of a spoon to release extra juice, and I would pulse the garlic first, separately, so that it’s very fine and integrates better. But otherwise…umm.
I bought some of the Chateau Pinot Gris we had at Christmas, a most excellent mid-price wine in my opinion, and Tom purchased two desserts – a cannoli which was delectable and kept with the Italian theme, and a devil’s food cupcake with chocolate frosting. It was the best cake I’ve ever had from a bakery. Soft and moist, but without that oily moistness you sometimes get from bakeries. The frosting was real butter cream and had a rich chocolate flavor – no shortening in this. The desserts definitely made up for the Alfredo.
To recap – Giada’s Alfredo recipe was a bust not only because of the excessive lemon, but the lack of a thicker, creamier sauce. If you have a good recipe, please send it my way. Her bruschetta was divine, simple to make, and would be an impressive appetizer for a dinner party or to eat alone on a Friday night. Byerly’s has yet to disappoint me with their bakery department. It’s probably a good thing that the closest on is in Eagan, and therefore nowhere near my usual errand route.