October 6th, 2007

Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

Cooking as Therapy

Last night I was taken to the doctor, and the bad lady made me have dead arm, and a 2 inch bruise, from injecting me with a stop-feeling-nauseous drug.

Today I am home sick. Craig has taken my car to Taree to visit his parents for his father's 81st birthday. I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do with myself, and after watching an episode of Nigella Feasts, I decided to cook a Mushroom Pasta Bake that I can't of course eat, but it was very fun being Nigella. I used the word succulent a lot, and licked my lips to demonstrate how arousing the process of cutting mushrooms was.

Actually it all was very therapeutic - I had forgotten (since Craig does all the cooking) how much I enjoy using it as a way to unwind. And ms_victoria, (you'd be proud), it involved making a Bechamel Sauce.

Here it is, before being baked in the oven:



Now if there is anyone out there who would like to eat it, feel free to sms me. But if not, I will just bake it up, and freeze it in portions for lunches. I am a domestic goddess, if a nauseous one.

Edit 7.28pm: Baked, packaged up and labeled. I love my pink dymo label-maker.





Here's the recipe:

Mushroom Pasta Bake

Bechamel:
1 stick butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
8 cups milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg

Mushroom Mixture:
2 tablespoons butter, plus 1 stick
1 tablespoon oil
3 ounces dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 2 cups boiling water
1 pound, 8 ounces mixed mushrooms, chopped
3/4 cups fresh parsley leaves, chopped, plus 3/4 cup, plus 1/4 cup more for garnish
1 teaspoon dried thyme or fresh thyme leaves
3 fat garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup amontillado sherry
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus 1 cup
Salt
3 pounds rigatoni or other big pasta of choice
Few sprigs fresh thyme, for garnish

Special equipment: Large roasting pan, approximately 12 3/4 by 16 1/2 inches.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.

In a saucepan, melt the butter for the bechamel, and add the flour, stirring gently to make a smooth paste. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the milk. Turn the heat back on to medium, and stir the bechamel until it begins to thicken and come to the boil. Let it bubble for about 5 minutes to get rid of the floury taste. Take off the heat and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter and the oil in a large wide pan. Drain the porcini, reserving the liquid, and chop before adding to the pan with 3/4 cup chopped parsley, the dried or fresh thyme, and garlic. Stir for a couple of minutes then melt the remaining 1 stick of butter in the same pan and add the chopped mushrooms, stirring for about 5 minutes. The mushrooms will appear dry at first but will eventually start to give off some liquid.
Add the porcini soaking liquid, which the mushrooms will largely absorb, but keep stirring and add the sherry and let it bubble away. Turn off the heat when you have a bronzed, syrupy stew.

Stir the mushroom mixture into the bechamel and add 1 cup of the Parmesan and the other 3/4 cup of the chopped parsley. Put a big pan of water on for the pasta, and when it boils, salt it well. Cook the pasta until al dente, then drain and add to the mushroomy white sauce, stirring it as best you can to get the pasta covered.

Turn into the large roasting pan and sprinkle over the remaining 1 cup of Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top begins to turn golden in places.

When the tin comes out of the oven, decorate with the remaining 1/4 cup chopped parsley and some sprigs of fresh thyme.