Sunday, January 8, 2012

bloggers aren't allowed to take time off.

i know, i know.
it's been over a month.
i've come to terms with the fact that i am one of the least consistent food bloggers out there.

but if you graduated from college, didn't have a job, and moved in to your parents' basement, your motivation wouldn't exactly be top notch either.

believe me, i have absolutely nothing against my parents.  in fact, my living conditions have improved.

i've been updated from a kitchen that got claustrophobic when all 3 roomates were trying to make a sandwich, to one with an island, a double oven and a snack bar.
i've been updated from garage sale treasures (which were perfect grandma schultz finds!), to kitchenaid pots and pans.
i've been updated from a set of dishware consisting of 3 bowls, 3 plates (all chipped) and non-matching silverware, to nice white plates that i never have to double check to see if they're clean.

but as i turn the corner from my "bedroom" towards the stairs to our 1st level, i glance toward the boxes and rubbermaid tubs that hold my once and future kitchen. i think of my seasoned george foreman, my 99 cent potato masher, and my well-stocked spice cabinet now carefully shoved together with other college apartment remnants like highlighters and desk lamps.
...they deserve so much better.

i hope you see where my lack of motivation to blog has come from. i have still been cooking, no doubt. christmas, new years (that blog post to come soon!), my parents' anniversary all called for culinary feats and feasts. today included.

today was my mom's birthday. but first, let's rewind.

for the first few months of this last semester, i was asked by the head chef/good friend of mine to work at his fabulous restaurant known as vino in the valley.

here's my plug for them: go there. weave your way through miles of gorgeous wisconsin landscape. feel like you're lost and on a roller coaster and then pull into the restaurant in this beautiful, vineyard-laden, naturally peaceful valley. then order whatever sounds good (which will be everything). then get a glass of wine, sit back, watch the sun set over the hills and dig into some seriously good italian eats.

so the fist time my parents came up to visit me, i took them there for dinner. and while the trip there had them second guessing ("how can this place be all that good?! it's in the middle of nowhere!?"), the food and atmosphere of the place had them begging to go back.

and my mom begging me to get the chicken fettuccine alfredo recipe.

back to today, her birthday. let's put it loosely and say she has probably asked once every two weeks since the beginning of october for me to make this for her. so i decided today would be perfect. i mean really. as far as birthday presents go, who would honestly turn down a delicious meal over a sweater you're probably going to return anyways?

after a little convincing, i got the recipe. although i can't really say that a list of measure-less ingredients and rough instructions count as a "recipe" according to webster's definition. then again, when was the last time i busted out the measuring spoons for something other than a cupcake recipe..?

so here it is, folks. with written consentment from the magician, benjamin sauer, himself, i give you the absolutely delicious garlic cream sauce.

warning: do not treat this with disrespect and substitute vegetable oil for butter. or jarred minced garlic for the freshly chopped stuff. or God-forbid milk for heavy cream.
we'll both be disappointed in you in the end.

first start with some olive oil and butter in a pot. my batch was pretty big since i was cooking for 8, so adjust everything accordingly.

while that's heating up a little, chop some sweet onion and fresh garlic. saute that until the onion is translucent and the garlic is starting to slightly brown.

by the way, these aren't instructions straight from the chef himself. this is how i did it. ha!

...but it should be pretty similar. i did watch him do it a few times (a weekend) at vino.

it's at this point that an intoxicating aroma is drifting around your house/apartment. the distinct aroma that if i had to choose one thing to smell for the rest of my life, this is what it would be. call me crazy, but the bouquet that onions and garlic emit from sauteing in olive oil could send me into a culinary coma just as easily as bobby flay walking through my door and asking if i want to grill up some burgers with him. i mean seriously, people.

anyways, back to reality. once the above magic has happened and the onions and garlic are looking better than ever, glug in a good amount of white wine. like a good amount. like i poured a glass for myself and the rest of the bottle went in the pot. yeah, this is not a few splashes, my friends.

then, stick that sucker on medium to medium low and let it reduce away. by "at least half," says the professional. however, since i was clearly not in the right state of mind when i went to the grocery store the day before and consequently bought 3 quarts of half and half instead of heavy cream, i was playing the waiting game for my mom to return with my more accurate dairy product. moral of the story is, i let mine reduce by more than half.

as you can tell, my inch-deep layer of white wine reduced to make an oniony-garlicy white wine sauce. spread that on some toast and call it a day!

...that's right, i promised a cream sauce. ok. fine.

what seemed like 76 pints of heavy cream later, i had what was starting to looks like a garlic cream sauce.

especially after the very precise measurements of nutmeg, garlic powder, onion powder, chicken base, salt and white pepper.
ha! i said precise.

while the sauce continued to reduce and the flavors got oh-so-fantastic, i started to grill the chicken. on my mom's christmas gift from my brothers and i, no less. i have been wanting an indoor cast iron grill pan for myself for a while, so i guess i just figured that getting one for her was just as good. and then she could grill in winter, which is what my family basically lives off during summer. 

and would you just look at those almost fake grill marks! after these thick chicken breasts were cooked thoroughly, i sliced them thinly, or into roughly 2-bite-sized pieces and placed them in the cooler... er, refrigerator along with the fettuccine noodles i had cooked off earlier.  

bubbling away and emitting more intoxicating aromas into the house. no complaining here!

since my family was getting hungry and my sauce hadn't reduced to the thickness that i had wanted, i decided to put half of it into a wider pan and add the chicken to it.

i cranked the heat, and let it bubble and thicken some more.

aaaaaaand some more.

but hey! i had time. i had homemade garlic bread broiling away in the oven.

 just some melted butter, fresh minced garlic, dried parsley, dried basil and salt and pepper. mmmmm. toasty, buttery, and major garlic pow.

and the final product was done! topped with shredded parmesan cheese and sopped up with that garlic bread, it was totally perfect. as i brought my dad his second helping, i had to ask. "pretty close, mom?"

"definitely pretty close."

well. i tried my best. and added as much love as i could. but i guess sometimes you can't recreate something exactly the way it once was without an exact recipe.

and sometimes... that's ok.

Garlic Cream Sauce a la Benjamin

Olive oil
Garlic, fresh, minced
Sweet onion, small dice
White wine
Heavy cream
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Cayenne pepper
Chicken base
White pepper
Parmesan cheese, shredded

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil and butter mixture. Add white wine and reduce by at least half. Add heavy cream and all spices and seasonings. Reduce until it reaches your desired consistency. Toss with chicken and fettuccine noodles and sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese.

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