Friday, April 27, 2007

specific meat capacity

Pointless observation of the day which will enhance your life in no way whatsoever: musings on the heat retention properties of various kinds of food.

This struck me while I was eating a delicious plate of risotto for dinner this evening. Risotto appears to have interesting heat retention properties, in that it retains heat very well. Oh, sure, you serve it up in a big steaming pile and the outer layer becomes cool soon enough, but the inside stays volcanically hot. You find yourself having to keep stirring it around to let the steam out.

Contrast this, if you will, with pasta carbonara. This is proper pasta carbonara, mind, with the eggs and the cream, none of your shortcuts with the Philadelphia cheese and all. Delicious, but you plonk a big steaming pile of it on a plate, reach over to grab the tub of Parmesan, and by the time you come back to the plate it's cold. Stone cold, all the way through.

Speaking of food - hey! - we haven't done a recipe for a while. Here's one - ironically it's a kind of carbonara shortcut. This is, without doubt, the single dish I cook (in one of its variations) more than any other, by a factor of, well, several.

Dave's All-Purpose Creamy Pasta

Here's what you do. First, cook some pasta. I like linguine, 'cos it's quick and easy to cook - failing that, tagliatelle. Or, hey, penne, fusilli, whatever. Just avoid the two kinds of pasta I always avoid owing to their flawed design. These are: farfalle, because the pinch of the bow in the middle makes that area of the pasta shape cook more slowly than the outside, and conchiglie, because the shell shape makes some of the shapes turn up and float when you pour the water in, and you have to poke them down with a spoon. Anyway.....drain the pasta and run some cold water through it to arrest the cooking process and stop it sticking together.

Second, put some olive oil in the pan and cook some garlic. Then add the meaty ingredients. These can be pretty much anything; examples I've used include:
  • ham and mushroom
  • bacon and mushroom
  • chicken and spinach
  • chicken, chorizo and black olives
Then put in a grind of black pepper and a huge dollop of pesto. I tend to use up to a third of a jar per portion, but that's just me. You can slosh in some supplementary liquid at this point, such as:
  • a splash of balsamic vinegar
  • lemon juice
  • red wine
  • white wine
I tend to oscillate between keeping it simple and spartan, and sloshing in ingredients willy-nilly. Then put the pasta back in and stir it all around. Finally chuck in a big lump of mascarpone cheese, probably a couple of dessertspoonsful, and a liberal sprinkling of parmesan. Then eat. It's not a low-calorie dish, it should be pointed out at this point, but on the other hand it is delicious. And it takes no time at all.

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