Friday, January 10, 2014

Dinner in half an hour, really, my fatheads

Remember the weekend of random stories, when one child (not a child really -- age 22, but you understand) cooked dinner while the other drove home from the back of beyond in the snow, and another factored polynomials? We promised you "Dinner in Half an Hour, Really," the recipe to include the prep time that dear souls like Julia Child never seem to account for when they claim to offer instructions for something like "Ham Dinner for Four" in 30 minutes. Beware any very professional culinary dicta that begin, "Have ready ...."

Here is ours. Dinner was just a little free-form sauce to ladle over angel hair pasta. Anyone can make it with any combination of vegetables. The aromatics and vegetables all sauté in butter or olive oil while you bring to a boil the water for your pasta. The May 2011 Bon Appétit ("the Italy issue") did wonders with this basic format. My variation went like so:

Melt butter and/or olive oil in a heavy pan (about 3 Tbsp.)
Sauté leeks (one, light green part only, diced and washed)
Add a diced clove of garlic
Add sliced mushrooms (about a half pound)
Add 1/2 cup cream, and salt
Simmer gently -- then add a half cup or so of the reserved salted pasta water, plus another piece of butter to give the sauce some body
Just before serving, stir in a peeled, seeded tomato so that it just warms
Then stir in a handful of chopped chives and parsley

It really does take half an hour. Serve over pasta, and sip a buttery, rich chardonnay -- or a zingy riesling?

And, if you happen to be dining alone, treat yourself to the company of John Dickson Carr, "writing as" Carter Dickson. (Whatever is the point of that nonsense?) You might start with The Judas Window, first published in 1938. In some ways he is miles above Agatha Christie. His prose may be rather stolid (but then so is hers), his characterizations a bit flat. He cannot seem to make the reader feel a time of day, a place, or a season -- day and night, country road or Hampton Court, summer and winter are the same to him. He fares better with courtrooms, and courtroom monologues. Still. One salutes him primarily for his plots, and for his thoroughgoing minutiae: any man who can teach me the word toxophilite, and tell me what a "dock  brief" is, and go on about dust on arrows and the windlass of a crossbow, plus introduce a blonde secretary named Lollypop, has my vote for Quite Fine Mystery Writer. Best of all, his hero Sir Henry Merrivale, "H.M.," calls the good people around him "my fatheads," which is more fun than even Lucia's "dear things."

Now my fatheads, come and sit down. Everything is ready.

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