Search This Blog

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

ijj's Tuesday Night Alfredo Sauce

So, this is my Tuesday night Alfredo.  Not to be confused with a Wednesday night Alfredo.  ;)  And not totally rigidly based on an authentic, classic, Alfredo sauce.  But kinda.

For the most part it's pretty close, although a traditional Alfredo will have less onion, and more cheese.

I like Alfredo sauces, because they're dead simple.  By and large, to be considered (by me, anyway, can't speak for authorities on the matter) an Alfredo sauce, it only really needs to have the following (and probably in this order):
  1. cream
  2. cheese (parmegiano reggiano)
  3. parsley (Italian, fresh)
  4. garlic
  5. some fresh black peppercorns
However, it doesn't have to be that exactly, for me to consider it real enough.

My Tuesday night Alfredo, for example, consisted of butter, cream, and skim milk for the base, asiago for the cheese, and had some white onion, and a half a chili pepper in there.

So, heavy on the garlic and onion, but no so much on the cheese.

To begin with, I took a couple chunks of fat which I had just trimmed off a couple of (already fairly lean) pork tenderloins, and put them in a pan with a couple pats of butter, and a generous amount of olive oil.  There wasn't really enough fat to render it, plus I didn't feel like spending all afternoon rendering fat into lard.
That's something pretty cool though, and the next time I get a large, particularly fatty cut of pork, I'll be certain to include my travails rending its fat!
Something I learned a while ago, regarding 'frying' with butter: because butter on its own has a relatively low smoke/burn point, it is often a good idea to mix some sort of vegetable oil in with it beforehand.  This effectively stabilizes the fat, making it capable of withstanding a hotter temperature, longer, before burning.  Therefore, whenever I "fry" with butter, I'll heap a couple of generous splashes of olive oil in there along with.

So, my heart-attack-in-waiting crisped up nicely in the hot oil, at which point I removed it, and then turned the pan down to medium-low.  The butter was very nice and golden by this time, and was ready for some of my pureed veggies.  I like to give onion a little bit of a head start for this sort of thing, just cause it can sometimes be less soft than other veggies.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, by staggering the saute times in this way, I can be ensured of a relatively uniform texture for my sauce.

After that blipped away for about 5 minutes, I added the other veggies.  Incidentally these are all in puree form, for having been mulched in my trusty cusinart hand-blender.  So, after giving the onion a head start, in goes the garlic, scallion, and chili.

The cheese and parsley will be added later as they are "sauce" ingredients, rather than "base" ingredients.  This is going to sit on medium-low for a good ten minutes more, before adding anything else.  During this time, I get my cheese and parsley ready - parsley is still finely chopped, just not mulched in a blender - and I run my cream through my blender cup because (if you've read much of my previous cooking, you'll know that) I'm a flavour-miser.  There is a fair bit of flavour left in that cup that I can get out with a couple 'washes' of liquid.

So, once the puree mixture is ready, I whisked in the cream, cheese and parsley.

Then, I did another rinsing 'wash' of my parsley bowl with some more milk.  As you can see, I'm not being crazy - there's a fair bit of ingredients left which would otherwise go to waste:

Well on its way, this sauce still needs a good whisking every couple of minutes, and, of course, a thickening agent.  Out comes the corn starch with a touch of skim milk.  To this mix, I am going to add some salt and some crushed green peppercorns, just to make sure that my dry ingredients get equally distributed into the liquid.

That gets whisked in gradually, all the while the pan is kept at medium-low.  After a minute or two, the sauce begins to thicken.

 At this point, it's content to just simmer on low, covered.

I'd give it a good ten minutes still, to simmer, but it can last much longer (if indeed covered) if needed (if your other menu items still need attention).

For me, I boiled some pasta, drained it, and then added 95% of the Alfredo sauce to the pasta.  I don't love the notion of adding my pasta sauces to my pasta beforehand.  I much prefer to keep them separate, right up until plating.  However, there are sometimes advantages to mixing them beforehand...

The other 5% of the sauce I saved in the pan, and "fried" up some green beans in it.  This was absolutely delicious.  Unbelievably so.  It made me wish I had more.

The pasta and sauce I just kept warm on low, and boiled up some brussels sprouts for the wife... <vomit>.
Those pork gribblies I saved from earlier I chopped up and added to the cooked sprouts.

 They still looked disgusting, but whatever, I wasn't going to eat them.

At this point, my pork tenderloin was finished baking (it was about 45 mins at 350°) so I took it out, and unceremoniously chopped it in half.  I could (and have) put a bit more effort into the presentation of this, but really it was just a side dish to this meal, almost an afterthought (pork was unthawed and needed to be used, so why not?)

Anyway, put together, the meal looked like this:

The beans were actually the highlight of this supper, but I'd be lying if I claimed not to also smother the whole thing in the Alfredo sauce.

Time on the whole meal: 30 mins prep + 45 mins cooking with an overlap of about 15mins... so total time was a little less than an hour.  This also included some clean-up and dishes as well (see the "don't have a dishwasher right now blues" post :).  All in all, not terribly taxing, and well worth the effort!


  1. Question... why green peppercorns? I seem to have red, green, white and of course, black, peppercorns in my spice cupboard but do not necessarily know when to use the red and green?? I like the white pepper for "white" or light colored vegetables like cauliflower or potatoes but is there any "rule" about using a certain color pepper for certain foods?? I purchased a new pepper mill and have thought I might mix a variety of peppercorns in the mill to get a pepper "blend". What do you think?

  2. Green just because I wanted something less spicy and more... 'fresh' I guess. It's hard to qualify or define each flavour, but they are each distinct. I like to think of black as spicy, pink (which, actually, are the only 'peppercorn' not to be a peppercorn... they're from another plant entirely) as hot, green as fresh, and white as tangy. This is of course, NOT, the authoritative description, and not very accurate either. It's just what I think of.
    There is NO rule for using a certain colour for certain foods, except perhaps, what tastes good to YOU. There are some recipes which traditionally call for one type over another time and time again. For example, a traditional hollandaise sauce is made with WHITE peppercorns, whereas many french beef steaks are coated in GREEN peppercorns, save of course the famous Steak Au Poivre (peppered steak) which is with BLACK peppercorns in an alcoholic (like brandy, cognac, or wine) cream sauce. Pink peppercorns I don't see a whole lot, but myself find them delightful in home-made hot-sauces. A little bit of red-wine vinegar, and some fresh cilantro and a ton of pink peppercorns is HOT and yet complex on the tongue.
    As for making a "blend" you certainly can do that for a 'well-rounded' peppery flavour. It has the advantage of taking the guess-work out of choosing which peppercorn to use; however do not be afraid to experiment and try them out on their own.
    When in doubt, crush up a peppercorn and put it in your mouth with your dish in question. See if it goes well together!
    Good luck!