Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ridiculous, circuitous, absurd

Husband always says that he has a particular knack for getting at the same result many different ways. Many ridiculous, circuitous, absurd ways. He likes to make simple things difficult for no discernible reason. For example, he used to think that Pepsi Blue (remember that?) tasted like Southern Comfort. So instead of mixing himself a normal Southern Comfort and Coke, he'd mix Southern Comfort and Pepsi Blue to create something he referred to as "even more Southern Comfortable." He's the kind of man who would attempt to cook a piece of chicken on his carburetor when there's a Weber set up 10 feet away. And the most fun thing ever, according to him? Viewing downloaded television shows saved on a spare computer, shared on a wireless network, via the Xbox. So much better than just watching the show when it aired.

I suppose that 15 years with the fellow has taken its toll on me, though, because a few weeks ago I read a recipe for something called "Cannelloni, straight up," which was a randomly difficult, vertical method for serving the large pasta tubes. I mused, "That's right! Why should I eat plain old reclining cannelloni? How boring is that, when I can balance them next to each other, perpendicular to the pan, for extra fun and excitement?"

It was so fun that I made it twice in two weeks. I should also mention that it was delicious, with its vegetable-heavy, slightly sweet sauce (that reminds me a little of this) and its rich cheese cloak and its crusty, baked, almost-burned edges and bits. It's a big mess on the plate, but it looks gorgeous in its baking dish, symmetrical and bubbly and golden. It is effort for no reason. Except that the reason is, because it's fun and new and different and who couldn't use a little of that on a freezing, run-of-the-mill January Wednesday?

No word on whether it goes with a Southern Comfortable.


Adapted from "The Australian Women's Weekly"

Needless to say, you don't have to prop the cannelloni up if you don't want to. You can make "Cannelloni, prone" if you want. I won't tell anyone and it will still be delicious.

I like the cannelloni made by Molisana. It's cut straight on the ends, which makes it possible to stand on end in the baking dish (as opposed to angled ends). And, according to Molisana's Web site, it's the "eternal protagonist of banquets." Tell me, how could you go wrong with that?!

Finally, feel free to make this dish with ground beef instead of ground turkey.

The filling:

1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large white or yellow onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 lb. ground turkey
2 15-oz. cans diced tomatoes
3/4 c. tomato paste
4 c. water
2 t. dried oregano
1 c. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

The cheese sauce:

4 T. unsalted butter
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
3 c. whole milk
1 c. Pecorino cheese, grated
Pinch of grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste

To assemble the dish:

1 1/2 lbs. cannelloni
1 c. mozzarella cheese, grated
2 T. Pecorino cheese, grated

First, make the filling. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery and cook over low heat until the vegetables are soft. Remove the vegetables from the pan, transferring into a bowl. Set aside.

Add the turkey; cook, stirring, over medium-high heat until the meat is browned, breaking up any lumps.

Return the reserved vegetables to the pan with the cooked turkey. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, water and oregano and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 1 hour. (While the filling is cooking, make the cheese sauce, below.) The sauce will thicken slightly. Remove from heat. Add the parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.

While the filling is cooking, make the cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour; whisk together with the butter and cook for a few minutes to remove the raw flour taste. Gradually whisk in the milk, whisking constantly until the sauce boils and thickens. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese and nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and assemble the dish. Spoon a quarter of the filling into a Dutch oven, or any oven-proof pan deep enough to accommodate the "height" of the cannelloni tubes. Gently press the uncooked cannelloni tubes upright into the filling.

Gently spoon the remaining filling into the tubes. (I find it easiest to pour the filling in a few installments over the top of the tubes, smoothing it out with a spoon which forces it down into the tubes.)

Pour the cheese sauce over the cannelloni. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Pecorino.

Place the Dutch oven on a baking sheet and bake, uncovered, for about 40 minutes, until the cannelloni is tender and the cheese is golden, brown and bubbly.

Cool for about 10 minutes before serving in a messy but happy heap on your plate.

Serves 6-8.


Previously, on A Stove With A House Around It:

One year ago: caramel corn with pecans
Two years ago: spaghetti brownies
Three years ago: dukkah