Posted by: ThePseudotarian | June 8, 2010

Toasted Poppy Seed Alfredo

Have you ever had a good idea that went really wrong? Like … really wrong. I won’t go into details, but my first attempt at homemade mac n’ cheese was a disaster.

Can you say big goopy mess? I’m pretty sure our vacuum of a dog wouldn’t have eaten it. Well, she would have, but that’s not the point.

I was remembering this today while I was trying to make a simple alfredo. It’s one of the reasons I’ve come to love Julia Child. It was a certain fearlessness in the kitchen and a willingness to make mistakes – even on live TV. It’s also one of the reasons why I don’t watch modern cooking shows. They aren’t aired in real-time. They don’t show any messes. Nothing. That’s not how my kitchen (or your kitchen) really works and you and I both know it (as much as clean up sucks).

Plus, it’s mistakes like my “disaster mac ‘n’ cheese” that make revelations in my kitchen so much more fun. The good recipes and the guesswork that turn out wonderfully. The dinners I want to cook when I visit my parents or include in a book one day.

Like this one.

I went home to make a quick pasta for lunch – a simple 10 minute alfredo. While I was melting the butter for the sauce, I turned to reach for the cream and saw a small bag of poppy seeds I bought for another recipe. After browning those in the butter, I added a bit of white wine (getting a little fancy, I know) and let that reduce. When all the cream and parmesan were added, the rich, sweet smell was amazing.

The only problem? When I make these fast lunches, I don’t measure anything, so I’m going to have to wing some approximates your way. Good thing is, alfredo is pretty flexible and this pasta is forgiving. Use your best judgement, people!  =)

Toasted Poppy Seed Alfredo with Fusili

1/8 cup poppy seeds
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup of cream
1/2 cup parmesan
Short pasta, cooked al dente (I like mini-fusili or penne)
salt and pepper to taste

Toast your poppy seeds over medium heat, being careful not to burn them. Toast for a minute or two until the seeds are aromatic. Take down the heat a bit and add the butter, stirring to coat the seeds. I let this bubble for a bit before adding the wine and turning down the heat.

After the butter and the wine have had time to marry and have reduced a bit, stir in the cream, whisking gently to thoroughly blend in the seeds and the aromatic butter and wine mixture. I let this bubble for a few minutes over low heat. If it looks to thin (it can happen with the addition of the wine), I whisk in a tablespoon or less of flour.

Right before I toss this with the cooked pasta, I toss in the cheese and stir gently with a whisking motion to blend the cheese in smoothly. This is also where I salt and pepper the dish, and where I would add spinach or other vegetables.

Here are some quick thoughts on this dish to wrap everything up:

I think it turned out wonderfully. The first bite was filled with new flavors that I’ve never blended before, so it was rich and refreshing at the same time. The wine adds a delicious sweetness that makes this special in a way that I can’t describe. I encourage you to try it right away.

Here are some notes I added along the way …

*I like that this doesn’t have too much butter, but really stands on the sweetness of the wine and the richness of the cream and cheese (make sure you buy a good parmesan).
*Next time, I want to add some garlic. I can’t believe I forgot it the first two times I made it!
*This dish is great with something green thrown in. When eating my leftovers, I threw in some warmed up peas. I’d love to try this with peppery arugula and spinach.

If you’re having trouble finding poppy seeds in a grocery store, try a local Mediterranean market. While you’re there, definitely take some time to explore. These wonderful places have amazing things to try!

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