Here's the thing. (I enjoy saying "here's the thing" before whatever follows, because it makes me feel cavalierly authoritative.) Tim txts me yesterday afternoon to say that he won a $50 bar tab at a nice place in town. This being New Zealand, that buys us two and a half drinks and one snack, but still - drinks are drinks. I suddenly realise two things: time is passing by quickly, and my motivation for making dinner is waning slightly. Also, I'm wearing high heels that are tormenting my feet with the kind of blisters I haven't seen since my days en pointe, also I'm trying to ignore the fact that Tim and I still urgently need to wash a lot of teatowels and dishes after our engagement party on Saturday. Also I really just want to get home, eat some good food, and settle in to watching Luther and Orange is the New Black.
Rather than us spending money on take-out, I thought we could instead go to the supermarket on the way home and pick up some ingredients for fancy pasta, something that was almost more assembly than cooking. It's Thursday, there has been a smallish protuberance in our bank balance, and we've just had some very free liquor. We can afford some packets of stuff. And really, that's all this is: buying packets of cool things and arranging them on a plate. I call it payday pasta since the ingredients are kind of treats - pistachios, ricotta, and pancetta, oh that Terpsichore of the smallgoods. It has a bonus subtext of being the sort of manageable thing you can make for yourself near-instantly should you have gone out for a drink of an evening. I couldn't actually find pappardelle, which is my favourite of the pastas, but after some feverish deliberation, I improvised by buying fresh lasagne sheets and slicing them up.
"Pinenuts! They're the definitive payday nut!" and "why can't I bring myself to buy this pancetta even though I set out to buy pancetta...okay we will eat it really reverently" and "why is this dog roll called Wound Dog? No wait, it's Hound Dog. No wait, why does it have a picture of a cat on it?" and "okay, what's the second-fanciest nut?" I exclaimed, as we barreled from aisle to aisle, pallid under the fluorescent lights. And once home, I managed to get out of my high heels and dress and into trackpants and a soft old jersey and make this pasta and get it on the table within twenty minutes.
It goes without saying, except that I'm saying it now, that you don't have to actually buy pancetta and ricotta and pistachios. You could really sub in 'most any gaspingly expensive protein and as long as you kept the butter-wine-mustard reduction (or gosh, just drizzle over some olive oil) it'll be something. Pasta is very forgiving like that.
(apart from the pasta, I measured everything by handfuls or how much felt right, but in the hopes of being more helpful than that, the below measurements are roughly what happened. Don't feel you have to stick to them to the very last milliliter, though.)
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 cup dry white wine
200g pappardelle or fresh lasagne sheets
5 very thin slices pancetta
5 tablespoons ricotta
3 tablespoons raw pistachios
1 tablespoon capers
In the same pot that you'll later cook the pasta in, bring the butter, mustard and wine to a rapid boil, stirring occasionally, till golden, bubbly, and reduced by half. Meanwhile, bring a kettle full of water to the boil, and, if you got lasagne sheets, carefully cut them into slices about 2 1/2 cm wide. Lasagne sheets tend to come folded up, so it's only a few incisions that you'll have to make.
Tip the butter-wine mix into a small bowl, then fill up the pot with the freshly boiled water, add plenty of salt, and bring to the boil on the stove top. Add the pasta once it's bubbling, and cook according to packet instructions. Fresh pasta only takes a couple of minutes.
Drain the pasta, and divide between two plates. Quickly tear up the pancetta and arrange evenly between the two plates, spoon over the ricotta, the pistachios, the capers, and the thyme leaves. Pour the butter-wine sauce over the two plates of pasta, and serve immediately.
For all that this is mostly assembly, the moving parts of which were very hastily acquired, it's still a coherent and, in case you think I'm damning it with faint praise, a gratifyingly delicious dinner. Pappardelle is enormously fun to eat. So wide and cumbersomely floppy, all the cool, milkily plain ricotta cheese pressing into it as you twirl it round your fork, with elegantly salty, tissue-soft pancetta. I will here point out that you mercifully taste every penny of the pancetta. It's not just overpriced ham. Pistachios add soft crunch, plus pink goes good with green, and the intensely flavoured butter-wine sauce somehow bundles it all together without overshadowing any of the other ingredients on the plate. It's damn good, and worth waiting till payday for.
Sometimes it's fun to spend a little money on something you're just going to make disappear into your mouth as soon as possible. Sometimes that's not an option. In case this all seems too chest-thumpingly pro-capitalism (to which I say please don't ask me about capitalism, it's good, it's bad, etc, and also ouch, chest-thumping) a couple of payday-eve, or indeed anyday pastas you could consider include spaghetti with chili, lemon and olive oil, macaroni peas, and these two guys.
What a week, huh. Tim and I finally had our engagement party. Families converging, some of whom hadn't really converged themselves in a while, friends, us, all in one room - I was nervous. In fact for the first half of the evening I distinctly felt like my head was floating about two feet above my body. But it all went really well. And as Tim and I kept reminding ourselves, we're not the only nervous ones, this is our house, and this is a happy occasion. In fact, here's what happened - everyone appeared, there was nonstop talking and laughing and bonding, everyone got a massive laugh at Tim's and my photoboard of us from 2005 till now, the food was excellent and all appeared on time, and it was just a very happy, fun night. I just wish I'd specifically organised a photo of Tim and myself, not least because my hair was ballin' and I had an amazing new black velvet jumpsuit with a short floaty skirt (well...skorts) and enormous bow in the back, but because while making the photoboard we realised we didn't have many recent photos of ourselves together. D'oh. Oh, and I made a FANTASTIC speech. I just did, it's true, don't be shocked by my un-New Zealand lack of modesty! Tim was also there to contribute to the speech once I'd had my ten minutes of ad-libbing (including a musical number fake-out which I'm quite proud of inventing on the spot) in case you're wondering whether I'm getting married to myself, or something. Also, speaking of wondering, we fed everyone (yeah, I like to cater for forty people for kicks) like so:
snacks, chips, hummus-y dips
cornbread-topped chili, vegetarian cornbread-topped chili, paprika-fried tofu, ham in coca-cola, slaw, buns
vegan lemon-raspberry cake, spongebob squarepants candy, nerds, and jelly dinosaurs, dried fruit, grapes and cheeses.
And now we have leftovers upon leftovers (including maybe three thousand bottles of wine) which is the best way to ease yourself out of the inevitable post-event-planning slump. Nervous though entertaining them makes me, because I want everything to be just right, and slightly resentful though I was that they didn't make good on my request to bring the cats down to visit too, it was really lovely to see my family and to show them a fun time in Wellington. And now that Tim and I have got this stressful thing out of the way, honestly, I'm feeling so casual about the wedding itself. For now.
In light of what a week it has been outside of my small world, I recommend you read this piece by the wonderful Questlove of The Roots, who wrote a response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin. I also recommend what David Simon (the person behind The Wire and Treme and have you seen The Wire) wrote in response to it. You could also, counter to what I'd usually say, try reading the comments - there is some fascinating stuff coming out in them. I'd also like to acknowledge what Rob Delaney wrote after the sad, sad news that Glee actor Cory Monteith was found dead. All of them write with far more insight on these subjects than I could, and so I'm happy to just link to them and leave it there.
Finally, let's all reflect upon my knitting progress. After some almost comically prolonged unpicking, I am onto the final square of my blanket. Ready to tackle a hooded cape next, to give me that mysterious-yet-snug demeanour I'm always going for in the winter.
title via: The Money Tree, a gorgeously mournful Kander and Ebb song made all the more so when syncopated with Cabaret's Maybe This Time and sung by the wondrous Julia Murney and Heidi Blickenstaff.
On Sunday afternoon, after spending all Saturday evening there, our friends came back to watch Rock of Ages. I know it is, um, imperfect, but I love it, I just love it. And it is entirely perfect for watching after organising a large stressful party. ANYWAY, wow, anyone else feel uncomfortably red-faced while watching a disarmingly sexy Tom Cruise, who has never appealed to me before, singing Dead or Alive? Don't even get me started on Pour Some Sugar On Me.
Tim and I went to see local musician Watercolours (who I've talked to on here before!) at Puppies bar. Talk about disarming. I may have blurted out to her that her song Pazzida is in my walk-up-the-aisle-song shortlist. She took it well.
Next time: I had a sudden urge to make a clafoutis on Tuesday. Still haven't made good on said urge, but maybe this weekend?