Friday, August 30, 2013

What the devil is pancetta . . . ?

I think I've mentioned before that I can cook. Not like Iron Chef, no, but I know my way around a kitchen and can cook for my family. I'm from a family of 5 kids, and my mom always cooked homemade meals for us every day. I had a great upbringing that way, so when I got married and moved out on my own, while I didn't know how to cook EVERYTHING, I knew enough to wing it and make things work without eating out every meal. One of my proudest moments was making a delicious ham sandwich using leftovers of an amazing ham roast I had cooked the previous night without even having to call my mom for instructions (no really, it was a FANTASTIC sandwich).

It's been seven years now since I first got married, and for the past several years I've been living with my husband's family, and for the past two years, I've been cooking for us all five nights a week. So I'm confident in saying that I'm now a capable cook. I've collected tons of recipes over the years, learned a lot of my mom's cooking secrets and tricks, and I'm comfortable with my abilities.

I am not, however, a fancy cook. I wrote a post awhile back about how I nearly went into paroxysms when I found out I could substitute the long shelf life evaporated milk for perishable half and half or heavy cream! It changed my life! I see things in recipes like fresh herbs and not commonly used produce and immediately start figuring out in my head what the measurement of dried herbs would be and what I can substitute for shallots. (Onions, btw. Substitute onions.)

So, when I came upon this delicious-looking recipe on Pinterest for Winter Minestrone Soup (I've been craving soup this pregnancy), you can imagine the internal monologue I had going on as I read through it. Just for kicks and giggles, let's go through it and I'll tell you what I thought. Because this could just be me being all narcissistic, but I thought it was pretty darn funny. My thoughts are in the parentheses.

Winter Minestrone & Garlic Bruschetta
Serves 6 to 8

Good olive oil (I don't know about "good", but that we have.)
4 ounces pancetta, 1/2 -inch-diced (Pancetta . . . what the devil is pancetta?)
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (Dehydrated onions = 3/4 c)
2 cups (1/2-inch) diced carrots (3 carrots)
2 cups (1/2-inch) diced celery (3 stalks)
2 1/2 cups (1/2-inch) diced peeled butternut squash (Ha. I've attacked a squash before. Also blogged about it. That's not likely to happen again.)
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic (4 cloves) (Score for the bottle of minced garlic in the fridge!)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves (Dried thyme = 1/2 tsp-ish)
26 ounces canned or boxed chopped tomatoes, such as Pomi (How big are those normal size cans? 14 ounces? Eh, I can just do two of those.)
6 to 8 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (page 62) (Chicken base and water, that counts as homemade since I have to dirty a dish.)
1 bay leaf Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (Bay leaf, table salt, and normal ground pepper, check)
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (White beans in sauce work, right? I don't really like beans anyway. Maybe we don't need those.)
2 cups cooked small pasta, such as tubetti (see note) (So . . . elbow macaroni it is!)
8 to 10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves (I still have that frozen package of spinach in the back of the freezer, woot!)
1/2 cup good dry white wine (Make extra chicken broth, we don't have wine.)
2 tablespoons store-bought pesto (Pesto is just basil in some kind of oil or liquid, right? Yeah. 1 1/2 tsps of dried basil it is. Wonder if I should add an extra trickle of olive oil or something.)
Garlic Bruschetta (recipe follows) (White bread and butter on the table when dinner is served, check.)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving (Freshly opened grated Parmesan in the plastic bottle. Because everyone loves a garnish.)

( . . . we never did figure out what pancetta was . . . *Googles* . . . Oh! Fancy bacon! I like bacon! We have breakfast bacon!)

So . . . yeah. That's pretty much exactly the thought process I had with this. I didn't even read the directions, but I know I'd have some sacrilegious thoughts about those as well. At the end of this recipe, I'd have a Minestrone-similar soup, definitely, but there are no promises that it would in any way be the SAME as this recipe. Would it be edible? Yes. Would it taste good? You bet your britches. Would it look like a passable imitation of the picture? Yep. But Julia Child I am not, folks. I never met a recipe I couldn't simplify, and never met a corner I didn't try to cut. Because that's how I roll. How about you? Do you put fancy chefs and cooks to shame, or is condensed cream of chicken soup your best friend? Do you have desserts or dishes that are constantly requested at parties and functions, or was mastering the can opener the greatest advance to your culinary career to date?

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