Cooking For Leslie

Welcome. My name is Stu and this is my blog. This blog is my attempt to document my foray into semi-serious cooking, which I dedicate to my lovely wife Leslie (who is a spicy dish all on her own). My hope is that readers who are novices in the kitchen will be encouraged to take risks and to feel braver in their cooking. If you'd like to email me privately (instead of posting to the comments section) my address is

Location: Redondo Beach, California, United States

“Every man's memory is his private literature.” -- Aldous Huxley

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Penne Vodka

This one did not turn out as planned. In fact, it got so haywire at one point that I felt like I was riding a gocart with no brakes. Here's the recipe - I'll be back afterwards to explain all my mistakes:

Ready in: < 30 minutes

• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil,
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 shallots, minced
• 1 cup vodka
• 1 cup chicken stock
• 1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces)
• Coarse salt and pepper
• 16 ounces pasta, such as penne rigate
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn

Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic, and shallots. Gently saute shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka to the pan, 3 turns around the pan in a steady stream will equal about 1 cup. Reduce vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it). While pasta cooks, prepare your salad or other side dishes.

Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with sauce and basil leaves.


Ok, lots to talk about, lots to laugh at. First off, I burned the butter while sauteing the garlic and shallots. I should have thrown it away, except that I didn't have any other shallots in the house and I didn't want to make the dish without them. In hindsight, that's what killed the dish right there. I should have started again and substituted finely chopped onion for the shallots.

Next, I realized much too late that both my measuring cups were in the dishwasher. So, instead of trying to come up with an alternative (I found out later that a standard sized coffee mug is about equal to a cup), I figured I would just guess at how much vodka and chicken broth to put in. Big mistake. In the end, I didn't have enough cream to thicken the sauce. It didn't turn out half bad (Leslie gave it a 7 out of 10), but I learned my lesson both about thorough preparation and about burning butter.


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