Day 49: A disappointment but not a surprise

February 18, 2007


This evening we cooked Pasta with Swiss Chard, Bacon, and Lemony Ricotta Cheese. This always seemed like a curious combination, but we hoped that we’d be wowed by the flavour combination, and Rachael would win us over to The Ray Way. Alas, this was not the case. Rather we had a meal that didn’t even live up to our lowest expectations.

There are a number of issues with this recipe. Firstly, the recipe calls for cooking the bacon in two tablespoons of olive oil. We used a fraction of that, without thinking, and still had to drain oodles of fat from the pan before proceeding to the next stage. I don’t know what kind of bacon Ms. Ray uses, but it must be far, far leaner than the one we have. The onions, garlic, red pepper flakes and then Swiss chard were then added to the pan. So far, so good, and Swiss chard is a remarkably beautiful, tree-like, leaf in its raw state, which I hadn’t really realised. At this point we were feeling quite optimistic. We then added chicken stock and a ladle-full of pasta water to the pan, and simmered the mixture for around 7 minutes, before adding the cooked pasta and lemon juice to the blend. As far as we could tell, adding the liquid seemed entirely superfluous. Perhaps the chard needed further cooking, but if that was the case, surely the bacon could have been removed from the pan and returned later in the process. The bacon lost all crispness and tasted as if it had been boiled in a stew for a few hours. There was also excessive amounts of liquid left in the pan. This meant that the complete dish was a little too sloppy, and the flavour of chicken stock was a little too predominant. The strangest element to this recipe was the way in which the ricotta cheese was treated. The cheese was mixed with lemon zest and salt and pepper then placed in the bottom of the serving bowl. The pasta concoction was placed on top, with instructions to mix the cheese into the pasta in the bowl. This just seemed nonsensical. Given that the ricotta was full-fat, surely it could have been mixed with the main ingredients in the pan without curdling? The bowl-mixing was messy and ineffective, leaving a blob of cold ricotta in the bottom of the bowl.

Some of the ingredients were not necessarily to our taste, but when we tried to come up with ways to successfully modify this recipe, each option resulted in substantially changing the directions. For example, the chard could be replaced with spinach, and the ricotta with garlic and herb cream cheese. However, we would not add the liquid, and we would mix the cheese in the pan with the other ingredients. When reviewing recipes, it’s easy to think, oh next time I’ll add more garlic, or next time there should be more cream. Because of the nature of the beast task that we have set ourselves, there is no chance to re-make a recipe with modifications, so the process at least needs to be spot on. We try and be fair in not letting personal taste preferences rule out a recipe by asking what we would change for greater success. This recipe, unfortunately, just doesn’t seem to work all that well.

Tomorrow, we enter back into the world of chicken with Big, Thick, Hearty Thighs… and That’s a Compliment! And to think that we lasted almost 50 days without mentioning Rachael Ray’s cutesy titles and comments.

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  • Reply Isla February 19, 2007 at 12:50 am

    I think it’s great that you’re so committed to following the recipes as written for this project. Have you thought about emailing this website to Rachael Ray’s website? I can see you being featured on her talk show next year (except your reviews haven’t been raving so maybe she wouldn’t want it revealed that people don’t always think her food is Yumm-o)…

  • Reply The Home Cook February 19, 2007 at 8:33 am

    I never understood why she adds oil to the skillet when cooking bacon. She says it’s so the bacon has “somewhere to go” to start cooking, but I agree that it just results in way too much fat in the pan. I don’t think she uses turkey bacon or something else that doesn’t have much fat, either.

  • Reply Diane February 19, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    I really enjoy your honesty, even when something doesn’t come out to your liking. I’ve found that looking at reviews on Foodnetwork.com helps, to learn what others did or wouldn’t do again, before trying a recipe. I look forward to reading your reviews every day. Best wishes.

  • Reply GM February 25, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    Just a note to let you know…..I was just prepping a grocery list after digging through a couple of recipe books and thought I would check in with your site before I invest…In turn, I just crossed the supplies for this meal off of my grocery list. THANKS!

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