Culinary Corner: Bringing it home for Sunday night snacks

During academic crunch times like midterm week, it’s easy to get lax with entry snacks. Home-baked goods are replaced by prepackaged Oreos; savory ethnic dishes are swapped out for cereal. But let us not forget that a home-cooked meal is often the ultimate panacea for midterm stress. While cooking comfort food in bulk can be tricky, we ventured to serve up one of Alyssa’s home recipes to Willy D.

We decided to make fettuccine alfredo with chicken, one of Alyssa’s favorites and a frequent meal at the Tomkowicz home, right in Williamstown. The recipe is easy enough, with only a few ingredients, easy preparation and a cooking time short enough to make it a quick post-study-session meal. Thanks to Alyssa’s familiarity with Stop & Shop, grocery shopping was simple. We bought two boxes of fettuccine, a head of garlic, a half-pound of Parmiganio Regiano, a pint of heavy cream (not heavy whipping cream), a pound of chicken and some butter. As we intended to feed our entry of 29 people, we doubled the recipe.

Tomkowicz and Martucci cooked a full meal for snacks in Willy D, raising the stakes for subsequent weeks. By Emily Calkins, photo editor.

Upon reaching the Tomkowicz home, we first cooked the pasta, making sure to salt the water so that the strands did not stick together. Then we made the sauce, starting by melting the butter. After melting the butter, we added the pint of cream to the mixture and let it simmer for a few minutes. We then added the cheese and the garlic while briskly whisking the sauce. To make the sauce a little heartier, we sliced the chicken and sautéed it in olive oil until thoroughly cooked. We warmed up the sauce and threw everything together, making sure to give the pasta an even coating.

As all good chefs do, we then tasted our creation to ensure our entry would enjoy it enough not to mock us for a (falsely perceived) lack of culinary skill. After a little extra salt we found our final result to be an excellent attempt at the classic Italian dish. Making the sauce from scratch was a far cry from the canned sauce typically used in the Tomkowicz household. Because we used freshly grated cheese, the sauce had a slightly bitter taste. This element did not detract from the dish, but rather lent it greater authenticity. In hindsight, adding the chicken drew moisture from the sauce, and a little more cream would have probably done some good. The chicken was a little sparse, and adding some more would have made the meal more filling.

All in all, it was a success, and a hopeful beginning to our entry snacks exploration. All that was left was to pack up the pasta and head back to Willy D, where we offered the finished product to our sleepy entrymates in the hopes that they would appreciate our culinary endeavor. Of course, at the mention of “homemade food,” most residents of Willy D became intrigued and excited. Claire Lidston ’15 summed up her reaction succinctly: “I wanted another bite,” she said.

Other entrymates chimed in. “Too bad you can’t cook here in Frosh Quad,” Clyde Engle ’15 said. And while fettuccine alfredo is not terribly exotic to some, it proved to be a new taste sensation to others. “Coming from a Jamaican home, I’m not used to Italian dishes, but I thought it was a nice introduction to homemade Italian cuisine,” Corie Dacres ’15 said. After hearing this, we both became a bit overwhelmed at being the people to introduce someone to a whole cuisine. Although Corie isn’t terribly far from home, within Willy D are natives of Kenya, South Korea and Russia, all of whom enjoyed the pasta given to them.

While meal times at college are often delicious, nothing quite beats the taste of a home-cooked meal, which was the resounding response to our culinary endeavor. Well, that and the request for us to make a repeat effort. So with this encouraging start, we put our chefs’ hats away for the time being, ready for the next cycle of entry eats.