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FOOD DUDE: Presenting the ultimate alfredo

Terry Bursey's ultimate alfredo.
Terry Bursey's ultimate alfredo. - Terry Bursey

There’s a popular online trope that if someone thinks they can cook and wants to impress you, chances are they’ll make you a chicken alfredo. Oddly enough, in my experience this has a strong kernel of truth to it. Fettucine alfredo is rare to find as a home cooked meal here in North America (outside of many Italian-American households) but it is a dish widely considered to be versatile, filling and packing a powerful flavour punch, while presenting an illusion of difficulty. . . which pretty much makes it a perfect way to wow someone with your cooking skills. 

What makes alfredo sauce so tasty is a combination of three or four basic ingredients; cream, parmesan cheese, garlic, crushed peppercorns and even butter are the most commonly used ingredients for a genuinely great alfredo sauce. What’s more is that they can often take on the subtle flavours of other ingredients, which can be cooked (at least partially) in the sauce itself, such as chicken, bell peppers, broccoli and many others. 

A few years ago I was working at a restaurant (which shall not be named) and the owners had asked me to make a few dishes for the house. I was floored, and so naturally I came up with a line of signature burgers (still used today, much to my ire) a few basic seafood dishes and three signature pastas, the main of which being a fettucine alfredo that culminated my best techniques (at the time) in use for the pasta and it turned out to be the restaurant’s number one dish after a mere week (blatantly bragging, but indulge me). This all-star fettucine incorporated all of my best flavours for cream-based fettucine in “a symphony of loud flavour percussions accompanied by a subtle choir of murmuring flavours to make every mouthful a moving experience”, or at least that’s how I described it on the menu – I was feeling fancy.  

Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado; I present:  

The ultimate alfredo 

– 1 large chicken breast, large sliced 

– 7 large button mushrooms, halfed 

– 1/3 each of green and red pepper, julienne 

– 1 clove garlic, fine diced 

– 1 heaping tbsp. real butter 

– 1 tsp Italian seasoning 

– 2 tsp cracked black peppercorns 

– 1 tsp sea salt 

– 1 cup dried parmesan 

– 1 ½ cups heavy cream 

– 2 cross sections of baguette, 1” thickness 

Directions:

Measure one thumb and pointer finger (or a single serving using a measuring tool) of dried fettucine noodles and place them in medium pot of boiling salted water. Cook for 12 minutes or until al dente, drain and set aside. In a large sauté pan on medium high heat, heat a dollop of olive oil for two minutes and add chicken, cook for 3 minutes while stirring and add peppers, garlic, mushrooms and salt. Continue to cook for another 4 or 5 minutes In a separate large sauté pan, add cream, parmesan, peppercorns and butter and heat on medium for roughly 5 – 7 minutes or until desired thickness to create the sauce.  

Add the noodles to the sauce and continue to cook for an additional minute. Plate the hot noodles and top with your sautéed chicken and vegetables.  Put the chicken and vegetable sauté pan back on the stove and set heat to high. Add your cross sections of baguette and toast for 2 minutes on each side. Add these to your plate as desired, top with a sprinkle of Italian seasoning and serve. Recipe makes one portion, adjust ingredient ratios as needed for more diners.  

Letter Snacks! 

Dear Terry,  

I recently saw your article about Seal Flipper Stew that a friend of mine had saved in her trunk from somewhere in Newfoundland. I have to say that I’m disappointed that you’d advocate the slaughter of so many innocent and emotional creatures every year and I’ll have you know that while it’s obvious that most Newfoundlanders are alright with this slaughter, especially when it comes to the baby whitecoats, while the rest of the world looks on in contempt and awe at what takes place. The thought of it being so commonplace and appropriated in your culture that an actual article for the use of seal meat in a stew can be published in a paper is astounding enough, let alone that you as a reasonably intelligent man who claims to love animals would write one to begin with. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this matter in your next column. 

– J. Franklin – Halifax, Nova Scotia 

Dear J,  

Thanks for taking the time to reach out! It’s my understanding that the commercial seal hunt is a very controversial issue and it does seem that the closer we get to the source, the more difference in opinion there is that surrounds it. Newfoundlanders like myself have often seen these hunts firsthand or at least hear all of the firsthand accounts and from what I can tell, it’s not the barbaric practice that it’s painted as in many outside media sources. It’s been illegal to hunt the baby whitecoats since the ’80s, to my knowledge, and most of the hunt is done with guns from a relatively close distance. I used to be against the hunt myself until I found out more about it, as well as how the seal population itself could use a bit of culling once in a while due to their massive numbers and how they compete with other animals (including humans) for resources. I agree that it’s not an ideal practice and I wouldn’t take part myself, but knowing what I know and feeling how I feel, I personally can’t condemn it in light of other more pressing matters worldwide. I respect your right to differ though and thanks again for writing! 

– Terry 

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