One of the great joys of parenting is that it’s like having a VIP preview to all of the season’s latest must-have microbes. Milo got a cold on Friday, and of course inevitably I got it a couple of days later. Since it was just the two of us this weekend, I made a big vat of minestrone with a chicken carcass, lots of roots and herbs from the garden, alphabet pasta, and heirloom cranberry beans. He’s been zealously working his way through it for the last four days.
For myself, after I put him to bed (when one of us is away, he gets to stay in our bed, which is a treat for both of us) I made a meal of utmost simplicity and luxury. A big local ribeye, seared à point in a little bacon fat and served on a big pile of the latest batch of kimchi. I washed it down with a 2001 Serpico, which is softening enough to drink well, but needs more time to get where it wants to be. Having said that, I’m cooling some on these big Italian bruisers; Piedmont is really where the action is, though the prices and the required aging time make it a long-term relationship.
The next day- I think; I feel ever so crappy- I made something that popped into my head a while back when I was trying to think of what to do with the hard end of a piece of our duck prosciutto. As it has aged and continued to dry, it moved through the firmness spectrum from prosciutto to bresaola, and now it’s bonito-hard. So that inspired me to treat it like bonito; I made “oshitashi” with swiss chard and a blood orange ponzu, then grated some of the duck on top. On the side, quick-pickled chard stems from the same plants. It worked really well, and next time I cure duck I will smoke it and set some aside for longer aging in order to have “duck dashi” as a pantry staple.
Then, to celebrate the last jar of last year’s yellow tomato purée- which is as sweet and velvety as tomato sauce knows how to get- I made a semi-deconstructed version of my Mother-in-Law’s sausage pasta. The problem with her version is that the sausage, as it simmers in the tomato sauce, tightens up into dense little pucks so that although the flavor is good, texturally the wonderful juicy snap of sausage is lost. So I cooked some locally-made hot and sweet sausage in a pan until they were just shy of done, and took them out. Into all the rendered fat and brown goodness I dumped minced onion and garlic, then deglazed with a splash of white wine from the fridge. I removed the top couple inches of clarified tomato water from the quart jar (the solids sink down, so this helped thicken the result as well as giving me about a cup of clear yellow tomato nectar for another use) and poured it in. As it simmered and reduced, I cooked penne, and tossed it into the sauce when it was nearly done along with a handful of peas. Meanwhile, I reheated the sausages to sizzling and sliced them into the pasta, adding their juice. It was a success; the creamy sweet tomato sauce (well-infused with the pan drippings) was the ideal pedestal for the crispy, juicy, spicy sausages, and the sweet peas added another dimension.