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Monday, March 4, 2013

Surviving Lent with prostitutes and anchovies. Puttanesca

Who said dinner during Lent has to be boring? 
This dish is one of my all-time favorites. It's got a great story behind it. In Italian Puttanesca means "whore" isn't that a scream? The story is that this was prepared afterwards to fortify the "customer" before his journey home to the wife. It's a simple, salty, peppery dish of easy to find items in any Italian kitchen. So easy it takes less than an hour to make. Time is money, for prostitutes and Chefs alike. 
 If you don't like Anchovies you're in big trouble. 

 Chef Nick does Pasta alla Puttanesca

1 pound of pasta, any shape you like but I prefer Linguine or another strand type
about 8 or so fresh Tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, smooshed
4 Anchovy fillets 
some chopped up Kalamata Olives
1-2 TB of Capers, chopped.
big pinch of red chili flakes
any appropriate fresh herbs, I like Oregano

First step, de-seeding the Tomatoes. Most recipes don't have this step but I just don't like the look of all those seeds floating around in my sauce, if it doesn't bother you then skip ahead. All you need is to core first then cut in half. Squeeze gently over a wire-mesh strainer to remove seeds. This sounds wacky but it's a trick I learned from my old boss Paul Poblate. The flavor of Tomato is actually in the gel that surrounds the seeds, so whenever you remove seeds, strain out the liquid and add it back in at some point. Brightens the whole dish.
and just assemble the rest of your ingredients. 

Now some friendly words about Anchovies. 

I grew up on Anchovies. It's an Italian thing. The salty-fishy-hairy stuff was always a big treat whenever the family got together. I'll just never-ever understand why it generates so much hate. It's a small fish from the Mediterranean that is then dried in salt and packed in oil. It's terrific and such a big part of this dish you just can't make it without. I eat them right out of the can. I also refuse to order pizza from a place that doesn't have this as an option. Seriously. Please, give them a chance. Sing with me. Anchovies Anchovies, they're so delicious, I loves 'em better than all the other fishes. 

Yes, please cook off the pasta before-hand. This sauce is so quick you'll need it fast.

 Next to your stove you have something that looks like this...

Heat up a large pan. HOT if you can't touch it, it's ready. Add a splash of Olive Oil, then the garlic. 

Toss it around and add the Chili Pepper flakes. Be careful not to burn, just take it the point you start to see some color on the garlic. Then add the Anchovy. It will start to dissolve almost instantly. 
Add all the Tomatoes with a good pinch of Black Pepper and a scant pinch of Salt (you don't need much 'cus, yeah Capers and Anchovy have a ton of salt already)
We are still on high heat, the Tomatoes will start to break down (if you saved your tomato gel, add it now) 
Just watch now, once the Tomato stops looking like just chopped Tomato, add the Capers and Olives and any fresh herbs, again, I used Oregano. Still on high heat. Let that all cook down to remove as much water as you can, turn down heat to low. 

Here's why it's smart to pre-cook the pasta. Unlike Americans, Italians know that you add the pasta to the sauce, all that carry-over heat will force the sauce into the pasta and Italian cooking is all about getting the most out of everything. Another good tip, add a splash of the pasta water into your pan. 

That's it friends. Plate that up. Italians always-always-always have bread on hand. Garnish with some chopped herbs if ya like. Admit it, you'd visit a prostitute if you knew you'd get served this after. 

Cooking poor, eating rich
get your grub on

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