Sunday, February 17, 2013


I like leisure. This is probably not the best attribute for a medical student to have. But my day was so extravagant! I woke up at ten, ate a cupcake for breakfast, meandered to Bobst for a few books*, wandered downtown for awhile, and came home to execute a multi-component dish: charred octopus and squid over fresh orecchiette with a corn sauce. None of the pictures of the final dish recorded on my SD card, somehow, so you'll have to take my word that the charred seafood and lemon against the pasta with a sprinkling of green parsley is just gorgeous. I really wanted some big, thick octopus tentacles, but the gentleman at Fairway's fish section said that he could only sell me multiple baby octopi or one enormous 5-pound octopus. Maybe if I try the farmer's market fish stand or Essex Street Market I'll have better luck.

And then, the orecchiette. According to The Geometry of Pasta, these "little ears" are 0.68 in x 2.5 (at the thickest point) mm** in size and are best served with "scarce, oily sauces" containing "chunky bits." Their importance to me lies chiefly in the fact that I can handmake them without the aid of the pasta maker I cannot yet afford***. Here's what it looks like when done by an expert. Mine were less than perfect, but I improved from my initial attempts!

The pasta

The sauce
I'm really upset about that technological mishap! It took me ages to perfectly position those tentacles...

Recipe that I haven't thought up a good name for yet
Try fresh basil on this and let me know how it goes! I wish I'd thought to buy some before I started cooking.

10 oz orecchiette (Fresh is best. Recipe to follow.)
1 lb cephalopods of some variety
2 ears corn
32 oz broth: this needs to be good, and not too salty. If wine hasn't been used to make it, add a little white wine while braising the seafood. I used a homemade roasted vegetable and mushroom broth.
2 cloves roasted garlic,smashed
Optional: 1.5 tbsp butter
1 bay leaf
toasted pine nuts
crushed red pepper
chopped parsley
5-6 olives, sliced
5-6 slices of lemon

Reserve a small amount of the broth. Bring the remainder--with added wine if necessary--to a boil. Add the cephalopods and reduce to a simmer. Cook, turning down the heat as necessary to prevent a frank boil, until the seafood is tender; the duration will depend on how thick the legs are, but 30 minutes to an hour should be sufficient. Drain immediately and set aside.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Remove the kernels from one cob, scraping the cob afterwards to get the remaining kernels and liquid out. Add the reserved broth and puree with a stand mixer (or something). Strain and squeeze the solids to extrude as much liquid as possible. Heat the cherry tomatoes, smashed garlic, and bay leaf in the liquid, adding more broth or water as necessary to keep it from over-reducing, until the cherry tomatoes are soft and wrinkled; taste halfway through and remove the bay leaf when enough bay flavor has been imparted. The sauce should be starchy and creamy, but not too thick, by the time the tomatoes are done. Add the kernels from the second cob just at the end. Remove from heat, salt and pepper to taste (keeping in mind that you'll be adding olives later) and set aside.

These next steps should be coordinated such that all components are completed at vaguely the same time. Get a pot of salted water ready to cook the pasta. Heat a heavy skillet (e.g. cast iron) coated with a thin layer of olive oil. I put mine in the oven at 500 degrees first, then put it over high heat. Add the drained cephalopods and char on all sides; it will take 3 to 5 minutes to get a nice, brown crust. Similarly, char the lemon slices on each side. While this is going on, cook and drain the pasta; toss it with a tiny bit of olive oil.

Warm the sauce and as an optional step, monter au beurre. Slowly add the butter to the sauce, stirring just until it's melted. This will thicken the sauce and make it taste extra luxurious, because butter.

Put some pasta in a bowl and top with sauce, toasted pine nuts, and sliced olives. Add pieces of seafood and sprinkle parsley and crushed red pepper over it. Garnish with charred lemon, which should be squeezed over the whole dish. It really needs that zingy touch, so if you don't want to char the lemon, still be sure to squeeze fresh lemon over it.

7 oz semolina flour
2.8 oz room-temperature water

Make a well in the center of the semolina and pour in the water. Mix with your hands until it comes together and knead until the dough is soft, smooth, and springy, but not sticky. This should take around 10 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes to an hour. When you're ready to shape the pasta, tear off about a quarter of the dough and keep the rest wrapped up. Roll the dough into a 1/2-inch-diameter snake and cut 1/2-inch-long chunks. Smear on the table with a knife (or your thumb) and invert over your other thumb to make the "little ears." Watch a video to see how it's done. Repeat until the dough is gone. Cook in salted water at a vigorous boil for 3-4 minutes.

*Wolf Among Wolves, A Better Angel, Illusion of Return, and Both Flesh and Not. Riven Rock was very good, although not Boyle's best. I'm excited for something different.
**I know, the mixed units annoyed me, too.
***The KitchenAid attachments are surprisingly expensive! To be fair, a cheap, one-diameter pasta maker runs around $30.

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