Pappardelle’s Pasta with New and Improved! Sauces
October 24, 2011
Over the past week, I used up a bunch of left over Pappardelle’s Pasta (mainly so I could get some new varieties at the Farmers’ Market!). While making sauces for each of them, I tried a few things that I learned in the cooking class I recently took at Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. I didn’t really keep track of the amounts I used in terms of herbs or liquids, or how long I cooked the sauces, but just tasted and adjusted ingredients as I went along, and added liquid or reduced the sauces down as needed. With pasta dishes like these, I don’t think precision is particularly critical – either with ratios of ingredients, or for that matter, cooking time. If my sauce was done before my pasta, I just turned the heat down, and added some pasta water if needed to make the sauce more liquidy when it was time to serve. (Saving pasta water is one trick I learned in class – the water is warm and starchy, so it works perfectly to tweak the viscosity of a sauce at the last minute).
The first pasta I cooked was Gluten Free Chipotle Lime. I just love how black beans go with this pasta, so I intended to use beans again, but to kick things up a notch, I decided to use some of the dried heirloom black beans I had from Whole Foods. Right before I started the beans, I got the idea to put a couple of very large minced garlic cloves and a small bit of salt in the water I used to cook them. And I’ve decided that from now on, I will be cooking all my black beans with garlic. They were outstanding! These particular heirloom black beans were great the last time I made them (I swear they smelled like a turkey cooking in the oven while they were simmering), but the garlic raised them to an entirely new level. I also decided to try removing the skin and seeds from the tomatoes, despite the fact that I usually make fairly rustic tomato sauce and leave them in, just to use the technique from my class. If you slash the bottom of the tomatoes with a knife and put them in boiling water for 15 seconds, you can literally pull the tomato skins off in a couple of pieces. It’s pretty amazing how well that works. I sauteed onion, pepper and and garlic in olive oil, this time putting the onion and pepper in first, and then adding the garlic, as per what we were told in class. I don’t really seem to have a problem with the garlic burning when I put it in before the onion and pepper, but when I do put it in first, the smell always seems less garlicky after the first 30 seconds, so I’ll probably keep experimenting with the practice of adding it after the onions. Once all of that was sauteed, I added the tomatoes and cooked them down a bit, and then threw in the black beans and a lot of chopped cilantro at the end. My husband and I thought this was the best sauce I’ve made for the Chipotle Lime pasta to date. So this dish had some great improvements with suggestions from class.
My next pasta ‘redo’ was the Autumn Harvest Orzo, which has pumpkin, chestnut, and sage orzos. I decided to embrace the spice mixture and Thanksgiving theme of the orzo this time, so I planned to use oven baked chicken (yeah, it’s not turkey, but it’s poultry), as well as sage and thyme. I took a pound and a half package of organic boneless, skinless chicken thighs from Costo, brushed the pieces with olive oil, and using another hint from class, salted and peppered them liberally before cooking. I put them in a large baking pan lined with aluminum foil and baked them at 400 degrees until they got to 165 degrees inside (I’m thinking it was about 45-50 minutes). [Note that I’m at about 5400 feet of altitude, so the temperature is about 25 degrees warmer, and the time longer than it would be at sea level.] Because I was hyper-careful to make sure that the internal temperature was hot enough, I overshot a bit and possibly (who am I kidding? definitely) cooked it a bit too long, ending up with what I affectionately referred to as desiccated chicken. But you know what? It really tasted great anyway! And since I planned to use it in two dishes with sauce, it actually worked out perfectly. It’s a bad picture, but you can see the substantial difference in mass before and after baking. There’s no coating or anything on the chicken, the dark, brownish color is just from baking.
For the sauce, first I sauteed onion and garlic in olive oil. Then I brought a pot of chicken stock to a boil, and added the orzo, onion, garlic, half of the baked chicken, and some sage, thyme, and pepper, and then cooked it until the liquid was mostly absorbed, and the orzo was done. The result was awesome tasting. It was really like a mini-Thanksgiving feast. The chicken tasted tender, and had a lot of great roasted flavor, and the sage and thyme heightened the flavors of the orzo. We considered this one a great success, and I’ll definitely be repeating it.
The third pasta I made was the Italian Pesto Pasta Blend, which is a mix of basil, cracked pepper, garlic parsley and sun-dried tomato flavored pastas. I planned to use the other half of the baked chicken, as well as shiitake mushrooms and sundried tomatoes for this one. I decided to try using white wine in the sauce, which is something I haven’t really done in the past unless using a recipe that calls for it. First I cooked the mushrooms over medium high heat in some avocado oil, then set them aside until I was ready to use them. Then I sauteed half an onion and several large garlic cloves, then added chicken stock, a bit of white wine, sliced sundried tomatoes, and the chicken. For herbs, I ended up using a teaspoon or so of an herb blend called ‘Italian seasoning’ which I bought at some point for some forgotten recipe. But it’s actually a nice blend of marjoram, thyme, rosemary, savory, sage, oregano, and basil, so it went with the pasta pretty well. I thickened the sauce towards the end with some cornstarch, so it would coat the pasta more and not just run to the bottom of the bowl. I found the end result fairly tasty, but my husband wasn’t quite as taken with the flavor. I ended up adding maybe a touch too much wine as I was adjusting (it overflowed the spoon I was measuring it into over the skillet – doh!), so it was perhaps a bit too acidic. I thought it was quite an attractive dish, though.
The end result of all of these dishes, the Italian Pesto Pasta Blend included, was that the sauces complimented the pastas better than on previous occasions, so I was very pleased with the outcomes, and happy with the tips I picked up in my class.