Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's About Time!

Sometimes it takes a while for a good idea to form. Sometimes a good idea forms instantaneously. And sometimes a good idea has to wait its turn.

Last summer I was researching recipes when I came across a cookbook by one of my favorite chefs, Charlie Trotter, where he had a dish that featured a mustard pasta. At the time I had just made a lemon flavored pasta and was very interested in infusing flavors into pasta and I quickly came up with this dish, tucking it away until a season where it would be more suitable to offer a rich braise.

My initial plan was to offer it sometime in autumn, the nearest time I could, but something kept coming up; maybe I wanted to take advantage of an seasonal ingredient that was available for a short period of time, or I had a different pasta idea, or I wanted to save such a good idea until just the right time... The next thing I knew it was seven months later and I'm finally getting to it.

The pasta is made by mixing stone ground mustard and eggs with all purpose flour and some wheat gluten, the pure form of the protein in flour that helps hold the dough together. I used the gluten to fortify the pasta to compensate for the added moisture that the mustard brings. Not only does the pasta have a wonderful flavor but it is also a beautiful golden color with specks of the whole mustard seeds.

To stand up to the robust pasta I needed ingredients that were no slouches themselves, so first I braised cubes of wild boar leg meat in a combination of rich pork stock and a hearty tomato sauce, and then roughly shredded the meat while the sauce simmered once again with red wine and fresh herbs like parsley, oregano and marjoram. There is enough of the light gaminess of the meat to shine through the pasta yet it is subtle enough to meld into the dish.

Another component that I added was broccoli rabe, or rapini, which is a pungent and bitter green that resembles a leafy broccoli. Its distinct flavor is a perfect match for the strong pasta and rich boar ragout. And to finish the dish and help thicken the sauce I tossed in a handful of Pecorino cheese (think Parmesan, but made from sheep's milk).

For the final touch - that last coup de grace of richness and goodness - I topped the pasta with my own freshly made ricotta cheese by separating the curds and whey of cream and milk by slowly cooking them with buttermilk and then straining out the cheese. I chose to top the pasta with the ricotta as opposed to mixing it in so that the diner can taste the freshness before stirring it in themself.

Good things come to those who wait!!

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I sometimes go a little overboard with the infusions that I make for cocktails due to the time it takes to impart the flavor. I'd rather have too much than run out of my cocktail too soon.

As was the case when I made my kumquat vodka for a martini cocktail a few weeks ago. With a bottle leftover I wanted to utilize that great flavor once again.

I felt that the combination of orange and apricot, one of my childhood favorite fruits, would be a good combination, compounded with the kumquat vodka, muddled fresh mint and a healthy dose of Angostura orange bitters. I was blown away by the result!! It was the perfect balance of sweet, sour and bitter with the added brightness of the mint.

With Love,