Tuesday, November 25, 2008

P-I-G. part 5.

This part is cheating, because it mainly involves some spicy pork sausage from the same place where I got those Mangalitsa pork trimmings that turned into so many different dishes that it kept me well fed for over a week. Of course, I bought the sausages thinking at some point I would make that other staple of my diet (now equal to fried rice), pasta with chard and sausage. I am not sure at which point dark leafy greens took over my diet, probably around the time I started reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, or a little later, when I started shopping at farmer's markets and buying all these greens that I didn't know how to cook. The first version of this pasta dish came about when I had a head of escarole lying around in the fridge, and a surplus of Italian sausage for some reason I can't remember. Somehow - perhaps I'd eaten something similiar in a restaurant - I thought the two would go together, and a nice sturdy pasta like orrecchiette would stand up well to the spiciness of the sausage and the ever-so-slightly bitter greens.

Variation upon variation ensued, and the only thing that has stayed the same is that I always use onions if I had them, and some sort of pork product. Usually sausage. Bacon (or pancetta, or guanciale) can be substituted, but spicy Italian sausage is the reigning favorite. Escarole and chard and kale rotate through my kitchen, depending on what looks good at the market (super or farmer's). One unforgettable experiment, never again replicated, involved a giant heirloom tomato that looked like a huge millefiori paperweight. Pasta shapes vary depending on what I have in the pantry, and experience taught me that trofie (bought at the farmer's market and kept frozen) and orrecchiette (which I tried to keep on hand at all times) works better than penne or fusilli.

Tonight I have twists of trofie pasta, spicy Italian sausage, and a tight bundle of dark green kale. I found a pot of gold tucked away in the back of the refrigerator, the pork-infused wine reduction leftover from making rillettes that I had also used in another pasta dish. Usually I just use wine, or even water; if I'm lucky I might have some homemade broth on hand in the fridge, but I'm not organized enough to have ice-cube trays of frozen stock lying around. (One day, I promise). The water comes to a boil as the vegetables and sausage bits are simmering away; in go the frozen noodles that take only five minutes to cook. By the time the trofie are ready, the sauce has reduced to a syrupy glaze; there should just be enough to barely coat the pasta, and it all comes together in the pan. Those leftover wine-and-pork juices give the pasta sauce a depth and intensity that nothing else can replicate, not plain stock or wine alone. C. and I eat every bite, and only the lingering aroma of onions remains.

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