Friday, January 16, 2009

(Not) the same old thing.

For months, maybe even years now, I've been making the same pasta dish, chard or escarole chopped and braised with caramelized onions and sausage or bacon and perhaps a handful of mushrooms, minced parsley and grated Parmeggiano-Reggiano if I happen to think of it. Often there is orrecchiette in my cupboard; sometimes there are twists of trofie in the freezer. I have made it with bacon or with sausage, spicy or mild, chicken or pork. A few days ago I made it with spicy Italian goat sausage. M. thought it didn't taste particularly like goat, but that may be due to the Lagavulin 16-year old scotch I was pouring with a generous hand. (The goat sausage, an impulse buy at the farmer's market, was very good - spicy and just a little gamey, but not too much so). I have fed it to my parents and to my boss and to various friends, most often C., who shows no sign of being bored yet. But that day will probably come.

The nice thing about pasta is that once you have a workable formula, you can throw something together with whatever you find in your pantry, your fridge, your freezer. On impulse I invite C. for dinner. But I had pasta-with-chard-and-sausage on Tuesday, and spicy-sausage lasagne on Wednesday, and now I want something different. Not the same old thing. I find Brussels sprouts and onions and some bacon; there are chicken thighs and trofie in the freezer. Brussels sprouts in pasta? Why not? Brussels sprouts and bacon are a classic combination. I shred the sprouts finely, slice the bacon into lardons, chop the onion into a reasonably tidy dice. It is a moment's work to debone the chicken thighs, season them with coarse flakes of sea salt and freshly ground pepper, slide them under the toaster oven broiler. The bacon is fried crisp, the onions and sprouts sautéed until they begin to caramelize around the edges.

This week's trofie are made with chestnut flour, which gives a more interesting flavor that goes well with the sprouts and bacon. If I had had any I would have added chopped chestnuts, lightly toasted, with the pasta, to intensify the flavor. Maybe next time. For now I have a new dish to add to my repertoire. For dessert, I have a bowl of yogurt with blueberries and a swirl of honey, while C. plumps for Thin Mints unearthed from the freezer. The perfect, impromptu, weeknight dinner.

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