Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Mid-Winter's Pasta

OK...maybe I haven't been as attentive as I'd hoped, blog-wise...but I have a note from my teacher! I'm involved with another show; directing Reefer Madness: The Musical at Suffolk University. ( didn't know there was a musical based on Reefer Madness? I didn't either 'til a few months ago. didn't know I directed musicals?? Um...I didn't either until a few months ago.)

So we'll break momentarily from our recent aim to cover some culinary basics with a recipe for you to try.

It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. Right? A lot of times (particularly, you know, when you get home from a rehearsal around 10:30 at night and haven't eaten) one needs to throw together a dish with whatever you have on hand. We touched on this with the idea of Midnight Pasta. Invention and creativity in the kitchen, I'll confess, have not always been a strong suit of mine. There is...some risk involved. (The less said about the great Kraut Dog Burrito experiment of 1989, the better. However, I maintain: it was ALL WE HAD IN THE REFRIGERATOR.)

One night a few weeks ago, I found myself with several things on hand I thought could work together: Italian sausage, potatoes, and blue cheese and an apple. Feeling kinda New England-y, I decided to throw maple syrup into the equation. Here was the rationale: sausage and potatoes pair up naturally, as do apples and cheese, as do maple and pork. And pork with apples? Say it with me now, Peter Brady fans: "pawk shops...n'apple shaushe..." I have also really grown to like the presence of potato in pasta dishes, which may sound odd, but has - I believe - some traditional roots in Italian cuisine, just good so you should try it. (Plus, necessity again, I only had one potato.)

Anyway, with other pantry staples on hand, I came up with this pasta dish - which I've tried a few times now, so as not to toss your way the latenight one-off of a starving man. I think it's nice and hearty. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

B's Mid-Winter Pasta

6 sundried tomato halves (if in oil, drained and chopped; dried - soak 6 minutes i
n boiling water, drain and chop)
1/2 lb. Sweet Italian Sausage, casings removed
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 t. crushed red peppers
1 (generous) C. diced peeled Yukon Gold potato
1/2 lb. orrechiette pasta or shells
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
3/4 C. frozen peas (thawed or frozen is fine, just adjust when you add them)
6 T. dry white wine
1 1/4 C. chicken or vegetable stock

2 T. maple syrup (with all due respect to Mrs. Butterworth - REAL please!)
3/4 - 1 C. crumbled blue cheese

1. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add uncased sausage and begin breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Continue to break it up and cook the sausage until browned (about 5-6 minutes). Remove the sausage to a plate.

3. If there's not enough fat left in the saute pan - or you want to drain it all - add a tablespoon of olive oil to the saute pan, return to the heat, add the garlic, and saute until it just starts to color. Add crushed red peppers and potatoes and saute one more minute.

4. Add wine to pan and scrape up any brown bits on bottom (deglaze). Reduce wine for 1 minute, then add chicken stock, sundried tomatoes, and 1.5 teaspoon kosher salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for 12 minutes (until potatoes are just starting to soften). Add maple syrup, apples, and cooked sausage. Cook until apples are just tender (about another 10 minutes). Add in peas and cook 1 minute more. (Check for seasoning and remember the pasta cooked in salted water and blue cheese will add a bit more saltiness to the final dish.)

5. Meanwhile, cook orrechiette in salted water according to package instructions. Before draining the pasta , reserve about 1 cup of cooking water. Add drained pasta to saute pan, along with crumbled blue cheese, and toss over heat for a minute or two. If too dry add a little reserved pasta water.

Try it and let me know what you think.


Jeff P said...

Mmmm. I'm going to try this, maybe this weekend. Although, it seems like such an autumny mix of ingredients with the apple, saugsage and syrup, but maybe that is just perception. Certainly comfort food like we need this winter!

I'm not a fan of the BLEU, so I'm thinking of doing a Greek spin on it with either feta or regular ol' goat cheese. But I am excited about trying the potato experiment in a pasta dish.

Thanks for the tips.

B. Home For Dinner said...

I agree, Jeff. It really does have a nice fall feel, but it took 'til the winter to get it tested and posted. Don't fear the bleu too much in this dish. It blends in and does not overpower with bleu-y-ness. However, I did use feta in the last round of testing when out of blue and it works almost as well. (I just prefer the tang it adds over the feta.) Have at it. - B.

mo-mo said...

I am a little scared of the maple syrup (*trembling*)

B. Home For Dinner said...

Don't be scared, Clarice. Come closer...

Mo, the mape's not just for pancakes anymore. Pour a little on a salmon fillet and roast it. OR? Try this pasta - and let me know if you become a believer or not.

Jeff P said...


Made a variation on this tonite. Thought I had sundried toms at home, but alas, not so. Instead, I subbed kalamata olives. Plus, a non-fan of the bleu, I used feta (f the French). A few thoughts on this dish... Potatoes took less time to cook, about 10 mins, but maybe because I diced them smaller? The apples, too, maybe 8 min. LOVED the maple syrup. Great aromatics AND flavoring. I confess, tho, I only had Mrs. B on hand, but next time, the real thing, I promise. i think the feta is saltier than bleu, so I didn't add any additional salt, and I might even cut down on the total salt in the future. All in all, though, this dish was AWESOME. I mean AWESOME. Did I say AWESOME? Because it was delish. Loved the tatas and the apples. Great substantive meal. I served with a lovely side green salad. AWESOME. I made a double portion, cause we dig leftovers. MMMMmmm. thanks.

Jeff P said...

Oh, and I think one final the end, I would garnish with some fresh parsley to give it even more color. The peas were a great color (and flavor) add, but some fresh P would be the right add, I think.


Brad said...

This is, in my opinion, one of the best pasta dishes I've had--ever. Absolutely delicious.

belmont meatatarian said...

Yes, I agree with Brad: this dish is outstanding. What I don't get is the implication that you are apologizing for whipping this thing up - out of NECESSITY - afte a VERY long day of day job (do NOT get me started) followed by your theatre thing. I am proud of myself when I actually SIT DOWN to eat the peanut butter samwich I make myself in such situations. Your dish is fit for a Sunday Dinner at our house - Well Done!

mo-key said...

I am still scared but after speaking to jeff p and seeing brad's rave, I will venture forth. I think....