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Culinary Masochism, or “I made everything from scratch”

Sun Mar 16, 2008

Egg papardelle

Egg Papardelle with Bagna Cauda, Wilted Radicchio and an Olive Oil-Fried Egg

I’m a culinary masochist. It’s taken me awhile to come to terms with this, but a few recent cooking endeavors have made the truth difficult to avoid. The facts are, perhaps, best exemplified by my new favorite cookbook: Nancy Silverton’s A Twist of the Wrist. Nancy’s book is designed to help home cooks create gourmet meals using the bevy of high-quality pre-packaged ingredients lining the grocer’s shelves. Sounds great, right? Used correctly, these jars, boxes and tins are timesaving complements to Nancy’s delicious, well-thought-out recipes. But in my DIY-addled brain I see Nancy’s timesaving devices as the opportunity to try making other, more time-consuming components from scratch. At my house, a meal from Nancy’s book that’s supposed to take a half an hour suddenly takes three—like when I made the Mole Poblano Chicken Casserole with Black Beans and Queso Fresco. The dish layers tortillas and jarred Doña Maria Mole mixed with Mexican chocolate, chicken, onions, Monterey Jack cheese and black beans. It’s supposed to take 55 minutes from prep to table. After making the tortillas and roasting the chicken, and running around all over town to find the mole and chocolate, dinner took nearly four hours. I was so exhausted by the time I put the meal on the table that I could hardly appreciate the perfectly melded flavors and the surprise of alternating textures.

Not one to learn my lesson the first time around, last week I made the book’s Egg Papardelle with Bagna Cauda, Wilted Radicchio and an Olive Oil-Fried Egg. I was really excited about this dish—a pasta version of my favorite Mozza pizza minus the guanciale—and with an estimated prep to table time of a mere 30 minutes I thought it’d be a great opportunity to try out the pasta attachment on my new Kitchen Aid mixer.

What I forgot was this: pasta takes time. Time to rest after the dough comes together and time to roll out—even with an electric pasta roller. Plus my dough was a little crumbly at first and needed some tweaking before it would come through in smooth, even sheets. After about an hour and a half of running dough, rolling it up and cutting it into one-inch strips, I finally had a floured baking sheet full of satiny, wide, pale yellow ribbons. It was another 45 minutes before the meal came together, since I was, um, unable to find jarred bagna cauda and I had to make that from scratch, too.

Ultimately, the dish was delicious. I love bagna cauda, which literally means “warm bath” in Italian. This simple sauce is comprised of butter, olive oil, anchovies, garlic and lemon and is really easy to make. It’s a little spicy, a little salty and a little sweet, with a refreshing lemon zip. It stuck to my homemade papardelle really well and the metallic, protein-y taste of the olive oil-fried egg added incredible depth to the dish; it was also a really nice contrast to the bittersweet wilted radicchio. And since it was only 9 o’clock when we sat down to eat—and I’d been enjoying a nice glass of Movia Ribolla Gialla while the pasta was boiling—I quickly forgot how difficult I’d just made things.

I may have twisted my wrists, my ankles and walked backwards for these dinners. I may have, ever so briefly, cursed Nancy’s name. But in the end, I enjoyed my pain. And I will surely do it again.

Egg Papardelle with Bagna Cauda, Wilted Radicchio and Olive Oil-Fried Egg
from Nancy Silverton’s A Twist of the Wrist: Quick, Flavorful Meals with Ingredients from Jars, Cans, Bags, and Boxes
8 oz egg papardelle
¾ c bagna cauda
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 large eggs
12 radicchio leaves, torn into large pieces
Parmigiano-Reggiano for grating
Sea salt
1 heaping tbsp fined chopped fresh Italian parsley
Fresh ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of water to boil; add a generous amount of kosher salt. Add the pasta and bring back to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until al dente.
While the water is coming to a boil, heat the bagna cauda, stirring occasionally until warmed through.
In another skillet, heat ¼ cup olive oil over medium-high heat, until the oil’s almost smoking. Break an egg into a small bowl and pour into the skillet. Once the egg starts to set around the edges, you can add a second egg in the same way (adding them one at a time like this keeps the eggs from setting together). Cook the eggs for about 1 ½ minutes each, until the edges are golden brown, the whites are set, but the yolks are still runny. Move the first two eggs to a plate and cook the other two the same way.
When the pasta is cooked, transfer it, without straining, from the water to the skillet with the bagna cauda. Toss to coat. Then place the skillet over high heat and add the radichhio, tossing for a minute or two until the radicchio wilts.
Divide the pasta amongst four plates, grate a generous amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano over each serving and top each with a fried egg. Finish egg with a pinch of sea salt. Scatter parsley over each plate, grate a little more cheese and grind some fresh black pepper and serve.
If you’re a masochist like me…
Bagna Cauda
1 stick (1/2 c) unsalted butter
20 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
8 large garlic cloves, minced
¼ c finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
Grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat butter, oil, chopped anchovies and garlic in a skillet over medium-high heat, until anchovies dissolve, and the garlic is soft and fragrant. It’s important to break the anchovies up with a wooden spoon while cooking and to stir frequently so that the garlic doesn’t brown. Reduce heat to low and cook for another two minutes so the flavors have time to incorporate. Turn off heat and add the lemon juice and lemon zest, season with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.
Egg Papardelle
10 oz all-purpose flour
3-4 eggs
Mound flour on a wood cutting board, form a well and crack 3 eggs into center. With a fork, beat eggs and slowly incorporate flour until dough comes together. (Or, if you have a dough hook, put it all in your mixer.) If the dough is too dry, add the fourth egg yolk. If it is still too dry, add the egg white. Once a ball forms, knead the dough for 15-20 minutes. Wrap with plastic and let rest for at least 30 minutes.
Using a pasta roller (or, if you’re really hard core, some good old-fashioned muscle and a rolling pin) roll pasta out into thin sheets, no more than 1/16 of an inch. Cut the pasta sheets to the length you’d like your noodles, and then roll those sheets up lengthwise, like a cigar. Then cut the noodles the width you’d like them, about one inch in this case. Place the noodles on a cookie sheet for 20-30 minutes to dry before throwing them into rapidly boiling water to cook. And remember, fresh pasta takes just minutes until it’s al dente.

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5 Responses to “Culinary Masochism, or “I made everything from scratch””

  1. Kevin Says:

    That looks good. I like the sound of the Bagna Cauda. I have been wanting to get a pasta maker so that I can try making my own pasta.

  2. Neal Says:

    The hand-crank pasta makers are good. But if you can get one that’s motorized (an attachment to a mixer), they’re great! It’s hard to feed the pasta in, feed it out and crank at the same time. It’s not really a one-person job unless the pasta maker is cranking itself.

    But oh man is fresh pasta good!

  3. Brooke Says:

    I can attest that the dish was amazing (thanks for inviting me over for left overs, Leah!) and truly inspiring. I found myself craving bagna cauda soon after and made a bagna cauda pasta dish the following night. Thanks! I enjoyed every rustic bite.


  4. robin (caviar and codfish) Says:

    I’m so glad you made the bagna cauda—making your own pasta and then using the jarred stuff just can’t be as good (or maybe I’m just being snobby!)

    Looks delicious!

  5. michelle @ TNS Says:

    bagna cauda with pasta is my *favorite* way to eat it. don’t get me wrong, it’s a tasty veggie dip too, but you can’t beat it over pasta. i’m drooling a little at the picture of the fried egg; that’s definitely going over top of my next batch.

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