This cookbook was a Julia Child Cookbook Award Finalist in 1998.
A Finalist in the General Category
Author: Joyce Goldstein
Publisher: William Morrow
Kitchen Conversations Tip:
"Just because a dish is Italian or a pasta doesn't mean it has to have garlic as an ingredient. Garlic is a powerful taste component and introducing it at random may upset the balance of flavors in a dish. For example, in Spaghetti 'al Testaccio' (see below) garlic would ruin the delicate balance between the bitter black pepper, the salty cheese and the sweet pancetta. It would tip the scale to bitter and ruin the harmony of a delicate trio. To mitigate the bitterness of garlic, cook it in water, broth, or milk until it is meltingly tender. Or cover it with olive oil and simmer gently or bake until soft.
"There are times when the bite of raw garlic actually gives bottom to a dish that seems to be floating on too many high notes. But be careful. It can add a note of heat that will revisit you for the rest of the day."
Testaccio is a Roman neighborhood that used to be filled with slaughterhouses. Not surprisingly, in this quartiere most of the restaurants specialize in grilled and roasted meats, innards, and hearty stews. This pasta, sometimes called spaghetti alla gricia, is a precursor to the classic spaghetti alla carbonara but minus the eggs. It is usually made with guanicale, pig's cheek, but as we cannot get this cut of cured meat, pancetta is our best choice. Although they are not traditional to all gricia, I have added the peas because of the balance of meat, pepper, and peas pleases me and reminds me of Rome in the spring.
1 pound spaghetti or bucatini
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound pancetta, about 1/4-inch thick, cut in 1/4-inch strips
1 cup sweet peas, blanched but cooked long enough to taste sweet
4 to 6 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
8 tablespoons grated pecorino cheese
Drop the pasta in boiling salted water.
Warm the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over moderate heat. Cook the pancetta, stirring often, until tender but not at all crispy. Add the peas and pepper.
Cook the pasta al dente and drain. Toss with the pancetta and peas. Remove from the heat and add the pecorino cheese. Serve at once.
Don't be afraid of pepper. It is the needed counterpoint to the salty pecorino and the sweetness of the peas and pancetta. There is not much "sauce" to this pasta, but the ingredients will cling and mingles with the noodles quite well. You might want to try this with penne or rigatoni just to see what happens with a slightly heftier pasta. Between the pancetta and the pecorino, no salt is needed for this dish.
Paring Pointers: The combination of salt (pancetta and pecorino) and fat (pancetta) creates a need for sharpness (acidity). Select afruity or soft red. Be leery of reds with tannin as they will only accentuate the salt and make for an unpleasant commingling. Here, too, I like whites of a more autumnal nature.
Vernaccia—nutty, mature, and minerally
Rose/blends—peppery. floral, and a tad bitter—France, Italy
Dolcetto—youthful, honest, and crisp—Italy, California
Merlot—soft, fragrant, and free of bitter tannin—Italy, France.
by Joyce Goldstein
William Morrow, 1997
Reprinted by permission
About the Book
by Joyce Goldstein
Join Joyce Goldstein in an extraordinary exploration of the sensual realm of flavor--and become a better cook! In this provocative volume, the acclaimed chef and award-winning cookbook author shares a tantalizing feast of food and ideas that will forever change the way you taste, prepare, and enjoy your favorite dishes.
Kitchen Conversations is a double portion of culinary wisdom from one of the great cooks and cooking teachers of our time. It is filled with fabulous Mediterranean meals, as Joyce takes you on a luscious tour of her favorite cuisines: 160 sparkling and satisfying recipes from Italy, North Africa, Spain, Greece, and Turkey.But along the way, Joyce opens your senses to the essence of the chef's art. Through "aware tasting" and cooking practice, you can approach any recipe with an understanding of how its taste elements work. You can learn to bring flavors to their peak, even when ingredients vary: to rescue a dish if it has gone "astray," and to add the precise accent that your palate tells you is "missing." and you will learn when a dish is in perfect balance and to remember that perfect taste so you can make it again and again. And, since no meal reaches perfect balance without its attendant wines, Joyce's son Evan (one of the nation's leading sommeliers), brilliantly analyzes the related taste components of wine and food, and shares a simple system to harmonize the two.
This page originally published as a Global Gourmet Today column in 1998.
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