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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Totelots au Persil: parsley squares in broth

Totelots are typically a hot pasta salad from the Alsace region of France.  Squares of cooked pasta tossed in a creamy dressing, topped with chopped parsley and garnished with boiled eggs.  Anne Willan of the LaVerne School adapted it into parsley squares, simmered in broth. 

This is really a  fun recipe. It is simple, attractive, and delicious.

It starts with the pasta, which is pretty basic.  I make pasta alot, but I usually don't roll it out this thin.  It needed to be thin enough for the parsley sprigs to appear almost as stained glass when pressed between two sheets of pasta.  This required the last setting of the pasta roller.  I usually stop at the next to last setting.  It was really thin. I placed the parsley onto the pasta, topped with another sheet of pasta, rolled it out to press  together, and cut into squares with a ravioli cutter.

These were set aside to firm up and dry.

 I wanted a little more body to the recipe, so I decided to add petite meatballs.  I used the classic combination of veal, pork, and beef with grated reggiano, pecorino, minced garlic, breadcrumbs, egg, and water.  I gently mixed the ingredients, formed them into marble-sized meatballs, browned them slightly in a skillet for color, and then baked them, covered, to cook through.
 While the meatballs were cooking, I tossed some whole grape tomatoes with oilve oil, salt, and pepper and roasted them alongside the meatballs to caramelize, collapse, and become sweet.  This slow mellowing of the tomatoes would add a great balance to the saffron broth. 
I simmered a good chicken stock with the the saffron allowing the  threads to bloom, creating a very fragrant broth. When the parsley squares were tender and cooked through, I ladled them into deep pasta bowls, toppped  with the saffron broth,  meatballs, and roasted tomatoes.  For a bit of freshness, I added lemon zest, fresh chives, and sliced fresh grape tomatoes.  Shaved Reggiano to finish. 

The combination of  flavors was utterly delicious.  Light, simple, aromatic, and deceptively complex.  The sweet tomatoes offset the subtle bitterness of the saffron broth, while the grassy note from the parslied pasta paired beautifully with the unctuous texture and richness of the meatballs.  The lemon zest, chives, and fresh grape tomatoes gave the entire dish a burst of freshness, waking it up from the buttery brothy bath. A mouth dancer, this meal.

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