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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Winging It

I have found myself uninspired in the kitchen before, but never indecisive.  That doesn't even flow with my obsessed mise en place mentality.  I am always prepared, prepped, and ready.  Last night, I wasn't any of those things.  I was indecisive about dinner.  I had ingredients.  I had good ingredients.  I just couldn't decide what I wanted to do with them.

I had fantastic dried imported Rustichella papardelle pasta, shrimp, pancetta, and sausage.  Those would be the foundation and spring board.  I didn't want a tomato sauce.  I didn't want a cream sauce.  What did I want?

I needed to take stock of the situation.  I wanted something roasted.  I wanted something bright, fresh and light. Soemthing new.
I had green peppers, Kalamata olives, capers, basil, parsley, chives, pearl onions, roma tomatoes, lemons, oranges, and garlic.  How could anything go wrong with those ingredients?

I started by roasting peeled pearl onions, garlic, sliced roma tomatoes, and halved  fresh lemons and oranges in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

While they roasted, I peeled and deveined the shrimp, sliced the sausages, sliced the pancetta, sliced fresh green peppers, and readied the pasta pot with a heavy hand of kosher salt.

It went pretty fast at this point.  An Italian Mediterranean stir fry, of sorts.

I sauteed the pancetta in a tad of olive oil to get it started, let it crisp to release it's un-smoked fat into the pan, and reserved it.  I took the sliced sausages and sauteed them in the pancetta fat until they fringed around the edges,  releasing their juicy goodness into the pan swirling into the pancetta fat.  Tossed in the green peppers, reserved sausages,  roasted romas, pearl onions, capers,  and Kalamata olives.  After everything came to a simmer, I added the shrimp to just cook through and threw in hand torn basil to wilt. 
One last squeeze of  roasted lemon & orange juice to deglaze and a half ladle of the pasta water brought the sauce together, releasing the fond and capturing the flavor into a light glaze.

After plating into large pasta bowls with the pappardelle,  I snipped fresh chives over the top for one last  grassy mild onion finish.  Buttered ciabattini rolls to sop.

The flavor combinations in this simple dish were outstanding.  The salty olives mixed with the briny capers for a toothsome bite within the caramelized melted tomatoes and pearl onions; with salty, sweet, and vinegary undertones blanketing the tender shrimp and crisp sausage like culinary chenille.  The roasted juices from the lemons and oranges were mellow with a hint of soft acidity.


I normally don't feel comfortable winging it in the kitchen, but if a cliff of indecision comes my way again, I'll jump off and fly.

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