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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pesto Pasta

After a  long holiday weekend of cooking for a birthday potluck, street festivals, and restaurant doggy bag leftovers, our refrigerator was ripe for a clean out.  It was packed.  I had some pesto and cherry tomatoes wedged into a lonely corner of the vegetable bin leftover from Rachel's birthday potluck party and decided to make a pesto pasta dinner with peas.  I tossed  split cherry tomatoes along with  pesto, grated parmesan reggiano, peas, salt, pepper, and olive oil into a bowl. I boiled angel hair pasta in heavily salted water until al dente and tossed it with the pesto sauce.  The heat from the pasta melted the parmesan in the pesto and wilted the cherry tomatoes.  When it was thoroughly combined, I swirl-stacked it onto dinner plates, showered it with additional parmesan, fleur de sel, and a fresh basil chiffanade.
I wanted something a bit more substantial to beef up the delicate pesto pasta, so I took inventory of the freezer. One filet mignon, a bag of  shrimp shells, a bag of chicken backs, one duck breast, a quart of chicken stock, and a lone chicken breast. Hmmmm.
Chicken sausage!
I sliced the chicken into strips while it was still frozen along with two slabs of thick cut apple-smoked bacon for fat and flavor. I picked and set aside a few leaves of fresh oregano, fresh thyme, parsley and dill. After tumbling whole red peppercorns, fennel seed, paprika, sea salt, celery seed, red pepper flakes, and dried savory onto the plate with the herbs, I turned the meat grinder onto a low speed, and fed all the ingredients into the feeder tube of the grinder to blend and mix. I finished the grind with an ice cube to clean the grinding shoot and moisten the sausage.
At that stage, sausage patties or meatballs could have been formed and cooked.  I wanted links, so I carefully put the sausage meat on plastic wrap and rolled it tightly into a log.  After twisting and securing the ends, I gave one final twist in the center to form two good sized sausage links. 

I gently lowered the links into simmering water to cook through and hold their form.  Once they were cooked, unwrapped and cooled, I sauteed them them in olive oil and butter with thinly sliced yellow bell pepper, onion, garlic, and cherry tomatoes.  After the sausages and vegetables had browned and softened, I poured a generous splash of balsamic vinegar into the skillet to deglaze the pan.  As the  vinegar sizzled from the heat, it reduced to create a sweet carmelized glaze on  both the vegetables and the sausages.

I placed them along side the pesto pasta, dusted them with ground parmesan, and a shower of fleur de sel.
The salty sweet carmelized glaze had just enough acidity to cut through the richness of the pasta and the herbaceous pesto. Nice match. I loved the tomato duet: the slightly wilted ones from the hot pasta kept thier form and freshness while the candied glazed tomatoes had broken down with lush sweetness.
The sausages had just enough fat to remain moist with an outer snap from the browned glaze.
All in all, it was a tasty way to clean out the refrigerator.

Time to stock back up.

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