Search This Blog

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


It started with the ice trays. For two days, Michael and I both thought someone had mysteriously used all the ice and replaced it with fresh water-filled ice trays. Nope.

Hoping it was a minor thing, we called a reliable freezer repair person. He ran diagnostic tests before babbling a littany of  freezer lingo... coils, condensers, defrosters, thermostats, blah, blah, blah. White noise. Wasn't  listening. Blah, blah, blah.  Of course, he had to order the parts, telling  us he would get back in touch with us when they arrived.  He reassured us that it wasn't a hazard and that our kitchen wouldn't flood while we were out of town.

When the parts arrived, he called to tell us to unplug the freezer and refrigerator for two days to let it thaw before he could  work on it. Unplug the freezer and refrigerator? Um... Really?  Now, that thunder clap got my attention. The thought of it sent daggers through my heart and chills up my spine. I'm a food collector.  The freezer's literally my bountiful treasure chest full of my things. My fun stuff.  My scraps of artisinal breads for Thanksgiving stuffing, bones, meats, fish parts, calamari, doughs, and  sauces.  Unplug it  and remove it from life support?  Heavy boots.

Last night was my last chance to use what I could before we removed the plug and tossed everything away. There was so much stuff. How?  What? All in one meal? A last supper using all of my prized hoarded food collection?

I took a deep breath, pulled everything from the freezer,  and methodically set about the sad business of closing down shop.

I started by making a small batch of chicken stock with chicken backs, necks, wings, carrots, celery, onions, bell peppers (because I had them), black peppercorns, parsley, thyme, and purple basil. I let the stock bubble away while I thought about what to do next. Because I had a tons of meat tucked away, pasta bolognese quickly came to mind. I had enough of the ingredients to knock out a decent riff on the classic sauce from Bologna, so I readied the food processor for some heavy duty work.

The meat drawer.

I sliced 1/2 pound  slab of thick-cut applewood smoked bacon into lardons, fried them until crisp, scooped  them out to drain, and removed half of the bacon fat. After chopping the remaining carrots, onions, celery, and peppers into large pieces, I tumbled them into the food processor and pulverized them into mushy pulp. When the bacon fat smoked, I dropped the vegetable pulp into the hot oil along with a few tablespoons of tomato paste and thawed San Marzano tomatoes, letting the concoction pop, spit, and simmer until it was deeply caramelized before turning the heat to a low simmer.

Since bolognese is a meat-based sauce, I needed to add meat.  I had plenty of it, but it had to be broken down to create a velvety bolognese sauce.  After dicing garlic marinated filet mignons, 2 pork tenderloin medallions, 2 Italian sausages (casings removed),  and 4 pounded veal scallopinis, I dropped the meat pieces  into the food processor and pulsed them until they were ground together. Sacrilege. Meat carnage. It had to be done.


After straining the chicken stock through a cheesecloth-lined chinois, I ladled it into the gurgling sauce, brought it a simmer, and  added the uncooked ground meat mixture. I wanted the raw mixed meats to slowly cook in the sauce, releasing  their individual succulent  juices and flavoring it.  When the meat was fully incorporated, I turned the heat to low, covered the pot, and chugged a few glasses of wine.

The cheese drawer.

I had a lot of cheese. So much so that that my little riff on Pasta alla Bolognese had to be tweeked. Baked spaghetti? Spaghetti casserole?

It turned into my take on Timballo, an Italian molded baked pasta dish that, depending on ingredients, varies from region to region in Italy. 

Disregarding rules, recipes, and Italian regions, I went with what I had on hand.

I boiled a pound of spaghetti in heavily salted water for 7 minutes, purposefully undercooking it. After draining the pasta, I folded it into the Bolognese sauce and added handfuls of grated pecorino romano, grated parmigianno, shredded sharp white cheddar, smoked gouda, grated fontina, fresh mozzarella, and baby arugula leaves.

I preheated the oven to 375 degrees, poured the sauced spaghetti into a buttered parmigianno-dusted springform pan, and slid it into the oven to bake for an hour.

After several glasses of wine, I removed the Timballo from the oven, letting it rest for 20 minutes before slicing it into wedges and plating it.

With nothing else to serve with it, I simply scattered a few quartered market tomatoes around the plate for freshness.

We ate what we could and trashed the remaining Timballo. There was nowhere to store it.

We were unplugged.


Clean slate.
Time to reload.

No comments: