Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ziti alla Papera


Apologies for the sparse posting... That pesky World Series required extensive time commitments to hang out at the ballpark and drink beer, then we were entertaining out-of-towners a couple of days, and I've been forging the frontiers of science like a mofo at my day job. I was hardly cooking, and even when I was it was quick easy ol' reliable recipes all the way. Fortunately, Farmer Dad has been plowing away (heh) at the farm. The terraces are all cut, the pond is completely dug out (and is a gorgeous teal color from the underground streams filling it) and we've just started to sow grass and cover crops for the winter.

This is another recipe discovered during my nightly bedtime viewing of Molto Mario reruns. Of note, there is no herbage or seasoning in this sauce except salt, pepper, and a little parsley at the end. I was concerned about that the first time I made it, but honestly, it's staggeringly delicious as is. I would never have guessed that half of the meat is duck, but flavor and texture wise, you can tell it clearly isn't all pork. The duck gets so soft and delicate, it brings not so much a duckyness to the sauce as a sumptuous melt-in-your-mouthy richness. It adds a lot of complexity to the simple, somewhat expected sweetness of the onion and tomato. It would really overpower the flavor profile to add any other herb than parsley (basil would be an especially bad fit, so don't be tempted). Which is not to say the parsley isn't important, I actually think the tiny hit of fresh grassyness is key.

I served with very simple broiled asparagus to round it out. I am offering the above picture as proof.

1 thick boneless pork chop (1/3 - 1/2 lb), excess fat trimmed, cut into big chunks
1 duck leg quarter (the drumstick and thigh), excess fat trimmed (Central Market has frozen duck leg quarters vacuum packed and ready to go for like $4 apiece)
1/2 an onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, sliced wahfer theen
2 tsp tomato paste
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
handful of Italian flat-leaf parsley, minced
freshly grated caciocavallo or pecorino Romano cheese

~ 4-6 oz dried ziti

Heat a good glug of extra-virgin olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan (with a lid) or Dutch oven. Rinse and pat dry your pork and duck, then season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. When the pan is hot hot hot, add the pork chunks and lay the duck leg in skin side down. Don't move anything for about five minutes, then flip the duck and rotate the pork chunks until deeply browned on all sides, another five or ten minutes. Add the onion and garlic and allow to soften, then add the tomato paste and cook until it rusts in color, another five minutes or so. Add the wine and bring to a boil, then add the crushed tomatoes and red pepper flakes. Cover and simmer for 2 1/2 hours. I was getting aggravated about having to stir to keep it from sticking, so I popped mine into a 325 degree oven for the last 2 hours, stirring and replenishing with a little water halfway through. I'm sure you could use a slow cooker, too, for 4 or 6 hours.

Go catch up on Facebook, thin your carrot sprouts, and have a cocktail in the tub with a magazine.

When time is just about up, put a pot of water on to boil for your pasta. Pull your sauce out of the oven and remove the duck leg, shredding the meat off the bone with a fork. Add it back into the pot and shred the pork into the sauce as well. Broil your asparagus for a couple of minutes somewhere in here. Season your now boiling water generously with kosher salt and cook your pasta to about a minute shy of the package directions. At this point if your sauce is looking a little "tight", you can add a bit of the pasta cooking water to loosen it up. Drain the pasta and add the noodles and parsley to the sauce for the last minute of cooking. Top with freshly grated caciocavallo or pecorino Romano cheese.

Serves 2.

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