He has since come a long way from that fellow who just started a new TV gig to where he is today. If you are not familiar with who Mario Batali is, check his link out - http://www.mariobatali.com/. He is one the chefs I follow and highly respect with what he has done and is doing for the food world today.
I watched the series "Spain: On the road again" (http://www.spainontheroadagain.com/) every week when it was on. It was nice to see him do the Spanish thing rather than his usual Italian. I even bought the cookbook which was inspired by the series. Good stories, good recipes. His co-conspirators for the trip were Mark Bittman (http://content.markbittman.com/), Gwyneth Paltrow (http://goop.com/) and some Spanish actress babe named Claudia Bassols. I enjoyed watching this as Mario was learning something new all of the time. It was nice to see the master on a new learning curve. But, Spanish food will be the topic on another day. Today is all about this one pasta recipe of his, which was the first of his dishes I attempted to make. With success.
The dish is called Linguine with Escaped Clams. He said it was named this because of the seafood smell of the dish without the seafood. If done correctly, it actually does smell like there is seafood in the dish. If done incorrectly (which I've done it more than once), it doesn't smell anything remotely close to seafood. I'm giving you this recipe from memory, but you can google it if you like.
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced, cut into 1/2-inch size
- 5 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 1/2 oz's (42.5 g) prosciutto or pancetta. I use prosciutto as I like the flavour better and it has less fat.
- 1/4 cup EVOO
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 1 pound linguine. You can downsize this a bit if you think it's too much. Filling up on tomatoes is probably healthier than filling up on pasta. Any true pasta lover or Italian will disagree and I agree with them, but I'm thinking of being nicely full, not bloated.
1. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons sea salt. Never skimp on the water used to boil pasta. It is better to have a little too much than too little.
2. In a large, non-reactive bowl, combine the tomatoes and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt, stir gently with a wooden spoon, and set aside.
3. On a clean cutting board, mince the garlic and prosciutto together to make a homogeneous, paste-like mixture.
4. In a 12 to 14-inch saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat, add the garlic and pork mixture. Cook it gently for 4 to 5 minutes, until it is translucent but not browned. Remove from heat, add the chili flakes, stir well to combine and set aside.
5. Cook the linguine in the boiling water according to package instructions, until tender yet al dente. The more you cook pasta, the easier al dente will be to achieve. Don't give up trying if you are having a hard time reaching this. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.
6. Toss the drained pasta into the pan with the garlic-prosciutto mixture and the tomatoes. Toss over high heat for 1 minute, adding enough of the reserved pasta water to bring the sauce to desired consistency.
7. Remove from heat and serve in pasta bowls. Serves 4.
Here is a picture of when I went through a period when my brain shut down. I forgot the recipe and screwed it up, but it was still good!
This is an extremely flavourful dish I make for Mrs. Urban Eater all of the time. She requests it at least once every week or two, especially now that our kitchen is overrun with tomatoes. If you want to cut back on the EVOO you can, but only a little bit. You need the oil to cook the prosciutto as it will suck it up and possibly leave the pan dry. You may burn everything in the pan if this happens.
There are a number of chefs I follow for their recipes, Mario being one of them. My criteria for this is:
1) Does the chef cook healthy dishes or can their dishes be altered slightly to make it healthier without compromising the flavour? This is why I don't follow people who are big on "home cooking." No offense to them, but home cookin' is a really good way to bulk up your belly. I like to see my feet when I look down.
2) Can I learn anything from this particular chef or are they just on TV for their looks or have they written a book trying to tell me 1,00 different ways to cook chicken wings? You have to have substance in your repertoire if you want me to follow you. Also, if the book is about what you serve at your restaurant and I have been there to indulge and enjoy, I'll usually buy the book.
3) I only follow TV chefs who are original and can keep their egos in check, meaning the food they cook works well for my standards and doesn't have their own little personal twist on it which makes it so original I can't eat it.
4) Does the TV chef or the author do something in the food industry besides have a show or book? Take Mario or Lidia Bastianich for example. Both have empires to run outside of the kitchen but still have recipes which are easy to follow, mostly. Some not so easy as certain ingredients aren't exactly easy to find. They also make me want to go to New York or wherever to try their places.
I have about 70 cookbooks in my war chest here at the house and use almost all of them regularly. This keeps my mind going and helps my creative side in the kitchen. I also follow 9 or 10 cooking shows on various TV channels. When it comes to cooking, you have to have an open mind to keep broadening your horizons. Always look for new ways to find and create new ideas. Always listen to someone who has established themselves by putting their time in and working hard.
Blogs or email subscriptions I follow for the foodie content:
Whole Foods Market - http://blog.wholefoodsmarket.com/
David Lebovitz - http://www.davidlebovitz.com/
Gwyneth Paltrow - http://goop.com/
Mario Batali - http://www.mariobatali.com/about_mario.cfm
Smitten Kitchen - http://smittenkitchen.com/
There are a couple of others, but I can only read so many.These are the main ones I pay attention to. If there's a good idea or recipe I see, I'll read it. I am always looking out for more good ones to read as well.
Little O's Menu
With the Thanksgiving leftovers still around for another day, she is eating the sweet potato infused mashed potatoes still (which I made more of for her so she wouldn't have to deal with any food borne illness issues) with diced turkey. This time I added some finely grated Parmesan cheese to it. This is still going over well with her, but we don't want to overdo it. Tomorrow will be something new for her. Desserts and breakfasts are more or less still the same, but we are now adding some frozen strawberries from her Grandma's garden to the yogurt mixture.
"Worthless people love only to eat and drink; people of worth eat and drink only to live."
Socrates (BC 469-BC 399) Greek philosopher of Athens
Until next time, good eating everyone.