This week’s Weekend Cook & Tell on Serious Eats was a good impetus to head down to the Union Square Greenmarket, as it served as a reminder to me to try to take advantage of the local tomatoes that would both be at their peak of deliciousness and also their lowest price. It didn’t occur to me until we emerged from the subway (and overwhelmed by the amazing smells everywhere) that we would also be getting the first of the fall harvest as well, so it took a good lap around the market for us to figure out what we wanted and where exactly we were going to purchase it all.
Michael wanted to roast a chicken, and as we passed the random vendors selling jazz albums and the community compost center he proposed pairing it with a nice pasta made with a gently cooked fresh tomato sauce with basil and mozzarella cheese.
Who am I to say no to that?
We stocked up on herbs (purple basil and Cuban oregano to be precise) and Jersey tomatoes (among other things) at the market, and then I twisted Michael’s arm to give Eataly one more try, albeit on the condition that there was no line outside. His terms deemed reasonable, we made the quick trek to 23rd and to my delight, the lines that swarmed outside the store less than a week ago no longer existed. While it was still busy inside, the shopping experience was improved significantly: I finally found the damn fresh mozzarella station and the seafood department boasted many more interesting selections; namely, the fresh anchovies (a rarity here) caught my interest almost immediately, and at a decent price to boot.
So we ended up with a nice selection of things: a half pound of anchovies that Michael cleaned himself, a half-kilo of Calamarata pasta that looks like squid rings, some nice finishing olive oil (i.e. the really good stuff) and a container of fresh mozzarella. I want to follow up our initial impressions with a second post devoted to it entirely, but I want to wait until we are able and willing to catch a lunch there.
Anyway. Onto the dinner.
The chicken was spatchcocked quickly; a marinade of lemon, olive oil, purple basil, Cuban oregano and thyme was whipped up for it to sit in for a good hour or so prior to it going into the oven to roast. In the meantime the tomatoes were seeded and chopped, the garlic (six cloves of it!) minced by yours truly, and more oregano chopped to form the base of the sauce that was only cooked for a few minutes. Michael breaded the fish after cleaning them and them fried them in the pan with just a little peanut oil, finishing them with just some salt and lemon juice.
The tomatoes and garlic did not need much: just a quick saute in the pan with some olive oil for all of five minutes, and then we added the cooked pasta and tossed it all with a little purple basil and cubed fresh mozzarella. Spooned into a dish and then drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil, and boom: you have the best late-summer pasta dish ever.
Should it surprise you that I didn’t have much room for the chicken after that? I cursed the limits of my stomach, but the chicken was still knock-you-on-your-ass fantastic. While the herbs and lemon served as a mellower version of chicken compared to Michael’s usual MO of rubbing spices all over a bird, it was just what we wanted: lively and bright. The chicken breast is going to make some kickass chicken salad this week, that’s for certain.