07.29.12: dinner (pericatelli with tomato, thyme, and bacon and veal rib chops with compound butter)

Welp. I didn’t realize how long it’s been since I hit “publish” on this blog until I saw that my last update was in May. Early May. I can offer no good explanation for this–I know when this kind of extended silence happens elsewhere in the blogosphere, it’s usually due to news of great import, but I can assure you that is not the case here at all. Between the new job, various summer outings, visitors, and finally getting into Game of Thrones, the summer has been full so far.

Part of my radio silence, I think, can be attributed to adjusting to life in this part of Connecticut. This time last summer we were adjusting to life out of New York, but the familiarity of my old job was enough to distract me from completely accepting the fact that we were in a largely unfamiliar place that I knew more as a series of Metro-North stops rather than actual towns.  Now that I’m not only living and working in the same city, but we’re also doing some more exploration of the immediate area? I feel like I’m experiencing delayed-release culture shock. Case in point: in order to avoid traffic on I-95 yesterday we took the Post Road back to Stamford from Port Chester, and driving through Greenwich you pass by dealerships for Aston Martin, Maserati, Rolls Royce, Porsche, and Mercedes-Benz, all within a quarter-mile of each other. And the latter looked downright pedestrian in the midst of all that exoticism.

I mean, I know that we live in an area of insane affluence, but I never registered the pervasiveness of that affluence until very recently. When I was at my old job I found it easy to brush off the implications from my colleagues that I wasn’t living in New York in the “right” way, (i.e. in the lap of luxury) because I knew that wasn’t the only way one could live there and be quite happy. Our quirky existence in Morningside Heights was essentially an amped-up extension of our quirky existence in New Haven, and while there were differences, it was fairly easy to make the adjustment. Now we live in a place that is mostly devoid of quirk; sure, we’ve found some neat restaurants that are off the beaten path, but the balance between the fabulous and the funky is virtually nonexistent. Now, those comments from old colleagues make much more sense–of course it would be difficult to “step down” from the concentration of luxury and convenience you’ve become accustomed to for so long.

But enough with the Connecticut ruminations, and onto the food.

One of the very pleasant aspects of my new job is my team’s tradition to eat lunch together in our building’s cafeteria at least a few times a week, and since I’m usually bringing food from home, I can cause a little spectacle depending on what we’ve made over the weekend, including (allegedly) inspiring some serious lunch envy. And this particular pasta dish has caused more than its fair share of angst because we’ve been trying to crack the code on a Amatraciana-style sauce that utilized fresh tomatoes without destroying them, so I’ve brought it in fairly often.

It was worth it, though, because Michael and I are pretty pleased with the balanced we’ve struck with this sauce. The bacon and cheese give it substance, but the fresh tomatoes, having marinated in olive oil, salt, and some thyme, provide much-needed summertime freshness. I’ve been on this fresh chile kick recently, so basically everything I make has to have at least one spicy element–hence the presence of chiles here. Since you only need to render the fat out of the bacon and cook the onions, garlic, and chiles, it doesn’t take too long to bring everything together, thus minimizing your time spent over a hot stove on a warm summer evening. The results are very much worth a glistening forehead, though, and if you make enough, you too can inspire serious lunch envy among your colleagues.

Just don’t tell them that you then had a veal chop with compound butter after that–that will inevitably invite active looks of disdain. Food envy is a powerful thing, after all.

Pericatelli with Tomato, Thyme, and Bacon

serves 2 with substantial leftovers, or 4-6 actual servings

  • 1lb pericatelli, bucatini, or other thick long pasta
  • 1 1/2 lbs tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 4-5 sprigs thyme
  • 1/2 lb bacon or pancetta, cut into lardons
  • One onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 serrano chiles, minced (seed if less heat is desired)
  • 1/2 glass of white wine (optional)
  • 1 cup of grated pecorino romano
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt

Place the tomatoes and thyme into a small bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and stir to combine, and let sit for 30 minutes to an hour.

When you’re ready to make the sauce, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt, and cook the pasta to about 2-3 minutes less than package directions dictate, reserving about a cup of water.  In the meantime, take a large skillet and over medium heat cook the bacon to gently render out the fat, about 5-8 minutes. Add the onion and sweat for about 2-3 minutes, then add the garlic and the chile. Deglaze with just a little bit of wine–just enough to get the brown bits up–and cook until the wine evaporates. Turn the heat to low, add the tomatoes, and cook gently for about a minute prior to adding in the pasta and the cheese, using the reserved starchy water to help bring the sauce together. Toss the pasta well with the sauce, then serve immediately.

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3 comments
  1. Elizabeth Pforzheimer said:

    Place the “tomatoes” and thyme?

  2. Kim said:

    I was thinking about you the other day and realized I hadn’t seen anything in awhile! Glad to know you’re still around, and still cooking. And wait, you live in CT? I am so behind…

    Hope you guys are having a swell summer.

    Cheers!

    [K]

    P.S. I wish my job had your job’s lunch tradition.

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