Pg. 102 – Lucky Peach Issue #1
Are you ready? Get ready. This one’s a doozy. Recently, I looked up how to spell doozy, and there you have it.
This recipe comes from Mario Carbone, a great NYC chef who owns a spot in Little Italy in NYC called Parm. I checked it out last November, a few days after Sandy hit, literally on the night of that damn Nor’Easter. It was dumping snow, and first I had an awesome dinner at Torrisi next door and then went to Parm for some late night Hot Toddy’s. Torrisi and Parm are like brother restaurants that Mario and chef Rich Torrisi run together. I guess you could say Torrisi is a the more upscale dining experience (but still very cozy-neighborhoody) and Parm is like the cool sandwich/booze shop. Both spots have great service and the food is tha shit (that’s a good term, something I’ve even heard my Mom use lately, which makes me wonder why I let her in on it).
Okay, let’s get to it. You got some time on your hands? Because if you want to make this right, you need a few hours. There’s a lot of prep and we’re talking 2-3 hours to make the ragu, plus we’re making homemade pasta! And there’s a Jamaican spice mix scavenger hunt involved.
If I’m not growing it in my garden (seriously, and that’s why it’s cooler to live in L.A. than NYC, suckers!) then I go to my neighborhood herb/spice store. Not the medicinal marijuana joint, but the Silver Lake Spice Station. As you can see from the photo above, it’s a lovely small store with a ton of jars of aromatic taste heaven. I even threw in some hippies in this photo just to pay homage to the peeps that taught me to grow herbs. A woman named Kristy works there and she helped me get everything I needed, plus she ground it fresh right there, and combined it for me. (Although, I did my own black peppercorns, I’m obsessed and have a large stash at home already.)
Please ground the spices fresh the day you make this, it makes a huge difference – if you do it yourself, you can use a coffee bean grinder, and a handy kitchen scale. There is nothing like the smell of fresh coriander seeds getting ground up…so damn good.
Make the Jamaican spice mix first, you need it for everything. Make the Goatish Cheese mix later – we’ll get back to that. After you got the spice mix ready, start the prep for the ragu and then just get those onions on, they do take about 40 min solid to get nice and golden brown.
If anyone ever wants to come over and teach me how to cut things, I welcome the challenge. I am constantly google imaging julienne and even minced for some things because I’m such a dork. Julienne the onions – meaning cut them in longer, thick slices. Mince the jalapeno, garlic and ginger, which means finely chop it, but not that fine…I think. Dice up the tomatoes, which means, cut it chunky!
Keep it on med low for like awhile and get those onions golden brown, don’t walk off on them either, pay attention so you don’t burn them and know when they’re ready. Then add the garlic, ginger, and jalapeno. The habaneros are for a garnish we’ll do in a bit.
Okay, don’t talk shit about my onions. They’re good. Get everything in there, cook on med-low another 15 and the contents should be drying out. Essentially, we’re making like a crazy paste that we’ll add the meat too eventually.
Once it’s almost dry, add the tomatoes – use fresh tomatoes or you’re dumb. I used “organic tomatoes on the vine.” What variety is that really? Vons is dumb.
This cooks awhile. Again, we want it dry and like a big dense pasty substance. Then add the Jamaican spice mix and cook for another 5 minutes. At some point in all this, you need to get the ground beef going in another pan – it only takes like 10 minutes really.
I love that photo. It’s disgusting and awesome.
Get the pan hot, add the beef and some salt and cook it, but don’t brown it all crazy. Then add it to the tomato paste concoction (below, on the left – notice how dry and pasty it is now), add the chicken stock, and put a lid slightly ajar on it and leave it alone for 2 hrs (well, maybe just stir every 30 min or so, and taste it and add some salt if you think it needs it). Also, I was sneaky and started the habenero garnish too. I put the sliced peppers in a small saucepan, covered it with some olive oil and put it on low for 20 minutes. My stove got real crazy quick.
Okay, let’s make the pasta! I’m half Sicilian. Every December, I’m voluntarily forced to make homemade ravioli with my Mom, Aunt Bernice and sister Lisa. Sometimes Kris, a good family friend, is there too. It looks like this, but there’s a lot of arguing over things like what a pinch of salt really is. That’s how Sicilians work, if you’re not familiar.
So, my Aunt Bernice, the one on the far left, also likes to make what we’ve been calling gnocchi for years. So, I know what gnocchi looks like everywhere else but for some damn reason, my Aunt has been making cavatelli forever and calling it gnocchi. When I saw this recipe, I was like ‘where the hell am I getting a cavatelli maker’ – then I looked closer and was like ‘shit, that’s gnocchi, I got that.’ When really, it’s not, my Aunt just happens to have a cavatelli maker. I have no idea where to get one. Google it, ask your crazy Sicilian friends if their Aunt Bernice has one.
I can’t explain why, but I swear she’s been calling it gnocchi forever. I think everyone eats it so fast that no one cares to discuss the difference. By the way, she’s 70 plus and runs the athletic dept at St. Finbar Catholic school in Burbank. Arguing (any discussion really) with her is like asking for a migraine.
Cavatelli is clearly not gnocchi. Cavatelli is like a small hot dog bun shape that this little machine cranks out quite nicely. This recipe makes a lot, but you can freeze any you don’t use for later.
Making the dough was stressful. It should have been easy, since I borrowed my Mom’s stand-up mixer (how old am I? seriously). First, I put all the ingredients in at once.
It’s only supposed to stir for like 2 minutes and come together, but it totally did not. I ended up adding like almost 1/2 cup more hot water. My neighbor Sharon was helping – taking photos and counseling me because she has restaurant experience that is always a bonus. This time, as I was panicking, she called her friend Eric who is the sous chef at No. 7 but used to make fresh pasta everyday when he was the head chef at Le Gamin. This is their conversation:
She meant 1 cup hot water – but regardless, shit was super dry. Maybe Lucky Peach meant 3 cups? I added at least 1/2 cup – probably a little more actually. That helped and the dough formed. I knead it a bit more out of the bowl and set it aside for like 30 minutes, then it was a lot happier when it came to actually dealing with it to make the cavatelli. Beautiful dough, by the way – the Jamaican spice mix goes in it and gives it a pretty color and you can see all the spices. Mouth-watering stuff.
Knead it out into a flat disk, little less than a 1/2 inch and then make long strips. I actually took these and then rolled them a little to make them even longer.
Feed the machine!
If your ragu is still cooking, put this pasta in the fridge. When you’re ready to go, get a huge pan of boiling water going and drop the gnocchi – I mean cavatelli in and let it cook!
While it cooks, whip up that Goatish cheese mix. I went to the Silver Cheese Store again to get my dairy. They don’t usually carry a goat-milk ricotta so I did the 50-50 mix of cow-milk ricotta to a nice chevre. Mix it together and set it aside.
The pasta will rise to the top when it’s ready. Add it to the ragu and let it mix together.
At this point, our mouths are watering – let’s face it, we’re drooling.
Plate it up and add a dollup (what is that word, really?) of the goatish cheese mix to the top and some of the habanero garnish.
Sharon and Stu are expecting any day now. I secretly hoped the dish would bring on labor immediately, but alas we’re still waiting…
This was SO FUCKING GOOD. Start thinking about leftovers and the potential of adding an egg on top…
So, make the time, make Cavatelli P.S. 46 (dropped the mic).