sabato 27 ottobre 2012

The ULTIMATE Spaghetti with Breadcrumbs!

(Per la versione italiana, vedete il post precedente.)

The most delicious recipe in the world is that which you make from the stuff that you would have thrown away.

One of the most delicious, and least known, Italian-American recipes is “Mamma’s Chicken” by the immortal actor-comedian-cook Dom DeLuise. In its absence of pretenses, and presence of flavor, this simple recipe is a masterpiece of Italian-American cuisine.

Months ago, I made breadcrumbs from hard bread (leftovers from various loaves of homemade semolina bread). I added a garlic clove, sale, pepper, and little pinches of herbs from the garden. My garden contains rosemary, parsley, oregano, basil, lavender, French tarragon, purple sage, winter savory, and thyme. (The garlic and the fennel aren't yet mature.)
Last night, I took four whole chicken legs (drumsticks and thighs), and the homemade breadcrumbs, and I made Mrs. DeLuise’s beloved chicken.

(You see in the photo that I removed two of the four legs, so as to better show the breadcrumbs.)

Well! Imagine these breadcrumbs! They’d already had the flavors of the semolina, of the garlic, of the garden. Now they also had the flavors of the chicken ... the onions ... the lemon ... the little bit of pecorino ...

Here you have this oven pan, the chicken removed, and the breadcrumbs remaining, NOT thrown away. And imagine the flavor when the cooked spaghetti was added directly to this very same oven pan!!!

Yes, at this point you could drizzle extra-virgin olive oil on it — but with the oils from the skins and bones of the chicken, I didn’t need to. And you could add a cup of the cooking liquid; but as you can infer from the photo, I didn't strain the pasta — I removed it from the water with tongs. This way, a little cooking liquid travels with the spaghetti.

Spaghetti with Breadcrumbs, or Spaghetti al Pangrattato, is also known as Spaghetti alla Carrettiera. Note, however, that the classic version of Spaghetti alla Carrettiera does not call for tomatoes – only breadcrumbs, oil, garlic, parsley, and anchovies.

Part II (January 12, 2013)

I repeat the axiom with which I began the first part of this post:

The most delicious recipe in the world is that which you make from the stuff that you would have thrown away.

Photo from the blog “Virtual Pizza”
Pizza.  One of the most popular foods in all of the United States. And Americans don't eat the crusts! At least, most Americans. Imagine how many pizzas are made in America in one year — and imagine how many megatons of crusts are thrown away!

I save all of my stale bread, including the crusts, in a brown paper bag, to make breadcrumbs. Pizza crusts have an added quality: a hint of oregano, a hint of olive oil, a hint of tomato, a hint of cheese or garlic or other ingredients.

I have found, however, that when the pizza crusts harden, if you put them in the food processor, a few "rocks" will remain which do not grind. And if you grind the crusts fresh, the crumbs will be too soft and will not brown well in the frying pan.

The solution is simple: grind them fresh, put the crumbs in a paper (NOT plastic) bag or other container. Then, the crumbs will become stale enough to brown.

And then, with these excellent breadcrumbs with the aroma of pizza, make the classic recipe for Spaghetti & Breadcrumbs as you always do. For more than 20 years, I use the recipe by the great Biba Caggiano which appeared in Trattoria Cooking:

5 TB extra-virgin olive oil
2 TB breadcrumbs
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
1 lb thin spaghetti
2 TB finely chopped fresh parsley

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and cook until the breadcrumbs are lightly golden, 5 to 10 seconds [sic — minutes?]. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the garlic and the anchovies. Stir vigorously and in less than 15 seconds even the garlic will be cooked. Season lightly with salt (remember, the anchovies are already quite salty) and several grinds of pepper. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 TB of salt and the spaghetti. Cook, uncovered, over high heat until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite, al dente. Scoop out 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, and add it to the skillet. Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet. Add the parsley and mix everything together quickly over low heat until well coated. If the pasta is too dry, add a bit more olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasonings and serve at once.

Serve with Fiano di Avellino!

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