Chef Kevin a lot of fresh local food and tell me to cook it and tell you all about it? Well, I’ll tell you, you get some amazing food. We were handed 1.5 pounds of Italian sausage and stalks of broccoli by two of our lovely farmer friends: Patrice Whittle who owns Double R Farms with her husband, Rory Whittle, and Dustin Green, who owns 10 Arce Woods along withRichard Vreeland. They said to make something up and write about it, so we did. After some discussion between Devon and I, a plan was hatched and it turned out to be a delicious plan.
Considering the request that the recipe wasn’t very time consuming I started to think along the lines of a pasta dish. Pastas have a fairly short cook time and you can get the entire dish done while you are waiting on the water to boil and the pasta to cook. Another thing that I love about pasta is that it is a great vehicle for ingredients that are the star of the show. For some people the combination of the sauce and pasta is the main attraction in a dish, for me, the star is what you combine WITH the pasta and the sauce. Don’t get me wrong: the sauce is a VERY important supporting cast member, just like the pasta. You could have the best Maine lobster, the finest foie gras in a dish garnished with the freshest winter black diamond truffles, but if your pasta and sauce combination do not complement the other items your dish won’t be good. Also, pasta dishes are very filling and great source of “quick burn” carbohydrates.
So enough of the boring stuff full of the hows and whys that led us here – it’s time to get to the fun part, THE FOOD! Here is the great part about this recipe: it only took about 45 minutes for everything. If you are in a time crunch you can use some short cuts (I’ll note them along the way) which will cut it down even faster.
WARNING: I don’t measure the amounts of salt, pepper, oil or water when I cook. I am a professional chef. I am trained and I have over 20 years experience. I season everything to my palette. Taste everything as you cook and you’ll be fine. If there is an amount listed before an item then use that amount unless you are adjusting for more people. This recipe will feed two with some left over (hooray for leftovers!)
Here is what you’re going to need:
1.5 pounds/4 links of mild Italian sausage (from Double R farms is REQUIRED)
1 pound of spaghetti – we highly recommend Della Terra Pasta, made by our friend Chris Becker. You can pick it up from Deb Willis, who owns Windeater Acres while you’re picking up your pork and produce! You can also get it at Urban Agrarian, Olive & Co., and Whole Foods Market. You’ll be so glad you did, but in a pinch any old dry spaghetti will do. We were in a pinch.
1/2 of yellow or white onion diced (I prefer yellow)
5 cloves of garlic, minced
6 Roma tomatoes, or 6 small Hot house tomatoes, rough chopped
Florets of 3 stalks of broccoli
Kosher salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
6 quart pot
A sharp knife (or a cleaver if you’re me)
Now to the fun bit:
Fill a 6 quart pot 3/4 full with cold water and place over a medium-high heat. I put mine on one of the back burners so I can keep an eye on it but still do everything else. Add in the following order: 2 tsp of kosher salt and 2 TBSP of oil. Put your skillet on medium-high heat and add about a 2 TBSP of oil and let the skillet heat up. Once the skillet is hot, put in your whole sausage links.
Cook the sausage until both sides a brown and the sausage is slightly firm but NOT cooked all the way through – about 5 minutes.
Remove the sausages from the pan. After the sausages have cooled enough for you to handle them – slice them to your desired thickness. Since I’ve spent years working as a cook and a chef I always think in terms of what is going to make the best presentation, I sliced mine like this:
Leave all the fat that cooked out of the sausages and the oil in the pan – you’re gonna need it and it makes everything else taste soooooo good. If there are small pieces of sausage that stuck to the bottom on the skillet while you were browning – don’t worry – that’s called “fond”, it will come up when you add your onions to pan. Now you’re going to add your diced onions to your skillet:
Cook your onions for 2-3 minutes until they start to turn translucent. That’s when you’ll add your sliced sausage:
Right about now your water should be boiling for the pasta. This is where you can really show off for the family or that special someone that you have in your life. Add the spaghetti to the boiling water. Remember that as it is cooking you are going to need to stir it so it doesn’t stick together or get over cooked. There is nothing worse than over cooked pasta, except jarred, pre-minced garlic and I’ll go into that later.
Now back to the sauce. Remember: you didn’t want your sausages cooked all the way through. You want them to finish cooking with everything else. Let the onions and sausages cook for about 5 minutes and then add your rough chopped tomatoes.
Here is the first of the short cuts I promised: if you are short on time you can use 4 cans of chopped tomatoes. In order to get similar results you’ll need to drain the juice off of two of the cans. If you have the full 45 minutes then use fresh tomatoes. This time of year – use fresh tomatoes. Right after you add the tomatoes add your minced garlic. If you’re curious, the reason you add it now (instead of with the onions) is that overcooked garlic will make the whole dish taste bitter, and that is the absolute LAST thing that you want.
Speaking of garlic, here is another short cut – which you should only use if you have a medical condition that prevents you from being able to press down on the garlic, say – an injured wrist. But they make a tool for that. I will also come to your house and press your garlic for you – I feel that strongly enough about it.
If you absolutely have to use pre-minced garlic, (and did I mention, I HATE JARRED GARLIC?) use 5 teaspoons of it drained and rinsed. The solution that it sits in will alter the taste of this dish if you just spoon it out of the jar. So, in short: don’t. But if you must, safety first.*
So now you have you pasta cooking in the pot and your sausages, onion, tomatoes, and garlic all in the skillet. This is where I added salt and pepper for the first time. Don’t try to season your dish completely at this point. As the tomatoes cook they release their juices and as those juices cook, they evaporate. In the culinary world, this is called “reduction”. Say it with me kids: RE-DUCT-ION. Reducing the liquid in any dish causes the flavors to concentrate. If you try to add all of your seasonings now then you are going to have a dish that going to have too much salt and pepper flavor which is going to overpower everything else. When you add your salt and pepper, I suggest that you have a small bowl or jar for your salt and a pepper mill on hand. Fresh black pepper is a must for any cook – even the disposable mill, it does make a difference. When I season I grab roughly 2 teaspoons of salt and “rain” it down over my dish. This is to make sure that the salt is evenly distributed.
Now that you have the first round of seasoning, give it a few good stirs and then grab a spoon and give it a taste. This will give you a gauge of how much more, if any, you need to season the sauce. A good cook is constantly tasting as he/she goes – it’s the only way to be sure the finished product is to your liking, and every palette is different.
Now grab your broccoli florets and dump them in the skillet. You do not need to blanch (slightly precook by dropping into boiling water), the broccoli. I rarely blanch my broccoli for a dish like this – the broccoli has enough time to cook and besides, I DON’T LIKE MUSHY BROCCOLI!
By now your pasta should be done. Pull a couple of pieces out to taste. If you can bite through it and there is only the slightest amount of “crunch” then it is ready. Turn off the heat and strain the water. DO NOT RINSE IT IN COLD WATER. Place your colander back in your pot and run hot water over the pasta while tossing it with tongs or the spoon you used to stir it. This will help to keep it from sticking. Let the water fill in the pot until it is full. Leave the colander in the pot with the pasta. You can also throw some butter or oil on the pasta to keep it from sticking together. Cook the sauce for 5-8 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. TASTE the liquid. If it needs more salt or pepper then add it at this point. Also if you have FRESH herbs like basil or thyme (pronounced “time”), now is the time to add it. I always add fresh herbs at the end. If you are using dried herbs, add those at the beginning. They need to re-hydrate in the liquid in order to release their flavor.
The sauce is done, right? Well, technically you are right, but – as soon as you turn the heat off, add 3 tablespoons of COLD salted butter. NO MARGARINE IS NOT AN ACCEPTABLE SUBSTITUTE FOR BUTTER! Two things: this is a French finishing technique called “monte au buerre”, which means: “finish with butter” (Impress your friends!). First, it adds a velvety texture to the sauce, and it is GLORIOUS, secondly, it slightly thickens the the sauce.
Now all you have to do is plate it. I like to plate things for D and I when I cook. The reason I do it is because I have a vision of how I want it to be presented. To answer your question now: Yes all Chefs are that controlling when it come to our food. We always have a picture in our mind of how we want the dish to look at the end, even when we have only just decided on what we are going to make. So with out any further ado, may I present to you, your dinner:
And there you have it folks Italian sausage and Broccoli over pasta. I cannot recommend using any other Italian sausage other than the ones we picked up from Patrice from Double R Farms. She can be found at the Farmers Market at S.W. 2nd and Klein (near the Old Farmer’s Market building) every Saturday morning. Dustin or Richard from 10 Acre Woods are also there every Saturday morning, along with quite a few super cool local producers. Both of them sell their products through the Oklahoma Food Coop – and as I mentioned in a previous post, you cannot beat it for value and availability of local food. It is becoming a lot easier to get locally grown food here in the 405, and it taste so much better than the mass produced, factory farmed crap that you find in supermarkets. So, get out there and meet these amazing farmers and buy their stuff and cook with it. If you need ideas or have questions about anything – email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or post it to the comments below. We’ll be more than happy to help you out!
I have World Cup to watch so CHEERS!
*FURTHER DISCLAIMER, (A few more words about pre-minced garlic): There is really never an excuse for not using fresh garlic. It is one of the most simple, incredible ingredients in the known universe – so versatile, so delicious. If you don’t know the wonders of fresh garlic, we really will come to your house, or at least call you on the phone to go over it with you. Because if you don’t know how to use it – you really need to re-consider cooking for yourself. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be comfortable asking – there are no stupid questions, including “why should I use fresh garlic?”, and that’s what we’re here for. To prevent tragedies like “jarlic” (jarred+garlic=garlic get it?) Got it?