Buccatini w/ Bacon and Tomato Sauce.
Once again, I began this process with the desire to improve, to be a better, more patient cook. I came off the rails real fast on this one, reminding me that old habits die hard. I blame Nick because he wasn’t here to tell me to quit shoe-making.
I found a recipe that sounded good by Lidia Bastianich, I bought the ingredients listed, except the grocery store didn’t have buccatini so I used rigatoni. I didn’t really read the recipe until I was ready to start cooking. (mistake #1)
That’s when I discovered it included cooking the onions in water, which sounded weird to me. So I decided to deviate (classic Molly) and cook them in olive oil the way I always do.
Then I read that she had the bacon cooked on one side of skillet while the onions stayed on the other side. When I looked at the pan I had picked out, I thought “who is she kidding?” I’m not cooking on a restaurant flat top, I don’t have room for that. So I just added the chopped bacon while the onions were cooking (mistake #2)
The water that came out of the onions while cooking prevented the bacon from fully cooking, which I didn’t really realize until I tasted the sauce after I had added the fancy tomatoes. It simply wasn’t bacony enough. So I decided to try and add more bacon flavor by separately cooking some bacon, chopping it and adding it in.
But I didn’t want to dirty another pan so I microwaved the bacon (Shhhh! Don’t tell Nick!) Needless to say that was mistake #3. The bacon was fully cooked and crisped, but I lost all that good bacon grease in the process.
In the end, the pasta tasted pretty good, but I know how I’m going to do it better next time. (Cook the onions and bacon in separate pans and combine them once they are both done and use lots and lots of bacon!)
Lesson learned. (Hopefully)
This is Nick’s favorite dish when we eat at Sotto Sotto, which is why I chose it as my first cooking project. Just like Nick w/ the Fermented Potato Bread, I am trying to copy someone else’s restaurant dish.
There are only four ingredients in this dish: pasta, cheese, pepper and pancetta. Now some folks would think, “Four ingredients? That must mean it’s easy to cook.” They would be wrong. With only four ingredients there’s nothing to hide behind when you fuck it up. Also those ingredients should also be the highest of quality. The truth is, however, I work a lot and do not have time to travel to Star Provisions for cheese and the Spotted Trotter for pancetta, so I grabbed from the fine offerings of the Kosher Kroger in Toco Hills and hoped for the best.
I had Nick review the recipes I had procured from a hasty internet search and he said, “No, No, No.” They involved making a paste with cheese and water, and adding the pancetta separately. Nick says “Just cook the pasta, cook the pancetta, toss them together add a ton of pepper and top with cheese.”
It definitely sounded easier than making a cheese paste, but that was one less thing to hide behind.
Nick then doubted my claim that it was hard to find a recipe for Cacio e Pepe e Pancetta. I found plenty of recipes for Cacio e Pepe, but not so many w/ pancetta. Luckily when Nick searched on his ipad he too found similar results including one horrific version by Guy Fieri that was more like alfredo sauce than anything.
Cooking pasta properly is one of the hardest things for me. Mostly because I don’t mind it a bit overdone and I hate it underdone and I never know how much more it will cook once out of the water.
Luckily Nick took over. His first observation is I never salt the water enough. I thought a tablespoon or two of salt was plenty. Apparently you want it almost ocean salty and more than ocean salty if you were going to blanch vegetables.
Once we got the water salinated and boiling, Nick added the pasta. I had partially cooked the pancetta when Nick pointed out the pan was not big enough to hold the pasta. So I transferred it to a bigger pan, but Nick said to not cook the pancetta any more. It looked a bit sad and raw so I began to worry I had bought the wrong kind of pancetta.
As the pasta got close Nick urged me to start cooking the pancetta again to “crisp it up.” Relief flooded through me as the pancetta began to resemble what it looks like at Sotto Sotto. Disaster averted.
As we began to add the pepper Nick warned me to not go all the way and add all the pepper in one go, but rather add some, mix and taste and then add some more. He is so good at this, it’s like he’s a professional or something.
Nick said it was “just as good” as Sotto Sotto’s version. Success!
While Nick is out of town I am going to try and make my favorite pasta dish the buccatini w/ bacon and tomato sauce from Bocca Lupo. So stay tuned for more cooking fun!
Today is the culmination of many months work. And the culmination is this very inconspicuous special: Fermented Potato Bread by restaurant Amass (København, DK), with leek spread.
Nick frequently gains inspiration for new specials when we go on vacation and eat at restaurants in other cities and countries. Last time Nick and I were in Copenhagen (May 2015 for Copenhagen Beer Festival) we ate at a number of restaurants where the chef spent some time at Noma. Amass was one of these restaurants. The chef, Matt Orlando, is actually American and worked for Rene as a Sous Chef for two years and later as a Chef de Cuisine for another several years.
The fermented potato bread was served on the side to be the accompanying bread with the multi-course meal. It was a touch sour and tangy the way a good sourdough loaf is, but underneath you could taste the richness of the potatoes. The texture was unusual, more like a dense pancake than a loaf with crumb, but when topped with the accompanying leek spread, it was unspeakably addictive.
I watched in amazement as Nick, who usually takes a polite bite or two of bread to try it, ate not one, not two, but three fermented potato breads! And this was at the beginning of a twelve-course meal!
When the Chef came by to personally deliver a course, Nick asked him how he makes the potato bread. Good naturedly the Chef described the process as such, “Make mashed potatoes, weigh them, add 1% salt, vacuum seal them and then ferment them in a warm place for up to ten days. When you have the desired flavor add yogurt and flour.”
The chef then said the record for the number eaten was seven. I later teased Nick he only needed to eat four more to meet the record!
Once we returned from Copenhagen Nick set out to re-create the fermented potato bread, but he was unable to get the yogurt and flour ratio right. After several failed attempts Nick instead used the fermented potatoes to make gnocchi, which have been on the specials menu several times since last May.
Finally Nick discovered Matt Orlando unveiled the recipe on a blog. Using the exact ratio Nick was finally able to re-create the fermented potato bread of our dreams and saving you, dear guest, a trip to Copenhagen.
The Fermented Potato Bread is made daily and will be available for the next two weeks every day until we sell out!
This year we are sending Christopher Sanders, our General Manager with Nick to Copenhagen for the beer celebration. They will eat at Amass and compare the original Fermented Potato Bread to Nick’s version. Stay tuned for pictures from that dinner and more inspiration from Denmark!
Stay tuned as we begin a new blog on how Nick gets his ideas for our ever changing specials menu along with details on the process of developing those ideas into the actual dish you eat!
I have something to shameful to admit. I have hidden it for years, but now in this world of full admissions via social media, I feel that I can be honest with my tiny (probably non-existent) blog audience. I can’t cook.
Yes, I worked in the kitchen of several acclaimed restaurants for short periods of time, and yes I cooked for my family quite often as a teenager. I can follow a recipe, I know what most of the basic cooking terms mean and I am serve safe certified (like that has anything to do with cooking.)
Ask me to make a red sauce, though, and I’m likely to pull out a jar of Classico. Ask me to fine dice and you’re likely to get cuts in a variety of shapes and sizes.
When I worked in restaurant kitchens it was because I wanted to be a food writer. I was there to learn how restaurants were organized and functioned; I was not trying to climb the culinary career ladder.
Like most things becoming a great cook comes with practice and discipline. Practice allows you to gain the muscle memory to become confident in your actions. Discipline allows you to work on achieving the same results each time and not cutting corners for speed or laziness.
While I am not lazy, I am a get-it-done kind of girl. I do not have the patience for fiddling about and searching for perfection. While this attitude has mostly served me well in life, this kind of impatience makes for a terrible cook.
Now at age 34 I am for the first time in my adult life going to have a kitchen that’s conducive to cooking. Nick and I are renovating our tiny 1920 craftsman bungalow into a slightly less tiny bungalow with a Viking stove.
You might ask, why doesn’t Nick just cook? After all Nick is a great cook and has all the necessary skills to make the perfect dinner every night. That’s true, but Nick is a Chef, he cooks all day long and it is not relaxing for him to come home and have to consider dinner. Also when you are a chef anyone’s food that is not your own tastes better because it tastes different.
While we are gutting our house, we are staying in my mother’s home which has a fully functioning kitchen. My goal is to be able to cook six dishes perfectly by the end of the 6 month renovation (might be longer, but let’s be optimistic shall we?)
So stay tuned as I update you next week on Cacio, Pepe, e Pancetta.
Check it out! We are a favorite spot of PGA golfer Roberto Castro!
Nick Rutherford is branching from The Porter Beer Bar into a quick casual concept called Squurtz. Squurtz, which will be opening in July 2014 at 650 Bishop St on the Westside, is a food on draft concept. “Juice bars are just so in right now” says Nick Rutherford, “I felt food on draft was the next logical step.”
Menu items will include: Fried Chicken Puree, Beef Stroganoff Slurp, Brisket Slurry, Meatloaf Mushy, For an extra $1 you can have your Squurt topped with gravy.
“We are currently working with a designer for the 2 compartment cups that all food items will be served in with combining straws.” said Nick. “The concept is the dinner items are best combined with one other item such as a drink like southern style sweet tea, or something more substantial like suckable potatoes or liquid rice-a-roni.”
Joining Nick on Squurtz team is Grant Fieri (no relation to Guy). Grant will be the Prime Operations Official President or P.O.O.P. Grant’s previous experience includes working at Jamba Juice and . Nick Rutherford worked at Seeger’s, a five star restaurant In Buckhead before opening The Porter Beer Bar in 2008. “I think Squurtz will really bring me back to my roots in fine dining I mean the technology required and the flavors available to put on draft are limitless”