Monday, April 4, 2011

Penne with Plums, Bleu Cheese and Ham

Got home from poker and Heather was trapped under Bacon the cat. She could barely see her crime TV and barely get to her laptop. When she saw me her eyeballs opened wide like I was the allied army liberating her from Dachau. She was so weak she was barely able to whisper "...starving..."

Lately I've been experimenting with rich, strong flavors balanced with lighter, acidic fruit. I made a nice pasta with gorgonzola, apples, bacon and onion, and I thought plums would work in place of the apples, being similarly tart. I got water on for pasta and made a base for the sauce with some olive oil, chopped sweet onion, garlic and diced smoked ham. When all that was hot and sweating, I diced a plum and added that. I was concerned about the color running and getting muddy, but the plums basically kept to themselves and caramelized nicely. When the pasta was still a little firm I transferred it to the skillet with the sauce ingredients, along with about a third of a cup of the pasta water, which helps to bring the sauce together. I could have used a little white wine or stock, but the ham, garlic and bleu cheese were such strong  flavors that to have any hope of tasting the plum I should avoid any more complicating elements. I cooked the pasta in the sauce for another few minutes, and once I added the pasta water the plum color did start to run a little, which may explain why people don't use plums in pasta that often. When the pasta water was mostly absorbed, I added the bleu cheese and tossed it until it softened and became partly incorporated as a sauce.

I plated the pasta and dressed it with some chopped parsley, toasted pumpkin seeds and a coddled egg yolk. I put an egg in with the pasta for the last few minutes of cooking. I did that because the eggs were in the refrigerator, but if I had a room-temperature egg I may have just floated the yolk on the pasta and let the residual heat denature it a little. I like using egg yolk to help bind a sauce that has chunky elements like the ham and plum dice in this one. A little snowfall of parmigiano was the last bit of business before I served it to Heather.

The reviews were unfortunately focused on the toothiness of the pasta, which was apparently a little too firm. Prior to tasting the pasta, one of the customers reported "hating" it, while another said "you know I hate raw pasta all I can taste is raw pasta," but the harshest comment was "Why did you make pasta I can't eat? You should have tested it." There were a few other comments, and possibly even some returned after trying the pasta, but unfortunately I missed them as I had left the room to watch Baseball Tonight on TiVo.

[edit] Late-returning reviews were much better. Flattering even.

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