Some evenings are more surprising than others. You sit down, check your email, glance at that the blog stats and… wait where did that massive spike in traffic come from? After a glance at the incoming referrers you discover you’ve been nominated for a “Best Food Blog” award by Saveur magazine. Really? That Saveur? Really?
Then the pressure sets in. Something needs to be posted. Something good.
Late winter is the most challenging time of year for eating locally. Fresh vegetables are much harder to find, the root cellar is looking depleted and worse for the wear, the freezer is emptying and meals begin to feel monotonous. Combined with work and the short days, it’s easy to feel like every night is just one more meal of kale and potatoes. Or maybe some beef and parsnip stew. Or squash soup. Or white beans and grain. Or pork chops and cabbage. The diversity kind of sneaks up on you – the winter menu is not boring, in fact the options seem pleasantly surprising.
But something has to be posted. Right?
Fortunately, our blog is about just these types of meals: eating quality local ingredients everyday. From farm and freezer to table, tonight’s meal is a mainstay: fresh egg pasta with a sauce. Pasta serves as a wonderful vehicle for the midweek meal – it can easily be frozen, cooks quickly and lends itself to improvisation. The fact that it is made from our neighbor’s eggs and flour from Eastern Washington keeps it local. (I’ve been working on sources of flour even closer to home, hopefully I’ll solve that problem later this year.)
The sauce comes together from whatever happens to be in the freezer or refrigerator. After a bit of digging, I decided to use some rainbow chard that Anne picked up from Butler Green Farms and combine it with bacon (home smoked; the pork came from Rolling Bay Farm) in a light cream sauce. For myself, I tossed in a few Hood Canal Spot Prawns that I had been hoarding from the Brinnon Shrimp Festival*. For additional flavor, I leveraged a small onion and four cloves of garlic out of the root cellar, courtesy of Laughing Crow Farm. Altogether, we were eating in less than 30 minutes – photo session for the food included.
The result was a slightly sweet, but completely delicious sauce which lightly clung to the wide noodles. The hint of smokiness and salt from the bacon melded well with the spot prawns (which are very sweet themselves).
1/2 lb. Fresh Egg Pasta
1 small onion, fine dice
4 cloves of garlic, thick slices
7 rainbow chard leaves, rolled and cut into thin strips
3 chard stems, fine dice
about 2 tbsp diced bacon
6 Hood Canal Spot Prawns*
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp olive oil
8-12 oz pasta water
salt, to taste
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
- Start heating the water for the pasta.
- Heat a large deep skillet over medium heat for several minutes.
- Add the oil and red pepper flakes to the skillet and allow the oil to heat.
- Add the diced bacon and cook until browned.
- Add garlic, chard stems, and onions and cook until translucent and starting to brown
- (Optional) Deglaze the pan with some white wine.
- Salt the pasta water.
- Add a ladle (4oz) of pasta water to the pan and allow to boil until almost gone.
- Add heavy cream, chard leaves and another ladle of pasta water. Cook until the chard has lost its crunch.
- Add the pasta to the water and cook until done.
- Put the pasta and another ladle of pasta water into the sauce – cook for a few more minutes and serve.
If adding shrimp, saute with a small bit of red pepper flakes in a separate pan and add just before serving.
* I don’t recommend keeping frozen shrimp as long as I did. The FDA suggests 3 months – but sometimes you have to break the rules.