Hand-pulled Pasta with Speckled Butterbean Gravy, Beech Mushrooms, Pearl Onions, and Fried Rosemary at Big Jones
Hand-pulled Pasta with Speckled Butterbean Gravy, Beech Mushrooms, Pearl Onions, and Fried Rosemary ($18)
A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to taste a regional variation of the traditional rustic Italian dish Pasta e Fagioli, which is most often a dish with tube or curled pasta in a tomato sauce with flageolet beans. The kicker is that this was actually at a Southern Foodways event and the dish was prepared with sieved pasta and butterbeans, by Mike Lata of Fig in Charleston, one of my favorite restaurants there. The brilliant thing about it was what is brilliant about the original, or even such legendary luxury dishes as The French Laundry's Oysters and Pearls - the interplay of textures soft and chewy, al dente and creamy, those that pop and those that are purely supple.
My own family has a traditional dough and bean dish called Beans & Knefles, usually made with navy beans and knepfles, a rustic Schwabian farmhouse dumpling, and not much else, but the end result is the same in terms of textures and the bone-deep satifaction these simple but hearty dishes give. Since it seems cold weather is finally upon us for the season, I sought to work in this vein to come up with a dish for our vegetarian friends, but also one that omnivores would find completely satisfying.
We make our pasta with Anson Mills' Farina di Maccheroni, a heritage "00" flour with the most sublime texture, almost like arrowroot, and egg yolks from the Moore's eggs. It's extruded by hand into a folded tube shape and dried on racks to hold for service. The butterbeans are simmered until they begin to fall apart and make their own gravy, then a small portion is pureed with onion to provide a creamy base to the butterbean gravy. Many people hear the word "gravy" and immediately envision arteries clogging, but this is little more than butterbeans and onion - good ingredients stand alone - which could not possibly be healthier. For service, beech mushrooms and pearl onions are sauteed in a little butter while the noodles cook. As the noodles finish, they are tossed, along with just a bit of the cooking water, into the saute with a few ounces of the butterbeans gravy and tossed over the fire just until the sauce drapes the noodles gently yet firmly, then mounted with a tablespoon of butter for sheen. Then we top the noodles with a few shavings of Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese, it's piquancy being the perfect foil for the rich noodles and gravy, and add an herbaceous quality to the whole with a sprinkling of fried rosemary. The finished dish is sweetly reminiscent of ham which probably comes from the butterbeans even though it's vegetarian, and it's hearty enough to satisfy any appetite while maintaining a very light disposition with only a tablespoon of butter, perfect for those nights you want to indulge in something really delicious without blowing too many calories.
Pairing: A big, full-bodied chardonnay
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Posted 04/24/13 - Share this entry
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Pan-fried shad roe with Carolina Gold Rice Middlin's, Butter Bean Gravy, Crispy Aged Country Ham, and Cressie Greens
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Posted 04/04/13 - Share this entry