Monday, August 10, 2009

Come Here, Little Fishies

With the leftover anchovies from a recent Weekend Cook and Tell episode, I mentioned that I would make Matt the Butcher's dish, Pasta con Sarde. Unfortunately, I was unable to find usable fennel that week.

While shopping for cherries to make clafouti for a Julie & Julia Weekend Cook and Tell challenge; behold, a cluster of fennel!

Pasta con Sarde2
Linguine with sardines, anchovies, and fennel

Pasta con Sarde

Matt the Butcher explains that this dish isn't particularly fishy. For someone who doesn't care for a lot of fish (Bug), the fish flavor is noticeable. I rarely eat sardines and anchovies, and do not care for very salty foods. This dish has a relatively mild fish flavor and is not salty.

Included below is the recipe he posts on his blog, which is succinctly explained; thus, the only revisions I have made are cosmetic.

1/4 c olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4 garlic cloves diced
1 bulb fennel, blanched for 6 minutes, then coarsely chopped
1/4 c olive oil
2 tins sardines, packed in oil
4 anchovy fillets
1/2 c raisins
1 16 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 oz pine nuts toasted
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 tsp black pepper

1. In olive oil, saute the onions, garlic, and fennel in a good-sized frying pan until the onions are opaque.

2. In another small frying pan, heat the remaining olive oil and mash the anchovies and sardines to a paste.

3. Mix the sardine paste into the onion mixture, and add raisins, tomatoes, and pine nuts. Add the spices and gently simmer.

4. Prepare pasta. Reserve some of the starchy pasta water to add to the sardine mixture if it is too thick. You don’t want the mixture too thick or too watery, but more like a thick spaghetti sauce.

5. Combine the sauce with pasta.

Pasta con Sarde
An orchestra of flavor

I didn't know what to expect, cooking fennel for the first time. Blanching was quite easy. The flavor profile of anise and licorice is spot on, and a rather foreign flavor for me in pasta.

Because of the peculiar licorice flavor and the amount of garlic used, those are the most noticeable flavors, followed by fish. The raisins were an interesting addition. At first, I thought it would be weird, but the sweetness adds to the experience.

The only analogy I could think of for this dish is an orchestra, where sardines would be a viola, onions a cello, garlic a bass, tomatoes a trumpet, fennel an oboe, and the raisins would be a flute. At least, this is the way I taste/hear it. It probably doesn't make much sense, does it?

Ah yes, and since there is a squirrel in the house *cough* Bug *cough* who nibbles on pine nuts, before I prepare this the next time, I will make certain we have some.

Many thanks to Matt the Butcher for opening new doors!

- Cassaendra

0 deep thoughts:

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