Tiffin Project

The Weekend Cook – Easter is for Eggs

by Canucklehead on April 9, 2012

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I have always had a thing for Easter Sunday meals. Growing up completely ignorant of the religious gravity of Easter, for me it was a time of chocolates, jelly beans, and yellow marshmallows. Easter also meant your first real warm weather meal of the year. Legs of spring lamb, glazed sweet hams, asparagus, crisp roasted potatoes… you see where I am going here. The only thing I remember from the classic 1980’s British TV show, Brideshead Revisited (think Downton Abbey with floppier hair and less chatting with the servants) is that they served hard boiled quail eggs in a nest for Easter lunch – and I thought, how fucking awesome is that!? You can see why I was a disappointment to my father.

This year I wanted to do something a little different from the usual roasted meats. So why not something to really celebrate that most culinary Easter symbol, the egg? Ever since I read about tajarin pasta from Piedmonte in Jeffrey Steingarten’s superlative The Man Who Ate Everthing, I have been dying to try it out. When it comes to food – I can be a “more is more” kind of guy – and pasta that is made with 40 egg yolks per kilo of flour, that’s about as ‘more’ as you can get.

Dumping flour, egg yolks, and a pinch of salt into a food processor – a few seconds of whirring – the resulting dough is stiff and crumbly, albeit with the richest golden color imaginable. I don’t know what the chemistry at work is, but the dough is very tight and difficult to knead and definitely less pliable than normal pasta dough.

It is the opposite of what I was expecting. My brow is sweating nervously at this point – guests are arriving in 3 hours and there is no Plan B. Rolled to the second thinnest setting and then thinly cut, I end up with bales of beautiful golden noodles. My nervousness is now replaced by excitement.

Cooked in boiling salted water, for longer than you’d expect to get it al dente, and then tossed with sage butter noisette (I know – I am mixing French and Italian cooking terms here – but whatever), a touch of broth, some more softened sweet butter, and Parmesan – the results were fantastic. Subtle, elegant nuttiness – the noodle had real bite but was still light in the mouth. Tasting exactly of itself, it’s a dish that is more than the sum of it’s parts. Delicious.

Granted, this is dinner party food, and really, best enjoyed in small portions (though you may find yourself having multiple small portions). The recipe below suggests that it serves 6, but the portions would be gigantic. It’s enough for 8 or 10 people.

Pasta Tajarin Burro e Salvia
(paraphrased from the Man Who Ate Everything with my notations)

1 pound of all purpose flour
20 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon fine salt

Mix by hand or food processor to get a rough dough. Sprinkle surface with flour and knead still smooth (dough will be very stiff). Divide into 6 portions,wrap with plastic wrap, and let rest for half an hour on the counter.

Working with your pasta maker, roll pasta out to the second thinnest setting and then lay the sheets out to dry on a floured kitchen towel till slightly leathery, about 10 minutes – turning over half way. I lay my pasta sheets out to dry on one of those portable laundry racks – works great and gives me lots of room to work with. Cut pasta on the thinnest noodle setting, dust with flour, twist into little nests and set aside on a baking tray (Jeffery says for up to half a day – so you can get this part done way in advance).

The butter sauce will look scary, but remember, you’ve got a lot of pasta.

About 3/4 cup of butter for the noisette
7-8 sage leaves, chiffonade
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (up to half a cup)
Splash or two of chicken stock (up to half a cup)
A few tablespoons of softened butter to finish.

Heat butter in a small saucepan – when melted and foaming subsides, add the sage leaves. Continuing heating till nutty brown – being very careful not to over heat and burn the butter, which can happen heart-breakingly quickly. Remove sage leaves and set aside the butter.

Boil a lot of salted water vigorously, and add the noodles. They will take longer to cook than you’d expect with fresh pasta, but start checking after 3 or 4 minutes. When ready – drain and dump noodles into a large warmed bowl. Toss through with noisette sage butter (brown bits and all), fresh softened butter, and few tablespoons of the Parmesan, loosen a with a little warm chicken stock (as much as half a cup or so). Taste as you toss adding cheese or stock as needed, but you should not really taste either ingredient distinctly, rather a nutty subtle whole.

Serve in warmed bowls. If you are feeling very generous – shave white Alban truffles over the noodles. Don’t even think of using white truffle oil – which is a bastard chemical cheat of an ingredient.

Sit back and enjoy.

~ Canucklehead

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