Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Orecchiette with Corn, Bacon and Green Beans

Since they were toddlers, I've taken my kids to farms.  We regularly talk about food as a family whether it's about what's on the menu next or the how sad the food industry is in the US, especially in terms of school food. They begged me to watch every episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, in fact.

They are well aware of food labels and what's not good.  My youngest at the age of 3 was asking me as I read a label in the grocery store "Mom, does it have hydrogenated oils."  He's 8 now and completely understands HFCS, hydrogenated oils, that the color in Gogurt comes from bugs and that if you can't say it, in general, you shouldn't eat it.  (Ethnic foods excepted, of course.)

So, I shouldn't have been surprised when Harry came in and asked if he could cook dinner.  Maybe the surprise factor was that it was 5 o'clock and he didn't have a plan.  Never wanting to squelch creativity, I said "Yes," told him he had to "Cook What We Got" (sorry about the improper English but working on branding) and hoped for the best.

After I saw several appliances coming out of the cabinet and half the fridge emptied onto the countertop, I decided to see if he had a plan.  Fresh corn and a box of orecchiette were his inspiration and apparently he had seen someone blend corn and milk together on TV and make a sauce so that's the path down which he headed.  However, he also planned to throw red peppers, shallots and green beans right into the sauce.  So, after a minor meltdown and a small battle - complete with the "I quit" statement thrown in - we came to terms together that about the foundations of cooking and the importance of having at least some idea of technique  So he regrouped and realized that it would be best to use the corn cream as a sauce and saute everything else.  I watched him and have recorded it as he did it.

After blending the corn and milk, and he decided that straining out the corn and just getting the starchy milk would be better so that was his first step.

Then came the sauteing steps. He sauteed shallots, garlic and green beans in fat left behind from frying bacon.  Then he added the corn cream to the mixture. 

It was a beautiful thick sauce with no flour, cornstarch or other thickeners.

Then he added the pasta, pasta water, and cheese.  Topped off with bacon, it was super delicious.

It was brilliant!!!  (As is he!!)

Some tips:
If you haven't tried orecchiette, do!  It means "little ears" in Italian for good reason.  They are only made by the better pasta companies (we used De Cecco) so the quality is excellent.  They are slightly chewy rather than just a doughy bite.  Plus they are like tiny bowls to hold the sauce with each bite. If you don't have it in your stash, though any short pasta will definitely work.

Also, if you don't have fresh corn, (we're still getting it from very local farms in CA) bookmark this recipe and save it for next year.  I haven't tried it with frozen corn but my gut tells me that it would be too watery and would give the same creamy consistency.

This is a classic Italian pasta method in which the pasta water is crucial to the sauce.  Save at least two cups before draining the pasta, or simply use a "spider" to lift out the pasta into the skillet and you'll have access to as much of the pasta water as you will need.  If you have leftovers, definitely add some pasta water, broth or milk before reheating.  This turns into a gloppy mess otherwise.

Finally, let your kids cook with your loving guidance.  Let me know what they create.  Or let yourself become a kid again and go nuts in the kitchen then let me know what you create!!

CWYG Stats
Seasonal Veggies - corn, green beans, onions, red pepper

CWYG Items  - bacon, whole milk, shallots, garlic, oregano, parmesan cheese, pasta

Orecchiette with Corn, Bacon and Green Beans
4 ears fresh corn, removed from the cob
2 cups whole milk
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp kosher salt
black pepper to taste
1 lb orecchiette or other short pasta
3 oz bacon, sliced into 1/2" pieces
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb green beans, stems removed
1/2 cup parmesan cheese plus more for serving

Blend or process the corn, milk and oregano til fairly smooth.  Using a fine-meshed strainer and spatula, strain out the fibrous bits and discard.  You will be left with a velvety sauce.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a vigorous boil, adding 2 tbsp salt just as it starts to bubble.  Add in the pasta and cook for 6-8 minutes or until just barely opaque in the center if you bite it in half.  Remove at least two cups of pasta water before draining or if the saute is ready when the pasta is, toss it right in and save the water in the pan.

Meanwhile, saute the bacon in the olive oil until somewhat crispy but not black.  Remove and drain on paper towels reserving the fat in the pan.  Add the shallot and saute for a minute until softened.  Add the garlic and green beans. Saute until the beans are bright green and tender.  Add all of the corn cream and allow to cook and thicken slightly.  Add the pasta, the toss to coat well. Add 1 cup of pasta water.   Add the parmesan then stir again until the parmesan is well incorporated.  If it seems too thick, add pasta water until it looks like a creamy sauce surrounding the pasta.

Serve with a crumble of bacon on top and pass the parmesan for sprinkling at the table.  A good grinding of fresh black pepper is great, too, although Harry disagrees.

Print Page Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

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