Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pasta, Mojitos, and Mad Men.

You may remember me mentioning in previous posts my friends, The Walters--Emily and Kevin.  I do a lot of my Nashville outings with them because...well...we have a lot of the same interests--eats, drinks, music, and pool halls. Oh, and also because they happen to be 2 of my most favorite people in the world.  

Emily is also one of my foodiest of foodie friends.  This girl can seriously cook.  I think one of my favorite things about her is the fact that she treats every meal like it's an event. We both grew up in households where our mother's cooking was a huge part of our family dynamic and I'm sure that's where she gets it from...and also why I love it so much.  There's thought and attention put into everything she cooks and it speaks so much to who she is.  I've heard her talk about going to 4 different places for ingredients for just one meal.  The right pasta, fresh vegetables, her favorite bread, the perfect cheese.  And then she makes us (and by us, I mean the internet) drool over it via Instagram--@Emoney1.  Even her presentation is pristine and inflicts a daily dose of food envy.  It's truly unreal. 

So obviously, I love eating dinner at their house.  The meals are delicious...and beautiful, of course, but also there's just nothing better than sharing drinks, laughs, and great food with even better company.  

We're big Mad Men fans and planned to watch last week's finale at their house with a home-cooked meal and cocktails.  In true Emily form, she had the menu picked and approved by Monday.  Bucatini all'Ameritriciana  (I wasn't familiar, but she mentioned something about bacon and I was already all in.) "A traditional Roman pasta dish," she told me.  And then came the very important follow up text, "You like onions, right?"  Yes.  Yes, I do.  Very much.  And so it was set.

She wanted me to come a bit early so she could teach me how to make the dish.  Perfecto!  I've wanted to do a post about Emily's cooking for a while now, so I couldn't think of a better time to do so.

And so I present...Bucatini all' Ameritriciana via Emoney.

Of course, first there must be a little explanation.

Traditionally, this pasta dish is almost always made with bucatini pasta, bacon, tomatoes, and onions.   Or, Guanciale or Pancetta may be used in place of the bacon.  In this case, we used Benton's BaconOne of my most favorite of favorite things.

She began by cooking the bacon...my kind of meal already

Cook chopped until browned--in same pot that will be used to saute the onions and tomatoes. 

Remove bacon from pot.  Place on towel to dry.  Add chopped red onion and salt and pepper to pot and let cook in bacon grease.   

By this time, I'm pretty much already dying because what is better than the smell of bacon cooking??!  Onions cooking in bacon grease. No joke.

A bit of red pepper flakes to taste. 

Let the onions and spices cook until almost translucent and then add the tomatoes.  Really any tomatoes will work--fresh or canned.  For this dish, Emily prefers Hunt's fire roasted tomatoes because, she explained, they add a richer flavor to the dish.

Add cooked bacon to veggies.  Deglaze with a bit of red wine and let cook for 15 minutes or so. 

Side note:  I can't think of any dishes that I make in which I cook tomatoes and bacon together.  Ironic considering I cook (with) both of those things almost daily.  There is just something about that combination.  The aroma of the flavors together is like no other.

This meal has been a favorite of Emily's for years now because it is a good "pantry dish."  Meaning, she almost always has some form of each ingredient in her kitchen at all times. Making it an easy throw-together meal.  Pastas and frittatas are favorites of mine for this same reason.  You can add almost anything you have available (veggies, cheese, etc) and almost never go wrong.  

Surprisingly, I don't think I've had Bucatini pasta before this night.  It's a long, hollow pasta that puffs up and becomes springy when cooked.  It isn't at all grocery stores but can be found at Fresh Market and places more along that avenue.  Almost any type of pasta would be good with this dish, most likely, but for this dish Bucatini is preferred.

Add the pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente. 

There is no way you can possibly eat a great pasta without the necessaries...

Arugala salad with cucumbers tossed in a light vinaigrette.  

And then, of course, my kryptonite...BREAD

Fresh sourdough bread from the Farmer's Market. 

Dipped in olive oil with fresh rosemary...

After the pasta was cooked and drained, Emily tossed it with the cooked vegetables and topped it off with a bit of Pecorino RomanoYou can also use Parmesan, but she prefers this because she says, "It is saltier and 'more assertive' than parmesan."  

Seriously, how much do you love that she uses terms like "more assertive" when referring to cheese?!?  

As with all her meals...it was even tastier than it looked.  Tomatoes, bacon, onions, and pasta.  Some of the simplest--and most commonly ingredients--when cooked together give a dish like this a distinctively rich, yet at the same time--light flavor. 

Plus, the whole meal took maybe 15-20 minutes at the most--preparation and all.  Quick, easy, and so delicious.  Right up my alley.  So much so that I have cooked it twice since--I even had it for dinner tonight.  It's perfect for me since I almost always have some form of all of these ingredients on hand.  Bacon...cooked in pasta.  Somehow, to my shock, that has escaped my repertoire until now. 

Dinner at the Walter's also always ensures something else...good drinks.  Emily tailors her drinks almost as much as her meals.  Yet another trait I highly respect.

Plus...I'd like to shake hands with the person who can watch Mad Men without a cocktail.  I'm pretty sure that's impossible.  

Drink of choice for this night...Pineapple Mojitos.

As necessary to a Mojito as the Rum...the fresh mint. 

Pineapple, mint, and lime. 

Muddled, of course. 

Makes for one beautiful concoction. 

I asked the photog for the night--Kevin--to get some shots of their kitchen.  I love how functional and open it is. 

Also a big part of the kitchen--Kevin's chalkboard...here is his (cartoon) rendition of his first time at Bonnaroo--there as a journalist this year.  Kills me.  Click on the photo--hopefully you can see the details.  Seriously hilarious.

And then there's Dottie dog.  She's a country-turned-city dog--we have a lot in common. 

Oh yes. Mad Men was on that night.  I'm just going to assume you are an addict like myself (as I should) and ask, "How great was that finale?"  Two words:  final scene.  That show is unreasonably good.  I can't get enough.  So I leave you with this photo my friend Kate sent me via text a few days ago.  That's right...not only do I have friends that cook up insanely good meals, but I also have ones that randomly send me pics of Don Draper...frying eggs...in a plaid shirt...with a cigarette.  Clearly I've chosen well.

To the best dinner party hosts on the planet.  Thank you, Emily, for the meal...and the recipe/tutorial.  You're amazing.  And Kevin for being a great stand-in photographer so that I could sit back and take it all in.  And Dottie...for not running off this time.  Oh, and Don Draper...for being you.  

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