Inspiration often strikes at the oddest of times. I often come home and find myself surrounded by recipes, but feeling completely undetermined. Even after a successful trip to the market, which has my fridge stocked with seasonal veggies like fennel, brussels sprouts and carrots, I admit that I have days when all that really sounds good is a big bowl of pasta. You know what I mean?
I was feeling this way a few nights ago when a vision came to me: spinach fettuccine, golden roasted fennel, a perfect poached egg and cheese, lots of cheese. Matt looked at me like I was a little crazy, but he’s used to my experiments in the kitchen, and bears with me when they’re not successful. We’d roasted some fennel with Parmesan cheese last week and really fell in love. My brain immediately started racing with ideas: caramelized fennel pizza, fennel flatbread, fennel gratin and fennel pasta. The vision hadn’t fully materialized until two nights ago.
Now, if you’ve never poached an egg, I would highly recommend looking at some step-by-step visuals (check out smitten kitchen). Because this recipes relies on very few ingredients, be sure to make them good. The better the eggs (organic, free-range, preferably from your local farm), the better the sauce. A good egg yolk is not watery. It’s vibrant orange in color, silky and creamy. I used two kinds of cheeses (a Spanish hard Manchego and a Parmesan) to top off the dish. You could certainly just use Parmesan, but I love the sophistication that the Manchego adds. Spinach fettuccine gives this whole dish a really nice early foundation and captures every last bit of the egg. Be sure to break up the fennel a bit once it’s roasted so that it’s easier to eat. There is no rule for how long you should roast, but I like my fennel to be just slightly golden around the edges and very tender.
This dish reminded me of a very important lesson: be patient, and a good idea will come to you. Maybe even, a very good idea. But you’ll never know if it’s a good idea unless you try it out. A good lesson for life, and eating.
On a sidenote, a few weeks ago, New York-based blogger (and book author, yay!) Cathy Erway, asked me to join her and 5 other food bloggers in a challenge to eat in for one week straight, starting the week of February 22nd. I’ve vowed to take the pledge, and hope to share with you what happens when one busy working professional who happens to love eating out is confined to the contents of her fridge. I’m hopeful that I won’t fail Cathy, or the other folks that are joining the challenge, but I’ll be open and honest about it if I do. You can check out a little video that I made talking about why I’m doing this at The Art of Eating In- Eat In! And hey, if you’re so inclined, want to get a better connection with your food, and feel like you need an eating out fast, join us by signing up at HuffPost Green.
Caramelized Fennel Fettuccine with a Poached Egg
1/2 pound of spinach fettuccine
2 fennel bulbs, quartered and cut into 1 inch wedges
2 large eggs
Manchego and Parmesan cheese
sea salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste
extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of vinegar
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with foil.
2. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, drop in the fennel wedges. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, until fork-tender.
3. Drain the fennel wedges and transfer to a baking sheet.
4. Brush the fennel wedges with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper, and generously dust with finely grated Parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, tossing occasionally, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven.
5. Prepare the water for your pasta and poaching liquid for your eggs. Pour water into a medium omelet pan (about 2-3 inches’ worth) and add the vinegar. Bring to a boil. Bring another medium pot of salted water to a boil on a separate burner. Add in the fettuccine to the pot with salted water, cooking according to the instructions.
6. While the fettuccine is cooking, poach your eggs. Crack one egg gently over the skillet and gently drop it into the water. Have a spatula on hand and carefully slide it underneath the egg to dislodge it from the bottom of the pan. Next, crack the second egg and do the same. Use your spatula to lightly baste your eggs with the hot water, cooking for about 5 minutes, until the whites are white, the yolk is covered with a thin white layer, but is still tender inside. To remove the eggs, gently slide your spatula underneath and blot each poached egg on several pieces of paper towels to absorb any extra water.
7. Once your fettuccine is done, drain the pasta and toss it into a big bowl along with the caramelized fennel. Drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.
8. To serve, place some of the pasta in a pasta dish. Gently place one poached egg atop, sprinkle with additional sea salt and freshly-ground pepper. Shave some Manchego cheese and Parmesan cheese on top.
9. To eat, pierce the poached egg with a fork and combine with the pasta to make a delicious sauce.
Musical Pairings: Yo La Tengo + Caramelized Fennel Fettuccine
Yo La Tengo‘s 2000 album, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out, is subtle, sophisticated, and features unexpected, complex lyrics and rich melodies. For this reason, it is an ideal album to pair with the caramelized fennel fettuccine with poached egg recipe that Kasey recently threw together in a not uncommon moment of culinary genius. The list of ingredients in the recipe is relatively simple: spinach fettuccine, fennel, eggs, grated cheese, salt and pepper. Nonetheless, the flavors blend together amazingly well and create a dish that would please even the most sophisticated palates. Likewise, And Then Nothing… is a simple album that consists primarily of soft, airy ballads that, if given an opportunity, will grow on even the most jaded of music critics. The album features warm, comforting melodies that hum and drone across a complex sound stage alongside literate, evocative lyrics that combine light-hearted pop-culture references (the Simpsons, Tony Orlando, author Thomas Pynchon, and Frankie Vallie) with emotionally rich subject matter. Head over to Musical Pairings‘ home to read the rest of the review and sample a track. –Matthew