Now that my lovely wife is blogging fondly about boyfriends past, I'd say it's time for another guest post. Just kidding! I've been meaning to write this one for a while. It's a response to all those comments saying, "Does your husband know how lucky he is?" And my response is: yes. But I can cook, too! Really! Look at me!
I’m not saying I’m a virtuoso of the whisk and ladle like our beloved blogger. But I’m competent, more or less. And what better time to prove said competence than when your in-laws are visiting?
Lisa’s parents are just as happy huddled around our coffee table at home as they are at a restaurant, which was more than fine by me. It’s easy to get foodied out in this town, especially when your wife writes about fancy parties for a living and you get to tag along. You already read about the fabulous dinner Lisa made for all of us. That Sunday night, it was my turn.
Of course, I wasn’t about to whip up a pie or roast grapes or undertake any other daredevil culinary feats. The last thing I needed was for David and Donna to learn that the man to whom they entrusted their daughter has a tendency to set things on fire…things like croutons, recipe print-outs, and his own arm hair. Nor did I want to run the risk of killing them with undercooked pork chops (a specialty) or improperly sliced blowfish.
Did I mention that I’m a competent cook? I really am! But you know what it’s like when you have the performance pressure of cooking for a group. (Well, you don’t, Lisa, but the rest of us…) I needed something fool-proof. Fortunately, I had a secret weapon: the 30th anniversary issue of Food & Wine, which has turned out to be one of the best cookbooks we own. Every recipe is simple, quick, and delicious.
I went for the pasta with sausage, basil, and mustard dreamed up by British cookbook author Nigel Slater. This is one of those peculiar pastas that don’t rely on cheese, butter, or garlic for their flavor. The key, I think, is the spicy mustard, although, obviously, the better and hotter the sausage, the stronger the kick.
I suppose you’re waiting for the disaster that inevitably ensued: like I forgot to buy the right mustard so I had to go with the yellow squeeze-bottle stuff, or I watched in horror as Lisa’s dad slurped up the sausage casing I thought I’d discarded. Sorry to disappoint, but the evening went off without a hitch. No, really! I’ll admit I did have some trouble getting a stubborn cork out of the wine bottle. Lisa, hovering over my shoulder like an angel of mercy, asked me several times if I wanted help. And like any husband fully comfortable with his manhood, I said I wanted no such thing. Thus the Prima Donna part of the title. Also, my mother-in-law’s name is Donna. Get it? It’s a play on words! [Ed note: I would have called this post "Dan Can Cook."]
Special thanks to David and Donna for seeming to enjoy my dinner just as much as Lisa’s. I think about the parents of some of my past girlfriends (I had to work the past girlfriends in here somewhere!), and once I’ve recovered my Buddha nature, I realize how lucky I am to have the unqualified acceptance of two such great people.
A couple of notes about the recipe: I used corn pasta so that Lisa could eat it. It’s not bad actually, and it works better with this recipe than with others because it only comes in small shapes. And while I said that this recipe doesn’t use cheese, a little parmesan or pecorino never hurt anyone, right?
And one note on tools: Kitchen shears work best for removing sausage from its casing. I will spare you the messy trials and gruesome errors that led me to this conclusion.
Sunday Night Dinner a la Daniel
Pasta with spicy sausage, mustard, and basil
Arugula with tomatoes, fennel, and a lemon vinaigrette
Pasta with spicy sausage, mustard, and basil
A winner from Nigel Slater via Food & Wine.
(serves about 6 people)
1 lb. penne or medium shells
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
8 hot Italian sausages, meat removed from casings and crumbled (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp. grainy mustard
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 cup thinly sliced basil
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente; drain. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the sausage meat and brown over moderately high heat, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom, until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the cream, mustard and crushed red pepper and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat, add the pasta and basil and toss to coat. Serve at once.