It’s Friday night and true to tradition I just had to eat something different. The cook had made subzi and rotis and I wasn’t very hungry so I would gladly have settled for roti-subzi; there was nothing else I was craving like I usually do on Friday evening. But on the ride back from the park inspiration struck. I realized that we were getting back early and I had some time to play around in the kitchen before dinner time rolled around. I had some ingredients I wanted to use up – Gorgonzola, Bleu, chicken bacon, cream, cilantro. I was recently reading an article on cilantro pesto and thought I should try it out; but that would use up just one of so many ingredients. Could I thrown in some cheese into that? Not the cheese that I had. But there was an easy recipe just popping out of that list – Gorgonzola cream sauce, crispy bacon and pasta. 3/5 ingredients used up and ready in a jiffy. So that’s what I settled upon.
Gorgonzola is one of those stinky cheeses that I discovered quite by accident. I was not at all into cheese, even though hours of watching Food Network had certainly made me curious about what the fuss was all about. Then one evening we were having dinner at an Italian restaurant with friends and I found myself tasting a Gorgonzola cream sauce that somebody else had ordered. I was floored; cream sauces tend to be flat and sweet. But this one was salty; it actually had some flavor to it! And the smell, well that was just an added bonus. I was not turned off by it at all. After that I was at Trader Joe’s buying Gorgonzola cheese and the hubby and I would eat it with cream crackers some evenings. It can be quite a strong flavor but I can eat huge blobs of it at a time. Hubby sometimes has to make me stop. Made into a cream sauce it’s often served with ravioli and I wonder why only ravioli. But I had the most yummy salmon ravioli with Gorgonzola cream sauce at a restaurant in downtown Palo Alto. The sauce was great by itself but the pairing with the salmon ravioli worked because the salmon was a little sweet. I’ve wanted to make salmon ravioli ever since but never got around to it. We had bought some of that lovely Gorgonzola from Godrej Nature’s Basket (GNB) our neighbourhood splurge corner for a get together with friends and had some left over that I used up today.
What can I say about bacon? I think my first taste of bacon in the US was in a salad where there was bacon sprinkled on top. One bite of the salty, crunchy goodness and I was hooked. Then I read about the amount of fat in it and all the trouble with cholesterol and couldn’t eat it anymore – I imagined myself needing an angioplasty afterword (thank you Jerry Seinfeld for imprinting that image in my head forever). But there was one diner at Ohio State where I gave in and had the chicken sandwich topped with bacon and cheese. The chicken itself would be a little dry as the chicken breasts served at diners tend to be; but the bacon made the whole sandwich juicy and crispy and savory. Eaten late in the night after a party or a movie just made life better. Aside from indulgences in restaurants I never bought bacon at home (may be twice in 9 years in the US) because it would inevitably go bad – you can’t actually eat bacon every day! So when I saw chicken bacon here at GNB I was seriously intrigued. Could there actually be a healthy bacon? It was reasonable priced so I bought it.
I started off my cooking this evening by boiling water for the pasta (I made fusili) and crisping up the bacon with a little olive oil on medium heat. I cut up the bacon before putting it in the pan because the strips were too big. On hindsight, that was perhaps not a good idea. It would have been easier to crisp up the whole thing and then crumble it. Anyway it took perhaps 15 minutes to crisp up. In the same pan with the same oil I sauteed some finely diced onions, poured in the cream and reduced it for a few minutes. I gave it about 4-5 minutes which was may be a minute too long. The cream became too thick and the sauce too little. Then I threw in about 50g of the cheese. Once the cheese had melted I tasted the sauce to see how salty it was and then added salt, pepper and about 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg. Yes that is my secret ingredient. Actually not so secret at all – I’ve seen it done several times on Food Network. The nutmeg adds that background heat to the cream sauce which can otherwise be bland. Finally a taste and then I tossed the sauce with the pasta and the bacon. I should have saved some of the pasta water to moisten the sauce a little; it was a little dry. But overall very yummy – the sauce had the bite from the cheese and saltiness and crunch from the bacon. The pasta was perfectly cooked too. The only thing I would change is to reduce the amount of bacon. I got greedy and added too much, so the surprise element from the bacon, the aha moment was lost. The thrill is to find yourself biting into a piece of bacon every now and then. If you are biting into bacon all the time then its just boring!
Today has been a good day. I have done something that I don’t do every day. And that is definitely a gift.