Sunday, March 11, 2012

Last Monday night. (Take that, Katy Perry!)

My week started off poorly and I don't even know why. It just did. So I called my mom during my lunch, because that's what I do when I'm having a bad day. I confessed to eating a fun size Snickers bar at lunch. Her response, "Oh it must be bad, you don't even like chocolate." Yup, mom, it was that bad. So I skipped my Monday night meeting at work and came home early so I could blast some Ray LaMontagne, dance with the dogs, drink some wine and cook. I cook when I'm stressed. It stems from one summer when I worked on a train and was on duty seven days a week. Full disclosure, I worked for the train for something like ten summers and was their marketing director by the time I was 23. I met some of the most amazing people working for the train and still am close with a few of them. I also still have some awesome recipes from our train chefs over the years.

I lived with the CEO of my company in the summers in Sandpoint, Idaho, whom I refer to as my Fake Mom. In a previous life, she ran a catering company. And before that, lived on a ranch and fed about a million people on a daily basis. My love of cooking, in part, comes from her. We would have this terribly long day at work, come home, crack a bottle of wine, get to cooking, and just talk. Some of our best ideas for the business happened while we were grilling steaks, browning mushrooms or making hash browns. She taught me how to cut an avocado, how to grill a steak, how to caramelize onions and how not to take shit from anybody. In the kitchen or in the boardroom. It was eye-opening. And life changing. So after a long day, I like to get down in the kitchen. And so I did.

I also ended up breaking into a house that night. In a dress. In 40 mph winds. But I'll get to that part in a minute.

So I get home. Let the dogs out. Light some candles because my house smells like wet dog and I just can't stand it. Open a bottle of Elk Cove Pinot Noir, which is my favorite wine ever. Seriously, try in now. It's from the Willamette Valley and that alone makes me swoon. I decided to make a pasta dish based on a Jamie Oliver recipe. I've made this recipe so many times it's taken on a life of its' own. Basically, it's a spicy bread crumb thing that impresses every time.

The Naked Chef's Spicy Pasta


big old handful whole wheat pasta
half a baguette, food processed up into bread crumbs
fresh thyme
garlic - lots and lots, to taste
olive oil
red chili pepper flakes
one container anchovies


Basically, rip the bread up, toss it in the food processor. Pulse it until it's in crumbles. Add some olive oil in, the thyme and some of the garlic. Once it's all blitzed together. Warm about two tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan, when it's hot, dump the bread crumb mixture in and sort of fry it until it's nice and crispy. When it's cooked, drain it on a paper towel.

Now start the pasta water - salt it, bring it to a boil, throw in the pasta and let it go for about 7-8 minutes. While this is happening, throw a bit more olive oil in the big pan you just took the bread mix out of. Add some more garlic, wait 30 seconds and dump the container of anchovies in and the red chili pepper flakes. Stir 'em around and let them dissolve. This takes a few minutes, then add the bread mix back in.

Drain the pasta, add that in the sauce pan as well. I find that using tongs really helps mixing this concoction up and serving it. Serve in shallow bowls with your favorite wine.

Now, if you are hesitant to use anchovies, don't be. They dissolve completely when you cook them in this recipe so that you are just left with the essence of the sea. That sultry, salty taste that is just so good. This is why you shouldn't salt anything in this recipe aside from the pasta water.

Still curious about the breaking and entering? I thought you might be. My friend Jackie managed to lock herself out, so of course she calls me to help her break in. Should I be upset or flattered? I think flattered. So my roommate and I grab a toolbox and a step-ladder and head over. Amanda almost gets in the front door with a credit card - I was shocked that this was a real thing. We hem and haw over how to get in, try some stuff and fail. So I call my wind farm friends in town to ask for a certain type of screwdriver to get the storm window off. I go down to the bar to grab keys/screwdriver and instead they send me back to the house with a wind farmer. He brought his beer. He too, was unsuccessful with the breaking in. So he called another guy. Who showed up with the right tools and got us in right quick. And then we went to the bar and had a beer. Because after standing in the cold for almost an hour in a wrap dress with a fierce wind, I was ready for a beer. So we had a beer, and then we came home and finished dinner, shocked that the dogs had not helped themselves to the food on the counter. It was a Leap Year miracle.

So the morale of this story? If you're stressed about something, make some cookies or some soup. You will absolutely feel better when you see a meal come together. Or eat a bit of cookie dough batter.

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