Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kitchen Rhythms

Hand-cut pasta
With few exceptions, I'm the kind of girl who always cleans her plate. Thighs be damned, I'm just not one to waste food. And it doesn't stop at the table. Sometimes, when I should be thinking about the page right in front of me or the lecture going on, just briefly, I start turning over dinner possibilities in my head. Spinach languishing in the fridge? Creamed spinach over pasta tonight. Heavy cream about to expire? Biscuits for the morning. I hate to see things go to waste, and it drives the way I cook and eat.
Egg noodles
I'm not sure where it comes from. Maybe it's my family's stories--my mother growing up in a time and place where strict rationing was in effect, my paternal grandmother sharing her childhood dinners with eight hungry brothers and always winding up with chicken necks and fish heads (though, I'm told, that that wasn't necessarily a bad thing--the boys just didn't know it). But wherever it comes from, it's now a solid part of the rhythms of cooking and planning and eating in my kitchen.
Macarons are no exception to this. For every batch of macarons I've made, I've tucked away two or three egg yolks in the freezer with the promise of some later use. And what have I done with the last few of these? Why, put them to use in a seven-yolk pasta dough, of course.
Fresh pasta with olives, spinach, and feta
I'm not particularly experienced with making pasta, but I love working with yolk-rich doughs. The yolks leave the dough appreciably smooth and supple, almost silken, inviting you to run your fingertips over it. And it's a wonder to see how, with a bit of rolling, a bit of flouring, your sunny mass of dough flattens out into near-paper-thin sheets, ready to be rolled up and cut into generous strands. Now, I'm sure that by any Italian grandmother's standards this was an appalling attempt. These noodles are unmistakably ugly. But I can assure you that they made up a blissfully rich and eggy bed for this bunch: caramelised onions, spinach, olives, and feta, with a squeeze of lemon, for good measure.

Seven-Yolk Pasta Dough: find the recipe at Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Thomas Keller's French Laundry Cookbook
Freezing egg yolks: egg yolks tend to get gelatinous after spending some time in the freezer. I advise adding a generous pinch of salt (or sugar, if you're planning to make something sweet) to each yolk you want to save and breaking it up a bit. Stored in an air-tight container, they should be good for another three months. Leave them to thaw in the refrigerator the night before you plan to use them. (Mine, this time, still turned out a little jelly-like--I'll be using more salt next time around--but if this happens to you, don't worry. Just be prepared to add a little extra liquid to whatever you're making to compensate, or reduce the dry component.)


  1. Okay, I love this post for several reasons. Thighs be damned, me too. Bunch of hungry rationed siblings, my mom, seven of them, in Romania. The French Laundry. Me too. Awesome recipe and beautiful pictures.

  2. Thanks, Oana!

    I guess rationing and 20th century communism just went hand in hand, wherever it was. My mom grew up in the midst of the Cultural Revolution. Immigrating to Canada, as you might imagine, was a bit of an adjustment for her. My paternal grandmother (who grew up in Canada) loves to recount the first meals my mom cooked for the family--she would cut up the tiniest bit of meat for everyone to share. A hard mentality to shake, even with plenty around her.

  3. Those stories are beautiful, especially in a time of plenty in North America.

  4. I also have a really hard time throwing away food. I've never known what to do with leftover egg yolks so I treasure that tip for freezing. What happens when you have leftover egg whites?

    One of these days I'm going to try my hand at making pasta. More to the point, Im waiting to get my brother in-law's pasta maker that he no longer wants!

  5. Val, you can freezer your leftover egg whites too. If you want individual egg whites, try portioning them out in an ice-cube tray. Once they're frozen, you can pop them out and store them in a heavy-duty freezer bag until you need them. Just let them thaw out overnight in the refrigerator the day before you're ready to use them.

    A machine to roll out pasta dough definitely makes things a lot easier. You'll actually end up with uniform noodles! My kitchen space is fairly limited at the moment, so I'm just going to have to manage with a rolling pin. I hope you try making pasta at home soon, either way!

  6. One more thing, Val - the egg whites should keep in the freezer for about a month.