The latest entry in the Countdown to Italy series comes not from Puglia, land of orrechiette, burratta, and my study abroad summer, but, perhaps more appropriately for my upcoming voyage, from Rome, by way of Manhattan. Don’t worry, Enrica taught us how to make mussels, so stay tuned for more from the Lecce kitchen!
When a buzzy new restaurant opens in New York, some people are lucky enough to score a reservation at a reasonable hour, others finagle a way to spend a day in the kitchen, but some of us just have to resort to enjoying the food the old fashioned way – cooking it yourself after the chef agrees to provide the foodie email newsletter you’ve been getting for the last year with a recipe from one of his house specialties. Okay, it might not quite be the old fashioned way, but it looks like for now it’s the only way I’m getting a taste of Nick Anderer’s handiwork at Danny Meyer’s Maialino. Anyway, after reading about this place for months, you can only imagine my excitement when right there, in my very own gmail inbox, was a recipe for Anderer’s Bavette en Guazetto. Well, I assumed I was excited, as my limited Italian gave me no indication as to what this dish actually was – personally, I thought bavette was a cut of steak. As it turns out, bavette IS a cut of steak, but it is also a thin, flat pasta. Who knew? Not me apparently. Curiosity still got the best of whatever reservations I had (and when it comes to steak, I have no reservations), so I eagerly opened the recipe to find that it was, in fact, a pasta dish. That did not include steak. But did include cod.
And tomatoes. And so many other delicious sounding ingredients that I almost sprinted out of the office that second to go grocery shopping and head home to cook. This also happened to be one of those late March New York days where it’s all gross and rainy and all you want to do is go home and eat a big ole steaming bowl of pasta. Who am I kidding, pretty much every day all I want to do is go home and eat pasta. Alas, I still had a good three hours of work left and a date with a spin class that I’d been avoiding for months. Needless to say, by the time I finally arrived at the Union Square Whole Foods (which, as many of you may know, is a terrific place to spend time around 7:30pm on a weekday, assuming you want to wait in line for twenty minutes and elbow your way through the aisles. at least it’s not as bad as TJ’s), I was so ready for pasta. I picked out some cod, which the friendly fishmonger managed to cut at EXACTLY the right weight (I was very impressed), then lingered in the canned goods aisle in search of San Marzanos. The shelf was pretty wiped out (Snowpocalypse 2: Electric Boogaloo?), so I had to settle on the Whole Foods brand organic tomaters, grown in California, not the luscious fields/vines (I’m struggling with a visual here) of Italy. Sorry, Nick, I tried.
I returned home with the goods, and immediately got to work on this recipe which would take “no longer than the amount of time it takes to cook the pasta.” I never believe stuff like that because it doesn’t include boiling the water, SALTING THE FISH FOR 12 MINUTES, and, if we want to get really nit-picky about it (and I do!), once the pasta is cooked, you’re just straight up out of time, no chance to combine the pasta with anything else you might have prepared, add any finishing touches…I’m just saying. Anyway, once I cleared that mental hurdle, I was ready to salt the fish. Now, as regular readers might have noticed, I don’t tend to share recipes. A lot of my cooking is improvised and adapted, often times based on a recipe, but not really adhering to it too strictly. In this case, however, it would be a lie to say I didn’t follow it to the letter, so in the interest of clarity, fairness and copyright infringement I will reproduce it below. Note, I did over-salt the finished product, but that’s my fault, not Nick’s. Salinity aside, I thought it turned out fantastic, and ate leftovers for probably four days. Now if I can just score that reservation.
Bavette en Guazetto
Recipe adapted from Nick Anderer, Maialino via Tasting Table
6 ounces skinless cod fillet, cut into 3-inch-wide strips
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
One 28-ounce can peeled whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
1 pound bavette or linguine fini pasta (Anderer likes the Rustichella d’Abruzzo brand, available at Whole Foods)
½ bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped (about ½ cup)
12 basil leaves, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs, toasted in olive oil until golden brown
1. Generously cover each piece of fish with salt and let stand for 12 minutes to firm the flesh. Rinse the fish under cold water and pat dry.
2. In a deep saucepan, heat ¼ cup of olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to ripple, add the fish and cook until the cod turns opaque and starts to lightly brown, about 3 minutes; turn the fish over and cook for 1 minute longer. Add the garlic and red-pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the cod begins to flake easily when pierced with the tip of a knife, 5 to 6 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, then drain and add to the tomato sauce, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water. Stir the pasta water into the sauce until emulsified, then add the parsley and basil and toss gently. Season with salt and pepper and divide among plates. Sprinkle each plate with bread crumbs and drizzle with olive oil. Serve immediately.