TD and I had our first date a few days before the 2000 Gore-Bush election. Somehow, during the course of that very first tete-a-tete, we found ourselves going through the election booklet item-by-item [we broke all kinds of first date rules–and it was fun]. Guess what happened? We disagreed. On just about everything. And, it was totally and completely okay. For both of us.
I wouldn’t call either TD or I particularly political in general. But, we both take our rights as citizens and voters seriously. Having different political viewpoints, in my opinion, helps to inform each of our decisions. Hearing TD’s educated perspective always broadens my own. Every once in a while, it even changes it.
What we didn’t know on that first date 12 years ago was that we had started a tradition that will endure until death-do-us-part. You see, that first act basically guaranteed we will each vote in every election just so the other doesn’t get a leg-up. The first date also started the tradition of reviewing the voting booklet, making our cases (and listening to the other’s) and then, voting together.
Which brings me to today’s post. Last election, we did the first two steps together but, because of his travel schedule TD voted absentee and I voted in person. It wasn’t nearly as fun. So this year, I registered absentee so we could once again be united in our discourse. And, because we are we, we made a dinner out of it.
The original plan was to make a carbonara recipe we’d perfected (according to us) some years back. However, earlier in the week, we watched an episode of Anothony Bourdain’s No Reservations that involved a particularly (food) pornographic dish of cacio e pepe. There just happens to be a porn-related proposition on the California ballot this year, so cacio e pepe it was.
First step (per TD’s request) was to make the parmesian-reggiano bowls for the simple pasta. I’m sure there is a recipe out there on how to do it officially, but here is what I do. Smallish frying pan (8-10 inches) + heat+ grated parmesan.
Oil the outside of a small bowl. Once the parmesan is golden and will hold together (test be lifting an edge with a silicon spatula), flip the whole mess over the bowl. Let cool. That’s it.
Owl Gore presided over the event (at first I named him Owl Green but then realized Owl Gore was more likely to annoy TD). Lest you think I was attempting to create a partisan atmosphere, allow me to point out that TD was more than welcome to bring along his own glitter encrusted moniker (insert stripper joke here).
Cacio e pepe is an incredibly simple but satisfying dish. Because it is simple, each ingredient is important. Use a high quality pecorino and freshly ground peppercorns. Oh, and fresh pasta if you can find it. I also like to use a single pot. In this case it’s a dutch oven. The water will take longer to bowl but the vessel will hold its heat well and do most of the work for you with the sauce.
Once the pasta is cooked al dente (be sure to reserve at least a cup of the pasta water), dinner is about 5 minutes away. Strain the pasta, set aside. Add butter, oil and pepper to the pot. Stir until fragrant.
Add-in reserved pasta water (use more than you think you’ll need). Bring to a boil.
Add pasta. Then sprinkle your grated pecorino and parmesan while vigorously tossing the mixture.
And serve. While lovely, this dish was lacking in color.
So, a little arugula salad and the last bottle from the case Concha y Toro Carmenere that followed me home from Chile nicely rounded-out our festive meal.
Our votes cast, all that is left to do is wait.
DJ TD again on the ones-and-twos.
Cacio e Pepe
adapted from Saveur, April 2010
Serves 4 (we halved the recipe and it worked well)
- 1 lb pasta (usually spaghetti or bucatoni, we used a linguetinne because that is what we could find fresh)
- 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 2 TBS unsalted butter
- 2 tsp freshly cracked pepper, plus more for garnish
- 1 C finely created Pecorino Romano
- 3/4 C finely grated Cacio de Roma (can substitute Parmesan)
- Bring salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, Drain pasta.
- In the same pot if large enough, or in a heavy saucepan, heat oil and butter. Add pepper, cooking until fragrant (1-2 minutes).
- Ladle 3/4 cup pasta water into pot/skillet, bring to a boil.
- Transfer pasta to pot/skillet and spread evenly.
- Sprinkle 3/4 cup each of the Pecorino Romano and Cacio de Rom over pasta and toss pasta vigorously to combine until sauce is cremy and clings to the pasta without clumping. Add remaining pasta water if necessary.
- Transfer to plates and sprinkle with remaining cheese and a good spritz of pepper.