Monday, May 22, 2006

Quick, Not Fast

I think I’ve mentioned my passion for Gorgonzola. That I’d probably eat an old shoe if it had Gorgonzola melted on it? And the idea of a hot tub filled with Gorgonzola? Have I mentioned that before?

Were it not for the logistics of getting Gorgonzola out of the water jets of the hot tub, I might have tried that one. It seems like it might be a lot of tasty, slippery fun. Imagine walking around afterward still reeking of cooked in Gorgonzola. Hmmmm.

Well, I suppose the next best thing is to bathe something else in Gorgonzola. Then eat that!

I think I found today’s recipe about 16 years ago. At a time when things had to be done quickly, because there were other loudly screaming priorities at the time. And a whole lot of poo. Cooking as such didn’t exist. Putting something edible on the table on a regular basis was all there was time for.

So I developed a group of recipes that I could make quickly. Sub-30 minute meals long before books and TV shows on the topic came along. I had a dozen or so that I could whip up with minimum shopping, cooking and cleaning. These quickies focused on strong flavors to overcome the simplistic cooking concepts.

But they made a nice balance for what would otherwise have been an overdependence on take-out food.

Note that I didn’t say fast food. I’ve never had a McDonalds anything (OK – In & Out, but that’s actual food! (Sort of)). But I never resorted to fast.

At the time, we were living in the middle of Munich – corner of Lindwurmstrasse and Goethestrasse. Close to the Oktoberfest site – the Theresienweise. I always liked living on a street named after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a great thinker, traveler, author, lover, statesman, as well as a man of substantial appetite. The cross street – Lindwurm – is an old German word for dragon. Another good name.

Munich was not so much a city of fast food in those days. There was plenty of good food that was sold on the street – from vendors with wagons, or more often from take out windows of the many restaurants lining the streets. Roasted chestnuts in winter, Turkish Gyros, pizza, any sort of sausage on or with a roll, pastries, coffees, lots of good stuff that was still made by hand.

We had the fantastic luck that the best – and I mean the best – roasted chickens and fries could be had for a song just a block from our apartment. As take out. The Lindwurmstueberl was pretty well known, both for its proximity to the Oktoberfest grounds, as well as for its chickens.

In a city known for excellent roasted foods – whether pork, chicken, fish, ox, whatever – this place stood out. Both for the roasted chickens, as well as for their award winning roasted pigs knuckle (no kidding – it’s the Bavarian national dish! It had a crust to die for!). They are listed as one of the three best restaurants in Munich for Schweinshaxen – roasted pig knuckle, along with their Semmelknoedel and Kartoffelknoedel – or bread and potato dumplings.

We would get the whole chicken, roasted to absolute golden perfection, hot off the broiler, where dozens of the birds rotated in front of the hot fire all day long, split in half just for us, with a HUGE bag of fries, for just a few Marks (this was way before the Euro). Everything wrapped in paper and placed in a sack.

The fries were best eaten on the way home while they were still searing hot. The chicken, as is tradition in Bavaria, is eaten with the hands.

Over the years, I guessed that we ate well over 500, maybe closer to 1000 of those chickens. Of course, it was over a lot of years, but still! We went so often, for so many years, we knew most of the staff and the owners by name. And the lady who owned it – she ran the take out window and cash register – she would always pull an especially nice roasted chicken off just for us.

Interspersed with the chickens were these quick meals I would make. Chili, for example. Or my famous Chinese chicken and asparagus in black bean sauce. Or some potato soup, sometimes with leeks or carrots, and always with some fresh sausage or wieners (hey – we were in the capital of sausage!). Or in the summer, maybe a Greek style salad with fresh feta cheese, tomatoes and olives. And gigantic hunks of fresh Bavarian style whole grain bread from the Hofpfisterei.

If you want a treat, and like real bread (not Wonder style), go to this and take a look at the pictures of the thirty or so styles of bread this place offers (there is a neat slider that lets you easily scroll across all the pictures), plus thirty more types of rolls, another thirty types of pastries, and more. All organic. All sour dough style, no yeast. All whole grain. From light rye to dinkle to pumpernickel to things that seem more like seeds and grains baked in a ball. Something for everyone. Always in that classic round shape.

This was a long digression in getting to my dish today. But one of the meals I found back then was so elegant in its combination of simplicity and flavor, that it became one of our core weekly meals – Spaghetti in Gorgonzola Sauce.

The sauce is just crumbled Gorgonzola, melted over the pan of water heating to cook the spaghetti, mixed with just a bit of cream or milk, and then with a cup of the pasta water added after the pasta has cooked. Poured over spaghetti with a sprinkle of parsley.

That’s it. A 15 minute meal. Add a green salad, a glass of wine, and dinner is served!

The key to this dish is to get real Gorgonzola. Creamy Gorgonzola, not the soapy tasting kind you get in US grocery stores. Look for lots of dark green mold throughout the cheese. And look for an artisan product, something that is not mass produced by Kraft. Because the Gorgonzola flavor is the entire dish.

Spaghetti with Gorgonzola Sauce
Recipe by surfindaave

1 pound good quality Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled into a heat proof flat-bottomed bowl
¼ to ½ cup milk or cream
1½ pounds spaghetti (not angle hair pasta – it will absorb too much moisture and get gluey)
parsley, chopped fine, for garnish, if desired

Fill a large pot with water, and heat over high heat.

Add the milk or cream to the crumbled Gorgonzola and stir. Place the bowl so that it floats on the pan of water (be a little careful that the bowl doesn’t sink, especially when the water boils).

As the water just starts to come to a boil, remove the bowl of cheese to a hot pad. Stir well to get as much of the cheese melted as possible. Cover and set aside.

Add salt to the boiling water, and add the spaghetti, stirring. Cook spaghetti until al dente, stirring frequently.

BEFORE DRAINING SPAGHETTI – remove 1 to 2 cups of pasta water in a heat proof cup and reserve.

Drain spaghetti and do not rinse. Put the pasta in a warmed serving bowl and reserve.

Stir some of the pasta water into the cheese mixture until it becomes smooth, but not watery. Pour the cheese mixture over the spaghetti and toss well. Add additional pasta water as necessary – sometimes the pasta absorbs a lot of moisture quickly.

Serve immediately, garnished with parsley if desired. Enjoy!

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Blogger Kalyn said...

Tomorrow morning I'm posting a recipe for a salad with arugula and gorgonzola and I talk about buying one of those huge tubs of gorgonzola at Costco. I'm going to link to this post as another idea of what to use gorgonzola for, unless you tell me you don't want me to.

6:09 PM  
Blogger surfindaave said...

Kalyn - please, link away! Your salad looked great, by the way! Arugula and Gorgonzola are two of my favorite foods!

9:26 AM  
Anonymous sher said...

Ahh, wonderful pictures!!!! And I think In & Out has pretty good food too.

8:04 PM  

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