…She seemed, in her tightly stretched bodice, to be still digesting the happiness of the day before; her plump hands, lost in the folds of her apron, were not even outstretched to grasp the happiness of the day, for it was sure to fall into them. And the shop window beside her seemed to display the same bliss. It too had recovered; the stuffed tongues lay red and healthy, the hams were once more showing their handsome yellow faces, and the strings of sausages no longer had the sad look that had so upset Quenu. Hearty laughter rang out from the kitchen at the back, accompanied by the joyful rattle of saucepans. Once again the charcuterie exuded health, a kind of greasy health. The great strips of bacon and the sides of pork that hung against the marble brought to the picture the rounded contours of the belly, the belly triumphant, while Lisa, standing there, motionless and imposing, greeted Les Halles with her large, well-fed face.”The Belly of Paris
…not quite so Parisian, this dish, but not so far away either… it’s a ‘belly’ plate – simple, rich and fat. Gratifying on the tongue yet refined, with a sort of deep roundness and enough complexity that emerges in the chew. Though not so much, well, maybe a little, inspired by The Belly of Paris, (Les Halles market. whenever I think of Les Halles, I can’t help but float to a couple of very gratifying days and nights spent nearby, interrupted by an evening dinner at Au Chien Qui Fume, (at the smoking dog,) a seafood bistrot there. Different bellies, same place.)
You could change the following condiments and add or replace with different elements, even seafood, but… done this way, the dish indirectly alludes to one of Zola’s themes: the divide between the rich and poor, and the consequences of that divide. Except it violates that divide instead of highlighting those differences: this is an inexpensive meal meant to gratify and satisfy both snobs and the envious alike. No self-referring mannerisms, no discrete charms, ironic or rhetorical. Just good eats.
Big Flavors, Small prices: Square Spaghetti with Cheese and Pig Lard
- An Italian 'chitarra' noodle utensil, optional
- 2 eggs, good quality
- 200 grams -/+, of good quality hard wheat floor, depending on personal taste (0 or 00 or other, mixing as well if you like. I usually use mostly a good quality stone-ground 0 mixing in some 00)
- (a pinch) salt
- (a few drops) ev olive oil
- (or 300 grams of long-noodle, thick spaghetti 'spaghettoni', if you don't want to make the noodles)
- 100 grams robiola or other cream cheese, (like fresh goat, ricotta even, etc.)
- 6-10 small, firm zucchini (if you can find the tiny ones, the best for this dish, more. Second choice would be 'roman', (light-green and striped) zucchini, which are sweeter than the usual.)
- 10 transparent thin slices of pig lard(o) (colonnata or other good quality) you can use some bacon, if you must, but then of course do make it crispy, either in a pan or in the oven, and crumple the flakes over top while plating.
- 20-30 grams Aged cheese, (pecorino, parmigiano, etc. You can mix those, to.)
- 1 grated lemon rind untreated of course
- 1 scallion leg (chopped)
- a little fresh ginger (juice)
- to taste salt and fresh ground pepper
- 1-2 pats unsalted butter
- a couple twirls ev olive oil
- a few leafs basil
- 1 pinch sugar
- Start with the noodles, of course: make a flour 'fountain' on your marble of wood working plane, adding a pinch of salt, crack the two eggs into the middle, use a fork to slowly mix the whipping eggs and later a few drops of olive oil with the ebbing edges of the flour fountain, until it's been absorbed. Then start using your hands until it's all one homogeneous dough, then work the dough with shoulder and body for 10-15 minutes or until small bubbles begin to form within, until it's both elastic and soft-smooth, then set aside for 30 minutes or so after wrapping it in plastic.
- Meantime, roughly julienne the zucchini and leave aside, grate the aged cheese and mix it in a bowl with the cream cheese, a dash of salt, some pepper fresh-ground, and a little bit of fresh ginger (in case you're not used to using it: for the ginger you grate it, then squeeze it for the juice,) and finally the lemon rind
- Now roll the dough into sheets – they can be much thicker than tagliatelle. Not too thick but…. let's say it's up to you how square you want the noodles to be. But adjust later boiling times for the size of the pasta made, of course – roughly to the size of the 'guitar' you'll be using to a make the noodles. Then one by one you place the sheets onto the guitar and roll them down using the pin and your fingers, after. Divide
- Put a big pot of salted water on a back burner while in a large pan over a front burner, take two of the lard strips and render their fat on lowest heat, use a quick half-dribble of oil to even the rendering if you want. But remove once the strips have been rendered. In another pan up front, saute the zucchini in oil or oil and a pat of butter, salt and pepper, a dash of sugar, then add about half the chopped scallion when they're nearly done. As they cook, put the cheeses, a couple pats of butter, the rest of the uncooked scallion, the grated lemon rind, some fresh ground black pepper and the ginger in a large serving bowl (as mentioned above.) As soon as the zucchini are done, turn off the heat and add the roughly diced basil leaves, mix.
- By now the water in back is boiling so drain in the noodles – if you use the larger chords (wider) they'll take about 5 minutes to cook, maybe 3-4 for the smaller ones (cooking time is after the water returns to a full boil, but always taste to make sure.) You can add a little oil into the water before the noodles to avoid sticking, at least some do – though I don't think it should make much difference (use a wooden fork or spoon to move the noodles once, after they're in.) Take a little bit of the pasta water, maybe a table spoon or so, and dribble into the serving bowl with the ingredients, and mix then well, use a whisk maybe, until
- Once the noodles are almost ready, turn off the heat, take a cup of water and add some of it into the rendered fat, turn on and up the heat on the pan the fat is in, drain the noodles rapidly and pour them into the pan, toss a few seconds and check to see if the emulsion is too thick or broken down (too watery,) adjust and toss, then off the heat – and into the mixing bowl. Mix well until the noodles are fully coated.
- Finally, after plating in individual bowls, place one or two slices of the paper-thin lard onto the hot pasta twirls – the slices will melt into the sauce, adding an intense flavor. Or, as EZ might have said – a load of exquisite rubbish.