Archived entries for New York Times

Frankies Spuntino’s Cavatelli with Brown Butter, Sage, and Faicco’s Hot Sausage

Frank Bruni outed our favorite restaurant last week in the New York Times. It was hard enough to get into Frankies Spuntino on Clinton Street before the article. Now, good luck!

Still, I urge you to get there soon. Walk over and put your name in (they won’t take reservations, and won’t take your name over the phone—they have to “see the whites of your eyes,” they once told us), grab a drink at the cheap bar down the block, and bide your time until you can taste this pasta. Go ahead and order the antipasto plate with its delicately sliced prosciutto, nutty cheeses, and vegetables roasted caramel-black, but don’t skip this cavatelli. It’s hot and spicy and rich, perfectly al dente and wrapped in a blanket of rich brown butter. We devoured it (for the umpteenth time) the night we got engaged, late after calling our families to spread the news and tipsy with champagne and the sparkle of Matt’s great-grandmother’s ring.

Today, walking around in the cold winter sun after a stop at the Strand, I steered myself westward. Faicco’s Pork Store, the source of Frankies’ sausage, is a worthy destination, even in 28-degree weather. Not only do they make terrific sausage, but they sell a variety of fresh and cured meats as well as imported canned goods and pasta. I picked up a braciole (pre-rolled!) for Sunday Ragu along with the cravable spicy sausage. I harvested the last of our balcony sage for the sauce.

The elements of the recipe are simple: stubby cavatelli (ideally fresh, though I substituted another short dried pasta), browned butter, sage, and sausage, with a little garlic and some red pepper flakes if your sausage isn’t truly hot. I’ll continue to tweak when I try this again, but here’s the gist:

Cavatelli with Brown Butter, Sage, and Hot Sausage
Inspired by Frankies Spuntino (if only they would give me their recipe!)
Serves Two

1/2 pound cavatelli or short pasta
3 links hot sausage (I heartily recommend Faicco’s if you’re in New York.)
3-4 T butter
1 cup sage leaves. Don’t be stingy.
3 cloves garlic, chopped
pinch red pepper flakes, optional
parmesan, salt, pepper for serving

Bring water to a boil. Brown whole sausage in a dutch oven, until mostly cooked. Remove the sausage from pan and slice into coins. Cook pasta according to package directions—be sure not to overcook it; the pasta should be quite al dente. Meanwhile, add butter to the dutch oven and cook over moderate heat about 5 minutes until beginning to color and separate. It should get quite nutty, but don’t let it burn! Add sage leaves and garlic to the butter and cook for a minute to infuse flavors. Return sausage to pan, toss until warm and add red pepper flakes if desired. When pasta is cooked, drain and add (along with a few tablespoons of pasta water), stir over low heat for one minute. Add salt and pepper to taste, serve with parmesan and red wine.

Sad Loaf: Mark Bittman’s Fast No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread

How was it for you?
Did anybody try Mark Bittman’s faster version of his No-Knead Bread?
And the whole wheat version?

I was excited—I’ve actually never made yeast bread before, and I heard the original no-knead recipe was pretty foolproof. Cynical Matt, of course, was quick to point out the abundance of bakeries in New York City that are perfectly capable of churning out freshly made bread. But I wanted our apartment to smell like yeast! I wanted to be in on the action! I wanted to pull a gorgeous loaf from the oven, and spread a perfect slice with butter, which my no-longer-cynical fiancé would devour and exclaim with glee! But no.

What came out of my oven was sour, yeasty, dense, and spongy. Was it too much liquid? Was it because I used whole wheat bread flour instead of regular whole wheat flour? Was it because I used active dry instead of instant yeast? (I proofed it first, and reduced that liquid from the total amount.) Was the beautiful stoneground rye flour from the farmer’s market to blame?

I wonder if this recipe just isn’t the best one…it might be worth reducing the yeast, and maybe the liquid, and letting it rise more, or (gasp!) actually involving oneself in some kneading. Maybe I’ll try this one next. What’s the rush?

famous new york times cookies, approximately

Coming on late September . . . This morning, we ate our breakfast outside on the balcony, but I had to pull out my old college sweatshirt, and I’m no longer craving ice in my coffee. Nice, though, to huddle with my favorite mug and the newspaper now that the air in the city is crisp and the overwhelming smell of august—sidewalk trash sitting out in the sun—has passed.

And nice to turn the oven on again, and fill the apartment with the scent of vanilla and warm butter. Especially since the dough was already made, and just the fun part was left.

They are not exactly those cookies. They’re smaller, and made with only all-purpose flour. And muscovado sugar instead of light brown sugar, and a mix of several kinds of 60-70% chocolate. I cooked them about 9 minutes at 325º, then rested on the cookie sheet another 6 minutes. They shouldn’t be overbaked. Otherwise, I followed the recipe. Flakes of Maldon sea salt (which my fiancé, Matt, likes to eat out of hand) on top, every time I remembered (4 out of 6 cookie sheets worth scored the salt.)

They smelled terrific. And tasted terrific just out of the oven, as all barely cooked, caramely, melted-chocolately, just-out-of-the-oven cookies do. Are they the Platonic ideal of warm chocolate chip cookies? Maybe. But they’re still chocolate chip cookies, which should be a simple pleasure, I think. Just right for September.

Note: once they were cooled off, these were a bit salty. While the cookies were warm, the salt was just an accent that brought out the flavors of butter, chocolate, etc. Cool, they were just sort of salty. Like chocolate chip pretzels. So maybe next time I’d lay off the salt a little. Or be sure to microwave the cookies a bit before serving!

Original recipe here.

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