Between work and exams and one of my favourite pop stars dying (RIP MJ), I’ve been reading Julie Powell’s Julie and Julia (which by the way is a pretty wicked read!). Readers of her long-completed cooking project and blog must be familiar with her engaging style, which is very much what drew me to the book. Though I discovered the blog after the project was completed, I still haven’t managed to make my way through all of the postings and it’s really hard to wrap my head around her successful endeavour, which certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted. I know being a ‘sometimes meatatarian’ there is no way on earth I could have pulled that off. Plus being the aforementioned type of meat eater, just having read the passage about the bone marrow extraction made me want to sear the images my brain supplied permanently out of it. And there is no way in hell that I am plastering eggs all over my kitchen in order to learn to toss an omlette. Just the idea of an egg-plastered kitchen had me breaking out in hives.
While Ms. Powell and I certainly don’t see things the same way (I fervently hope the level of wastage she describes is artistic license and far from the truth, my mom would have various choice things to tell her about starving children) several passages of the book had me chortling in empathy. And what I am loving most about the book so far is how much a part of everything her husband is, actively or passively. That resonates so much with me because Amey is practically always part of my maddening (for him) ideas of the time, sometimes willingly, sometimes kicking and screaming. But he is always supportive of them, half-baked schemes though they may be. Like the time that I thought I could live through a no-sodium, no fat, no flavour (kill me now!) diet, telling him confidently that I could do it. In my zeal for the thing, I chose to ignore the fact that the diet included fish, something that I could never eat and no salt, something I can’t live without. After three days of scrabbling around, steaming, baking and boiling several veggies, meats and halibut (god, what was I thinking??), I enthusiastically started the diet on the fourth day. One bite of the prescribed morning breakfast of steamed, unsalted, peppered fish had me throwing up in the sink and simultaneously howling and babbling incoherently on the bathroom floor about all the fish in the fridge I was delusional enough to think I could eat. While Amey handed me a glass of orange juice to stop the gagging until I calmed down, he packed his lunch, two cautious little boiled halibut sandwiches with salt on the side. And that was his meal for two days until he gamely worked his way through the fish. I’ll bet he gagged through it, that stuff was vile! Amey isn’t even much of a fish eater. Truth be told, he must have eaten five fish dishes in his entire life. But that’s what he does when my plans get out of hand. *Sniffle* gotta love him! Julie Powell would understand exactly what I mean.
Life throws the guy many such curve balls since he has me for his wife. So he was understandably quite nervous when I eyed our gigantor pile of oranges and pronounced I was making pasta. I had wanted to bake a cake for a friend which required a couple of oranges but since a packet of six was on sale I’d happily bought the entire thing thinking I’d juice the rest or something. Well, in middle of a mercurial last two weeks, the cake didn’t get baked and there were oranges all over our tiny counter. Something had to be done and for no reason in particular I decided that I had to make a sauce out of the oranges. Not an orange sauce. But a sauce, a savoury sauce, using oranges. I’m sure it’s been done, there’s nothing new under the sun. But I’ve never done it before. All I had for instruction was something I’d read in one of the Jamie Oliver tomes about “Orange being best friends with (a couple of things).” Amey guardedly offered the wisdom that maybe this was not the best idea. Couldn’t I try a tested orange sauce recipe first? But the oranges were staring forlornly at me and had to be given a fitting send-off. They couldn’t all be juiced. So two of them met their timely end in this unctuous sauce.
Pasta and Broccoli with an Orange Cream Sauce
For the sauce:-
Red onion – 1/2 or Shallots -2, diced fine
Juice of two navel oranges
Zest of one orange
Cream or Half-and-half- 1 cup
Ancho Chilli Powder – 1.5 teaspoons
Cumin Powder – 1/2 tsp
Gruyere cheese – 1/2 cup grated
Vegetable stock – 1 cup
Ginger – 1 tsp, grated or minced
Corn Starch – 1/2 tsp
Habanero Chilli sauce – to taste (optional)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Olive Oil – 1 tbsp
Pasta – we used 1 pack of rotini
Broccoli- one crown sliced into thin florets
Garlic – 3 cloves, sliced thin
Chilli flakes – 2 tsp
Olive Oil- 2 tsp
– Boil the pasta in plenty of salted water and drain when cooked al dente.
– While the pasta is boiling, in a skillet, heat the oil and add the garlic. When the garlic is gently browned, add the broccoli florets and saute for a minute or two, then add chilli flakes. Saute until the broccoli is cooked through.
– In a saucepan, heat the sauce portion of olive oil and add the shallots. Cook until translucent.
– Then add the ginger and stir for a minute. Add the orange juice. Turn up the heat to boil.
– Turn the heat down a bit to simmer. After a few minutes, add the orange zest and cream and turn the heat back to medium.
– Add the veggie stock and Ancho Chilli and cumin powders. Stir to incorporate. Add the cheese and stir until it melts into the liquid.
– Add the cornstarch and stir to incorporate completely. Let the sauce simmer for a while until it thickens slightly. Add the habanero chilli sauce at this point if using.
– Add salt and pepper to taste. The gruyere is already salty so you may want to taste it just a bit before you add salt.
Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss along with the sauteed broccoli. Serve hot with grated or shaved parmesan.
Sweet oranges do make a pretty decent savoury sauce. I admit I was a little worried when I saw swirls of orange once all the liquids had been mixed. I thought I might end up with orange juice floating on a stock and cream mixture. But once the cornstarch and cheese were added, everything came together pretty well. The sauce turned into a lovely kumquaty-yellow-orange. The pasta itself smelled citrusy yet earthy at the same time and the first bite broke into spiced orange flavours in the mouth. The sauce is light and just coats the pasta with none overflowing in the pot or plate. It worked well with this shape of pasta, though I’m pretty sure it would work with penne too.
What surprised us is was how well the garlic-sauteed broccoli worked with the background hints of orange and chilli. The ancho chilli powder isn’t very spicy, just adding a gentle heat to the proceedings. That’s why the habanero is optional; to be used if the chilli flavour is to be kicked up several notches. Use paprika if you don’t have ancho chilli powder. Fortunately, this mad scheme could be categorised under fairly successful. At least it’s not messy flaked fish for Amey to have to finish off. Maybe I should have had some anchovy paste on hand, that would have been nostalgic! Come to think of it, it probably would have worked real well in the sauce.