by Edward Schneider
I’m not entirely sure what Jackie and I had for dinner on Friday night. I am sure that it was delicious, felt great in the mouth and was fun to eat (with a spoon – the best tool), and I’m pretty certain about what it was not: it wasn’t pasta cooked like a risotto, because I didn’t gradually add liquid and keep stirring; it wasn’t fideuà (the paella-like noodle dish of Catalunya), because I didn’t brown the pasta or use a sofrito or leave the pan uncovered. It was … well, let me tell you how I made it, and you can tell me what it was.
It came together as I was cooking, and it started with a yen for pasta. In the house was a farmers’ market treasure: small, firm new-season potatoes. There are Ligurian dishes of pasta and potatoes, often with green beans and pesto, and these are delicious, but I didn’t feel like making pesto (even in a food processor, which is really the most sensible way to do it) and, anyway, there were no beans. There were juicy new onions, though, and little Spanish chorizos – the ounce-and-a-half ones that come four to a vacuum-sealed pack – and parsley and a bit of chicken stock. And of course many shapes of pasta from the drawer that Jackie refers to as our pastateca. Oh – and half a cup of pan gravy from a roast chicken.
I cut two of the sausages into small pieces (quartering them lengthwise, then cutting them into 3/8-inch chunks) and got them started in olive oil while I halved and sliced an onion, which then went into the pan, now running with paprika-scented and -colored fat from the chorizo. As it started to soften, I peeled a few chubby fingerling potatoes, cut them into chunks and added them to the pan. Then I rummaged around in the pastateca and found a bag of perline, a favorite mini-shape for eating with a spoon, and added a couple of handfuls to the pan, along with chicken stock to cover, chopped parsley, salt and plenty of pepper.
I covered the pan and simmered the pasta and potatoes until they were nearly done, stirring occasionally and checking for seasoning. Then, I removed the lid and allowed the liquid to reduce until the dish was moist and slippery but not soupy. I added more chopped parsley, piled the mixture into soup plates and spooned some of that roast-chicken gravy around and over each portion. This had been made with white wine, so it had a light acidity that brightened the dish.
It tasted Spanish and Italian and French … and very good. But I still don’t know what it was.