One of my New Year's resolutions is to stop making so many assumptions. Usually I assume, and usually I assume the worst. I realized not only was I usually wrong, I put myself through a lot of shitty feelings just to be proven that life was not as bad as I thought. No more! Life is short and assumptions are stupid.

I saw this recipe in the latest issue of Bon Appetit, and I thought, ew. Fishy greens with a soggy breadcrumb topping? No. But because I am turning a new leaf here, I thought what the hell. Besides I had a bunch of kale in the fridge that was getting so old it was resembling a pot scrubber.

Orecchiette with Kale and Breadcrumbs

1-2 bunches (depending on how green you want your pasta) kale
black pepper
5 tbsp olive oil
1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp unsalted butter
4-8 anchovy fillets, chopped
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 box orecchiette pasta
3/4 cup grated Parmesan

Cook kale in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, remove from the water and let cool on a cookie sheet. Set aside pot with water. When cool, squeeze out excess liquid from kale, chop leaves and finely chop stems, set aside.

Heat 3 tbsp oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown, about 4 minutes (if you use cast iron make it medium high heat). Add one third of the chopped garlic and cook, stirring often until breadcrumbs are golden, about 3 additional minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a plate, set aside.

Heat butter and remaining 2 tbsp oil in a large heavy pot or saucepan over medium heat. Add anchovies, red pepper flakes, and remaining two thirds of the garlic, cook, mashing anchovies with a spoon until a paste forms, about 2 minutes. Add reserved kale and 1/2 water. Cook, stirring often, until kale is warmed through, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile bring reserved kale cooking liquid to a boil, add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Add pasta and 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid to kale mixture and stir to coat. Increase heat slightly and continue stirring, adding more cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta. Mix in Parmesan and 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, toss to combine. Divide pasta among bowls, drizzle with oil, and top with remaining breadcrumbs.

Oh word:

Why do chefs like to use pasta water in pasta sauce? It turns out the starch and the salt in the pre-heated water helps a sauce to emulsify. It also works to give the dish a full-bodied, well-seasoned flavour. Huh.

See I told you my assumption was wrong. The key here is toasting the breadcrumbs, and toasting them well. This adds a textural dimension to the pasta that I assumed would be soggy and gross. The flavours are well-blended, thanks to the use of pasta water, and oddly, kale and anchovies go well together. If you're not a fishy flavour fan, use no more than 4 anchovies, and you should be good.

Eat Hearty!

(as usual with Bon Appetit and all other magazine recipes, I have altered the ingredients, instructions and recommendations based on my personal experience preparing the dish)



Another installment in our ongoing "Labelled" series:

Parallel 49 Brewing Company's Ugly Sweater Milk Stout (Vancouver, BC)

LABEL SAYS: A non-recurring character from an episode of late-era Simpsons where Homer does something or another to land the family in a Groundhog Day type spoof, except, y'know, more "current."

BEER SAYS: A malty, creamy elixir that feels more like a comfortable sweatshirt or a well-worn pair of mittens.

DESIGN HARMONY: This beer doesn't phone it in as much as Groening & Co have in the past few years.  Good enough to drink even though Punxsutawney Phil is saying you only got a few more weeks.