A diet that consists predominantly of rice leads to the use of opium, just as a diet that consists predominantly of potatoes leads to the use of liquor.
~Friedrich Nietzsche

As late as the mid 19th century, many Americans considered the potato as fodder only for animals and not fit for human consumption. Then came 1872, when the horticulturist Luther Burbank, who while trying to improve the Irish potato to combat the blight epidemic, developed a more disease resistant hybrid, the Russet Burbank. A natural genetic variant of the Burbank potato with russet-hued skin and white flesh, this potato has become the world’s predominant spud.

On to the present. In supermarkets, food pushers reign to the point of overwhelming. Mega food producers, industrialists and distributors brazenly hawk their wares up and down bewildering aisles chocked floor to ceiling with color and fine print…shelves often rank with misinformation, half truths and deception. Label liars. Not surprisingly, modern consumers are even presented with a sometimes confusing array of potato options at the grocery. Potato varieties/cultivars are usually branded, classified and marketed according to geography (e.g., Idaho potatoes for baking)—by varietal name (e.g., that Russet Burbank above)—by color and size (e.g., small, red, White Rose, Gold Rose, or Yukon Gold, which are used for boiling or sometimes mashing)—or by culinary quality that describe their relative starch and moisture content. So, high starch, “floury” potatoes are supposed to be better for baked, fried, and mashed; while lower starch, firm bodied “waxy” potatoes are more suited for boiled, roasted, and salads; and medium starch, “all purpose” potatoes befit pan fried, scalloped, and pancakes.

So, what to do with those seemingly bottomless, lonely mashed russet leftovers which are often crammed into your frig. One solution is to blend them with a simple pâte à choux, form them into patties and sauté in butter. Next day potato pancakes are often more scrumptious than the original mashed ones from a day or two ago.

Pâte à choux (choux paste) is customarily a flour, water, butter and egg pastry preparation which forms the foundation for a number of savory and sweet delights: gougères, profiteroles, éclairs, croquembouches, beignets. When baked, this batter-like dough puffs into an airy and delicate pastry. (See Gougères, March 4, 2009). Versatile pâte à choux can also serve as a feathery binder, as in this potato pancake preparation. To impart lust, milk is substituted for the traditional water in this recipe.


Pâte à choux
1 C whole milk
8 T cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Pinch of sea salt
1 C all purpose flour
4 large local, free range, organic eggs, room temperature

Leftover mashed potatoes, room temperature
All purpose flour, for dusting

1/4 C scallions, minced (optional)

In a medium heavy saucepan, combine the milk, butter and salt and heat over medium high heat. Whisk occasionally, then once the mixture boils immediately remove from heat. Add the flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms and the mixture comes away from the sides of the saucepan; return to low heat and continue beating until it dries out and pulls away from the pan, about 1-2 minutes.

Scrape the dough into a bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with a flat paddle. Beat the eggs into the dough, one at a time, beating thoroughly between each one. It is important to make sure that each egg is incorporated into the batter before adding the next. The dough should be well aerated and ultimately have the consistency of very thick mayonnaise.

With a wooden spoon, beat together 2/3 parts mashed potatoes with 1/3 parts pâte à choux and the minced scallions. Form the mixture into 1/2″ thick disks, lightly flour them and place on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Then, in a large heavy skillet over medium high, heat butter until slightly bubbling, but not browned. Sauté pancakes in butter until lightly golden, about 3 minutes per side.

Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg until it is broken.
~M.F.K. Fisher

Vice unbound on a plate, again. My openly lascivious affairs with both Egg and Pig reappear. Is it coincidence that I lustily deify these worldly beings both of which irreverently boast three letter names? Egg and Pig are gluttonous, addictive, more than venial sins with no hint of repentant shame…maybe less like the Seven Deadly and more like food as Providence.

Essentials of this dish are handcrafted and dreamily aromatic artisanal bread, preferably a ciabatta loaf, and premium bacon. Think heirloom swine, too. Artisanal bread (or should I say authentic bread) simply means the loaves are traditionally handcrafted, rather than mechanically mass produced. Superior ingredients are blended, slowly fermented, hand shaped, and baked in small batches in masonry ovens with an acute eye on vivid flavors and textures. The core ingredients are fewer (organic flour, water, salt, fermentation agent) than the industrial variety, and the bread is crafted without enhancers or chemical additives—as bread has been artfully baked for centuries. Like finding trusted butchers and fishmongers, discovering a skilled baker is blissful.

Ciabatta is the Italian word for “slipper” which roughly depicts the shape of this loaf. With a light, airy structure this bread is ideal for bruschetta, crostini, and panini.

A protean dish, this serves well at any meal—day or night. Consider tabling it after that mayhem of unwrapping gifts ceases this month. In lieu of the parmiggiano-reggiano, a ladling of hollandaise or bearnaise or a light drizzle of white truffle oil (with the parmiggiano-reggiano) brings elegant touches. (See Sauces Mères, Hollandaise & Bearnaise, August 16, 2009).


4 T extra virgin olive oil
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 T fresh thyme, chopped
1 t dried crushed red pepper

4 1 1/2″ thick slices of ciabatta, cut on the bias

1 lb thick bacon

3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T shallot, peeled and finely minced
1 lb fresh baby spinach
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

1-2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
8 local, fresh, free range organic eggs,* room temperature

Parmiggiano-reggianno, freshly grated or shaven

For the bacon: cook in large skillet until crisp and transfer to paper towels to drain. Set aside.

For the bread: heat olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic, thyme and crushed pepper and cook until the garlic is light brown. Remove and discard garlics. Add bread slices to the skilled and cook until golden browned and well infused with the garlic oil. Set aside.

For the spinach, add olive oil over heavy skillet and heat over medium heat. Add shallot and sauté 2 minutes, then add spinach and stir until just wilted. Set aside.

Meanwhile, strew spinach over bread slices, top with bacon slices in half to fit. You may wish to place in oven until heated through before you drop the poached egg on top.

For the eggs: fill a large heavy based skillet deep enough to cover the eggs with water; bring it to a boil, and add the white wine vinegar The vinegar helps to strengthen the albumin in the egg white which will help to retain shape. Reduce the heat until the water is at a simmer. If the water is too cool, the egg will separate before cooking; if the water is boiling too rapidly, the whites will be tough and the yolks over cooked.

Crack each egg into a shallow bowl to assure the yolks are not broken.

Then, using a slotted spoon, spin the boiling water into a sort of vortex. Once the water is spinning rapidly, gently drop the egg from the bowl in the center of the whirlpool, where it will spin around and coat the yolk in a ball of egg white. Cook until the eggs are barely set, about 3 minutes. They should goo out with a fork when served. Remove the eggs, draining well with a slotted spoon and dab the bottom with paper towels to dry them off.

To build: strew spinach over bread slices, top with bacon slices. (You may wish to place in oven under low heat) while the eggs are poaching. Place 2 poached egg atop each. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve topped with parmiggiano-reggiano.

To him she seemed so beautiful, so seductive, so different from ordinary people, that he could not understand why no one was as disturbed as he by the clicking of her heels on the paving stones, why no one else’s heart was wild with the breeze stirred by the sighs of her veils, why everyone did not go mad with the movements of her braid, the flight of her hands, the gold of her laughter. He had not missed a single one of her gestures, not one of the indications of her character, but he did not dare approach her for fear of destroying the spell.
~Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera


So often, things you learn to cherish have been so long overlooked—yet they often hovered right under your nose. For me, Amish country noodles are one of the new found delicacies that fall squarely into that category. Where had you been all these years? My passion for these hearty durum wheat and egg noodles almost went unrequited, but finally has been stirred. Now, I feel an obligation to share the love for this side thang.

To make this beloved tryst complete, sautéed chard, mustard and collard greens are commingled, mated with the noodles. Introduce succulent braised lamb shanks or fleshy coq au vin for nestling, candlelit chiaroscuro, some sonorous Luther V. serenades and voila!…you have a perfectly seductive “cooking Amish au naturel” meal. Unless, of course, you are one of those lingerie fanatics in which case a seductive silk chemise may be your apron du jour. Some food for the mood.

1 lb thick Amish country egg noodles
3 C water
4 C chicken broth
2 T sea salt

1 small bunch collard greens (about 3/4 lb) rinsed & drained, stems removed, sliced crosswise into 1/2″ ribbons
1 small bunch mustard greens (about 3/4 lb) rinsed & drained, stems removed, sliced crosswise into 1/2″ ribbons
1 small bunch swiss chard (about 3/4 lb) rinsed & drained, stems removed, sliced crosswise into 1/2″ ribbons

3-4 T extra virgin olive oil
3 T fresh garlic, peeled and minced
1 t hot red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Parmigiano-reggiano, fresh grated

In a large, heavy pot over high heat, bring water and broth to a boil. Add sea salt, noodles and return to boil. Cook until just al dente, about 10-15 minutes, depending on noodle size.

Bring large stockpot of water to a boil; add greens. Cook for 15 minutes and drain well. Then in a large, heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add the greens and the red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften and become wilted and tender, about 10-15 minutes. During the cooking process, season with the salt and pepper to taste. They should be peppery.

Drain the noodles well and add to the greens, tossing until they are married. Serve, lightly topped with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano.

For ….we can make liquor to sweeten our lips
Of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut tree chips.

~Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Another seasonal dish that poses noël well on a family table. This year, I may even bow to the temptation of offering a merry, merry menu for the upcoming fête. That festive notion almost attains Martha-like disquietude. Chalk it up to another one of those poorly intuited late night passing thoughts which so often fall well short during saner deliberations over a sunrise cup of joe.

Speaking of darkness, the other night it was hard to overlook a gaudy, flashing front lawn display across the street from a recent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve meal. Eerily splayed across the yard were santas, sleighs, reindeers, angels, snowmen, et al., all mechanically flickering in red and green yuleish disunion. More disturbing was the inexorable xmas dirge droning from the yard speakers to all the neighborhood until late into the night…as if they assumed that everyone would jollily join lockstep in their personal plastic fantasy. What have we done to render these holidays so dysfunctional?

On to food (a convenient escape). A root vegetable closely related to the carrot but even richer in vitamins and minerals, parsnips (Pastinaca sativa) indeed look like a pale colored, fat, broad-shouldered version of their brethern. Native to the Mediterranean basin, parsnips have been relished for centuries and may have been cultivated in ancient Greece. The word parsnip derives from the Latin pastinum, a kind of fork, because they produce short tine-like roots. The ending was modified to -nip as it was incorrectly assumed to be botanically related to the turnip which is actually a member of the mustard family.

Choose parsnips that are firm with a good creamy color without spots, blemishes, cuts, or cracks. They should have a good, uniform shape (about 4″-8″ in length) and should not be limp or shriveled. Avoid ones that are particularly large since they may prove to be tough.

Parsnips have a similar sweetness to carrots and impart a lovely nutty flavor to the potatoes. The sage lends an earthiness.


3 lb russet potatoes, peeled and roughly cut into chunks
1 lb parsnips, centers cored out, peeled and roughly cut into chucks

8 whole sage leaves, finely chopped
6 T unsalted butter

1/2 C milk, warmed
1 C heavy whipping cream, warmed
4 T unsalted butter
Freshly ground white pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place potatoes and parsnips in a large pot, cover with water and bring to a rapid boil. Reduce heat to a gentle boil and cook until tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan over medium high heat, melt butter. When it stops foaming, add chopped and whole sage leaves. Cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.

When done, drain potatoes and parsnips well, return to pot, add milk, sage butter, additional butter, salt and peppers, mashing vigorously until almost smooth or smashed until slightly chunky—whatever is your preference. The butter, milk and cream amounts may need to be adjusted to suit the texture of your liking. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Pourboire: For an even finer and spry texture, finish these off with a hand held (not mechanized) dough hook.

Eat, eat, eat, molt, expand, repeat.
~Gilbert & Sullivan, HMS Pinafore

In the recipes offered thus far (save for a single paella ingredient), nary an utterance about luscious lobsters? Shameful. Time to repent, and what a better time than ’tis the season, as lobster bisque is a rich and elegant course for a holiday repast. You know…those holidays you are just trying to survive.

Née of the family Nephropidae or Homaridae, clawed lobsters are marine crustaceans which bear no taxonomic relation to spiny lobsters. Actually, crayfish are closer kin.

Sometimes called the “cockroaches of the sea,” these sophisticated critters possess several claw variants (crushers and cutters) with four spindly antennae and hairs that sense amino acid in its prey—which can entail over 100 animal and plant species. They are even known to bury their quarry for several days only to disinter and snack later. It has always seemed bizarrely incongruous that so many diners revere as so refine such voracious, omnivorous decaying meat scavengers such as lobsters and crabs, yet they are repulsed by simple herbivores. Evidently, the eating habits of my prey do nothing to distract my ardor for their presence on the plate or palate.

In this sad age of plastic surgery, botox, cosmetic creams, personal trainers, speciality diets, and profuse medications, lobsters flat trump humans. It seems lobsters age so gracefully they show no measurable signs of the process: no loss of appetite, no change in metabolism, no loss of reproductive urge or ability, no decline in strength or health. They just alternatively and continuously grow and molt and grow and molt with no need to capture that elusive youth. Unlike their land dwelling hunters, they embrace age.

Although there are no definitive studies, it appears lobsters only seem to die from interrupted causes—such as you guillotining them or dropping them into a pot of boiling water—or an occasional seal or parasite. There have been no reported “natural,” age oriented disease processes, no male sexual dysfunction and older women are more fertile. No estrogen therapy or viagra-cyalis-levitra for these viral seniors. You can only surmise how Hollywood, even the Striped One, could endure such a universal penchant for the elderly. They shudder at a world where old hens are more desirable than young chicks.

Apparently, studies have suggested that lobsters maintain continual telomerase activation throughout their tissues late in life, while during aging human telomerase levels decline in amounts and locales. Telomeres are sheathes that encase the ends of chromosomes, and when cells continually divide, telomeres get shorter. When telomeres get to a certain length, they can no longer protect chromosomes, and those chromosomes begin to suffer damage. Telomerase is an enzyme that adds length to telomeres, extending their life span and thereby that of the species.

For lobsters, old age is simply not the same nemesis that humans so dread and circumvent, spending endless yet finite hours and capital along the way. Peculiarly ironic? Homo sapiens blithely dining on the eternal while pursuing a neverending quest for age avoidance.


2 – 1 1/2 lb lobsters

3 T dry white wine
1/2 C flour
3 T unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

2 T extra virgin olive oil
1/4 C cognac or brandy

1 carrot, finely chopped
2 small leeks (white part), cleaned and finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 C canned tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 T fresh thyme, stemmed and chopped
1 T fresh tarragon, stemmed and chopped
2 T tomato paste
1 C water
3 C chicken stock
1 t freshly ground black pepper

2 C heavy whipping cream
1 C whole milk
1 T cognac
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Cayenne pepper

Chives, freshly chopped

Roughly chop the lobsters into large chunks with a cleaver or large chef’s knife. Reserve the coral, tomalley and liquid in a bowl. Add the wine and then the flour and butter with a spatula to create a paste which will serve as a thickening agent. Set aside.

In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven add the olive oil over medium high heat, then add the lobster pieces. Cook until they turn bright red, about 5 minutes, but do not scorch. Add cognac and carefully ignite. Once the fire subsides, add the vegetables, herbs, tomato paste, water, stock, and cognac. Stir/whisk well and cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Next, remove only the lobster pieces to a platter and once cooled some, carefully remove the meat from the shells, and set aside. Chop the shells coarsely and return them to the pan. Sauté unconvered for about 12 minutes, stirring, then strain through a sieve or colander over a bowl, pressing with a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Return this extruded broth to the pot and discard the used shells.

If necessary, blend the bisque with an immersion blender, then add the cream and milk and bring to a simmer. If needed to thicken some, whisk in a small dollop of the paste. Add a small pinch of cayenne pepper. Season to taste with salt and liberal amounts of pepper. Return the lobster to the pot, stir in the cognac and allow to simmer until the liquor evaporates, whisking some.

Serve in shallow bowls garnished with chopped chives.

Penne “Risotto(s)”

December 9, 2009

Quill, n. An implement of torture yielded by a goose and commonly wielded by an ass; this use of the quill is now obsolete, but its modern equivalent, the steel pen, is wielded by the same everlasting Presence.
~Ambrose Bierce

Penne, the plural form of the Italian word for “quill,” are produced in two main variants, penne lisce (smooth) and penne rigate (furrowed), the latter having ridges on each noodle which tends to capture sauce more readily. In these incarnations, cylinder shaped penne is cooked risotto style in lieu of the conventional boiled in salted water method. Rather, these pastas are browned lightly in olive oil, then cooked leisurely and gradually in ladlefuls—gently stirring and tossing the penne throughout the process until just al dente and luxuriantly veiled with aromatic sauce. You may just as easily substitute other similar pastas, such as fusilli or gemelli.


4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Herbes de Provence
3 T extra virgin olive oil

8-10 C chicken stock

3 C crimini and shiitake (stemmed) mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T unsalted butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 T fresh tarragon, minced

1 lb penne rigate
3/4 C dry white wine
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t white truffle oil

Chopped fresh tarragon
Capers, rinsed and drained
Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano

Season the chicken thighs with salt, pepper and herbes de provence. Heat a heavy skillet over medium high heat with olive oil. When hot, add chicken thighs and cook until done, about 4 minutes per side. Do not overcook as they will be heated again some at the end. Remove chicken, slice 1/4″ thick, tent and set aside.

In a large heavy saucepan, heat the stock and keep at a constant simmer.

Heat the oil and butter in a large deep skillet or Dutch oven over moderate heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the mushrooms, season lightly with salt and pepper, and sauté until browned and the juices begin to exude, around 4-5 minutes. Sprinkle the mushrooms with minced tarragon, toss and set aside. Wipe out the skillet with paper towels.

Pour the remaining olive oil into the skillet over medium high heat. When hot and shimmering, add pasta to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy and begins to just slightly brown on the edges, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 1 minute. Then in a slow, continuous risotto-reminiscent process, slowly ladle hot stock into the skillet a ladle at a time, stirring after each addition. When the stock is just about to evaporate, add another ladle and so on…until the pasta is al dente, about 16-18 minutes.

When pasta is about 1-2 minutes away from being done, add chicken, mushrooms and truffle oil; stir to heat and combine. If necessary, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to your liking. Serve in shallow soup bowls garnished with tarragon, capers and parmigiano-reggiano.


1 C good quality italian sausage, casings removed
1 T extra virgin olive oil

8 -10 C chicken stock

1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil
4 fresh, plump garlic cloves, peeled and smashed slightly

1 lb dried penne rigate

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 T tomato paste
2 T finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

Red peppers flakes, to taste
2 T red wine vinegar

Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
Fresh basil, cut into ribbons

Heat olive oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Stir in the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until barely no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Do not overcook as it will briefly cook some at the end. Remove with slotted spoon, drain on paper towels and set aside.

In a large heavy saucepan, heat the stock and keep at a constant simmer.

In a large, deep heavy skillet heat the olive oil over moderately high heat. When it is hot and shimmering but not smoking, add the garlic and heat until only golden brown, pressing the cloves all over the surface to subtly flavor and perfume the oil. Do not burn or you will have a restart on your hands. Remove and discard the garlic.

Then, add the pasta, stirring occasionally until the pasta begins to brown lightly around the edges, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the tomato paste and the rosemary, stirring constantly until the pasta is evenly coated. Slowly add a ladleful of stock, stirring until most of the liquid is absorbed. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. The pasta should cook slowly and should always be covered in at least a light film of stock. Continue adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring frequently and tasting regularly, until the pasta is tender and al dente, about 16-18 minutes.

Add the already cooked sausage, red pepper, red wine vinegar, and toss gently for a minute or so. Serve in bowls, generously sprinkle with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano and garnish with basil ribbons.

Tonic-clonic Sicilian croquettes.

A way to embrace those lonely risotto leftovers from the previous day—before you take the fateful, even shameful, step of simply discarding them. The name arancini derives from the shape and color of this street and café food, which is reminiscent of the small oranges found on Sicily. These deservedly glorified fried stuffed rice croquettes are an almost cult-like, centuries old Sicilian delight with distinctly North African roots, as oranges were brought to the island during Arab tenure there.

Once again, the struggles of conquest and occupation and the interlacing of disparate cultures leads to blissful cuisine. Food is so often the last haven for besieged peoples. Fusion is far from a recent culinary phenonmenon.

Dip these little comforts in aïoli once they cool some. (See Aïoli, Aïoli, Aïoli, January 25, 2009). Or tidy them over a nest of baby mixed greens and drizzle a simple balsamic vinaigrette over them (See In Praise of Balsamic, March 19, 2009). Do not feel limited to this recipe, as arancini can be made with most any risotto.


3-4 C wild mushroom risotto, cooled (See Risotto, January 27, 2009)
1-2 C Taleggio cheese, cut into 1/2″ cubes

4 large eggs
2 C all purpose flour
2 T fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1 T fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
2 T parmigiano-reggiano
2 C fine fresh bread crumbs

Equal parts extra virgin olive and grapeseed oils, for frying
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Aioli, for dipping or
Balsamic vinaigrette, for drizzling

Pour combined olive and grapeseed oils to a 3 1/2″ depth. Bring the temperature of the oil to 350 degrees F, using a frying thermometer. Line a jellyroll pan or cookie sheet with paper towels to later drain and season the fried arancini.

To make an arancino, take about two tablespoons of risotto in one hand, make a hole with a finger and stuff it with 1-2 Taleggio cubes. Close the hole and then form and roll the risotto into almost 2″ diameter balls. Set aside on a pan covered in parchment paper.

Break the eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk well. Place the flour in a separate mixing bowl and combine with the parmigiano-reggiano, rosemary, sage and salt and fresh black pepper to taste. Place the bread crumbs in a third mixing bowl.

Roll the arancini first in the flour mixture, then dip into the eggs until well coated and then finally roll lightly into the bread crumbs.

Working in batches cook in the heated oil until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the oil with a spider or slotted spoon, drain on paper towels and season to taste.

To review:  1) roll arancini into 2″ balls 2) make a hole and stuff with 1 or so 1/2″taleggio cubes 3) whisk local, fresh eggs 4) roll in seasoned flour 5) dip into whisked eggs 6) coat lightly with bread crumbs 7) cook in heated, mixed oils — 350 F — for 3-4 minutes 8) drain cooked arancini on paper towels and 9) once cooled enough, relish with eyes rolled back.

Pourboire:  serve arancini on a plate which has copious dollops of basil pesto for dipping.

Fried Sage Leaves

December 1, 2009

Let a fool hold his tongue and he will pass for a sage.
~Publilius Syrus

Fried sage. Rings like that series of ads in the late ’80s that depicted a sizzling fried egg and droned on: “this is your brain on drugs.”

This post seems simple to the point of naive, but the uses for fried sage are manifold and often forgotten: gracing appetizers…adorning pastas, rice, risotto, polenta, gnocchi, pizza, soups, fish, meats, poultry. They possess a fine textural finish. To me, even naked in a bowl as chip-like finger food is heaven enough.


Extra virgin olive oil, for frying
30 or so whole sage leaves, cleaned and patted dry
Sea salt

Heat about 1″ of olive oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium high heat, and when small drops of water sizzle when sprinkled into the oil, add half the sage leaves (to assure decent spacing) and fry until just crisped, about 10-15 seconds. Gently remove them to paper towels to drain with a spider or slotted spoon. Do not let the leaves turn a deep brown. Fry the remaining sage leaves and sprinkle them all lightly with salt. They will crisp as they cool.

Pourboire: another version of fried sage entails first dipping them in whisked eggs, then lightly coating them in flour, shaking off the excess. Follow the remainder of the recipe.


24-30 fried sage leaves (see above)

2 C crimini mushrooms, roughly cut in thirds
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T unsalted butter

4 fine Italian sausages
Water and chicken stock
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1 lb. fettuccine
Sea salt

1 C heavy whipping cream
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Parmigiano-reggiano, grated

In a heavy skillet, sauté the mushrooms in olive oil and butter until just softened. Set aside in a bowl.

In a different pan, simmer the sausages in equal parts of stock and water, covered, for about 10 minutes. Turn the sausages a few times. Remove them from the pan and allow to cool.

Slice the poached sausages into 1″+ chunks and sauté them in the oil until browned, adding the garlic toward the end so that it turns golden but not burned. Discard the garlic, remove the sausage from the pan and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring water to a boil and salt generously. Then, cook the fettucine until al dente. Drain in a colander.

Pour off the fat from the skillet. Add the cream and bring to a boil, scrape up cooking bits, and return the mushrooms and sausage to heat through. Toss in the fettucine to coat, turning gently with tongs and season with salt and pepper to your liking.

Serve in bowls sprinkled with grated parmigiano-reggiano and fried sage leaves.