There are some nights when nothing will calm the stresses of your day except fat and carbs, nothing but a warm bowl of pasta covered in the comforting flavours of bacon, creme fraiche, and softly cooked zucchini. When I get home from work and it’s cold and raining I feel an instant need to have a hot shower and get into soft pyjamas. Once these immediate goals are accomplished I put on some music and return to the most pressing need of all, the need to cook with simple and filling ingredients in order to create a sensation of quiet domestic happiness (and this is a sensation I strongly crave after days filled with extroverted chatter.) Creme fraiche, a sort of high fat version of sour cream, is an easy addition creamy sauces as it gives a heavenly and rich mouthfeel but doesn’t carry the risk of separating when heated (unlike yogurt or lower fat sour creams.) You could substitute thinly sliced white button mushrooms for the zucchini and add fresh thyme and basil along with lemon zest and a quick squeeze of lemon juice. If you prefer an aged pecorino in place of the the Reggiano I humbly suggest a good sharp chunk of black peppercorn studded pecorino pepato.
bacon and zucchini pasta with creme fraiche:
3 strips of bacon, cut into small pieces (can be snipped with scissors)
2 tsp. olive oil
1 small zucchini, sliced into thin half moons
1 small red onion, sliced into thin half moons
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of dry white wine or dry vermouth
1/2 cup of chicken stock
1/2 cup of creme fraiche
1/2 tsp. red chilli flakes
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Juice of half a lemon
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
200 g of dried pasta of your choice
100 g of Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely shredded (plus more for the table)
1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Before draining the pasta reserve 1/2 a cup of the pasta water to help thicken the sauce.
2. While the water is heating up cook the bacon over medium-high heat until crispy in a large skillet. Drain the bacon on paper towel and remove the excess bacon fat from the pan.
3. Add the olive oil to the pan and sauté the zucchini, onion, and garlic over medium-high heat until soft. Reduce heat to medium and stir in the chicken stock, white wine or vermouth, creme fraiche, bacon, chili, oregano, salt, a handful of Parmesan leaves, and kosher salt; allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes before stirring in the cooked pasta. Toss to coat and then toss again with the shredded Parmesan cheese. Serve in warmed bowls with extra child flakes, Reggiano, and fresh parsley.
My mom listened to a lot of Suzanne Vega when I was growing up. A lot of it I can remember as the soundtrack for when we would go on road trips to the beach at Grand Bend or Toronto. I would look at the liner notes over and over again in the passenger side of the car, watching the Ontario countryside flash by us as we drove down the highway. Or curled up in the backseat under a beach blanket, skin smelling like sunscreen and campfire, looking at the roaming lights created by lone car head lights in the wide open darkness of rural routes and apple orchards. Suzanne Vega was the first version of a cool person that I can think of really wanting to emulate (one day anyway, at the time I was only 10 years old.) I still want to be like her and I still love her music, I can listen to the album 99.9 F° over and over again without ever tiring of its initial pull; there’s something comforting about music and art that continues to protect as you (and it) gets older.
Suzanne Vega – Rock in This Pocket (Song of David)