Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Glory of Turnip Greens and Bacon

Right now I'm eating a bowl of orecchiette with turnip greens, and it's completely delicious. I seasoned the dish with a little bacon, a small garlic clove, a few dried red chili flakes, and a very small glug of cream. Bound it all together with a good glug of the pasta cooking water. This is the kind of pasta dish that my Jewish father from the Bronx would be frustrated by. "It has no sauce," he would say. "It needs a sauce."


In my rudimentary (and rudimentary is a generous word here) understanding of pasta, pastas with fillings, like ravioli, are not meant to be sauced. Some brown butter and sage, perhaps, but no ragu, no pesto, no clam sauce. Those sauces are for spaghetti, penne, linguini, and other un-filled pastas.

So in a sense, my father would be right - my orecchiette dish doesn't have a sauce, and it's not a filled pasta, so it should have a sauce. But I'm using the pasta as a vehicle to enjoy the glorious combination of braised turnip greens and bacon, and for me, that is sauce enough. Of the various braising greens such as collards, kale, and chard, my favorite for braising are turnip greens. They have great texture and a nice earthy-turnip flavor, and they absorb other flavors very well. They have a particular affinity for cured or smoked pork products, and thankfully, humans discovered and widely shared this bit of culinary knowledge.

Turnips are in season. If you buy turnips, save the greens and try something like this dish. Think about this: turnip greens = earthy, bacon = umami, chili flakes = spicy, garlic = savory, and cream = sweet. An almost complete combination, but no sour. I considered a squeeze of lemon for sour, but it somehow didn't seem right.

When I decided to make this dish, I had no particular wine in mind. I considered a St. Joseph, imagining the marriage of bacon flavors. But I decided that Syrah, particularly young Syrah, which is all I own, would overpower everything but the bacon. I considered a snappy and vibrant bottle of Pian del Ciampolo, the un-oaked Sangiovese from Montevertine, but sadly, I don't actually own any of that wine. I considered a white from Friuli, like the i Clivi Galea, the Tocai/Malvasia blend, and in retrospect, that probably would have been a great pairing.

But I drank the 2007 Mugneret-Gibourg Bourgogne, $32, Michael Skurnik Wines. A lovely Bourgogne, not as impressive as the 2006, as the 2007 doesn't seem to handle its wood treatment as well, but lovely nonetheless. Why did I open this bottle? Because sometimes agonizing over the right pairing is tiring, especially when I am putting the kids to bed, stressing about work, and simply feeling tired. I wanted comfort. For me, this wine conjures something very comforting. And if it totally failed with the pasta, I could recork it and open something else. It didn't fail, it was fine. But this dish deserves better than fine.

May I ask, what would you pour with this type of pasta dish?

13 comments:

Andrew Ross said...

(baudry) chinon? st. laurent? rhone white? white bordeaux? 06/07 produttori nebbiolo? lillet blanc? be well, dont stress.

andrew

Alex Halberstadt said...

A half-bottle of Huet Le Haut-Lieu Sec 2004. They have them at UVA in Williamsburg and they are drinking so lovely right now. Okay, maybe a whole bottle. Or a big champagne, from Lallement or Bollinger. Or Krug (yeah, right.)

Drink, Memory said...

Braised mustard greens with mustard and a little creme fraiche is also nice with pasta. If you have it, with little chunks of rabbit. I love all braised greens with bacon and since it is so rustic I think the wine should be too. I would have a simple country wine of course, just because I keep it simple. Cotes du Rhone Villages...night before last I had it with spinach and bacon tart. But what about red Sancerre?
By the way, have you heard of a Loire red called Les Hospices de la Serpe? It is Saumur and I wonder if it is exported to NY.

michelecolline said...

Orecchiette is from Puglia...maybe a white from that region?

D J R-S said...

Hmmm-- Michele makes me curious about Pugliese whites (don't think I can find any here in Puerto Rico) & I'm reminded I haven't had any Lachryma Christi in a while, & that might work...usually, I would go for Cannonau or Monica from Sardegna. Keeping it in the neighborhood...

Cliff said...

Wow, some great suggestions. I just had a Sauner bianco that would fit the bill beautifully. I also think the Occhipinti SP68 would do quite nicely. Maybe a Lopez de Heredia white? The Macle Côtes du Jura might be a little much, but, then again, it might not.

jason said...

i would have to go with something like an arneis, or southern rhone white. the bacon is hard to do. surely needs some weight and acid.

David McDuff said...

Soave.

Joe Manekin said...

White wine dish all the way.
05 Benanti Pietramarina Etna Bianco Superiore. A bit expensive, though they produce a less exensive bottling as well for $17.

Brooklynguy said...

thanks Andrew, I appreciate it and I'm trying.

Alex - you escalated pretty quickly there.

drink memory - i have one source of rabbit here, and it's abrand called D'Artagnan. They make some great products and some mediocre ones, and I've only tried their rabbits once. I found them to be bland - devoid of any rabbit-ness. But i should try again. and i've not seen that Loire wine you mention. Sounds like one of the charity barrels, a la Hospices de Beaune...

I like your thinking michele colline, and i don't know where to start.

DJRS!! long time no see. glad you still come by from time to time. and i like the sardinian idea. and you make me remember that i had a great smokey white wine from Avellino that would have been great, something Levi Dalton served at Convivio in Manhattan, a Fiano.

Cliff - interesting as always. the sicilian red sounds like a match. I wonder if the Lopez would dominate everything. Probably not.

Hi Jason - i love the Arneis idea.

McDee - yes, thank you.

Hey Old School - never heard of it, would like to try it, what is it exactly.

Little Rock Wedding said...

thanks for your post..

Little Rock Wedding

Anonymous said...

Something simple and rustic -- I like the red Sancerre idea; I was thinking a red Coteaux du Loir.

Christian said...

Looks really delicious and simple to make. Will make this tomorrow morning..thanks for sharing.