Friday, March 25, 2011

Spaghetti Al'Amatriciana - with a Turkey Twist!

I first discovered amatriciana sauce about 15-20 years ago when I was looking through an old Silver Palate cook book looking for some new ideas for pasta. 

I liked the amatriciana recipe as soon as I saw it.  I had never heard of the sauce before.  It was not as common in cookbooks and restaurants as it is now.  I liked that it was simple and had a mix of familiar flavors that all worked well together, but it wasn't your typical spaghetti and tomato sauce.  The recipe called for onions, garlic, wine, tomatoes, and Canadian bacon.  It had an unexpected sweet-smoky flavor beneath the typical flavor of tomatoes and onion and garlic.

As the years went on I started seeing more cooks and more recipes making amatriciana.  The Canadian bacon was unique to the Sliver Palate.  Most recipes I saw used bacon.  Then as pancetta became more popular and more readily available, I started seeing it with pancetta. 

These days true foodies know that authentic amatriciana sauce is only made with guanciale - cured pork cheeks.  From what I have been reading on the Internet, many foodies will dispute what goes into a true amatriciana.  Onions, wine, and garlic are all argued both for and against.  However, guanciale reigns supreme for true amatriciana.

I took amatriciana off my repetoire years ago.  Guanciale may be more common than it used to be, but it's still not easy to find without a special trip to an Italian market (Eataly may be too much of a trip for me, but Mario Batali did open another market locally.)  I could substitute bacon or pancetta or even that Canadian bacon, but as my husband still claims pork products irritate his widdle tum-tum, I don't use it. 

Why not use turkey bacon? You ask.  Well, I don't like turkey bacon too much.  I find most turkey bacon is this weird strip of pressed and formed meat.  It's just too highly processed and it never tastes close enough to the real thing.  Amatriciana recipes were officially retired.

Then one day I found these.

*Puts fingers in ears and waits while everyone screams "EWWWWWWWW WHAT IS THAT?"*

What are these?  Well, maybe I can help you guess.

Are you the kind of person who always wants to carve the turkey at Thanksgiving, or at least be close to the person who carves the turkey so that you can have a certain piece of the turkey all to yourself? A piece that there is only one of?

Do you eat that piece of turkey in private for fear of ridicule (or because you have another family member who secretly wants it and you want to claim it for himself)?

Do you sneak into the kitchen while the turkey is being carved and quickly grab a certain something while no one is looking before it makes it to the table?

I know for years when my mother made Thanksgiving dinner I would always ask her for the carcass for soup-making purposes.  Certain parts of that carcass never made it into the stock pot.

Do you not want to admit that something so loaded with fat is just so darned delicious?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. 

If you didn't, I'll clue you in.  I'm talking about the back end.  The tail.  The part that goes over the fence last.  THE BUTT.  Maybe they don't always want to admit it, but turkey butts have their loyal fans and the gods help any family that has two turkey butt lovers.

I openly loved my turkey tails as a kid, but my mostly fat-phobic family started to instill a sense of shame about it as I grew older, so I stopped openly asking for it at Thanksgiving and began eating it on the sly.  I found out as I grew older though that many tail lovers are coming out of the closet and now openly snack on the back end.  My brother has admitted to eating a tail or two.  I was even shocked when I found out my very calorie-conscious stepmother is an aficionado of the turkey tail.

You can imagine my joy when I was browsing the meat department at my local Shop Rite and discovered a package of turkey tails - SMOKED.

Yes, smoked turkey tails are my new best friend.  I bought that package right away not even knowing what I was going to do with them (other than the obvious act of simply chowing down on them as a midnight snack).  I put them in my freezer and pondered their purpose.

What I have discovered about smoked turkey tails is that they are the perfect substitute for bacon in recipes.  Like bacon they are rich and fatty, and they are also sweet and smoky.  I would even believe slices of smoked turkey tail would be great alongside eggs for breakfast.  They have much more flavor than turkey bacon and don't taste so artificial.

So I decided to use turkey tails to rescue the amatriciana recipe.

I rendered the meat then added the usual suspects of hot peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes and wine. 

I know there are plenty of chi chi recipes out there that use bucatini, but I stuck with spaghetti.  My store had no bucatini.  They did have artisinal perciatelli, and I can't tell the difference between bucatini and perciatelli, but they were way more money that I would want to pay for pasta!

Sorry for the rotten photo.  I should have put it on a nice plate and stuck it under the light box, but it was late and I was hungry and just wanted to eat and not fuss with photography.

My sauce was very thick.  I probably should have cut back on the tomatoes because you could eat this sauce with a fork.  I might have thrown another hot pepper in there for a bit more bite.  Many recipes call for sugar, but I'm trying not to use sugar in recipes unless I really feel it needs it.  The turkey was delicious, but the rendering and cooking did make the bits a slightly rubbery.  If I do this again, I will do a few tweaks like maybe just using one can of whole tomatoes instead of two cans of crushed. 

Sir Pickypants said his tum-tum was bothering him a bit the next day.  He said that maybe it was from the "sausage" I used in the pasta.  I said it wasn't sausage, it was smoked turkey.  He said, "Either way it was good." 

Two things to know about this recipe.  The first is it will take some time to cut your tails into little pieces.  You need to cut around the coccyx bone as well as the little bones (feather attachments) at the back.  Just factor in the time when you make the recipe.  Second is that you don't need to add salt to this, so don't worry that I left it out of the ingredient list.  The smoked tails provide all the salt you need.

Totally Inauthentic Spaghetti Al'Amatriciana

1 pound spaghetti
2 smoked turkey tails, cut into small bits
1 onion, finely diced
2 dried hot peppers, stemmed, seeded, and crushed into bits
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
1 cup white wine
Pecorino cheese for topping (optional)

In a large saute pan or saucepan render the turkey until it has given off much of its fat and outer skin is a little crispy.  Drain off excess fat.

Cook onion in pan until soft. Add garlic and hot pepper flakes and cook until fragrant.  Add tomatoes and wine and simmer for another 30 minutes.

Cook spaghetti according to package directions.  Serve with sauce and pecorino cheese as desired.


bellini valli said...

The very first cookbooks I ever bought for myself were the Silver Palate series. I just hauled them out of storage and have been intending on remaking a few dishes.

Samantha said...

A great addition to my collection. Thanks for sharing. I can't wait ti try this especially for my family.

The Blonde Duck said...

I really want your banana pudding cookbook's recipe!

Here's the secret to my catfish tacos--I don't use catfish. I use pangiasis, which is a Japenese Catfish that is clean and doesn't feed off the bottom. I got the secret from a local restaurant famous for their catfish. Ben loves it and he normally won't eat catfish because it's a bottom feeder.

The Blonde Duck said...

Have a magical Monday!

The Blonde Duck said...

Happy Tuesday!

Emily said...

I love that you admitted the turkey tail is your favorite part! I've never had it, but I'd be willing to try it. I doubt our grocery store sells them though.

I really do like turkey products. I've been buying turkey more than chicken.

This pasta looks great!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Val - Too bad the Silver Palate partnership didn't last. I have a lot of fun with that one cookbook.So many recipes get used from that and home cooks seem to know them all. "Did you get that recipe from the Silver Palate?"

Emily - Next T-day you must sneak that turkey tail away from whomever is carving the turkey. May not do much for your girlish figure, but it sure is tasty!

Sue said...

I always strip all the meat off the turkey, but I can't say I ever identified that particular part. I guess I have to look more closely.

Your Silver Palate book is in remarkably good shape. Mine is kind of crusty, but I still love it.

katiez said...

I never even knew they were edible.... I know exactly what you're talking about - always went to the dogs. Lucky dogs, I guess. My day is complete, I have learned something new. Great recipe - with the twist!