Alison Roman’s Caramelised Shallot Pasta

Serves: 4

No question, one of the defining themes of Covid has been food.

Cooking it. Eating it. Enjoying it with half a case of wine.

And repeat.

During lockdown, we had the time on our hands to experiment in ways we had never done. Indeed, given we couldn’t eat out, Nat and I would regularly recreate some of the most wonderful restaurant meals we had previously had.

I remember one meal where Nat recreated the incredible lobster and four-cheese Macaroni and Cheese from the best steakhouse in Honolulu – Mortons – and wow, looking back – at 1,570 calories a serve – Covid really did give us cover to do things culinarily that we wouldn’t otherwise do for a Monday lunch!

Of course, in Australia, we have moved back to relative normality which made it interesting to read the most popular recipes cooked the past year according to the NYTimes: America truly being the the opposite of our normality.

Like so much of our Covid, it kicked off with pasta.

Pasta that takes half an afternoon to cook.

A pasta that can – should – be cooked in pyjamas.

And a pasta that is on a whole other level of amazing.

Two-hat Italian amazing.

Slow-cooked onions always deliver though this is your case-in-point. Do this early afternoon, reheat when friends come around and blow them away.

(Ensuring all the bottles are in the recycling bin and the pyjamas are swapped for something a bit more acceptable.)

Ingredients

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 large shallots, sliced very thinly
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp red-pepper flakes
1 can anchovy fillets (about 12 anchovies, drained though not rinsed)
170gm tomato paste
1 pack spaghetti

To serve
Good handful of parsley chopped
Grated Parmesan
Flaky salt

Method

  1. Open a good Pinot. It is a must.
  2. Heat oil in a large, heavy pot over a low heat. Add the shallots and garlic, season and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots have become caramelised with golden-brown fried edges. The slower you can cook them, the better, though they will get there.
  3. Cook your pasta, remembering to reserve some pasta water: this is important.
  4. Add red-pepper flakes and anchovies drained straight from the can; there is no need to chop them as they will dissolve when cooked. Stir for two minutes.
  5. Add the tomato paste and season again. Cook, stirring constantly to prevent scorching, until the tomato paste has started to cook in the oil, caramelising at the edges and turning from bright red to a deeper, rusty brick colour: 2 or so minutes.
  6. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce pot and slowly start to pour some of the pasta water, combining the pasta with the sauce. Add small amounts of water at a time until the pasta is all coated. Add a little more for when the pasta and sauce cool.
  7. Plate your pasta and top with Parmesan, flaky salt and fresh parsley.

Champ

Serves: 4 – 6 as a side to a stew

Champ is as good as it is unknown in Australia; Ireland’s take on mash potatoes.

You can happily substitute spring onions for red onions or (French) shallots as I often do.

Or become a real champ warrior by adding bacon and ham.

Ingredients

100gm spring onions, sliced thinly
150ml milk
100gm butter
1kg potatoes
Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Make your mash potatoes as you normally would; plenty of butter and seasoning. If you have a ricer, use that you get perfectly smooth mash, if not, buy one.
  2. Stir through the spring onions.
  3. Try not to keep sampling to check the seasoning for the 20 minutes that your braise is finishing off!

Roger Verge’s Rib of Beef with Shallots and Vinegar

Serves 2

My parents cooked this for Nat and me a few months back, remarking that it was simply the finest beef dish around.

And it is.

Its genius is in its simplicity and the beauty of its raw presentation; a cut of rare, primal meat on the bone, the butter and shallots heaped on top, some potato gratin and maybe some sautéed beans or asparagus or Brussel sprouts. This dish talks to why Roger Verge was such a genius chef.

This is a dish – commensurate with the relative cost of the cut of beef as well as the generally wonderful occasion that always surrounds itself around standing rib eye – that demands a very good bottle of red and a doubling of the dish to ensure that there are at least four of you to enjoy it.

I have cooked this for six people and it really is just a matter of multiplying the ingredients as need be.

A worthy note, whilst Haverick Meats (or Vics, or some other good wholesaler) will always be the pick for the finest standing rib eye (and the aged, standing rib eye at Haverick Meats is extraordinary: served at Cut, Chophouse and the finest steak restaurants in Sydney), if you can’t make it there or to another quality butcher, Woolworths now sells rib eye. It is vacuum sealed, two servings per bag and it really quite good and of course, really quite convenient.

Do not stop, do not go to jail, collect $200 and cook this, this weekend.

Ingredients

1 rib of beef weighing 800gm – 1000gm (essentially, a two bone thick cut), cut into individual portions (i.e. one bone per person)
3 finely chopped shallots
2 tbs (red) wine vinegar
2 tbs chopped parsley
70g butter
Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Season the beef with the salt and pepper and rub in the seasoning with the tips of your fingers.
  2. Heat a generous tablespoon of the butter in a frying-pan and when it begins to foam, put in the beef. Lower the heat so that the beef does not acquire a hard crust and cook for 5 – 10 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the meat and how well done you want it; rare to medium-rare I hope, something you should be able to determine by pressing down on the meat in the traditional method.
  3. Remove the meat and keep it hot. To do this, put it on an upturned plate inside a larger one and cover the whole thing with an upturned bowl. This allows the meat to rest without drowning in its own juices, which would spoil the texture.
  4. Pour away the cooking butter and replace it with the remaining butter, together with the chopped shallots. Return to a medium heat and allow to soften for 5 minutes without allowing the shallots to brown. Add the wine vinegar and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon. Season with a few grinds of pepper and salt as necessary. Add the chopped parsley and the juices which have run out of the meat. Mix well and pour into a sauceboat, ensuring it remains hot.
  5. Cut the beef in thick slices, giving each person and equal serving of lean and fat. Serve very hot, accompanied by the shallot sauce.

For what it is worth, Mr Verge goes on to explain that the meat really doesn’t need much more than a ‘salad of curly endive seasoned with a mustardy vinaigrette’. In fact, in his recipe, he ‘promises you splendid meal’ if the ‘wine is cool and fresh’.

No doubt, though I served this with sautéed asparagus and scalloped potatoes (potatoes and cream) and we drank red wine.

And with my approach, I also, can promise a splendid meal and afternoon.