Monday, December 7, 2015

Pasta with Fried Lemon and Chili Flakes

The page with this recipe for Pasta with Fried Lemon and Chili Flakes shows an incredibly artful shot of pasta with pretty curls of cheese, artfully situated bits of parsley and celery leaves, and three fried lemon rinds sitting on the side. My pasta looked like most of what ends up on your plate at home; it was a writhing mass of spaghetti coated in spices with what looks like lemon wedges trying to make an escape:

I had my eye on this recipe for quite some time, but was waiting for the right ingredients to make it. With such a short list, I wanted to make sure that I was working with good cheese in particular and used freshly grated Parmesaino-Regianno cheese. I did not obtain celery leaves because it was optional, but my guess is that they would not add that much to the dish.

I followed the recipe pretty faithfully except for using garlic salt instead of regular salt and adding a little more pasta water to the sauce as it seemed insufficient to cover it all (and there was no liquid in the pan after I mixed it up so it was nowhere near overly wet). Some of the comments seemed to say the dish was lacking in flavor and I didn't want to create an enormous mess and have a bland result. I also was very careful about how I cooked the lemons because it was clear (again from comments) that that would make or break the dish. I blanched and dried them faithfully and carmelized them until they looked on the brink of burning.

The little blurb next to the picture states that blanching them eliminates the bitterness in the pith. The little blurb is a big, fat lie. I even blanched for slightly longer than required (another 30 seconds) to make sure the temperature drop from tossing in a bunch of cool onion slices didn't harm the de-bittering impact of blanching. Since a commenter mentioned "crunchy bits of lemon", I carmelized them slowly and thoroughly only to see a lot of the brown bits washed off when I did the sauce portion. If my rinds look less fried than those in the picture, that is why. They used to browner.

My guess is that the original recipe included more fat than indicated and they were closer to deep fried than "fried". That is the only way I could see them actually getting crunchy. My rinds were chewy and bitter despite my care in how I prepared them. It's possible that the type of lemon or the age mattered a lot, but neither of these were points made in the recipe.

The basic pasta is actually pretty good. The lemon flavor, cheese, chili flakes, pepper, etc. work well. Using the pasta water to thicken and coat worked well. My husband tried this dish and said he liked it until he hit a lemon rind, but that was a deal breaker for him. It just spoils it when it's supposed to be the star of the show.

I'm guessing that it is possible for this dish to work with the fried lemons, but it's just too fussy and the pasta works so well without them. This was definite the nadir of my Time's recipe efforts so far and I wasn't sufficiently inspired by its potential to try and perfect it. I'll make the pasta with chili flakes part again, but no fried lemon.

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