Last month, while on our annual visit to dear friends down in Sarasota, we enjoyed a massive and fabulous meal at a Tapas restaurant in town. (I also got to be the designated driver for the first time, thanks to the restaurant’s slight delay in seating us and the decision of the non-pregnant members of our party to work through the several bars in the building en route to our table.)
Everyone else was in a meat mood, but the highlight of the evening for me was a sauteed spinach dish with dried figs, honey and onions. The onions seemed scorched, or something, which gave them a delicious smokiness to offset the sweet figs and honey. I had trouble releasing the dish to be shared.
Once we were home, I started thinking about scorched onions and other ways to use them, and I settled on a kale/sausage/onion pasta dish. I was going to cook the pasta absorption style, but then I remembered Smitten Kitchen’s post about spaghetti with cheese and pepper, and figured I could use that as my base.
I started by cooking the sausage (out of the casings) until it was nearly done. I wiped most of the grease from the pan (but not all of it, for which I paid), and started the onions. My mom and I had discussed it and thought a dry pan was probably the best bet if I wanted a scorch on the onions before covering them and letting them cook through with the steam from the liquid they would release.
Yeah, the deliciousness left over from the sausage was not a “dry pan.” That all started to really burn on, pretty quickly. In fact, the pan turned completely black. Also a Swiffer Wet-Jet is not ideal for turning off a smoke alarm, FYI. Awkward handle shape.
And yet the onions didn’t really get the smoky flavor I was looking for. On further reflection the next day, Mom and I agreed that the restaurant was almost certainly using a flat-top to cook the onions. Maybe I’ll try a griddle next time? And NO OIL?
I had to wash the pan after the onions were done; it actually scraped clean pretty easily since I added boiling pasta water (pre-pasta) to it while it was hot, and then scraped off the blackened stuff. Tip: Never let a badly burnt-on pan cool before filling it with HOT water to soak. Scrape while it’s all still hot and you will save yourself endless scrubbing.
After a cursory wipe-down, I cooked the kale quickly. Meanwhile the pasta was cooked.
As per the recipe, I heated oil in the pasta pot, added back the pasta, and added in some of the pasta water. In went the cheese, pepper and butter:
Not really coated enough. Less pasta water next time. More cheese.
In went the kale, sausage and onions.
Funny how thinly stretched a mountain of onions and kale can seem once you add them to a pound of pasta. I could definitely have used at least one more sausage, though I was using hot ones from the freezer and it would have been too spicy for our wimpy palates with more.
Great flavor combination (obviously; it’s one I use all the time…branch out, Kate!). I left the kale a little less cooked than usual so it had great chew against the pasta. The onions were more caramelized-tasting than I wanted, but overall it was delicious.
I really need to work out the key to those onions, though. I want that spinach dish.