Last night, I felt the need for some spicy food to jumpstart my mind, body, and soul. I needed some spice to trick my mind into believing that it was warm outside.
A little history lesson for you…It is freezing in Brest. It’s not the same New England, 10-15° “Ah ha it’s snowing” weather, which is bearable and I actually like. This is 30-40° temps, a steady stream of rain/grey, and approximately 2935% humidity. This deluge of depressing weather creates a chilling cold unrivaled anywhere in the world. Like the infamous El Niño, Brest has its own “El Brest en February” or something Spanish like that.
En tout cas, I set about trying to make something hot/spicy last night. This past weekend at the farmers market, I bought what I thought were garden variety peppers. Farmer Pierre told me they were “piment” peppers, or chili peppers. I laughed it off because the French seem to be afraid of anything spicier than salter butter (although judging by several Spice Channel equivalents on public access television, maybe they do like a certain variety of spice). Under the pretense that these peppers would be “hot”, I bought a few. When making dinner last night, I once again laughed off Farmer Pierre’s proclamation that these would actually be piment. I bit into the pepper thinking I knew better…
“AHHH”! The first second I bit into the pepper I was still on my high horse. Approximately one second after that, I was crying and my tongue felt as though I had doused it in lighter fluid and lit it. I could literally feel the skin on my tongue peeling off, like a snake shedding its second skin. In a panic, I grabbed a huge stick of butter and started licking it profusely (I read somewhere that dairy neutralizes spice). Catastrophe averted for the moment, but MAN, Pierre was right, these were some of the hottest peppers I have ever tasted! My mouth cooled off for the moment and my mind started working regularly again. I had an idea though…since it is socially unacceptable to lick sticks of butter by themselves, I am just going to eat something really hot and then claim the dairy excuse–genius.
Anyways try out this recipe adapted from Bon Appétit Magazine that is sure to spice up your evening, from the greatest state of Massachusetts all the way to California! Spicy spaghetti with fennel, pancetta, and herbs.
Spicy Spaghetti with Fennel and Herbs–Bon Appétit January 2010
3 ounces pancetta/regular bacon
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 large jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
2 large fennel bulbs, cut into thin wedges
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 pound spaghetti
1 1/2 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Saute pancetta over medium heat until golden brown. Transfer pancetta to paper towels. Add 1 tablespoon oil to drippings in skillet. Add garlic and chiles; sauté over medium heat 1 minute. Add fennel; cook until beginning to soften, 5 minutes. Mix in broth, 2 tablespoons parsley, lemon juice, salt/pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until fennel is tender, about 20 minutes.
Once fennel is close to being done, start cooking pasta.
Uncover skillet with fennel mixture and return to high heat. Cook until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 4 minutes. Add fennel to pasta, stir in 2 tablespoons oil, 1/2 cup cheese, and pancetta. Serve HOT/CALIENTE and garnish with more cheese and parsley.