” MY CURRENT…
ORANGE STATE OF MIND “
Jason has gone to my happy place without me.
A week-long business trip to New York, by himself, is just about as much salt as you can rub on a bloody wound of someone who’s doing her time in doggy-prison. Right. Perhaps I’ve failed to mention that for the past 6 months, I haven’t been able to leave my apartment for more than 12 hours because these days, a pot of hot caramel is constantly bubbling on my stove. That’s just the code-words for my 14-years-old dog, Dumpling, with his very inconvenient heart condition that has rendered me immobile as well. So, right, no NYC for mommy, or anywhere else for that matter… But, as if squatting in my prison-cell isn’t responsible enough, now I’m being thrown into the “the cooler”…
As I am scraping these words with my finger nails onto the concrete walls of my solitary confinement, I guess it’s only appropriate to also drench myself… in gushing orange.
May I introduce you, The Hot Bunny pasta sauce.
Relax… it’s just carrots. No actual bunny was injured in the making of this pasta sauce, however, I can’t say that much about the dish that inspired it. I recently read a New York Times review for Gato, Bobby Flay new restaurant on Lafayette, and was immediately taken away by his – no pun intended – rabbit fregola sarda w/ carrot hot sauce. Serving rabbits with carrot hot sauce?! I mean, how brilliantly cruel is that? If I were a human-eating alien, that’s like serving braised Koreans in kimchi stew, or barbecued-American burgers w/ ketchup , or Scottish-men stuffed haggis, or simply, raw Japanese sashimi (clearly the isolation is taking an effect…). Totally hilarious! (……. I hear voices…….).
Obviously, I haven’t set a foot inside Gato let alone sampling its dishes, as well as having any tool or will to handle any game-meat (why~ because I just traded my mini-blade for a bar of soap…), but the idea of a spicy, peppery and brightly orange-suited pasta sauce fits very appropriately into my mental preparation for what’s coming…
So the night before Jason’s departure to my desolation, I made a jar of The Hot bunny sauce. I lovingly browned the anchovies in butter and cooked the carrots with lots of red chiis until soft. I blended it with tons of brightening agents such as vinegar, garlic, Dijon mustard and fresh nutmegs, then tossed it with pasta along with more chili oil and tons of Parmigiano cheese. It was surprisingly tasty, perfect, actually. Unexpectedly robust in flavour, warm, creamy, spicy and mildly sweet. But most importantly, as fierce and vibrant as my current, orange state of mind.
The rest of the jar is quietly sitting inside the fridge, watching my back. And I think with its help, I might just make it out of my prison-time in one piece.
Carrots are just one of those things that vary greatly in sizes, so when in doubt, go with measuring by weight.
Try not to dial down on the number of red jalapeno/red chili in this recipe. It’s important for the peppery-ness and fruity-ness of the chilis to come through prominently in the sauce. If you want to reduce the spiciness a little bit without reducing flavour, removing the seeds of the chili will help. Then importantly, don’t forget to grate fresh nutmeg over the pasta before serving. It’s just as important as good, aged Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, which will add depth and complexity to the overall flavour!
- The hot bunny sauce:
- 2 tbsp of unsalted butter
- 4 fillets of anchovies in olive oil
- 3 medium-size carrots (530 grams), peeled and diced
- 5 ~ 7 red jalapeño peppers (or large red Asian chili peppers), roughly diced
- 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 1/4 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup of chicken stock + another 1/2 cup
- 1/4 cup of heavy cream
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 1/2 tbsp of Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp of sugar
- 1/2 tsp of white wine vinegar
- 1/4 tsp of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp of ground cinnamon
- For the pasta (you can half the recipe for 2 servings):
- Approx 400 grams of spaghetti pasta
- 6 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1/2 ~ 1 tsp of chili flakes (according to your tolerance for heat)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Nutmeg for grating
- Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for grating
To make the hot bunny sauce: In a large sauce pot, cook the anchovies with unsalted butter over medium-high heat. Use a wooden spoon to break up the anchovies and let melt into the butter. Add the peeled and diced carrots, diced red jalapeño peppers (or large red Asian chili peppers), fresh thyme, salt and freshly ground black pepper, and sauté for 2 min. Then add 1/2 cup of chicken stock, then reduce the liquid until almost all evaporated, and that the carrots are soft. Turn off the heat, and add the other 1/2 cup of chicken stock, and scrape the sides and bottom of the pot to release any browned bits.
Transfer the mixture to a blender, then add the heavy cream, garlic, Dijon mustard, sugar, white wine vinegar, freshly grated nutmeg and cinnamon. Blend the mixture until as smoothly and evenly pureed as possible. Transfer to a jar and store in the fridge until needed.
To make the pasta: Bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil, and cook the spaghetti until al dente.
In another large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the extra virgin olive oil with chili flakes until fragrant. Add the spaghetti into the skillet, along with 1/4 cup of the pasta water, and the hot bunny sauce. Toss the pasta and the sauce together with a tong, and cook until the pasta water has evaporated. Serve the pasta with drizzles of extra virgin olive oil, more freshly grated nutmeg, and lots lots of grated Parmigiano cheese.