the ultimate buttered noodle
It’s May. The wild tree-sex month. There are “organic matters” in the air carrying a vicious assault on my eyes, nose and throat, bashing my brain into a piece of stiff, over-chewed gum. Who knew that these stationary stick-figures could get so violent and nasty in bed…? Every year, trying to peddle through this merrymaking orgy-time with whatever strain of functionality left at the rear-end of it, is going to be the excuse I am using to explain the current inspiration-draught pillaging through my kitchen.
Because surely you could understand my reluctance to barge in (or should I say out) to the middle of someone else’s ongoing “family-planning” sessions. Hold that position because I’m out of milk? It’s rude and it makes me sneeze. So reasonably, I’m quite a bit of a minimalist in the kitchen these couple of weeks. But last week, an attempt to make a dinner of homemade pasta tossed with a little melted butter, left me feeling unsatisfied, unwanted… utterly lifeless. That was when I realized that minimal doesn’t mean it can’t be luxurious, indulgent… sinful even as the fuck-fest happening outside my windows because evidently every living things could use a little naughtiness once in a while. So I want you to say it. Say it with conviction… say it like you mean it… say BUTTERRR~ until the name “Thomas Keller” slowly arises in your vision like a calling.
I’m talking beurre monté. I’m talking “the workhorse sauce” as he calls it, a delicate and fragile bonding between water and butter in a beautiful, heated marriage. The song Yellow either sings to it or it should. This creamy and fiercely buttery liquid that could only be sustained at a specific whispering heat, is Keller’s vehicle to transfer culinary goodness to greatness, by poaching-in, resting-in or simply as a dressing. Is there anything more extravagant to create with simply flour, eggs and butter, than homemade ultra thin noodles coated in a shimmering layer of this liquid gold then showered with aged Parmigiano cheese? Easily the purest and most seductive bite of noodle in my opinion. If you are having doubts or guilt, just look outside your windows. Things are having relentless fun all over the place. It’s time to out-sex the trees.
This is a relatively dry dough compare to the other fresh pasta doughs I’ve made before (such as this and this). It needs to be slightly denser because of its delicate thinness so that it doesn’t break easily during cooking. I cut the pasta into approx 5/18″ in width, but in retrospect, it should have been 3/18″ in width. Basically as thin in width as you can manage. You can of course use store-bought if available.
Thomas Keller says the beurre monté sauce should be kept between 160ºF ~ 190ºF (71ºC ~ 88ºC). I didn’t bother to set a thermometer and frankly I don’t think I need to with this specific recipe. All you have to know is that the sauce needs to be MADE and KEPT at a warm temperature. Just warm enough for the butter to melt but never hot (over 190ºF) or it will break. And it’s important to serve the trenette on a WARM serving dish and immediately before it gets cold.
- Fresh trenette: produces 4 servings
- 200 g of tipo 00 flour
- 100 g of semolina flour
- 3 large organic/free range eggs
- 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp of fine salt
- Beurre monté sauce: from Thomas Keller’s French Laundry cookbook (this is more than enough for 2 servings)
- 3~4 tbsp of water
- 113 g (1 stick) of unsalted butter, relatively cold and cut into large cubes
- 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
- Parmigiano cheese for grating
Make the trenette: Place the flour, semolina and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and crack the eggs and add the olive oil. Scramble the eggs and oil together with a fork and move outwards to slowly include the flours, until everything starts to come together in a lumpy mess. Move the ingredients onto the working surface and start kneading. The dough may seem very dry and hard at first and you may have difficulty incorporating all the flour into the dough. Knead it for a couple minutes, and if need be, add moisture by wetting the palm of your hands with water and knead the water into the dough that way (I did this a couple of times). Keep kneading the dough for 10 min, no less no more, and eventually you will have a dough with smooth and silky surface. Wrap with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 30 min.
Divide the dough in 4 portions. Work with one portion of the dough while you cover the rest with plastic wrap. Run the dough through the widest increment of the pasta machine, fold it and repeat a couple times. Then dust the dough with semolina flour and run it through the pasta machine, one smaller-increment at a time, until you hit the thinnest/last increment. The pasta sheet should be so thin that it’s almost sheer. If not, you can roll it further with a pastry roller.
The pasta sheet should be very long so cut it in half in length. Dust it VERY VERY generously in between with semolina flour as you fold the sheet a couple times in length, until it is shorter than the blade of your knife (that you are using to cut it). You should now have two pieces of pasta sheet, folded and ready to be cut. Set them aside first and repeat the steps with the remaining three portions of the pasta dough.
Overlap two folded pasta sheets on top of each other. Trim off the uneven edges on both sides. Start slicing the sheets length-wise into very thin noodles, each 3/18″ in width only. It would help to place your knuckles behind the knife as you move incrementally across the sheet. Then loosen the noodles by “fluffing” them with your fingers. Set them loosely over a baking sheet while you repeat with the rest of the pasta sheet.
You should have four servings of noodles/trenette. Leave the trenette uncovered for a couple of hours to dry slightly. You could then cook, or freeze them until needed.
Make the beurre monté and cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of water with a big pinch of salt to boil.
While that’s happening, add 3 tbsp of water in another small sauce pot over medium-high heat until it starts to boil. NOW TURN THE HEAT DOWN TO LOW. REMOVE THE POT FROM THE HEAT, and start whisking in a cube of butter into the water vigorously. As the butter slowly beats/melts into the water, an emulsion will form. The liquid should be OPAQUE, but NOT CLEAR/TRANSPARENT (which would mean that the emulsion has broken, and you will need to start over). Add the second cube of butter once the first has been incorporated completely and keep whisking. Every time you feel like there’s not enough heat to melt the butter, return the pot back to the low flame for 10~15 second, then move it away from the heat and keep whisking. Mid-way through the butter, slowly add in one more tbsp of water. Keep whisking until the rest of the butter is incorporated. Add the freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste. Keep the sauce by the stove to keep it warm.
Cook 2 servings of the trenette in the boiling salted water. They should cook pretty fast, approx a couple of min. Remove the trenette GENTLY from the water and drain slightly. Add the trenette to the pot of buerre monté and let it coat thoroughly within the sauce. Twirl the trenette in between two forks and drain of excess sauce (you would probably have leftover sauce). Set on a warm serving plate.
Grate Parmigiano cheese on top and serve IMMEDIATELY.