Recipe of the week: Jamie Oliver’s Blushing Spaghetti Vongole

Jamie Oliver's Comfort Food
Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food

Jamie Oliver last made a splash in the U.S. with his “Food Revolution” television show that exposed the dirty underbelly of Americans’ obsession with sugar, fast and junk food.

Now, he’s stepped off his (well-meaning and influential) soapbox and returned to cooking with “Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food,” a book he called the ultimate weekend cookbook.

Most of the dishes are certainly more complex than weeknight comfort food — handmade tortellini, a two-day bouillabaisse and an “insanity burger” that seems to fly in the face of all his healthy eating proselytizing. Other meals, like this spin on the classic spaghetti vongole, which uses fresh tomatoes, sun-dried tomato paste and rosé, are more in line with the simplistic, reassuring style that Americans fell in love with through his many cooking programs that have aired over the past 15 years.

Blushing Spaghetti Vongole from “Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food.” Photo by David Loftus.
Blushing Spaghetti Vongole from “Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food.” Photo by David Loftus.

Blushing Spaghetti Vongole

The key to success with vongole is to have everything prepped before you start cooking, because the whole thing will be ready in just a matter of minutes once you get going. We want perfectly cooked pasta, just-opened shellfish and spot-on seasoning — it sounds easy, but to achieve this you do need to focus.
— Jamie Oliver

2 cloves of garlic
8 ripe cherry tomatoes
1/2 dried red chile
1/2 bunch of fresh Italian parsley
5 1/2 oz. dried spaghetti
Extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. sun-dried tomato paste
10 oz. clams or cockles (washed and debearded)
1 glass Pinot Grigio blush

To start, peel and finely slice the garlic, quarter the tomatoes, then break apart the dried chile, shake out and remove the seeds, and finely chop or crumble it. Very finely slice the parsley stalks, then roughly chop the leaves and put them aside for later.

Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water according to package instructions. Around 5 minutes before it’s ready, place a large frying pan on a high heat. After 2 minutes, add a generous swirl of olive oil, quickly followed by the garlic, tomatoes, chile, parsley stalks and sun-dried tomato paste. Shake around, then add the clams or cockles (remembering to tap any that are open; if they don’t close, throw them away) and, after 30 seconds, add the wine. Pop the lid on for 1 minute, then remove so you can watch the clams or cockles open and the wine evaporate.

If you’ve got your timing right, as most of the shellfish pop open (throw away any that remain closed) you’ll be ready to drain your pasta and throw it on top with the chopped parsley leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Give it all a good toss together, then taste the sauce — it shouldn’t need seasoning because of the clams, but it’s always wise to check. Divide the pasta between two warm bowls, followed by the clams or cockles and all those wonderful juices, and tuck straight in.

— From “Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food” by Jamie Oliver (Ecco, $34.99)

In the news: Loving LaV, new chef stamps and the weirdest chicken-cooking contraption you’ve ever seen

Food news from around the pages of the Statesman:

The roasted chicken at LaV is one of the highlights of the menu. DEBORAH CANNON/Austin American-Statesman
The roasted chicken at LaV is one of the highlights of the menu.  DEBORAH CANNON/Austin American-Statesman

After back-to-back bombs, Matthew Odam proclaims LaV a shining star in the Austin restaurant scene thanks to the keen vision of chef Allison Jenkins and wine director Vilma Mazaite. A really nice review and some stunning images from Deborah Cannon.

This rotating chicken cooker is a creation of Argentina chef Francis Mallmann, who was in Austin for an event at Central Market. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/Austin American-Statesman
This rotating chicken cooker is a creation of Argentina chef Francis Mallmann, who was in Austin for an event at Central Market. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/Austin American-Statesman

Central Market hosted a big 20th anniversary celebration last night with famed fire cooking expert Francis Mallman, who creates some of the most elaborate cooking contraptions you’ve ever seen.

Austin brewers biking to Colorado.
Austin brewers biking to Colorado.

A team of brewers is biking to Colorado to raise money and awareness about prostate cancer. (And yes, they timed their arrival to the start of the Great American Beer Festival.)

The U.S. Postal Service's chef series.
The U.S. Postal Service’s chef series.

The U.S. Postal Service released a new line of stamps today honoring five revolutionary chefs: Julia Child, James Beard, Joyce Chen, Edna Lewis and Felipe Rojas-Lombardi.

 

Austin360Cooks: Making pizza with Ballet Austin’s Anne Bloodgood

Anne Bloodgood, a dancer with Ballet Austin, prepares pizza while her husband, Paul, a fellow dancer in the company, washes dishes. Photo by Ashley Landis.
Anne Bloodgood, a dancer with Ballet Austin, prepares pizza while her husband, Paul, a fellow dancer in the company, washes dishes. Click on the image to see the related photo gallery.  ASHLEY LANDIS/ For the Austin American-Statesman

Anne Bloodgood is one all-star baker.

She’s also a dancer with Ballet Austin, whose season opens this weekend with “The Firebird” and “Agon,” and is married to Paul Bloodgood, another member of the company.

When we first launched Austin360Cooks, Bloodgood tagged a bunch of pizza-making videos she’d posted to her Instagram account, @annembloodgood. A ballerina who makes homemade pizza every Friday night? Sign me up.

I reached out to her to ask if I could crash one of her pizza-making sessions, and she obliged.

Photographer (and dancer) Ashley Landis and I showed up at Anne and Paul’s North Austin house a few weeks ago and found out just how much they love from-scratch pizza and baguettes, not just for the flavor but for the fuel it gives them for their grueling rehearsals.

It was fascinating to learn more about the lives of these professional dancers, what goes into a production like “Firebird” (or “The Nutcracker” for that matter) and how this sweet couple spends so much time together without going crazy.

(A hint: Cooking helps.)

Here’s the link to my column from yesterday’s section, and here is a link to Ballet Austin’s website so you can check out tickets for this week’s performances.

Having a (really tasty fried) ball at Doug Moreland’s Calfry

calfrywinnersI’ve had some really terrible Rocky Mountain oysters.

Calf testicles, for the uninitiated, can be a delicacy when prepared correctly, but they are nearly unpalatable if you forget to remove the membrane or soak them too long in something meant to cover up the flavor, like lemon juice.

But Austin musician Doug Moreland knows that there is a finer side to eating balls, which is why he started the Cattlelacs Calfry more than a decade ago.

The event has evolved into a two-day music festival and cooking contest that takes place at his chainsaw art shop (yes, he’s also a chainsaw artist) in the small town of Manchaca just south of Austin.

I ran into Moreland at the free Sun Radio show at Guero’s last week and heard him talking about the upcoming Calfry. I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of this contest (I feel like I’ve judged every contest in Austin at this point in my food writing career), and having grown up in a part of the country where testicle eating is, contrary to rumors, more common than eating possum or squirrel, I felt like I really needed to be part of this year’s event.

calfrydancing

I introduced myself and asked if I might join them at the judging table. He happily obliged, but by the time the contest was over on Saturday night, I was especially happy I’d asked because two of the contestants prepared some of the best Rocky Mountain oysters I’ve ever had.

The competition has drawn as many as 10 or 12 teams in the past, but this year, only four brave cooks took Moreland’s challenge to make the best balls in “South South Austin.” (They also prepared wild game and salsa, which were far less interesting than the main game.)

photo 3 (3)

The teams had plenty of fun with innuendo (“Have a ball!” is the tagline for the event), but the truth is, if we’re going to seriously advocate nose-to-tail eating, including sweetbreads, livers and trotters, it doesn’t make sense to skip the part of the calf that separates the steers from the bulls.

Two of the entries tasted a lot like the Rocky Mountain oysters I’ve had before. One was cut into strips, breaded and fried and tasted like frozen steak fingers. The other was also breaded and fried, but they were cut into round discs and had exactly the texture you’d expect from sliced testicles.

The top two entries, however, held their crunch all the way up until judging time, and the cooks had done whatever it is that prize-winning calfry cooks do to flavor and tenderize the meat in a way that really does make them taste like freshly fried oysters, but without the brine.

calfrytrophies

The winning entry, from team Hay Chihuahua Que Cojones, wasn’t just perfectly fried, it was crusted in what tasted like cornflakes and seasoned so perfectly that they could have put half a dozen on a plate and sold them for $12 from a food truck in East Austin.

According to my fellow judge Beau Smith, team Hay Chihuahua Que Cojones has won before, and I plan on asking them ahead of next year’s event if they have any secrets they’d be willing to share. Not that a lot of you are frying calf testicles these days, but in the name of preserving tradition, I feel like I need to know.

photo 5 (4)

Another note about the judges table: Also joining us was David Arnsberger, the longtime local radio DJ who hosts those free Wednesday night shows at Guero’s. For nearly 30 years, he hosted and organized Spamarama, which apparently featured far worse dishes than the ones we tried over the weekend.