Snowmageddon (Featuring Cacio e Pepe with Kale)
I am a weather fetishist. If I was a gazillionaire, I’d be a storm chaser for sure. There’s a feeling of simplicity of focus and exciting powerlessness in a big storm that breaks down my everyday overwhelm-ment. Unable to control the elements, my perspective is forced into survival mode. I’m strong and clear in a calamity. I’m telling you, I was built for this shit.
The prediction for a catastrophic snowstorm last Monday in New York was more melodramatic than I’ve ever seen before. I was beyond excited. The weathermen were practically orgasmic as they pointed to the Doppler indications of two or maybe three feet of snow. Grocery store lines of people with carts filled with bread, milk and toilet paper snaked out of the shop’s doors in many locations. Liquor stores were even worse. I didn’t need to stock up on supplies (I’m going to Portland for a week and a half on Thursday so it was ideal for me to run out of the things I had), but I did have to run some pre-vacation errands and the city was electric with a slightly manufactured terror. Unprecedented. Serious end of the world stuff here in The Big Apple.
I finished running my errands and was starving. And sure, I could have come home and enjoyed a big plate of broccoli, but seeing as how this was probably my last meal on earth I indulged in the classic New York comfort-food way. I got Chinese take out.
I came home and changed into my storm gear – a pair of flannel jammy pants and an old sweatshirt. Ok, snowmaggedon, I’m ready for you.
It was lightly snowing at that point, which it had been all day.
I decided I would document the snow on my fire escape and took a picture before diving into my General Tso’s Chicken. Then I realized I should have taken a picture of my plate of Chinese food disappearing to correspond with the growing snow outside my window. Snow gets bigger, food gets eaten: very funny stuff. Alas, my artistic prowess had been cockblocked by my famishment. Hey, I was hungry. All this terror can really wear on a girl.
Also, the snow had basically stopped.
The news guys were still worked up, swearing that the brunt of the storm wouldn’t start until after 10:00. I waited. Nothing. Then 11:00. Nothing. At midnight, I ran to my window to document the blizzard, but there were only itsy bitsy flurries.
I felt empty. I felt scared that Tuesday was going to be worse than I had expected: it would be NORMAL.
I woke up bright and early to find snow, but no pocalypse. It’s ok. It’s good. A lot of people get hurt when there’s big weather. I might have a fondness for disaster, but I don’t want anyone to suffer.
I am in the middle of writing a bigger, heavier blog post which I will finish one of these days, but it seemed like this would be the perfect opportunity to talk about the simplest, most rewarding meal– both culinarily and spiritually: Cacio e pepe. A spiritually rewarding pasta, you say? Yes, and here’s why… more than any other pasta, this one relies completely on your intuition. The method for cooking cacio e pepe is that you undercook the pasta, taking it out of the boiling water about 5 minutes before it has finished cooking. You put it into a dry pan and then ladle the used starchy pasta water and cheese into the hot pan swirling the water over the pasta. It’s magic because it really doesn’t feel like it’s going to work. Every single time I make it, I think “Oh jeez, I screwed it up this time.” But no, it turns from hard pasta, weird water and grated cheese into a light, spicy infused sauce that holds its own next to any long slaved-over tomato sauce. Listen to your gut, and the pasta will be perfect every time.
And here’s the best thing… you’ve probably got the ingredients already. It’s the perfect meal for a snowmaggedon. Or any Tuesday.
My recipe here adds kale, because I love to add a little green to all my dishes, but it’s classically veggie-free.
Cacio E Pepe with Kale
- 6 oz.thick spaghetti
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
- 1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino
- 6 kale leaves, stems removed and torn into bite size pieces
- Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.
- Add pasta and cook for 5 minutes.
- Heat a large skillet and toast the pepper for about 30 seconds. Using tongs, transfer the partially cooked pasta into the skillet. Do not drain pasta because you’ll be using the starchy pasta water to make your sauce.
- Ladle ½ cup increments of pasta water into the spaghetti. Stir the pasta as the sauce begins to develop, adding more water as necessary. Add the cheese and a little more pasta water. Creamy is the goal. Taste the pasta. You’ll know when it’s right.
- Put the kale into the water (doesn’t need to be boiling) to let it cook for about a minute.
- Drain kale and add to the pasta.
Turn off the weather channel and enjoy this beautiful meal you just created.