June 10, 2010

Food blogging - - with BACON

There is a traditional Cypriot holiday dish known as pastitsio. This is sort of a Greek version of lasagna normally served alongside a roasted leg of lamb or beef, or sometimes roasted, suckling pig. Much like lasagna, pastitsio is a “pie” layered with pasta, meat, a spiced sauce and cheese. The dish isn’t simple to prepare, requiring distinct stages which are combined into the final pie.

Traditionally the sauce is white and the meat mixture is made with pork or lamb, although sometimes beef is used. While rare, tomato is sometimes added. The traditional cheese is haloumi, although that is pretty regionalized and isn’t one of my personal favorites.

I do like pastitsio and have piddled with variations for several years, twisting and mercilessly tormenting those ancient recipes to create a taste I might like. To a large degree I remained faithful the basics of tradition, but too often the ingredients simply were unavailable, and substitutes had to be tested. In the end, my version of pastitsio became rather Texicanized.

Regardless, this most recent concoction, I think, stands up pretty well. For your pleasure…

Pasta mixture ingredients:
  • Pastitsio macaroni, 1 8oz package (may substitute ziti)
  • Butter, 1 stick unsalted
  • Salt
  • 4 egg whites
  • Chianti, ½ cup
Pasta mixture preparations:
Heat water in a 4-quart saucepan until you have a rolling boil. Add salt to taste, and then slowly add macaroni. Stir constantly to avoid sticking. Remove from heat while macaroni is still “tough,” drain and mix in melted butter. The egg whites and Chianti will be used later.

Sauce ingredients:
  • Olive oil, ¼ cup extra virgin
  • Chianti, ¼ cup
  • Flour, ½ cup
  • 1 pint cream
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten
  • Nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon
  • Fresh mint, ¼ cup chopped
  • Fresh curly-leaf parsley, ¼ cup chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
Sauce preparation:
Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Slowly whisk the flour into the oil and maintain over the heat until you have a roux-like paste. Add wine, then slowly pour cream into the roux. Stir constantly to avoid sticking and you have a nice, smooth sauce. Remove from heat once the mixture is nicely thickened, then add egg yolks, garlic, ¼ cup each of mint and parsley, and ¼ teaspoon nutmeg. Your final product should be near the consistency of molasses. If not thick enough, return to heat and keep stirring until it is.

Meat mixture ingredients:
  • Pork, ½ LB, smoked or slow cooked and shredded
  • Cured bacon (Smoke, not maple), ½ LB
  • Garlic breadcrumbs, ¼ cup
  • Sweet onion, 1 medium chopped
  • Chianti, ½ cup
  • Fresh curly-leaf parsley, 2 cups chopped
  • Allspice, ground, ½ teaspoon
  • Cinnamon, ground, ½ teaspoon
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
Meat mixture preparation:
Soft fry the bacon, drain off excess fat and coarsely chop. In a large mixing bowl, combine bacon with shredded pork. Chop the onion and sauté until translucent but still firm, using a small amount of the bacon fat. Reduce heat, add Chianti, parsley, allspice and cinnamon. Salt and pepper to taste. Low simmer for about 10 minutes, then drain. Combine with meat mixture, then add bread crumbs.

Final preparation:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Shred about ½ LB Metsovone (preferred) or Kefalotyri cheese (use fresh, grated Romano or parmesan if the good stuff isn’t available).

Whip raw egg whites with ¼ cup Chianti. In a deep 6” X 9” baking dish, carefully align about ½ of the pasta so that the noodles are all pointing in the same direction. Pour ½ of egg mixture over this bottom layer of pasta, and then sprinkle with about ¼ of the shredded cheese.

Carefully pour in about half of the meat mixture, spreading evenly across first layer of pasta. Top the meat with enough white sauce to cover completely, and then top that with another ¼ of the cheese. Add remaining pasta, add remaining egg mixture, top with remaining meat, cover with sauce, and then top with remaining cheese.

Bake about 45 minutes until the sauce is bubbling up around the edges and the cheese topping turns golden brown. Allow to cool somewhat, then slice into squares and enjoy.


Old NFO said...

That sounds delicious, but I can already hear my arteries hardening... :-)