This is pairing I hadn't had before - pasta with citrus. Spaghetti all'aroma di arancia (spaghetti scented with orange) to be exact. It's from Saveur magazine, Jan/Feb 2010.
It took me a year to get around to making this recipe - I had the photo from the magazine pinned to the cork board above my desk since last winter. Last week the corkboard fell off the wall and scattered my photos everywhere, prompting me to finally make this dish. I thought it sounded delicious but my husband was, um...skeptical. Nevertheless, I gave him two choices for lunch (take it, or leave it) so he acquiesced to trying the dish.
The orange peel is sliced and sauteed with butter (off to a good start, right?). The cream is flavored with chervil (which I didn't have so I used tarragon and pinch of marjoram as a I'm-not-driving-30-miles-in-5-degree-weather-to-find-chervil substitute). The recipe proceeds like carbonara, only with the addition of cream (since I am a carbonara purist I don't use cream): you toss the pasta with eggs, Parmesan and herb-infused cream, then add the orange peel to the finished dish.
One must make certain to remove all the pith from the oranges or they will be bitter. A sharp knife makes it easier. You can see in the photo below how I have begun to remove the white pith. I do this with a sharp knife, holding the peel with one hand and slicing away from me, parallel to the cutting board. It's tedious since there is a very fine line between getting off all the pith and slicing completely through the peel (which I did on a few occasions - note the small pieces.)
Once the pith is removed (funny how every time I say pith I feel like I have a speech impediment), the peel is very finely sliced into strips and sauteed in butter. This is one beef I had with this recipe. Saveur instructs you to saute the orange peel in the butter for 5 minutes. This is waaaay too long and ends with crunchy peels - not cool. I had to add a bit of water to soften them. Next time I'll briefly heat them with the butter just until they are soft.
The herbs and a pinch of salt are briefly simmered with the cream to infuse it with flavor. One step that you could leave out, although it does make for a more attractive presentation, is putting a few tablespoons of cream onto the plate prior to tossing the pasta with the eggs, cheese and reserved cream. It's a little fussy for me and I think the dish would be just fine without that extra step.
When we started to eat it the first few bites took a little getting used to. However, with each subsequent forkful, we really started to enjoy it. There were no leftovers.
Spaghetti all'aroma di arancia
(spaghetti scented with orange)
adapted from Saveur magazine
1 large orange (preferably organic)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 ounces spaghetti
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoon chopped fresh chervil OR
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon (1 tsp. is using dried tarragon) and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese plus additional for serving
2 large egg yolks
salt and ground black pepper
Heat water in large pot for making pasta. Warm serving plates and bowl for tossing pasta in low oven.
Using a sharp knife or vegetable peeler, peel zest from orange in long strips. Peel/scrape any white pith that remains on the zest. Cut into very thin strips.
In small skillet or saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add zest and pinch of salt and cook over medium-low heat until zest is softened, 2-3 minutes. Watch carefully and stir frequently so it doesn't overcook.
Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente, 7-9 minutes or according to package directions. Bring cream to a simmer with herbs and pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Do not let cream boil.
Drain pasta, transfer to warmed bowl and immediately toss with cream, cheese and egg yolks. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer pasta to warmed plates; sprinkle with orange zest, extra cheese and parsley, if desired.