Saturday, January 28, 2012

Restaurant Re-creation: Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes and Caramelized Onions

Don't judge this book by its cover. It's not the prettiest dish, but it's super tasty.

Since moving to the suburbs, one thing that Aaron and I have struggled with is finding local eateries that satiate our desire for interesting, creative, and well prepared food. We know they're out there, but it takes a fair amount of trial and error to find them. And of course, a little bit more driving.

Recently, we discovered a little one-man establishment in Edmonds called The Eatery Works. It was a rather impromptu night that we ended up having a little free time and so we decided to make it a date night. Happily, chef Jim Taylor did not disappoint. The experience was slightly eclectic - Chef Taylor literally runs the whole show, hosting, waiting the tables, cashiering, and of course cooking. But the atmosphere was charming and the successful way that he pulled it all together was genuinely inspiring. As was the food.

We each had incredible dishes that were superbly innovative and we came home jazzed to attempt to fuse some of his brilliance into our own cooking. (Not to say that this would stop us from going there again. On the contrary, we'll definitely be adding this place to our list of regular haunts.) One of the elements that I'd gotten was a deceptively simple pasta dish in an oil based sauce involving sundried tomatoes and caramelized onions. So, we decided to give that one a shot.

We knew it would be a situation in which we'd have to combine several more basic recipes, so we referenced one of our cooking bibles, How to Cook Everything.

By the way, did all of you know that there's a free App called How to Cook Everything Essentials? It has a lot of the basic information and many of the recipes from the cookbook. And I repeat: it's free. You should download it. It will complete your life.

Or at least your cooking knowledge.

But I digress.

We looked up recipes for caramelized onions (found 2) and oil based pasta sauces. As we suspected, there wasn't a full on recipe (or variation) that specifically dictated what we were aiming for, but it got us far enough to improvise. We mixed the styles of the 2 caramelized onion recipes and used a basic oil and garlic sauce recipe and added our sundried tomatoes to it. Then we just tossed everything together with the pasta.

I have to say, the result was pretty dang good. Not 100% identical to what we had at the restaurant, but still delicious.

One thing that added to our version was the fact that the balsamic vinegar we used for the onions was infused with blackberry. (I'm sure that makes us sound like complete food snobs. But it was the only balsamic we had in the house! And besides, it's incredibly good. It's from The Oil and Vinegar Cellar in Leavenworth. It's especially delicious with Basil Olive Oil. Try it once and you'll be a snob about it too.) It added a unique sweetness to some of the dish that made it different from the restaurant version, but equally appealing. But I'm sure it would be good with regular balsamic.

But you really should try the blackberry infused kind.

Anyway, the recipe went something like this:

Caramelized Onions
One onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 cup vegetable stock
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp minced garlic
2.5 - 3 tbsp sundried tomatoes

1 lb of your favorite thin pasta. Linguini or Spaghetti would work best. We prefer fresh noodles.

Thinly slice the onion. Heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat in a saute pan. Once the butter is melted, add the onions and cook until they look mostly brown. Add the sugar and stir it in. Add the vegetable stock and turn the heat up to medium high. Let the liquid reduce off nearly completely (about 5 minutes or so unless you accidentally turn the heat down to medium low for 3 of it like I did. Then it might be closer to 8 minutes.) then add the vinegar. Mix the vinegar in and continue heating for another couple of minutes until the onions get syrupy. Remove them from the heat and set aside.

Begin prepping your pasta.

While the pasta is being prepared, heat 1/2 cup olive oil and the garlic over medium low heat. After approximately 2 minutes, add the sundried tomatoes. Heat until the garlic just starts to turn golden.

One note here: it's helpful to mince the garlic such that you have as much uniformity as possible in the size of your garlic chunks. If some are very small and others are quite large, you may end up over cooking some of it and getting a little bit of bitterness in your dish.

Drain the pasta and pour the noodles into a warmed serving bowl. Toss with the sundried tomato sauce and the caramelized onions. Serve warm with Parmesan cheese.

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