Every month or so I stop by Earth Fare to pick up my special aromatherapy relaxation soap. It is brown, has exfoliating oatmeal in it, and smells kind of like a french toast breakfast, and I swear to God that it has magical powers to make you forget even the worst day at work. These visits to Earth Fare have to be carefully timed, as I have to get new soap before the old bar runs out but I also can't go to Earth Fare too often, because I am unable to resist the siren song of the fancy cheese case and impulse buys that cost five times more than similar impulse buys at Kroger. I made this month's visit last week, and happened to pick up the most recent issue of "Bon Appetit" magazine.
While paging through, I saw a recipe for orecchiette pasta with chorizo and chickpeas and thought, "Oh, God, that sounds good."
I never really made recipes from magazines before I moved here. A large part of that was due to the fact that I just wasn't really that adventurous about food, and also that my old apartment was completely unsuited to cooking. It only had one counter, which held my microwave and nothing else, and the stove, which only had three burners, was also so small that I referred to it as "my tiny doll-sized oven" and had to buy special pans for it because standard ones were all too big. That meant that any time I made a multi-pot meal (a feat very rarely attempted) there was a slow, dangerous ballet of pots being set on the floor on potholders and trivets and then returned to the stove while I tried not to scald myself, not to kick one of them over by accident, and also not to let the pots slip and touch the melt-prone plastic carpet installed on my floors.
When I moved here, and had counters and a full sized stove and hours to spend with the Food Network running in the background (remember, I moved here in 2006, when Food Network's programming model still included cooking shows rather than shows about secret waiters, health inspectors, and greasy fat guys driving around to diners and making up words), I started cooking in earnest, and it turns out that I'm not a terrible home cook. I'm not professionally traind or anything, but I make Martha Stewart recipes and no one dies. Sometimes the recipe even comes out looking exactly like the picture in the magazine, and those pictures are prepped by professional and highly paid food stylists. I've gotten good at following recipes.
I'm sometimes not so good at following grocery lists.
Case in point: the recipe is called orecchiette pasta with chorizo and chickpeas. I came home with orecchiette pasta and chorizo.
It's kind of not my fault, because I assumed that I already had chickpeas in the house. I always have a couple of cans in my cabinet because I often have sudden cravings to make hummus. Unfortunately I had one of those cravings earlier this week, and forgot to add chickpeas to my grocery list to replace the cans I used for the hummus.
Shut up, Lois Lane.
Checking my cabinets, I decided to substitute great northern beans, as they have a similar mild flavor and are strong enough to hold up to the pan cooking and stirring that the recipe called for. As part of my mis en place (See? I am a good cook. I know words like mis en place.) I drained and rinsed them, then set them aside while I boiled the pasta and ground two shallots down to paste in the food processor.
Once all of that was done, I began frying the shallots in oil:
As they browned and shrank down to nothing, I opened the chorizo:
I've never cooked chorizo before, although I've eaten it lots of times.
(Somewhere in Northern New York my mom just read this and said, "You have? When did that start happening?"
The answer is "at brunch". Tomato Head's brunch menu biscuit with sausage, gravy, eggs, cheese, and chorizo is the most delicious thing I have ever had at brunch ever:
I could eat that every weekend and die happy.
Probably from a gravy-related heart injury.)
It turns out that the easiest way to handle the chorizo is to snip off one end of the plastic casing and just squeeze it out:
and then break it up while it browns and cooks:
After the chorizo cooked for a while I added tomato paste and red pepper flakes, and then after that cooked for a few more minutes added a can of chicken broth:
and then let it cook down for twenty more minutes. Once that was done, I added the (wrong) beans:
and, finally, the pasta:
at which point I realized I had just spent an hour and about twelve dollars making Hamburger Helper from scratch.
Except that Hamburger Helper is gross and salty, and this:
This is delicious.