Those of you that made a new year's resolution to eat less fat should probably skip right past this post and go look at a nice healthy salad. You've been warned 😉
After making my Pasta Amatriciana I had a fair bit of guanciale left. I'd originally set it aside to make a more authentic pasta carbonara, but when I get a crazy idea in my head, it's like having a song glued inside your brain until you listen to it. Such was the case as I stood beside my chef's table eating a reheated portion of Amatriciana.
I had my microplane out for shaving some more pecorino on top, and as I glanced over at my fruit bowl brimming with Satsuma Mandarins a light bulb went off in my head. Guanciale (or at least my guanciale) had a distinct bergamot flavor, so I merrily zested a mandarin onto my plate and much to my delight, my microwaved lunch came alive before my nose.
I was happy about this new discovery and vowed to update my Amatriciana post, but what really intrigued me was all the other possibilities I hadn't considered... What other flavors would pair with Guanciale? How else could Guanciale be prepared?
I sliced off a slab of Guanciale, gave it a quick fry and sat down with a glass of Pinot Gris. What other flavors could I divine from the tangle of complex aromas in this cured pork cheek? Was that some fennel I tasted? I popped open a tin of fennel pollen and sure enough, there was a distinct resemblance. Another bite, and a rummage through my pantry, revealed notes of juniper. And here's the odd one, I could definitely make out the piney citrus notes of sichuan peppercorn in my guanciale.
Had my tastebuds gone mad? Surely the unshaven gentleman in the hills of Lazio wasn't rubbing oranges and Sichuan pepper on my guanciale? In all likelihood not, but much like the bouquet of aromas that manifest themselves in wine, other cured and prepared foods develop complexities not originally apparent in the initial ingredients.
In any case, I decided to run with it and this sugo made from caramelized onions and fennel braised with Satsuma Mandarins, juniper berries and sichuan pepper corns is the the result. It's packed with an obscene amount of flavor and while it tastes very classic, you'd be hard pressed to place it geographically.
For me, this is what I love about cooking food without rules. Ingredients know no boundaries other than those we impose upon them. By casting aside those constructs for a moment you're free to create a dish that may be entirely new.
- 280 grams Guanciale
- 1 large onion (sliced thinly)
- 1 medium bulb fennel (sliced thinly)
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 4 medium satsuma mandarins (unpeeled and torn into chunks)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon juniper berries
- ¼ teaspoon ground sichuan pepper
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- fennel pollen
- 340 grams fusilli (cooked according to package directions)
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
- Put the Guanciale into a medium sized dutch oven and put over medium high heat, allowing some fat to render out then frying until browned on both sides. Transfer the Guanciale to a plate and add the onions and fennel.
- Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes until the onions and fennel are wilted. Remove the lid and and fry the onions and fennel, stirring regularly until very caramelized (about 45 more minutes). As the water content reduces, you may need to turn the heat down to keep the onions from burning before they fully caramelize.
- Add the wine, mandarins, honey, juniper berries, sichuan pepper and black pepper. Stir to combine, mashing up the mandarins a bit. Bring to a boil, cover and put it in the oven. Braise for about 2 ½-3 hours or until the Guanciale is tender.
- When your sugo is done, transfer the guanciale to a cutting board and cut it up into ¼" pieces and add it back to the sauce. Use a paddle to mash up the mandarin a bit and mix with the Guanciale. Boil the pasta according to the package directions making sure to cook it on the al dente side. Reserve about 1 cup of pasta liquid then drain the pasta. Transfer the pasta back into the empty pot then add the sugo. Drizzle in some of the pasta liquid while stirring until the sauce is a nice consistency and coats the fusilli (you probably won't need all the water).
- Plate the pasta and sprinkle a pinch of fennel pollen on top.
Medifast Coupons says
This can easily become the next best comfort food there is! Every now and again, salads can be pushed aside! So full of flavour, these pictures look fantastic, great work!
It must be citrus season. I threw some orange pieces into my stew the other day but I can tell you right now it didn't taste as half as good as your pasta looks.
Diet? I didn't even try to make that kind of resolution. Not with all these good blogs around.
i love paris says
I think everything in moderation is key... down to just a bite (for desserts) to just a serving, plus exercise no matter how much greentea you drink or oolong.. you can't cheat exercise.. Having said that.... I LOVE pasta, and it's quite a feat for me to stop at one serving.... and I never figured in using a dutch oven, I can not find juiper berries...
Marc Matsumoto says
If you can't find Juniper, you can omit it for this one.
Lacey @dishfolio.com says
Yum! Looks so good. We'd love for you to post your photo and recipe at dishfolio.com!
Nice work. I really like the flavors. The mandarins and juniper berries are great ingredients. Thanks.
Miss Nom says
Absolutely gorgeous. These flavors sound sensational.. will try and make it soon. I am in Italy.. where is the best place to find giancale?
Marc Matsumoto says
They make guanciale in central Italy around Lazio and Umbria, but I'd imagine you can buy it in other parts of Italy.
How does the orange affect this? Does it break down? Keep it with everything, or discard? Does it disintegrate? Just not interested if it could get bitter. Otherwise, I plan on cooking it this weekend.
Marc Matsumoto says
Hi Kevin, the mandarins add sweetness, a touch of tanginess and a lot of fragrance. If you're using mandarins (thin skinned, and easy to peel), then they should break down into the sauce. Mandarins don't have a lot of albedo (the white part under the zest), which is the part that's typically bitter, so it should not make it that bitter.