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guajolote

paper-bag method of cooking pasta

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I read about this in the "Poulet en vessie" thread, and would like some more information. I can not even imagine how you would cook pasta in a paper bag. Do you use any other non-traditional cooking methods?

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I don't get it. What's the point of the bag? Does it impart a pleasant flavor to the pasta?

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The thread of association that connected cooking pasta in a paper bag and chicken in a bladder is that the idea is the same: put the food in the way of absorbing maximum flavor with minimum dilution. By removing the pasta from the cooking water and enclosing it in a bag (actually, the same cooking bags used to cook the chicken are preferable to paper bags these days, which contain God knows what), you finish cooking it in a flavor-intensive, moist atmosphere. In other words, the flavor not only coats the pasta, it penetrates it. That's the idea, anyway.

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In result, it sounds not unlike Alain Ducasse's method for cooking dry bronze-extruded pasta, which he unequivocally credits to Liguria farmers. Briefly, he cooks the hard pasta as if he were making a risotto, starting it in olive oil after the sauce ingredients have begun to soften and before starting to add the liquid.


John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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That's interesting. Something very similar was described to Ed Giobbi by an Italian from Naples. The recipe appears in EAT RIGHT, EAT WELL -- THE ITALIAN WAY. The difference is that in this recipe the pasta is added after a cup of liquid has been poured in. Alain Ducasse must use quite a bit of olive oil if he makes it as you describe, since otherwise (I would imagine) the pasta would tend to clump together.

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"With the paper-bag method, the pasta is cooked in the ordinary way until it is almost done, then mixed with the sauce and put in the oven to bake. Since the bag is collapsed around its contents and sealed, the flavor of the sauce completely penetrates the pasta."

John -- Could you elaborate on whether the bag become soggy and soak up part of the sauce? Would more sauce be added than is intended for the pasta also inside the bag?

I am sad to report that "bag" techniques are sometimes used by Jamie Oliver, at least based on my sporadic watching of his TV episodes (yes, I have on occasion even watched NC).

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Alain Ducasse must use quite a bit of olive oil if he makes it as you describe, since otherwise (I would imagine) the pasta would tend to clump together.
That's why he specifies the very hard artisanal bronze-extruded pasta. I've done it, and the pasta doesn't stick together at all. And it comes out like a wonderful risotto fantasy, particularly with twisty convoluted pasta, such as stozzapreti.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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Okay, John, but come clean: how much oil does he call for?

And to Cabrales, I would say that if you use an oven cooking bag rather than a brown paper bag absorption is no problem. It's been some time since I've done it with an actual paper bag, but I don't remember that being a problem, although yes, indeed, it does get a bit sauced. If you live in America, these are easy to find -- Reynolds oven bags -- whereas if you live in Europe, I just don't know, although I did trace down an Irish firm that manufactures them. Just be sure to cut a slit in it to let steam out.

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Okay, John, but come clean: how much oil does he call for?

His recipe as published in the NY Times, March 13, 2002, was merely descriptive and did not specify quantities. However, I tend to be conservative with the olive oil, reducing the amount in many recipes that I do regularly, and I've not had the slightest bit of trouble. But the bronze-extruded pasta is essential; otherwise you'd have a soggy mess no matter how much olive oil you used.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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Just teasing. Actually, it sounds very interesting and I'd like to give it a try. Can you sketch out your recipe a tiny bit?

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I'll send you Ducasse's recipe privately. Alas, because of copyright restrictions I can't post it here and it's now in the NY Times archives, where you pay through the nose. But those with an overflowing nose can easily find it by searching for "Pasta from the Italian Riviera", by Alain Ducasse, March 13, 2002.


John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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Okay, John, but come clean: how much oil does he call for?

His recipe as published in the NY Times, March 13, 2002, was merely descriptive and did not specify quantities. However, I tend to be conservative with the olive oil, reducing the amount in many recipes that I do regularly, and I've not had the slightest bit of trouble. But the bronze-extruded pasta is essential; otherwise you'd have a soggy mess no matter how much olive oil you used.

This sounds a lot like what you do with fregola sarda ("crumb" pasta from Sardinia), at least according to the instructions on the bag I received as a christmas present. Have you (or anyone else) ever cooked with it?

regards,

trillium

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John -- How do you serve a paper-bag pasta dish? Do you allow the diner to open the bag and inhale the aromas, or do you adopt a more conventional presentation? :blink:

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Of course, circumstances will vary, but I think that cutting open the bag at the table is both dramatic and -- as you note -- extremely pleasurable. It isn't often that you can bring the cooking aromas to the table along with the dish. :smile:

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