Monday, April 20, 2015

The Sleep of Reason - Little Ears Alfredo

Sunday - What the hell??  I woke up at 3:00 this morning and never got back to sleep.  I finally gave up just before 6:00, came downstairs and started to prepare breakfast.  Bacon in the oven, eggs poaching in the oven, and the griddler is fitted with the waffle plates, coated with nonstick spray, and ready to be heated for the Krispy Kreme doughnut French toast.  Yes, Krispy Kreme. Don't knock it till you try it. Then I "repurposed" the burnt ends from Jimmy Bear's, and finally felt tired enough to go back to sleep.

One problem - it is now 9:47 in the morning, and heading back to bed is not an option, at least not a good one, so I may as well go back to cooking.  Although I have officially dropped chicken as a menu item (keeping in mind that there are several pieces of citrus jalapeño chicken sitting in the leftover zone), I still have a fairly substantial list of mains and sides in the preparation queue.

I cannot lie - I hurt today, all over.  Too much time on my feet cooking, too much time spent walking all over BJs warehouse, too much time living inside my head.  Very bad neighborhood. There's a bit of fuzz between my ears, just enough to cloud my train of thought. It's weird though, that my head can still be sharp enough to develop recipes - almost like that part of my brain is on automatic.

So it is from that place that this recipe sprang.  I had been wanting to use the last of my Tiny Turkey Meatballs in something other than a red sauce.  This worked even better than expected.  I use bottled tomato sauces quite a bit, and they are mostly pretty good, but I never found a bottled Alfredo sauce that suited my palate until I tried Publix Premium after comparing the list of ingredients with other brands.                                    

The name of the dish has nothing to do with corn, ears, little or otherwise, nor is it the name of a recently uncovered, previously unknown Van Gogh painting, nor the nickname of a character from "The Sopranos".  I asked Cory to pick the appropriate pasta to go with the finished sauce, and once he saw the box of orecchiette, it was a done deal.  Orecchiette is Italian for "little ears' and Alfredo is the gentleman who invented the well-known pasta sauce that forms the basis of the dish.  I know, I like the Van Gogh story myself.  Sorry.

This recipe presupposes that you made a big batch of Tiny Turkey Meatballs back in November and froze them for future dishes.  If you didn't, this might be a good time to do so, because these little meatballs are positively versatile.

Little Ears Alfredo

6-8 oz. cooked Tiny Turkey Meatballs (about 16 tiny meatballs)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, smashed
Kosher salt, ground black pepper, Emeril's Essence
4 thin slices capacollo, sliced into thin strips
1-15 oz. jar Publix creamy Alfredo pasta sauce
1-14oz. can Cento quartered artichoke hearts, rinsed and well-drained
1/2 tablespoon herbes de provence
pinch crushed red pepper (flakes)
ground black pepper
1 1/2 cup dry orecchiette pasta, cooked according to package directions
1/4 cup half-and-half, and as needed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, or more to taste
2 tablespoons grated Romano

In a large skillet, heat the butter and oil; add the onion and garlic, and season with the salt, pepper and Essence.  Sauté for a few minutes, then add the capacollo.  Sauté another 2 minutes, add the meatballs, and stir together.  Pour in the Alfredo sauce, and stir in the artichoke.  Season with the herbes de provence, red pepper, and more black pepper.  Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Stir in the half-and half.  Fold in the cooked pasta.  Taste and  adjust seasonings.

Transfer to a baking dish, and top with the Parmesan and Romano.  You can refrigerate it at this point, or bake, covered, in a 350 degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes until heated through.  If starting to heat it after refrigeration, drizzle in a couple of tablespoons of half-and-half, and bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

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