Friday, November 29, 2013

Festive Fall Fettuccine

fettucine tossed with turnip cream, collard greens, cranberries and walnuts

If I put the main ingredients in the post title, you might have quickly passed this one by. But that would be a shame, because this is a tasty version of fettuccine, well-suited for fall. Now that you're reading this far, I can encourage you to stick with it and give it try!

OK, you're still with me? Leftover turnip puree served as the inspiration for this dish. Now, it's not too often I find myself inspired by turnips. But I was tried out Barbara Lynch's recipe in  Stir: Mixing It Up In The Italian Tradition for Pork Chop with Caramelized Apples, Celery and Spiced Walnuts, which she recommended serving over turnip puree. It was a tasty dish, but generated a lot of extra turnip puree. Noting its thick creaminess, I figured that it would make a good basis for a pasta sauce. But it would need some salt and sweetness to offset the slight bitterness of the turnip. Bacon, which I like to cook with greens, and cranberries seemed to be in order...

I made this dish a few weeks ago, and am just now getting to finish up the post on the day after Thanksgiving. Which leads me to suggest that this would a nice way to use leftover turnips (see my note on how to do that in the instructions). I'd also imagine adding a few cups of bite sized pieces of turkey meat to the dish would be tasty, and a nice change of pace from turkey sandwiches!

Enough preliminaries, on to the details of the dish!

For the turnip puree (basically half of Chef Barbara's recipe is right for this dish):
1 cup heavy cream (I used coconut cream because of a dairy allergy).
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 lb turnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes

For the rest of the dish
1 bunch collard greens, coarsely chopped (other dark leafy greens like chard could work)
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup or so chicken broth
1 or 2 slices bacon
pinch salt and red pepper flakes
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
bit of fresh oregano (or other fresh herb you have on hand)
12 ozs fettuccine noodles
1/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted & coarsely chopped
handful of dried cranberries
1/4 cup or so feta cheese (or pecorino would work)

Make the turnip cream: Heat the cream and butter in a pan over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the turnip and a pinch of salt. Reduce to simmer, partially covered, for 30 to 45 minutes, until the turnip is tender when pierced with a fork. Puree the combination in a food processor until you get a nice, even consistency. Return to the pan and keep warm on very low heat as you make the rest of the dish. Note: If you have cooked, mashed turnip already on hand from Thanksgiving or some other occasion, you could heat that turnip gradually with the cream, stirring to gradually combine.

Make the rest of the dish: Heat a large pot on medium high and spray with cooking oil (I use olive oil). Add the bacon and cook until it is nice and crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and cool it on paper towel set on a plate to absorb the excess grease. Pour most of the extra grease out of the pan, but leave a bit for that bacon flavor! When the bacon is cool, crumble it into bite sized pieces and set it aside to add to the dish later.

Add a tablespoon of the olive oil to the pan, heat on medium. Add the garlic, cook for a minute or so until it starts getting fragrant. Gradually add the greens in a few batches, stirring the greens as you add them so they get well coated with the oil and garlic. Add a light pinch of salt, then stir in the chicken broth and balsamic vinegar. (You could certainly use other cooking liquid in place of chicken broth). Heat the liquid until it begins to simmer, then cover to cook gently on moderate heat. Stir the greens occasionally. You'll want to braise the greens for at least 20 minutes, 30 is better if you have time, so they get nice and tender, absorbing the garlic and broth flavor. Add the oregano and red pepper flakes about halfway through the greens cooking time.

Start boiling the water for pasta after you've added the greens. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain the pasta when it's done, then toss the pasta with the turnip puree. Once the turnip has coated the noodles well, toss in the the greens. Be sure to use up all the good liquid from cooking the greens to capture all the nutrients and flavor. After mixing the greens and pasta, stir in the cheese followed by the bacon. Plate the pasta, and top each dish with a bit of the walnuts and cranberries. Serve at the table with a bit of extra cheese, and enjoy!