Have you watched Top Chef?
Those elimination contest shows are one of my guilty pleasures. Throw in some inspiring chefs and interesting food and I’m addicted! On a recent episode, the challenge for the chefs was to replicate a dish from a well-known restaurant, simply from memory and taste. As I watched, I thought that was something I could never do…and then I tried to do it.
During our anniversary trip to the Northwest, we had a perfect meal at our favorite restaurant in Seattle, Local 360. I ordered a pasta dish that sounded too unique to pass up, with chorizo and kale and cranberries and gouda (swoon). The unexpected combination of flavors was delicious and I vowed to try to make it at home.
I usually cook from (someone else’s) recipes, tweaking them slightly. Though I have occasional success, I’m not generally a “wing it” kind of person in the kitchen. Attempting to replicate a dish would be an entirely new experience for me. Relying on my memory of Local 360’s flavors, I came up with a pile of ingredients and hoped for the best!
The butcher at my market ground up some pork into a spicy chorizo for me. It was spicy enough that the crushed red pepper in the photo never made it into the pasta! I started by browning the sausage in a pan while I introduced myself to the kale.
I’d never cooked with kale before, but I knew to cut out the tough stalk in the middle of the leaves. I gave it a rough chop and set it aside while I prepped some garlic and shallot.
When the chorizo was browned, I removed it from the pan, swirled a bit of olive oil, and added the shallot and garlic. After a few minutes, I poured in some white wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up those browned yummy bits on the bottom of the pan. Next came some chicken stock, a little bit of red wine vinegar, and then I added the big pile of kale. I knew that, like spinach, it would wilt with the heat.
While the kale did its thing, I prepped the rest of the ingredients. I toasted some pine nuts, and pulled some dried cranberries from the pantry. I grated plenty of gouda cheese and chopped some fresh basil.
When the kale had wilted, I added the chorizo back to the pan. In went the cranberries. I stirred in the pasta I’d cooked earlier, along with most of the cheese and basil. Finally, the pine nuts joined the party!
I served the pasta with more cheese and basil on top. It looked beautiful– and miraculously, tasted remarkably similar to the dinner we’d loved at Local 360!
The chorizo’s spices added so much flavor to the broth, and the heat was balanced with the sweetness of the cranberries. There was a subtle tang from the dash of vinegar, and a nuttiness from the gouda. SO delish. My only criticism is that I cooked the pasta too early- by the time I plated our dinner, it was breaking up in the sauce. But the flavors were spot on!
Now that I’ve challenged myself to recreate a dish that I’ve enjoyed at a restaurant, I’m inspired to try it more often. The experience was a great reminder that in the kitchen, simple is best– it didn’t take a lot of fancy ingredients to make a fabulous, flavorful meal.
Now, I wonder if I could replicate those PBJ bonbons…
Chorizo Pasta with Cranberries and Gouda (inspired by Local 360)
- 1 lb. spicy chorizo sausage, ground
- 2 small shallots, thinly sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- One bunch of kale, stems removed and rough-chopped
- 1+ cups of white wine
- 1 ½ cups of chicken broth
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 ½ cups shredded gouda cheese
- ½ cup toasted pine nuts
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
- Pasta of your choice, cooked al dente
Over medium heat, brown the chorizo in a little bit of olive oil. Remove from pan and set aside. Swirl olive oil in the pan and add the shallots and garlic. When the shallots are tender, deglaze the pan with one cup of white wine, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken broth and vinegar and simmer. Add the kale and allow it to wilt, stirring it frequently. As the sauce reduces, add more wine (and more broth or vinegar to taste). When the kale is wilted, add the chorizo back to the pan. Add the cranberries and most of the basil, and allow to simmer for a few minutes before stirring in the cooked pasta. Add most of the cheese and the pine nuts and mix well. Add salt or pepper as needed. Serve topped with more cheese and basil. YUM.
**Hungry for more? Check out the FOOD BLISS link above!
**One year ago: The crockpot and The Wok.