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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pasta with Fried Chiles and Bread Crumbs

When does a chile taste like a raisin?

Deep, earthy sweetness...the kind that can send chills up your spine if you close your eyes and concentrate really hard while savoring that bite.

A few weeks back...when I hosted Presto Pasta Nights, one of the entries (Elizabeth at Blog from OUR Kitchen) was this amazingly intriguing dish that contained dried chiles. Tomatoes, anchovies, dried basically, Italian AND Mexican. My two could I not try it?

Elizabeth noted how she enjoyed the raisin-y taste of the dried chiles once they've been fried...and I knew exactly what she meant! I've tasted the same undertones when I fry my chiles for making mole.

Pasta with Fried Chiles and Bread Crumbs
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serves 4

4 ounces country bread
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
8 dried mild chiles (such as peperoni cruschi di Senise, guajillos, anchos, or pasillas), stemmed and seeded
4 anchovies, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 pints cherry tomatoes or 1 (14.5 ounce) can of fire-roasted, diced tomatoes
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. pasta with grooves and crannies (such as fusilli, strascinati, radiatorre)

Heat oven to 325˚ F. Cut your country bread into 1" cubes. Bake bread cubes until hard, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a food processor; process into coarse crumbs. I just broke them up a bit with my fingers...I wanted them bigger...and I was too lazy to dirty the food processor for this little bit.

Heat 1⁄4 cup oil in a 12" skillet over medium heat. Add crumbs; cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 8–10 minutes. Transfer crumbs to a bowl. Wipe out skillet; heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add chiles and toast, turning once, about 45 seconds. Don't walk away...chiles are full of volatile oils that will burn on you quickly! You'll see a noticeable change in color (lighter) and that is when you can turn them. 

Transfer to a plate; let cool. Tear chiles into 1" pieces. Reserve oil in skillet.Set reserved skillet over medium heat and add anchovies; cook, breaking them apart with a wooden spoon, for 1 minute. Add garlic and tomatoes; cover; cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes soften and burst, about 10 minutes. Mash tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.

Bring a 6-qt. pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta; cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1⁄4 cup water. Transfer pasta and water to reserved skillet of tomatoes over high heat. Toss to combine; cook until sauce thickens, 1–2 minutes.Transfer pasta to a platter; sprinkle with bread crumbs and chiles; drizzle with a little oil. Make sure you get a little bit of everything on your plate and in each bit! Such an amazing combination!

You may choose to make your bread crumbs smaller...or tear your chiles in smaller pieces...but however you choose to make it...close your eyes and enjoy.

 -slightly adapted from Saveur #120