April 16, 2007
Surviving the Chicken
and Bacon Caper
This same kind of thinking sometimes applies to the kitchen there are
two kinds of dishes, those that require constant attention, and those
that prefer to do their work without too much meddling from you.
would be tempting to dismiss a dish that is full of complex flavors that
is cooked in a short period of time as a fussy, prissy prima donna.
Instead, these dishes are often misunderstood, and have the soul of an
artist stormy and complicated.
When it comes to these dishes, preparation is key. Once you begin
cooking, there will be inertia to continue cooking and not stop. You
will cook and feel compelled to cook, and to pause even to slice up an
egg is to risk bringing down the entire house of cards. The sorrow you
are confronted by that here, with a pasta recipe that includes players
as vast and eclectic as bacon, chicken and capers.
First chop into pieces an onion, a couple of yellow hot peppers and some
mushrooms. Then, cut your bacon into short, thin pieces slightly larger
than a wooden match. And, cut a chicken breast into one-inch cubes.
Then, set aside a small can of sliced black olives and perhaps
one-eighth a cup of capers.
word here on capers. Perhaps at some point, you saw someone frolicking
in a happy, light-hearted manner. Perhaps you asked them what they were
doing, to which they perhaps answered, Why, Im capering about.
not mistake caper for capering. The two noun and verb bring
different meanings that have nothing to do with each other. A caper, the
kind that now confronts you, is a bud from a caper plant. If you have
them, they undoubtedly came either packed in brine or salt, and have a
peppery taste to them. You will want to rinse them, or there will be
nothing about them that would bring to mind frolicking of any kind.
With preparation now complete, fry your bacon over medium heat. When it
is crisp, remove it to a paper towel, and drain most of the grease from
Add to that grease one-third a cup of olive oil and a couple of cloves
of minced garlic. Put a pot of water on to boil.
with everything else, there is a place for all kinds of pasta. The
presence of chunked meat suggests that perhaps something long and
stringy is unwise. A better choice would be farfalle and even better
would be the always-whimsical rotini.
Back in the skillet, its time to add the onion, hot pepper and chicken
chunks. Sprinkle in thyme and oregano. Stir over a medium heat until the
chicken is cooked. This is long enough that the hot pepper and onion
will themselves soften, without searing the chicken on the outside while
leaving the inside soft, pink and full of salmonella goodness.
Once finished, add olives and capers. The most notable immediate impact
will be a visual oomph. Appearance will better reflect a fairly
complicated blend of flavors. Such symmetry!
Add your bacon and allow your sauce to warm, but not for too long. The
capers will lose some of their caper-y quality.
You perhaps now recognize the need to prepare ahead of time, since the
dominoes will fall in rapid succession, requiring your near-constant
Now, if things have gone according to mental plan, the pasta will be al
dente (slightly stiff) right about the time your sauce has warmed. Drain
your noodles, but it would be wise to retain a little bit of the water.
Blend pasta and sauce together. If your pasta defies your attempt to
saucify it, add a little bit of your pasta water. Careful! Too much, and
you have soup.
You are not yet finished. Your dish is good, but there is something
missing, a glue to hold it together. You might take a bite and wonder,
Yes, I can see it. Slightly bitter and slightly salty. But there is
something missing to fully bridge the gap. If the thought strikes you
to mix in some shredded Romano cheese, then you, sir, have a mind for
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