The Last Six Ears for Dinner

On Tuesday I made a quick run up to Cider Hill Farm and bought the last six ears of fresh corn we’ll eat this year.  It was a planned purchase, bringing summer to a certain end. There’s no room for July’s spur-of-the-moment choices this late in the season, so planning to buy your last taste as the corn wanes makes sense.  Planning also allows you to come to terms.  Fall’s coming, winter on its heels; why not embrace that?  Or if not exactly embrace, how about accept.

I wanted yesterday’s dinner to honor summer, its bounty, but at the same time pay tribute the more involved cooking that cooler weather allows.  So I made a fresh creamy corn and bacon sauce, and served that over homemade pappardelle.

It’s actually a big deal for me to make pasta.  I haven’t attempted it in years, don’t own a pasta roller or any gadgety pasta attachments for my stand mixer, and quite honestly find the dried varieties are perfectly delicious.  If I have craved fresh, I have found good sources for fresh.

But there’s something almost ceremonial about the process that seemed right to mark the end of a favorite season.  So I did it.  And it was fun.

It was also quite delicious: slippery, silky, tender, light on the tongue but full of body, and rich with the flavors of good wheat and gently produced eggs.  That is to say, the perfect delivery agent for sweet and creamy, slightly smoky corn.

You really don’t need all the pasta-specific gadgets for homemade noodles.  What you will want to have on hand are: food processor if possible, rolling pin, sturdy board for rolling, a bench knife if possible, a pizza cutter and/or a good sharp knife, kitchen shears, a dowel (although I used a wooden yardstick), a few clean kitchen towels, and some sheets of parchment.  Patience and a bit of elbow grease too.

Pappardelle

  • 2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 egg yolks from large eggs
  • 3 Tbsp. water

Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with metal blade.  Pulse to blend.

In a small bowl, mix together eggs, egg yolks, and water.  With processor motor running, pour egg mixture through the feed tube and blend just until the dough comes together in a slightly sticky ball.  (Note:  Egg volume varies.  If this mixture appears dry, add a little more water a teaspoon at a time and pulse until the dough is slightly sticky.  If it appears too wet, you will be able to knead in a little more flour in the next step.)

Turn the dough out onto a floured board.

Knead by hand – pushing away from you with the heel of your hand, making a quarter turn, folding the dough in half, pushing away again, repeating – on the floured surface until smooth, about 8 minutes.  Continue sprinkling the board lightly with flour as needed if the dough sticks as you knead.  Once the dough is smooth and just barely dusted with flour, wrap this in plastic and let rest for 45 minutes to one hour.

After the rest period, remove the dough from the plastic and divide into four pieces.

Keep unused portions covered lightly with plastic as you roll out each quarter.

Lightly flour wooden board.  Roll the first piece into a rectangle approximately 11 inches by 18 inches.  As you roll, continue to lift the growing sheet of pasta in order to lightly flour the board to prevent sticking.  The final size of your pasta sheet doesn’t have to be exact, and it doesn’t have to be a perfect rectangle, either.  What you are looking for is a mostly uniform delicate thinness – you should be able to see a bit of the board’s wooden grain through the pasta but not quite read the newspaper through it.  If the outer edges of the pasta sheet are a little thicker than the rest, don’t worry.  We will trim irregularities in a bit.

Once the sheet is rolled out and you are still able to lift it from the board freely, begin to cut the noodles.  Pappardelle are generally cut between 2/3rds of an inch to an inch wide.  Aim somewhere in there.  You can do this in one of two ways.

First, starting from one wide end, roll the sheet of pasta into a loose log.

Cut along the log with a sharp knife at ¾-inch or so intervals.  Unroll the individual spirals and lay each noodle flat on clean towels or hang to dry.

For the other method (and this is what I did for 3 out of the four pieces of dough I rolled out), use a pizza wheel (or a sharp knife) and cut noodles freehand across the dough, starting at one wide end and ending at the other wide end, at ¾-inch intervals.  Lift each noodle from the board and hang or lay flat on clean towels to dry.

To dry, I slung the wooden yardstick from one end of the counter to the back of a chair, covered it with a clean towel and hung the noodles.

Each batch spent some time hanging before being transferred to lay flat in a single layer on parchment.

You can dry for a few minutes to remove some of the moisture, or you can do what I did and dry them all day undisturbed on the counter.  Just keep the individual strands separated so nothing sticks together.

As you lay out the individual pieces, if any of the ends are a little too thick, use the kitchen shears to snip off the ends.

Repeat the process through the four pieces of pasta dough.  Makes a little over 1 pound of pappardelle.

Fresh Pasta with Creamy Corn and Bacon Sauce with Chives

  • 1 recipe of homemade pappardelle
  • kernels cut from 6 ears of corn
  • 4 slices thick cut bacon, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 good bunch of fresh chives (or to taste), chopped
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • juice from ¼ lemon
  • 1/3 cup hot pasta cooking water
  •  1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • black pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to boil.

As the water comes up to boiling, cook the bacon slivers over medium heat in a large heavy skillet until browned and crisp.  Remove pieces to a piece of paper towel to drain.  Add the chopped chives to the bacon fat and cook just until softened.  Add the corn and stir to coat well.  Add to this the cream and the lemon juice.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover, poaching the corn until tender.

Salt the boiling pasta water with 2 Tbsp. kosher salt.  Add the pasta and cook 2-3 minutes until just tender.  Reserve 1/3 cup of hot pasta water and drain the pasta.

Add the hot water to the corn mixture, turn up the heat to medium and cook for a minute.  Remove the corn from the heat, stir in the butter and cheese and add the drained pasta to the pan.  Toss in the reserved bacon, season with black pepper, and serve immediately.

©2011  Jane A. Ward