Reality

Keeping It Simple: Spaghetti Parmesan

Spaghetti parmigiano is simple, it is effective and very hard to get just right.Gourmet Chefs And A Gourmet’s Attempts.

This is Brian enjoying a proper Spaghetti Parmigiano. I know it’s proper because it was made last night by an Italian chef. And he really knows how to cook. Actually, like most of his stuff, it’s everso simple. It’s spaghetti and parmesan cheese, the parmesan being melted by the warmth of the spaghetti. The warm parmesan wafting its savoury perfume, the spaghetti curls itself on your tongue. The melted parmesan that has delicious crystalline specks that tease the tongue. It’s more than worth the modest ten euros it costs. You can get it at Ristorante Heidestern in Bad Bevensen if you’re interested in trying it. Well worth a detour if you’re in that neck of the woods. Somewhere south of Hamburg in the north of Germany.

Anyway, I tried it when I got home to Holland. The memories were so clear, the flavours still savoury on my tongue, I simply couldn’t resist it. Since at the time I didn’t have any parmesan, I used some Dutch Gouda cheese. I planed it off into the spaghetti and mixed it all up. Just as they did at the Hotel Heidestern. Sitting down, the aroma was flat and slightly stale from the cheese. On the tongue, the Gouda’s blandness met the spaghetti’s starchiness head on. They were simply too similar to each other. It quickly cooled to an inedible rubbery lump as the powerful cheese ambushed the unsuspecting spaghetti.

On fresh rye bread, cool pliable Gouda shavings are a welcome contrast. A strong Bolognese sauce in winter is robust enough to counter the solidness of a Gouda. On plain spaghetti, it was miserable and I was left hungry. In the expectation of a delight, there was little else in the fridge that I could eat. Could I face a tin of beans in the aftermath of such expectation?

Now I’m not one to take failures lying down. The second time was a little better. I bought a wedge of parmesan cheese. The real stuff with letters printed on the rind. Only this time in my eagerness, the spaghetti was a little al dente. That is to say it was a little hard. With a spicy Napoletana it’s great, with parmesan it wasn’t. The spaghetti wasn’t supple enough to enclose and melt the parmesan. The whole thing turned out rather dull. 

My third attempt was more of a success. The parmesan was prepared as the spaghetti was cooking, some olive oil added to keep the spaghetti from clogging. I made sure it was thorougly cooked too! I took it from the pan and still steaming, mixed it with the delicate curls of parmesan. The steam from the spaghetti was moist with the complex aroma of the parmesan. It was passably good. 

It made me realize just how good the cook at the Heidestern is. Not only for his cooking, but also for his choice of ingredients and making sure that everything was at its peak just before serving. Bringing them together was but the final moment. 

“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”

— Charles Mingus



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