Search This Blog

Friday, March 11, 2011

Beggar's Linguine - French Fridays with Dorie

If I were at a restaurant, and saw a dish on the menu that had linguine, chopped almonds, pistachios, figs, and raisins in a brown butter sauce, topped with parsley and parmesan cheese, I'd look no further. So much more interesting than the usual restaurant pasta menu. And then if it tasted like this version tastes, I'd be one happy eater.
If the menu explained the origin of the name Beggar's Pasta, I'd be even happier, because 1) I like stories like this and 2) I'd be puzzled about what kind of beggar gets to have pistachios, figs, and copious amounts of butter as his daily fare.

Pete Wells wrote kind of a crabby article about mise en place for the NYT Magazine a few months ago, in which he argued that mise en place doesn't really save time for the home cook. Why chop everything ahead of time, he asked, when you can chop an onion or two while waiting for the water to boil. I think he set up a straw man for his argument because I think that most people don't prepare all ingredients before they start to cook, especially if they're in a hurry. Instead, they do just what he tells them to do--prepare as you go along. For this recipe, however, having everything ready is a good idea: otherwise, you might burn the butter while you're chopping pistachios.

Cooking pasta has gotten easier since I got my new stove with its super-duper burner that's supposed to bring water to boiling in about 90 seconds. It doesn't do that, but it's moderately faster, and, even better, it continues boiling after you drop in the pasta. My old stove was so overwhelmed by pasta that it sometimes never boiled again after that first piece of spaghetti entered the waters. In my opinion, the only "trick" to cooking pasta is putting plenty of salt in the water (I know, I know, salt is evil).

Since you add all the chopped fruits and nuts at the same time, you'd be in a pickle if you hadn't chopped them before you started cooking the pasta.

Toss everything together; add a little parsley and parmesan; serve. You can and should) add more parsley and parmesan atop the individual serving. I thought the dried fruit might make the pasta too sweet for my taste, but it didn't at all (although I'll confess to omitting the orange rind, but not for any culinary reason--just because I forgot). The salty nuts, the rich brown butter, and the nutty cheese all counterbalanced the sweetness of the figs and raisins. And, of course, you could alter the proportions if you were worried about the figs and raisins taking over. If any flavor dominated, it was the brown butter, especially if you took care to swirl every forkful in the butter clinging to the plate.

Thanks, Dorie, for finding the little restaurant that made this recipe; Thanks, chef at La Farrandaise, for sharing the recipe with Dorie; thanks, mendicant monks, for adopting fruits and nuts to represent your orders.


  1. I skipped this one.. it just did not appeal to me at all, which is totally weird, since it has pretty much all of the ingredients that I really love. I may put it on the back burner to try in the future.

    Hope you are having a happy time in your vacay!

  2. Great photos; I loved this dish too!

  3. Glad this one worked for you! This one definitely benefitted from having everything ready to go, for sure.

  4. I did find the mise en place helpful this time around, although I'm starting to bunch ingredients in my bowls by step. Much less cleanup!

  5. Glad to see you enjoyed this, I am definitely making it again [with less butter] :)

  6. Love your pictures. I am glad you enjoyed the dish too. Tricia and
    I were not too sure of this combination of ingredients with pasta,
    but it certainly surprised us. We all loved it at our house.

  7. Before I read the "story", I was saying the same thing! $7 for a pound of pistachios and $4 for a pound of butter?! No beggar can afford that!

    Your pictures look delicious!

  8. Your mise en place photo is so pretty. I also prepped everything ahead, though I used less bowls and it wasn't as pretty. Wish I'd liked this a little bit more, but it was worth the try.

  9. I am a mise en place girl myself - if it does not save time, it does not waste it either, so who cares? It could be personal, too.
    I believe that this dish would require planning ahead, and having everything chopped would make the process much easier.
    I skipped the dish entirely, because of food allergies, but if I manage to kick the family out of the house one day, I'll make it for myself.
    I love the colors in your photos, especially the pistachios.

  10. WoW! What a beautiful dish! I really want to play catch-up with FFwD. THank you for your comments on my blog too. The dinner took me about 2 hours total. =0)

  11. Shandy,
    I want to catch up too--I went through the cookbook tonight, and I'm only behind about 8 recipes. If I went crazy, I could do it in a week.