I dropped so many hints that I wanted Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table this past Christmas that I wound up receiving two copies. This post is dedicated to my sister-in-law Rosalind and my cousin Kristine—Thank you, gals!
I’ve been a tremendous fan of Ms. Greenspan’s ever since delving into Baking: From My Home to Yours [See: World Peace Cookies, Orange Berry Muffins, and Mango Bread]. Her writing is truly superb, while her recipes are interesting and inspiring. Whenever I prepare one of Ms. Greenspan’s creations, I can totally trust that she will not lead me and my stomach astray.
I chose to make Linguine Mendiant (Beggar’s Linguine) for my first foray into French home cooking. A mendiant is a traditional French confection composed of a chocolate disk studded with nuts and dried fruits—here’s a photo of the confection from my travels in Spain. This pasta dish, which Ms. Greenspan originally ate at a Parisian bistro called La Ferrandaise, replaces chocolate with linguine, creating a sweet and savory dish that’s completely unique.
A healthy dose of brown butter, a generous grating of Parmesan, and a hit of fresh parsley rounded out the flavors and kept the sweetness in check. Who would’ve thought noodles and fruit would pair so well?
- 1 pound (16 ounces) linguine
- 1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped
- 1/3 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
- 8 plump dried mission figs or 3 dried kadota figs, finely diced
- 1/4 cup plump, moist raisins (golden raisins are nice here)
- 1/4 cup dried apricots, sliced into thin strips
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan (more or less to taste)
- Grated zest of 1/2 orange (or more to taste)
- Minced chives and/or parsley leaves, for serving (optional)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cook the linguine according to the package directions. When the pasta is cooked, drain it well, but don’t rinse it.
About 5 minutes before the pasta is ready, melt the butter over medium heat in a large high-sided skillet or casserole. (You’re going to add the pasta to this pan, so make sure it’s large enough.) When the butter is melted, hot and golden, stir in the nuts, figs and raisins. Allow the butter to bubble and boil – you want it to cook to a lovely light brown, or to turn into pan beurre noisette, butter with the color and fragrance of hazelnuts.
When it’s reached just the color you want, add the pasta to the pan. Stir the pasta around in the butter to coat it evenly and to tangle it up with the bits of fruit and nuts.
Turn the pasta into a warm serving bowl, add the grated cheese and season with salt and a generous amount of black pepper. Toss and turn the pasta to incorporate the cheese, then dust the top of the mound with orange zest and chives and/or parsley, if you’re using them.
Bring the pasta to the table and, just before you’re ready to dish out the first serving, give it one more toss to mix in the zest and herbs.
Makes 6 to 8 starter servings or 4 main-course servings.