Orecchiette glazed in a rich sauce made with lamb sausage, topped with carrots cooked with tangerine and olive oils.
Sear the Sausage
Lamb neck and top shoulder are ground together and seasoned in a North African Merguez-style spice blend. To start the dish, Abdoo places a ball of the sausage meat in a skillet and browns it heavily without moving it. The idea is to build up browned flavors intensely with just a small part of the sausage so that the tender texture of the rest remains intact.
Spread It Out and Deglaze
Chicken stock is added while the browned bits are carefully deglazed and dissolved into the broth. Meanwhile, the rest of the sausage is broken up to simmer briefly.
The orecchiette—tiny ear-shaped pasta—is hand-made. Orecchiette and sausage is a classic combination, the cupped side catching little bits of sausage while sauce clings to the ridged side.
Add the Pasta
Once cooked most of the way, the pasta is added to the sausage to finish cooking in the sauce. At this point, more chicken stock is added to thin the sauce to the right consistency. This was a surprise to me—most restaurants I've worked in use the starchy pasta water to achieve good sauce consistency. Chef Matt Abdoo explains it to me: "We salt our pasta water very heavily here, so it can throw the whole dish off. Chicken stock reduces quickly to give you good texture in the sauce, and it adds flavor too."
Makes sense to me. Another reason to keep gelatin-rich homemade chicken stock on-hand, I suppose.
The pasta and sauce go down on the plate first. Notice how rich the sauce has become, forming a glaze over each piece of pasta, but not so runny as to spill all over the plate.
Now for the carrots, which come out a neon shade of orange. They're made by cooking carrots in carrot juice and finishing them with a tangerine agrumato—an oil extracted by pressing together tangerines and olives.
Ready to Serve
It's finished with picked carrot greens.
The finished dish is simple but extraordinarily tasty. Pasta coated with the rich sauce infused with the the spices of the merguez and a nice lamb-y aroma, matched by the sweet and bitter components in the carrot and tangerine topping. Savory, sweet, bitter, spicy—it hits all of the major flavor components just so.