What's Cooking: Aligue PastaWednesday, December 28, 2011
It's a freezing cold night in New York—and the first in quite awhile where I had nowhere to be and nothing to do. That in itself is a big enough treat in this city where we seem to be moving from one place to the next incessantly. But as soon as I got home, I thought I'd up the ante. I slipped into some comfy jammies and wandered into the kitchen to make a wickedly delicious yet unbelievably easy-to-make dish that I've been obsessing about for awhile: Aligue Pasta.
Aligue is what Filipinos call crab roe—that rich, unctuous treasure that is as sumptuous as it is treacherous on the arteries. I spotted some crabs in Chinatown a few weeks ago just overflowing with the good stuff. It was all I could do not to pick them up and lick them right there.
Lovers of artery-clogging food and generally enterprising folks that Filipinos are, some bright minds back in the Motherland thought of bottling up these treasures, making aligue readily available in grocery stores—you know, so you don't have to put too much effort into tempting a heart attack.
Outside the Philippines, bottled aligue is available in some stores that sell Filipino products. I scored a bottle of Navarro's Crab Paste at Fou Lee Market while on vacation in Seattle. My dear friend Pattie, who is a food enthusiast, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York and the woman behind the beautiful Cintai Corito's Garden in Batangas, recommends this brand's Premium Quality version, but I had to make do with the regular variety and it was still pretty good.
On Pattie's food blog, A Slice of Pattie, she has a recipe for aligue pasta which I followed without much difficulty. Other aligue pasta recipes jazz up the sauce with seafood and cream but I like the simplicity of this recipe. That rich, briny taste of aligue can stand on its own and and dresses up some al dente spaghetti nicely after being sauteed in olive oil and garlic. A squeeze of lemon juice adds some acidity and cuts through the richness. If you like some heat like I do, red pepper flakes and crushed black pepper go with aligue really nicely, too.
The recipe also calls for fresh basil as a garnish, but I piled it on with a generous hand. Aside from the fact that fresh basil is plain old delicious, it gave the dish some texture and kept the aligue flavor from being too overwhelming.
It was so easy to make, and if you're as lazy as I am, you can get away with just using one pan to cook the whole dish in. I finished cooking in under half an hour and was immediately back on the couch, plunging my fork repeatedly into this sumptuous dish. I'm not gonna lie, I definitely felt my body slow down (I was nodding off before 10pm), and my cholesterol levels definitely climbed a bit.
But I suppose there are worse vices in life than delicious food that makes you want nothing other than to curl up and take a nap, right?
I say forget the guilt for a second and let's raise our forks to moments of gustatory bliss ...