There's everyday pasta, and then there's pasta that you long for and crave the moment you finish eating it (and begin planning your next visit to the restaurant serving it). Such is the case with chef Carrie Baird's crab orecchiette, a seasonal dish on the menu right now at Bar Dough, 2227 West 32nd Avenue.
"I thought it was a really good vessel for crab and a fun play on lobster mac and cheese," says the chef, who recently made it nearly all the way to the final round of Bravo's Top Chef. She's right; the crab orecchiette does bring to mind macaroni and cheese, only spicier, smoother and richer — without being heavy.
To create this delectable dish, Baird chops up housemade "charcuterie sausage," an ingredient made with the scraps of salami, hot Calabrese, pancetta, prosciutto and whatever other odds and ends are left from topping pizzas. The sausage is integrated into the sauce, so you won't find large pieces of it; for meaty bites, dig into the delicate snow crab claws poking out from the pool of pasta and sauce. Baird rounds out the flavor with garlic, shallots, white wine and something she calls "cheese whiz," though it's definitely not that processed stuff from a spray can, even if her version produces the same orange-yellow tint. The whole mess simmers until the flavors meld and then gets tossed with the orecchiette (Italian for "little ears"), which Baird says is one of her favorite pasta shapes.
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The result is a dish that sings with heat from the Italian sausage and conveys a velvety texture that slips across the tongue. It's surprising and fresh, and unlike any other crab dish we've had. The orecchiette won't be on the menu long — Baird says probably another two weeks. Get it soon and then join us in cheesy pasta dreams until Bar Dough comes up with its next tempting seasonal offerings.