Chef Chris Vergara and His Bradley Electric Smoker
On the smoker, and the myriad recipes you can use to cook with it.
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Cavatelli with Arugula Pesto and Smoked Tomato Compote
MAKE THE SMOKED TOMATO COMPOTE
5 lbs ripe beefsteak tomatoes
2 Tbsp kosher salt
1 small red onion diced
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves thinly sliced
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat the smoker to 225°F. Core the tomatoes and slice into 1-inch discs. Toss these with kosher salt. Place the tomatoes in the smoker and smoke them for 2-3 hours with continuous smoke. The tomatoes should take on a subtle amber color and be soft but not dry. If they begin to look dry, remove the tomatoes and proceed with the recipe. Slide the skins from the tomatoes and discard them. At this point, the skins should slide right off.
Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add the oil and red onion. Sauté the onions until they’re translucent, then add the garlic. Cook the garlic with the onions until the garlic begins to brown. Add the smoked tomatoes and simmer on low heat until the oil separates from the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Reserve while you finish the dish.
MAKE THE ARUGULA PESTO
3-4 handfuls of arugula (about 8 oz)
6 Tbsp (2 oz) Pecorino cheese
3 Tbsp (1 oz) Parmigiano-Reggiano
3 Tbsp toasted pistachio nuts
2 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp salt
4 or 5 turns of a pepper mill
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Zest of one lemon
Pinch of chili flakes
Place all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until mixture reaches a coarse purée. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Reserve.
TOAST THE PANKO BREAD CRUMBS
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup panko bread crumbs
Heat a sauté pan over high heat and pour in the oil. Add the bread crumbs and toss constantly until the crumbs are golden brown. Season with salt and pepper and turn out on a plate lined with paper towels. Reserve.
MAKE THE CAVATELLI
1 lb fresh ricotta
4 cups flour
¼ cup milk
1 Tbsp kosher salt
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the ingredients until they form a dough. (You can also do this by hand.) Shape the cavatelli according to the directions of a cavatelli machine and reserve.
FINISH THE DISH
1 cup ricotta, or as needed, for garnish
Parmigiano-Reggiano, as needed, for garnish
Toasted panko bread crumbs, as needed, for garnish
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt until the water tastes like the ocean. Add the cavatelli and cook the pasta until it is done. If you’re using fresh cavatelli, it’s done when the pasta floats to the surface. Otherwise, cook the cavatelli until it is al dente or per package instructions.
While pasta is still hot, in a bowl, toss it with the arugula pesto until it is just coated. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, black pepper, or Parmigiano-Reggiano. Place the dressed cavatelli in serving bowls and dot with warmed smoked tomato compote and ricotta cheese. Sprinkle with toasted breadcrumbs and grate fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and serve.
Julia Sexton is a New York-based food writer whose new book, Hudson River Valley Chef's Table, will be published this spring. When it comes to smoking food at home, she's still the kind of caveman who feeds chunks of wood into her Weber grill that has been hacked with a Polder temperature sensor (of this, she is not proud).