Sicilian Appetizer – Deconstructed Pasta con Sardina

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Deconstruction is a word that’s used quite a lot in foodie circles. It was originally applied to literature by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida. He apparently also enjoyed cuisine, and you’ll see the term sprinkled liberally around in many blogs, Food Network shows and conversations.

Our friends at Wikipedia have this to say about deconstruction:

It is (an approach). . .which rigorously pursues the meaning of a text to the point of exposing the supposed contradictions and internal oppositions upon which it is founded – supposedly showing that those foundations are irreducibly complex, unstable, or impossible. It is an approach that may be deployed in philosophy, literary analysis, or other fields.

So – applying that to food, I might take the term to mean:

Disassembling a classic dish – something which is generally recognized as an entity unto itself – to expose and combine its individual elements in an entirely different way, with different relationships – often in a playful spirit (at least as I see much deconstruction in the realm of food).

A classic Sicilian dish is Pasta con Sardina – a wonderful dish based on sardines with lemon, pepper flakes, garlic, onion, herbs – often a little basil and / or oregano, and an appropriate pasta shape (click link to see a bit more about pasta shapes), often a pappardelle or perciatelle – a long noodle, robust and sturdy.

Tonight, I was trying to convince Bonney that she’d love this dish. She was a little iffy on the sardines. We don’t eat sardines much, and when we do, it’s usually when I fall prey to the unholy craving for a sardine sandwich with a little mayonnaise on rye with a bit of lettuce. Mea culpa – it’s sooooo good! Sprinkle of coarse salt on top – it just vanishes. I have no power over sardine sandwiches on rye.

So, I said, “how about if I make you a deconstructed version of this dish as a kind of appetizer – a little bite – so you can get the sense of the sardine and some of the other ingredients”.

Bonney’s nothing if not a great sport, so she said, “That sounds like a good idea,” and off I went, to make this:

Deconstructed pasta con sardina

Holy smokes, is that deconstructed or what. Here’s what gives:

Pasta con sardina is essentially a sautee of onion and garlic, sometimes a lil tomato paste, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and sardines, on a robust long pasta, with Parmesan cheese grated over the top. It often has a bread crumb topping, as well.

The Deconstructed pasta con sardina appetizer I made is: A slice of rye bread, some extremely fine strands of fresh garlic, a little bit of a fine julienne of lemon, a torn celery leaf, teeny pinch coarse salt, teeny bit fresh ground pepper, about 6 hot red pepper flakes, and the smallest shreds of a good quality Pecorino cheese. I didn’t use the tomato, but I’m really not a strict deconstructionist.

The Result? Instead Winner!! She loved it, and is now ready to eat the main pasta dish when I fix it in a bit.

Deconstruction: It’s not only a rarefied literary theory and an often-misused foodie term – it can be your friend!!