Goodbye, Sardinia – Chicken Wings with Celery and Bottarga

Chicken Wings with Celery and Bottarga-2446

Chicken Wings with Celery and Bottarga is not a traditional Sardinian delicacy.  Bottarga and celery, yes; chicken wings, ah no.  This dish is, in fact, the love child of two different desires, Jody’s yearning for wings and my own wish to do another Sardinian recipe before I throw in the towel, tuck my shorts away in my Camp Grenada footlocker.  Sardinian wings were the result, and just in time.  A couple of days of freezing rain have stripped more than a few trees in our neighborhood of their autumn raiment; limbs are skeletal,not festive and the uncleared sidewalks resemble the killing floor in a chlorophyll slaughterhouse.  And it got cold, provoking someone in our house to violated the First Law of Yankee-dom: No one shall touch the thermostat until November 1st.  The one good thing about cold weather is that it means a new harvest of bottarga will be soon at hand.  And with this wings recipe in hand, when this season’s bottarga becomes available in mid-to-late November or early December, you’ll be primed.  While everyone else is still fumbling with their laces you’ll be burning down the track, chicken wings and celery bundled under your arm.  Nyah-nyah-nuh-nyah-yah.  And how did we make this recipe if bottarga won’t be available for another month?  Easy, we whittled down our own two-year-old chunk of umami ambergris that has been cooling its eggs in our fridge.  No lie – I ordered it online at the end of 2012.  When was the last time you consumed something from your fridge that was two years old?  Still as potently delicious as the day we bought it.  With chicken wings and celery it was a ménage à trois made in heaven.  After Jody left at the conclusion of our cooking and shooting session, I was the only one home, not counting the Lagunitas IPA’s in the fridge.  The next morning there were no wings to be found.  Draw your own conclusions.

Spaghetti with Bottarga, Preserved Lemon and Chilies

Spaghetti with Bottarga and Preserved Lemon-2667

For the last two years we’ve posted spring recipes for shad roe, a seasonal reward for surviving winter. We’re still rolling with roe this year, but of a dramatically different kind: Spaghetti with Bottarga, Preserved Lemon and Chilies. Bottarga is the salted dried roe of gray mullet or bluefin tuna. Grated over pasta or served in very thin slices, it may be even more of an umami bomb than garum. Until recently only Americans fortunate enough to travel to Sicily, Sardinia or parts of Calabria were likely to encounter bottarga. But about ten years ago lumps of bottarga began showing up in a few American chefs’ hands. Its rich, funky flavor provokes either love or hate, but at twelve to fifteen dollars an ounce, it’s pricey enough to keep all but the curious or committed from seeking it out and trying it. Two ounces is more than enough for pasta for 4. Be forwarned: the curious have a way of morphing into bottarga zealots after their initial taste experience. Think guanciale of the sea. Armed with a small amount of bottarga and prep so rudimentary it makes bolognese look like a kidney transplant, you can make a pasta dish fit for the gods.