A Mash-up of Southern & Italian
Behind the swanky exterior and vibe of the award-winning Old Edwards Inn is the talented, personable and welcoming General Manager Jack Austin. An impeccably dressed powerhouse at work, Austin is an affable and unpretentious guy with a dry wit and a wry smile, who is most comfortable at home donning an apron and working the stoves. His culinary ethos, a celebration of the season and Southern Appalachia is on full display in his recipe of Bucatini with Ramps and Benton’s Bacon.
Available for only a few short weeks in April, Ramps are a kind of leek that hardly exists west of the Mississippi. From Georgia to Quebec, ramps grow wild in the woods and are mostly foraged, as does fabled Tennessee ham and bacon curer, “King of Pork” Allan Benton, who digs for ramps on his Tennessee property. Below Austin combines the smoky goodness of Benton’s bacon with earthy and garlicky ramps for a dish that explodes with flavor. This mash- up of haut Southern food and traditional Italian is a dish to dream about and make as soon as you can.
Austin points out that “You could use pancetta instead of bacon, and spaghetti or linguine could easily substitute for bucatini, but bucatini is more toothsome and great for soaking all that flavor. You could use spring onions, I suppose, but this recipe is all about the ramps for me. Nothing matches their flavor and I’ll make it every April as often as I can get holds of some ramps.”
Bucatini with Ramps and Benton’s Bacon
2 bunches (about ½ pound) ramps or substitute 2 bunches of spring onions with
1 mashed garlic clove
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ cup diced Benton’s Bacon
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 cup dry white wine
1 ½ cups chicken stock
1 pound bucatini
¼ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Step 1: Trim roots of ramps (or spring onions); separate white bulbs from green leaves. Rinse each under warm water and pat dry. Cut the ramp or spring onion into ¼ inch slices and the ramp leaves or onion greens into 4-inch long strips.
Step 2: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until it softens and releases some fat – about 3 minutes. Add the sliced white ramp or spring onion bottoms with the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until they soften and become translucent about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper
Step 3: Add the wine and cook until reduced by half – about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock, reduce the heat to low and simmer 15 minutes or until the sauce is thickened. Remove from heat
Step 4: While the sauce is cooking, bring a large port of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the water and drain the pasta
Step 5: Add the pasta and the reserved ramp leaves or spring onion greens to the pan with the sauce and raise the heat to medium and toss the contents of the pan until everything is combined. Add pasta-cooking water as needed if pasta seems dry.
Step 6: Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with cheese.
Note: Ramps may be found in local farmer’s markets or seasonally on line at dartagnan.com.
Visit bentonscountryham.com for Benton’s products.