Monday, July 5, 2010

Guyanese Parties- Pasta with escarole and chicken

We went to a party celebrating the birth of Neeta's ex husband's brother's grandson. The kid's mom calls Neeta chachi signifying she is an aunt on her father's side of the family (I think). I often get taken to these kind of events where I know maybe 5 people and am related to no one. I mean I really don't mind. It's the way the Guyanese party, so I have sort of gotten used to it. There's always an enormous amount of food, loud music and almost complete segregation of the sexes. At least at this one, I could use the excuse that I didn't know anybody, otherwise the men are pestering me to get drunk with them. So I started the night hanging out on the couch with the baby's great-grandmothers watching the Met game, and then sat with my wife and later on her nephew and his girlfriend who have been in the U.S. long enough to speak standardized English and who are both here long enough so they spend at least some of the time together. These events are usually outside where there's typically a tent covering a big part of the back yard, about 20 or more tins (the big aluminum foil kinds that caterers use) of food, a DJ (my stepson as it happened), and most of the party goers. So we arrived ignoring the gaggle of men clustered around a table set with bottles of liquor, and entered the backyard to be met by the lady of the house (Neeta's ex sister-in-law) who Neeta had just spent several hours with helping to make all the food. What kind of food? There was dahl puri which is stuffed flat bread, rice and beans, chow mein, fried rice, chicken curry, duck curry, chicken tandoori and three kinds of fried fish. It was all served cold which to my mind, ruined the flavor, but I ate too much anyway and washed it down with 3 or4 beers. I don't want to sound like I hate these parties. I don't. Except that they get together and talk to each other in their patois which I understand about 20 percent of; the men expect you to drink with them which I don't like beyond a few beers; the music is too damn loud so even if I stand a chance of understanding a conversation, I can't hear it; and I spend a lot of time by myself which is not why I go to parties. At least Neeta will ask me to dance with her (usually after she spends the first half hour or so dancing with the other women) Men don't usually dance after they get married unless they're wasted, but I am the exception. So, on the way home I told TW, " We ought to have your nephew and his girlfriend over for dinner". Now, he's a New York City cop, and she's a nurse so I can definitely relate to them and I know they would enjoy my food, but TW thinks it odd to invite two people without their families to your house. "We don't do that", she says. I'm gonna do it.
This is one boneless chicken thigh, pancetta (Italian unsmoked bacon), garlic, escarole, pasta and four small tomatoes.If I were cooking for two, I would double the amount of escarole and pasta. For four people, I'd use 2 thighs.

Put the water on to boil first. After it comes up to the boil, cut an X into the top of the tomatoes as pictured. This makes it really easy to slip the skins off. Drop the tomatoes in the boiling water and let them go for about 20 to 30 seconds. Have a bowl of ice water standing by.

Remove them from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and drop them into the ice water. After a few seconds in the water, they will stop cooking and they will begin to shed their skins. Then all you need do is peel them, cut them into chunks and lay them aside. Then, drop the pasta into the boiling water.

While you are waiting for the pasta, start the garlic and pancetta over a high flame. When the garlic begins to color, drop the chicken into the pan.

Working quickly so the garlic doesn't burn, brown the salted  chicken on both sides. Practice makes perfect, here. You want nice color on the chicken. There should be enough rendered fat and olive oil in the pan so nothing gets burnt but everything has a golden color. The chicken won't be fully cooked yet at this stage.

Next, comes the escarole which gets stirred into the chicken, pancetta and garlic so that the leaves are coated with the fat in the pan. Follow with a ladel full of the pasta cooking water.After that, the tomatoes can be added to the mixture. There should be enough time left for the escarole to get tender and the chicken to become fully cooked before the timer goes off signaling your pasta is a minute short of being al dente.

Finally, add the pasta to the escarole and tomatoes and cook for a minute more. Have a half cup of pasta water on the side if the sauce gets too tight. Otherwise, turn it off after a minute and add grated cheese and olive oil to the pan before plating it.


  1. Joe, I missed dinner, didn't I? This looks fantastic, and oh, how I LOVE escarole. Can't wait to try it!

  2. I love parties with my family! But I get what you're saying. Looks delicious! I need to try that jello drink too!

  3. Your pasta looks delicious and your family - well, your family will keep you young :-). Have a fabulous day. Blessings...Mary

  4. Yum, scarole as RR calls it. I love this in soups. I'll have to try it in the pasta.

  5. What a lovely blog you have here. I am foodie myself and I am happy I found your blog. The recipe looks amazing.

  6. Hi Joe!
    You are lucky, it's beautiful to know and live the customs of other culture..I think it keeps young a human being, in its mind and soul.
    Un caro saluto, Anna.