Just like many of you, I’ve spent the past week curled up on the couch watching athletes in fashion of questionable taste displaying their athletic prowess on the slopes and in the stadiums of Sochi. And while I’ve downhilled, skated, tobogganed, hurled down hills face down or feet first, cross-country skied, and shot a rifle (though not simultaneously), I never really aspired to Olympic greatness. It was always enough to sit back and watch the excitement. That was until 1998. For in that fateful year, in the city of Nagano Japan, an Olympic sport for the rest of us was sanctioned “official”. That was the year most of us discovered curling, and suddenly we could imagine ourselves as Olympic athletes. All you needed was a broom, a rock that looked like a teakettle, sensible shoes and loud pants. And some beer. Seriously, was there ever a sport better made for drinking beer? There’s even an official curling term for it – ‘stacking the brooms’.
So since I decided I could become an Olympic curler, I thought it best to learn a little more about the sport. Curling is a nice sport. As in “oh, that’s such a nice sport”. It’s a sport you could bring home to your mother. The term for a match is a spiel, which means play. No shredding, nor heats, just sweeping and play. So nice… and clean! A team captain is called ‘skip’, and the object is to get your stones closest to the ‘button’ in the ‘house.’ Adorable!
Then there are the clothes. Curling shoes are sensible, no spikes, nothing fancy, aerodynamic or engineered to nano-widths. The only thing different from your Uncle Walt’s comfy brogans is one sole has a Teflon bottom. Teflon, so it doesn’t stick. You could probably scramble eggs on it. Then there’s curling pants (yes, there are pants designed for curling). Curling pants are stretchy. Stretchy Pants! You could have a nice big meal of brats, kraut and beer, then play a spiel, and no binding waistband! Definitely my kind of sport! The final part of the uniform are some nice mittens, so your hands don’t get cold. Awww…
Of course there’s strategy to curling, players train for years to get on Olympic teams, and some spiels can get quite exciting (in a drunken bowling league kind of way.) But the best thing about curling? With all that ice, the beer stays nice and cold. So to all those budding curlers out there — brooms up…Sweep on!
It seems the best recipe to prepare for a hot curling match would involve booze. Last weekend I was at a potluck dinner with some dear friends (in the middle of a snow storm) and the hit of the table was a dish called Drunken Noodles. Spicy Italian sausage, caramelized onions and peppers and big fat noodles made the perfect meal for a cold and snowy night. BIG THANKS to Suny for sharing the recipe!
Italian “Drunken” Noodles (Courtesy of Suny )
- Olive oil
- 4 spicy Italian sausage links, casings removed
- 1 large onion, quartered and sliced thinly
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1⁄2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 orange bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
- 1⁄2 cup white wine (I used Chardonnay)
- 3 ½ cups chopped tomatoes, or 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1⁄4 cup fresh basil leaves, julienned, divided
- 8 ounces Pappardelle noodles
Place a large, heavy-bottom pan or braising pot over medium-high heat; add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and once the oil is hot, crumble the spicy Italian sausage into the pan in small chunks (you want to keep the sausage fairly chunky), allowing it to brown in the oil for a few moments on each side. Once the crumbled sausage is browned, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and place into a small bowl to hold for a moment.
Add the sliced onion into the pan with the sausage drippings, and allow it to caramelize and become golden for roughly 5 minutes or so, stirring to keep it from burning (add a touch more olive oil, if necessary). Once the onion starts to become golden, add the salt, Italian seasoning and cracked black pepper, and stir to combine, then add in the sliced bell peppers and allow those to sauté with the onion for about 2 minutes until slightly tender and golden. Next, add in the garlic, and once it becomes aromatic, add in the white wine and allow it to reduce for a few moments, until almost completely reduced. Add in the diced tomatoes with their juice, and return the browned spicy Italian sausage back into the pan, and gently fold the mixture to combine; allow it to gently simmer for about 3-4 minutes to blend the flavors, then turn the heat off. Finish the sauce by drizzling about 2-3 good tablespoons of the olive oil to create a rich flavor, and add in the chopped parsley and about half julienned basil. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Keep warm while you prepare the noodles.
Prepare the pappardelle noodles until just al dente. About a minute or two before the pasta is ready, bring sauce up to heat. Drain noodles and add to the sauce. Toss 1-2 minutes, giving the pasta a chance to soak up some of the sauce and it’s flavors.
To serve, add equal portions of the “Drunken” noodles to bowls, and garnish with a sprinkle of the remaining julienned basil. Top with shaved Parmesan, and an extra drizzle of olive oil. Open the wine, turn on some curling, and share with good friends!
And the gold medal for the BEST curling pants goes to: NORWAY! (I’m thinking Aquavit may be involved…)
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