Thanks to the success of Porchetta, her self-described “little pork shop,” Sara Jenkins can’t remember the last time she made pasta for a paying crowd. And while she loves slow-cooking pork butt laced with fennel pollen, she admits it can get a little boring. “I love cooking pasta and I kind of miss cooking pasta.”
Jenkins will finally get her chance this coming Monday when she is a guest of Alex Raij at Txikito’s monthly Txoko, the restaurant’s homage to the private social cooking clubs that dot the Basque country.
Raij leaves it up to each chef to cook what they want, buying the ingredients and playing second fiddle to the night’s guest star. When Jenkins gets behind the burners, she’ll be cooking Italian pasta. But it’s hard not to see the similarities between Italian — particularly Tuscan — and Basque cuisine: both are in part defined by rich dishes heavy on vegetables, rustic cooking, and syrupy olive oil. And Jenkins is certainly no stranger to either region, having lived and traveled throughout the Mediterranean as the child of father who was a foreign correspondent for The Washington Post and Newsweek and a mother, Nancy Harmon Jenkins, who was — and still is — a food writer.
“To me, the cuisines are based on poverty the same way Tuscan food is, but with very rich, wired ingredients,” Jenkins says. Raij agrees: “It’s all very memory-driven. That’s what her cooking does. It’s very much about home cooking.”
In addition to individual lasagnas with porchetta ragu, Jenkins’s homage to Tuscany, her menu will also include Sicilian pesto with pistachios, tomatoes, lemon, garlic, and mint; an uni carbonara whose combination of hot noodles glossed with creamy uni reminds Jenkins of a dish she recently had in Rome; and the ubiquitous macaroni with pecorino, butter, and anchovy.
Sadly, tickets for pasta night with the Porchetta Queen were snapped up almost as soon as the event was announced 10 days ago. “It sold out faster than any of the others,” Raij says. We’ll just have to live with being teased by what we will miss, but at least there’s some consolation available at Jenkins’s little pork shop.