Jalapeño Pasta with Rattlesnake Sausage
Don’t be alarmed by the sound of it: rattlesnake is really a very delicate meat, and also readily available on the market. You may use any game meat, or even a combination of pork and veal. The savory sausage is really enhanced by the spicy pasta. This could be a casual supper as well as an appetizer. The hot pepper vinegar must be prepared at least 1 week in advance; sausage must be prepared at least 1 day before serving.
- Hot Pepper Vinegar
- White Wine Vinegar - 1 quart
- Poblano Chili - 1, chopped
- Anaheim Chilies - 2, chopped
- Jalapeño Chilies - 4, chopped
- Tarragon - 3 sprigs, chopped
- Bay Leaves - 4, chopped
- Red Pepper Vinaigrette
- Fresh lime juice - 4 tablespoons, freshly squeezed
- Hot Pepper Vinegar - 6 tablespoons, (above)
- Salt - 1 teaspoon
- Freshly ground white pepper - 1 teaspoon
- Olive Oil - 4 cups
- Red Bell Pepper - 1/2 large, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped
- Green Bell Pepper - 1/2 large, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped
- Fresh Cilantro - 2 tablespoons, chopped
- Rattlesnake Meat - 1/2 pound (alt. venison, veal, or any game)
- Lean Pork Shoulder - 1/4 pound
- Fatback - 3/8 pound
- Brandy - 1 tablespoon
- Cumin Seed - 2 teaspoons, ground
- Salt - 2 teaspoons
- Freshly ground white pepper - 1 teaspoon
- Smoked Venison - 1/2 pound, cut into small dice
- Red Bell Pepper - 2 tablespoons, diced, roasted and peeled
- Tarragon Leaves - 2 tablespoons, chopped
- Sausage casing
- Chicken Stock - 1 gallon, for poaching
- Jalapeño Chilies - 15
- Olive Oil - 6 tablespoons
- Unbleached All-purpose flour - 3 to 4 cups
- Eggs - 4
- Pinch of salt
- Prickly pear pads - 6, thorns removed, blanched (10 minutes)
To prepare the hot pepper vinegar: Combine the ingredients in a non-aluminum saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer 10 minutes. Pour into glass jars and let cool; cap with lids and allow to stand at least 1 week before using.
To make the vinaigrette: Place the lime juice, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a blender or food processor. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil through the feed tube and process until emulsified. Stir in the diced peppers and cilantro and adjust the seasoning.
To make the sausage: Debone the rattlesnake and scrape off the silver skin encasing the fillets. Cut the rattlesnake, pork, and fatback into small cubes and place all three meats in separate sections on a baking sheet in the freezer for 10 minutes to partially freeze (this makes grinding easier). Grind the meats and fat separately through the small die of a meat grinder, then freeze again for 30 minutes. Put the cumin seed, salt, and pepper in the brandy and stir until the salt dissolves.
Place the meats and brandy mixture in the bowl of a food processor and process, pulsing, until smooth. Add the fatback and process again. Place the mixture in a bowl and fold in the smoked venison, red pepper, and tarragon.
Wash the sausage casing well and cut off a 1-1/2-foot section. Using a large plain tip on a pastry bag, fill the casing with the sausage mixture, making sure not to stuff it too full. Tie the ends securely.
Bring the chicken stock to a simmer and poach the sausage until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 F, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the stock, cool at room temperature, then cover loosely and chill overnight.
To make the pasta: Boil the chilies for 15 minutes to soften them. Destem and place the chilies in a blender or food processor with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Puree for 3 minutes, then push the puree through a fine-meshed sieve to remove the seeds. Set aside.
Sift the flour into a mound on a work surface and make a well in the center. Break the eggs into the well and add the remaining olive oil, 5 tablespoons of the jalapeño puree, and the salt. Using a fork, mix the eggs and then start to incorporate the flour. Once the dough has started to form and as much flour is incorporated as possible, work the dough by hand and knead for about 10 minutes, until it is dry and elastic. Add more flour if necessary.
Form the dough into a ball, dust with flour, and wrap in plastic wrap. Allow to rest for 1 hour in the refrigerator before rolling.
Divide the dough into four parts, and form one section into a ball. Flatten the ball with a rolling pin until thin enough to pass through the largest setting on a pasta machine, then begin rolling the pasta, dusting with flour between rollings, until it passes through the thinnest setting. Fold the pasta strip in quarters crosswise, then cut lengthwise into thin strips (fettuccine). Dust with flour and allow to dry for at least 15 minutes. Repeat with all the pasta dough.
Bring a large quantity of salted water to a boil and add the fresh pasta. Cook for 30 second once the water returns to a boil, then drain in a colander and put into cool water for 10 minutes. Drain, but do not rinse. It may be necessary to cook in batches.
To serve: Peel the outer skin from the blanched cactus pads. Mound cooled pasta on each plate. Slice the sausage into 3/4-inch-thick “coins” and arrange next to the pasta. Drizzle vinaigrette on the plates. Garnish each with a cactus pad.