Monday, April 20, 2009

Simple, Elegant, Saturday Shrimp Pasta

It was a really nice Saturday. The sun was shining and there was just the hint of a springtime breeze. One of those breezes that has just a sliver of the cool weather we left behind. These are my favorite days. The plan for was pretty simple. Lisa had a work picnic and one of our daughter’s favorite friends was going to be there. Lexi and our Olivia are fast friends. Unfortunately our morning bike ride must have been too much for my dear 4 year old girl because she passed out on a quick errand at noon and the picnic was off the table. When Olivia naps, it’s for hours (and woe be to he who tries to wake her). I gently removed her from the car and placed her in the bed and curled up next to her. My days of napping next to my sleeping child are as coveted as they are numbered. Needless to say, Olivia was not pleased that she missed her playmate or that she changed the course of our day but I offered her a little boat ride as compensation. She accepted. What really relieved her pain, though, was an evening of play with the neighbor girl, Jordan. As the day ebbed away, I wondered what I was inspired to make in the kitchen. I was at the store for a short time in the afternoon to grab a few things for my dad (at 89, he’s recently given up shopping), so I explored a few idea of my own.

When I think of the spring to summer transition, I often think of seafood. I think of bright flavors that wake up your mouth and make you want to sit at a dockside bar listening to Jimmy Buffet or Van Morrison. Lemon, Parsley, Mint, Fennel and all of those tastes that I adore are so abundant. While I didn’t use everything in this dish, this recipe works on a spring Florida evening while sitting on my patio and I suspect it will in your kitchen just as well. I settled on a simple, elegant and tasty shrimp pasta. There is no fuss to this dish and it takes just minutes to prepare. The rewards are unbelievable. I think that most seafood pasta dishes fly way below the radar of the home cook. I know the first few times I made them many years ago, I sorely overcooked most of the seafood and the shrimp and scallops were like rubber. I was embarrassed and stayed away from seafood pastas for a LONG time. The trick is quite simple but crucial. You have to know when to add the type of seafood at the right time. For instance, most hearty fish like swordfish or Mahi Mahi can poach for a very long time and absorb all the great flavors of a broth but shrimp and scallops repel that same broth. They will get very tough after just a few minutes of over cooking. The way to deal with them is to add at the very end just before serving and allow their individual flavors to contribute to the dish rather that become homogenized.

Cream or no cream, that is the question. Here I chose “no” but I would not have been wrong to add it. I was shooting for more of a buttery broth for bread dipping rather than the rich complexity of cream. If I had used cream I would have probably wanted to add another seafood that could poach in that liquid imparting its flavor (clams or swordfish perhaps). It would not have been wrong to use Parmesan-Reggiano instead of Pecorino-Romano either. I had both but I decided I wanted the extra bite of the latter. It is a spring dish after all. So in the end I had a pasta dish that resembled a shrimp scampi flavor. The starchy fresh pasta held the buttery broth nicely and prevented even the slightest hint of that unappealing greasiness.

If you make this exactly as I did, I’m sure you will be quite pleased with yourself. If you chose to impart your own wisdom on this, you stand to be equally as happy. For goodness sake, do NOT overcook your shrimp or you will fail with the utter disgrace that I did so many times before.

Ahhhh, What a lovely Saturday I had.

Shrimp Pasta

(pssst- I chose a fresh pasta rather than dried. This recipe calls for the same but if you use dried, follow the cooking instructions on the box for an al dente pasta noodle)

9 oz fresh pasta (At my grocery, it’s in the refrigerated section next to the cheeses)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 shallot
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup pasta water (from cooking the pasta), or a bit more
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp capers
¾ lb jumbo or large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/3 cup Pecorino-Romano cheese
¼ cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook just a few minutes, maybe 3. Drain and set aside. Reserve ¼ cup pasta water. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the garlic and shallot and heat together for just a minute or two. Do not brown the garlic. Add the wine, pasta water and lemon juice and reduce about five minutes at gentle boil. Add the capers and shrimp. The shrimp will begin to turn pink right away. Turn after a minute. They will be done in two minutes. Turn the heat off and add the pasta to the pan. Then add the cheese and parsley and turn to coat. If the pasta is a bit dry add more pasta water (a few tbsp at a time). It will absorb into the pasta. You want a bit of liquid with this.

Slice a nice crusty bread to mop up any drippings from the plate.

I made this to serve 2 but we could have probably served 3 comfortably so I would double this recipe for a dinner for 6.


Anonymous said...

I finally made the stuffed jalepenos- they were awesome! I cleared out all the white stuff and seeds and as a result I think they weren't as hot as they could have been, although everyone but me thought they were plenty hot! Fortunately, I found the ratio to be a bit off and as such I have lots of leftover stuffing, so I went out and bought 15 more peppers and I'm going to try again and crank up the heat a bit this time. I put the sausage mixture in a food processor to facilitate the texture and it worked well.RFS

Louis said...

I lik ethe processor idea.