Friday, March 21, 2014

Seafood, Cheese, and The Rules

The Rules say using cheese in seafood dishes is forbidden. The Rules dictate that the flavor of cheese is too bold and overwhelming for mild, delicate fish and shellfish. Cows and fish are separated by geography and therefore must remain separate on the plate, The Rules will have you believe.

If The Rules were strictly enforced, bagels with cream cheese and lox, Smoked Salmon Spread, crab dip, pizza with anchovies, tuna melts, tuna noodle casserole, coquilles St. Jacques, and even Caesar Salad would be prohibited. Who among us would want to live in a world without those?

The Rules against combining seafood come to us from the Italian culinary tradition, and you know I have great respect for Italian culinary tradition. I’m not saying that so many chefs, home cooks, and nonnas are wrong. But I am saying The Rules are meant to be broken. Cook what you like! Eat what you like, people, no matter what anyone else has to say about it!

So go ahead and fold crabmeat into your fettuccini with Alfredo Sauce and sprinkle grated parm onto your Spaghetti with Seafood Marinara and linguini with clams if you want to! Just be prepared for a few sideways glances from orthodox Italian cooks.

Before I get to a recipe that breaks all The Rules, I have a quick announcement: Leite’s Culinaria is giving away a copy of Flavored Butters. Enter for your chance to win.

Baked Paccheri with Crab and Ricotta
Printable Recipe

2 ounces (½ stick) unsalted butter, diced, plus more for greasing the baking dishes
2 ounces all-purpose flour
1 quart milk
½ small yellow onion
1 bay leaf
1 clove
Generous pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
500 grams (1.1 pounds) paccheri
2 large eggs
1 clove garlic, grated
1 ¾ pounds ricotta
5 ½ ounces grated Parmegiano-Reggiano
1 pound lump Dungeness crabmeat, picked over

Heat the butter in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat until it melts, bubbles, and the foam subsides. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it begins to smell toasty. Whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, add the onion, bay leaf, clove, and nutmeg, and simmer for 20 to 22 minutes, or until thick. Remove from the heat, strain through a fine mesh sieve, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let cool.

Cook the paccheri in a large pot of boiling, salted water according to the package directions. When the paccheri begins to soften, using a wire skimmer, transfer it from the pot to a large bowl of ice-cold water to stop the cooking process, and then drain it thoroughly. Layer the paccheri between clean kitchen towels to dry.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Butter 8 individual baking dishes. Whisk together the eggs and garlic in a large bowl. Stir in the ricotta, 1 ½ ounces of the Parmegiano, and the crabmeat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip and pipe into the paccheri, filling each one loosely. Divide the filled paccheri among the baking dishes, arranging them in a single layer. Divide the white sauce among the baking dishes and spread evenly. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining 4 ounces of Parmegiano. Arrange the baking dishes on a baking tray and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling around the edges.

Serves 8. The paccheri should be boiled until it begins to soften but not until it is al dente. Undercooking the pasta in this way ensures that it doesn't become too mushy once it's baked. Feel free to substitute manicotti or jumbo shells for the paccheri. This rich dish is best accompanied by a salad with a sharp vinaigrette.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Butter Tasting at West Elm and a Recipe Using Shrimp Butter

Have you tried any of the recipes in Flavored Butters yet? Would you like some new ideas for ways to use them? Well, have I got an awesome idea for you right now! Use the Shrimp Butter from the book to make this Spaghetti with Seafood Marinara.

If that sounds good, I’ll have a lot more ideas for you at my upcoming Flavored Butters event at the Portland West Elm on Saturday, March 15 from 12:30PM to 3PM. Come join me for some butter banter and plenty of delicious samples of recipes from the book.

Chalkboard photo courtesy of Jae Obiniana at West Elm.

I just realized—see that platter and those serving utensils with the pasta? They’re from West Elm! And believe it or not, I didn’t even plan it that way! Goes to show how much I love West Elm style. So it’s a real honor to be invited to do a book event there.

While I’m on the subject of honors, I have to take a moment to say I am so honored that Amherst Bulletin included Flavored Butters in this list of cookbooks that “feed the imagination”. Thank you, Amherst Bulletin!

Now, back to that Spaghetti with Seafood Marinara. Sure you could just throw some seafood into some red sauce and call it good, but add a little Shrimp Butter and a good dish is elevated to an amazing dish, to a dish worthy of the best Italian restaurant. The Shrimp Butter boosts the seafood flavor off the charts. So save up some shrimp shells and give it a try!

Spaghetti with Seafood Marinara
Printable Recipe

3 cups Basic Tomato Sauce
1 pound spaghetti
Kosher salt
1/3 pound jumbo shrimp (16/20 count), peeled and deveined
¼ pound bay scallops
¼ pound squid rings
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons Shrimp Butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ pound small clams
¼ pound mussels
Generous pinch red chile flakes
1/8 pound lump Dungeness crabmeat, picked over
2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
Grated Parmegiano-Reggiano, for serving, optional

Bring the tomato sauce to a simmer and keep warm. Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling, salted water according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, season the shrimp, scallops, and squid with salt and pepper. Heat a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the butter and let melt. Add the shrimp and a quarter of the garlic and sauté for about 1 minute, or until almost cooked through. Remove the shrimp to a plate. Add the scallops and another quarter of the garlic to the pot and sauté for about 1 minute, or until almost cooked through. Remove the scallops to the plate with the shrimp. Add the squid and another quarter of the garlic to the pot and sauté for about 30 seconds, or until almost cooked through. Remove the squid to the plate with the shrimp and scallops. Add the clams and mussels and the remaining quarter of the garlic to the pot and sauté for about 1 minute. Add the tomato sauce and red chile flakes and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the clams and mussels begin to open. Return the shrimp, scallops, and squid to the pot and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the seafood is just cooked through. Remove from the heat, stir in the crabmeat and parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Drain the pasta when it is al dente. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. Arrange on individual plates, top with plenty of Parmegiano, if desired, and serve immediately.

Makes 5 to 6 servings. Seafood must be impeccably fresh, especially mussels and clams. Purchase live mussels and clams the day you intend to cook them. When you bring them home, the shells may be open, especially if they’ve been stored on ice. Tap them gently and see that they close; discard any that do not close. To prepare them, scrub with a stiff-bristled brush and de-beard the mussels. Discard any mussels or clams that do not open once cooked. If desired, add a couple of tablespoons of white wine to the pot along with the clams and mussels.
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