Worth the Wait – Pappardelle with Shrimp, Asparagus, and Truffle Butter

April 8, 2011 § 6 Comments

When I started this blog at the end of last year, I became somewhat ravenous not only for my new culinary adventures but also writing about them. The project quickly sucked me in and I literally had to stop myself from going overboard – boring what few readers I probably have with multiple posts per week and adding unnecessary inches to my waistline. So the fact that I’ve not written in over a month (a month!) is beyond me. Granted, I’ve been quite busy. A new addition to our family, Chloe, a beautiful bassett/beagle has taken over what precious free time I had and used to devote to cooking and writing. She’s learning to dig and eat magazines and her latest adventure was eating a black ink pen on my beige couch which has been fun to deal with. Add on business trips every week followed by a nasty bout of the flu and voila – over a month has passed.

I’ve been dying to write this post since making this dinner Oscar night. I hadn’t planned on making this recipe for the Oscars, but I had truffle butter on hand that only had a few days left before going bad so I figured it was as good a night as any. It was just supposed to be my husband and me that night but at the last minute my whole family joined us so we went from 2 to 6. I’m glad too because the meal was so delicious and made plenty for the 6 of us with a little leftover to savor the following night.

Now, I’m not really a mushroom fan so the fact that I made this with a truffle sauce may be surprising – there are certain traditional dishes with mushrooms like Chicken Marsala that I love, I don’t like the mushroom itself. I think it has to do with the mushroom’s spongey texture. While I avoid most mushrooms, a few years ago I had pasta with truffle sauce. I was actually in Ljubljana, Slovenia, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. I’d spent the week going through Slovenia and Croatia (a logistical nightmare but that’s another story) and saw more meat than I cared for – the traditionals and the unusuals (horse and buffalo, no thanks). Needless to say, given that I’m not a big meat lover, I saw lots of pizza – cheese pizza to be exact. We were nearing the end of the trip and we were at a little pub that had a menu full of items I didn’t eat – the only thing that even remotely caught my eye was the pasta with truffle sauce. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it, but it was my only option. The plate arrived, and not only was it beautiful, it was delicious. I really enjoyed it but hadn’t had it again since it’s not something you see much in the states. Sure, you see plenty of fries with truffle oil which I’ll always order if a restaurant has them to remind me of that afternoon in Ljubljana.

Fast forward to New Year’s Eve this year, and we were in Whole Foods looking for something special to make for dinner. We rarely go to Whole Foods so when we do its like a mini-adventure. I picked up little splurges like Mascapone cheese, fresh roasted garlic, and a Truffle Butter. I hesitated with the Truffle Butter at a whopping $9 for a 2 ounce tub but I’d recently seen Ina Garten prepare it with Tagliatelle which looked so good, so I figured, might as well start the New Year with a little indulgence! January and February seemed to fly by and every day I’d open my fridge to see my precious $9 delicacy just waiting to be eaten. So, when it was Oscar Sunday, I figured I’d waited long enough. It was time to give this pasta a shot. I decided to add the asparagus for some veggies but the shrimp was a total last minute decision after my husband requested some protein for dinner – man was it good though. The delicate pasta with the sweet shrimp and earthy, creamy sauce was divine.

I used homemade pasta for this but store-bought pasta would work nicely here as well. The delicacy of the pasta complimented the sauce very nicely so look for a thin flat pasta. I followed a different pasta recipe than I’ve made before – this time I used Giada’s recipe which calls for more egg than usual, plus olive oil and salt. The resulting pasta was golden and silky with tons of flavor. After rolling out the pasta into the thinnest sheets on my pasta roller, I hand sliced it to make the pappardelle. The easiest way to do this is to fold the sheet a few times and then cut – make sure you flour the sheet before doing so to prevent the dough from sticking together.

Once the pasta was ready to cook, the recipe was actually really easy. If you choose to use bought pasta this cooks in just about 10 minutes after getting the water to a boil. Once the water comes to a boil, salt it and add the trimmed asparagus in just for a few minutes until tender. Remove the asparagus and add the pasta. Meanwhile, heat a pan over medium heat with some olive oil and garlic. Let the garlic infuse the oil for a minute and then add the shrimp with salt and pepper. While the shrimp cooks, cut the asparagus into one-inch bites and add to the shrimp. Increase the heat, add 1 cup heavy whipping cream (or the amount you prefer), and let boil slightly. Add in the entire tub of truffle butter – I know it sounds like a lot, but remember this is a treat! – and it will melt quickly. Turn the heat off and transfer the cooked pasta to the sauce. Top with fresh chives, parsley, and parmesan.

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Craving Warmth – Shrimp and Corn Chowder

January 17, 2011 § 2 Comments

It truly pains me to admit this but I have finally, maybe, still-fighting it, come to the realization that perhaps I’ll never move to a winter climate again. I spent the better years of my childhood in Chicago and have envisioned moving back there for years – living in a condo, walking everywhere, enjoying the many cultural attributes of the city, not to mention unbelievable food options. But alas, sometimes we must grow up and realize what we are and are not willing to do. After several trips this year to Washington DC, Detroit, Philadelphia, and yes, even Chicago, I come back home each time more and more relieved to return to my comfortable 60 degree weather.

Last week that wasn’t the case though – there were no 60 degrees to be had even in Florida – I returned home from a frigid Detroit where just 5 minutes standing in the snow storm waiting for a shuttle bus had left me slightly frozen for the better half of the week. Walking to my car back home at the Orlando airport, I expected to find myself able to remove my jacket – but no, I was met with a windy 40 degrees that encouraged me to leave it on. (I do realize that my friends living anywhere North of Orlando right now are probably calling me a big wimp if they are reading this – but it is what it is – apparently I’m quite wimpy when it comes to weather.)

All week I had a need to fill my body with a warm and satisfying something – something that would fill my stomach with warmth and spread to every last centimeter of my body – no fingers or toes to be left behind. Actually, this need started even before I’d left for Detroit and I attempted to make a lentil soup for the very first time on a cold Sunday evening. I’d been inspired by reading an incredible article on a spicy, thick lentil soup by Molly Wizenberg in Bon Appetit. In the end, the soup turned out ok – definitely hearty – but missed the mark and left me craving something comforting all week. So Friday night, I just couldn’t take it, enough was enough – I was determined to make a delicious soup that would do the trick. As I wandered through the supermarket looking for inspiration, I remembered a chowder my mom makes with crab and shrimp. I used to make a vegetarian version all the time but for one reason or another, hadn’t made it in some time. Seeing that shrimp was on sale, I figured it would be as good a time as any to give it another go and see if it could cure me of my need for warmth. It had probably been 2 years since I made this soup – thus, I was working from memory on how I actually used to make it but it turned out just as comforting and delicious as I remembered!

As I said, I’ve made this soup many times vegetarian without any seafood and its simply delicious. If you do like shrimp, it adds just a hint of sweetness and substance to the dish. This soup offers amazing depth of flavor – the slight spice of the bell peppers, sweet carrots, hearty potatoes, plump shrimp, and just a touch of cream – all make it truly luxurious. This soup is actually quite simple, really, and could easily be made on a cold weeknight. As with all soups like this, no hard-fast recipe is needed, just estimate as you go and feel free to experiment.

Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a large stockpot. Meanwhile dice the potatoes into bite size pieces – you want to use a delicate skinned potato so you don’t have to peel them. Add the potatoes to the boiling chicken broth and reduce to medium heat.

Dice the onion, celery, and carrots. I slit the celery down the center and then dice and I just dice the carrot whole so I have pretty little orange circles. Add these veggies to a sauté pan over medium heat with enough olive oil to lightly coat, minced garlic, some salt and pepper, and sauté. Dice ½ a red and ½ a yellow pepper and add to the pan once the onions have become soft. You could add the vegetables right to the potatoes after chopping and skip this step for an easier recipe but I find sautéing them gives the best flavor.

Add all the veggies to the potatoes and allow to cook a few minutes and for the flavors to incorporate. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until it reaches your desired texture. I like it to be about half blended so I see some flecks of color from the diced veggies. If you don’t have an immersion blender you can spoon out the desired amount and blend in a blender.

Add your desired amount of corn and a touch of cream for a luxurious texture. The cream can easily be left out if you’d rather not have the extra calories but it does add a beautiful silkiness to this soup.

Cut the shrimp in half and dispose of tails and add to the soup. It will take just minutes for the shrimp to cook – once they are pink, they’re done and the soup is ready. (Note: if using frozen shrimp you’ll need more cooking time.) Add chopped scallions and reserve some to serve on top as a garnish.

Ingredients

4 14oz. cans of low-sodium chicken broth
5 potatoes
1 yellow onion
4 ribs of celery
5 carrots
½ red bell pepper
½ yellow bell pepper
2 cups frozen corn
¼ cup heavy cream
½ Ib. shrimp
2 cloves garlic
4 scallions
olive oil
salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a large stockpot. Meanwhile dice the potatoes into bite size pieces. Add the potatoes to the boiling chicken broth and reduce to medium heat.
  2. Dice the onion, celery, and carrots and sauté in a pan over medium heat with enough olive oil to lightly coat, minced garlic, some salt and pepper.
  3. Dice ½ a red and ½ a yellow pepper and add to the pan once the onions have become soft.
  4. Add all the veggies to the potatoes and allow to cook a few minutes and for the flavors to incorporate. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup to desired texture.
  5. Add corn and cream.
  6. Cut the shrimp in half, dispose of tails and add to the soup. It will take just minutes for the shrimp to cook.
  7. Add chopped scallions and reserve some to serve on top as a garnish.

Update: See how I made this vegan with my vegan corn chowder recipe

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