I wasn’t sure this would work. In fact, I’m never sure anything I cook will work, especially the food I make up on the spur of the moment. For this reason, I almost never make up dishes for guests. Call me chicken, but I’ve produced for friends enough dismal food on a whim to make me hesitant to impose the fruits of my creativity on anyone but me. You may recall the rout I experienced in Bordeaux.
Last night, I decided to experiment in the safety and privacy of my culinary sanctuary otherwise known as “at home.” It worked! Not only did it work, but I thought the result turned out far more interesting than I anticipated. I bought about a third of a pound of fresh wild Gulf shrimp and a small head of radicchio with the intention of only of making a salad to accompany whatever it was that I would do with the shrimp. Once in the kitchen, my early evening laziness became the midwife of a new pasta dish.
Here’s what I did:
Two cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons good sweet butter
one small head of radicchio or half a medium-sized one
1/3 pound fresh wild shrimp
1/4 cup dry white wine
4 oz pasta, preferably penne, fusilli, or another dried pasta that will become entagled around the wilted radicchio
salt and freshly ground pepper
I prepped all the ingrediants initially: minced the garlic, shelled and cut the shrimp in two, sliced the radicchio into thin ribbons, and put a pot of salted water on the stove.
After turning on the flame under the water, I put about 1 tablespoon of the butter and a good slug of olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. When the butter and olive oil were melted and hot, I add the garlic, which I sauteed for about 2 mins, taking care not to allow the garlic to become golden. Something told me that bitter garlic would kill this dish. Then I added the ribboned radicchio. Stirring to coat the ribbons in the butter and oil, I let it cook for a few minutes until it was well wilted.
I tossed in the shrimp, making sure that they were in contact with the surface of the skillet. Then I turned up the heat. Once they have change color, I poured in the white wine and reduced the heat again.
Leaving the shrimp to sauté in the wine and radicchio, I looked to the pasta. Dumped the pasta in when it came to a boil and waited until it was almost done. I scooped out a quarter cup of pasta water, in case the shrimp and radicchio were too dry, but in the end they weren’t. I drained the pasta.
As soon as the pasta was drained, I added the extra tablespoon of butter — maybe a little less — to the shimp and radicchio. Without shaking the pasta free of excess water, I dumped it all into the skillet. Stirred to coat.
The result smelled briny like the ocean, tasted sweet like butter, and the bitterness of the radicchio snuck up behind the first two. The combination was subtler than I expected, given how pronounced the aroma of the ocean was. A very nice combination of flavors. NO CHEESE.
To maximize the flavor of the sea, I might fool around with tying up the shrimp shells in cheesecloth and boiling it with the pasta. It might be a good way to infuse the pasta with the flavor of the shrimp.