My last post raised the issue of eating well mid-week without the time or fuss to do service to the recipe. This time I was faced with a friend with a mid-week birthday. Fortunately she asked for a simple dish, but it underlined for me how Italian food can be complicated and sophisticated – but it can also be very easy and sophisticated. So here it goes…with a couple of small cooking tips long the way…
Because I had the time, I made the pasta from scratch in my Japanese Soba noodle-making bowl. It is carved from one piece of wood and is one of those cooking objects that gives pleasure every time that it is used.
You do not have to make it yourself. This would be a real no-brainer if you bought the pasta. Heck, you can buy fresh pasta. If you make it yourself, this is two cupd flour with three eggs and half a teaspoon of salt. Mix, roll rest and cut!
For two, prep:
12 oz raw Shrimp
1/2 an onion, chopped
4 or 5 cloves of garlic, pulped
1/4 – 1/2 C EVOO
1/2 Cup Chopped Parsley
I have spent my time doing hard labor in the kitchens of restaurants. Every now and again I am reminded of a fond memory. They are few and far between, so when it happens, I like to share.
I did a stretch in an Italian restaurant. In addition to making pasta by hand in the window of the display kitchen, I would slice mushrooms and chop parsley – also by hand. Mushrooms were sliced in quantities of 10 lbs at a time. I would regularly walk in to a list that read “Slice 30 lbs mush”. I became adept at slicing mushrooms without having to look closely, so that I could chat with the guy prepping near me. I still have all 10 fingers, so I must have been reasonably good at it! Chopping parsley was also done by hand. You, of course, are welcome to use a food processor, but her is one of the ways to do it fairly quickly by hand.
This is still noisy, but it helps if you put a damp towel under the chopping board. It is a good idea to do this regularly, since it also stops the board from slipping – especially in a commercial kitchen where the counters are stainless steel. Take a large chef’s knife in each hand and chop like fury with both hands at the same time. You will feel a little self-conscious at first, but – trust me – it gets the job done.
Since parsley only releases its fragrant oils when chopped, it is important to do it well and close to the time of use.
Heat about half a cup of EVOO in a large pan. The temp should be medium to medium-low.
Then add the onion and garlic. the idea here is to infuse the garlic and onion with the olive oil and vice versa. You do not want to stir-fry the ingredients. You want to “introduce” the flavors to each other and let them warm into a friendship!
Once the ingredients are firm friends, you can throw in the parsley. Note that the onion and garlic have not browned. They are gently cooked and will emit a nutty aroma, but do not over do it.
Then it is time to put in the shrimp. Shrimp cannot be served under-cooked – except when really fresh and then they can be served and eaten raw. However, in Oklahoma, I have yet to meet a shrimp that is fresh. So, they must be cooked right – because you must not over-cook them either. No one wants to eat rubbery pellets. Shrimp should be cooked until just pink, but still succulent. In this case, about 4 minutes. The heat should be turned to high to accomplish this quick cooking time.
I put my pasta in at the same time as the shrimp. 4 minutes or so is all that fresh pasta requires.
The shrimp are now pink and the dish is ready to serve, Be careful, the thin tail-end will turn pink very quickly. It is the meatier head end that you are looking to color-up.
Turn the pasta into a large serving bowl and dump the shrimp, garlic, parsley, and olive oil over the top.
Garnish and serve.