A brief statement of purpose

There are already about a billion food blogs, so what might be a justification of yet another one, and who am I to do it?

What I aim to do in this blog is more than simply provide recipes. While recipes of my own will, in fact, be posted, some of the blog will consist of a variety of comments about restaurants and their practices, food preparation tips, personal annoyances (such as loud restaurants and the epidemic of misspellings on menus), and whatever else pops into my head relating to what we put in our mouths (and swallow, I hasten to add). The whole thing is meant to be somewhat provocative. I hope, if nothing else, it won't be boring. I, of course, solicit reader participation.

As for who I am and why I think I might have something to contribute to public discussions on this essential and pleasurable activity - eating - you'll have to click here.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Pasta with langoustines, blue cheese, and green peppercorns

   This is a rather commonplace recipe, but with a twist. It’s also easy and quick, particularly if you already have the main ingredient which is frozen langoustines or crayfish. They’re available at Trader Joe’s (perhaps elsewhere, too), and they’re already cooked. In a pinch, cooked small shrimp would suffice. Yes, you could use uncooked shellfish, but then that would reduce the convenience factor, wouldn’t it? 
   Use fresh pasta, which is available in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores. Buitoni is one brand. Fresh is purported to absorb sauces better than dried pastas, although I suspect the difference to the palate is minimal, so use dried if you like. 
   So what’s the twist? I think what raises this concoction above an already tasty  but quotidian combination of shellfish, cream, and pasta is the addition of a small amount of blue cheese and some green peppercorns. Together, these two ingredients contribute a pleasant - what might be the word here? - “sharpness” to the finished product. The finished dish won't transport you to culinary nirvana, but it will be more interesting. 
   Green peppercorns are simply ordinary peppercorns which haven’t been allowed to ripen (turn dark). One could say they were allowed to attain only early adolescence before their lives were snuffed out for the pleasure of humans. They are available in jars with brine in larger grocery stores, usually in the vicinity of capers and other sorts of pickled things. One might also find them in dried form in the spices and herbs section. The latter will last longer than the former once the former is opened, but brined have more flavor which, in volume, can be rather overpowering. The tablespoon in the recipe is about right to me, though. Always rinse the brined peppercorns. 
   As for which of the many varieties of blue cheese to use, that’s entirely up to you. It’s only a tablespoon, so I don’t think it matters. The point is only to make itself known to the palate in a very subtle way. My wife isn’t a big fan of blue cheese, but she said she could taste its presence, but it wasn’t at all assertive. She liked it.
Fresh pasta (linguine or fettuccine), 8 to 10 oz
Butter, 1 or 2 Tbs
Shallots, 1 large, finely chopped
Heavy cream, 1 cup
Green peppercorns, 1 Tbs in brine (and rinsed) or 2 tsp dried
Blue cheese, 1 Tbs
A hard cheese such as Asiago, Grana Padano, or Romano, 1/2 cup grated
Cooked langoustines (or crayfish), 8 oz or so
Basil, several leaves
White pepper
Assuming the langoustines or crayfish are frozen, put them in a microwavable container and thaw, taking care not to re-cook them since they’re already cooked. You just want to make sure they’re not frozen solid when they’re added to the sauce. If any liquid accumulates, keep it.
Melt 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and briefly saute the shallots. Over low heat, add the cream and the green peppercorns. The dried variety is fine, too. In either case, add to the cream and shallot mixture. Now add the blue cheese and stir until it’s melted. Toss in the grated hard cheese. Add the shellfish and their liquid and simmer until all the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Add some salt and ground white pepper.
Cook the pasta. If you have fresh pasta, it’ll take five minutes or less. (Consult the instructions.) When it’s done, keep 2 tablespoons of the cooking water.

Toss the slivered basil leaves into the cream mixture, keeping some whole ones for garnish. Drain the pasta, add the sauce, stir, and deliver to the serving plates. If you would like a thinner sauce, add the reserved pasta cooking liquid. Remember the basil garnish.

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