Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day/Fettucine ai Frutti di Mare

Yesterday was a kind of lazy Mother's Day and the unfortunate day when soon-to-be 15-year old Carter decided that spending time with his mother was not in his game plan, so Ann and I spent a pleasant afternoon in the back yard, sipping Vinho Verde and watching the robins and doves come and go from their nests on the nesting platforms attached to the top of our pergola.

Hamming it, Movie Star-Style!
When it got too hot in the late afternoon sun, we came in and watched a movie and then I started in on this dish of fettucine ai frutti di mare after the bucatini version on the cover of last month's Saveur. Ann specifically requested this dish for Mother's Day and I was fortunate to have the necessary ingredients in the walk-in.

Speaking of Saveur, if you look closely at the cover version, it appears not to be the same recipe as described inside the magazine, while the photo accompanying the recipe does appear to be from the actual recipe. These things happen, the logistics of photography and editorial writing being what they are. But the recipe and photos I don't care about, just the idea. I don't need a recipe to make this dish.

As you can see below, unlike the stylists at Saveur, I spent absolutely no time with my tweezers artfully arranging this joyous mix of pasta and seafood for the camera! But I will tell you this: Chiarello's recipe in the magazine has nothing on this. I guarantee in a blind tasting that my version will whip his, but I sure wish I had a pound of perciatelli laying around for this pasta. Fettucine was the best that our grocery store could provide. Note to self: order a case of perciatelli!

Fettucine ai Frutti di Mare
This is not the easiest pasta for a home cook to try, but I encourage you to try it anyway. The cooking is quite simple, but each seafood, the pasta, and the sauce need to be cooked separately for best results, so the complexity is merely in having to cook a bunch of things.

I handled it by steaming the clams first and then putting them into the pasta bowl, covered with a towel to keep them warm. Next I steamed the mussels. Then in the pan in which I would ultimately make the sauce, I just briefly cooked the squid with garlic and extra virgin olive oil until the squid just plumped up, seconds only.

Removing the squid to the pasta bowl and covering it with the towel, I refired the pan to make the sauce. In went four ounces of Peruvian-style chorizo and a minute later about six cloves of slivered garlic, three Calabrian peppers, a half a cup of grilled and marinated fennel, and a handful of tiny capers. A minute later, I put in the shrimp and two cups of halved grape tomatoes.*

Meanwhile, the fettucine were cooking away and as they neared readiness, I put a half a cup of the pasta water into my sauce, mixed it well, tasted for seasoning, and poured it over the seafood already in the pasta bowl. The drained fettucine went in next with a big handful of chiffonaded basil and I gave it all a big toss.

The result was simply outstanding. One of the best pasta dishes that I have ever eaten. Happy Mother's Day Annie!

*Don't get wrapped around the axle about quantities. This is a "just do it" sauce with no right and no wrong. Just do it.

My New Love: Peperoncini di Calabria
I read somewhere the other day that Calabrian peppers are all the rage on menus this season. I'm not one to follow trends but I am a chile fiend so I decided to discover why people like them so much. I bought a gallon of them and fell in love after I popped a couple in my mouth. They are spicy, salty, and a touch smoky. The heat is great, falling somewhere in the range of Thai bird chiles, but where birds don't have much flavor, these peppers have excellent flavor. Love them!

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