Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Penne ai Frutti di Mare all’Arrabbiata

On our way back from Skyline Drive on Sunday, Ann and I started kicking around what to have for dinner. We tried to talk about dinner on the drive down to no avail: we both think better about food when we are hungry. And hungry we were starting to get after our hike whetted our appetites.

Ann started things off with shrimp seviche, which morphed into cellophane noodle salad or some combination of the two dishes. I thought we were done with dinner planning and had arrived at the "light and fresh" dinner that Ann was craving. Then scallops got into the picture, still light and fresh. But then things took a left turn: "in a spicy tomato sauce." Next, "what kind of pasta do you have at the restaurant?" At this point, I knew light and fresh was out the window and I threw in the towel offering that we also had beautiful mussels to add to the arrabbiata/puttanesca sauce.

And what an awesome dinner it turned out to be!

Penne ai Frutti di Mare all’Arrabbiata
 This pasta turned out to be even better tasting than it looks!

Warm-up Wine During Prep
When we got home from hiking, we opened this 2010 Hodder Hill Bordeaux blend from Glen Manor. I thought it fitting because we spent the day hiking very near the winery.

Sauce Mise en Place
Here you see the majority of the sauce components ready to go, from top left clockwise: red pepper flakes, olives, tomatoes, garlic, capers, mussels, and basil. Missing are white wine and fish sauce, my alternative to anchovy filets. The olives are the little ones very similar to those from Nice and are cured in the Niçoise fashion. These happen to be from Spain where they are called Coquillos.

Searing Scallops
To start the sauce, I first seared the scallops and the shrimp in a black steel pan, trying to build as much fond (the brown caramelized glaze on the bottom of the pan) as possible.

Searing Shrimp
As each batch of seafood was just barely cooked, I transferred it to a large pasta bowl. Once all the seafood was cooked, I deglazed the pan with a half a cup or so of dry white wine, a bit of leftover Chablis from the fridge. I moved the black steel pan off the range, dropped the pasta in the water, and moved a large pan onto the flame to make the sauce. I used a large, shallow pan because I wanted as much surface area as possible so that the sauce reduced as quickly as possible: it needed to be done in the time that the pasta took to cook, about 10 minutes.

Sauce Just Starting to Work
First into the pan were olive oil, red pepper flakes, and garlic, healthy quantities of each on the order of 3 tablespoons. Once the garlic started to brown, in went the capers, the mussels, the olives, and the tomatoes. I also added half the sliced basil, the deglazing liquid, and a good shot of fish sauce (rather than anchovies). The other half of the basil went into the pasta bowl with the shrimp and scallops.

Final Reduction on the Sauce
The mussels will in all likelihood cook before the sauce is completely reduced, so when they open, remove them to the bowl with the other seafood. When the pasta is cooked and drained, add it to the seafood and once the majority of the liquid has evaporated from the sauce, check it for seasoning and add it to the pasta. Toss everything and serve immediately with a little grated cheese, if you like. I tend not to add grated cheese to seafood dishes.

A Perfect Wine for This Sauce
The perfect wine for this spicy tomato-based dish is a high-acid, light-bodied Italian red. Barolo might be overkill but I sure didn't mind. A Langhe Rosso Nebbiolo would have been a more budget conscious choice.

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