Tuesday, August 25, 2009

- Priming the Pump: Shrimp Pasta

Since I want to bulk up this blog with some content, I'm going to dig out some writing from our Williamsburg days. This recipe is for a must-have-dish when the Ackert clan heads to the Outer Banks each June.  It was discovered during a business trip with some fellow librarians to Kohler, Wisconsin, home of the “Toilet Wall of Fame" (aka the Kohler Design Center).

After learning more about bathrooms than we ever needed to know, we tried to find a simple place to eat for dinner and happened on an Italian restaurant in a strip mall. The menu was agreeably low-priced with entrees around eight dollars (this was 20 years ago). We made reservations and returned several hours later dressed in jeans only to find that we were in a high-end bistro with incredible food; everyone else was dressed to the nines. Who knew that Wisconsin restaurants charged one-third as much as Williamsburg restaurants did?

The Shrimp Pasta I ate that night was made with linguine, asparagus, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and prosciutto, along with an abundance of shrimp, cream and parmesan. The recipe that I cobbled together once I returned to Williamsburg has gone through many, many permutations over the years, so whatever ingredients you do or don’t put in, it’s really not possible to mess it up … unless, of course, you use bait shrimp.*

Shrimp Pasta

1 lb. pasta (linguine, rigatoni, fusilli ... your choice)
2 lb. Carolina shrimp (10-25 count, no farm shrimp allowed)
2-3 cups of fresh tomatoes, cut bite-sized (beefsteak, grape, plum ... as red and juicy as you can find)
1 to 2 cups of heavy cream
1 to 2 cups of half-and-half (regular or fat-free)
1 cup or more of fresh grated parmesan (parmigiano reggiano if possible)

Variations
  • Prosciutto, shredded
  • Scallions, thin sliced
  • Kalamata olives, chopped
  • Garlic butter
  • Fresh white corn, boiled and sliced from the cob
  • Asparagus, cooked al dente and cut into 1" pieces
  • Sun dried tomatoes, cut in small pieces and softened in the heavy cream
Cook the pasta al dente in salted water
Peel and steam the shrimp, cut into bite-sized chunks
Simmer and reduce the heavy cream until thick and fragrant
Add half-and-half as needed to keep the cream from over-thickening
Prep additions as desired
Mix everything together in a very large bowl ... it doesn't hurt to let it sit and meld for awhile

Serve with red wine (Malbec is my current favorite), cold beer (Bass Ale anyone?), or a Mexican Martini (the Texans' answer to Margaritas ... just add olive juice).


* What's with the bait shrimp? 
 
Well, that's another story.  On many of our Outer Banks vacations, Meg was "odd man out" since she was at least three years older than most of the other kids who came bundled with our former college friends and erstwhile co-vacationers.  So Meg would bring along a friend of her own to keep her company.  One year, not sure she wanted to join us for a meal of steamers (soft shelled clams), Meg's friend Jessica opted for some steamed shrimp instead. Not knowing that someone had stashed bait shrimp in the fridge, we didn't give any credence to the kids' table comments about the "really little shrimp" that Jessica was diligently trying to peel.  It was only after dinner that we discovered the regular shrimp still sitting in the fridge and the bait shrimp nowhere to be found.  Jessica survived to tell the tale, and is now happily married and a proud parent in her own right.


1 comment:

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