I hope you didn’t have to put sunglasses on when opening this page. In an attempt to hide my lousy photographic skills i’ve been adjusting the brightness/color levels of my pictures. That’s something that i never done before. While it helped improve the overall quality of my pictures, it also exposed my tendency to get carried away. It’s a medical condition that i think started when my parents refused to buy me that box of fluorescent markers when i was 7 years old. Later as a teenager in the early 90’s i started to rebel by wearing fluorescent David Bowie T-shirts and hanging out in night-clubs so that i became immuned to fluorescent lights. Now i’m at the point i don’t know how much color is too much color and the Andy Wahrols originals hanging on the walls at work have only made my condition worsen. Give me a color slider and i go nuts! I apologize if you were struck by the rays of zen, side effects usually include nausea, hallucinations, drooling and the occasional vomiting. If you’re starting to feel dizzy just sit down and drink a sip of water. If symptoms persists switch to NoRecipes.. or wear sunglasses. That’s what i do!
err.. Do you see what i mean?..
I wanted to make a pasta using sea urchin (uni) ever since i had a fantastic version at Esca. David Pasternack makes his using blue crab but i wanted to make a culinary fashion statement by switching to langoustines… Take That Pasternack!! I made a langoustine broth with the heads that i reduced a bit to intensify its flavor, i pureed and strained the sea urchin in a food processor with softened butter and piment d’espelette and added it to the broth. It immediately emulsified to create the creamiest of sauce: the mutha-sauce. It was deliciously flavored with shelfish and uni with the gentle heat of the piment d’espelette. I sauteed the tails separately before tossing them into the pasta sauce.
Pasta alla chitarra is a specialty of the Abruzzo region of italy. A Chitarra is the tool (instrument?) used to cut fresh pasta into strands. It’s basically a frame strung with music wire that looks just like a guitar, hence the name. Think of pasta alla chitarra as a square spaghetti with a rough edge, a texture that’s particulary suitable to this kind of creamy sauce. As a finishing touch i julienned some snow peas and kept them raw in ice cold water. Tossing them into the hot pasta is just enough to make them wilt a little which provides a great textural contrast and a crisp and refreshing touch. Enjoy!
Pasta alla Chitarra with Sea Urchin & Langoustines
- Inspired by Esca
- Serves 4
For the langoustine broth:
- 6 to 8 langoutines, heads removed and roughly chopped. Reserve tails
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 branch celery, chopped
- 1 small carrot, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 small bouquet garni: thyme, parsley stems, tarragon and a bay leaf
- 1 strip lemon zest
- 2 cups water
For the pasta sauce:
- 8 ounces fresh sea urchin
- 4 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon piment d’espelette
- sea salt to taste
- 1 cup langoustine broth (see above)
- langoustines tails
- 2 tablespoons butter
- salt and piment d’espelette to taste
- a dozen snow peas, julienned
- 1 lb pasta alla chitarra, or spaghetti
For the langoustines broth:
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the chopped langoustine heads. Cook until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, the celery, the carrot, the garlic and continue cooking until they soften and start to stick to the bottom of the pot.
- Add the tomato paste and continue cooking for another 3 minutes while stirring frequently. Deglaze with the white wine and reduce until almost nothing is left. Add the bouquet garni, the strip of lemon and the water and bring to a boil. Simmer gently until you have about 1 cup of liquid left, about 20 minutes.
- When ready you should have a flavorful shellfish broth. Strain the liquid and reserve. Discard the solids.
For the pasta sauce:
- Place the sea urchin, the softened butter, the espelette pepper and a good pinch of sea salt in the bowl of a food processor and process to a smooth puree.
- Strain the mixture or pass it through a tamis.
- If not using right away, cover and reserve in the refrigerator. If ready to proceed, place one cup of langoustine broth into a large pan and bring to a boil. Whisk in the sea urchin mixture until smooth, do not boil it. You should have a very creamy pasta sauce. If it gets too thick (and it will) use some of the pasta cooking water to bring it to the right consistency.
To finish the dish:
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. It should taste like the sea.
- Cook the pasta to al dente. Drain it and toss it in the sauce.
- While the pasta is cooking, sautee the langoustine tails in butter. Season to taste with salt and piment d’espelette and toss them in the pasta and the sauce.
- Dress the pasta in individual bowls or family style, top with the julienned snow peas and serve immediately. Enjoy!