As a few of you savvy readers may know, I’ve been dabbling a bit in the art of seafood preparation in anticipation for the upcoming move and immersion in all things Italian. And Italians, at least a healthy chunk of them, love seafood.
What to make? Where to start, you may wonder? So many choices, so many options, so much deliciousness. Where does a defrocked vegetarian begin?
Indecision is for the weak. According to an elaborate and semi-nonsensical set of personal rules, I have limited all initial forays into the fleshy end of the spectrum to shellfish and crustaceans. Recently, I have cooked several shellfish dishes, so I turned to their chitinous cousins, the aquatic arthropod.
I wanted prawns, but on short notice all I could wrangle were some good looking U21-25 Gulf Shrimp that were unfortunately headless.
And what platform should I present these wee guys on? Well, it was my birthday and I had been nursing a craving for my favorite little potato pasta, gnocchi. (You can see some of my previous renditions of the stuff here and here.)
I figured that shrimp and gnocchi with a little arugula pesto would go together swimmingly (sorry) and real Italians be damned. See, Italians have a very strict interpretation of exactly what ingredients go with what pasta and I’m pretty sure my pairing would be deemed highly unacceptable.
So I made the gnocchi (try out Michael Chiarello’s recipe if you’d like, but ignore all of the anal salt baking and fork shaping business – rustic is good). Then I made the pesto which is just pine nuts, garlic, and lemon juice blended to a paste. Then you add a few handfuls of raw or blanched arugula, a little salt and then drizzle in olive oil until you get the consistency that you want.
I de-veined the shrimp, but I left the shells on for more flavor (and a bit of a messy/fun time later). I cooked them off in olive oil, added a few cherry tomatoes and then a few scoops of pesto. Then I spooned in my freshly boiled gnocchi and tossed it all together for a real good time. It rocked. I licked the bowl. I’m pretty sure Mme. Pants had to stop me from going back to lick the pan.
I know, I know. You’re all sitting there thinking, “Well that sounds lovely, but didn’t you say it was your birthday? What about dessert?”
Oh yes. There was dessert. And its name was Rhubarb Soufflé. It was delicious. Light and tart and fluffy. When I was baking it, I knew it would rise, I just didn’t realize that the thing was going to go all black snake on me and climb a foot and a half to the top of the oven. Since it was actually resting against the heating elements, it got a tad dark on top.
Regardless, it was delicious. We served it with a homemade vanilla custard sauce that would be good on anything that didn’t run away from you. These were both Silver Spoon recipes, so props to those guys yet again.
*Special Bonus Leftover Addendum*
So if you have any leftover gnocchi (and if you’re gonna make it you should make lots and lots) I have a great way to put it to use.
Pan fry those puppies up in some butter and put ‘em on a salad. This one has mixed greens and endive with blue cheese, walnuts, and a smoky paprika, shallot vinaigrette. And gnocchi of course.
Cook it up people.