Messing Around with a Michel Roux Classic

And so where were we? Ah yes, Europe, where for any remaining followers of this site it quickly became clear that a late-night Continental schedule (how civilised it is eating at 10pm!) and full days of touring were not compatible with the Prick hacking out five hundred or a thousand words every morning like he were still in the newspaper game. But never fear, lots of stuff in the queue. In the meantime, howzabout a little shellfish pasta?

It would be easy – and predictable – for the Prick to bang on about how, having had a fortnight in Italy thus making him an expert on such things, pasta should really be just a small part of a big meal. But let’s resist that temptation in this case: This dish stands alone, a meal in itself.

The inspiration came, as so often happens, from one of our marathon watchings of Lifestyle Food, specifically an episode of the proper UK MasterChef when Michel Roux Jr teed up his Nouilles aux Fruits de Mer. That’s seafood pasta to you and me.

The Prick version was somewhat abbreviated (hit the link above to see the original happen). Neither winkles nor razor clams could be had in Sydney this week. The dozen loose mussels picked up at the market managed to die, the lot of them, in the fridge over the course of the afternoon, the victim of some very efficient SMEG hit squad, apparently. Nevermind, we still had some gorgeous sashimi-grade scallops, langoustine (or scampi), and vongole.

Oh and the temptation to make fresh pasta gave way to practicality, and a packet of good stuff found in the fridge at the Blackwattle Deli. Here’s the end result:

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This is easier than it looks. Get some water going, and in another pan bring some wine and shallots up to heat. Steam open your shellfish species-by-species (assuming you’ve got a better mussel dealer than the Prick), pull them out, and put them aside. Gently poach the langoustine tail meat, then the scallops which you’ve cut in half, rolling them around a little in the liquid. This should be no more than 45 seconds, they’ll get warmed again.

Reduce the wine and add some nice fish stock (there are good commercial numbers out there if fish heads aren’t your thing). Throw in any non-presentation langoustine heads and give them a crunch. Reduce this again, not too much, and strain into a smaller pot, crunching the heads again to bring that wonderful flavour forth. Add some cream and a diced and seeded plum tomato or two and simmer down, but not too hard – it should be fishy and creamy but not too rich. Warm through the reserved seafood.

Set this aside and boil the pasta, quickly, and get it out of the water and into a pan. Loosen it with a bit of the cream, then plate up. Alternate different items as you do your presentation, and use a reserved head and tail to make the whole thing either deliciously cute, overweeningly twee, or appallingly barbaric, depending on your point of view. That roll thing with the pasta is easy; just twirl it around a carving fork and slide onto the plate. If you have some lobster oil around, a drizzle of that wouldn’t go astray either.

Mrs Prick thought it perfect and joined the Clean Plate Club:

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It was in fact pretty damn good (and it is rare for the Prick to praise his own work, though the presentation could have been more precise in the cold light of iPhone). If one were feeling like taking a risk, a bare hint of chili might not go astray. But given the sort of seafood and timing and attention this requires, the Prick recommends this for dining a deux – not to be attempted with a table full of guests at a party.

Wine? Well, white, obviously, and if one had a grand Bourgogne Blanc lying around it would not go astray, though this coped with a none-too-fancy but still fairly crisp Sancerre-style savvy quite well. How you choose to deal with dessert is up to you.

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