Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Rigatoni with Shrimp, Calamari and Basil

Recently, my parents came to visit and spend some time with us and our little guy.  My mother brought a recipe that she wanted to make for dinner.  The recipe was for Rigatoni with Shrimp, Calamari and Basil.  My mother found the recipe online through Epicurious.  The original source was a recipe by Chef Michael White, which was printed in Bon Appetit.

Chef White is the Executive Chef and Co-Owner of AltaMarea,  a restaurant group that includes Marea, which means "tide" in Italian.  Marea is Chef White's "ode to Italian seafood." Chef White describes Marea as "redefin[ing] the seascape of high-end Italian cuisine serving regional foods of Italy that are heavily influenced by ingredients drawn from the four bodies of water that surround the boot." Given the restaurant has two Michelin stars, as well as being part of Relais & Chateaux, one can assume that Chef White has done an excellent job of redefining the seascape of Italian seafood dishes.

This particular dish focuses on two seafood ingredients that are very common from Liguria to Calabria, Venice to Apulia, and all points in between: shrimp and squid.  These ingredients find themselves in a wide variety of dishes, including many that I have previously prepared, such as my Brodetto dei Pescatore di Abruzzo (Abruzzese Fishermen's Stew) and Seafood Risotto.

For this recipe, my mother and I used 16 to 20 count shrimp (i.e., there are approximately 16 to 20 shrimp per pound).  The recipe requires reserving half of the shrimp for a finely chopped mixture that is incorporated into the sauce, with the rest being sauteed and added to the pasta at the end.  After setting aside the requisite number of shrimp, I was still able to ensure at least three shrimp per serving.  You can use smaller counts of shrimp, such as 26/30, which will guarantee more whole shrimp for each dish.  I would not use shrimp any smaller than 26/30, because the smaller sizes take away from the presentation. 

My mother and I also used whole calamari bodies, but not the tentacles, as the recipe directs.  I really wanted to use the tentacles, because I think that the tentacles provide an interesting element to the presentation and that they are very delicious.  However, my mother disagrees on both counts.  So, we bought the squid bodies and prepared them in accordance with the directions.

When it came to preparing the shrimp and the squid, I got to work with my dad (who is also a very good cook himself).  We de-shelled and de-veined the shrimp, as well as double-checked the squid to make sure that it was thoroughly cleaned and prepped for use in the dish.

The best part of this recipe is the fact that I got to make it with my mom and dad.  Unfortunately, opportunities for me to cook with my parents are few and far between, because of time and distance.  I really enjoy the time that I spend with my mom and dad in the kitchen.  Since I started cooking, my mother has shared recipes, such as the Bolek Family Tomato Sauce and the Bolek Family Standing Rib Roast, that have become some of my most treasured recipes.  I wish that I had more opportunities to cook with my parents and to create more such enjoyable and memorable experiences. 

Recipe by Chef Michael White, printed in Bon Appetit
Collaboration between Chef Bolek and his Mom and Dad
Serves 4

1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined, divided
14 ounces cleaned calamari (bodies only, tentacles reserved 
     for another use)
12 ounces rigatoni pasta
6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
3 cups of thinly sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only, about 3 large)
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 8 ounce bottle of clam juice
1/3 cup frozen peas, thawed
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
3/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil

1.  Prepare the shrimp and calamari.  Place half of the shrimp in a medium bowl.  Slice half of the calamari crosswise into 1/3 inch wide rings and place in a small bowl.  Coarsely chop remaining shrimp and calamari, place in processor.  Blend until shrimp mixture is finely chopped.  Transfer to another bowl.

2.  Cook the pasta.  Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling.  Cook pasta until just tender but still firm to bit, stirring occasionally.

3.  Make the sauce.   Heat 5 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add leeks, garlic and crushed red pepper.  Saute until leeks are tender but not brown, about 5 minutes.  Add chopped shrimp mixture, stir until shrimp and calamari are just opaque, about 2 minutes.  Add clam juice and peas, simmer until flavors blend, about 3 minutes.  Stir in 3 tablespoons of butter.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set sauce aside, cover to keep warm.

4.  Saute the shrimp and calamariMelt remaining 1 tablespoon of butter with 1 tablespoon of oil in medium nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add reserved whole shrimp and saute for 2 minutes.  Add calamari rings to shrimp, sprinkle with salt and pepper and saute until just opaque, about two minutes longer.  Remove from heat. 

5.  Complete the dish.  Drain pasta and return to the same pot.  Add the chopped shrimp and calamari sauce, 1/2 cup cheese and 1/2 cup basil and toss to blend.   Divide pasta among 4 bowls.  Top each serving with sauteed shrimp mixture, sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of basil.  Serve with additional grated cheese.

Finally, the recipe suggested pairing  this dish with a dry white with a hint of acidity like a Benito Ferrara Greco di Tufo (Italy, $25) or a Falanghina dei Feudi di San Gregorio (Calabria, $15).


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