Spaghettini con camarones y tomates

January 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Happy New Year friends. 2013 has arrived in Five Islands with frigid temperatures. When I checked on-line this morning, after the dog walk, the Portland Press Herald said it was 1°. But thankfully it was sunny out so it really only felt like 5°. Dios mio!

I’m not sure I’m cut out for this kind of weather. To me, it’s not the bitter temperatures; it’s the icy roads. I predict at least a few falls for me this year. Also, the sand on the roads inevitably gets caught in the pads of our dogs’ paws (which leads to a very sad 3-legged dance in the middle of the road, sometimes more than one dog at a time), and the snow cover on the ground which most folks say will last for the next 2-3 months. Excuse me? My experiences in southeastern Virginia and Silver Spring did not prepare me for this. Given it’s only January 3rd, I think it’s going to be a long winter for the dogs and me (and for that matter, Amy too). (Editor’s note: Robert does not speak for me. I am shopping for snow shoes and planning to embrace the winter wonderland that is our new home.)

Oh well, pour me another cocktail.

Anyway, while it’s cold outside I like to enjoy the warmth emanating from my kitchen. We’ve almost completed the Week of Seven Fishes. Since I had yet to prepare a proper pasta dish as part of the Feast, I knew one was due. And this pasta is really simple and can be prepared quite easily on just about any night of the week.

The ingredients are basic: dry pasta, tomato sauce, cream or milk, a little parsley, and shrimp. I know I am a broken record, but concerning the shrimp, please buy domestic. The imported are problematic on multiple levels, workers’ rights and the environment at the top of the list. You can get good US shrimp in the frozen section, no problem. It’s a little too early for Maine shrimp, so I had to settle for Gulf shrimp. But they’re pretty tasty too.

While I think this dish is better with a homemade sauce, it could also be done with a good store-bought sauce. And don’t think you can’t buy a store-bought sauce and improve on it at home. Maybe add some herbs, a little garlic powder, and in this case, we want it to be creamy, so add in some cream, half & half, or even milk (not skim milk though). We also want to give it a taste of the sea. That is where the all-important shrimp stock plays a role.

Warm your sauce, cook your pasta a little al dente, combine your ingredients, and you’re ready to go. And if you’re anything like me, a bib comes in handy. Although many of my shirts already have a nice splattered tomato sauce design on them.

Spaghettini with Shrimp and Creamy Tomato Sauce
Inspired by: Capellini with Shrimp and Creamy Tomato Sauce, Gourmet Magazine
Serves 2

About 2 cups of prepared tomato sauce (if you make homemade, start with a good can of San Marzano tomatoes. They are worth it. That is unless you have fresh tomatoes!)
½ cup cream, half & half, or milk
½ pound of shell on medium-size shrimp
About 1 cup of shrimp stock (instructions below)
1-2 T olive oil
1 garlic clove, chopped
Parsley, some chopped and some left whole
Cayenne (optional)
Peppers corns (optional)
8 oz. of spaghettini or other pasta you enjoy
Salt and pepper, to taste

Thaw shrimp if necessary and then shell them. Take shells and add them to a medium pot. Cover them with water. Add a smashed garlic clove, pinch of salt, and a few stems of parsley. If you have some whole pepper corns in the cabinet, toss in a few. For a little spice, put in a pinch of cayenne. Bring to boil over medium heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Strain the liquid (preferably using a cheese cloth) into a measuring cup. Reserve.

While stock is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Rinse the pot used for the stock and add pasta sauce. Place over medium heat and stir in about 2/3 cup of shrimp stock. Simmer for at least 15 minutes to work in the flavors of the stock. Add dairy and incorporate into the sauce and keep on a simmer until it’s needed.

Add olive oil to a sauce pan over medium-low heat. Once hot, add shrimp and a little salt and pepper and sauté for about 2-3 minutes per side. Look for a nice color and firmness. Poke the shrimp and if they feel firm, take them out of the pan. Reserve.  Shrimp can be cut in half long ways to make them a bit easier to eat in the pasta.  Shrimp can be kept warm in a 200° oven.

Once there’s a rolling boil on the water, toss in the pasta. I would recommend undercooking the pasta slightly since it will continue to cook when sauce is added. Drain the pasta and quickly add it back into the pot. Don’t let all the water drain out of it. You want it to be wet. Put the pot back on medium-low heat and add in the sauce. Go easy. Don’t submerge the pasta. The goal is an even mix so both the pasta and the sauce can shine.

Take a pair of tongs and plate the pasta in serving bowls. Top with shrimp, parsley, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Eat.

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