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Friday, January 26, 2018

Butter Bomb

If making fresh pasta is a labor of love, consider scratch made angel hair pasta  a full on love fest. When fresh, the feathery dough strands slip through your fingers like soft satiny ribbons. When kissed with heat, the ribbons morph into gossamer wisps of  edible air.

 Like any fresh pasta, angel hair dough needs pampering. Its all in the feel. Too dry, add a splash of water. Too wet, hit it with  flour. Kneading, like a great massage, should be a rough and gentle tumble. Kneading is the backbone of any good pasta. It takes time. You know you've hit the mark when it's firm, yet pliable. While it's a wee bit of a commitment,  making fresh is pasta is so worth the effort and clouds of flour dust. Sure, there are fantastic store-bought pastas out there, but scratch made pasta ups the wow factor and begs to be in everyone's wheelhouse. Whether it's whipped up for a weeknight affair or dolled up for a special tryst, gather a few simple ingredients and feel the dough.

Angel Hair Pasta With Pan Seared Shrimp And Lemon Beurre Blanc.

Although a food processor or stand mixer (with dough hook)  can expedite the process,
hand mixed dough lets you get down and dirty.

After sifting 2 cups 00 flour  onto a floured board, I made a well in the center of the flour and cracked 3 large eggs into the well before drizzling the eggs with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a dash of salt. I broke the eggs with a fork, gently mixed them together, and carefully incorporated the flour from the wall into eggs bit by bit until the flour and eggs formed a shaggy loose dough. After gathering the dough into a ragged ball, I kneading it for 15-20 minutes, constantly turning and flipping the dough until the the flour was completely absorbed and was smooth to the touch without being tacky. I formed the dough into a ball, wrapped it in plastic wrap, and set it aside to rest.

When the dough was thoroughly relaxed, about 20 minutes, I used a bench scraper to divide the dough into thirds. Working with one third at a time, while keeping the remaining dough covered, I flattened the dough into a rough rectangle and rolled it through the lowest setting of a pasta roller. After folding two sides of the dough into the center, I rolled the dough through the lowest setting 2 additional times before passing the dough through each setting (from lowest to highest), changing the setting after every pass and flouring the pasta between passes until I reached the last (thinnest) setting of the pasta roller. I floured the delicate sheets of pasta on both sides, cut them into workable lengths, placed them onto floured parchment paper, and repeated the process with the remaining dough.

The fun part.
Feeding the pasta sheets through the cutter side of the roller, I used one hand to crank the pasta  and my other hand to catch the strands as they fell from the cutter before flouring them and curling them into nests.

Beurre Blanc.
White Butter Sauce.
Beurre blanc is a glorious and simple emulsified sauce similar to hollandaise or bearnaise (minus the eggs and anxiety). Infused with shallots (with the occasional addition of fresh herbs)  and fortified with acid before being slowly emulsified with cold butter, beurre blanc should be thrown up there with the mother sauces. Great with fish, chicken, or vegetables, its versatility rivals its simplicity.

Embrace the butter.
I sliced 3 sticks of butter (yes 3) into 8 pieces and slid them into the refrigerator to chill.

After tumbling 2 tablespoons minced shallots into a sauce pan, I added 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 1/4 cup dry white wine, and lemon zest. I brought the mix to a low boil and let it reduce to a syrupy consistency, about 2 tablespoons.

The heat dance.
Again, much like a hollandaise or bearnaise, beurre blanc needs gentle regulated heat. Working over a medium flame, I added 2 pieces of butter to the concentrated lemon/wine combo. Whisking constantly, I slowly added the remaining butter 2 tablespoons at a time until the butter emulsified with the acid and thickened into a creamy butter sauce. Magic. After straining the sauce through a chinois, I added a salt and white pepper to taste, slipped the sauce onto a double boiler over a low flame to hold, poured myself a glass of wine, and moved on.

I dropped the fresh pasta into a pot of heavily salted boiling water for 2 minutes, scooped it into a bowl, tossed it with 1/4 fresh grated parmigiano reggiano, and twirled the pasta into buttered 6 ounce ramekins before sliding them into a preheated 350 degree oven for 4 minutes to  set the pasta.

After tossing 1 pound peeled and deviened  16-20 count shrimp with olive oil, salt, and pepper. I
dropped the shrimp onto a screaming hot grill pan, let them rip until they just turned pink, about 2 minutes per side.

I nestled the pan seared shrimp into the pasta nests, tucked ribbons of black pepper-flecked coppa ham alongside the shrimp, and slipped the nests onto pools of beurre blanc before napping the shrimp with additional sauce and finishing with red lumpfish roe, slivered fresno pepper, fresh lemon, and micro greens.

Cupped inside the nests, the plump firm shrimp played off the delicate threads of angel hair pasta.Light, bright, and airy, the beurre blanc belied the copious amount of butter. Draped over the shrimp and through the pasta, the lemon-spiked butter sauce brought acid to the party. While the coppa added a hint of silky pig, the  roe provided pops of salty crunch.

Shrimp and pasta.
Buttered up.


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