Saturday, November 07, 2009

Linguine ai Frutti di Mare [해물 파스타]

Another Saturday filled with food and working from home (though that's a story for another time). The most calming thing that I do lately is cook. Knowing that something will come out exactly how I want it to once I've put in a little time and effort is so comforting.

As is eating the results of my labor, of course.

Last weekend, my mother said to me in a rather petulant voice that she wanted seafood pasta (해물 파스타) and didn't know how to make it, so would I come early next week to make it for her? Being a good daughter, I agreed.

I made this pasta today under my mother's watchful eye. She was not at all content with the amount of seafood I put into the pasta sauce, saying that I was stingy. I'm not stingy, I just don't like seafood! When my mom makes this just for her and my dad, I have a feeling that entire sea creatures will end up on their plates, snuggled up to the piping hot pasta. I want nothing to do with that, so I've contented myself with the knowledge that I've succeeded in feeding my parents something they both liked.

Linguine ai Frutti di Mare

1 pound long pasta, like linguine or spaghetti
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
garlic salt
black pepper
red pepper flakes to taste
1/2 cup white wine or vermouth
2 cups (or more) mixed seafood
1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes
1 fresh tomato, diced

This recipe is totally eyeballed and the measurements are my best guesses. I don't measure when I cook- measuring spoons and cups are reserved just for baking when I'm in the kitchen. This sauce is so easy to modify that it's pretty much foolproof, unless you burn the garlic. Burned garlic has no redemption.

Saute the garlic in some olive oil, just enough to barely coat the bottom of a large pot. Add the onions once the garlic is fragrant and add a sprinkling of garlic salt. Once the onions are softened, add red pepper flakes. I used two dried chilis from my mother's garden, ripping them apart with my fingernails. Seeds and all.

When the onions are soft and the scent of peppers starts warming the nose, add a splashing of white wine. I didn't have any white wine, so I threw in vermouth to no ill effect. Throw the seafood into the pot and close the lid. If using shellfish in their shells, such as clams or mussels, add the shellfish first and only add the other shellfish (shelled shrimp, scallops, octopus, anything naked and quick-cooking) once the shellfish has opened.

This should not take long, between 5 - 10 minutes. If any of the shellfish hasn't opened, throw them out. We used frozen seafood, a mixture that was specially created to make paella. My dad loves paella, my mom loves seafood, it's very handy to have it around for them.

Meanwhile, boil a giant pot of water for pasta. We boiled about two pounds of spaghetti, which is the only long pasta we had. I prefer linguine, but I'll take what I can get. My mom and I both freakishly love leftover pasta- room temperature, re-heated, whatever- so we made a lot.

The seafood should be done or just about. Uncover the pot and let a bit of the alcohol cook off before adding the diced tomatoes. I had bought fire-roasted canned tomatoes at Fresh & Easy last weekend, so that's what went in.

If there had been any tomato paste in the house, I would have used some- probably a tablespoon or so. Having no tomato paste, we opted for a chopped fresh tomato, added just at the end to warm through.

My mother loves basil, and we still had quite a bit from when we had pho. Neither of us likes parsley very much, so rather than the traditional, we added a handful of chopped basil. I turned the heat off before adding the basil, stirred it in, and took the pasta out of the water. I don't drain the pasta, because I like pasta with a bit of the water still on it- the starchiness and almost sticky quality makes sauce adhere very well, and I feel like it tastes more pasta-y than drained pasta.

Pasta in a bowl. Sauce over the pasta. More basil, if you're my mother and can't get enough of fresh herbs. The sauce should be spicy and fresh and very thin, almost runny. This is not supposed to have the same consistency as a bolognese or marinara, it should feel more like a raw sauce.

I really, really don't like many types of seafood. Among them are mussels, clams, octopus, squid, scallops, crab, lobster ... maybe that's it. I think it speaks for the deliciousness of this dish that I will not only make it for others, but I will eat it. Voluntarily.

Granted, I pick out all the sea creatures and hand them over to my mother. Some things don't change, no matter how old I get. But still, the sauce! With the tomatoes, the basil, the onions, the garlic- it's so good, I could eat it every week.

The only thing I would change in this particular recipe is the use of the frozen seafood. I actually like using fresh seafood because I buy it whole- clams, scallops, and shrimp (I like shrimp). The reason I like whole seafood is because I can pick it out much more easily. This frozen stuff, which I had never used before, is chopped too small. I almost accidentally ate some crawly appendage more than once today. Shudder.

During the winter months, as laughable as L.A. weather can be, I really like dishes like this- steaming hot, filling, spicy, comforting, and wonderfully starchy.


Anonymous,  February 19, 2010 at 4:03 AM  

Gooey Ducks grow to about two pounds in four or five years.