So, I learned a new thing this past week, which is that when I point to a recipe that says “that looks good, we should do that”, what this actually means is that I have volunteered to make the whatever and write it up. So instead of continuing to dither between making a yeast bread or trying crab cakes, this time you get a saucy pasta topped with bacon-wrapped shrimp.
This is actually Breda’s fault. She pointed Stingray at a recipe for ancho chile lemonade on a foodie site, he was intrigued and I was dubious, and I said the recipe for chipotle pasta cream sauce with bacon-wrapped shrimp sounded much more appealing. Inadvertent volunteerism in place, ingredients were procured at the grocery store. Here, with credit to the folks at feasting.in, is the entire monster:
Chipotle Cream Sauce
ingredients (makes 4-6 portions):
* 1-1/2 c. milk
* 1-1/2 c. heavy cream
* 1 c. aged parmesan, shredded (or other hard, sharp cheese such as Irish Cheddar or Asiago)
* 3 tbs. butter
* 6 egg yolks
* 1/4 tsp. chipotle powder (add more to taste)
* 1 c. frozen peas
* 1 c. mushrooms, sliced
* (4) cloves garlic, chopped
* 1 tbs. olive oil
* salt and pepper
* fettucini, prepared al dente
1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and then add milk and cream. Bring to a light boil, when small bubbles just begin to form, and then turn off heat. Stir in shredded cheese until melted and thoroughly combined.
2. Separate egg yolks into a small mixing bowl. Ladle in a small amount of the hot cream mixture and whisk to temper the eggs. Add to the pot of sauce and continue to whisk to prevent the yolks from cooking into a solid mass. Stir in chipotle powder and then cover pot to retain heat.
3. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and fry briefly, and then add mushrooms. Cook until soft and then add frozen peas. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper, and stir until peas are hot and cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir vegetable mix into prepared cream sauce. Serve over bed of fettucini, and top with bacon wrapped shrimp.
Bacon Wrapped Shrimp
* 2 dozen shell-on shrimp, peeled
* 6 slices center cut bacon, cut in fourths
* 1 tsp. seafood seasoning
* 2 tbs. butter
* pinch of salt and pepper
1. Wrap shrimp with bacon. Use a wooden toothpick to skewer bacon onto the body of the shrimp horizontally, starting where the legs were and pushing through to the other side. The body of the shrimp should be wrapped in bacon, and the shrimp should be able to rest on its side for cooking.
2. Add shrimp to non-stick skillet and place over medium to medium-high heat. Add butter to pan and sprinkle everything with seafood seasoning. Cook on one side until bacon and shrimp start to cook, and then flip over. Lift skillet and shake to distribute the butter and bacon fat evenly while cooking. Turn over shrimp to cook both sides.
3. When the shrimp is cooked (the shrimp will start developing bright red hues and the bacon will start to get crispy) remove from heat and set on a paper towel to cool. When shrimp has cooled enough to handle, remove toothpicks and arrange over pasta.
Our grocery store inexplicably does not carry powdered chipotle, just every other chile product under the sun, so I scrounged around and came up with a can of “chipotle seasoning” that I figured would work as long as I went easy on the salt. We also lack seafood seasoning since getting fresh seafood is such a dicey proposition up here, so I went with something from Stingray’s seasoning collection called “mural of flavor” mainly because it had a lot of bits of aromatic green things and no salt. The shrimp were frozen due to the aforementioned death of acceptably fresh seafood on the top of a mountain in the middle of a landlocked desert state. On to the cooking.
1. Track down the fettucine. No information is given in the recipe as to how long to cook it for “al dente” or how much to use, so just grab a third or so of the pasta in the package and go by the instructions on the side. Kick a pot of water up to a vigorous boil, squirt in some olive oil to tame foam, add salt, and then add the pasta, half of which will protrude awkwardly from the pot. Wait until softened enough to press down into a taut bow shape at the bottom of the pot, set the timer for “al dente” (twelve minutes, allegedly), and attend to your sauce.
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and then add milk and cream. Bring to a light boil, when small bubbles just begin to form, and then turn off heat. Stir in shredded cheese until melted and thoroughly combined.
2. The original recipe is for four and we’re bigger fans of the meat portions of pasta than the pasta itself, so halve everything in the sauce portion of the recipe. Flick on the burner, set to medium, and toss in the butter, which will melt while you’re pulling the milk and cream out of the fridge. Add the milk, then promptly back down the heat a bit because it achieves a light boil instantly. Add cream. Turn off the heat and add the cheese and stir. Optional: attempt to calculate in your head the percentage of the sauce composed of milkfat.
Separate egg yolks into a small mixing bowl. Ladle in a small amount of the hot cream mixture and whisk to temper the eggs. Add to the pot of sauce and continue to whisk to prevent the yolks from cooking into a solid mass. Stir in chipotle powder and then cover pot to retain heat.
3. Time to learn how to separate eggs! Since we’re not using the egg whites, this turns out to be mostly a matter of being willing to coat your hands in slime without breaking the yolk on the edges of the eggshell. Pass the yolk from hand to hand until most of the slime has departed. Place in mixing bowl. Try a second time. Reason that since there’s not exactly any such easily measured thing as half an egg yolk, losing some of it because you broke it won’t be too serious an issue.
4. Discover that, owing to heat departing food at accelerated rates at seven thousand feet, the hot cream is no longer hot. Turn the burner to simmer until it is again, then spoon some in with the egg yolks and whisk together. Do it again just to be on the safe side. Turn the egg yolks into the sauce and whisk frantically as the whole mixture goes through some existential identity issues regarding whether it is a thick sauce or thin scrambled eggs. Things will settle on the side of sauce- barely. Turn the heat off again, stir in whatever seems like a reasonable amount of “chipotle seasoning” (now with chunks!) and cover the pot.
5. The fettucine’s done by now, so grab your colander and drain the pasta in it. You can make some sort of concession to insulation if you like, but unless you put it in a thermos, at this altitude it’s going to be ice-cold by the time you’re ready to serve regardless.
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and fry briefly, and then add mushrooms. Cook until soft and then add frozen peas. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper, and stir until peas are hot and cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir vegetable mix into prepared cream sauce. Serve over bed of fettucini, and top with bacon wrapped shrimp.
6. By this time we have learned to disregard measurements regarding how much fat to add to the pan to cook something, so squirt in whatever looks like a healthy amount to saute some vegetables with. Extract the bag of frozen peas from the freezer and bludgeon it mercilessly in order to encourage the peas to separate some from their unitary block, which will only work up to the point of producing a fist-sized collective that we might as well call half a cup. Now is an opportune time to discover that nobody bothered to put mushrooms on the grocery list. Swear.
7. Mince up a couple of cloves of garlic, throw into the pan, and turn on the heat. Cook briefly as instructed. Introduce the Pea Collective and introduce coercion to their little union.
8. Wow, the melting water really makes that olive oil spit! At this point, cooking becomes a race to separate and cook the peas before the garlic goes from “brown and slightly crispy” to “burned”, as burnt garlic will require you to start all over again. Next time maybe we better just take a damn hammer to the peas before we try cooking them with something that goes from flavorful to bitter vileness when over-heated. Transfer the whole mess as soon as seems reasonable to the cream sauce, stir in and cover.
Wrap shrimp with bacon. Use a wooden toothpick to skewer bacon onto the body of the shrimp horizontally, starting where the legs were and pushing through to the other side. The body of the shrimp should be wrapped in bacon, and the shrimp should be able to rest on its side for cooking.
9. You know what we didn’t think to do because the ingredients specifically call for shell-on shrimp? Peel the shrimp. You know what we really should have done before applying heat to anything at all? Peel the shrimp. Peel the shrimp, noobsauce. they are already deveined, so starting from the top and unwrapping in a single motion proves to be the most efficient method.
10. Slice the bacon into fourths. At this point you will have attracted every four-legged member of the household. Watch where you step, some of them are just dying to have their wounded paw recompensed with anything you have up there. Try not to slip in the drool.
11. Ransack the kitchen for toothpicks. Discover a mostly-empty box. Groan. Use these to pin shrimp as instructed. Discover that, the bacon being nearly as wide as it is long, this is actually much more difficult to do neatly than it looks. At some point you may abandon “neat” as long as everything operates as a single unit when manipulated by the toothpick. A pause to locate more toothpicks, possibly materialized by a merciful God, in the back of a junk drawer may be required. Optional: distribute excess shrimp to the madding horde. Watch your toes.
Add shrimp to non-stick skillet and place over medium to medium-high heat. Add butter to pan and sprinkle everything with seafood seasoning. Cook on one side until bacon and shrimp start to cook, and then flip over. Lift skillet and shake to distribute the butter and bacon fat evenly while cooking. Turn over shrimp to cook both sides.
12. No point in dirtying another pan, so add the butter to the skillet which contained the vegetables and kick on the heat. Even a quite large cast iron skillet won’t fit a full two dozen bacon-wrapped shrimp, so we’re going to have to do this in two batches. Distribute the first dozen and sprinkle on your salt, pepper, and “mural of flavor”. As you contemplate the potential doneness of the shrimp, you will begin to notice that a combination of butter, olive oil, and rapidly rendering bacon fat both smells very good and creates extremely vigorous pan grease, something that you will only come to fully appreciate when it comes time to flip the shrimp to the other side. Long sleeves are good, welding gloves would be better.
13. Transfer the cooked shrimp and bacon to a plate next to the stove you already thoughtfully lined with a paper towel. Put in the raw shrimp and bacon and arrange. Given all the bacon fat from the last batch, this one should cook quite a bit faster.
14. FIRE! FIRE! FUEGO! HOLY FUCK PUT IT OUT PUT IT OUT!
15. It is strongly recommended to extinguish the paper towel on the plate before the fire reaches the greasy parts. Then move the hot cast iron pan and the plate further apart from one another. Assure your spouse, when he comes in inquiring about the bloodcurdling screech and huffing noises, that the fire is out and you have everything under control. He may look a little dubious but there’s really nothing much more comforting you can say at this point.
16. Turn the shrimp. Assure spouse, yet again coming in about the noise, that it was merely a reaction to the very vigorous grease giving an ambitious leap and tagging the side of your neck and not another fire, burn requiring medical treatment, or other variety of inadvertent self-mutilation.
17. Remove the cooked shrimp and bacon to the somewhat charred plate, turn off the heat, and return your attention the pasta, which is not only predictably cold, but also somewhat congealed. Turn on the sink until you get good hot water, then wash and warm the pasta at once before distributing it more or less evenly between plates. Turn the likewise cold cream sauce and vegetables to simmer for a bit while you remove the toothpicks from the already-cooling bacon-wrapped shrimp. Contemplate moving to sea level.
18. Ladle the sauce, which is already starting to question its identity again, over the noodles, and arrange the shrimp over that. Forlornly poke at everything now achieving varying states of “chilly to room temperature” on its way from counter to table. Consume.
This was actually really tasty, even if I did have to serve it cold. (I somehow doubt this sauce would get along with a microwave.) Flavor-wise it was a complete success even if some of the shrimp from the first batch were a bit overdone. If/when we do it again, we’ll use the mushrooms, and probably things would go much better in terms of delivering hot food to table if two people were working on it- one person assembling the already-peeled shrimp and bacon while the other made the sauce, or else entirely constructing the shrimp before even starting on the sauce and noodles.
The bacon-wrapped shrimp, or likely bacon-wrapped anything, would be very good on their own.