Saturday, 13 October 2012
Linguine Alla 'Damn, That's GOOD'
The more observant of you may have noticed that I tend to cook the same way I write - chucking things around until something comes out that seems about right.
And that's a great way of cooking, because you get the idea of a taste in your head and put things in a pan, and people eat it - and mostly it's a good result. But it does have its downside - it means that the recipes are a bit like dreams. Once they're done, and the plate is empty in front of me I can't remember the absolute specifics of what I did - which makes replicating it for Gotham Girl a touch difficult.
But this time, with the lemon, garlic, fish and chilli flavours still fresh and bursting on my tongue, I resolved to write it down straight away. THIS, dear reader, is one that I wish to repeat - and so should you.
There aren't any esoteric ingredients - it's store-cupboard stuff - but the prep, while not complicated, has more steps than my normal 'chuck stuff around' method, for which I apologise. But once you try this pasta dish you'll realise that the extra prep and washing-up (unless, like me, you're lucky enough to have someone to do it for you) was totally worthwhile. And your mouth will be smiling and singing with the flavours all the way through the cleanup.
Linguine alla 'Damn, That's GOOD'
250-odd grams of Sainsburys* Lightly-Smoked Salmon fillets;
220g of small shelled prawns;
Juice and zest of 1 lemon;
5 cloves of garlic;
A third of a pat of slightly salted butter, cut into four chunks;
200-odd grams of dried linguine;
A small pinch of dried chilli flakes, dependent on how much kick you want;
a double pub measure of vodka;
Freshly ground black pepper
Phase 1: Prep
Seriously, don't skip this phase and try to do stuff on the fly. This is one of those times when it's best to get everything prepared before you start, as there's going to be a lot happening.
Take the prawns from their pack, drain them, then gently dry them between a half-dozen sheets of kitchen paper.
Zest the whole lemon, and chop the zest finely, then cut the lemon in half. You'll be using each half at different times.
Finely chop three cloves of garlic, and pop them in a heavy-based sauté pan with half the butter, half the lemon zest and the pinch of chilli flakes. Melt the butter over a low heat and allow all the flavours to infuse together without allowing the butter to fizz or burn.
FInely chop the remaining garlic and mix it with the remaining lemon zest.
Fill a LARGE pasta pan with water, add salt and put on a high heat.
Phase 2: Prawns Part One
Turn the heat up under your sauté pan, and as the butter starts to foam throw in your prawns. Toss them in the scented butter, getting them coated and covered. Squeeze half the lemon into the pan.They'll start to cook fast, but they won't colour much as they'll exude liquid (this is a good thing) and start to boil a little. Give them about three minutes, then take the pan off the heat and strain the cooking liquid off, through a sieve, into a suitable receptacle. Put the prawns back into the pan and return to the heat.
Phase 3: Prawns Part Two
Act fast here! Grab your double measure of vodka and pour it into the pan. If you're confident (and competent) to do so, light the vodka on the gas and flambé the alcohol off - there's quite a lot in there so it takes a while. Keep the pan moving around to free up pockets of alcohol and stop the prawns burning. If, on the other hand, you're the sort of person who writes blog comments in crayon or who still has to use safety scissors, either let the alcohol steam off naturally (or get your Mum to do this bit).
Once the flames are gone, you'll have a little bit of prawny liqueur in the bottom of the pan - strain this through a sieve into the liqueur from Phase 2. Set the prawns aside - I leave them in their pan, off the heat, and grab another one for Phase 4. You'll be back to them soon enough.
Phase 4: The Salmon
Still with me? Good. I promise it's worth it - if you doubt me, just taste a prawn and have a teensy taste of that butter sauce you've just made with the cooking liqueurs, and keep going!
Pop your next pan on a medium-low heat, and add half the remaining butter. As soon as it's melted, carefully add your salmon fillets and cook for 5-7 minutes until they're cooked just over half-way through, then turn (carefully) and cook for another three minutes. Don't let them burn or dry out - remember, they'll have more cooking later.
Clockwise from front left: the lemon butter sauce, the prepped prawns, the pasta pan and the cooking salmon.
Remove the salmon to a plate, and THROW AWAY the butter you cooked it in. Don't be tempted to add it to your butter sauce - it'll be overcooked and taste burned.
With a couple of forks, gently flake the salmon into large chunks and add them into the cool pan with the prawns. Stir them together gently.
Phase 5: Pasta Time
Easy. The water will be boiling now - take your linguine, put it into the pasta pot and gently stir so it's under the surface. Set your timer for about 7 minutes.
Phase 6: Bringing it together!
Right - you've got seven minutes before you eat, and I guarantee by now you'll be salivating. So it's time for the final steps.
Put the pan containing the prawns and salmon over a medium heat and add the remaining butter, garlic and lemon zest. As the butter melts, GENTLY turn the seafood over in the mix, allowing it all to reheat and cook. Be as gentle as you can, as you don't want to break up the fish flakes too much.
Gently with the prawns and salmon....
Pour in the reserved liqueur, add a good grind of black pepper, and squeeze over the remaining half lemon, and let it bubble for a couple of minutes, moving the seafood GENTLY around the pan.
As soon as the timer goes off, turn off the heat under both pans and drain your pasta, returning it to the big pasta pan. Tip your seafood and sauce over the pasta and GENTLY turn them together, coating the pasta in the lemony butter and mixing the seafood through it.
Serve in big bowls.
*Other supermarket chains are available.