Updated: Jun 22
Sounds weird, right? Most of us have been told at one time or another that seafood goes with citrus, but dairy rarely goes with seafood and citrus HATES cream. I know. We've also been told that sometimes if you kiss a frog it turns into a prince so really - I think it's time we throw out the rule book and start wearing black and navy together.
I had this incredibly rich and satisfying pasta dish (recipe link) at a seaside restaurant in the city of Pescara, which for those who haven't heard of it, is the capitol city of the Province of Pescara, in the region of Abruzzo. Although it has been inhabited since a couple centuries BC, present-day Pescara is a newish city on the Adriatic coast with about 120,000 residents.
Mostly bombed out during WWII, it was rebuilt in the years that followed and is now a bustling city with a pedestrian shopping district smack in the middle of the urban core (holy shit imagine that). In addition, there's an active footpath along the coast with restaurants and cafes lining the zone in between the city and the beach. It was at a restaurant called La Sirenetta di Zuccarini where Paul & I settled in to grab lunch, watch a Serie B game, and do a little day drinking, that I gravitated towards this way-to-heavy-for-lunch pasta. Rule book, shmool book.
This is what the dish looked like halfway into eating it, when I realized I loved it and would want to attempt a recreation:
Mmmmm. Creamy, shrimpy, orangey. And they all worked so well together. You can see the little bits of orange zest in the sauce, so I figured the chef relied mostly on zest to bring the orange flavor to the dish. According to Alison Roman (and probably many before her, but that's where I read it), one can use a little bit of citrus juice in cream without causing it to curdle. Since oranges are less acidic than lemons, this would probably work fine - a squeeze from a slice of an orange. I decided on my first crack at this, I would only use zest. I was quite happy with the results. Recipe follows. I will - once it starts to get chilly out - attempt this again as a lightened-up version, most likely substituting half of the cream for a nut milk. But for now, this version tasted like I remembered it, and I think that's pretty cool.
2 large servings
2 tablespoons e.v. olive oil
12 medium prawns with shells on, rinsed and patted dry
dash of red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, sliced
splash of dry vermouth
1 cup water
1/4 cup salted butter (1/2 stick, 2oz)
1 cup heavy cream
zest from 1 navel orange
1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano (25g)
9oz fresh fettuccine or tagliatelle
roux: 3 tablespoons flour, slowly whisk in warm water until a paste forms
1---Start a large pot of salted water on medium heat and cover. Put a high-walled sauté pan on medium heat, adding 1 1/2 tablespoons of the e.v. olive oil Once it is hot, add the prawns in a single layer. Season them with s+p and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side. I find a set of tongs is perfect for this. Use the tongs to touch for doneness; they will feel firm to the push when done, a little squishy when still raw in the middle. Do this while cooking to get a feel for when they change over. We will be adding them to the sauce in the final stage, so err on under-cooked because they will finish in the sauce. And no one likes over-cooked shrimp! Remove prawns to a plate and set aside.
2---Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon e.v. olive oil to the pan and toss in the garlic. Once the garlic becomes aromatic, after about a minute, deglaze the pan with the vermouth. Use a wooden spoon to scrape the fond from the pan. This is the good stuff. Add the cup of water and reduce to medium-low during the next step. We want to reduce the water by half, but no more.
3---Peel the shrimp and add the peels to the water, the peeled shrimp go into the fridge to halt cooking. This will take a few minutes. If when complete, the water has not reduced by half, turn the heat up a bit and let that happen. Cover and cook an additional 5 minutes, get a good stock going.
4---Strain the stock into a bowl or measuring cup, and rinse out your pan for the final phase. Crank up the heat on the water pot to bring it to a rolling boil. Put saute pan back on medium heat, and add the butter. Once melted, add the stock, heavy cream, and orange zest and heat until gently bubbling. Slowly add the parmigiano reggiano, stirring with each addition. Reduce heat to medium-low.
5---Boil fresh pasta for 2-3 minutes, until al dente. We will finish cooking the pasta in the sauce. While this is happening, begin adding the roux to the sauce by the teaspoon, stirring with each addition. The sauce will thicken, and once it coats the back of a spoon, it is ready. Taste and adjust with s+p as desired.
6---Strain the pasta, and immediately add it to the sauce along with the prawns. Using the tongs, gently toss the pasta and prawns in the sauce for a minute. Plate by piling pasta in a bowl first, then adding prawns to the top.
I was very happy with how this turned out. I hope you enjoy it too and maybe it'll help you to question the food rules you've grown up with. Have fun, enjoy, eat happy.