Monday, November 11, 2013

Bluestem's Crab, Garlic, Prosciutto, and Chile Pasta

Those of us who were crazy enough to make the commitment to NaBloPoMo this month receive daily motivational e-mails with "daily prompts" or ideas for that day's blog post. Although I already had a plan of action, today's daily prompt coincided quite nicely:

Tell us about your favorite meal, either to eat or to prepare.
Does it just taste great, or does it have other associations?
Photographers, artists, poets: show us FOOD.

I love to eat and cook PASTA. It can be simple, elegant, healthy, rich, light, fattening, creamy, cheesy, or saucy, but it is always comforting to me. I can't tell you how often I crave a simple bowl of pasta with butter and a grating of Parmesan. This amazing pasta, however, is off the chart in elegance, richness, and creaminess. It also has a few calories.

Trofie is the pasta of choice, but I wasn't able to find it on the island. I used Fusillata Casareccia, which is somewhat similar in shape. A few tablespoons of Pernod added to the sauce is optional. I didn't spend $25 for a bottle this time. 

I've had this recipe bookmarked for quite some time, and it really isn't as time consuming as it first appears. It is also more of a dinner party or special occasion dish. Make the herb crumbs the day before and then the main dish comes together in less than an hour right before serving time. The herb crumbs don't even take that long, but do require making clarified butter, allowing the garlic to steep in the butter, removing the leaves from one bunch of Italian parsley, toasting pine nuts, and then pulsing all the ingredients together in the food processor. There will be extra herb crumbs, so plan on using them for additional dishes later in the week - mac and cheese, gratins, pastas, or just about anything savory...

Crab, garlic, prosciutto, and chile pasta

A few of the pasta ingredients...

Crab, Trofie, Garlic, Prosciutto, Chile
Serves 4

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 large shallots, diced
1/2 fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons Pernod (optional)
1 sprig fresh tarragon
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
14 ounces trofie
6 ounces fresh crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
1/4 cup finely diced prosciutto
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1/4 cup Herb Crumbs (recipe below)

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, fennel, and garlic and cook until the shallots begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the Pernod (if using), wine, and tarragon. Continue cooking until the liquid has been reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the cream and milk and turn the head down to medium-low. Continue to cook until the cream sauce is reduced by half, 10-12 minutes. Strain the cream sauce through a fine-mesh sieve and discard the aromatics. Return the cream sauce to the stove in a small saucepan and bring it back to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the sauce to 1 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large stockpot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until just tender. Drain the pasta well.

Add the pasta, crab, prosciutto, red pepper flakes, and Parmesan to the cream sauce, stirring until the cheese has melted evenly. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Divide the pasta among four bowls. Top each portion with 1 tablespoon of herb crumbs and more grated Parmesan.

Herb Crumbs

2 cups panko (or breadcrumbs)
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
Leaves from 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup Garlic Butter (recipe below)

Make the Garlic Butter first:

Cloves from 1 head garlic, chopped
1 cup clarified butter

In a small saucepan, melt the clarified butter over medium heat. Turn the heat down to low and add the garlic. Let the garlic steep in the butter for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes more. Strain and discard the garlic. Use warm or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Finish the Herb Crumbs:

In a food processor, pulse together the panko, nuts, and parsley until the parsley has become evenly incorporated into the panko. Slowly drizzle in the garlic butter and continue to pulse until the mixture turns to the consistency of damp sand. Transfer the crumbs to an airtight container. Refrigerated, they will keep for up to 1 week.

Garlic, parsley, panko, clarified butter, toasted pine nuts

Herb Crumbs, a very versatile garnish

Pure comfort

Bluestem restaurant is one of the most highly acclaimed restaurants in the Midwest. Bluestem: The Cookbook delivers the best of their 125 modern, seasonally-driven recipes with a Midwestern flair to the home cook.

"James Beard-nominated chef Colby Garrelts and his wife, pastry chef Megan Garrelts, worked in notable restaurants in Chicago, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles before opening Bluestem in Kansas City, Missouri. Written with lawyer-turned-food writer/photographer Lee (the formerly anonymous gourmand behind the Ulterior Epicure blog,, the Garreltses' debut is a beautiful restaurant cookbook that makes it easy for advanced home cooks to construct an upscale, multicourse menu with wine pairings. Each seasonal section is divided into eight courses featuring elegant, contemporary dishes like Nettle Soup, Whipped Lemon Ricotta; Rack of Venison, Pickled Lady Apples; and White Coffee, Passion Fruit Parfait." --Library Journal

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