24 October 2007

Capellini Shrimp

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Consider yourself flattered, C&O Cucina.

One of my favorite things to make at home is "inspired by" (or, in Hollywood-speak, "a homage to") the Capellini Shrimp dish at the Marina Del Rey ristorante. My take on it is a tad different, but still beautifully simple, sublime, sweet, and easy. I overload it with garlic because, seriously, is there such thing as too much garlic? However, the real kicker is the sun-dried tomatoes. DO NOT make it without sun-dried tomatoes. Shrimp is inherently light, almost bland. Sun-dried tomatoes give the dish the proper richness it needs to enhance all the other light flavors.

I think I almost made this in thirty minutes once. Eat it, Rachael Ray!

The software...

~1 package (16 oz.) capellini
~2/3-ish lb. shrimp, roughly chopped
~5-10 garlic cloves, minced (I don't give myself points for subtlety, so I use 10+)
~a handful (hell, I dunno, 3/4 cup?) of sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
~one package (hell, I dunno, 1 1/2 cups?) grape or cherry tomatoes
~olive oil
~grated parmesan or romano cheese

The hardware...

~one large frying pan
~one pot 'o boiling water

The program...

I should mention that I use the sun-dried tomatoes that are stored in a jar with olive oil and herbs. I guess you could use the truly dried ones that need re-hydrating, but for me "re-hydrating" is the exclusive domain of astronauts and marathon runners.

Okay, so, get some salted water into the pot and throw it on high heat. I use frozen shrimp (this dish is always on-call in my home), so now's a good time to throw those in a bowl of water to defrost. Chop up all that needs chopping, which is everything. I usually have medium-sized shrimp that I chop into thirds. This way, you can evenly disperse the shrimp throughout the plate and, hopefully, have some shrimp with every bite.

Heat the frying pan and olive oil. I usually cover the majority of the pan with olive oil. I know that sounds like a lot. You could make a white wine butter sauce like C&O does, if you know how. Or you could use a buttload of olive oil. I bet you the buttload of olive oil is healthier. And olive oil tastes good, anyway.

So, get the olive oil up to temperature. Unless you're a meth addict or an Iron Chef, the water should be boiling by now. Capellini cooks fast compared to other pasta. Time it so you finish cooking everything else at the same time as the pasta, like so: Drop the minced garlic into the olive oil and let it cook for about thirty seconds, then get the chopped sun-dried tomatoes in. The olive oil should soak up all those lovely flavors, and you'll definitely be smelling it. Please resist the urge to lap up that piping hot oil.

Throw the shrimp on there and cook, killing the heat as the shrimp gets close to opaque. Shrimp also cooks fast and gets rubbery when overcooked. Keep in mind that it'll sit in the piping hot oil until you dump in into the pot of steaming hot pasta, so don't worry about serving a lukewarm salmonella factory. It'll cook through.

Reserve a cup or so of the starchy pasta water before draining, so you can add as necessary later if the pasta gets too dry. After draining, return the capellini and then dump the whole works from the pan into the pot. Mix it as best you can (I find this to be the hardest part, actually) and then plate what you need.
Now add the fresh tomatoes. I drop a healthy handful onto each plate, so you get the light, juicy sweetness of the fresh tomatoes against the richer flavor of the sun-dried ones. Sprinkle the cheese, as parmesan and/or romano cheese will add a nice undertone of saltiness. And there it is. If you're feeling saucy, you can chiffonade some basil for garnish (also known as the "rolling a joint and chopping it" technique). But really, it's pretty enough, so have at it. Enjoy the tomatoes and get ready to breathe garlic for about an hour.

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