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July 25, 2007

Colatura

Dominic Armato
It isn't often that I come across an ingredient that's completely foreign to me, so when my ladylove gave me a bottle of colatura a ways back, I was more than a little surprised. Colatura is a Sicilian concoction. It's a clear, light brown liquid that is, in its most basic form, produced by draining the liquid from barrels of salted anchovies. Yup... apparently fish sauce isn't limited to Thailand and Vietnam. I shouldn't be surprised, given the Italians' love for anchovies, but I AM thrilled to be working with a genuine crossover ingredient. This pasta's been percolating for a while, I just got around to trying it out tonight, and it turned out fabulously.

A couple of ingredient notes. First, anybody who reads this blog will know that I'm firmly of the opinion that fresh pasta isn't necessarily better. But for this pasta, fresh is better. And this dish really puts the noodles in focus, so if you aren't making your own, be sure you're getting some good stuff. A lousy fresh pasta will ruin this dish. Also, colatura is a little tricky to come by. In a rare move, I'll endorse a substitute. This would be just as tasty (if ever so slightly different) with an Asian fish sauce.




Dominic Armato

1 Lb. fresh linguine
7 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. colatura
1 lemon
2 Tbsp. minced chives
1 Tbsp. butter
1 small shallot
1 bunch thin asparagus
½ Lb. small raw shrimp

Linguine with Shrimp, Asparagus and Colatura Brown Butter
Serves 4-5 as a primo, 3-4 as an entree

Since the cooking time is fairly quick, you first want to do all of your ingredient prep while you're bringing your pasta water to a boil. Chop the asparagus into 1" pieces, or if your asparagus is thicker, slice it thinly on a sharp diagonal. Chop until you have about two cups, then save the rest for... something else. Peel the shrimp and remove the tails, then slice them in half lengthwise. I'm not somebody who freaks out if the vein (read: GI tract) isn't removed, but as long as you're slicing them in half, you might as well. Gently pat the shrimp dry with paper towels, and refrigerate them until you're ready to use them. Mince the shallot and chives, and juice your lemon. Time to cook.

When your water is pretty close to boiling, go ahead and start on the brown butter. Put 7 Tbsp. of butter in a small, cold saucepan over medium heat. While the butter is browning, fill a very large bowl with cool water and set it next to the stove. The butter will foam, and then start to brown. As it's cooking, scrape any foam that sticks to the sides of the pan down with a rubber spatula. Continue cooking the butter until it reaches a deep golden brown color, but don't let it go black. Think of when you're toasting a piece of bread and it achieves a beautiful deep brown color about 10-15 seconds before it starts burning. That's roughly the color you're shooting for. The moment you've achieved that color, pull the saucepan off the heat and dip the bottom of the pan into the bowl of water to stop the butter from cooking any further. Mix in the colatura, chives and 2 tsp. of your freshly squeezed lemon juice, then keep the sauce warm over the lowest possible heat. A low burner might even be too much. Best to just sit it next to your pasta pot.

Once your water is boiling, cook the asparagus and shrimp. Melt the last 1 Tbsp. of butter in a large pan (big enough to hold all of the pasta, too) over medium heat. When the butter foams, add the minced shallot. When the shallot starts to soften, add the asparagus and cook for a minute or two until it brightens and loses its raw flavor. Toss in the shrimp, and start your pasta cooking. If you're using fresh pasta (and you should be for this particular recipe), they'll be done at about the same time. As soon as the shrimp have lost their raw color, remove the shrimp and asparagus from the heat.

Drain your pasta, add it to the asparagus and shrimp, pour in the brown butter sauce and toss everything together over very low heat. Plate the pasta and grate a little bit of lemon zest and maybe some freshly ground black pepper over the top. Just don't add cheese. Or do what you want... just don't tell me.

Comments

This dish looks very Asian
(and very tasty).
Throw in a little fresh Basil
and it would fit in nicely
on a Thai menu.

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