Totally French Pasta with Seafood—Chef et Bonne Femme

David Baruthio and I spent our October Wednesdays preparing for our Bonne Femme Nights at Baru 66. Those were fun—but  now they’re done. So we’ve started rolling up our sleeves and creating recipes together for an upcoming cookbook. Here’s another one: Penne aux Fruit de Mer Français. (If you don’t need a blow-by-blow account of the recipe, just skip on down to the bottom of the page.)

How the recipe came about:

David: “Alors. What do you want to make today?”
Me: “I think we should do more pasta. People don’t understand that the French love pasta.”
David: “C’est vrai. The Italians, they get all the credit….”
Me: “So, what shall we make?”
David: “What about a seafood pasta?”
Me:  “Um. Okay.”*

* What I didn’t tell him is that I have never, not once, had a seafood pasta that I’ve enjoyed in the US. To often, the bulkiness of the pasta overwhelms the delicate seafood. Or it’s sauced in some goopy Alfredo-sauced kind of way. Or it’s all tomatoey in a tinny, pasty way.To try making pasta with crab meat, get fresh crabs shipped to your door with Harbour House Crabs.

But I figured that if anyone could pull off a great Seafood Pasta dish, David would be the one. So off we went to the market. (It was Wednesday, the day that our local Whole Foods showcases their week’s catch.) What follows is a dish that succeed in all the ways that most seafood pasta dishes fail: The seafood-to-pasta ratio was perfect; that is, the seafood (not the pasta) was the star. And the sauce was just moist and luscious enough to enrich the dish–without doing it in (in that Alfredo-sauce way).

Here we go:

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Major ingredients: Mussels, scallops cod, pea pods, mushrooms, and onions.
Flavorings, etc: Butter, wine, garlic, Pernod (use any anisette liquor), paprika, tarragon, parsley.
Pasta: Note that David thinks that for packaged, dried pasta, he likes De Cecco best.

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Julienne the pea pods.

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Steam the mussels (all instructions are in the recipe, below).

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Slice the scallops lengthwise into 2 thin pieces; cut the cod into 4 pieces.

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Take the mussels out of their shells.

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Brown the cod in a little butter. Don’t cook it through, but just lightly brown it. Do the same with the scallops.

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Transfer all cooked seafood to a plate.

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Sauté the pea pods and the mushrooms briefly. Transfer to a plate. Boil the pasta just until almost al dente—but not quite (it will continue to cook when you put everything together and reheat it all).

What’s cool is at this point, you can basically let everything sit for about a half an hour to an hour. That means that if you’re entertaining, you can have this dish almost ready. Then, when guests arrive, serve drinks. Crack a few jokes. Get merry. Then pull this together in about five minutes and serve.

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Reheat the seafood (we used two pans but you should use one large one). (David was mad at me for not bringing my Le Creuset braiser, which would have been the perfect size, even though this wasn’t a braise. The braiser’s wide base and shallow sides would’ve been perfect.)

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Add mussels cooking liquid, the cream, and the parboiled pasta.

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Add the vegetables, herbs, and paprika. Simmer until pasta is done, seafood is cooked through, and cream has thickened somewhat. It takes just a few minutes.

Divide into wide, shallow bowls and serve. Sprinkle with fresh tarragon, if using (if you used dried, you’ll put it in earlier). Sprinkle a little more paprika here and there just to make that rim look not so….white.

We loved it. Here’s the recipe:

Totally French Penne with Seafood—Chef et Bonne Femme

8      ounces package dried penne pasta
2      pounds mussels, rinsed and sorted (discard any with open shells)
1      cup dry white wine
2      small onions, minced (about ½ cup total)
2      large garlic cloves, minced
4      large scallops (about ¾ pound), trimmed of tough membrane (if present) and cut lengthwise through center to form two thinner scallops
1      pound cod or other firm, white ocean fish, cut into 4 pieces
2      tablespoons butter
1      cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1½   cups pea pods, cut into thin strips
¾     cup heavy cream
2      tablespoons Pernod
1      tablespoon fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
½     teaspoon Spanish paprika or 1 teaspoon Piment d’Espelette

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, except stop the cooking process and drain the pasta about 2 minutes before it’s actually done. (It should still be firm—it will finish cooking later.) Rinse the drained pasta well with cool water and set aside.

2. Place mussels, wine, ¼ cup of the onions and 1 of the garlic cloves into a deep, large skillet or 3½-quart braising pan. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to an active simmer. Cover and cook about 4 minutes or until the mussels have opened. Drain the mussels, reserving the liquid; set aside. When the mussels are cool enough to handle, remove them from the shells. Discard the shells.

3. Season scallops and cod with salt. Melt the butter in the same skillet or braiser over medium high heat. Sear the fish and scallops about 90 seconds per side or until lightly browned. They should not be cooked through at this point. Remove to a platter.

4. Reduce the heat to medium and sauté the mushrooms and the remaining onion and garlic in the skillet or braiser until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the pea pods and sauté about 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Remove to a plate.

5. Return the fish and scallops to the pan. Add the cooking liquid (from the mussels), the cream, the Pernod, and the dried tarragon, if using. Bring to boiling; reduce the heat and simmer until the fish and scallops are cooked through, the pasta is tender, and the liquid has reduced somewhat, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the mussels, vegetables, parsley, and paprika. Heat through while gently tossing to coat everything with the sauce.

6. Divide among four shallow bowls; sprinkle with fresh tarragon (if using) and a little more paprika. Serve warm.

Samuel B. et me. He slicked his hair back that day so he’d look like Papa.

Side note: It pleased me to no end that David Baruthio’s son, Samuel (age 11), loved this dish. He had been grousing all morning that he wanted to go eat lobster at Joe’s Crab Shack (to a French kid visiting from France, this place is akin to going to Mars—he loves it). But he was perfectly happy to tuck into this dish, made by his Papa et moi.

Another side note: While this recipe takes about 30 minutes, start to finish, it took us all morning because we developed and perfected it as we went along. After lunch, David and I continued chatting and I finally said, “Look, I gotta get out of here–I got other work to do!” Here’s what he said to me about that—click on this 10-second video for a “chewing out” à la français:  IMG_0611

Today’s French lesson: “Prends tes clicques et ets clacques et fous le camp.” Roughly: Get your things and get out of here.

I took it pretty well….

 

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