Monday, March 15, 2010

Seafood Spaghetti baked in Parchment Pouches

Cooking "en papillote" is my go to when I want to serve something simple, flavorful and elegant fast. The ceremony of opening that package never cease to amaze me!, a fool proof way to "wow" anyone or everyone, may it be a dinner for eight people or a television dinner for one with wine.

When food cooks in sealed paper, it cooks in it's own juices. As the package is heated, the air inside expands, all the flavor marries, with no escape (no pun intended). Aside from the simplicity of the method, the beauty in all this is how, you, the cook, perceive the flavor in your mind as to how the flavors you are about to combine will taste when they all come together. It's "test kitchen" in your mind, LOL!

I like preparing fish this way, may it be my version of "Hong Kong style Tilapia" or a simple "Dill and Lemon Confit Monkfish", it always comes out perfect! The fish gets tainted with the taste of the seasoning and aromatic herbs yet retains it unique fish taste.

Most of all, I love cooking my Seafood Spaghetti this way-- let me tell you why. Pasta and Seafood are both time sensitive food. I know you'd agree with me when I say that I cannot count with my hands how many times I ordered seafood pasta in a restaurant and I get a soggy pasta with tough & chewy seafood. It's so easy to ruin it! But, by cooking both the pasta and seafood sauce midway then finishing it by baking them in parchment pouches, you get perfectly fresh, light & tender seafood and perfectly al dente pasta -- every single time.

Seafood Spaghetti en Papillote
(Makes 6 servings)

2 T olive oil
6 pcs anchovies, minced
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
4 oz Peppers in Oil
12 pcs Kalamata olives, pitted and cut in half
2 T capers
1 T tomato paste*
28 oz can whole tomatoes, chopped**
1 T herb de Provence***
1/2 t peperoncino flakes
1/2 cup white wine

16 oz bag seafood mix (shrimp, calamari & scallops)

2 pcs Seafood sausage****

freshly ground pepper
sea salt
1 lb Spaghetti Rigatti, drained (cooked for 5 minutes)*****
2 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated

Heat olive oil in a pan. Saute the anchovies until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the garlic and onion until caramelized (but not browned). Add the peppers, kalamata olives and capers and let it cook for a minute. Stir in the tomato paste, coat the other ingredients with it, then add the tomatoes, the herbs, peperoncino flakes and white wine. Season with freshly ground pepper and sea salt. Bring to boil then simmer for 30 minutes or until thick and reduced in half. Add the Seafood sausage and seafood mix, bring to boil, reduce heat, cook for another minute then turn the heat off.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a bowl, coat the spaghetti with the sauce and sprinkle with the parmigiano-reggiano. Divide into 6 among the parchment pouches. Transfer the pouches in a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

Serve immediately with a bowl of freshly shaved or grated parmigiano-reggiano.

*If like me, you cook almost every night, keep a tube of tomato paste in your refrigerator. I use it to add tomato flavor in most of my dishes without adding excess water.

**When tomatoes are not in season, I use canned tomatoes. I love the Bella Terra Organic whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes brand, not only because they are the real San Marzano tomatoes but also because the sauce always comes out much redder and thicker than when I use other brands.

***I do not use Italian Herb Mix, ever. I prefer Herb de Provence when the recipe calls for Italian Herb Mix. The combination of thyme, basil, savory, fennel and lavender does something so beautiful to my Marinara Sauce I literally cried the fist time I tried it. After that, my love affair with Herb de Provence was sealed. Make sure you rub/bruise the herbs with the palms of your hands before you add it to any of your dishes to activate the oil. Discard and replace your dried herbs every 6-7 months.

****Seafood Sausage -- shrimp, scallops and white fish in a sausage. How awesome is that!! I found this at Trader Joe's last week, and when I saw it, I knew that it will, from then on, going to be a permanent repertoire in my Seafood Spaghetti in Parchment Pouches recipe.

***** I use Barilla brand for all my pasta. I love their Spaghetti Rigati the most! Those ridges make the sauce (and cheese) hold on to the pasta better than any other pasta in the market.

Best way to end this simple yet great meal?

Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar and Vanilla-infused Confectioner's Sugar

Strawberries are in season. Serve it with a sprinkling of aged balsamic vinegar (Williams Sonoma carries a 25-year aged Modera balsamic vinegar for 28 green bucks. That's a very good deal for quality!) and generous sprinkling of vanilla infused confectioner's sugar.

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