15 February 2007

Tarmac Sweethearts

I wish I could explain the recent absence from posting here with something fun or exciting, a trip to Bali, maybe, or being busy with an exciting project. That would be nice, right? Ahh, but no, the reason for my absence is none of these, nor is it apathy on my part. No, I have spent the past three days (three days!) in an airport. Anticipating a nice long weekend, I didn't even pack my laptop, hoping to get away from work for a while. What I didn't anticipate was a near-blizzard that socked the midwest, leaving me sitting on a plane on a frozen tarmac for hours, and hours more in the airport. The next day was much of the same and when the storm finally cleared it hit New York, my destination, leaving more delays which lead to cancellations and my desire to throttle about every airline employee in sight. By the third day, my fellow passengers became comrades as we returned each day, battle weary and ready to tackle boredom by reading every newspaper and magazine available and subsist on tomato juice, pretzels, and some well-timed trips to the bar. My long weekend turned into 6 days, including one very grumpy February 14.

And to think, I even had a special recipe saved for you, reader, for Valentine's day. Not that I particularly like Valentine's Day, which seems manufactured for boxes of atrocious chocolates and the greeting card industry. However, back when I had a bounty of scallops a little while ago, I came up with a recipe so luscious it just seemed perfect for a romantic dinner. Long noodles are bathed in a tangy cream sauce (something about long noodles are very sexy, like in "Lady and the Tramp"). I find caviar to be an acquired taste, but it really works here, adding a bright pop and tang to the rich sauce and scallops. I imagine crab meat would work nicely here as well, and thin little angel hair pasta could be substituted for the thick ruffly mafalda noodles I used. No matter what, it's certainly a special occasion dish, and the sort of luxury to share with someone you love (provided, of course, you aren't stuck in the airport).

Caviar and Seared Scallop Pappardelle
The luxury of caviar combined with langorously long noodles make this an undeniably special dish. The tangy cream sauce balances the caviar, and there are many domestic brands of roe that have reasonable prices. Because of the natural saltiness of caviar, this dish does not call for any additional salt.

1/2 lb pappardelle or mafalda pasta (or enough for 2 good servings)
1 tbl butter
1/2 lb bay scallops
1/4 cup white wine
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp lemon juice
2 heaping tablespoons caviar
chopped chives for serving

1. Cook the pasta in boiling water until al dente, about 8-12 minutes.
2. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the scallops and toss them over high heat so that they are nicely seared on both sides and plump, 3-4 minutes. Remove the scallops to a plate. Lower the heat in the pan and add the wine to deglaze, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add the cream, lemon, and the parmesan and stir to combine.
3. When the pasta is done, use tongs to remove the pasta from the pot and transfer it to the pan with the sauce, reserve the pasta cooking water. Add about a half cup of the pasta water to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring and using more pasta water to adjust the consistency if necessary. Add the scallops to the pan and stir to combine. Transfer the pasta to two serving bowls and top with a spoonful of caviar and some chopped chives.

Serves 2.

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