Days 107 and 108: Monkfish (ummm, on the Monterey Bay seafood watch list!) and Wild Mushroom pasta (yeah, a vegetarian dish other than salad)!

2 Dec

Yesterday, I was on monkfish.  I’m not sure why that’s on our menu.  Is it cheap?  Seems awfully silly to put monkfish on the menu in California when, 1) it’s on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch List, which means do not buy or eat!, and 2) it’s from the Atlantic.  We can’t get any other fish that swim in the Pacific?

According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, “Monkfish are usually caught using bottom trawls, a method that can damage seafloor habitat and often results in high bycatch. Monkfish are also caught using gillnets, and this can result in the accidental catch and death of sea turtles and marine mammals.”  For more information, see www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/SeafoodWatch/web/sfw_factsheet.aspx?fid=53 .  And, for me, they just have too many worms.

On a yummier note, we do have a good vegetarian dish on our menu: Tagliatelle with Roasted Mushrooms and Fennel Cream.  (see a picture of it at www.flickr.com/photos/64065736@N02/6371650713/in/photostream ). We make the tagliatelle with a combination of “00” flour and fine semolina, but if you can’t find 00 flour, all purpose flour will do. But, be sure to use semolina, as well.

Here’s a similar recipe to what we have been doing at school, which will serve 8.

Pasta:

200 grams (approximately 7 oz.) 00 flour or AP flour

200 grams fine semolina flour

pinch of salt

4 whole eggs

*A general rule to keep in mind is 1 egg per every 100 grams of flour.  This won’t be exact because the size of eggs differ and flours differ, but it’s a general rule.  The recipe at school calls for an additional 4 egg yolks in this recipe (yolks, only), but my pasta was way too wet with the extra yolks so I ended up adding more flour.

Directions: Combine the flours and salt in a mixing bowl, beat the eggs separately and then mix them in a mixer with the flour until it forms a ball. Or if you don’t want to use a mixer, simply make a well in the flour and pour in the egg yolks and work the eggs into the flour until it becomes a ball.  Take the ball out of the mixer or bowl and work it with your hands for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface until smooth and light golden-ish.  Let it rest in the refrigerator for about an hour or more and then take it out about 1/2 hour prior to rolling it out in the pasta machine.  Roll out the pasta, cut it into 12 inch long pieces, then cut the pasta into 1/2 inch x 12 inch pieces with a sharp knife.  Hold on a lightly semolina-floured surface until ready to cook.  I’m sure there are probably better videos out there (and Chef Udo and Chef Rogers would take issue with what I’m going to suggest here), but if you need a quick visual, someone who does a fast, simple pasta is Jamie Oliver at www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0XVDpPBHho .

Fennel Cream

3-4 heads of fennel, white parts only and thinly sliced

1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 Tbl. fennel seeds

2 bay leaves and 3-4 tarragon stems

water to cover

1/2  pint of cream

Directions: Heat a pan on medium.  Toss in the fennel seeds and roast until aromatic, which will be a couple of minutes. Then, put in some oil, add thinly sliced onions and sweat the onions.  After a few minutes, toss in the fennel and sweat down for another few minutes. At this point, you need to season the vegies with a couple of tablespoons of salt. It will seem like a lot but it’s better to season prior to dumping in the liquid.  Next, add in bay leaves and tarragon stems.  Pour in enough water to just cover the vegies and then pour in 1/2 pint of cream. Continue to simmer for another 20 minutes until the flavors all meld.   Check seasoning and adjust salt or liquid. Throw in some white pepper (not black, as you want this to be totally white).

Remove bay leaves and tarragon stems and then blend in a blender until smooth. Here’s where you need a chinois or fine mesh hand strainer.  Put the blended cream through a chinois or fine mesh strainer. What you should be left with is a thin fennel cream.  It will thicken up later when you toss it in the pasta, so don’t worry if it’s really thin at this point.

Roasted mushrooms

24 oz. of your favorite wild mushrooms.  Our recipe at school calls for 8 oz. each of oyster mushrooms, creminis and shitakes.

4 garlic cloves, finely minced

4-8 oz. dry sherry or madeira

salt and pepper

fresh thyme, parsley and tarragon, finely minced

DirectionsYou can either roast these in the oven with some olive oil, garlic, and salt until brown, or you can pan sear them until they are brown. Either way, you need to stir them to make sure they brown on both sides. After brown, add the dry sherry or madeira and stir until the alcohol evaporates by at least half.  Remove from heat and save the mushrooms until ready to put everything together.  The herbs will be added at that time, as well.

The pasta, sauce and mushrooms: Putting it altogether.

1) Bring salted water to a boil.  Throw in your pasta and boil for  2 minutes – no more!  You want it to be pretty al dente because you will add it to the fennel cream and mushrooms and cook it a bit longer in the sauce.

2) Meanwhile, get a very large saute or 2 large saute pans on medium heat.  Add in about 16 oz of fennel cream between the two pans or in one large pan.  Add in the mushrooms. Heat that through.  Here’s where your fennel cream starts to thicken. If it gets too thick, you can always add some pasta water to thin it out a bit.

3) After the pasta has been boiling for 2 minutes, take it directly from the water and put it in the warm fennel cream mushroom mix.  Add in a 1 tablespoon butter and some grated parmesan. Toss to coat the pasta in the sauce, butter, and mushrooms.

4) Taste. Adjust any seasonings at this point, and you can always add in more fennel cream here if your sauce is too thick or more pasta water, or more cheese if it’s not cheesy enough.   At the very end, toss in a couple of tablespoons of the minced herbs. Serve immediately in a large, warm pasta bowl, or plate separately on each diner’s plate.

*This whole process takes no more than 5 minutes from the time you drop the pasta into the boiling water, so you need to have everything ready. Otherwise your pasta will be overcooked and your sauce will get cold.
Happy eating!
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