Lemongrass Scampi with Pappardelle/Mafaldine

My wife loves pasta. My wife loves shrimp.   One of my wife’s favorite dishes is Legal Seafood’s Shrimp And Garlic  that’s tossed in tomato, scallions, mushrooms and pasta. So I thought, “wouldn’t it be nice if I could make her something like that for supper?” As I leafed through a bunch of my cookbooks I came across Lemongrass Scampi with Pappardelle in Ming Tsai’s Simply Ming: One-Pot Meals (p. 81)  that resulted in one of those “ah ha!” moments.  An online copy of the recipe that can be found at: http://www.findeatdrink.com/Index/Etc/Entries/2011/4/6_ming_tsai_recipes.html

Although I couldn’t find paparadelle, I came across  some packages of mafaldine at Whole Foods, Newtonville (which I remembered having when I was growing up).

Malfadine pasta

I thought the mafaldine would be a great substitute for the papardelle. So I gathered up the following ingredients at  market to make the meal (as per Chef Tsai’s recipe) –

1/2 pound fresh or dried pappardelle           (I used malfadine here, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mafaldine)
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper (To season, I used 4 4 finger pinches of 4:1 salt/pepper mix)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for coating the pasta
2 tablespoons minced lemongrass, white part only
4 shallots, sliced thin (I used 2 large shallots for about 3 1/8 oz)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
12 large (U-15) shrimp, peeled and deveined (was about 1 lb of shrimp before peeling and deveining)
Zest and juice of 2 lemons (yielded between 3 – 3.5 oz of filtered lemon juice.)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (I omitted this since my spouse isn’t fond of heated butter)
1 tablespoon thinly sliced chives, for garnish (I used 2 tablespoons here 1/person)

In preparing the meal, I started by cutting up the shallots, garlic, and chives which was pretty straight forward. Never having used lemongrass before, I wasn’t quite sure about preparing it for cooking.  As it would turn out, trying to use a large lemongrass with a relatively large bulb was a bad idea.   The bulbous white part turned out to be a major hassle.  The trick that Chef Tsai discussed in his book about preparing it didn’t work well; the bulbous bottom turned out to be really woody and tough, even after cutting off the root and whacking the lower section serveral times with the back of the knife.

Chef Tsai comments on preparing lemongrass (Simply Ming: One-Pot Meals (p. 66)) –

To mince lemongrass, hit the light part with the side of a knife several times to break it down. The root end should pop of; if not, cut it away.  Starting where the light part joins the darker, slice the light part lengthwise three or four times. Cut the light part crosswise and then mince.”

Tough/Fibrous lemongrass

Fortunately the bunch of lemongrass I bought had two thinner stalks. So I took the white parts, popped off the roots and then diced them as finely as I could – the minced white lemongrass part was clearly not as tough as the larger instance with which I started.  I must say, the lemony aroma really filled the kitchen.

Better lemongrass sample

To follow the lemongrass, I zested two lemons and then juiced them and strained the juice.

lemons zested with a microplane

zested lemons, juiced (3.5 oz)

I had a couple of large-ish shallots on hand and I figured they could stand in for the four shallots called for in the recipe.  So I skinned and thinly sliced the shallots as I would an onion and then finely  minced up the garlic.

Shallots prior to preparation

Clockwise from bottom left to right - garlic/shallots, chives, lemongrass, lemon zest, 3.5 oz lemon juice, peeled/deveined U10 -15 shrimp

In a stockpot, I cooked the dried malfadine according to the suggested product instructions for about 8-11 minutes in salted water.  When it was done, I scooped out a measuring cup of cooking liquid and then drained the pasta, shocked it and set it aside.  I drizzled in some Lucini extra virgin olive oil and tossed it a bit to try and get it evenly coated.

I then rinsed out and wiped down the stockpot with clean paper towels, and reheated the stock pot to high until it was ready for cooking and dropped the heat back down to about 50% max and added more olive oil to the bottom, swirled it to coat the bottom (I ended up having to use about 4 tablespoons in this case).

I added in the shallots and garlic and sauteed them to sweat them through (which took more than 1 minute, and more like 3) and then added in the minced lemongrass and sauteed the whole thing for about 3 minutes more.  I threw in about 3 4 finger pinches of 4:1 salt/pepper mix and stirred to distribute the seasoning.

sauteed shallots, garlic, lemongrass seasoned with 4:1 salt/pepper mix

I finally added in the 12 shrimp and it took about 3 minutes to sautee for the shrimp to color.  Once the shrimp were colored, I first added the lemon zest, stirred to distribute the zest and then added the lemon juice and stirred again.

I then could finally add the pasta back to the whole pot.  Once I did, I stirred and phyiscally lifted the pot off the stove to try and toss the pasta mix a bit (in the pot).  I tasted a strand of pasta and thought 1 more 4 finger 4:1 salt/pepper mix was needed and did one final remix.  Fortunately, the whole thing seemed ‘wet enough’ that I didn’t need the reserved pasta cooking liquid.

While the recipe said to add the butter to the pot at this point, I skipped that step since my spouse isn’t a real fan of heated butter.

Ming Tsai's lemongrass scampi and mafaldine

The meal went over very well with my wife asking me when I could make this again.   If I had to do this again, I wonder how yuzu juice would go with this recipe.  As for the butter, I think I would add 1 1/2 tablespoons of (liquid) clarified butter to my serving to see how it would turn out.

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