Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Crayfish Simmered Shrimp and Pesto Penne with Cherub Tomatoes

There is no picture of this dish as pesto never photographs well. If it photographed as well as it tastes, the photo would be the most prized picture of all time.

I got out my Italian Marble mortar and pestle and made some pesto sauce after a neighbor gave me two large bunches of basil. I used the mortar for finishing the sauce. I confess that I used the blender for the first part, rather than pounding over an ounce and a ¼ of basil leaves. I believe I would have to pound each leaf individually and for some time, too! So I cheated with the blender.

I used Marcella Hazan's Pesto recipe, finishing with the butter. I had 24 ozs. of medium shrimp (31/40) frozen and purchased 16 ozs. of cooked crayfish. I had no recipe for this. None of the recipes, I read online, were to my taste.

I purchased 10 ozs. of Cherub Tomatoes from Smart & Final. I would not ordinarily advertise a product, but these are fabulously flavored. I make this dish in the Spring of 2011 and tomatoes are not yet locally grown. Even if I were making this in late Summer, when the tomatoes are at their peak, I would urge you to try these Cherub Tomatoes. I haven't had that much tomato flavor in my mouth for years.

This is an unusually pretty dish when served due to the green of the pesto, the red of the tomatoes, shrimp and crayfish and the white of the pasta.

First, a word about food safety. For this recipe, I had a bag of frozen shrimp. It started as a 2 pound bag, but after making an appetizer, I had 1 1/2 pounds of shrimp, still frozen. This was then defrosted, in the refrigerator, overnight before being cooked in this recipe. When I put the shrimp into the boiling water, it was still, partially frozen. My cooking time and temperature for this dish, is based on that. If you have shrimp that has been defrosted and is not partially frozen (ice still clinging to the shrimp) I would suggest, in the interest of food safety, cooking the shrimp until the thermometer reads 180° F. (85 C.) and no more. 

Some years after publishing this recipe, I found a much fancier Court Bouillon recipe and have attached the link below.

Main Dish
8 ozs. penne pasta or gemmeli (I prefer the gemmeli)
24 ozs. shrimp (31/40 size) - defrosted
16 ozs. cooked crayfish (or more)
10 ozs. Cherub tomatoes
6 ozs. pesto genovese (if frozen, bring to room temperature)
1 bell pepper, peeled as best you can and diced
½ red onion, sliced as for salad
2 cloves garlic (as mush)
Parmesan Cheese
Fennel fronds for garnish
Italian Parsley, for garnish

Court Bouillon
1 fronds of the fennel bulb
1 brown onion
1 tsp. fennel seeds, bruised
1/4 tsp. peppercorns, bruised
2 carrots, unpeeled
1 tbs. salt

To begin:

If you start with cooked crayfish, remove the meat from the tails, reserving all the shell for the court bouillion.

Make a court bouillon of 2 quarts of water in which simmer for 30 minutes, crayfish shells and claws, the fennel fronds, carrots, brown onion split in half, 1 tbs. of salt, bruised fennel seeds and peppercorns by bringing the pot to a simmer. After the pot has simmered, covered, allow to come to room temperature. Strain the solids from the stock. Decant the remaining stock, leaving the debris in the bottom of the pot. You won't lose more than 4 ozs. of this bouillion in the decanting, if you are careful. The penne will be boiled in the court bouillon, so save as much as possible.

Using an instant read thermometer, bring the stock to 160° F. (71 C.), add the shrimp and if you have uncooked crayfish, add them now as well. Set a kitchen countdown timer for 5 minutes. Measure the temperature every minute. If the temperature gets to 160° F. (71 C.), remove the shrimp (and crayfish) from the pot, and put them in a large bowl of ice water. The cooking must be stopped or the meats will toughen and dry out.

To Cook The Penne Pasta

Bring the court bouillon back to a boil, adding enough water to make 2 quarts. Add the penne and cook 11 minutes, or until al dente. When cooked, drain in a colander. Cover while draining to retain the heat, or quickly assemble the dish.

To Assemble The Dish

Put the pesto and garlic into the stock pot. Mix well. Add the shrimp and crayfish and stir well so as to coat the fish with the pesto. Add the bell pepper and onions. Add the pasta. Fold in. Add the tomatoes. 

To Serve

In large bowls, put the penne mixture, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and parsley. I topped mine with a fennel frond as a garnish.

The image at the beginning of this post is copyright, Desert Glory - NatureSweet, 2011.