Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The world just doesn't need another food blog (but here's my favourite early summer dinner recipe anyway)

You know how there can be a dish you really love for a few years and then it somehow falls out of rotation and then you bring it back and it's so damn good you wonder why on earth you ever let it go?

Linguine with asparagus and lemon cream is that dish for us.

Shortly after we got married, Christopher came home with a Donna Hay cookbook that had been sent to his office. We both fell in love with it, enjoying the inspiration of newish, vaguely Asian flavours and loving the large format and excellent photo styling. One dish that caught our eye was this pasta with lemon cream sauce and asparagus, and I duly set forth to make it from the recipe.

Which is where the problem starts because I have some sort of recipe-attention-deficit-disorder and can rarely follow one all the way through. What I should do, of course, is make a particular dish to exact recipe the first time around and then tinker with it, and sometimes I do, but more often I get halfway through and decide to tinker.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure I did make the lemon cream pasta according to Hay's recipe the first few times and it kind of worked but never very well. There were always two issues for me -- (one), the sauce involves, if memory serves, equal parts cream and stock and the sauce always ended up thin and soupy except for the addition of (two) parmesan, which I always added when the heat was too high and would end up with those horrific strings of cheese that happen when the liquid is too hot, do you know what I mean? The only way I've ever been able to make non-stringy cheesy sauce is to make a proper white sauce with roux and then add the cheese, but that wouldn't really work here.

So, after throwing the book against the wall and starting from scratch using my instincts instead, I devised a simplified version of Linguine with Asparagus and Lemon Cream Sauce.

enough asparagus for two
enough linguine for two
zest of one lemon and the juice of half the lemon
tablespoon of butter and maybe, if you've got a really nice one, a dollop of olive oil
one clove garlic, chopped finely OR grated to slush on a microplane
1/2 to 3/4 cup of cream (I used half & half but go to town if you've got heavier cream on hand)
good parmesan
large pot of boiling, salted water
salt and pepper to taste

Trim woody ends off your asparagus and discard, then cut asparagus into 1-inch segments. Toss in boiling salted water and cook until crisp-tender. Lift out of the boiling water (you need the water for your pasta, after all) with a slotted spoon or similar tool and place in a bowl of cold water to stop it cooking.

Throw your pasta in the boiling water you cooked your asparagus in. In the ten minutes you've got while the pasta cooks, melt the butter (and the dollop of olive oil, if you want) in a sauce pan on low heat, then throw in the zest, garlic and lemon juice. Whisk to make sure everything's all melty together and then pour in cream, whisking to incorporate all the ingredients together. Let it cook for a bit on low heat.

Drain your pasta when it's done. Squeeze a bit more lemon juice from the other half of the lemon over the hot pasta and toss. Pour the garlicky lemony cream over top and toss to make sure every strand is coated. Drain your cooked asparagus and add to the pasta. Grate fresh parmesan over top and add some good coarse cracked black pepper. Plate up and serve with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Enjoy the adulation.


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