Monday, November 29, 2010

Cookbook Club: Heading to Louisiana

This month's recipe for the Cookbook Club is from the book River Road Recipes IV: Warm Welcomes. The book features recipes in Louisiana Cajun style. The pick for this month was Shrimp and Tasso Pasta. I had never heard of Tasso, which I learned is a spicy ham. It can be difficult to find outside of Louisiana, so a number of items can be substituted: salt pork, pancetta, prosciutto, Canadian bacon, or smoked ham. Our grocery store didn't have Tasso, so I used a pepper-spiced ham.
The recipe was surprisingly quick to prepare. I planned to make it on a Sunday instead of a weeknight because I was expecting it to take awhile to make. However, I found that this meal could be easily made for a weeknight meal.

I didn't follow the recipe exactly. I used whole wheat egg noodles. I used butter instead of margarine and cut the amount in half; the meal was plenty buttery. I also used only about a half pint of cream. I can't imagine using two whole pints - I think the dish would have been rather soupy. A half pint seemed to give a nice consistency, and I was glad to not have all of the fat and calories of two pints of cream.
The Shrimp and Tasso Pasta was a tasty dish. I would have to say that I prefer a similar recipe by Emeril, Shrimp and Pasta in a Tomato-Chile Cream Sauce. Both recipes are below.

Shrimp and Tasso Pasta
From River Road Recipes IV: Warm Welcomes

Tasso gives a smoky flavor to this seafood pasta dish. This freezes well and is an excellent dish to take to a friend with a new baby or a death in the family.

16 ounces fine or wide egg noodles
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped (optional)
1 bunch green onions, chopped
8 garlic cloves, chopped
½ cup (1 stick) margarine
2 pints heavy cream
1 pound deveined peeled shrimp
2 cups chopped tasso (reminder: substitutes include salt pork, pancetta, prosciutto, Canadian bacon or smoked ham)
Crushed red pepper to taste
Salt to taste
Creole seasoning to taste
Paprika to taste
¾ cup (3 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente; drain. Cover to keep warm. Saute the bell peppers, onion, celery, green onions, and garlic in the margarine in a large skillet until the vegetables are tender. Add the heavy cream and shrimp and mix well.

Cook for two minutes or until the shrimp turn pink, stirring frequently. Fold in the tasso and pasta. Season with red pepper, salt, creole seasoning, and paprika and sprinkle with the cheese.

Serves 6 to 8.

Shrimp and Pasta in a Tomato-Chile Cream Sauce
from Emeril Lagasse

1/4 cup kosher salt
1 pound linguine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons Essence, recipe follows
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/4 cup finely chopped jalapeno
1 tablespoon minced garlic
11/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking water
1 cup grated Pepper Jack cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves

Set a large 1-gallon stock pot of water to a boil and add the kosher salt. Place the linguine in the pot and stir the pot until the water returns to a boil. Cook the pasta until tender, but with a bit of resistance (al dente), about 12 minutes. Drain a reserve 1/2 cup pasta water.

While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce. Set a 12-inch saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the butter and olive oil to the pan. Once the butter has melted, season the shrimp with 1 tablespoon of the Essence and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and add the shrimp to the pan. Sear the shrimp until well browned on both sides, about 2 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the onions and jalapenos to the pan and saute until the onions are softened and lightly caramelized, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic to the pan and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the cream, remaining 1 tablespoon of Essence, remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons of the salt and the pepper to the pan and bring to a boil. Cook the sauce until the cream is reduced by half, about 2 minutes.

Return the shrimp to the pan, and add the tomatoes, linguine and the reserved cooking water to the pan and cook, tossing to incorporate for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove pan from the heat and add the Pepper Jack, Parmesan, parsley and basil and toss to blend. Serve immediately.

Emeril's ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast):
(Note: You can buy this seasoning already made in the spice aisle at the grocery store.)
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly.

Yield: 2/3 cup