Cockles and Prawns, Green and Black

Cockles and Prawns, Green and Black

Shellfish have had the long sunny days of summer to fatten up, making them especially sweet, unctuous and tender now that it’s early Winter. Arriving home with a few dozen cockles and prawns I put our new BCC 6 Quart Casserole on the fire and brought together this dish.

There are a couple of exotic ingredients in here. If you want to skip making it yourself, a good Italian market would likely have dry squid ink pasta. But if you have the pasta maker and are going for it, that same market might carry the ink too (Japanese markets are also a good bet)! Otherwise, sealed packets of squid ink (about 4g per – more than enough for the recipe) are available on-line and require no refrigeration.

The other (semi) exotic ingredient is crème fraîche, which is a ripened heavy cream related to sour cream, just fattier and not as sour. We don’t want too much tang in this dish to interfere with the sweetness of the squid ink, cockles and shrimp. Crème fraîche also has more fat and less protein, so it sauces more readily without curding up.

This recipe scales very easily.

Cockles and Prawns, Green and Black

For the Sauté
24 Cockles or Manila Clams (allowed to sit in salted water for at least one hour to spit the grit)
½ Pound Prawns or Large Shrimp (shells reserved)
1 Bay Leaf
12 Scallions (trimmings reserved)
½ Cup Italian Parsley (stems reserved)
5 White Mushrooms
3 Cloves Garlic
2T Unsalted Butter
1T Olive Oil
¼ Cup White Vermouth
½ Cup Crème Fraîche

For the Pasta
2 Large Eggs
½ t Squid Ink
2T Olive Oil
½ t Salt
1 ½ Cup All-purpose Flour (+ or -)

Prepare Shrimp Stock:
Shell, de-vein, and set aside shrimp, lightly salted and covered. Trim root ends of scallions and de-stem parsley, reserving leaves. Boil shells, scallion roots, parsley stems and bay leaf with sufficient water to cover. Continue boiling to reduce liquid by half or more. While your stock is boiling…

Set 4 – 5 quarts of water on to boil, and…

Prepare Pasta:
In a food processor (large bowl) break both eggs, add oil, salt and ink. Blend at low speed to produce an obsidian-black gel – if the mixture is identifiably gray (squid ink color-density varies), add more ink until you get an opaque blackness. Add flour and blend to combine, running processor and adding flour until a ball forms and collects up all its pups. Remove from processor and knead on floured board lightly until dough has an ear-lobe-like spring. Let rest, covered with a damp towel, plastic wrap or a domed lid.

Finely slice scallions and mushrooms, coarsely chop parsley leaves, finely slice or shave garlic. Then…


Begin Sauce:
In a sauté pan melt butter, add olive oil, and heat until foam subsides. Add scallions, mushrooms and parsley and poach these on low heat. As vegetables soften, add garlic and strain shrimp stock into the sauté pan (reserving shells and veg matter) and begin reducing by half.

While that’s happening…

Roll your pasta by folding several times through the #1 setting on the Atlas machine, keeping sheets floured. Progress to #5 setting before cutting to fettuccine or linguini, and hanging. Warm a couple of boils in a 200º oven.

Once your sauté is reduced:

Drain the cockles and add to the pan, cooking gently until they pop open, discarding any that remain closed. Pluck them from the pan as they open and set aside in a covered bowl.

You’ve just added a lot of the cockle’s liquor to the mix so resume your reduction until you get large, filmy bubbles with nearly no liquid left in the pan. This will take a few minutes and your 4 quarts of water should now be at a rolling boil.

IMG_20151024_184722Add the vermouth to your sauté, return to a boil and reduce for one minute (to boil off the alcohol). Add any cockle liquor from their bowl. Add shrimp and keep moving to just cook through. Season to taste and remove from heat.

Dump your fettuccine in boiling water, reduce to gentle boil and keep moving to prevent clumping.

Add crème fraiche to your sauté and blend.

Using tongs, apportion the pasta in the warmed bowls. Distribute a dozen cockles over the hot pasta to rewarm, and then apportion sauté accordingly. A couple of tablespoons of pasta water may be used to loosen the sauce. Serve immediately.

Serves two and scales easily (Per person: 1 egg in pasta with flour to firm, 12 cockles, ¼ pound shrimp, etc.), and also welcomes variations among aromatics (onions and garlic are anchors, however).

We like this along with a simple green salad dressed in something nutty, say a walnut – red wine vinaigrette. Keep your palate constantly awake to the many distinct flavors in this dish with a higher-acidity, bright, lighter-bodied red wine. We like certain Oregon Pinot Noirs, but Italians from Liguria (Rossese or Ormeasco) really work here – maybe it’s something about grapes growing overlooking the sea…

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