Friday, June 14, 2013

Spring Dishes Part II: Asparagus Fettuccini with Lemon Cream Sauce and Lemon Fried Chicken

Technically, this sauce is more like a custard, or maybe like a light version of Hollandaise (whichever you prefer). The story of the inspiration for this dish goes back to last week and the necessity for a quick meal. You see, last week my fiance and I went back to my childhood home in upstate, NY (we landed at JFK and picked up a rental car, so you can bet we stopped in to our favorite Brooklyn Bagelry to scarf down a couple of pumpernickel everything bagels--his with tuna salad and bacon; mine a bacon, *fried* egg and cheese) for a much needed visit to family and friends. We took our Chihuahua mix, Lucas, who had an amazing trip ('cept the actual flying; he didn't love that--heck, he didn't even like it much). Even though it was a visit and a vacation, we had things we needed to accomplish: my fiance had yet to meet our new nephew and I'd yet to see him since the week he was born; my brother made us all very proud by being the opening band on Friday at an enormous outdoor music festival (of course the all-day torrential downpour tried to wipe the grins off of our faces) and the bulk of the trip was devoted to looking at and possibly booking a wedding venue. Amidst our growing to-do list was a private goal I'd been entertaining since we purchased our tickets: cook a (belated) Mother's Day dinner for my Mom and an (early) Father's Day dinner for my Dad. Because staying with my Father coincided with my dear friend and maid of honor's taking a couple of days off to come upstate with us and look at venues, I found myself with limited time to realize my grand Father's Day dinner plans (originally it was supposed to consist of curried cauliflower fritters, new potato and baby spinach curry and chicken tikka masala)--roughly 25 minutes to cook and plate a dinner for five people, to be exact. I settled on Italian and a dish of Jamie Oliver's I'd tried before and absolutely adored: his sausage carbonara, only I'd remembered it with zucchini, as laid out on this blog. I just took the elements I liked best about both recipes and improvised a little and we were in business. Thankfully for me and for our dinner, m.o.h. Sharon is a kick-ass sous chef, and between the two of us we managed to bang it out in the nick of time! :) In a way this dish is also inspired by my Mom's own special dinner, which was another pasta dish: gemelli pasta and pencil asparagus in a white wine, butter and garlic sauce with lemon-zest rubbed, fire-grilled organic chicken breasts. You'll see elements of both in this dish, but the most important thing about it is that it is tasty. If you'd like to make a lovely vegetarian version of this dish, the chicken breasts are optional. I purchased my pasta fresh-made in the refrigerated section of my grocery store, but if you have time and the right equipment, feel free to make your own! Tonight I'm serving it alongside an arugula and mango salad dressed in lemon juice.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

Asparagus Fettuccini with Lemon Cream Sauce

1 bunch asparagus (about 12 stalks), fibrous ends snapped off and sliced into 1/2" pieces
3 large egg yolks
2 Tablespoons butter
zest of 1/2 lemon
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pkg (10 oz. to 16 oz., depending on where you purchase it) fresh fettuccini (or pappardelle, whichever you prefer)
3 to 3.5 Tablespoons cream
flat leaf parsley, minced, for garnish
2 chicken breats, butterflied and dredged in flour, salt, pepper and some lemon zest

1. melt butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium heat. Add a few drops of olive oil to keep the butter from burning. Add sliced asparagus (except for the tips), salt and pepper and sautee for 5 or so minutes. Add tips and cook 2 - 3 minutes more.
2. While Asparagus is sauteeing, put on a large pot to boil with at least 4 quarts of water and 1 Tablespoon olive oil. In a small bowl combine egg yolks and cream and whip until completely incorporated, then mix in lemon zest. Set aside for now, away from the stove or another heat source.
*Optional*: If you're planning to make this with chicken breasts, remove asparagus (once cooked to your liking) from the pan and set aside in another small bowl. Sautee chicken until cooked through, no more than 4 minutes on each side. Remove chicken to a cutting board and clean the blackened flour out of the pan, before adding 1.5 to 2 Tablespoons of butter to the pan. After the pasta has been cooked (next step), use a salad tossing fork or meat fork to brace the chicken breasts against the board and dice the chicken into bite sized pieces.
3. Cook the fresh pasta for 1 - 2 minutes, or according to directions on package. Before draining pasta, reserve 1/4 c. cooking liquid.
4. Toss all ingredients together, stirring well to help the egg yolks turn into a custard-y pasta sauce. If the pasta is dry, add reserved cooking liquid. Once sauce is glossy and smoothly coats the pasta and ingredients, plate up and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese and minced Italian parsley as garnish.

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