Friday, November 16, 2012

Spaghetti with crayfish in Alfredo sauce

I was persuaded by my usual fishmonger to buy the remaining few pieces of crayfish left when I intended to buy just 3. I have not prepared and cooked crayfish before and just wanted to buy 3 pieces to try out. I have only eaten crayfish at restaurant and local 'zi char' stall. To tell you the truth, I have no clues in cleaning and preparing the crayfish, but the fishmonger told me it's easy. What's more, she suggested cooking the crayfish a la Italian style. I love Italian pasta. I'm sold and she sold me 1 kg of the crayfish at $18.
I love cooking spaghetti a la aglio alio style. It's simple and scrumptious and my family loves it. But I wanted to try something new. Cooking it in laksa paste came to my mind and I bought a packet of Prima Taste laksa paste. Still undecided, I rummaged through the refrigerator and found heavy cream. Hey .... Why not alfredo sauce? It should go well with the crayfish. Then I started to browse through some alfredo sauce recipe and settled on a simple one, which I modified slightly.
Next comes the cleaning and preparing the crayfish. It wasn't as tedious or messy as I have imagined. Just rinse it well with cold water and scrub the shells clean. Next, use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut through the centre of the crustacean on both the bottom and top. Pull the juicy flesh out from the shells gently so as not to break it. Easy peasy ....... It's done. I reserved a few pieces of the shell to simmer in the stock I want to use to give the sauce more flavour.
The verdict - the sauce is delicious without being too heavy and the lightly sauteed crayfish meat in butter made this dish complete. I will definitely cook it again for family and friends. Only trouble is I cannot cook it in advance in a party. It has to be freshly cooked and served on the spot. That's a challenge!

For the sauce:
Some crayfish shells
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 small shallots, coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp Cognac
180 ml white cooking wine
1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream

2 tsp unsalted butter
1 kg or 4 pcs of crayfish, with the meat cut into large pieces
500g spaghetti

Chopped parsley for garnish, optional

  1. Clean and prepare the crayfish as described above.
  2. In a large frying pan over medium high heat, melt the 3 tbsp unsalted butter.
  3. Add the crayfish shells and saute, stirring frequently, until golden brown and aromatic, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the shallots and bay leaf and reduce the heat to medium. Saute, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper.
  5. Add the cognac and cook for 1 minute.
  6. Add the white cooking wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is almost completely evaporated, about 8 minutes.
  7. Stir in the cream and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.
  8. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl or measuring pitcher, pressing down on the solids to extract all of the sauce.
  9. Wipe the frying pan with a paper towel to remove any bits of shell and return the sauce to the pan. Reheat gently before tossing the spaghetti into it.
  10. In another small frying pan over low heat, melt 2 tbsp unsalted butter. Add the crayfish meat and saute until cooked. Remove from heat and keep warm.
  11. Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan 3/4 full of water to a rapid boil over high heat. Add 1 tbsp salt and the spaghetti and cook until al dente.
  12. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce in step 9 above. Toss to coat the pasta evenly with the sauce.
  13. Transfer the pasta equally into 4 plates. Scatter the crayfish meat from step 10 above onto the top of the pasta.
  14. Garnish with Italian parsley.
Serves 4

** For a healthier version, can try substituting 1 cup of heavy cream with 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/2 cup milk.

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