Monday, March 22, 2010

awaiting asparagus

New England weather is nothing if not capricious.

The weather this past weekend was glorious, and then I woke up to grey drizzle today. Still, it was an improvement on the steady, chilly downpour of last week, and so I'm willing to declare that spring has arrived. Goodbye winter, goodbye root vegetables. I'm ready for artichokes and asparagus.

I know we're still a few weeks away from actually seeing any spring vegetables, but I've started perfecting complementary pasta dishes while I wait. Egg-rich pappardelle, tossed with butter, fresh dill and chives, will sit nicely next to steamed artichokes. Plump gnudi will make an excellent foil for gently sauteed spinach. And asparagus will gladly keep company with fettuccine in a creamy lemon sauce.

Note that I said "creamy," not "cream." I find that heavy cream mixed with lemon juice produces a sauce that is rich enough in flavor, but thin and lacking in texture. Instead, I prefer to make a hollandaise of sorts, whisking together eggs and lemon juice over simmering water, and enriching the mixture with butter. The resulting sauce is thick and luscious, clinging to pasta in a most satisfying manner.

I'm still waiting on the asparagus, but this pasta will keep me company while I wait.

Fresh Fettuccine with Creamy Lemon Sauce

Serve this alongside broiled fish or steamed asparagus as a side, or sprinkle with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and eat as meal in itself.

(Serves four to five. Recipe not suitable for one - leftovers have a tendency to go gummy.)

Tip two cups of flour on a clean countertop and make a well in the center. Add four egg yolks and one whole egg, plus a glug of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Use your fingers to break up the eggs and swirl them around to pull the flour in, little by little. (More detailed instructions can be found here.)

Once you have a rather shaggy mass of dough, start kneading. Wet your hands if it seems very dry; continue kneading. Knead until you have a stiff dough that is very smooth to the touch. Seal in plastic wrap and let sit for at least an hour before rolling it out.

Roll out the pasta into sheets on the thinnest setting on your pasta maker, and flour well before cutting into fettuccine or tagliatelle. Put the cut pasta aside, and set a pot of salted water on to boil.

To make the sauce, whisk together one whole egg, one egg yolk, and the zest and juice from one lemon in a large heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water. Whisk until the mixture thickens to a mayonnaise-like consistency. Remove from heat.

Whisk in a pinch of salt and two tablespoons of butter (more if you're not adding cheese.) Set aside.

Cook the pasta for two to three minutes; drain, reserving half a cup of the cooking water. Toss the pasta with the lemon sauce, adding a little of the cooking water to loosen if necessary. Serve immediately.


Lindsey @ pickyeatings said...

Ohh, I am so jealous. I have been saying I am going to make pasta for over a year now, and here you go, making delicious looking pasta.

adele said...

Lindsey - The next time you have a free afternoon, give it a shot. It's not that difficult, I swear. :)

Virgin In The Volcano said...

My god this looks good. (Doubly good because I have been eating nothing but Jewish deli platters for four days straight.)

adele said...

Virgin - Let me know when you're back in town, and I'll make you dinner.

~~louise~~ said...

Just tonight I used the last of the root vegetables. As thankful as I am to have them stay a while, bring on the asparagus!!!

I've never made my own pasta. Although, I do remember making it with my grandmother when I was a child. I thought about venturing out on my own Sunday when my son and his wife came for dinner but I "chickened" out. Someday...I love the thought of a hollandaise type sauce on the pasta. The thicker the better when it comes to lemon sauce I always say.

Thanks for sharing Adele...

P.S. Did you see the asparagus roundup over at 5 Star Foodie? Looking good...

adele said...

Louise - I'm starting to think I need to issue a pasta challenge!

I haven't seen the roundup. Thanks for the link!

~~louise~~ said...

Sounds good to me, Adele. Did you see the pasta Courtney from Coco Cooks made with Duck Eggs!!!!

adele said...

Louise - I've been meaning to try duck egg pasta. Thanks for reminding me!

~~louise~~ said...

Courtney said the duck eggs were a bit pricey but worth every penny. Her link is in my side bar if you want to take a gander at her gorgeous pasta.

I look forward to you posting your duck egg endeavors:)

adele said...

Louise - I think I've seen them for sale in Chinatown. They weren't too pricey, as I recall - not much worse than the sticker price on fancy free-range organic eggs at Whole Foods! :)