It may be a person… place… or thing… but *everybody* has their safe haven; a refuge that humans seek when life seems ugly, dark, and unforgiving.
My safe haven is in food. Today, I craved a dose of reality with a touch of rich indulgent fantasy and dash of sunshine. What I came up with is this. Somewhere between Tokyo and Tuscany. Balancing the smoky bitterness of bacon and watercress with the sweet creaminess of scallops and sea urchin, the sunshine, comes courtesy of a Meyer lemon.
The preparation is a bit like pasta carbonara, but I think you’ll find this to be a light, refreshing take on a rich indulgent classic:-)
9 oz. fresh spaghetti or linguine
1/2 C freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Zest of 1 Meyer Lemon
1 large organic free-range egg
1 1/2 Tbs olive oil
2 slices good quality bacon diced
1 large shallot minced
1/2 C sake
1/4lb. large dry* scallops (about 4)
1/4lb. Rock Shrimp
Good sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped watercress (about 1 1/2 C)
Sea urchin (optional, but recommended)
Grate the cheese and zest the lemon into a bowl using a Microplane (or similar apparatus). Add the egg and mix well.
Boil 4 quarts of water in a large stock pot and add a large pinch of kosher salt. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.
Add the oil and bacon into a hot, heavy bottomed stainless steel pan**. Cook for about a minute, then add the shallots and fry until nicely browned, about another minute. You’ll notice a brown crust forming on the bottom of the pan that will add some wonderful flavor to our dish, but be careful not to let it burn. Scoop out the bacon and shallots into a dish and set aside.
Make sure the scallops and shrimp are dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the scallops into the hot pan and sear undisturbed until the bottom forms a nice brown crust. Turn over the scallops and add the shrimp. Turn the shrimp once, and when the seafood is barely cooked (it doesn’t take long), remove them from the pan and set aside.
Add the sake to the pan and deglaze, scrapping all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan (but be careful, when I did this I accidentally flambÃ©ed it and almost set my microwave on fire.). Take it off the heat as soon as the alcohol has evaporated (if the pan was hot enough, this shouldn’t take but a few seconds) and return the bacon and shallots to the pan.
When the pasta is done, strain it and return it to the hot pan and pour the egg/cheese mixture on top. Stir well to coat the pasta; then add the bacon mixture, seafood and watercress stirring to combine.
Serve with a wedge of lemon and a few pieces of sea urchin on top.
* Contrary to how it sounds, ‘dry’ in this context means it’s free of the usual chemicals and water used to preserve and add weight to most grocery store scallops. While they aren’t the easiest things to find, taking the effort to seek out dry scallops is worth it. What you get for your troubles are firm, delectable, morsels that burst with the natural flavor of the sea.
** the pan should not be non-stick as non-stick prevents the caramelization of ingredients that create a rich fond.