9.26.09: dinner, or: elizabeth takes on ferran adrià.

Toasted Spaghetti with Mussels

Toasted Spaghetti with Mussels

Weeks ago, I found myself poking around Food & Wine‘s website looking for dinner ideas when I came across a recipe for toasted spaghetti and clams using a technique similar to what one does when making risotto.  It looked gloriously uncomplicated:  just a handful of ingredients and a new way to look at one of my favorite foods.  My jaw dropped, however, when I realized that the recipe was by none other than Ferran Adrià, and that it hailed from a cookbook collaboration he did a few years ago with the Spanish supermercado Caprabo that was only available in Spain.  I therefore resolved to try it immediately.

My opportunity came a few weeks ago, during a weekend when Michael had to spend both days in the lab and I was left to my own devices.  I told him that I would take care of dinner, and that he would be the assistant were I to need an extra hand here or there.  The catch, of course, was that he had no idea what I’d be making.  A risk to be sure, but one that I lessened somewhat by ensuring that something he did really like would be also part of the menu.

Mise en place

Mise en place

That thing was our roasted red pepper and tomato soup that we also made on our first television spot.  It had been ages since we had it, and since it tastes delicious either warm or cold, I knew it would be comforting to eat on the unseasonably chilly day.  It would also give me an excuse to work on my knife skills with the amount of prep work involved, as well as go into that meditative state that working on a mise en place always places me.  (Aside:  for those who are still getting wet behind the ears in the kitchen, having a complete mise is essential before any oil hits the pan–jumping back and forth from chopping to cooking may make for great food television, but makes for a highly inefficient and frustrating cooking process.)  The soup simmered while I worked on the main dish, allowing me to fully focus.

Simmering the soup

Simmering the soup

The thing if it is, I actually really didn’t follow Adrià’s recipe at all–I instead focused on his technique.  I wasn’t in love with the clam selection at Westside when I went shopping, so I went with my preferred mussels instead.  I then substituted seafood stock for the clam broth originally called for, as I didn’t want to overwhelm the mussels with the taste of clam, and I substituted white wine for the water to add a little more flavor.  I kept the proportions the same, however, and followed the instructions to a T.

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

The soup was utterly fabulous, if I say so myself, and I have to credit adding in red wine where we used water in the demo–it added wonderful body to the soup, making it feel less like a puree of vegetables and more like a coherent dish.  The mussels also turned out well…but I won’t be posting the recipe yet as it still needs a little work (i.e. salt).  Adrià’s usage of bottled clam broth meant that additional seasoning was unnecessary, but with my substitutions I did not think to add more salt to the seafood stock, for example, before adding all of the liquid into the pan.  That said, it was by far a successful venture for yours truly, as no takeout menus needed to make an appearance that night.

As for the cookbook I mentioned?  Well, it may have appeared at my apartment as a birthday gift, and I may have to write about it at length…but in time.


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