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Friday, March 7, 2008

The Lazy Gourmet Specials: A New Series of Recipes with Minimal Effort and Maximal Flavor

Fettuccine Affumicato with Smoked Salmon, Goat Cheese & Grape Tomatoes

High quality ingredients cooked with very little effort make for very satisfying meals. These are the kind of meals I find myself making more and more of lately. In fact, the last few recipes I posted would definitely qualify as lazy gourmet meals so why not make it a regular feature of The Gourmet Chronicles.

Defining a "Lazy Gourmet" meal gets a little tricky because certain meals require minimal effort but a few hours of time (braises, large cuts of roasts etc.); other meals require minimal cook time but much more prep work and/or ingredients (stir frys, salads, tartares, etc.)

How to choose, how to choose?

I finally decided that a "lazy gourmet" entree must have the finest ingredients you can afford, not much more than a handful of them (10 max), minimal prep, minimal cookware and take no longer than 20 minutes from start to finish, the maximal amount of time a starving woman (or man) can bear to wait before sinking their teeth into their nearest and dearest.

My "Lazy Gourmet" premiere will be what I'll call a Fettuccine Affumicato: a light creamy pasta made with olive oil and goat cheese accented by smoked salmon, grape tomatoes & chives. It's a kind of dish that you could easily turn into bruschetta by substituting grilled ciabatta for the pasta; or a pizza, by using your favorite flatbread. You could also easily use eggs as a vehicle for the dish in an omelet or a scramble. They would all make excellent lazy gourmet substitutes. Obviously, bacon, pancetta or prosciutto could stand in for the smoked salmon without losing the smoky essence or too much of the ease of preparation for the dish.

The inspiration came from the contents of my pantry last night when I was hungry and a wee bit "enlightened" by a glass or two of '01 Marcassin chardonnay (a great wine match for the dish) which made me too lazy to cook the meal I had planned for the evening.

Fettuccine Affumicato with Smoked Salmon, Goat Cheese, & Grape Tomatoes

It took all of 15 minutes to make this dish including the time it took the pasta water to boil. (What force of nature makes a pot of water so hard to boil when you're hungry? Does anybody out there know?)
Cipriani fettuccine is a brand of very thin dried egg pasta I used for this dish that is worth seeking out. Cal-Mart, Cheese Plus as well as William Sonoma all sell it.

Scottish smoked salmon is my favorite which I rough chop and add to the pasta "sauce" along with some chives at the last minute. The salmon imparts its smokiness to the dish; the heat does change the texture of it but not in an unpleasant way.
Sugar plum grape tomatoes are cut in half, Purple Haze chevre from Cypress Grove is melted into warm Balzana extra-virgin olive oil which has been seasoned with a pinch of red chili flakes, herbes de Provence, salt & pepper; a dash of verjus is reduced into the sauce, followed by a tablespoon of creme fraiche and a little skim milk to thin it out slightly; a squeeze of Meyer Lemon, a dusting of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
A pasta pot, pasta fork or tongs , a wooden spoon, sharp knife or sharp kitchen shears & a Microplane grater for the parmesan are your only necessary utensils.

The '01 Marcassin chardonnay is optional but highly recommended :-)

I'll formalize the recipe with quantities and instructions later.... I'm too lazy to do it now!

My apologies folks, the photos are horrendous. I'm afraid my hands were a bit wobbly from lack of food (or excess of wine) when I took the "beauty shots" rendering them little more than blurs with a little color. I'll replace them the next time I make the dish... whenever that is... I rarely make the exact same thing twice. It's really incredible how the professionals manage to repeat a dish over & over without losing their excitement for making and perfecting it. They are Gods! Look at this post from Le Bernardin Pastry whiz Michael Laiskonis to see what hard work, great intelligence and a little inspiration can do.

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