Saturday, December 29, 2012

Linguine with Shellfish Fra Diavolo


My husband, John, and I are a very competitive pair.  "I will smoke you" is a common phrase heard in our house. You can always find us trying to beat each other answering trivia questions first on Cash Cab or playing dominos or even trash-talking while playing foosball. (Yes, we have a foosball table.  It's the hit of the neighborhood.)  So what does that have to do with food or a food blog?  Well, I'll tell you.  As my biggest fan, John came up with a way to be competitive in the kitchen, not necessarily against each other (this isn't Iron Chef), but by issuing me challenges.  He also kind of wins here by challenging me.  It means he gets to eat great food!

A couple of years ago, he challenged me to learn how to make tortillas and even bought me a tortilla press, carefully selected in San Antonio and lovingly brought back home.  So I did a lot of tortilla research and printed out a bevy of recipes to try, from plain (but fabulous) to flavors like jalapeno and cheese and roasted garlic.  On our very first night of trying out those recipes for these delicious disks of the Mexican version of sliced bread, ready to eat them slathered with butter (ah, butter...), John wanted to help press the tortillas.  But alas, with his sheer brute strength, eager to reap the rewards of his work, he snapped the handle right off of the tortilla press!  After that, I rolled them out for a while with a rolling pin.  They look great that way, rustic and homemade.  However, thanks to my beautiful Mother-in-Law,  now I have a heavy-duty John-proof cast iron tortilla press.

Since then, he has issued me many challenges from enchiladas to the best queso ever to Chinese food (we'll discuss that much later).  The most recent food challenge throwdown he issued me was linguine with clams (in the shells).  Piece of cake, I said.  (Why do we say that?  Cake isn't always that easy).  Besides, I've watched a gazillion cooking shows and have seen these things cooked before.  How hard could it be?  Actually, not hard at all!

So we headed down to our local supermarket to acquire said mollusks to devour for dinner.  As I headed over to pick out some shallots and a loaf of right-out-of-the-oven Asiago Parmesan bread (I have a bread-baking handicap which I am determined to overcome), I left him in charge of making the seafood selections.  Not only did he pick out a pound of Littleneck clams, he also bought a pound of mussels, a pound of gargantuan shrimp, and a half-pound of bay scallops.  So I thought, okay, game on.  I can do all of it justice.

Being a planner, a thinker, an obsessive organizer, and a big fan of Diet Coke with Splenda (I walk faster than everyone too...all that caffeine), I resigned myself to making Linguine with Shellfish Fra Diavolo.  Oh, yes, the "Devil's Brother."  No, I'm not actually cooking anyone's brother, devil or otherwise.  It just means a spicy dish.  And we really like it hot!  Be careful with the spices unless you're a brave spicy soul.  I next decided that I would make my own seafood stock to further deepen the seafood flavor of this bellissimo broth to sop up with a freshly baked loaf of bread.  My son, who is the most ridiculously picky child on Earth (okay, probably normal picky like most kids), ate the majority of the clams!  Thank goodness John bought an abundance of seafood!

For my recipe, I must include an advance warning:  We cook like we're feeding the whole neighborhood, not a family of four.  And the abundance of seafood required an abundance of pasta and delicious broth to cover it.  So feel free to cut the recipe in half if you don't want to eat it for the next week.  We love leftovers, and they are often eaten for breakfast.  Don't hate on the leftovers.  Throw a fried egg on top of your leftover pasta so you'll feel like it's breakfast.

An additional aspect I added to this muy fabuloso dish is what I call steak butter.  Have you ever been to a steak restaurant and there was this gorgeous pat of flavored butter softly melting away on a beautiful steak?  That, my friends, is steak butter.  I call it that because that's what I created it for.  But I use this decadent butter medley for many things.  The linguine here is one of those things.  A savory blend of rich butter married with fresh parsley, a touch of lemon juice, garlic (of course!), salt, and cracked black pepper.  Try it.  You'll be hooked!

Another thing you'll notice about this meal is the abundance of ingredients.  No, I don't have an endless budget or a rich uncle.  I also work six days a week and have two children and a house to keep.  I'm just a hyperactive overachiever.  However, I am a fan of Extreme Couponing and stockpiling ingredients.  I promise all my recipes aren't so laden with ingredients.  This one just happens to be.  It's also a recipe that will take a little time since you have to make seafood stock (**peel your shrimp early in the day and save the shells for your seafood stock.**)  Feel free to substitute with store-bought seafood stock (my store doesn't carry it) or even chicken stock.  It's your dinner.  Own it!!

So here goes nothing!

1 lb Littleneck clams
1 lb mussels
1 lb shrimp (any size will do; we like the big ones)
1/2 lb bay scallops
2 lb linguine
1 lemon
2 T Italian parsley, chopped
6 C seafood stock (recipe to follow) or chicken stock
1 C white wine (any flavor that suits your fancy)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 shallots, chopped
1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper (amount's hot!)
1/4 tsp red chili flakes (ditto!)
1/4 tsp red chili paste (it's really hot!!  found in the Asian section of most grocery stores)
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 recipe of steak butter (recipe follows)

Ask your fishmonger or seafood counter person if you need to debeard the mussels.  If you do, ask them how to pull the outer little hairy thing from the shell.  When you get home from making your seaworthy acquisition of these precious little treats in a shell, open the butcher paper and the bag (clams and mussels need to breathe) and put them in the coldest spot of the fridge until you're ready to cook.  This keeps them alive but stunned.  20 minutes before cooking time, fill the sink up with cold water and soak the clams and mussels.  This allows them to digest water and pass out any sand or grit.  If they don't close their shells when tapping them on the counter, they are dead.  Throw them away.  Otherwise, they can all join the party.  (This is also a good time to do your prep work like chopping and such.)

Get your pasta water going so it's ready when you are.  Now saute the shallots and garlic in olive oil over medium heat about 3 to 4 minutes.  Be careful, though.  Garlic burns easily.  Next add in the wine.  After about another minute, add the stock, cayenne, red pepper flakes, chili paste, the juice of your one lonely lemon, and parsley.  Season with a little salt and pepper to your own liking.  Bring to a boil and then back off the heat to medium high.

Now drop your pasta (water should be boiling now) and add the clams and mussels to the pot. 

It takes about 8 minutes or so for them to be done.  How do you know they're done?  The shells open.  If they don't open, throw them away.  They are bad and get kicked off the linguine island.

You're almost done!  Now is the time to put some garlic bread in the oven to toast if it suits your fancy.  Drain the pasta and mix the steak butter in with the linguine.  Drop the shrimp and scallops in the broth.  They only need 3-4 minutes, so make sure everything else is ready to go so the little shrimpys don't overcook.

That's it!  Just pile some pasta in a bowl and ladle some broth and shellfish over the top.  Sop it up with the bread and enjoy this wonderous delight!!

See, we weren't selfish with the shellfish!!


Shells from 1 lb shrimp
1 onion, rough chopped (you can even leave the skin gets strained later)
8 C water
2 carrots, rough chopped (don't have to peel)
2 ribs celery, rough chopped
1 green bell pepper, rough chopped
4 cloves of garlic, smashed (skins on again if you want)
1 tsp chicken bouillon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp thyme
4 bay leaves
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp onion flakes
1 tsp granulated garlic (or powder)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp Italian parsley (just pull the leaves off...don't bother with chopping)
Salt & pepper

Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium high.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for an hour or so.  Strain with a really fine strainer.  **Unused stock can be frozen for later!**


1 stick of butter, softened (salted, please!)
1 T chopped Italian parsley
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
1 tsp lemon juice

Mash this all together.  When you're satisfied that it's mixed, plop it on some Saran Wrap and kind of shape it in a tube.  Wrap it up and put in in the fridge.  Slice it up for melting on steaks, in pasta, or as a starter for cooking onions or other veggies.  Yum!!

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